The prosecutor of Mohammed Jawad has now joined several other Guantanamo prosecutors in resigning because of concerns about the unethical behavior of the prosecution. Evidently they are still withholding information vital to the defense. Given the materials already, albeit grudgingly,:released, one can only assume that the material being withheld is horrific and seriously damaging to the entire Guanatanmo project:
Guantanamo Prosecutor Quits, Says Evidence Was Withheld
By Peter Finn
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Sept. 25 — A military prosecutor involved in war crimes cases here has quit his position, citing ethical concerns about his office’s failure to turn over exculpatory material to attorneys for an Afghan detainee scheduled to go to trial in December.
Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a reservist, who declined to be interviewed, filed a declaration with a military court here Wednesday, laying out his concerns about the case and procedures in the military prosecutor’s office, according to defense attorneys.
“My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery,” wrote Vandeveld in his filing. “I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.”
Vandeveld’s departure is the latest blow to the military trials process and a prosecutor’s office that has been buffeted by resignations over issues of fairness. Other officials have alleged that the leadership of the military commissions is sacrificing principles of justice in a rush to secure convictions.
Vandeveld was prosecuting Mohammed Jawad, 24, who is accused of tossing a grenade into a military jeep at a bazaar in Kabul in 2002, injuring two U.S. troops and their Afghan interpreter.
“I believe [Vandeveld's] view is that there is a systematic problem with the discovery process,” said Air Force Maj. David Frakt, Jawad’s military attorney, referring to the prosecution’s obligation under the law to turn over material to the defense even if it damages the prosecution’s case. “He decided he could no longer ethically serve on this case, or generally.”
Frakt said that Vandeveld wanted to reach a plea agreement that would allow Jawad, who was 16 or 17 at the time of the attack, to be released in the very near future. Frakt said there were serious questions about Jawad’s guilt and that the government failed to investigate two other Afghans who he said admitted to Afghan police to having roles in the attack.
Frakt, speaking to reporters here, said he would seek to have the case dismissed because of “gross government misconduct.”
The chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, declined to discuss any potential plea agreement. He said Vandeveld resigned because he is “disappointed” his superiors “didn’t see the wisdom of his recommendations.”
“There are no grounds for ethical qualms,” Morris said in a conference call with reporters here. “We are the most scrupulous organization you can imagine in terms of disclosure to the defense.”
A Pentagon official, Brig. Gen Thomas W. Hartmann, was ordered by a military court to have no further involvement in the Jawad case last month. Hartmann was the legal adviser to the Convening Authority, a Pentagon office that is required to exercise a neutral role in the running of the military commissions.
The defense alleged that Hartmann wanted Jawad prosecuted for political and public relations purposes. And the judge found that Hartmann had compromised his objectivity.
Hartmann did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Word of Vandeveld’s resignation came on the same day that a military judge rejected a formal motion by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described operational mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to disqualify himself because of bias and the possibility that his upcoming retirement could disrupt the process.
“It is clear you are retiring before [the trial] is completed,” Mohammed told Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann, the presiding judge, at a hearing earlier Wednesday, arguing that Kohlmann might inappropriately rush the proceedings. Three of the five defendants in the case, including Mohammed, are representing themselves with the assistance of military and civilian attorneys.
Kohlmann said Mohammed’s claims were “completely wrong” and briskly rejected each argument offered as a basis for disqualification.
Kohlmann told the court during a hearing this week on his impartiality that he is scheduled to retire April 1 and has lined up a new job. Defense attorneys said that factoring in unused leave time, Kohlmann could be gone as early as mid-January.
Kohlmann, who is responsible for appointing judges to cases here, selected himself for the trial, the most-watched proceeding at Guantanamo Bay.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. James E. Hatcher, the lead military attorney for defendant Tawfiq bin Attash, said that if a new judge is appointed, a new round of pretrial hearings would be required and the new judge would be forced to reexamine earlier rulings.
That could set back a process that still lacks a trial date and promises to be protracted.
The loquacious Mohammed, as he does on most days, took the lead in speaking for the other four defendants, all of whom face the death penalty if convicted on various murder and war crimes charges.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has confirmed that Mohammed was subject to waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, among other tactics when he was held by the intelligence agency. But the Bush administration has argued that the coercive interrogation techniques it sanctioned did not amount to torture.
Defense attorneys said they will seek to exclude from trial all evidence extrac
September 25th, 2008
Barbara Ehrenreich makes the connection between our fiscal/economic crisis and the American addiction to positive thinking, as in the current craze for “positive psychology,” that says we can just feel better, even experience “authentic happiness,” by ignoring the negative and thinking positive:
The Power of Negative Thinking
By Barbara Ehrenreich
GREED — and its crafty sibling, speculation — are the designated culprits for the financial crisis. But another, much admired, habit of mind should get its share of the blame: the delusional optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking.
As promoted by Oprah Winfrey, scores of megachurch pastors and an endless flow of self-help best sellers, the idea is to firmly believe that you will get what you want, not only because it will make you feel better to do so, but because “visualizing” something — ardently and with concentration — actually makes it happen. You will be able to pay that adjustable-rate mortgage or, at the other end of the transaction, turn thousands of bad mortgages into giga-profits if only you believe that you can.
Positive thinking is endemic to American culture — from weight loss programs to cancer support groups — and in the last two decades it has put down deep roots in the corporate world as well. Everyone knows that you won’t get a job paying more than $15 an hour unless you’re a “positive person,” and no one becomes a chief executive by issuing warnings of possible disaster.
The tomes in airport bookstores’ business sections warn against “negativity” and advise the reader to be at all times upbeat, optimistic, brimming with confidence. It’s a message companies relentlessly reinforced — treating their white-collar employees to manic motivational speakers and revival-like motivational events, while sending the top guys off to exotic locales to get pumped by the likes of Tony Robbins and other success gurus. Those who failed to get with the program would be subjected to personal “coaching” or shown the door.
The once-sober finance industry was not immune. On their Web sites, motivational speakers proudly list companies like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch among their clients. What’s more, for those at the very top of the corporate hierarchy, all this positive thinking must not have seemed delusional at all. With the rise in executive compensation, bosses could have almost anything they wanted, just by expressing the desire. No one was psychologically prepared for hard times when they hit, because, according to the tenets of positive thinking, even to think of trouble is to bring it on.
Americans did not start out as deluded optimists. The original ethos, at least of white Protestant settlers and their descendants, was a grim Calvinism that offered wealth only through hard work and savings, and even then made no promises at all. You might work hard and still fail; you certainly wouldn’t get anywhere by adjusting your attitude or dreamily “visualizing” success.
Calvinists thought “negatively,” as we would say today, carrying a weight of guilt and foreboding that sometimes broke their spirits. It was in response to this harsh attitude that positive thinking arose — among mystics, lay healers and transcendentalists — in the 19th century, with its crowd-pleasing message that God, or the universe, is really on your side, that you can actually have whatever you want, if the wanting is focused enough.
When it comes to how we think, “negative” is not the only alternative to “positive.” As the case histories of depressives show, consistent pessimism can be just as baseless and deluded as its opposite. The alternative to both is realism — seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news and being prepared for famine as well as plenty. We ought to give it a try.
September 24th, 2008
I have written this to colleagues who are depressed that the American Psychological Association is claiming that the new APA referendum is not yet in effect or enforceable as a part of the ethics code:
A couple of comments. First, please remember that we have won an ENORMOUS VICTORY! We have defeated strong forces and changed policy. The vote, at 59% was overwhelming! The headlines went out in hundreds of newspapers across the country and worldwide. the Wall Street Journal had it on its front page! I am absolutely sure that the DoD and CIA have heard us loud and clear.
While, of course, we want this in effect immediately, and believe (correctly) that it is in effect, that is secondary. Regardless of when APA sends out a few letters, WE HAVE BEEN AND ARE BEING HEARD. I believe that our actions will affect policy, though it will take a while. So PLEASE DON’T GET DEPRESSED. I’m still ecstatic! I keep on thinking “59%! We’re the overwhelming majority. We stood up to the Dark Side and triumphed.”
We have made history. This struggle will be taught for decades, like the stories of the Soviet psychiatrists who incarcerated and “treated” dissidents and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. But this time, thanks to us, it won’t be a story just of professional malpractice, but of how a small band stood up for professional ethics and human rights and righted matters! When our children and grandchildren ask “What did you do in those dark days of the Bush administration,” we will look them in the eyes and proudly tell them.
I received an email from a long-time (many decades) activist and leader of a national progressive organization. She said that our victory had restored her fairth that, perhaps, the country could be changed. She wrote me again to make sure I understood that she meant every word of it. I have received a number of such emails from around the world. Our victory is being seen as a beacon of hope around the world. As I sent, the conservative commentator and blogger entitled his posting on our victory: “Know Hope!” I hope (pun intended) that gives a sense of what we have done and its importance.
Of course we want this enforceable. That will be a continuing battle. But, in the meantime, policy-makers have heard us. And vast portions of the public have heard us. That is far more important, especially given the secrecy at the detention centers, which will shield most people anyway. And military psychologists, like ther civilian colleagues, don’t want to be seen as going against the “ethics,” broadly defined, of their profession. That is true regardless of whether they can be sanctioned for it.
The biggest struggle we face is to clean up APA, to change the policies, structures, and in some cases, people, who are responsible for this debacle. We need to elect Steven Reisner President. We need to push unceasingly for a truth Commission for Psychology, and for the torture rehime broadly. And we need to fight for the referendum to be put into policy, and not just at the APA. So, fight the small battles, but keep your eyes on the prize. It is so much closer today than it was last week at this time.
September 23rd, 2008
Psychologists Reject the Dark Side:
American Psychological Association Members Reject Participation in Bush Detention Centers
Stephen Soldz & Brad Olson
The movement against U.S. torture experienced a significant victory last week. The members of the American Psychological Association [APA] rejected the policies of their leadership, policies that abetted the Bush administration’s program of torture and detainee abuse. By a vote of 59%, the members passed a referendum stating that APA members may not work in U.S. detention centers that are outside of or in violation of international law or the U.S. Constitution “unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.” Passage of this referendum is a significant milestone in a years long effort by activist psychologists to change policies that encouraged participation in detainee interrogations because psychologists, the APA leadership claimed, helped keep those interrogations “safe, legal, and ethical.”
Since 2004, news reports and government documents have provided evidence of the central role of psychologists in designing, implementing, and disseminating the administrations’ program of abusive interrogations, whether conducted by the CIA in its secret “black sites” or by the Defense Department at Guantánamo, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Vanity Fair reporter Katherine Eban described the CIA side of this equation:
“I… discovered that psychologists weren’t merely complicit in America’s aggressive new interrogation regime. Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the C.I.A.”
On the Defense Department side, the Senate Armed Services Committee reported in June 2008 on the role of military psychologists in helping design the harsh interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo. As Senator Levin described in his opening remarks:
“a… senior CIA lawyer, Jonathan Fredman, who was chief counsel to the CIA’s CounterTerrorism Center, went to GTMO, attended a meeting of GTMO staff and discussed a memo proposing the use of aggressive interrogation techniques. That memo had been drafted by a psychologist and psychiatrist from GTMO who, a couple of weeks earlier, had attended the training given at Fort Bragg by instructors from the JPRA SERE school.
While the memo remains classified, minutes from the meeting where it was discussed are not. Those minutes (TAB 7) clearly show that the focus of the discussion was aggressive techniques for use against detainees.”
The minutes from that meeting show this psychologist and psychiatrist recommending creating an atmosphere of “controlled chaos,” which would “foster dependence and compliance,” through the creation of “psychological stress” by means of using such techniques as ” sleep deprivation, withholding food, isolation, loss of time.” This strategy was implemented and became standard operating procedure.
For example, in September 2003, young (16 or 17 year old) Mohammed Jawad became upset during interrogation, talking to pictures on the wall and crying for his mother. A military psychologist, a behavioral science consultant, was brought in for guidance. She recommended Jawad be placed in a month of “linguistic isolation” while the interrogator ratcheted up the pressure to break him down. This treatment apparently contributed to a suicide attempt by Jawad.
Evidence has accumulated of psychologists designing and contributing to detainee abuses sometimes amounting to torture. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the APA has steadfastly insisted that psychologists should not participate in torture; they argued, rather, that psychologists were vitally needed to help interrogators better obtain information while simultaneously, according to the APA, preventing detainee abuses. The APA used a multitude of techniques to defend their policy. They appointed a task force to formulate ethics policy around national security interrogations without informing the membership or the public that the majority of members were from the military-intelligence establishment. The APA passed anti-torture resolutions while rejecting attempts to withdraw psychologists from sites that violated human rights or even from the interrogations at Guantanamo and the CIA’s black sites.
The APA also ignored Open Letters from hundreds of their members. At times these efforts became ludicrous doublespeak. An APA Board member, for instance, sent around an email claiming that the very Senate Armed Services hearing that implicated military psychologists in the design of torture techniques actually exonerated the psychologists and the discipline. The association’s ethics director even claimed documents released by the ACLU showed the APA’s “policy of engagement” was working to protect detainees when the document in question apparently merely reported that one psychologist in Iraq once stopped an interrogation prior to the detainee dying or, perhaps, suffering serious physical damage. Through it all, the APA maintained its close ties to the military-intelligence establishment.
While the APA leadership resisted all challenges to its position, the members and other psychologists and their allies did not remain silent. Dissident members worked tirelessly to change the organizations’ position. Some worked within official association committees. During 2006-2007, members pushed a Moratorium resolution that would have temporarily halted participation in interrogations at the detention sites; the measure was undercut by APA organizational manipulations, and a derivative effort was decisively defeated by the associations’ Council of Representatives in August 2006. A number of prominent psychologists – including a former ethics committee Chair, a former Executive Director of one of the associations’ major divisions, and a former division President – resigned in protest. New York Times bestselling author Mary Pipher returned an award to the APA. Hundreds stopped paying membership dues, aided by a policy that allowed dues withholders to remain members for two years. Colleagues in other countries expressed their disapproval of APA policies. Physicians for Human Rights documented U.S. psychological torture and many times called for changes in APA policies permitting participation in the settings where that torture occurred.
After years of failing to effect real change through the associations’ Council of Representatives – which infrequently challenges the APA leadership on issues of vital importance to those leaders - dissident members and allies turned in 2008 to new strategies designed simultaneously to take advantage of, and to bypass, the official structures. Members of the withholdapadues group found a never before used provision in the association by-laws allowing for a member-initiated policy referendum. Three psychologists – Dan Aalbers, Brad Olson, and Ruth Fallenbaum – got to work writing a referendum rejecting the participation of psychologists at detention centers operating outside of [as in the Geneva Conventions don't apply] or in violation of [as in enhanced interrogations are approved] international law or the Constitution. APA rules require that one percent of the active members’ signatures be obtained on a petition in order to get it submitted to the members for a vote. It took only a matter of weeks to obtain more than the necessary numbers.
The campaign generated amazing grassroots activism. People never before heard from were found emailing their successes in convincing other colleagues to vote. Several brief videos were made by members and distributed on YouTube and Google Video. Two APA divisions lined up in support. Conversation about the referendum on psychologist-run listservs was greater than that on any other topic in memory.
The opposition raised concerns, especially among forensic psychologists; they were concerned that the language could somehow be misunderstood to ban psychologists working in domestic prisons where abuses are prevalent. This possibility was problematic for many referendum supporters. Many of those actively supporting the referendum are deeply concerned about the horrific conditions in much of the U.S. criminal justice system. Yet, it seemed impossible to tackle all issues at once, and the referendum was designed to focus only upon “national security” detainees, held in abusive conditions, with few or no rights. Thus, the referendum sponsors issued a statement that clarified the applicability of the referendum. Nevertheless, this statement failed to allay the concerns of some that the referendum could cost psychologists their jobs.
In an unprecedented development, illustrating the high stakes involved in the potential policy change, the Defense Department issued a press release with “talking points” opposing the referendum. The first two of these talking points unintentionally emphasized the need for the referendum:
“Humane treatment and ensuring detainees are not subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is required in accordance with U.S. law.
Behavioral science consultants do NOT support interrogations that aren’t in accordance with applicable law.”
U.S law, as interpreted by the present administration, redefines traditionally proscribed detention and interrogation procedures as “humane” and “legal.” Therefore, referendum supporters pointed out, this requirement to follow “applicable law” does not protect military, or CIA, psychologists from participating in abuses that would be inhumane if judged by international standards.
The referendum ballots went out by mail on August 1st and were due back on September 15th. Two days later, the results were announced. The referendum won with 59% of the vote. Furthermore, the turnout, at nearly 15,000 members, was among the highest in any APA election.
The passage of the referendum constitutes a giant step toward creating a united front of health professions opposed to detainee abuse. While the APA referendum policy differs from policy statements by other associations in significant details-its focus on settings as opposed to the interrogations themselves-it follows previous policy statements from the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association opposing participation in interrogations. This united front will increase the pressure on the administration to remove health professionals from their roles aiding these abusive detention policies. It will also escalate the accumulating pressures for a radically different detention policy under the new U.S. presidential administration and Congress next January.
Referendum passage constitutes a giant step forward for those psychologists who have been fighting to change the APA’s policies on involvement in the detention centers. But the struggle of dissident psychologists is far from over. First, there is a disagreement with APA leadership as to when the policy change goes into effect; the leadership claimed initially that the bylaws state that the change doesn’t go into effect till next August, while referendum supporters believe this claim is an egregious misreading of the bylaws. Discussions continue regarding the details of referendum implementation.
Moreover, while the APA’s policy is in the process of changing, the organizational and policy conditions-the culture that allowed the APA to advocate for years in support of psychologist participation in detainee interrogations-have not changed. Activists are focused upon several additional steps to bring about a rejuvenation of their association and their professions.
There is a strong campaign afoot to elect one of the activists as APA President to make sure the new policy is firmly implemented and backed by the organization, as well as to push other efforts making human rights and social justice more central within the profession of psychology. Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist is running an active campaign. In the first nomination phase of the campaign, he received the highest number of votes among the five winning candidates. Passage of the referendum should provide an even stronger boost to his campaign. Ballots go out to the APA membership this October and are due back November 15.
APA members have been deeply disturbed by another prior action of the Association. In 2002, its ethics committee placed a clause in the ethics code, allowing laws, regulations, and government orders to override professional ethics. These members are concerned that the clause provides an offensive loophole that is a variation on the Nuremberg defense – “I was just following orders” – into the ethics code.
The APA Council of Representatives called on the ethics committee to address this problem in 2005. Despite these instructions, the association has resisted clarifying this clause by adding a phrase as simple as “except when violating fundamental human rights”. Other disturbing 2002 modifications to the APA ethics code weakened protections for research participants, such as removing a requirement for informed consent from participants “where otherwise permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations.” Such a clause could, for example, allow experimentation on detainees without their permission, a disturbing violation of professional guidelines and international agreements.
Activist psychologists and their allies also are pushing for accountability for past abuses by psychologists. While some psychologists, including APA members, have been documented to have participated in abuses likely constituting torture, the APA ethics committee has consistently stalled action against or refused to open cases against these psychologists. This needs to stop.
Another form of accountability is a ‘setting right’ of the historical record. Given the known facts regarding psychologists and their roles in detainee abuse, and given the extensive denial of these facta and their significance by APA leadership, it is critical to create a detailed public record of the contributions of psychologists to the dark side over the last seven years. It is imperative that a Psychologist Truth Commission be created that will examine all materials, existing in the public record or available through investigation, and construct such a permanent record. Also necessary is a careful examination of the many other organizational, ethical, and policy issues that allowed the psychological profession and its major professional organization to become complicit in detainee abuse over the last seven years. Clinical psychologists often encourage their clients to face harsh truths. It is similarly necessary for our profession to face these somewhat cold and difficult realities. Only this will prevent us from recreating this sad episode in our profession’s history when the next national or international crisis hits.
The implications of passage of the referendum extend beyond the APA and psychology. The referendum will put additional pressure on the DoD to remove psychologists from their roles aiding interrogations and behavior management. It will also create additional pressure for the development of a mental health system for detainees that is completely isolated from chain of command pressures. While the DoD is not necessarily bound by APA policy, it generally follows professional ethics policies; to do otherwise could make its efforts to recruit and retain psychologists and other professionals substantially more difficult. The implications for the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program are less certain, given the secrecy under which that program is conducted. Yet, even there, the APA referendum will increase pressure for a new administration and Congress to shut down the program.”
Finally, passage of the referendum is being heralded by the wider public as a sign of an impending rejection by U.S. citizens of the “dark side” which has taken over so much of our government and country in recent years. This feeling was expressed by the conservative commentator, anti-torture activist, and blogger Andrew Sullivan who headlined his posting on the referendum’s passage with “Know Hope.” Congratulatory emails from around the world have indicated that many find hope in our psychologist colleagues’ rejection of the dark side. ”Finally, good news from the U.S.” one email said. These correspondents join us in hoping that this rejection of official torture and abuse will be followed by a wholesale rejection from the American public and government.
September 22nd, 2008
Just when you think you’ve heard it all in contemporary America. In this bizarre tale, Scott Horton alerts us to what our federal resources — both VA and Justice Department — are being used for. In order to prosecute a woman for refusing to pay $3.80 for a cup of soda, they violate medical record considentiality and expend scare Justice Department resources:
Unexpected Consequences from a Mug of Soda
By Scott Horton
The Bush Justice Department continuously tells us it is beleaguered, under-resourced, and having a hard time battling crime. But sometimes its enthusiasm for a prosecution is just effervescent. The latest episode showing the Justice Department’s more than curious notions of justice can be found this week in the pages of the Idaho Statesman. Natalie Walters is now facing prosecution that could put her in prison for six months. Her crime? She poured a cup of Diet Coke on a counter in a Veteran’s Administration cafeteria.
The 39-year-old North Idaho resident periodically drives her father, a disabled Vietnam veteran, to Boise’s VA Medical Center for doctor visits. She brings her own mug and fills it with soda in the hospital’s cafeteria. The cafeteria does not have a posted price for refills and typically the cashier charges her $1 or $1.50, Walters said.
But on Aug 20, when Walters filled her mug with Diet Coke, the clerk charged $3.80. “I told her that cannot be right and asked to talk to the manager,” Walters said. The manager told Walters the price is correct. Walters decided she didn’t want to pay that much and offered to return the soda, she said. But the manager told her there was no way to accept the returned soda, so Walters had to pay. Walters refused, and she said she was angry by this point, and she poured the soda onto the counter. The manager banned Walters from the cafeteria. Walters left but remained in the hospital for a couple of hours waiting for her father to finish his appointments. No one came to talk to her, so she assumed the soda ordeal was over.
Evidently not. VA bureaucrats used surveillance cameras to monitor her movements in the hospital and then, in what was possibly a criminal act, and certainly an unethical one, accessed the medical records of her father to demand that he be in touch with his daughter and pressure her to turn herself in over the spat.
The VA turned the matter over to Idaho U.S. attorney, Thomas E. Moss, who prides himself on having been picked as an adviser to Alberto Gonzales. Moss literally decided to make a federal case of it by bringing a prosecution. Remember, this is the same Bush Justice Department which has advised Congress that it “lacks the resources” to investigate or prosecute more than 30 rape cases involving contractors in Iraq, and which recently decided that senior Republican appointees caught in a massive corruption, cocaine and illicit sex scandal at the Interior Department weren’t worth going after. The Justice Department knows, however, just where its priorities lie.
And that $3.80 cup of Diet Coke? A former Coca-Cola bottling executive told me that the cost to a vendor in syrup and carbonated water of a Diet Coke dispensed in an 8-ounce container would be approximately 8 cents ($0.08). The profit margin that the VA was seeking on the sale was therefore staggering–price gouging directed at visitors and patients at a Veteran’s facility. (I didn’t factor in the ice, but still.) It’s good to know the Justice Department’s priorities, but unfortunate that justice is not one of them.
September 20th, 2008
Yuval Ginbar writes of the epidemic of Israeli academics rationalizing “no torture torture,” thus providing cover for Israeli practice:
Torture: Israel’s expanding export industry
By Yuval Ginbar
Apologies. What follows are not sensational revelations about Israel’s secret involvement in torture worldwide (though there have been some reports to that effect). I am referring to a possibly less exciting phenomenon, which is all in the public domain. To me, however, it is no less worrying: Israel has produced a surprising yield of academics who support torture and seek its legitimization, if not legalisation. Publishing widely, including in the most prestigious journals and publishing houses, they advocate the use of interrogational torture in the “war on terror”.
There are variations, of course. One favours torture to be authorized by a “public committee” – a variant of Alan Dershowitz’ “torture warrants” idea. Others propose allowing “only” methods that are “short of torture,” including one who attempts to show Americans how some forms of “coercive interrogation” would accord with their Constitution. However, the methods that the “torture lite” academics recommend, such as sleep and sensory deprivation, become by all accounts – legal, “common sensical” and factual – full torture, at least over time. No – guidance on how interrogators would know when to stop are not attached. Nor are any examples of how such methods were used without becoming torture. This is because no such examples exist.
But perhaps the speciality of pro-torture Israeli academics is devising schemes which would, they say, enable an absolute legal prohibition on torture to co-exist with allowing its use in “ticking bomb situations” – a “relativized” absolute prohibition, as one of them (seriously) quipped. Some have proposed that while torture should be prohibited by law absolutely, if a leader orders torture in extreme situations, his act would later undergo “ex post-facto ratification”. Others propose a modification of deontological morality so as to allow torture in extreme situations, as long as it is not “officialized”.
However heavily endowed with academic titles the writers are, however extensive and thorough their research is, and however rich their essays and books are with references, cases and footnotes, the results are invariably absurd, as the very combination they seek is self-contradictory. In my book I analyse several of these “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” solutions. Actually, perhaps a more apt – and updated -description would be the “yeah-but-no-but” approaches to torture. They ultimately make as much sense as Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard.
All this could all have been quite amusing were it not for the fact that such scholars – and other, non- Israeli ones, of course – are advocating that our officials be allowed, through one moral or legal scheme or another, to inflict excruciating pain on helpless prisoners, demolishing in the process an international legal and moral consensus it took humanity hundreds of years to achieve. And were it not for the fact that a “yeah-but-no-but” torture system, which most of the Israeli academics are in effect modelling their proposals on, is actually in operation – you guessed it – in Israel.
In 1999 Israel’s Supreme Court prohibited issuing the General Security Service (GSS) with instructions on how to inflict what was euphemistically called “moderate physical pressure” on Palestinian detainees, as had been the custom until then, and ruled that GSS agents cannot be authorized to inflict such “pressure”. The Court cited the absolute prohibition on torture in international law. So far so good. However, when it comes to “ticking-time bomb” situations, the Court ruled that the case of a GSS interrogator who tortures (the Court too preferred a euphemism: “applied physical interrogation methods”) would then be considered by the Attorney-General, and if need be by the courts, where “his potential criminal liability shall be examined in the context of the ‘necessity’ defence” – a criminal law defence which, as currently held in Israeli law, justifies actions in extreme situations if they produce the “lesser evil”.
The result has been predictable. Within a couple of years the GSS itself was admitting it was torturing – oops! – euphemism time again: using “exceptional interrogation measures” – in dozens of cases annually. All were cases of “ticking bombs”, of course. Figures from human rights NGOs, such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, have been much higher. Number of GSS interrogators convicted of torturing (or any other offence)? Zero. Prosecutions? Zero. Criminal investigations? Zero. Once introduced as a means of legitimizing torture, the “ticking bomb” and its legal corollary, the “necessity defence”, have overwhelmed the system.
Israel is not the focus of my book, but of the four “models of legalized torture” described and analysed there, two have, unfortunately, been in operation in Israel, in one form or another. Then there is the “torture warrants” model. The fourth is, of course, the US model.
But what about the big questions? Is ‘waterboarding’ or (perhaps more importantly) other, less blatant interrogation techniques considered torture under international law? Does international law allow the use of painful techniques falling short of torture, or the use of the “necessity defence” to exonerate torturers? What happens to a state, morally and practically, once it allows anti-terrorist torture? And – maybe the biggest question – would it not be morally justifiable to torture terrorists in order to save many innocent lives in “ticking bomb situations”? In other words – Why Not Torture Terrorists?
Yuval Ginbar is a scholar and human rights activist, and has recently written a book called Why Not Torture Terrorists?: Moral, Practical and Legal Aspects of the “Ticking Bomb” Justification for Torture. In the post below he gives his opinions on the Israeli academics who support the use of torture in the “war on terror” and are seeking its legitimization.
September 19th, 2008
Associated Press on referendum victory:
Psychologists vote against role in interrogation
By LINDSEY TANNER – Associated Press
The nation’s leading psychologists’ association has voted to ban its members from taking part in interrogations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention sites where it believes international law is being violated.
The ban means those who are American Psychological Association members can’t assist the U.S. military at these sites. They can only work there for humanitarian purposes or with non-governmental groups, according to Stephen Soldz, a Boston psychologist. Soldz is founder of an ethics coalition that has long supported the ban.
“This is a repudiation by the membership of a policy that has been doggedly pursued by APA leadership for year after year,” Soldz said Thursday. “The membership has now spoken and it’s now incumbent upon APA to immediately implement this.”
The new policy should take effect at the association’s next annual meeting in August 2009. However, its council likely will discuss whether to act sooner, said spokeswoman Rhea Farberman.
The interrogation ban brings the psychologists more in line with the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association. In 2005, the psychologists association adopted a position that said, for national security purposes, it was ethical to act as consultants for interrogation and information-gathering.
Psychologists have been involved in decisions that approve of coercion methods, including “taking away comfort items like clothes and toilet paper from detainees” to help extract information from them, Soldz said.
He said that some even declined to diagnose post-traumatic stress in detainees because that would suggest detainees had been abused or harmed while in custody.
The group has no real power to enforce its new policy, although its council is expected to discuss whether to recommend the ban become part of its ethics code. That would mean a violator’s membership could be revoked, Farberman said,
Yale University psychologist Alan Kazdin, the group’s president, said the policy “will have teeth.”
“The organization will be disseminating our position to Congress and to other leaders and make it very clear what psychologists cannot do as part of our policy,” he said.
September 18th, 2008