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Thursday, Apr 16, 2009, 4:23 pm

The Torture Memos: Insects, False Walls, Sleep Deprivation and the ‘Waterboard’

By Jeremy Gantz

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You absolutely must read the three four torture memos released today by the Justice Department. Do not delay: skip the news reports and summaries and read the actual memos – their measured second-person legalese offers an unadulterated dose of derangement. Click on this PDF link to download the memos.

Here, in August 2002, Bush administration lawyers approve the CIA's request to use insects to interrogate Abu Zubaydah:

You would like to place 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
harmless insect such as a caternillar in the box with him.

These memos, which detail the proper way CIA operatives could use ten different techniques ("attention grasp," "walling," "facial hold," "facial slap," "cramped confinement," "wall standing," "stress positions," "sleep deprivation," "insects placed in a confinement box," and "the waterboard"), are shocking - because of what they say, and because they remind me that the Bush administration is still shocking the world months after it slithered into history. When will these awful revelations ever end...

In a statement today, President Obama said no CIA employees will be prosecuted for employing the techniques approved by Bush lawyers. I hesitantly agree, but not with absolute certainty. What I am certain about is that the people who approved these policies, from the Office of Legal Counsel on up, should be prosecuted for allowing and enabling torture. (Spain's attorney general unfortunately disagrees.) Here's what Obama said today:

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. 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.

Mr. President, I respectfully disagree: reflection and punishment are not mutually exclusive choices.

UPDATE: Oops, four memos were released yesterday, not three, as I wrote late yesterday afternoon in my haste to post this before heading out of the office.

Jeremy Gantz is a contributing editor at the magazine. He is the editor of The Age of Inequality: Corporate America's War on Working People (2017, Verso), and was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012.

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