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How Close to the “Rack and Screw”?
- Describe the importance of each technique as applied to this person. What do you reasonably hope to accomplish? Describe past successes of each technique in detail.
- Describe how each technique is consistent with “traditional executive behavior, contemporary practice, and the standards of blame generally applied to them.” Describe any other traditions – in state law, or in foreign practice – in which these techniques are used or approved.
- To what extent are the techniques designed to “instill stress, hopelessness, and fear, and to break resistance.”
- Do any of the techniques cause “severe mental distress or suffering”?
- How close is each technique to the “rack and screw”?
- Do the techniques “offend hardened sensibilities”?
- Do the techniques violate “the whole community sense of decency and fairness that has been woven by common experience into the fabric of acceptable conduct”?
- Do the techniques “violate the decencies of civilized conduct”?
- Are the techniques “so egregious, so outrageous, that they fairly may be said to shock the contemporary conscience”
Leave aside the shock of seeing the phrase “rack and screw” in a document evidently intended for someone preparing or approving an interrogation plan. What I find deeply disturbing is the way it mirrors and encourages the kind of sophistry that pervaded the OLC's torture memos.
In other words, the only examples the OLC can point to where “contemporary practice” includes the enhanced interrogation methods are the military's SERE training – where they are used in carefully controlled scenarios to mimic the torture methods of authoritarian regimes – and in countries whose detention and interrogation practices are criticized in the U.S. State Department's annual human rights reports. And so, despite the fact that in both those situations we call the methods what they are, torture, somehow, by virtue of the fact they're used somewhere, they don't shock the conscience.