Sunday, February 17, 2008

Steven Bradbury: "It's just a little water...."

Acting Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) head Steven Bradbury was kind enough to give seminar on the differences between Torquemada and the Dubya maladministration [from Dan Eggen's Washington Post story reprinted in the S.F. Chronicle]:

In testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee, Steven Bradbury, the acting chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, spelled out how the administration regulated the CIA's use of rough tactics and also offered new details of how simulated drowning was used to compel disclosures by suspected al Qaeda members.

It was not, he said, like the "water torture" used during the Spanish Inquisition and by autocratic governments into the 20th century but was subject to "strict time limits, safeguards, restrictions." He added, "The only thing in common is, I think, the use of water."
Yeah. You heard him. The only common denominator is water. Just like a bath, or a cold bottle of Aquafina @ $2.00 a pint at your airport juice stand.

At least Bradbury is admitting that what they did was approved at the highest levels, and not just the work of "a few bad apples".
Bradbury indicated that no water entered the lungs of the three al Qaeda prisoners who were subjected to the practice, lending credence to previous accounts that the nose and mouth of CIA captives were covered in cloth or cellophane. The cellophane could pose a serious asphyxiation risk, torture experts said.
Indeed. Try wrapping your head in cellophane some time, and see how enjoyable the lack of air is. Better yet, if you have some Republican friends that are still defending the maladministration, well.... Tell them you're not a 'professional' but that you did read this article about it in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Prof. Marty Lederman (from the Balkinization blog) got an mention in the WaPo article:
Martin Lederman, a former Office of Legal Counsel official who teaches law at Georgetown University, called Bradbury's testimony chilling. In an online posting, Lederman said that "to say that this is not severe physical suffering - is not torture - is absurd. And to invoke the defense that what the Spanish Inquisition did was worse and that we use a more benign, nontorture form of waterboarding ... is obscene."
Good, because Profs. Lederman, Balkin, and their associates have had the best commentary on the torture issue for quite some time. Prof. Lederman was outraged by Bradbury's testimony.

Here's the WaPo article, laying it out:
U.S. officials have confirmed that the CIA's use of waterboarding - involving, they say, three detainees at secret prisons in 2002 and 2003 - required strapping them down and pouring water over their faces to make them fear that they were being drowned. Experts on human rights abuses and torture say the approach is similar to the technique employed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the French in Algeria and, as recently as last year, the dictatorship in Burma.
We're not talking saunas here. The whole point is to make the person fear dying (see "(2) 'severe mental pain or suffering' means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from - [...] (C) the threat of imminent death"), and by threatening this, make them say what you want them to say. It's torture. Period. Just because the rubber hos... -- umm, sorry, keep with the times: "cellophane" -- doesn't leave any marks doesn't mean it's not torture.

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