Bush's America: The Higazy Case

You think coerced confessions are only part of Third World justice systems? Not under this US president. Check out the full and bizarre account of an arrest and conviction of a man subsequently proven innocent of alleged ties to 9/11 terrorists. The case was written up by the US Court of Appeals in New York. The case hinged on the FBI's threat of torturing a man's family in Egypt:

Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” Templeton later admitted that he knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country where they don’t advise people of their rights, they don’t – yeah, probably about torture, sure.”

Higazy later said, "I knew that I couldn't prove my innocence, and I knew that my family was in danger." He explained that "[t]he only thing that went through my head was oh, my God, I am screwed and my family's in danger. If I say this device is mine, I'm screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And Agent Templeton made it quite clear that cooperate had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.”

The Court tried to keep this part of the judgment classified, yanking it from the official site after mistakenly posting it - but not till the interrogation details were exposed. Higazy's false confession - that he was using a radio transmitter in his hotel room to converse with terrorists in airplanes - was rendered moot by the owner of the transmitter, an airline pilot who had also stayed in the room, subsequently claiming it from the hotel as his own. But that didn't stop the threat of torture. And that didn't stop the conviction. This is how we get intelligence in the Bush-Cheney era. Here's Higazy's explanation for cracking under pressure:

The Egyptian government has very little tolerance for anybody who is they’re suspicious of being a terrorist. To give you an idea, Saddam’s security forceas they later on were called his henchmena lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape, some stuff would be even too sick to . . . . My father is 67. My mother is 61. I have a brother who developed arthritis at 19. He still has it today. When the word ‘torture’ comes at least for my brother, I mean, all they have to do is really just press on one of these knuckles. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything to my sister.

Higazy added:

[L]et’s just say a lot of people in Egypt would stay away from a family that they know or they believe or even rumored to have anything to do with terrorists and by the same token, some people who actually could be might try to get to them and somebody might actually make a connection. I wasn’t going to risk that. I wasn’t going to risk that, so I thought to myself what could I say that he would believe. What could I say that’s convincing? And I said okay.

Yes: this is America. And what Higazy claims was done to him is a war crime.