Andrew Sullivan’s post on the new Guantanamo report is much recommended, especially this point:
One great merit of the Schmidt report – which is otherwise riddled with worrying euphemisms, dismissal of troubling facts, exoneration of almost all commanders – is that we now know that almost every one of the Abu Ghraib techniques was practised and innovated at Guantanamo. These were not improvised out of nowhere. They were what the report calls “the creative application of authorized interrogation techniques,” and the interrogators “believed they were acting within existing guidance.”
Very true. The “aggressive” interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo may not have amounted to torture, if you really want to parse the word carefully. (Although they were neither “humane” nor legal.) But they certainly set the stage for abuses in Abu Ghraib that did amount to torture. Pretending that the government can set “aggressive” policy and then exonerate itself when that policy horribly spins out of control is, to say the least, disingenuous. Sullivan also offers evidence of whitewash in the report. It’s hard to make a call on this one way or the other—what happened in those interrogation rooms will likely always remain a mystery—which is precisely why transparent democratic processes are so valued for being, well, transparent. Just to add to Sullivan’s list, though, let’s not forget this old story:
The U.S. military staged the interrogations of terrorism suspects for members of Congress and other officials visiting the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to make it appear the government was obtaining valuable intelligence, a former Army translator who worked there claims in a new book scheduled for release Monday.
Meanwhile, Marty Lederman has more on the report, highlighting some of the “flagrant disregard for the rule of law” problems discussed below.