Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"We do not torture."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So said President Bush in 2005 (when asked about reports of secret CIA prisons).

And yet, in truth, the U.S. does torture.

So says Susan Crawford, the convening authority of the Guantanamo military commissions, a Gates appointee and Bush administration official:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.


Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

Qahtani's "interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003." Which means that Bush, who was ultimately responsible, whether he knew it or not, lied.

The various enablers and supporters of torture, both inside and outside the administration, have defended and continue to defend the use of techniques such as waterboarding, claiming that they do not amount to torture, but it has been clear for a long time, as we know that waterboarding was used on detainees, that the Bush Administration, from Bush and Cheney on down, sanctioned what is widely considered to be torture.

And now we have formal confirmation from no less an authority than the high-ranking administration official who is responsible for overseeing the military commissions and reviewing the treatment of detainees at Gitmo.

(Find more reaction at Memeorandum.)

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