The Torture Question
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This interactive feature from offers a rundown of the legal memos that determined U.S. interrogation policy, a primer on the various methods used and their origins, and a review of some of the military investigations that followed reports of abuse. Coauthors Emily Bazelon, Phillip Carter, and Dahlia Lithwick say that their aim is "to illuminate and add depth to the torture debate—not to persuade you to support or oppose it, but to help you formulate your own views on where the acceptable boundaries may lie." (May 26, 2005)

The Abu Ghraib scandal broke with this "60 Minutes II" report in which shocking photographs reveal the extent of the abuse. The program interviewed by phone one of the accused soldiers, Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, who was still in Baghdad. "'We had no support, no training whatsoever,'" he says. "'I kept asking my chain of command for certain rules and regulations. And it just wasn't happening.'" This page is an index of the "60 Minutes II" reporting with additional photo essays and video. (April 28, 2004)

This New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh broke at about the same time as the "60 Minutes" story. Accompanied by more shocking images, Hersh's story reveals the findings of then-classified Taguba report, which he describes as "an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority." (May 10, 2004)

Hersh continued to follow this story in May 2004, delivering reports on how the Department of Defense handled the reports of abuse and a secret "black" Pentagon program for gathering intelligence.

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer reports on the U.S. secret practice of rendition, in which suspects are moved to other countries with less stringent human rights standards for questioning and perhaps torture. She writes that "[w]hat began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects -- people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants -- came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms 'illegal enemy combatants.' Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime." Mayer traces the history of rendition and tracks how it has changed since 9/11. She also answers questions about her story in an online Q&A. (Feb. 14, 2005)

Jane Mayer examines the role of medical personnel at Guantanamo, where behavioral scientists without a direct role in a detainee's care participate in Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) to facilitate effective interrogation. Mayer finds evidence that their role at Gitmo is influenced by the reverse-application of Army resistance training known as SERE ("Survival, Evastion, Resistance, and Escape.") She writes, "[t]he program is a storehouse of knowledge about coercive methods of interrogation. One way to stimulate acute anxiety, SERE scientists have learned, is to create an environment of radical uncertainty: trainees are hooded; their sleep patterns are disrupted; they are starved for extended periods; they are stripped of their clothes; they are exposed to extreme temperatures; and they are subjected to harsh interrogations by officials impersonating enemy captors." (The New Yorker, July 11, 2005)

Heather MacDonald says the Abu Ghraib scandal has had a chilling effect on what had been a healthy debate over the development of effective interrogation techniques: "The Pentagon's reaction to the [Abu Ghraib] scandal was swift and sweeping. It stripped interrogators not just of stress options but of traditional techniques long regarded as uncontroversial as well. Red tape now entangles the interrogation process, and detainees know that their adversaries' hands are tied." (City Journal, Winter 2005)

At a prison facility in western Iraq, Iraqi Maj. Gen Hamed Mowhoush died after "a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again." Reporter Josh White files this Washington Post story for which he reviewed classified investigative records that reveal the methodology for attempting to extract information from Mowhoush. He finds that "The circumstances that led up to Mowhoush's death paint a vivid example of how the pressure to produce intelligence for anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Iraq led U.S. military interrogators to improvise and develop abusive measures, not just at Abu Ghraib but in detention centers elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." (Aug. 3, 2005)

Following the release of the Schmidt Report, Washington Post reporter Josh White compares the report's findings on methods used on supposed 20th highjacker Mohammed al Qahtani, such as the wearing of women's underwear and use of dogs, to those revealed in the Abu Ghraib photographs, calling the findings "the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq." (July 14, 2005)

Marty Lederman posts on this blog about the strategy by Vice President's Dick Cheney's office to exempt the CIA from the McCain amendment, which would prohibit mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The left column of the page also links to "The Anti-Torture Memos," an archive of the blog's coverage on torture, detention, interrogation, war powers, and the Office of Legal Counsel. (Oct. 15, 2005)

This report from Human Rights Watch grabbed headlines in September 2005 because it contained first-hand accounts of "physical and mental torture" of detainees, revealed in the anonymous testimony of two Sergeants and an officer, who came forward separately and identified himself as Capt. Ian Fishback. The soldiers were stationed with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Forward Operating Base Mercury in Fallujah.



This page from the Department of Defense serves as an index for links to some of the military investigations into the abuse, as well as press briefings and news articles.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has collected all the documents it has received under the Freedom of Information Act on this page. A lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military leaders has yielded more than 77,000 pages of documents. Of particular note are the e-mails (here and here) sent by FBI agents disturbed by what they saw at Guantanamo. On Sept. 29, 2005, a federal judge ordered the release of more photos and videos of prison abuse at Abu Ghraib. Check back on this page for updates.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), whose president is human rights attorney Michael Ratner, has a number of reports and other information about the situation for Guantanamo detainees, including: The Tipton Report, which details the story of three British detainees released from Guantanamo after the British government found evidence of their innocence; a collection of detainees' habeas corpus petitions; and extended briefs on Rasul v. Bush, a case brought by CCR in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

This Web site for the Guantanamo Joint Task Force has information on the base, the detainees, and directives on the military tribunals.

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posted oct. 18, 2005

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