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NY Times Looks at US Torture Policy

2016 December 7

Well, Saturday, December 10th, is International Human Rights Day, this year, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. You probably didn’t know that. It’s generally pretty much ignored in the United States. After all, we take our human rights for granted.


Anyway, don’t miss this important and moving recent New York Times series analyzing the experiences of several victims of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in U.S. prisons during our so-called “war on terror.” Their stories put human faces to what, for many, may have been an abstract debate. (Note: I referenced this series in my recent post, U.S. Elects Torturer in Chief, on the election of Donald Trump.)

Exploring the impact
of our resort to torture


How U.legacyS. Torture Left
a Legacy of Damaged Minds

“Government lawyers and intelligence officials…knew that the methods inflicted on terrorism suspects would be painful, shocking and far beyond what the country had ever accepted. But none of it, they concluded, would cause long lasting psychological harm. Fifteen years later, it is clear they were wrong…Beatings, sleep deprivation, menacing and other brutal tactics have led to persistent mental health problems among detainees held in secret C.I.A. prisons and at Guantánamo.”

salimAfter Torture, Ex-Detainee is
StillCaptive of ‘The Darkness’
As the Times article makes quite clear, Suleiman Abdullah Salim was probably seized by mistake. That made no difference at Guantánamo: “The Americans routinely hauled him from his cell to a room where, he said, they hanged him from chains, once for two days. They wrapped a collar around his neck and pulled it to slam him against a wall, he said. And they shaved his head, laid him on a plastic tarp and poured gallons of ice water on him, inducing a feeling of drowning. ‘A guy says to me, ‘Here the rain doesn’t finish,’ Mr. Salim recalled.” He later attempted to commit suicide.

shibhSecret Documents Show
a Tortured Prisoner’s Descent
Among the prisoners profiled in the Times series, Ramzi bin al-Shibh may possibly  have been a legitimate subject of capture and interrogation. According to the Times account, anyway, he was an “admitted and unapologetic co-conspirator” in the 9/11 bombings.” Or maybe not. The tortures inflicted on him in our secret prisons in Romania and elsewhere (which, of course, are classified) may well have contributed to the delusions he displayed after his arrival at Guantánamo. His GTMO doctors noted:

“Mr. bin al-Shibh says he is unable to sleep ‘because of problems he had in the past at another facility. He begins to complain that the guards are sending smells, noises and subtle vibrations into his cell to torment him…Military psychiatrists find that he has ‘adjustment disorder with depressed mood’, which means he has developed marked sadness and hopelessness in response to recent stress…They fill out a form for ‘suspected detainee maltreatment.’ They cross off the word ‘suspected’ and write in ‘alleged.”

Where Even Nightmares Are Classified:
Psychiatric Care at Guantánamo

“Doctors felt pressed to cross ethical boundaries” this article notes, but many if not most mental health professionals at GTMO did so anyway, despite their training. “Psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and technicians received little training for the assignment…Doctors felt pushed to cross ethical boundaries, and were warned that their actions, at an institution roiled by detainees’ organized resistance, could have political and national security implications.”

Lawsuite Aims to Hold 2 Contractors
Accountable for C.I.A. Torture

I discussed the legal case against psychologists James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, for their roles in designing and carrying out the “enhanced interrogation” program, in my earlier post A day in court for victims of CIA torture. The Times article looks at the case in the current context: “Legal experts say the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump could force the case’s dismissal on national security grounds…Mr Trump has endorsed the effectiveness of torture and said he would bring back waterboarding.”

sharifMemories of a Secret C.I.A. Prison
Khaled al-Sharif, who was also mentioned in my prior post, was held for two years in a secret C.I.A. prison, after being accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. In this video interview, he describes “what happened there, and how the experience continues to affect him.” He also tells his story through a series of graphic drawings of the tortures he experienced.



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