On Tape: An 'Enemy' Interrogation

Lawyers for "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla claim he is so disoriented from three years of isolation and aggressive interrogations that he is now mentally ill. In new court filings, Padilla's lawyers also assert for the first time that Padilla's interrogations were taped, thereby providing a potentially extensive video record of how the government treated a man once considered a dangerous Qaeda operative.

U.S. officials have denied Padilla's claims that he was mistreated after he was thrown into a U.S. naval brig on orders from President Bush in June 2002. "It is our policy to treat all detainees humanely," said Pentagon spokesman J. D. Gordon. (A Justice spokesman declined to comment on the new claims about Padilla's mental state or the existence of tapes.) But the disputes about Padilla's treatment have raised issues that are likely to come up in future prosecutions, whether in regular criminal courts--where Padilla is due to be tried early next year--or in military commissions where the Bush administration plans to prosecute Qaeda figures. A former Chicago gang member and a U.S. citizen, Padilla was proclaimed an "enemy combatant" by Bush and denied access to a lawyer amid White House assertions he had plans to set off a radiological "dirty" bomb. Administration officials have since backed off that claim. Last year Padilla was removed from the brig and indicted in Miami on charges that he's part of a North American jihad cell that provided material support to Islamic extremists overseas.

Padilla's lawyers recently moved to have the entire case dropped because of government conduct that allegedly included subjecting him to sleep deprivation, extreme cold, injecting noxious fumes into his cell and giving him mind-altering drugs. Justice lawyers said there was not a "shred of record evidence" to support claims of "torture," but have declined to address specific interrogation techniques. Defense lawyers then submitted an affidavit from psychiatrist Dr. Angela Hegarty, who asserted Padilla was so "traumatized" by his treatment that he cannot bear to watch tapes of his interrogation, and when "approached by his lawyers, he begs them, 'Please, please, please' not to have to discuss his case." Hegarty says Padilla is suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder and cannot assist in his defense--a claim that could be a basis to put off his trial. Another new affidavit says Padilla suffers from "facial tics" and bodily "contortions," and fears that his lawyers are government agents. Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton said he expects lawyers for other Qaeda detainees at Gitmo to make similar claims, and also to press for access to tapes of clients' interrogations. "This is going to wind up being an enormous issue," he said.