Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bill Moyers Journal: International Lawyer Phillippe Sands on TORTURE TEAM: RUMSFELD'S MEMO AND THE BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN VALUES

Phillippe Sands
Bill Moyers Journal (PBS)

In his new book, TORTURE TEAM: RUMSFELD'S MEMO AND THE BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN VALUES, Philippe Sands draws on official documents and interviews with key players to explain how the U.S. Military went from interrogations strictly regulated by the U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL 34-52 to enhanced interrogations that included sleep deprivation, nudity, stress positions, and water boarding.

As Sands explains in an interview with Scott Horton in THE NEW REPUBLIC:

When the administration released the December 2002 and other memos, it told a story that essentially said this: The new interrogation techniques came from the bottom up and had nothing to do with policy decisions driven from the top. I wanted to explore the truth of that account, by trying to talk to as many of the people involved in the decision as I could.

The narrative begins December 2, 2002, the day Donald Rumsfeld signed a memo from his legal counsel, William J. "Jim" Haynes. The memo, now referred to as "The Haynes Memo", recommended blanket approval for 15 of 18 new interrogation techniques to be used in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility while not rejecting the others.

The new rules established three new categories for uncooperative detainees. Category I allowed yelling and deception; Category II required additional permission from higher up the chain of command and allowed twelve new sensory-depravation and humiliation techniques. These included stress positions, falsified documents, isolation, twenty-four hour interrogations, removal of clothing, and the use of individual phobias, such as fear of dogs. The memo only offered blanket approval for one technique in Category III, reserved for the most uncooperative detainees: "mild, non-injurious physical contact." The other techniques, which the memo did not approve or condemn, included convincing the detainee that death or painful consequences were imminent for his family, exposure to cold weather and water, and water-boarding.

Sands wanted to find out where these new techniques came from. Who requested them and why? To reconstruct the process that wrought a fundamental change in U.S. interrogation and detainee policy, Sands conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with key players in the military and the Bush Administration. Sands told his conclussion to Scott Horton:

I have no doubt about the early, close, and active involvement of the upper echelons of the administration in the decision to request, approve and then use harsh techniques of interrogation on "Detainee 063," Mohammed Al Qahtani. The story that emerged from the interviews was clear and it was consistent (plus, I had the opportunity to put my findings to Jim Haynes, who was the final piece of the jigsaw). The administration's 'bottom-up' narrative--as spun by Mr. Haynes and others--is false, inaccurate, and misleading, and I believe it was knowingly intended to be so.

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