Monday, August 13, 2007

Paging Dr. West

I bet the government is lamenting the loss of Dr. "Jolly" West right about now. He seemed to always be able to smooth over this type of flap.

Jose Padilla had no history of mental illness when President Bush ordered him detained in 2002 as a suspected Al Qaeda operative. But he does now.

The Muslim convert was subjected to prison conditions and interrogation techniques that took him past the breaking point, mental health experts say. ...

Padilla's treatment in the brig is classified as a state secret.

Ironically, no one knows this better than Padilla himself. When Hegarty, the psychiatrist, asked him about his interrogation in the brig, Padilla responded: "I can't talk about what happened to me because it is classified."

Although Padilla has been meeting with his Miami lawyers for more than a year and a half, he refuses to discuss his treatment in the brig in any detail.

The torture allegations made last year in the Miami court case were raised as a result of repeated sessions asking Padilla "yes or no" whether he'd endured the kinds of harsh interrogation tactics reported in the press. He reluctantly answered yes to some, and no to others. But his lawyers could pry no details or narrative from him.

They asked [forensic psychiatrist, Angela] Hegarty for help.

She spent days attempting to establish a rapport, days trying to get him to open up. "The first two hours were utterly useless each day. I got no data at all," Hegarty says. Eventually he would relax and talk about relatively minor subjects. When Hegarty tried to steer him toward the brig or the evidence in his criminal case "he would just stop, change the subject, and twitch," she said.

During her week-long effort, Hegarty would arrive each morning to discover Padilla once again unwilling to talk. She says the experience was like the movie "Groundhog Day," in which the same events repeat over and over. "The 22 hours I spent with him, it was like it never happened," Hegarty says. "It was chilling."

Grassian relates in his report that Padilla's mother found it emotionally difficult to visit her son in Miami because it involved observing his diminished mental condition. Padilla tried to reassure her that he was fine, that the government was treating him very well. At one point, Grassian says, Padilla suggested that his mother write directly to Bush to help her speed through red tape to arrange her next visit. The president was sure to help her out, Padilla assured his mother.

"It was utterly irrational," Grassian writes in his report. "After all, it was President Bush who had ordered him detained as an enemy combatant."

Padilla's mother became increasingly anxious. Finally she confronted her son: "Did they torture you?" she asked.

"He turned towards her, his face grimacing, his eyes blinking, and in panic and rage he demanded: 'Don't you ever, ever, ask that question again,' " the Grassian report says.


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