July 15th, 2008
06:20 PM ET

Gitmo interrogation – not what many expected

A 16-year-old Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay is shown being interrogated in a video released by his attorney.
A 16-year-old Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay is shown being interrogated in a video released by his attorney.

Kelli Arena
Justice Correspondent

We had never seen a tape of an interrogation from Guantanamo Bay before. This video was only being released because a judge forced the Canadian government's hand. The detainee was just 16 at the time-now 21-the youngest being held at Gitmo. What would it show?? It turns out, it was more subdued than shocking.

The detainee, Omar Khadr is visibly distraught at times. "Oh Mommy," he cries in despair when he is alone in the room, watched only by hidden cameras.

Hard to watch, but not what you might expect. No torture shown, no abuse. He's even offered a break and a hamburger and chips. He tells his interrogator that no one cares about him, shows him his battle wounds, and reminds the interrogator that he'd asked for medical care.

But there are none of the harsh interrogation techniques we've heard about. It doesn't strike me as any different from an interrogation in a police station, whether it's in Ottawa or Washington DC.

One former military lawyer said he's surprised the legal team released the video, calling it benign. But the ACLU published a press release calling the tape "disturbing." Khadr's lawyers are clearly hoping the sight of a child being interrogated will be enough to pressure the Canadian government to demand he be sent back to Canada.

The Canadian foreign affairs office said discussions regarding his repatriation "are premature and speculative."

The Pentagon's response wasn't much different: "We believe Khadr should be held accountable for his actions."

So, what exactly is Khadr being held for? He's charged with murdering a U.S. soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan. He's set to go before a military commission in October. Other Western countries have gotten their citizens out of Gitmo, but Canada has not officially asked for Khadr. Some speculate there may be a behind-the-scenes deal in the works.

We don't have any proof of that–but Canada's silence on this is deafening.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Kelli Arena • War on Terror
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. sophia

    How anyone can still muster the indecency to defend the operation of gitmo is beyond me. Trade relations with the US should have been severed a long time ago. What really strikes me is the reaction to this video. Not shocking enough?? This is a child – what more do you want or need to see? Of course they are not going to show images of prisoners being beaten or strapped to chairs etc. Have pictures of human beings being hooded, shackled and held in a cage in the blistering sun already been forgotten? 'Relax..have some food' – this has got to be the hardest slap in the face I have seen. It makes my heart wrench and I can't believe anyone could react differently. Gitmo prisoners held on alien territory were made to look like aliens too, put in orange jump suits, forced to wear goggles at times and, as said, hooded – it makes it harder to relate or empathise yet they are and remain human beings. And I believe this video finally brings that home to the viewing public. But judging from this reaction I guess that the future is orange.

    July 16, 2008 at 7:47 am |
  2. Jeri

    @seph – He certainly doesn't sound like someone who was born in Canada. But in any case, born in Canada or not, I wonder if you would be saying the same thing if that was an American kid called Joe or something sitting there, and not a Muslim kid with the unwelcome name of Omar.

    He killed somebody in a battlefield. You Americans call those types heroes if they're Americans remember? I'm sorry to be saying this, but I just have to – I believe the main problem with people like you is your gross lack of understanding of the rest of the world and the people outside your little haven.

    And this is from a strictly neutral point of view – I'm neither American nor from a Muslim country, and I hate terrorism as much as any American but c'mon! He's a kid who just wants his mother. This video just breaks my heart.

    July 16, 2008 at 6:16 am |
  3. andrewj

    By International Law he is a child combatant and is to be rehabilitated not imprisoned.
    After WW2 the US government wated to bring these same types of kangaroo courts and jails upon the Germans but the Officers at the time refused to obey those orders as against what the US stands for. It's too bad that 9/11 supposedly changed the world so much that you fools let your government throw out its constitution and allow this type of thing to happen

    July 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  4. Aaron W


    I am a Canadian, and this wasn't really an 'interrogation of Khadr' as you reported (at least not according to the CBC), the tape was of a CSIS *Canada's Secret Service Agent interviewing Khadr about his treatment and stay at Gitmo. The Canadian media is labelling this as an intelligence mission performed to see how prisoners, especially Canadian ones were being treated in Gitmo.

    The Conservative government in Canada said it is not planning to interfere in the upcoming court case against Khadr in the USA in october.

    To all those who read, Omar Khadr was a boy, forced by his father to attend Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. He had no say or choice. There is no doubt in Canadian's minds that his father and mother, and other family members were truly harbingers of terror. Omar was a child, forced into training, and expected to perform in combat once there. He may have killed this soldier, and should be tried in Canada or the US, but perhaps murder is not the charge, manslaughter could be. Like a child soldier in the blood soaked plains, jungles and deserts of Africa, Omar Khadr did what he was told to do. The people who forced him into this life and taught him to kill must be held accountable for his actions as well.

    Our children, at 16 are quite impressionable. Think of your own children, how would they respond to systemic brainwashing and brutal reprisals for not carrying out the wishes of the terrorist warlords of the Al Qaeda. Those of us who have not lived it could never understand what the adolescent mind would succumb to such intense psychological and physical stress and conditioning. Then to subject this 'Child Of Guantanamo' to brutally U.S. sanctioned torture while in custody is appalling. He may have killed that soldier, but there is a lot more to this picture.

    July 15, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Vikki

    Oh my God.
    What makes US better than THEM is the way we treat human beings. Or so I thought.
    At this point, WE are no better than THEM. It's a lesson drilled into us since childhood. Do Not Sink To Their Level.
    Good job, Bush Admins! You've successfully undermined yet another childhood lesson!

    July 15, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Gordon

    CNN's showing of a highly sanitized version of the interview, vs. the more disturbing parts of the interview as shown in all other democratic societies, and their failure to advise the listeners that this 15 or 16 year old boy was for the subjected to the 'frequent flyer' sleep deprivation technique for 21 days prior to the interview, is inexcusable. Unfortunately, it seems to follow a consistent pattern of sanitizing and presenting in a less damaging manner news that documents the continued erosion of the democratic process in a country that, continues to send it’s young to die while fighting for those same democratic principles in a foreign country.

    July 15, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  7. Isaac

    Jo Anne,

    16 years old or not it takes a certain level of maturity to decide to leave your country of peace and trade it for one of terrorism. Of course he knew what he did. I do not think that any kind of age defense would be the end all to this case. I'm not saying it makes POW cases any less "sticky" on the whole but I think this one is that cut and dry.

    July 15, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  8. Jo Anne Cummings

    Prisoners of war issues are always tricky, different offenses, different degrees of punishment. who decides who lives or dies? Can a 16 year old even know what he has done? I don't think this is as cut and dried as some people think.

    July 15, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  9. seph

    Yes... this guy is a 'Terrorist' and a 'Murderer' – He killed an American soldier in Afghanistan – He was NOT fighting for his country – HE is a CANADIAN born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – His father was from Pakistan originally – He went to Afghanistan purposely to fight and KILL Americans – He should not be returned to Canada, which is the only reason his attorney ordered the tape released – they are attempting to garner sympathy for this terrorist from the American and Canadian people in hopes that this will apply pressure on the US & Canadian government to extadite him to Canada – Canada so far has refused to ask for his extradition – He deserves the death sentence right here in the US – of course his attorney wants him sent to Canada, they have no death sentence in Canada – I only hope our Government honors the life and service of our soldier and his family by refusing to extradite this terrorist should the Canadian government request it...

    The terrorist and his family often visited the compound of Osama Bin Laden, and the Khadr and bin Laden children played together ! There is a lot written about this case on the net – do your homework before you deside to call Americans' War Criminals' !!


    July 15, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  10. James Dylan

    Michael Mendola,
    This person left his country, he was not defending it, to kill Americans and possibly Canadians, his actual countrymen, in Afghanistan. Why would Canada want him back? To charge him with treason and put him to death is the only answer I can think of. He might be better off being were he is and just getting a murder charge. He's not a soldier and barely a mercenary; insurgent is the name that fits him best.

    July 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  11. Annie Kate

    This man is charged with murder for the death of a soldier in a firefight? I thought those people were prisoners of war and subject to the Geneva Convention whether Bush and his cronies want to recognize that or not. The only historical example similar to this would be the way the Germans treated some of their POWs in WW2 – we tried them as war criminals after the war was over. How is this any different?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 15, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  12. Michael Mendola

    He's charged with "murdering" a US soldier in a firefight? While I can never say anything against our people in uniform, it seems to me that this Omar Khadr is a soldier, defending his country against a foreign invader–the US.
    He should be treated like a POW, subject to the Geneva Convention. Those Canadians or American who order his captivity in this manner are war criminals for not doing so.

    July 15, 2008 at 8:43 pm |