Mohamedou Ould Slahi (ISN 760)
The material below has been lifted, verbatim, from Section III, Chapter 11, of A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, released in May 2008 by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice.
A. Slahi's Allegations
Slahi made his allegations relating to FBI conduct during two interviews conducted on April 25 and 27, 2005, by a military interrogator on behalf of the OIG.197 Prior to these interviews, the military interrogator provided the OIG with a Memorandum for Record (MFR) dated December, 24, 2004, summarizing an earlier interrogation in which Slahi had made allegations of mistreatment by the military. In the interviews for the OIG, Slahi told the military interrogator that most of his contact with the FBI was with FBI agents Poulson and Santiago, and he identified Santiago as a "nice guy."198 He stated that no one from the FBI ever threatened his family. However, he made the following allegations relating to the FBI, which the OIG investigated:
• An FBI agent named "Samantha" was involved in putting him on the boat for the "boat ride" as a ruse for making him believe he was being transferred to a different location. (This incident is described in detail in Chapter Five.)
• When Poulson was leaving GTMO, he said that Slahi would "not have a good time in the near future," which Slahi later interpreted as a prediction that the military would torture him.199
• Santiago said Slahi would be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan if the charges against him were proved.
• On the behalf of the FBI, an interrogator told Slahi that he would be sent to a "very bad place" if Slahi did not provide certain information.
In addition to interviewing Slahi, the OIG interviewed Poulson and Santiago and examined relevant records.
B. OIG Analysis
1. Alleged FBI Participation in the "Boat Ride" Incident. As discussed in Chapter Five, at GTMO Slahi was taken on a boat ride as part of a ruse to make him believe he was being transferred to a different location. Slahi alleged that the only FBI agent who was involved in the boat ride was an agent named "Samantha." He said that Samantha conducted the interrogation just prior to when he was removed to the boat and that she may have observed this movement. Santiago told the OIG that a person who referred to herself as "Samantha" to Slahi was not an FBI agent. As detailed in Chapter Five, the OIG determined from FBI and military records that the person who identified herself as "Samantha" was actually an Army Sergeant.
2. Alleged FBI Predictions of Harsh Treatment by Military. Slahi stated during his interview that when Poulson told him Poulson was leaving GTMO, Poulson said that Slahi would "not have a good time in the near future." Slahi said he interpreted this to mean that he was going to be tortured by the military. Slahi told the OIG that he did not take this statement by Poulson as a threat, but rather that Poulson was objectively telling him what would happen. Slahi also told the OIG that when he was treated harshly by the military, referring to the boat ruse discussed in Chapter Five, he did not believe that Poulson or the FBI had any control over what happened. Poulson told the OIG that his approach to interviewing Slahi was to build rapport with him. He said that he never suggested to Slahi that if he did not cooperate_he would be turned over to the military and the military would use harsher techniques. He said that Slahi often asked Poulson what was going to happen to him, and Poulson told him he did not know but that things were changing, as a way of planting doubt in Slahi's mind. Poulson told the OIG that in his last interview with Slahi, he told Slahi that he would not be working with him anymore, but said he did not state this in a threatening way. Poulson said that he wanted Slahi to know that he was no longer going to be handled by the FBI. Poulson told us that he had no idea what the military planned to do with Slahi, but he suspected the treatment would be similar to how the military handled AIQahtani (#63), which would likely involve some harsh techniques. Poulson's partner, Santiago, told us that before he left GTMO he saw a draft of a special interrogation plan that the military was preparing for Slahi, and that it was similar to AI-Qahtani's interrogation plan. As described in Chapter Five, the interrogation plan that was approved for Slahi did in fact include harsh techniques, including the helicopter ruse (later changed to a boat), I5-hour interrogations (during which Slahi would be prevented from sleeping), and continuous sound to hinder Slahi's concentration and establish fear. In addition, after assuming control of the Slahi interrogation, the military subjected Slahi to "variable lighting patterns and rock music" in order to keep Slahi "awake and in a state of agitation," as well as a "Fear Up" approach in which Slahi was deprived of some clothes and yelled at. The military also used a masked interrogator, "Mr. X," to question Slahi and used a forged memorandum as part of a ruse to make him believe that his mother would be arrested and brought to GTMO. Slahi subsequently made further allegations of abuse by military interrogators, including a claim that he was severely beaten during the boat ride. (See Chapter Five, Section XV.)
However, we concluded that even if Poulson did discuss Slahi's future military interrogation with Slahi, Poulson did not intend to threaten Slahi. It would have been inconsistent with Poulson's and Santiago's weeks-long rapport-building approach for Poulson to threaten Slahi.200 We found that, if anything, the military investigators were critical of Poulson's and Santiago's reluctance to push Slahi. Military intelligence personnel observed many of Slahi's interviews by Poulson and Santiago from an observation booth. In an MFR dated March 21, 2003, a military intelligence officer observed that the agents had established "an excellent rapport" with Slahi, but that the FBI agents stated that they did not "want to push [Slahi] because doing so will damage their rapport with him." In an MFR dated May 23,2003, the same military intelligence officer offered the following criticism of the approach taken by Poulson and Santiago:
FBI Special Agents have built strong rapport with [Slahi], but have generally not used that rapport to gain intelligence. While rapport is normally used as a means by which to gain intelligence, it seems as though FBI agents have not been willing to offend detainee or push him on matters on which he is uncomfortable because of the desire to maintain rapport.
We concluded that Poulson's alleged statement to Slahi regarding what he could expect in the future did not constitute a threat made to induce Slahi to make a statement or to cooperate with the FBI. Poulson was leaving GTMO and the FBI was no longer going to handle Slahi. The military's plan to use much harsher techniques on Slahi was not agreed to or condoned by the FBI, and we found no evidence that the FBI agreed to the military's decision to assume control of Slahi's interrogation.
3. Alleged FBI Threat to Transfer Slahi to Afghanistan or Iraq. Slahi said that Santiago once told him that he would be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan if the government agents could prove what they thought Slahi was involved in. Slahi said he interpreted this to be a reference to the "Millennium bomb plot," which he understood as the reason for the FBI's interest in him. Slahi said that Santiago repeated this statement about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, but that Slahi did
not consider this to be a valid threat at the time. Slahi told the OIG interviewers that he viewed Santiago's statement as an objective, factual prediction.
Santiago told the OIG that he did not recall ever telling Slahi that he would be sent to Afghanistan or Iraq. Poulson also told the OIG that he never heard Slahi being told that he would be sent to Afghanistan or Iraq.
We did not find a sufficient basis to conclude that Santiago made a threat against Slahi. Slahi did not characterize Santiago's alleged statement about being transferred to Iraq or Afghanistan as a threat to induce him to cooperate. Furthermore, Slahi did not claim that Santiago suggested he could avoid this outcome by providing information to the FBI. Moreover, Santiago said he did not recall making a statement about sending Slahi to Afghanistan or Iraq, and we did not find that he had any incentive to do so.
4. Alleged Threat by a Task Force Officer. During his interview with the military interrogator, Slahi described another person he believed was questioning him on behalf of the FBI in January 2003. Slahi stated that this person identified himself as a police officer named "Tom" and told Slahi that if he did not explain certain phone calls he would be sent to a "very bad place." Slahi told the OIG interviewers that he believed the statement by "Tom" was just an interrogation technique, but he also said that he believed it was possible that he could be transferred to the control of another agency.
We concluded that Slahi was referring to a Detective from the New York Police Department who was a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and who interviewed Slahi with Poulson in January 2003. Although the Detective was not an FBI employee, he did participate in interviews on behalf of the FBI, and we therefore analyzed his alleged
The Detective's alleged statement about sending Slahi to a "very bad place" if he did not provide certain information (and the related implication that he would not be sent there if he cooperated), could be interpreted as an impermissible threat or promise if used by an FBI agent in the United States. However, we found that even if the statement was made, it was too vague to constitute a clear violation of the FBI's policy against threats or promises.
197. During the OIG's visit to GTMO in April 2005, the OIG requested access to Slahi to interview him regarding FBI e-mails that referenced his treatment by the military. General Hood, the JTF Commander at the time, expressed concern about disrupting the detainee's interrogation by a military interrogator who he said had developed an excellent rapport with Slahi. As a result, the military interrogator presented our questions to Slahi and provided us with his responses. The military interrogator posed the OIG's questions in two separate sessions with Slahi. During the OIG's second trip to GTMO in February 2007, the OIG investigators obtained direct access to Slahi, and he confirmed much of what he had told the military interrogator asking questions on our behalf. He also provided additional details on several issues.
198. Poulson and Santiago are pseudonyms.
199. According to the December 24, 2004, MFR, Slahi alleged that Poulson had told Slahi that he "would not be invited to tea and snacks" when he was transferred to military interrogators. Slahi did not allege that Poulson said anything else about the transfer.
200. The non-threatening approach used by Poulson and Santiago was also confirmed in contemporaneous records. Two agents from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) observed Poulson and Santiago conduct more than 20 hours of interviews with Slahi. The two BAD agents, along with Poulson and Santiago, prepared an "Interview/Interrogation Plan" for Slahi dated February 3, 2003. The plan stated that Poulson and Santiago had "successfully established a high level of rapport with the detainee." In the strategy section of the plan, it stated that the "investment in a longterm strategy of building rapport with the detainee will continue to payoff with higher quality dialogue."
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