Friday, February 24, 2006

From Gitmo to Abu Ghraib

The ACLU has released more details of FBI memos it obtained detailing interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and 2003.

From a typical news story on the release:

FBI officials who were interrogating terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002 and 2003 strenuously objected to aggressive techniques the military was using and believed they could be illegal, according to FBI memos released yesterday.

The agents wrote in memos and e-mails that they were at odds with interrogators working for a Defense Intelligence Agency human-intelligence group and with guidance from senior Pentagon officials. The agents also repeatedly expressed their concerns to the senior military officer at the base, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, and said that the less aggressive FBI-approved methods were more effective.

Miller later was sent to Iraq, bringing with him his advocacy for aggressive interrogation techniques. The Abu Ghraib scandal followed.


The key point:

"Now we can say that the documents show conclusively that abuse and torture at Guantanamo was not the result of rogue elements but was the consequence of policies deliberately adopted by senior military and Pentagon officials," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer.

The Pentagon responds with the technical defense that what occurred was perhaps abusive, but not illegal. That does not excuse it in my mind. Not only is such treatment immoral, it results in unreliable information -- as well as being inadmissible in court. And never mind the damage done to America's reputation.

What exactly occurred? In one case, this:

Military interrogators posing as FBI agents at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, wrapped terrorism suspects in an Israeli flag and forced them to watch gay pornography under strobe lights during interrogation sessions that lasted as long as 18 hours.

Does anybody think such treatment is liable to elicit information?

The same article notes a related development:
A federal judge Thursday ordered the Pentagon to release the identities of hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo Bay to the Associated Press, a move that would force the government to break its secrecy and reveal the most comprehensive list yet of those who have been imprisoned there.

Some of the hundreds of detainees in the war on terror being held at Guantánamo Bay have been there as long as four years. Only a handful have been officially identified.

Good. Such secrecy is, again, counterproductive. It tarnishes our image and renders hollow our criticisms of other countries' human rights violations when we imprison people secretly, without charge or recourse.

It's a tricky question, what to do with someone captured fighting for the Taliban, say. Military rules say we can imprison them until the end of the war. But which war? The war in Afghanistan, or the "war" on terror?

At a minimum we should accord them rights under either the Geneva Convention or U.S. law, instead of largely ignoring both. For a more comprehensive take on how to handle such prisoners, check out this essay.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Matt Parker said...

Overly quoted but still true:

"The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." - Benjamin Franklin

The more we stop demonstrating what we profess to hold as values, the less credibility (moral or otherwise) we have. You cannot achieve good through evil deeds. (Okay - good and evil are stronger terms than needed, but you get the point.)

More of my favorite quotes:

"Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won you earn it and win it in every generation."
Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

"The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without."
-- President Dwight Eisenhower

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
--Abraham Lincoln

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
-- Thomas Paine

2/24/2006 11:37 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

You can add this one:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist." -- Winston Churchill

2/24/2006 11:58 AM  

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