NY Times Report Confirms

Presidential Directive Authorizes Global Torture

Revolutionary Worker #1271, March 20, 2005, posted at rwor.org

"Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture."

President George W. Bush, State of the Union Speech, January 27, 2005

"The Bush administration’s secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials. The unusually expansive authority for the CIA to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said."

New York Times, March 6, 2005

A March 6 report on the front page of the New York Times documents, for the first time, that the President of the United States personally gave the CIA the green light to set up its global network of torture.

The Times documents that there was a top-secret formal presidential directive granting the CIA the authority to pass on large numbers of prisoners to other countries without review. People can be seized by U.S. forces anywhere in the world (including on U.S. soil) and held without charges or evidence. They can be turned over to foreign governments for interrogation—a procedure that the U.S. government calls "rendering" or "rendition." And the sweeping authority granted to the CIA makes this process almost routine—removing any need for hearings, evidence, or case-by-case oversight.

The Times confirms what has been widely believed: That the torture of captives has not been a rogue operation or the mistakes of over-zealous subordinates. This has been a deliberate policy set by the President himself.

Previously, Bush and the U.S. government simply denied that it turned captives over to foreign governments that torture. But now the system of global torture has been linked even more firmly to a formal directive signed by Bush himself.

This Times report says: "Before Sept. 11, the CIA had been authorized by presidential directives to carry out renditions, but under much more restrictive rules. In most instances in the past, the transfers of individual prisoners required review and approval by interagency groups led by the White House, and were usually authorized to bring prisoners to the United States or to other countries to face criminal charges. As part of its broad new latitude, current and former government officials say, the CIA has been authorized to transfer prisoners to other countries solely for the purpose of detention and interrogation."

Even after this latest Times report, there are still, of course, details missing from the picture. The presidential directive uncovered in the March 6 Times report is "still classified"—its wording, and even its official name, are not yet known. And the sources relied on by the Times do not yet dare make these charges publicly. This article keeps its sources anonymous, describing them as "current and former government officials" — to protect their identity and careers (and perhaps even their lives).

Denial in an Era of Doublethink

"CIA Sends Terror Suspects Abroad for Interrogation
White House Says U.S. Does Not ’Export Torture’ "

CNN Online headline, March 7, 2005

"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

George Orwell describing Big Brother’s world in the novel 1984

The U.S. government promotes and demands utter mindlessness: On one hand, they officially deny that they ever torture prisoners or condone it. And they expect everyone to believe that.

And then, a little more unofficially, they argue that extreme interrogation is a good thing that produces valuable results for their cause. And they expect everyone to believe that too.

In January, Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, told Congress: "The policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States."

CIA Director Porter J. Goss testified to Congress last month about the rendering of captives. He said, "We have a responsibility of trying to ensure that they are properly treated, and we try and do the best we can to guarantee that."

The "senior United States official" interviewed for the Times article said that the CIA requires any "receiving country" to promise that the prisoner will be treated humanely: "We get assurances, we check on those assurances, and we double-check on these assurances to make sure that people are being handled properly in respect to human rights."

On March 9, Senator Pat Roberts (Chairman of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) said: "The Senate Intelligence Committee, along with the House Intelligence Committee, is well aware of what the CIA is doing overseas in the defense of our nation and they are not torturing any detainee.. A small group of individuals may have acted on their own in violation of the rules set in place to prevent that kind of abuse."

What kind of a world would this be, if everyone swallowed such crude lies?

The CIA has been flying selected captives to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan. The Times notes: "Each of those countries has been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture in its prisons."

Let’s ask the obvious question: If the CIA does not intend for these captives to be interrogated under torture, why is it sending them to specific countries whose prisons and police are notorious for torture? Why not just keep them in a U.S.-run prison somewhere? If torture isn’t the point, then what is the rendering program about?

The CIA actually claims it is about cost-cutting. The New York Times (March 6) wrote: "The transfers were portrayed as an alternative to what American officials have said is the costly, manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States or in American-run facilities in other countries."

This claim is ridiculous. In fact, the U.S. does imprison tens of thousands of captives around the world — most of them in U.S.-run prison camps in Iraq, but also thousands in brutal prison camps at Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and on the island of Diego García in the Indian Ocean.

So when the CIA flies 100 to 150 captives around the world (on a private corporate jet!)to specific countries for interrogation, it is not about cost-cutting or the price of imprisonment! These are people specially picked for extreme treatment.

The U.S. government wants to be able to torture some of its prisoners, and wants to terrify all of its prisoners with possibility of torture.

And it does this ugly business in other countries because the CIA and the White House want to maintain some "plausible deniability." They are subcontracting their dirtiest work to keep it out of reach of legal petitions, domestic investigations, and nosy reporters.

From the Prisoners Themselves

"We went into the basement, and they opened a door, and I looked in. I could not believe what I saw. I asked how long I would be kept in this place. He did not answer, but put me in and closed the door. It was like a grave. It had no light. It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep. It was seven feet high. It had a metal door, with a small opening in the door, which did not let in light because there was a piece of metal on the outside for sliding things into the cell. On the third day, the interrogation lasted about 18 hours. They beat me from time to time and made me wait in the waiting room for one to two hours before resuming the interrogation. While in the waiting room I heard a lot of people screaming. They wanted me to say I went to Afghanistan. This was a surprise to me."

Maher Arar, November 4, 2003, CBC, describing his arrival in a Syrian prison

The world knows how "rendered" prisoners are tortured because some of them have dared to speak out—describing beatings, deliberate humiliation, electric shock, shackling in painful positions and other extreme abuse.

Here are three cases:

The details of many of the other "rendered" prisoners are simply not known. Their records are not available, and many of them are still held in the worst hell-holes of the planet, unable to speak for themselves.

We Do It. Gotta Problem with That?

"The noble end of saving innocent lives justifies the ignoble means of employing torture."

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor, New York Daily News, Oct. 6, 2002

"If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job."

Unnamed CIA official, Washington Post, Dec. 26, 2002

"We don’t kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them."

Unnamed U.S. official, Washington Post, Dec. 26, 2002

They deny torture—but at the same time, they defend torture, and accuse their critics of being dangerously soft.

In the New York Times article, a "senior U.S. official" first insisted the U.S. does not allow torture and then (in that same interview) also said, "The intelligence obtained by those rendered, detained and interrogated have disrupted terrorist operations. It has saved lives in the United States and abroad, and it has resulted in the capture of other terrorists."

And he added that the rendering program was only aimed at those "suspected of knowing" about terrorist operations.

The deceit, hypocrisy and raw double-think here are profound:

The U.S. claims to be bringing "democracy" to the Middle East but relies on some of the most repressive police states imaginable (like Egypt and Saudi Arabia) to torture U.S. prisoners.

The U.S. claims it is bringing "rule of law" to the Middle East but openly justifies seizing people (merely on the suspicion that they may know something) and has them imprisoned and tortured—all without hearings, evidence or charges.

They are having a harder and harder time denying this—because evidence is mounting. And more: they want the public to embrace and support crude, extreme and heartless measures taken by the U.S. government. After all, the official mythology is that the U.S. is "the good guys." So if they seize "suspects" without evidence, send them to prison without trials, ship them off to be tortured in grim dungeons—all of that is supposed to be morally justified and acceptable.

The group now ruling in the White House believe they should be allowed to use any means (however extreme, brutal or illegal) to pursue their goals and interests.

The fascist smell around all is unmistakable. And the trail leads straight to the White House itself.