Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Apples and Oranges and Monsters 

From the Independent (UK), courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.:
An American expert in torture techniques has denounced his government for allowing "waterboarding" to be practised against terror suspects, just as a graphic advertisement showing the brutal reality of the technique is unveiled to British cinema-goers.

Malcolm Nance, who trained hundreds of US servicemen and women to resist interrogation by putting them through "waterboarding" exercises, demanded an immediate end to the practice by all US personnel.

He said: "They seem to think it is worth throwing the honour of 220 years of American decency in war out of the window. Waterboarding is out-and-out torture, and I'm deeply ashamed President Bush has authorised its use and dragged the US's reputation into the mud."

Mr Bush faced criticism recently when he vetoed a Bill that would have outlawed such methods of "enhanced interrogation" – the White House refuses to describe it as torture.

Mr Nance said: "You have a purpose-built table with straps in a pattern so that people can be strapped and unstrapped quickly. The head is strapped down in such a way so they cannot resist the water. The head is elevated so the water goes down the oesophagus.

"The water is poured very carefully over the nose – you keep a constant pour. You are drowning in water but you don't have the ability to hold your breath. You feel the water going in, you understand that water is filling your lungs."

Mr Nance, who is now an independent consultant, said the technique was also futile, as well as barbaric, as the prisoner would say anything to survive – regardless of its truth.

Amnesty International has produced a brief advertisement depicting the procedure Mr. Nance describes above. We invite you to watch it, and then, if you have not already done so, to visit Daily Kos, where diarist Elsinora has provided a transcript of last night's Q&A session between former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the students of Knox College. (You will find useful analysis by our eminent colleague dday, writing at Digby's crib, here.)

UPDATE: Enough already with the bureaucratic squabbling! Can't you see agent Bauer has a city to save?
FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday recalled warning the Justice Department and the Pentagon that some U.S. interrogation methods used against terrorists might be inappropriate, if not illegal . . . .

Mueller said the FBI does not use coercive techniques when questioning suspects or witnesses, and he reportedly pulled his agents out of CIA or military interrogations several years ago to protect them from legal consequences.

FBI protocol "wouldn't engage in torture," said Rep. Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn. "But if you find out that other agencies may engage in torture, that you believe is illegal — does your protocol include informing those agencies that you believe their actions are illegal?"

"Yes," Mueller answered.

"Who did you inform?" Cohen asked.

"At points in time, we have reached out to DoD, DoJ, in terms of activity that we were concerned might not be appropriate, let me put it that way," Mueller said. DoD refers to the Department of Defense and DoJ to the Department of Justice.

Mueller said some of the FBI's concerns dated back to 2002, when top al-Qaida detainees were waterboarded by CIA interrogators. Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his or her cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. Critics call it a form of torture.

Asked how the Justice Department and Pentagon responded to the FBI's advice, Mueller declined to discuss it publicly, citing concerns about releasing classified information. He also referred to the Justice Department's legal guidance at the time that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods were legal as long as they did not result in organ failure or death.

That guidance, contained in a series of memos by the department's Office of legal Counsel, since has been rescinded.
UPDATE II: We must apologize for the update directly above. We made the Jack Bauer joke in the innocent belief that it was, in fact, only a joke. Then we read Scott Horton's interview with Philippe Sands, author of the soon-to-be-published Torture Team:
HORTON: The administration's narrative has been that a harsh set of interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and stress positions, was introduced in response to demands from interrogators in the field who concluded that what they had didn't work. How did you reach the conclusion that, in fact, the pressure for the new techniques came from high up in the administration and worked its way down?

SANDS: I have no doubt about the early, close, and active involvement of the upper echelons of the administration in the decision to request, approve and then use harsh techniques of interrogation on "Detainee 063," Mohammed Al Qahtani. The story that emerged from the interviews was clear and it was consistent (plus, I had the opportunity to put my findings to Jim Haynes, who was the final piece of the jigsaw). The administration's 'bottom-up' narrative--as spun by Mr. Haynes and others--is false, inaccurate, and misleading, and I believe it was knowingly intended to be so. The administration has scapegoated individuals who were on the ground at Guantánamo in order to protect itself. Names that could have been blacked out were not. That is deplorable, and the cover-up of what really happened will likely expose those who engaged in it to even greater difficulty.

HORTON: The lawyer whose legal analysis underpins the Rumsfeld memo is Diane Beaver, whom you describe as completely out of her depth dealing with a complex set of international law questions. But you also note, rather amazingly, how Beaver's description of plot points from the TV show "24" directly influenced the introduction of new techniques at Guantánamo, techniques that later were replicated by American interrogators around the world. How could that happen?

SANDS: The administration told a story which claimed that Diane Beaver's legal advice was the basis for the Haynes recommendation and the Rumsfeld approval of the new techniques. That is false. When Jim Haynes wrote his memo of November 27, 2002, recommending blanket approval for 15 new techniques of interrogation, and leaving three others open for future use (including waterboarding), he had knowledge of the contents of the Department of Justice legal memo from August 1, 2002, signed by Jay Bybee and written with the assistance of John Yoo. That document provided Jim Haynes with the cover he sought, not Diane Beaver's legal advice. She was hung out to dry by Jim Haynes, in a manner that was unbecoming of his office, deeply unfair to her and reflected what will look to many like a deliberate effort to cover up what actually happened.
UPDATE III: From Nat Hentoff, the story of an "enemy combatant" who, for some reason, has not yet received an invitation to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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