Two 17-watt fluorescent-tube bulbs — no more, no less — illuminated each cell, 24 hours a day. White noise played constantly but was never to exceed 79 decibels. A prisoner could be doused with 41-degree water but for only 20 minutes at a stretch.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program operated under strict rules, and the rules were dictated from Washington with the painstaking, eye-glazing detail beloved by any bureaucracy.
The first news reports this week about hundreds of pages of newly released documents on the C.I.A. program focused on aberrations in the field: threats of execution by handgun or assault by power drill; a prisoner lifted off the ground by his arms, which were tied behind his back; another detainee repeatedly knocked out with pressure applied to the carotid artery.
But the strong impression that emerges from the documents, many with long passages blacked out for secrecy, is by no means one of gung-ho operatives running wild. It is a portrait of overwhelming control exercised from C.I.A. headquarters and the Department of Justice — control Bush administration officials say was intended to ensure that the program was safe and legal. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — An obsessive allegiance to bureaucratic process — this is the indelible signature of a human being unwilling to accept personal responsibility for their own actions.
When it comes to the issue of torture, there really are much larger questions than the questions of legality since there is nothing inherently moral about complying with law. Far from it — just as easily as law can protect, it can also be turned into an exquisitely refined instrument of tyranny. Throughout history there have been those whose faithfulness to law was the very means through which they quietly strangled their own conscience.
If America is to ever atone for the war on terrorism, bringing the guilty to justice will not complete the process.
GOP Congressman Peter King — the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee — had this rancid outburst today in Politico regarding Eric Holder’s decision to investigate whether laws were broken by the Bush administration’s torture:
“It’s bullshit. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on. [It’s’ a] declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense. . . . When Holder was talking about being ‘shocked’ [before the report’s release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys’ fingers off or something — or that they actually used the power drill. . . ”
Pressed on whether interrogators had actually broken the law, King said he didn’t think the Geneva Convention “applies to terrorists.”
Never mind that the Supreme Court in Hamdan ruled exactly the opposite: that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all detainees, including accused Terrorists. Never mind that the War Crimes Act makes it a felony to inflict “prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from . . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering. . . .” and that these acts are therefore criminal whether or not King likes them. [continued…]
I wrote earlier today about Eric Holder’s decision to “review” whether criminal prosecutions are warranted in connection with the torture of Terrorism suspects — that can be read here — but I want to write separately about the release today of the 2004 CIA’s Inspector General Report (.pdf), both because it’s extraordinary in its own right and because it underscores how unjust it would be to prosecute only low-level interrogators rather than the high-level officials who implemented the torture regime. Initially, it should be emphasized that yet again, it is not the Congress or the establishment media which is uncovering these abuses and forcing disclosure of government misconduct. Rather, it is the ACLU (with which I consult) that, along with other human rights organizations, has had to fill the void left by those failed institutions, using their own funds to pursue litigation to compel disclosure. Without their efforts, we would know vastly less than we know now about the crimes our government committed. [continued…]
The CIA and the Obama Administration continue to keep secret some of the most shocking allegations involving the spy agency’s interrogation program: three deaths and several other detainees whose whereabouts could not be determined, according to a former senior intelligence official who has read the full, unredacted version.
Of the 109 pages in the 2004 report, 36 were completely blacked out in the version made public Monday, and another 30 were substantially redacted for “national security” reasons.
The blacked-out portions hide the Inspector General’s findings on the circumstances that led to the deaths of at least three of the detainees in the CIA’s program, the official said. Two of the men reportedly died in CIA in Iraq and the third died in Afghanistan. [continued…]
As the session begins, the detainee stands naked, except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs, then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later; according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle for slamming the detainee’s head against a wall.
After removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face — to get the detainee’s attention — followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head-slamming, or “walling,” which can be tried once “to make a point,” or repeated again and again.
“Twenty or thirty times consecutively” is permissible, the guidelines say, “if the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried. [continued…]
The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.
Human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying that continuing the practice, known as rendition, would still allow the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture. They said that promises from other countries of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective in preventing torture,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush. [continued…]