The US of Torture

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After Daniel Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn't taken to Gitmo. Instead, the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to death in the process.

Chong, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Following the interrogation, the student was told that he would be released and provided with paperwork to sign. He was then handcuffed and put into a five-by-ten-foot detention cell, where he was held for five days in conditions that qualify as torture under any rational reading of either domestic or international law.

The DEA's story was that Chong was simply "forgotten." A likelier explanation is that he was ignored, or even singled out for deliberate abuse. Chong shouted and screamed for help, kicking against the heavy door of his cell. Although his hands were cuffed, he managed to tear a small fragment from his jacket, which he shoved under the door in an effort to get the attention of his jailers.

Since Chong had no difficulty hearing conversations and other sounds outside his cell, there's no reason to doubt that his pleas were heard, and simply disregarded.

After being left alone, handcuffed, in complete darkness, Chong began to hallucinate. Fearing that he might die in captivity, he shattered his eyeglasses and used broken shards to carve the words "Sorry, mother" into his arm.

Although Chong has admitted he had gone to a friend's house to commemorate "4/20," an unofficial observance celebrating recreational marijuana use, he was not charged with a narcotics offense. Through its prohibition enforcement action, DEA managed to create conditions in which Chong ingested substances much worse for him than marijuana. Left for several days without food or water to sustain him, Chong made a futile attempt to trigger an overhead fire sprinkler, and then eventually drank his own urine. Tormented by the insistent protests of an empty stomach, he consumed a small amount of a white, powdery substance that was found to be methamphetamine.

By the time two agents "discovered" him, Chong was literally pleading for his captors to kill him. He was hospitalized for acute dehydration, renal failure, a perforated esophagus, and severe cramps. He had shed 15 pounds. He has never received an apology.

If a dog had been subjected to treatment similar to the abuse inflicted on Daniel Chong, those responsible would face felony charges. Thanks to the spurious principle of "supremacy clause immunity," there is no measurable likelihood that the people who nearly tortured Chong to death will face criminal charges. It's quite likely they will never be identified.

It's not just the Feds employed by the DEA – an agency best described as the CIA's slow-witted sibling – who enjoy this privilege.

No criminal charges have been filed against the Lee County, Florida Sheriff's Deputies responsible for the torture death of Cleveland resident Nick Christie. The emotionally disturbed 62-year-old man was detained for several days in March 2009 after his frantic wife Joyce made the fatal mistake of calling the police for "help."

Mr. Christie, who had recently been prescribed a potent anti-depressant called Lexapro, suddenly left his home in Cleveland to visit family in Ft. Myers. When he arrived at his brother's house, Christie's behavior became dangerously erratic.

Acting on the tragically misguided assumption that requesting police intervention is a good idea, Joyce called the Lee County Sheriff's Department to ask them to find Nick and get him to a hospital. After deputies found the retired boilermaker, they arrested him on trespassing charges.

Over the next 43 hours, Christie was repeatedly shackled in a restraint chair, hooded, and attacked with military-grade pepper spray. The chemical assault was so intense that it left other inmates gagging on the fumes. Christie, who suffered from respiratory and heart disease, pleaded with deputies to remove the spit mask because he couldn't breathe. One inmate described how Nick turned "purple and almost blue" as he suffocated.