Monday, April 13, 2009

Tales of torture

By Carol Gee

Recommended Reading --
"The Red Cross Torture Report: What it means," by Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books, (pub. 4/30/09). The text of the ICRC Report is linked in Danner's piece, as well as Dick Cheney's statement on the value of torture made on 2/4/09. This is the part of the ICRC report that refers to Abu Zubayda:

Mr. Abu Zubaydah commented that when the collar was first used on him in his third place of detention, he was slammed directly against a hard concrete wall. He was then placed in a tall box for several hours (see Section 1.3.5, Confinement in boxes). After he was taken out of the box he noticed that a sheet of plywood had been placed against the wall. The collar was then used to slam him against the plywood sheet. He thought that the plywood was in order to absorb some of the impact so as to avoid the risk of physical injury.

"They should have listened to Noor al-Deen," is by emptywheel on Abu Zubaydah (3/29/09). Abu Zabaydah and Noor al-Deen were picked up in a Pakistani safe house in 2002. Thinking, mistakenly, that they had members of alQaeda, they were questioned. Al-Deen told the truth, which was eventually corroborated and he was released to Syria. Zubayda was eventually tortured so much that he is now permanently dysfunctional. To quote the conclusion,

So you've got a panicked teenager spilling his guts, insisting that Abu Zubaydah is just a functionary. And at the same time, Abu Zubaydah was saying he was just a functionary (and providing what useful intelligence he had to offer). And the US response to that was ... to make Abu Zubaydah their torture experiment--their test case for what torture techniques did and did not "work."

Yet more reason they destroyed the torture tapes showing Abu Zubaydah's interrogation.

Office of Legal Counsel - Memos upon which torture rested

There are no excuses for ongoing concealment of torture memos," wrote Glenn Greenwald at on 4/6/09. The ACLU has been battling in court for two years to get the Steven Bradbury OLC memos released. Greenwald's very interesting post explores why the release has been blocked from a number of different angles. To quote,

They are, in essence, the Rosetta Stone for documenting the war crimes committed not by low-level CIA agents but by the highest-level Bush DOJ officials.

. . . Those are the torture memos that are now at the heart of a growing controversy, as the Obama administration has sought multiple delays . . . the anti-disclosure crusade inside the Obama administration is being led by John Brennan. . . while it is true that Brennan has been aggressively advocating against disclosure, it is the threatened obstructionism [of two Obama appointees, Dawn Johnsen and Harold Koh] from the Senate GOP that is the "principal" cause of concern inside the White House.

"Bradbury Memos: Not Quite Yet," from The ACLU Blog of Rights (4/2/09). The ACLU in its lawsuit agreed to a two week extension of the release deadline so the government can finish its review of three Bradbury memos reportedly providing legal justification for CIA enhanced interrogation methods amounting to torture. The government may also review a Jay Bybee memo. The memos are "critical to understanding the foundations of President Bush's torture program," ACLU said.

Bad Timing -- "They picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue," was written by emptywheel (3/7/09). With all the other OLC memos just coming out, the Obama administration had a hard time with its presentation regarding dismissal in the Jose Padilla lawsuit against John Yoo. The judge was not impressed.

"Memos reveal scope of the power Bush sought," is taken from the New York Times (3/3/09). To quote the intro:

The secret legal opinions issued by Bush administration lawyers after the Sept. 11 attacks included assertions that the president could use the nation’s military within the United States to combat terrorism suspects and to conduct raids without obtaining search warrants.

That opinion was among nine that were disclosed publicly for the first time Monday by the Justice Department, in what the Obama administration portrayed as a step toward greater transparency.

. . . The memorandum issued by Mr. Bradbury this January appears to have been the Bush lawyers’ last effort to reconcile their views with the wide rejection by legal scholars and some Supreme Court opinions of the sweeping assertions of presidential authority made earlier by the Justice Department.

To be continued -- The International Red Cross report on torture and the New York Times article on the OLC memos form the bookends of the story that must be told, over and over, so that it is not forgotten or swept under the rug.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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