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The Torturers Speak July 24, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I often post articles and write on the theme of the United States as an imperial power which through economic and military might creates death and misery around the globe.  This, of course, is counter to the narrative that we learned in school and still thrives in popular culture that sees the U.S. as the “leader of the free world,” the world’s greatest champion of freedom and democracy.

Torture as the official policy of the United States government of Cheney/Bush was done away with under the presidency of Barack Obama, but it is poised to come back again under Trump.  This would not have been possible if Cheney, Bush and the rest of the Inquisition regime had been held legally criminally accountable.  Obama’s rationalization that it is better to look ahead rather that backwards is one of the most vacuous and disingenuous statements I have ever heard coming out of the mouth of a politician (and that is saying a lot).  And later he added, as if he was shooting the shit over cocktails, “yeah, we tortured some folks.”  

America the Beautiful. 



The Editorial Board, New York Times, June 23, 2917

It’s hard to watch the videotaped depositions of the two former military psychologists who, working as independent contractors, designed, oversaw and helped carry out the “enhanced interrogation” of detainees held at C.I.A. black sites in the months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The men, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, strike a professional pose. Dressed in suits and ties, speaking matter-of-factly, they describe the barbaric acts they and others inflicted on the captives, who were swept up indiscriminately and then waterboarded, slammed into walls, locked in coffins and more — all in the hunt for intelligence that few, if any, of them possessed. One died of apparent hypothermia. Many others were ultimately released without charge.

When pushed to confront the horror and uselessness of what they had done, the psychologists fell back on one of the oldest justifications of wartime. “We were soldiers doing what we were instructed to do,” Dr. Jessen said. Perhaps, but they were also soldiers whose contracting business was paid more than $81 million.


Still image taken from a video deposition of Dr. James Mitchell.

The Times on Tuesday published the depositions, taken earlier this year in the course of a federal lawsuit brought against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell by two former detainees and the family of a third who died in C.I.A. custody in Afghanistan. The psychologists may be the only two people to face any meaningful legal consequences for their role in one of the darkest periods of recent American history. A federal civil trial is set to start Sept. 5 in Spokane, Wash.

The details of the treatment of dozens of detainees at the hands of American intelligence contractors are by now widely known, yet it is still chilling to watch Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen rationalize their use of techniques that the C.I.A.’s top lawyer at the time called “sadistic and terrifying.”

“I thought he would be uncomfortable,” Dr. Mitchell said of waterboarding, in which torturers simulate the sensation of drowning by pouring water over a cloth covering a person’s face. “It sucks. I don’t know that it’s painful, but it’s distressing.” Dr. Mitchell once said detainees would rather have their legs broken. A 2002 cable described the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, who officials wrongly believed was a leader of Al Qaeda, and who was subjected to the procedure 83 times over a matter of days. “At the onset of involuntary stomach and leg spasms, subject was again elevated to clear his airway, which was followed by hysterical pleas. Subject was distressed to the level that he was unable to effectively communicate or adequately engage the team.”

Mr. Zubaydah did give interrogators key information about the Sept. 11 plot — not as a result of the waterboarding, but in response to traditional interrogation methods. Yet, thinking he might have more, torturers forged ahead with Mr. Zubaydah and with others, confident that physical abuse would lead to actionable intelligence. Some detainees were handcuffed to a bar on the wall so they could not rest or lie down for days at a time. During his own deposition, Jose Rodriguez, a top C.I.A. official who destroyed videotapes of the interrogations because of what he called their “ugly visuals,” compared the abuse to a gym workout. When Suleiman Salim, one of the plaintiffs suing the psychologists, was asked to describe his experience, he broke down in tears.

Even now, the psychologists claim that their techniques, which have been banned, caused no lasting damage. But Mr. Salim, like many other former detainees, still suffers psychological harm — including nightmares, flashbacks, headaches and sleeplessness.

Dr. Jessen admitted to some discomfort with the program he helped devise. “Jim and I didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing,” he said in his deposition. But the pressure from intelligence officials was intense. “They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue.”

The full story of what happened under the torture program may never be made public. Earlier this month, the Trump administration began returningcopies of a 2014 Senate classified report on torture to Congress, where it may be locked away for good. Meanwhile, President Trump, with no expertise on torture and its sad history, has at times promised to bring back waterboarding and other techniques banned by President Obama.

Many people bear responsibility for the depravity of the torture program, but most will never suffer any legal consequences. The suit against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell may be the last opportunity for some accountability.

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds November 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Torture.
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Roger’s note: there are parallels here, certainly not anyway near the same scope, but parallels nonetheless with Nazi concentration camp doctors.


Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes


CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA


Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism,” said IMAP president David Rothman. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise.”The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees’ medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

Senate Amendment Calls for a Return to Bush-Era Torture November 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Torture, War on Terror.
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Wednesday 30 November 2011
by: Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout         | Report

Artist’s rendering of a detainee in goggles and earmuffs used for sensory deprivation. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Ayotte amendment on secret torture overshadows abuse problems with “Army Field Manual.”

An amendment by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) to the current Defense Authorization Bill (SA 1068) now before Congress would roll back the 2009 Obama executive order against torture by re-establishing a secret “classified” set of interrogation techniques and then attaching them to the current “Army Field Manual” on human intelligence collection. But whether the amendment passes or not, the existence of certain interrogation techniques as used currently by the US military and intelligence services in the “Manual” do not comply with international norms, such as the Geneva Conventions.

A recent United Kingdom high court ruling on the use of hooding prisoners as a detention or interrogation technique indicated that use of any form of sensory obstruction, such as use of blindfolds, goggles or earmuffs, in place of hooding, which is outlawed, could only be temporary and “only for the time and extent necessary to preserve operational security.” British military and security officers are directed not to work with governments that do not observe these rules.

Yet currently, use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation used on prisoners is part of “Appendix M” of the “Army Field Manual.” Their use is part of something called “Field Expedient Separation,” and only to be used on “war on terror” detainees, who are deemed not subject to Geneva Conventions protections. Their purpose is beyond “operational” or security based and is meant to “Prolong the shock of capture … and foster a feeling of futility.”

The abusive use of sensory deprivation through use of blinding goggles and earmuffs is made even more explicit in the “Appendix M” discussion of the 12-hour time limitation on “field expedient separation,” wherein such “limit on duration does not include the time that goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs are used on detainees for security purposes during transit and evacuation,” i.e., the time limits concern use of goggles/blindfolds/earmuffs for purposes of psychological derangement. In addition, the technique cannot be applied without medical staff present, because of the dangers involved.

Sensory deprivation studies have shown that psychological symptoms, including panic and hallucinations, can be produced within hours of the application of such techniques.

A “Hooding” Substitute

In a “Statement on Hooding,” written by the International Forensic Experts Group (IFEG) of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and presented to the UK high court in its deliberations, hooding was described as “a form of torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT) [recognized] by a number of international and regional human rights bodies,” and “a form of sensory deprivation that is associated with a number of physical and psychological effects and also may have significant adverse legal consequences.”

The effects include psychological symptoms such as anxiety and claustrophobia. Hooding also “increases the likelihood of severe physical pain, injury and subsequent disability as it increases an individual’s vulnerability to other methods of torture by preventing the anticipation of harm such as kicks and punches and subsequent defensive response.”

While the US “Army Field Manual” forbids the use of hooding, it appears to have merely substituted parallel forms of abuse, as Field Expedient Separation mimics the effects of hooding. Indeed, the IFEG notes, “Hooding in this statement also refers to other equivalent forms of sensory deprivation such as the use of goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs.”

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, the lead author of the IFEG statement, told Truthout in an email, “Although the DoD [Department of Defense] may not consider the use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation, the IFEG Statement does…. Since the IFEG Statement makes clear that the use of goggles and earmuffs is a form of sensory deprivation, equivalent to hooding, that constitutes CIDT and, under some circumstances, torture, it should be clear that we consider the DoD’s use of goggles and earmuffs a form of CIDT and/or torture as well.” (Emphasis added.)

Interestingly, when the “Army Field Manual” was being rewritten in 2005 and 2006, the procedures used in its “Appendix M,” which also includes use of solitary confinement (isolation up to 30 days or more), sleep deprivation and manipulation of “environmental conditions, were initially meant to be included in a “secret annex” to the manual. Apparently, there are some in the military or intelligence services who wish the decision to make “Appendix M” public had never been made. In fact, there is no indication as to what the fate of this little known appendix would be should Ayotte’s amendment pass.

Secret Torture and “Enhanced Interrogation”

There is little question that the proposed “classified annex” would mean a return to the “enhanced interrogation” torture (EIT) practiced by the Bush administration, including use of waterboarding, water dousing (induction of hypothermia), stress positions, extreme sleep deprivation, various forms of physical abuse, confinement in a box, and more. Sen. Lindsay Graham, one of three Republican senators co-sponsoring the Ayotte amendment, hinted as much in a November 11 article at the National Review where he labeled President Obama’s executive order stopping the EITs a “major mistake.”

Graham called the EITs “consistent with our national values,” and lauded the fact they “remain unknown to our enemies.” (In fact, the EITs were later exposed and are as available online as the “Army Field Manual” is. See here and here.) But some veteran interrogators and a number of former military officers have expressed their opposition to Ayotte’s amendment, this despite the fact that Ayotte ties the new secret interrogation rules to use by Obama’s High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG), a fact little mentioned in press accounts.

Former interrogator Matthew Alexander, author of “How to Break a Terrorist,” told Truthout in an email exchange that he was unaware of any secret annex on interrogation related to the HIG. Additionally, he added,  “I’m against a secret annex and sensory deprivation outside of transport,” he said, adding he believes “more, in-depth cultural training [of interrogators] is needed to eradicate prejudice.”

Alexander noted, “I have been searching for a Muslim interrogator in the Army for five years and have yet to find one (compared to WW II where about 70% of interrogators were ethnic Americans – Japanese, German, Italian, Austrian, etc.),” noting he supports an “emphasis on what is now being called the Informed Interrogation Method, which Ali Soufan has advocated.

In an exchange of op-eds with Mr. Alexander at The New York Times in January 2010, Sen. Dianne Feinstein indicated that the Obama administration was reviewing the varied complaints against “Appendix M.” No public result of this review was ever released and a recent query to Senator Feinstein’s office by Truthout regarding the fate of the review was not answered.

What Kind of Standard Is the “Army Field Manual”?

While the Ayotte amendment represents an appetite by some in government to return to a more unbridled form of torture, the current “Army Field Manual” is not “a respected standard that put an end to torture as an interrogation practice,” as it was described recently in a column opposing the Ayotte amendment by Rev. Richard Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). In a recent emailing to supporters, also opposing Ayotte’s amendment, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) referred to the “Army Field Manual” as the “gold standard” for interrogation.

Yet, both NRCAT and PHR have openly criticized the “Army Field Manual” and its “Appendix M” at other times in the past (see here and here), as have other human rights groups, including Human Rights First, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and others. It is an indication of how far the interrogation discussion has drifted to the right that criticism of the manual has been dropped in order to defend it against a likely return to the days of secret interrogation techniques used by the Bush/Cheney White House, DoD and the CIA.

Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Truthout, “We expect strong opposition to the amendment” in the Senate. Senator Ayotte has complained that her critics do not notice that any proposed classified techniques stemming from her amendment must abide by the laws against torture, including those in the UN Convention Against Torture treaty and the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. But these laws have been interpreted in such a fashion that the definitions of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment have been eviscerated from their original meanings.

Dr. Stephen Miles, professor and Maas family endowed chair in bioethics, Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, and a noted anti-torture author and activist, told Truthout, “The Army Field Manual is not an authoritative reference work on torture. The United States has adjusted its definitions of terms in international law to make its practices appear to comply with international law even in instances where we have called such acts ‘torture’ or unacceptable (i.e., cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) when practiced by other nations. The United States is out of compliance with numerous conventions pertaining to the treatment of prisoners.”

One Year, Six Months, Three Weeks Later, Manning Gets His Day In Court November 22, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
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Alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning finally has a court date, Dec. 16, after 18 months in prison, much of that time under harsh conditions. Supporters are planning a rally.

www.commondreams.org, November 22, 2011


18 Comments so far

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Posted by Ocean
Nov 21 2011 – 6:06pm

Bradley Manning 2012

Posted by martha
Nov 21 2011 – 6:49pm


Posted by Galenwainwright…
Nov 21 2011 – 7:16pm

I hope that his mental state due to the barbaric conditions he has been held under is clearly demonstrated and documented to both the court and the general public.

Posted by SFJeff
Nov 22 2011 – 11:53am

Indeed.  Reminds me of Catch-22.  Not sure if I’m describing the book’s ideas quite right but:  if this scene wouldn’t make you crazy then you’re crazy.  The point with Bradley is that what type of person won’t crack under such constant brutality and rejection?

The UK-Guardian video is most heartbreaking.

Posted by Ragavacharyar
Nov 21 2011 – 7:44pm

Wow. How is it that Manning has spent so long in jail waiting for a court date? I assume this is some form of military court arraignment that he’ll be appearing for. In many jurisdictions in civilian courts, there is an upper limit on the number of days between the complaint’s filing and the arraignment. If there was an arraignment there is almost always an upper limit on incarceration if the suspect asserts their right to speedy trial. I guess the military system of justice has no such equivalent that curbs the power of the sovereign from giving de facto punishment in the form of pre-trial incarceration.

Posted by Galenwainwright…
Nov 21 2011 – 8:26pm

Make no mistake. This was an act of torture and intimidation.

Torture of Manning for daring to have a conscience, intimidation of the rest of the population not to get the same idea.

Posted by alank
Nov 21 2011 – 10:37pm

Well, YES. He committed the gravest crime possible in America: he exposed those who wish to CONTROL EVERYTHING, wanting no one or no facts to get in their way.

Posted by drone
Nov 21 2011 – 8:45pm

sometimes people seem to forget that habeus corpus is still officially expunged. there is, basically, no law other than proclamation.

Posted by skiendhiu
Nov 21 2011 – 9:19pm

I would say that Galenwainwright  has it right  the coming court proceedings will be a kangaroo court and a joke, but not for Mr. Manning,  if he is not executed for treason  he will spend the rest of his life in a  stockade,  the govt./army is going to make a major out of him …a major example,  this poor kid….  they havent begun to fuck with him,  but hopefully someday he will be remembered  in history as a true patriot, that suffered brutally at  the hands of his own govt./comrades   for telling the truth to the world.   Trully a pathetic look at america.  a country where you can lie, steal, cheat, defraud. get bail outs when you have really screwed everyone over….   but beware of the truth speaker…increddible

Posted by WaldenPond
Nov 22 2011 – 1:51am

Skiendhiu has it right, Unfortunately, I often wonder about the minds of the guards who do the torture of Bradley Manning, and the minds of the police who pepper spray directly into the faces of passive students sitting on the ground. How could it be that these people grew up in the USA, learned in 2nd grade about George Washington telling the truth, recited every day that America is a land with “liberty and justice for all”, but still aggressively act to destroy truth and to deny liberty and justice?  The minds of these people are something that psychologists should study and try to understand.  Those minds and their thinking are the major threat to Americans and the rest of the world.  But we have not a clue what is going on in their heads.

Posted by gardenernorcal
Nov 22 2011 – 10:29am

It’s already been studied.  And put to good use by those that train military and paramilitary.  I am surprised you’re not familiar with it.  I learned of it in a high school civics course.


Posted by syzygydeb
Nov 22 2011 – 1:14am

It will be a forever remembered shame on all Americans if we don’t get him out. I would only hope we occupy and demand. After all, who will run for president against Julian Asange! Imagine both candidates are truthful heros. That would be a first in our history.

Posted by ThomasJefferson…
Nov 22 2011 – 3:32am

Poor guy.  The shoethrower’s family claimed Bush the Inferior tortured their reporter for his harmless stunt, so you know poor Manning’s been getting “enhanced interrogation” on the John Yoo Waterboard.  If so, they’ll probably give him the Timothy McVeigh treatment just to make sure he doesn’t write a book about it later.

God, a government that tortures people and shoots little kids in cars!  I still feel like it’s just a bad dream, and any second I’m going to wake up and laugh my azz off about just how silly dreams can be.

But this nightmare just keeps getting worse every year.

Horrible cannibals on Wall Street who sanction this barbarism!  Awful Dark Ages where laptops are smashed and nobody can read books in a park anymore.  Crazy rabbit-hole where Red Queens in the Oval Office shout “Off with their heads!”

Get me outa here!

Posted by robert1234
Nov 22 2011 – 4:52am

Manning needs rescued.

Posted by courtjester
Nov 22 2011 – 9:33am

Manning’s legal team should remind the courts martial that the US President, Commander in Chief, constitutional lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize winner totally prejudiced the case by openly declaring last April in San Francisco that Manning had ‘broken the law”.  This, before any evidence had been brought forth, let alone a trial.  There should a summary judgment of dismissal of all charges and the release of Manning from military custody.  When the national leader pronounces judgment, no fair trial is possible, especially in the military context of subservience  and obeying orders.

Posted by WebDude
Nov 22 2011 – 9:59am

Just a thought… Manning is being moved closer to a trial date because Julian Asange is going to be turned over to USofA & they will get a show trial together?

Posted by gardenernorcal
Nov 22 2011 – 10:32am

This is just a formality.  Manning’s ordeal is only beginning.  He’ll die a broken man if he isn’t already.

Posted by independentminded
Nov 22 2011 – 11:30am

Oh, so Bradley Manning finally gets his day in court, eh?  My, my, how touching.  Why don’t the people running this country get THEIR day in court?

Amnesty Calls on Canada to Arrest Bush October 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Thursday, October 13, 2011 by Agence France-Presse


OTTAWA – Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush, saying the former US president authorised “torture” when he directed the US-led war on terror.

Former US president George W. Bush speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the Flight 93 National Memorial and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in Shanksville, Pennsylvania September 10, 2011. (Photo: Reuters File)

 Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province on October 20.

In a memorandum submitted last month to Canada’s attorney general but only now released to the media, the London-based group charged that Bush has legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

“Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” Amnesty’s Susan Lee said in a statement.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights,” Lee said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty for “cherry picking cases to publicize, based on ideology.”

“This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,” he said.

Kenney said it will be up to Canadian border officials to decide independently whether to allow Bush into the country.

Bush canceled a visit to Switzerland in February, after facing similar public calls for his arrest.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International’s Canadian branch, told a press conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit.

“Torturers must face justice and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations,” Neve said.

“Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped.

“Bringing to justice the people responsible for torture is central to that goal. It is the law… And no one, including the man who served as president of the world’s most powerful nation for eight years can be allowed to stand above that law.”

Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, claims Bush authorised the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “waterboarding” on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009.

The detention program included “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation), and enforced disappearances,” it alleged.

Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the US’s war on terror policies.

Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

The cases include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty.

© 2011 Agence France-Presse

Cheney Praises Strike, But Seeks Apology October 2, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Yes, politics indeed  makes strange bedfellows.  You probably couldn’t think of two more polar opposites than Cheney and Obama with respect to background and personality.  But when you choose to take leadership in the American Empire, regardless of who or what you are, you are obliged to follow the dictates of the military, the CIA and the corporate Behemoth: what Eisenhower in his farewell address famously referred to as the military-industrial complex.  The is little or no wiggle room, only nuances.  Obama tortures less (remember, Bagram is still in business) but kills more civilians than Bush/Cheney did with the drones.  And now Obama is executing American citizens with no due process, a fact that, as we can see, gives aid and comfort (and justification) to the architect of the American torture regime.

Published on Sunday, October 2, 2011 by Politico.com

Former Vice President Dick Cheney praised the Obama administration Sunday for ordering the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, calling it “a very good strike” and “justified.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney. (CNN) But Cheney and his daughter Liz, who appeared together on CNN’s “State of the Union” said President Barack Obama owes the Bush administration an apology.

They said the killing of an American citizen without due process calls into question the president’s past criticisms of the Bush administration for using enhanced interrogation techniques.

“The thing I am waiting for is for the administration to go back and correct something they said two years ago, when they criticized us for quote overreacting to the events of 9/11,” Dick Cheney said. “They in effect said we had walked away from our ideals, taking policy contrary to our ideals when we had enhanced interrogation techniques. They have clearly moved in the direction of taking robust action when they feel it is justified. In this case, it was. They need to go back and reconsider what the president said in Cairo.”

“He said in his Cairo speech (in 2009) for example that he banned torture,” Dick Cheney said. “We were never torturing anyone in the first place. He said We walked away from our basic fundamental ideals. That simply wasn’t the case. What he said then was inaccurate especially now in light of what they are doing with policy.”

Liz Cheney added: “He slandered the nation, and I think he owes an apology to the American people. those are the policies that kept us safe”

But Dick Cheney said Obama was justified in ordering such an attack, even when it involves an American citizen.

“The president has all the authority he needs to order this kind of strike,” Cheney said. “It’s the difference between a law enforcement action and a war. We’re in a war.”

Liz Cheney also praised the administration, but leveled similar criticism of the president’s Cairo speech.

“What concerns me is the damage this president has done,” Liz Cheney said. “The extent to which when the president of the United States goes on on foreign soil saying the United States has abandoned American values … when he does that, he does real damage to our standing in the world.”

© 2011

US Doctors ‘Hid Signs of Torture’ at Guantanamo April 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by The Independent/UK

by Steve Connor

US government doctors who cared for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay deliberately concealed or ignored evidence that their patients were being tortured, the first official study of its kind has found.

A detailed review of the medical records and case files of nine Guantanamo inmates has concluded that medical personnel at the US detention centre were complicit in suppressing evidence that would demonstrate systematic torture of the inmates. (Image Credit: United States Department of Defense) A detailed review of the medical records and case files of nine Guantanamo inmates has concluded that medical personnel at the US detention centre were complicit in suppressing evidence that would demonstrate systematic torture of the inmates.

The review is published in an online scientific journal, PLoS Medicine, and is the first peer-reviewed study analysing the behaviour of the doctors in charge of Guantanamo inmates who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation” techniques that a decade ago had been classed by the US government as torture.

Vincent Iacopino, senior medical adviser for Physicians for Human Rights, and Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis, a retired US Army medical officer, had access to the medical records and case files while acting on behalf of defence lawyers.

They concluded that no doctor could have failed to notice the medical signs and symptoms of the extreme interrogation techniques and unauthorised assaults that other physicians would recognise as torture, such as severe beatings resulting in bone fractures, sexual assaults, mock executions, and simulated drowning by “waterboarding”.

“The findings in these nine cases indicate that medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the US Department of Defence neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm,” the authors of the study concluded. “The full extent of medical complicity in US torture practices will not be known until there is a thorough, impartial investigation including relevant classified information. We believe that, until such time as such an investigation is undertaken, and those responsible for torture are held accountable, the ethical integrity of medical and other healing professions remains compromised.”

Many of the prisoners said they were also subjected to unauthorised abuses resulting in severe and prolonged physical and mental pain. These abuses could not have gone on for so long without the Guantanamo doctors being aware of the pain inflicted, the study found.

“They effectively concealed the medical evidence of torture,” said Dr Iacopino. “Even in the absence of any standard operating procedures, the physicians involved had an ethical duty not to do any harm but it is clear this principal was breached. They could have and should have had the courage to document the abuse, but unfortunately that wasn’t done. We need a full investigation and the release of classified information to find out what happened.”

In 2002, the US government redefined acts such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes, the use of stress positions, and prolonged isolation as “safe, legal, ethical and effective” when dealing with the interrogation of suspected terrorists.

All of the nine detainees investigated in the study claimed to their own legal teams that they were also subjected over many months – and in some cases years – to additional, unauthorised episodes of ill-treatment, such as severe beatings, threats of rape, or forced nudity.

“The abuses reported in this case series could not be practised without the interrogators and medical monitors being aware of the severe and prolonged physical and mental pain that they caused,” the study found.

Dr Iacopino said that if individual doctors are found to have breached professional ethics by ignoring the evidence of torture, they should have their medical licence removed at the very least.

“In the case of individuals who aided or abetted torture, or knowingly neglected to document torture, then at the minimum they should have their licence removed, but they should also be subject to adjudication under the rule of law,” Dr Iacopino said.

© 2011 The Independent

CYA for the CIA: The CIA’s Torture Research Program June 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Torture.
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by: Stephen Soldz, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed, June 9, 2010

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t;Adapted: PKMousie, j u l i a n o, Arlette)

Over the last year, there have been an increasing number of accounts suggesting that, along with the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture program, there was a related program experimenting with and researching the application of the torture.

For example, in the seven paragraphs released by a British court summarizing observations by British counterintelligence agents of the treatment of Binyan Mohamed (BM) by the CIA, the first two of these paragraphs stated:

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer ….

BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed. [Emphasis added.]

The suggestion was that a new strategy was being tested and the results carefully examined. Several detainees have provided similar accounts, expressing their belief that their interrogations were being carefully studied, apparently so that the techniques could be modified based on the results. Such research would violate established laws and ethical rules governing research.

Since Nazi doctors who experimented upon prisoners in the concentration camps were put on trial at Nuremberg, the US and other countries have moved toward a high ethical standard for research on people. All but the most innocuous research requires the informed consent of those studied. Further, all research on people is subject to review by independent research ethics committees, known as Institutional Review Boards or IRBs.

In the US, there was a major push toward more stringent research ethics when the existence of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was publicly revealed in the early 1970s. In that study, nearly 400 poor, rural, African-American men were denied existing treatment for their syphilis, and, indeed, were never told they had syphilis by participating doctors. The study by the US Public Health Service was intended to continue until the last of these men died of syphilis. When the study became public, the resulting outcry helped cement evolving ethical standards mandating informed consent for any research with even a possibility of causing harm. These rules were codified in what has become known as the Common Rule, which applies to nearly all federally-funded research, including all research by the CIA.

Experiments in Torture

A new report of which I am a coauthor, “Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program”, just released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), confirms previous suspicions and provides the first strong evidence that the CIA was indeed engaged in illegal and unethical research on detainees in its custody. The report, the result of six months of detailed work, analyzes now-public documents, including the “torture memos” from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the CIA’s Inspector General Report and the accompanying CIA Office of Medical Services (OMS) guidelines for monitoring of detainees.

The report points to several instances where medical personnel – physicians and psychologists – monitored the detailed administration of torture techniques and the effects upon those being abused. The resultant knowledge was then used both as a legal rationale for the use of the techniques and to refine these abusive techniques, allegedly in order to make them safer.

For example, the OMS guidelines contain this note emphasizing how important it is “that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented” by medical personnel, and clarifying the nature of this documentation:

“how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was applied (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”

This type of documentation was not part of routine medical care as it was not being done in the interests of the person being waterboarded. Rather, the OMS made clear that this was being done “[i]n order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations” (regarding how to torture people).

The purpose of this systematic monitoring was to modify how these techniques were implemented, that is, to develop generalizable knowledge to be utilized in the future. As Renée Llanusa-Cestero demonstrated in a recent paper on CIA research in the peer-reviewed journal Accountability in Medicine, the medical personnel conducting these observations were primarily present as researchers to observe and monitor, not as treating doctors.

Other examples in the PHR report describe instances in which OMS staff investigated the degree to which severe pain that may meet the legal definition of torture arose from the applications of a specific technique (sleep deprivation) or from combinations of individual techniques. In the combined techniques example, they apparently experimented with different combinations of abusive techniques – “for example, when an insult slap is simultaneously combined with water dousing or a kneeling stress position, or when wall standing is simultaneously combined with an abdominal slap and water dousing” – and studied the suffering that each combination created. The Office of Legal Counsel drew upon this research in one of the torture memos to argue that, because they claimed the individual enhanced techniques were not harmful, combining these varied techniques also would not cause interrogators to slip over the line allegedly separating legal techniques from illegal “torture.”

It is hard not to conclude that the CIA was conducting research upon detainees. These observations and experiments were not conducted for the benefit of the individuals being brutally interrogated, but for the purpose of creating generalizable knowledge and, thus, constituted research subject to the laws and ethical rules regulating research, including the Common Rule.

Evidence Techniques Are Harmful

The PHR report also argues that literature existing in 2002 when the torture program began provides strong reason to believe that these enhanced interrogation torture techniques might well cause severe harm to those subjected to them. In an appendix, the report summarizes a set of studies on the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program that demonstrated a whole panoply of potentially serious effects that occurred when these techniques were administered to US service members over a few days. The resistance portion of the SERE program attempts to inoculate special forces and others at high risk of capture against breaking if subjected to techniques banned by the Geneva Conventions, that is, to torture. In SERE, soldiers are subjected to brief periods of enhanced interrogations in order to prepare them for the real thing if captured and tortured. It was to SERE that the CIA and Bush administration turned when they decided to adopt torture as official policy.

Despite the fact that those subjected to SERE were volunteers, had a “safe word” to end their abuse and knew that their torment would end in a few days, an extensive program of research demonstrates that those subjected to the techniques, even to a very limited degree, suffered a whole range of potentially serious physical and psychological effects, including severely increased stress hormone levels and high rates of psychological dissociation, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite this body of published research, when the Bush Justice Department worked on the torture memos, they argued – ignoring this SERE research as well as many accounts from torture survivors – that the SERE experience demonstrated that the techniques were not harmful. In later memos, however, Justice Department lawyers apparently tried to strengthen their case by citing the CIA research derived from its torture implementation as further evidence that the techniques did not cause serious harm. Thus, one of the main finding in the PHR report is that one set of potentially criminal acts, illegal and unethical research, was used, incorrectly, to justify another set of potentially criminal acts: torture of detainees.

Reason for CIA Torture Research

The language of the documents might be interpreted as suggesting that the CIA engaged in this research to avoid harming the detainees, to keep the interrogations “safe and ethical.” This was far from the truth. Rather, the Justice Department torture memos argued that torturers could be protected from prosecution for their acts of torture if they demonstrated a “good faith” effort to avoid causing the “severe pain” involved in legal definitions of torture irrespective of how much suffering and harm the torturers actually caused.

One way they could demonstrate such a good faith effort was to consult with health professionals, the researchers, who could assure them that their actions would not cause harm. Another way to demonstrate good faith was to collect and analyze evidence of prior interrogations demonstrating, allegedly, that they did not cause severe harm. Thus, the quality of the research did not matter. Its very existence would provide the CIA torturers and responsible officials with a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The SERE studies described in the PHR report provided good reason to suspect that the CIA’s torture would cause harm. That is likely why they were ignored by the CIA and the lawyers writing the torture memos. But the CIA’s torture research claiming that the enhanced interrogation tactics were safe could be used as a legal defense for the torturers, possibly counteracting the body of legitimate research demonstrating the opposite. The CIA’s research was junk science. But that was no problem because its purpose wasn’t increasing understanding, but ass covering, CYA, for the CIA.

Call for Investigation

This PHR report provides evidence that the CIA likely violated federal ethics rules as well as a prohibition in the War Crimes Act on biological experiments on prisoners “without a legitimate medical or dental purpose.” Thus, PHR calls for both a criminal investigation of this research and these experiments, which may well constitute a war crime, and an investigation by the Office of Human Research Protections of research ethics violations.

Regarding the call for a criminal investigation, it is important to realize that the logic used by the Obama administration to refuse an investigation of torture claims – that the torture memos allowed the torturers to believe their actions were legally sanctioned – does not apply to potential research on detainees. As far as is publicly known, there exist no “torture research” memos authorizing ignoring laws and regulations prohibiting research on torture techniques.

American Psychological Association

In addition to criminal and federal penalties, another necessary response to these reported torture experiments is professional sanctioning of any health professionals found to have participated in the research. Physician organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have adopted clear ethical rules prohibiting their members’ participation in either the enhanced interrogation program or in research such as that described here. The exception among major health professional organizations is the American Psychological Association (APA).

In 2002 the APA modified its ethics code to allow psychologists to dispense with informed consent “where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations. ” (Ethics code standard 8.05.)

Whatever the reason for the APA making this modification, it could be interpreted as allowing psychologists to follow CIA (or military) directives authorizing exemption from the informed consent requirement. This lowered standard does not change psychologists’ legal or ethical obligations in terms of causing harm, but it does unacceptably weaken research standards. This modification should be removed.

In February 2010, after eight years of stalling, the APA removed from its ethics code a related loophole, ethics code standard1.02, often described as the “Nuremberg Defense,” that allowed dispensing with any section of the code when it was in conflict with “the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.” But even with the long-delayed correction to 1.02, changes permitting psychologists to perform research on subjects without their consent remain in the ethics code. To date, there has been no explanation offered by the APA for reducing the standard on informed consent, nor has there been any response to longstanding calls from PHR, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and numerous other psychological and human rights groups to restore psychologists’ informed consent ethical obligations, the standards that all other health professional associations have instituted since Tuskegee and Nuremberg. Psychologists and others should demand that the APA immediately remove this ethics code section.

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations. He is president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR).

Waterboarding for dummies March 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Torture.
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 (Roger’s note: in case you were wondering just how low into barbarism the United States government has sunk.)

Tuesday, Mar 9, 2010 07:01 EST

Internal CIA documents reveal a meticulous protocol that was far more brutal than Dick Cheney’s “dunk in the water”

By Mark Benjamin

Self-proclaimed waterboarding fan Dick Cheney called it a no-brainer in a 2006 radio interview: Terror suspects should get a “a dunk in the water.” But recently released internal documents reveal the controversial “enhanced interrogation” practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney’s description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.

Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney “specially designed” to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner’s nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding “session.” Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to “dam the runoff” and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee’s mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second “applications” of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee’s nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus.

“This is revolting and it is deeply disturbing,” said Dr. Scott Allen, co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University who has reviewed all of the documents for Physicians for Human Rights. “The so-called science here is a total departure from any ethics or any legitimate purpose. They are saying, ‘This is how risky and harmful the procedure is, but we are still going to do it.’ It just sounds like lunacy,” he said. “This fine-tuning of torture is unethical, incompetent and a disgrace to medicine.”

These torture guidelines were contained in a ream of internal government documents made public over the past year, including a legal review of Bush-era CIA interrogations by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility released late last month.

Though public, the hundreds of pages of documents authorizing or later reviewing the agency’s “enhanced interrogation program” haven’t been mined for waterboarding details until now. While Bush-Cheney officials defended the legality and safety of waterboarding by noting the practice has been used to train U.S. service members to resist torture, the documents show that the agency’s methods went far beyond anything ever done to a soldier during training. U.S. soldiers, for example, were generally waterboarded with a cloth over their face one time, never more than twice, for about 20 seconds, the CIA admits in its own documents.

These memos show the CIA went much further than that with terror suspects, using huge and dangerous quantities of liquid over long periods of time. The CIA’s waterboarding was “different” from training for elite soldiers, according to the Justice Department document released last month. “The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed,” the document notes. In soldier training, “The interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth (on a soldier’s face) in a controlled manner,” DOJ wrote. “By contrast, the agency interrogator … continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose.”

One of the more interesting revelations in the documents is the use of a saline solution in waterboarding. Why? Because the CIA forced such massive quantities of water into the mouths and noses of detainees, prisoners inevitably swallowed huge amounts of liquid – enough to conceivably kill them from hyponatremia, a rare but deadly condition in which ingesting enormous quantities of water results in a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood. Generally a concern only for marathon runners , who on extremely rare occasions drink that much water, hyponatremia could set in during a prolonged waterboarding session. A waterlogged, sodium-deprived prisoner might become confused and lethargic, slip into convulsions, enter a coma and die.

Therefore, “based on advice of medical personnel,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury wrote in a May 10, 2005, memo authorizing continued use of waterboarding, “the CIA requires that saline solution be used instead of plain water to reduce the possibility of hyponatremia.”

The agency used so much water there was also another risk: pneumonia resulting from detainees inhaling the fluid forced into their mouths and noses. Saline, the CIA argued, might reduce the risk of pneumonia when this occurred.

“The detainee might aspirate some of the water, and the resulting water in the lungs might lead to pneumonia,” Bradbury noted in the same memo. “To mitigate this risk, a potable saline solution is used in the procedure.”

That particular Bradbury memo laid out a precise and disturbing protocol for what went on in each waterboarding session. The CIA used a “specially designed” gurney for waterboarding, Bradbury wrote. After immobilizing a prisoner by strapping him down, interrogators then tilted the gurney to a 10-15 degree downward angle, with the detainee’s head at the lower end. They put a black cloth over his face and poured water, or saline, from a height of 6 to 18 inches, documents show. The slant of the gurney helped drive the water more directly into the prisoner’s nose and mouth. But the gurney could also be tilted upright quickly, in the event the prisoner stopped breathing.

Detainees would be strapped to the gurney for a two-hour “session.” During that session, the continuous flow of water onto a detainee’s face was not supposed to exceed 40 seconds during each pour. Interrogators could perform six separate 40-second pours during each session, for a total of four minutes of pouring. Detainees could be subjected to two of those two-hour sessions during a 24-hour period, which adds up to eight minutes of pouring. But the CIA’s guidelines say interrogators could pour water over the nose and mouth of a detainee for 12 minutes total during each 24-hour period. The documents do not explain the extra four minutes to get to 12.

Interrogators were instructed to pour the water when a detainee had just exhaled so that he would inhale during the pour. An interrogator was also allowed to force the water down a detainee’s mouth and nose using his hands. “The interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee’s nose and mouth to dam the runoff,” the Bradbury memo notes. “In which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breathe during the application of the water.”

“We understand that water may enter – and accumulate in – the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing,” the memo admits.

Should a prisoner stop breathing during the procedure, the documents instructed interrogators to rapidly tilt the gurney to an upright position to help expel the saline. “If the detainee is not breathing freely after the cloth is removed from his face, he is immediately moved to a vertical position in order to clear the water from his mouth, nose, and nasopharynx,” Bradbury wrote. “The gurney used for administering this technique is specially designed so that this can be accomplished very quickly if necessary.”

Documents drafted by CIA medical officials in 2003, about a year after the agency started using the waterboard, describe more aggressive procedures to get the water out and the subject breathing. “An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately,” the CIA Office of Medical Services ordered in its Sept. 4, 2003, medical guidelines for interrogations. “The interrogator should then deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water.” (That’s a blow below the sternum, similar to the thrust delivered to a chocking victim in the Heimlich maneuver.)

But even those steps might not force the prisoner to resume breathing. Waterboarding, according to the Bradbury memo, could produce “spasms of the larynx” that might keep a prisoner from breathing “even when the application of water is stopped and the detainee is returned to an upright position.” In such cases, Bradbury wrote, “a qualified physician would immediately intervene to address the problem and, if necessary, the intervening physician would perform a tracheotomy.” The agency required that “necessary emergency medical equipment” be kept readily available for that procedure. The documents do not say if doctors ever performed a tracheotomy on a prisoner.

The doctors were also present to monitor the detainee “to ensure that he does not develop respiratory distress.” A leaked 2007 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross says that meant the detainee’s finger was fixed with a pulse oxymeter, a device that measures the oxygen saturation level in the blood during the procedure. Doctors like Allen say this would allow interrogators to push a detainee close to death – but help them from crossing the line. “It is measuring in real time the oxygen content in the blood second by second,” Allen explained about the pulse oxymeter. “It basically allows them to push these prisoners more to the edge. With that, you can keep going. This is calibration of harm by health professionals.”

One of the weirdest details in the documents is the revelation that the agency placed detainees on liquid diets prior to the use of waterboarding. That’s because during waterboarding, “a detainee might vomit and then aspirate the emesis,” Bradbury wrote. In other words, breathe in his own vomit. The CIA recommended the use of Ensure Plus for the liquid diet.

Plowing through hundreds of pages of these documents is an unsettling experience. On one level, the detailed instructions can be seen as helping to carry out kinder, gentler waterboarding, with so much care and attention given to making sure detainees didn’t stop breathing, get pneumonia, breathe in their own vomit or die. But of course dead detainees tell no tales, so the CIA needed to keep many of its prisoners alive. It should be noted, though, that six human rights groups in 2007 released a report showing that 39 people who appeared to have gone into the CIA’s secret prison network haven’t shown up since. The careful attention to detail in the documents was also used to provide legal cover for the harsh and probably illegal interrogation tactics.

As brutal as the waterboarding process was, the memos also reveal that the Bush-era Justice Department authorized the CIA to use it in combination with other forms of torture. Specifically, a detainee could be kept awake for more than seven days straight by shackling his hands in a standing position to a bolt in the ceiling so he could never sit down. The agency diapered and hand-fed its detainees during this period before putting them on the waterboard. Another memo from Bradbury, also from 2005, says that in between waterboarding sessions, a detainee could be physically slammed into a wall, crammed into a small box, placed in “stress positions” to increase discomfort and doused with cold water, among other things.

The CIA’s waterboarding regimen was so excruciating, the memos show, that agency officials found themselves grappling with an unexpected development: detainees simply gave up and tried to let themselves drown. “In our limited experience, extensive sustained use of the waterboard can introduce new risks,” the CIA’s Office of Medical Services wrote in its 2003 memo. “Most seriously, for reasons of physical fatigue or psychological resignation, the subject may simply give up, allowing excessive filling of the airways and loss of consciousness.”

The agency’s medical guidelines say that after a case of “psychological resignation” by a detainee on the waterboard, an interrogator had to get approval from a CIA doctor before doing it again.

The memo also contains a last, little-noticed paragraph that may be the most disturbing of all. It seems to say that the detainees subjected to waterboarding were also guinea pigs. The language is eerily reminiscent of the very reasons the Nuremberg Code was written in the first place. That paragraph reads as follows:

“NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”

Cheney Admits to War Crimes, Media Yawns, Obama Turns the Other Cheek February 16, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Torture.
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Monday 15 February 2010

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | News Analysisphoto
(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, World Economic Forum, stevefaeembra, MissusK)

Dick Cheney is a sadist.

On Sunday, in an exclusive interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News’ “This Week,” Cheney proclaimed his love of torture, derided the Obama administration for outlawing the practice, and admitted that the Bush administration ordered Justice Department attorneys to fix the law around his policies.

“I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” Cheney told Karl, as if he were issuing a challenge to officials in the current administration, including President Barack Obama, who said flatly last year that waterboarding is torture, to take action against him. “I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques…”

The former vice president’s declaration closely follows admissions he made in December 2008, about a month before the Bush administration exited the White House, when he said he personally authorized the torture of 33 suspected terrorist detainees and approved the waterboarding of three so-called “high-value” prisoners.

“I signed off on it; others did, as well, too,” Cheney said in an interview with the right-wing Washington Times about the waterboarding, a drowning technique where a person is strapped to a board, his face covered with a cloth and then water is poured over it. It is a torture technique dating back at least to the Spanish Inquisition.

The US has long treated waterboarding as a war crime and has prosecuted Japanese soldiers for using it against US troops during World War II. And Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three deputies for using the practice to get confessions.

But Cheney’s admissions back then, as well as those he made on Sunday, went unchallenged by Karl and others in the mainstream media. Indeed, the two major national newspapers–The New York Times and The Washington Post–characterized Cheney’s interview as a mere spat between the vice president and the Obama administration over the direction of the latter’s counterterroism and national security policies.

The Times and Post did not report that Cheney’s comments about waterboarding and his enthusiastic support of torturing detainees amounted to an admission of war crimes given that the president has publicly stated that waterboarding is torture.

Ironically, in March 2003, after Iraqi troops captured several U.S. soldiers and let them be interviewed on Iraqi TV, senior Bush administration officials expressed outrage over this violation of the Geneva Convention.

“If there is somebody captured,” President George W. Bush told reporters on March 23, 2003, “I expect those people to be treated humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

Nor did the Times or Post report that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” Cheney backed was, in numerous cases, administered to prisoners detained at Guantanamo and in detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan who we would come to discover were innocent and simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The torture methods that Cheney helped implement as official policy was also directly responsible for the deaths of at least 100 detainees.

Renowned human rights attorney and Harper’s magazine contributor Scott Horton said, “Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques.”

In addition to Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said during his confirmation hearing last year that waterboarding is torture.

“Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants,” Horton wrote in a Harper’s dispatch Monday. 

Karl also made no mention of the fact that the CIA’s own watchdog concluded in a report declassified last year that the torture of detainees Cheney signed off on did not result in any actionable intelligence nor did it thwart any imminent attacks on the United States. To the contrary, torture led to bogus information, wrongful elevated threat warnings, and undermined the war-crimes charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks because the evidence against him was obtained through torture.

Karl also failed to call out Cheney on a statement the former vice president made during his interview in which he suggested the policy of torture was carried out only after the Bush administration told Justice Department attorneys it wanted the legal justification to subject suspected al-Qaeda prisoners to brutal interrogation methods.

Cheney told Karl that he continues to be critical of the Obama administration “because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had — had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”

In an interview with Karl on December 15, 2008, Cheney made a similar comment, which Karl also allowed to go unchallenged, stating that the Bush administration “had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross.”

Bush’s Key Line of Defense Destroyed

Those statements, both on Sunday and in his December 2008 interview with Karl, destroys a key line in the Bush administration’s defense against war crimes charges. For years, Cheney and other Bush administration officials pinned their defense on the fact that they had received legal advice from Justice Department lawyers that the brutal interrogations of “war on terror” detainees did not constitute torture or violate other laws of war.

Cheney’s statements, however, would suggest that the lawyers were colluding with administration officials in setting policy, rather than providing objective legal analysis.

In fact, as I reported last year, an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined that DOJ attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee blurred the lines between attorneys charged with providing independent legal advice to the White House and policy advocates who were working to advance the administration’s goals, according to legal sources who were privy to an original draft of the OPR report.

That was a conclusion Dawn Johnsen reached. Johnsen was tapped a year ago by Obama to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), where Yoo and Bybee worked, but her confirmation has been stuck in limbo.

In a 2006 Indiana Law Journal article, she said the function of OLC should be to “provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the administration’s pursuit of desired policies.”

“The advocacy model of lawyering, in which lawyers craft merely plausible legal arguments to support their clients’ desired actions, inadequately promotes the President’s constitutional obligation to ensure the legality of executive action,” said Johnsen, who served in the OLC under President Bill Clinton. “In short, OLC must be prepared to say no to the President.

“For OLC instead to distort its legal analysis to support preferred policy outcomes undermines the rule of law and our democratic system of government. Perhaps most essential to avoiding a culture in which OLC becomes merely an advocate of the Administration’s policy preferences is transparency in the specific legal interpretations that inform executive action, as well as in the general governing processes and standards followed in formulating that legal advice.”

In a 2007 UCLA Law Review article, Johnsen said Yoo’s Aug. 1, 2002, torture memo is “unmistakably” an “advocacy piece.”

“OLC abandoned fundamental practices of principled and balanced legal interpretation,” Johnsen wrote. “The Torture Opinion relentlessly seeks to circumvent all legal limits on the CIA’s ability to engage in torture, and it simply ignores arguments to the contrary.

“The Opinion fails, for example, to cite highly relevant precedent, regulations, and even constitutional provisions, and it misuses sources upon which it does rely. Yoo remains almost alone in continuing to assert that the Torture Opinion was ‘entirely accurate’ and not outcome driven.”

The original draft of the OPR report concluded that Yoo and Bybee violated professional standards and recommended a referral to state bar associations where they could have faced disciplinary action and have had their law licenses revoked.

The report’s findings could have influenced whether George W. Bush, Cheney and other senior officials in that administration were held accountable for torture and other war crimes. But two weeks ago, it was revealed that officials in Obama’s Justice Department backed off the earlier recommendation and instead altered the misconduct findings against Yoo and Bybee to “poor judgment,” which means neither will face disciplinary action. The report has not yet been released.

For his part, Yoo had already admitted in no uncertain terms that Bush administration officials sought to legalize torture and that he and Bybee fixed the law around the Bush administration’s policy.

As I noted in a report last year, in his book, “War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account on the War On Terror,” Yoo described his participation in meetings that helped develop the controversial policies for the treatment of detainees.

For instance, Yoo wrote about a trip he took to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with other senior administration officials to observe interrogations and to join in discussions about specific interrogation methods. In other words, Yoo was not acting as an independent attorney providing the White House with unbiased legal advice but was more of an advocate for administration policy.

The meetings that Yoo described appear similar to those disclosed by ABC News in April 2008.

“The most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA,” ABC News reported at the time, citing unnamed sources.

“The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed – down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

“These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al-Qaeda suspects – whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding,” according to unnamed sources quoted by ABC News.

Torture Preceded Legal Advice

If ABC’s Karl had a firmer grasp on the issues he queried Cheney about he would have known that as recently as last week, three UK high-court judges released seven paragraphs of a previously classified intelligence document that proved the CIA tortured Binyam Mohamed, a British resident captured in Pakistan in April 2002 who was falsely tied to a dirty bomb plot, months before the Bush administration obtained a memo from John Yoo and Jay Bybee at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) authorizing specific methods of torture to be used against high-value detainees, further undercutting Cheney’s line of defense.

The document stated bluntly that Mohamed’s treatment “could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the treatment of Mohamed and the clear record that the Bush administration used waterboarding and other brutal techniques to extract information from detainees should have triggered the United States to conduct a full investigation and to prosecute the offenders.In the case of the US’s refusal to do so, other nations would be obligated to act under the principle of universality.

However, instead of living up to that treaty commitment, the Obama administration has time and again resisted calls for government investigations and has gone to court to block lawsuits that demand release of torture evidence or seek civil penalties against officials implicated in the torture.

Though it’s true, as Vice President Joe Biden stated Sunday on “Meet the Press,” that Cheney is rewriting history and making “factually, substantively wrong” statements about the Obama administration’s track record and approach to counterterrorism, it’s difficult, if not near impossible, to defend this president from the likes of Cheney.

Case in point: last week the Obama administration treated the disclosure by British judicial officials of the former prisoner’s torture as a security breach and threatened to cut off an intelligence sharing arrangement with the UK government.

In what can only be described as a stunning response to the revelations contained in the intelligence document, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said “the [UK} court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward.”

“We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations,” LaBolt said, making no mention of Mohamed’s treatment nor even offering him an apology for the torture he was subjected to by the CIA over the course of several years. Mohamed was released from Guantanamo last year and returned to the UK.

As an aside, as revelatory as the disclosures were, news reports of Mohamed’s torture were buried by the mainstream print media and went unreported by the cable news outlets, underscoring how the media’s interest in Bush’s torture policies has waned.

The Obama administration’s decision to ignore the past administration’s crimes has alienated civil liberties groups, who he could once count on for support.

Last December, on the day Obama received a Nobel Peace prize, Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told reporters that “on every front, the [Obama] administration is actively obstructing accountability. This administration is shielding Bush administration officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture.”

That being the reality is what makes Cheney’s claim on Sunday that the Obama administration is attempting to prosecute “CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers” laughable.

Holder has expanded the mandate of a special counsel, appointed during the Bush administration, who is investigating the destruction of torture tapes, to conduct a “preliminary review” of less than a dozen torture cases involving CIA contractors and interrogators to determine whether launching an expanded criminal inquiry is warranted. That hardly amounts to a prosecution. It’s not even an investigation.

And “disbarring lawyers, a clear reference to Yoo and Bybee, which is beyond the scope of the Justice Department watchdog’s authority to begin with, is no longer a possibility given that the OPR report reportedly does not recommend disciplinary action.

In a statement, the ACLU said, “to date, not a single torture victim has had his day in court.”

As Jane Mayer reported in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Holder’s limited scope authorization to Durham did not go over well with the White House and Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made sure Holder knew where the administration stood.

“Emanuel worried that such investigations would alienate the intelligence community…,” Mayer reported. “Emanuel couldn’t complain directly to Holder without violating strictures against political interference in prosecutorial decisions. But he conveyed his unhappiness to Holder indirectly, two sources said. Emanuel demanded, ‘Didn’t he get the memo that we’re not re-litigating the past?'”

Jason Leopold is the Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, News Junkie, a memoir. Visit www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.