To judge from firsthand documents obtained by the
ACLU through a FOIA lawsuit, we can guess what is probably on the
missing CIA interrogation
tapes -- as well as understand why those implicated are spinning so
hard to pretend the tapes do not document a series of evident crimes.
According to the little-noticed but extraordinarily important book
Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to
Ghraib and Beyond (Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, Columbia
Press, New York 2007), which presents dozens of original formerly
secret documents - FBI emails and memos, letters and interrogator
lists," raw proof of the systemic illegal torture of
detainees in various US-held prisons -- the typical "harsh
interrogation" of a suspect in US custody reads like an account of
abuses in archives at Yad Vashem.
More is still being hidden as of this writing -- as those in
Congress now considering whether
a special prosecutor is needed in this case should be urgently aware:
"Through the FOIA lawsuit," write the authors, "we learned of
of multiple records relating to prisoner abuse that still have not
released by the
administration; credible media reports identify others. As this book
goes to print, the Bush administration
is still withholding, among many other records, a September 2001
presidential directive authorizing the CIA
to set up secret detention centers overseas; an August 2002 Justice
Department memorandum advising the CIA
about the lawfulness of waterboarding [Italics mine; nota bene, Mr.
and other aggressive interrogation methods; documents describing
used by special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan;
files concerning the deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody; and
photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners at detention facilities
other than Abu Ghraib.'
What we are likely to see if the
tapes documenting the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim
are ever recovered is that the "confessions" of
the prisoners upon which the White House has built its entire case
subverting the Constitution and suspending civil liberties in this
country was obtained through methods such as electrocution, beating
the point of organ failure, hanging prisoners from the wrists from a
ceiling, suffocation, and threats against family members ("I am going
find your mother and I am going to fuck her" is one direct quote from
On the missing tapes, we would likely see responses from the
that would be obvious to us as confessions to anything at all in
to end the violence. In other words, if we could witness the drama
manufacturing by torture the many violently coerced "confessions"
the whole house of cards of this White House and its hyped "war on
terror" rests, it would likely cause us to reopen every
including the most serious ones
(remember, even the 9/11 committee did not receive copies of the
tapes); shut down the corrupt, Stalinesque Military Commissions
over prisoners, the guilty and the innocent, into a working,
accountable justice system operating in accordance with American
values; and direct
our legal scrutiny to the torturers themselves -- right up to the
office of the Vice President and the President if that is where the
investigations would lead.
By the way: "The prohibition against torture [in the law] is
considered to be a jus cogens norm,
meaning that no derogation is permitted from it under any
This is what the FOIA documents report, belying White House
soundbites that "we don't torture"
and explaining the intent pursuit on the part of the CIA and the
White House of the current apparent obstruction of justice:
Late 2002 -- the FBI objects to the illegality of abuses
being put into place by the Defense Department in its "special
interrogation plan" to use isolation, sleep deprivation
and menacing with dogs against prisoners.
Dec 2, 2002 -- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld personally issues a
authorizing the use of stress
positions, hooding, removal of clothing, and the terrorizing of
at Guantanamo with
Dec 3, 2002 -- at Baghram, interrogators kill an Afghan prisoner "by
shackling him by his wrists to the wire ceiling above his cell and
repeatedly beating his legs. A postmortem report finds abrasions and
contusions on the prisoner's face, head, neck, arms and legs and
determines that the death was a "homicide" caused by "blunt force
April 16, 2003 -- Rumsfeld approves yet another directive for abusive
This directive for Afghanistan restores to the interrogators' arsenal
many forms of torture that had
been resisted by the FBI. [Notably, the FBI had resisted complying
the direct commission of
torture since as early as 2002 because,
as its Behavioral Analysis Unit complained to the Defense Department
that time in an internal email, "not only are these tactics at odds with legally permissible interviewing techniques
[italics mine: in
words, all concerned know these are apparent war crimes]...but
they are being employed by personnel in GTMO who have little, if any,
experience eliciting information for judicial purposes." In other
words, as any
trained interrogator knows, the abuses are both doubtless illegal
and certainly ineffective for getting real intelligence. [Jaffer
and Singh, Timeline of Key Events, pp. 45-65,op. cit.]
Oct 22 2003 -- Final autopsy report relating to death of "52 y/o Iraqi
Male, Civilian Detainee" held by U.S. forces
in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Prisoner was found to have "died as a result of
asphyxia...due to strangulation."
November 14, 2003 -- a sworn statement of a soldier stationed at
Camp Red, Baghdad, states that "I saw what I think were war crimes"
that "the chain of command....allowed them to happen."
May 13, 2004 -- a sworn statement of the 302nd Military Intelligence
Battalion recounts an incident in which "interrogators abused
17-year-old son of prisoner in order to 'break' the prisoner."
May 18, 2004 -- a Privacy Act statement of an Abu Ghraib sergeant
notes that prisoners had been forced to stand "naked with a bag over
their head, standing on MRE boxes and their hand[s] spread
out...holding a bottle in each hand."
May 24, 2004 -- Sworn statement of interrogator who arrived at Abu
Ghraib in October
2003, discussing use of military dogs against juvenile prisoners.
June 16, 2004 -- Marine Corps document describing abuse cases between
September 2001 and June 2004, including
"substantiated" incidents in which marines electrocuted a prisoner
hands on fire.
Undated: Sworn statement of screener who arrived at Abu Ghraib in
September 2003, indicating that prisoners at Asamiya Palace in
had been beaten, burned and subjected to electric shocks.
Subsequent internal documents record prisoners being stripped,
to walk into walls blindfolded, punched, kicked, dragged about the
room, observed to have bruises and burn marks on their backs, and
having their jaws deliberately broken. Still other reports document
incidents classified by the military itself
as probable murders committed by US interrogators.
The book also reveals an extraordinary original transcript of a
the Army Inspector General interview with Lieutenant General Randall
Schmidt. Lt. Gen. Schmidt had interfaced with MG Geoffrey Miller on
one hand -- the most brutal overseer of such abuses, the one who was
"Gitmo-ize" other prisons -- and the honorable JAG military lawyers
the abuses under investigation at that time. [Lt. Gen. Schmidt
MG Miller of his rights under Article 31
of the Uniform Code of Military Justice at that time -- in other
those involved know something serious is at stake, p. a-16].
The transcript of
internal document reveals Lt. Gen. Schmidt's own words that it was
his understanding that the directives to commit these acts, many
of which are apparently war crimes, came right from the top.
The interview was not primarily intended to be a public document:
General" notes the document, "is an impartial fact-finder for the
Testimony taken by an IG and reports based on that testimony may be
used for official purposes. Access is normally restricted to persons who clearly need the information to perform their official duties.
[italics mine]. In some cases, disclosure to other persons may be
required by law or regulation or may be directed by proper
authority." As in the case, clearly, here -- though the immense
this privately taken testimony have not reverberated fully yet in a
public forum: "I thought the Secretary of Defense in good faith was
techniques," testified Lt. Gen. Schmidt. "In good faith after
to him twice. I know that -- and these weren't interrogations or
interviews of him. This was our hour and forty-five minutes and then
another hour and fifteen kind of thing were [sic] we sat in there and
had these discussions with him." [Testimony of Lt. Gen. Randall M
Taken 24 August 2005 at Davis Mountain Air Force Base, Arizona, Dept.
of the Army Inspector General, Investigations Division, pp. a-30 to
a-53, Jaffer and Singh, op. cit].
So what should Congress know as it decides what is to be done?
We torture, illegally, by directive; the
directives come from the top; those
who torture know it is probably criminal; when we
torture prisoners, the guilty and the innocent, they will tell us
anything they think we want to
hear -- including implicate themselves falsely, as many reports from
Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations testify to -- to
make the torture stop; and
the White House routinely uses that faked or coerced unverifiable
"intelligence" to buttress its
wholesale assault on our liberties.
As the CIA tries to spin its apparent crimes and claim that its
waterboarding and other forms of criminal torture "saved lives" --
while conveniently offering no evidence to back that up, and while
the administration withholds evidence to the contrary from the lawyers
the detainees -- we should bear in mind that the decades of research
on torture summarized in the magisterial survey "The Question of
Torture" show beyond the shadow of a doubt that prisoners being
tortured will indeed "say anything." When American prisoners were
tortured by the North Vietnamese, their confessions were phrased in
We should note too -- as the White House tries to muddy the
waters by pretending
that there has ever been a "debate" about such acts as these -- that
the US in the past prosecuted waterboarding itself: when the Japanese
waterboarded US prisoners they were convicted with sentences of
fifteen years of hard
We should also bear in mind that the Bush
White House has deliberately crafted its memos and laws -- such as
Bybee/Gonzales "torture memo" and the Military Commissions Act of
-- with a keen eye to seeking indemnification of its own guilt
having committed evident crimes, because those involved know quite
that acts committed could be criminal acts. (An historical note worth
we consider how hyperalert
the Bush White House has been to the issue of seeking retroactively
protect itself and its subordinates from prosecution for war and
other crimes, is that the Nuremberg
Trials eventually swept up influential Nazi industrialists such as
Fritz Thyssen of IG Farben -- who relied on Auschwitz slave labor --
and with whom Prescott Bush had collaborated in
amassing the Bush family millions; some of the sentences given
to those industrialists found guilty in the postwar trials were
severe.) For a moment postwar, the
legal spotlight was also about to search out and hold accountable the
US investors who had partnered with Nazi industrialists (see the
exhaustively documented study of US/Nazi corporate collaboration,
and the Holocaust.)
Prosecution for war crimes and other criminal acts, which the
clearly recognizes that it may well have committed -- which its
clearly shows it realized it may well commit in advance of the commission -- is the only consequence the Bush team seems to be
really afraid of as it
attempts its multiple subversions of the rule of law.
This is why the nation's grassroots call for a truly independent
investigation into possible criminality is so very urgent and so
necessary to restore the rule of
law in our nation.
Mr. Mukasey could look up his own department's files
understand that waterboarding is
a war crime; not only that, the US Military prosecuted waterboarding
as a war crime itself
in 1902 -- it had been used against prisoners in the Phillipines -- and
those Americans who had committed it
received convictions from the military. It is hopeless to rely on the
An independent special prosecutor must be appointed. The people
who are found guilty, in America, must face justice.
Let the investigations begin.