Thursday, February 12, 2009

Declassified Evidence Reveals Torture Deaths

Recently unclassified excerpts of a 2004 investigation of detainee abuse at American facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay reveals that detainees were tortured and died in U.S. custody (via Scott Horton):

According to the declassified Church Report documents, on Dec. 4, 2002, a prisoner died while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Six days later, another prisoner died. Two days before the detainees were tortured and died, on Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the Senate Armed Services Committee report said.

Both deaths, the documents say, "share some similarities."

"In both cases, for example, [the prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake," the documents say. "Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of "compliance blows" which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma."

"In both instances, the [detainee] deaths followed interrogation sessions in which unauthorized techniques were allegedly employed, but in both cases, these sessions were followed by further alleged abusive behavior outside of the interrogation booth," the declassified documents say.


Moreover, the declassified documents names a private contractor, David Passaro, who conducted at least one interrogation that allegedly led to the death of a prisoner. Under the subhead "Migration of Interrogation Techniques," the two-pages from the Church Report discusses an investigation undertaken by military officials to determine whether military interrogators or military police were responsible for the brutal interrogations that apparently caused the deaths of the prisoners, which the documents suggest was the case.

As Horton points out, these deaths and other stories of abuse were already the subjects of articles by papers such as the NY Times. The real story is that there were apparently two versions of the Church report, commissioned by Rumsfeld in late 2004; a declassified version which states bluntly that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" utilized were not approved and that the DoD "did not promulgate interrogation policies . . . that directed, sanctioned or encouraged the torture or abuse of detainees", and these now unclassified excerpts that detail a series of events that supports the conclusion of the Senate Armed Services Committee's report on detainee abuse. In other words, yes the Church report whitewashed the culpability of Bush administration officials in the propagation of these techniques.

Incidentally, I find myself wondering exactly how much a contractor makes hourly to beat someone to death?

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