A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.
"These documents raise grave questions about where the blame for widespread detainee abuse ultimately rests," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Top government officials can no longer hide from public scrutiny by pointing the finger at a few low-ranking soldiers."
The documents were obtained after the ACLU and other public interest organizations filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.
So the president may have actually signed an executive order authorizing torture.
I wonder that anyone could get the president to sign any such instrument. Surely everyone near him would understand that he could not be seen to come near any such thing, no matter how gungho the American public might be for such things. (Given recent polls indicating a plurality of Americans is perfectly happy to restrict Muslims' rights, I can't imagine that actual torture -- especially torture taking place in far off lands -- would actually bother the body politic all that much, especially if the torturers were bright enough not to take pictures of the torture to splash all over the evening news.)
Here's the truly odd thing. You'd think that, given that it seems that Our Glorious Leader's fingerprints are now firmly all over the "torture 'em until they drop, and we don't give a rat's ass if it gets us any useful information" policy ... you'd think that would be the lead in any story about the memos uncovered by the ACLU, wouldn't you?
You'd be wrong.
Detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than 24 hours at a time, left without food and water, and allowed to defecate on themselves, an FBI agent who said he witnessed such abuse reported in a memo to supervisors, according to documents released yesterday.
In memos over a two-year period that ended in August, FBI agents and officials also said that they witnessed the use of growling dogs at Guantanamo Bay to intimidate detainees -- contrary to previous statements by senior Defense Department officials -- and that one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music in an apparent attempt to soften his resistance to interrogation. [...] The accounts, gleaned from heavily redacted e-mails and memorandums, were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit. They suggest that extremely aggressive interrogation techniques were more widespread at Guantanamo Bay than was acknowledged by military officials.
The documents also make it clear that some personnel at Guantanamo Bay believed they were relying on authority from senior officials in Washington to conduct aggressive interrogations. One FBI agent wrote a memo referring to a presidential order that approved interrogation methods "beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice," although White House and FBI officials said yesterday that such an order does not exist.
Buried all the way down in the fifth paragraph. Hmm.
So. Assume for the sake of argument that the secretary of defense signed an executive order authorizing torture and that the president did not -- and I freely admit, given the rather extraordinary degree to which The Leader's people protect him from the consequences of his actions, this does make more intrinsic sense, if not any cover-your-various-asses sense. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is the person about whom our Glorious Leader said, and I quote:
"You know, sometimes perhaps his demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military and deeply about the grief that war causes."
As Criticism Grows, Bush Offers Support of Rumsfeld
By THOM SHANKER
New York Times (login/registration required)
Published: December 21, 2004
Right. A "good human being" who believes in shortchanging our own soldiers of the armor they need, and torturing foreigners.
Heaven spare us from many more such "good human beings"; I don't think we could long stand them.