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Hullabaloo


Friday, December 19, 2014

 
Why what we saw was totally not torture

by Tom Sullivan

All the news about the CIA torture program reminded me of those batches of FBI emails the ACLU obtained through FOIA requests. The ones Sen. Dick Durbin held up and described to colleagues like this:



"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
After about ten days of epic, right-wing hissy fit, a tearful Durbin apologized to the U.S. Senate. After the release of the SCCI report, doesn't he feel like an idiot?

(I have this image in my head of Bill Frist accepting Durbin's apology, walking solemnly back to his office, closing the door, and doubling over laughing. The Art of the Hissy Fit is simply alpha dog behavior — showing who's boss by barking loudly in the other dog's face until he rolls over on his back and pees in the air. This is called winning. Torture serves a similar function, doesn't it?)
A May 22, 2004 FBI email described techniques used at Guantanamo Bay that agents on site found disturbing. Although the techniques listed seem not as harsh as those used by the CIA or at Abu Ghraib, the FBI still considered them torture, and said so. Basically, Special Agents were pointedly NOT reporting to superiors that what they'd seen were crimes.

The EC [Electronic Communication] states that "if an FBI employee knows or suspects non-FBI personnel has abused or is abusing or is mistreating a detainee, the FBI employee must report the incident."
See, they write, what we saw would be a crime we'd have to report except we're really not reporting that because the interrogators have an Executive Order from President Bush that makes the illegal techniques legal, therefore by definition not "abuse" and our bureau people are totally NOT involved in any of it. At all.

The agents made sure to repeat "Executive Order" ten times in two pages so no one could miss it. The White House later claimed no such order existed and the FBI and the Pentagon said the directive originated with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.



An earlier email from December 5, 2003 suggested that DOD interrogators at GITMO were impersonating FBI agents to their prisoners.
The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the 'FBI' interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."
The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department's actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail's author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI."


But to protect the FBI from what? Digby linked to a Pew poll the other day showing lots of public support for the use of torture. A Washington Post-ABC News poll produced similarly grim results.
No wonder former vice president Dick Cheney feels he can brag about torturing people on TV with impunity. Because in America our convictions are a mile wide and an inch deep. We are better at boasting about them than sticking to them.


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