In December 2002, two Afghan prisoners, Dilawar and Habibullah, were found dead in their cells days after they had been brought to the U.S.-run Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan. They had been shackled by their wrists to the ceiling and severely beaten, one had been "pulpified" by blows by U.S. guards, according to a military medical examiner.
A U.S. army spokesman in Afghanistan told the media at the time that the men had died of “natural causes“. But an army probe later found that the attacks on Dilawar, a 22-year-old taxi driver, were so sever that "even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated." The military report also stated that the death of 30-year-old Habibullah was attributed to a “blunt force injury“, in addition to a blood clot in the lung.
The CBS News program, "60 Minutes", examined the brutal deaths of the two prisoners. The program‘s correspondent, Scott Pelley, interviewed retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was appointed chief of staff by Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002, during George W. Bush’s first Administration. Willie Brand, a soldier convicted of assault and maiming in the deaths of the two prisoners, and his commanding officer, Capt. Christopher Beiring, were also interviewed in the program.
Wilkerson told "60 Minutes" the he could "smell" a cover-up and was asked by Powell to find out how U.S. soldiers had come to use torture. "I was developing the picture as to how this all got started in the first place, and that alarmed me as much as the abuse itself because it looked like authorization for the abuse went to the very top of the United States government," he said.
President Bush’s February 2002 directive stating that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters led to pervasive torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
According to Wilkerson, the U.S. army chose to ignore the Geneva Conventions when it issued new rules for interrogation in Iraq and Afghanistan. "That essentially says to the troops at the bottom of the rung that you have a new game," he said. “You can use the methods that aren’t in accordance with Geneva. You can use methods that are other than when you’ve been taught, trained and told you could use. That . . . is an invitation, a license to go beyond that, especially when you’re also putting on them tremendous pressure to produce intelligence."
U.S. interrogators discovered that Dilawar was innocent before he died. According to CBS News, the cab driver had been detained only because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. "And so we killed an innocent man, and that’s something else that got me as I went through this, got me very concerned as to not just what we are doing to perhaps al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-like terrorists or even insurgents when we come to Iraq, but what we’re doing to innocents," Wilkerson said.