Bush’s Anti-Torture Executive Order! Uhm, Not So Fast

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Just got off a conference call with a “senior administration official” about the President’s signing of an executive order related to the 2006 Military Commissions Act. The good news: We don’t torture! The bad news: As to what torture is, as to how violators will be punished, as to whether or not torture ever took place, well, you’ll have to take their word for it.

There’s a transcript forthcoming, which I’ll post, but for now:

— Though the executive order says all detainees should be provided with “basic human needs,” “sleep” is not included. According to the SAO, “Sleep is not traditionally innumerated in the Geneva Convention.” How quaint.
— The SAO refused to discuss how the order may affect the CIA’s current practices or if current practices provided the impetus for the order.
— There is no specific enforcement mechanism for the order, except for the CIA. Which has done a great job so far — as far as we know!
— There is no guaranteed access for representatives of the Red Cross.
— Of course everyone the CIA detains is a terrorist. Silly question.

Happy Cheney administration, everyone! Sleep well… while you can!

UPDATE: An interesting note regarding sleep deprivation:

From the beginning, they had discussed, and sometimes tried, harsher methods…But the method that prompted the most internal debate—and came to be embraced like no other—was sleep deprivation.

As interrogators honed their methods, it became clear that the best information was elicited toward the end of lengthy sessions, particularly those that dragged on 10 hours or more. Tired prisoners were simply more prone to slip.

Keeping prisoners awake worked, but was it right? Initially, the interrogators and the officers in charge of the unit decided the answer was no, that there was no way to reconcile depriving prisoners of sleep with the principles of the Geneva Conventions—which don’t address the matter explicitly but generally disallow punishment for failure to cooperate.

But the interrogators kept returning to the idea, looking for a loophole. Mackey said he came to approach it like a tax problem: here’s the outcome the client wants, how can the tax code be interpreted in such a way to justify it?

In late spring 2002, Mackey devised an answer. He instituted a new rule that a prisoner could be kept awake and in the booth for as long as an interrogator could last. …Technically, the method was sleep deprivation, but it was considered defensible because the interrogator was being deprived of as much sleep as the prisoner.


What was an ending point for Mackey and his unit was a starting point for the teams of interrogators that followed. Military investigations have shown that their replacements, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C., relaxed many of the rules. By December 2002, according to an investigative report by Major General George R. Fay, the interrogators at Bagram “were removing clothing, isolating people for long periods of time, using stress positions, exploiting fear of dogs and implementing sleep and light deprivation.”

First you lose naptime, then you lose your mind.