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Torture Memos

2009-04-17 14:02:36.041847+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

The ACLU has published the Bush administration's Office of Legal Council secret memos ("the torture memos"). If your stomach can't handle the details, Glenn Greenwald has the high level view, including calling out this paragraph:

State Department Reports. Each year, in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the United States condemns coercive interrogation techniques and other practices employed by other countries. Certain of the techniques the United States has condemned appear to bear som resemblace to some of the CIA interrogation techniques. In their discussion of Indonesia, for example, the reports list as "[p]sychological torture" conduct that involves "food and sleep deprivation," but give no specifig information as to what these techniques involve. In their discussion of Egypt, the reports list as "methods of torture" "stripping and blindfolding victims; suspending victims from ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beating victims [with various objects]; ... and dousing victims with cold water." See also, e.g., Algeria (describing the "chiffon" method, which involves "placing a rag drenched in dirty water in someone's mouth"); Iran (counting sleep deprivation as either torture or severe prisoner abuse); Syria (discussing sleep deprivation and 'having cold water thrown on" detainees as either torture or "ill-treetment"). The State Department's inclusion of nudity, water dousing, sleep deprivation, and food deprivation among the conduct it condemns is significant and provides some indication of an executive foreign relations tradition condemning the use of these techniques.

Remember, these are things that our State Department has been calling torture, but the Bush administration condoned it, and the Obama administration has said:

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.

Maybe we don't prosecute those who "were only following orders", but can we prosecute some of the DOJ folks who put 'em up to it?

[ related topics: Politics Nudity Law Civil Liberties Salon magazine ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-17 15:02:20.721958+00 by: ebradway

I'm hoping that the idea of not pursuing the "Little Eichmanns" is to get them to come forth with more evidence to go after the bigger targets - like the DOJ.

I think there's an inherent problem of prosecuting CIA operatives whose job it is to be mean and nasty. I mean, if you're job is to kill people - and killing is sanctioned by the Geneva Convention - and you have killed people before - can you really be expected to understand when you've overstepped some ethical boundary with a prisoner because you didn't kill them?

I'm a pretty harsh critic of torture. The first ever letter to the editor I ever wrote was after The Economist came out in favor of torture (citing the ticking bomb scenario as proof torture is necessary). But I also understand that we need people who work in some pretty bad situations - where they have to make decisions about killing. I'd rather those people not be burdened by ethical dilemmas when they are needed to pull the trigger.

Conversely, it is the job of the DOJ and others higher up to make that ethical decision. And they should be prosecuted if their decisions are incorrect - with all the seriousness as if they did the torture themselves.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-18 13:56:34.61081+00 by: TheSHAD0W

ebradway: While the US troops (usually) follow the terms of the Geneva convention, the US has never signed on to the terms.

Wait 'til some Middle Eastern nation grabs US tourists off the streets and tortures them as spies, putting them through the same procedures as we've used.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-04-19 23:34:51.330722+00 by: ebradway

Middle Eastern nation: likely. Even more likely they'll grad a US soldier.

But the weight of this is entirely on the shoulders of the DOJ, W, Cheney and the heads of the CIA - not the guys who had to do it. And I'm sure there was some dissent at all levels. I sure hope the dissenters have some documentation!

Realistically, I don't expect a CIA operative, who's dedicated their career to serving their nation (in, albeit, a questionable manner) by following chain of command - do disobey orders when they come, supported by the highest levels. And the issue is compounded by the fact that the means of torture were relatively "light". Where does "interrogation" end and "torture" begin? It's not up to the guys who actually have to do it to decide. This is why the Geneva Convention was created in the first place. Leaves the soldiers to face the "normal" horrors of war without having to split hairs over problems like this.

Of course, if you're gassing millions of internees... maybe there should be some awareness...