CIA Torture in Movies, Art Imitates Life

Defense lawyers in the Sept. 11 case screened grisly scenes of torture from the Hollywood movie “Zero Dark Thirty” at the war court Thursday Feburary 18, 2016 in their bid to argue that the CIA gave filmmakers more access to evidence than lawyers in the death-penalty case.

The clips shown by attorneys for alleged 9/11 conspirator Ammar al Baluchi included a bruised and battered character named “Ammar” being put in a coffin-sized box, being doused with ice water in a mock waterboarding scene and being strung up by his arms, during rounds of CIA interrogation.

The issue at hand is whether the CIA shared more information with Bigelow and Boal, who did not even have the necessary security clearance, than they did with defense attorneys. If so, the defense argues, this would be further evidence that the United States has lost the moral standing to execute the accused (if they are convicted).
Elsewhere, a French judge has summoned the former chief of Guantánamo Bay, retired U.S. General Geoffrey Miller, to appear in court on March 1 to face allegations of torture against detainees.

Miller presided over the U.S. military prison in Cuba from 2002 to 2004, shortly after then-President George W. Bush approved the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation” tactics, including waterboarding, hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, removal of clothing, and exposure to extreme heat or cold.

Former prisoners of the camp for years have urged international courts to subpoena Miller over his role in the torture and mistreatment of detainees during his time as Guantánamo commander.

The investigation against Miller began after two French citizens, Nizar Sassi and Mourad Benchellali, who were detained at Guantánamo from 2001 to 2004 and 2005 respectively, lodged a criminal complaint against Miller in a French court. The Paris Court of Appeals approved their request last April.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency embarked on a highly classified program of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects. The program was designed to place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law. Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine “black sites” using torture techniques.
President Bush first publicly acknowledged the secret detention program on September 6, 2006, when he announced that the CIA had detained and interrogated detainees in secret locations outside the United States before transferring fourteen
of them to Guantánamo Bay.46 He added that, “[t]he current transfers mean that there are now no terrorists in the CIA program. But as more high-ranking terrorists are captured, the need to obtain intelligence from them will remain critical—and having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will continue to be crucial to getting life-saving information.”

The CIA secretly held its detainees in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Thailand, and Guantánamo Bay.
President Bush has stated that about a hundred detainees were held under the CIA secret detention program, about a third of whom were questioned using “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

These techniques included abusive methods such as “walling” (quickly pulling the detainee forward and then thrusting him against a flexible false wall), “water
dousing,” “stress positions” (forcing the detainee to remain in body positions designed to induce physical discomfort), “wall standing” (forcing the detainee to remain standing with his arms outstretched in front of him so that his fingers touch a wall four to five feet away and support his entire body weight), “cramped confinement” in a box, “insult slaps,” (slapping the detainee on the face with fingers spread), “facial hold” (holding a detainee’s head temporarily immobile during interrogation with palms on either side of the face), “attention grasp” (grasping the detainee with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, and quickly drawing him toward the interrogator), forced nudity, sleep deprivation while being vertically shackled, and dietary manipulation.

President Bush stated that he authorized “waterboarding,” which was applied on
three detainees.

Michael Hayden, former CIA director, confirmed in congressional testimony in 2008 that these three detainees were Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, and Abu Zubyadah.

Used in its early incarnations during the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding is described in U.S. government documents as a technique which involves “binding the detainee to a bench with his feet elevated above his head,” “immobilizing his head,” and “plac[ing] a cloth over his mouth and nose while pouring water onto the cloth in a controlled manner.

Airflow is restricted for 20 to 40 seconds and the technique produces the sensation of drowning and suffocation.”

The United States prosecuted Japanese interrogators for waterboarding U.S. prisoners during World War II.

Waterboarding and other torture methods applied on CIA detainees were specifically authorized by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in a series
of legal opinions.

In a memorandum dated August 1, 2002, then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee opined that physical abuse would not amount to torture unless it inflicted pain of a level associated with organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. In any event, the memorandum found, even if an interrogation conducted at the behest of the president did amount to torture under the domestic criminal anti-torture statute, “in the circumstances of the current war against al Qaeda and its allies,” criminal prosecution under the U.S. anti-torture statute would represent “an unconstitutional infringement of the President’s authority to conduct war,” and moreover, “necessity or self-defense” could also “justify” interrogation methods that violated the statute.

A second August 1, 2002, memorandum, also signed by Bybee, authorized the CIA to use on its detainee Abu Zubaydah 10 specific interrogation methods, including waterboarding, placing him in a “cramped confinement box with an insect” in light of his apparent fear of insects, cramped confinement in a dark space to restrict his movement, walling, stress positions, wall standing, sleep deprivation, attention grasp, facial hold, and “facial slap (insult slap).”

On December 30, 2004, following public outcry over the first Bybee memo described
above which was leaked to the public earlier that year, the OLC issued a
replacement memorandum (the “December 30, 2004, memorandum”) that disavowed
torture and appeared on the surface to distance itself from the first Bybee
memorandum, but stated in a footnote that the conclusions of that memorandum
would not have been different under the standards of the December 30, 2004,

On May 10, 2005, the OLC issued two more memos relating to
the application of the federal anti-torture statute to interrogation methods. The
memos authorized virtually all of the methods that had previously been authorized
by the second Bybee memo described above.
On May 30, 2005, the OLC issued yet another memo concluding that the same interrogation methods were also lawful under the ban against cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under Article 16 of the Convention against Torture.
The latter memorandum was issued
in advance of the enactment later that year of the Detainee Treatment Act, which
affirmed that the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment applied
to all detainees in U.S. custody, including foreigners held overseas.62
According to a report by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC),
which interviewed 14 “high value detainees” in September 2006 after they were
transferred from secret CIA detention to Guantánamo Bay, the detainees were subjected
to various forms of ill-treatment during their detention in secret locations,
including suffocation by water poured over a cloth placed over the nose and mouth,
prolonged stress positions such as standing naked with arms held extended and
chained above the head, beatings by use of a collar held around the detainee’s
neck and used to forcefully bang the head and body against a wall, beating and
kicking, confinement in a box, prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, exposure to
cold temperature, prolonged shackling, threats of ill-treatment, forced shaving, and
deprivation/restricted provision of solid food for up to one month.
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