"This is what we were trained to do, and this is what we did. I was not the only one; there were many others hitting them."
wouldn't figure Willie Brand for a killer. He's a quiet young soldier
from Cincinnati who volunteered to be a guard at a U.S. military prison
in Bagram, Afghanistan. But when 60 Minutes met him,
Brand was facing a court-martial in the deaths of two prisoners. The
prisoners were found hanging from chains in their isolation cells. They
had been beaten; one of them was "pulpified," according to the medical
Brand told correspondent Scott Pelley what he did wasn’t
torture, it was his training, authorized and supervised by his
superiors. So how is it he was charged with assault, maiming and
"I didn’t understand how they could do this after they had trained
you to do this stuff and they turn around and say you’ve been bad you
shouldn’t have done this stuff now they’re going to charge you with
assault, maiming and 'unvoluntary' manslaughter, how can this be when
they trained you to do it and they condoned it while you were doing
it," says Brand.
"[The] Army says you are a violent man," Pelley said.
"They do say that, but I’m not a violent person," Brand replied.
But there was violence in the prison. A man named Habibullah and a
cab driver called Dilawar died only days after they had been brought in
on suspicion of being Taliban fighters.
"They brought death upon themselves as far as I'm concerned," says
Capt. Christopher Beiring, who was Brand's commanding officer as head
of the prison guards. Beiring was charged with dereliction of duty, but
the charge was later dropped.
Asked whether compared to other detainees Habibullah was more or
less aggressive, Beiring says, "Yes, absolutely more. He was probably
the worst we had."
What kind of prisoner was Dilawar?
"I wouldn’t categorize him as the worst but he, but he definitely,
several of my soldiers would say that he would test them, fight with
them kick, trip, try to bite, spit. That’s typically what a fighter
does," Beiring recalls.
Dilawar was picked up outside a U.S. base that had been hit by a
rocket. Habibullah was brought in by the CIA, rumored to be a
high-ranking Taliban. Both of them were locked in isolation cells with
hoods over their heads and their arms shackled to the ceiling.
Their shackled hands, according to Brand, were at about eye level.
The point of chaining them to the ceiling, Brand says, was to keep the
detainees awake by not letting them lie down and sleep.
Interrogators wanted the prisoners softened up.
Asked what the longest period of time Brand saw a detainee chained like that, Brand says, "Probably about two days."
"Two days? Without a break?" Pelley asked.
"Without a break," Brand replied.
Capt. Beiring says he doesn’t know of prisoners chained that long. But in general, he had no problem with the procedure.
"They weren’t in pain. They weren’t, as far as I’m concerned they
weren’t being abused. It seemed OK to me. If I was a prisoner, I would
think that would probably be acceptable," says Beiring.
Brand says something else was thought to be acceptable in the
prison: a brutal way of controlling prisoners – a knee to the common
peroneal nerve in the leg, a strike with so much force behind it that
the prisoner would lose muscle control and collapse in pain.
Brand says he vaguely remembers giving knee strikes to Habibullah.
How did the detainee react to that?
"The same way everybody else did. I mean he would scream out
'Allah, Allah, Allah'; sometimes his legs would buckle and sometimes it
wouldn’t," Brand explained.
It wasn't only Willie Brand. A confidential report by the Army’s
criminal investigation division accuses dozens of soldiers of abuse,
including "slamming [a prisoner] into walls [and a] table," "forcing
water into his mouth until he could not breathe," giving "kicks to the
groin" and once, according to the report, a soldier "threatened to rape
a male detainee." Soldiers even earned nicknames including "King of
Torture" and "Knee of Death."
Habibullah and Dilawar were found dead in their cells, hanging from
their chains. The military medical examiner says Dilawar’s legs were
pulpified. Both autopsy reports were marked "homicide." But the Army
spokesman in Afghanistan told the media that both men had died of
natural causes. With two deaths in a week, the Army decided to
investigate. But the facts only began to become public months later in
an article in The New York Times.