30+ torture memos remain sealed while thousands of torture photos will eventually be released. Be prepared: Learn the deep history of US torture in SERE, Vietnam, Latin America, GMTO, Black Sites and beyond in American Torture.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Abu Gharib Photos Released

Posted by Raj at 7:58 AM |

Wired.Com has just released a set of previously unseen images from Abu Gharib that were recently used in a presentation on torture at the TED conference in Monterey, California. The photos are horrific (viewer discretion is advised) and will certainly reopen the global debate on torture and U.S. actions in Iraq. There is little doubt that the U.S. image in the world will take a further blow at a time when it cannot afford to take too many more.

There is no chance of restoring the U.S. reputation in the world unless we shift course on the issue of torture - unfortunately the Administration and Congress are incapable of dealing with this issue on their own. I have been urging for several years now that Congress moves to create an Independent Bipartisan Commission on Torture and Interrogation; it is past time that the U.S. comprehensively address the scandals of Abu Gharib and beyond.

Some may ask whether it makes sense to wait until we have a new President as there is a good chance that Administration policy will shift dramatically in 2009. My sense is that we actually need more than just a shift in policy going forward. There is a need for all the information on torture to be raised in a public setting and for the facts to be on display for both domestic and global public consumption.

Any Commission that is created should be tasked with bringing together a broad range of experts able to collectively comprehend the totality of the issue, its consequences and necessary policy prescriptions. The experts would be drawn from the intelligence, foreign policy, law enforcement, military, veterans, legal and human rights community. Additional members could include representatives of the faith community, theologians, cultural specialists and historians.

The Commission would publicly air its findings thereby ensuring that the country as a whole can move forward together with an understanding that an “end to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment” policy is both the morally correct thing to do AND is the best counter-terror approach for the U.S. to take.

I strongly believe that this is an issue where we can build bipartisan support. Maybe Powell could chair the Commission?

Perhaps a national reporter could ask Senator Obama, Senator McCain and Senator Clinton whether they would ensure that such a Commission would be formed during their first 100 days as President.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Torture and "Inevitable Demoralization," from 1902 to the Present

Posted by Valtin at 2:51 PM |

Paul Kramer at The New Yorker has written a fascinating look at the use of torture by U.S. troops in the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Back then, the U.S. was accused of using the infamous "water cure" upon Philippine "insurgents." A then-atypical confession by pro-war Judge Wiliam Howard Taft, head of the pro-U.S. Philippine Commission, described the technique:
The cruelties that have been inflicted; that people have been shot when they ought not to have been; that there have been in individual instances of water cure, that torture which I believe involves pouring water down the throat so that the man swells and gets the impression that he is going to be suffocated and then tells what he knows, which was a frequent treatment under the Spaniards, I am told—all these things are true.
Kramer's article describes the political maneuvering around the torture scandal of that time, in ways that are eerily similar to today's debates. What's different, of course, is that other, more psychological forms of torture have been added since those early days of American imperialist wars. (Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict, and total Philippine deaths, both military and civilian, are estimated to be between a quarter of a million to one million people. It's worth noting that U.S. military activities against Philippine "insurgents" or "brigands" continued until at least 1913.)

Rendition (Deadly) Games: New Revelations

Increasingly, the U.S. is out-sourcing its more barbaric, old-fashioned use of torture to foreign torturers, sending its prisoners secretly via "extraordinary rendition" to sites in countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. The extent of this secret program of kidnapping and torture is still being assessed via ongoing revelations in the press. In today's UK Telegraph, a former British special forces soldier, Ben Griffin, has charged that the British government was far more complicit in these activities than previously known.
Mr Griffin said the SAS was part of a joint US/UK unit which captured suspected terrorist who were then spirited away for interrogation....

Mr Griffin, who served for three months in Baghdad, added: "I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured.

"It is only since I have left the Army and I have read the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention on Torture that I realised that we have broken so many of these conventions and treaties in Iraq."
Other recent press reports have implicated other European Union member states -- Poland and Romania -- in aiding the U.S. in their rendition program. A recent New York Times article details U.S. complicity in the infamous Operation Condor program of the 1970-1980s, where a number of Latin American countries "helped one another locate, transport, torture and ultimately make disappear dissidents across their borders, and even collaborated on assassination operations in Europe and the United States."

Meanwhile, currently, we have the hoopla over the recent Senate bill that restricts the CIA to the interrogation protocols of the Army Field Manual masks the fact that the AFM authorizes the use of psychological methods of torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation, and prolonged isolation. President Bush is threatening to veto the bill as too restrictive on CIA operations.

Wither Our Humanity?

Towards the end of his New Yorker piece, Kramer remarks on how the scandal over torture eventually faded away. A few officers had their hands slapped. Commissions took contradictory testimony; editorials fired bombastic fusillades. But in the end, the barbarity was covered up, filed away, and forgotten (until now).

Kramer quotes an extraordinary article from the time (bold emphases are mine, and please forgive my quoting also the racist jargon, indicative of that era):
As early as April 16, 1902, the New York World described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities:
It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”
“But where is that vast national outburst of astounded horror which an old-fashioned America would have predicted at the reading of such news?” the World asked. “Is it lost somewhere in the 8,000 miles that divide us from the scenes of these abominations? Is it led astray by the darker skins of the alien race among which these abominations are perpetrated? Or is it rotted away by that inevitable demoralization which the wrong-doing of a great nation must inflict on the consciences of the least of its citizens?”
It is difficult to hang onto principles of justice and morality in a society that has become inured to the worst crimes and inhuman behaviors. The memory of events may be forgotten, but they live on in the societal failure to embrace history, in the cynicism and despair towards institutions and belief systems, and in the cries of untold victims whose pleas for mercy and justice echo soundlessly into the void.

Is this our future? Or are we already there?

Crossposted at Invictus

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Day, Another Modified Limited Hangout

Posted by Michael Otterman at 9:00 PM |

First, there was Hayden's admission that only three CIA prisoners were tortured on the waterboard. This, despite evidence of much wider use-- namely on Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who under CIA torture fabricated tales of strong Al Qaeda - WMD - Saddam links.

Now, we have this. According to Hayden, only two rendition victims were briefly held on Diego Garcia. In 2005, the Toronto Star revealed that "two navy prison ships ferry prisoners in and out" of the Indian Ocean base. A long suspected CIA black site, Reprieve's Clive Stafford Smith said last year he was "absolutely and categorically certain" that prisoners have been held on the remote atoll.

Two modified limited hangouts from Hayden in three weeks. What will the CIA have us believe next-- that the agency has created only two new al Qaeda recruits via blowback to its widescale use of torture?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Australia’s Guantanamo

Posted by Michael Otterman at 8:07 PM |

I recently received a stirring essay from Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne. Curr identified numerous parallels between American "no touch" physical and psychological torture techniques and methods employed in Australian immigration prisons. Since the early 1990s, Australia has enforced a strict mandatory detention policy of all asylum seekers that arrive illegally. According to former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser-- a vocal critic of current policy-- mandatory detention:
is indeed in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Conventions. It would seem to be in breach of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. This view is supported by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It is also in breach of the Convention of Rights of the child. Current practice runs counter to UNHCR guidelines on detention. Australia is seriously out of step in these matters.
Below is an excerpt from Curr's powerful essay. You can read the full version here.

----

A teenager with the bones in his hand smashed by an iron bar sat in his room in Baxter for months rocking back and forth in terror. He was ignored by DIMIA and GSL guards. It was a detainee family who fed him and cared for him. It was detainees who notified advocates about the depth of his pain and ensured his release. The DIMIA officer who assessed and refused this boy, wrote in his file that it was clear that he had been tortured. By 2005, guards and DIMIA staff were so immune to the distress of asylum seekers that nothing moved them. Tortured and torturers sharing the same secret space. How could we expect these guards and officers to know the boundaries where torture begins when they could so readily disregard the visible evidence and pain of the tortured.

Now as 2007 draws to a close, a fourth detention centre has closed although not because of a change of heart from Government. Hundreds of soldiers are camped on the hill above Baxter Detention Centre waiting to move in. They are in training to go to Afghanistan as part of the coalition of the willing. In the ultimate irony they will sleep in the same rooms where young Afghanis who fled the Taliban, were locked up. City detention centres will now house the dwindling number of asylum seekers. Here it is less likely that methods used in isolated camps will be allowed now.

However an even worse threat to human rights lurks. This is the half a billion dollar detention prison built on Christmas Island. Being 2,400 very expensive kilometres from Perth, public scrutiny has been reduced to a minimum. The tried and true techniques may well be resumed in this highest security establishment ever built on Australian territory. Its CCTV cameras beam into “a remote control room” in Canberra. Its electric doors, fences and gates are designed to contain and break the human spirit. Its compounds even include a “babies compound” with a nursery with 8 little cots lined up. In the adjoining rooms are wet and dry play areas and classrooms, all separated from the family compound. A hospital with “resuscitation room” is located within the complex. People detained here need never leave unless the government wills it. Without access to Courts and judicial oversight, away from media and the public gaze, people will truly be at the mercy of guards and government. Will this be Australia’s Guantanamo where the ultimate partnership with the American torture system is played out? The answer lies with the Australian citizenry. Will they defy, deny or just stand by?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Anti-Torture Candidate for APA President

Posted by Valtin at 12:08 PM |

Steven Reisner is running for president of the American Psychological Association. He has been a central figure in the fight to break APA from their position that psychologists assist with national security interrogations, such as their work with the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams or BSCTs at Guantanamo and elsewhere. This collaboration by psychologists has not led to a lessening of brutality and psychological torture of detainees, but in fact has been implicated in its design and implementation.

Dr. Reisner's campaign, as his election statement emphasizes, calls for "a clear departure from the complicity of psychologists in state-sponsored abuses of human rights, whether these take place at Guantánamo, CIA black sites, or domestic supermax prisons."

I resigned from APA myself last month, in protest of the tight relationship that has grown between the APA ruling apparatus and the various governmental entities that define the national security state. The use of torture is only one of the ways psychologists have been utilized to promote the effectiveness of the U.S. war machine. While I came to the conclusion that APA cannot be reformed at this point, there is the possibility, of course, that I'm wrong. And if it turns out I am mistaken, it will be because the membership of APA will have chosen leaders like Dr. Reisner for their elected offices. If I were still in APA, I definitely would have cast my vote for Steven, and I recommend that any APA members reading this do the same.

Below is an email Dr. Reisner recently distributed, as posted at Psyche, Science, and Society:
Dear Colleagues,

Because of a printing error, the APA Presidential nomination ballots are in the mail again, and once again, I am asking for your support. Please put STEVEN J. REISNER on the first line when you receive the new ballot.

And, if it is possible, please spread the word to other psychologists, groups and listservs.

The issue remains the same: the APA must take a principled stance against our nation’s policy of using psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations of detainees and ‘enemy combatants’ at centers like Guantánamo and secret CIA black sites, that operate in violation of international law and the Geneva conventions.

For thousands of years, health professionals have been guided by the ethical precept, “Do no harm.” At the time the ethics code of the American Psychological Association was written, wise psychologists went even further, adding a further obligation: “to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons.”

Unfortunately, the recent record of the APA has been to undermine this fundamental principle. When the US government called for harsh interrogation strategies for detainees, psychologists answered the call. When psychologists’ roles in these abuses were exposed, the APA leadership first denied that these things actually took place. Even now, the APA defends its policy by claiming that APA should not interfere in the legitimate practice of other psychologists. While I agree wholeheartedly with this value, I do not believe it extends to a supposed ‘freedom’ for psychologists to participate in abusive detainee interrogations, or in any interrogations that take place in conditions where human rights and international law are being flagrantly violated

When, as recently as last week, the President of the United States re-asserted the right to continue to use waterboarding; when just this week, a sitting Supreme Court Justice publicly referred to such techniques as “so-called torture” (“It would be absurd to say you couldn’t…stick something under the fingernail, [or] smack him in the face.” — Antonin Scalia, BBC interview, 2/12/08), we, the health professionals dedicated to human health and welfare, must take a stand. Now is the time for us to reassert the humane standard that has guided health professionals in times of conflict: “Do no harm.”

But since 2002, our ethics code has permitted violations of those standards when they conflict with law or military regulation. In fact, guidelines drafted for Army psychologists providing psychological support for detainee interrogations reminds them: “The Ethics Code is always subordinate to the law and regulations.”

Right now, doing harm, violating the rights and welfare of others, abusing detainees are all legal (“We’ll make sure professionals have the tools necessary to do their job, within the law.” — President Bush, BBC News, Feb. 14, 2004). This is precisely the reason that a clear ethical standard is so important, so that psychologists may remind their superiors that they are required to adhere to the humane standard that has guided health professionals in times of conflict: “Do no harm.”

Many good psychologists have resigned or are withholding their dues because of this issue. Among them is Ken Pope, who wrote in his recent resignation letter from the APA: “APA’s creation of an enforceable standard allowing psychologists to violate these fundamental ethical responsibilities in favor of following a regulation, a law, or a governing legal authority clashes with its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values…This new enforceable standard, in my opinion, contradicts one of the essential ethical values voiced in the Nuremberg trials. Even in light of the post-9-11 historical context and challenges, I believe we can never abandon the fundamental ethical value affirmed at Nuremberg.”

It is time for us to turn the APA around. It is time for the APA to join the other health professional organizations around the world, including the World Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, in upholding the United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics and in saying ‘no’ to participation in unethical interrogations and human rights violations.

I am asking for you to help me reverse the APA’s direction and restore our fundamental principles.

Please put STEVEN J. REISNER first when you receive the ballot in the mail. Please remember, these are substitute ballots, so even if you voted once, you must vote again!

And please, spread the word to other APA members, listservs, and groups.

My nomination statement can be read here or downloaded as a pdf here. It can also be read at http://www.ethicalapa.com/Reisner_statement.html For a detailed history of the issue of psychologists, interrogations, and the APA, please see the ‘Commentary on the APA’s FAQ on Interrogations,’ prepared by the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology: http://tinyurl.com/ys3fjy

Thank you again for your time and your vote!

Steven Reisner, Ph.D.
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
225 West 15th Street, Apt C
New York, NY 10011
phone 212-633-8391
email: sreisner@psychoanalysis.net

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

McCain's Capitulation

Posted by Michael Otterman at 10:46 PM |

John McCain's speech at Liberty University was a glaring warning of worse to come.

McCain-- who has waged a public fight against American torture-- has now formally pledged to support it. Last week he voted against a bill that would curtail CIA tortures like waterboarding, hypothermia, and standing for 40 hours. The bill forces CIA interrogators to follow the US Army interrogation field manual, which specifically bans:

• Forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner.
• Applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain.
• “Waterboarding.”
• Using military working dogs.
• Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
• Conducting mock executions.
• Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care.

According to McCain, these "additional techniques" are not torture and should not be banned. In his view: “None of those techniques would entail violating the Detainee Treatment Act, which said that cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment are prohibited.”

The about face has sent shockwaves across the net and throughout the human rights community:
“It’s disappointing,” said Jennifer Daskal, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, “that Senator McCain, who has long made it clear that Congress had intended to outlaw abusive interrogation techniques including waterboarding, won’t stand up to an administration that continues to say waterboarding is O.K. in certain circumstances.”

[...]

“We’re very disappointed in his vote,” said [Elisa Massimino, the Washington director of Human Rights First] of Mr. McCain. “Because of his personal history and his leadership on this issue, it sends a terrible message to the rest of the world, to Americans, to the troops.”

A question for McCain: Who will brave soldiers like Ian Fishback turn to now?

--

Note: Mike here. I'm back now from my time in the Middle East, for a small slice of the situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria, check this article I penned for New Matilda. I'd like to thank Valtin for his excellent post on Bush Administration waterboarding admissions-- likely the biggest US torture news to break in my absence.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Wages of Fear: What the Waterboarding Debate is Really About

Posted by Valtin at 6:22 PM |

In the famous verse from Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death." For U.S. policymakers (for the entire government is now implicated in this, not just the Bush Administration), terrorism is the ultimate "sin." And if they capture you and believe or choose to believe you are a terrorist, then you, or anyone, can expect waterboarding and other forms of "enhanced interrogation" torture. Worst of all, you will certainly fear them. And that fear is debilitating over time. It breaks a person down psychologically. Of course, that is the whole point of the whole waterboarding brouhaha.

Yesterday the White House announced what we already knew in our heart of hearts was their position.

Waterboarding is legal, White House says:
WASHINGTON -- The White House said Wednesday that the widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding is legal and that President Bush could authorize the CIA to resume using the simulated-drowning method under extraordinary circumstances.

The surprise assertion from the Bush administration reopened a debate that many in Washington had considered closed. Two laws passed by Congress in recent years -- as well as a Supreme Court ruling on the treatment of detainees -- were widely interpreted to have banned the CIA's use of the extreme interrogation method.

But in remarks that were greeted with disbelief by some members of Congress and human rights groups, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that waterboarding was a legal technique that could be employed again "under certain circumstances."

The day before:
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden acknowledged that his agency used the simulated-drowning technique on Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a suspect in the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000.

Finally, today Michael Mukasey demonstrated that he can drink the kool-aid with the best of them, telling House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers that the waterboarding of past suspects in the "war on terror" will not be prosecuted because they were, at the time -- surprise! -- "authorized."

From today's Washington Post (emphases in bold are added):
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mukasey said that because waterboarding was part of a program approved by Justice lawyers, there is no way the department can open a criminal investigation into the practice....

"That would mean that the same department that authorized the program would now prosecute someone for taking part" in it, he said.

Mukasey's remarks were a direct rebuff to demands from many leading Democrats this week that the Justice Department open a criminal probe into the CIA's use of waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning in an attempt to force information from a prisoner.

The statements also appear to conflict with his testimony in the Senate last week, when Mukasey said on several occasions that a special U.S. attorney's probe into the CIA's destruction of videotapes could be expanded to include a probe of interrogation tactics shown on the tapes.

I'd add that the statements also appear to conflict with basic decency and humanity, but then, that's me.

Meanwhile, in a just released Time.com story:
Lawyers representing one current Guantanamo detainee tell TIME that they plan to present evidence that he was subjected to videotaped interrogation, in addition to unspecified "systematic torture" when he was held in secret CIA prisons. The lawyers, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based legal non-profit with a long record of advocacy for prisoners at Guantanamo, note that their client has said the videotaping occurred after his arrest in 2003.

The Guantanmo detainee in question is 27 year old Majid Khan. Arrested in Pakistan, and ultimately transferred to Guantanamo with other "high-level detainees," like Khalid Sheik Mohammad, Khan's case threatens to break through the legal restrictions of secrecy surrounding the government's "terror" prosecutions:
Khan's lawyers have said their client has gone on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his confinment, and appears pale and gaunt. In the course of meetings with counsel and the Red Cross, Khan also handed over neatly penned, handwritten letters. Several have been made public, after heavy redactions imposed by U.S. military censors. One of Khan's messages begins: "In this letter I am going to mention some of the things I have been through." Then the next 19 lines of text are blacked out.

But Khan's private declarations to his lawyers cannot be censored, and it is those that the Intelligence Committee will hear on Friday. His allegations come at a time when Congress is considering passage of a new intelligence bill that would effectively outlaw many of the CIA's interrogation methods by forcing the Agency to use only those techniques permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

While it will be good to hear evidence examined without censorship, I want to concentrate at this point on the last claim in the Time quote above.

Why Can't They Torture the Good Way?

The ACLU and other liberals (and even some Republican types, most famously GOP candidate John McCain) make a big deal out of the fact that the Army Field Manual proscribes waterboarding and other "enhanced" forms of interrogation. It's as if the AFM provides a good set of non-coercive techniques, as asserted in Senate hearings the other day.
Both Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers that their agencies had successfully obtained valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects without using what Mr. Mueller called the “coercive” methods of the C.I.A.

But [CIA Director] General Hayden bristled when asked about Congressional attempts to mandate that C.I.A. interrogators be required to use the more limited set of interrogation methods contained in the Army Field Manual, which is used by military interrogators.

For Hayden and his administration backers, the CIA is a special case. But then, it has been for six decades now, as the agency has engaged in assassinations, coup d'etats abroad, organized secret armies, and both researched and engaged in torture (also taught to willing overseas acolytes serving U.S. client states).

But no matter what Hayden or the ACLU says, no matter what Senators Hagel and Feinstein advocate respecting interrogation guidelines in their new intelligence bill, the Army Field Manual is not about non-coercive interrogation. The military lawyers who drafted the AFM waited to the end of the document to provide the proverbial fine print about certain "restricted" techniques, describing them in an obviously little-read "appendix" (Appendix M).

From an earlier article of mine:
Briefly, it allows for complete separation, sometimes with forced wearing of goggles and earmuffs, for up to 30 days (after which approval for more must be sought). It allows for keeping sleep to four hours a day, for 30 straight days. It allows for the use of other concurrent techniques, including "futility", "incentive", and "fear up" (It does ban "hooding").

Maybe you heard of "fear up" and "futility"? They're listed in CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy, authored by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in 2003:
Fear Up Harsh: Significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee [usually through invoking a detainee's phobias, if known]....

Fear Up Mild: Moderately increasing the fear level in a detainee.....

Futility: Invoking the feeling of futility of a detainee.

....What does separation or isolation do to an individual? In a review by Lawrence Hinkle Jr, written back in 1961, it was understood how debilitating this technique was, causing "disordered brain function"....
It is well known that prisoners, especially if they have not been isolated before, may develop a syndrome similar in most of its features to the "brain syndrome"... they cease to care about their utterances, dress, and cleanliness. They become dulled, apathetic, and depressed. In due time they become disoriented and confused; their memories become defective and they experience hallucinations and delusions. In these circumstances their capacity of judgment and discrimination is much impaired, and they readily succumb to their need for talk and companionship; but their ability to impart accurate information may be as much impaired as their capacity to resist an interrogator.

Classically, isolation has been used as a means of "making a man talk," simply because it is so often associated with a deterioration of thinking and behavior and is accompanied by an intense need for companionship and for talk. From the interogator's viewpoint it has seemed to be the ideal way of "breaking down" a prisoner, because, to the unsophisticated, it seems to create precisely the state that the interrogator desires... However, the effect of isolation upon the brain function of the prisoner is much like that which occurs if he is beaten, starved, or deprived of sleep.
"Physiological State of the Interrogation Subject" in The Manipulation of Human Behavior, 1961, John Wiley & Sons.

Waterboarding: Who Benefits... and How?

The administration back and forth on the subject of waterboarding can represent both fear in such circles over eventual prosecution, or a clever campaign to keep one's enemies off-guard regarding U.S. interrogation practices. Things got even murkier this very afternoon, as CIA Director Michael Hayden evidently told the House Intelligence Committee, in what must have been a busy day of hearings on Capitol Hill, that "in my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that that technique would be considered to be lawful under current statute." Of course, he also maintains it was legal back in 2002 and 2003, when they used it. Get it? Got it? Good.

The CIA as an institution is all about misdirection and secrecy. It is both their ethos and their M.O. Everything I have learned about the history and practice of torture in the U.S. leads me to believe that the public story is not the full story. While there is fear about prosecution among individual interrogators in the field, the recent obfuscatory statements and actions by administration officials points to a more ominious conclusion: the CIA wants to keep waterboarding as an option, at least in the mind of the public. This is part of a torture paradigm that is centered around Fear, not just physical abuse. The CIA, and also the Army Field Manual, center the coercive portion of their agenda around the right to induce fear, whether by threatening waterboarding of prisoners, or whatever else they may do to produce Fear Up Harsh, the better to heighten anxiety and dependency in those they interrogate (torture). That's how they use and understand torture, and the sooner we all understand that, the better.

Mukasey's statement that there would be no waterboarding prosecution may make it a red letter day for government interrogators and torturers. It goes without saying that it is a dark day for this country as a whole.

Also posted at Invictus

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