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Ear to the Ground

The Wonderful World of Outsourced Torture

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Posted on Dec 14, 2005

The more we learn of the Bush administration’s pervasive outsourcing of torture, the more sensible it seems as a policy. Evidently, our intelligence people, tainted as they are by the squeamish morality of Western civilization, are just not fully up to the task of getting prisoners to tell us what the administration wants us to hear.

Sure, they tried water boarding and extreme stress positions in Guantanamo, but would U.S. interrogators be willing to pull out fingernails or use electric shock, as was inflicted upon at least a dozen of the 625 Baghdad inmates released Sunday from yet another secret, inhuman jail run by our Iraqi surrogates? Not guaranteed, and anyway, some conscious-stricken soldier likely would release photos, as one did at Abu Ghraib, and let the world in on our use of such special methods.

Better to use the services of those less-democratic nations where torture is the norm, including some, such as Uzbekistan, that still have usable camps left over from Soviet-era torture. That must be behind the logic of “extraordinary rendition,” as it officially is called, in which it is acknowledged U.S. policy to turn over prisoners our government has captured to other nations deemed more effective in interrogation.

Nor can the deficiency of our own personnel be simply a lack of language skills, religious familiarity or cultural affinity between interrogator and subject, as apologists for the administration’s policy have suggested. Over the last decades, many billions of dollars have been spent in supplying our intelligence agents with precisely that sort of expertise.

What clearly is missing is the will to go all the way in “breaking down” prisoners. There are just too many decent people scattered throughout our military and intelligence forces who would object publicly to barbarism. They, and the American public when informed, would insist on limits, even when the president doesn’t.

That must be why the CIA failed in its interrogation of an alleged high-ranking Al Qaeda official back in January 2002 to prove the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Hey, no biggie, they just turned the captive, a Libyan named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, over to Egypt’s inquisitors, who miraculously transformed him into a virtual spokesman for the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. Virtual, because he was shipped back to disappear in the Guantanamo Gulag, but his false witness was trumpeted by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney and the president, who stated on the eve of the congressional vote that authorized the Iraq invasion: “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases.” What Bush did not say was that eight months earlier, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the top coordinating agency in such matters, concluded that al-Libi’s testimony was totally bogus.

So, one must not jump to the conclusion correctly claimed by most experts on the subject that torture doesn’t work just because it yields mostly false results from prisoners who want the torture to stop. In the case of al-Libi, torture worked splendidly to produce exactly the critical false evidence that the president needed to make his case for war.

The beauty of the rendition program is that the administration can still claim to be against torture because the host nation torturers gave us assurance that they abhor the practice. That is a devilishly clever posture, because there isn’t a country in the world that admits to practicing torture. But it is one that offered no protection to Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who as CBS reported was repeatedly tortured after being “rendered” to Syria, before being released without ever being charged with a crime. That should not come as a surprise to the State Department, whose annual Human Rights Report puts Syria high on its torture-nation roster. But yet the president insists, and the facts be damned, that “we do not render to countries that torture.”

If so, why continue to block the “Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act,” written by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which would forbid “renditions” to nations known to practice torture? Because, as Markey put it, “In order to meet its obligations under the Convention Against Torture, this administration has been engaging in a piece of legalistic fiction. It asks the torturing country for ‘diplomatic assurances’ that the transferred detainee will not be tortured on the theory that a torturing country will keep its word.”

The legal loophole for torture is too good a tool to give up, not as a means of catching the bad guys, but rather as needed cover in possible litigation against the self-proclaimed good guys gone wild.



E-mail Robert Scheer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

—Posted by Robert Scheer.

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By Theway2k, December 26, 2005 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Again I think torture is a last resort option that can save lives. Look at these learned opinions:

“The Case For Torture,” By Michael Levin Link:
http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/torture.html

“Stepping Back From Torture,” by David Ignatius December 16, 2005; link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/15/AR2005121501438.html.

“Tortured reason,” by Thomas Sowell 11/22/05; link: http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/thomassowell/2005/11/22/176427.html

“Its time for a rational debate,” by Linda Chavez 12/1/04 link: http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/lindachavez/2004/12/01/13816.html.

“Rules of War Enable Terror,” by Alan Dershowitz 12/21/05 link: http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/Rules_of_War_Enable_Terror.asp.

“The Truth about Torture,” by Charles Krauthammer 12/5/05 link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/400rhqav.asp.

<B> As for impeaching President Bush, why? He is doing his job in protecting your children or parents. He has been very successful so far. If I was a terrorist I guess I would be upset if my civil rights were impinged, but I am not. Here is the reality about impeachment: http://slantedright.blogspot.com/2005/12/impeachment-nonsense.html.

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By Sylvia Barksdale Morovitz, December 25, 2005 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are no words to tell you guys how physically ill I became yesterday after reading Nat Hentoff’s [Village Voice] account of the McCain amendment to Bush’s “non-torture” bill.
Hentoff is one of our most learned, experienced and insightful journalists of today.

It is all so unbelievable that I don’t know if I have words to describe it.  The crux of it is, that it, once again, was a set-up deal between McCain and Bush and the fine print permits torture to carry on as usual.  I went to my bed after learning this and tried to sleep, to forget the gross and useless cruelty the leaders of my country perpertuate as a “necessary measure” in keeping us safe.  Sleep didn’t come but rage did.

I had respected McCain for his stance against this administrations love for physically torturing individuals into confessions they knew to be untrue.  I had even considered voting for him should he run for president after the thing that now supposedly leads us.  I had read so much goodness and care into his call for the end to torture that it compelled me to believe he would make a fine commander-in-chief; with concern for us all.  This has been the most “extraordinary rendition” of them all.  It had given us hope of regaining some respect in the world and less hatred from Islamic extremists.

Where do we go from here?  Yes, we are left feeling abandoned by our leadership and the hoards of people who support it.  But we cannot turn and run; it is something we must tackle head-on.  If we continue to permit these madmen license to do any and all things that are against the laws of man and nature, there is no doubt that indeed, we will be hit by the mushroom cloud.  Some country, somewhere, is going to decide that America has done enough damage in the world.  The most horrible aspect of it all is that it’s true.  We. the people, are but pawns who pay the taxes to keep Washington operating; but on their terms of lawlessness, not ours.

Let us appeal to our senators and congressmen one last time for the impeachment of Bush, Inc.  If, within sixty [60] days such action isn’t in motion, let us draw up our own petition for impeachment and collect the signatures that will force it into motion.

One last resort would be to go peacefully enmasse to Washington and protest until Bush Inc. either resigns or is bodily removed from office.  No doubt, some will be killed but I am willing to give my life; on my own soil, for the benefit of my ancestors.

Our constitution instructs us to do just this when the will of the people is ignored by the leadership.  We, the people, are still the power.  We cannot, by law, be overridden, when we are right, by any elected person, including the president.

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By RonRanft, December 21, 2005 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t have time to waste getting into a pissing match with someone who has as little intellectual as you. A person with no sustantive proof always resorts to “I have the proof but you prove your point first!” You have the proof, post it! You didn’t answer a single one of my questions. You say that we do not pull limbs from bodies! Did you read the autopsy reports of prisoners killed while in the control of Americans? Tell me that the Palestanian Hanging so not do just that very thing when applied to its full conclusion. Are you a combat veteran of any war. I am! I witnessed torture of Viet Cong and NVA. Ever seen what happens to someone connected to a car generator? Was any of the information obtained relaiable? Not a bit. I also reported this incident to the Army IG.

You sound an awful lot like the President and his retort on the need to put Americans under surveillance without a writ. “we have save thousands of American lives by doing this.” It was illegal and the burdern of proof is on him.

Psychological torture when carried to it’s logical conclusion destroys a human mentally. The person is for all intents dead. Is that any less cruel than physical torture.

The witches of Salem, the Inquisition, and the heretics all confessed their crimes eventually. And their reward…death by burning.

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By Theway2k, December 21, 2005 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Ranft I could use the same arguments on you to ask how you can prove torture has not worked.
Then you would respond with what you have read.
Simply, I am in the same situation. I have reports of how torture on a psychological level have saved American lives. Americans don’t pull limbs from bodies as do our terrorist enemies and I would never advocate that.

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By Ron Ranft, December 19, 2005 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Torture, appropriately applied?” Explain appropriate.  And how do you know this? Have you personally “appropriately” tortured someone to verify this theory? Or was this something someone told you? How did they know? Or maybe you came to that conclusion by reading some spy novel or the accounts of the Inquistition? By its very nature, if I torture 2 or 200 or 2,000 people long enough I’m sure I can get them to “verify” each others information. So, is your complaint against those that use torture, and that apparently includes the government of this country, is that the tortures aren’t experienced enough or that they are not appropriately applying it?

It is not a logical conclusion that if something works that you can therefore exclude it on moral or intellectual grounds. As long as you believe it works, then you will always find some excuse to use it…such as the national good, the war on terror! Torture does not work except as a means of terrifying people and at that it does it exceptionally well.

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By Theway2k, December 19, 2005 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Therein lies the dilemma with this new form of 21st Century war. WWI Changed plenty of military and war ethics. This terrorist war that ultimately involves rogues states (like Iraq was) may change ethics again. What is interesting is who would be the signatories? Illicit organisations with no ties except to their ideologies and nations, how does that work?
I suspect the moral high ground will re-defined before this conflict ends.

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By Theway2k, December 19, 2005 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually you are fooling yourself if torture has no effect. I guarantee that Senator McCain and other Vietnam POWs that were tortured gave up information.

Certainly misleading information happens in torture in some cases, maybe even especially in American torture because the smart enemy knows the unlikely hood to terminate a life.

However, in Islamic society bad info means loss of life or loss of family’s life. I am certain that some Muslims may be thinking that in the back of their head as the psychology of the interrogation continues.

It sounds crass I know. That is why I am certain that Senator McCain talked President Bush to make torture officially illegal, yet in times of absolute need to be necessary.

Incidently, not long ago a US Colonel shot near a Muslim prisoner to make the prisoner’s life feel threatened to reveal enemy position. It worked and Colonel successfully protected his 3,000 soldiers and defeated some Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. The Colonel was forced to resign even though successful.

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By Kiefer S., December 19, 2005 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Torture, appropriately applied by one who is experienced, is an effective tool for extracting information.  The information gathered is compared to what has been obtained elsewhere or from other prisoners, thusly verified, or not.

However, it is intellectually and morally dishonest for the United States to claim the “moral high ground” while engaging, or having others engage in, torture on its behalf.

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By PaulG, December 19, 2005 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All those who say torture is necessary in particular circumstances (and those who even have the gall too determinal what particular circumstances might in fact be), and agree with the Bush administration, should ask themselves one question: What would Jesus do? If you happen to call yourselves Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Muslim - whatever denomination or faith based religious group/movement/whatever, how can you justify praying to God for your safety when you wish nothing but harm on those less educated, invaded upon, and unlawfully persecuted (in the way of human rights; and by multiple parties, be they Baathists, Americans, Europeans, etc etc)? If you do claim to be one of God, why are you so adamant in being the one to demand retribution on the “enemy,” and the one who feels fit, knowing you’re human, flawed, and unperfect, to decide who lives and who dies? This goes for everyone: terrorists, internationally recognized and calibrated armies, justice systems the world over (that includes our own, especially its established “laws” promoting capital punishment), etc. Arguments such as, “They attacked us, and we cannot allow them the chance to attack us again,” “We need to protect ourselves,” and others, will certainly do nothing to contain the problem. When you fight fire with fire, the flames don’t cease to exist. Those opposed to the war aren’t unpatriotic or whatever else jargon supporters of this war and many others currently happening and those past as well, they simply believe in better means of achieving a goal, in which everyone is better off. The education systems of the world, in which fundamentalism (of many religions, philosophies and ideas) thrives, are where change needs to begin, otherwise we’ll just be plugging holes whilst others continue to emerge. Hate is learned, not born into. How can the self-appointed “freest nation in the world” come to partly bear the blame for spreading it? This isn’t hippie talk, this is simply a logical emergence. Bono says it quite well, “We need love and peace, love and peace. Lay down, Lay down your guns. All you daughters of Zion, all you Abraham’s sons.”

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By Bruce, December 17, 2005 at 7:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Saying one thing and having your people doing another isn’t right.  You have to have credibility in your words or your supply of troops is down to nothing.  They re-up to be winners not the other thing.

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By Ron Ranft, December 16, 2005 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Psychological torture is okay? What does that mean exactly? Agian, the immature and childish think that torture is permissable because “they” do it. Not doing it shows more strength and civilization than doing it. Who gives a @$@$# if “they” are doing it. And beheading and severing limbs is different than death by electrocution, firing squad, hanging, gas, or lethal injection how?

The real point it that information under duress, be it physical or mental has limited or no value. Never has and never will. People who “believe” this nonsense have never been through any kind of training such as what we subject military trainees to or they would know better. Ever been locked in a 50 gallon drum half full of water and pine-sol? How about staked out with piano wire across your nose and water pour in it? Is that torture? Having been through that I can tell you that even as mild as that appears there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to not go through anymore of it. The question is not if, but what you would tell. And what you would tell would be determined by what they want to know not what you want to tell them. If you don’t know, like all humans, you would make up what ever you needed to to get them to stop. So attempting to gather information to save your Daddy, Mommy, brother, or sister by these means doesn’t work no matter how much you wish it would.

And remember, any government allowed to torture “them” will soon find a reason to torure you if they think it is in its own best interests. If you think other wise then you are more foolish and naive then you appear. Notice that the present administration has now been caught spying on its own people illegally. It could be you they’ve been watching.

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By McLain Causey, December 16, 2005 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s not forget that torture does not work in the first place.  If people who are being tortured have any idea of what to say in order to end the torture, they will say it.  It’s been documented time and again

I think there are more advanced and more effective means of extracting information, and I suspect that if we are really after the truth and not simply trying to build support for a conclusion that people in power have already reached, we will employ those methods.

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By Theway2k, December 16, 2005 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually the shooting resulted because someone sent in a tip there was a shoe box bomber. Guess what the person was opening? A shoe box. It is tragic if the shooting was a result of a prank. The marshalls would have been heroes if the call was valid.

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By dtrapp, December 15, 2005 at 11:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am amazed that beyond not being appalled by American secret, outsourced “arm-twistings” overseas, apparently most Americans are readily willing to accept collateral damage within the United States as well.  When government security agents shot an American to protect an airport covered walkway from a perceived bomb threat, it seems most Americans believed their countryman must have wanted his own demise.  And I’ve heard no objections when the government just started placing armed security agents on ferry boats, trains, and other public conveyances.  By a strange twist in logic, the predictable future deaths of American citizens by security forces must also be considered part of the cost of maintaining our health, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

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By Theway2k, December 15, 2005 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually it is American disdain for torture that the terrorist count on to promote our nation as weak. Torture is a way of life among Islamofascists. Do we remember the beheadings and loss of limbs as matters of Shari’a law.

I too do not sanction torture of a violent and inhumane nature. But I do sanction psychological torture and I am not embarrassed to admit it. These terrorist feel they have defeated America in the past do to weakness of resolve and I assure you if they get the opportunity to release some sort of WMD in America it will happen. Whether it is dirty bomb, some kind of chemical weapon or whatever; it will happen.

Then will we be so sanctimonious as to be horrified of some kind of torture to save your Mom or Dad or Bother or Sister or so on? Probably not.

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By Ron Ranft, December 15, 2005 at 12:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What the morons and barbarians who elected and still support the Bush Administration don’t get is that this is exactly what the terrorists and the insurgents use to justify their portrayal of the US as a hypocrit when it says to the world, “we set the moral high ground on freedom and democracy!” There are citizens of this country that justify what Bush is doing by pointing out that “they did it first!” How childish is that? That in and of itself is incrediably bad for our image abroad but what’s worse is that it is not only immature it makes civilized people wonder what is wrong with us as a nation that we don’t put a stop to this. We have the money to maintain a fleet of aircraft to fly people we kidnap to other places in the world. We maintain an extensive network of agents and informants at great cost, but we can not find the money for student loans, healthcare, roads, bridges, housing, and hundreds if not thousands of legitimate needs within this country. Imagine a family squandering every dime that they had on stupid useless things and starving themselves to death. Americans should be in the streets demanding an account from this administration but instead they sit home and quibble over whether or not Iraq is better off without Hussien. Bush says, yes, the intelligence was bad. Yes, I am responsible for the war. And everyone says, “oh, see, he has taken responsibility” and he is now a good guy. Americans have never learned to do that most simple and profound act that renders truth in a persons character, look at what a person does, not what he says.” Tooky Williams would be alive if only he had been willing to admit he killed those people and tell everyone how sorry he was. Doesn’t matter that he may not have done it. Doesn’t matter that he spent decades trying to make a positive difference in the world. It only matters if you say the right thing and then it all goes away. Bush and his merry band of cut throats keep saying all the right things all the while doing the foulest of deeds and it’s all right ma, cause they really are sorry about it all. And his approval ratings start going up again. As much as I’m disgusted with this administration, the Republicans, and the Democrats who refused to stand against this insanity, I’m even more disgusted with the citizens who have sold everything that every person died to protect the freedoms we have, so cheaply!

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By Kay Brown, December 14, 2005 at 11:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What does the Bush administration offer the torturers for doing the dirty deeds? I suspect the U.S. policy is to offer war materials available for sale - where do we start investigating? Robert, didn’t you once write about the arms suppliers as the U.S., France and Germany? Keep on diggin’.

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By Robert Castle, December 14, 2005 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bush is totally amoral.  There is no act too evil for him to commit if it enhances his sense of power. 
The primary question in my mind is why do people who profess to be Christians support him, condone his unbiblical behavior.  They are more concerned about abortions and gay marriages than they are about torture. And they wonder why so many would- be followers are turning away from the church.

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By Dany, December 14, 2005 at 7:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ashamed of being an American under this administration.  Torture, even if it was practiced before, still is ... evil.  And the School for the Americas—whatever its name is now—should be closed now and forever, and starved of funds.

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By Yonk, December 14, 2005 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When are they going to apply these methods to Cheney to find out about his meeting with the oil companies and how info leading up to war was cooked?

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By Katyfitz, December 14, 2005 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Syria should use the fact that the USA sent people to them (supposedly for torture) when the USA tries to isolate and sanction Syria. While I am not condoning Syria’s actions, I think our rendition policies leave us vulnerable to a form of blackmail from those countries who have cooperated with us. At the very least, it makes the USA seem astonishingly hypocritical.

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By BDomenico, December 14, 2005 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What continues to amaze me is that this administration ever had any credibility to begin with.

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By Marsha L. Respess, December 14, 2005 at 8:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have never been so ashamed of my government as I am now nor have I ever been so frightened of them as I am now.  They are out of control and I don’t know what can be done before they destroy our country.

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By Paul, December 14, 2005 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is amazing, isn’t it? I mean, how much it takes for public opinion finally to turn against the Bush administration. The torture revelations have turned a few heads. And still there is no real move for impeachment yet. I think that will require Bush being caught having sex with farm animals.

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