Two worlds of governmental crime. Both involve the imprisonment of innocent men. The article that follows links the torture booths at Guantanamo to the interrogation rooms run by crooked Chicago cops. It is the story of a part of America as it really is. For those caught up in it, it is a living nightmare.
“I am dying in here man…”
July 2003, Guantanamo. A sole man was kept in a darkened solitary cell for months on end. For many days in a row he was interrogated 16 hours a day. Loud music blared constantly, dogs menaced. Guards cursed him, banged on his cell at all hours to keep him awake. The temperature in the cell was purposely set close to freezing. An interrogator told the prisoner about a dream he had, one that supposedly had other detainees digging a grave and carrying a coffin with the prisoner’s number on it.
Another interrogator, actually the chief of a “Special Projects Team” at the American naval base prison, lied and told the prisoner his mother had been detained, and that if he did not cooperate she would be brought to Guantanamo and kept as the only woman prisoner there. The implication of the threat against his mother seemed dire. The chief of the SP team produced a forged letter to back up his contention. But the prisoner had nothing to admit, and kept telling interrogators the truth, until finally he gave in under torture and told them what they wanted to hear.
The Guantanamo prisoner was Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The interrogation team leader in charge of Slahi’s “Special Project” torture was then-Lieutenant (and former Chicago homicide detective) Richard Zuley.
Meanwhile, also in 2003, another man sat in solitary confinement in an Illinois prison. Lathierial Boyd had been sentenced to 82 years in jail for the alleged shooting of two men, one of whom, Michael Fleming, died at the scene; the other was permanently paralyzed. Police called it a revenge drug murder. Both the victims and Boyd were African-American.
For 13 years Boyd had proclaimed his innocence. He told the story of how Chicago police officers had hid witness testimony, fabricated evidence, lied in reports, and coerced witnesses. In 2002, his plight picked up some news interest after a Chicago television station’s investigation dug up new evidence (see video), but Boyd, a former fashion model, remained in jail awaiting another appeal. He told anyone who would listen, “I am dying in here man, can’t you see I am dying.”
According to recent legal filings, one of these cops was alleged to have withheld the fact the sole survivor of the shooting, Ricky Warner, could not identify the shooter, nor could any of those who viewed the police line-up.
This same cop was said to have coerced Warner’s father to say his son had been threatened by Boyd. The cop fabricated evidence for the father to look at. He also convinced Warner to ID Boyd as the man who shot him and his partner. In this, the cop worked together with other Chicago police. Later, the cop allegedly helped fabricate a piece of evidence for Warner to use to help “lead” interrogators to Boyd.
The cop was the same man who years later led Slahi’s torture, Richard Zuley.
Zuley’s role in the torture of Mohamadou Slahi can be gleaned from the footnotes in the Nov. 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report, Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody (see pages 137 and 140), while he is identified more specifically in a July 7, 2010 declassified legal filing in Slahi’s case.
Zuley was also profiled in Jess Bravin’s book, The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. Bravin wrote that in July 2003 Zuley became the head of the Special Team that conducted “enhanced interrogations” at Guantanamo. Elsewhere in the book, Bravin quotes Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt, who testified that “Zuley was a ‘zealot’ who loved tormenting his prisoner.”
Zuley also helped identify himself. In his sole review at Amazon.com, Zuley signs himself:
“LCDR Richard Zuley, USN (Ret)
Former EUCOM LNO, senior interrogator
and Special Projects Team Chief,
Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (2002-2004)”
EUCOM stands for U.S. European Command. LNO stands for Liaison Officer. Today, according to his LinkedIn page, Zuley is Projects Administrator at City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation, Aviation Police division.
A Miscarriage of Justice
In September 2013, Boyd walked out of prison free, released after a review of his case, subject previously to numerous rejected appeals, showed he was in fact innocent. Last month, he filed a $20 million civil suit against Zuley and five other Chicago officers for destruction and/or concealment of material exculpatory and impeachment evidence, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy to deprive him of his Constitutional rights. The other officers named are Lawrence Thezan, Andrew Sobolewski, Steve Schorsch, John Murray, and Wayne Johnson.
The particulars of the case are astounding, as Zuley and his cohorts are alleged to have manufactured evidence regarding Boyd, coerced the only eyewitness (shooting survivor Ricky Martin) to ID Boyd at the scene, withheld evidence of eyewitnesses who specifically said Boyd could not have been the shooter, and fabricated a note with supposedly incriminating evidence against Boyd, among other instances of malfeasance. The fact Boyd had an alibi staying at his sister’s home with her boyfriend, a Cook County Sheriff, was ignored.
The miscarriage of justice in Lathierial’s case was so egregious that the judge who sentenced him called for his case to be reopened. Many of the facts concerning the frame-up against Boyd can be read in his 2008 habeas filing (PDF).
Boyd’s time in prison was a terrible ordeal. According to his October 4 lawsuit complaint, Boyd wrote “thousands of letters, pleading with lawyers and the media to help him.” He spent approximately 90 percent of his 23 years in prison confined to his cell. He lost contact with friends and family. Due to what he alleges was poor medical care, he lost sight in one eye. Boyd, who was a former fashion model, “sank into a black hole of depression so profound and debilitating that he frequently contemplated suicide as the only way to be free again.”
“Extensive and severe mistreatment”
The Slahi case was singled out by the Senate Armed Services Committee as a primary example of detainee abuse, produced under the auspices of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (Wolfowitz signed off on a memo recommending the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and “sound modulation,” or sensory overload, on Slahi.)
Slahi, who was severely beaten, subject to false flag deception and threats of torture and harm to his family, sexually humiliated, deprived of religious comfort, and also experienced at times sensory deprivation, has told his own story in a 466-page draft memoir about his seizure and incarceration, portions of which were published at Slate.com in April 2013. The full diary is supposed to be published in January 2015.
Like the torture of Mohamed al-Qahtani some months before him, Slahi’s torture supposedly was justified by his alleged role in 9/11. As a high-value detainee, he was kidnapped and rendered first to Jordan, and then via Bagram, Afghanistan to Guantanamo in August 2002. The “evidence” against Slahi came via what was likely coerced interrogation by Ramzi Binalshibh, who told the CIA that Slahi was involved in the planning for 9/11. Subsequent “evidence” came from Slahi’s confessions made under torture.
When it came time to try Slahi under President George W. Bush’s first attempt at military commissions, the MC prosecutor, Col. Stuart Couch, famously refused to prosecute Slahi’s case because it was based primarily on tortured evidence.
In April 2010, Slahi’s habeas petition was granted by Judge James Robertson, who stated “there is ‘ample evidence in this record that Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantánamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003.’” But in November 2010, the government, who appealed Robertson’s decision, won a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate Robertson’s decision, remanding the case to the D.C. District Court, where it still languishes. Not one habeas petition that has gone to that court has ever been approved.
A System Out of Control
The oozing scandal that is the Chicago Police Department has been the subject of numerous investigations and news reports. Torture, kidnapping of witnesses, robberies and criminal home invasions, these are only some in the long list of corrupt operations exposed over the years.
After many attempts, some of Chicago’s crooked cops have gotten justice. But the system remains pathetically slow, and no one knows how many lives have been ruined by cops out of control in Chicago and many other major urban areas in the United States. Recently, an activist group has produced a “shadow report” for the UN Committee on Torture, testifying to the ongoing use of police violence.
Meanwhile, an ongoing scandal concerning U.S. government torture by both the CIA and the Department of Defense, centered on operations at Guantanamo and elsewhere, has been the subject of Congressional investigations and dozens of books and articles. But despite a good deal of attention, torture techniques in some cases similar to those used on Slahi, based on SERE methods used to inoculate US soldiers against torture, are still in use.
Most recently, a controversy over the release of an executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA torture program has dragged on for months. It’s not clear the report will tell us that much more than what other investigations and leaks have already produced. A McClatchyarticle last month indicated that the report will not touch upon the responsibility for the torture program among top Bush Administration officials.
While the Senate Committee, led by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, has announced it is suppressing (for now) the full report they made, they are seeking release of its executive summary, which the White House gave the CIA to vet for declassification. Not surprisingly, the CIA wants more classified in the rump report’s release than the Senate Committee does.
The press rarely reports on the full extent of the torture scandal. Rarely are the dots connected that place issues like massive use of solitary confinement in US prisons, or the epidemic of police abuse and prosecutorial frame-up, in conjunction with US use of torture and rendition at Guantanamo and abroad.
It’s time for a reckoning on torture and abuses of justice, whether in the name of “law and order” or “war on terrorism.” What we have now is a system out of control with abuse of power.