Hundreds of videotapes that federal officials had said were destroyed show that foreign nationals held at a New York detention facility after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were physically and verbally abused by guards, says the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The Washington Post says Inspector General Glenn A. Fine also found that the federal Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn improperly taped meetings between detainees and their lawyers, and used excessive strip searches and restraints to punish those in confinement.
The report said that up to 20 guards were involved in the abuse, which included slamming prisoners against walls and painfully twisting their arms and hands. Fine recommended discipline for 10 employees and counseling for two others who remain employed by the federal prison system. “Some officers slammed and bounced detainees against the wall, twisted their arms and hands in painful ways, stepped on their leg restraint chains, and punished them by keeping them restrained for long periods of time,” the report said. “We determined that the way these MDC staff members handled some detainees was, in many respects, unprofessional, inappropriate and in violation of [federal Bureau of Prisons] policy.”
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said that “even the intense emotional atmosphere surrounding the attacks, particularly in New York City, where smoke was still rising from the rubble of Ground Zero, is no excuse for abhorrent behavior by Bureau of Prisons personnel. It is unfortunate that the alleged misconduct of a few employees detracts from the fine work done by the correctional personnel at MDC and around the nation, who conducted themselves professionally and appropriately.”
Barbara J. Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based civil liberties group that is suing the federal government on behalf of detainees, said the report “is astounding confirmation of what we’ve alleged all along. This goes into exactly what kind of physical and verbal abuse there was and what the contradictions of the government’s position has been. . . . It’s clear that there was no provocation at any point, and clear that there was no justification for excessive force at any point.”