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Torture and humiliation have been justified by the right as an "essential" part of the "War on Terror", because they will force the evil, inhuman terrorists to break and spill all of their vital intelligence assets.  The long term goal of this behavior, of course, is supposedly to bring these supposed terrorists to account.  Obviously, there is a lot of controversy about these methods.  Still, the right wing keeps coming back to the fact that these methods are necessary to extract the truth out of intransigent suspected terrorists.

But what if it turns out that these methods themselves have rendered known terrorists unprosecutable?

This Report by MSNBC paints a disturbing picture of the techniques used to interrogate a man thought to be directly linked to the 9/11 attacks (known in news reports as "The Twentieth Hijacker":

Mohammed al-Qahtani, detainee No. 063, was forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. He was told that other detainees knew he was gay. He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was strip-searched in front of women. He was led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks. He was doused with water. He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran.

And what was the result of this abuse?  In the end:

In interviews with -- the first time they have spoken publicly -- former senior law enforcement agents described their attempts to stop the abusive interrogations. The agents of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, working to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, said they objected to coercive tactics used by a separate team of intelligence interrogators soon after Guantanamo's prison camp opened in early 2002. They ultimately carried their battle up to the office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who approved the more aggressive techniques to be used on al-Qahtani and others.

Although they believed the abusive techniques were probably illegal, the Pentagon cops said their objection was practical. They argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.

And they described their disappointment when military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani, the suspected "20th hijacker" of Sept. 11, because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial.

This story is HUGE, in my opinion.  First, it means that even in the case of a man who American authorities had strong reason to believe was an actual threat (unlike the many Afghan peasants rounded up and thrown into Gitmo), we're unable to prosecute.  Even with the emotional connection to the worst terrorist attack in this country's history, the scope of the damage done to this man makes it unlikely that he would be brought to justice in a normal American court.  That should say something particularly chilling about our methods at Guantanamo.

Second, this story is hugely important because it suggests the responsibility for these human rights abuses and failed prosecutions (the two are clearly linked) falls directly at the feet of Donald Rumsfeld.  The Pentagon has usually hidden behind the troops to claim that their abusive, humiliating interrogation strategies were developed at the behest of our well-trained intelligence professionals.  This report suggests that's bullshit.  

This is a long, and important article and I hope everyone reads it.  I want to get this diary up so I'll wind it up here, but I'll continue posting excerpts and analysis in the comments.

Originally posted to ChicagoDem on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 08:20 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  proving once and for all (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ChicagoDem, Lashe, Neon Mama

    Torture is Not about gaining useful information, or stopping terrorism.  The ONLY thing it has EVER been  is State-Sponsored terrorism.  Whether the idiots at the Pentgon understand this or not is questionable, but the countries that use torture around the world could care less if they extract information.   Their real goal is make the person AFRAID of their government, and serve as a warning to others of the extreme consequences of disobeying or opposing the goverment.   There is a REASON that up until now it has only been practiced routinely by brutal and opressive regiemes the world over.

    Knowledge is power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Evil

    by Magorn on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 08:47:52 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This is a bigger psychological issue than the stories about "valuable intelligence" acknowledge.  This is about wanting to extract pain and hurt out of people, even when it means you can't actually achieve your goals because of it.  It's a dark period in American history.  Later on in the article there is a quote from a high ranking Navy official at Guantanamo who directly compares it to the internment of the Japanese in World War II.  It's good to hear that some in our military are finally acknowledging what this is really about.

      Read James Loewen's "Sundown Towns"!

      by ChicagoDem on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:04:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Historical Note (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ChicagoDem, Neon Mama

        Waterboarding was used at Japanese POW camps during WWII, a least on Japanese officer was put on trial for war crimes for sanctioning this practice.  He was executed.

        I know a guy, a hard as nails biker and ex-Marine who was a Vietnam War vet, who recent (at age 60+ ) got reactivated and sent to run a cell block at Gitmo for a year.  The man has seen some crap in his lifetime, but I don't know when I've ever seen him look or sound more distgusted than when he talked about how both the guards AND the prisoners were treated there.

        Knowledge is power Power Corrupts Study Hard Be Evil

        by Magorn on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:23:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think the last line in the story is most tellin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    "To be frank with you," the general says, "I got down there and saw that the rapport-building was more effective. We made significant progress as we moved along. I found the law enforcement techniques to be an effective way to go about doing business.

    If you are looking for Truth, you better be ready to change your mind.

    by jimraff on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:04:59 AM PDT

  •  All the soldiers at Abu Ghraib... (0+ / 0-)

    said they learned their 'frat boy antics' from the civilian interrogators.

    You know, those professionals.

  •  Huge yes, new no (0+ / 0-)

    The only courts any of these people can ever be tried in are the kangaroo military tribunals.  This has been a known problem from the beginning of the discussion about kidnapping & torture done by the government.

    "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

    by Mosquito Pilot on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:42:24 AM PDT

    •  But the sources make it interesting (0+ / 0-)

      These are internal Pentagon investigators basically pointing the finger squarely at Rumsfeld for the fact that we're unable to either convict or gain reliable information from these detainees.

      Also, I may be mistaken here, but my impression from the article is that even the military courts might not convict this guy b/c of the nature of his interrogation.

      Read James Loewen's "Sundown Towns"!

      by ChicagoDem on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:48:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Torture is Terrorism (0+ / 0-)

       It is unacceptable. I have been on permanent shock mode since day one of this question being "discusses" as if there were some rational way to find any "excuse" for it.
       UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, my country, has patted ourselves on the back during and since Nuremburg Trials after WWII -- that there are lines you NEVER cross. Not in war. Not "following orders". Not even to save your life.  WE MADE THESE RULES. They were not imposed in a sense of shared moral outrage.
       Our soldiers would NEVER have a question as to whether they must follow any such order. Period.  We prosecuted a few exposed at Mai Lay (sp?).
       "Gentleman's agreements" and "restrictive covenents" ended. Indiana accidently desegregated  passing laws to protect our Jewish citizens --- without realizing it would free blacks from restriction as well. SURPRISE, nothing terrible happened.  Wow. No time to fear.
       I'm still waiting for mass outcry from my people against this insanity. Weary of 9/11 dead being used as an excuse. Dead soldiers to excuse creating more maimed and dead.
       Let's torture bartenders to give up customers who regularly drive away drunk.  More people die from DUI than 9/11. Not a numbers game. It is humanity, decency, and allowing it makes us all part of a conspiracy.  Or are we "good Germans" who just did nothing.
       These are not just greedy and arrogant leaders. They are EVIL. And each piece of their horror that is exposed --- without immediate enraged outcry---leads inexorably to the next.   TORTURE IS TERROR --- We "harbor" these terrorists.
       Will Nam era peaceful assembly protests be covered by MSM?  Vote, vote, vote------ and make sure each elected Democrat knows our only swift weapon is to shut the pocketbook.  Refuse to pay one more cent for insanity.  Just say NO.

    Pre 9/11 Iraqis voted via constitution. Post 9/11 our dicator ignores rights too.

    by Neon Mama on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 09:52:10 AM PDT

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