Iraq vet waterboards daughter

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I found a pdf of the Physicians for Human Rights medical report those articles mentioned, which concerns "11 former detainees held in US custody overseas". Here it is:

http://brokenlives.info/?dl_id=5

Aside from the beatings upon arrest and initial detention and transfer described earlier, some of the detainees were beaten later during their time at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Three were sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Three were subjected to electric shock at detention facilities, two in Iraq and one at Kandahar in Afghanistan. Many of the physical assaults reported would likely have resulted in bruises and soft tissue injuries that would not leave lasting physical marks. However, bone scans of six individuals as well as scars and healed lesions on the former detainees, are consistent with the physical abuse reported. Scarring on one individual’s thumbs is highly consistent with the scarring caused by electric shock. Further, reports of rape and sexual assault were also corroborated by medical examination.
*

You are mistaken. I believe beatings may rise to the level of torture. I do not grant that every mention of the word 'beating' with no elaboration what so ever rises to that level, as it may have been a single hand slap to a detainee that was spitting or biting his handlers. I have the sense that in the process of your corroboration of the assertion that the US 'tortured [people ]for years' every use of the word 'beating' gets translated to 'aha', torture.
I know that English usage varies on many scores, but the word "beating" does connote for me repeated blows.

The infliction of repeated blows; spec. the action of inflictig blows in punishment (OED)
an act of striking with repeated blows so as to injure or damage; also : the injury or damage thus inflicted (Mirriam-Webster Online)
(verb "to beat")
a. To strike repeatedly.
b. To subject to repeated beatings or physical abuse; batter.
c. To punish by hitting or whipping; flog. ( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/beat )
The above report describes beatings in this sense:

The beatings inflicted on detainees at US facilities at Bagram and Kandahar in Afghanistan were particularly intense, and included beatings with sticks and fists, kicks
to the stomach and genitals and blows to the head. As a result, Haydar, who was held at Kandahar before being transferred to Guantánamo, lost three of his teeth and Rasheed, who was held at both Bagram and Kandahar facilities, lost consciousness and was hospitalized. Similarly, all former detainees held at Guantánamo reported that the most intense and widespread physical beatings they experienced at the facility took place during
transfer and shortly after arrival there.

[...] Hafez, who was held at a US facility at Baghdad International Airport and Abu Ghraib for over seven months, was forced to the ground and beaten severely on his legs and back,
causing his lips, forehead, and nose to bleed; he also reported being stripped and having his chest and pubic hair ripped out by hand and being simultaneously beaten, hit, and choked while being doused with cold water.

While physical evidence of beatings often may not be detectable in later medical evaluations, findings from bone scans of six of the former detainees as well as scars and lesions visible during physical examination are consistent with the history of beatings described by the victims.
On so on...

It was your dismissive responses to this quote that inspired my comment:

Arar is blindfolded and chained and put into a van. He is forced to bend his head down in the back seat. He is beaten intensely every time he tries to move or talk. [...] He is forced to keep his head down, and he is beaten again. [...] Early the next morning Arar is taken upstairs for intense interrogation. He is beaten on his palms, wrists, lower back and hips with a shredded black electrical cable which is about two inches in diameter. He is threatened with the metal chair, electric shocks, and with the tire, into which prisoners are stuffed, immobilized and beaten. [...] During the second week of the interrogation, Arar is forced into a car tire so he is immobilized. [...] He is told to write, among other things, that he went to a training camp in Afghanistan. The official kicks him every time he objects. The next day Arar is interrogated and beaten on and off for eighteen hours. Arar begs them to stop. He is asked if he received military training in Afghanistan, and he falsely confesses and says yes. This is the first time Arar is ever questioned about Afghanistan. They ask at which camp, and provide him with a list, and he picks one of the camps listed."
Your initial response:

The Maherarar case is from a personal source, but it alleges no torture at any time of Maherarar, by anyone.
On having your attention called again to that passage, you replied:

My mistake, I missed the electrical cable. It used the verb 'beaten' and I was looking for torture, and in my view that case rose to the level of torture when that electrical cable got used.
As if, for you, in that context, eighteen hours of blows with something else is likely not to be a torture.

The material I've quoted or linked to includes internet ephemera such as Wikipedia articles and press reports about ongoing cases. It's reasonable to be cautious about such sources, and more generally. Clearly if we were conducting the trial of an individual accused of a particular instance of torture, as opposed to debating this issue on an internet forum, we'd need to be more rigorous than that. We'd want to question eye-witnesses, hear statements, call expert witnesses such as doctors. But the amount and consistency of the evidence, and the variety of sources, including allegations of prisoners, medical reports, official investigations, papers published by NGOs, ongoing legal cases, etc. speaks for itself. By all means question unsubstantiated claims, but don't let that become an excuse for ignoring the rather obvious pattern.

Judge Kessler called "credible" the evidence that Binyam Mohammed has been tortured while being detained at the "behest" of and "on behalf of Washington". The wording of the article is ambiguous as to whether both torture and detention were at the behest of Washington, or only the detention, but it also says that Kessler concluded he'd "suffered intense and sustained physical and psychological abuse while in American custody from 2002 to 2004".

The leaked 2007 ICRC report ICRC report on the treatment of fourteen "high value detainees" in CIA custody uses the word "beating" in the sense I'm familiar with, and which the dictionaries describe:

Nine of the fourteen alleged that they had been subject to daily beatings during the initial period involving repeated slapping, punching, and, less often, kicking to the body and face. These beatings lasted up to half an hour and were repeated throughout the day and on subsequent days. They took place during periods ranging from one week up to two to three months.
"I was punched and slapped on the face to the extent that I was bleeding. While having a rope round my neck and being tied to a pillar my head was banged against the pillar repeatedly.
"two interrogators who did the actual beating, still asking questions, while the main interrogator return after the beating was over"
Etc.

Although the section on beatings describes limited periods (up to three months) of more intense abuse, the report contains examples of such periods being resumed after an intermission, and of other abuses, such as shackling in stress positions, continuing for longer time-periods.

The 2008 United States Senate Armed Serices Committee report http://armed-services.senate.gov/pubs.htm [Broken], while not confirming all of these particular claims, describes instances of physical and mental abuse in keeping with the stories we've heard, in between the many blacked-out sections:

According to LTC Beaver, the SMU TF Legal Advisor raised concerns with her about physical violence being used by SMU TF personnel during interrogations, including punching, choking and beating detainees.
the detainee would be slapped across the face [...] I asked my colleagues how long this had been going on, specifically the slapping, they said approximately 30 minutes.
It also discusses cases of, and orders approving, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, sensory-overload, stress positions, etc. One ironic instruction: "If necessary the detainee may have his mouth taped shut to keep him from talking."

See also Amnesty's 2009 report http://www.amnesty.org.au/hrs/comments/20595/ [Broken]

And the United Nations report on Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Note its comment on force feeding:

In the absence of any possibility of assessing these allegations in situ by means of private interviews with detainees subjected to forced feeding, as well as with doctors, nurses and prison guards, the allegations, which are well substantiated, must be held to be accurate.
 
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  • #152
BobG
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By the way, while I think Rasalhague has done a very good job documenting the things he's said and that he's correct about "enhanced interrogation techniques" being an ongoing program, I also think his comments leave some room for misinterpretation.

It should be a little revealing that Bush administration experts had to go to a SERE unit that focused on resisting interrogations and then reverse engineer their techniques to develop policies on how the US could use enhanced interrogation techniques to obtain information.

I think it's important to realize that they were developing a program that didn't exist before 2002.
 
  • #153
mheslep
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As if, for you, in that context, eighteen hours of blows with something else is likely not to be a torture.
I simply meant that I was scanning that lengthy document for some form of the word torture and so missed the beating episode.
Rasalhague said:
...The material I've quoted or linked to includes internet ephemera such as Wikipedia articles and press reports about ongoing cases. It's reasonable to be cautious about such sources, and more generally. Clearly if we were conducting the trial of an individual accused of a particular instance of torture, as opposed to debating this issue on an internet forum, we'd need to be more rigorous than that. We'd want to question eye-witnesses, hear statements, call expert witnesses such as doctors. But the amount and consistency of the evidence, and the variety of sources, including allegations of prisoners, medical reports, official investigations, papers published by NGOs, ongoing legal cases, etc. speaks for itself. By all means question unsubstantiated claims, but don't let that become an excuse for ignoring the rather obvious pattern.
Ok, but also consider the alternative: that the above is exactly the type of pleading used by conspiracy theorists, and with a highly charged issue it relatively easy to produce a large amount and variety of sources. But because the issue is highly charged, the bar is that much higher to show relevance and accuracy.

We're all about the field here. 'Speaks', exactly, to what? 'Obvious pattern' of, exactly, what? Several of the references discuss rendition repeatedly or the water boarding at G'tmo. I haven't made nor seen any posts in the thread denying the US used rendition, or water boarded the three at G'tmo, or that these were in keeping with US policy at the time right or wrong. There are also the Abu Ghraib abuses, for which some were prosecuted and served jail time.

Rasalhague said:
And the United Nations report on Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Note its comment on force feeding:
I noted it when the Gitmo commander at the time spoke publicly about it. What is the point of including this reference, about force feeding prisoners on a hunger strike who would otherwise be likely to commit suicide by starvation?
 
  • #154
BobG
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You are mistaken. I believe beatings may rise to the level of torture. I do not grant that every mention of the word 'beating' with no elaboration what so ever rises to that level, as it may have been a single hand slap to a detainee that was spitting or biting his handlers. I have the sense that in the process of your corroboration of the assertion that the US 'tortured [people ]for years' every use of the word 'beating' gets translated to 'aha', torture.
Actually, I can understand this when referring to posts on an internet forum (even extending to some less professional "news analysts"). In official reports, I think it's safe to say they're using the term as defined by the dictionary.

The Senate's "INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN U.S. CUSTODY" actually does make an interesting read, even if conclusions definitive enough to be used in criminal prosecutions can't be drawn. How can there be such a huge divide between the top leadership and everyone else below? How can so many "workers" provide info to the top leadership (directly sometimes) while the top leadership has no memory of ever getting that info (but not a good enough memory to say they definitely didn't get it)? And how can the "workers" that provided 'undesirable info' be unaware that the working group they were a part of published its final report?

I guess a lot of it is the normal actions of people trying to paint their own part of an embarrassing situation in as positive light as possible, but .........

It would be just bizarre if not for too many instances of a conclusion being given, followed by demands to provide evidence, legal rationale, etc for the conclusion already decided upon.
 
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  • #155
mheslep
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Actually, I can understand this when referring to posts on an internet forum (even extending to some less professional "news analysts"). In official reports, I think it's safe to say they're using the term as defined by the dictionary.
Maybe so, but several news rags have been included in this thread, and they're citing other sources 2nd and 3rd hand from advocates (e.g. defense lawyers). That kind of source deserves a very skeptical eye.
 
  • #156
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Ok, but also consider the alternative: that the above is exactly the type of pleading used by conspiracy theorists, and with a highly charged issue it relatively easy to produce a large amount and variety of sources. But because the issue is highly charged, the bar is that much higher to show relevance and accuracy.
That's a fair point. And it goes both ways. There are people who'd believe any bad thing of the US government, and people who'd look for any reason to disbelieve bad things or to rationalise them away. Both of those positions could be characterised as a "conspiracy theory" mentality. That's why we need to critically examine all positions.

Governments can torture, prisoners can lie about that. So what's going on in this case. Which seems more likely, supposing we can bring ourselves to set the same bar, and not prejudge the issue. Is the picture of systematic abuse we get from the detainees' allegations largely accurate, or largely fabricated?

To take an example, the Physicians for Human Rights report, which supports claims of torture by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo, is careful to discuss, in each case, how likely it is that a subject's claim is fabricated or exaggerated. An objective psychological test was made to assess to what extent each subject may have had a general tendency to exaggerate. It concludes that some of the ailments reported by the subject may be, or are probably, psychosomatic in origin; in some cases the report rejects a claim, e.g. where one said a "fountain of blood" came from his ear during a beating, or where another said he'd gone 17 days without food or water. It notes however that such a mistake wouldn't be surprising in the circumstances of the former, had he been suffering such an assault, and the latter was held isolated in a dark cell and may have been confused about the passage of time. It considers how good each subject's recall is; in one case noting a descrepency between the date of capture the subject gave and the real date. It concludes that one detainee may have exaggerated signs of mental illness while in captivity as a survival strategy. It lists under probable paranoia a detainee's belief that medical experiments where being conducted on him. It doesn't simply report claims as fact, latching on to every scandalous story. It compares the statements of the former detainees with medical examinations, and finds them consistent with the damage observed. It notes alternative possibilities, e.g. a headache could be psychosomatic, or due to physical trauma, or some other cause. It's frank about the limits of what the two day examinations could assess, and the need for specialist opinion or further scans in some instances. It notes that the subjects didn't attribute all visible injuries and scars to their captivity, but in many cases gave other explanations without prompting. One man who reported electric shocks appeared to have been previously unaware of marks on his skin that backed up his story. It notes the attitude of the subject towards their captors, for example the man who emphasised instances of kindness as well as ill-treatment. It draws parallels between the stories and finds them consistent with each other, not just on a few scandalous details that might be common knowledge in the world, but on specific points about the course of the detention, such as the greater severity of physical violence at the outset, and some of the specific methods used. It notes the reluctance of one detainee to acknowledge the possibility that his captors were successful in sodomising him with a broom handle, in one incident, in spite of rectal scarring consistent with penetration and unlikely to be due to some accidental cause. It notes that not all stages of detention were equally severe, and that torture was limited to the initial period in some cases. In others it describes ongoing abuses of various kinds. It finds that the stories are largely consistent with the medical findings, with every indication that there was no intention to mislead or exaggerate, and concludes that in all likelihood these individuals were tortured in the ways described, over the course of their detentions which averaged 6 months, if I recall, but tended to be a few years for the Guantánamo detainees.

I just mention here some of the details revelant to assessing what sort of a source this is. I can't do it justice in one paragraph, and I haven't gone into the details of injuries that they found in each case, which you can read in the report.

As their title suggests, we might expect the organisation who published the report to be sympathetic to the stories of former detainees. They aren't neutral on the question of whether torture is good or bad, but take it for granted that it's bad. As doctors, we might expect them to be wary of making false claims that could undermine their professional reputation if found out. As political campaigners, we might expect them to put as good a case as they can while seeming objective, and to take advantage of their expert status and their experience of the style of scientific papers. They note reasons for caution themselves: the smallness of the sample, the fact that it isn't random, may not be representative, the lack of access to corroberating data in many cases, and so on. (That said, it was possible to check some claims from other sources, and for one of the detainees, his medical records from Guantánamo were available, comparison with which supported the witness's credibility.) In this way, the paper suggests an ability, on some level at least, to seperate the emotional objective of putting forward a case against torture from the task of assessing the credibility of this particular set of claims. Of course, whether that impression is justified or not, its one they'd want to give. As yet we have no comparable medical reports available to us, although we've read that other examinations of former detainees have taken place. We should compare what we read here with the other categories of source we have, to see how well it fits the context: the official documents, the ASC report, other detainee testimonies, whatever comes out of the legal cases, etc.

If we chose a definition according to which periods of torture alternating with better treatment, psychological methods and threats, over the course of several years doesn't rate as "tortured for years", and if we established that no case fit that statement better, then you can say you were right to dispute it. Otherwise, the statement might be defensible, depending on what definition we do adopt, which might depend on the frequency and severity of the abuse, perhaps involving factors or effect and/or intent. One of the former detainees of Guantánamo mentioned in this report spoke of beatings every few days and alleged several hundred instances. As yet there's nothing to confirm or refute the figure he gave. It seems to me though that the context of the information we have already makes it unreasonable to dismiss such a statement out of hand.

We're all about the field here. 'Speaks', exactly, to what? 'Obvious pattern' of, exactly, what? Several of the references discuss rendition repeatedly or the water boarding at G'tmo. I haven't made nor seen any posts in the thread denying the US used rendition, or water boarded the three at G'tmo, or that these were in keeping with US policy at the time right or wrong. There are also the Abu Ghraib abuses, for which some were prosecuted and served jail time.
The pattern of the kinds of tortures employed, the sequence, and other aspects of treatment described which the stories have in common. Speaks to the rational faculties of anyone without a pressing need to find a cosier explanation. Of course, UFO abductions also follow certain patterns, so you're right, we shouldn't rely on that alone but need to look at the kinds of elements that recur in the stories and the extent to which they may have influenced each other, and examine their plausibility on other grounds, as well as the plausibility of denials.

To nuance it a bit, we have an official policy that included certain methods of torture. We have official admissions to this, under whatever euphemisms, and documentary evidence for such a policy, and for it being put into effect on a limited group of "high-value" detainees to the extent of waterboarding which the official documents regard as the most stricted method. We have allegations that suggest parts of this program have been widely used: stress-positions, sleep-deprivation and noise-bombardment, subjecting prisoners to extremes of temperature, various psychological methods. We also have allegations of additional abuses, not endorsed in the documents, from this restricted group, and much more widely in the terror-war detainee population, which deserve investigation: beatings, drugs, etc. The extent and nature of these allegations, and what corroberation there's been, suggest that they were a systematic policy too. Then we have abuses alleged to have been suffered in non-US jails in the rendition cases, and the question of responsibility there. Then we have the allegedly unauthorised abuses, including those that have resulted in prosecutions (Abu Graib, Bagram), and the question of whether responsibility was justly attributed to and limited to those found guilty, in so far as anyone is responsible for anything. These are seperate but closely related issues. A blanket scepticism towards allegations of the kinds we've been discussing, and a reflex to give the benefit of the doubt to an organisation we know was prepared to torture in some cases, is not the same thing as a critical attitude towards sources.

If the theory is that the US is responsible for the cases of torture by other nations without other evidence that the US sanctioned it, then I'm not interested in the discussion.
Legally accountable without evidence? Of course not. Potentially guilty in fact? Plausibly so. Unless, without waiting for the evidence, you've already made up your mind.

I noted it when the Gitmo commander at the time spoke publicly about it. What is the point of including this reference, about force feeding prisoners on a hunger strike who would otherwise be likely to commit suicide by starvation?
I was pointing out the author's assessment of the evidence, that in the author's judgment, even without the opportunity to question guards or nurses, the allegations of mistreatment are well substantiated and must be held to be accurate, the mistreatment specifically refered to here being the "methods used to force feed" (54), although see also paragraphs 80 and 88 on the fact of force-feeding. Either you're not aware of the law on that score, or have decided that these people are above it, or that it just doesn't matter to you, for whatever reason.
 
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  • #157
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Those Wiki rendition examples do not cite torture in US military custody or otherwise at the hands of US officials. The concern here would be US sanction of the torture in the hands of other countries, of which, so far, I've not seen proof.
As the PfHR report dealt with cases of torture in US custody, here are a couple of sources on "outsourced" torture, among other issues. These, and the other documents cited, provide a beginning, not an end, to enquiry.

Report on the events relating to Maher Arar

Establishes that US authorities, specificaly INS, arrested Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, in New York, had him forcibly removed to Syria, "because he had been found to be a member of al-Qaeda." (Which accusation has never been substantiated.) He was tortured during the initial part of his captivity, then imprisoned for nearly a year, and eventually released without charge. Section V of "Analysis and recommendations" describes the US State Department's own assessment of Syria's human rights record, including a detailed list of tortures, from which may be gauged what INS expected to happen to him in Syrian custody.

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights: Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report

What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice. [...] Some individuals were kept in secret detention centres for periods of several years, where they were subjected to degrading treatment and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (essentially a euphemism for a kind of torture)
Not a full investigation into any single case, and the author emphasises the limits of his means, but much revevant detail, including an investigation into CIA flights to and from its secret prisons in Poland and Romania. Particular cases mentioned: Khaled el-Masri/al-Masri, Abu Omar, Maher Arar. According to § 327, regarding the last named:

A special commission of inquiry conducted a separate inquiry into the facts and a detailed examination of the various political aspects, in order to establish the facts and to draw conclusions from the shortcomings evident in this case. The Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar – Analysis and Recommendations (364 pages) was published in July 2006. The commission’s official website provides ample information about the terms of reference of the inquiry, the role of the commissioner and counsel, and the commission’s rules of procedure. The website also provides in great detail background documents of the factual inquiry (including transcripts of public hearings, and summaries of in camera hearings, reports from expert witnesses and the detailed “Fact Finder’s Report”). Similar information is published as regards the examination of political aspects."
Unfortunately the link given is broken, but I was able to find the report itself (linked to above) elsewhere.

Oh, and among the reasons you haven't seen more proof might be things like this.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria acknowledged that Masri "has suffered injuries" if his allegations are true and that he "deserves a remedy." Sources have said Masri was held by the CIA for five months in Afghanistan because of mistaken identity. Masri says he was beaten, sodomized and repeatedly questioned about alleged terrorist ties.

But Ellis said the remedy cannot be found in the courts. Masri's "private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets,'' the judge wrote in dismissing the lawsuit filed last year against former CIA director George J. Tenet and 10 unnamed CIA officials.
"Secret detentions..." discusses further the legitimate concern over state secrets, and the ways that this may be exploited by authorities. The issue of state secrets was dealt with in the Canadian inquiry by a special procedure summarised in § 239 of "Secret detentions..." in which the judge was given access to "all the information required", but certain documents were not reproduced in the public version of the report.
 
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  • #158
mheslep
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A blanket scepticism towards allegations of the kinds we've been discussing, and a reflex to give the benefit of the doubt to an organisation we know was prepared to torture in some cases, is not the same thing as a critical attitude towards sources.
It was your blanket statements about the US "released ... after years of torture" without use of caveats like 'by other countries', or 'alleged by the individual' that drew me to this conversation, and not some wholesale denial of abuses during the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, or abuses in any war for that matter.

I appreciate the work you've done in providing references here though I'm inclined to trust some more than others. That said, I'll move on ...
 
  • #159
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It was your blanket statements about the US "released ... after years of torture" without use of caveats like 'by other countries', or 'alleged by the individual' that drew me to this conversation, and not some wholesale denial of abuses during the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, or abuses in any war for that matter.

I appreciate the work you've done in providing references here though I'm inclined to trust some more than others. That said, I'll move on ...
Okay, apologies if I've misrepresented your position, and cautions noted. The more we learn though, the less "extraordinary" that claim gets.
 

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