Sunday, July 10, 2005

THIS WEEK'S NEW YORKER has an article by Jane Mayer about the Army running interrogation experiments on detainees at Guantanamo. The article itself is only in the print edition; but there is a Q&A interview with Mayer and Amy Davidson at the magazine's online site in which Mayer talks about "interrogation and the war on terror."

Here are the high points:

  • There is a major public relations battle going on now at Gitmo; meaning, among other things, that journalists like Mayer are being allowed to see much more of the facility than they would have been before all the allegations of torture.
  • The Administrative Review Hearings, set up to give detainees the opportunity to contest their terrorist status, are still an utter sham. No due process at all. The hearings are the only avenue available to detainees to argue for their release; but when they ask to see the evidence against them, they are told they cannot, because the evidence is "classified." And they are not permitted to have independent legal counsel at the hearings -- only the military lawyers provided by the Army.
  • The Bush administration's decision to ignore the Geneva Convention with regard to the treatment of detainees in the "war on terror" is legally indefensible. No ifs, ands, or buts. The issue is not whether detainees are, or are not, prisoners of war. The issue is the mechanism for determining that. The Geneva Convention requires that prisoner of war status be determined on an individual, case by case basis. When the Bush administration announced that anyone and everyone detained as part of the war on terror was an "enemy combatant," as a group and by definition, it violated the Geneva Convention.
  • Torture doesn't work, and it's legally inadmissible in U.S. courts to use evidence gained through coercive interrogation methods, because it violates the Fifth Amendment by forcing the defendant to testify against himself. But of course the military's purpose is to get "actionable intelligence," not to put together a legal case that will hold up in court -- because detainees in the war on terror don't ever see the inside of a U.S. court, and they don't have any of the legal rights that persons accused of crimes would have in U.S. courts. So why be concerned about torture? Because it doesn't work. "F.B.I. officials acknowledge that force may get someone to talk, but it won’t necessarily get them to tell the truth. Force often yields false confessions. One agent told [Mayer], "I'd confess to being the third gunman on the grassy knoll if you tortured me. But what good would that be? Not only am I giving you misleading information, you also haven't solved the crime."
  • The Bush administration has redefined international protocols of medical ethics (1) to allow medical professionals to "assist in interrogations" as long as the detainee being interrogated is not that particular medical professional's patient" and (2) to allow any medical professional to violate the patient confidentiality of any patient if the military decides that national security is at stake.
  • And the meat of Mayer's article: Behavioral scientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who have specialized training in teaching American soldiers how to resist specific torture techniques are now being recruited by the military to teach American soldiers how to overcome detainees' resistance to those same torture techniques.

Teaching freedom and democracy by example: It's a beautiful thing.

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