The Banality Of Dick Cheney's Evil

by digby

Read this amazing piece by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. But gird yourself. It's one of the worst things you'll ever read about your government, and that's saying something:

"The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. 'It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,' an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. 'At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.'"


"A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the 'takeout' of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location. A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to 'sodomy.' He said, 'It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.' The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, 'because it’s demoralizing."


Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Marty Lederman at Balkinization points out another sick dimension to this scheme:

I have repeatedly argued here that there is no justification for keeping secret what interrogation techniques the CIA is permitted to use. In particular, it is absurd to "classify" something that is revealed to people outside the government who have no duty of confidentiality, i.e., to the detainees on whom the techniques are used. Those persons are free to disclose the information to others, as they have now done to Red Cross interviewers. Because of this, it becomes necessary to detain these persons, in isolation, presumably forever, in order to impose a prior restraint on their speech concerning their knowledge of what our government has done to them. In a strange sort of circular logic, the interrogation becomes the justification for indefinite detention, even long after the interrogation ends. Thus, as Jane writes, "[t]he utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security," so that they cannot reveal what happened to them.
Years ago I wrote a post in which a prisoner discussed very similar torture techniques. That prisoner wasn't some alleged Muslim fanatic:

Those illustrations and some of the comments are by former POW Mike Mcgrath about his time in the Hanoi Hilton. Other comments are from the transcript of Return With Honor, a documentary about the POW's during the Vietnam War. How silly of me to compare the US torture scheme with North Vietnam's.

It's very interesting that all these guys survived, in their estimation, mostly because of their own code of honor requiring them to say as little as possible, fight back as they could and cling to the idea that they were not helping this heartless enemy any more than they had to.

As I read the vivid descriptions of these interrogation techniques of sleep deprivation, sensory manipulation, isolation, stress positions and dietary manipulation I had to wonder whether they would be any more likely to work on committed Islamic jihadists than they were on committed American patriots.

The American POWs admitted that they broke under torture and told the interrogators what they knew. And they told a lot of them what they didn't know. And over time, they told them things they couldn't possibly know. The torture continued. Many of them, just like the reports from Gitmo, attempted suicide. They remained imprisoned never knowing when or if they would ever be set free.

That was one of the reasons I was so aghast that John McCain helped create that grotesque military commissions bill. He knew about this scheme if I did. I assume he knew much more. It's true that this is a CIA rather than a pentagon program, but really, what's the difference.? these programs were all hatched and supervised by the same insane man named Dick Cheney.

Tonight I heard David Shuster take Joe Biden to task for suggesting in the debate tonight that the Republicans have "ruined" this country, claiming that "ruin" suggests irreparable harm and "that's a stretch." It is not a stretch. The systematic nature of this thing, with doctors and psychiatrists as willing accomplices, is exactly the banality of evil that Hannah Arendt described. Ruin is the perfect word to describe what they have done.