Today, several prominent bloggers are writing about detainees who died in U.S. custody, using documents released through the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. We're not talking suicide, or death by "natural causes." No, this is death as a result of torture and abuse while in custody. This effort comes on the eve of the release — we hope — of the CIA Inspector General's report on waterboarding. (You might've heard last Friday that the release was delayed.)
The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions -- that we Look to the Future, not the Past -- are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.Marcy Wheeler focuses on the case of detainee 04-309:
Now I'm no doctor--and I definitely can't make sense of the cardiac findings. But it sounds like "stress positions," "sleep deprivation," "walling," and "water dousing" are all leading candidates to have caused the death of 04-309. Or, to use the terms used for techniques approved for use by one Special Forces group in Iraq until May 18, 2004, about a month after 04-309's death, "safety positions," "sleep adjustment/sleep management," "change of environment/ environmental manipulation," and "mild physical contact." It doesn't really matter what you call the techniques, though, because they amount to torture that--in the case of an apparently healthy 27 year old man--appear to have killed him in three days time.Drational at Daily Kos zeroes in on one detainee, known as Habibullah, and the circumstances of his death:
A lot of people--from the CIA to Cheney to the torture apologists--want this debate to be about waterboarding, a technique they've only admitted to using with three detainees, and a technique that--as far as we know--did not kill anyone in US custody. But that distracts from the other techniques that just as much torture, the ones that were killing Iraqi civilians in a matter of days.
Habibullah was being interrogated by the military. Upon autopsy he was clothed only in an adult diaper. Because he was taken from his cell to the Bagram medical facility "dead on arrival" it is likely he was wearing a diaper when he was found "unresponsive, restrained in his cell" (hanging shackled from the ceiling). This is consistent with the nudity and use of diapering during "sleep deprivation" approved by Rumsfeld and described as part of the protocols for CIA interrogation during one technique: sleep deprivation- in which the detainee is shackled standing or sitting for up to 7 1/2 days straight. We have learned from the 2005 Bradbury memos that sleep deprivation causes venous stasis in the legs and has led to severe leg edema. We know that Habibullah was shackled to the ceiling of his cell for sleep deprivation, where he was ultimately found dead. This scenario is reinforced by a citation of a DOD criminal investigation report in the recently released Senate Armed Services Committee Report on Detainee Treatment (PDF). This citation noted that "the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment at the hands of Bagram personnel, caused or were direct contributing factors in the two homicides [Habibullah and Dilawar]."The most shocking and saddening part: these deaths are the direct result of authorizations for abusive techniques at the highest levels of the Bush administration. And the Obama administration has yet to hold those who authorized those techniques accountable.
Today is the last day of June, which is Torture Awareness Month. If you haven't already, send the Justice Department evidence of torture. Tell the DOJ you demand accountability and justice.