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April 17, 2009

OLC Memos: Who We Have Become

Posted in: department of justice,intelligence,legal,torture

You tell me.  Which language is from Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s seminal work The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 and which is from US Department of Justice OLC memoranda issued in the last few years.

Why is it that all the main work of breaking down human souls went on at night? Why, from their very earliest years, did the Organs select the night? Because at night, the prisoner, torn from sleep, even though he has not yet been tortured by sleepless-ness, lacks his normal daytime equanimity and common sense. He is more vulnerable…. 

In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and compeltely covers the nose and mouth, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of cloth. This causes an increase in the carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates an increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of "suffocation and incipient panic, i.e. the perception of drowning….

Then there is the method of simply compelling a prisoner to stand there. This can be arranged so that the accused stands only while being interrogated-because that, too, exhausts and breaks a person down. It can be set up in another way-so that the prisoner sits down during interrogation but is forced to stand up between interrogations. (A watch is set over him, and the guards see to it that he doesn’t lean against the wall, and if he goes to sleep and falls over he is given a kick and straightened up.) Sometimes even one day of standing is enough to deprive a person of all his strength and to force him to testify to anything at all….

Sleep deprivation involves subjecting a detainee to an extended period of sleeplessness. Interrogators employee sleep deprivation in order to weaken a detainee’s resistance. Although up to 180 hours may be authorized…only three detainees [have been subjected to] more than 96 hours of deprivation. Generally, a detainee undergoing this technique is shackled in a standing position with his hands in front of his body, which prevents him from falling asleep but also allows him to move around within a two-to-three-foot diameter.

And I could keep going. 

Digby, Valtin and Glenn have much more, but I’ll let ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer have the last word:

Through these memos, Justice Department lawyers authorized interrogators to use the most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes. The memos are based on legal reasoning that is spurious on its face, and in the end these aren’t legal memos at all – they are simply political documents that were meant to provide window dressing for war crimes.

Look who we have become square in the face. And weep.

(H/T to joberly.)

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