A landmark case in the United States means that, for the first time, two of those responsible for the CIA’s post-2001 torture programme, have been held accountable in the courts. Much of this torture programme was carried out on Afghan soil. The two psychologists who designed and implemented the programme, have paid compensation to two survivors and to the family of Gul Rahman, an Afghan who died of hypothermia after being left semi-naked on a bare concrete floor in a CIA black site near Kabul in November 2002. US courts had thrown out previous attempts at litigation on the grounds of ‘national security’. As AAN’s Kate Clark reports, the successful case may open the door to other claims, including against government officials.
Gul Rahman, an Afghan living in Pakistan, had been driven up to Islamabad for a medical check-up and was staying with Ghairat Bahir, son-in-law of Hezb-e Islami leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, when on 29 October 2002, both men were kidnapped by US agents and Pakistani security forces and rendered to a CIA black site in Afghanistan. Both were tortured. Bahir survived (for details, see the appendix), but Rahmat Gul froze to death on the bare concrete floor of a cell in CIA custody after interrogators ordered his clothes removed because he was being “uncooperative.” A CIA review listed contributing factors leading to his death: “dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to ‘short chaining’ [ie being held on a short chain]”
The US never informed Gul Rahman’s family of his death. Nor did they return his body. It was only many years later, in 2010, that an investigation by the Associated Press revealed he had been killed in Afghanistan.
Now, two architects of the CIA torture programme have agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to Gul Rahman’s family and two men who survived the programme, Tanzanian Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Libyan Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud (spellings for these and others mentioned in this dispatch are as per the official US spelling). The case, brought on behalf of the two men and Gul Rahman’s family by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was against two psychologists, James Mitchell and John ‘Bruce’ Jessen, who had been contracted by the CIA to create and implement its torture programme. The two men decided to settle before the case went to court, after failing repeatedly to get it thrown out. The ACLU explained why this is such a landmark case:
Until now, every lawsuit trying to hold people accountable for the CIA torture program has been dismissed at initial stages because the government successfully argued that letting the cases proceed would reveal state secrets. But unlike previous cases, this time the Justice Department did not try to derail the lawsuit. The defendants attempted to dismiss the case multiple times, but the court consistently ruled that the plaintiffs had valid claims.
A change in the legal landscape
What changed matters was the release of a redacted summary of an investigation by the US Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA’s rendition and torture programme in December 2014 (read it here and our analysis of its contents here). Even though much of the information had already been in the public domain (in investigations by human rights groups and journalists who spoke to survivors and, in some cases, personnel), the fact that it was the US Senate that had published the report and that it was based on the CIA’s own files meant the information was now both public and incontrovertible. The US courts – and the government – could no longer argue so easily that scrutinising the CIA’s programme would jeopardise state secrets – the grounds on which two earlier cases had been thrown out.
In May 2006, a US court turned down a claim against the former director of the CIA, George Tenet, brought by the ACLU on behalf of a German-Lebanese man, Khaled El-Masri. He was kidnapped in Macedonia in December 2003 and rendered to Afghanistan. He was drugged, beaten, stripped and given “putrid water” to drink (read here). El-Masri was held for five months even after his innocence became clear and then, said the ACLU, “deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania,” without apology or the means to get home. Nevertheless, the court accepted a US government intervention in the case which argued that allowing it to proceed would jeopardise state secrets.
A second case was also dismissed, in February 2008. This was against a subsidiary of Boeing, Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc, which had been used by the CIA to render detainees. The ACLU which filed the lawsuit argued on behalf of five detainees that “Jeppesen knowingly participated in these renditions by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly disappear these five men to torture, detention and interrogation.” Three of the five plaintiffs were flown to Afghanistan where they were tortured (see details in footnote 1). Again, the court accepted a government intervention asserting “state secrets privilege” and claiming that further litigation would undermine national security interests.
This time, in the case against Mitchell and Jessen, the government chose not to try to shut the case down and the court also rejected various attempts by the two men to halt proceedings. Rather, just as the case was about to go to jury trial, the pair decided to settle the claims. By this point, the court had already decided some important questions of law.
“First,” ACLU attorney Dror Laden told AAN, “there is the series of decisions the court issued that torture committed by the government and the executive branch is a question for the courts. Judges have the power and the responsibility to decide if war crimes or torture were committed.” Secondly, he said, “This case shows how national security litigation can be conducted without jeopardising national security.” He described how dozens of lawyers were present in the court room with the government side speaking up if they were concerned that questions of national security were about to be disclosed. “The answer,” he said, “is not to shut down lawsuits from the beginning, but to creatively look at how the parties can move forward in conjunction with each other.”
What the psychologists did
The Senate report revealed (or in many instances confirmed), not only the extent of the CIA’s torture programme, but also the pivotal role played by Mitchell and Jessen. As the ACLU writes:
Drawing on their experience as psychologists and relying on experiments conducted on dogs in the 1960s… [they] proposed that CIA prisoners should be psychologically destroyed through the infliction of severe mental and physical pain and suffering. They theorized that inducing a state of “learned helplessness” in captives would eradicate any resistance they might have to interrogation. This theory had never been – and could not legally or ethically be – tested, and their program involved not only torturing prisoners but experimenting on them in violation of the international ban on non-consensual human experimentation.
Despite the CIA having previously adopted a position that torture did not work, attitudes changed following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Worries that the agency would be committing war crimes were assuaged by a Justice Department decision to define the methods proposed as not torture. President Bush’s assertion that ‘war on terror’ detainees were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, which expressly outlaw torture, also eased the way. As ACLU has written: “the decision to torture was made deliberately, in a program characterized by human experimentation, intentional brutality, and the painstaking manipulation of the law. It was as clinical as it was cruel.” The two psychologists were contracted to design the programme of interrogation and torture, despite the fact that, as the Senate report noted, “Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise.”
The Senate report named 119 men as having been subject to CIA rendition and 39 of those as victims of torture. Most of the torture described in the report took place in black sites on Afghan soil and five of the 39 named torture victims are Afghan, including Gul Rahman (see the appendix for detail on the other four men). Many more men were tortured than are named in the report, however, including by the CIA and also, after CIA methods spread, by the US military, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Practices included: prolonged sleep deprivation (for more detail on why this is so extremely destructive, see footnote 2), forced nudity, starvation, beating, water dousing, waterboarding and extreme forms of sensory deprivation. The ACLU said the two psychologists:
… designed the abusive procedures, conditions, and cruel treatment imposed on captives during their rendition and subsequent detention, devised the torture instruments and protocols, personally tortured detainees, and trained CIA personnel in administering torture techniques. In a clear conflict of interest later acknowledged by the CIA, the two men were also tasked with evaluating the “effectiveness” of the program from which they reaped enormous profits.
Mitchell and Jessen received 1.5 and 1.1 million dollars respectively from the CIA in fees and, after they formed a company in 2005 to supply the CIA with personnel and to expand the programme, a further 81 million US dollars in the years up till 2010.
The two survivors
The two men, who along with the family of Gul Rahman, brought the case against Mitchel and Jessen were a Libyan dissident and a Tanzanian fisherman. Both had been rendered to Afghanistan. Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud had fled Libya in 1991 and was living in Pakistan when he was kidnapped in a joint US-Pakistani operation in April 2003 and taken to Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch revealed that the then Libyan president, Muammer Gaddafi, had passed his and other names on to the US claiming they were terrorists. For much of the next year, said ACLU, the CIA kept Ben Soud “naked and chained to the wall in one of three painful stress positions designed to keep him awake. He was held in complete isolation in a dungeon-like cell, starved, with no bed, blanket, or light,” not allowed to wash for five months. CIA agents forced Ben Soud into a box less than half a metre wide, hanged him from a rod and submerged him in icy water, until a doctor would decide his temperature was dangerously low. In August 2004, he was rendered to Libya where he was sentenced to life in prison, only released in 2011, a day after the start of the revolution that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
Suleiman Abdullah Salim, a Tanzanian citizen, was working as a fisherman and trader in Somalia when, in March 2003, the CIA and Kenyan security forces abducted him and rendered him first to Kenya and then to Afghanistan. He was beaten, slammed into walls, hung from a rod and chained into painful stress positions for days on end. The CIA also subjected him to sleep deprivation and forced him into small boxes. He was finally freed in 2008, long after his family had given him up for dead.
The decision by Jessen and Mitchel to pay compensation may open the door to future claims. In the United States, only the state can bring a criminal lawsuit, but individuals can bring civil claims for damages. What would be even better, Human Rights Watch’s Guantanamo expert, Laura Pitter told AAN, would be if the US government acted proactively without the need for victims to go to court.
… these suits are extremely expensive. So either an NGO like the ACLU or perhaps the Center for Constitutional rights willing to make the investment necessary to pursue the case like this has to take it on, or law firms or other private attorneys do in the hopes that if they win they can recover attorneys’ fees. But that is a big risk and a big investment. The risk is lower now that the ACLU case settled because they got some good rulings, and admissions, from the defendants, but it’s still a risk so we will see.
Up till now, the state has chosen not to prosecute anyone for the many crimes committed under the CIA’s torture programme. President George Bush authorised the programme and although President Obama banned torture as soon as he took office in 2009, his administration also decided not to prosecute. “We tortured some folks,” said Obama (quoted here) a few months before the release of the Senate torture report. “You know, it is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.” It is impossible to see this situation changing under President Trump.
As the Office of the Prosecutor in the International Criminal Court has pointed out, the scope of the Department of Justice’s preliminary review (August 2009 to June 2011) of allegations of CIA abuse of detainees, “appears to have been limited to investigating whether any unauthorised interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such conduct could constitute violations of any applicable criminal statutes.” (emphasis added) In other words, there has been no criminal investigation into the use of authorised torture techniques, a point highlighted by the Office of the Prosecutor which quoted the US Attorney General:
“…the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”
There have been no prosecutions of anyone involved in the killing of Gul Rahman. His case, along with that of the Iraqi, Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in CIA custody in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was referred to the Justice Department. It decided not to bring charges and, in 2012, the US Attorney General prosecutors announced that the investigation would be closed because “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt” (see here and here).
In March 2003, said the Senate report, “just four months after the death of Gul Rahman, the CIA Station in Country recommended that [redacted] CIA officer receive a “cash award” of $2,500 for his “consistently superior work.” The manger of the detention side stayed in position and “was formally certified as a CIA interrogator in April 2003 after the practical portion of his training requirement was waived because of his past experience with interrogations” at the site.
Other avenues to seek justice
Some victims of the CIA have sought other avenues of redress, although no-one, before the current case has been able to touch any of the Americans involved in the torture programme. Two men who are still held in Guantanamo, Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubayda, sued Poland at the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled on 24 July 2014 that Poland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it co-operated with the CIA in their renditions, allowing the unlawful detention and torture of the two men on its territory in 2002–2003. The court ordered the Polish government to pay each of the men 100,000 Euros (118 USD) in damages (read here and here). On 13 December 2012, the same court found in favour of Khaled El-Masri against the government of Macedonia which had aided the CIA in his rendition (see here and here). German authorities, though, terminated their inquest against 13 CIA staff accused of involvement in the case in April 2017. On 20 September 2012, the highest court in Italy upheld convictions against 23 CIA agents and a US air force officer, in absentia, over the abduction in February 2003 of an Egyptian imam, Abu Omar. Two Italians were also earlier convicted. Abu Omar was held in Egypt where he was tortured, including with the use of electric shocks, and held until February 2007 when he was released without charge.
Some countries have given compensation to victims. They include the UK which chose to give the nine British nationals and six British residents released from Guantanamo around one and a half million dollars each, settling civil damages claims rather than, reported AFP, “contest in court allegations that Britain’s security services were complicit in what happened.” One of the child prisoners at Guantanamo, Canadian Omar Khadr, was given damages by his government amounting to an equivalent of eight million US dollars.
Up till the Mitchell and Jessen case, however, only claims against those tangentially involved in torture had succeeded, largely the countries which aided the CIA in its rendition programme. The pay outs by the two psychologist torturers does make future civil claims in the United States more likely. However, there is still no prospect of criminal prosecutions of American torturers in America itself. This fact, that successive US governments have chosen to give officials impunity for some of the most serious crimes possible, means the International Criminal Court (ICC) could take up this case. As AAN has reported, (3) the ICC has already decided that there is a case to answer for CIA and US military torture. It is currently pondering whether or not to proceed with building cases against specific alleged perpetrators.
Appendix: Other Afghan victims of CIA torture
There are many published accounts of Afghans having been tortured by the US military and by the CIA. They include the following:
Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: American, the Taliban and the War through Afghan Eyes, New York, Metropolitan Books Henry Holt and Company
Abdul Salaam Zaeef, My Life with the Taliban, London, Hurst 2011
Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, Open Society Foundations, February 2013
Enduring Freedom Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, March 2004
There have also been official US investigations into torture by US personnel, including: United States Senate Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, Committee on Armed Services, 20 November 2008
Other official US reports (up till 2008) are listed by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) here: Research Brief: Selected examples of Defence, Intelligence and Justice Investigative Reports into detention and interrogation practices, 2 November 2008
There have also been numerous reports by journalists, including for example by Craig Pyes and Kevin Sack, ‘Two Deaths Were a “Clue That Something’s Wrong”’, The Los Angeles Times, 25 September 2006 and, ‘U.S. Probing Alleged Abuse of Afghans’, The Los Angeles Times, 21 September 2004
As well as Gul Rahman, four Afghans are named by the Senate as having been tortured by the CIA. The four are:
Ghairat Bahir, son-in-law of Hekmatyar, kidnapped with Gul Rahman in October 2002 and held in the CIA’s Salt Pit for six months. “’I was left naked, sleeping on the barren concrete,’” Bahir told AP. He said his interrogators would tie him to a chair and sit on his stomach. They also hung him naked, he said, for hours on end. Bahir was subsequently moved to US military custody in Bagram and released in May 2008.
Arsala Khan, when in his mid-50s, was captured in 2003 and accused of having guided Osama bin Laden through the mountains of Tora Bora to safety in 2001. Kept in a CIA black site in Afghanistan, the Senate report said:
After 56 hours of standing sleep deprivation, Arsala Khan was described as barely able to enunciate, and being “visibly shaken by his hallucinations depicting dogs mauling and killing his sons and family.” According to CIA cables, Arsala Khan “stated that [the interrogator] was responsible for killing them and feeding them to the dogs.” Arsala Khan was subsequently allowed to sleep. Two days later, however, the interrogators returned him to standing sleep deprivation. After subjecting Khan to 21 additional hours of sleep deprivation, interrogators stopped using the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
Khan was kept at Bagram for a further four years, despite the US coming to believe he was innocent, after, the Senate report said, “the development of significant intelligence indicating that the source who reported that Arsala Khan had aided Usama bin Laden had a vendetta against Arsala Khan’s family.”
Janat Gul (also known as Hammidullah), former president of Ariana Airline, was captured in January 2003 in Lashkargar, Afghanistan. He was held in a secret CIA prison in Bucharest, Romania, in 2004 where he was subject, said the Senate report to “continuous sleep deprivation, facial holds, attention grasps, facial slaps, stress positions, and walling until he experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. Janat Gul was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo Bay and was finally released to Afghanistan on April 18, 2005.
Muhammad Rahim was detained by the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, and handed over to the US in 2007. It seems Pakistan had told the US he might know the whereabouts of bin Laden and, as AAN has written, while held in a CIA black site in Afghanistan, Rahim was subject to slapping, hooding, solitary confinement, dietary manipulation and prolonged bouts of sleep deprivation:
Rahim was forcibly kept awake by being shackled in a standing position; he was also made to wear a diaper so that toilet breaks would not interrupt the sessions and, probably, as a further means of humiliation. After a first session of 104.5 hours – more than four days – without sleep, he started suffering hallucinations and was allowed to sleep for eight hours. Then, after a psychiatrist determined he had been faking the hallucinations, he was forcibly prevented from sleeping for another two and a half days. In all, he suffered eight sessions of sleep deprivation, including three which lasted for more than four days and one, the last, which lasted for almost six (138.5 hours).
The CIA interrogators, said the Senate Report, produced no disseminated intelligence report. Even so, the US believed and continues to believe it had captured a senior associate of bin Laden. He was transferred to Guantanamo and remains there till this day. He is the last known detainee of any nationality to be rendered and tortured by the CIA and the last Afghan to be taken to Guantánamo Bay. Because the US military has classified Rahim as a ‘high value’ detainee which means the detail and much of the substance of the US case is secret. His lawyer has said he cannot publically say why he believes Rahim is innocent because to do so would reveal classified information. He has been deemed a ‘forever prisoner’, ie not suitable for release or criminal trial. (For more on this case and the many questions surrounding the US assertions of Rahim’s al Qaeda membership, see this longer AAN report).
(1) The following allegations were made (text from the 8 September 2010 decision by the Court of Appeal when it overturned its earlier ruling, made in April 2009 that the government could not invoke the state secrets privilege to dismiss an entire suit, only to dismiss specific evidence):
Plaintiff Binyam Mohamed, a 28-year-old Ethiopian citizen and legal resident of the United Kingdom, was arrested in Pakistan on immigration charges. Mohamed was allegedly flown to Morocco… where he claims he was transferred to the custody of Moroccan security agents. These Moroccan authorities allegedly subjected Mohamed to “severe physical and psychological torture,” including routinely beating him and breaking his bones. He says they cut him with a scalpel all over his body, including on his penis, and poured “hot stinging liquid” into the open wounds. He was blindfolded and handcuffed while being made “to listen to extremely loud music day and night.”
After 18 months in Moroccan custody, Mohamed was allegedly transferred back to American custody and flown to Afghanistan. He claims he was detained there in a CIA “dark prison” where he was kept in “near permanent darkness” and subjected to loud noise, such as the recorded screams of women and children, 24 hours a day. Mohamed was fed sparingly and irregularly and in four months he lost between 40 and 60 pounds. Eventually, Mohamed was transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he remained for nearly five years. He was released and returned to the United Kingdom during the pendency of this appeal.
Plaintiff Bisher al-Rawi, a 39-year-old Iraqi citizen and legal resident of the United Kingdom, was arrested in Gambia while traveling on legitimate business. Like the other plaintiffs, al-Rawi claims he was put in a diaper and shackles and placed on an airplane, where he was flown to Afghanistan. He says he was detained in the same “dark prison” as Mohamed and loud noises were played 24 hours per day to deprive him of sleep. Al-Rawi alleges he was eventually transferred to Bagram Air Base, where he was “subjected to humiliation, degradation, and physical and psychological torture by U.S. officials,” including being beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with death. Al-Rawi was eventually transferred to Guantanamo; in preparation for the flight, he says he was “shackled and handcuffed in excruciating pain” as a result of his beatings. Al-Rawi was eventually released from Guantanamo and returned to the United Kingdom.
Plaintiff Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a 38-year-old Yemeni citizen, says he was apprehended by agents of the Jordanian government while he was visiting Jordan to assist his ailing mother. After a brief detention during which he was “subject[ed] to severe physical and psychological abuse,” Bashmilah claims he was given over to agents of the U.S. government, who flew him to Afghanistan in similar fashion as the other plaintiffs. Once in Afghanistan, Bashmilah says he was placed in solitary confinement, in 24-hour darkness, where he was deprived of sleep and shackled in painful positions. He was subsequently moved to another cell where he was subjected to 24-hour light and loud noise. Depressed by his conditions, Bashmilah attempted suicide three times. Later, Bashmilah claims he was transferred by airplane to an unknown CIA “black site” prison, where he “suffered sensory manipulation through constant exposure to white noise, alternating with deafeningly loud music” and 24-hour light. Bashmilah alleges he was transferred once more to Yemen, where he was tried and convicted of a trivial crime, sentenced to time served abroad and released.
Plaintiff Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian national who had been seeking asylum in Sweden, was captured by Swedish authorities, allegedly transferred to American custody and flown to Egypt. In Egypt, he claims he was held for five weeks “in a squalid, windowless, and frigid cell,” where he was “severely and repeatedly beaten” and subjected to electric shock through electrodes attached to his ear lobes, nipples and genitals. Agiza was held in detention for two and a half years, after which he was given a six-hour trial before a military court, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in Egyptian prison. According to plaintiffs, “[v]irtually every aspect of Agiza’s rendition, including his torture in Egypt, has been publicly acknowledged by the Swedish government.”
Plaintiff Abou Elkassim Britel, a 40-year-old Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, was arrested and detained in Pakistan on immigration charges. After several months in Pakistani detention, Britel was allegedly transferred to the custody of American officials. These officials dressed Britel in a diaper and a torn t-shirt and shackled and blindfolded him for a flight to Morocco. Once in Morocco, he says he was detained incommunicado by Moroccan security services at the Temara prison, where he was beaten, deprived of sleep and food and threatened with sexual torture, including sodomy with a bottle and castration. After being released and re-detained, Britel says he was coerced into signing a false confession, convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 15 years in a Moroccan prison.
(2) As AAN has previously written, the effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, including by the US courts. Hernan Reyes, a specialist in the medical effects of detention working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), writing about psychological torture for the ICRC Journal quoted a 1944 case in America (Ashcraft v. Tennessee):
Although [the defendant] Ashraft was only subjected to 36 hours of sleep deprivation, the court ruled it to be both physical and mental torture. In a ruling not only categorizing sleep deprivation as torture but further emphasizing the unreliability of any information obtained in such a way, US Justice Hugo Black stated that ‘‘deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture, and certain to produce any confession desired.’’
After two nights without sleep, according to a psychoanalyst working with victims of torture who was quoted by Reyes, “the hallucinations start.” After three nights, people dream while awake, “a form of psychosis,” the psychoanalyst says. “By the week’s end, people lose their orientation in place and time – the people you’re speaking to become people from your past; a window might become a view of the sea seen in your younger days. To deprive someone of sleep is to tamper with their equilibrium and their sanity.”
(3) AAN wrote:
The information available, says the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), provides a reasonable basis to believe that during interrogations of security detainees and in conduct supporting those interrogations, members of the US armed forces and the CIA:
… resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape… Specifically:
Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014. The majority of the abuses are alleged to have occurred in 2003-2004.
Members of the CIA appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape on the territory of Afghanistan and other States Parties to the Statute (namely Poland, Romania and Lithuania) between December 2002 and March 2008. The majority of the abuses are alleged to have occurred in 2003-2004.
Crucially, the OTP says, these “alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” but rather were part of a policy:
The Office considers that there is a reasonable basis to believe these alleged crimes were committed in furtherance of a policy or policies aimed at eliciting information through the use of interrogation techniques involving cruel or violent methods which would support US objectives in the conflict in Afghanistan.