It is not surprising that the mainstream media asking the questions in the ongoing presidential debates are not asking deep questions of the Democratic candidates about the issue of torture.
The Obama Administration, of which Hillary Clinton was long Secretary of State, has refused to initiate investigations into past torture, release photos of the torture of prisoners, and even worse, has lied about the ongoing use of torture by its military and intelligence forces. The administration has done its best to block lawsuits aimed against government figures who authorized or used torture.
In fact, the presentation of the Democratic candidates, with their condemnation of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture program, but silence on other forms of U.S. torture, amounts to a form of complicity on torture. Why Valtin, you may exclaim, that is an extraordinary claim, and it will demand extraordinary proof! Why hasn’t Bernie Sanders held Sec. Clinton to account if this is true?
The extraordinary proof has been gathered and released by a plethora of human rights and physicians’ groups over the years, and concerns Obama’s policy of making the Army Field Manual on interrogations the instrument of government policy on such procedures, while notably banning the CIA’s old “enhanced interrogation” program, which included waterboarding. Indeed, as of last year, with the final passage of the NDAA bill, use of the Army Field Manual is now mandated by law.
Recently the United Nations Committee Against Torture, in a cyclical report on country adherence to the UN treaty against torture, chided the United States for still allowing both sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation as part of its official manual on interrogation.
From the UN report late last year:
… the Committee is concerned about certain aspects of Appendix M of the Army Field Manual Human Intelligence Collector Operations, FM 2-22.3 of September 2006, in particular the description of some authorised methods of interrogation, such as the interrogation techniques of “physical separation” and “field expedient separation”….
In particular, the State party should abolish the provision contained in the “physical separation technique” which establishes that “use of separation must not preclude the detainee getting four hours of continued sleep every 24 hours”. Such provision applicable over an initial period of 30 days, which is renewable, amounts to authorizing sleep deprivation –a form of ill-treatment….
Equally, the State party should abolish sensory deprivation in the “field expedient separation technique” aimed at prolonging the shock of capture by applying goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs to generate a perception of separation, which based on recent scientific findings with high probability will create a state of psychosis with the detainee… raising concerns of torture and ill-treatment.
Use of Psychological Torture in the Army Field Manual
The UN Committee Against Torture did not go far enough in its criticism of U.S. policy. It’s been some years since I published a Daily Kos series on torture with both Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, but some of those articles, and others I’ve published at other sites, including The Guardian, AlterNet, and the old Firedoglake, highlighted the use of psychological torture techniques in the Army Field Manual. A recent Newsweek article on interrogation linked to my work on the subject.
Psychological torture is not something less awful than waterboarding. In fact, researchers find that is it actually more damaging than physical torture. One internationally-known psychiatrist stated, for instance, “"The threat or anticipation of pain may be worse than the pain itself.”
In fact, the Army Field Manual (AFM) relies on the use of techniques of psychological torture that were researched by the CIA and the military since the 1950s. These notably include the use of isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, manipulation of diet and environment, the use of fear, and, as one AFM technique, “Futility,” explains, the attempt to instill “hopelessness and helplessness” in the interrogation subject-prisoner.
As someone who has clinically worked with torture patients, I feel I am morally and ethically bound to say the truth about the ongoing use of torture, no matter how politicians, or their supporters, want to spin it. In this case, both Sanders and Clinton are equally at fault, as I could find that neither has ever spoken out or shown the slightest inclination to expose the use of abusive techniques in the government’s interrogation manual. Since Sec. Clinton was a member of the Obama administration, she bears perhaps a bit more responsibility for the implementation of the policy. But no executive branch government official or Senator has acquitted themselves well in this matter.
Clinton and Renditions
Where Sec. Clinton deserves far greater scrutiny is in the matter of renditions to interrogation in foreign countries. Most people do not realize that such renditions were not banned but protected by President Obama’s Jan. 2009 Executive Order on “lawful interrogations.” We just do not know to what extent such renditions were used, though in the cases that did come to my attention regarding renditions following the 2010 World Cup bombings in Kampala, Uganda, there were extensive complaints of use of torture by FBI investigators, which led to a special report by George Soros’ Open Society Justice Initiative. I have also released some transcripts of complaints against the FBI in the matter.
One African prisoner’s affidavit I linked to said the following:
... [FBI] officers said, "Don't lie to us -- we know everything about you. We will finish your family -- first your wife and then your two kids..."
... one (1) FBI officer, with blue eyes, cocked his gun as if he were going to shoot me, saying that there was a bullet inside with my name on it.... the same officer told me he would kill me or leave me to rot in Luzira.
... I was severely ill-treated during interrogation, including having an FBI officer standing behind me hitting me on the back of the head with his fist... when the FBI wanted to do their dirty work, they would ask the Ugandans to leave, and by dirty work I mean beating, forcing me to sign papers and threatening me....
The Secretary of State is supposed to guarantee safety of prisoners transferred to foreign countries. What did Secretary Clinton know about renditions during her tenure? What was her role? Why has no one even asked her these questions? I certainly have heard nothing of that sort from the Sanders camp.
A Real Inconvenient Truth
It appears that this site is about to transition into a form of campaign advocacy that might disallow publication of criticism of candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton. Sec. Clinton, whose friendship with and alibiing of the mass murderer Henry Kissinger, already puts her beyond the pale of acceptance, must not be allowed to skip on the issue of torture conducted under the administration to which she belonged. Indeed, neither should the Obama administration, any more than that of his predecessor.
Nor should Sen. Sanders get a pass on this as well. He has been notably quiet on the issue of accountability for the crimes of torture in the Bush administration. The findings of the UN Committee on Torture in regards to the use of ill-treatment and concerns about torture in the Army Field Manual have never been referenced by him, so far as I know.
If your mind is shattered, it doesn’t matter if it happened through waterboarding or through the use of profound isolation (itself a form of sensory deprivation) and sleep deprivation. A crime is a crime. The CIA and military has used what powers they have, and leaned on their assets and influence in the media to keep this issue from getting bigger. You have now read this. I ask that you read it through twice and let it sink in. Follow my links and research for yourself. If you remain silent going forward, it is now on you.