Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cover-up: FBI Threatens Suspect's Family with Torture (Updated)

Like a scenario out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, an innocent man was accused of assisting the 9/11 hijackers in their terrorist plot. Abdallah Higazy was an Egyptian national studying computer engineering at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. In December 2001, he was coerced into falsely confessing his "role" in 9/11 after the FBI was tipped that he supposedly owned an air-band transceiver capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground communication.

The transceiver turned out to belong to an airline pilot staying in Abdallah's NY hotel. Higazy was released after 34 days in custody. He subsequently sued both his FBI interrogator and the hotel he stayed in, whose security officers had found the radio. The hotel settled, but initially the FBI suit was dismissed. Upon appeal, the 2nd Circuit remanded the case to district court.

Now here's what's really amazing: the court brief clearly shows that the FBI threatened torture of Higazy's family back in Egypt. When the brief was published online, it was quickly withdrawn and replaced with a censored version, without the torture threats. Blogger Howard Bashman had the first version however, posted it, and then received a call from the court demanding he take down the unredacted version.

The case, including the bizarre attempt at cover-up, was widely covered in the legal blogs (see here and here), but barely merited coverage by the mainstream press. Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting story about the poor media coverage. [There were two previous diary entries at Daily Kos, brought to my attention after my posting here. Dday posted The FBI, Egyptian Torture, and the Court Opinion That Wasn't on October 23. Albaum followed up the story, with emphasis on the issue of court redaction, in the diary Federal Appeals Court Covers Up Abuse? Both diaries are well-worth the read.]

There was one article in the Washington Post last week:

The FBI interviewer allegedly gave Abdallah Higazy a choice: Admit to having a special pilot's radio in a hotel room near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, or the security service in his native Egypt would give his family "hell." Higazy responded by confessing to a crime he didn't commit....

In an unusual move, however, the appeals court withdrew the first opinion within minutes on Thursday and issued a second opinion Friday, with the details of Higazy's allegations removed.

"This opinion has been redacted because portions of the record are under seal," the new ruling reads. "For the purposes of the summary judgment motion, Templeton did not contest that Higazy's statements were coerced."
Howard Bashman, who writes a legal blog "devoted to appellate litigation",, gets the credit for breaking this story. He was, as already noted, approached by a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, and told to take down his post of the original court opinion. According to an article posted at ABA Journal, the clerk, one Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe, said the material was redacted to protect Higazy and his family, and that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department requested the material be censored. But a number of commentators have seriously questioned that.

A Look at Censorship in Action

OK, let's compare the versions and you make up your mind. This is from the currently posted (redacted) version of the opinion. The excerpt picks up during a description of the FBI polygraph of Higazy, a procedure requested by Higazy himself, although he found it physically painful:

Templeton unhooked the polygraph, and according to Higazy, called Higazy a baby and told him that a nine-year-old could tolerate this pain. Templeton left the room to get Higazy water, and upon his return, Higazy asked whether anybody else had ever suffered physical pain during the polygraph, to which Templeton replied: “[i]t never happened to anyone who told the truth.”

Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate . . . .

This opinion has been redacted because portions of the record are under seal. For the purposes of the summary judgment motion, Templeton did not contest that Higazy's statements were coerced.

Higazy then gave Templeton a series of explanations as to how he obtained the radio.

First, he admitted that he stole the radio from J&R, an electronics store. Then he recanted this story, and explained that he found it near J&R. Higazy next denied ever seeing or possessing the radio. Templeton allegedly banged on the table and screamed at Higazy: “You lied to me again! This is what? How many lies?” Higazy then lied again, this time telling Templeton that he found the radio on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Higazy recalled that Templeton “turned so red I thought he was going to hit me.” Templeton accused Higazy of being a liar, and said that he would “tell Agent Sullivan in my expert opinion you are a terrorist.” Finally, Higazy told Templeton that he had stolen the radio from the Egyptian military and had used it to eavesdrop on telephone conversations.

Templeton then wrote out a statement providing that Higazy had stolen the radio from the Egyptian military, which he asked Higazy to sign.

Among other things, Higazy's experience and reactions are a textbook case in how to elicit a false confession. But why did Higazy cave? Was he a crybaby, as his interrogator suggested? Consider the fully uncensored version, and note that the court accepts this version, even if it redacted it later (emphases are added).

Templeton unhooked the polygraph, and according to Higazy, called Higazy a baby and told him that a nine-year-old could tolerate this pain. Templeton left the room to get Higazy water, and upon his return, Higazy asked whether anybody else had ever suffered physical pain during the polygraph, to which Templeton replied: “[i]t never happened to anyone who told the truth.”

Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate, [begin unredacted portion] and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” Templeton later admitted that he knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country where they don’t advise people of their rights, they don’t – yeah, probably about torture, sure.”

Higazy later said, “I knew that I couldn’t prove my innocence, and I knew that my family was in danger.” He explained that “[t]he only thing that went through my head was oh, my God, I am screwed and my family’s in danger. If I say this device is mine, I’m screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And Agent Templeton made it quite clear that cooperate had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.”

Higazy explained why he feared for his family:

The Egyptian government has very little tolerance for anybody who is -- they’re suspicious of being a terrorist. To give you an idea, Saddam’s security force — as they later on were called his henchmen—a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape, some stuff would be even too sick to . . . . My father is 67. My mother is 61. I have a brother who developed arthritis at 19. He still has it today. When the word ‘torture’ comes at least for my brother, I mean, all they have to do is really just press on one of these knuckles. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything to my sister.

And Higazy added:

[L]et’s just say a lot of people in Egypt would stay away from a family that they know or they believe or even rumored to have anything to do with terrorists and by the same token, some people who actually could be — might try to get to them and somebody might actually make a connection. I wasn’t going to risk that. I wasn’t going to risk that, so I thought to myself what could I say that he would believe. What could I say that’s convincing? And I said okay. [End redacted portion]

Higazy then gave Templeton a series of explanations as to how he obtained the radio. First, he admitted that he stole the radio from J&R, an electronics store....

The FBI Is Not Clean on Torture

What else can we conclude? In the controversies over CIA and military torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere (and particularly over the interrogaton of Abu Zubeida), the FBI were portrayed as whistleblowers, as real interrogation professionals who eschew torture. But here we can witness the FBI practicing a form of torture - threats to family - to induce a coerced confession. And then somebody tried to cover up the tracks when the embarrassing information popped up in a legal opinion. Apparently it was posted for only minutes before it was withdrawn, but it was too late for the government censors.

What else can we conclude but that this is how some, not all, FBI interrogations are conducted. How often does this happen? We don't know. How much is covered-up? We don't know, mainly because we can't estimate things done in secret.

But we do know something about FBI history. During the 1950s and 1960s, the FBI ran a domestic counterintelligence campaign targeting U.S. dissidents and radicals, Cointelpro. This is from Brian Glick's 1989 book, War at Home:

In early 1971, the FBI's domestic counterintelligence program (code named "COINTELPRO") was brought to light when a "Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI" removed secret files from an FBI office in Media, PA and released them to the press....

When congressional investigations, political trials and other traditional legal methods of repression failed to counter the growing movements of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and even helped fuel them, the FBI and police moved outside the law. They used secret and systematic methods of fraud and force, far beyond mere surveillance, to sabotage constitutionally protected political activity. The purpose of the program was, in FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's own words, to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize" specific groups and individuals. Its targets in this period included the American Indian Movement, the Communist Party, the Socialist Worker's Party, Black Nationalist groups, and many members of the New Left (SDS, and a broad range of anti-war, anti-racist, feminist, lesbian and gay, environmentalist and other groups). Many other groups and individuals seeking racial, gender and class justice were targets who came under attack, including Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, the NAACP, the National Lawyer's Guild, SANE-Freeze, American Friends Service Committee, and many, many others....

Much of what was done outside the law under COINTELPRO was later legalized by Executive Order 12333 (12/4/81) [under President Ronald Reagan].

One could argue that the practices of Cointelpro did not involve torture or the elicitation of false confessions. But they do reveal a pattern of operating in secret and outside the law.

Some terrible things have been happening in this country. The naive belief that the FBI is somehow above the barbaric practices of the CIA and the military, with the latter highlighted over the waterboarding issue roiling the Mukasey nomination, must give way to an informed and sophisticated view of how the government really operates, particularly its police branches. We got to peek at how some of some of government secrecy operates to protect its police agents and their abuse. We must demand an end to such secrecy, a restoration of the FOIA to its full 1970s power, and the prosecution of those who use torture or cruel treatment, and those who pursue it as state or agency policy.

Blogger Steve Bergstein summed up the Higazy revelations:

That's how they do it, folks. If a foreign national is suspected of terrorist activity, the FBI will threaten to have a brutal foreign government punish his family. And punishment in a place like Egypt is not like punishment here. Punishment here consists of solitary confinement and a very long prison term. Punishment over there is torture.

Update: For those who really like to get into the nitty-gritty of the case, Mary2002 gave an important link in the comments [over at Daily Kos]. She noted that the information that was redacted in the court opinion had been available elsewhere publicly online. The matter at the link gives evidence that the FBI had been conducting a cover-up on Higazy for some time.

Here's the link, and a brief explanation from the site as to what it contains (and a tip of the hat to all the brilliant and informative comments from the readers). Note that the matter below was written before the Second Circuit opinion, and before Agent Templeton, for the purposes of the summary judgment motion, "did not contest that Higazy's statements were coerced":

[Posted] are pages 2-11 of the report on the investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) prepared by Deputy U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley in behalf of U.S. Attorney James B. Comey, Southern District of New York, on how an FBI polygrapher came to extract a false confession from Abdallah Higazy. The first page of the report was not available....

The OIG report's main conclusion, that "there is insufficient evidence to corroborate Higazy's allegations that the polygrapher threatened him" was foreordained by the FBI's deliberate policy of not audio- or video-recording polygraph examinations, a policy that ensures there will be no record of any such misconduct by a polygrapher.

Higazy's lawyer, Robert S. Dunn, has characterized the OIG report as a whitewash. This view is supported by the fact that the OIG failed to even review Higazy's polygraph charts before filing its report. That the OIG was biased against Higazy and in favor of the polygrapher is evidenced by the fact that in reporting on its interview of Higazy, almost everything Higazy said is caveated with prefatory words such as "Higazy stated," "Higazy said," "According to Higazy," and "According to Higazy's account," whereas in reporting on the polygrapher's interview, such prefatory remarks appear relatively infrequently, and much of the polygrapher's account is presented as if it were undisputed fact.

Australian Psychologists Condemn Participation in Torture

(Reposted from Stephen Soldz's blog, Psyche, Science and Society. I have added a link to the original APS posting.)

At its September Conference, the Australian Psychological Society debated and passed a resolution on torture. Here is the explanation of its background from APA Executive Director Lyn Littlefield:

New APS declaration condemning the use of torture

The APS Board of Directors has recently passed a resolution declaring the APS’ unequivocal condemnation of the use of torture or other inhumane or degrading procedures in all situations. This resolution was developed in the context of the debate surrounding the invitation of Dr Gerald Koocher as a keynote speaker at the APS National Conference which was held in September this year. Dr Koocher was the President of the American Psychological Association (APA) during a period when the APA was under criticism for its stance on psychologists’ involvement in military and CIA interrogation techniques. When the APS learnt of the controversy, Dr Koocher was invited, in addition to giving a keynote address, to participate in a Public Forum at the APS Conference on ‘Lessons from Guantanamo Bay: Ethical Issues for Psychologists Working in the Military, Intelligence and Detention Facilities’. Dr Koocher willingly participated in the Public Forum, which was very well received and enabled APS members to hear first hand the APA’s position on interrogation and to consider these issues in the Australian context.

Here is the APS Board of Directors statement and the resolution:

25 October 2007

APS Declaration on Torture

The APS Board of Directors passed the following resolution on 24 September 2007:

The Australian Psychological Society, as a member of the International Union of Psychological Science, fully endorses the United Nations Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1997.

The Australian Psychological Society regards all forms of torture, as defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1997, as breaches of the Society’s Code of Ethics (2003) General Principle III Propriety.


Psychologists shall at all times comply with the Society’s Code of Ethics.

Psychologists shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, in any situation, including armed conflict and civil strife.

Psychologists shall not provide any premises, instruments, substances or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to diminish the ability of the victim to resist such treatment.

Psychologists shall not be present during any procedure in which torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened.

Psychologists must have complete professional independence in deciding upon the care of a person for whom they are responsible.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2007 U.S. Intelligence Budget = $43.5 Billion

Numerous news outlets are reporting the release, by Congressional mandate, of the current budget for U.S. intelligence agencies, an amount that totals over 43 billion dollars for a single year. (Note: this does not include the budgets for military intelligence, which must be very large in themselves. See below for figures on Defense Department spending.)

BBC News reports:

The 2007 sum, split among 16 agencies, is almost double what was spent in 1997 and 1998, the last budgets made public....

Exactly where the money goes remains classified, but a share will go on salaries for an estimated 100,000 people, among them intelligence analysts and spies, the Associated Press reports.

Also covered will be such expenses as high-tech secret satellite programmes, aircraft, weapons, computers and software....

The budget includes money for the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and FBI intelligence programmes, as well as agencies within the state and treasury departments....

Former CIA director George Tenet released the budget figures for 1997 ($26.6bn) and 1998 ($26.7bn), saying he saw no risk to national security in doing so....

The 2007 figure is greater than the national economies of all but the world's 60 or so richest nations.

One word not used in mainstream press reports to describe the intelligence budget is "obscene". It is also indicative of the size of a mushrooming secret component of government, one that historically has been prone to abuses at home, and criminal activity abroad.

By way of contrast, here are the budgetary amounts allocated to other portions of government in the 2006 fiscal year (from the Washington Post):

Department of Defense -- $419.3 billion; Department of Health and Human Services -- $642 billion; $Department of Education -- $56 billion; Environmental Protection Agency -- $7.6 billion; Department of Housing and Urban Development -- $3.7 billion; and the Department of Justice -- $19.1 billion.

By any account, the amount spent on "national security" is outrageous, and the half a trillion dollars or so (not necessarily counting emergency funds allocated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) can be seen as one way of quantifying the price of American Empire.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Top British Politician: "We have lost" Afghan War

Lord Paddy Ashdown, a leader of the British Liberal Party, who has been proposed as the new U.S./UK "super envoy" to the Afghan government, and most recently was UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, spoke about the war in Afghanistan before a NATO meeting in Holland the other day. It was reported by the UK paper, the Telegraph:

Lord Ashdown said: "We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely"....

Lord Ashdown added: "I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite [Shia], Sunni regional war on a grand scale.

"Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this [failure] to match this magnitude."

Of course, I could find nothing of this in either of the papers of "record" (who knew the term would gain such Orwellian irony?), the New York Times or the Washington Post. Meanwhile, an article in the British Independent makes the point that fears of a loss in Afghanistan, along with problems within the "coalition of the willing", are raising fears of a hike in UK troop presence.

Fears that Britain could be forced to send more troops to Afghanistan grew after Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a desperate appeal to Nato partners to share more of the burden of the war against the Taliban....

The lack of reinforcements is making it harder for the 41,000-strong force to consolidate gains against the Taliban. There are shortages of helicopters and the Americans are furious with Britain for allowing farmers to produce a bumper poppy harvest for the heroin trade....

Lord Ashdown, the former international peace envoy in Bosnia, has warned that a defeat in Afghanistan would be worse than defeat in Iraq, and trigger a regional war.

Former American ambassador Robert Hunter said on BBC radio: "I think it's premature to say it's lost. I asked him (Lord Ashdown) to try to go to Afghanistan and try to do what he did in Bosnia. He answered with a short phrase that I cannot repeat on the radio."

Of course, you wouldn't know any of this if you read the U.S. press, or followed the U.S. presidential race, where platitudes about "supporting our troops" vie for vapid commentary about health care reform, gay marriage, and, well, god knows what.

A catastrophe of historic proportions is gathering around us, and yet the body politic is incapable of rousing itself from some kind of enchanted torpor. When Lord Ashdown, a very educated man, makes an analogy with the First and Second World War, likening them -- incorrectly, I believe -- with regional civil wars, and applies it to the middle east and southwestern asia, you can believe that he is correct on at least one matter: the devastation and killing will be immense. It's hard not to see the U.S. being drawn in.

I've long believed that the Iraq War was about more than oil, though it's about that too. It's about establishing bases and a strategic bridgehead and center of military operations in a part of the world where all hell is expected to break loose in the next five to twenty years.

From Saudi Arabia and Iran to Pakistan, India, and the former Soviet republics on the southern border of Russia, a cataclysmic war is building. Or rather, it's already begun. But the American people are not part of the discussions around this process. They are kept blissfully ignorant by the corporate/government press and the kept intelligentsia.

Brig Lorimer, commander of UK troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, told the UK Telegraph last August:

"This is a counter-insurgency operation which is going to take time. It could last a decade. The counter-narcotic problem, which is huge, could take another 25 years. The British ambassador has said it will take 30 years. He has often said that this mission is a marathon, not a sprint and he is absolutely right."

It's not that nothing is being reported in the U.S. press. There was this in today's WP:

This year has been Afghanistan's deadliest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 5,300 people have died so far due to insurgency related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

The number of attacks on aid convoys have also spiked, increasing six-fold this year over 2006, said Rick Corsino, the country director for the U.N.'s World Food Program. There have been 30 attacks on WFP food convoys so far this year, mainly in the country's south, compared with five attacks in the whole of 2006.

Meanwhile, Bush is asking Congress for another $46 billion dollars to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Certain people used to be fond of calling the Soviet Union the "evil empire", and when the old CPSU crumbled in the early 1990s, it was widely perceived that Soviet foreign military commitments, such as the intervention in Afghanistan, bankrupted the economy, bringing a precipitous end to that "empire".

Whatever the reasons the Soviet Union finally imploded, it is true that foreign conquest tends to degrade the society that follows such a path. With the trillions in debt proposed by Bush and, so far, voted affirmatively by members of both U.S. political parties, it may be that as the Soviets in Afghanistan, the U.S. will find the days of its short-lived empire truncated in the bleak gray granite mountains of the Hindu Kush.

Also posted at Daily Kos

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Urgent: An Innocent Man is Dying

You can help save an innocent man's life.

His Guantanamo detainee ID number is 654. His first Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) unanimously concluded there was no evidence he was ever an "enemy combatant", and yet he has languished in isolation and sensory deprivation for 5 years in notorious Camp 6 at Guantanamo Prison in a steel windowless room, with no charges ever brought against him.

Forty-five year old Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi was diagnosed with hepatitis B and tuberculosis over a year ago. Amnesty International has issued a worldwide alert, as his condition has deteriorated significantly, and the prison authorities refuse to allow treatment. Please read the following and consider contacting the authorities indicated. A man's life is at stake... and a country's soul.

From the AI alert:

The Commander of the Guantánamo hospital and Joint-Task Force surgeon has previously stated that Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi does not want to be treated for his illnesses. However his lawyers have asserted that neither he nor they were informed of the diagnosis until September 2006 and that he has since requested treatment but has received none....

In February 2007, during her first visit to Guantánamo since Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi had been transferred to Camp 6, his lawyer stated that he “…was stooping low to the floor and huddled against the wall when I entered. His arms were wrapped around his body as he tried to warm himself from the chill he has had for over two months, and his feet were shackled to the floor. He was shivering, his teeth were clenched and he would not look at me".... he also stated that he was vomiting several times a day, had frequent headaches, itchy skin, pain in his back, abdomen, frequent nosebleeds and pain in his gums.... He is reported to have begun talking to himself and has difficulty focussing or concentrating in conversation with his lawyer.

Is your blood boiling yet? I know mine is. But it gets worse. And remember, this is being done in YOUR name. This is your country at work. While politicians and pundits politely debate the pros and cons of human rights and war, real human beings are being subjected to hells beyond your imaginings.

This is what al-Ghizzawi looked like to another Gitmo detainee, who in a handwritten note gave the outside world the first information about the Libyan prisoner in early 2006:

“He is in very poor health, which deteriorates day after day (details to be discussed with u in person). He has a family that is in desperate need of him.”

Mr. al-Ghizzawi sent messages through other detainees who had managed to secure legal counsel that he wanted a lawyer. He thought it might help him get medical attention. He finally secured a pro bono attorney last year.

H. Candace Gorman is a civil rights attorney in Chicago. A sole practitioner, she has only a few assistants to help her. She works on the case with Center for Constitutional Rights, which provides free legal representation for the Guantanamo prisoners. According to a recent article by Gorman over at Huffington Post:

During the week of September 24th I went to visit my client Mr. Al-Ghizzawi at Guantanamo again. It is clear to me that our visits are nearing the end... Mr. Al-Ghizzawi won't be with the living much longer. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi knows his days are limited, not only can he barely walk but he sat at our meeting doubled over in pain. For the first time in our two year attorney-client relationship Mr. Al-Ghizzawi shared with me pictures of his little girl... she is now almost six years old and he has not seen her since she was a few months old. She is a beautiful little girl with big green eyes and a mischievous grin. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi lamented the fact that he will never see his little girl again and that his little girl will not even have a picture of him to remember her father by.

In another article, published at Michael Moore's website, Ms. Gorman described the run-around she has received from U.S. prison and judicial authorities. It gives a startling glimpse into the jabberwocky world of U.S. jurisprudence in the age of Bush:

The military gave [al-Ghizzawi] physicals over the years, but no one at Guantánamo would tell him what was wrong with him. In fact, they told Mr. Al-Ghizzawi that there was nothing wrong with his health.

I asked the judge to order the military to turn over Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's medical records to me. The judge refused because he said I could not show what “irreparable harm” would befall Mr. Al-Ghizzawi in not getting the records. (Even Joseph Heller would have cringed at this one!) Of course the judge is correct; I cannot show irreparable harm in not getting the records because I cannot show irreparable harm until I have the records...

Elsewhere, al-Ghizzawi's attorney has explained how he was picked up in Afghanistan, not by U.S forces, but armed men after the United States dropped thousands of leaflets over that war-ravaged country promising huge bounties for captured “terrorists” and “murderers.” Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was then turned over to the Northern Alliance, who in turn handed him over to the Americans.
The story is picked up from here from the text of the AI alert:

In November 2004, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) panel determined unanimously that Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi was not an ‘enemy combatant’ due to “the paucity and weakness of the information provided”. However, a second panel, convened just two months later without the detainee’s presence or knowledge, concluded that he was an ‘enemy combatant’.

Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi was 39 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance forces towards the end of 2001. He was sold to US forces and later transferred to Guantánamo via US-run detention centres in Afghanistan. He had been living in Afghanistan since 1989 and is married to an Afghan woman.

I wish to add that the second tribunal determined al-Ghizzawi's "enemy combatant" status on -- well, what do you know? -- "secret evidence". The Washington Post published an expose on these bogus "combatant" rulings, citing whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Abraham, "who helped review government intelligence about detainees in 2004 and 2005 and served on a Combatant Status Review Tribunal", reportedly the one that reviewed al-Ghizzawi's case! According to WP, Lt. Col. Abraham

said in a sworn affidavit that the process of reviewing their cases was "fundamentally flawed" and that the results were influenced by pressure from superiors rather than based on concrete evidence.

Help Save Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi!

I think I've given enough information and links to demonstrate that an awful crime is being perpetrated by the U.S. government, against all international treaties and basic human decency. Here's what you can do:

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- expressing your serious concern that Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi may not be receiving appropriate medical care for his illnesses;
- urging that Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi be given immediate access to a doctor, and to specialist medical attention if necessary as stipulated in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, 22 (2), so that he can be properly diagnosed and provided with all the necessary treatment he may require;
- urging that independent medical experts be allowed to visit him regularly in Guantánamo to assess his medical condition and treatment requirements;
- urging that he be removed from Camp 6 immediately and transferred to facilities which will not be further detrimental to his physical and psychological health;
- stating that he should be allowed contact with his family through regular mail, with opportunities for phone calls and visits;
- calling for the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay to be closed and for the detainees held there to be released unless they are to be promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences and brought to trial in ordinary civilian courts in full accordance with international standards, without recourse to the death penalty.

Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, Commander Joint Task Force Guantánamo
Department of Defense , Joint Task Force Guantánamo, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, APO AE 09360
Fax: +1 305 437 1241
Salutation: Dear Rear Admiral

J. Alan Liotta, Principal Director, Office of Detainee Affairs
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, 2900 Defense Pentagon, Washington DC 20301-2900, USA
Email via:
Salutation: Dear Director

Member of US Congress
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, 1027 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, USA
Fax: + 1 202 226 6890
[I'm adding email link for Rep. Schakowsky, as snail mail to Congress post-anthrax now takes a long time.]

and to diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 5 December 2007.

Over 300 detainees remain imprisoned at Guantanamo, most of them in conditions of isolation and without charges filed. Their cells have no access to natural light or air. They can only leave their cells heavily shackled. They have almost no human contact. Many still have no legal representation. All are held indefinitely. And, as the al-Ghizzawi case demonstrates, access to medical care is definitely not guaranteed. Prisoners have committed suicide. Hunger strikers have been force-fed.

We can't help all of these men perhaps right now, but we have a chance to save one man's life. Please contact the officials above. And spread this article or the information and links in it, far and wide. Time is growing very short for Abdul Al-Ghizzawi. It is also growing short for our civilization.

Close Guanatanmo Now! End the Iraq Occupation! Impeach Bush and Cheney!

Updated around 7:10 pm Sunday evening PST:

I have just become aware that H. Candace Gordon had an article published at In These Times on October 16. Interested readers should go read it: Suicide and Spin Doctors. From the article:

Now that the U.S. military has “cleared” my notes, I can tell you about my July meeting....

Al-Ghizzawi was visibly shaken when I entered the meeting room and he immediately told me of his despair over the May death of a fellow inmate, a young Saudi man named Abdel Rahman Al Amri. Al-Ghizzawi knew that Amri had been suffering from Hepatitis B and tuberculosis, the same two conditions from which he himself suffers. Like al-Ghizzawi, Amri had not been treated for his illnesses. Al-Ghizzawi, now so sick he can barely walk, told me that Amri, too, had been ill and then, suddenly, he was dead.

Apparently, in a fashion almost too grisly to report, the military has declared Amri's death an "apparent suicide". Meanwhile, Goman writes of al-Ghizzawi:

Al-Ghizzawi told me in July that he now finds himself talking out loud even though no one is there to talk to. We both know he is in dangerous territory. We talked about ways to help fight the mental deterioration, such as trying to read, exercising his body or focusing on his wife and daughter.... He had hope, though mingled with fear for the future.....

When I left our September meeting a few days ago, al-Ghizzawi was doubled over in pain and gagging on his own phlegm.... I feared al-Ghizzawi may suffer a cruel, solitary death. I promised him the only things I could: that his death will not go unnoticed and that I will not let him be listed as an apparent suicide.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"No Limit" Gov't Argues in Treatment of U.S. Citizen Detainees

Originally posted at Daily Kos

This story got overlooked, and I have barely time to post today. But it should not be forgotten, as the man himself was for three years and seven months as a designated "enemy combatant" held in military custody at the U.S. Naval Brig in South Carolina. A story in the October 19 Christian Science Monitor describes the U.S. government's latest filing in the suit against it filed by Jose Padilla for mistreatment while in detention.

Padilla claims that during the period of his confinement he was subjected to severe sensory deprivation and isolation, in addition to suffering from sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, and injections of mind-altering drugs. Doctors who have examined him agree that his treatment caused him serious mental harm.

Now the government says, according to CSM, that

US officials did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights when they held a US citizen in isolated military detention without charge for nearly four years and subjected him to harsh interrogation techniques.

The government has asked the judge in the case (in the U.S. District Court for South Carolina) to dismiss Padilla's suit as allowing it to go forward, as giving Padilla the right to pursue his claim purportedly bstructs military actions, offers aid to the enemy, and increases U.S. vulnerabilty to terrorist attack. (Padilla recently was convicted in a criminal conspiracy case and has yet to be sentenced.)

Barbara Bowens, who is civil chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina, says that "Padilla's designation, detention, and interrogation as an enemy combatant did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights".

From the CSM article:

The complaint says US officials violated Padilla's constitutionally protected rights to consult a lawyer, to gain access to the courts, to practice his religion and associate with family and friends without government interference, and to be free from coercive interrogation, free from cruel and unusual punishment, and free from illegal and arbitrary detention.

Fundamentally at issue in the Padilla case is whether such constitutional guarantees continue to protect a US citizen seized on US soil and held without charge in a US-based military prison once the citizen is designated an enemy combatant....

Some legal analysts say they are alarmed by the sweep of the government's position. "The notion that there is absolutely no limit in how the government treats US citizen detainees strikes me as a disturbing proposition," says Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C. "Most people would have thought before the Padilla case that the government can't simply do whatever it wants to a US citizen in military custody."

The Padilla case has been at the forefront of the government's attempt to pull down prisoner rights for all of us. Remember, this is not a case about a foreign detainee in some far-flung CIA prison. This is about an American citizen, no matter what you think of him, clapped alone in a cell for years, and subjected to very cruel and inhuman treatment. Now the government wants a legal ruling to show they can do this, and the victim cannot complain.

I'd add that Padilla's treatment is a perfect example of the DDD-style torture that the government's interrogation experts want to inflict on whomever they can, after waterboarding and other more physically assaultive forms of torture are finally banned. We cannot afford to ignore what the government is doing in this case. They are setting up the judicial wherewithal and precedent for domestic torture, and they are doing it now.

The full government brief can be found here. I would appreciate any feedback from legal experts on this. I would expect that would not be instant. Meanwhile, I've found nothing on the government's new brief on this anywhere on the web, except a mention at HowAppealing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Democrats' Version of "Darkness at Noon"

In Arthur Koestler's classic novel, Darkness at Noon, the prisoner Nicholas Rubashov is made to renounce everything he believes in, and to label himself an enemy of the people. As George Orwell described it in his essay on Koestler:

Naturally the whole book centres round one question: Why did Rubashov confess? He is not guilty--that is, not guilty of anything except the essential crime of disliking the Stalin régime. The concrete acts of treason in which he is supposed to have engaged are all imaginary.

Now replace Rubashov with "Democratic Congressman Pete Stark", and Stalin with "Bush" and you have the scene in today's House chamber, where Rep. Stark was forced to recant his statement of last week regarding the obscenity of the Iraq War.

Stark's comment came as the House failed Thursday to override President Bush's veto of legislation to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark accused Republicans. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Here is Rep. Stark's recantation, courtesy of the leadership of the Democratic Party, which refused to defend him:

All you Democrats, hang your heads in shame. Today a good man was sent down, under what pressures we can only guess. Fate and temperament decreed that Nancy Pelosi would play party potentate to Stark's old-guard stalwart Rubashov. Meanwhile, how many soldiers had their heads blown up in Iraq today? How many innocent people were blown up between the time the Democratic caucus celebrated their escape from political calumny and the GOP leadership toasted their incredible good luck in having such "reasonable" opponents?

Priests Sentenced in Fort Huachuca Torture Protest Case

On October 17, Louis Vitale and Stephen Kelly, two priests arrested for trespassing as they sought to deliver a letter protesting U.S. violations of the Geneva Convention in relation to torture, were sentenced to five months in prison. Fr. Vitale is 75 years old.

On November 19, 2006, Vitale and Kelly had tried to give their protest letter to Major General Barbara Fast, then-commandant of Fort Huachuca Army Base, and previously intelligence chief for the U.S. command in Baghdad during the period the worst abuses took place at Abu Ghraib. Fort Huachuca itself is the site for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School. It is alleged that torture techniques are taught at the school. See my article "Torture on Trial in Arizona Desert" for more on the trial and on Ft. Huachuca. Most notable was the judge's refusal in the case to allow any evidence about U.S. use of torture or "the morality or immorality of the government’s use of interrogation techniques..."

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star:

U.S. Magistrate Héctor C. Estrada said he was reluctantly sending the priests to prison. He said he would have preferred that they do community-service work and remain under court supervision while living in their communities.

But Vitale and Kelly had previously said they would not comply with any kind of court supervision because it would mean giving up their social-justice work.

Additionally, one of the conditions of probation was that Vitale and Kelly not associate with non-violent protest groups, such as School of the Americas Watch. Meanwhile, SOA has published the two priests statement made upon sentencing, reproduced here in full (emphases added):

The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We sought to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied. We were prepared to put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afghanistan. This evidence was gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations. Because the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial, we plead no contest. We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate. History will judge whether silencing the facts of torture is just or not. Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans. We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture.

One can only deeply admire and appreciate the courage of these two men and their supporters. It is one thing to hold up signs protesting the war in Iraq in relatively safe and liberal San Francisco or Chicago or Boston, it is another to put yourself on the line in bastions of militarism and support for Bush's "war on terror" such as the bleak cacti-strewn sands of the Arizona desert.

The monks in Burma got a lot of press coverage in this country for standing up to the military dictatorship of that benighted land. But in this country, the names Louis Vitale and Stephen Kelly are barely known. The mainstream press will not lionize their courage or publicize their cause. As you go through your day, think of these men standing up for their beliefs, who will not be silent, sitting in prison in America, and if you get a chance, send some support their way. Then think. Think hard. How will I help change things in this country?

Write a note of support to Fr. Kelly and Fr. Vitale. They were taken to a privately run detention center in Florence, Arizona the day of their sentencing. Since it is not currently known where or when they may be transferred, please send individually addressed letters to them c/o The Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733 and they will be forwarded.

Fr. Kelly and Fr. Vitale ask that every woman and man of conscience do all that they can to protest the injustice of torture and to end U.S. policy that sanctions torture. They encourage people to participate in the protests at Ft. Benning, Georgia and Ft. Huachuca, Arizona on November 17 and 18, or consider having a protest in your community. For more information, visit School of the Americas Watch (protest at Ft. Benning) and Southwest Weekend of Witness (protest at Ft. Huachuca)

Their commissary needs are taken care of but contributions for prison support expenses are welcome. Checks can be made payable to the Nuclear Resister (please put Torture on Trial on the memo line) and mailed to the Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733. Contributions can also be made online at [their] secure Donations page.

UPDATE: After writing this up, I saw that Jill over at Never In Our Names wrote an excellent piece on the situation, back on October 20. From her diary:

Fort Huachuca has a long history of complicity in U.S. crimes of torture. Here is a brief summary. It was the life and death of a young soldier from Flagstaff, Arizona, that gave them the inspiration and now, the fortitude.

Alyssa Peterson, 27, was a Mormon missionary who wanted to do something good with her life. She was good at languages and thought by joining the military, she could serve humanity. She was trained as an interrogator at Fort Huachuca and sent to northern Iraq. She was assigned as an interrogator to a US air base in Tal Afar.

"After twice in the cages, she became suicidal," Vitale said. "She did end up committing suicide."

Peterson's suicide on Sept. 15, 2003, was not revealed by the military. It was exposed by news reporters using the freedom of information act. This was before the torture atrocities of Abu Ghraib were exposed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Twilight of the Bushites

Aus des Rheines Gold ist der Reif geglüht.

Watching a DVD of the New York Metropolitan Opera's version of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung (or Twilight of the Gods [TOG]) the other day, I was struck at how prescient the otherwise reactionary composer was in anticipating the destruction of the voracious classes. (One should not find it odd that in Wagner one finds mixed the most progressive and the most reactionary of views and trends, as in this he is the exemplar of the age, which mixes reason and progress with vile reaction, destruction, and mass murder.)

Dick Cheney, who is Alberich in my analogy with Wagner's opera, was on the stump beating war tom-toms against Iran during a 35-minute talk at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which The New York Times calls "a research organization". In reality, WINEP is a well-known right-wing pro-Israel lobby. While praised by liberal dreamboat Al Gore as "Washington's most respected center for studies on the Middle East", according to Right Web:

its WINEP's Board of Advisers includes: Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander Haig, Max M. Kampelman, [the late] Jeane Kirkpatrick, Samuel W. Lewis, Edward Luttwak, Michael Mandelbaum, Robert McFarlane, Martin Peretz, Richard Perle, James Roche, George P. Shultz, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, and Mortimer Zuckerman. Wolfowitz and Roche resigned from the board when they entered the Bush administration in 2001, although WINEP still proudly lists them....

in April 2004 WINEP published Policy Focus #47, The West Bank Fence: A Vital Component in Israel's Strategy of Defense, written by Maj. Gen. Doron Almog of the Israel Defense Forces.

Okay. I think you kind of get the idea. This crowd will be quite receptive to Cheney's rant, and following Bush's "World War III" warning (and Bush is Hagan, in my TOG comparison), it would have to be quite a speech. And Cheney didn't let us down.

Cheney, the War God

As reported by the NYT, Cheney is definitely threatening war:

“The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,” Mr. Cheney said, without specifying what those might be. “The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon"....

...Mr. Cheney reserved his harshest language for Iran. Calling it “the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism,” he said, “our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions.”

That language is not radically different from what Mr. Cheney has used in the past. But people at the conference said that, placed in the context of Mr. Bush’s remarks, it represented a significant step toward increasing pressure on Iran. The speech seemed to lay the groundwork for the threat of military action — either because the administration actually intends to use force or because it wants to use the threat of force to prod Europe into action.

The press has been awash in articles noting the build up to war with Iran. Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker earlier this month laid out pretty clearly what was up, with Herr Cheney firmly in charge.

This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

Meanwhile, in the hall of the Gibichungs -- I mean, Congress -- Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are doing... what? Pelosi supposedly told Arianna Huffington that she wouldn't let a funding bill on the Iraq War come to a vote unless it carried a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Never mind that she has promised that before. Who believes her now, except kiss-up bloggers and media hounds?

And Harry Reid! According to Congressional Quarterly (via a story at TPM Muckraker), he's plotting to spike the hold Sen. Chris Dodd put on the shameful FISA wiretapping bill/capitulation, which will allow retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for all its breaches of customer privacy in the years since 9/11 (if not before). Is this how a party leader is supposed to act, knifing one of his own in the back, and furthering the Bush totalitarian agenda?

Democratic supporters seem to be suspended between shocked awe and craven paralysis. Then there are those who are circling the wagons around idiot electoralism, placing all hope that the Ring of Power will be placed into the hand of their standard bearer in 2008.

The Sun Never Sets on Bushland

As Wagner understood, the Ring is cursed, and the power it brings is only destructive. In Götterdämmerung, his last installment of his monumental opera, The Ring of the Niebelung, Wagner portrayed a world where the quest for ultimate power had perverted all relationships, negated all contracts, and turned beauty and truth itself into a distorted mirror of its opposite. And so it is now, with the founding ideals of America -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- mutated into death, indefinite detention, and the pursuit of barbarism. Bush and Cheney's dark torture prisons extend like a sinister web even unto the farthest regions of the planet, as the recent stories about Diego Garcia reveal.

From satellite pictures, Diego Garcia looks like paradise.

The small, secluded atoll in the Indian Ocean, with its coral beaches, turquoise waters and vast lagoon in the centre, is 1,600 kilometres from land in any direction....

The little-known British possession, leased to the United States in 1970, was a major military staging post in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It continues to be, in effect, a floating aircraft carrier, housing 1,700 personnel who call it Camp Justice.

But intelligence analysts say Diego Garcia's geographic isolation is now being exploited for other, darker purposes.

They claim it is one in a network of secret detention centres being operated by the Central Intelligence Agency to interrogate high-value terrorist suspects beyond the reach of American or international law.

These prisoners are known as "ghost detainees" or the "new disappeared," and they're being subjected to treatment that makes the abuses at the military-run Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba look small-time, say intelligence analysts.

Tropical hideaways turned into torture chambers. "Research organizations" become centers of war propaganda. Opposition politicians acting like agents of the party in power. "Democracy" transmuted from ideal into bombing runs on innocent populations.

The Limits of Metaphor, and the Need for Societal Resurrection

As a petit-bourgeois artist of the 19th century, Wagner could see no way out for humanity, unless it consume itself in its inner contradictions, in a fiery twilight of the gods that brings down all civilization with its doomed quest for power, only to (perhaps) rise again and begin the whole process over again, endlessly through time.

Wagner, following some of the Eastern philosophies of his time, may yet prove right. But, the people in his music dramas, the Gibichungs of TOG, were passive bystanders, helpless except to view in horror the destruction that rained upon them. We do not have to be the same. But it will mean a quantum leap in consciousness, especially for the American people, who are tied to the myth of the progressivism of the Democratic Party, like flies to a rotting corpse.

In any healthy party, the clamoring to remove Pelosi and Reid would be deafening by now. But when one of the disgruntled few dared to speak the truth the other day, as Congressman Pete Stark did, the Democrats rushed to denounce him, the better to keep their oath of blood-brotherhood with the Bushites.

Stark told the GOP that Bush was vetoing a $35 billion dollar bill to fund children's health care because he needed the cash "to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement".

For, in my analogy with Wagner's opera, Stark plays the strange role of the Rhinemaidens, who, confronting the hero with a final chance to return the Ring to its primeval owners and destroy once and for all its curse, with all the dangerous questing after power it entails, are met with stony rejection and ridicule... just as Pelosi denounced Stark.

At the end of Götterdämmerung, it is Brunnhilde who renounces the ring out of love, and returns the cursed gold to the forces of nature, from whence it came. I'm afraid there is no redemption via love for our society. And Hillary Clinton is no Brunnhilde (she, like Pelosi, is a Gutrune figure).

But for love and not from fear change may yet come. If we truly love our children, if we truly love this planet and all life upon it, then we must come to terms with our own fears, and take dedicated action to remove those who would promote American imperium from power. And this is not only America's problem, because in each country the people must take the same stand. Or we face the tragic fate of Siegfried in Wagner's opera, destroyed by those we believe we serve, stabbed in the back because we thought we could live for love, for good times, in peace and happiness, while in fact all around us swirled dark clouds of hate and dreams of vengeful conquest.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vote Down Michael "Is Waterboarding Torture?" Mukasey

The New York Times continues to cover the Senate confirmation hearings for Bush Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey. As the general consensus built for a Mukasey confirmation, doubts have crept in through the cracks, as it became obvious Mukasey was as adept at parsing his language regarding torture as former Justice Department head, the despised Alberto Gonzales.

This came out more clearly today, when Mukasey told a dubious Senate panel that he didn't even know what waterboarding, a well-publicized CIA torture technique, was. Really. Would I make this stuff up?

"Is waterboarding constitutional?” he was asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, in one of today’s sharpest exchanges.

"I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse described Mr. Mukasey’s response as a “massive hedge”....

“It either is or it isn’t,” the senator continued. “Waterboarding is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, tying them down, putting cloth over their faces, and then pouring water over them to simulate drowning. Is that constitutional?”

Mr. Mukasey repeated his answer: “If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.”

Mr. Whitehouse said he was “very disappointed in that answer — I think it is purely semantic.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Mukasey replied. [Bold emphases are added]

So he's sorry. Tell that to the torture victims who must suffer the anxiety and intrusive memories of being forcibly drowned, but unlike a truly drowned man, live to feel the panic and terror day by day for the rest of their lives.

Of course Mukasey's response on the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation techniques, of which waterboarding is one of the most notorious, is totally disingenuous, as the issue has been highlighted by the mainstream press for years now. Here's an ABC News expose from November 2005:

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

Now many say that Mukasey would be independent of the Bush administration, but let's compare his response on the waterboarding question with that of his putative new boss, George W. Bush (as taken from Fox's Bill O'Reilly show, and reported by Dan Froomkin of the Washingon Post exactly one year ago today):

O'Reilly: "Is waterboarding torture?"

Bush: "I don't want to talk about techniques. But I do assure the American people that we were within the law and we don't torture. I have said all along to the American people we won't torture. But we need to be in a position where we can interrogate these people"....

O'Reilly: " But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush Administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?" [Froomkin's emphasis.]

Bush's ducking of such an important question, it seems to me, is highly newsworthy. Here's the president's response, in its entirety:

Bush: "Well, one thing is that you can rest assured we are not going to talk about the techniques we use in a public forum, no matter how hard you try, because I don't want the enemy to be able to adjust their tactics if we capture them on the battlefield.

Hell, even Bill O'Reilly knows what waterboarding is! And this waterboarding question is indicative of Mukasey's inability or unwillingness to be straightforward on other substantive issues, not least on the crucial wiretapping controversy.

Michael Ratner from Center for Constitutional Rights appeared on Democracy Now! this morning and had this to say about Mukasey and the whole nomination process:

Mukasey is someone who basically isn’t willing to take on the torture program, Guantanamo, electronic surveillance, enemy combatants, all these issues that have been the core of the US going off the page of fundamental rights. He is sadly off the page with the administration.

And the real question, to me, of this whole charade, which is what I have to call that hearing, is the fact that the Democrats are willing to confirm him and basically lay down and let issues like enemy combatants, torture, electronic surveillance, simply be continued by the next attorney-general. So it’s really -- when I watched the hearings yesterday, to me it was one of the saddest days I’ve seen in that Congress. And the only thing I could think of was the sign that Dante wanted in front of the gates of Hell, which is “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” [Emphasis added]

Okay, then. Supposedly this blog wants to elect Democrats. But the Democrats are dropping the ball on the most important questions of human rights and civil liberties (and let's not even get into the Iraq War question). Therefore, it is imperative that WE pick up the ball and not let these issues wither on the congressional vine.

Call for a NO vote for the nominee who doesn't know what waterboarding is. If he's that ignorant and out of touch anyway, we don't want him heading the Justice Department. The problem is he's not ignorant, he's dissembling. Out with him. Call your Senators and urge a NO vote on Mukasey.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Has Everyone Drunk the Kool-Aid? New AG Nominee Is Right-Wing Nut

So Federal Judge Michael B. Mukasey said he was against torture in his confirmation hearing, and the liberals are ready to fall all over him. His confirmation as Bush's new attorney general is presumably a given. Never mind that he refused to comment on the secret 2005 Bush Administration memorandums authorizing harsh, "enhanced" interrogation techniques by the CIA. Listen to Mukasey get all huffy at his nomination hearing today:

When Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, suggested in his questioning that the 2005 opinions might authorize torture, Mr. Mukasey stopped him. “You characterize it as torture,” he said. “I do not know of such a policy and I hope not to find them.”

Nor would he comment in detail on the legality of the so-called warrantless wiretap program that was authorized by President Bush shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been harshly criticized by civil liberties groups and lawmakers from both parties as possibly unconstitutional.

“I am not familiar with that program,” said Mr. Mukasey, who knew enough about the program to refer to it as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the name preferred by the White House.

Why, even Glenn Greenwald has nice things to say about this best-of-a-bad-bunch rightwinger, because Mukasey bucked the Administration by allowing accused "dirty bomb" plotter and U.S. torture victim, Jose Padilla, the right to talk with his attorneys, or to challenge the evidence against him. Never mind that Mukasey upheld the indefinite detention of "enemy combatants" like Padilla. Never mind that Mukasey wants to initiate an entire new "national security court" for Bush's "war on terror", explaining that "conventional legal rules" are not "adapted to deal with a terrorist threat". Of course, Greenwald allows, "Judge Mukasey's respect for the Constitution and the rule of law should not be overstated."

Now that's an understatement.

Mukasey is an adviser (along with his white-collar criminal defense attorney son) to arch-militarist and scary GOP presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani. He wrote a paean to the Patriot Act in the Wall Street Journal, where he red-baited the American Library Association, and then threw out this sinister challenge to the primacy of the Bill of Rights:

A bill of rights was omitted from the original Constitution over the objections of Patrick Henry and others. It may well be that those who drafted the original Constitution understood that if you give equal prominence to the provisions creating the government and the provisions guaranteeing rights against the government--God-given rights, no less, according to the Declaration of Independence--then citizens will feel that much less inclined to sacrifice in behalf of their government, and that much more inclined simply to go where their rights and their interests seem to take them.

So, as the historian Walter Berns has argued, the built-in message--the hidden message in the structure of the Constitution--is that the government it establishes is entitled, at least in the first instance, to receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt.

So, conventional opinion says Mukasey is a good guy, better than Gonzales, someone who will not politicize the Justice Department, is against torture, and also independent from the Bush circle -- hell, even Chuck Schumer likes the guy (he even suggested Mukasey to Bush as a possible Supreme Court nominee a while back). But if there ever was a poster boy for the degradation of political discourse and sensibility, and the failure of two-party politics in the age of American adventurism and imperial hubris abroad, it's Michael B. Mukasey.

A little dose of cynicism might cure an overdose of the Kool-Aid, which has the media snoring, and even leftie liberals prattling over business-as-usual in this dangerously oblivious land.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fear Stalks the Land

[Originally posted at Daily Kos, where essays and blog pieces are called "diaries".]

This is not my normal diary. Usually I don't do "cut and paste" jobs. But this essay by Naomi Wolf over at Huffington Post the other day really hit home. Titled "American Tears", it chronicles the terrible retributions that are growing against critics of the current administration. Rhandi Rhodes may not have been a victim of a political hate crime (thank God), but the fact that it was somewhat believable as a rumor shows how deeply the current wave of fear spawned by governmental repression has become.

The good news is that Americans are already awake: I thought there would be resistance to or disbelief at this message of gathering darkness -- but I am finding crowds of people who don't need me to tell them to worry; they are already scared, already alert to the danger and entirely prepared to hear what the big picture might look like.

But why are people scared? Wolf describes the situation:

In Boulder, two days ago, a rosy-cheeked thirtysomething mother of two small children, in soft yoga velours, started to tear up when she said to me: "I want to take action but I am so scared. I look at my kids and I am scared. How do you deal with fear? Is it safer for them if I act or stay quiet? I don't want to get on a list." In D.C., before that, a beefy, handsome civil servant, a government department head -- probably a Republican -- confides in a lowered voice that he is scared to sign the new ID requirement for all government employees, that exposes all his most personal information to the State -- but he is scared not to sign it: "If I don't, I lose my job, my house. It's like the German National ID card," he said quietly.

Paranoia? Maybe. How about this?

I read the news in a state of something like walking shock: seven soldiers wrote op-eds critical of the war -- in The New York Times; three are dead, one shot in the head. A female soldier who was about to become a whistleblower, possibly about abuses involving taxpayers' money: shot in the head. Pat Tillman, who was contemplating coming forward in a critique of the war: shot in the head. Donald Vance, a contractor himself, who blew the whistle on irregularities involving arms sales in Iraq -- taken hostage FROM the U.S. Embassy BY U.S. soldiers and kept without recourse to a lawyer in a U.S. held-prison, abused and terrified for weeks -- and scared to talk once he got home. Another whistleblower in Iraq, as reported in Vanity Fair: held in a trailer all night by armed contractors before being ejected from the country.

What does Naomi Wolf conclude from all this?

It is clear yet that violent retribution, torture or maybe worse, seems to go right up this chain of command? Is it clear yet that these people are capable of anything? Is it obvious yet that criminals are at the helm of the nation and need to be not only ousted but held accountable for their crimes?

Is it treason yet?

This is an open invitation to honorable patriots on the Right and in the center to join this movement to restore the rule of law and confront this horror: this is not conservatism, it is a series of crimes against the nation and against the very essence of America. Join us, we need you.

Wolf's link is to the American Freedom Campaign website, at which site we can read the American Freedom pledge:

We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people’s phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power.

I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any President.

I have written numerous diaries about the way the United States government has researched and implemented torture. Many others here have written on the "black sites", the secret renditions, on the wiretapping issue, and much more.

It is clear to me, and becoming clear to others -- which is how Naomi Wolf's own essay struck me -- that, as she puts it:

It is clear that this is not democracy as usual -- or even the corruption of democracy as usual. It is clear that we will need more drastic action than emails to Congress....

The time for weeping has to stop; the time for confronting must begin.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Important Stories Falling Through the Cracks

While I have been otherwise busy, I haven't had time to comment upon or publicize some very important developments in the struggle against psychologist involvement in U.S. abusive interrogations, as well as other stories. Luckily, we have Stephen Soldz over at Psyche, Science, and Society, who seems to keep on top of the most pressing issues.

See his story on how the CIA tries to stop torture investigations by investigating investigators, which follows up on a New York Times article from last week. (Chris Floyd also had a great essay on this over at Empire Burlesque, one of the best-written blogs on the planet.)

Soldz also covers the news on the "astounding" numbers of detainees accumulating at brutal U.S. detention centers in Iraq (over 25,000 now). Meanwhile, on a more parochial level, in that it concerns the struggle to change interrogation policy within the American Psychological Association, see his story on the college psychology departments condemning APA's position, or his coverage of the recent article critical of APA at Inside Higher Ed.

If you haven't already, making S. Soldz or C. Floyd regular stops on your web browsing circuit is highly recommended.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Racist Terror Offensive in Bush's America

While President Bush and his administration try to scare the U.S. population daily with fear of international terrorism and an immigration tsunami of brown folk, all the while attempting to roll back desegregation in the nation's schools, it was only a matter of time since the brown shirts and the Klan wannabes would be emboldened to crawl out from under their rocks.

The case of the Jena 6 has become a focus for anti-racist activists who mobilized thousands last September 20 in defense of young African-American students singled out for vindictive prosecution in that Louisiana town. The original source of the tension: racist hoodlums (unknown) had hoisted a noose -- symbol of decades of Jim Crow racism and terrorist lynchings against blacks -- on a tree outside a local school.

Now, as AP reports, a spate of copycat racist provocations has been sweeping the country, focusing on educational settings, though not only there. As the article states (emphasis added):

Nooses were left in a black Coast Guard cadet's bag, at a Long Island police station locker room, on a Maryland college campus, and, just this week, on the office door of a black professor at Columbia University in New York.

The noose — like the burning cross — is a generations-old means of instilling racial fear. But some experts suspect the Jena furor reintroduced some bigots to the rope. They say the recent incidents might also reflect white resentment over the protests in Louisiana.

"It certainly looks like it's been a rash of these incidents, and presumably, most of them are in response to the events in Jena," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists and other hate groups. "I would say that as a more general matter, it seems fairly clear that noose incidents have been on the rise for some years."

Thousands of demonstrators, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, converged on Jena on Sept. 20 to decry what they called a racist double standard in the justice system. They protested the way six blacks were arrested on attempted murder charges in the beating of a white student, while three whites were suspended but not prosecuted for hanging nooses in a tree in August 2006....

Though the terror of the civil rights era is gone, the association between nooses and violence — even death — remains, Potok said.

"The noose is replacing the burning cross in the mind of much of the public as the leading symbol of the Klan," Potok said.

The Democrats will sometimes give lip service to anti-racist causes, but they have, of course, done fundamentally nothing but sit back and watch the ruling class squash dissent, all the while wailing that the unruly masses don't understand the subtleties of the political process, which demands selling out the poor, working and middle classes, while greasing the palms (while sometimes tut-tutting at the greed of it all) of the fat cats.

Even The New York Times couldn't resist hammering the point, as liberal Congressman Barney Frank decried the more insistent reformers within his party, "Liberal Base Proves Trying to Democrats".

I know I'm conflating two different civil rights issues here, but the point is the same: whether it's playing dead so Bush could nominate ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, dedicated to rolling back civil rights and liberties, or beefing up the authoritarian Unitary Executive and it's near-limitless war powers, most of America lies in the cross-hairs of reactionaries, racists, and ultra-nationalists. It is time to come out hard and strong against their vanguard -- the racists with their nooses and burning crosses, their hate crimes and beatings, their slurs and discrimination, and take up again the cause of building liberty and hope in this giant and disorganized land. There are forces in this country that have been too quiet in taking up this cause; institutions, like the nation's labor unions, that have tremendous latent social power and organizational abilities and should begin to take leadership in the fight against racism, militarism, and attacks on civil liberties.

For further reading, I offer Ted Shaw's comments, printed the other day over at the NAACP's Legal Defense Website, "Jena Six - Another Lesson in the Role of Race and the School to Prison Pipeline".

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Beware Misdirection on Torture Scandal (The "DDD" Story)

The New York Times had a front page article on the legal peregrinations of the Bush Administrations as it seeks safe harbor for its ship of torturers. The next day, the scandal spills out into official Washington, and the stubborn evil denizens at 1600 Pennsylvania trot out for a desultory press conference. There's the snarling, contemptuous Bush, explaining, “This government does not torture people.”

Away, in countless rooms in millions of houses, the populace reads the stories and sighs and does nothing. Politicians screech, and pundits blather, and the war their generation shouldered with both protest and calm continued its carnage. Slowly, the news media formed a tight narrative around the new scandal: Bush's Justice Department had found a way to legally, and yet secretly (and only in 2007 America can this occur without oxymoron), legitimate forms of torture too bestial to contemplate -- beatings, simulated drownings, freezing men half to death... you know, Bush had growled, interrogation techniques that were “tough, safe, necessary and lawful.”

But no one knew, no one could know, that in the bowels of CIA headquarters at Langley, a group of men and women were safeguarding a group of techniques that were already exposed, and already forgotten, that were carefully cozened, that men were trained in, that were meant to outlast the worst New York Times editorial or Congressional investigation. And if they were referred to, if anyone should have to whisper them, they could use the awful acronym that had referenced them for over fifty years now: DDD.

There are those, interrogation professionals, who know only too well how imperfect and imprecise the more violent methods of third-world torturers are. The Egyptians may wish to hang men from their arms until their sockets burst out of their shoulders. The Syrians may wish to attach electric wires to generators and to men's genitals, and crank up the current. The Uzbeks may want to drown men in boiling water, or rip their fingernails out. But the CIA knew such methods were not, well, scientific.

In 1956, in the pages of an obscure academic journal, Sociometry, I.E. Farber, Harry F. Harlow, and Louis Jolyon West published a classic work of the interrogation field, Brainwashing, Conditioning, and DDD (Debility, Dependency, and Dread). It was based on a report for the Study Group on Survival Training, paid for by the U.S. Air Force. The article states that "permission is granted for reproduction, translation, publication, use, and disposal in whole and in part by or for the United States government".

Who Were the Men Who Developed It?

Harry Harlow

Harlow was a Stanford educated psychologist. His career, however, unfolded mostly at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He became President of the Midwestern Psychological Association, and President of the Division of Experimental Psychology in the American Psychological Association (APA). In 1958, Harry Harlow was elected President of the APA itself.

But what Harlow was most famous for were his experiments on maternal deprivation and isolation, utilizing monkeys. His famous wire/cloth "mother" monkeys, nicknamed "iron maidens" by him, demonstrated the profound need for affection and attachment in all primates. In later years, he was demonized by animal rights activists for his unethical experiments on animals.

The Wikipedia article on Harlow mentions the maternal-deprivation and isolation experiments on infant macaque monkeys, noting:

The monkeys were left alone for up to 24 months, and emerged severely disturbed....

The experiments were controversial, with some researchers citing them as factors in the rise of the animal liberation movement.

The standard biographical references fail to mention the DDD article.

I. E. Farber

Farber was a psychologist at the University of Iowa. He was researching the "Effects of Anxiety, Stress, and Task Variables on Reaction Time", and had already co-authored, at the time of the DDD essay, an article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, "Conditioned fear as revealed by magnitude of startle response to an auditory stimulus".

Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West

Those of you who went to UCLA probably know the Louis Joylon West Auditorium at the Neuropsychiatric (or NPI) Building. West had been chairman of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and a controversial figure in his own right. Famously, he worked with Dr. Margaret Singer in a pre-trial examination of Patty Hearst. He also examined the imprisoned Jack Ruby, killer of Lee Harvey Oswald. Some of West's causes stamp him as a liberal: he was against the death penalty. He supported the sit-in protesters of the civil rights movement, and travelled to South Africa to testify for prisoners of the apartheid regime there.

Dr. West also participated in a symposium for the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) in November 1956. It was titled "Methods of Forceful Indoctrination: Observations and Interviews", and I've written on it before. "Jolly" West told his Asbury Park, New Jersey, psychiatric audience that DDD consisted of "constant attempts to induce anxiety and despair".

The New York Times obituary of West, who died at 74 in 1999, describes this famous/infamous figure (emphases added):

...Dr. West was part of a panel appointed to find out why 36 of 59 United States airmen captured in Korea confessed or cooperated in charges of war crimes against the United States. What seemed to be a collapse of will led some to call the airmen cowards, and others raised the fear that the Communists had found drugs or mysterious methods to induce "brainwashing"....

"What we found enabled us to rule out drugs, hypnosis or other mysterious trickery," he once said in an interview. "It was just one device used to confuse, bewilder and torment our men until they were ready to confess to anything. That device was prolonged, chronic loss of sleep." That, combined with the constant fear of harm and the total dependency on their captors, led the airmen into startling and fairly long-lasting personality changes.

The Times article fails to mention Dr. West's links to the shadowy MKULTRA program of the CIA. He was linked as a CIA researcher into LSD in John Marks's The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, and in later documents the litigious Scientologists and others dug up, as West was active in anti-cult activities. But most importantly, as Chief Investigator of the Study Group on Survival Training, he co-authored the DDD article, which was to become the blueprint for a style of interrogation embraced by the CIA in its KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual circa 1963 (photocopies here).

Basics of Scientific, Psychological Torture

While today's headlines scream about waterboarding and beatings, CIA and military researchers had concluded two generations ago that such torture produced unreliable results. In addition, they left marks. Questions could be asked. Dead bodies, the "failures" of coercive interrogation, would have to be disposed of. But what if there were a way to torture someone without leaving any physical sign of outward mishandling: no bruises, no broken bones, no burn marks?

According to Farber, Harlow and West's analysis (hereafter referred to as BCD), the purported confessions of Air Force and Marine Corps airmen held by the Chinese communists during the Korean War, to the effect that the U.S. had used "germ warfare" as a military tactic, were to be explained by the abusive conditions of captivity and the stress these prisoners underwent. (Whether the confessions of the airmen were false or not is a matter of some controversy. Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman's book, The United States and Biological Warfare, University of Indiana Press, 1999, makes a compelling case that they were not.)

BCD examined the various types of stress undergone by prisoners, and narrowed them down to "three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread".

Debility was a condition caused by "semi-starvation, fatigue, and disease". It induced "a sense of terrible weariness".

Dependency on the captors for some relief from their agony was something "produced by the prolonged deprivation of many of the factors, such as sleep and food... [and] was made more poignant by occasional unpredictable brief respites." The use of prolonged isolation of the prisoner, depriving an individual of expected social intercourse and stimulation, "markedly strengthened the dependency".

Dread probably needs no explanation, but BCD described it as "chronic fear.... Fear of death, fear of pain, fear of nonrepatriation, fear of deformity of permanent disability.... even fear of one's own inability to satisfy the demands of insatiable interrogators."

The bulk of BCD explains the effects of DDD in terms of Pavlovian conditioning and the learning theories of American psychologist Edward Thorndike. They also found the "collapse of ego functions" to bear some resemblance to "postlobotomy syndrome".

By disorganizing the perception of those experiential continuities constituting the self-concept and impoverishing the basis for judging self-consistency, DDD affects one's habitual ways of looking at and dealing with oneself. [p. 275]

BCD is full of nuggets of useful information, the kind that can explain material that otherwise appears insane. Take the painful stress positioning of prisoners documented at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run detainee prisons. BCE explains: it's all part of inducing dependency through expectation of relief, but in a diabolical way. Forced stress positions are a "self-inflicted punishment", one which increases the expectancy of relief via "voluntary" means. But the latter is "delusory... since the captor may select any behavior he chooses as the condition for relieving a prisoner's distress" [pp. 276-277].

This form of carrot and stick torture may not seem that sophisticated, but it is the use of basic nervous system functioning and human instinctual need that makes it "scientific" and effective. The need for sensory stimulation and social interaction, the need to eat, to sleep, to reduce fear, all of these are used to build dependencies upon the captor, using the fact that "the strengthening effects of rewards -- in this instance the alleviation of an intensely unpleasant emotional state -- are fundamentally automatic" [p. 278].

The CIA Perfects the Technique

This impairment of higher cognitive states, this disruption and disorganization of the very self of the prisoner, producing something like "a pathological organic state", but one "perhaps rendering the prisoner susceptible to relatively simple conditioning techniques", was subsequently modified and used by the CIA in its interrogations of countless individuals. If more brutal forms of torture sometimes were used, especially by over-eager foreign agents or governments, DDD remained the gold standard, the programmatic core of counterintelligence interrogation at the heart of the CIAs own intelligence manuals.

Chapter Nine of the CIA KUBARK manual, "Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources", describes coercive interrogation procedures as

designed not only to exploit the resistant source's internal conflicts and induce him to wrestle with himself but also to bring a superior outside force to bear upon the subject's resistance....

All coercive techniques are designed to induce regression.

The anonymous authors of KUBARK then quote the BCD article specifically:

Farber says that the response to coercion typically contains "... at least three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread." Prisoners "... have reduced viability, are helplessly dependent on their captors for the satisfaction of their many basic needs, and experience the emotional and motivational reactions of intense fear and anxiety....

The subheads to the chapter are evocative of the DDD paradigm: "Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli", "Threats and Fear", "Debility", "Pain", "Heightened Suggestibility and Hypnosis", and "Narcosis".

CIA Reformers Thread the Needle

It may be worth noting here that modern apologists for the CIA, who appear in the guise of reformers, such as Steven Kleinman, a historian who wrote on World War II interrogation practice, and was a former Air Force intelligence officer himself, are big advocates for "rapport-building" interrogation. They despise the "bad cop" stuff, the violence that sends even professional interrogators over the edge, and makes the prisoner a bloody mess of dubious information.

Kleinman wrote an essay on KUBARK for last year's "Educing Information" report for the Intelligence Science Board. In it, he makes, for a historian, a remarkable statement:

The KUBARK manual offers unique and exceptional insights into the complex challenges of educing information from a resistant source through noncoercive means. While it addresses the use of coercive methods, it also describes how those methods may prove ultimately counterproductive. Although criticized for its discussion of coercion, the KUBARK manual does not portray coercive methods as a necessary — or even viable — means of effectively educing information. [p. 133]

Not necessary? The CIA manual expends twenty percent of its exposition upon coercive interrogation techniques. Not viable? Here's what the manual has to say about the "counterproductive" methods of torture:

Psychologists and others who write about physical or psychological duress frequently object that under sufficient pressure subjects usually yield but that their ability to recall and communicate information accurately is as impaired as the will to resist. This pragmatic objection has somewhat the same validity for a counterintelligence interrogation as for any other. But there is one significant difference. Confession is a necessary prelude to the CI interrogation of a hitherto unresponsive or concealing source.
In other words, torture is used to test the veracity of information otherwise obtained during the normal course of counterintelligence work. Its use to "educe information" is also not without its hard-grained efficacies. The CIA is very clear on this:

And the use of coercive techniques will rarely or never confuse an interrogatee so completely that he does not know whether his own confession is true or false. He does not need full mastery of all his powers of resistance and discrimination to know whether he is a spy or not. Only subjects who have reached a point where they are under delusions are likely to make false confessions that they believe....

The profound moral objection to applying duress past the point of irreversible psychological damage has been stated. Judging the validity of other ethical arguments about coercion exceeds the scope of this paper. What is fully clear, however, is that controlled coercive manipulation of an interrogatee may impair his ability to make fine distinctions but will not alter his ability to answer correctly such gross questions as "Are you a Soviet agent? What is your assignment now? Who is your present case officer?"

So much for Kleinman's analysis. But what about other contemporary commentators, like Time Magazine's in-house ex-CIA man, Robert Baer? In a recent Time column, Baer rightly condemns Bush for his specious denial of governmental torture. He derides torture as ineffective, and a tool of political intimidation. But it's what he doesn't say that is important. By making waterboarding, slapping, and freezing of prisoners what torture is all about, the DDD paradigm of coercive interrogation is kept out of sight. This is the same strategy used with great effectiveness in the reissuing last year of the Army Field Manual for interrogation.

This new AFM was lauded for banning the beating of prisoners, threatening them with dogs, sexual humiliation, performing mock executions, electrocution of prisoners, and waterboarding, among other noxious techniques. But in an appendix to the manual, the following procedures are authorized for certain prisoners: complete separation, sometimes with forced wearing of goggles and earmuffs, for up to 30 days (after which approval for more must be sought); limiting sleep to four hours a day, for 30 straight days; and other concurrent techniques, including "futility", "incentive", and "fear up harsh". In the latter, fear within a detainee is significantly increased, through knowledge of the person's phobias, if possible.

Why "Enhanced" Torture?

In the press, and in the speeches of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the new AFM was praised as a model of reform. The CIA was urged to embrace the AFM's policies, but has demurred. Why, one wonders, as it's evident the AFM has maintained a core DDD operational capacity (isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, fear)?

One reason may be that when a prisoner doesn't know what to expect, or in fact expects something truly awful, that increases the captive's fear. Increased fear also enhances the negative effects of techniques like sensory deprivation. It is very likely that whatever is really done in dark CIA prisons, making it well-known that the CIA can waterboard you, or freeze you, or beat you is all about ratcheding up the Dread component of DDD. Similarly, indefinite detention has the effect of increasing the Dependency component of DDD: elimination of habeas corpus tells the prisoner "you have no escape". The prisoner depends on the captor for his life, if not the existence (in its earthly form) of his very soul.

While I believe this explains the CIA's stubborn adherence to "enhanced interrogation techniques", but there may be other, convergent reasons. It's difficult to know what goes on within the CIA, as its business is covert by definition, and misdirection, lying, and obfuscation are its tools in trade. Perhaps the CIA is holding out on its more atrocious forms of torture, waiting to pull an AFM-like manuever of its own, if it has to. It's also possible that the CIA -- a rogue governmental agency if there ever was one -- simply doesn't like to be told what to do.

But we citizens should not let induced ignorance become societal indifference. It is important that all elements of the U.S. torture program be exposed and made illegal. If the country can not rise morally to this, then a terrifying future lies before us.

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