Cheney insists rectal feeding was for medical reasons, not torture

The former US vice president was on TV this weekend to defend the Bush administration torture program that he oversaw. His argument was that the 9/11 terrorists were the real torturers and therefore how dare anyone say the US's “enhanced interrogation techniques” were wrong?

He swatted away evidence contained in the Senate intelligence committee report into the CIA programme that a suspect later found to be innocent froze to death having been shackled naked to a cell wall, and that detainees were rectally infused with food, refusing to accept a torture definition for either example.

“Torture to me is an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death on the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York City on 9/11,” Cheney said.

“There’s a notion that there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we do, and that’s absolutely not true. We were very careful to stay short of torture.”

Cheney insists 'rectal feeding' was for medical reasons, not torture Read the rest

Why it matters whether or not torture works

Part of the debate about the CIA Torture Report is whether torture works as a means of gathering useful intelligence; scholarly work has long held that it doesn't. Read the rest

Feds given deadline to subpoena NYT reporter over CIA leak

A U.S. judge orders the government to decide by next Tuesday if they're going to force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify, once and for all.

Senate IP address vandalizes Wikipedia to scrub "torture" from CIA torture report

An anonymous editor at -- registered to the US Senate -- has repeatedly attempted to scrub the word "torture" from the Wikipedia entry from Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. Read the rest

Calling out the doctors who abetted CIA torture

Dr Atul Gawande (whose Reith lecture on systems thinking I featured last week) took to Twitter to express his shock and disgust at the medical professionals who participated in the crimes documented in the CIA torture report. Read the rest

Could CIA torture report open the U.S. to prosecution in the International Criminal Court?

Mark Kersten explores the question at Justice in Conflict blog.

Dissecting the arguments of liberal apologists for Obama's surveillance and secret war

Democratic party partisans like Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley spent the Bush years condemning the tactics they now defend under Obama -- apart from sheer intellectual dishonesty, how can this be explained? Read the rest

UK government "dries out" its "water damaged" CIA torture files

The Foreign Office said it couldn't provide its files on secret CIA rendition of terrorism suspects for torture, because those files (and only those files) were "water-damaged." Read the rest

The English Method: UK taught modern torture to Brazil's dictators

Brazil's 21-year military dictatorship was a torturing, brutal regime -- among their victims was the current president, Dilma Rousseff. At first, the generals tortured by flogging and shocks, but British officials taught them to torture without leaving marks, helping the regime to rehabilitate its international human rights image. The techniques the UK taught to Brazil's torturers were developed for Malay rebels and perfected on Northern Irish Republicans, and these techniques came to be known as "The English Method."

Other governments -- Germany, France, Panama, and, of course, the USA -- also trained Brazil's torturers, but the UK methods were the best. British agents travelled to Brazil to train the torturers personally. More details of the British "foreign aid" program are coming to light as the UK government finally succumbs to the rule of law and releases files from the National Archives at Kew, a move that has been steadfastly refused for obvious reasons.

One document that's come to light is a letter from then-British Ambassador, David Hunt, called "Torture in Brazil," which praises the Brazilian regime for cleaning up its appearance of brutality by "taking a leaf out of the British book." Read the rest

Movie plot threat semifinalists announced

Bruce Schneier has announced the semifinalists in his seventh annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest, wherein contestants dream up implausible reasons to justify extreme surveillance and other lawless policing techniques like torture and indefinite detention. My favorite: Homeopathic Factoring, "The NSA, through the White House's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives formed a partnership with Zicam Digital to explore and exploit homeopathic techniques for advanced cryptanalysis." Read the rest

Obama administration proves why we need someone to leak CIA Torture Report

image: Reuters

It’s now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation. Read the rest

Interview with James Mitchell, psychologist credited with designing CIA torture program

James ("Jim") Mitchell, frame grab from ABC video (4/2009). ABC News, via New York Times.

Journalist Jason Leopold tells us,

Recently, I conducted a wide-ranging, two hour interview with retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell, who is credited with being the architect of the CIA's torture program. Mitchell and his partner, Dr. Bruce Jessen, are featured prominently in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. This is the first time Mitchell has spoken at length about interrogation since he was linked to the program by Jane Mayer in 2005.
Read the rest

CIA spied on Senate committee writing damning torture report and Obama knew about it

The CIA's Inspector General has asked the Justice Department to consider criminally charging CIA agents who spied on a senate committee that was engaged in writing a report that was highly critical of the CIA's use of torture. Senator Mark Udall, who sits on a CIA oversight committee and whose staff was spied on by the CIA alleges that the CIA surveilled overseeing senators and their staff with Obama's knowledge and consent.

In a recent hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked the CIA director repeatedly whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's major anti-hacking statute, applied to the CIA, and whether the CIA spied domestically. CIA director John Brennan replied "yes" and "no," respectively. If Udall's allegations are correct, this means that Brennan lied to Congress (in the second instance) and committed a felony (in the first instance).

The report that caused some CIA agents to spy on their bosses was about how the CIA was wasting time, getting nowhere and doing something illegal and cruel when it kidnapped terror suspects and tortured the shit out of them. Read the rest

Who is still imprisoned in Guantanamo?

With Obama pledging in the latest State of the Union address to finally shutter the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay -- something he's been promising to do since his 2008 election campaign -- it's worth revisiting the people who remain imprisoned there, more than a decade after the GW Bush administration declared its War on Terror.

There are 155 men in Guantanamo. 77 have been cleared for transfer but there is no country to which they can be sent. 45 men are in "indefinite detention" -- unable to be prosecuted, often because of the brutal torture inflicted on them by Guantanamo's jailers, but unable to be released because the US government considers them to be a threat. 31 more are awaiting prosecution.

This month, the American Psychology Association dropped all proceedings against a member who designed, oversaw, and participated in the torture at Guantanamo. They had previously denied a request to censure other members who participated in torture.

The protocol designed by John Leso, the doctor that the APA will not censure, involved intravenously hydrating a victim until he urinated on himself; sleep deprivation; forcing the victim to bark like a dog; keeping the victim naked and subjecting him to extreme cold; spinning the victim in a swiveling chair to disorient him; putting the victim into stress positions; depriving the victim of mattresses and other bedding; keeping the victim in isolation from all human contact; and more. Read the rest

Ukrainian riot police strip protester naked in sub-zero weather

In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.

Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7 this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing bulletproof vest."

Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."

Stay safe, Daniel.

berkut, polonenuy Read the rest

Leaked trove of 55,000 photos detail brutal torture and killing of 11,000 Syrian detainees

A Syrian defector who worked for the regime as a forensic photographer Read the rest

Pussy Riot in Putin's gulag: daily forced gynecological exams

When Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova walked out of the Siberian prison camp IK-50, they were defiant. The Pussy Riot members said they wanted acquittal, not amnesty, and an affirmation of the right to protest in Russia. Tolokonnikova gave the press a V-for-victory and shouted "Russia without Putin!"

But afterwards, in a phone interview with the Guardian, Alyokhina described the horrific conditions inside, where women were put to slave labor, and where Tolokonnikova faced daily, punitive forced gynecological exams for three weeks.

Pussy Riot has called on western countries to boycott eh Sochi Games in February. Read the rest

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