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By Christopher Bollyn

Fifty men lie face down on the cold prison floor with their manacled hands tightly bound and twisted behind their backs while attack dogs, Dobermans and German Shepherds, terrorize the prisoners, lunging and snarling inches from their faces. Is this a description of another torture scene from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? No. This is a scene from a county jail in Tennessee in early 2003.

While this outrageous scene sounds identical to the now infamous U.S. military torture sessions at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, this incident, described in detail by a German eyewitness who survived it, occurred in February 2003 in the Blount County Jail in Maryville, Tenn.

A bizarre videotaped torture session using attack dogs to terrorize prisoners at the Blount County Jail was witnessed by Ernst Zuendel, a German citizen and controversial historical revisionist who was held in the jail at the time. Zuendel had been taken from his home and American wife in Tennessee on Feb. 5, 2003, in what appears to have been an extra-judicial rendition conducted by agents of the erstwhile Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), then part of the Department of Justice headed by the former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Michael Chertoff.

At the time of his arrest, Zuendel’s immigration status was legal and he was in the process of obtaining his permanent residency permit on the basis of his marriage to a U.S. citizen. INS claims, incorrectly, that he had missed an interview, which his lawyer had asked to be rescheduled in writing.

Zuendel has never been convicted of any crime in Canada, where he lived for 40 years, or in the United States. Zuendel’s report about the use of attack dogs to terrorize American prisoners at the Blount County Jail, and similar reports from county jails around the country, occurred prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Because the reports of the psychological torture using dogs in the jails is identical to what was later seen in Iraq, it appears that the company or agency who used the dogs in the county jails was practicing these methods first on American prisoners. It is thought that these
earlier sessions were videotaped for training purposes.

Zuendel’s written testimony, which appears in his 2004 book, Setting the Record Straight: Letters from Cell No. 7,* describes a group torture session that he witnessed in the Blount County Jail on Feb. 8, 2003. Another session occurred on Feb. 15, 2003, according to inmate reports, although Zuendel, who was meeting with his attorney at the time, was spared.

Zuendel’s detailed description of the use of dogs to terrorize the inmates at the county jail in Tennessee first appeared in a full-page “Open Letter to the Members of the Senate and Congress of the United States of America,” which was published in The Washington Times on Sept. 7, 2003.

Ingrid Rimland, Zuendel’s American wife, placed three full-page informative ads about the extra-judicial arrest and deportation of her husband in the Times during the summer of 2003, at a cost of some $20,000.

Despite the explosive content of these ads and Zuendel’s eyewitness description of torture using dogs on American prisoners in a U.S. county jail, Ingrid said she did not get a single phone call from anybody in response.

Zuendel wrote about the weekend torture session he witnessed:

Come Sunday, I heard dogs barking. We were all ordered into our cells while black-uniformed SWAT teams with dogs went systematically from cell to cell, threw us on the floor face down, handcuffed, arms twisted behind our backs. They dragged us outside the cells like sacks of potatoes while helmeted, visored, New World Order-type cops hollered commands at us. They searched our pockets, beds, and plastic bins.

The dogs, dripping saliva from their snapping jaws, mainly Dobermans and German Shepherds, were kept on chain leashes two feet from our bodies and faces. Young, pretty women in skin-tight uniforms and tightly fitting flak
jackets, all black in color, kept climbing over the men who were curled up, face down, shaking, frightened out of their wits. Some had tears streaming down their faces. The women filmed these hapless prisoners with mini-camcorders close up, laughing and joking, having themselves a ball. Why were those videos taken?

Vicky Flynn, the Maryville-based spokesperson for Rep. John J. Duncan (R-Tenn.), who represents the Knoxville area where the Blount County Jail is located, said she had never heard of such reports.

Asked about the reports of the use of dogs at the jail, Marian O’Briant, spokesperson for the Blount County facility, would only say, “No comment.”

The Blount County Jail is managed by Sheriff James L. Berrong and Chief Ron Dunn, who held these positions at the time of the reported torture sessions.

Berrong refused to answer the phone. Like O’Briant, Dunn would only say, “No comment.”

The same form of psychological torture using dogs occurred at the Passaic County Jail in New Jersey in the fall and winter of 2001, The New York Times reported on April 3, 2006.

The dogs at the Passaic jail were used in a “nightmarish form of psychological torture,” according to two detainees who experienced the torture: Ibrahim Turkmen from Konya, Turkey, and Akhil Sachdeva from Toronto. Like Zuendel, Turkmen and Sachdeva were detained due to visa issues and had not committed any crime.

Two or three times a week, the men said, around 3 a.m. when the detainees were fast asleep in dormitory cells housing about 50 men, the electronic doors would open and 10 to 20 officers would rush in with four to six unmuzzled, barking dogs on leashes. The dogs, mostly German Shepherds, would strain to within inches of the detainees’ faces, they said.

*Setting the Record Straight: Letters from Cell #7 (#441, softcover, 180 pages, $12 minus 10% for TBR subscribers. $3 per book S&H inside the U.S.) is available from TBR BOOK CLUB, P.O. Box 15877, Washington, D.C. 20003.

Christopher Bollyn is a much-traveled international journalist currently based in Chicago, serving as Midwest bureau chief for American Free Press. He has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects including the controversy surrounding computerized voting systems, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the many unanswered questions surrounding the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

(Issue #16, April 17, 2006)

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Updated April 9, 2006