Torture as a tool for manufacturing evidence

April 22, 2009 | By | 39 Replies More

McClatchy has now found a most intriguing (and, in retrospect, a most predictable) connection.

The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Read more about it at Koz.    And also check out the new disclosure that the Bush Administration did its damndest to destroy a memorandum highly critical of the legality of its decision to torture prisoners.

And now we know that Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney personally approved waterboarding.

Finally, consider this conversation involving FOX’s Shepard Smith and Judith Miller (the Judith Miller), who unrelentingly attack the memos for trying to justify torture.   Maybe Miller is in a redemptive phase . . .

THEN, listen carefully at exactly 5:07 of the video to hear a walloping Freudian slip by the conservative think-tanker, Cliff May, a guy who claims that waterboarding is fun and games, who accidentally admits that the Bush-approved techniques WERE torture (listen for the critical word is “it”).  Yes, Cliff, it was torture and you (and everyone else in the country) know it.  Miller raises the point that even Israel, which knows a thing or two about interrogating prisoners, outlawed waterboarding long ago because it is torture.

But there’s still more.  Consider Republican strategist and Cheney-admirer Phil Lusser’s “magic eyeballs” in a conversation with Lawrence O’Donnell and Norah O’Donnell.   Go to the end of this video and you’ll hear Lawrence O’Donnell clean Lusser’s clock.

It’s all falling apart like a house of cards.   After years and years of insanity, it’s finally happening.  Yes, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

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Category: Corruption, Good and Evil, law and order, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (39)

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  1. Tony Coyle says:

    Erich: you said

    I would take it totally off the books and outlaw it in plain language.

    It's already part of a UN accord that all signatory nations have agreed to accept and uphold.

    The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1994. Article 12 of the CAT provides:

    “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

    IANAL, but I think that means that torture is already illegal in the US and it's territories.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tony: I was unclear. I know that torture is already prohibited by law and treaty binding the US. To the extent that the Bush Administration has tried to create legal authority via legal memos or through court decisions, I would undo all of that nonsense. Make it as clear as possible: no torture is allowed in the U.S.

  2. Tony Coyle says:

    Mindy, Erich: I do agree with you – beating the shit out of someone in such heart-rending circumstances would likely happen – and would be the behavior of someone 'not in their right mind'.

    That is the key factor against torture as a usable protocol in my book – you need to be 'not in your right mind' for it to become an acceptable choice.

  3. Danny says:

    Kudos to everyone, this is a great example of a productive discussion… I'm learning a lot.

    Tony, I get what you are saying. I could not create a nuanced enough scenario. I figured that no matter what the conditions are, it always boils down to a binary "to torture or not to torture."

    I'm glad many of you brought up the scenario of someone holding my child ransom and how I would respond. That is what I was really concerned about, what I would do if someone had my child. Would I torture if I thought it could get them back? Well, I imagined it… prodding and slicing parts, talking about unspeakable things to someone… and I couldn't imagine myself going through it. If I was in an interrogation room with this fictitious person, I may make an earnest plea followed up with some gut-checks and groin kicks… but not the kind of torture that is under discussion.

    Finally, I researched this topic a bit tonight on wikipedia. I was pleasantly surprised to read a quote by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, "a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence."

    Also, reading about the torture methods anew and imagining myself either in the place or torturer or torture victim, it made me sick to my stomach. I just say this to make the point that it's easy for me to intellectualize and theorize about these things, but I need to go to the source and empathize with all sides to get a well rounded view.

    Thanks!

    P.S. Thank you all for allowing my views. I've already notice some of my thought processes maturing a bit as a result of having them held up against the scrutiny of those older (*wink) and wiser than I.

  4. Tony Coyle says:

    Danny – you've picked up on something that is often a source of friction.

    As an aging curmudgeon, I've already had the same discussion many, many, many, …, many times. As such, my side of the discussion can sometimes go from "hi there" to "you're an idiot" faster than the other side expects*!

    I do try to step back, and think before setting off the incendiary, but is is really challenging sometimes – especially when the presented argument is as old as Zeno's 'paradox', or is a simple rehash of Pascal's wager.

    What I'm trying to say, is that I really appreciate a dialog that engages me and makes me think outside those ingrained channels. Your conversations here do that job admirably. So kudos to you.

    * this is exactly why I'm not a grade school teacher!

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    From Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish:

    What is clear is that the core British apparatus for interrogating Nazi spies and captives suspected of having actionable intelligence during the war used no coercion of any kind; and that the clear and stated policy of the British in interrogation during the war banned all forms of torture.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_d

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    When we start the criminal prosecutions for the torture, let's not forget Condoleeza Rice.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    According to Dan Froomkin, writing in the Washington Post, there is no real-world justification for torture, not even the hypothetical most often offered:

    The ticking time bomb scenario only exists in two places: On TV and in the dark fantasies of power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians. In real life, things are never that certain. And trained interrogators say that even in the most extreme circumstances, traditional methods are the most effective.

    For the whole story, see the Washington Post.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Andrew Sullivan recounts in detail the way in which Americans handled prisoner John Walker Lindh. Truly not something to be proud of. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_d

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    Kevin Drum explains the practical reason (as opposed to legalistic reasons) for barring torture: "When a group of combatants are badly outnumbered, or surrounded, or otherwise very, very unlikely to win a conflict, they have a considerable incentive to surrender — but only if they believe they will subsequently be treated with mercy. That is why individuals, and nations, surrender."

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/04/tor

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    From DemocracyNow.org:

    AMY GOODMAN: Senator Feingold, President Obama said at his last news conference that waterboarding is torture. Does he then have an obligation to prosecute those who were involved with it, either authorizing it or doing it themselves to prisoners?

    SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, the President did say clearly at his press conference that waterboarding is torture. I say, “Therefore, it’s against the law. And therefore, those who formulated the policy, at a minimum, should be held accountable.”

    Now, I think it’s appropriate that he’s letting the Attorney General, Mr. Holder, take a look at this and determine if that is in fact their conclusion. But I do not believe people can say, “Well, they were just offering their valid legal opinions.” They are not valid legal opinions. They are not reasonable legal opinions. They are outrageous legal opinions. And I certainly, for one, hope that there’s serious consideration of prosecution in some of those cases.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Jay Bybee should be impeached?

    SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: I don’t believe he should be in the office he’s in. I’d prefer to see him resign. I would not rule out impeachment.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/5/senator_russ

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