Larry Siems's blog

Document a Day: Not Even if Ordered

The FBI wasn't alone in rejecting torture. One of the most dramatic and stirring of all the torture documents, this Statement for the Record from the Navy's top lawyer, Alberto Mora, chronicles a rebellion within the Defense Department against the  Donald  Rumsfeld-approved, Survival,  Evasion  Resist  Escape (SERE)-based torture methods.

Document a Day: A Repentant Persecutor

Another ringing denunciation from the inside — this one a declaration by a Guantánamo military prosecutor recounting his dawning awareness of the physical and due process abuses those he was assigned to prosecute had endured.

Document a Day: Interrogators Ordered This Treatment

Document a Day: Old Torture Made New

The torture techniques CIA and Defense Department interrogators used have a specific pedigree: they were developed and promoted by two psychologists who had worked for the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) programs, where U.S. soldiers are subjected to torture techniques perfected by such countries as China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union.

Document a Day: “If you think this is tough . . .”

Document a Day: The Plan Has Been Signed Off On

This email, dated October 1, 2002, announces the beginning of the interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani in Guantánamo. As with the CIA's torture of Abu Zubaydah, the Defense Department's interrogators followed a plan that relied on techniques the United States had long recognized as torture, a plan closely monitored by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Document a Day: Orchestrated Torture

In October 2006, four and half years after Abu Zubaydah disappeared into a CIA “black site” in Thailand, the International Committee of the Red Cross was finally allowed to visit him and 13 other “high value detainees the Bush administration had recently transferred from secret prisons to Guantánamo. The ICRC's subsequent report contained this account by Abu Zubaydah of his torture in Thailand.

Document a Day: Calling the Illegal "Legal"

This undated summary of legal advice provided by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) chronicles the systematic manner in which government lawyers authorized abusive interrogations for both the CIA and Department of Defense.

Document a Day: “We Need to Take a Deep Breath”

This remarkable email chain is from April 14, 2003. The original message, from a military interrogator in Iraq to all concerned (ALCON), announces “The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, [redacted] has made clear it wants these individuals broken,” and asks for “wish lists” of interrogation techniques. Someone forwards this message, commenting simply, “Sounds crazy, but we’re passing this on.”

Document a Day: Tortured to Death

In October, 2002, the lead lawyer for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center told U.S. military personnel at Guantánamo that the laws banning torture are “vaguely written” and that torture is “subject to perception.” Notes from that meeting quote Jonathan Fredman as saying, “If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong.”

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