THE BLOG
10/11/2006 03:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Torture or Interrogation? You Decide

Several commenters to my post yesterday objected that the questions in the survey cited were "skewed" because, chiefly, of the use of the word "torture" instead of the administration-approved term "rough interrogation." Let's consider the case of Jose Padilla, who has suffered cardiothoracic problems as well as psychological damage as a result of his "interrogation," according to the brief (20-page pdf file) filed by his attorneys. A blog by a lawyer following the case details Padilla's treatment after being arrested on suspicion of plotting a "dirty bomb" attack. This is just an excerpt:

The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla's torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity. For nearly two years - from June 9, 2002 until March 2, 2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr. Padilla to have contact with his lawyers - Mr. Padilla was in complete isolation. Even after he was permitted contact with counsel, his conditions of confinement remained essentially the same. He was kept in a unit comprising sixteen individual cells, eight on the upper level and eight on the lower level, where Mr. Padilla's cell was located. No other cells in the unit were occupied. His cell was electronically monitored twenty-four hours a day, eliminating the need for a guard to patrol his unit. His only contact with another person was when a guard would deliver and retrieve trays of food and when the government desired to interrogate him.

His isolation, furthermore, was aggravated by the efforts of his captors to maintain complete sensory deprivation. His tiny cell - nine feet by seven feet - had no view to the outside world. The door to his cell had a window, however, it was covered by a magnetic sticker, depriving Mr. Padilla of even a view into the hallway and adjacent common areas of his unit. He was not given a clock or a watch and for most of the time of his captivity, he was unaware whether it was day or night, or what time of year or day it was.

In addition to his extreme isolation, Mr. Padilla was also viciously deprived of sleep. This sleep deprivation was achieved in a variety of ways. For a substantial period of his captivity, Mr. Padilla's cell contained only a steel bunk with no mattress. The pain and discomfort of sleeping on a cold, steel bunk made it impossible for him to sleep. Mr. Padilla was not given a mattress until the tail end of his captivity.....

He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.....

While no one would imagine Mr. Padilla a model citizen, the fact is that he is a U.S. citizen, and was held without charge or access to a lawyer for a lot longer than the U.S. Bill of Rights allows. When Padilla was finally charged, there was no mention of that "dirty bomb" or "enemy combatant" business. He still hasn't been convicted of anything, after more than four years' imprisonment. He has suffered permanent physical and psychological injury. Does that constitute "torture," or merely aggressive -- but legal -- interrogation of an American citizen?

Hat tip to tristero at Hullabaloo and to Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory.