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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tortured Logic

Dick Cheney's resurrection tour prompts me to dig in to the archives:


JUAN MENDEZ [The UN Special Rapportuer on torture]: Mr Bush hides behind the fact that he is not a lawyer and he has this folksy you know kind of cute way of say, well the lawyers told me it was legal, as if he didn't know that it's immoral. You know? Immoral and illegal. I mean he can't really hide behind his lawyers.

I mean he was very hypocritical of him to say something like that. I mean it's been so clearly established that those memos were, they don't even deserve the name of legal memos because they are completely flawed from the legal reasoning. But even worse they are morally flawed as well.
The Congressional testimony of FBI agent Ali Soufani:

From my experience – and I speak as someone who has personally interrogated many terrorists and elicited important actionable intelligence– I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as the "enhanced interrogation techniques," a position shared by many professional operatives, including the CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.

These techniques, from an operational perspective, are ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda. (This is aside from the important additional considerations that they are un-American and harmful to our reputation and cause.)

During his capture Abu Zubaydah had been injured. After seeing the extent of his injuries, the CIA medical team supporting us decided they were not equipped to treat him and we had to take him to a hospital or he would die. At the hospital, we continued our questioning as much as possible, while taking into account his medical condition and the need to know all information he might have on existing threats.

We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM's role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) All this happened before the CTC team arrived.

A few days after we started questioning Abu Zubaydah, the CTC interrogation team finally arrived from DC with a contractor who was instructing them on how they should conduct the interrogations, and we were removed. Immediately, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, starting with nudity. (The harsher techniques mentioned in the memos were not introduced or even discussed at this point.)

The new techniques did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking. At that time nudity and low-level sleep deprivation (between 24 and 48 hours) was being used. After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from DC asking why all of sudden no information was being transmitted (when before there had been a steady stream), we again were given control of the interrogation.

We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence.

This included the details of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber." To remind you of how important this information was viewed at the time, the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held a press conference from Moscow to discuss the news. Other important actionable intelligence was also gained that remains classified.

After a few days, the contractor attempted to once again try his untested theory and he started to re-implementing the harsh techniques. He moved this time further along the force continuum, introducing loud noise and then temperature manipulation.

Throughout this time, my fellow FBI agent and I, along with a top CIA interrogator who was working with us, protested, but we were overruled. I should also note that another colleague, an operational psychologist for the CIA, had left the location because he objected to what was being done.

Again, however, the technique wasn't working and Abu Zubaydah wasn't revealing any information, so we were once again brought back in to interrogate him. We found it harder to reengage him this time, because of how the techniques had affected him, but eventually, we succeeded, and he re-engaged again.

Once again the contractor insisted on stepping up the notches of his experiment, and this time he requested the authorization to place Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, as the next stage in the force continuum. While everything I saw to this point were nowhere near the severity later listed in the memos, the evolution of the contractor's theory, along with what I had seen till then, struck me as "borderline torture."

As the Department of Justice IG report released last year states, I protested to my superiors in the FBI and refused to be a part of what was happening. The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, a man I deeply respect, agreed passing the message that "we don't do that," and I was pulled out.

As you can see from this timeline, many of the claims made in the memos about the success of the enhanced techniques are inaccurate. For example, it is untrue to claim Abu Zubaydah wasn't cooperating before August 1, 2002. The truth is that we got actionable intelligence from him in the first hour of interrogating him.
The illegality of torture was stated directly to the Administration as early as 2004:

One document, which is marked “secret” but is not classified, is a twenty-two-page memo written by Mora. It shows that three years ago Mora tried to halt what he saw as a disastrous and unlawful policy of authorizing cruelty toward terror suspects.

The memo is a chronological account, submitted on July 7, 2004, to Vice Admiral Albert Church, who led a Pentagon investigation into abuses at the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It reveals that Mora’s criticisms of Administration policy were unequivocal, wide-ranging, and persistent. Well before the exposure of prisoner abuse in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, in April, 2004, Mora warned his superiors at the Pentagon about the consequences of President Bush’s decision, in February, 2002, to circumvent the Geneva conventions, which prohibit both torture and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” He argued that a refusal to outlaw cruelty toward U.S.-held terrorist suspects was an implicit invitation to abuse. Mora also challenged the legal framework that the Bush Administration has constructed to justify an expansion of executive power, in matters ranging from interrogations to wiretapping. He described as “unlawful,” “dangerous,” and “erroneous” novel legal theories granting the President the right to authorize abuse. Mora warned that these precepts could leave U.S. personnel open to criminal prosecution.

In important ways, Mora’s memo is at odds with the official White House narrative.
The UN report on Guantanamo Bay detainees:

49. Following the ambiguous interpretations of what constitutes torture and illtreatment detailed in Section A, the following interrogation techniques, which clearly went beyond earlier practice (as contained in Army Field Manual FM 34-52), were approved by the Secretary of Defense on 2 December 2002.
• “The use of stress positions (like standing) for a maximum of four hours;
• Detention in isolation up to 30 days;
• The detainee may have a hood placed over his head during transportation and questioning;
• Deprivation of light and auditory stimuli;
• Removal of all comfort items;
• Forced grooming (shaving of facial hair, etc);
• Removal of clothing;
• Interrogation for up to 20 hours and
• Using detainees’ individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.”

50. After having rescinded the above memorandum on 15 January 2005, the Secretary of Defense on 16 April 2003 authorised the following techniques which remain in force:
• “B. Incentive/Removal of Incentive i.e. comfort items;
• S. Change of Scenery Down might include exposure to extreme temperatures and
deprivation of light and auditory stimuli;
• U. Environmental Manipulation: Altering the environment to create moderate discomfort (e.g. adjusting temperature or introducing an unpleasant smell).
• V. Sleep Adjustment; Adjusting the sleeping times of the detainee (e.g. reversing sleep cycles from night to day) This technique is not sleep deprivation.
• X. Isolation: Isolating the detainee from other detainees while still complying with basic standards of treatment.”

51. These techniques meet four of the five elements in the Convention definition of torture (the acts in question were perpetrated by government officials; they had a clear purpose, i.e. gathering intelligence, extracting information; the acts were committed intentionally; and the victims were in a position of powerlessness). However, to meet the Convention definition of torture, severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, must be inflicted. Treatment aimed at humiliating victims may amount to degrading treatment or punishment, even without intensive pain or suffering. It is difficult to assess in abstracto whether this is the case with regard to acts such as the removal of clothes. However, stripping detainees naked, particularly in the presence of women and taking into account cultural sensitivities, can in individual cases cause extreme psychological pressure and can amount to degrading treatment, or even torture. The same holds true for the use of dogs, especially if it is clear that an individual phobia exists. Exposure to extreme temperatures, if prolonged, can conceivably cause severe suffering.
Which reached, among other conclusions:

96. The United States Government should close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities without further delay. Until the closure, and possible transfer of detainees to pre-trial detention facilities on United States territory, the Government should refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, discrimination on the basis of religion, and violations of the rights to health and freedom of religion. In particular, all special interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense should immediately be revoked.

100. The United States Government should ensure that all victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are provided with fair and adequate compensation, in accordance with article 14 of the Convention against Torture, including the means for as full a rehabilitation as possible.
Cheney recently defended these practices because they were not carried out against US citizens*, and agreed America should object should such techniques ever be used against US citizens. Apparently he thinks he can slice the salami so thin it only has one side. Besides, it worked:

“First of all, these were not American citizens,” he said, “Secondly, it was people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who were a handful, 2 or 3, that actually got waterboarded. Third, we had good reason to believe they had information that we could only get from them and that they knew more than anyone else.”

Lauer, though hesitant himself to say waterboarding, continued in his questioning on the matter. “You know though that if you were to conduct a poll in this country right now and ask people, ‘Is waterboarding torture?’ I think the vast majority of people would say it is. ”

Cheney replied: “And I would argue Matt that it’s important for us not to get caught up in the notion that you can only have popular methods of interrogation if you want to run an effective counter-terrorism program.”

“The fact is, it worked,” he added. “We learned valuable, valuable information in that process, and we kept the country safe for over 7 years.”
Except, of course, it didn't:

"I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden," said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.

It now appears likely that several detainees had information about a key al Qaeda courier -- information that might have led authorities directly to bin Laden years ago. But subjected to physical and psychological brutality, "they gave us the bare minimum amount of information they could get away with to get the pain to stop, or to mislead us," Alexander told The Huffington Post.

"We know that they didn’t give us everything, because they didn’t provide the real name, or the location, or somebody else who would know that information," he said.

In a 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College, trained interrogators found that traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches are extremely effective with even the most hardened detainees, whereas coercion consistently builds resistance and resentment.

"Had we handled some of these sources from the beginning, I would like to think that there’s a good chance that we would have gotten this information or other information," said Steven Kleinman, a longtime military intelligence officer who has extensively researched, practiced and taught interrogation techniques.

"By making a detainee less likely to provide information, and making the information he does provide harder to evaluate, they hindered what we needed to accomplish," said Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002.
Dick Cheney is a liar, a fool, and most likely a war criminal. He really isn't fit to be among civilized people.

*and no, US citizens are not specially protected from torture. The statute is quite clear: (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control..."


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