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Torture Memos Released

April 17, 2009

Emily Bazelon at Slate has a brief reaction to the release of the Bush administration torture memos. The descriptions contained in the memos released so far indicate that the government tortured, both its prisoners and legal logic, in an attempt to terrorize the prisoners it held. And in the end, Obama had to promise some form of immunity from prosecution for anyone who relied on the memos in torturing prisoners. Ostensibly, this promise was made necessary to secure the release of the memos without a protracted and nasty legal fight. As Bazelon mentions, the deal might also have been made because it isn’t necessarily the soldiers at the lowest level who are at fault for the administration’s use of torture as a information gathering technique. (Though, the “I was just following orders” defense is one that failed as far back as the Nuremburg trials.) A short description of the techniques used:

Water-boarding is among them. So is “walling,” which means slamming a man’s head against a wall while he’s wearing a collar so he won’t be brain dead from whiplash. Also sleep deprivation and shutting Zubaydah into a small box with an insect, which he’d be made to believe would sting. (The interrogators thought he had a particular insect phobia.)

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