Some questions on torture

So the confused rhetoric of the administration in dragging our country down the torture rabbit-hole is continuing.

We now use “unique” methods that are not “torture.”
Torture, you see, does not work! That’s why we don’t use it.

Some questions:

  1. Isn’t any technique that causes pain or suffering to the human body that is as effective or more effective than torture in elliciting confessions prima facie itself a form of torture? i.e. if it hurts that bad that it makes folks confess (apaprently even more effectively than “real” torture), isn’t that, pretty undeniably, torture? As far as I can tell, the only criteria the sets our “unique” techniques apart from regular torture is that they appear to have been chosen on the basis that they leave no marks for human rights organizations to search for afterwards. In addition to being thoughtfully deceptive, that’s pretty screwed up.

What happens when the government decides that its of paramount importance to use any sort of special techniques that leave no mark? Stimulating pain receptors directly? Erasing memories? Is the idea that the government can now do horrible things to people and also make an exerted effort to make sure they leave no evidence (they certainly aren’t filling out any documentation that I know of detailing what they are authorized to do and what they did)

  1. We’re getting some mixed signals here. Goss and Rumsfeld bristle at the idea that they use “torture” (creatively defined as to leave out whatever they do do) because they say they acknowledge that it’s ineffective. And yet, we’re clearly using these other techniques which we claim aren’t torture… but we must think they are effective given that we’re using them. So, has the United States discovered amazing new non-torture techniques for effectively forcing out confessions? That’s amazing: I hope they publish some psychology journal articles about their discoveries!

  2. Does what “we do” apply to our black sites around the world, which have no oversight and whos existence is denied? If we pay torturers to torture that aren’t directly part of the CIA what is that considered? There are so many obviously minced and carefully crafted words in Goss’ statements that it almost gives away more than it denies.

There have been reports that dozens of prisoners have died during their “questioning” so I’d have to doubt any claims that what’s happening isn’t torture by any reasonable definition of the word. And for that matter, any methods being used which are killing their subjects, can’t really be all that effective for information gathering purposes either.

I saw that as well. But for some reason, when he says “Unique” I see, “Torture by any other name”. But then again, when I hear “Black Site” the terms “torture dungeon” come to mind.

That’s the problem with secrecy and lack of trust. It’s so easy to assume the worst. That and I’m hard pressed to think of a legitimate reason to actually have secret CIA “Black Sites” other then to hold Victor Drazen and other "dead " people.

At this point I’m starting to wonder if those survivalist paranoid rantings about black helicopters aren’t so paranoid.

I think they were paranoid; not so much anymore. Bush and friends are grandiose and nutty enough fullfill all sorts of paranoid fantasy scenarios; they are also dumb enough to color code the helicopters so you can identify them. :slight_smile:

Without knowing the specifics, it’s impossible to say whether or not these “unique techniques” are torture. That’s what is so frustrating about this whole debate.

I have no problem with exempting the CIA from McCain’s legislation provide we (or our elected representatives in Congress) are able to approve the CIA techniques and it’s not just left up to that agency to police itself. I think there is value in not letting our enemies know exactly what the CIA can and cannot do. I think there is value to allowing the CIA to go beyond what is in the Army Field Manual (the limitation in McCain’s legislation), but the limits do need to be defined or apporved by Congress. I don’t think this is a one size fits all situation.

Our country is not well served when either side in this issue makes it out to be a fight between those who are “pro-torture” and those who are “anti-torture”.

So, you think you don’t need to know what is done in your name? Can these secret interrogation methods, used on undefined people suspected of unknown crimes be applied to american citizens too in your opinion?

Also : do you think that keeping a law voted by the legislative body a secret is acceptable in a democracy? If yes, what kind of law can be hidden from the citizen’s knowledge? How and by whom is decided whether or not a law falls into this category?

Next step in the “USA going down the toilets” process : allowing the congress to pass secret laws allowing secret arrests without warrants followed by secret “non-torture” of persons whose identities are kept secret. OK, it’s already done (that was the previous step) but now you’re proposing to make it legal.

Secretly legal, at least, since it would be a bad idea to let people know what they rights are (they’re ennemies, or they might be…at least they’re suspected to be ennemies by someone, somewhere, so why should they know?).

By the way, will there be any legal recourse? Can the individual, in the system you’re proposing bring his case to a court? “I make the wild guess that the treatment my client received was not allowed by the secret laws, your honor! My second argument is that something in these laws might possibly be unconstitutionnal” “That’s OK. I’m going to check if I can get a clearance to read the law, hear the case and render a secret verdict”.

There are all kinds of things that Congress is privy to that ordinary citizens are not. I don’t see how this is any different.

No. The CIA should not be involved in interrogating US citizens in the first place. Nor should they be involved in interrogating legitimate POWs.

That has been the White House position all along. That is why the Supreme Court came down on them so hard when the subject first came up - the “blank check” ruling.

Yet, you seem to want to keep it frustrating by not having anyone outside of Congress know what they are or who they are applied to and what is being done in our name?

We do know what some of it is, though: water boarding (i.e. simulated drowning), creative and extensive use of hypothermia and stress positions, all manner of special blows designed to maximize pain and minimize physical damage (and evidence). That’s what we know so far.

And, interestingly enough, a lot of the obvious extra-legal tortures, like Abu G, seem to be regular soldiers just modeling things they’ve seen CIA and its interrogators doing.

So if China grabs a CIA person on vaction, calls them an unlawful combatant, can they torture to their hearts content without a hypocritical peep from us?

If the US is willing to use creative rulings to deprive citizens like Padilla any legal rights, what keeps people like him from being treated as those in our black sites?

I don’t want to keep it frustrating, I simply recognize the fact that the frustration is part and parcel of the issue itself. But I don’t want to add to the frustration by making it a pro-torture vs anti-torture debate when it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Do we know these things? We know they’ve been discussed, but we know they are on the “approved list of CIA techniques”? I’m asking that as an honest question-- I really don’t know.

If the administration is negotiating this issue in bad faith, and they’re unwilling to commit to Congressional oversight, then perhaps McCain’s bill is the best way to deal with that. But that still doesn’t make it the best way to deal with the actual issue, if you ask me.

I dragged this back up from the Pit, where I first posted it.

Keep in mind, that the Patriot Act allows some pernicious stuff - secret search warrants, spying on citizens, surveilling their choice of reading material, wire taps, whatever it takes to “get” someone.

The prez wants absolute authority to do whatever he wants, and it is not limited to those foreign “bad people” as he called them. All it takes is for him to declare you a terrorist or “enemy combatant” or just plain old “bad people”. Apparently it applies to American citizens too.

I wasn’t aware that vacationing CIA agents were the issue. But, if an operative (read: spy) is caught spying in a foreign country, there is little we can do. And I’m not too worried about whether the Chinese call us hypocrites when we pull out the stops to resucue them,

Those are two seperate issues. I do not, nor have I ever supported the holding of US citizens without charges.

Well, according to the latest leak, the CIA has trained people in doing them. We’ve heard all sorts of evidence of them being used. We’ve seen soldiers mimic them for shits and giggles.

We also have a number of dead bodies. Oops.

Once you turn a blind eye to the “anything goes” school that this administration is fighting for, ANYTHING can be the issue. The bottom line is that whatever we authorize to use against our enemies, especially those we make up creative ways of redefining out of any of the laws or treaties we’ve signed, we are basically giving people like the Chinese permission to do without worrying about criticism from us. This is exactly how the world rediscovers torture as a technique.

The first person actually prosecuted under information gathered by means authorized by the Patriot Act wasn’t a suspected terrorist - he was the owner of a Nevada strip club who was being investigated for bribing some local politicians.

As then attorney general John Ashcroft pointed out, there’s nothing in the Patriot Act that restricts it to being used only in terrorism or national security investigations - it can be used for any investigation the federal government wants to use it for.

As a reminder, the Patriot Act gives the government to search records of libraries, commercial businesses, web sites, banks and credit card companies, health services, religious organizations, phone companies, etc without a warrant and without the people whose records being searched being notified before or after the fact. It also makes it illegal for anyone in the company being searched to pass on the information. And the search doesn’t have to have an individual target - the government can tell a library to provide a list of everyone who’s read a certain book; a video store to list everyone who’s rented a certain video; a drugstore to list everyone who’s got a certain prescription; a church to list everyone who’s attended services there; an airline to list everyone who’s on a flight. You don’t have to do anything criminal or even suspicious to get put on a list.

Originally Posted by CNN
"The administration’s position is that the commander-in-chief can do whatever he wants; he can imprison anyone – not just foreigners, to whom the Constitution doesn’t apply, but Americans – indefinitely, without having to charge those people with any crime and without letting them see a lawyer. "
Does the president even remotely understand why we have a constitution in the first place? It is to limit the power of the government to do “whatever they want” in the same of national secrity or law and order.

Everything you listed was allowed before the Patriot Act. Nothing has changed including the need for a judge to authorize it. The main difference in what you’ve mentioned is the time involved. The Patriot Act was designed to speed up the process which is important in the age of information. Thanks to modern technology and your tax dollars a terrorist can now go into a library and transmit or receive any message to/from anywhere in the world.

I’m not refering to “things” they’re privy to (like informations), I’m refering to laws and regulations they vote. Especially to regulations regarding individual liberties.

No, these regulations are regarding conduct of members of the CIA. Do you think that everything to CIA does is on the public record? We’re talking about spies, not city cops.