"Because I was afraid, because I hurt, and because I told myself, when this is all worked out, I'll tell the truth," Benchellali said.
Ex-detainees, Officials Say Torture Doesn’t Work
Former Guantanamo Bay detainees Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi on Wednesday described their ordeals of ill-treatment and abuse at the facility as US President Donald Trump is asking for recommendations on whether torture works.
It was only a matter of weeks before Benchellali, a Frenchman detained first at Kandahar in Afghanistan, cracked and confessed to confess to being a member of the al-Qaida network.
The only problem, he said, was that it was a lie.
"Because I was afraid, because I hurt, and because I told myself, when this is all worked out, I'll tell the truth.
But for now, better to tell them what they want to hear," he said.
Trump is asking for recommendations on whether torture works, if secret CIA black sites should be used again to interrogate suspects and whether the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay should not only stay open, but should accept future detainees, according to a draft executive order that signals sweeping changes to U.S. interrogation and detention policy.
The Associated Press and other news organizations obtained a copy.
The draft directive, which the White House said was not official, would reverse former US President Barack Obama's order to close the Guantanamo Bay facility - a place Trump has said he wants to fill "with bad dudes."
Trump, who has pushed for tougher interrogation techniques, said he would consult with new Defence Secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo before authorizing any new policy.
But he said he had asked top intelligence officials: "Does torture work? And the answer was 'Yes, absolutely.'"
Even if it were, the answer is resoundingly negative, said Mark Fallon, who served as a U.S. counterterrorism investigator and tried to oppose the torture at Guantanamo when he learned about it during the administration of President George W. Bush.
"Torture is a very effective method to get somebody to say something you want them to say. It is not an effective method to get somebody to tell the truth or reliable information," he said.
"Torture doesn't work," said Alberto Mora, the former General Counsel of the US Navy in the George W. Bush administration during 2001-2006.
"I'm afraid that (US) President (Donald) Trump has seen too many television shows and hasn't spoken enough to interrogation professionals or military law enforcement professionals who understand that non-abusive relationship-based interrogation techniques are vastly more effective at producing truthful information faster than torture."
If the Trump administration resuscitates policies used under the Bush administration, it could jeopardize relations and intelligence sharing between the United States and European allies such as Britain.
Prime Minister Teresa May, who is scheduled to meet Trump on Friday, told reporters that Britain "absolutely" condemns the use of torture.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the draft order was not a "White House-originated" document, and House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was his understanding that it was written by someone who had earlier worked on the Trump transition team.
While it's unclear whether the Trump administration will return to policies seen in the war on extremism, rights advocates say even the smallest move backward could bring legal troubles, especially with regard to CIA black sites that were used for interrogation.
After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, no two prisons came to symbolize the war on extremism like Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
When the Guantanamo Bay camp opened in January 2002, months after the Sept. 11 attacks, European reporters flocked to the outpost, plastering front pages with the first images of suspects.
The men, clad in orange jumpsuits, were shown kneeling and bound next to U.S. military guards.
More than 900 prisoners have since circled through the prison camp, some held for years without ever being charged.
It also attracted a steady stream of controversies, including documents that showed prisoners were subjected to abuse.
The bad press at Guantanamo coincided with graphic pictures of abuse out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
Some fear that if Trump embraces past policies, there could be a backlash from extremist groups, increasing the threat of terrorism against the United States.
The Islamic State group has often shown prisoners wearing the same orange jumpsuits as Guantanamo detainees.
"It is such a symbolic target. If you look at studies of what foreign fighters have used to justify coming to the battle, they have traditionally used both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay as a reason that they came to the battlefield," Fallon said.
The American Civil Liberties Union warned that if past policies return, the United States could see itself in the middle of a flurry of legal challenges at home and internationally.
Torture is prohibited under international law.
The words "concentration camp" flashed through Nizar Sassi's mind when he found himself in a pile of naked men after being violated in front of a roomful of military physicians in Kandahar.
Freed from Guantanamo in 2004, the Frenchman's email address still bears the number he was given at the camp: 325.
"I no longer believe in the justice of man," he said.
"I'm not going to torture myself. Hatred that normally should be inked in my heart with what I've endured would finish by destroying me first."