Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interrogation Technique "Debate"

There is more to this story than is being reported.

On the surface, Bush's proposal (for legislation that narrowly defines U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions) requires that interrogations in the previously secret CIA prison system comply with legal rules written by Congress last year. Privately, the administration has concluded that doing so would allow the CIA to keep using virtually all the interrogation methods it has employed for the past five years, the officials said.

That conclusion is based on an unpublicized memo to the CIA from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which named the precise interrogation methods the department believed to be sanctioned by last year's broadly written congressional requirement that no U.S. detainees "shall be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" as those terms are defined in U.S. laws. ...

The administration says its intent is to define the explicit meaning of Common Article 3 so that CIA officers know exactly what they can do. But the senior official who addressed the legal issue yesterday said the standard the administration prefers is "context-sensitive," a phrase that suggests an endlessly shifting application of the rules.

The reason is that the administration's language would in effect ban only those interrogation techniques that "shock the conscience." That phrase, drawn from a judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, is a "flexible" standard, the official said. Others have said that standard would allow interrogators to weigh how urgently they felt they needed to extract information against the harshness of their techniques, instead of following rigid guidelines.

The official did not try to explain how embracing such an inherently flexible standard would actually create clarity, the watchword of the administration's public campaign for its version of the bill.


Bush yesterday threatened to blame Congress for not letting this "valuable" interrogation program proceed if they do not acquiesce to the administration's desire for carte blanche in dealing with CIA detainees.

The spin in the media (helpfully provided by the administration) is that Bush himself will stop the program.

Rumor has it that CIA officers are refusing to use any of the questionable techniques without some "clarity." In other words, they are refusing to carry out a White House policy that has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.

7 Comments:

Blogger Meatball One said...

Torture's true purpose is to terrorize--not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist--the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Yet despite this body of knowledge, torture continues to be debated in the United States as if it were merely a morally questionable way to extract information, not an instrument of state terror. But there's a problem: No one claims that torture is an effective interrogation tool--least of all the people who practice it. Torture "doesn't work. There are better ways to deal with captives," CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 16. And a recently declassified memo written by an FBI official in Guantánamo states that extreme coercion produced "nothing more than what FBI got using simple investigative techniques." The Army's own interrogation field manual states that force "can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture.

9/16/2006 5:35 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

Good comment. I agree completely.

Also, one of the "successes" of the program, according to President Bush is Abu Zubaydah. Bush insists that info from his interrogation has helped keep America safe.

Au contraire. Abu Zubaydah turned out to be mentally ill (even prior to his torture), and provided details about all sorts of outlandish plots to his captors. The U.S. spent months chasing down phantom plots.

And "Our Leader" cites this dude's treatment as one of the convincing reasons that we need to have Congress officially approve violations of the Geneva Conventions.

9/16/2006 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is a very good point -- and if we all know it and agree about it -- why doesn't the American population in general? Don't they realize they are potentially next as a population to be subjugated and controlled -- or is it too late for that because they already are?

The fact that there would even be a "debate" over this insanity tells me that American power is on the decline and it's only a matter of time before it's over.

Dena

9/17/2006 5:21 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Dena:

Don't they realize they are potentially next as a population to be subjugated and controlled -- or is it too late for that because they already are?

My guess would be (B).

The whole idea that they want Congress to sign off on prisoner abuse is pretty sinister. This means that the abuse regime would go from being a potentially explainable aberration of overreaction by a small number of panicked officials to being a sanctioned policy of a democratic state.

Bad news.

9/17/2006 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll say... very bad news... BTW an

aberration of overreaction by a small number of panicked officials,

...those individuals aren't panicked so much as mentally injured, sadistic reptiles.

Dena

9/17/2006 6:13 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Dena:

I think such a comparison might be unfair to mentally injured, sadistic reptiles.

;-)

9/17/2006 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off course you're right. My sincere apologies to mentally injured, sadistic reptiles everywhere.

Dena

9/17/2006 6:50 PM  

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