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Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama

The 'Black Shirts' of Guantanamo routinely terrorize prisoners, breaking bones, gouging eyes, squeezing testicles, and 'dousing' them with chemicals.

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Evidence Destroyed?

At the Pentagon, an official paper trail should exist that documents the IRF-ing of Deghayes. What's more, according to Gen. Miller's SOP memo, all of the actions of the IRF teams were to be videotaped as well.

After a prisoner was IRF-ed, "The medical personnel on site will conduct a medical evaluation of the detainee to check for any injuries sustained during the IRF," and, "all IRF Team members are required to submit sworn statements." These statements, reports and video were "to be kept as evidence."

As of early 2005, there were reportedly 500 hours of video; the ACLU attempted to force their release, but they never have been produced.

"Where are those tapes?" asks CCR President Michael Ratner. In some cases, the answer may well be that they never existed or no longer do. "When an IRFing took place a camera was supposed to be present to capture the IRFing," said Army Spec. Brandon Neely, who was on one of the first IRF teams at Guantánamo. "Every time I witnessed an IRFing a camera was present, but one of two things would happen: (1) the camera would never be turned on, or (2) the camera would be on, but pointed straight at the ground."

Neeley recently gave testimony to the University of California, Davis' Guantánamo Testimonials Project. He also described one IRF-ing where the video of the incident was destroyed.

Regarding the videos, Stafford Smith says, "There are some things I can't talk about, but I will confirm there is photographic evidence. I am absolutely confident that if all of the photographs were revealed to the world, they would provide irrefutable physical evidence that the prisoners had been" abused by the IRFs.

As for the "sworn statements" by IRF team members, a review of hundreds of pages of declassified incident reports reveals an almost robotic uniformity in the handwritten accounts, overwhelmingly composed of succinct portrayals of operations that went off without a hitch. Almost all of them contain the phrases "minimum amount of force necessary" and the prisoner "received medical attention and evaluation" before being returned.

"All internal investigations of Gitmo so far have completely whitewashed the IRF process," says Horton. "They did so for obvious reasons."

"The IRF program was supported by advice secured from the Justice Department suggesting that insubordinate behavior could be cited to justify a departure from guidelines against physical force. It has a conspiratorial odor to it," says Horton. "In fact the use of IRFs was illegal, a violation of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] and a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which forbids the use of unnecessary force against prisoners."

While Spain will probably pursue the role the IRF teams played in the torture of its citizens or residents, its scope goes far beyond those specific incidents.

"I have seen detainees IRF'ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication."

Deghayes' treatment at the hands of the feared IRF teams mirrors that of several other released Guantánamo prisoners.

David Hicks, an Australian citizen held at Guantánamo, said in a sworn affidavit, "I have witnessed the activities of the [IRF], which consists of a squad of soldiers that enter a detainee's cell and brutalize him with the aid of an attack dog ... I have seen detainees suffer serious injuries as a result of being IRF'ed. I have seen detainees IRF'ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication."

Binyam Mohamed, released in February, has also described an IRF assault: "They nearly broke my back. The guy on top was twisting me one way, the guys on my legs the other. They marched me out of the cell to the fingerprint room, still cuffed. I clenched my fists behind me so they couldn't take [finger]prints, so they tried to take them by force. The guy at my head sticks his fingers up my nose and wrenches my head back, jerking it around by the nostrils. Then he put his fingers in my eyes. It felt as if he was trying to gouge them out. Another guy was punching my ribs, and another was squeezing my testicles. Finally, I couldn't take it any more. I let them take the prints."