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April 28, 2009, at 12:00 pm — Blogs / / / /

Was it Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

Last week, in response to litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Obama administration released four top secret memos used by the Bush administration in discussing interrogation techniques approved for use by the CIA on high-level detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The memos provided the legal framework for the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other interrogation methods that some say violate US domestic and international law.

A breathless op-ed in the New York Times called for further scrutiny of the Bush administration over the acts discussed in these memos.

Until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses — and who set the rules and who approved them — there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated.

what of the acts discussed in these memos? Do the acts constitute torture in the minds of most Americans? In my view, most of them sound like activities that fraternity pledges willingly submit themselves to during Hell Week each and every year in our academies of higher learning. I would like for you to decide for yourself.

In the first memo dated August 1, 2002, we learn the following:

You have asked for this advice in the course of conducting interrogations of Abu Zubaydah. As we understand it, Zubaydah is one of the highest ranking members of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization

is currently being held by the United States. The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge.
Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the
United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas
. Zubaydah has become accustomed to a certain level of treatment and displays no signs of willingness to disclose further information.

In other words, the terrorist had become accustomed to the prayer mats, the Quran reading time, the Muslim chefs preparing three squares a day and the five prayer breaks each day that made Club Gitmo a favorite vacation spot for terrorists in the first place.

Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of “chatter” equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks. In light of the information you… wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an “increased pressure phase.'”

As part of this increased pressure phase, Zubaydah will have contact only with a new interrogation specialist, who he has not met previously, and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (“SERE”) training psychologist who has been involved with the interrogations since they began. This phase will likely last no more than several days but could last up to thirty days. In this phase, you would like to employ ten techniques that you believe will dislocate his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive and encourage him to disclose the crucial information mentioned above.

I think most of us can agree that this seems reasonable so far. The terrorist likely knows of future attacks and the interrogators wish to trick him into believing that he may face actual torture if he doesn’t cooperate. Unfortunately, thanks to the release of these memos, future terrorists now know that we won’t ever actually do so. Let’s look at the ten techniques noted in the first memo:

1) The Attention Grasp (It sounds more sinister if you say it in a hushed tone.)

The attention grasp consists of grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion. In the same motion as the grasp, the individual is drawn toward the interrogator.

Compare that to this example of 1950s fraternity hazing techniques:

The Attention Grasp: Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right

( online polls)

2) Walling

For wailing a flexible false wall will be constructed. The individual is placed with his heels touching the wall. The interrogator pulls the individual forward and then quickly and firmly pushes the individual into the wall. It is the individual’s shoulder blades that hit the wall. During this motion, the head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a c-collar effect to help prevent whiplash. To further reduce the probability of injury, the individual is allowed to rebound from the flexible wall. You have orally informed us that the false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which further shock or surprise in the individual. In part, the idea is to create a sound that will make the impact seem far worse than it is and that will be far worse than any injury that might result from the action.

A little push into a collapsible wall and a loud noise? I’m not even going to bother finding more butt-paddling to compare this one to.

Walling: Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

( online polls)

3) The Facial Hold

The facial hold is used to hold the head immobile. One open palm is placed on either side of the individual’s face. The fingertips are kept well away from the individual’s eyes.

Do I really need to ask?

The Facial Hold: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, Just Right or How you place your hands when going in for a kiss?

( polls)

4) The Insult Slap (May be used in conjunction with the prepare-to-kiss move.)

With the facial slap or insult slap, the interrogator slaps the individual’s face with fingers slightly spread. The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individual’s chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe. The interrogator invades the individual’s personal space. The goal of the facial slap is not to inflict physical pain that is severe or lasting, instead, the
purpose of the facial slap is to induce shock, surprise, and or humiliation

I hear the usual reaction is, “Allah-damn it! I thought he was going to French-kiss me, but instead he French-slapped me.”

The Insult Slap: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, Just Right or Can we get to some real torture?

( polls)

5) Cramped Confinement

Cramped confinement involves the placement of the individual in a confined space, the dimensions of which restrict the individual’s movement. The confined space is usually dark. The duration of confinement varies based upon the size of the container. For the larger confined space, the individual can stand up or sit down; the smaller space is large enough for the subject to sit down. Confinement in the larger space can last up to eighteen hours; for the smaller space, confinement lasts for no more than two hours.

In other words, treating terrorists like we treat poorly behaving prisoners. I see now why the Times is so sure this is all torture. It sounds almost as bad as this more recent fraternity hazing technique:

Two freshmen at Ohio State University were brought to the “dungeon” of their prospective fraternity house after breaking the rule requiring all pledges to crawl into the dining area prior to Hell Week meals. Once locked in the house storage closet, they were given only salty foods to eat for nearly two days. Nothing was provided for drinking purposes except a pair of plastic cups in which they could catch their own urine (Described in Cialdini, 1985).

Cramped Confinement: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, Just Right or Routine Police Tactic?

( online polls)

6) Wall Standing

Wall standing is used to induce muscle fatigue. The individual stands about four to five feet from a wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. His arms are stretched out in front of him, with his fingers resting on the wall. His fingers support all of his body weight. The individual is not permitted to move or reposition his hands or feet.

Stretching exercises, anyone?

Wall Standing: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, Just Right or Health Club Workout?

( online polls)

7) Stress Positions

(T)hese positions are not designed to produce the pain associated with contortions or twisting of the body. Rather, somewhat like walling, they are designed to produce the physical discomfort associated with muscle fatigue. Two particular stress positions are likely to be used on Zubaydah:

1) sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front of fhim with his arms raised above his head; and

kneeling on the floor while leaning back at a 45 degree angle. You have also orally informed us that through observing Zubaydah in captivity, you have noted that he appears to be quite flexible despite his wound.

Good, we wouldn’t actually want to hurt the poor terrorist, would we? More calisthenics?

Stress Positions: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, Just Right or Boring?

( online polls)

8 ) Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of sleep; to motivate him to cooperate: The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.

It seems we get all our good ideas from the Greeks on campus:

Drinking bottles of liquor, not sleeping for days, streaking, being chained and drug around campus, fighting, not bathing, and humiliating themselves are all parts of a pledge’s hazing process.

Sleep Deprivation: Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

( online polls)

9) Cramped Confinement Box plus Insect

You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him.

Caterpillars? Oh my!

Cramped Confinement: Torture, Fraternity Hazing, or Just Right ?

( online polls)

10) Waterboarding (Maniacal, evil laugh here.)

In this procedure, the individual is bound securely loan inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air now is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth.

This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the CO2 level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of “suffocation and incipient panic,” i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs.

During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four breaths. The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout…

(A) medical expert with SERE experience will be present throughout this phase and that the procedures will be stopped if deemed medically necessary to prevent severe mental or physical harm to Zubaydah.

This is the only one that I can see a majority being concerned about. You will be pleased to know that those who go through SERE training voluntarily consent to all of the above methods. The memo states the findings of a person with ten years SERE experience:

(H)e trained 10,000 students. Of those students, only two dropped out of the training following the use of these techniques. Although on rare occasions some students temporarily postponed the remainder of their training and received psychological counseling, those students were able to finish the program without any indication of subsequent abnormal health effects…

Another trainer noted the following:

He informed you that there was one person who did not complete the training. That person experienced an adverse mental health reaction that lasted only two hours. After those two hours, the individual’s symptoms spontaneously dissipated without requiring treatment or counseling and no other symptoms were ever reported by this individual.

Waterboarding: Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

( polls)

The second memo included a couple new techniques:

1) Dietary Manipulation.
This technique involves the substitution of commercial liquid meal replacements for normal food, presenting detainees with a bland, unappetizing, but nutritionally complete diet.

2) Nudity.
This technique is used to cause psychological discomfort, particularly if a detainee, for cultural or other reasons,is especially modest. When the technique is employed, clothing can be provided as an instant reward for cooperation. During and between interrogation sessions, a detainee may be kept nude.

Diet Manipulation and Nudity: Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

( online polls)

The New York Times, the ACLU and the liberal media and academic elites now know our interrogation techniques, and they are hysterical. Al Qaeda now knows our interrogation techniques, and they are laughing at us.

This issue doesn’t cleave neatly at the center of the left-right political spectrum. Heck, left-wing authoritarian governments spent most of the 20th century perfecting methods of torture. But in America today, liberals tend to object, strenuously, to any tactic that even hurts a prisoners feelings, as shown by the fact that some readers have called “The Attention Grasp” torture.

Conservatives tend to view protecting the citizens of the United States as a larger and more important objective of the federal government than prisoner comfort.

Shouldn’t there be a middle way? Can’t we recognize that, yes, we do have a moral obligation to treat our prisoners as humanely as possible, and yes, a primary duty of our government is to protect the safety of its citizens.

I believe we can. I believe reasonable people can agree on these things, and support a policy that never puts a prisoner through anything that the person conducting the interrogation has not gone through himself. A policy in which all but the most high-level subjects are never subjected to any of the aforementioned questioning tactics, but one which allows reasonable tactics to be used on people who definitely have information that will save American lives and who will not divulge said information under other circumstances. Is taking any possible
action officially off the table really an intelligent way to handle those who wish to do harm to Americans?

Let’s not forget, these tactics unquestionably prevented further attacks and saved American lives. For this we should all be thankful.

Most Americans won’t read the reports for themselves. They will read the paper, watch the MSM and conclude that we were doing Jack Bauer. In my opinion, we were mostly doing Jack, and thank God we did.

What say you?


1 comment to Was it Torture, Fraternity Hazing or Just Right?

  • I say if the above methods are torture, how then, are we to describe the breaking and severing of limbs, the stabbing and burning of eyes, and electrocution of the testicles, to name a few, which are de rigeur in countries outside of the United States. Thanks, for the sanity check, and welcome to The Avocado Jungle!

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