Former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells The Real News that the rectal hydration of Guantanamo detainees was a "medical procedure", but prominent human rights attorney Michael Ratner says this was a torture tactic used to break hunger strikes and intimidate detainees .
KAYLA RIVARA, PRODUCER, TRNN: Retired General Michael Hayden was a key figure in the U.S. national security apparatus for decades. Hayden served as the head of the NSA from 1999-2005, and as the director of the CIA from 2006-2009. More recently, he has defended the CIA against allegations of torture made in the Senate Select Committee report published in December. The Real News sat down with Hayden at the George W. Bush conference at Hofstra University. We started by asking him if the war on terror has made the world a safer place. GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: We've actually made ourselves safer against the kind of threat we saw on September 11th. That's the mass casualty attack, complex in its organization, against an iconic target. It's going to be very difficult of any enemy of the United States to do that. RIVARA: We asked prominent human rights attorney Michael Ratner for his response. MICHAEL RATNER, PRES. EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: I mean, the U.S. has actually essentially thrown gasoline on the fire. A group like al-Qaeda which may have numbered 400 or under has now probably spawned up to thousands, tens of thousands, no longer just called al-Qaeda, but called by various names. Whether it's Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, or ISIS, or other, quote, terrorist groups around the world. So I think we're probably in the least safe period we've been in since 9/11, and the world's become a much scarier place. That's all not because just surveillance. Of course, it's the way surveillance, it's the way Muslims are treated on the streets of New York and around the world. It's Guantanamo. It's torture. And it's of course war, and particularly the Iraq war, which has tore the world apart. RIVARA: We also questioned Hayden about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture. HAYDEN: I don't know what I read about this. This happened well before I became director. That's one fact. RATNER: The fact that he said, oh I wasn't in charge of the agency, et cetera, when they were doing some of the worst of the techniques, waterboarding, is again disingenuous. Because he has become, since the Senate torture report has come out, which talked about the 119 people who were waterboarded, tortured, et cetera, in secret sites, he has been the major defender of the agency and going against the torture report from the Senate. RIIVARA: We then asked him about recent statements he made on CNN defending the use of anal rehydration, what many call torture. ~ INTERVIEWER: Between the abuses, the things that were not - HAYDEN: The unauthorized activities. INTERVIEWER: The unauthorized activities, such as the rectal rehydration - HAYDEN: No, stop. INTERVIEWER: Okay. HAYDEN: All right? That was a medical procedure. That was done because of detainee health. That the people responsible there for the health of these detainees saw that they were becoming dehydrated. ~ RIVARA: We asked him about his comments. HAYDEN: I mean, even today at Guantanamo there are people there on hunger strikes. And they're forced to go through forced feeding, with a tube put down through their nasal cavity. That's very horrific, too. In the case of several of our detainees -- Mahjit Khan was one of them. We were trying to rehydrate him through a needle, and he was ripping the needles out. He was also not allowing us to put the tube in through the nasal cavity. And so the medical decision that was made at the time was made at the time, is that we will rehydrate him rectally. And then that was, that's what was done. Good idea, bad idea, I don't know. It wasn't my idea. RATNER: First of all, there's no right to force feed anybody. It's, if you look at the doctors' reports and Amnesty, you know, that's an independent medical decision that you can make for your own, just like you can make, well, I don't want to take extra care or medical care in the hospital. The United States doesn't obey that, so they do force feed people through the tubes through the nose and into the stomach, which we believe are torture, and we've brought cases and litigated that question of whether it's torture. We haven't won that yet, but I think it's a form of torture and it's done purposely to break the hunger strike. People are strapped into a chair, they can't move their heads, they force these two wide tubes down them. People go on for years having that happen to them. But they do attempt through those to break hunger strikes, and they do, whether it's at Guantanamo or in other prisons. Rectal hydration is nothing but torture. And it's done as a part of a series of techniques. Whether it's giving you intravenous feeding of gallons of water so you have to urinate, and they keep you strapped in the chair so you have to do it on yourself. Or whether they give you high temperatures or low temperatures in the cell or put a dog in front of you, or do sexual humiliation -- all kinds of things. And it was one of those that was done. Of course, waterboarding, waterboarding being probably among the worst.