Bush’s Interrogation Techniques Worse than Hitler’s
June 3, 2007
Andrew Sullivan / The Atlantic & Arthur Bright | Christian Science Monito
Commentary: "The Bush administration’s term "enhanced interrogation techniques" was originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death."
Andrew Sullivan / The Atlantic
2. THE GESTAPO’S METHODS OF EXAMINATION”
(1) From a directive by the Gestapo chief, Müller.
For the “sharpened interrogations” by the Gestapo, as they were applied against, among others, the men of July 20, have been preserved in the original, because a large part of the Gestapo files could be obtained after the collapse of the National Socialist regime. The instructions came from the notorious chief of the security police and the security service, MÜLLER. Under the date of June 12, 1942, a “new regulation” regarding then interrogation methods of the Gestapo was issue as “secret Reich matter,” as follows:
1. The sharpened interrogation may only be applied it, on the strength of the preliminary interrogation, it has been ascertained that the prisoner can give information a bout important facts, connections or plans hostile to the state or the legal system, but does not want to reveal his knowledge, and the latter cannot be obtained by way of inquiries.
2. Under this circumstance, the sharpened interrogation may be applied only against Communists, Marxists, members of the Bible-research sect, saboteurs, terrorists, members of the resistance movement, parachute agents, asocial persons, Polish or Soviet persons who refuse to work, or idlers.
In all other cases my previous permission is required as a matter of principle’
3. The sharpened interrogation may not be applied in order to induce confessions about a prisoner’s own criminal acts. Nor may this means be applied toward persons who have been temporarily delivered byt justice for the purpose of further investigation.
Once more, exceptions require my pervious permission.
4. The sharpening can consist of the following, among other things, according to circumstances:
simplest rations (bread and water)
deprivation of sleep
but also the resort to blows with a stick (in case of more than 20 blows, a doctor must be present.)”
(May 29, 2007) — The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court.
The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.
Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. 'Waterboarding" was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The "cold bath" technique - the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo - was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College,
pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.
In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether "enhanced interrogation" using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration...
Here's a document from Norway's 1948 war-crimes trials detailing the prosecution of Nazis convicted of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the Second World War. Money quote from the cases of three Germans convicted of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation":
• Between 1942 and 1945, Bruns used the method of "verschärfte Vernehmung" on 11 Norwegian citizens. This method involved the use of various implements of torture, cold baths and blows and kicks in the face and all over the body. Most of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the injuries received during those interrogations.
• Between 1942 and 1945, Schubert gave 14 Norwegian prisoners "verschärfte Vernehmung," using various instruments of torture and hitting them in the face and over the body. Many of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the effects of injuries they received.
• On 1st February, 1945, Clemens shot a second Norwegian prisoner from a distance of 1.5 metres while he was trying to escape. Between 1943 and 1945, Clemens employed the method of " verschäfte Vernehmung " on 23 Norwegian prisoners. He used various instruments of torture and cold baths. Some of the prisoners continued for a considerable time to suffer from injuries received at his hands.
Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end - all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases. Notice the classic, universal and simple criterion used to define torture in 1948 (my italics):
• In deciding the degree of punishment, the Court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Art. 5 of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945. The Court came to the conclusion that such acts, even though they were committed with the connivance of superiors in rank or even on their orders, must be regarded and punished as serious war crimes.
The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court. Money quote:
• As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.
• The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.
So using "enhanced interrogation techniques" against insurgent prisoners out of uniform was punishable by death. Here's the Nazi defense argument:
(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.
This is the Yoo position. It's what Glenn Reynolds calls the "sensible" position on torture. It was the camp slogan at Camp Nama in Iraq: "No Blood, No Foul." Now take the issue of "stress positions", photographed at Abu Ghraib and used at Bagram to murder an innocent detainee. Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:
The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.
This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone through them disagree. They describe:
• Dreadful pain in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.
Yes, this is an account of someone who went through the "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Dachau. (Google translation here.)
Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the US in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past.
The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture — "enhanced interrogation techniques" — is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable.
The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
"White House Nears Completion of New Torture Guidelines”
Critics say administration's endorsement of 'enhanced interrogation' is 'immoral,' draw comparisons to Nazi war crimes.
Arthur Bright | Christian Science Monitor.com
The White House is close to completing a new set of guidelines on the use of "enhanced interrogative techniques" by US agents, even as critics say such techniques are "immoral," "amateurish," and "indistinguishable" from Nazi war crimes.
The New York Times reports that the administration is preparing "secret new rules governing interrogations."
The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.
The Times writes that President Bush has claimed the broader techniques are needed to fight terrorism, and in the recent Republican presidential debate, candidates made similar suggestions about the necessity of harsh interrogation.
Critics, however, say that the Bush administration's policy regarding torture is "immoral." Philip Zelikow, a former advisor to Condoleezza Rice and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, said in a lecture last month (PDF) at the Houston Journal of International Law that in 2002, the United States made "careful, deliberate choices to place extreme physical pressure on captives, with accompanying psychological effects," and that the administration's "policy guidelines devolved into legal guidelines, which were to do everything you can, so long as it is not punishable as a crime under American law."
• Brilliant lawyers worked hard on how they could then construe the limits of vague, untested laws. They were operating so close to the frontiers of our law that, within only a couple of years, the Department of Justice eventually felt obliged to offer a second legal opinion, rewriting their original views of the subject. The policy results are imaginable and will someday become more fully known.
• My point, though, is not to debate the delineation of the legal frontier. That focus obscures the core of the issue. The core of the issue, for legal policy, is this: What is moral – not, what is legal? What is cost-beneficial? ...
• My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral. I offer no opinion as to whether such conduct is a federal crime; merely that it is immoral.
Andrew Sullivan, a conservative blogger for The Atlantic, writes that many of the interrogative techniques being condoned by the Bush administration were used by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s [Editor's note: The article contains a graphic photo.], and resulted in the convictions of the interrogators for war crimes.
Mr. Sullivan notes the similarities between the "enhanced interrogation" employed by the Nazis and techniques condoned by the Bush administration, as well as parallels between the defenses presented at trial by the Nazis and the justifications offered by the White House.
• The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as [former Department of Justice official] John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court [which found them guilty]. ...
• Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past.
The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" — is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
But while the Nazis' interrogative methods were found to be torture, The New York Times writes that the Allies' methods at the time were far more effective and far less abusive than those the United States uses now, according to a December 2006 report (PDF) by the Intelligence Science Board.
"It far outclassed what we've done," said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., "had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly," and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.
Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts "amateurish" by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners' culture.
The Washington Post wrote in January — when the report was publicly released — that the researchers found "little or no development of sustained capacity for interrogation practice, training, or research within intelligence or military communities in the post-Soviet period," which led to interrogators making up techniques "on the fly."
In [the report], experts find that popular culture and ad hoc experimentation have fueled the use of aggressive and sometimes physical interrogation techniques to get those captured on the battlefields to talk, even if there is no evidence to support the tactics' effectiveness. The board, which advises the director of national intelligence, recommends studying the matter.
"There is little systematic knowledge available to tell us 'what works' in interrogation," wrote Robert Coulam, a research professor at the Simmons School for Health Studies in Boston. Coulam also wrote that interrogation practices that offend ethical concerns and "skirt the rule of law" may be narrowly useful, if at all, because such practices could undermine the legitimacy of government action and support for the fight against terrorism.
The effect of popular culture, particularly of the FOX television show "24," on Americans' perception of torture, remains hotly debated. In a commentary for the Los Angeles Times, Wesleyan University professor Kelly M. Greenhill writes that there is a long history of works of fiction affecting politics, and that "24" may be fostering an increased acceptance of torture in the United States.
The US military has shown similar concerns - members of the US military met with the "24" creative team last November to voice worries that the show was promoting "unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers," according to a February article in The New Yorker.
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