- For years, Guantanamo Bay prisoners’ memories of their time in CIA custody have been considered classified state secrets. Abu Zubaydah's lawyers can’t talk publicly about how he lost his left eye. Lawyers for Mustafa al Hawsawi, who can now only sit on a pillow, can’t tell the press or the public about anal feedings that left him with a rectal prolapse. And until recently, Majid Khan's lawyers couldn’t bring up the time he was hung from a pole for two days, naked and hooded, while interrogators threw ice water on him.
The government argued that by talking about what had happened to them, the CIA’s former prisoners, who are now detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, would risk revealing classified information about the agency’s torture program.
But as James Connell, a lawyer who represents detainee Ammar al Baluchi, wrote more than three years ago in a motion to declassify the prisoners' accounts, "A person's own experiences -- whether the smell of a rose or the click of a gun near one's head -- are what make them a person, and the government can never own or control them."
The notion that a torture survivor's memories can be classified, Connell wrote, "contravenes the most basic principles of human rights." He added that detainees "were exposed to classified interrogation techniques only in the sense that Hiroshima was exposed to the classified Manhattan Project."
Now, the government is starting to change course.