View Full Version : Rolling Torture Thread

14-05-2009, 12:32 AM
Senate Judiciary Hearing on Torture -- up on C-SPAN right now (http://cspan.org/Watch/Media/2009/05/13/HP/R/18525/Subcmte+Questions+Lawyers+Who+Approved+Harsh+Metho ds.aspx). Some excellent testimony.

polystyle desu
14-05-2009, 12:35 AM
Let's see what all comes out this time ...
Cheney's been all around the media trying to get out ahead of these hearings.

Meanwhile, same day Obama clamps down on releasing those other torture photos.

14-05-2009, 12:56 AM
Yeah, we're still through the looking glass at this point. Did you hear about the Pentagon Privilege Review Team redacting in full -- literally (http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/02/11/CSSlettertoObama.pdf) -- a letter sent from the lawyer of Binyam Mohamed to... Obama?! And then, when Smith sent the redacted letter to Obama with a covering letter explaining what had just happened, and wondering what it all meant, hitting him with a court summons to face a criminal charge for doing so. :confused::confused::confused:

14-05-2009, 01:00 AM
These guys have the best coverage of the hearing: http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/

14-05-2009, 01:07 AM
Luban is devastating.

josef k.
14-05-2009, 01:42 AM
Why is this story receiving so little coverage?

14-05-2009, 11:53 AM
I didn't know that was the case. I don't read that much mainstream news.

Anyway Mr Cheney, "The Body" will see you now:


14-05-2009, 12:49 PM
Against Torture, Against McChrystal:


"Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. 'Will [the Red Cross] ever be allowed in here?' And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there's no way that the Red Cross could get in: "they won't have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators." ...

padraig (u.s.)
14-05-2009, 01:18 PM
Why is this story receiving so little coverage?

it's receiving quite a lot of coverage actually. in the States, at least.

polystyle desu
14-05-2009, 03:53 PM
From a perspective not often heard ...

14-05-2009, 04:18 PM
Great piece, thanks, and rather moving in its own way.

polystyle desu
14-05-2009, 04:37 PM
Yea ,
the 'Do Onto Others ...' thing goes around,
comes around and 'round.

15-05-2009, 10:02 AM
Obama has adopted Bush's line almost in full now. The only key difference, and to be sure it is not inconsiderable, is the commitment not use torture. Other than that... Renditions, detention without trial as long as it in Bagram and not GTMO, blanket invocation of the "state secrets" defence to prevent trials from happening, threatening Britain to prevent trials from taking place, supressing evidence of government wrongdoing after the very defence for doing so has been rejected by Federal and Second Circuit Court of Appeal judges, failing to uphold legal obligations to prosecute torturers -- gah.

For me it all comes back to Bobbit's notion that the war on terror is a war for legality. You cannot win by subverting the law -- it's epic fail every time.

josef k.
16-05-2009, 10:11 PM
Obama has adopted Bush's line almost in full now.

Really? What makes you say so?

21-05-2009, 11:11 AM
Really? What makes you say so?

Sorry, josef, didn't see this. I touched on some of the reasons why in my post above, but, coincidentally, I was just about to post this essay (http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=1e733cac-c273-48e5-9140-80443ed1f5e2) by Jack Goldsmith in TNR. Goldsmith was the head of the OLC, 2003-4, and has just published what looks to be a really great book (http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Presidency-Judgment-Inside-Administration/dp/0393065502) (for international law geeks, at least) on his time there. Anyway, his TNR piece, "The Cheney Fallacy", is a much more comprehensive answer to your question than I could ever provide.

EDIT: Some useful discussion and qualifications over the excellent Opinio Juris (http://opiniojuris.org/2009/05/19/jack-goldsmith-on-similarities-and-differences-in-national-security-between-obama-and-bush/).

21-05-2009, 01:47 PM
Now wait for next year: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/analysis-dismantling-a-detention-case-point-by-point/

26-05-2009, 02:45 PM

Some interesting thoughts from Tom Hilde in this interview at Subtopia:

It may be true that individual torturers are sadists, or the policy-makers seek to terrorize populations of people. But torture is primarily an information-gathering tool for the US, as a matter of policy. It's an information economy. And the individual prisoners are the aggregate bits of data that comprise the information-gathering tool. The justification comes a priori: information is good; information in the name of the defense of civilization is better. But torture information is an odd entity in that much of the framework narrative of what is sought through torture comes a priori as well. Bits of data make no sense otherwise. They're meaningless bits of data. Those bits have to fit into a background framework of interpretation, beliefs, assumptions, values, goals, etc. for them to come to make sense. But the information from one torture victim is unlikely to have much useful meaning.

For torture to be effective as an information-gathering method, it has to be institutionalized and used broadly. This is what I mean by aggregation. The information comes from observation of patterns generated by aggregating what the individual victims say and less from the words of an individual torture victim. Meaningful information from torture necessarily comes from torture's institutionalization. Some information is easy enough to verify: you can indeed verify where an individual torture victim says a weapons cache is by going there and finding the weapons or not. This kind of everyday use of torture, however, hasn't been part of the American (liberal) justification of torture. It's too small-scale and doesn't rise to the level of moral urgency of the ticking time bomb scenario, for example, which is the image the institution uses to justify morally its existence. But, while you could possibly verify concrete things like a weapons cache through torture of one person, you can't verify an alleged plot and its full details without torturing broadly and collecting the bits of information - sorting out the consistent from the inconsistent - into a patterned narrative. You would probably want to do this as efficiently as possible, and this organizational and instrumental efficiency would be reflected in the physical spaces of torture.

The generic "Global War on Terror" gives at least rhetorical cover to all sorts of abuses. The torturers may not know precisely what they're torturing for in terms of information, but the War on Terror lends torture a vague sense of purpose and morally urgent necessity. You can see, then, how torture as information-gathering will always have an incentive to torture more and create an increasingly complex narrative constructed from patterns of information. Of course, the value of such a narrative is another thing altogether. The practice and the spaces may be efficient, but in the service of something profoundly confused at a moral and epistemological level. It’s really a kind of deep incompetence starting at the level of the crafting of the GWOT.

I think it's this general quest for information, however misguidedly, that serves to generate the kinds of spaces we see with US torture, rather than there being some generic torture space. If the US could somehow upload detainee's minds to a server, and develop a database out of that, that's what they'd do.

But… I have to give pause on this last point because the logic of torturing for information is ultimately incoherent. I wonder about the extent to which those who crafted the US torture regime were thinking also in terms of deterrence. If they were, then American torture was fated to be exposed to the public at some point.

27-05-2009, 12:04 PM

01-06-2009, 10:45 AM

01-06-2009, 12:24 PM
WTF (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/technologynews/5417221/Guantanamo-the-Xbox-game.html)

02-06-2009, 08:42 AM

Worth reading the end of that report. It seems that the abuse of prisoners at GTMO has not stopped (http://ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/current-conditions-confinement-guant%C3%A1namo-still-violation-law) under Obama.

05-06-2009, 11:42 AM
Genius -- "A Torture Apologia Chart" (click to enlarge):

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_akLbxNKanGc/SiVkthmewVI/AAAAAAAACpA/Unq6iSEUWoM/s400/Torture+Apologia+Chart6.jpg (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_akLbxNKanGc/SiVkthmewVI/AAAAAAAACpA/Unq6iSEUWoM/s1600-h/Torture+Apologia+Chart6.jpg)

05-06-2009, 01:08 PM
Just noticed this -- a very powerful account from a victim of Soviet torture, "Torture's Long Shadow (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/17/AR2005121700018.html)":

In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow (the central KGB interrogation jail), I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice (the KGB wanted its trusted lawyer to be assigned instead). The moment was most inconvenient for my captors because my case was due in court, and they had no time to spare. So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again.

Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

08-06-2009, 12:42 PM
The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom....

David Glazier, an associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who has written about the commission system, said: “This unfortunately strikes me as an effort to get rid of the problem in the easiest way possible, which is to have those people plead guilty and presumably be executed. But I think it’s going to lack international credibility.”


polystyle desu
10-06-2009, 01:12 PM
Rolling in torture, pass that water bucket ... ?

11-06-2009, 02:25 PM
Why won't Dissensus let me embed YouTube vids?

Anyways: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOIeHEakDiI&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Femptywheel.firedoglake.com%2F200 9%2F06%2F10%2Fsheldon-whitehouse-no-further-actionable-intelligence-was-obtained-from-abu-zubayda&feature=player_embedded

19-06-2009, 02:24 PM
Result (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/06/hbc-90005198)! Great post by Horton as well:

In seeking dismissal, Yoo argued that the case asked the courts to look at the president’s exercise of his war-making powers, and that the courts should butt out. But his principal argument was utterly predictable: state secrets. “Yoo contends that the Court should abstain from reviewing the alleged constitutional violations presented in this matter because the claims necessarily would uncover government secrets, thereby threatening national security.” The “secrets” here, of course, are of two sorts: first, the torture techniques used to turn Padilla into the human equivalent of an eggplant and second, the legal voodoo employed by Yoo in his efforts to justify Padilla’s torture and thus promise the torturers legal protection from criminal prosecution. But neither of these “secrets” are actually secret. Padilla was subjected to 21 months of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation that left him in a state of “post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation.” Detailed descriptions of the regime applied are actually in the public record. Similarly, over Yoo’s vehement objections, his memoranda were already released—and indeed, we learn they had even been repudiated by Yoo’s Bush Administration colleagues, in further secret memoranda filed just as they were packing to leave.

So just what sort of “government secrets threatening to national security” are implicated in the Yoo suit? Why, that would be the sort of “secrets” that reflect criminal conduct on the part of those involved in them and which would prove embarrassing and damaging to the reputation of their authors. In other words, they are not “secrets” at all, and the government’s claim has certainly been put forward–as usual–in bad faith.

13-07-2009, 03:35 PM
Pure farce: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/washington/story/71434.html

polystyle desu
12-08-2009, 03:32 PM
Now we find out whose little minds were behind Bush admin policy ...

25-03-2010, 12:19 PM
Meyer destroys that wank-shaft Thiessen: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/03/29/100329crbo_books_mayer?printable=true