[Clips] How to Interrogate Terrorists

Tyler Durden camera_lumina at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 16 09:33:30 PST 2007

Sorry...I can't get past the title, unless of course there are some kind of 
terrorist gene that can be tested for so that I can know a priori that I'm 
interrogating a terrorist.

This is, of course, aside from the fact that one man's terrorist is the rest 
of the world's freedom fighter theese days.


>From: "R.A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
>To: cypherpunks at jfet.org
>Subject: [Clips] How to Interrogate Terrorists
>Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2007 18:43:58 -0500
>--- begin forwarded text
>   Delivered-To: rah at shipwright.com
>   Delivered-To: clips at philodox.com
>   Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2007 18:39:58 -0500
>   To: Philodox Clips List <clips at philodox.com>
>   From: "R.A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
>   Subject: [Clips] How to Interrogate Terrorists
>   Reply-To: clips-chat at philodox.com
>   Sender: clips-bounces at philodox.com
>   <http://www.city-journal.org/printable.php?id=1727>
>   City Journal
>   How to Interrogate Terrorists
>   Don't believe the charges. American troops treat terrorists with
>   Geneva-convention politeness-perhaps too much so.
>   Heather Mac Donald
>   Winter 2005
>   It didn't take long for interrogators in the war on terror to realize 
>   their part was not going according to script. Pentagon doctrine, honed 
>   decades of cold-war planning, held that 95 percent of prisoners would 
>   upon straightforward questioning. Interrogators in Afghanistan, and 
>   in Cuba and Iraq, found just the opposite: virtually none of the terror
>   detainees was giving up information-not in response to direct 
>   and not in response to army-approved psychological gambits for prisoners 
>   war.
>   Debate erupted in detention centers across the globe about how to get
>   detainees to talk. Were "stress techniques"-such as isolation or sleep
>   deprivation to decrease a detainee's resistance to 
>   Before the discussion concluded, however, the photos of prisoner abuse 
>   Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison appeared. Though they showed the sadism of a
>   prison out of control, they showed nothing about interrogation.
>   Nevertheless, Bush-administration critics seized on the scandal as proof
>   that prisoner "torture" had become routine. A master narrative-call it 
>   "torture narrative"-sprang up: the government's 2002 decision to deny
>   Geneva-convention status to al-Qaida fighters, it held, "led directly to
>   the abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq," to quote the Washington
>   Post. In particular, torturous interrogation methods, developed at
>   Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan in illegal disregard of Geneva 
>   migrated to Abu Ghraib and were manifest in the abuse photos.
>   This story's success depends on the reader's remaining ignorant of the
>   actual interrogation techniques promulgated in the war on terror. Not 
>   were they light years from real torture and hedged around with 
>   safeguards, but they had nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib anarchy.
>   Moreover, the decision on the Geneva conventions was irrelevant to
>   interrogation practices in Iraq.
>   No matter. The Pentagon's reaction to the scandal was swift and 
>   It stripped interrogators not just of stress options but of traditional
>   techniques long regarded as uncontroversial as well. Red tape now 
>   the interrogation process, and detainees know that their adversaries' 
>   are tied.
>   The need for rethinking interrogation doctrine in the war on terror will
>   not go away, however. The Islamist enemy is unlike any the military has
>   encountered in the past. If current wisdom on the rules of war prohibits
>   making any distinction between a terrorist and a lawful combatant, then
>   that orthodoxy needs to change.
>   The interrogation debate first broke out on the frigid plains of
>   Afghanistan. Marines and other special forces would dump planeloads of
>   al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners into a ramshackle detention facility 
>   the Kandahar airport; waiting interrogators were then supposed to 
>   information to be fed immediately back into the battlefield-whether a
>   particular mountain pass was booby-trapped, say, or where an arms cache
>   lay. That "tactical" debriefing accomplished, the Kandahar interrogation
>   crew would determine which prisoners were significant enough to be 
>   on to the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba for high-level interrogation.
>   Army doctrine gives interrogators 16 "approaches" to induce prisoners of
>   war to divulge critical information. Sporting names like "Pride and Ego
>   Down" and "Fear Up Harsh," these approaches aim to exploit a detainee's
>   self-love, allegiance to or resentment of comrades, or sense of 
>   Applied in the right combination, they will work on nearly everyone, the
>   intelligence soldiers had learned in their training.
>   But the Kandahar prisoners were not playing by the army rule book. They
>   divulged nothing. "Prisoners overcame the [traditional] model almost
>   effortlessly," writes Chris Mackey in The Interrogators, his gripping
>   account of his interrogation service in Afghanistan. The prisoners
>   confounded their captors "not with clever cover stories but with simple
>   refusal to cooperate. They offered lame stories, pretended not to 
>   even the most basic of details, and then waited for consequences that 
>   really came."
>   Some of the al-Qaida fighters had received resistance training, which
>   taught that Americans were strictly limited in how they could question
>   prisoners. Failure to cooperate, the al-Qaida manuals revealed, carried 
>   penalties and certainly no risk of torture-a sign, gloated the manuals, 
>   American weakness.
>   Even if a prisoner had not previously studied American detention 
>   before arriving at Kandahar, he soon figured them out. "It became very
>   clear very early on to the detainees that the Americans were just going 
>   have them sit there," recalls interrogator Joe Martin (a pseudonym). 
>   realized: 'The Americans will give us our Holy Book, they'll draw lines 
>   the floor showing us where to pray, we'll get three meals a day with 
>   fruit, do Jazzercise with the guards, . . . we can wait them out.' "
>   Even more challenging was that these detainees bore little resemblance 
>   traditional prisoners of war. The army's interrogation manual presumed
>   adversaries who were essentially the mirror image of their captors,
>   motivated by emotions that all soldiers share. A senior intelligence
>   official who debriefed prisoners in the 1989 U.S. operation in Panama
>   contrasts the battlefield then and now: "There were no martyrs down 
>   believe me," he chuckles. "The Panamanian forces were more 
>   people for us. Interrogation was pretty straightforward: 'Love of 
>   [an army-manual approach, promising, say, contact with wife or children 
>   exchange for cooperation] or, 'Here's how you get out of here as fast as
>   you can.' "
>   "Love of family" often had little purchase among the terrorists, 
>   did love of life. "The jihadists would tell you, 'I've divorced this 
>   I don't care about my family,' " recalls an interrogator at Guantanamo.
>   "You couldn't shame them." The fierce hatred that the captives bore 
>   captors heightened their resistance. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan
>   reported in January 2002 that prisoners in Kandahar would "shout 
>   at their captors, including threats against the female relatives of the
>   soldiers guarding them, knee marines in the groin, and say that they 
>   escape and kill 'more Americans and Jews.' " Such animosity continued in
>   Guantanamo.
>   Battlefield commanders in Afghanistan and intelligence officials in
>   Washington kept pressing for information, however. The frustrated
>   interrogators constantly discussed how to get it. The best hope, they
>   agreed, was to re-create the "shock of capture"-that vulnerable mental
>   state when a prisoner is most frightened, most uncertain, and most 
>   to respond to questioning. Uncertainty is an interrogator's most 
>   ally; exploited wisely, it can lead the detainee to believe that the
>   interrogator is in total control and holds the key to his future. The
>   Kandahar detainees, however, learned almost immediately what their 
>   held, no matter how egregious their behavior: nothing untoward.
>   Many of the interrogators argued for a calibrated use of "stress
>   techniques"-long interrogations that would cut into the detainees' sleep
>   schedules, for example, or making a prisoner kneel or stand, or 
>   questioning that would put a detainee on edge.
>   Joe Martin-a crack interrogator who discovered that a top al-Qaida 
>   whom Pakistan claimed to have in custody, was still at large and 
>   the Afghani resistance-explains the psychological effect of stress: 
>   say a detainee comes into the interrogation booth and he's had 
>   training. He knows that I'm completely handcuffed and that I can't do
>   anything to him. If I throw a temper tantrum, lift him onto his knees, 
>   walk out, you can feel his uncertainty level rise dramatically. He's 
>   told: 'They won't physically touch you,' and now you have. The point is 
>   to beat him up but to introduce the reality into his mind that he 
>   know where your limit is." Grabbing someone by the top of the collar has
>   had a more profound effect on the outcome of questioning than any actual
>   torture could have, Martin maintains. "The guy knows: You just broke 
>   own rules, and that's scary. He might demand to talk to my supervisor. 
>   respond: 'There are no supervisors here,' and give him a maniacal 
>   The question was: Was such treatment consistent with the Geneva 
>   President Bush had declared in February 2002 that al-Qaida members fell
>   wholly outside the conventions and that Taliban prisoners would not 
>   prisoner-of-war status-without which they, too, would not be covered by 
>   Geneva rules. Bush ordered, however, that detainees be treated humanely 
>   in accordance with Geneva principles, to the extent consistent with
>   military necessity. This second pronouncement sank in: all of the war on
>   terror's detention facilities chose to operate under Geneva rules. 
>   to the fulminations of rights advocates and the press, writes Chris 
>   "Every signal we interrogators got from above from the colonels at [the
>   Combined Forces Land Component Command] in Kuwait to the officers at
>   Central Command back in Tampa-had been . . . to observe the Conventions,
>   respect prisoners' rights, and never cut corners."
>   What emerged was a hybrid and fluid set of detention practices. As
>   interrogators tried to overcome the prisoners' resistance, their 
>   point remained Geneva and other humanitarian treaties. But the
>   interrogators pushed into the outer limits of what they thought the law
>   allowed, undoubtedly recognizing that the prisoners in their control
>   violated everything the pacts stood for.
>   The Geneva conventions embody the idea that even in as brutal an 
>   as war, civilized nations could obey humanitarian rules: no attacking
>   civilians and no retaliation against enemy soldiers once they fall into
>   your hands. Destruction would be limited as much as possible to
>   professional soldiers on the battlefield. That rule required,
>   unconditionally, that soldiers distinguish themselves from civilians by
>   wearing uniforms and carrying arms openly.
>   Obedience to Geneva rules rests on another bedrock moral principle:
>   reciprocity. Nations will treat an enemy's soldiers humanely because 
>   want and expect their adversaries to do the same. Terrorists flout every
>   civilized norm animating the conventions. Their whole purpose is to kill
>   noncombatants, to blend into civilian populations, and to conceal their
>   weapons. They pay no heed whatever to the golden rule; anyone who falls
>   into their hands will most certainly not enjoy commissary privileges and
>   wages, per the Geneva mandates. He-or she-may even lose his head.
>   Even so, terror interrogators tried to follow the spirit of the Geneva 
>   for conventional, uniformed prisoners of war. That meant, as the code 
>   it, that the detainees could not be tortured or subjected to "any form 
>   coercion" in order to secure information. They were to be "humanely"
>   treated, protected against "unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of 
>   kind," and were entitled to "respect for their persons and their 
>   The Kandahar interrogators reached the following rule of thumb, reports
>   Mackey: if a type of behavior toward a prisoner was no worse than the 
>   the army treated its own members, it could not be considered torture or 
>   violation of the conventions. Thus, questioning a detainee past his 
>   was lawful as long as his interrogator stayed up with him. If the
>   interrogator was missing exactly the same amount of sleep as the
>   detainee-and no tag-teaming of interrogators would be allowed, the 
>   decided-then sleep deprivation could not be deemed torture. In fact,
>   interrogators were routinely sleep-deprived, catnapping maybe one or two
>   hours a night, even as the detainees were getting long beauty sleeps.
>   Likewise, if a boot-camp drill sergeant can make a recruit kneel with 
>   arms stretched out in front without violating the Convention Against
>   Torture, an interrogator can use that tool against a recalcitrant terror
>   suspect.
>   Did the stress techniques work? Yes. "The harsher methods we used . . . 
>   better information we got and the sooner we got it," writes Mackey, who
>   emphasizes that the methods never contravened the conventions or crossed
>   over into torture.
>   Stress broke a young bomb maker, for instance. Six months into the war,
>   special forces brought a young Afghan to the Kandahar facility, the 
>   accomplice of a Taliban explosives expert who had been blowing up aid
>   workers. Joe Martin got the assignment.
>   "Who's your friend the Americans are looking for?" the interrogation 
>   "I don't know."
>   "You think this is a joke? What do you think I'll do?"
>   "Torture me."
>   So now I understand his fear, Martin recollects.
>   The interrogation continued: "You'll stand here until you tell me your
>   "No, sir, he's not my friend."
>   Martin picked up a book and started reading. Several hours later, the 
>   Taliban was losing his balance and was clearly terrified. Moreover, he's
>   got two "big hillbilly guards staring at him who want to kill him," the
>   interrogator recalls.
>   "You think THIS is bad?!" the questioning starts up again.
>   "No, sir."
>   The prisoner starts to fall; the guards stand him back up. If he falls
>   again, and can't get back up, Martin can do nothing further. "I have no
>   rack," he says matter-of-factly. The interrogator's power is an 
>   if a detainee refuses to obey a stress order, an American interrogator 
>   no recourse.
>   Martin risks a final display of his imaginary authority. "I get in his
>   face, 'What do you think I will do next?' " he barks. In the captive's
>   mind, days have passed, and he has no idea what awaits him. He discloses
>   where he planted bombs on a road and where to find his associate. "The
>   price?" Martin asks. "I made a man stand up. Is this unlawful coercion?"
>   Under a strict reading of the Geneva protections for prisoners of war,
>   probably: the army forbids interrogators from even touching lawful
>   combatants. But there is a huge gray area between the gold standard of 
>   treatment reserved for honorable opponents and torture, which consists 
>   the intentional infliction of severe physical and mental pain. None of 
>   stress techniques that the military has used in the war on terror comes
>   remotely close to torture, despite the hysterical charges of 
>   critics. (The CIA's behavior remains a black box.) To declare 
>   stress off-limits for an enemy who plays by no rules and accords no 
>   to Western prisoners is folly.
>   The soldiers used stress techniques to reinforce the traditional
>   psychological approaches. Jeff (a pseudonym), an interrogator in
>   Afghanistan, had been assigned a cocky English Muslim, who justified the
>   9/11 attacks because women had been working in the World Trade Center. 
>   British citizen deflected all further questioning. Jeff questioned him 
>   a day and a half, without letting him sleep and playing on his religious
>   loyalties. "I broke him on his belief in Islam," Jeff recounts. "He
>   realized he had messed up, because his Muslim brothers and sisters were
>   also in the building." The Brit broke down and cried, then disclosed the
>   mission that al-Qaida had put him on before capture. But once the 
>   was allowed to sleep for six hours, he again "clammed up."
>   Halfway across the globe, an identical debate had broken out, among
>   interrogators who were encountering the same obstacles as the 
>   intelligence team. The U.S. base at Guantanamo was supposed to be 
>   the Afghanistan war's worst of the worst: the al-Qaida Arabs and their 
>   Taliban allies.
>   Usama bin Ladin's driver and bodyguard were there, along with explosives
>   experts, al-Qaida financiers and recruiters, would-be suicide recruits, 
>   the architects of numerous attacks on civilian targets. They knew about
>   al-Qaida's leadership structure, its communication methods, and its 
>   to attack the U.S. And they weren't talking. "They'd laugh at you; 
>   asked me this before,' they'd say contemptuously," reports Major General
>   Michael Dunlavey, a former Guantanamo commanding officer. "Their 
>   was tenacious. They'd already had 90 days in Afghanistan to get their 
>   stories together and to plan with their compatriots."
>   Even more than Afghanistan, Guantanamo dissipated any uncertainty the
>   detainees might have had about the consequences of noncooperation.
>   Consistent with the president's call for humane treatment, prisoners
>   received expert medical care, three culturally appropriate meals each 
>   and daily opportunities for prayer, showers, and exercise. They had mail
>   privileges and reading materials. Their biggest annoyance was boredom,
>   recalls one interrogator. Many prisoners disliked the move from Camp 
>   the first facility used at the base, to the more commodious Camp Delta,
>   because it curtailed their opportunities for homosexual sex, says an
>   intelligence analyst. The captives protested every perceived 
>   of their rights but, as in Afghanistan, ignored any reciprocal 
>   They hurled excrement and urine at guards, used their blankets as 
>   and created additional weapons out of anything they could get their 
>   on-including a sink wrenched off a wall. Guards who responded to the
>   attacks-with pepper spray or a water hose, say-got punished and, in one
>   case, court-martialed.
>   Gitmo personnel disagreed sharply over what tools interrogators could
>   legally use. The FBI took the most conservative position. When a bureau
>   agent questioning Mohamedou Ould Slahi-a Mauritanian al-Qaida operative 
>   had recruited two of the 9/11 pilots-was getting nothing of value, an 
>   interrogator suggested, "Why don't you mention to him that conspiracy is 
>   capital offense?" "That would be a violation of the Convention Against
>   Torture," shot back the agent-on the theory that any covert threat 
>   "severe mental pain." Never mind that district attorneys and police
>   detectives routinely invoke the possibility of harsh criminal penalties 
>   get criminals to confess. Federal prosecutors in New York have even been
>   known to remind suspects that they are more likely to keep their teeth 
>   not end up as sex slaves by pleading to a federal offense, thus avoiding
>   New York City's Rikers Island jail. Using such a method against an 
>   jihadist, by contrast, would be branded a serious humanitarian breach.
>   Top military commanders often matched the FBI's restraint, however. "It 
>   ridiculous the things we couldn't do," recalls an army interrogator. 
>   guy said he would talk if he could see the ocean. It wasn't approved,
>   because it would be a change of scenery"-a privilege that discriminated 
>   favor of a cooperating detainee, as opposed to being available to all,
>   regardless of their behavior.
>   Frustration with prisoner stonewalling reached a head with Mohamed
>   al-Kahtani, a Saudi who had been fighting with Usama bin Ladin's 
>   in Afghanistan in December 2001. By July 2002, analysts had figured out
>   that Kahtani was the missing 20th hijacker. He had flown into Orlando
>   International Airport from Dubai on August 4, 2001, but a sharp-eyed
>   customs agent had denied him entry. Waiting for him at the other side of
>   the gate was Mohamed Atta.
>   Kahtani's resistance strategies were flawless. Around the first 
>   of 9/11, urgency to get information on al-Qaida grew. Finally, army
>   officials at Guantanamo prepared a legal analysis of their interrogation
>   options and requested permission from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 
>   use various stress techniques on Kahtani. Their memo, sent up the
>   bureaucratic chain on October 11, 2002, triggered a fierce six-month
>   struggle in Washington among military lawyers, administration officials,
>   and Pentagon chiefs about interrogation in the war on terror.
>   To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the
>   military has been in its approach to terror detainees-and how utterly 
>   the torture narrative has been. Here's what the interrogators assumed 
>   could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at
>   detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as
>   Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to
>   eat-vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as
>   vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators 
>   that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, 
>   local approval and special training.
>   The most controversial technique approved was "mild, non-injurious 
>   contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light
>   pushing," to be reserved only for a "very small percentage of the most
>   uncooperative detainees" believed to possess critical intelligence. A
>   detainee could be poked only after review by Gitmo's commanding general 
>   intelligence and the commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, 
>   only pursuant to "careful coordination" and monitoring.
>   None of this remotely approaches torture or cruel or degrading 
>   Nevertheless, fanatically cautious Pentagon lawyers revolted, claiming 
>   the methods approved for Kahtani violated international law.
>   Uncharacteristically irresolute, Rumsfeld rescinded the Guantanamo
>   techniques in January 2003.
>   Kahtani's interrogation hung fire for three months, while a Washington
>   committee, with representatives from the undersecretary of defense, the
>   Defense Intelligence Agency, the air force, army, navy, and marine 
>   and attorneys from every branch of the military, considered how to 
>   the 20th hijacker.
>   The outcome of this massive deliberation was more restrictive than the
>   Geneva conventions themselves, even though they were to apply only to
>   unlawful combatants, not conventional prisoners of war, and only to 
>   held at Guantanamo Bay. It is worth scrutinizing the final 24 techniques
>   Rumsfeld approved for terrorists at Gitmo in April 2003, since these are
>   the techniques that the media presents as the source of "torture" at Abu
>   Ghraib. The torture narrative holds that illegal methods used at 
>   migrated to Iraq and resulted in the abuse of prisoners there.
>   So what were these cruel and degrading practices? For one, providing a
>   detainee an incentive for cooperation-such as a cigarette or, especially
>   favored in Cuba, a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich or a Twinkie unless
>   specifically approved by the secretary of defense. In other words, if an
>   interrogator had learned that Usama bin Ladin's accountant loved Cadbury
>   chocolate, and intended to enter the interrogation booth armed with a 
>   Milk Wafer to extract the name of a Saudi financier, he needed to
>   "specifically determine that military necessity requires" the use of the
>   Dairy Milk Wafer and send an alert to Secretary Rumsfeld that chocolate 
>   to be deployed against an al-Qaida operative.
>   Similar restrictions-a specific finding of military necessity and notice 
>   Rumsfeld-applied to other tried-and-true army psychological techniques.
>   These included "Pride and Ego Down"-attacking a detainee's pride to goad
>   him into revealing critical information-as well as "Mutt and Jeff," the
>   classic good cop-bad cop routine of countless police shows. Isolating a
>   detainee from other prisoners to prevent collaboration and to increase 
>   need to talk required not just notice and a finding of military 
>   but "detailed implementation instructions [and] medical and 
>   review."
>   The only non-conventional "stress" techniques on the final Guantanamo 
>   are such innocuous interventions as adjusting the temperature or
>   introducing an unpleasant smell into the interrogation room, but only if
>   the interrogator is present at all times; reversing a detainee's sleep
>   cycles from night to day (call this the "Flying to Hong Kong" approach);
>   and convincing a detainee that his interrogator is not from the U.S.
>   Note that none of the treatments shown in the Abu Ghraib photos, such as
>   nudity or the use of dogs, was included in the techniques certified for 
>   unlawful combatants held in Cuba. And those mild techniques that were
>   certified could only be used with extensive bureaucratic oversight and
>   medical monitoring to ensure "humane," "safe," and "lawful" application.
>   After Rumsfeld cleared the 24 methods, interrogators approached Kahtani
>   once again. They relied almost exclusively on isolation and lengthy
>   interrogations. They also used some "psy-ops" (psychological 
>   Ten or so interrogators would gather and sing the Rolling Stones' "Time 
>   on My Side" outside Kahtani's cell. Sometimes they would play a 
>   of "Enter Sandman" by the heavy-metal group Metallica, which brought
>   Kahtani to tears, because he thought (not implausibly) he was hearing 
>   sound of Satan.
>   Finally, at 4 am-after an 18-hour, occasionally loud, interrogation, 
>   which Kahtani head-butted his interrogators-he started giving up
>   information, convinced that he was being sold out by his buddies. The
>   entire process had been conducted under the watchful eyes of a medic, a
>   psychiatrist, and lawyers, to make sure that no harm was done. Kahtani
>   provided detailed information on his meetings with Usama bin Ladin, on 
>   Padilla and Richard Reid, and on Adnan El Shukrijumah, one of the FBI's
>   most wanted terrorists, believed to be wandering between South and North
>   America.
>   Since then, according to Pentagon officials, none of the non-traditional
>   techniques approved for Kahtani has been used on anyone else at 
>   Bay.
>   The final strand in the "torture narrative" is the least grounded in 
>   practice, but it has had the most distorting effect on the public 
>   In the summer of 2002, the CIA sought legal advice about permissible
>   interrogation techniques for the recently apprehended Abu Zubaydah, 
>   bin Ladin's chief recruiter in the 1990s. The Palestinian Zubaydah had
>   already been sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for an abortive 
>   to bomb hotels there during the millennium celebration; he had arranged 
>   obliterate the Los Angeles airport on the same night. The CIA wanted to 
>   techniques on Zubaydah that the military uses on marines and other elite
>   fighters in Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape (SERE) school, which teaches 
>   to withstand torture and other pressures to collaborate. The techniques 
>   classified, but none allegedly involves physical contact. (Later, the 
>   is said to have used "water-boarding"-temporarily submerging a detainee 
>   water to induce the sensation of drowning-on Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the
>   mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Water-boarding is the most extreme 
>   the CIA has applied, according to a former Justice Department attorney, 
>   arguably it crosses the line into torture.)
>   In response to the CIA's request, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. 
>   produced a hair-raising memo that understandably caused widespread 
>   Bybee argued that a U.S. law ratifying the 1984 Convention Against
>   Torture-covering all persons, whether lawful combatants or not-forbade 
>   physical pain equivalent to that "accompanying serious physical injury,
>   such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death," or
>   mental pain that resulted in "significant psychological harm of 
>   duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years." More troubling still,
>   Bybee concluded that the torture statute and international humanitarian
>   treaties did not bind the executive branch in wartime.
>   This infamous August "torture memo" represents the high (or low) point 
>   the Bush administration's theory of untrammeled presidential war-making
>   power. But note: it had nothing to do with the interrogation debates and
>   experiments unfolding among Pentagon interrogators in Afghanistan and 
>   These soldiers struggling with al-Qaida resistance were perfectly 
>   about executive-branch deliberations on the outer boundaries of pain and
>   executive power (which, in any case, were prepared for and seen only by 
>   CIA). "We had no idea what went on in Washington," said Chris Mackey in 
>   interview. A Guantanamo lawyer involved in the Kahtani interrogation 
>   Mackey: "We were not aware of the [Justice Department and White House]
>   debates." Interrogators in Iraq were equally unaware of the Bybee memo.
>   Nevertheless, when the Bybee analysis was released in June 2004, it 
>   the capstone on the torture narrative, the most damning link between the
>   president's decision that the Geneva conventions didn't apply to 
>   and the sadistic behavior of the military guards at Abu Ghraib. Seymour
>   Hersh, the left-wing journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib story, claims 
>   the Bybee torture memo was the "most suggestive document, in terms of 
>   was really going on inside military prisons and detention centers."
>   But not only is the Bybee memo irrelevant to what happened in Abu 
>   so, too, are the previous interrogation debates in Afghanistan and Cuba.
>   The abuse at Abu Ghraib resulted from the Pentagon's failure to plan for
>   any outcome of the Iraq invasion except the most rosy scenario, its 
>   to respond to the insurgency once it broke out, and its failure to keep
>   military discipline from collapsing in the understaffed Abu Ghraib
>   facility. Interrogation rules were beside the point.
>   As the avalanche of prisoners taken in the street fighting overwhelmed 
>   inadequate contingent of guards and officers at Abu Ghraib, order within
>   the ranks broke down as thoroughly as order in the operation of the 
>   itself. Soldiers talked back to their superiors, refused to wear 
>   operated prostitution and bootlegging rings, engaged in rampant and 
>   sexual misbehavior, covered the facilities with graffiti, and indulged 
>   drinking binges while on duty. No one knew who was in command. The 
>   sadistic and sexualized treatment of prisoners was just an extension of 
>   chaos they were already wallowing in with no restraint from above.
>   Meanwhile, prisoners regularly rioted; insurgents shelled the compound
>   almost daily; the army sent only rotten, bug-infested rations; and the
>   Iraqi guards sold favors to the highest bidders among the insurgents.
>   The idea that the abuse of the Iraqi detainees resulted from the
>   president's decision on the applicability of the Geneva conventions to
>   al-Qaida and Taliban detainees is absurd on several grounds. Everyone in
>   the military chain of command emphasized repeatedly that the Iraq 
>   would be governed by the conventions in their entirety. The 
>   rules that local officers developed for Iraq explicitly stated that they
>   were promulgated under Geneva authority, and that the conventions 
>   Moreover, almost all the behavior shown in the photographs occurred in 
>   dead of night among military police, wholly separate from 
>   Most abuse victims were not even scheduled to be interrogated, because 
>   were of no intelligence value. Finally, except for the presence of dogs,
>   none of the behavior shown in the photos was included in the 
>   rules promulgated in Iraq. Mandated masturbation, dog leashes, assault, 
>   stacking naked prisoners in pyramids-none of these depredations was an
>   approved (or even contemplated) interrogation practice, and no 
>   ordered the military guards to engage in them.
>   It is the case that intelligence officers in Iraq and Afghanistan were
>   making use of nudity and phobias about dogs at the time. Nudity was not
>   officially sanctioned, and the official rule about dogs only allowed 
>   "presence" in the interrogation booth, not their being sicced on naked
>   detainees. The argument that such techniques contributed to a
>   dehumanization of the detainees, which in turn led to their abuse, is 
>   wholly implausible. Whether or not those two particular stressors are 
>   defending (and many interrogators say they are not), their abuse should 
>   discredit the validity of other stress techniques that the military was
>   cautiously experimenting with in the months before Abu Ghraib.
>   That experiment is over. Reeling under the PR disaster of Abu Ghraib, 
>   Pentagon shut down every stress technique but one-isolation-and that can 
>   used only after extensive review. An interrogator who so much as 
>   permission to question a detainee into the night could be putting his
>   career in jeopardy. Even the traditional army psychological approaches 
>   fallen under a deep cloud of suspicion: deflating a detainee's ego,
>   aggressive but non-physical histrionics, and good cop-bad cop have been
>   banished along with sleep deprivation.
>   Timidity among officers prevents the energetic application of those
>   techniques that remain. Interrogation plans have to be triple-checked 
>   the way up through the Pentagon by officers who have never conducted an
>   interrogation in their lives.
>   In losing these techniques, interrogators have lost the ability to 
>   the uncertainty vital to getting terrorist information. Since the Abu
>   Ghraib scandal broke, the military has made public nearly every record 
>   its internal interrogation debates, providing al-Qaida analysts with an
>   encyclopedia of U.S. methods and constraints. Those constraints make
>   perfectly clear that the interrogator is not in control. "In reassuring 
>   world about our limits, we have destroyed our biggest asset: detainee
>   doubt," a senior Pentagon intelligence official laments.
>   Soldiers on the ground are noticing the consequences. "The Iraqis 
>   know the game. They know how to play us," a marine chief warrant officer
>   told the Wall Street Journal in August. "Unless you catch the Iraqis in 
>   act, it is very hard to pin anything on anyone . . . . We can't even use
>   basic police interrogation tactics."
>   And now the rights advocates, energized by the Abu Ghraib debacle, are
>   making one final push to halt interrogation altogether. In the New York
>   Times's words, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is 
>   condemning the thoroughly emasculated interrogation process at 
>   Bay as a "system devised to break the will of the prisoners [and] make 
>   wholly dependent on their interrogators." In other words, the ICRC 
>   traditional interrogation itself, since all interrogation is designed to
>   "break the will of prisoners" and make them feel "dependent on their
>   interrogators." But according to an ICRC report leaked to the Times, 
>   construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of
>   intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of
>   cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture."
>   But contrary to the fantasies of the international-law and human rights
>   lobbies, a world in which all interrogation is illegal and rights are
>   indiscriminately doled out is not a safer or more just world. Were the
>   United States to announce that terrorists would be protected under the
>   Geneva conventions, it would destroy any incentive our ruthless enemies
>   have to comply with the laws of war. The Washington Post and the New 
>   Times understood that truth in 1987, when they supported President 
>   Reagan's rejection of an amendment to the Geneva conventions that would
>   have granted lawful-combatant status to terrorists. Today, however, 
>   same opinion makers have done an about-face, though the most striking
>   feature of their denunciations of the Bush administration's Geneva
>   decisions is their failure to offer any explanation for how al-Qaida 
>   possibly be covered under the plain meaning of the text.
>   The Pentagon is revising the rules for interrogation. If we hope to 
>   in the war on terror, the final product must allow interrogators to use
>   stress techniques against unlawful combatants. Chris Mackey testifies to
>   how "ineffective schoolhouse methods were in getting prisoners to talk." 
>   warns that his team "failed to break prisoners who I have no doubt knew 
>   terrorist plots or at least terrorist cells that may one day do us harm.
>   Perhaps they would have talked if faced with harsher methods."
>   The stress techniques that the military has used to date are not 
>   the advocates can only be posturing in calling them such. On its 
>   Human Rights Watch lists the effects of real torture: "from pain and
>   swelling to broken bones, irreparable neurological damage, and chronic
>   painful musculoskeletal problems . . . [to] long-term depression,
>   post-traumatic stress disorder, marked sleep disturbances and 
>   in self-perceptions, not to mention feelings of powerlessness, of fear,
>   guilt and shame." Though none of the techniques that Pentagon 
>   have employed against al-Qaida comes anywhere close to risking such
>   effects, Human Rights Watch nevertheless follows up its list with an
>   accusation of torture against the Bush administration.
>   The pressure on the Pentagon to outlaw stress techniques won't abate, as
>   the American Civil Liberties Union continues to release formerly 
>   government documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit
>   concerning detention and interrogation. As of late December, the memos 
>   merely confirmed that the FBI opposes stress methods, though the press
>   breathlessly portrays them as confirming "torture."
>   Human Rights Watch, the ICRC, Amnesty International, and the other
>   self-professed guardians of humanitarianism need to come back to 
>   the real world in which torture means what the Nazis and the Japanese 
>   in their concentration and POW camps in World War II; the world in which
>   evil regimes, like those we fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, don't follow
>   the Miranda rules or the Convention Against Torture but instead gas
>   children, bury people alive, set wild animals on soccer players who 
>   and hang adulterous women by truckloads before stadiums full of 
>   the world in which barbarous death cults behead female aid workers, bomb
>   crowded railway stations, and fly planes filled with hundreds of 
>   passengers into buildings filled with thousands of innocent and
>   unsuspecting civilians. By definition, our terrorist enemies and their
>   state supporters have declared themselves enemies of the civilized order
>   and its humanitarian rules. In fighting them, we must of course hold
>   ourselves to our own high moral standards without, however, succumbing 
>   the utopian illusion that we can prevail while immaculately observing 
>   precept of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the necessity of this fallen
>   world that we must oppose evil with force; and we must use all the 
>   means necessary to ensure that good, rather than evil, triumphs.
>   --
>   -----------------
>   R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
>   The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
>   44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
>   "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
>   [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
>   experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
>   _______________________________________________
>   Clips mailing list
>   Clips at philodox.com
>   http://www.philodox.com/mailman/listinfo/clips
>--- end forwarded text
>R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
>The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
>44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
>"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
>[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
>experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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