03/12/14 – Jason Leopold – The Scott Horton Show

by | Mar 12, 2014 | Interviews

Journalist Jason Leopold discusses the government’s Orwellian war on words wherein Guantanamo hunger strikers are said to be on “long term non-religious fasts;” the media blackout on Guantanamo; and the painful process of force feeding.


Hi y’all how’s it going. Welcome to the show it’s the Scott Horton Show, I’m Scott Horton. You know I used to concerned about this Hunger-Strike down in Guantanamo Bay, bunch of people , most of them were kidnapped and sold for bounty by the Pakistani military to the US army back in 2001-2002 – never charged with a crime, no evidence against them – held forever without trial and here they are trying to starve themselves to death.

The only way they can commit suicide – but, I’ve come to understand that’s not really a problem anymore because they’ve called off their Hunger Strikes, they’re no longer trying to starve themselves to death – now they’re just on: Long Term Non-Religious Fasts – which sounds to me like it probably doesn’t hurt too bad, isn’t that right?

Scott Horton (SH):I’ve got Jason Leopold on the line, he’s now writing for www.vice.com. Welcome to the show, how are you doing?
Jason Leopold:: (JL): Hey Scott great to be with you, yeah Long Term Non Religious Fasts. The mangling of phrases and words and introductions of new euphemisms at Guantanamo continues.

SH: That was my favorite part of 1984 (Orwell) honestly, even when I was in High School and I first read it, it was my favorite part – Winston’s neighbor or his co-worker at the Ministry of Truth I guess – I think he sees him in the cafeteria and they guy is like, ‘Hey check it out man, we got the 11th edition of the Newspeak dictionary, it’s got fewer words than ever before’ (laughs).

We’re really narrowing everything down and beating the life out of all the terminology in the world ….

Jl: You have to wonder if that’s what they ‘re thinking, I mean this follows the use of phrases such as ‘Humane Restraints’ which is what they call the shackles, and they actually say that when we’re down there.

When we say ‘shackles’ they will say, ‘Oh you mean the humane restraints’, we are corrected when we talk about Guantanamo being a prison, they say, ‘There is no prison here, it’s a detention facility’ and they’re very, very serious about it.

I have to tell you Scott, this is just amazing because, in previous Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and this is what this is, this is a Standard Operating Procedure that the medical personnel at Guantanamo uses with the prisoners, who by the way we’re also told we can’t refer to them as ‘prisoners’, they are ‘detainees’ – this is what they use to manage the Hunger Strikers. But the fact that they literally stripped out any reference to ‘hunger strike’ is just stunning.

In fact the title of the SOP previously had the term ‘Hunger Strike’ in it – this has been renamed, ‘Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss’.

SH: Oh man

JL: That’s what they call this. ‘Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss’

SH: Orwell must have been thinking of the US military above and beyond when he was writing about Newspeak, I mean, they really are the masters of this kind of jargon on all levels. Like the George Carlin skit, ‘These guys measure nuclear radiation in something they call ‘sunshine units’

They’re at war with the truth more than anything else

JL: They really do not want this to be seen as anything other than ‘weight loss’. It has nothing to do with a political protest. They make it so the medical personnel should not even think about this in terms of the politics of their detention – it’s just, ‘They’re losing weight, and this is what your job is’

SH: Like they’re animals in a zoo

JL: Exactly.

SH: They take all the humanity out of it, it’s not a medical condition or a crisis of a human being it’s just a waist that needs thickening

JL: Exactly it’s certainly stripped out any sort of – it doesn’t conjure up any images or feelings or emotions with regard to the fact that these are prisoners- that they are protesting their indefinite detention.

Keep in mind that this is a document – by the way I obtained this document through a FOIA lawsuit. I have seven FOIA lawsuits against the Government Scott.

This one pertains to a lawsuit against the DOD in which I have a hundred different FOIA’s that they failed to comply with. So this is one document that was released. It wasn’t for public consumption previously – this was just an internal document – so just internally they don’t want to think about that is this way – that’s even amazing

It’s not just that they’re not telling us in the media, or telling the public that they’re not even referring to it as a ‘Hunger Strike’, even inside for the folks that are there everyday, y’know, they’re in a fog -they’re in a completely whole different world where this….

SH: Or we could say it’s for them especially right? Orwell would say all the propaganda is for them. We can think what we want because we can’t do anything about it, but the people who are implementing this stuff, they have to believe the propaganda or they won’t do their job right

JL: Exactly and I think that’s what makes this such a great example of the ‘Newspeak’ and everything that you’re raising here with regards to Orwell and how Orwellian this all is because this is literally their own internal instruction manual and guide book.

This is the third time by the way that these Hunger Strike protocols have been altered and changed – in 2013 – I believe we spoke last year when I obtained the other version – which was in May of 2013 – which was completely un-redacted by the way – I didn’t even file a FOIA for that, that was just given to me when I asked – they certainly didn’t make that mistake again.

That one mentioned Hunger Strike. It also contained information about when you’re replaced in the restraint chair, the mask you have to wear over your mouth, this one doesn’t have any of that. This has whole redacted pages, so in terms of really understanding what has changed on the physical level, whether it’s a certain number of pounds – that is hard to tell because it is not there. That’s why the whole ‘Non-Religious fast’ just stuck out.

2013 was a mass hunger strike at Guantanamo – the timing of this document is interesting because they implemented this just as they also implemented a new policy in which they would no longer provide the media with any information about the number of hunger strikers or the number of prisoners being force-fed — nothing

So in the past 3-4 months there has been a media blackout at Guantanamo where we just cannot obtain any information about the operations – about what’s happening

SH: All these guys, they’re not ‘really’ trying to starve themselves to death right? They are in effect but they’re doing it in this most horrible slow motion fashion to try to get our attention under the theory that if there is any kind of democratic authority held in the hands of the people of America – that we might do the right thing and force our Government to do the right thing and give them a shot before a judge ..or some kind of due process – charges or something to relieve them of  their condition, this purgatory that they’re stuck in, this legal black hole.

Yet when it was getting through and it was such a major news story last spring, the military’s decision as you describe it – to clamp down on the information worked.

Now they’re just starving themselves to death and nobody is taking notice any more because they were able to clamp down on the information. This was starting to become a thing in the news cycle – well let’s check in on the hunger strike at Guantanamo, not just on this show but on TV from time to time

All that is over now – they’re just dying now

JL: It’s completely over. Keep in mind that we just can’t get this information. We don’t know what is happening there because they refuse to release the information. I was there in December ….

SH: Clive Stafford Smith has this thing about a client of his who is suing to stop his force-feeding so it’s still going on with some of them even if we don’t know the numbers
JL: Yes, they just filed a lawsuit yesterday. That is a historic lawsuit because it would possibly be the first time a court would weigh in on this ….and take a look at everything.

This SOP fits very nicely with that lawsuit. They also filed a version of the SOP with their lawsuit. The description of what that particular prisoner was being subjected to – it’s horrific – it’s very difficult reading

When I was there in December Scott, the military official basically said, ‘The reason we stopped providing you with information about the Hunger Strikers is because they were successful at attracting media attention. We don’t want to help them with that’ and they were very open about that.

SH: Because it’s all about giving in to terrorists or something like that. It’s not about telling the American people who have the right to know about what’s happening under the color of their authority supposedly.

That’s the last consideration in mind here

JL: Yeah. So getting back to your point about the ….give them some due process. We just passed 12 years. You and I will be talking about the same exact issues in the months ahead. I think there is a certain level of fatigue that’s setting in, if you can believe it, on the military side, they don’t want to be bothered with this anymore, they want this to simply disappear.

As I mentioned they’ve been very successful at that over the last 3-4 months because there hasn’t been any information coming out, but when you do finally get an opportunity to obtain some info in the form of say an SOP like this, you really get an understanding of how little has changed.

They are continuing to operate to some degree in the same way they have been for more than a decade.

SH: It’s Jason Leopold now writing over at www.vice.com. This one is Guantanamo Now Calls Hunger Strikes Long Term Non-Religious Fasts.

We’ll be right back
SH: Welcome back to the show, I’m Scott Horton. This one is called: Guantanamo Now Calls Hunger Strikes Long Term Non-Religious Fasts – aka attempted suicide avoided only through force-feeding torture

Can you describe a little bit, in real terms, if your six your old is listening maybe change the channel, can you explain what it really means to tie somebody down and force-feed them Ensure brand products….down there at Guantanamo …

JL: There has obviously been much discussion about what that entails. There has been medical professionals say that the way they do it at Guantanamo rises to the level of torture. There have been other people, for example medical officers that I have spoken with when I went to Guantanamo that say, ‘This is painless, this is no big deal, I do this in hospitals’.

But what they’re doing is, for the most part the prisoners who refuse any meals and their weight drops to a certain level, that they need to be force-fed, or what they call, again some new speak here, ‘Enteral Feeding’ – they’re taken to a restraint chair by force, in shackles, with a guard force, they’re put into that restraint chair and it’s a six point restraint chair: head, arms, ankles, and they have a tube shoved up their nose until it reaches their stomach.

They’ll test it out with water to make sure it actually reached their stomach and then through a bag, like an IV type bag they’ll start pumping in that liquid Ensure. They’re doing this against their will.

That’s what is so important. If you go to a hospital and you can’t eat well okay this is what is appropriate. But these are people who are resisting. The World Medical Association said if they can make up their own choices about refusing to eat, you have to respect it.

Here they’re going through what many have said is a very, very painful process because, certainly because of the way they’re moving around, there has been claimed that the tubes have been shoved in their nose without any lubrication, pulled out and there’s blood – there is vomiting.

SH: They use like an extra thick gauge hose that they don’t need to use as well right?

JL: That is what has been said as well. Keep in mind that the attorneys are getting this information from the prisoners and when we try to follow it up in the media the folks in Guantanamo say, ‘Absolutely not – that’s not true, we’re using the proper tubes’.

There has been talk that they’re making this as painful as possible in order to stop the hunger strikes

SH: Accusations that are a lot more believable than the ones being leveled against these people as the excuse for holding them there is in the first place – some of whom haven’t even been accused of anything

JL: Correct. That’s what is just so crazy about this Scott – there’s Hunger Strikes happening here in the US as well – at immigration jails recently. Actually as of yesterday, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is holding a bunch of people, in WA State you have two dozen ICE detainees who were placed under medical watch because they’re on Hunger Strikes

This whole idea is a protest. They are protesting their confinement – up in Pelican Bay you have the Hunger Strikers who are protesting their placement in solitary confinement.

What stands out about Guantanamo is that when they resort to force-feeding – this is not like they’re going to a Judge and saying, ‘Hey your Honor this is what we need to do’, this is a policy that ultimately the person who has the last word to sign off on this is the Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo …

So it’s not even a doctor who gets the final world, a doctor sort of weighs in, but it’s their policy so it differs dramatically from what they say happens at y’know the Bureau of Prisons or even with regard to immigration.

Who knows what’s happening there right now? I can’t even tell you the number of Hunger Strikers there are currently, but if you read that lawsuit that was filed yesterday for one prisoner who hasn’t even been accused, or hasn’t been charged and what he’s saying – his account of what’s been happening is horrific.

They’re saying that they have been pumping in the fluids so quickly that it’s certainly causing them to vomit, distention of the intestines, when you put liquid into a body that way so quickly it can lead to pneumonia – that is actually a side effect believe it or not from force-feeding.

From what he’s claiming there are steps that they’re taking to try to break this Hunger-Strike – allegedly they are implementing these new procedures..

SH: Man, maybe I should just do like Colbert and get into the satire business – work hard on setting all these things up to trick everybody into thinking we’re talking about foreign countries that we need to invade for the first half of it yknow…but every time it ends up that we’re talking about America in the end …are you kidding me

This is the kind of thing where if it were any other country it would be our Governments talking point of why it’s okay to kill them – because we are saving them from the kind of people who would do this to them

Andrew Sullivan went and found, where if you translate from the original German it literally, the SS documents translate directly to: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

JL: Right

SH: Maybe this has always been the American way – some would argue – but right now we’re way past the point of embracing this and allowing this to just roll on with no accountability, no one even seems to care anymore, no one but you

JL: I still certainly think it’s important that this gets reported on. I think we’ve become so used to hearing these types of stories – reading about this, in a way we are desensitized to it. I’m not even sure what new revelation could even be made. With this particular document Scott, it’s 24 pages, it’s attached to the story if people want to read it.

There are things I could have bought up in regard to the medical aspects of this – what they’re doing with regard to the force-feeding and the Hunger Strike.
I’ve reported that so many times. Wh
at stood out was the fact they renamed ‘Hunger Strike’ to ‘Long Term Non-Religious Fast’.

And that the term ‘Hunger Strike’ doesn’t appear in a Hunger Strike Standard Operating Procedure.

SH: The fact that they would resort to this euphemism is the most newsworthy part of it – not the most important- but the most newsworthy part.

And it’s outrageous just to lie in the naming of the damn thing

JL: I knew if I were to focus on that – I though that it might get the attention of people

SH: Has it got any kind of TV attention or anything

JL: It hasn’t and I’m not surprised

SH: It should

JL: The military..

SH: NBC news picked you up on Google three hours ago —they credit the Miami Herald

JL: Oh yeah, there is a little point of contention here that I have with that particular report,
it failed to provide proper credit as they often do – I obtained these documents via FOIA

SH: That’s too bad

JL: It’s typical

SH: It must be Carol Rosenberg, did she give you credit at least?

JL: No. That is part of the problem. Very typical. I’ve become used to it.

SH: I guess what matters the most is that you’re doing the work and I know you feel that way about it in the first place and that’s why you do such good work. Otherwise you’d be reporting on football games making a lot of money ..

JL: Exactly, thanks Scott

SH: If what it takes is taking your name off it to get NBC to look at it then damnit I’m sorry Jason, we’re just going to have to carry on…

That is too bad though about Carol Rosenberg, I’m sorry to hear that she would do you that way ..
JL: As I’ve indicated, I’ve got this FOIA lawsuit there will be plenty of documents hopefully coming soon. I feel confident that we’ll be able to put out some news about Guantanamo and I appreciate you taking the time to cover it Scott…

SH: Thanks for coming on the show I really appreciate it ..

JL: My pleasure, I’ll speak to you soon ….

SH: That’s Jason Leopold everybody at www.vice.com



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