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By Linda S. Heard | Online Journal, Apr 22, 2009

Imagine this! One day, you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. You are kidnapped by a foreign intelligence agency, strip-searched, hooded, blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled before being flown to an incarceration centre. Once there, you are interrogated about subjects and individuals you know nothing about. You loudly proclaim your innocence but your interrogators become angry.

Before long, you suffer the indignity of enforced nudity, which may painfully violate your religious or cultural beliefs. Perhaps you are stuffed into a tiny dark space in which you cannot stand. All you want to do is sleep but every time you close your eyes you are dowsed with cold water. This goes on for up to 120 hours.

If you are still unable to tell them what they want to know, you are deprived of food, slapped, made to hold painful stress positions for hours on end, such as kneeling while leaning back at a 45-degree angle, and if you have a phobia concerning insects you will be placed into a box with one. You might be prevented from visiting the bathroom and made to wear nappies.

Lastly, you will be subjected to a process that simulates drowning, whereby you feel your very life is ebbing away — waterboarding. Imagine that you endure this suffering for seven years and all the while you are being told that you will never ever be free or free of it.

All the above was authorised by the Bush administration’s Justice Department. In reality, detainees endured far worse under George W. Bush’s watch with the White House’s full knowledge.

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President Obama spoke at C.I.A. headquarters as C.I.A. director Leon Panetta looked on.

The New York Times- By PETER BAKER and SCOTT SHANE
Published: April 20, 2009

Pressure Grows to Investigate Interrogations

WASHINGTON — Pressure mounted on President Obama on Monday for more thorough investigation into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration, even as he tried to reassure the Central Intelligence Agency that it would not be blamed for following legal advice.

Mr. Obama said it was time to admit “mistakes” and “move forward.” But there were signs that he might not be able to avoid a protracted inquiry into the use of interrogation techniques that the president’s top aides and many critics say crossed the line into torture.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.

The president’s decision last week to release secret memorandums detailing the harsh tactics employed by the C.I.A. under his predecessor provoked a furor that continued to grow on Monday as critics on various fronts assailed his position. Among other things, the memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

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MoveOn Enters Torture Fray, Calls For Special Prosecutor

Huffington Post- Ryan Grim

04/21/09 09:05 AM

MoveOn.org will enter the debate over torture investigations on Tuesday, asking its members to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the architects of the Bush administration’s program of detainee torture.

The foray represents a new direction for MoveOn, which has previously been focused on pushing the progressive agenda – the stimulus, Obama’s budget, healthcare, cap and trade – through Congress. Groups to MoveOn’s left have long been critical of the organization for not making investigations and prosecutions of Bush-era criminal activity a top priority.

The call for a special prosecutor adds MoveOn’s rather loud voice to the growing chorus demanding that crimes be investigated. It’s also an indication that the call for accountability for those who committed crimes during the Bush administration is becoming a mainstream Democratic position, and one the White House will find harder to move past.

The group will only deliver the petition to Holder, however, if it gathers 200,000 signatures, making the call a test of the appetite of the progressive base for investigations.

On Monday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior Democrat on the judiciary committee, called for the impeachment of Jay Bybee, one of the authors of the torture memos and now a federal judge.

MoveOn makes the case that without consequences for breaking the law, rogue behavior is only encouraged. “So far there’s been no accountability for the architects of Bush’s torture program — the top officials who justified keeping detainees awake for 11 days straight, waterboarding them repeatedly, and forcing prisoners into coffin-like boxes with insects,” reads the letter from MoveOn to its members. “We need real consequences for those responsible — it’s the only way to keep this from happening again.”

FULL LETTER HERE

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C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Report: Bush-era torture orders enforced by top officials

Agence France-Presse
Published: Saturday April 18, 2009

The first use of waterboarding and other harsh treatment against suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials over objections from his interrogators, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum, the newspaper said the harsh interrogation techniques had been ordered despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew.

Former president George W. Bush had publicly described Zubaidah, who was captured in 2002, as Al-Qaeda’s chief of operations while other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The especially brutal interrogation tactics against Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at CIA headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, the paper said.

According to The Times, Zubaydah provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs.

Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the paper said.

Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, one of the officials is quoted as saying, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”

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Robert Parry | Consortiumnews.com, April 17, 2009

Almost as disturbing as reading the Bush administration’s approved menu of brutal interrogation techniques is recognizing how President George W. Bush successfully shopped for government attorneys willing to render American laws meaningless by turning words inside out.

The four “torture” memos, released Thursday, revealed not just that the stomach-turning reports about CIA interrogators abusing “war on terror” suspects were true, but that the United States had gone from a “nation of laws” to a “nation of legal sophistry” – where conclusions on law are politically preordained and the legal analysis is made to fit.

You have passages like this in the May 10, 2005, memo by Steven Bradbury, then acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel:

“Another question is whether the requirement of ‘prolonged mental harm’ caused by or resulting from one of the enumerated predicate acts is a separate requirement, or whether such ‘prolonged mental harm’ is to be presumed any time one of the predicate acts occurs.”

As each phrase in the Convention Against Torture was held up to such narrow examination, the forest of criminal torture was lost in the trees of arcane legal jargon. Collectively, the memos leave a disorienting sense that any ambiguity in words can be twisted to justify almost anything.

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‘These People Fear Prosecution’: Why Bush’s CIA Team Should Worry About Its Dark Embrace of Torture

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted April 11, 2009.

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer discusses the fallout from the Red Cross’ shocking report on CIA torture and its serious legal implications.

On the night of April 6, a long-secret document was published — in its entirety for the first time — that provided a clear, stark look at the CIA torture program carried out by the Bush administration.

Dated Feb. 14, 2007, the 41-page report describes in harrowing detail the “ill treatment” of 14 “high-value” detainees in U.S. custody, as recounted by the prisoners in interviews with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Besides listing the various kinds of harsh interrogation tactics undertaken by the CIA — among them “suffocation by water,” “prolonged stress standing,” “beatings by use of a collar,” “confinement in a box,” “prolonged nudity,” “threats,” “forced shaving” and other methods — the report reveals the disturbing role of medical professionals in the torture of suspects, which included using doctors’ equipment to monitor their health, even as torture was carried out.

Just as Americans have known about Bush-era torture for years, lawyers and human rights activists have long known about the ICRC report and its contents. Both are due in large part to the work of journalists and the sources who have brought to light the many post-9/11 abuses committed in the name of counterterrorism.

In February 2005, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine published a story called “Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America’s ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ Program,” which reported in intricate detail the sordid mechanisms of the Bush administration’s kidnap-and-torture program — a practice so violent and dramatic that it inspired a major Hollywood film a few years later.

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Gitmo Detainee’s ‘Genitals Were Sliced With A Scalpel,’ Waterboarding ‘Far Down The List Of Things They Did’»

Think Progress- By Ben Armbruster at 11:13 am

Last week, two British High Court judges ruled against releasing documents describing the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. The judges said the Bush administration “had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public.”

But The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the documents actually “contained details of how British intelligence officers supplied information to [Mohamed’s] captors and contributed questions while he was brutally tortured.” In fact, it was British officials, not the Americans, who pressured Foreign Secretary David Miliband “to do nothing that would leave serving MI6 officers open to prosecution.” According to the Telegraph’s sources, the documents describe particularly gruesome interrogation tactics:

The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.

Another source familiar with the case said: “British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.”

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