Yesterday, I said that it wasn’t actually Obama’s decision whether or not to prosecute former Bush officials or CIA interrogators for torture. The Justice Department is supposed to make those decisions free from political influence. Obama now agrees that it’s the DoJs decision.
A commenter at Andrew Sullivan’s blog has the right questions for Dick Cheney and other torture defenders who claim that it was necessary and effective:
Let’s assume that these methods are (1) useful (2) safe when performed under the OLC guidelines (3) necessary to keep as options for the future
If so, how could tapes of successful interrogations (or even some which were not successful) not be the single most valuable training tool available to future generations of interrogators? How could they not have any “intelligence value” as a training tool?
But we all know the tapes had to be destroyed because what was on them was shocking and repugnant
More from Sullivan’s blog on what torture does to its victims:
Last December, documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. also cited an F.B.I. agent at Guantánamo Bay who observed that ”on a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.” In one case, he added, ”the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”
“I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ …
“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.
Again, what was done to these detainees wasn’t done in the wake of 9/11 or in some sort of crazy ticking time bomb scenario. The torture was systematic and choreographed at the highest levels of our government. More from Phil Zelikow a counselor at Bush’s Department of State:
1. The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.
Which is that it was a program. Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed “interrogation plans” to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.
The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.
2. Measuring the value of such methods should be done professionally and morally before turning to lawyers.
A professional analysis would not simply ask: Did they tell us important information? Congress is apparently now preparing to parse the various claims on this score — and that would be quite valuable.
But the argument that they gave us vital information, which readers can see deployed in the memos just as they were deployed to reassure an uneasy president, is based on a fallacy. The real question is: What is the unique value of these methods?
If you missed my (lengthy) post yesterday, please check it out.