Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Torturing People to Death

The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions -- that we Look to the Future, not the Past -- are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.
I have spent time reviewing the Autopsy reports of the detainees known to have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these 44 detainee deaths, 21 were determined by US military pathologists to be homicides. Most of the autopsies reveal the handiwork of pure cruelty. The autopsies are replete with descriptions of linear bruises caused by batons or other blunt objects, patterned abrasions ("brush burns") on the back from dragging, cuts and bruises at the wrists from shackling, boot prints in the flesh, head injuries that cause blood vessels in the brain to rupture.... This link to an ACLU press release provides several telling excerpts. Aside from the unadulterated cruelty evident in many of the autopsies, one autopsy reveals a death that was exacerbated by the medical experimentation of the early torture program.
See also-- Detainee 04-309: Death from Torture

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic"

Absolutely disgraceful:
WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.

That opinion, giving the green light for the C.I.A. to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.
Much more on this story from Glenn Greenwald and TPM-- the basic idea is that the Times greatly downplayed the obvious conclusion from the emails that the DOJ was getting heavy pressure from Busco to legalize the torture regime.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cheney Personally Oversaw ’Secret’ Congressional Briefings on Torture

Former Vice President Dick Cheney “personally” oversaw at least four briefings with members of Congress about the Bush administration’s interrogation program in an effort to maintain support for the torture of detainees in U.S. custody.

The briefings, part of a “secret” defense of the program Cheney began in 2005, were held as congressional oversight committees were threatening to investigate, or end the use of the interrogation methods, lawmakers and officials told The Washington Post.

Cheney’s advocacy of the use of waterboarding and warrantless wiretapping are certainly no secret, but his role in defending the program to lawmakers was undisclosed to the public until this time.

Documents delivered to Capitol Hill last month by the CIA listed every lawmaker briefed on the interrogation program since 2002, but made no mention of Cheney’s involvement in the meetings. For the briefings led by Cheney, intelligence committee members were told that information pertaining to the person who oversaw the meetings was “not available.”

During the briefings, Cheney “was adamant that the enhanced interrogations were needed to preserve national security,” two participants in the briefings told the paper, and when lawmakers questioned the legality of the program, “CIA briefers said that half of the agency’s knowledge about al-Qaeda’s plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations.”

The report offers nothing to confirm or deny that top Democrats were aware that waterboarding was being used on detainees as early on as 2002, but does state that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “was not present at any of the briefings that included Cheney.” Pelosi has been under fire since she accused the CIA of intentionally misleading her during a 2002 briefing on the use of waterboarding.