what I read, and what I don’t – Thu. 31 May 2007: inhuman treatment endorsed by members of U.S. government
On Thursday, 13 May 2004, I read in an AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE (AI Index: AMR 51/081/2004 (Public) News Service No: 123) that interrogation techniques and coercive interrogation methods endorsed by members of the US government amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and violate international law and the USA’s treaty obligations. Amnesty International called on the USA to end its practice of holding detainees incommunicado and in secret detention.
On the same date, citing current and former officials, I read claims in the New York Times that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, an alleged leading member of al-Qa’ida held in an undisclosed location for more than a year, has been subjected to interrogation techniques including “water boarding” in which the prisoner is forcibly pushed under water to the point that he believes he will drown.
“This would be a clear case of torture”, Amnesty International said, adding that water submersion is a technique that has been used by countries notorious for their use of torture.
I read that hat the techniques used against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed were among a set of secret rules approved by the administration for use against “high value” detainees in the so-called “war on terror”.
Separately I read, that Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate committee yesterday that Pentagon lawyers had approved methods of interrogation in Iraq such as “sleep management”, “dietary manipulation” and “stress positions”. Such so-called “stress and duress” techniques have been widely alleged by former detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan some of whom were subsequently transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
I read, that under questioning by the committee, Secretary Rumsfeld said that: “Any instructions that have been issued or anything that’s been authorized by the Department have been checked by the lawyers” and “deemed to be consistent with the Geneva Conventions”.
“These techniques of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, amounting to war crimes, and violate the Convention Against Torture to which the USA is a state party,” I read at Amnesty International again.
I read further that the Committee Against Torture, the expert body established by the Convention Against Torture to oversee its implementation, has expressly held that restraining detainees in painful positions, hooding, threats, and prolonged sleep deprivation are methods of interrogation which violate the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. (For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org)
On Tuesday, Jan. 2 2007, I read that an FBI report detailed brutality by guards at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo seen by FBI employees, including detainees chained for 18 hours or more.
The report was posted on the FBI Web site. The agency said in a survey of 493 employees it had found 26 who said they had seen incidents of mistreatment and several more that were “not purely negative.” An investigation determined that no FBI personnel were involved in aggressive interrogations and mistreatment.
FBI witnesses described inmates chained in a fetal position and forced to urinate and defecate on themselves, the use of dogs to terrorize prisoners and sleep deprivation techniques including playing loud heavy metal music for as long as 24 hours. There were also instances of female guards harassing prisoners — in one case wiping menstrual blood on an inmate — and of a guard squatting on a Koran.
In the introduction, I read that most of the material made public in the report would have come out already during litigation over the facility at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
On Sunday, Jan. 21 2007, I read that a powerful British Parliament committee demanded the closing of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A report from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to work with the United States to find an alternative to the military facility, The Independent reported.
I read that the committee report, based on members’ visit there in September, did not say there was any abuse of detainees occurring now at Guantanamo Bay, which houses terrorism suspects. But it said abuse had “almost certainly” happened at Guantanamo in the past, the newspaper said.
On Wednesday, Feb. 7 2007, I thead that the U.S. military said, there were no evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay despite bragging by some guards that they beat detainees.
In a statement issued to United Press International by the U.S. Southern Command, I read that investigating officer Army Col. Richard Bassett said that “insufficient evidence exists to substantiate” allegations filed by a civilian employee at the facility.
I read that investigators reportedly interviewed 20 suspects and witnesses, including detainee medical providers, and searched Guantanamo records to determine if there was any validity to the overheard boasting of soldiers who said they beat and tortured terror suspects.
On Thursday, April 26 2007 I read that former CIA Director George Tenet defended the U.S. agency’s “High Value Detainee” program and said its interrogations of terror suspects have saved lives.
“Here’s what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the president of the United States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” Tenet told CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us.”
The program for terror suspects uses “enhanced interrogation” techniques that “60 Minutes” reported are said to include sleep deprivation, extreme temperature exposure and “water boarding,” in which restrained suspects have water poured on their faces, causing gagging and drowning fears.
Tenet denied that suspects are tortured.
When asked why “enhanced interrogation” techniques were necessary, Tenet said, “Because these are people who will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who’s responsible for the next terrorist attack … (who) wouldn’t blink an eyelash about killing you, your family, me and my family and everybody in this town,” CBS reported.
On the same day, April 26 2007, I read that the Bush administration asked a federal court in Washington to set new limits on lawyers for detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The New York Times reported that a U.S. Court of Appeals filing from the Justice Department said detainees’ lawyers are causing unrest and serve as intermediaries between detainees and the news media.
I read the government claiming in the filing that visits by civilian lawyers and mail between them and their clients have caused “intractable problems and threats to security at Guantanamo.”
I read that the Justice Department proposed limiting lawyers to three visits with an existing client, following a single visit in which a detainee could authorize a lawyer to handle a case. Also, intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in the case would be authorized to read mail sent to a detainee by a lawyer, the Times reported.
Lawyers said the proposal would make it impossible for them to adequately defend their clients.
“These rules are an effort to restore Guantanamo to its prior status as a legal black hole,” Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, told the Times.
On Friday, April 27 2007, I read I read that U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said on the floor of the Senate that he knew the American public was being misled in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
Durbin said he kept quiet because of his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, The Washington Times reported.
“The information we had in the Intelligence Committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn’t believe it,” Durbin said Wednesday.
“I was angry about it. (But) frankly, I couldn’t do much about it because, in the Intelligence Committee, we are sworn to secrecy. We can’t walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress.”
The White House said the Congress voted to go to war based on the same intelligence the president had.
“We all understand today that there were intelligence failures but there was no effort to mislead either members of Congress or the American people,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto told the Times reporter.
A congressional official familiar with Iraq intelligence presented to the committee said it was no different than what was said publicly, the Times said.
On Wednesday, May 30 2007, I read in The New York Times that psychologists advising U.S. intelligence agencies are suggesting that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects need to be changed.
A panel commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board says interrogation should be restructured using “tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.”
The researchers say there is little evidence harsh methods get the best results.
“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who contributed to the study.
The newspaper said new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency are expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past but authorize some methods that go beyond those currently allowed.
I read that Borum is authoring articles like the following:
Borum R, Gelles M. Al-Qaeda’s operational evolution: behavioral and organizational perspectives. Behav Sci Law. 2005;23(4):467-83. PMID: 16094630 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Hiday VA, Swartz MS, Swanson JW, Borum R, Wagner HR. Impact of outpatient commitment on victimization of people with severe mental illness. Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Aug;159(8):1403-11. PMID: 12153835 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
I don’t read that any ethical reserve entered the quoted psychologist’s line of argument.
On the same day, May 30 2007, I read that military officials said a Guantanamo Bay detention facility prisoner found dead in his cell Wednesday apparently committed suicide.
Authorities didn’t release the Saudi man’s name or details of his death, The Washington Post reported.
“The detainee was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell by guards,” military officials said in a news release. “The detainee was pronounced dead by a physician after all lifesaving measures had been exhausted.”
He would be the fourth detainee suicide at the facility in the past year, the newspaper said.
Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group representing many Guantanamo detainees, said they had obtained no details and had no independent confirmation the death was a suicide.
I read that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were investigating, and a cultural were assisting base officials to ensure the detainee’s body is handled in a “culturally sensitive and religiously appropriate manner.”