Torture White House

Red Cross: Torture at Guantanamo

The New York Times has learned of a confidential International Red Cross memo from this past Summer which details extensive use of torture against detainees at Guantanamo. The Red Cross also discovered violations of medical ethics, though the extent of those violations are unclear. But one can only imagine. A team of psychology experts nicknamed "Biscuit" (Behavioral Science Consultation Team), which advises interrogators (torturers) about means of psychological coercion, is named in the report. From the Times:

The report of the June visit said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions." Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly "more refined and repressive" than learned about on previous visits.

A chilling comment from Guantanamo commander General Hood, "We take everything the Red Cross gives us and study it very carefully to look for ways to do our job better." Do the findings above, coupled with Hood's comment imply they're inventing better methods of torture?

One way is to allegedly attain the medical records of the prisoners and use the records as a road map for torture methods.

Leonard S. Rubenstein, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, was asked to comment on the account of the Red Cross report, and said, "The use of medical personnel to facilitate abusive interrogations places them in an untenable position and violates international ethical standards."

These allegations, as reported by the Times, continue:

The report said that such "apparent integration of access to medical care within the system of coercion" meant that inmates were not cooperating with doctors. Inmates learn from their interrogators that they have knowledge of their medical histories and the result is that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors.

Let's talk about the Geneva Convention...

Article 13 of the Geneva Convention clearly states:

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

So what constitutes a "medical experiment"? Using "Biscuit", a medical team, as part of the interrogation process might qualify.The Times reports, "It said the medical files of detainees were "literally open" to interrogators."The next line from the Geneva Convention TPW makes the case even more clearly:

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is knee-deep in internal debate about whether to go public with its entire report, which could compromise the access the organization receives to the facilities and detainees. In other words, a catch 22. If they abandon their confidentiality agreement with the government, they could stand to lose much of their investigatory power.None of it seems to matter to the White House. Alberto Gonzales, our next Attorney General, wrote a memo which included:

The war against terrorism is a new kind of war... This new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.

Download the memo (Acrobat pdf). It's a staggering claim and establishes a terrifying precedent. By establishing a doctrine whereby any law can be circumvented with the addition of the qualifier "a new kind of", the power of the Bush Empire to do anything they want is increased a thousand fold. For example, what if November 2 was redefined as "a new kind of" election?