New Bush Torture Bombshell Memos: 10 Horrifying Discoveries
The Obama administration has finally released four long-awaited legal memos used by the Bush administration to design its torture program -- and although their existence, like U.S. torture itself, has been an open secret for years, the memos are nonetheless shocking.
Written in a dispassionate legal tone, the documents contain the professional opinion of Office of Legal Council attorneys Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury as they assessed the CIA's "harsh interrogation techniques" between 2002 and 2005. Each method is described in sadistic detail, and each would surely be heinous if experienced on its own. But, as pointed out in the famous "Bybee" memo, dated August 1, 2002 -- the "interrogation team planned to use these techniques "in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique."
The torture memos are available on the ACLU website. But if you can't bring yourself to read them, below are ten disturbing excerpts that provide a hideous glimpse of what was done in the name of Americans in the so-called "war on terror." As you read them, keep in mind that the Obama administration has already announced that it will not seek charges against the people who carried out the actions they describe. "In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution," Obama said in a statement.
"This is a time for reflection, not retribution. ... We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement, too. "It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," he said.
Which was exactly what the Bush administration intended.
1. Walling (Bybee memo, August 1, 2002)
"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 …
"You have orally informed us that the false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock or surprise 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."
2. The Facial (or Insult) Slap (Bybee memo, August 1, 2002)
"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 …"
3. Cramped Confinement & insects Placed In a Confinement Box (Bybee memo, August 1, 2002)
"You would like to place (Abu) 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 that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him...
"Focusing in part on the fact that the boxes will be without light, placement in these boxes would constitute a procedure designed to disrupt profoundly the senses...
"With respect to the small confinement box, you have informed us that he would spend at most two hours in this box ... For the larger box, in which he can both stand and sit, he may be placed in this box for up to eighteen hours at a time ..."
4. Dietary Manipulation (Bradbury memo, May 10, 2005)
"This technique involves the substitution of commercial liquid meal replacements for normal food, presenting detainees with a bland, unappetizing, but nutritionally complete diet. You have informed us that the CIA believes dietary manipulation makes other techniques, such as sleep deprivation, more effective.
"Medical officers are required to ensure adequate fluid and nutritional intake, and frequent medial monitoring takes place while any detainee is undergoing dietary manipulation."
5. Nudity (Bradury memo, May 10, 2005)
"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, provided that ambient temperatures and the health of the detainee permit.
"... Interrogators can exploit the detainee's fear of being seen naked. In addition, female officers involved in the interrogation process may see the detainees naked, and … we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by females."
6. Abdominal Slap (Bradbury memo, May 10, 2005)
"In this technique, the interrogator strikes the abdomen of the detainee with the back of his open hand. The interrogator must have no rings or other jewelry on his hand. The interrogator is positioned directly in front of the detainee, generally no more than than 18 inches from the detainees. With his fingers held tightly together and fully extended, and with his palm toward the interrogator's own body, using his elbow as a fixed pivot point, the interrogator slaps the detainee in the detainee's abdomen. The interrogator may not use a fist, and the slap must be delivered above the navel and below the sternum. This technique is used to condition a detainee to pay attention tot the interrogator's questions and to dislodge expectations that the detainee will not be touched."
7. Water Dousing and "Flicking" (Bradbury memo, May 10, 2005)
"Cold water is poured on the detainee either from a container or from a hose without a nozzle. This technique is intended to weaken the detainee's resistance and persuade him to cooperate with interrogators. … A medical officer must observe and monitor the detainee throughout application of this technique, including for signs of hypothermia.
"… You have also described a variation of water dousing involving much smaller quantities of water; this variation is known as 'flicking.' Flicking of water is achieved by the interrogator wetting his fingers and then flicking them at the detainee, propelling droplets at the detainee. Flicking of water is done 'in an effort to create a distracting effect, to awaken, to startle, to irritate, to instill humiliation, or to cause temporary insult … Although water may be flicked into the detainee's face with this variation, the flicking of water at all times is done in such a manner as to avoid the inhalation or ingestion of water by the detainee."
8. Sleep Deprivation (more than 48 hours) (Bradbury memo, May 10, 2005)
"The primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake. In this method, the detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached by a length of chain to the ceiling. The detainee's hands are shackled in front of his body, so that the detainee has approximately a two- to three-foot diameter of movement. The detainee's feet are shackled to a bolt in the floor.
"… In lieu of standing sleep deprivation, a detainee may instead be seated on and shackled to a small stool. The stool supports the detainee's weight, but is too small to permit the subject to balance himself sufficiently to go to sleep…
"… We understand that a detainee undergoing sleep deprivation is generally fed by hand by CIA personnel so that he need not be unshackled…
"If the detainee is clothed, he wears an adult diaper under his pants … If the detainee is wearing a diaper, it is checked regularly and changed as necessary. The use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique.
"The maximum allowable duration for sleep deprivation authorized by the CIA is 180 hours ... You have informed us that to date, more than a dozen detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation of more than 48 hours, and three detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation of more than 96 hours."
9. Combination of Techniques (Bradbury memo, May 10, 2005)
"Your office has outlined the manner in which many of the individual techniques we previously considered could be combined …
"In a prototypical interrogation, the detainee begins his first interrogation session stripped of his clothes, shackled, and hooded, with the walling collar over his head and around his neck. … The interrogators remove the hood and explain that the detainee can improve his situation by cooperating and may say that the interrogators 'will do what it takes to get important information.' As soon as the detainee does anything inconsistent with the interrogators' instructions, the interrogators use an insult slap or abdominal slap. They employ walling if it becomes clear that the detainee is not cooperating in the interrogation. This sequence 'may continue for several more iterations as the interrogators continue to measure the [detainee's] resistance posture and apply a negative consequence to [his] resistance efforts.' The interrogators and security officers then put the detainee into position for standing sleep deprivation, begin dietary manipulation through a liquid diet, and keep the detainee nude (except for a diaper). The first interrogation session, which could have lasted from 30 minutes to several ours, would then be at an end.
"If the interrogation team determines there is a need to continue, and if the medical and psychological personnel advise that there are no contraindications, a second session may begin."
10. Waterboarding (Bybee memo, August 1, 2002)
"Finally, you would like to use a technique called the 'waterboard.' In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an 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 flow 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 carbon dioxide 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...
"We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death. As you have explained the waterboard procedure to us, it creates in the subject the uncontrollable physiological sensation that the subject is drowning ...
"Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statuatory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering ... you have advised us that the relied is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture."