Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Torture Memos

Here is a link to the Bybee torture memo. It outlines ten forms of coercive interrogation, including waterboarding. It is thoroughly disgusting. I am sick that the author, Jay Bybee, is currently a sitting federal judge. Read it for yourself. It reads the prohibition on torture out of existence. Here is the subsequent one, authorizing even more horrific techniques, including dousing a person repeatedly with 41 degree(F) water for 20 minutes without drying or rewarming or sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours (7.5 days).

Thank you, President Obama and Attorney General Holder, for releasing this to the public. Never again.


Dr. Strangelove said...

I am appalled. These are horrific! Having now perused a couple of these memoranda, I am convinced that the public release of these documents was essential. As the author of this modern Malleus Maleficarum, Mr. Bybee is unfit to serve as an officer of the courts. Here are some excerpts from the torture memo so you can judge for yourself.

Exhibit A:

"The stress positions and wall standing both may result in muscle fatigue... Any pain associated with muscle fatigue is not of the intensity sufficient to amount to 'severe physical pain or suffering' under the statute nor, despite its discomfort, can it be said to be difficult to endure."

Note how Bybee first trivializes the pain, saying only that these forced positions "may" cause discomfort--even though elsewhere Bybee admits this is, in fact, their sole purpose. Furthermore, Bybee disingenuously disregards the cumulative effects of this treatment.

Exhibit B:

"While sleep deprivation may involve some physical discomfort, such as the fatigue or discomfort experienced in the difficulty of keeping one's eyes open, these effects remit after the individual is permitted to sleep... We are not aware of any evidence that sleep deprivation results in physical pain or suffering."

Is he serious? Has Mr. Bybee ever been deprived of sleep for up to eleven days? He acts as though it were just a college all-nighter! And how is it possibly relevant that the pain ceases (eventually) after the torture ceases? Isn't that usually the case?

Exhibit C:

"When the waterboard is used, the subject's body responds as if the subject were drowning--even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain."

Unbelievable. Not only does Bybee completely disregard the notion of psychological torment, but he makes the truly astounding claim that unless someone person suffers physical damage, they are not suffering pain. Next time I have a migraine, I will remember Bybee's note that I am not actually in pain!

The entire memo is a disgusting song-and-dance to obscure the central truth that the whole point of these interrogation "techniques" is to make someone suffer so much that they will do what their interrogator asks in order to get the treatment to stop. The whole point of the exercise is to cause severe pain. If Mr. Bybee were subjected to these "techniques" for weeks on end, I will bet anything he would believe he was being tortured. Words cannot contain my outrage at these memos. So disgusting.

Pombat said...

I refuse to read the memo. I don't think I could cope with the full thing - my guess is I'd either explode with frustration due to not being able to punch someone, or cry, for similar reasons!

Good on the Obama administration for releasing this though - it's important that the American public can see what their prior government has authorised, give some perspective to some of the particularly hateful overseas views of the US (i.e. terrorists - torturing people doesn't tend to make them like you, pretending you're not torturing them whilst actually doing so seems even worse).

Bybee should be immediately stripped of his position - anyone who can justify this kind of stuff, in fact anyone who *will* justify this kind of stuff, rather than standing up and saying NO, this is not what the law of this land is about, should be barred from holding such position. And if we could subject him to a few of these non-torture techniques, just as an academic exercise of course, that'd be great.

The Law Talking Guy said...

This is what people mean when they talk about the "banality of evil."

Judge Bybee and Professor Yoo (the authors) do the work of hack advocates and find some justification for everything that is presented to them. No lines are drawn, no attempt is made to say 'thus far and no further.' No principles either are invoked.
Between its sodden phrases the authors strip away the humanity of their victims. I know what good lawyering is and what bad lawyering is. The worst lawyering is like this - totally in bad faith.

The authors must know, but refuse to admit, what torture is, and why it is illegal: Torture is the deliberate application of physical and psychological pain in order to break the will to resist. The goal of the torture is not sadistic - application of pain for its own sake, as the authors of the memo pretend - but the goal is to use pain of all kinds to render the victim in such an animal state of despair that he will do whatever is requested of him. This has been chronicled and explored in numerous books about the Gulag, and torture in Argentina and Chile. This illegal and immoral goal is PRECISELY what the CIA torturers and the Torture Memo authors intended.

The best thing that can happen now is that a consensus develop that this is evil and must never happen again. Real justice would condemn Bush, Rumsfeld, and these lawyers to prison for life, but the judgment of history will suffice.

The Law Talking Guy said...

If I ever meet Judge Bybee or Professor Yoo, I cannot be expected to be civil. These men deserve nothing but contempt. They are traitors, plain and simple.

Raised By Republicans said...

Yes, it is absolute VITAL that the American people see exactly what the Bush people meant when they tossed around euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation techniques." So many conservatives just take for granted that people like Cheney can be trusted not to "torture" if they say they aren't doing it. This memo will shock a lot of people who scoffed at critics in the past.

Combined with the Bush administration's disregard for warrants and due process, these memos are tantamount to a complete suspension of democracy.

Another thing that is so outrageous is that when I looked up water boarding online I found references to two cases where US Army personnel were court martialed and convicted for doing exactly this. One officer was court martialed and convicted in a highly publicized case in the Philippines following the Spanish American War. Another soldier was discharged for participating - with a South Vietnamese soldier - in the water boarding of a North Vietnamese soldier. So the idea that this is OK in times of war is in direct contradiction of 100 years of precedent in US military law.

Pombat, I have bad news for you- though I doubt it's really news or surprising. It turns out that MI-5 and MI-6 may have been doing this too. British authorities are doing their own investigations of that (and good for them for doing it!).

I sincerely hope that Gordon Brown's government will be capable of being completely open about possible cases of torture under the Blair government.

As with the US, the use of these techniques by British authorities is a major break with their own laws and precedents. Following the investigation of "Operation Demetrious" in the 1970s in Northern Ireland, it was found that a number of illegal interrogation techniques were used against nearly 2000 suspected Irish nationalists (the list compiled by MI-5) who were detained without charge or due process.

In the case the European Court of Human Rights brought against the UK because of this case, they specifically mentioned a number of the same "techniques" mentioned in the Bybee memos - including wall standing, sleep deprivation and withholding food and water. In response to this case and their own investigations it had been the official policy of the British government NOT to do these things. But according to the Guardian article (link pasted above), it appears that MI-5 was cooperating with the CIA in going against the laws and traditions of BOTH countries. It seems the British were even doing the Bush/Cheney/CIA "rendition" trick of taking someone to a nasty little Arab dictatorship to have them tortured.

Pombat said...

Oh, I know :-(

And unfortunately, the Brown gov't isn't going to be open about what the Blair gov't did - they're too entwined, being effectively the same gov't with a different PM - there's no way to spin this well for them. A new gov't though, which I guess means Tory PM, could release it all, and hopefully will (from the grumblings I've heard, the election - whenever it happens - is the Tory's to lose, as people are fed up with Labour).

Spotted Handfish said...

I hope there is good coverage of this in US, UK and Australia. We need to see what our governments were supporting, and hopefully UK and Oz will not hide behind "but that wasn't us". John Howard needs to be held as accountable for what he may have known, as much as Bush. This puts all our forces in more danger than they ever needed to be, not to mention our people. Even if the UK and Oz were not involved -- potentially a big if -- we are tarred with the same brush.

Spotted Handfish said...

And another thing: eleven days without sleep??? Won't that kill you?!? I thought the limit you could hit was about seven and then you are completely ga ga.

I got four hours sleep last night, and I'm half functioning. After reading that I feel ill...

Raised By Republicans said...

When I downloaded the memos on the internet it took FOREVER and I have a pretty fast connection. I gather from that the Washington Post was getting a lot of traffic.

SH, the Washington Post is, of course, a major newspaper with a liberal editorial policy. If they continue to make a stink about this that will be news in itself. The unfortunate problem is going to be that with the economy being so dominant in people's minds, there isn't much appetite for thinking about this.

RE: Openness in the UK, it's too bad that these things were done by Labour. I suspect many in the Conservative Party support this crap. From what I gathered from watching PM's Questions on CSPAN, only the LDP was strongly critical of the "War On Terror" and the infringements on civil and human rights by the Blair Government.

Raised By Republicans said...

"These men deserve nothing but contempt. They are traitors, plain and simple."

Amen to that! We fought the Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and World War II to prevent men like this from governing us. And now they use "protecting the country" as a pretext for imposing exactly the kind of rule we founded this country to avoid. Calling these men "pigs" is an insult to pigs - which by all accounts are quite intelligent, sensative and also very tasty.

The Law Talking Guy said...

These men swore an oath as DOJ lawyers to "protect and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." they take that oath "without mental reservation or purpose of evasion." I have three times taken that oath to work for the federal government.

These men ARE the domestic enemies of the constitution we promised to defend the country against.

I know this all sounds so "over the top" to some people, but it's not. Terrorists may destroy buildings and kill people, and we can recover from that. It takes inside traitors like this to destroy our constitution and our way of life.

USwest said...

So far, Obama is saying that it would be a waste of resources to punish these people and all of the rest of the Bush ilk because we are so busy trying to fix other problems.

At the same time, there is a special investigation on the lawyers who wrote these memos.

At some point, we have to hold all of these people accountable. Is it possible that Obama is first letting the truth come out, sort of like a "Truth Commission" so that maybe he can get public support for harsher legal measures later?

The Republicans so abused the special prosecuter statutes to chide Clinton that they made a but rought for future presidents to run investigations in to real serious matters. That is really too bad.

Raised By Republicans said...

I hope you are right US West. Certainly, I don't get the impression that there would a great deal of support for prosecuting these guys absent this kind of revelation.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree with LTG that the traitors who wrote these memos deserve to be punished. But I recognize the political reality that prosecuting these people could jeopardize the public support Obama requires to push forward his reforms. I also suspect there is little deterrent value in the prosecutions.

What I would like to see is a clear, concise refutation of these memos, for the record. I would like an unequivocal statement that these "techniques" were clearly torture--and that they were illegal then and are illegal now. Obama needs to make this statement forcefully. Then and only then can he can say he has taken the necessary steps to put this issue behind us, and he is now moving on for the good of the country.

The Law Talking Guy said...

As the NYTimes put it this weekend, the Bush administration offered that if it didn't involve breaking fingers, pulling teeth, or burning flesh, it wasn't torture. That distinction between acceptable and unacceptable levels of physical pain is not contemplated by the law or by any reasonable definition of torture. And the CIA plainly knew it.

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