Friday, October 13, 2006

Torture in the U.S.A.


Weekly vigil outside the law school at UC Berkeley where John Yoo, Bush's legal apologist for torture, teaches when he is not on book tour.

Jose Padilla is Bush's guinea pig. A U.S. citizen, a Puerto Rican, a convert to Islam, once a gang member and petty criminal, Bush labeled Padilla an "illegal enemy combatant," had him locked up in a Navy prison, and, Padilla charges, had him tortured for 3 and half years. Our elected representatives in Congress have just legalized Bush's assumption of such a power, after the fact, in the so-called "Military Commissions" bill. So much for the rule of law. And so much for any expectation of security in our persons within our own country by virtue of being American citizens.

Now that Padilla's been charged and given access to lawyers (so the Supreme Court wouldn't have to decide in his case whether to endorse Bush's lawlessness), his attorneys have detailed what he says was done to him.

There has not been nearly the volume of commentary on this in the liberal political blogosphere that I would have expected. Glenn Greenwald and Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net (the full brief is there) are honorable exceptions.

What Padilla claims was done to him is sickening stuff. I find it very believable as it the logical extension of experiments with "interrogation" and torture that have been ongoing in the ugly underside of the U.S. "security" apparatus as least since U.S. service men captured in the Korean war "gave in" to their captors. Our military decided they needed to refine the Korean and Chinese methods. Mostly they have practiced overseas, especially in Central America. "Supermax" isolation units in domestic prison systems also fit the bill. Now those "techniques" (that antiseptic word for vile acts against the human person) are being normalized.

Whether there are any limits to what our rulers claim the right to do to us will ultimately be a political matter, not a question of law. Law is on the run. Popular revulsion has interrupted tyranny before and can again, but only if we find the courage to build an opposition. I am posting a very long set of excerpts from Padilla's brief below, because I believe we can only stop torture if we are willing to look at it. Read and weep.

Excerpts from a brief on behalf of Jose Padilla filed in Southern District Court of Florida.
Emphasis added by me.

In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla's "dependency and trust," he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla's torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity. For nearly two years -- from June 9, 2002 until March 2, 2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr. Padilla to have contact with his lawyers -- Mr. Padilla was in complete isolation....

His isolation, furthermore, was aggravated by the efforts of his captors to maintain complete sensory deprivation. His tiny cell -- nine feet by seven feet -- had no view to the outside world. The door to his cell had a window, however, it was covered by a magnetic sticker, depriving Mr. Padilla of even a view into the hallway and adjacent common areas of his unit. He was not given a clock or a watch and for most of the time of his captivity, he was unaware whether it was day or night, or what time of year or day it was....

In addition to his extreme isolation, Mr. Padilla was also viciously deprived of sleep. This sleep deprivation was achieved in a variety of ways. For a substantial period of his captivity, Mr. Padilla's cell contained only a steel bunk with no mattress. The pain and discomfort of sleeping on a cold, steel bunk made it impossible for him to sleep. Mr. Padilla was not given a mattress until the tail end of his captivity. Mr. Padilla's captors did not solely rely on the inhumane conditions of his living arrangements to deprive him of regular sleep. A number of ruses were employed to keep Mr. Padilla from getting necessary sleep and rest. One of the tactics his captors employed was the creation of loud noises near and around his cell to interrupt any rest Mr. Padilla could manage on his steel bunk. As Mr. Padilla was attempting to sleep, the cell doors adjacent to his cell would be electronically opened, resulting in a loud clank, only to be immediately slammed shut. Other times, his captors would bang the walls and cell bars creating loud startling noises. These disruptions would occur throughout the night and cease only in the morning, when Mr. Padilla's interrogations would begin....

Efforts to manipulate Mr. Padilla and break his will also took the form of the denial of the few benefits he possessed in his cell. For a long time Mr. Padilla had no reading materials, access to any media, radio or television, and the only thing he possessed in his room was a mirror. The mirror was abruptly taken away, leaving Mr. Padilla with even less sensory stimulus. Also, at different points in his confinement Mr. Padilla would be given some comforts, like a pillow or a sheet, only to have them taken away arbitrarily. He was never given any regular recreation time. Often, when he was brought outside for some exercise, it was done at night, depriving Mr. Padilla of sunlight for many months at a time. The disorientation Mr. Padilla experienced due to not seeing the sun and having no view on the outside world was exacerbated by his captors' practice of turning on extremely bright lights in his cell or imposing complete darkness for durations of twenty-four hours, or more....

Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors. ...

He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations. ...

The deprivations, physical abuse, and other forms of inhumane treatment visited upon Mr. Padilla caused serious medical problems that were not adequately addressed. Apart from the psychological damage done to Mr. Padilla, there were numerous health problems brought on by the conditions of his captivity. Mr. Padilla frequently experienced cardiothoracic difficulties while sleeping, or attempting to fall asleep, including a heavy pressure on his chest and an inability to breath or move his body. ...

In one incident Mr. Padilla felt a burning sensation pulsing through his chest. He requested medical care but was given no relief. Toward the end of his captivity, Mr. Padilla experienced swelling and pressure in his chest and arms. He was administered an electrocardiogram, and given medication. However, Mr. Padilla ceased taking the medicine when it caused him respiratory congestion. Although Mr. Padilla was given medication in this instance, he was often denied medication for pain relief. The strain brought on by being placed in stress positions caused Mr. Padilla great discomfort and agony. Many times he requested some form of pain relief but was denied by the guards.

The cause of some of the medical problems experienced by Mr. Padilla is obvious. Being cramped in a tiny cell with little or no opportunity for recreation and enduring stress positions and shackling for hours caused great pain and discomfort. It is unclear, though, whether Mr. Padilla's cardiothoracic problems were a symptom of the stress he endured in captivity, or a side effect from one of the drugs involuntarily induced into Mr. Padilla's system in the Naval Brig. In either event, the strategically applied measures suffered by Mr. Padilla at the hands of the government caused him both physical and psychological pain and agony.

It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this filing, docile and resigned -- a model detainee....

In sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr. Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some, merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish. It is also extremely important to note that the torturous acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course almost the entire three years and seven months of his captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla's treatment at the hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience...

The treatment of Mr. Padilla, a natural born citizen of the United States, is a blot on this nation's character, shameful in its disrespect for the rule of law, and should never be repeated. ...

2 comments:

Arcturus said...

I've got a little series of Torture in America posts up this week. The intense isolation Padilla suffered is unconscionable.

janinsanfran said...

arcturus has indeed been doing the torture chronicles. See here and here.

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