Wednesday, November 09, 2005

When words and actions do not seem to match Pt. 3

"We do not torture" - George W. Bush

From the New Yorker

The house belongs to Mark Swanner, a forty-six-year-old C.I.A. officer who has performed interrogations and polygraph tests for the agency, which has employed him at least since the nineteen-nineties. (He is not a covert operative.) Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated. In a subsequent internal investigation, United States government authorities classified Jamadi’s death as a “homicide,” meaning that it resulted from unnatural causes. Swanner has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency.
and

Manadel al-Jamadi was captured by Navy SEALs at 2 a.m. on November 4, 2003, after a violent struggle at his house, outside Baghdad. Jamadi savagely fought one of the SEALs before being subdued in his kitchen; during the altercation, his stove fell on them. The C.I.A. had identified him as a “high-value” target, because he had allegedly supplied the explosives used in several atrocities perpetrated by insurgents, including the bombing of the Baghdad headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in October, 2003. After being removed from his house, Jamadi was manhandled by several of the SEALs, who gave him a black eye and a cut on his face; he was then transferred to C.I.A. custody, for interrogation at Abu Ghraib. According to witnesses, Jamadi was walking and speaking when he arrived at the prison. He was taken to a shower room for interrogation. Some forty-five minutes later, he was dead.

For most of the time that Jamadi was being interrogated at Abu Ghraib, there were only two people in the room with him. One was an Arabic-speaking translator for the C.I.A. working on a private contract, who has been identified in military-court papers only as “Clint C.” He was given immunity against criminal prosecution in exchange for his co√∂peration. The other person was Mark Swanner.
No wonder the Bush administration is seeking an exemption from the ban on torture for the CIA. But that's not all, under the watchful humane eye of the CIA there was an:

Iraqi prisoner who was forced head first into a sleeping bag, then beaten; and the 2002 abuse of an Afghan prisoner who froze to death after being stripped and chained to the floor of a concrete cell. (The C.I.A. supervisor involved in the latter case was subsequently promoted.)
So how could this sort of thing be legal? No full fledged CIA operative has been charged with any crime. The New Yorker suggests:

One reason these C.I.A. officials may not be facing charges is that, in recent years, the Justice Department has established a strikingly narrow definition of torture
The Bush administration, which doesn't torture, yet has redefined torture in such a way as to make what was previously torture not torture, and created a legal framework in which prohibitions against torture - both international and domestic - don't apply to persons detained during the "war on terror", which has secret prisons, which "renditions" people to places like Uzbekistan where prisoners have been boiled alive, and which is seeking an exemption for the CIA against the prohibition of "cruel, inhumane, or degrading" treatment of prisoners, also sought to keep the memos in which it argued all this a secret.

Andrew Sullivan evaluates this situation,

Watching and listening to [President Bush], it seems to me we have a few possible interpretations in front of us. Either the president simply does not know what is being done in his name in his own military or he is lying through his teeth to the American people and the world. I guess there is also a third possibility: that he is simply unable to acknowledge the enormity of what he has done to the honor of the United States, the success of the war and the safety of American servicemembers. And so he has gone into clinical denial. Or he is so ashamed he cannot bear to face the truth of what he has done. None of these options are, shall we say, encouraging.

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