Video Released Of Guantanamo Interrogation

Videotape of the interrogation of Guntanamo detainee Omar Khadr has been released by his lawyers. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was 16 at the time he was questioned in 2003. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a hand grenade in 2002.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

We are seeing the first public glimpses today of an interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lawyers for a young Canadian detainee have released excerpts of a videotaped interrogation from when he was 16 years old. Canadian intelligence agents are shown questioning the young man over a three-day period. The interrogators are calm, even somewhat sympathetic, but the young man is clearly distressed and weeps through much of the interrogation.

NPR's Tom Gjelten is with me now to walk us through some of the video.

And Tom, first, some background here. Who is the young man and how did he end up at Guantanamo?

TOM GJELTEN: Robert, his name is Omar Khadr. He was born in Canada. His family moved back and forth between Canada and Pakistan. His father was apparently involved with al-Qaida and went back to Afghanistan to fight. Omar went with him, and in 2002, he was present during a firefight with U.S. soldiers.

Omar is accused of having killed a U.S. soldier with a hand grenade. He was himself severely injured. He was arrested. His lawyers claim he was mistreated. He was just 15 years old at the time, but he was sent to Guantanamo with other detainees. One of the reasons Omar was of interest to his interrogators was that he apparently had personally met Osama bin Laden, though, he was only 10 years old at the time.

SIEGEL: Now, on to the videotape, and we should explain here that the lawyers for Khadr, who are bringing a suit on his behalf, have received copies of the videotape of this interrogation. They have not released the entirety of what they received.

GJELTEN: No.

SIEGEL: They've released 28 minutes of this. So, that's what we can look at, and we're going to start here with bits from - this is the second day of his interrogation.

GJELTEN: That's right, Robert. I should point out the first day he was actually quite hopeful. He - the Canadian intelligence agents came to do the interrogating, and Omar apparently thought that they might get him out of there. He says, I'm very happy to see you. But by the second day, he's discouraged and pleading for help.

(Soundbite of Omar Khadr's videotaped interrogation)

Mr. OMAR KHADR (Guantanamo Detainee): No, I'm not. You're not here.

GJELTEN: And here he, of course, he's weeping and holding his head in his hands.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. That's the Canadian interrogators.

Unidentified Man #1: We've heard this story before.

Mr. KHDAR: You don't care about me, that's why.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, I do care about you. But I want to talk to the honest Omar that we were talking to yesterday. I don't want to talk this Omar.

Mr. KHADR: It wasn't honest.

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, it was.

Mr. KHADR: You see, you're not going to believe me.

Unidentified Man #1: Well, look me straight in the eyes and tell me that you were being honest.

Mr. KHADR: I am being honest.

Unidentified Man #1: Omar, you can't even bear to look at me when you're saying that.

Mr. KHADR: Why - I can't bear to look at you?

Unidentified Man #1: You know, put your hand down.

Mr. KHADR: No. You don't care about me.

GJELTEN: You know, Robert, here, to me, this is so clearly a teenager…

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

GJELTEN: …being interrogated. I mean, how many times have you spoken to your own teenage kids this way when you say, look at me in the face, and he is just too upset to do it. It clearly, I think this scene really illustrates what an interrogation of a 16-year-old looks like.

SIEGEL: Right. When the 16-year-old detainee, Omar Khadr says, you don't care about me; the implication in his accusation - that I thought you did care about me, I thought you're here to help me in some way.

GJELTEN: Right. I think it shows his naivete. He's feeling very disappointed, very discouraged at this point. He had his hopes up, and now, he's realizing that these guys are not on his side from his point of view.

(Soundbite of Omar Khadr's videotaped interrogation)

Mr. KHADR: Kill me. (Arabic spoken)

SIEGEL: Now, this is the sound of Khadr. He's been left alone. He's moaning to himself.

Mr. KHADR: (Arabic spoken).

GJELTEN: What it shows is just - because he is alone in the cell. It is this image of complete despair…

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

GJELTEN: …on his part.

SIEGEL: Now, whatever this is, whatever this interrogation was like, he wasn't being waterboarded, you wouldn't call that torture. It didn't even seem to be the most harsh questioning one could imagine.

GJELTEN: No. That's exactly right, Robert, and - however, a couple of points. One, there is one issue here of what we have not seen. A Canadian official who visited Omar in 2004, which would be a year later than this, has since reported that the boy was being moved every two to three hours to different cells as part of a sleep deprivation technique that's meant to weaken detainees' resistance.

The critical issue of course is his youth. In this video, he is just 16 years old, and human rights advocates say, basically, this is no way to treat a 16-year-old. And he hasn't been accused of war crimes or anything like that. He's accused of throwing a hand grenade at a soldier in a combat situation. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In fact, the U.S. government has accused Khadr of a war crime - not specifically for what he is alleged to have done, but because he allegedly did it on behalf of al-Qaida.]

SIEGEL: So far as we know, Khadr is still at Guantanamo or not?

GJELTEN: He is still at Guantanamo. His case has been adjudicated. And one of the reasons that this tape is coming out now is that his lawyers are trying to build up a case for why he should be treated more humanely.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tom Gjelten talking with us about the first video of a Guantanamo interrogation that's been released publicly. And you can see an excerpt of that video at npr.org.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Video Shows Guantanamo Bay Prison Interrogation

Outsiders are getting a glimpse of the interrogation process for people held as enemy combatants in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lawyers for a young Canadian-born prisoner have released seven hours of videotape showing their client facing questioning in 2003.

The grainy video shows four different angles of an interrogation room where Omar Khadr, then 16, was questioned by a Canadian intelligence agent. Khadr had been captured the year before in Afghanistan after surviving an airstrike on a militant compound. He is accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade.

Khadr's father was involved in militant causes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had links to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. He allowed his son to live among the followers of Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaida figure who was reportedly killed last January by a CIA missile strike.

In excerpts from the video, some of it shot through what appears to be an air-conditioning grate, Khadr is frequently seen weeping and covering his face with his hands. He complains that he was tortured at a military detention center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and raises his shirt to show what he says are injuries from that torture.

The Canadian agent, whose face is hidden by a large black dot, tells Khadr that he seems to be getting good medical care, but Khadr responds that he is not. "I lost my eyes," he says. "I lost my feet — everything!"

Khadr had lost some vision as a result of injuries he received during the airstrike that led to his capture. The agent urges Khadr to relax and eat a hamburger the agent had brought for him. Khadr replies: "You don't care about me."

Khadr is scheduled to face a military tribunal at Guantanamo in October. One of Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney, told The Toronto Star that the video was released in an effort to stir outrage among Canadians over Khadr's treatment. The young man's defense team is hoping to bring public pressure to bear on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has said that he will not intervene in an effort to get Khadr released.

Correction July 17, 2008

In this interview we said, "[Khadr] hasn't been accused of war crimes or anything like that. He's accused of throwing a hand grenade at a soldier in a combat situation." In fact, the U.S. government has accused Khadr of a war crime — not specifically for what he is alleged to have done, but because he allegedly did it on behalf of al-Qaida.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: