Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mormons and Torture

Although the decisions which put us in the grim business of torture, body-snatching, extraordinary renditions, making people disappear, indefinite confinement without charges and warrantless wiretapping were made by the president and vice president, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints served as helpful enablers. Not only did they provide the legal architecture, they provided the "scientific" patina for the plunge into the barbaric business of torture.

Take Latter-day Saint Timothy E. Flanigan, deputy White House counsel, who, along with David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Jim Haynes comprised the secretive "War Council" of lawyers -- a self-appointed group Mayer describes as having virtually no experience in law enforcement, military service, counterterrorism or the Muslim world....

BYU law school graduate Jay S. Bybee was the assistant attorney general directing the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. At the instigation of Addington and Yoo, Bybee issued official legal opinions that redefined the crime of torture to make it all but impossible to commit. Barbarity was not torture unless it created pain equal to death or organ failure. A newly-declassified Bybee memorandum lists 10 previously top-secret interrogation techniques approved for use by the CIA, including waterboarding.

Incredibly, Bybee seems to have been unaware that the United States had prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime after World War II. In 2003, before his role in authorizing U.S. torture was known, Bybee was given a lifetime judicial appointment on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Had his role in torture been known, it is unlikely he would have been confirmed.

Two devout Mormons also engineered the more grisly wet work. Because the CIA lacked personnel in 2001 with interrogation expertise, the agency turned to two psychologists, James E. Mitchell and John B. Jessen, who had worked with the Air Force's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs. Neither had an intelligence or interrogation background or had experience with Muslim terrorists, but, according to the FBI, they had experience in designing, testing, implementing and monitoring torture techniques that were illegal in the United States and elsewhere in the civilized world...

Mitchell advised that suspects must be treated like dogs in a cage. "It's like an experiment, when you apply electric shocks to a caged dog, after a while, he's so diminished, he can't resist."

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