- On August 24, an ACLU press release stated:
- In response to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
lawsuits, "The government today handed over to the American Civil
Liberties Union (one of dozens of documents comprising an unprecedented
130,000 previously secret pages, including) a detailed official description
of the CIA's interrogation program."
- Referring to a heavily redacted December 2004 report
(originally commissioned by CIA director George Tenet) detailing torture
of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, it "describes the use of abusive
interrogation techniques including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary
manipulation and stress positions." Far worse ones were understated
or redacted entirely.
- According to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National
- The report "is a profoundly disturbing document
that illustrates, as well as anything could, how far the CIA strayed from
the law and from values that are integral to our democracy. That the barbaric
methods outlined in the paper were approved by the country's senior-most
officials is particularly appalling."
- Bush's Justice Department office of legal counsel head,
now a federal appeals court judge, Jay Bybee, advised the CIA that torture
and threats of imminent death were legal if they didn't cause mental harm
even though US and international law forbid all forms at all times with
no exceptions allowed for any reason.
- Given America's tortured past, none of this should surprise.
More on that below.
- On August 25 in The New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark
Mazzetti headlined: "Report Shows Tight CIA Control on Interrogations."
Claiming it "focused on aberrations in the field," the writers
said "by no means (did it represent) gung-ho operatives running wild.
It is a portrait of overwhelming control exercised from CIA headquarters
and the Department of Justice - control Bush administration officials say
was intended to ensure that the program was safe and legal."
- These same officials said:
- -- federal courts have no jurisdiction and can't review
detainee mistreatment or mistaken arrests;
- -- US and international laws don't apply in the "war
on terror;" and
- -- the President as Commander-in-Chief enjoys "the
fullest range of power to protect the nation....(that he has) complete
discretion in the exercise of his authority in conducting operations against
- The 2006 Military Commissions Act authorized torture,
created the lawless category of "unlawful enemy combatants,"
denied them judicial fairness, claimed they can be disappeared, indefinitely
detained with no right to counsel, then tried by kangaroo tribunals with
no right of appeal and executed.
- To protect national security, they may be subjected to
all forms of abuse, innocent or guilty, and the right of "military
necessity" justifies the most extreme mistreatment.
- Any form of intense and prolonged physical and psychological
torture may be inflicted short of causing injuries resulting in death,
organ failure, or permanent damage - continuing America's long tradition
of inflicting abusive barbaric treatment.
- The Times gave examples, but omitted prolonged isolation,
sensory deprivation, painful shackling, severe beatings, electric shocks,
induced hypothermia, exposure to bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds
24 hours a day, denial of medical care, proper food or enough of it, excruciating
force-feeding to hunger-strikers, induced psychological trauma, forced
sodomy, threats and bites by attack dogs, being blindfolded and hung from
the ceiling by their wrists, and subjected to repeated humiliations, indignities
and barbarism for months, even years, although most Guantanamo detainees
(and others) committed no crime and were turned in for bounties that snared
children as young as 13.
- Deaths resulted from asphyxiation, extreme beatings,
and deprivation prolonged enough to cause organ failure. Yet Attorney General
Eric Holder plans no more than prosecutorial investigations (by a career
Justice Department insider) of "rogue" agents, not top officials
who authorized their crimes and bear main responsibility for them.
- At the same time, Obama's Interrogation and Transfer
Policy Task Force will continue the Bush administration's policy of extraordinary
renditions to countries with disturbing histories of torture, provoking
outcries from human rights activists. It assures continuation of abusive
practices despite hollow assurances of closer monitoring, more humane treatment,
and greater access for diplomats - the same never honored Bush administration
pledges suggesting a similar betrayal by Obama.
- Revealed CIA Report Abuses
- On August 28, the Washington Post headlined, "CIA
Releases Its Instructions For Breaking a Detainee's Will," then continued:
- "As the session begins, the detainee stands naked,
except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs,
then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later;
according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle
for slamming the detainee's head against a wall."
- "After removing the hood, the interrogator opens
with a slap across the face (followed by more slaps). Next comes head-slamming,
or 'walling'....'twenty or thirty times consecutively' is permissible (and)
if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried."
- The New York Times said the Bush administration's Justice
Department knew about two dozen abuse cases years ago but declined to pursue
prosecutions despite detainee deaths and other extreme examples of torture.
- Manadel al-Jamadi was a victim. Captured by Navy Seals
in October 2003, he was beaten and tortured, then suspended from a barred
window with his arms tied behind his back. He died in November. Army reservist
Charles Graner was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment
at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Eight Navy Seals received light administrative
punishment for torturing al-Jamadi and other prisoners. Higher-ups at Abu
Ghraib remained free to abuse others.
- Redacting the worst crimes and omitting all committed
at secret "black sites," the CIA report revealed the following:
- -- one or more detainees were told their mothers would
be raped in their presence;
- -- CIA operatives conducted mock executions by firing
guns in adjoining rooms even though a federal law expressly forbids threatening
detainees with imminent death;
- -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was told his children would
be killed if America experienced another terrorist attack;
- -- a detainee was repeatedly knocked out from pressure
to his carotid artery;
- -- inmates were threatened with guns;
- -- Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused mastermind of
the October 2000 US Cole bombing, was terrorized with a power drill, nearly
drowned by waterboarding, and according to a 2006 ICRC report was threatened
with sodomy and the arrest and rape of his family;
- -- other evidence from an internal Justice Department
investigation revealed reports of prisoners abused in US military custody
as early as 2002; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was informed and
did nothing to stop them;
- -- a December 2004-initiated Office of Inspector General
(OIG) investigation revealed that top White House, Defense Department and
CIA officials turned a blind eye to repeated acts of torture and abuse;
in addition, the FBI knew about them, failed to act, and only belatedly
reported them after Abu Ghraib photographs became public.
- CIA officials knew they faced "potentially serious
long-term political and legal challenges as a result of the program, particularly
(their) use of (extreme interrogation practices) and the inability of the
US Government to decide what it will ultimately do with terrorists detained
by the agency." They also feared public knowledge could "seriously
damage....the reputation and effectiveness of the agency itself."
Yet they continued the most abusive practices and still do given the cover
afforded them by the Obama administration.
- America's Tortured Past
- Many, perhaps most or all countries have used torture
at times in their past, so it shouldn't surprise that America did as far
back as before the republic's birth. Accused 17th century Salem witches
faced abusive interrogations, a less extreme form of waterboarding, grueling
trials, death by hanging for those convicted, and at least one victim was
crushed to death under heavy boulders. None so far as known was burned
- Native Americans were (and still are) victims of genocide
through mass slaughter, starvation, neglect, and by exposing them to deadly
pathogens like smallpox and other diseases, including influenza, whooping
cough, diphtheria, typhus, plague, cholera, and scarlet fever.
- Entire tribes were annihilated. Columbus exterminated
the whole Hispaniola population by torture, mass-murder, forced labor,
starvation, disease, despair, stabbing natives for sport, dashing babies'
heads on rocks, letting children be eaten by dogs, beheadings, and burning
people at the stake among other atrocities, including especially brutal
treatment of women.
- In the antebellum South, slaves were tortured by whipping,
painful restraint, prolonged isolation in a sealed shed with choking tobacco
smoke, and by other punishments. Theodore Roosevelt defended water torture
(today's waterboarding) called the "water cure" to extract confessions
from Filipinos because "nobody was seriously damaged."
- In 1995, Bill Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive
39 (PDD-39) authorizing extraordinary rendition to other countries for
interrogations and torture.
- Torture As A Weapon of War
- In his book, "War Without Mercy," John Dower
documented atrocities by both sides in the Pacific war. American forces
"mutilat(ed) Japanese war dead for souvenirs, attack(ed) and (sank)
hospital ships, sho(t) sailers who had abandoned ship and pilots who had
bailed out, kill(ed) wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and tortur(ed)
and execut(ed) prisoners."
- Japanese ones aside, American atrocities included civilian
abuse, burying combatants alive, and routinely using torture against a
race called so vile and subhuman that all forms of barbarism were justified
to exterminate them.
- In the Korean War, mass indiscriminate killing of civilians
was commonplace. It got General Curtis LeMay to boast that US planes "burned
down every town in North Korea," killing 20% or more of the population.
Both sides committed barbaric acts, including massacres and torture.
- Korean expert Bruce Cumings explained the "extraordinary
destructiveness of the United States air campaigns, from the widespread
and continuous use of firebombing (mainly with napalm), to threats to use
nuclear and chemical weapons," to the use of biological weapons, to
incinerating whole towns and villages, turning the entire North to rubble,
and slaughtering millions of its people, mainly civilians.
- In Hwangjoo County, US forces designated one area a hand-grenade
field, killing 500 civilians. Prisoners and civilians were buried alive,
burned, drowned, shot, stabbed, and beaten to death. In Hwemun Village
in Erang County, one woman, after arrest, was forcibly mutilated. Her breasts,
legs, and arms were cut off. Then her eyes were gouged out before she was
stabbed to death. Others were beheaded. Thousands of civilians were brutally
tortured. One family of six was hanged upside down from a tree and burned
alive. Another civilian was skinned alive, then burned to death.
- Still others were murdered with bats, spears, stones,
sticks, clubs, flails, and pickaxes. Women were assaulted and raped. In
all, US forces massacred tens of thousands of civilians systematically,
ruthlessly, and brutally, including by disemboweling them while alive.
- Barbarity in Vietnam was even worse. Atrocities were
widespread and commonplace, including massacres, rape, torture, mutilations,
wanton mass destruction, use of chemical and biological weapons, and as
Richard Nixon told Henry Kissinger: "We're gonna level that goddam
country. We're gonna hit 'em, bomb the livin' bejusus out of 'em."
Kissinger concurred in replying: "Mr. President, I will enthusiastically
support that, and I think it's the right thing to do."
- US forces got carte blanche to carpet bomb, incinerate
entire villages, burn people alive, fire freely on civilians, murder wounded
prisoners or beat them to death, throw people out of helicopters, torture
sadistically, gang rape young girls, and commit every imaginable atrocity
to people called gooks, vermin, or as General William Westmoreland described
them, "worthless termites." Against them, as in the Middle East
and Central Asia, inflicting any form of human suffering is permissible.
- Torture by US Police
- For decades to the present, police have used torture
to intimidate, extract confessions, treat people of color especially sadistically,
especially black men. In Chicago, the practice has been scandalous according
to the Human Rights at Home Chicago Police Torture Archive. Below is the
timeline of one of the most egregious examples:
- -- in May 1972, the notorious Jon Burge (trained in torture
techniques in Vietnam) was assigned to the Area Two detective division
on the city's South Side, a predominantly black community;
- -- in August 1972, allegations of torture against him
and other detectives surfaced;
- -- in May, 1973, Anthony Jones was tortured by electric
shock and suffocation with a plastic bag;
- -- in 1977, Burge was promoted to sergeant;
- -- from 1973 - 1981, torture allegations were made against
him and his men; Russian roulette, brutal beatings, and other abuses were
- -- in 1981, Burge was promoted to lieutenant in charge
of the Violent Crimes Unit at Area 2;
- -- from 1981 - 1993, dozens of victims made torture accusations,
suits were filed, but through 1990, the administration and City Council
took no action; Mayor Daley made "no comment whatever;"
- -- after torturing detainees for 21 years, the Chicago
Police Board fired Burge;
- -- in March 1993, the Fraternal Order of Police planned
to honor him with a float in the annual St. Patrick Day's parade; community
outrage stopped it;
- -- in 1993 and 1994, torture allegations against other
officers were investigated; through 1998, no action was taken;
- -- in November 1999, torture expert Dr. Robert Kirschner
testified that abuses by Chicago police followed a pattern found in nations
where the military and other security forces practice it;
- -- in 2004, several former black detectives under Burge
admitted in sworn statements that they saw or heard evidence of torture,
saw implements used (including Burge's "shock box"), and that
abusive practices were an "open secret" at Area 2;
- -- Burge was never charged with a crime, is retired,
and now lives in Florida; and
- -- the Burge case was notorious in Chicago, but is just
the tip of the iceberg there and throughout the country; rarely are abusers
held accountable; often they're rewarded and promoted.
- Torture in US Prisons
- Imprisonments are to punish, not rehabilitate, as those
confined can attest, and what's experienced inside is shocking and lawless,
but prisoners are powerless to resist:
- -- savage beatings by prison guards and other inmates;
- -- psychological intimidation and abuse;
- -- attacks by fierce dogs;
- -- arbitrary abusive shakedowns;
- -- lengthy solitary confinement for minor infractions;
- -- abusive strip searches;
- -- extended lockdowns during which prisoners are confined
to their cells;
- -- electroshocks with cattle prods and 50,000 volt emitting
Tasers that leave victims shaking for hours and are potent enough to kill;
- -- assaults by toxic chemicals like pepper spray or mace
that cause severe pain, second degree burns, temporary blindness, and occasionally
- -- sodomy by guards and other inmates.
- Supermax confinement is much worse:
- -- the above abuses and extreme deprivation are common;
- -- inmates have little contact with staff and none with
- -- they're confined alone in small windowless cells for
23 hours a day;
- -- they have no work, social contact, education, recreation,
rehabilitation, or privacy;
- -- when outside their cells, they're painfully shackled
and escorted by four-man teams; and
- -- over time, the toll is devastating: severe anxiety
and panic attacks; lethargy; insomnia, nightmares; dizziness; irrational
anger, at times uncontrollable; confusion; social withdrawal; loss of memory
and appetite; delusions and hallucinations; self-mutilation; profound
despair and hopelessness; suicidal thoughts; and paranoia and schizophrenia.
- Many are too scarred psychologically to ever adjust normally
again in society. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
In US prisons, it's brutally inflicted. At around 2.4 million, America
has the world's largest prison population, more than China and India combined.
Poor blacks and Latinos comprise two-thirds of it. Most prisoners committed
non-violent crimes (commonly elicit drugs possession) yet are victims of
violence inside against which they have no redress or ability to avoid.
- The CIA's Tortured Past
- Since the 1950s, the CIA conducted torture experiments,
including very harsh mind control forms. At McGill University's Allan Memorial
Institute, the agency funded Dr. Ewen Cameron's work with psychiatric patients,
keeping them asleep and isolated for weeks, administering LSD and PCP angel
dust cocktails, then monitoring the results. They showed that sensory deprivation
and hallucinogenic drugs disrupt clear thinking enough to make subjects
receptive to suggestion. The CIA developed a new interrogation technique
that University of Wisconsin historian Alfred McCoy called "the first
real revolution in the cruel science of pain in more than three centuries."
- In his book, "A Question of Torture," McCoy
explained how techniques were developed, refined, codified in manuals,
used extensively in Southeast Asia, Central America, and now everywhere,
including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at secret black sites globally. A worldwide
gulag exists with no oversight or legal compliance - on US bases, torture
ships, and in prisons of complicit countries. Nothing is banned, including
the most inhumanely harmful abuses.
- At Fort Benning, Georgia's School of the Americas, SOA
(renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or
WHINSEC), hemispheric security force students are taught the latest ways
to torture, repress, exterminate poor and indigenous people, overthrow
democratically elected governments, assassinate targeted leaders, and suppress
popular resistance when it erupts. They practice techniques of sensory
deprivation and overload, mind control, forced nudity and other humiliations,
sleep and food manipulation, how to inflict physical and psychological
pain, and commit virtually any atrocity imaginable, designed for maximum
- In making a case for "torture warrants," Harvard
Law Professor Alan Dershowitz asked "should law enforcement be authorized
to torture suspects who are thought to have information about a ticking
bomb," then claimed that "scenario had long been a staple of
legal and political philosophers" to justify the most extreme forms
- Torture, he claims, "can sometimes produce truthful
information" despite its prohibition at all times for any purpose.
In addition, experts say it doesn't work and non-abusive practices are
much more effective. The US Army Field Manual 34-52, Chapter 1 says:
- "Experience indicates that the use of force is not
necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore,
the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results,
may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to
say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."
- A declassified May 10, 2004 FBI document said the agency
"has been successful for many years obtaining confessions via non-confrontational
interviewing techniques." A former FBI interrogator said torture turns
people into terrorists, and top CIA and military experts categorically
say torture doesn't work.
- Yet apologists like Dershowitz and others claim it does
and in ticking bomb cases is justified. He and at least four other Harvard
Law School professors agree, leading international human rights expert
and University of Illinois Law School Professor Francis Boyle to call "Harvard's
Gitmo Kangaroo Law School" the "School for Torturers" and
advises parents not to "send your children (there) where they will
grow up to become racist war criminals!....Harvard is to Law School as
Torture is to Law....Harvard Law School is a Neo-Con cesspool....no longer
fit to educate Lawyers, Members of the Bar, and Officers of the Court."
- George Bush's Secret Torture Memorandum
- Dated February 7, 2002, it directed the Vice-President,
Secretaries of State and Defense, Attorney General, White House Chief of
Staff, CIA Director, National Security Affairs Assistant, and Joint Chiefs
Chairman regarding "Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees."
- It states:
- Regarding the treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda detainees,
"Geneva applies to conflicts involving 'High Contracting Parties,'
which can only be states. However, the war against terrorism ushers in
a new paradigm, one in which groups with broad, international reach commit
horrific acts against innocent civilians, sometimes with the direct support
of states. (This) requires new thinking in the law of war (thus) I hereby
determine as follows:
- -- "....none of the provisions of Geneva apply to
our conflict with al Queda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world...."
- -- "....I have the authority under the Constitution
to suspend Geneva between the United States and Afghanistan (but) I determine
that the provisions of Geneva will apply to our present conflict with the
- -- however, "I....determine that common Article
3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees....;
(Therefore, these detainees) are unlawful combatants and....do not qualify
as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva...."
- "I hereby direct the secretary of state to communicate
my determinations in an appropriate manner to our allies, and other countries
and international organizations cooperating in the war against terrorism
of global reach."
- George W. Bush
- On July 9 in Common Dreams, former CIA officer Ray McGovern
wrote: "Seldom does a crime scene have so clear a smoking gun"
that exposes the president authorizing torture as official US policy and
commanding his top officials to implement it.
- Barack Obama's January 22 Executive Orders banned torture,
directed the closure of CIA black sites and Guantanamo, and the "immediate
review of all" its detainees. They also halted Military Commission
proceedings, and assured that "humane standards of confinement"
will be observed in accordance with international humanitarian laws, including
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It prohibits:
- -- "violence to life and person, in particular murder
of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
- -- outrages of personal dignity, in particular humiliating
and degrading treatment;"
- -- carrying out sentences or execution "without
previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording
all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized
- -- caring for the wounded and sick, including by an impartial
body like the ICRC "offer(ing) its services to the Parties to the
- He ordered the rule of law restored, but never followed
through. Detainees are still at Guantanamo. Conditions and practices there
are unchanged. Torture and other indignities remain official US policy.
Inmate lawyers report a ramping up of abuses, including beatings, dislocation
of limbs, pepper spraying in closed cells, force-feeding of hunger strikers,
and other violations of US and international laws.
- In addition, CIA black sites remain open. Extraordinary
renditions were reauthorized. Restoring the rule of law was abandoned.
The Global War on Terror was rebranded the "Overseas Contingency Operation"
to include the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and enemies throughout the
- Policies are unchanged under an administration as lawless
as its predecessor and with an "absolute (commitment) to eliminat(e)
the threat of terrorism (with) the full force of our power," including
by using torture.
- In a March 2008 campaign speech, Obama said the following:
- "I believe that we must reject torture without equivocation
because it does not make us safe, it results in unreliable intelligence,
it puts our troops at risk, and it contradicts core American values. When
I am president, the American people and the world will be able to trust
that I will outlaw torture."
- In office, Obama abandoned his promise to continue America's
sordid, tortured past in violation of the rule of law, ethical and moral
standards, and everything he swore he'd change.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday
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