"The young man was dangling upside down, white, foaming saliva dripping from his mouth. His groans sounded more bestial than human." So begins an account by a Reuters reporter of being held for four days by Syria's secret police. He continues:
The questioning lasted eight hours until midnight on my first day of detention. Mostly I was blindfolded, but the blindfold was removed for a few minutes.
That allowed me -- despite orders to keep my head down so that my interrogators should remain out of view -- to see a hooded man screaming in pain in front of me.
When they told him to take down his pants, I could see his swollen genitals, tied tight with a plastic cable.
"I have nothing to tell, but I am neither a traitor and activist. I am just a trader," said the man, who said he was from Idlib province in the north west of Syria.
To my horror, a masked man took a pair of wires from a household power socket and gave him electric shocks to the head.
At other moments, my questioners could be charming, but would quickly switch to ruthless mode in what looked like an orchestrated performance to wear me down.
"We will make you forget who you are," one of them threatened as I was beaten for the sixth time on my face.
JOSEPH BARRAK/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.