U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.
While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.
“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.
It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.
But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.
The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.
In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims.
Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.
The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.
Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts about what the United States did.
“This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. He said he thought everyone involved in decisions, from Mr. Bush down, had acted in good faith, in a desperate effort to try to prevent more attacks.
“But I just think we learn from history,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “It’s incredibly important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of how decisions were made.”
He added, “The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”
The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews.
It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical professionals who helped direct and monitor them. And it reveals an internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses; advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for months, the report finds.
Mr. Jones, a former ambassador to Mexico, noted that his panel called for the release of a declassified version of the Senate report and said he believed that the two reports, one based on documents and the other largely on interviews, would complement each other in documenting what he called a grave series of policy errors.
“I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases,” Mr. Jones said. “We lost our compass.”
While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.
The report calls for the revision of the Army Field Manual on interrogation to eliminate Appendix M, which it says would permit an interrogation for 40 consecutive hours, and to restore an explicit ban on stress positions and sleep manipulation.
The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.
The report compares the torture of detainees to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “What was once generally taken to be understandable and justifiable behavior,” the report says, “can later become a case of historical regret.”
So Infowars was right all of these years? Also of note it didn't work, we still have shit blowing up over here.
NY Times. Funny.
wait...but the government said it doesn't do this.
wtf kind of stupid report is this?
why did they need to waste time compiling an enormous report to state the obvious?
OF COURSE they torture people and OF COURSE they deny it.
I wanna know how many on that panel own a gun?
Waterboarding, pushing detainees, fixing them in uncomfortable positions... FFS that's the best you've got?! These people have no clue what real torture is. Damned liberals.
Whoever wrote that story should be kidnapped and waterboarded!!! - Dick Cheney
So the concentration camp in Guantanamo wasn't just a vacation?
Water is wet, Review concludes
Torture: it is an ancient practice that still goes on today. In the middle ages torture was used for punishment, interrogation, and deterrence. It is easy to consider ourselves more humane these days, but while some of the devices listed here would lead to death, we have, in modern times, mastered the ability of inflicting extreme pain for indefinite periods of time – something which is, perhaps, worse.
With the head placed under the upper cap and the chin placed above the bottom bar, the top screw of this awful device was slowly turned, compressing the skull tightly. First the teeth are destroyed, shattering and splintering into the jaw. Then the eyes are squeezed from the sockets – some versions had special receptacles to catch them. Lastly, the skull fractures and the contents of the head are forced out. In earlier stages, the torturer could keep the head firmly clamped and strike the metal skull cap periodically; each blow echoing pain throughout the victim’s body.
The Cat’s Paw (or Spanish Tickler) was oftentimes attached to a handle; in size and appearance it was an extension of the torturer’s hand. In this way it was used to rip and tear flesh away from the bone, from any part of the body.
A popular torture device during the Inquisition, the knee splitter does what it says: split victims’ knees and render them useless. Built from two spiked wood blocks, the knee splitter is placed on top of and behind the knee of its victims. Two large screws connecting the blocks are then turned, causing the two blocks to close towards each other and effectively destroy a victim’s knee. This device could also be used to inflict damage on other parts of the body such as the arms.
The Scavenger’s Daughter was invented as an instrument of torture in the reign of Henry VIII by Sir William Skevington (also known as William Skeffington), Lieutenant of the Tower of London. It was an A-frame shaped metal rack to which the head was strapped to the top point of the A, the hands at the mid-point and the legs at the lower spread ends; swinging the head down and forcing the knees up in a sitting position so compressed the body as to force the blood from the nose and ears. The Scavenger’s Daughter was conceived as the perfect complement to the Duke of Exeter’s Daughter (the rack) because it worked the opposite principle to the rack by compressing the body rather than stretching it.
This procedure has remained essentially unchanged from the Middle Ages until today. The victim is hoisted up and lowered onto the point of the pyramid in such a way that his weight rests on the point positioned in the anus, in the vagina, under the scrotum or under the coccyx (the last two or three vertebrae). The executioner, according to the pleasure of the interrogators, can vary the pressure from zero to that of total body weight. The victim can be rocked, or made to fall repeatedly onto the point. The Judas cradle was thus called also in Italian (culla di Giuda) and German (Judaswiege), but in French it was known as la veille, “the wake” or “nightwatch”. Nowadays this method enjoys the favour of not a few governments in Latin America and elsewhere, with and without improvements like electrified waist rings and pyramid points. Similar to the Judas Chair – but probably worse, is the Spanish Donkey:
The Spanish Donkey was a device which consisted of a main board cut with a wedge at the top fastened to two cross-beams. The naked victim was placed astride the main board as if riding a donkey, and various numbers of weights were attached to his or her feet. The agony could be ‘fine-tuned’ by using lighter or heavier weights. Sources relate that on occasion, the wedge would slice entirely through the victim as a result of the immense weight attached to his or her feet.
These instruments were used in oral and rectal formats, and in the larger vaginal one. They are forced into the mouth, rectum or vagina of the victim and there expanded by force of the screw to the maximum aperture of the segments. The inside of the cavity in question is irremediably mutilated, nearly always fatally so. The pointed prongs at the end of the segments serve better to rip into the throat, the intestines or the cervix. The oral pear was often inflicted on heretical preachers, but also on lay persons guilty of unorthodox tendencies; the rectal pear awaited passive male homosexuals, and the vaginal one women guilty of sexual union with Satan or his familiars. Pictured above is a version of the choke pear called the “Pear of Anguish”.
The lead sprinkler was essentially a ladle on the end of a handle. The top half of the sphere could be removed and the lower half was filled with molten metal, boiling oil, boiling water, pitch or tar. The perforated top half was then re-attached. Shaking or flicking the sprinkler towards the victim showered him or her with the boiling contents of the ladle. The victim had, of course, been pinioned in advance.
This item was used both as a punitive and an interrogational device. Punitively, it was used red-hot to mark the breast of unmarried mothers. In an inquisitory nature it was used on condemned women – convicted of heresy, blasphemy, adultery, self-induced abortion, erotic white magic and any other crime that the inquisitors selected. The claws were used, either cold or heated, on a female’s exposed breasts – rendering them into bloody pulps. A variation was called the Spider. This consisted of clawed bars which protruded from the wall. A woman was pulled alongside the bars until her breasts were torn away.
The crocodile shears was an instrument of torture used in late medieval Europe and typically reserved for regicides – those who attempted (and, perhaps, succeeded) to assassinate the king. The shears were made of iron and were based upon the concept of pincers, but—instead of standard jaws or blades, crocodile shears ended in a pair of hemicylindrical blades that, when closed together, formed a long, narrow tube. The insides of the blades were generously lined with teeth or spikes. After being heated red-hot, the crocodile shears were applied to the erect penis, which—once exposed to sufficient tension—was torn from the prisoner’s body; or at the very least leading to severe arterial bleeding.
Number 11 would have been "pouring water on someone's face and making them totally scared", but the list only went to 10.
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