Testimony of Major Deborah K. Sirrat
On October 28, 2009, Deborah Kay Sirrat PhD, a major in the United States Air Force, was a witness at the sentencing hearing of Mr. Ali al-Marri (see Death in Guantánamo: Suicide or Dryboarding?). As such, she was examined by Mr. David E. Risley, Assistant United States Attorney, and cross-examined by Mr. Lawrence Lustberg, Gibbons PC, both in open court. This has been entered into the public record (see Al-Marri Sentencing Hearing, Volume I and Volume II). CSHRA has consulted that record and extracted from it the following passages.
Q [by Mr. Risley] Will you state your name?
A Deborah Kay Sirratt.
Q Can you spell your last name?
Q What is your occupation?
Q And we can tell by your uniform you're serving in the military; is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q In the Air Force?
A Yes, sir.
Q What is your rank?
Q Would you tell us a little bit about, in summary fashion, about your professional education?
A I have a bachelor's degree in international studies and Russian Slavic studies, I have a master's degree in
psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology.
Q Where did you obtain your Ph.D.?
A University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.
Q Could you tell us a little bit about your post-doctoral training, professional training, particularly as it relates to terrorist psychology?
A I completed a residency at Wilford Hall and then I received training, Behavioral Science Consultation Team training, for three weeks in October of 2007 down at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Q Did that relate to terrorists or terrorism?
A Correct. That training was actually a three-week required training before I went down and served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba […]
Q [by Mr. Lustberg] Hi, Dr. Sirratt.
A Hello, sir.
Q I'm Larry Lustberg. I'm one of the attorneys for Mr. al-Marri.
A Yes, sir […]
Q [by Mr. Lustberg] Doctor, when you stepped off we were discussing your Guantanamo experience. Just to recap, Doctor, you were in Guantanamo from when to when?
A Late October, maybe the 26th through the 27th, 2007 to 31 May 2008.
Q So from October '07 until May '08?
A Yes, sir […]
Q By the way, have you dealt with people before who have lived in that sort of isolation that Mr. al-Marri lived in?
A Not until I went to Guantanamo.
Q As a psychologist, what did you note about the way it makes people behave, being isolated like that?
A I think it's very tough on people.
Q And how do they react to that toughness?
A I think we're all social beings, so when we're more isolated it tears people apart pretty quickly.
Q So what kind of symptomatology do they develop as a result of that kind of isolation?
A I'm trying to find the right words. Usually people struggle.
A Anxiety. People tend to pay attention to noises like that, you know, the smaller things, the little things.
Q Let me stop you. So you become sort of --
Q Hypersensitive, right, to things like fans? You pointed to that fan, right?
Q And in other sensory things? And were you aware that during the first part of Mr. al-Marri's custody that he
was in a situation of really extreme sensory deprivation where it was just him in a room and just a metal bed and
essentially nothing else?
A That was my understanding.
Q And based on your experience as a psychologist, would you expect that to have any kind of effects on him?
A I would expect that would have an impact, yes.
Q What would that impact be do you think?
A I would expect the person to have some lingering impacts, lingering effects […]