David Becker

Torture Connection: 
Guantanamo's Head Torturer
  • Grew up in a small town in Kansas
  • U.S. Army, interrogator
  • Defense Intelligence Agency, civilian analyst
  • Chief of the “Interrogation Control Element” in Guantanamo
  • Supervised interrogations of Mohammed al Qahtani, also known as the “20th high-jacker”

David Becker trained in military applications of human-intelligence operations

David W. Becker, a graduate of the army's command college at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, headed the Joint Task Force's intelligence services at Guantanamo during the months following 9/11. Becker's training and experience, as reflected in the research he conducted for his Master's thesis, in 2000, focused on developing human intelligence assets to support military operations in foreign countries.

Administration officials pressure Guantanamo officers to get info on supposed link between al-Qaeda and Iraq

As planning began at Guantanamo for arrival of al-Qaeda detainees and other prisoners, it became evident to Becker that his bosses high up in the Pentagon and the White House envisioned something other than traditional cultivation of intelligence assets. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and attorney Fredman showed up at planning meetings to underscore the administration's interest in a particular kind of intelligence--specifically, information linking al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Because Becker's intelligence-gathering operation had failed to obtain anything relevant to Bush's proposed Iraqi adventure, it was suggested that traditional methods were inadequate. Specifically, it was suggested that torture, in the form of reverse-engineered SERE techniques, as was being promoted by CIA contractors Jessen and Mitchell, should be attempted before giving up on the possibility of establishing links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

David Becker imposes torture interrogations at Guantanamo

Years later, Becker would testify that he did not believe torture could possibly work. He described the officials' plans for interrogations at Guantanamo as "stupid." But at the time he went along with the program, training interrogators in techniques of physical and mental brutality. Some of the techniques were routine and well-known, such as sleep deprivation and stress positions. Some drew on assumptions about Muslim cultural practices; for example, Becker arranged to have females touch the prisoners physically, thus rendering them ritually unclean and unable to pray at times when they would ordinarily participate in prayer. He also utilized the "call to prayer" as a call to torture during interrogations.

Sources on David Becker

ACLU Blog of Rights
Senate Armed Services Detainee Report