Do Americans Support Government Torture?


By Matthew Cooke

Today is the UN’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Although the video I made is a satirical one — to hopefully get people to watch who might normally avoid the topic — the issue could not be more serious.

The UN describes torture as seeking “to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being. The United Nations has condemned torture from the outset as one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.”

Our own recent and current track record is not so good.

The CIA Torture which took place post 9-11 were horrifying. According to Amnesty International these are just a few examples of the hell those in captivity experienced:

• The doctor’s note for Abu Zubaydah, a man waterboarded 83 times, reads: “Longest period with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. NO useful information so far.”
• A CIA medical officer, when giving advice on how to amp up interrogations, wrote that forced rectal feeding can help “clear a person’s head.”
• When Hassan Gul was hallucinating following 59 hours of sleep deprivation, a psychologist’s advice for him was that “he should calm himself by telling himself his experiences are normal and will subside when he decides to be truthful.”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed new details about the C.I.A.’s torture practices in a special Torture Report that included the following damning results:

— interrogation techniques were more brutal and employed more extensively than the agency portrayed
— The C.I.A. interrogation program was mismanaged and was not subject to adequate oversight.
— The C.I.A. misled members of Congress and the White House about the effectiveness and extent of its brutal interrogation techniques.
— Interrogators in the field who tried to stop the brutal techniques were repeatedly overruled by senior C.I.A. officials.
— The C.I.A. repeatedly underreported the number of people it detained and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques under the program.
— At least 26 detainees were wrongfully held and did not meet the government’s standard for detention.
— The C.I.A. leaked classified information to journalists, exaggerating the success of interrogation methods in an effort to gain public support.

Bush-era law-breakers were even given the courtesy of having their names redacted from the report, sparing them of public shaming or criticism, despite clear public interest to the contrary.

Pew Research Center did a study of 40 nations on their opinions of the US CIA’s torture of suspected terrorists which were detailed in a widely publicized U.S. Senate report in December 2014. Only 35% believe they were justified. Americans disagree – nearly six-in-ten (58%) say they were justified.

The USA still uses solitary confinement as an additional punishment for those already in prison. According to solitary watch:

• Solitary confinement cells generally measure from 6 x 9 to 8 x 10 feet. Some have bars, but more often they have solid metal doors. Meals generally come through slots in these doors, as do any communications with prison staff. Within these cells, prisoners live lives of enforced idleness, denied the opportunity to work or attend prison programming, and sometimes banned from having televisions, radios, art supplies, and even reading materials in their cells.
• life in solitary confinement means living 23 to 24 hours a day in a cell.
• According to the American Friends Service Committee, the average time served in the supermax units in the Arizona prison system is 5 years.
• In Texas, the average prisoner held in administrative segregation spends more than 4 years in solitary, with the longest serving prisoner being isolated for 24 years.
• Solitary increases likelihood of mental health conditions, often severe, dramatically increases rick of suicide and increases likelihood of re-arrest after time served.
• A reasonable person would consider this a violation of the 8th Amendment to the constitution which prohibits the government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments.

• What other torture is taking place in the name of our government, paid for by our taxes? The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman published a scathing account of Homan Square in Chicago in February, detailing a ‘black site’ in which Guantanamo-esque interrogation techniques are used to question suspected criminals.

Near drownings, mock executions, men hung nude wearing diapers and immersed in ice water. Yet, the Justice Department won’t read the Senate’s damning report on torture. It’s handing out “get out of jail free” cards to torturers.

Published by Matthew Cooke