Monday, August 24, 2009

Obama Task Force Recommends Army Field Manual Abuse and Rendition as New U.S. Policy

The Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies released today its recommendations to President Barack Obama.


Interrogations - The Army Field Manual, which allows a number of abusive interrogation "techniques," including isolation, sleep deprivation, partial sensory deprivation, and inculcation of fear, along with loosening restrictions on use of drugs and no ban on use of stress positions or sensory overload, was approved as the model for use on interrogations. Still, a certain place was carved out for special treatment of "the most dangerous terrorists" (they forgot, tellingly, to add the word "suspected"). This was a victory for the psychologists and others of the Intelligence Science Board who put out the Educing Information report a few years back, and a defeat for those who want humane interrogations according to international law, an issue I'll elaborate on in a future post.
After extensively consulting with representatives of the Armed Forces, the relevant agencies in the Intelligence Community, and some of the nation’s most experienced and skilled interrogators, the Task Force concluded that the Army Field Manual provides appropriate guidance on interrogation for military interrogators and that no additional or different guidance was necessary for other agencies....

The Task Force concluded, however, that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board.

To accomplish that goal, the Task Force recommended that the HIG should coordinate the deployment of mobile teams of experienced interrogators, analysts, subject matter experts and linguists to conduct interrogations of high-value terrorists if the United States obtains the ability to interrogate them.
Renditions -- The U.S. will still make use of renditions of individuals to other countries, relying once more on "assurances" by those countries that no torture will take place (although, once again, tellingly, the order itself does not say what those "assurances" are for), hiding in an official document the historical record of the government's own crimes. The mechanisms put in place -- supposed oversight by the State Department or other government-appointed mechanism -- are fig leafs, as it calls for oversight by the same government that is ordering the renditions. There is no mention, for instance, of oversight by, for instance, the International Red Cross.
When the United States transfers individuals to other countries, it may rely on assurances from the receiving country. The Task Force made several recommendations aimed at clarifying and strengthening U.S. procedures for obtaining and evaluating those assurances. These included a recommendation that the State Department be involved in evaluating assurances in all cases and a recommendation that the Inspector Generals of the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security prepare annually a coordinated report on transfers conducted by each of their agencies in reliance on assurances.

The Task Force also made several recommendations aimed at improving the United States’ ability to monitor the treatment of individuals transferred to other countries. These include a recommendation that agencies obtaining assurances from foreign countries insist on a monitoring mechanism, or otherwise establish a monitoring mechanism, to ensure consistent, private access to the individual who has been transferred, with minimal advance notice to the detaining government.
The Special Task Force recommendations are a defeat for organizations like ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International and others who called for a rescission of Appendix M of the Army Field Manual and an end to extraordinary renditions. It is a victory for the version of Bush-lite that is being assembled in the new, Democratic administration.

The fight against torture and state abuse of prisoners and violations of human rights will continue, but now, one must fight the Obama administration, backed by the apparatus of the Democratic Party. The new policy should be condemned, and progressives should contact their congresspeople and the administration and call for an overhaul of the AFM and an end to extraordinary renditions.

1 comment:

hampshire said...

I don't care what you think about health care .. i just say that don't leave the public option.. its a power of your health care plan.

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