A Few Bad Apples up on the Very Top
I'm not sure it tells anything we don't already know (read, e.g., The Dark Side). But the Levin-run Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse is now out (pdf exec summary). And it deserves some press attention.
It confirms that senior administration officials authorized torture. Specifically, they authorized the "SERE" techniques -- which had been originally used decades ago to train American troops to withstand Communist torture -- to be used on detainees. In other words, they used illegal medieval methods designed to obtain false confessions, and made them the centerpiece of our intelligence-gathering. In this respect, Abu Ghraib was the sick poisoned fruit of a very rotten tree.
I'm running to a meeting, but here's an excerpt from the press release (I received via email):A major focus of the Committee’s investigation was the influence of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training techniques on the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. SERE training is designed to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. During SERE training, U.S. troops --- in a controlled environment with great protections and caution --- are exposed to harsh techniques such as stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation, and until recently, the waterboard. The SERE techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody. The Committee’s investigation found, however, that senior officials in the U.S. government decided to use some of these harsh techniques against detainees based on deeply flawed interpretations of U.S. and international law.In short, war crimes.
The Committee concluded that the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials was both a direct cause of detainee abuse and conveyed the message that it was okay to mistreat and degrade detainees in U.S. custody.