warprompts

A Vast Torture Operation

North Carolina Outlaws Torture:

Anti-torture activists won in the General Assembly today when a House judiciary committee approved the legislation they’ve been working to enact for nearly two years.

House Bill 2417 would create two new criminal statutes in North Carolina specifically outlawing “torture” and “enforced disappearance” for the purpose of torture. Both would be added to the list of crimes for which a state investigative grand jury could be empaneled. That process can be initiated through a petition to the state Supreme Court by a local district attorney or the state attorney general.

State Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, a primary sponsor of the bill, called the committee action, which came by a 4-3 vote, a “significant victory” and “an important statement in opposing torture in North Carolina.”

The vote was along party lines, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans voting no.

Luebke cautioned that the committee’s action is just the first in a six-step legislative process. The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee, which will consider its cost to enforce, if any. If approved there, the bill would go to the House floor. The same process would be repeated in the Senate. Gov. Mike Easley’s signature would also be required to enact the bill into law.

“A vast torture operation” — Juan Cole writes:

Recent reports, taken together, provide a chilling glimpse of a vast torture operation, deliberately planned out by serial torturers in Bush’s White House and possibly by the president himself. The program was designed to repeal the Geneva Conventions, which the US and Israel have long found inconvenient, even though they were legislated to prevent futher abuses such as those of the Nazis. AP interviews with former detainees show that they were systematically tortured and sometimes permanently injured.

The Senate hearings continue…East Bay Express reports:

William Haynes II is a senior lawyer in Chevron’s general counsel office. But up until a few months ago, he was the Pentagon lawyer who helped authorize and craft a policy of torturing people detained by the American military. Yesterday, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee called him in to testify about when and how he approved the use of dogs, nudity, and other techniques during interrogations. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the sharpest legal minds in the country suddenly can’t remember a thing! According to the WaPo’s Dana Milbank, Haynes gave the following answers to questions from the public’s elected representatives:

“I don’t recall seeing this memorandum before and I’m not even sure this is one I’ve seen before. . . . I don’t recall seeing this memorandum and I don’t recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don’t recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don’t recall specific concerns. . . . I don’t recall these and I don’t recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can’t even read this document, but I don’t remember seeing it. . . . I don’t recall that specifically. . . . I don’t remember doing that. . . . I don’t recall seeing these things.”

“It was an impressive performance, to be sure,” Milbank marveled. “But let’s see him try to do that with a hood over his head, standing on a crate with wires attached to his arms.”

More coverage on the hearings:

Here

And here:

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a few simple questions: Who initiated the use of torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some time: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.

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June 23, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Armed Services Hearings, Learning how to torture

The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week — “on the origins of aggressive interrogation techniques: Part I of the Committee’s inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody” — has revealed:

Pentagon officials drawing up methods to question suspects after the September 11 attacks consulted experts who taught U.S. troops how to resist harsh interrogation, a Senate committee was told on Tuesday.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said a little-known unit that taught skills of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) provided a list of interrogation techniques.

And the AP reported:

Military lawyers warned against the harsh detainee interrogation techniques approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2002, contending in separate memos weeks before Rumsfeld’s endorsement that they could be illegal, a Senate panel has found.

The investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee also has confirmed that senior administration officials, including the Pentagon’s then-general counsel William “Jim” Haynes, sought the help of military psychologists early on to devise the more aggressive methods – which included the use of dogs, making a detainee stand for long periods of time and forced nudity, according to officials familiar with the findings.

Other coverage on the hearings:

Rumsfeld Aides Sought Torture How-To

McClatchey Newspapers reports that, “Torture wasn’t merely an option for military guards in Afghanistan in the first couple of years of the war on terror: It was routine.”

So it appears, anyway, from the extensive reporting by McClatchy Newspapers, which has been serialized this week in The Oregonian. The stories describe the casual and widespread use of inhuman techniques of “interrogation” and imprisonment, including hanging detainees by their wrists, beating their legs to pulp and kicking and punching prisoners until they collapsed.

At least two detainees died after being beaten. Few Americans were punished. And many Afghans were radicalized by the widespread harsh treatment.

A North Carolina House judiciary committee is scheduled to consider a ban on torture and forced disappearances:

The plan to be discussed Tuesday would make torture a felony punishable by up to more than six years in prison.

The proposed law defines torture as both the mental or physical suffering inflicted on a person to obtain information or coerce them.

It also would make the abduction or inappropriate detention of someone a felony.

The bill’s sponsors have said they introduced the measure after hearing allegations that a Smithfield-based company helped the CIA transport suspected terrorists to secret overseas prisons. They pushed for a similar law last year, but the plan never made it out of the House.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment