Posts tagged Torture
Posts tagged Torture
“This is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for.”
— Jeff Gearhart, Wall-Mart general counsel, on the firm’s Mexico bribery
[Torture] “is not the norm.”
— Mike Pannek, Abu Ghraib prison warden.
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the US massacre of 16 Afghan villagers.
“This is not who we are.”
— General John Allen, commander of forces in Afghanistan, on Koran burning
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on troops posing with enemy body parts
“This is not who we are.”
— Secretary of State Clinton, also on troops posing with enemy body parts
Spying by the New York Police on Muslims in Newark, NJ, which the Newark Police Chief was alerted to, is “not who we are”
— Newark Mayor Cory Booker
“I can tell you something all of you know already - that using pepper spray on peaceful protesters runs counter to our values. It does not reflect well on this university and it absolutely is not who we are.”
— UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who ordered campus police to use force to clear peaceful student occupiers from the campus, leading to pepper spraying of students
Ripping families apart by deporting the undocumented parents of American-born children is “not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama
“This larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are.”
— President Barack Obama
“You can’t say, well, we developed trade and the economic relations first and the disregard of human rights. That’s not who we are. We are the United States of America.”
— Sasha Gong, director of the China branch of Voice of America
The latest PR catch phrase from business, administration, military, state and local officials after some atrocity or other is that whatever happened, it is certainly “not who we are,” a phrase appropriately initially uttered by the Vietnam War commander, Gen. William Westmoreland, with reference to the My Lai slaughter of 400 women, children and old men, all civilians, by a group of US soldiers.
American atrocities: Not who we are? Really?
Yet if all these abominations are not “who we are,” then why do our business, police and military and government institutions generate so many examples of obscene, horrific or criminal behavior?
If we examine the culture that guides our young men and women in battle, our public safety employees in their duties, or our business class in its pursuit of profit, it’s easy to see how shameful and reprehensible episodes such as these have become as routine as they have.
Take the military. The Pentagon achieves its ends by through war. Troops must be obedient and willing to kill. This doesn’t come naturally, so the military branches have to reprogram civilian recruits raised to believe killing is wrong so that they can be part of a murderous enterprise. After breaking down an enlistee’s individuality, trainers then teach them to despise “the other,” whomever it may be — kraut, gook, rag-head depending on the generation and the particular war. Only after sufficiently dehumanizing both the recruit and the future enemy can they mold a soldier who will do the dirty work demanded by an imperial nation. Then they build these soldiers into super-fit, adrenaline-charged fighters, surround them with propaganda that demonizes the enemy of the moment, and set them loose to “get the job done.”
The troops who are sent to Afghanistan find themselves in a conflict with no clear objective, let alone an achievable one. They face an able and motivated foe with a very simple objective: to drive the occupier out of their country. As U.S. losses mount, frustrations grow and pressure increases. It is an unfortunate commonplace that armed troops vent their anger with lethal force upon local civilian populations. Their ability to do that is part and parcel of their training that worked so hard to dehumanize these same people.
It is a sick hypocrisy for Obama, Clinton, Panetta, or Allen to claim that these actions are not a direct result of U.S. military and foreign policy. If Dick Cheney and John Yoo were torturing language and logic to advocate the torture of humans, why wouldn’t guards at Abu Ghraib fall into the same debased state of mind? (For example, years after he claimed it was “not who we are,” documents proved that, ahead of the My Lai massacre, Westmoreland himself had issued rules-of-engagement orders that any civilians found in Communist-held territory like My Lai, a “free-fire” zone, were to be considered enemy combatants, and treated the same as Viet Cong.)
Those in power attempt to frame the issue within the “one bad apple in the barrel” rubric. As long as they can pretend that war crimes and atrocities aren’t a logical outcome of official policy, they can shift blame to those without power and keep the odious policies in place. The cabinet secretary sanctimoniously intones platitudes about morality at the same time as one of his underlings is screaming “KILL!” into a fresh recruit’s trembling face.
The same kind of thing happens in the case of police and federal law enforcement officials. Increasingly militarized themselves, they are trained to believe not that their duty is to “protect and serve” or to uphold the nation’s freedoms and liberty, but rather that they are centurions tasked with enforcing “order” and protecting property—generally government property and the property of the wealthy. The general public then becomes a kind of “enemy” to be subdued with whatever force is necessary. Those who stand up for their rights under the law are perceived as threats to the authority of the enforcers, and are dealt with as enemies, to be beaten, pepper-sprayed in the face, spied upon and locked up.
Meanwhile, a farce of morals plays itself out in an endless cycle in the business world. Siemens, Boeing, Wal-Mart are just three prominent recent examples of corporations which have been exposed for using bribery as a standard business practice. Sam Walton may have started his company with some notion of honest (if ruthless) business practices, but the current business culture promotes success at any cost. Coming in second is for losers, and bribery of foreign (and domestic) officials is just another tool in the toolbox, as they like to say.
Just because these shameful acts may indeed indicate who or what our Empire’s institutions are, it does not mean that it is who we are as well. Most Americans, as well as most Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians etc., would not commit the types of acts that have made our nation infamous over the years. But if we are truly better than that, if this is not who we are, then we had better do something about the fact we are being represented to the world by the very actions that we find so heinous.
Even as countries are being abused by U.S. foreign policy, their people are often slow to blame or hate the American people. They often show a remarkable understanding that governments rarely represent their peoples’ wishes.
But we are the nation that is burdened by an impassioned rhetoric that asserts that we are the beacon of democracy, that we are captains of our own destiny. Our supposed innocence of the crimes of Empire and rapacious capitalism can be accepted for only so long. Eventually, we too must share the blame for the actions of our government and our economic culture. It is essential that we do hold every level of business and government accountable for every action that betrays America’s promise, both at home and abroad.
It is time to stop pretending that we are not also accountable. It is time to end militarism at home and abroad and to put people before profits. It won’t be the militarists and the profiteers who make such changes, though. It can only be us.
Otherwise, maybe former Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells had it right, when he said, “You are what your record says you are.”
Inspired by the Kony 2012 fad, a group of New York University grad students has set up the wartime version of Kickstarter, where random people can bankroll new weapons and new paramilitary missions. Among the offerings: an all-seeing drone armed with “a new kind of explosive” promising to cut down on civilian casualties, or a bus packed with a rolling “enhanced interrogation” center.
Just one thing, and it’s a spoiler alert: The site, Kickstriker, is an obvious hoax — one meant to get you thinking about how a world of crowdfunded warfare might not be so far away.
“Polemically, that’s really interesting,” says Clay Shirky, the NYU professor and internet theorist, out of whose communications tech class the idea was born, “but that’s actually a thing that could happen, given that there are these guns for hire. What would it take to create a crowdsourced hire of [mercenaries]?”
Kickstriker, a site only a few days old, bills itself as a way for average citizens “who care” to support the resolution of intractable wars. “Following the massive success of Invisible Children’s ‘Kony 2012′ campaign, we found ourselves excited about the potential that crowdsourcing held for addressing global conflicts,” reads its About page. “Disappointed” by the backlash to Kony 2012′s messianism, comfort with U.S. military intervention and disquieting racial undertones, the crew of three Shirky students sought to “cut out the middleman in online activism.”
While the site is “in beta,” it’s only got a few projects ready for funding. One of them is the “Panopticopter,” the brainchild of three MIT students, a “prototype drone that has more accurate image-capture and image-processing abilities than the current generation of drones being used by the U.S. military,” plus a special, experimental explosive more advanced than the Hellfire missiles armed drones currently tote.
Another is the “Mobile Black Site,” a transportable torture chamber: “With the click of a button, an operator can alter its temperature, noise level, darkness and/or humidity. The MBS also comes equipped with a 165-decibel sound system, capable of playing music and other sounds at unprecedented levels (for reference, just 158 decibels can cause intense nausea).”
Charming. But also, not real.
Check out the “MIT students” working on the drone project: “The three of us (Brandon McCartney, Natassia Zolot and Radric Davis) can spend the summer focusing on the Panopticopter.” That would be real names of the rappers Lil B, Kreayshawn and Gucci Mane. (While I have no doubt about Gucci’s engineering prowess, I certainly doubt his ability to stay out of jail for an entire summer; and he seems to prefer working with Kreay’s awful co-conspirator V-Nasty.)
And that Mobile Black Site? It’s supposedly pushed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, with partnership from longtime CIA cutout Tepper Aviation. (#eyeroll) Indeed, when you click through the donation tool, Kickstriker admits the hoax before the gullible open their wallets and its creators end up arrested for fraud.
So what’s the Kickstriker crew’s real goal here?
During one of Shirky’s classes in mid-March, a discussion broke out about Kony 2012. One of the site’s founders, James Borda, mused as a reductio ad absurdum about doing a Kickstarter campaign so Blackwater could get the cash to hunt war criminal Joseph Kony. “This hush fell over the room,” Shirky remembers.
MEXICO CITY — Two missing news photographers were found dead Thursday in southeastern Mexico, officials said, marking a grim week for journalists in the violence-plagued state of Veracruz after the weekend killing of a Mexican magazine correspondent.
The photographers, identified as Gabriel Huge and Guillermo Luna, were found dismembered and bearing signs of torture in a housing complex in Boca del Rio, a suburb of the port city of Veracruz.
Two other bodies found in the same place have not been identified, state spokeswoman Sandra Garcia said. But some Mexican news reports said one of the other victims was a journalist who worked for a newspaper called Diario AZ.
[Updated May 3, 2:17 p.m.: State officials later identified the two other victims as Irasema Becerra, said to be Luna’s girlfriend, and Esteban Rodriguez, a welder who formerly worked as a newspaper photographer.]
The deaths come less than a week after correspondent Regina Martinez was found strangled and beaten to death in Xalapa, the state capital, where she lived and covered organized crime and corruption for the Proceso newsweekly magazine.
Huge and Luna worked for an online agency called Veracruz News and were reported missing by their families on Wednesday, reports said. Until a year ago, Huge had worked for Notiver, a Veracruz newspaper that saw a prominent columnist and crime reporter killed last year. It was unclear what kind of stories the photographers were covering at the time of their deaths.
Authorities did not refer to a possible motive. The state government said it was opening an investigation and would seek help from the federal attorney general.
The killings threw a pall on the news media in Mexico, coming on a day when many reporters were observing World Press Freedom Day with pleas for justice in the Martinez case.
News outlets in Mexico routinely censor themselves to avoid attacks by drug cartels or corrupt government forces, and the latest deaths in Veracuz were being treated no differently. By afternoon, few media groups online were prominently reporting the photographers’ deaths.
“If you pick up any newspaper in Veracruz, you don’t see these stories, even with the Regina Martinez murder, it was placed in the back, in the crime pages,” said Roman Cotera, a rights activist in Xalapa.
At least six news media workers have been killed or have disappeared in Veracruz since the start of Gov. Javier Duarte’s term in late 2010.
Nationwide, counts range from 40 to 80 journalists killed since the start of President Felipe Calderon’s term in late 2006; the exact figure is uncertain because it is not always clear in Mexico who qualifies as a professional journalist.
On Monday, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously passed legislation meant to help protect journalists and human rights activists, but free speech advocates said the law fails to address the root of the problem of impunity.
“They don’t resolve anything and they create commissions,” Antonio Martinez, a press rights advocate, told The Times on Monday.
Side Note: For awhile the Golden Platform will be a little slow since I’ve got myself quite preoccupied with things outside of the cyber world. My preoccupations include (as I mentioned in an earlier post) reading Isadora Duncan’s autobiography My Life, also I’m involved in an ongoing debate about Geoengineering and Weather Warfare with a skeptic ALSO I’m writing an essay that’ll appear on this blog eventually about how the US surveillance state and police state is on a precipice in which it’ll be transforming itself from it’s current semi-clandestine state to a more overt state soon. So, yes to my readers - I apologize for my absence.
April 27 (Reuters) - A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.
People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.
The backers of such techniques, which include “water-boarding,” sleep deprivation and other practices critics call torture, maintain they have led to the disruption of major terror plots and the capture of al Qaeda leaders.
One official said investigators found “no evidence” such enhanced interrogations played “any significant role” in the years-long intelligence operations which led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last May by U.S. Navy SEALs.
President Barack Obama and his aides have largely sought to avoid revisiting Bush administration controversies. But the debate over the effectiveness of enhanced interrogations, which human rights advocates condemn as torture, is resurfacing, in part thanks to a new book by a former top CIA official.
In the book, “Hard Measures,” due to be published on Monday, April 30, the former chief of CIA clandestine operations Jose Rodriguez defends the use of interrogation practices including water-boarding, which involves pouring water on a subject’s face, which is covered with a cloth, to simulate drowning.
“We made some al-Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days,” Rodriguez says in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that will air on Sunday, April 29. “I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives.”
For nearly three years, the Senate intelligence committee’s majority Democrats have been conducting what is described as the first systematic investigation of the effectiveness of such extreme interrogation techniques.
NO SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT
The CIA gave the committee access to millions of pages of written records charting daily operations of the interrogation program, including graphic descriptions of how and when controversial techniques were employed.
Sources agreed to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity because the report has not been finalized.
The committee members’ objective is to conduct a methodical assessment of whether enhanced interrogation techniques led to genuine intelligence breakthroughs or whether they produced more false leads than good ones.
U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that while the harshest elements of the interrogation program, including water-boarding and other tactics which cause severe physical stress, were in use, the CIA never carried out a scientific assessment of the program’s effectiveness.
The Bush Administration only used water-boarding on three captured suspects. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Other coercive techniques included sleep deprivation, making people crouch or stretch in stressful positions and slamming detainees against a flexible wall.
The CIA started backing away from such techniques in 2004. Obama banned them shortly after taking office.
One source cautioned there could still be lengthy delays before any information or conclusions from the Senate committee’s report are made public.
One reason the inquiry has taken so long is that in 2009, committee Republicans withdrew their participation, saying the panel would be unable to interview witnesses to ensure documentary material was reported in appropriate context due to ongoing criminal investigations.
People familiar with the inquiry said it consisted of as much as 2,000 pages in narrative accounts of how the CIA interrogation program worked, including specific case histories in which enhanced interrogation tactics were used.
‘PROCEDURES’ UNJUSTIFIED: FEINSTEIN
The Intelligence committee has not issued any official statements about what its inquiry has found or when it expects to wrap up. But committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made relatively strong statements about the lack of evidence that enhanced interrogations played any material role in generating information leading to bin Laden’s killing.
Only days after the commando raid in which bin Laden was killed, Feinstein told journalists: “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”
Current and former U.S. officials have said one key source for information about the existence of the al Qaeda “courier” who ultimately led U.S. intelligence to bin Laden was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
KSM, as he was known to U.S. officials, was subjected to water-boarding 183 times, the U.S. government has acknowledged.
Officials said, however, that it was not until some time after he was water-boarded that KSM told interrogators about the courier’s existence. Therefore a direct link between the physically coercive techniques and critical information is unproven, Bush administration critics say.
Supporters of the CIA program, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have portrayed it as a necessary, if distasteful, step that may have stopped extremist plots and saved lives.
The purpose of using physically coercive methods was not directly to extract information about imminent plots but rather to put suspects in a frame of mind to cooperate with interrogators during future questioning, they say.
Critics also say that still-classified records are likely to demonstrate that harsh interrogation techniques produced far more information that proved false than true.
Some U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged that in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. agencies were overwhelmed with bogus tips about possible plots and attacks. (Editing by Todd Eastham)
“Self-purification through suffering is easier, I tell you: easier — than that destiny which you are paving for many of them by wholesale acquittals in court. You are merely planting cynicism in their souls.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The United States Congress is outraged. Russia, it seems, may have wrongly imprisoned, tortured, and murdered a whistleblower. In the land of the free, our good representatives are outraged, I tell you. And not just I. NPR will tell you. This calls for action. There’s a bill in the Senate and a bill in theHouse. The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.
Who wouldn’t support the rule of law and accountability?
Well, let me think.
Oh, I know. The United States Congress.
Bush and Cheney are selling books confessing to the crime of war and all that comes with it, including lawless imprisonment and torture. They have openly confessed in their books and on television, repeatedly, to a form of torture that the current Attorney General of the United States admits is torture. Bush’s torture program tortured numerous people to death. And what has Congress wrought?
No enforcement of subpoenas.
No defunding of operations.
No criminalizing of secrecy.
No protection of whistleblowers.
No mandating of diplomacy, reparations, foreign aid, or commitments to international standards.
In other words, we have no Congress with the right to talk about the Rule of Law or Accountability without being mocked.
But keep hope alive.
Change is on the way.
Up in the sky!
It’s Captain Peace Prize!
Obama launches wars without bothering to lie to Congress or the United Nations, has formalized the powers of lawless imprisonment, rendition, and murder, and places the protection of Bush and Cheney above almost anything else — certainly above the rule of law or accountability.
Obama has badgered Spain, Italy, Germany, and the U.K. to leave the Bush gang in peace, publicly instructed the U.S. Department of Justice not to prosecute, and expanded claims of “State Secrets” beyond anything previously imagined in order to shut down legal accountability. Italy has convicted CIA agents in absentia, and Obama has not shipped them over to do their time. Poland is prosecuting its bit players in U.S. crimes. Former top British official Jack Straw is being hauled into court for his tangential role. But Obama has chosen a path to success in Washington, or thinks he has, and that path is immunity for anyone with power.
The trouble is that Obama now wants to apply that same standard to Russia, and Congress won’t stand for it. Obama is opposed to the Hold Russia Accountable Act because he prefers to kiss up to the government of Russia. It’s a policy that has worked beautifully for him at home. Why not apply it abroad?
Of course, the United States has no moral standing to speak against imprisonment, torture, or murder. The United States imprisons more of its people than any other country, keeps hundreds of thousands of them in supermaxes or long-term isolation, tolerates prison rape and violence, openly treats torture as a policy option, facilitates torture in what may be the two countries torturing the greatest number of people today: Iraq and Afghanistan, and kills with capital punishment, special forces, and drones.
The United States has no moral standing to speak against the punishment of whistleblowers, Obama having prosecuted seven of them under the Espionage Act of 1917, fittingly enough for the offense of having made U.S. war-making look bad by revealing facts about it.
But the answer cannot be to support Russian crimes just because there are U.S. crimes. Congress, revolting as it is to say, is right: the Russian government should be held to a decent rule of law. And it should be held to it through the language that speaks louder than words: action. U.S. immunity for torturers is one of the greatest factors in the current spread of acceptability for torture around the world.
Congress should impeach Bush and Obama, enforce its subpoenas, ship convicted CIA criminals to Italy, strengthen the War Powers Act, criminalize war profiteering, ban private mercenaries, ban unconstitutional detentions, ban secret budgets and laws and agencies, ban rendition, and ratify and enforce the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Congress should also cease encircling Russia with missiles, and end its wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.
Or, short of moving in a useful direction, sad to say, the best thing the United States Congress could do for the rule of law in Russia at the moment would be to shut the hell up.
Water boarding and stress positions… just two of the torture techniques used by the U.S. against terror suspects. Now, a secret memo has been leaked which brands them “war crimes”, and shows the Bush administration was warned against their use. As RT’s Marina Portnaya explains, many feel President Obama isn’t doing enough to make up for America’s past mistakes.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that organizations cannot be sued for the torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
The decision came in the case of Azzam Mohamad Rahim, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and became a U.S. citizen. In 1995, while on a visit to his home village on the West Bank, he was taken into custody by Palestinian Authority intelligence officers; in the following days, he was allegedly imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The U.S. State Department issued a report classifying Rahim’s death as an extra-judicial killing, while in the custody of the Palestinian Authority. .
Rahim’s American family, filed suit against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which authorizes lawsuits against “individuals” who commit acts of torture. The family argued that Congress intended the word “individual” to cover organizations.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court, rejected that argument as “unpersuasive.”
“No one, we hazard to guess, refers in normal parlance to an organization as an ‘individual,’” Sotomayor said, and there was no indication that Congress intended otherwise.
The Rahims had argued that organizations should not be precluded from liability because torture victims often are not be able to identify those who tortured them, but victims do know the organization responsible. The family also said that victims would have a difficult time recovering damages if they could only sue the torturers because these individuals likely would not have the money to pay damages assessed by a judge or jury.
Indeed, Justice Sotomayor acknowledged that only two victims have successfully recovered money from their torturers under the law, and in one of the cases, “only after the defendant won the state lottery.”
She said that “there are no doubt valid arguments” to extend the law to cover organizations, but, she said that given the law’s text and legislative history, ” it is not the province” of the Court to do that.
Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the family called on the U.S. government to take action now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the suit “on a technicality.”
“We as the American government should not stand by and let a regime that we support, that we give money to, that we underwrite, torture and kill American citizens without any compensation,” said Tolchin.
He said the State Department, having made an official finding in this case, should force the Palestinian Authority to pay damages to the family, he said.
The U.S.’s premier unit for interrogating terrorists is interested in science. No, not junk science like the Sodium Pentothal “truth serum.”* Actual behavioral science to help learn how to make a terrorist talk — quickly, truthfully and, importantly, humanely.
Earlier this month, the secretive unit, known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, put out a call for “behavioral science research to advance the science and practice of intelligence interviewing and interrogation.” Behind that dry and bureaucratic language is a major success for opponents of torture.
It sounds kind of basic: shouldn’t all interrogations use behavioral science as a jumping-off point? As it turns out, this is something of a controversial position. And it’s going to confront a well-publicized counterattack in the coming weeks.
Within months of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA — for reasons it never disclosed — turned to ex-Air Force psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell for help in designing an exceptionally harsh interrogation regimen for use on al-Qaida detainees. Jessen and Mitchell had never participated in a real interrogation. Nor did they have any particular expertise with al-Qaida. But they claimed to understand the conditions of induced discomfort that would force a detainee to spill. A Senate inquiry in 2008determined that Jessen and Mitchell heavily influenced the Bush administration’s practices of waterboarding; “cramped confinement”; dietary and sleep manipulation; and “stress positions,” among other practices that Bush-era State Department adviser Philip Zelikow recently described to Danger Room as “war crimes.”
Years later, after all this came to light, a group of actual behavioral scientists, military interrogators and terrorism experts came to believe that the torture of al-Qaida detainees was worse than a crime; it was a mistake. Mitchell and Jessen advised the CIA that successful interrogations required stuffing a detainee in a small wooden box containing insects. This loose-knit group considered that both morally repugnant and professionally irresponsible, since it would lead a detainee to say anything to make the pain or fear stop, regardless of the truth.
They set to work creating a blueprint to rectify that mistake — with science.
That blueprint became a two-volume study (the second volume is classified) called “Educing Information.” The public version of “Educing Information” consists of case studies from different wars and police interrogations that urged professionals to build emotional rapport with the detainees they interviewed. It wasn’t a kindness — it was emotional leverage to exploit, so a detainee would disclose information about a terrorist group against his better judgment or his interest.
The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a series of US defence documents that showed that the unit’s personnel had been investigated repeatedly over their alleged involvement in a catalogue of abuses. In one case, taskforce interrogators were said to have forced a 73-year-old woman to crawl around a room while a man sat on her back, before forcing a broom handle into her anus. Two of her fingers were broken. The woman, a retired teacher, said her interrogators demanded to know the whereabouts of her son and husband, both of whom she said were dead.
I considered not reblogging this because that headline is, frankly, hard to read. It’s not a pleasant way to start a Monday morning.
But then I clicked through and read the article. And then I read the FOIA report the ACLU got exposing this story. And the headline just scratches the surface of what was done to this elderly lady who was innocent all along.
So then I came back to tumblr and looked at the ten notes this post has as of my clicking “reblog,” and I realized I couldn’t not reblog it. While there’s nothing tangible I can do to help this woman, I can at least let a few more people know the war crimes to which she was subjected.
It was done by the U.S. government.
And it was categorically, unquestionably, disgustingly wrong.
Thursday’s indictment of John Kiriakou for exposing CIA torture of detainees confirms yet again that the Obama administration is continuing and deepening the crimes carried out by the Bush White House. Kiriakou, a CIA agent for 14 years, is being prosecuted for speaking to two journalists about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.
In December 2007, he appeared in an ABC News interview, becoming the first CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of so-called “enemy combatants” and to describe the practice as torture. It is now known that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in the space of one month while being held in a series of CIA “black sites” from Thailand to Poland to Diego Garcia.
Zubaydah, severely wounded when he was captured by US and Pakistani intelligence agents, had already been suffering the effects of a shrapnel wound to the head he received during the CIA-backed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under US control, he was beaten, placed in extreme temperatures, and subjected to music played at debilitating volumes, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation.
His interrogators also locked him for protracted periods in a small box, where he was forced to crouch in complete darkness, while the stressful position caused his wounds to open up and bleed.
At some point during this ordeal, the CIA removed Zubaydah’s left eye.
In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out — enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration, Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006, Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined itself to the so-called ‘torture lite’ methods (many of which are still in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:
In order for a prosecution to succeed, a prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”
The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements—it makes clear that the techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.
Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:
Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings, did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?
“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”
To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be prosecuted.
By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye
In May of 2002, one of several meetings was convened at the White House where the CIA sought permission from top Bush administration officials, including then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to torture the agency’s first high-value detainee captured after 9/11: Abu Zubaydah.
The CIA claimed Zubaydah, who at the time was being held at a black site prison in Thailand, was “withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions,” according to documents released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in April 2009.
So, “attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel [including the agency’s top lawyer John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S.”
One of the key documents handed out to Bush officials at this meeting, and at Principals Committee sessions chaired by Rice that took place between May and July 2002, was a 37-page instructional manual that contained detailed descriptions of seven of the ten techniques that ended up in the legal opinion widely referred to as the “torture memo,” drafted by Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney John Yoo and signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, three months later. According to Rice, Yoo had attended the Principals Committee meetings and participated in discussions about Zubaydah’s torture.
That instructional manual, referred to as “Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions,” has just been released by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The document sheds additional light on the origins of the Bush administration’s torture policy and for the first time describes exactly what methods of torture Bush officials had discussed - and subsequently approved - for Zubaydah in May 2002.
The PREAL manual was prepared by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) courses to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime. The manual states one of the primary goals of the training is “to give students the most reliable mental picture possible of an actual peacetime governmental detention experiences [sic].”
A US counterterrorism official and an aide to one of the Bush officials who participated in Principals Committee meetings in May 2002, however, confirmed to Truthout last week that the PREAL manual was one of several documents the CIA obtained from JPRA that was shared with Rice and other Principals Committee members in May 2002, the same month the CIA officially took over Zubaydah’s interrogation from the FBI. As National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Rice chaired the meetings.
Rice and Bellinger have denied ever seeing a list of SERE training techniques. But in 2008,they told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted an investigation into treatment of detainees in custody of the US government, that they recalled being present at White House meetings where SERE training was discussed.
Sarah Farber, a spokeswoman at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Riceteaches political economy, said she would pass on Truthout’s queries about claims that Rice reviewed and discussed the PREAL manual to Rice’s office. But Rice’s office did not respond to our inquiries.
Washington, DC, April 3, 2012 – The State Department today released a February 2006 internal memo from the Department’s then-counselor opposing Justice Department authorization for “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the CIA. All copies of the memo (Document 1), which reflect strong internal disagreement within the George W. Bush administration over the constitutionality of such techniques, were thought to have been destroyed. But the State Department located a copy and declassified it in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive.
Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, 2005-2007
The author of the memo, Philip D. Zelikow, counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, described the context of the memo in congressional testimony on May 13, 2009, and in an article he had previously published on foreignpolicy.com site on April 21, 2009.
“At the time, in 2005 [and 2006],” he wrote, “I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn’t entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable.”
OLC refers to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views,” he continued. “They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives.”
Zelikow attached two other memos to his May 2009 congressional testimony (Document 3) that were publicly released at that time (Document 4 and Document 5), but his February 2006 memo remained classified. In later public statements, Zelikow argued that the latter document should also be released since the OLC memos themselves had already been opened to the public by the Obama administration.
The memo released today, labeled “draft,” concludes that because they violate the Constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” the CIA techniques of “waterboarding, walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement” were “the techniques least likely to be sustained” by the courts. Zelikow also wrote that “corrective techniques, such as slaps” were the “most likely to be sustained.” The last sentence of the memo reads: “[C]ontrol conditions, such as nudity, sleep deprivation, and liquid diets, may also be sustainable, depending on the circumstances and details of how these techniques are used.”
According to Zelikow’s accounts, he authored the memo in an attempt to counter the Bush administration’s dubious claim that CIA could still practice “enhanced interrogation” on enemy combatants despite the president’s December 2005 signing into law of the McCain Amendment, which, in Zelikow’s words, “extended the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment to all conduct worldwide.”
The Zelikow memo becomes the latest addition to The Torture Archive – the National Security Archive’s online institutional memory for issues and documents (including the OLC’s torture memos themselves) relating to rendition, detainees, interrogation, and torture.
Document 1: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, Draft Memorandum, “The McCain Amendment and U.S. Obligations under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture,” Top Secret, February 15, 2006
Source: Freedom of Information Act request
Written following passage of the so-called McCain Amendment against “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” this memo offers alternative legal argumentation to the opinions that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel continued to put forward into 2006. According to Zelikow, he was told that some officials in the Bush administration sought to gather all copies of his memo and destroy them, but the State Department located this one and released it under the Freedom of Information Act.
Document 2: Stephen G. Bradbury, Justice Department, Office of Legal Counsel, Memorandum for John A. Rizzo, “Re: Application of United States Obligations Under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture to Certain Techniques that May Be Used in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees,” Top Secret, May 30, 2005
Source: The Torture Archive, the National Security Archive
This memo follows up previous OLC opinions on interrogation methods, providing an even more expansive vision of what kinds of “enhanced techniques” would be acceptable against al Qaeda and other detainees. Zelikow specifically refers to this memo in his February 2006 counter-argument.
Document 3: Philip D. Zelikow, Statement before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Unclassified, May 13, 2009
Source: Federation of American Scientists
After the Obama administration declassified the controversial Office of Legal Counsel opinions on so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Congress weighed in on the question. Here, Zelikow lays out his critique of the OLC position in detail.
Document 4: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, and Gordon R. England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, “Elements of Possible Initiative,” Sensitive but Unclassified, June 12, 2005
Source: Federation of American Scientists
Zelikow and Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, put together this draft of a possible presidential initiative on detainee treatment and interrogation. The document was appended to Zelikow’s May 2009 congressional testimony. According to his prepared statement, this memo describes a “big bang” approach to dealing with the larger issues, but after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected its ideas, the National Security Council staff decided to pursue each issue piecemeal.
Document 5: Philip D. Zelikow, State Department Counselor, and John B. Bellinger III, State Department Legal Advisor, “Detainees – The Need for a Stronger Legal Framework,” Unclassified, July 2005
Source: Federation of American Scientists
In his May 2009 congressional testimony, Zelikow describes this document as part of an attempt by the State Department to enlist other U.S. government agencies to define legal standards for detainee treatment that were less “technical” and more “durable – politically, legally, and among our key allies.” The memo was appended to his testimony.