By IAN AUSTEN | OTTAWA – The video is blurry and the soundtrack muffled, but the technical shortcomings of the video recordings released Tuesday did not obscure the emotions of Omar Khadr as he was interrogated at the GuantÃ¡namo Bay detention center in Cuba.
Mr. Khadr, just 16 years old at the time of the taping, in February 2003, swung from calm and indifference to rage and grief during four days of interrogations in the recordings, which his Canadian lawyers released.
The recordings, turned over to the defense under a Canadian court order, provide the most extensive videotaped images from inside GuantÃ¡namo Bay yet seen. In them, Mr. Khadr, now the last Western citizen held there, is seen pleading with a Canadian intelligence agent for help. At one point, the recording shows him displaying chest and back wounds that had still not completely healed months after his capture in Afghanistan.
The seven hours of recordings were made by the United States military and given to Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service under the terms of an order by Canada’s Supreme Court.
They show Mr. Khadr, who is accused of killing a United States soldier in Afghanistan in battle in July 2002, being questioned by an unidentified member of the Canadian intelligence agency. A Canadian diplomat and a third person, apparently an American official, were also present.
For national security reasons, the audio was removed from several parts of the recordings, and the officials’ faces were electronically obscured by black blobs.
Mr. Khadr, a Canadian, maintains he was abused by American interrogators in Afghanistan and at GuantÃ¡namo Bay. It appears from the recordings, as well as from written documents of the interrogations that were released last week, that Mr. Khadr initially believed that the Canadian agent had come to help him. But he eventually seemed to realize that the agent was present only to extract information.
Much of the material released shows Mr. Khadr, in an orange uniform, sobbing and repeatedly saying, in a moan, either “Help me, help me” or “Kill me, kill me.” His Canadian lawyers said they were not sure which, and the poor audio quality makes it hard to determine with certainty.
In the interrogation, Mr. Khadr said he wanted to return to Canada, but the agent suggested that the situation was so good in Cuba he might want to stay there himself. “The weather’s nice,” the interrogator said. “No snow.”
Mr. Khadr, who had been shot and was near death at the time of his capture in Afghanistan, repeatedly complained about his medical treatment and physical condition. At one point, he lifted his shirt to show the agent the wounds on his back and stomach.
The agent, however, was unmoved. “I’m not a doctor, but I think you’re getting good medical care,” he responded.
Later, a sobbing Mr. Khadr said, “You don’t care about me.”
Slats, apparently from a ventilation panel in the detention center, obscure parts of the images.
In a statement regarding the tapes, a Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon, offered only a blanket defense of the detainees’ treatment. “GuantÃ¡namo provides an environment for detainees that is stable, secure, safe and humane,” it said. “This environment sets the conditions to successfully gain valuable information from detainees built on a relationship of trust, not fear.”
The statement called it “commonplace” for interrogators seeking to establish rapport with detainees to share “a meal from Subway or McDonald’s.”
Amnesty International and several Canadian groups and politicians have unsuccessfully pressed the Canadian government to ask the United States to return Mr. Khadr to Canada. Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the videos had not altered the government’s thinking.
“This videotape is several years old, and the Canadian government is not changing course in terms of the process that will determine Mr. Khadr’s fate,” he said. “He’s obviously facing very serious charges. We believe his fate should be decided through a judicial process rather than a political process.”
Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, said he hoped the airing of the videos, which were featured Tuesday on Canadian television networks, would increase public pressure on the government. “The only way to get him released is through a political process,” he said. “So we are pleading in the court of public opinion.”