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Bybee and Peterson: Two Mormons, Two Different Ethics On Torture

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Jay Bybee, as a Bush administration political appointee Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice, wrote one of four torture memos released last month. Bybee's August 1, 2002, 20-page memorandum laid out in excruciating detail the interrogation techniques he was authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to use on al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.

Bybee, a Mormon, authorized ten "enhanced interrogation techniques" to encourage Abu Zubaydah to disclose "crucial information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against U.S. interests overseas." The torture techniques authorized were (1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress position, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) waterboarding.

Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that waterboarding is torture, while the previous Attorney General Judge Mukasey refused to comment on whether waterboarding is torture.

From recently released CIA documents we know the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubayah 83 times and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times.

But we know that from March through June 2002, according to FBI interrogator Ali Soufan in an op-ed to the New York Times on April 23, 2009, FBI interrogators had already gotten "actionable intelligence" from Zubayah using traditional, non-torturing interrogation techniques, including that Khalid Sheikh Mohmamed was the mastermind of 9/11 and that Jose Padilla was planning to be the "dirty bomber."

Ninety of the 92 interrogation videotapes the CIA admits it destroyed were interrogations of Abu Zubayah.

We know that combinations of the other nine techniques authorized by Bybee can be classified as torture, as the Convening Authority of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Susan Crawford declared when she dismissed the charges against Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani in January 2009, in the last days of the Bush Administration.

Crawford said that for 160 days al-Qahtani's only contact was with the interrogators and that 48 of 54 consecutive days he was subjected to 18-to-20-hour interrogations. He was strip searched and had to stand naked in front of a female agent. Qahtani was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation and was told that his mother and sister were whores. With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks. He was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus. The interrogations were so severe that twice Qahtani had to be hospitalized at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death." At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the interrogation records showed.

The torture techniques Bybee authorized in 2002 migrated to Iraq in 2003. Major General Geoffrey Miller traveled to Iraq from Guantanamo to demonstrate to soldiers in Iraq the techniques the military and CIA were using in Guantanamo.

In September 2003, another Mormon, a woman soldier U.S. Army Specialist Alyssa Peterson, said she refused to use the interrogation techniques Bybee had authorized on Iraqi prisoners. An Arabic linguist with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at Tal Afar base, Iraq, 27-year-old Peterson refused to take part in interrogations in the "cage" where Iraqis were stripped naked in front of female soldiers, mocked and their manhood degraded and burned with cigarettes, among other things. Three days later, on September 15, 2003, Peterson was found dead of a gunshot wound at Tal Afar base. The Army has classified her death as suicide.

Jay Bybee, in thanks for his being the loyal soldier to the Bush administration's policies of torture, was nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he sits to this day in his lifetime appointment. Jay Bybee, an author of torture, reportedly has a placard in his home for his children "We don't hurt each other."

Alyssa Peterson, for saying no to torture, is dead, perhaps by her own hand.

To help Alyssa Peterson rest in peace, I say we should demand accountability from our officials and impeach the torture judge, Jay Bybee.

About the Author: Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel. She was a US diplomat who served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somali, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia and Afghanistan, where she helped reopen the US Embassy in December, 2001. She has travelled Gaza twice in the past three months and will make her third trip in May, 2009. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (www.voicesofconscience.com)