of the United States George W. Bush and his National Security Adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, (“Condi” to her friend) have gone on the record
emphatically stating that the United States does not employ torture
as a method of obtaining information from detainees. Yet Vice President
Dick Cheney recently went before Congress to try to exempt
the CIA from proposed anti-torture legislation.
is torture, and what methods do the CIA employ? According to Merriam-Webster,
torture is defined as:
1 a : anguish of body or mind : AGONY b : something that
causes agony or pain
2 : the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or
wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.
One method allegedly used or not used is called “waterboarding”.
Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, defines waterboarding, “In the
medieval form of waterboarding, a victim was strapped to a board
and tipped back or lowered into a body of water until he or she
believed that drowning was imminent. The subject was then removed
from the water and revived. If necessary the process was repeated.
"There are other forms of waterboarding, but all of them have in
common that the victim almost drowns but is rescued or re-animated
just before death occurs. The torture is designed to be both psychological
and physical. The psychological effect is that the victim is led
to believe that he or she is being executed. This reinforces the
torturer’s control and makes the victim experience mortal fear.
effects are extreme pain and damage to the lungs, brain damage
caused by oxygen deprivation and sometimes broken bones because
of the restraints on the struggling victim.”
examples of some of the other methods the CIA uses or doesn’t
use were plastered in newspapers and on television last year when
a soldier (Spec. Joseph Darby) stationed at the infamous Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq released the infamous photos that were taken by U.S.
troops. Ironically, Abu Ghraib was the same location Saddam Hussein
allegedly used to torture his detainees. These included hooding
the prisoners, stress positions, sleep deprivation (detainees were
interrogated for up to 20 hours at a time), forcing them to remove
their clothes, intimidating them with dogs, exposing them to near-
freezing temperatures and dousing them with ice water, prodding
them with devices called “cattle-prods”, which delivers a powerful
electric shock at the push of a button. The CIA dubs these methods,
“no-touch torture”. Some of them are hardly new; they were used
during the Spanish Inquisition. The hooding was known then as, “masks
of mockery”, the stress positions were inflicted with a mechanical
device in the Inquisition known as, “the crippling stork”. The “no-touch”
method of “the crippling stork” forces, through threats and intimidation,
the prisoner to assume contorted positions and maintain them for
hours on end.
Another favorite that may or may not be used by the CIA is a variant
of the strappado, where the prisoner’s hands are chained to the
ceiling and his feet are shackled, sometimes with weights attached
and he’s then lifted into the air. Wikipedia defines strappado
as, “a form of torture in which a victim is suspended in the air
by means of a rope attached to his hands which are tied behind his
back. Weights may be added to the body. A variant of strappado (the
medieval inquisition name), is also known as reverse hanging or
Palestinian hanging (allegedly because of its use in the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict) and has been reported used in the Middle East as well
as by institutions that practice torture.
"There are three variants of this torture. In the first one, the
victim has his arms tied behind his back; a large rope is then tied
to his wrists and passed over a beam or a hook on the roof. The
torturer pulls on this rope until the victim is hanging from his
arms. Since he has the hands tied behind the back, this will cause
very intense pain and possible dislocation of the arms. The full
weight of the subject’s body is then supported by the extended and
internally-rotated shoulder sockets. While the technique shows no
external injuries, it can cause long-term nerve, ligament, or tendon
damage. The technique typically causes brachial plexus injury, leading
to seizures or paralysis in the arm.
"The second variation
is similar to the first, but a series of drops is added. In addition
to the damage caused by the suspension, the fall from the suspended
height would cause major stress to the extended and vulnerable arms,
leading to broken shoulders. It is believed that Niccolò Machiavelli,
during his 1513 imprisonment after allegedly conspiring against
the Medici family in Florence, was subjected to this form of strappado.
third variant, the victim’s hands are tied to the front. The victim
is also hung from the hands, but his ankles are tied and a heavy
weight is attached to them. This will cause pain and possible damage
not only to the arms, but also to the legs and hips. This
variant was known as squassation.”
The CIA has
two training manuals for interrogators, KUBARK (the CIA’s name for
itself) Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963, and Human Resource
Exploitation Training Manual-1983 which were obtained by the
The KUBARK manual
leans more toward hands-on, with chapters including, “The Coercive
Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources”, “Pain”,
and “Debility”. But, after experience in Vietnam, it was found that
the “no-touch” methods appeared to be more effective, leading to
the updated 1983 manual. According to an article in Briarpatch,
July/August 1998, the coercive methods that the manuals detail are
arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli, threats and fear,
debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, and the
use of drugs. These measures are designed to “destroy [the subject’s]
capacity for resistance” by inducing regression. “The interrogatee’s
mature defenses crumble as he becomes more childlike.” The manuals
emphasize isolation, disorientation and the creation of “unpleasant
or intolerable situations.” Interrogatees should be arrested early
in the morning, blindfolded and stripped naked. They should be held
incommunicado, deprived of food or sleep and normal routines and
subjected to “extremes of heat, cold and moisture.” Interrogation
rooms should be dark, soundproof and without windows and toilets.
the “hands-on” methods the CIA uses or doesn’t use in Iraq have
been found with electric drill marks, cigarette and/or blowtorch
burns, and the old-fashioned beatings with rifle butts and other
blunt objects. These methods are strictly outlawed by the Geneva
Convention, but the Bush Administration, on the advice of Alberto
Gonzales (who called the rules “quaint”) refused to follow the convention
on suspected terrorists.
So, in the
memorable words of Donald Rumsfeld, “Who knows?” Does the CIA torture
or don’t they? Are we to believe our elected officials or, say,
the photographic evidence released from the Abu Ghraib prisons?
Or former CIA officer Bob Baer who told ABC that the CIA techniques
amounted to, “bad interrogation. I mean, you can get anyone to confess
to anything if the torture’s bad enough.”? Or the anonymous (for
obvious reasons) CIA officers who described to ABC on the same program
techniques called, “Attention Grab, Attention Slap, Belly Slap,
Long Time Standing, Cold Cell, Water Boarding.”?
Jay Pickard [send him mail]
is a freelance writer who spends his spare time as a Produce Clerk,
auto detailer, merchandiser; dodging black helicopters and, thanks
to the high cost of the current low value US Government, dangling
precariously from the poverty line in Florida.