Sunday, December 04, 2005

Is it okay?

First, some quick background to set the stage.

About a month ago, the Washington Post ran a story alleging that the U.S. has been transferring detainees to secret torture facilities in various parts of the world, including Afganistan, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The story details that the transports are done by the CIA who uses privately contracted planes to make the transports.

It's also alleged that many of these flights planes have made use of airports across Europe to stop and refuel or perform maintainence.

About three weeks ago, several governments in Europe started to raise concerns that the U.S. had used facilities in their countries and may have skirted laws to cover what they were doing. Spain, in particular, has been very concerned. They began to investigate whether there was enough evidence to start official inquiries.

Also, around this time, reports have come out that allege that at least two Eastern European countries - Romania and Poland - have hosted "black sites" or CIA torture and interrogation facilities.

About two weeks ago, more countries had joined in the chorus calling for answers to the allegations. During all this time the U.S. government response was that they would look into responding in a timely manner.

Around this time the Spanish court officially began an investigation. There system is a bit different than ours, but what that means is the government of Spain has begun to investigate the allegations that Spanish airports were used to transport people to secret facilities in another country. It's the first step in criminal proceedings in Spain.

One week ago, the calls for a response had not yet been answered. Daily questions to the State Department spokesman Sean McCormack have been sidestepped with rhetoric and "well, I can't comment on something that could be an intelligence matter..." Meanwhile, the flipside of the responses has been that the U.S. will look into responding in a timely manner.

During this time, the questioning has gotten more pointed and is beginning to boil down to - So, you're unwilling to say whether there are torture facilities overseas or not? You are saying that taking a month to repond to these allegations is responding in a timely manner? Are you admitting, then, that the Administration believes torture is an acceptable action?

In the last week, the questioning has heated up at the State Department briefings where there are still journalists working and not PR writers, like many accuse the White House correspondents of being.

The EU has sent an official letter asking for information on the allegations. They can expect to get a response - yes, you guessed it - in a timely manner. Also, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man 'detained' by the U.S., sent to a torture facility in Afghanistan.

Tomorrow, Condee Rice will be in Germany and then other countries. She is going to be meeting with the new government in Germany and is likely to issue a statement there that will set the tone for the Administration's stand on the allegations.

The hints dropped by others in their recent statements seem to indicate that the stand will be that this is a different kind of war, we most all work in a concerted way to fight this war on terror and that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. No further mention of torture facilities will be responded to. It's also expected that Rice will be telling the governments of several European countries to stop pushing the issue.

Anyway...this is all just a long-winded prologue to my questions.

Is it okay for the U.S. to torture prisoners?

Is it okay for the U.S. to detain people for long periods of time without any legal recourse?

And finally, if it is okay to use torture or detain people in prisons for years, what is the obligation of the U.S. if it turns out that any of these people had no "terrorist" connections at all?

Please don't sit on the sidelines on this one. What do you think?


tshsmom said...

It's NEVER ok to torture ANY animal, especially humans!
I don't think that we should just turn detainees loose. Most of the detainees we release have gone right back to Al Quaida. We DO need to have some sort of due process for these people. We can't keep them forever.

I think our country is getting in way over it's head on this. It looks like the rest of the world is going to hold us accountable, as it should be. We shouldn't be exempt.

Bella_by_Barlight said...

What always amazes me about the U.S., (the country I am a citizen of) is that the ideals upon which it bases its excuses for invading other countries, the ideal upon which its citizens salute the flag, can be circumvented by its own government and yet nothing happens. The U.S. is like a patient with multiple personality disorder.

Sorry, I don't think I officially answered the question, but there ya go.

Laura said...

No, No, and No.

It scares me that the standard defense of this practice is the "different kind of war" excuse or we're in a "post 9-11 world". SO WHAT. What concerns me more than that is the herd of sheep that call themselves citizens that buy into that line of thinking.

The rules are there not only to protect the "enemy" troops, but also to protect ours. How can our government purport to spread freedom and democracy and claim to be the cornerstone of global morality and then turn around and do this?

Shawn said...

What gets me pissed is the unwillingness to even look at the facts. It's a lot like our refusal to look at racism and other flaws we have. It's even more effed up that the administration concern has been trying to find who squeeled instead of addressing their own atrocities.

Ummm, it's bad to leak classified information that threatens the's okay to leak the identity of a CIA's bad to leak stories of torture in military's okay to throw people in ratty ass prisons if they're's bad to leak details of secret torture's okay to have secret torture facilities...

And the top story tonight will be that there's a shortage of the new X-box 360.

K said...

How much ya wanna bet they blast Celine Dion in those facilities?

Her heart will go on and onnnnnnnn until they crack...

Always works for me anyway.

(and yes... completely unacceptable)

Gregg said...

Excerpts from the CIA Torture Manual
As reprinted in Harper's Magazine, April 1997 issue.
Psychological Torture, CIA-Style
From the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual--1983," a handbook written by the Central Intelligence Agency and used during the early 80's to teach Latin American security forces how to extract information from prisoners. The manual was obtained in January through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Baltimore Sun as part of an investigation of the CIA's involvement in Honduras. In 1985, the CIA renounced the use of coercive interrogation techniques (sic) and amended the manual accordingly; in the copy obtained by the Sun, the original 1983 text is legible beneath the agency's handwritten revisions and deletion marks.



The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist. Regression is basically a loss of autonomy, a reversion to an earlier behavioral level. As the subject regresses, his learned personality traits fall away in reverse chronological order. He begins to lose the capacity to carry out the highest creative activities, to deal with complex situations, or to cope with stressful interpersonal relationships or repeated frustrations.



The manner and timing of the subjects arrest should be planned to achieve surprise and the maximum amount of mental discomfort. He should therefore be arrested at a moment when he least expects it and when his mental and physical resistance are at their lowest--ideally, in the early hours of the morning. When arrested at this time, most subjects experience intense feelings of shock, insecurity, and psychological stress, and have great difficulty adjusting to the situation.


A person's sense of identity depends upon the continuity in his surroundings, habits, appearance, relations with others, etc. Detention permits the questioner to cut through these links and throw the subject back upon his own unaided internal resources. Detention should be planned to enhance the subject's feelings of being cut off from anything known and reassuring.

Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli

Solitary confinement acts on most persons as a powerful stress. The symptoms most commonly produced by solitary confinement are superstition, intense love of any other living thing, perceiving inanimate objects as alive, hallucinations, and delusions.

Threats and Fear

The threat of coercion usually weakens or destroys resistance more effectively than coercion itself. For example, the threat to inflict pain can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain.

The threat of death has been found to be worse than useless. The principal reason is that it often induces sheer hopelessness; the subject feels that he is as likely to be condemned after compliance as before. Some subjects recognize that the threat is a bluff and that silencing them forever would defeat the questioner's purpose.

If a subject refuses to comply after a threat has been made, it must be carried out. Otherwise, subsequent threats will also prove ineffective.


The torture situation is a contest between the subject and his tormentor. Pain that is being inflicted upon the subject from outside himself may actually intensify his will to resist. On the other hand, pain that he feels he is inflicting upon himself is more likely to sap his resistance. For example, if he is required to maintain a rigid position such as standing at attention or sitting on a stool for long periods of time, the immediate source of discomfort is not the questioner but the subject himself. After a while, the subject is likely to exhaust his internal motivational strength.

Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, fabricated to avoid additional punishment. This results in a time-consuming delay while an investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite, the subject can pull himself together and may even use the time to devise a more complex confession that takes still longer to disprove.

Hypnosis and Heightened Suggestibility

Answers obtained from the subject under the influence of hypnotism are highly suspect, as they are often based upon the suggestions of the questioner and are distorted or fabricated. However, the subject's strong desire to escape the stress of the situation can create a state of mind called "heightened suggestibility." The questioner can take advantage of this state of mind by creating a situation in which the subject will cooperate because he believes he has been hypnotized. This hypnotic situation can be created using the "magic room" technique.

For example, the subject is given a hypnotic suggestion that his hand is growing warm. However, his hand actually does become warm with the aid of a concealed diathermy machine. He may be given a suggestion that a cigarette will taste bitter and could be given a cigarette prepared to have a slight but noticeably bitter taste.


There is no drug that can force every subject to divulge all the information he has, but it is possible to create a mistaken belief that a subject has been drugged by using the "placebo" technique. The subject is given a placebo (a harmless sugar pill) and later is told he was given a truth serum that will make him want to talk and that will also prevent his lying. His desire to find to find an excuse for compliance, which is his only avenue of escape from his depressing situation, may make him want to believe that he has been drugged and that no one could blame him for telling his story now. This provides him with the rationalization that he needs for cooperating.


As mentioned earlier, the purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce regression. A few noncoercive techniques can also be used to induce regression, but to a lesser degree than can be obtained with coercive techniques:

Persistent manipulation of time
Retarding and advancing clocks
Serving meals at odd times
Disrupting sleep schedules
Disorientation regarding day and night
Unpatterned questioning sessions
Nonsensical questioning
Ignoring halfhearted attempts to cooperate
Rewarding noncooperation
Whether regression occurs spontaneously under detention or is induced by the questioner, it should not be allowed to continue beyond the point necessary to obtain compliance. A psychiatrist should be present if severe techniques are to be employed, to ensure full reversal later. As soon as possible, the questioner should provide the subject with the rationalization that he needs for giving in and cooperating. This rationalization is likely to be elementary, an adult version of a childhood excuse such as:

"They made you do it."
"All the other boys are doing it."
"You're really a good boy at heart."
[end of article]
Just wanted to give some perspective about what kind of torture we may be imposing.

Shawn said...

I admire your researching that a bit Gregg. That's more than most people are willing to do.

I have actually read that and the revisions made in 1985. The reason for the revisions were twofold - one, the use of torture techniques were deemed to be ineffective in gathering useful intelligence and, two, it was determined that it was illegal both in the U.S. and under international law.

The copy you posted looks to be the unrevised version as the revised copy includes warnings that many of these techniques are against policy and are considered illegal.

Despite the fact that it's a torture manual, it's less atrocious than the earlier manual, 'KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation', which was used during the Viet Nam conflict.

Interestingly enough, even without torture involved, the whole thing isn't legal. The CIA is not authorized to detain or hold anyone, much less ship them to secret prisons overseas.

In all fairness though, since the 1983 manual is being held up as an example of types of torture that might be used, I think we should look at other types of treatment we could, based on recent examples, expect to be in use. Some of these photos are very graphic. Don't follow this link if you're easilly disturbed.

And, then what responsibility, if any do we have to those wrongly abducted, jailed and tortured? Doesn't happen? It already has. Cases have already occurred in Guantanamo, which led to the Supreme Court ordering hearings be conducted there. There's just been a lawsuit filed on behalf of a German citizen abducted, tortured and held in a secret facility for five months before being released without so much an apology.

The Zombieslayer said...

What ever happened to sodium penthanol. I'm very against using it on American citizens, but foreign enemies of war and foreign terrorists, I think it's fair.

I know that sounds awful me saying that, but when someone attacks my country, I'm not the person to ask for mercy. And sodium penthanol works without torture.

gregg said...

Just wanted to clarify what torture means in todays conflicts as some people may believe that we are hooking up car batteries to genitals and such. The prison abuses you site are valid and quite frankly sickening. Maybe thats why the C.I.A. should take over interrogation, as the Army seems ill equipped to handle such a delicate task.

Shawn said...

Good point...

The problem I have is that the CIA has been known to use the car batteries (or, more particularly, teach others to use them...) and it was those type of allegations in the 80's that led to copies of that manual being released.

What's not related in most transcriptions of the text that I've seen is that there are several portions that aren't included due to them being classified.

The original manual from the 60s actually did express that electric shocks were an acceptable interogation technique in some instances.

I'm guessing the truth lies somewhere between the CIA beats the crap out of people and sticks cattle prods up their behinds and all the CIA is doing is some sort of 'Fear Factor' make them touch icky worms.

Mostly, I don't trust the government to do the right thing. And given the lack of transparency already displayed, they don't sound believable when they say, 'trust us.'

Shawn said...

By the way Gregg...tonight I drink. I would invite you, but the disappointment of you standing me up again might cause me to weep.

gregg said...

I am unsupervised until about 8pm. tonight, so I will be out at around 6pm. I think I hold the top 4 places in trivia w/ a paltry 9000 some odd points, so sure could use a challenge.
As long as the govt. continues to get scrutinized, it will work. I dont trust ANY organization, person, religon etc. that fancies itself autonomous, and above the people it deems it is there to serve. So I applaude the fact that people like yourself are here not to blindly eat the administrations pablum, but instead, make them accountable for their actions. That said, I also believe that the people that are right now standing on the corner where I work holding signs that say " I do not support our troops or this war END IT NOW!!!" are simplistic, and naive, and are a detriment to what could be an honest dialog about how to win freedom for Iraq and bring our boys back home.

Shawn said...

Cheers to honest, thought-out dialogues...

And as far as supporting the troops, it's our responsibility to support them in doing what we as a country asked them to do, even if we as individuals don't necessarilly agree with the war.

It's also our responsibility to hold those who go over the line accountable. Personally, I'm all for a bit of the same given back to those who stoop to abuse.

exMI said...

Let's not forget that word "allegations" here. Just becaseu teh CIA had "secret prisons" does not mean they were "torture centers" In fact, you can look at the excerpt from the CIA "torture" manual that gregg posted and see this "Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, fabricated to avoid additional punishment. This results in a time-consuming delay while an investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue." The CIA itself in the manual says that torture is ineffective.
I recently did a large post on torture on my blog. Feel free to go read it for more on my opinions of why it isn't how we should be playing.

Shawn said...

exmi - Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Read your post and have to agree with you. It's an important issue that we, as a country, need to address and it's heartening to at least know some are thinking about it.

Here's the link to exmi's post for anyone who would like to read it.