Released FBI Memo Documents Bush Ordering Torture (updated)

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For the Soldier who fights for Truth, calls his enemy his brother. — William Blake

Jason Leopold had an amazing find when perusing a new released FBI document the ACLU posted on their site earlier this week. [Update: Leopold informs me that the document was released in Dec. 2004, but he caught the info while perusing the ACLU collection over these past months.]

Senior FBI agents stationed in Iraq in 2004 claimed in an e-mail that President George W. Bush signed an executive order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other harsh tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

The FBI e-mail — dated May 22, 2004 — followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential executive order.

According to the e-mail, Bush’s executive order authorized interrogators to use military dogs, “stress positions,” sleep “management,” loud music and “sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.” to extract information from detainees in Iraq, which was considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Bush has never before been directly linked to authorizing specific interrogation techniques at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Bush has admitted, however, that he personally signed off on the waterboarding of three “high-value” prisoners.

Leopold notes that previously the Bush White House (in the person of Alberto Gonzales) stated in 2004, “The president has not directed the use of specific interrogation techniques.” But the Senate Armed Services report on Department of Defense treatment of prisoners did note that at the very least it was President Bush himself whose February 7,2002 Executive Memorandum denying al-Qaeda and the Taliban Geneva protections, “opened the door” to torture and abuse of prisoners.

While Jason is writing a news article and can’t call Bush and Gonzales liars, I can. The FBI memo is clear evidence of such an executive order. The FBI agents are writing for clarification of what constitutes reportable “abuse,” since they have been ordered to report abuse to their superiors.

From the memo:

Our questions relate to the instruction in the EC to report abuse. The EC states that if “an FBI employee knows or suspects non-FBI personnel has abused or is abusing or mistreating a detainee, the FBI employee must report the incident.

This instruction begs the question of what constitutes “abuse.” We assume this does not include lawful interrogation techniques authorized by Executive Order. We are aware that prior to a revision in policy last week, an Executive Order signed by President Bush authorized the following interrogation techniques among others sleep “management,” use of MWDs (military working dogs), “stress positions” such as half squats, “environmental manipulation” such as the use of loud music, sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc. We assume the OGC instruction does not include the reporting of these authorized interrogation techniques, and that the use of these techniques does not constitute “abuse.”

[What follows is an updated version of the next few paragraphs, followed by the strikeout text of the earlier draft. I think it makes the point I’m trying to make more concretely. — Valtin]

In a posting earlier today, Emptywheel noted that the FBI memo above was also quoted in the Department of Justice Inspector General Report on FBI involvement in detainee interrogations. The e-mail made a stir when first reported in December 2004, but the news dropped out of site after the White House issued a denial, and no EO surfaced.

Looking at the DoJ OIG report, I noticed that there was no denial of the claims made regarding coercive interrogation methods in a Bush presidential executive order by either OIG, or any number of officials who received this message. One would think that if the agent was incorrect, someone would have noted it. But in fact, the reference by the FBI agent to Bush’s presidential EO is not denied by those who best would have known if it were true. I take this as convergent, though not definitive, evidence of the EO’s existence.

Take for instance the final follow-up to the agent’s request, by FBI General Counsel, Valerie E. Caproni:

   Does it answer his question to say that conduct that is known to be authorized need not be reported?

In other words… go away, don’t bother me! Just follow what constituted authority tells you to do.

In a posting earlier today, Emptywheel noted that the FBI memo above was also quoted in the Department of Justice Inspector General Report on FBI involvement in detainee interrogations. Looking at the report, I noticed that there was a follow-up to the agent’s request, which ended up on the desk of the FBI General Counsel, Valerie E. Caproni:

Does it answer his question to say that conduct that is known to be authorized need not be reported?

Shame on the FBI agents who wrote this memo, and shame on the FBI higher-ups who hid behind terms like “lawful” or “authorized” for what are clearly abusive torture techniques. While noting they would still report physical beatings, sexual humiliation “or other conduct clearly constituting abuse,” the effect of the Bush EO was to draw indefinable lines between torture and “harsh” abuse. Apparently these agents were unaware that even “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” treatment is outlawed by both the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture, treaties to which the U.S. is signatory, and are law in the United States. Clearly, Bush was unaware or uncaring of such facts, having used his attorneys to cook up bogus legal opinions for the ongoing torture he had already ordered.

The consequences of Bush’s torture program are incalculable, from the loss of international trust, to the decay of law, both at home and abroad. Of course, there is the damage to the tortured themselves. PHR wrote a great book, Broken Laws, Broken Lives, on how torture affects its victims. But here, I only want to point out how it affected just one of Bush’s torture victims, Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, and who was never the Al Qaeda mastermind the administration claimed he was. He was tortured so he could cough up a (false) link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, in order to provide a cause for war for the bellicose Bush administration.

How’s Zubaydah doing today? Years now let out of his CIA prison, and held still at Guantanamo, even months after Obama determined the prison should close, let this description by Joseph Margulies in the Los Angeles Times today on Zubaydah’s current condition serve as an epitaph for this article, if not for this nation’s soul:

Partly as a result of injuries he suffered while he was fighting the communists in Afghanistan, partly as a result of how those injuries were exacerbated by the CIA and partly as a result of his extended isolation, Abu Zubaydah’s mental grasp is slipping away.

Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures.

But physical pain is a passing thing. The enduring torment is the taunting reminder that darkness encroaches. Already, he cannot picture his mother’s face or recall his father’s name. Gradually, his past, like his future, eludes him.

If a monarch leader who orders torture cannot be prosecuted for this heinous crime, then what hope is there left for our society?

Also posted at Invictus and Daily Kos

18 comments

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  1. “sleep management.”  “environmental manipulation.”  I’d classify those as “double ungood.”

    • rb137 on May 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    There are so many things going through my head. First, though, you’ve done a fantastic job.

    I’m blindsided by the fact that Bush didn’t bother to distance himself from this a little better. It’s good news for our side, yes. But the fact that he was issuing memos like this points to a much deeper sickness in the previous administration. It’s as if Bush never bothered to think about the consequences of what he was ordering — like he was ordering a pizza with beer.

    Of course the OLC types had already massaged the word “abuse”. Maybe it’s magical thinking about Bush’s part — if they can parse the words to stage a facade that says these things are not torture, they no longer hurt people. Or maybe he’s really a sociopath. Whatever it is, it is deeply pathological.

  2. This is an area that is not examined enough — what becomes of these victims that we’ve tortured?  And to worsen the scenario is the fact that about 98% of these persons were innocent altogether.  But whether innocent or having some “guilt” (how do we know since none have been charged with anything and we really only know a few things that have been repeated to us over and over, such as the guilt of Khalid Sheik Mohamed) that these heinous, horrendous mental and physical tortures were perpetrated upon other human beings is insufferable and heart-breaking in the knowledge. To “destroy” human beings as they are alive, is, perhaps, worse than death.

    How can any of these people who we have tortured hope to return to a semblance of normalcy in their lives, or even have the ability to function as “normal” human beings.

    There is NO hope for this country is these depraved, criminal acts of torture are not prosecuted.  To prosecute that, which legally and morally is deigned to be prosecuted, is, to me, our last shred of “civility.”  Without it, we will continue on a spiral downward to a point of no recognition of whatever we were meant to be.  Moreover, it sets a precedent for entire world.  If we do not prosecute, then any other country at all could decide to torture and cite our example as defense.  Complete moral decay would/could ensue.

    Fortunately, we have the Spanish Court and the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who take the matter of torture and human rights very seriously and WILL do something about it, if we do not!  

  3. I read your diary yesterday at the other place.

    Thank You again, for everything you are doing, & more so for all you sacrifice.

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