Chúng ta đang sống trong một kỷ nguyên bạo ngược với những đảo lộn về nhận thức và quan niệm hành xử tương quan làm NGƯỜI với nhau, với những thủ đoạn tận dụng ngữ nghĩa chính trị dối trá mà George Orwell đã cảnh báo trong tác phẩm 1984.
Hiện tượng này đang diễn ra ở thế kỷ 21, không chỉ đơn thuần đi từ nguyên nhân bản chất của định chế nhà nước, một định chế quyền chính thế tục được rao giảng truyên truyền từ ngàn xưa, nó không chỉ đơn thuần là học thuyết chính trị -mà nó đã trở thành một tín lý tôn giáo- một tôn giáo với thế quyền tuyệt đối của thiểu số nắm quyền sinh sát vận mạng hàng tỉ con người trực tiếp hơn thần quyền tôn giáo. Tín lý quyền lực nhà nước quốc gia này được nối tiếp tự nguyện rao giảng từ trong gia đình, đến trường học tất cả các cấp, và trong sinh hoạt xã hội thường ngày-. Hiện tượng một thế giới đảo lộn hôm nay có sự đóng góp trực tiếp tích cực từ chính chúng ta, từ mỗi cá nhân những người dân bình thường trong mọi giới sinh hoạt xã hội.
Chính dân chúng đang bình thường hóa những bất nhân, tội phạm và thực hiện những tội phạm và tội ác này.
Chúng ta đóng góp rất tích cực từ những hành xử nho nhỏ, “đời thường”. Thí dụ như ở những xã hội chậm tiến lạc hậu nhận thức, như Việt nam, Tầu, Lào, Thái, Hong Kong, Đài Loan v.v và các xã hội thần quyền như Ả rập, Nam dương, Phi luật tân v.v quần chúng đã bình thường hóa những bất nhân trong xã hội, những bất nhân trong hành xử tương quan với nhau như những tín điều tôn giáo và tập tục bản sắc văn hóa. Chẳng hạn những nhà “có của” đại gia thường nuôi những con “sen” (ngày nay người ta bất nhân hạ cấp một nhân vật đẹp trong phim gọi là “con Oshin “) phục dịch họ như “gia súc,”. Nhưng người dân không chỉ cho việc đối xử bất nhân này là bình thường mà chính nó là “ước mơ” chiêm ngưỡng của hầu như mọi người.: Họ mong sẽ có ngày leo lên được như vậy, để hành xử như vậy! Hoặc như ở Nam Dương, việc phụ nữ muốn tham gia ngành cảnh sát an ninh phải qua một cuộc khám nghiệm “tiết trinh” mặc nhiên là “tín điều bản sắc” không ai phản đối v.v
Nơi những xã hội “tiến bộ” hơn, hôm nay việc cảnh sát quân sự hóa vũ trang và chiến thuật, đàn áp đánh đập tàn bạo nghi can và ngay cả bắn chết nghi can cũng như dân chúng trẻ em vô tội trong nhà riêng, giữa đường phố v.v cũng đang trở thành “bình thường” với quần chúng. Nhất là với những thân nhân gia đình của những tên cảnh sát, quân đội côn đồ! Việc bắt bớ truy tố hoặc hành nhiễu trù dập những con người hành xử tự do ngôn luận và lương tâm cũng đang được quần chúng bình thường hóa!
Đó là những diễn biến hiện tượng mặt nổi, những hiện tượng băng hoại chúng ta có thể thấy ngay hàng ngày trước mặt., Nhưng bên dưới những băng hoại “nho nhỏ” có những dáng vẻ khác biệt giữa các xã hội đó, là cả một luồng sóng phún thạch tội phạm bất nhân và phi nhân một cách cực kỳ man rợ và đồng bộ hầu như không có biên giới khác biệt giữa các xã hội, thể chế chính trị- và quần chúng cũng đang “tập bình thường hóa” nó! Đó là việc TRA TẤN và ÉP CUNG!
Tra Tấn Ép Cung là hành xử bản chất của khởi nguyên quyền lực. Quyền lực bất kể thuộc loại nào, cấp độ nào.
MỘT NÉT VĂN HOÁ TRA TẤN
Với người Việt Nam, chúng ta chẳng cần làm luận án nghiên cứu hay “gúc gồ” (Google) để biết về tra tấn ép cung nó như thế nào. Hãy cứ nhìn lại cách hành xử giáo dục dạy dỗ gia trưởng trong chính gia đình mình, chính bản thân mình kinh qua đã rõ.
Hình ảnh một thằng bố, đứa mẹ, thằng anh, con chị, theo hệ thống quyền lực hàng dọc, cầm roi mây, (hoặc đôi lúc cả roi cá đuối) quất vùn vụt vào mônng đứa trẻ bắt phải khai báo, “thưa thật” về một việc mất cắp một món tiền nhỏ, hay món quà trong tủ; hoặc tàn bạo hơn là quất roi bắt nó phải nín trong khi đã đánh nó nát mông khóc ròng!!!Và buộc đứa trẻ phải khoanh tay xin lỗi một cái “lỗi” nó không hề vi phạm.
Chưa hết, nhiều khi đứa con còn phải quì gối trên vỏ mít, giang hai tay cả giờ đồng hồ, hễ đuối mỏi là bị quất vào tay. Có nhà, thằng bố, con mẹ, còn bắt cầm gạch giang tay nữa. Thậm chí có nhiều đứa cha mẹ lột trần truồng con cái mình, bắt quì trước cửa trước sân cho lối xóm “quan chiêm” cho bỉ mặt, xấu hổ “tội nhân”, như là những hình phạt xứng đáng hoặc để ăn năn tội!
Và đứa trẻ con này, nếu may mắn có một ông bà cô chú, bác nào đó thật sự uy tín vị nể của gia đình, vô tình ghé thăm chơi và đúng ra xin cho nó. Nó sẽ được “tha” và phải nức nở khoanh tay cúi đầu cảm tạ “cứu tinh” của nó. Nói là may mắn, vì nếu như vô phúc có một loại bố mẹ “cao cấp” quyền uy đầu họ, trên đầu lối xóm, thì chẳng còn ai “xin tội” cho nó được! Vì chẳng ai dám làm “phiền lòng, ngược ý” một kẻ “quyền uy” đang cơn “thịnh nộ”, dù chỉ là trong họ hay trong xóm ngõ! Bản sắc văn hóa nó vậy!
Đó là hành xử “tra tấn ép cung” khi con cái còn nhỏ. Hành xử
tra tấn này còn kéo dài qua dạng thức khác, dạng thức tra tấn tâm lý (Psychological torture, emotional blackmail, manipulation) khi con cái khôn lớn trưởng thành. Bạo lực thân xác không còn hữu hiệu và không thể, thì con cái chúng sẽ bị tra tấn tâm lý tình cảm bất cứ lúc nào, thường trực kéo dài ngày và đêm, cả tháng , cả năm tùy sự việc- Tiến trình tra tấn là những câu nói mỉa mai, đay nghiến; những hành động thở dài, khua bát đĩa, đập cửa, mắng chó chửi mèo, nếu chưa đủ tác dụng, gia tăng cường độ và cường điệu đến độ thậm chí tự lăn đùng ra khóc lóc, vật vã, hoặc rên rỉ giả bệnh, đi cấp cứu v.v Nghĩa là tận dụng tấn công hành hạ tâm não nạn nhân con cái đến mức cho đến khi nó không chịu nổi phải nhượng bộ – kết quả là buộc đứa con phải chấp nhận tuân theo ý cha mẹ, dù bất nghĩa, bất nhân, ngược lại ý muốn của nó- bao gồm cả những hành động chấp nhận tội lỗi và xin lỗi những điều nó không hề vi phạm: “bất hiếu”!
Giáo dục nhân cách? Văn hóa truyền thống chữ Hiếu? Tôn ti trật tự? Thẳng thắn mà xác định, vấn đề chỉ là KHẲNG ĐỊNH QUYỀN HẠN, MINH ĐỊNH QUYỀN LỰC và XÁC LẬP TUÂN PHỤC!
Chúng ta chau mày khi xem những phim cổ trang lịch sử với những màn tra tấn cực kỳ man rợ phi lý, không chỉ là nơi “công đường” của quan lại, mà ngay trong sân nhà của các đại gia hành xử “gia pháp” với con ăn người ở- những man rợ từ Đông qua Tây, Đông Chu hay giác đấu La Mã; hay Pharao Ai cập; hoặc nổi tiếng như những cảnh tra tấn thời thiên chúa giáo pháp đình (inquisition). Chúng ta chau mày rùng mình, làm như những “man rợ” này lạ lùng cách biệt với mính, mà không nhận ra những man rợ ấy nó đang nằm trong chính chúng ta, chờ cơ hội phát tác, hoặc bao biện dung túng khi tiềm thức tự kỷ ám tín (cognitive dissonance) đòi hỏi chúng ta bao che khỏa lấp, dung túng tội ác để bảo vệ lập trường an ninh quốc gia, bản sắc dân tộc, đảng phái tôn giáo.
Bản thân Tôi đã từng nghe câu châm ngôn “không đánh cho có, có đánh cho chừa, chừa đánh cho nhớ, nhớ đánh cho quên, quên đánh cho …chết”. Một châm ngôn huyền thoại xã hội (urban myth) không rõ xuất xứ- (hình như trong một bài báo điều tra của Con Ong hay tờ Đối Diện, Tôi không nhớ rõ) trở thành câu nói cảnh cáo cửa miệng của dân chúng trong lúc trò chuyện bù khú khi đề cập đến “an ninh cảnh sát” trong thời trước năm 1975.
Nhưng nó không phải là “đặc sản” của chế độ ngụy miền Nam, hay của Việt Cộng ngoài Bắc, hoặc chỉ xảy ra ở những xã hội thấp kém độc tài phi dân chủ. Nó là hành xử của quyền lực nhà nước như là nguyên lý sống còn của quyền chính.
Tra Tấn Ép Cung -nó là hành xử bản chất của quyền lực; của bất cứ quyền chính nào khi mà xã hội quần chúng chưa trưởng thành nhân bản và không quan tâm nhân phẩm!
Tra tấn ép cung đã chính thức bị loại bỏ trên văn bản hiến pháp và đạo luật ở các xã hội tiên phong dân chủ, đặc biệt từ sau bản Tuyên Ngôn Quốc Tế Nhân Quyền được vận động và soạn thảo năm 1948, chính thức thông qua, công bố ngày 16-12-1949.
Article 5. (Không một ai bị tra tấn hay đối xử, trừng phạt tàn nhẫn, bất nhân (No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)-(hình bên -Bà Eleanor Roosevelt vợ tổng thống Roosevelt và văn bản Tuyên Ngôn Quốc Tế Nhân Quyền)
Đúng như Jefferson từng khẳng định khi quần chúng không quan tâm thì chính trị gia, chính phủ sẽ nhe nanh, giương móng vuốt bản chất chó sói ra! (“If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”)
Cho nên dù bản tuyên ngôn quốc tế nhân quyền công bố và nhấn mạnh rõ ràng như thế, án tử hình vẫn còn đầy dẫy khắp nơi, trừ một số nhỏ các xã hội như Tây Bắc Âu thành viên của Liên Âu và Úc, Gia Nã Đại, Tân Tây Lan. Và hôm nay, sau hơn nửa thế kỷ bị lên án, loại bỏ, sau vụ 911, tra tấn ép cung, đang công khai tái diễn chính thức dưới nhiều hình thức ngay nơi những xã hội đã từng từ bỏ lên án nó.
BẢN TƯỜNG TRÌNH CỦA THƯỢNG VIỆN MỸ về VẤN ĐỀ TRA TẤN
Trong khi Âu Tây, đặc biệt Mỹ, đang phùng mang trợn mắt gào thét lên giọng ĐẠO ĐỨC NHÂN QUYỀN chỉ trích việc vi phạm nhân quyền khắp thế giới, thì tuần qua, một bản tường trình lên Thượng viện Mỹ về vấn đề chính phủ Mỹ dùng tra tấn trong hơn thập niên qua đã được “công bố”.
Bản tường trình này là một công trình hiến pháp được đồng thuận của hai chính đảng Cộng Hoà và Dân Chủ Mỹ đề cử, do một nhóm chuyên gia đặc nhiệm điều tra về “việc đối xử với tù nhân” của Mỹ. Nhóm đặc nhiệm này The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment gồm các cựu giới chức an ninh tình báo, tướng lãnh quân đội, cũng như dân biểu nghị sĩ, điều tra đúc kết sự kiện và trình lên Thượng Viện.
Một vài khuôn mặt nổi cộm của toán đặc nhiệm hiến pháp này là:
1- Cụu dân biểu, thứ trưởng bộ Nội An-Asa Hutchinson
2- Cựu đại sứ Mỹ tại Mexico James Jones
3- Cựu giám đốc FBI William Sessions
4- Trung tướng Claudia J. Kennedy
5- Cựu chuẩn tướng David Irvine
6- Cựu thứ trưởng ngoại giao Thomas Pickering
Nhưng trước khi công bố, bản tường trình này cũng đã bị phủ tổng thống và CIA xóa đen một số chi tiết nhân danh vì “an ninh quốc gia” không thể để quần chúng biết!!
Dù vậy, nó cũng còn khá đầy đủ những bằng chứng đồi bại không chỉ từ những tên lính Mỹ thừa hành côn đồ bất nhân như Justin Raimondo từng nhận định. Bản tường trình này đưa đến một tổng kết mà trang Nhân Chủ và nhiều trang độc lập khác tại Mỹ từng nhận định.
“Chính phủ tra tấn và giết người vô tội vì những mục tiêu đặc biệt tuyên truyền dựa vào những lời khai sai lạc- chính phủ Mỹ đã dùng những phương pháp kỹ thuật đặc biệt tra tấn của các chế độ cộng sản nhằm lấy lời thú tội đã định trước cho mục tiêu tuyên truyền chính trị ( Gov Tortured and Killed Innocent People for the Specific Purpose of Producing False Propaganda (U.S. Used C-O-M-M-U-N-I-S-T Techniques Specifically Designed to Produce F-A-L-S-E Confessions)
Bản tường trình KẾT LUẬN rằng:
- Việc Tra Tấn thảo cung và ép cung, được thực hiện trong nhiều trường hợp và tại nhiều nơi khác nhau.
- Không có bằng chứng xác đáng nào minh chứng là việc dùng những “kỹ thuật tra tấn” đem đến những thông tin giá trị
- Giới quan chức cao nhất của chính phủ Mỹ phải chịu một số trách nhiệm đã cho phép cũng như đóng góp cho việc tra tấn ép cung lan rộng.
- Việc thú nhận công khai với quần chúng sự việc lầm lỗi nghiêm trọng này có thể sẽ làm giảm bớt những hệ quả của những sai trái đó và giúp tháo gỡ một số những tổn hại danh tiếng chính phủ Mỹ trong và ngoài nước.
Những sự kiện chính quan trọng nhóm tường trình tìm ra được là:
- Việc sử dụng tra tấn không có một điểm chính đáng biện minh nào cả, và lại gây tổn hại vị thế của nước Mỹ, làm giảm khả năng lên án đạo lý khi cần thiết của nước Mỹ và làm tăng mức hiểm nguy đối với nhân viên Mỹ khi bị địch bắt.
- Trong bao lâu việc tranh luận về vấn đề này tiếp tục không dứt khoát thì việc chính phủ Mỹ tra tấn có khả năng cứ xảy ra.
- Việc chính phủ Obama tiếp tục giữ bí mật với công luận những chi tiết tra tấn và chuyển giam trái phép không thể tiếp tục kéo dài với lý cớ “an ninh quốc gia”, và chính phủ nên ngưng ngay việc ngăn chặn những đơn kiện của các cựu tù nhân dựa trên lý cớ “bí mật quốc gia”.
- Không chỉ đơn giản như vậy. Mà theo cựu chuẩn tướng Janis Karpinski, cựu giám đốc trại giam Abu Ghraib tai tiếng đã cho biết 90% tù nhân bị giam giữ là VÔ TỘI. (90% of detainees in the prison were innocent)
Và cựu đại tá Lawrence Wilkerson chánh văn phòng bộ ngoại giao Mỹ thời Colin Powell, hiện nay là giáo sư thỉnh giảng về An Ninh và viết sách, cũng cho biết rằng “rất nhiều tù nhân bị giam giữ tại Guatanamo Bay vô tội, và giới quan chức hàng đầu của chính phủ Bush biết rõ họ vô tội như vậy, nhưng vẫn cố tình giam giữ không xử án (top Bush administration officials knew that they were innocent)
-Hồ sơ quân sự của Mỹ cũng đúc kết cho biết rất nhiều tù nhân bị Mỹ bắt giữ chỉ vì những lý cớ rất vớ vẩn như chỉ vì đeo đồng hồ điện tử CASIO, hoặc bị Taliban bắt; hay là lái tắc xi tại nơi xôi đậu; hoặc là phóng viên của đài Al Jazeera tại nơi sôi động đó!
-Và rất nhiều những người bị tra tấn này là những nông dân, dân thường trong làng, hoặc là những người bị hàng xóm thù oán tố cáo bậy để lấy tiền thưởng của chính phủ Mỹ “suspected terrorists” (xin xem đoạn tài liệu này this movie)
Hầu như tất cả các “chuyên gia” tham gia chương trình tra tấn đều thú nhận rằng “tra tấn chẳng đem đến lợi ích gì”, ngoại trừ những quan chức cao cấp cố gắng bao che để tránh bị truy tố tội phạm chiến tranh!
Tất cả những băng hoại bất nhân và vô lương này chỉ nhằm phục vụ quyền chính nhà nước cho nhu cầu chiến tranh và cai trị nội an. Bản chất của định chế nhà nước không thể khác khi quần chúng hoảng sợ co cụm và trở thành đồng loã!
Xét cho tận cùng vấn nạn, thì chính con người chúng ta với những thói quen huân tập ngàn năm thành chủng tử chưa từ bỏ được ám niệm nhu cầu CẦN MỘT NHÀ NƯỚC với ảo tưởng một quốc gia giống nòi biệt lệ, một bản năng súc vật còn tồn động trong tiến trình lớn lên làm NGƯỜI!
Chính bản thân chúng ta và gia đình thân nhân đóng góp tích cực cho định chế này tồn tại và nuôi dưỡng chiến tranh thường trực như một giải pháp cho ảo tưởng “an ninh” và “phát triển kinh tế”, một ảo tưởng mà nhà kinh tế cổ điển Pháp Frédéric Bastiat đã dùng trong ngụ ngôn “Ném Vỡ Kính” năm (1850) The Broken-Window Fallacy – Ludwig von Mises Institute
Lòng tham và tính bất nhân quyền lực súc vật đã khiến những con người chưa thành NGƯỜI chỉ nhìn thấy LỢI và bỏ qua những tai hại mất mát của người khác. Câu nói cổ điển “phi thương bất phú, vi phú bất nhân” (không buôn bán không giầu có, lo làm giầu thì bất nhân)- PHÚ ở đây là giầu có thế lực. Câu nói này là ghép nửa phần chính của Dương Hổ 陽虎-cùng thời Khổng Tử (sách Mạnh Tử -Đằng Văn Công -(5:3): “Kẻ lo làm giầu thì chẳng có lòng nhân, kẻ làm điều nhân thì chẳng lo làm giầu” (Vi phú bất nhân hỹ, vi nhân bất phú hỹ- 為富不仁矣，為仁不富矣).
Chẳng lạ gì khi xuyên suốt lịch sử nhân văn của loài người không một hiền triết nào xiển dương “làm giầu”. Ngày nay chủ nghĩa tiêu thụ (consumerism) đang tàn phá nền nhân văn và ngay cả nền kinh tế xã hội con người. (Vấn đề chủ nghĩa tiêu thụ và nền nhân văn, “tiến bộ văn minh” sẽ được bàn sâu rộng ở một bài khác. Nhiều chuyên gia kinh tế đã bàn rất nhiều- nhưng đại đa số “người ta” chỉ nói nơi cửa miệng và chẳng hiểu nó là cái gì để nhận ra lợi hại của nó, Người ta chỉ “thấy” sản phẩm dịch vụ “tràn lan”, và cảm thấy rằng họ “được sử dụng” nhiều tài vật văn minh, nhưng thật sự có nhận ra tài vật văn minh đang sử dụng làm chủ cuộc đời họ, cuộc sống cả nhân loại này chăng? Chiến tranh, một phần hệ quả chính của chủ nghĩa tiêu thụ là điển hình)
Chính chúng ta, quần chúng, cho dù vì bị hiểu sai, hướng dẫn lầm, hay chủ ý, đã đảo lộn nhận thức khiến thế giới đảo lộn. Không có chúng ta, quần chúng tham dự trực tiếp, đồng tình, bọn thiểu số làm sao thao túng lộn đảo chúng ta? Đó là lý do chủ trương bất bạo động, dân sự đối kháng là “bất hợp tác” hay “đi ra ngoài khung hộp” nhồi sọ tẩy não của hệ thống (outside the box).
Nhưng đại đa số tự nguyện thi hành tội phạm tội ác với lý cớ “Tôi còn gia đình vợ con, nhà cửa, ruộng vườn” và rằng “Tôi chỉ thừa hành theo lệnh”! Thế những nạn nhân của chúng ta, họ có vợ con không? Họ có nhà cửa, ruộng vườn không?
Chúng ta chỉ làm theo lệnh ư?
Nhân loại đã cố gắng bước cao thêm một nấc thang làm người khi khẳng định:
“Mọi cá nhân đều có những bổn phận quốc tế vượt trên trách nhiệm tuân lệnh quốc gia. Vì thế những cá nhân công dân có bổn phận phải vi phạm luật quốc gia để ngăn chặn những tội ác chống hòa bình và nhân bản xảy ra” The principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
Anh thượng sĩ thám báo Mỹ Hugh Thompson đã từng phải vi phạm luật Mỹ để cứu người dân Việt nam trong cuộc thảm sát Mỹ Lai, Quãng Ngãi 1968. Chelsea Manning đã phải vi phạm luật Mỹ để thông báo tội ác chính phủ Mỹ vì lương tâm nhân bản. Edwards Snowden cũng đang làm theo tinh thần của LUẬT NHÂN BẢN TỐI THƯỢNG này.
Cựu tướng Mỹ, gốc Phi Luật Tân Antonio Taguba, người lãnh đạo cuộc điều tra đầu tiên về vụ việc này khi sự việc đổ bể đã mất chức vì không theo “chỉ đạo” của chính phủ, đã thẳng thắn tường trình SỰ THẬT vào năm 2008:
“ Chẳng còn nghi ngờ gì về việc chính phủ này (Bush) có phạm tội ác chiến tranh hay không. Chỉ một câu hỏi còn lại phải trả lời là những kẻ ra lệnh dùng tra tấn sẽ phải bị qui trách nhiệm hay không mà thôi.” (There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”)
“Chúng ta đã tra tấn người ta không khoan nhượng. Chúng ta có lẽ đã giết chết hàng chục mạng trong tiến trình này, cả hai lực lượng quân đội và CIA” (We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.”)
Chẳng ai cần bản tường trình Thượng Viện này để chứng minh rằng chính phủ Mỹ đã trở thành một biệt đội chính phủ tra tấn (với sự tham dự của quần chúng Mỹ) (Nobody needs this Senate report to demonstrate that the U.S. government became an official squad of torture (with the American public largely on board).
Chính xác là như vậy. Những con người muốn giữ gìn nhân tính vẫn không bao giờ có thể nằm lâu trong guồng máy quyền chính, dù là định chế nhà nước, bọn quân đội, đảng phái, hay tập đoàn thương buôn hoặc tôn giáo thần quyền. Những định chế quyền chính và gian trá này không bao giờ dung chứa những ai còn nhất điểm lương tâm. Hay nói đúng đắn hơn, những ai còn nhất điểm lương tâm nhân bản, không thể chấp nhận được những định chế này khi nhận ra dù ít hay nhiều, bản chất của nó. Arthur Koestler, nhà văn Anh, gốc Hung gia Lọi, cựu đảng viên cộng sản quốc tế, cũng đã nhận ra điều này để từ bỏ Đảng viết tác phẩm nổi tiếng “Bóng Tối Giữa Trưa” (Darkness At Noon) :
Trong thời hỗn loạn ngự trị thế giới, Thiên Chúa là một kẻ lỗi thời; và mọi thoả hiệp với lương tâm của mình là phản bội (As long as chaos dominates the world, God is an anachronism; and every compromise with one’s own conscience is perfidy)….
“Hắn đã nhìn ra được một điểm lương tâm, và nhất điểm lương tâm đó đã làm một người trở nên vô dụng với cách mạng như cái cằm đôi (He has discovered a conscience, and a conscience renders one as unfit for the revolution as a double chin)
Bọn thiểu số 1% quyền chính sẽ chẳng thể thực hiện những tội ác và kế hoạch tàn độc của chúng trên đầu chúng ta, đảo lộn cuộc sống và nguyên lý sống Con Người cùa chúng ta NHÓM 99%, nếu chúng ta can đảm không hợp tác, thực hiện và thề hiện nhân tâm của mỗi chúng ta, với nhận thức rõ ràng rằng tất cả chúng ta sẽ đều phải ra đi vĩnh viễn rời bỏ cái chấm xanh mờ nhạt này. Và cái ngày giờ ra đi vĩnh viển đó đang tiến lại gần chúng ta từng giây!
Nguyên Khả Phạm Thanh Chương
Nguồn Dẫn và Tham Khảo thêm:
Bipartisan Report: U.S. Practiced Widespread Torture, Torture Has “No Justification” and Doesn’t Yield Significant Information, Nation’s Highest Officials Bear Responsibility
We Can’t Just Look Forward … We Have to Admit What Went Wrong
Yesterday, a bi-partisan panel – co-chaired by the former undersecretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, former Republican congressman from Arkansas and NRA consultant (Asa Hutchinson) and former Democratic congressman and U.S. ambassador to Mexico (James Jones) – released a 577-page report on torture after 2 years of study.
Other luminaries on the panel include:
- Former FBI Director William Sessions
- 3-star general Claudia J. Kennedy
- Retired Brigadier General David Irvine
- Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations, and U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Thomas Pickering
The panel concluded:
- “Torture occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters”
- There is “no firm or persuasive evidence” that the use of such techniques yielded “significant information of value”
- “The nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture”
- “Publicly acknowledging this grave error, however belatedly, may mitigate some of those consequences and help undo some of the damage to our reputation at home and abroad”
The panel also found:
- The use of torture 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”
- “As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture”
- The Obama administration’s keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security”, and it should stop blocking lawsuits by former detainees on the basis of claiming “state secrets”
At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, co-chair Hutchinson said:
We found that U.S. personnel, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaty obligations.
This conclusion is not based upon our own personal impressions, but rather is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture from a historical and legal context. We looked at court cases and determined that the treatment of detainees, in many instances, met the standards the courts have determined as constituting torture. But in addition, you look at the United States State Department, in its annual country reports on human rights practices, has characterized many of the techniques used against detainees in U.S. custody in the post-9/11 environment—the State Department has characterized the same treatment as torture, abuse or cruel treatment when those techniques were employed by foreign governments. The CIA recognized this in an internal review and acknowledged that many of the interrogation techniques it employed were inconsistent with the public policy positions the United States has taken regarding human rights. The United States is understandably subject to criticism when it criticizes another nation for engaging in torture and then justifies the same conduct under national security arguments.
There are those that defend the techniques of—like waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation, because there was the Office of Legal Counsel, which issued a decision approving of their use because they define them as not being torture. Those opinions have since been repudiated by legal experts and the OLC itself. And even in its opinion, it relied not only on a very narrow legal definition of torture, but also on factual representations about how the techniques would be implemented, that later proved inaccurate. This is important context as to how the opinion came about, but also as to how policy makers relied upon it.
Based upon a thorough review of the available public record, we determined that, in application, torture was used against detainees in many instances and across a wide range of theaters.
And while our report is critical of the approval of interrogation techniques that ultimately led to U.S. personnel engaging in torture of detainees, the investigation was not an undertaking of partisan fault finding. Our conclusions about responsibility should be taken very simply as an effort to understand what happened at many levels of the U.S. policy making. There is no way of knowing how the government would have responded if a Democrat administration were in power at the time of the attacks. Indeed, our report is equally critical of the rendition-to-torture program, which began under President Clinton. And we question several actions of the current administration, as well. It should be noted that many of the corrective actions that—were first undertaken during the Bush administration, as well.
But the task force did conclude that the nation’s highest officials, after the 9/11 attack, approved actions for CIA and Defense personnel based upon legal guidance that has since been repudiated. The most important decision may have been to declare the Geneva Convention did not apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban captives in Afghanistan or Guantánamo. The administration never specified what rules would apply instead. The task force believes that U.S. defense intelligence professionals and servicemembers in harm’s way need absolutely clear orders on the treatment of detainees, requiring at a minimum compliance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. This was not done. Civilian leaders and military commanders have an affirmative responsibility to assure that their subordinates comply with the laws of war. President Obama has committed to observe the Geneva Conventions through an executive order, but a future president could change it by the stroke of a pen.
The task force believes it is important to recognize that—that is—that to say torture is ineffective does not require a demonstration that it never works. A person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information. Nor does the fact that it may sometimes yield legitimate information justify its use. What values do America stand for? That’s the ultimate question. But in addition to the very real legal and moral objections to its use, torture often produces false information, and it is difficult and time-consuming for interrogators and analysts to distinguish what may be true and usable from that which is false and misleading. Also, conventional, lawful interrogation methods have proven to be successful whenever the United States uses them throughout history—and I have seen this in law enforcement, as well. We’ve seen no evidence in the public record that the traditional means of interrogation would not have yielded the necessary intelligence following the attacks of 9/11.
Retired Brigadier General David Irvine, a former strategic intelligence officer and Army instructor in prisoner interrogation said:
Public record strongly suggests that there was no useful information gained from going to the dark side that saved the hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of lives that have been claimed. There are many instances in that public record to support the notion that we have been badly misled by false confessions that have been derived from brutal interrogations. And unfortunately, it is a fact that people—people will just say whatever they think needs to be said if the pain becomes more than they can bear. Other people are so immune to pain that they will die before they will reveal what an interrogator may wish to know.
I’ll just say, in conclusion, that in 2001 the United States had had a great deal of experience with tactical and strategic interrogations. We had been very successful over a long period of time in learning how to do this and do it very, very well. Unfortunately, when the policies were developed that led us to the dark side, many of those who were involved in formulating those policies had no experience with interrogation, had no experience with law enforcement, had no experience with the military, in how these matters are approached. One of the most successful FBI interrogators prior to 2001 was a guy named Joe Navarro. And Joe is noted for having said—and he was probably one of the handful of strategic interrogators qualified to interrogate and debrief a high-value al-Qaeda prisoner. But Joe said, “I only need three things. If you’ll give me three things, I will get whatever someone has to say, and I will do it without breaking the law. First of all, I need a quiet room. Second, I want to know what the rules are, because I don’t want to get in trouble. And third, I need enough time to become that person’s best and only friend. And if you give me those three conditions, I will get whatever that person has to say, and I will get it effectively and quickly and safely and within the terms of the law.” So, we can do it well when we want to. We need to do more, looking at our history, to remind us what worked and why it worked, and not resort to what may seem at the time to be expedient, clever or necessary.
Indeed, top American military and intelligence interrogation experts from both sides of the aisle have conclusively proven the following 10 facts about torture:
1. Torture is not a partisan issue
2. Waterboarding is torture
3. Torture decreases our national security
4. Torture can not break hardened terrorists
5. Torture is not necessary even in a “ticking time bomb” situation
6. The specific type of torture used by the U.S. was never aimed at producing actionable intelligence … but was instead aimed at producing false confessions
7. Torture did not help to get Bin Laden
8. Torture did not provide valuable details regarding 9/11
9. Many innocent people were tortured
10. America still allows torture
What You Need to Know ..
There’s a media storm regarding the Senate torture report … appropriately.
But much of the report was redacted by the CIA and White House.
Here’s what you need to know …
Initially, the torture was widespread and systemic.
And it wasn’t just bad guys who were tortured:
- The commander of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Janis Karpinski, estimates that 90% of detainees in the prison were innocent
- The number two man at the State Department under Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, says that many of those being held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent, and that top Bush administration officials knew that they were innocent
- U.S. military files show that many Guantánamo prisoners were held on the flimsiest grounds such as wearing a Casio watch, being a prisoner in a Taliban jail, driving cabs in certain geographic regions, or being Al Jazeera reporters
- Many state that those tortured were mainly innocent farmers, villagers, or those against whom neighbors held a grudge. Indeed, people received a nice cash reward from the U.S. government for turning people in as “suspected terrorists” (and see this movie)
Torture INTERFERES With Our Ability to Fight Terrorism, Obtain Intelligence Information and Protect Our National Security
Virtually all of the top interrogation experts – both conservatives and liberals (except for those trying to escape war crimes prosecution) – say that torture doesn’t work:
“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”
- The C.I.A.’s 1963 interrogation manual stated:
Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.
- According to the Washington Post, the CIA’s top spy – Michael Sulick, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service – said that the spy agency has seen no fall-off in intelligence since waterboarding was banned by the Obama administration. “I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint.”
- The CIA’s own Inspector General wrote that waterboarding was not “efficacious” in producing information
- A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks (Milton Bearden) says(as quoted by senior CIA agent and Presidential briefer Ray McGovern):
It is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.
The old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture doesn’t work ….
- A former high-level CIA officer (Philip Giraldi) states:
Many governments that have routinely tortured to obtain information have abandoned the practice when they discovered that other approaches actually worked better for extracting information. Israel prohibited torturing Palestinian terrorist suspects in 1999. Even the German Gestapo stopped torturing French resistance captives when it determined that treating prisoners well actually produced more and better intelligence.
- Another former high-level CIA official (Bob Baer) says:
And torture — I just don’t think it really works … you don’t get the truth. What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you.
- Michael Scheuer, formerly a senior CIA official in the Counter-Terrorism Center, says:
“I personally think that any information gotten through extreme methods of torture would probably be pretty useless because it would be someone telling you what you wanted to hear.”
- A retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002 (Glenn L. Carle) says:
[Coercive techniques] didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information…Everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.”
- A former top Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, and wrote a book called How to Break a Terrorist writes:
As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past.Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.
In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.
He also says:
[Torture is] extremely ineffective, and it’s counter-productive to what we’re trying to accomplish.When we torture somebody, it hardens their resolve … The information that you get is unreliable. … And even if you do get reliable information, you’re able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda’s then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members.
And he repeats:
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans…. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers.
- The FBI interrogators who actually interviewed some of the 9/11 suspects say torture didn’t work
- Another FBI interrogator of 9/11 suspects said:
I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective
- A third former FBI interrogator — who interrogated Al Qaeda suspects — says categorically that torture does not help collect intelligence. On the other hand he says that torture actually turns people into terrorists
- A declassified FBI e-mail dated May 10, 2004, regarding interrogation at Guantanamo states “[we] explained to [the Department of Defense], FBI has been successful for many years obtaining confessions via non-confrontational interviewing techniques.” (see also this)
- The FBI warned military interrogators in 2003 that enhanced interrogation techniques are “of questionable effectiveness” and cited a “lack of evidence of [enhanced techniques’] success.
- “When long-time FBI director Mueller was asked whether any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through “enhanced techniques”, he responded “I don’t believe that has been the case.”
The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.
- The military agency which actually provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects warned the Pentagon in 2002 that those techniques would produce “unreliable information.”
- General Petraeus says that torture is unnecessary
- Retired 4-star General Barry McCaffrey – who Schwarzkopf called he hero of Desert Storm – agrees
- The number 2 terrorism expert for the State Department says torture doesn’t work, and just creates more terrorists.
- Former Navy Judge Advocate General Admiral John Hutson says:
Fundamentally, those kinds of techniques are ineffective. If the goal is to gain actionable intelligence, and it is, and if that’s important, and it is, then we have to use the techniques that are most effective. Torture is the technique of choice of the lazy, stupid and pseudo-tough.
He also says:
Another objection is that torture doesn’t work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners.
- Army Colonel Stuart Herrington – a military intelligence specialist who interrogated generals under the command of Saddam Hussein and evaluated US detention operations at Guantánamo – notes that the process of obtaining information is hampered, not helped, by practices such as “slapping someone in the face and stripping them naked”. Herrington and other former US military interrogators say:
We know from experience that it is very difficult to elicit information from a detainee who has been abused. The abuse often only strengthens their resolve and makes it that much harder for an interrogator to find a way to elicit useful information.
- Major General Thomas Romig, former Army JAG, said:
If you torture somebody, they’ll tell you anything. I don’t know anybody that is good at interrogation, has done it a lot, that will say that that’s an effective means of getting information. … So I don’t think it’s effective.
- Brigadier General David R. Irvine, retired Army Reserve strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years with the Sixth Army Intelligence School, says torture doesn’t work
- The first head of the Department of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – says we were wrong to torture
- The former British intelligence chairman says that waterboarding didn’t stop terror plots
- A spokesman for the National Security Council (Tommy Vietor) says:
The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.
- The Marines weren’t keen on torture, either
- As Vanity Fair reports:
In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts … Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.
- Neuroscientists have found that torture physically and chemically interferes with the prisoner’s ability to tell the truth
- An Army psychologist – Major Paul Burney, Army’s Behavior Science Consulting Team psychologist – said (page 78 & 83):
was stressed to me time and time again that psychological investigations have proven that harsh interrogations do not work. At best it will get you information that a prisoner thinks you want to hear to make the interrogation stop, but that information is strongly likely to be false.
Interrogation techniques that rely on physical or adverse consequences are likely to garner inaccurate information and create an increased level of resistance…There is no evidence that the level of fear or discomfort evoked by a given technique has any consistent correlation to the volume or quality of information obtained.
- An expert on resisting torture – Terrence Russell, JPRA’s manager for research and development and a SERE specialist – said (page 209):
History has shown us that physical pressures are not effective for compelling an individual to give information or to do something’ and are not effective for gaining accurate, actionable intelligence.
Indeed, it has been known for hundreds of years that torture doesn’t work:
- In the ancient Far East, torture was used as a way to intimidate the population into obedience (rather than a method for gaining information)
- As a former CIA analyst notes:
During the Inquisition there were many confessed witches, and many others were named by those tortured as other witches. Unsurprisingly, when these new claimed witches were tortured, they also confessed. Confirmation of some statement made under torture, when that confirmation is extracted by another case of torture, is invalid information and cannot be trusted.
- Top American World War 2 interrogators got more information using chess or Ping-Pong instead of torture than those who use torture are getting today
- The head of Britain’s wartime interrogation center in London said:
“Violence is taboo. Not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.”
- The national security adviser to Vice President George H.W. Bush (Donald P. Gregg) wrote:
During wartime service with the CIA in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972, I was in charge of intelligence operations in the 10 provinces surrounding Saigon. One of my tasks was to prevent rocket attacks on Saigon’s port.Keeping Saigon safe required human intelligence, most often from captured prisoners. I had a running debate about how North Vietnamese prisoners should be treated with the South Vietnamese colonel who conducted interrogations. This colonel routinely tortured prisoners, producing a flood of information, much of it totally false. I argued for better treatment and pressed for key prisoners to be turned over to the CIA, where humane interrogation methods were the rule – and more accurate intelligence was the result.
The colonel finally relented and turned over a battered prisoner to me, saying, “This man knows a lot, but he will not talk to me.”
We treated the prisoner’s wounds, reunited him with his family, and allowed him to make his first visit to Saigon. Surprised by the city’s affluence, he said he would tell us anything we asked. The result was a flood of actionable intelligence that allowed us to disrupt planned operations, including rocket attacks against Saigon.
Admittedly, it would be hard to make a story from nearly 40 years ago into a definitive case study. But there is a useful reminder here. The key to successful interrogation is for the interrogator – even as he controls the situation – to recognize a prisoner’s humanity, to understand his culture, background and language. Torture makes this impossible.
There’s a sad twist here. Cheney forgets that the Bush administration followed this approach with some success. A high-value prisoner subjected to patient interrogation by an Arabic-speaking FBI agent yielded highly useful information, including the final word on Iraq’s weapons programs.
His name was Saddam Hussein.
- Top interrogators got information from a high-level Al Qaeda suspects through building rapport, even if they hated the person they were interrogating by treating them as human
Senator John McCain explains, based upon his own years of torture:
I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.
According to the experts, torture is unnecessary even to prevent “ticking time bombs” from exploding (see this, this and this). Indeed, a top expert says that torture would fail in a real ‘ticking time-bomb’ situation. (And, no … it did NOT help get Bin Laden. And see this.).
In fact, torture reduces our national security:
- The head of all U.S. intelligence said:
“The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world,” [Director of National Intelligence Dennis] Blair said in the statement. “The damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”
- One of the top military interrogators said that torture by Americans of innocent Iraqis is the main reason that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the first place (and see this).
- Former counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke says that America’s indefinite detention without trial and abuse of prisoners is a leading Al Qaeda recruiting tool
- A former FBI interrogator — who interrogated Al Qaeda suspects — says categorically that torture actually turns people into terrorists
- A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks, says:
Torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize.
- A former US Air Force interrogator said that torture just creates more terrorists
Torture puts our troops in danger, torture makes our troops less safe, torture creates terrorists. It’s used so widely as a propaganda tool now in Afghanistan. All too often, detainees have pamphlets on them, depicting what happened at Guantanamo.
- The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously stated:
“The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies … strengthened the hand of our enemies.”
- Two professors of political science have demonstrated that torture increases, rather than decreases, terrorism
- General Petraeus said that torture hurts our national security
- The reporter who broke Iran-Contra and other stories says that torture actually helped Al Qaeda, by giving false leads to the U.S. which diverted its military, intelligence and economic resources into wild goose chases
- Raw Story says that torture might have resulted in false terror alerts
- Hundreds of other experts have said the same things
U.S. Officials Launched a Systematic Program of Torture Using Specialized Techniques Which Produce False Confessions … to Justify the Iraq War
Not only did Bush, Cheney and other top government officials lie about us into the Iraq war by making a false linkage between Iraq and 9/11, but they carried out a systematic program of torture in order to intentionally create false evidence of that allegation.
Indeed, the entire purpose behind the U.S. torture program was to obtain false confessions.
And the torture techniques used were Communist techniques specifically designed to produce false confessions.
Senator Levin, in commenting on a Senate Armed Services Committee report on torture in 2009, dropped the following bombshell:
With last week’s release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, it is now widely known that Bush administration officials distorted Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape “SERE” training – a legitimate program used by the military to train our troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations – by authorizing abusive techniques from SERE for use in detainee interrogations. Those decisions conveyed the message that abusive treatment was appropriate for detainees in U.S. custody. They were also an affront to the values articulated by General Petraeus.
In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions. The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. Until recently, the Navy SERE school also used waterboarding. The purpose of the SERE program is to provide U.S. troops who might be captured a taste of the treatment they might face so that they might have a better chance of surviving captivity and resisting abusive and coercive interrogations.
Senator Levin then documents that SERE techniques were deployed as part of an official policy on detainees, and that SERE instructors helped to implement the interrogation programs. He noted:
The senior Army SERE psychologist warned in 2002 against using SERE training techniques during interrogations in an email to personnel at Guantanamo Bay, because:
[T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large number of potential negative side effects… When individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder… If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. This will increase the amount of information they tell the interrogator, but it does not mean the information is accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain… Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low. The likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the level of resistance in a detainee is very high… (p. 53).
McClatchy filled in some of the details:
Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration…
For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…
When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .
A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.
“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”
“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”
Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11
hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.
In other words, top Bush administration officials not only knowingly lied about a non-existent connection between Al Qaida and Iraq, but they pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create such a false linkage.
The Washington Post reported the same year:
Despite what you’ve seen on TV, torture is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. Indeed, Bush-era torture techniques, we now know, were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.
So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense — in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a “ticking time bomb” scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks — in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.
Gordon Trowbridge writes for the Detroit News: “Senior Bush administration officials pushed for the use of abusive interrogations of terrorism detainees in part to seek evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq, according to newly declassified information discovered in a congressional probe.
Indeed, one of the two senior instructors from the Air Force team which taught U.S. servicemen how to resist torture by foreign governments when used to extract false confessions has blown the whistle on the true purpose behind the U.S. torture program.
As Truthout reported:
Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).
Kearns was one of only two officers within DoD qualified to teach all three SERE-related courses within SSTP on a worldwide basis, according to a copy of a 1989 letter written Aldrich, who nominated him officer of the year.
The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”
Jessen wrote that cooperation is the “end goal” of the detainer, who wants the detainee “to see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”
Kearns said, based on what he has read in declassified government documents and news reports about the role SERE played in the Bush administration’s torture program, Jessen clearly “reverse-engineered” his lesson plan and used resistance methods to abuse “war on terror” detainees.
In a subsequent report, Truthout notes:
Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the DOD’s most effective interrogators as well a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA’s teaching academy, said he immediately knew the true value of the PREAL manual if employed as part of an interrogation program.
“This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence,” Kleinman said in an interview. “If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using.”
“In SERE courses, we emphatically presented this interrogation paradigm as one that was employed exclusively by nations that were in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and international treaties against torture,” Kleinman said. “We proudly assured the students that we – the United States – would never resort to such despicable methods.”
(Interrogators also forced detainees to take drugs … which further impaired their ability to tell the truth.)
And false confessions were, in fact, extracted.
- A humanitarian aid worker said: torture only stopped when I pretended I was in Al Qaeda
- Under torture, Libyan Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi falsely claimed there was a link between Saddam Hussein, al-Qaida and WMD
- President Bush mentioned Abu Zubaydah as a success story, where torture saved lives. Zubaydah was suspected of being a high-ranking al-Qaida leader. Bush administration officials claimed Zubaydah told them that al-Qaida had links with Saddam Hussein. He also claimed there was a plot to attack Washington with a “dirty bomb”. Both claims are now recognized to be false, even by the CIA, which also admits he was never a member of al-Qaida.
- One of the Main Sources for the 9/11 Commission Report was Tortured Until He Agreed to Sign a Confession that He Was NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO READ
- The so-called 9/11 mastermind said: “During … my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear” (the self-confessed 9/11 “mastermind” falsely confessed to crimes he didn’t commit)
And the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. And the government went to great lengths to obstruct justice and hide unflattering facts from the Commission.
According to NBC News:
- Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
- At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
- The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves
Torture Has Been Recognized As Terrorism for Thousands of Years
Moreover, torture has been recognize for thousands of years as a form of terrorism.
Indeed, America’s recently-leaked criteria for putting people on the terror watchlist says torture is terror (page 47-48):
Torture Is a War Crime … Which Can STILL Be Prosecuted
Many argue that the statute of limitations on Bush and Cheney’s crimes of torture have all run … so it is too late to prosecute them.
However, the United States War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal statute set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment.
The statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who ORDER IT, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. The statute applies to everyone, no matter how high and mighty.
18 U.S.C. § 2441 has no statute of limitations, which means that a war crimes complaint can be filed at any time.
The penalty may be life imprisonment or — if a single prisoner dies due to torture — death. Given that there are numerous, documented cases of prisoners being tortured to death by U.S. soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that means that the death penalty would be appropriate for anyone found guilty of carrying out, ordering, or sanctioning such conduct.
Here’s a brief round-up showing that prisoners were injured – and killed – due to U.S. torture:
Waterboarding IS Torture
- The United States has always considered waterboarding to be a crime of torture, including when the Japanese did it in WWII
Not Just Waterboarding
- Major General Antonio Taguba: Photos Show Sodomy, Rape and Sexual Assault With Wire and Various Blunt Instruments
- “The Sexual Humiliation Of Iraqi Prisoners…Was Not An Invention Of Maverick Guards, But Part Of A SYSTEM Of Ill-Treatment And Degradation”
People Died While Being Tortured
Gen. Barry McCaffrey said:
We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.
The ACLU wrote in 2005:
The American Civil Liberties Union today made public an analysis of new and previously released autopsy and death reports of detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom died while being interrogated. The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions.
“There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable.
The documents released today include 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of individuals apprehended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents show that detainees died during or after interrogations by Navy Seals, Military Intelligence and “OGA” (Other Governmental Agency) — a term, according to the ACLU, that is commonly used to refer to the CIA.
According to the documents, 21 of the 44 deaths were homicides. Eight of the homicides appear to have resulted from abusive techniques used on detainees, in some instances, by the CIA, Navy Seals and Military Intelligence personnel. The autopsy reports list deaths by “strangulation,” “asphyxiation” and “blunt force injuries.” An overwhelming majority of the so-called “natural deaths” were attributed to “Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.”
While newspapers have recently reported deaths of detainees in CIA custody, today’s documents show that the problem is pervasive, involving Navy Seals and Military Intelligence too.
Spiegel reported in 2009:
At least two men died during imprisonment. One of them, a 22-year-old taxi driver named Dilawar, was suspended by his hands from the ceiling for four days, during which US military personnel repeatedly beat his legs. Dilawar died on Dec. 10, 2002. In the autopsy report, a military doctor wrote that the tissue on his legs had basically been “pulpified.” As it happens, his interrogators had already known — and later testified — that there was no evidence against Dilawar …
And see this. And it is now clear that the CIA covered up murders at Guantanamo.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 limited the applicability of the War Crimes Act, but still made the following unlawful: torture, cruel or inhumane treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily harm, rape, sexual assault or abuse.
The Nuremberg Tribunal which convicted and sentenced Nazis leaders to death conceived of wars of aggression – i.e. wars not launched in self-defense – defined the following as “crimes against peace”, or war crimes:
- (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
- (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i)
The Tribunal considered wars of aggression to be the ultimate war crime, which encompassed all other crimes:
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
Judgment of October 1, 1946, International Military Tribunal Judgment and Sentence, 22 IMTTRIALS, supra note 7, at 498, reprinted in 41 AM. J. INT’LL. 172, 186 (1947).
Given that Iraq had no connection with 9/11 and possessed no weapons of mass destruction, the Iraq war was a crime of aggression and – under the standards by which Nazi leaders were convicted by the Nuremberg Tribunal – the American leaders who lied us into that war are guilty of war crimes.
Benjamin Ferencz, a former chief prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials, declared:
A prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity — that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.
That he would be willing to launch an inquiry and could envisage a scenario in which the Prime Minister and American President George W Bush could one day face charges at The Hague. Luis Moreno-Ocampo urged Arab countries, particularly Iraq, to sign up to the court to enable allegations against the West to be pursued.
As a Japan Times Op/Ed noted in 2009:
In January 2003, a group of American law professors warned President George W. Bush that he and senior officials of his government could be prosecuted for war crimes if their military tactics violated international humanitarian law.
Eminent legal scholars such as former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clarke and Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law and a professor of law Lawrence Velvel have since stated that high-level Bush administration officials did commit war crimes in relation to the Iraq war.
Torture is – of course – a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which make it illegal to inflict mental or physical torture or inhuman treatment. It is clearly-established that waterboarding is torture. The torture was, in fact, systematic, and included widespread sexual humiliation, murder and other unambiguous forms of torture.
Velvel and many other legal experts say that the torture which was carried out after 9/11 is a war crime.
General Antonio Taguba, who led an official investigation into prisoner abuse, said in 2008:
There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
Colin Powell’s former chief of staff stated that Dick Cheney is guilty of war crimes for overseeing torture policies.
Matthew Alexander – a former top Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – notes that government officials knew they are vulnerable for war crime prosecution:
They have, from the beginning, been trying to prevent an investigation into war crimes.
Former prosecutor in the Guantanamo military commissions, and current Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve (Darrel Vandeveld) wrote:
Torture is a crime and the United States engaged in it. Those are two indisputable facts…
The process of self-examination and accountability has been, and remains, the only way to move forward and regain our moral and legal grounding…
We have a Department of Justice for a reason, and now it’s up to Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, to do his job and appoint an independent prosecutor to follow the evidence where it may lead…
It is critical that we hold accountable those who authorized, those who legally sanctioned and those who implemented the torture policies of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. What is at stake is nothing less than our democracy.
General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top coalition commander in Iraq, called for a Truth Commission so we might fully understand the failure of the military and civilian command to honor the pledge of our constitution.
Sanchez . . .stressed that the outcome must embrace a variety of solutions, including prosecution.
Sanchez stated, “When the president made the declaration that the Geneva Conventions no longer apply, we unleashed the hounds of hell and eliminated all the foundations for the training, ethics and structure we had built into our soldiers and our leaders for how to conduct these kinds of operations.”
Sanchez stated many problems could be traced to loyalties to individuals and political parties.
Former President Jimmy Carter is also calling for a truth commission with the possibility of prosecution:
“[I] like to see is a complete examination of what did happen, the identification of any perpetrators of crimes against our own laws or against international law,” said Carter. “And then after all that’s done, decide whether or not there should be any prosecutions.”
A Malaysian war crimes commission also found Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and five administration attorneys guilty of war crimes (although but the commission has no power to enforce its judgment).
Postscript: Torture is also apparently continuing under Obama. See this and this.
US Accuse Others’ “Human Rights” Issues? Look at This Video Program: “Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons: Savaged by Dogs, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, …”
by Deborah Davies | December 2, 2014 9:07 pm
Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?
For a video viewing, please click the following: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8451.htm%5B1%5D
They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for BBC Channel 4 . It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.
The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. ‘Crawl, motherf*****s, crawl.’
If a prisoner doesn’t drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There’s a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.
Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can’t crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.
Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.
Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.
The images of abuse and brutality he records are horrifyingly familiar. These were exactly the kind of pictures from inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad that shocked the world this time last year.
And they are similar, too, to the images of brutality against Iraqi prisoners that this week led to the conviction of three British soldiers.
But there is a difference. These prisoners are not caught up in a war zone. They are Americans, and the video comes from inside a prison in Texas
They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for Channel 4 that will be broadcast next week.
Our findings were not based on rumour or suspicion. They were based on solid evidence, chiefly videotapes that we collected from all over the U.S.
In many American states, prison regulations demand that any ‘use of force operation’, such as searching cells for drugs, must be filmed by a guard.
The theory is that the tapes will show proper procedure was followed and that no excessive force was used. In fact, many of them record the exact opposite.
Each tape provides a shocking insight into the reality of life inside the U.S. prison system – a reality that sits very uncomfortably with President Bush’s commitment to the battle for freedom and democracy against the forces of tyranny and oppression.
In fact, the Texas episode outlined above dates from 1996, when Bush was state Governor.
Frank Carlson was one of the lawyers who fought a compensation battle on behalf of the victims. I asked him about his reaction when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke last year and U.S. politicians rushed to express their astonishment and disgust that such abuses could happen at the hands of American guards.
‘I thought: “What hypocrisy,” Carlson told me. ‘Because they know we do it here every day.’
All the lawyers I spoke to during our investigations shared Carlson’s belief that Abu Ghraib, far from being the work of a few rogue individuals, was simply the export of the worst practices that take place in the domestic prison system all the time. They pointed to the mountain of files stacked on their desks, on the floor, in their office corridors – endless stories of appalling, sadistic treatment inside America’s own prisons.
Many of the tapes we’ve collected are several years old. That’s because they only surface when determined lawyers prise them out of reluctant state prison departments during protracted lawsuits.
But for every ‘historical’ tape we collected, we also found a more recent story. What you see on the tape is still happening daily.
It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.
In one horrific scene, a naked man, passive and vacant, is seen being led out of his cell by prison guards. They strap him into a medieval-looking device called a ‘restraint chair’. His hands and feet are shackled, there’s a strap across his chest, his head lolls forward. He looks dead. He’s not. Not yet.
The chair is his punishment because guards saw him in his cell with a pillowcase on his head and he refused to take it off. The man has a long history of severe schizophrenia. Sixteen hours later, they release him from the chair. And two hours after that, he dies from a blood clot resulting from his barbaric treatment.
The tape comes from Utah – but there are others from Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Arizona and probably many more. We found more than 20 cases of prisoners who’ve died in the past few years after being held in a restraint chair.
Two of the deaths we investigated were in the same county jail in Phoenix, Arizona, which is run by a man who revels in the title of ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff.’
His name is Joe Arpaio. He positively welcomes TV crews and we were promised ‘unfettered access.’ It was a reassuring turn of phrase – you don’t want to be fettered in one of Sheriff Joe’s jails.
We uncovered two videotapes from surveillance cameras showing how his tough stance can end in tragedy.
The first tape, from 2001, shows a man named Charles Agster dragged in by police, handcuffed at the wrists and ankles. Agster is mentally disturbed and a drug user. He was arrested for causing a disturbance in a late-night grocery store. The police handed him over to the Sheriff’s deputies in the jail. Agster is a tiny man, weighing no more than nine stone, but he’s struggling.
The tape shows nine deputies manhandling him into the restraint chair. One of them kneels on Agster’s stomach, pushing his head forward on to his knees and pulling his arms back to strap his wrists into the chair.
Bending someone double for any length of time is dangerous – the manuals on the use of the ‘restraint chair’ warn of the dangers of ‘positional asphyxia.’
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse notices Agster is unconscious. The cameras show frantic efforts to resuscitate him, but he’s already brain dead. He died three days later in hospital. Agster’s family is currently suing Arizona County.
His mother, Carol, cried as she told me: ‘If that’s not torture, I don’t know what is.’ Charles’s father, Chuck, listened in silence as we filmed the interview, but every so often he padded out of the room to cry quietly in the kitchen.
The second tape, from five years earlier, shows Scott Norberg dying a similar death in the same jail. He was also a drug user arrested for causing a nuisance. Norberg was severely beaten by the guards, stunned up to 19 times with a Taser gun and forced into the chair where – like Charles Agster – he suffocated.
The county’s insurers paid Norberg’s family more than £4 millions in an out-of-court settlement, but the sheriff was furious with the deal. ‘My officers were clear,’ he said. ‘The insurance firm was afraid to go before a jury.’
Now he’s determined to fight the Agster case all the way through the courts. Yet tonight, in Sheriff Joe’s jail, there’ll probably be someone else strapped into the chair.
Not all the tapes we uncovered were filmed by the guards themselves. Linda Evans smuggled a video camera into a hospital to record her son, Brian. You can barely see his face through all the tubes and all you can hear is the rhythmic sucking of the ventilator.
He was another of Sheriff Joe’s inmates. After an argument with guards, he told a prison doctor they’d beaten him up. Six days later, he was found unconscious of the floor of his cell with a broken neck, broken toes and internal injuries. After a month in a coma, he died from septicaemia.
‘Mr Arpaio is responsible.’ Linda Evans told me, struggling to speak through her tears. ‘He seems to thrive on this cruelty and this mentality that these men are nothing.’
In some of the tapes it’s not just the images, it’s also the sounds that are so unbearable. There’s one tape from Florida which I’ve seen dozens of times but it still catches me in the stomach.
It’s an authorised ‘use of force operation’ – so a guard is videoing what happens. They’re going to Taser a prisoner for refusing orders.
The tape shows a prisoner lying on an examination table in the prison hospital. The guards are instructing him to climb down into a wheelchair. ‘I can’t, I can’t!’ he shouts with increasing desperation. ‘It hurts!’
One guard then jabs him on both hips with a Taser. The man jerks as the electricity hits him and shrieks, but still won’t get into the wheelchair.
The guards grab him and drop him into the chair. As they try to bend his legs up on to the footrest, he screams in pain. The man’s lawyer told me he has a very limited mental capacity. He says he has a back injury and can’t walk or bend his legs without intense pain.
The tape becomes even more harrowing. The guards try to make the prisoner stand up and hold a walking frame. He falls on the floor, crying in agony. They Taser him again. He runs out of the energy and breath to cry and just lies there moaning.
One of the most recent video tapes was filmed in January last year. A surveillance camera in a youth institution in California records an argument between staff members and two ‘wards’ – they’re not called prisoners.
One of the youths hits a staff member in the face. He knocks the ward to the floor then sits astride him punching him over and over again in the head.
Watching the tape you can almost feel each blow. The second youth is also punched and kicked in the head – even after he’s been handcuffed. Other staff just stand around and watch.
We also collected some truly horrific photographs.
A few years ago, in Florida, the new warden of the high security state prison ordered an end to the videoing of ‘use of force operations.’ So we have no tapes to show how prison guards use pepper spray to punish prisoners.
But we do have the lawsuit describing how men were doused in pepper spray and then left to cook in the burning fog of chemicals. Photographs taken by their lawyers show one man has a huge patch of raw skin over his hip. Another is covered in an angry rash across his neck, back and arms. A third has deep burns on his buttocks.
‘They usually use fire extinguishers size canisters of pepper spray,’ lawyer Christopher Jones explained. ‘We have had prisoners who have had second degree burns all over their bodies.
‘The tell-tale sign is they turn off the ventilation fans in the unit. Prisoners report that cardboard is shoved in the crack of the door to make sure it’s really air-tight.’
And why were they sprayed? According to the official prison reports, their infringements included banging on the cell door and refusing medication. From the same Florida prison we also have photographs of Frank Valdes – autopsy pictures.
Realistically, he had little chance of ever getting out of prison alive. He was on Death Row for killing a prison officer. He had time to reconcile himself to the Electric Chair – he didn’t expect to be beaten to death.
Valdes started writing to local Florida newspapers to expose the corruption and brutality of prison officers. So a gang of guards stormed into his cell to shut him up. They broke almost every one of his ribs, punctured his lung, smashed his spleen and left him to die.
Several of the guards were later charged with murder, but the trial was held in their own small hometown where almost everyone works for, or has connection with, the five prisons which ring the town. The foreman of the jury was former prison officer. The guards were all acquitted.
Meanwhile, the warden who was in charge of the prison at the time of the killing – the same man who changed the policy on videoing – has been promoted. He’s now the man in charge of all the Florida prisons.
How could anyone excuse – still less condone – such behaviour? The few prison guards who would talk to us have a siege mentality. They see themselves outnumbered, surrounded by dangerous, violent criminals, so they back each other up, no matter what.
I asked one serving officer what happened if colleagues beat up an inmate. ‘We cover up. Because we’re the good guys.’
No one should doubt that the vast majority of U.S. prison officers are decent individuals doing their best in difficult circumstances. But when horrific abuse by the few goes unreported and uninvestigated, it solidifies into a general climate of acceptance among the many.
At the same time the overall hardening of attitudes in modern-day America has meant the notion of rehabilitation has been almost lost. The focus is entirely on punishment – even loss of liberty is not seen as punishment enough. Being on the restraint devices and the chemical sprays.
Since we finished filming for the programme in January, I’ve stayed in contact with various prisoners’ rights groups and the families of many of the victims. Every single day come more e-mails full of fresh horror stories. In the past weeks, two more prisoners have died, in Alabama and Ohio. One man was pepper sprayed, the other tasered.
Then, three weeks ago, reports emerged of 20 hours of video material from Guantanamo Bay showing prisoners being stripped, beaten and pepper sprayed. One of those affected is Omar Deghayes, one of the seven British residents still being held there.
His lawyer says Deghayes is now permanently blind in one eye. American military investigators have reviewed the tapes and apparently found ‘no evidence of systematic abuse.’
But then, as one of the prison reformers we met on our journey across the U.S. told me: ‘We’ve become immune to the abuse. The brutality has become customary.’
So far, the U.S. government is refusing to release these Guantanamo tapes. If they are ever made public – or leaked – I suspect the images will be very familiar.
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo – or even Texas. The prisoners and all guards may vary, but the abuse is still too familiar. And much is it is taking place in America’s own backyard.
Deborah Davies is a reporter for Channel 4 Dispatches. Her investigation, Torture: America’s Brutal Prisons, was shown on Wednesday, March 2, at 11.05pm.
First posted March 28, 2005
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)
New Comment section added January 19, 2011
Copyright ©2014 The 4th Media unless otherwise noted.
Live Coverage of the Senate Torture Report
One of the worst myths official Washington and its establishment media have told itself about the torture debate is that the controversy is limited to three cases of waterboarding at Guantánamo and a handful of bad Republican actors. In fact, a wide array of torture techniques were approved at the highest levels of the U.S. Government and then systematically employed in lawless US prisons around the world – at Bagram (including during the Obama presidency), CIA black sites, even to US citizens on US soil. So systematic was the torture regime that a 2008 Senate report concluded that the criminal abuses at Abu Ghraib were the direct result of the torture mentality imposed by official Washington.
American torture was not confined to a handful of aberrational cases or techniques, nor was it the work of rogue CIA agents. It was an officially sanctioned, worldwide regime of torture that had the acquiescence, if not explicit approval, of the top members of both political parties in Congress. It was motivated by far more than interrogation. The evidence for all of this is conclusive and overwhelming. And the American media bears much of the blame, as they refused for years even to use the word “torture” to describe any of this (even as they called these same techniques “torture” when used by American adversaries), a shameful and cowardly abdication that continues literally to this day in many of the most influential outlets.
The Senate Intelligence Committee today will release part of its “torture report.” The report is the by-product of four years of work (2009-2013) and is 6,000 pages long. Only the Executive Summary, roughly 600 pages, will be released today. Even some of that is redacted: the names of CIA agents participating in the torture, countries which agreed to allow CIA black sites, and other details. For months, top Democrats on the Committee warred with the Obama White House due to the latter’s attempts to redact far more vital information than even stalwart CIA ally Dianne Feinstein thought necessary.
None of this has been in any plausible doubt for years. Recall that Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led an official investigation into prisoner abuse, said in 2008: “There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Gen. Barry McCaffrey said : “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.” Nobody needs this Senate report to demonstrate that the U.S. government became an official squad of torture (with the American public largely on board).
Still, this will be by far the most comprehensive and official account of the War on Terror’s official torture regime. Given the authors – Committee Democrats along with two Maine Senators: Angus King (I) and Susan Collins (R) – it’s likely to whitewash critical events, including the key, complicit role members of Congress such as Nancy Pelosi played in approving the program (important details of which are still disputed), as well an attempt to insulate the DC political class by stressing how the CIA “misled” elected officials about the program. But the report is certain to lay bare in very stark terms some of the torture methods, including “graphic details about sexual threats” and what Reuters still euphemistically and subserviently calls “other harsh interrogation techniques the CIA meted out to captured militants.”
Important parts of the Obama administration engaged in all sorts of gamesmanship to prevent the report’s release, including a last-minute call from John Kerry to Feinstein in which the Secretary of State warned that release of the report could endanger American lives (a warning affirmed yesterday by the White House) And a vital part of President Obama’s legacy will be his repeated and ultimately successful efforts to shield the torturers from all forms of legal accountability – which, aside from being a brazen breach of America’s treaty obligations, makes deterrence of future American torture almost impossible (Obama did that even in the face of some polls showing pluralities favored criminal investigations of torture).
To see how little accountability there still is for national security state officials, recall that the CIA got caught spying on the Senate Committee and then lying about it, yet John Brennan kept his job as CIA Director (just as James Clapper is still Director of National Intelligence despite getting caught lying about NSA domestic spying). Any decent person, by definition, would react with revulsion to today’s report, but nobody should react with confidence that its release will help prevent future occurrences by a national security state that resides far beyond democratic accountability, let alone the law.
The Intercept will have comprehensive coverage of the report throughout the day. We’ll have full annotations of the report; graphical guides to the key parts; reporting in Washington from Dan Froomkin, who has been covering the report for months, and other reporters; and I’ll be live-blogging key parts of the report and other fallout in this space all day, appearing, in reverse chronological order, underneath these initial observations.
Torture used to extract false information to justify Iraq War
Buried in footnote 857 of the report is this remarkable account of how the CIA rendered a detainee to an unknown country, had him tortured, and then used the false information he provided about Saddam’s WMDs and “alliance” with al Qaeda to justify the U.S. attack, including information used by Colin Powell at his notorious 2003 U.N. speech (via Sam Husseini):
-Glenn Greenwald at 4:58 p.m. EST
Torturing detainees with broken and prosthetic legs
This is simply repulsive, for reasons that speak for itself (contributed by The Intercept‘s Margot Williams):
-Glenn Greenwald at 3:47 p.m. EST
When releasing the report, Dianne Feinstein delivered a speech that contained some rather stark accusations against the CIA. My colleague Peter Maass wrote the following summation of the highlights:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, unveiling the report on the floor of the Senate, described the CIA’s use of torture as “a stain on our values and our history,” and she issued a particularly harsh condemnation of one of the agency’s former directors, Michael Hayden, whom she said had misled her committee and the public.
Referring to the contrast between what CIA cables said about the actual interrogations and Hayden’s portrayal of the interrogations, Feinstein said the CIA’s own documents “presented a starkly different picture from Director Hayden’s testimony before the committee.” She added, “I remember clearly when Director Hayden briefed the committee (and) referred specifically to a ‘tummy slap’… and presented the entire set of techniques as minimally harmful….They were not. The committee’s report demonstrates that these techniques were very harmful and that the constraints that existed on paper in Washington did not match the way the techniques were used around the world.”
Feinstein also accused Hayden of misleading the committee by saying the CIA had decided to destroy videotapes of interrogations because Congress had not requested them. “Director Hayden stated that if the committee had asked for the tapes they would have been provided–but of course the committee did not know the tapes existed,” Feinstein said.
In addition, Feinstein said the agency misled and provided false information to Department of Justice officials who were investigating whether the CIA program was legal. It is not clear whether her statements indicate a desire on her part for the DOJ to reopen its now-closed investigation.
“The CIA provided inaccurate memoranda and explanations to the Department of Justice while its legal counsel was considering the legality of the coercive techniques,” Feinstein said, noting that the DOJ relied on CIA assurances about the conduct of interrogations that were not “consistently or even routinely carried out” in the actual interrogations. She added that “in many cases important information was withheld from policy makers” for years—and she provided specifics:
“The CIA didn’t tell President Bush about the full nature of the [enhanced interrogation techniques] until April 2006. That’s what the records indicate. The CIA similarly withheld information or provided false information to the CIA inspector general…in 2004. Incomplete and inaccurate information was used in documents provided to the Department of Justice and as a basis for President Bush’s speech on September 6, 2006, in which he publicly acknowledged the CIA program for the first time. In all of these cases, other CIA officers acknowledged internally that information the CIA provided was wrong.”
The CIA’s obstruction continued until recently, Feinstein added, with the agency requesting redactions to the Senate report that were apparently intended to weaken its impact, rather than keep out of the public realm classified information that was legitimately sensitive. “The [requested] redactions to our report prevented a clear and understandable reading of our study and prevented us from substantiating the findings and conclusions…we objected.”
Look Forward, Not Backward, the leader instructs again
Barack Obama – who notoriously protected all torturers from all forms of legal accountability based on his lawless, repellent and selectively applied decree that we should Look Forward, Not Backward – today said much the same thing in response to this report:
In August, he acknowledged – with casual language more suitable to describing a purchase of new socks – that “we tortured some folks,” but warned us not to get “too sanctimonious” about it. So if you’re feeling sickened and outraged by today’s revelations, just listen to the President: stop Looking Backward and being sanctimonious, and just forget about all this unpleasant business about torture – just like he did.
-Glenn Greenwald at 2:51 p.m. EST
Ladies and Gentleman, Barack Obama and his administration
In all their brave and principled glory:
-Glenn Greenwald at 2:22 p.m. EST
Pure sadism: “Rectal rehydration,” threats to rape and kill detainees’ mothers
The U.S. media – beyond what I explained above (most would not even call it “torture”) – played a central role in first obscuring, then justifying, the Bush torture regime to the public. One of the most extreme examples was this Joe Klein column in The Guardian viciously mocking those who claimed the U.S. was torturing detainees (“total rubbish, of course”), and he even wrote this about detainees:
They wear orange jump suits, which are probably an improvement over their Afghan cave-wear (I would actually prefer they be dressed in pink tutus, to give them an appreciation of the freedoms accorded western ballerinas).
Liberal journalist Jonathan Alter wrote a Newsweek column expressly demanding that the U.S. Government use torture, headlined “Time to Think About Torture.” It began: “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.”
Now we have new examples. Today’s Senate Committee report describes how Douglas Jehl, then a New York Times reporter, now The Washington Post‘s Foreign Editor, promised the CIA positive coverage of its torture program (a common practice among some DC national security reporters):
My colleague Dan Froomkin emails to say:
Many of the same news organizations you are trusting today to accurately inform you about the torture report were either naive or knowing dupes in a CIA misinformation campaign orchestrated by top CIA officials, that included leaks of information that was amazingly enough both classified and inaccurate at the same time.Finding No. 10 of the summary reads as follows:
Moments after the report was issued, Marco Rubio tweeted this in defense of CIA torture:
Yesterday, the very same Marco Rubio boasted of his efforts to impose sanctions on “human rights violators” in Venezuela:
Does anyone at all have any difficulty seeing why few people outside the U.S. media take seriously the lectures of the Leader of the Free World?
-Glenn Greenwald at 12:32 p.m. EST
Psychologists played key role in torture program, then profited greatly
This is not only a profound and disgraceful violation of all professional ethics, but also a perfect illustration of what the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer calls “the torture-industrial complex”, as those torture psychologists received contracts totaling $81 million as part of their outsourced work:
CIA leaked classified information to the media for propaganda purposes
For all the claims in Washington about how leaking classified information is destructive and criminal, the CIA – consistent with what the Obama administration frequently does – routinely leaked classified information to the media to propagandize about their torture program. Will there be any criminal investigations the way there are when whistleblowers leak information that embarrasses (rather than serves) the government? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question:
-Glenn Greenwald at 11:55 a.m. EST
More waterboarding, and more brutal, than previously known
Even for waterboarding, it seems clear that there were more than just the 3 known cases, and the waterboarding was more brutal than previously known:
– Glenn Greenwald at 11:51 a.m. EST Innocent people detained and tortured
From Dianne Feinstein’s summary of the report:
Media torture advocates