US military judge acknowledges that forcing Ensure up a detainee's anus is indeed torture

In a recent court case, US military judge Col. Lanny Acosta Jr. ruled that confessions made by Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, a detainee at Guantanamo, were not legally admissible, on the grounds that al-Nashiri was repeatedly sexually assaulted and tortured by the CIA. Specifically, Col. Acosta Jr. said that al-Nashiri was "subjected…to physical coercion and abuse amounting to torture as well as living conditions which constituted cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment."

But Col. Acosta Jr went into more, erm, anal detail later in the ruling:

[al-Nashiri] occasionally undertook hunger strikes, in his words, to protest being treated like an animal. At Location 6, the CIA responded to a hunger strike by force-feeding him rectally. As described in the context of his rectal feeding, Ensure was infused into al-Nashiri in a forward-facing position (Trendlenberg) with head lower than torso [Unlubricated rectal examinations were part of the rendition intake process]. Since the early twentieth century, medical knowledge has concluded that there is no medical reason to conduct so-called rectal feeding. Although fluids can be absorbed through the rectum in emergencies, food or nutrition cannot.

Spencer Ackerman, acclaimed National Security Reporter and author of Reign of Terror and Waller vs Wildstorm, broke this down in his Forever Wars newsletter (one of the most consistently valuable newsletters out there, I might add), putting in the broader context of sexual assault as a tool of the US military and intelligence apparatus:

They violated al-Nashiri's anus while putting him in the same position they used to waterboard him. I wasn't familiar with the Trendlenberg Position, but that's apparently what it is: "supine on the table with their head declined below their feet at an angle of roughly 16 degrees." The CIA, remember, contends that this was a mercy. What, you want al-Nashiri to die?


As well, a footnote in Acosta's ruling gestures at how routinely the CIA sexually assaulted detainees. "Unlubricated rectal examinations were part of the rendition intake process," he writes. We'll never know, but it's likely the number of those whom the CIA rendered for torture is significantly greater than the at-least-119 people the CIA tortured directly. Many whom it tortured directly were also rendered, as with al-Nashiri. "Unlubricated rectal examinations" was not the only sexual-assault feature of the rendition process. 


As I first reported in 2016 for The Guardian, the CIA took nudes of the people it rendered. It raped Majid Khan. At the risk of straying outside my professional expertise, it should surprise no one that when granted conditions of total impunity over people subject to total dehumanization, the powerful will consider themselves licensed to commit themost violative physical transgressions possible, and justify it to themselves and the world.

The fact Acosta acknowledged the cruel inhumanity of this act is both cold comfort—and depressingly monumental, considering how few consequences the US has suffered for the horrendous acts it has committed at black sites like Guantanamo.

Military Judge Rejects CIA's 'Rectal Feeding' Narrative for Post-9/11 Sexual Assault [Spencer Ackerman / Forever Wars]