Thursday, April 16, 2009

Torture Taxonomy

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has a Web page featuring links to four released documents regarding torture. The reader can go there or use the links below. The 1 minute 40 second video of ACLU Director Jameel Jafar briefly discusses the importance of these memos and why the public has the right to see them. Before we get started, the context is United States Code Title 18 Section 2340A which makes it a criminal offense for a person outside of the United States to commit or attempt to commit torture, which is defined in Section 2340(1) as:

Torture - An act committed by a person under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody of physical control.

The August 1, 2002 Jay Bybee Memo to Deputy Attorney General John Rizzo (PDF) applies to all prisoners, but it is mostly in the context of high ranking Al Queda prisoner Abu Zubaydah. The report details the techniques:

The Attention Grasp – basically grabbing the prisoner on both sides below the neck and yanking him forward for an intense face to face.
The Facial Hold – grabbing his head with one hand on the face to hold him immobile
The Facial Slap – exactly what you think, front of the hand, fingers slightly spread
The Abdominal Slap - striking the abdomen with the back of the hand
Walling – throwing a guy hard against a special wall designed to be "flexible" yet producing a louder sound to enhance the drama of the event
Stress Positions – forcing them to hold positions that fatigue/ache the muscles
Wall Standing – one version of stress positions
Cramped Confinement – what you think
Sleep Deprivation – what you think
Waterboarding – amply published everywhere

Apparently Zubaydah has a phobia about insects, so there is considerable discussion about placing a "stinging insect" with him in a confined space, or threatening to do this and actually putting a different insect (one that doesn’t sting) into the cell. They conclude that this does not inflict severe pain or suffering provided that the prisoner is told the sting will not be fatal. Who are they kidding? You lock me in a confined space, and the suffering part is handled before you mention the wasp. Tell me about the wasp, and fatal or not, my arse, I’ll tell you I’m Charles Manson.

The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not in our view inflict "severe pain or suffering" (page 11 paragraph 2), yet later in the report We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death (page 15 paragraph 2). In other words, a threat of imminent death does not inflict suffering. What I find most disturbing is near the end: To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture (page 16 paragraph 3). Unbelievable. This is not fiction.

The May 10, 2005 Steven Bradbury Memo to John Rizzo (PDF) more thoroughly notes 18 U.S.C. S 2340A and the four "predicate" acts that constitute torture (page 2 paragraph 3) 1) intentional infliction or threaten to inflict severe physical pain or injury, 2) the administration or threatened administration of mind altering substances, 3) the threat of imminent death, and 4) the threat of any of the above to another person.

I’m running out of real estate, so I won’t go into it, but this document provides a highly detailed, bone chilling account of the whole process, including the details associated with the use of nudity, temperature, water dousing, and dietary control. The other two documents released are:

May 10, 2005 Steven Bradbury to Rizzo (PDF)
May 30, 2005 Steven Bradbury to Rizzo (PDF)

At the same time that we learn these details, we learn that no one will be held to account for what occurred.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CNN has a good article that fits with your story.

Amazing.

4/16/2009 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Incredible image. Really incredible.

This is all insane. What are these documents actually saying? In the reality of the atrocities at these prisons, are we supposed to believe even the repulsive prescriptions in these documents were followed? Bullshit!!!

I am sure you have seen the photo of the hooded and cloaked figure at Abu Graib. ELECTRODES are attached to his hands. I don't seen any mention of electrodes in these documents. I also don't see any mention of dogs, which are also prominent in the Abu Graib photos.

Dear Lord. This is the United States. God help us.

4/16/2009 11:49 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

X4mr's imagery is second to none.

The memo's are causing quite the debate, and the best one I've seen as at the New York Times. After thinking about this, I think Obama has struck the right balance.

Yes, I condemn the torture, and god knows what really happened, but the prosecution, especially of the lower level operatives who, let's face it, were doing their jobs, is really problematic.

Obama is taking actions that powerfully steer the country away from ever doing this again. Exposing the guts of the operation in these memos makes it unlikely the methods will be used in the future.

4/17/2009 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Word is out now that the torture was using Chinese techniques to solicit FALSE confessions. They were solely focused on getting confessions linking terrorism to Saddam Hussein.

False confessions.

Bush and Cheney are guilty of treason and crimes against humanity.

4/22/2009 10:53 PM  

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