Bush Administration Tries to "Cleanse" Evidence Obtained Through Torture

Timing is everything. Yesterday the Pentagon announced that it will seek the death penalty against six men accused of masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Arriving at the heels of CIA Director Michael Hayden's admission last week that three detainees at Gitmo -- including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is among the defendants -- were waterboarded, the announcement sparked immediate questions about the viability of the evidence against the defendants, who are said to have undergone other forms of "harsh interrogation." As one reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: "Is the White House at all concerned that some of the evidence of the confessions by many of these men may not be admissible because they were obtained through waterboarding, which the administration admitted to last week?"

Perino skirted the question, but I would guess 'no.' That's because the Pentagon has deployed a novel strategy to legitimize the process and make it respectable again: take defendants imprisoned in an endless legal limbo and whose confessions have been tortured out of them and interrogate them again, this time asking nicely and without violence, to obtain the same evidence. A few months later, voila: You have a clean trial.

The Washington Post explains:


"FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the 'Clean Team' and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.
"To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects' trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said."
One official described the tactic:
"[Interrogators] went in and said that they'd love to talk to them, that they knew what the men had been through, and that none of that stuff was going to be done to them … It was made very clear to them that they were in a very different environment, that they were not with the CIA anymore."
The Post -- which also pointed out that the prisoners were fed "whenever they were hungry" and given Starbucks coffee -- concedes that it remains unclear "whether the FBI and military interrogators could have extracted the same information without a road map from the CIA indicating what they might say."
"It also remains unknowable whether the detainees would have responded to a friendly approach without first receiving more aggressive treatment."
That's not all that's unclear:

"It is not clear whether the government will apply civilian rules holding that death penalty cases are to be treated with extraordinary care," reports the New York Times, "or how a death penalty might be carried out, or where. It is not even clear how much of the proceedings may take place in sealed courtrooms. "

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