Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, August 24, 2009

  Does anybody at the Washington Post read?

Anne Kornblut, one of the best WaPo reporters, makes a gross factual error her report on the circumstances under which terrorism suspects will be interrogated in the Obama administration. There's to be a new unit of specially trained interrogators. The unit's purpose allegedly will not be to obtain information to put the prisoners on trial, but "to glean intelligence, especially about potential terrorist attacks". That was also the thrust of George W. Bush's infamous interrogation programs. The new unit will be housed in the FBI but report directly to the National Security Council. It will operate under the rules set out in the newly (2006) revised Army Field Manual.

Kornblut parrots the line propagated initially by the Bush administration, and repeated by Democrats: that the AFM strictly adheres to the Geneva Conventions and prohibits all forms of torture, abuse, and degradation of prisoners. Quite the contrary is true. The new Army Field Manual rules (while a vast improvement over the outrageous practices used by the CIA and DoD and authorization from the Bush administration) do in fact specify ways that prisoners may be abused. The abuse is euphemistically termed 'separation' and codified in Appendix M of the Manual.

Here is Kornblut's assessment of the new interrogation policy:

Using the Army Field Manual means certain techniques in the gray zone between torture and legal questioning -- such as playing loud music or depriving prisoners of sleep -- will not be allowed. Which tactics are acceptable was an issue "looked at thoroughly," one senior official said. Obama had already banned certain severe measures that the Bush administration had permitted, such as waterboarding.

The phrase "gray zone" ought to be an immediate tip off that the author is spinning the truth. There is no legitimate doubt that the use of deafening noise and sleep deprivation to 'soften up' prisoners is torture and illegal in the US. It was the Bush administration that sought to convince Americans that long prohibited practices somehow fell into a middle ground between the legal and the illegal. They did succeed in convincing most major news outlets to refrain from calling torture 'torture', which is why reporters like Kornblut continue in this absurd pretense.

In any case, can Kornblut or her editors be bothered to read documents? The Army Field Manual (PDF) explicitly permits interrogators to use isolation and sleep deprivation on prisoners. References are to sections of Appendix M of the Manual. Prisoners may be confined in total isolation for up to 30 days, and even longer if approval is sought up the chain of command (M-29). Furthermore, the Manual states (on the very last page of its last appendix) that prisoners need not be permitted more than 4 hours of sleep per day (M-30). Anybody who goes for weeks on only four hours of sleep will quickly become subject to all the psychological disturbances that sleep deprivation is notorious for.

Parenthetically, I note a passage worthy of Franz Kafka in Appendix M of the Manual. It asserts blandly (M-4) that 'separation' "is consistent with the minimum humane standards of treatment required by US law, the law of war, and does not constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment as defined in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and addressed in GPW Common Article III" (emphasis mine). The US is of course bound by more than the Detainee Treatment Act, but the Field Manual ignores that fact (making no mention, for example, of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). Instead, the Appendix consistently pretends that its procedures are acceptable because they are not banned by the 2005 legislation.

Valtin has a lengthy discussion of how the Army Field Manual codifies some of the Bush administration's torture practices.

Meanwhile, no word yet about whether the new government's interrogation unit will continue (as the CIA did under Bush) to employ Blackwater to fly terrorist suspects from their confinement in Guantanamo prison to secret prisons around the world, including such hell holes as Uzbekistan. The purpose of these 'extraordinary renditions' was to subject the prisoners to "special treatment", according to an internal Blackwater memo obtained by Der Spiegel. As if the torture employed at Gitmo were not special enough.

Incidentally, the memo also reveals that the CIA's contract with Blackwater to establish roving assassination squads was overseen by none other than Alvin B. Krongard, the former Executive Director of the CIA (and upon his retirement, a director of Blackwater). He is the brother of Bush's corrupt and partisan Inspector General for the State Department, Howard Krongard, whose hacktacular career we described here two years ago.

crossposted from

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