Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CIA threats to detainees' families exposed.

As soon as a nation abandons international norms on something as universally understood to be wrong as torture, it tells people acting on it's behalf to behave in a way which goes against their every instinct.

And, when one tells them to do so because the whole of civilisation is at risk, then one really is giving them permission to do anything at all.

So, I don't find it remotely surprising that some CIA officers went beyond the cruel remit of the Yoo/Bybee torture memos and found themselves acting in a truly appalling way.

I mean, once you tell someone that they can strip a prisoner naked, keep him awake for days on end, batter him off walls and waterboard him, you have literally told your captor that the gloves are off and that he can do to the detainee pretty much what he wants.

It is, therefore, no surprise at all that some individual officers reacted to this orgy of abuse by feeling that there was nothing that they couldn't do to prisoners. And it was inevitable that we would end up reading about shit like this:

An internal CIA report published yesterday reveals a host of incidents in which its interrogators went far beyond acceptable bounds, including threatening an al-Qaida leader that his children would be killed and hinting to another suspect that his mother would be raped in front of him.

The CIA document, which the agency fought for years to keep secret, was released after a court action by a civil rights group. It described interrogation techniques that were "unauthorised, improvised, inhumane and undocumented".

Interrogators, questioning al-Qaida and other suspects at Guantánamo and secret prisons round the world, took a power drill and a handgun into an interrogation room and also staged a mock execution in a cell next door.

The report says interrogators threatened Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, that if there was another attack on the US, "we're going to kill your children".

In a separate incident, an interrogator told a suspected al-Qaida leader, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, that if he did not talk "we could get your mother in here. We can bring your family in here". The report added that the interrogator wanted Nashiri to infer that the "interrogation technique involves sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee".

Whose fault is this? Who really set off the chain reaction which resulted in these individual officers behaving in such a disgusting way?

Holder is hinting at where he is coming from on this:
As a result of the report, the US attorney general, Eric Holder, is to order a special investigation into whether criminal proceedings should be brought against some of the interrogators involved.
But, these men were told that they were saving the US from further terrorist attack. They were told that we were engaged in a war for civilisation. As they themselves acknowledged:

The report quotes concerns by some CIA officers that action might be taken against them in the future. One said: "Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this ... [but] it has to be done."

I would argue that they got that notion from the language and the actions of the Bush administration. Certainly it was the Bush administration who told them to engage in actions which went way beyond what they had ever been authorised to do in the past.

Indeed, Dick Cheney had even said publicly that the US would have to embrace "the dark side":
"A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies," Cheney told Americans just after 9/11. He warned the public that the government would have to operate on the "dark side."
These people believed what their president and vice president told them.

And it was Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Bybee and Addington who encouraged these officers to "take the gloves off" in order to win this "clash of civilisations".

They set off something which they had no way of controlling, and they did so whilst deliberately filling the people tasked to carry out these actions with fear.

I know who I hold responsible for what happened. And I know who I believe deserves to be prosecuted for this. And, if we are going to prosecute the grunts on the ground, we must also prosecute the guys who took off the interrogators gloves before sending them into the room.

Click title for full article.

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