The OLC Memos, “Erroneous and Inflammatory Assumptions,” and John Rizzo’s Lies

In his statement on the torture memos today, Obama suggested that some of the "assumptions" about what Americans had done were wrong, and that releasing the memos would correct these "assumptions."

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.[my emphasis]

This suggests (though weakly) that the OLC memos–and not other evidence–should be taken as authoritative on the events surrounding our interrogation program.

Though, on several counts, this is not true.

The most troubling example pertains to Abu Zubaydah’s mental state before he was tortured. John Yoo (writing under Jay Bybee’s name) goes to some lengths to establish Abu Zubaydah’s sanity. After five paragraphs that basically make Abu Zubaydah out to be a self-confident stud, here’s what Yoo says about AZ’s psychological health.

According to your reports, Zubaydah does not have any pre-existing mental conditions or problems that would make him likely to suffer prolonged mental harm from your proposed interrogation methods. Through reading his diaries and interviewing him, you have found no history of "mood disturbance or other psychiatric pathology[,]" "thought disorder[,] … enduring mood or mental health problems." He is in fact "remarkably resilient and confident that he can overcome adversity." When he encounters stress or low mood, this appears to last only for a short time. He deals with stress by assessing its source, evaluating the coping resources available to him, and then taking action. Your assessment notes that he is "generally self-sufiicient and relies on his understanding and application of religious and psychological principles, intelligence and discipline to avoid and overcome problems." Moreover, you have found that he has a "reliable and durable support system" in his faith, "the blessings of religious leaders, and camaraderie of like-minded mujahedin brothers." During detention, Zubaydah has managed his mood, remaining at most points "circumspect, calm, controlled., and deliberate." He has maintained tius demeanor during aggressive interrogations and reductions in sleep. You describe that in an initial confrontational incident, Zubaydah showed signs of sympathetic nervous system arousal, which you think was possibly fear. Although this incident led him to disclose intelligence information, he was able to quickly regain his composure, his air of confidence, and his "strong resolve" not to reveal any information.

Nowhere else, significantly, does Yoo feel the need to quote so selectively and in such detail about what CIA Acting Counsel John Rizzo had represented to him.

Meanwhile, this is what Dan Coleman–an FBI guy with deep knowledge of al Qaeda–had to say about AZ in Ron Suskind’s One Percent Doctrine:

Meanwhile, Dan Coleman and other knowledgeable members of the tribe of al Qaeda hunters at CIA were reading Zubaydah’s top secret diary and shaking their heads. 

"This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality," Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul. 

Two different people reading the same diary. One cherry-picks from it to claim AZ exhibited no evidence of "mood disturbance," whereas another reads the same diary and concludes the guy is nuts.

I might give Yoo and Rizzo equal weight with Coleman in terms of who more credibly measured AZ’s mental state. But the second time Yoo discusses AZ’s mental state, there’s a half paragraph redacted.

The mental health experts that you have consulted have indicated that the psychological impact of a course of conduct must be assessed with reference to the subject’s psychological history and current mental health status. The healthier the individual, the less likely that the use of anyone procedure or set of procedures as a course of conduct will result in prolonged mental harm. A comprehensive psychological profile of Zubaydah has been created. In creating this profile, your personnel drew on direct interviews, Zubaydah’s diaries, observation of Zubaydah since his capture, and information from other sources such as other intelligence and press reports. [half paragraph redacted]

If I had to guess, that half-paragraph shows Yoo’s response to the Coleman claims Yoo had to have known about–and those claims didn’t stand to reason so they were redacted.

There are a number of other discrepancies where existing resources appear far more credible than the information that OLC used (either knowingly or not) on which to found their memos.

For example, there’s the claim that detainees deprived of sleep are not–at the same time–being physically abused.

The shackling [to deprive of sleep] is used only as a passive means of keeping the detainee awake and, in both the tightness of the shackles and the positioning of the hands, is not intended to cause pain. A detainee, for example, will not be allowed to hang by his wrists.


Because sleep deprivation does not involve physical pain and would not be expected to to cause extreme physical discomfort to the detainee, the extended duration of sleep deprivation … is not a sufficient factor alone to constitute severe physical suffering.

The ICRC, on the other hand, reported that 10 of 14 high value detainees complained of being hung by their wrists. 

Prolonged stress standing position, naked, held with the arms extended and chained above the head, as alleged by ten of the fourteen, for periods from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from four detainees that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves. 

And here’s how the ICRC described the sleep patterns of those shackled with their hands over their heads. 

Although this position prevented most detainees from sleeping, three of the detainees stated that they did fall asleep once or morewhile shackled in this position. These include Mr Khaled Shaik Mohammedand Mr Bin Attash;the third did not wish his name to be transmitted to the authorities. When they did fall asleep held in this position, the whole weight of their bodies was effectively suspended from the shackled  wrists, transmitting the strain through the arms to the shoulders.

I hate to say it, but the 10 high value detainees, each reporting the same treatment independently, are a lot more credible than Steven Bradbury repeating John Rizzo’s empty assurances.

Which suggests that, rather than rebutting "erroneous and inflammatory assumptions," the real concern the release of these memos ought to raise is the misrepresentations CIA apparently made to DOJ. By no means do I mean to excuse John Yoo and Steven Bradbury for their "banality." But John Rizzo was lying. Blatantly. In his claims to OLC as he tried to get stuff approved. 

Contrary to Obama’s suggestion, these memos should not correct any assumptions we’ve made about the torture our government conducted in our name. Rather, they should make it crystal clear that John Rizzo lied repeatedly about what the CIA was doing.

By all means, let’s make sure that Yoo and Bradbury (and Judge Bybee) pay for their legal rationalizations. But let’s include John Rizzo in there for producing the lies that abetted this legal abomination. 

75 replies
  1. bobschacht says:

    We need a new set of Nuremburg trials.

    President Obama today was a deep embarrassment to the entire country for taking prosecution of war criminals off the table today. This is not change I can believe in.
    I am deeply sad for our country today. We collectively have feet of clay, and are no better than anyone else.

    Bob in HI

  2. MadDog says:

    EW, this sentence seems to be missing a couple words or part of your thoughts:

    Which suggests that, rather than rebutting “erroneous and inflammatory assumptions,” the real concern the release of these memos ought to raise.

    What was/is the real concern?

  3. MadDog says:

    And regarding the shackling of hands over detainees’ heads, an Oxdown diary I posted about a month ago made quite clear how painful (and even fatal) this “harmless” torture practice actually was.

    From that Oxdown diary:

    Investigation into the deaths of two detainees at the Bagram Control Point (BCP) in Bagram, Afghanistan. Both detainees were determined to have been killed by blood clots that were dislodged and travelled to their hearts, causing pulmonary embolism. The blood clots, and their subsequent dislodging, were caused by sustained standing chained in place, as well as by sleep deprivation and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators. The investigation reveals systems of torture perpetrated by Military Intelligence and the Military Police guards at the BCP, as well as allegations of torture at joint American-Afghani prisons in Kabul, and maltreatment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba…

    On 8 Dec 02 LTC (Dr) [Redacted], Armed Forces Regional Medical Examiner, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center…, conducted an autopsy of HABIBULLAH’s remains LTC [Redacted] opinion was the cause of HABIBULLAH’s death was a pulmonary embolism brought about by a blood clot in the pulmonary artery near the heart. The manner of death was homicide.

    Investigation established probable cause to believe that HABIBULLAH succumbed to a pulmonary embolism caused by a combination of blunt force trauma (inflicted by members of the MP Company Guard force) to his lower legs, and prolonged standing restraint during the four days he was held at the Bagram Collection Point (BCP), Afghanistan. Investigation has demonstrated the unlawful use of force by the MPs listed above (in the form of common peroneal knee strikes) to HABIBULLAH’s legs, combined with the use of standing restraint and sleep deprivation at the direction of MI identified above, caused his death. Enforced standing (achieved through chaining to the ceiling) was used both as a punishment and as a part of the sleep deprivation…

    Q: What is ISO?
    A: Isolation area.
    Q: When you arrived at BT-412’s cell, was he restrained?
    A: Yes.
    Q: How was he restrained?
    A: Short handcuffs around his hands. Attached to the handcuffs was a belly chain. He also had a set of leg shackles with a chain going from the cuffs to the leg shackles. He was also chained to the ceiling from a chain in front of him and behind him.
    Q: Why was he restrained?
    A: He was combative, non-compliant, punched guards, and spit at guards. We had him on a 4 hour standing and 20 minutes sitting procedure directed from MI.
    Q: Do you know why MI had him standing for 4 hours?
    A: No.
    Q: When was he put in restraints?
    A: When we came on shift, BT-412 was in chains which were attached to the ceiling with his arms stretched out. After we came on, we pulled his arms down and placed his hands in front of him and handcuffed them together. The chains that were attached to the ceiling, were there in order to keep him from running into the door and walls. The restraints also prevented him from pulling on his handcuffs, which he had previously been doing, so that he did not injure himself. The handcuffs had been digging into his wrists.
    Q: When you handcuffed his hands in front of him, did you also place the other chains on him?
    A: He already had the leg shackles on, we just put the other chains on him.
    Q: How long has the detainee, BT-412, been at the Bagram Confinement Facility?
    A: Three days.
    Q: How long had he been in the Isolation Cell Block?
    A: Since he arrived.
    Q: Why was he in the Isolation Block?
    A: MI requested it. He came in with a group of seven persons, and they were all placed in ISO.
    Q: Was it standard procedure for a detainee to be restrained the way BT-412 was?
    A: When they first come into the Confinement Facility, detainees are normally told to stand for 24 hours, and then be in chain and leg shackles for about 3 days. If MI deems that the detainee has been cooperative, then they can get the shackles taken off and are allowed to sleep…

  4. timbo says:

    So…does this mean that the United States is no longer going to abide by Article 2 of Geneva? Because, what I’m hearing from President Obama is that we are not. The big humor for the day? Obama mentioning that maybe we’ll have an arms trafficking tready for the Americas…yeah, and why would anyone believe anything that American diplomats sign from now on? Where is the basis to trust the the United States won’t secretly issue laws and rules that absolve the leaders of the United States from any legal consequence for breaking international treaties?

    So goes the rule of law, eh? We’re half-way to Nazi Germany now. Thank you Democrats and Obama for going along with the whole charade of the law applying at all to what is happening in Washington and to our nation’s once stable form of government.

    I’m personally about to start wearing an arm band until they either round me up or someone actually gets into power in this country that has a clue about what human progress should be about.

    And another thing. What about the CIA folks who resigned under protest when these sorts of orders came down? What’s they’re standing? Can they sue the folks who ordered them to torture other human beings? Can they get back pay for being fired or forced out because they wouldn’t go around degrading fellow human beings? Just asking…

  5. cinnamonape says:

    It’s obvious to me EW…that something was “maintaining” the subjects in the stress position. The stress position- as described in the Memos- can’t be so simple: “fingertips on wall, feet four to five feet from wall, feet and hands not allowed to be moved.

    It’s the last bit that clearly indicated that the individuals have to be chained, shackled or handcuffed into that posture. Otherwise they would simply fail to maintain it. They would drop down onto their knees or fall flat on their stomachs. Recall reaching the end of your capacity to do push-ups. You lie down on the ground. If the torturers (I will no longer deign to call them “interrogators”) could not beat their subjects, what would be their ability to compelling compliance? They had to be shackled into this position…though how the hand position was maintained I’m unclear…perhaps special holes in the wall?

    • Synoia says:

      There is another term for that “stress position”:


      Ok, there were no nails, there were chains to the wrists, but the effect is the same, especially when striking the legs “in the form of common peroneal knee strikes”

      Crucifixion is death by suffocation, becuse after the legs are broken, the victim has to pull themselves up by their arsm to breathe. Eventually the victims weaken and die by suffocation.

    • Valtin says:

      Shackling is one way to enforce a “stress position”, as is are cramped confined boxes. But when you see “stress positions” written, it usually means one that is not physically enforced by mechanical means, but a posture that must be maintained by muscle and will. This particular type of torture is meant to turn the prisoner upon himself, as explained from this paragraph from the CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual, Ch. 9:

      When the individual is told to stand at attention for long periods, an intervening factor is introduced. The immediate source of pain is not the interrogator but the victim himself. The motivational strength of the individual is likely to exhaust itself in this internal encounter…. As long as the subject remains standing, he is attributing to his captor the power to do something worse to him, but there is actually no showdown of the ability of the interrogator to do so.”

      You are correct, cinnamonape that the “position” is enforced by physical threat or beating, usually a rap by a baton across the back or legs, or maybe one of the CIA’s “facial slaps”.

      If anyone here has not read the KUBARK manual yet, then you are missing out on a crucial piece of evidence and important explanatory material.

  6. Valtin says:

    Excellent job of parsing this repugnant “memo.” The Yoo quote is replete with psychological jargon, from one of the SERE psychologists, no doubt. I know it well, as I write psychological assessments, too. One can make a lot of bullshit sound “reasonable” with such jargon, e.g., “coping resources”, “managed his mood,” etc.

    I’d note one complete LIE Obama made, re sleep deprivation. He said that the U.S. doesn’t use any of these techniques anymore. But the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M calls for sleep deprivation, i.e., no more than 4 hours of continuous sleep per day for up to 30 days (with possible extensions).

    In the U.S. Army’s Combat Stress Manual, FM 22-5 (Chapter 4), there is plenty of evidence given to the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation at 4 hours per night. The fact that 4 hrs of sleep “minimum” is allowed for the combat soldier in “continuous operations”, which some feel justifies the AFM standard, is irrelevant to the issue of sleep allowed for a prisoner. The Combat Stress manual gives a lot of attention to how circadian rhythms will affect sleep, noting that the effects on the individual of even partial sleep deprivation, i.e., 48-72 hrs of partial sleep deprivation = 2 days of total sleep deprivation (see p. 70).

    I’d like to think I’m not the only human being in America to call Obama out on this… untruth of his.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Good observations. Confuse the circadian rhythm with 24/7 lights or darkness, the use of inconsistent temperature extremes, sensory deprivation or overdose, etc, and you overload the mind and body. Deprive a prisoner of sleep for a seven to ten days, or longer, or over repeated cycles and sure, resistance breaks down. So does everything else.

      It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that whoever was directing this enjoyed it. The researchers had guineau pigs to use just like the death camp doctors (whose work may have come to valid medical conclusions, but the citation of which is deemed ethically reprehensible).

      And what a rush for a politician, to have this sort of control over dozens or hundreds of other human beings.

    • TheraP says:

      Yes, where’s that “jargon” coming from? A Rorschach or something? Suppose they give a Rorschach and a detainee deliberately gives responses from which the psychologist infers all sorts of coping mechanisms and so on? Where is the raw data from which these assertions come? That’s what I’d want! Because I too read that as if it came from a psych testing report. So where’s the report? And where’s the raw data from which it comes? You’d need testing data of some type to make those statements about coping methods. To me it sounds like coming from a Rorschach. (Mind you, has that stuff been standardized for Arab speakers?)

      This whole business reads so badly!

      And besides, what data do we have about people held in solitary, subjected to cruel and degrading, inhuman treatment? How “normal” could anyone’s psyche be under such conditions?

      This whole business makes my brain want to explode!

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    the claim that detainees deprived of sleep are not–at the same time–being physically abused.

    That’s laughable. Every soldier, sailor, Marine and undergraduate who’s pulled one all-nighter knows it’s tough the next day, or the next two days. And apart from the rigors of boot camp or combat, they’re not being abused in multiple ways by an enemy in complete control of their body. They are safe and also in control, unlike prisoners in the hands of the enemy.

    The literature on the effects of long-term sleep deprivation is considerable and would have been readily available to the interrogators and their psychologists and M.D.’s advising them on its effects. They chose it as an “interrogation” method for a reason. The stress level is considerable and proportional to the length of lost sleep. It quickly leads to loss of mental ability and muscular control. Over extended periods, it leads to psychotic events.

    On its own, extended sleep deprivation is physical and mental abuse. Combine it with sensory deprivation, lack of food and water, other physical abuse, loud noises, and/or lights and abuse quickly becomes torture. But that was the aim, wasn’t it? And these memos can’t hide it.

    • TheraP says:

      Deprivation of sleep. Let’s just consider how laws were finally enacted to prevent medical residents from working longer than maybe 36 hours in a row. Maybe it’s less than that now. Why was that? Because they could not be trusted to process information well after that. They were making medical mistakes. Right there is something lawyers should have known about. Plus it was in the news a lot.

      I’ve had people come to therapy since because they were not sleeping and felt like they were going nuts!

      It’s nonsense to say sleep deprivation is ok. And when you deprive sleep through painful, stressful means…. cruel and unusual. We don’t do that to convicted criminals!

    • WarOnWarOff says:

      On its own, extended sleep deprivation is physical and mental abuse. Combine it with sensory deprivation, lack of food and water, other physical abuse, loud noises, and/or lights and abuse quickly becomes torture.

      In “Taxi to the Dark Side” there was footage of interviews with the Canadian researcher who first experimented (on his students) with sensory deprivation. They wore goggles and hoods (much like our prisoners) and would be practically psychotic after just *one* day.

  8. Valtin says:

    12 – Yes, you are absolutely correct. That was the aim of what they were doing, and what they are still doing, thanks to the societal indifference to the AFM issue.

    And kudos to EW/FDL (I’m especially thinking of you, bmaz) for being one of the few sites to publicize that issue, along with Darren Hutchinson, Suzanne Ito at ACLU Blog of Rights (but not the full ACLU), Liliana Segura at AlterNet, Andy Worthington, William Fisher, Stephen Soldz, and a handful of others (please don’t be upset if I didn’t mention you). But far and away the mainstream of human rights organizations (excepting Physicians for Human Rights, and Center for Constitutional Rights), bloggers, and mass media, continue to report that the AFM is some kind of anodyne to Bush/Cheney’s torture program.

    I am very grateful to those who signed on to what PHR and I began, but we will need much, much more if lies like those of Obama re sleep deprivation become generally known.

  9. prairiedaag says:

    I notice the number of times just the Aug ‘02 document refers to the presence of medical personnel being present during the “interogations” as a reason that the actions are not torture or being conducted in a manner that they feel rises to that definition (I’m usure anything would).

    I believe investigations are clearly called for, and the role of the medical community in effectuating the development and implementation of the “techniques” should be an important element in any fact finding.

  10. radiofreewill says:

    The only reasonable conclusion I can make is that Rizzo, and Yoo, and Bybee, and Bradbury are as Depraved as Bush.

    They served-up what Bush wanted, the way he wanted it – on a simpleton’s ‘chinese’ menu detailing ‘enhanced procedures’ that could be used singly, or in combination, complete with fine print that said ‘vetted by the Lawyers at CIA and OLC.’

    That’s all that Bush cared about. That way he could enjoy an interactive afternoon matinee of ‘attention grabs’, ‘face slaps’ and ‘waterboarding’ – just the way he liked it.

    So, what We *know* is that Rizzo, Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury wanted to please Bush more than they respected the Rule of Law, hence the almost complete lack of support through Legal Precedent, and the ’search’ for ‘plausible reasoning by analogy.’

    These Torture Memos are actually closer to Political Propaganda – empowering Bush’s Ideology – than Legally Sound Documents.

    There is No Doubt, either, that a Special Prosecutor or Congressional Investigation would uncover the Ex-Post Facto construction of the Memos, as well.

    Which would make Rizzo, Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury nothing more than Loyal ‘fixers’ for Bush’s Sadistic, Monsterous Pleasures – and not honest lawyers upholding the Rule of Law.

    With Bush it’s always the same – the facts are ‘fixed’ – in Our Name – to fit his ‘Policy.’

    • alabama says:

      A systematic, prudent, patient, level-headed and thorough investigation can, and will, establish beyond any reasonable doubt that Bush’s need to gratify his “Sadistic, Monstrous Pleasures” drove the whole damned thing. We can, and should, learn the specific ways, times and places in which he indulged his particular cravings–as through interactive communications, recordings, video transmissions, and all the other options made available through the development of internet pornography.

      This can, and will, tell us exactly what kind of leader we’ve been following for the past eight years. And given our national zeal for that minute and endless official study of President Clinton’s sexual practices, it shouldn’t be hard for us to go there.

  11. bobschacht says:

    There’s another take on today’s events that gives me hope.

    On Apr 16, 2009, at 4:10 PM, ralph lopez wrote:
    This was a banner day for the accountability movement. The memos were released, it seems like not in heavily redacted form as we were afraid of, then the DOJ practically gives CIA officials immunity to step forward with their tales. This is exactly what we were looking for. We don’t want CIA agents prosecuted, we want those who gave the orders and laid the legal basis. Pat yourselves on the back and keep pushing!

    Next step, we must reach out to the whistleblowers who were there, who participated and are living with feelings of shame and guilt because their leaders told them these were the “worst of the worst” and it was ok to torture them. We must ask people like Daniel Ellsberg, Col. Ann Wright, and General Taguba to be a support network for those wanting to step forward, like this brave young man below, Brandon Neely. These whistleblowers are the key. They will put the human face on this story which will have BushCo sweating bullets.

    I don’t want to prosecute soldiers. I want to prosecute the bastards who made it all ok and thought they could get away with it. Onward! Who’ll find a contact for Taguba etc.?

    Bob in HI

  12. worldwidehappiness says:

    Obama said:

    “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.”

    It takes a special kind of person to order these things and to do these kinds of things.

    From Deliverance:

    Mountain Man: I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!
    Bobby: Weee!
    Mountain Man: Weee!
    Bobby: Weee!

    Mountain Man: What do you want to do now?
    Toothless Man: [grinning] He’s got a real pretty mouth on him, don’t he?
    Mountain Man: Ain’t that the truth.
    Toothless Man: [to Ed] You gonna do some prayin’ for me, boy. And you better pray real good.

  13. bobschacht says:

    Well, while you Easterners are catching 40 winks, some of us are still up in Hawaii, catching up with the day’s news.

    So, I see that DiFi called for the hearing after new reports that the National Security Agency went beyond its authorization. At least she’s not whining and dithering about needing to find a Republican who will permit her to investigate, like whine-dog Leahy seems to be doing.

    And now I see our new euphemism of the day is that the NSA may be “overcollecting” (i.e., hoovering?) data on U.S. citizens. Oh, my, please pass the smelling salts. I guess “trust us” is no longer operative?

    Bob in HI

    • danps says:

      So much falsehood! Marcy, I thought this in particular might interest you:

      The terrorist Abu Zubaydah (sometimes derided as a low-level operative of questionable reliability, but who was in fact close to KSM and other senior al Qaeda leaders) disclosed some information voluntarily. But he was coerced into disclosing information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the planners of Sept. 11, who in turn disclosed information which — when combined with what was learned from Abu Zubaydah — helped lead to the capture of KSM and other senior terrorists, and the disruption of follow-on plots aimed at both Europe and the U.S. Details of these successes, and the methods used to obtain them, were disclosed repeatedly in more than 30 congressional briefings and hearings beginning in 2002, and open to all members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses of Congress beginning in September 2006. Any protestation of ignorance of those details, particularly by members of those committees, is pretense.

      Hayden and Mukasey are even worse than I thought. They lie with such ease!

  14. TarheelDem says:

    So where was Rizzo getting his lies and being motivated to lie? That is the next layer of the onion.

  15. slide says:

    I’m just wondering what the OLC lawyers expertize is in psychology and medicine to support their expert opinions in those fields.

  16. Leen says:

    Obama and Holder are liars. Every time they have said and continue to say “no one is above the law” they are lying. Bullshit, hogwash. Those who participated in the torturing of these individuals and rewrote laws in regard to torture ARE ABOVE THE LAW. The message is clear. These people ARE ABOVE THE LAW

  17. drational says:

    “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,” Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul.”- Coleman

    Two different people reading the same diary. One cherry-picks from it to claim AZ exhibited no evidence of “mood disturbance,” whereas another reads the same diary and concludes the guy is nuts.

    I might give Yoo and Rizzo equal weight with Coleman in terms of who more credibly measured AZ’s mental state. But the second time Yoo discusses AZ’s mental state, there’s a half paragraph redacted.

    Marcy, this is problematic.
    First of all, there is no such thing as “split personality”. Coleman is obviously not a qualified mental health expert. One cannot in any reasonable medical way judge mental competence simply from “reading a diary”.

    I agree that there seems to have been dissent as to whether Z was mentally healthy, but Yoo’s quotations are almost certainly from the report of a credentialed psychologist or psychiatrist who appears to have interviewed Zubaydah (or reviewed more than the diary). The language is consistent with DSM-IV terminology, and there is indication of review of past psychiatric history, contemporaneous fluctuation of mood and affect, and a detailed exploration of coping mechanisms. This is clearly quotation from the work product of an expert, although one that is likely influenced by who sought it. It would be part of the i dotting and t crossing Yoo and Rizzo needed for CYA. Much like what happens in criminal and civil litigation, Yoo dug up an expert to give biased coverage. He now has a “good faith” clearance from “an expert” for proceeding with torture of the specific detainee.

    There is definitely a question as to whether there was a dissenting expert that also saw Z and issued contrary findings, prompting the detailed CYA. In this case someone could expose Yoo’s duplicity. But it would not have been Coleman….

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Too bad we don’t have those interrorgation videotapes, Bill Frist could give us a long distance diagnosis. Seriously though, I can’t put much credence in the opinions of psychiatrists or psychologist who enable torture.

      • drational says:

        You are absolutely right. But the psychologists themselves have a split personality about facilitating torture.

        At the August 2006 APA Council meeting, Neil E. Altman, PhD, of APA’s Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) proposed a resolution whereby APA would call for a moratorium on psychologists’ involvement in interrogations at U.S. detention centers for foreign detainees….

        The proposed resolution was reviewed by the Ethics Committee and seven other APA governance groups, none of which supported it.

        Unfortunately, Yoo and Rizzo appear to have gotten their necessary hall pass from psychologists who think torture is not so bad.

        • drational says:

          For the interested, here is an analysis of how psychiatry and psychology professional organizations view their member’s participation in interrogation:

          Specifically, the AMA states,

          Physicians may consult to interrogations by developing interrogation strategies that do not threaten or cause physical injury or mental suffering and that are humane and respect the rights of individuals.

          while the APA states,

          It is consistent with the APA Ethics Code for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation and information-gathering processes for national-security related purposes.

    • emptywheel says:

      I disagree, strongly.

      FIrst of all, as I point out, the “psychological assessment” consists of 7 paragraphs of biographical and personality data (the former of which Coleman was much more of an expert in than almost anyone at the CIA), and just 1 paragraph of anything that addresses actual mental condition–what they were pretending was a psychological evaluation was in fact just legitimation for why AZ made a fair target. Furthermore, portions of the data in that biographical data are known to be false (for example, with regards to his role in AQ).

      Then there’s the fact that no psychologists are mentioned (indeed, we learn in the 2005 memos that psychologists were not adequately involved with AZ’s interrogation). The “you” here addresses, at least rhetorically, Rizzo, not a psychologist and in places, the use of the passive voice pointedly avoids describing who made this assessment or what qualifications they have.

      Then there’s the fact that the psychological assessment relies on the same diary that you say shouldn’t be relied on for assessment.

      And then there are the citations that are grammatically obviously ripped out of context, suggesting a cherry picking even of the purportedly psychological language to exclude certain things.

      And then, finally, there’s the fact that in a memo that was supposed to only redact names, half a paragraph that structurally addresses precisely this issue is redacted.

      I understand your point about trusting experts (though again, Coleman was the expert on a lot of what they include here) over non-experts and he would dispute their data. But strictly at a textual level, the argument that AZ was sane is clearly riddled with problems.

      Does that mean Yoo has his legal cover? Arguably yes. But does that mean Obama’s suggestion that we should let a clearly deceitfully created document discredit other accounts?

      • drational says:

        Biographical and personality data are 80% of the neuropsychological assessments I read on a daily basis. And while a diary can contribute to formulating opinion about someone’s mental status, it should not be the sole basis for this and is not here: “Through reading his diaries and interviewing him…”

        We know that psychologists were deeply involved in interrogations and assesments. For Rizzo not to avail himself of readily available expert reporting in helping Yoo craft the memo justifying torture would be uncharacteristically stupid. This was ALL about CYA, and no legal retrospectoscope would ever merit a CI agents analysis of Z’s mental state when eager psychologists were available.

        I am sticking with my assessment. Not that it matters much. I believe that Z was potentially insane from the beginning, but you cannot make that case based upon someone reading his diary. Or looking at Yoo’s “work” and assuming everything he writes is exactly opposite the truth. If you want a conviction you need a whistleblower psychologist who interviewed Z early on and warned them in writing he was batshit crazy. Too bad the tapes are not around.

        • emptywheel says:

          Once again, you’re ignoring the clear references in the 2005 memos that say there weren’t enough doctors involved in the first waterboarding detainee–AZ. You’re ignoring that Coleman was working with a lot more than the diary (and, again, was the expert for a lot of what you’re saying should be used). You’re ignoring that structurally, the OLC memo doesn’t do what it says it does (or does grammar not matter so long as a scientist is involved?). And you’re ignoring that redacted half paragraph (or is okay now, so long as there’s a scientist involved, not to show your work?).

          I understand what you’re saying about expertise, though repeat that there’s no indication any was used here. BUt even if there was, that doesn’t mean using an expert who said A to prove B makes the argument valid.

          On your logic, anything that uses scientific language is enough to refute all other evidence.

          • drational says:

            Let me start over.
            Marcy, this is misleading:
            “Two different people reading the same diary. One cherry-picks from it to claim AZ exhibited no evidence of “mood disturbance,” whereas another reads the same diary and concludes the guy is nuts.”

            Coleman and [Rizzo] read the diary. But per the memo, [Rizzo] also interviewed the subject. You know my credentials. I can tell you that you MUST INTERVIEW A PERSON to make a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis. Coleman is not qualified to yield a diagnosis. His diagnosis of “split personality” is meaningless. He did not interview Z. You fail to acknowledge that interviews with Rizzo’s “personnel” in part form the basis of a “not crazy” claim. If Rizzo is not basing his “psychiatric clearance” on a psychiatrist or psychologist exam, then he is taking a real risk that he and Yoo will be found to have crafted this memo in bad faith. Despite the bad grammar, that would surprise me.

            And then this:
            “I might give Yoo and Rizzo equal weight with Coleman in terms of who more credibly measured AZ’s mental state.” I don’t understand your weighting system, but “split personality” is not REAL. To give credence to Coleman’s “diagnosis” is thus problematic.

            Neither of us know what is in the redacted para. Your work is excellent, Marcy, but IMHO this post has holes and I am trying my best, as a friend, to tell you why I think so.

            • TheraP says:

              But this isn’t just a diagnosis. It’s a description of coping/defense mechanisms. You’re not gonna get that just from an interview. Not to be credible in making a determination! I’m not so worried about a “diagnostic indicator” – no matter whether wording is according to the DSM, I’m stuck on the descriptors which, to me, should come from a Rorshach. But if so… where is the raw data? Where is the testing report?

              And set that aside, no matter how sane or intact you may assume the person to be, there is no excuse for torture!

            • emptywheel says:

              No. I don’t fail to acknowledge that Rizzo says interviews were used. But he doesn’t say by whom.

              And you’re ignoring that Coleman is not just making his conclusion based on the diary. Yes, my quote was not the best description of COleman’s reasons for believing that AZ is nuts. There is a lot more to why Coleman concluded that (including work with interrogators who had interviewed him, who also concluded he was crazy). There’s also the little matter of AZ’s head wound–not mentioned in this memo, but known to all involved by this point.

              And no, “split personality” is not real. But I can assure you, I can meet certain people and understand that they are mentally ill, even if I don’t know the name for their disease. If someone is exhibiting very noticeable signs of disturbance, it does not take a psychologist to determine that they should not be tortured–or trusted. Nor, when someone refers to someone who has been found to be mentally ill as crazy or nuts or split personality in a colloquial context, that does not mean their use of a perfectly apt colloquial word disqualifies what has been said.

              I understand you’ve got expertise in one area discussed in this memo. Likewise, I have expertise that matches yours in how people construct documents to lie. And you are ignoring all of that other information because you found someone you think might be a scientist. WOw!! A scientist who presents known false data!! And on that basis you’re arguing for his credibility.

              • Valtin says:

                The whole issue of malingering and deception captivates the interrogation crowd, because contrary to popular belief, the torture is not only to produce false confessions (though sometimes it is), but also to get information (even if the torturers themselves are deluded as to the possibility of getting it from a given individual).

                Torture is madness. Torturers are also kind of mad. They project their fear of madness onto the victim, and it becomes very difficult for them to assess what is true, what is sane, what is “crazy.”

                The seminars and books of interrogation professionals, including even the CIA’s famous KUBARK manual, always have a section on “deception” or malingering.

                From a psychologist’s point of view (mine), malingering and deception can sometimes be very hard to prove. It doesn’t help that reality isn’t just a clear division between the true and the false. There is also exaggeration, for instance, or faulty memory.

                If a layman looks at a prisoner and judges him “crazy,” in my opinion the behavior of the prisoner is probably pretty outlandish, and the prisoner probably suffers from a mental illness at that point.

        • TheraP says:

          In order to make statements of such certainty you would need some type of data based on standardized testing situations. It’s like trying to talk about lipids in the blood without actually doing a blood test – but only taking a medical history! You can’t make statements of such certainty about defenses or coping mechanisms just on the basis of writings. You’d need behavioral evidence! And behavioral evidence of some consistency based on standardized situations – such as you find in a testing situation. Even if history pertains, it has to be consistent with some type of data which is gathered in a way that you can be sure of your assessment. Especially if you are relying on the data to go ahead with a “program” of some type – whatever type it is!

          I have no idea if the guy was insane or not! But even if sane, what was done to him was WRONG!

        • emptywheel says:

          Now that I think more about it, I think you’re making a very different point than I’m making.

          My question is, should we believe the memos as opposed to other data available.

          GIven that the same info cited to support the claim that AZ was sane is info we know–both from Coleman and other sources–to be false, it suggests the rest of the info is suspect. The hidden half paragraph (which is probably an admission that there was disagreement about this topic) further supports that.

          I’m not asking “Who is the most competent person to determine whether AZ is sane?” (who I would agree would be a psychologist).

          Or to put it another way: if you are presented with evidence that may or may not come from a psychologist that you know to be false, would you then trust the source of that evidence?

          • drational says:

            It’s the know to be false part that I am trying to nail down. I am trying to pin bad faith and illegality on Yoo, and we don’t have that internally within the memo (maybe it’s the redacted part). My argument was the [known to be] false stuff in the memo can be argued to be in good faith if it was based upon psych reports.

            Most importantly I want the known to be false stuff to be solidly supported, and I was just suggesting that IMHO the Coleman statement doesn’t rise to defeating what we have in the memo. I need other sources….

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Excellent work. I’m going to need more time to go over these things, but I’ve already found several interesting things. For example, check out footnote 28 from Bradbury’s May 30, 2005 memo:

        This is not to say that the interrogation program has worked perfectly. According to the IG Report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have the information. See IG report at 83-85. On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques. On that occasion, although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements with CIA Headquarters still believed he was withholding information. [Redaction of more than one full line] See id, at 84. At the direction of CIA Headquarters interrogrators, therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah. [Redaction of ~3/4 of a line] See id, at 84-85.

        This example, however, does not show CIA “conduct [that is] intended to injure in some way unjustifiable by any government interest,” or “deliberate indifference” to the possibility of such unjustifiable injure. Lewis, 523 U.S. at 849. As long as the CIA reasonably believed that Zubaydah continued to withhold sufficiently important information, use of the waterboard was supported by the Government’s interest in protecting the Nation from subsequent terrorist attacks. The existence of a reasonable, good faith belief is not negated because the factual predicates for that belief are subsequently determined to be false. Moreover, in the Zubaydah example, CIA Headquarters dispatched officials to observe the last waterboard session. These officials reported that enhanced techniques were no longer needed. See IG Report at 85. Thus the CIA did not simply rely on what appeared to be credible intelligence but rather ceased using enhanced techniques despite this intelligence.

        [I transcribed this by hand so check the original document]

        • Valtin says:

          Very interesting. I haven’t even gotten to the May 2005 memo yet.

          While in the past I pooh-poohed the waterboarding issue as a misdirection from other abusive techniques that were being ignored by the press, in this instance it’s key. Because I believe I showed they relied on a document (the July 24 Ogrisseg memorandum) that specifically mentioned that waterboarding was both useless and caused psychological harm.

          It was in either their sloppiness or stupidity that they would quote statistics (themselves written to put a bureaucratic program, SERE, in the best light) from the same document that would nay-say waterboarding…. and then say waterboarding was okay! I’d love to be the prosecutor with Rizzo or other CIA personnel asking the witness about this, as I wave Ogrisseg’s report in front of their faces and the jury.

          • emptywheel says:

            Please do make sure you read them all, though. Bradbury’s work on sleep deprivation is particularly troubling. And after admitting that sleep deprivation and waterboarding might be problematic, he then says, ‘what they heck, use them in combination!!”

            • emptywheel says:

              Incidentally, you’lll see why in the post I’m working on. But we know that two things happened after the IG report.

              1) They brought CIA’s doctors in to consult.
              2) THey lowered the maximum length of sleep deprivation from 264 hours to 180 hours.

              That suggests one of the things CIA’s doctors told them to do was cut back on the sleep deprivation.

              • Valtin says:

                I wish I had reference to the CIA’s own data on sleep deprivation. All I could find to reference was the Army’s Combat Stress manual, linked upthread here, I think (or in an earlier article’s thread — ironically, I’m a little sleep deprived today and not remembering easily).

  18. Leen says:

    Have now heard Obama use the words “vengeance, retribution, laying blame, witch hunt” instead of Justice and Accountability in regard to holding the people who rewrote these laws and those who tortured.

    I am aware of the positive direction in regard to women’s wages, access to education, non-proliferation, reaching out to other nation’s, organic gardens at the White House etc. But how can we move forward when our nations soul was sold to the devil during the Bush administration and Obama, Holder and Panetta will not call in the exorcist? They may try to move ahead but they will be dragging a nation of zombies behind them.

    • klynn says:

      Have now heard Obama use the words “vengeance, retribution, laying blame, witch hunt” instead of Justice and Accountability in regard to holding the people who rewrote these laws and those who tortured.

      One of our negotiating leverages in the historical past was our “somewhat” “human rights” record. Effectively, all our global negotiating leverage is gone. Our hope of an imperfect-perfect democracy paired with freedom is effectively destroyed. “Who decided to make that happen?” is the question we need to answer. Answer “that” question and we will understand how to seek justice.

      Additionally, why on earth would we adopt practices that end up threatening our own military? Is the threat intended?

      On a related note…

      Some focal attacks to destroy a democracy from an intel prespective: (1)Destroy the fourth estate without appearing as doing so. (2) Destroy the country’s “somewhat” human rights record thus demolishing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (3)Destroy the economy by total deregulation.(4)Infiltrate the military and intel. (5)Destabilize all societal structure and divide through extremism via media/propaganda.

      The language “justice and accountability” can be used within a “free” and secure setting.

      The language “…vengeance, retribution, laying blame, witch hunt…” are used when in a threatened position and trying to deflect attention on justice. This change in language seems out-of-character for Obama. Perhaps we just received some insight as to what is really going on?

      I know…crazy thoughts.

      Your observation of Obama just got me thinking…

      • Leen says:

        We heard Bush, Cheney, Rove spinning accountability as ‘witch hunts, blame”. Obama , Holder and Panetta are using the same language.

        I heard this during Senator Sherrod Brown’s campaign too. When I heard this same language come out of Brown’s mouth I was floored. I asked him that question at a meeting when I asked him about holding those responsible for the false pre-war intelligence accountable. Brown’s response ‘we don’t want to get caught up in a blame game” I was in shock….but shot back “since when did justice and accountability start being spun as a blame game”

        Both parties have used language like this. What the fuck are they hiding. Their own complicity in these crimes?

        Just a month ago I saw a young girl (22) in wrist and ankle shackles, orange jumpsuit in our local court house for possession of marijuana (don’t know how much) She had been in jail for over a week.

        This young woman will suffer more repercussion for breaking the drug laws than for the folks who slammed people’s heads against the wall and waterboarding. How can anyone in the justice system wonder why there is an immense amount of disrespect and disregard for this so called justice system? What a sham

  19. fatster says:

    Early morning round-up of some reactions to the torture memos, for those interested:

    talkingpointsmemo highlights Ghul…..16?ref=fp1

    Mark Benjamin on whether torture has stopped…..7/torture/

    Alex Kopplman on whether Bush officials could be prosecuted…..secutions/

    Koppelman on Abu Zubaydah…..7/suskind/

    Spanish prosecution for war crimes “all but doomed”…..-doomed/#-

    Human Rights Watch reacts…

    Amnesty International reacts…..0090417001

  20. TheraP says:

    Here’s how I read their arguments:

    A. Bad things happened.

    B. This was one of the bad guys.

    C. More bad things might happen.

    D. Bad guy isn’t telling us about A or C.

    E. We need to find a way to get the bad guy to talk about A and C.

    F. Here are 10 methods to do that.

    G. These methods have been done to healthy volunteers in safe settings.

    H. Prisoners are equatable to volunteers.

    I. Looks ok to me!

    Obama has asked me to reflect. I have done so.

    This is torture!

    Time to investigate, prosecute, punish.

  21. BayStateLibrul says:

    I’m disappointed with the Globule.
    In prior years, this story would lead the headlines.
    Now it’s on page 2.
    I think most folks unfortunately believe in revenge and payback,
    and relegate the issue to page 15.
    Sorry state indeed.

  22. Leen says:…..bu_ghraib/
    click the gallery photos.

    Feith, Yoo etc those guys sure know how to change the rules

    Abu Ghraib Victims Can Sue Interrogators
    by William Fisher, April 17, 2009
    Email This | Print This | Share This

    In a ruling that could have widespread implications for government contractors overseas, a federal court has concluded that four former Abu Ghraib detainees, who were tortured and later released without charge, can sue the U.S. military contractor who was involved in conducting prisoner interrogations for the Pentagon in Iraq.…..rrogators/

  23. klynn says:


    I heard this during Senator Sherrod Brown’s campaign too. When I heard this same language come out of Brown’s mouth I was floored. I asked him that question at a meeting when I asked him about holding those responsible for the false pre-war intelligence accountable. Brown’s response ‘we don’t want to get caught up in a blame game” I was in shock….but shot back “since when did justice and accountability start being spun as a blame game”

    You just floored me with that first hand account. Wonder how his wife would answer your question?

    So we are effectively not even in “an appearance of” state of justice.

    • Leen says:

      She was sitting right behind me in the Athens city building when I asked Brown this question and then responded. I turned around and looked at her face just after his response.

      She knew it was a bullshit answer

  24. Mary says:

    The point you are making on the lies is part of what I was getting at in my comment yesterday:

    Mad Dog gets to the first one – because they are more fact recitation dense, the individuals highlighted in the authorization chain and also in the chain of certifying to OLC what they say was going on come to the fore on liability. Brennan, Tenet, and in particular Rizzo, OMS and really revolting physician/psychologists. There you have a lot of issues, including the fact there appear to be some glaring and intentional misrepresenations which may go to invalidating chunks of the opinions EVEN IF you bought into any of it (for example, the mental status information on Zubaydah).

    One really important factor imo, and one which goes to moving Bradbury to the top of the list (even over Yoo) is that the 2005 memos were prepared with OLC having access to the IG’s report. The one we aren’t getting to see. And Bradbury specifically acknowledges, on waterboarding, that the IG’s report pretty much makes it clear that Rizzo had lied to OLC.

    And yet…

    … Bradbury still goes on to base his opinion on Rizzos representations on the use of the techniques.

    At this point we can probably also figure out that some of the many other issues involved in the CIA “interrogations” were in front of Bradbury from that IG report and yet he never updates any of the fact recitations. The dead like Jamadi and the torture victim frozen to death in Nov 2002 pretty much are non-living proof that the CIA interrogations are not being conducted as Rizzo laid out (so as disgusting as all that is, quite clearly the fact record in front of Bradbury was detailed and disproved the allegations of limitations)

    So while Yoo does just rely on Rizzo, Bradbury has the IG report right in his lap and STILL ignores the facts in it, even where they prove Rizzo’s prior misrepresentations. There’s almost a sly wink in those memos when he discusses how “you” (Rizzo, to whom the memo is addressed) have read Z’s diaries – those are the diaries by the “Hannis” and there is never any mention of the multiple personality issues.

    There is also a very solid assertion of fact by Yoo (which gets watered down by Bradbury but is still made) that Z is an actual member of Al-Qaeda and more than that,that Z is No. 3 or 4 or in the Al-Qaeda organization. And the authorization to torture is based on that affirmative fact represenation made by Rizzo. Noor al-Deen and his interrogation information? Not mentioned. Bradbury does re-visit the “high value detainee” issue a bit for Zubaydah and others and moves the ball from the “high up member of al-Qaeda” line to *member of some kind of amorphous and non-specified terrorist group*.

    There is a tremendous amount to be picked apart, including the really pisspoor way Bradbury tries to toss in authorization to use those “techniques” on not just specific persons in specific situations, but against ANY “detainees” (not even premised on their being a combatant or terrorist supporter etc.) and how he tries to justify the the ability to abuse any detainee based on the mosaic theory – no longer does he use the kind of exigent circumstances rationale that Yoo had tried to frame out (by listing the reasons that had to exist to allow for the “enhanced techniques”), instead he says that you can sometimes get all this little bits of info that are worthwhile even from guys not at all involved in al-Qaeda, so sure, go ahead and use any of this crap on anyone you pick up guys.

    Bradbury is basically smarter than Yoo imo and so he tries to cover more bases – but he’s the creepiest real world model of a Uriah Heep-ish lawyer that I’ve seen.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yup. Working on that post now.

      As to this:

      Bradbury is basically smarter than Yoo imo and so he tries to cover more bases – but he’s the creepiest real world model of a Uriah Heep-ish lawyer that I’ve seen.

      Superb rant, Mary. Thanks.

    • Leen says:

      dead, frozen, mentally destroyed “disappeared”

      I have been amazed by how many former Cia analyst have come out and said these “enhanced interrogation techniques” do not generally work.

  25. Mary says:

    38 – I don’t think you can discount Coleman’s assessment just because he was not a psychologist (and I have to say, the use of physicians, psychologists and the OMS office and personnel are the only thing I’ve seen that challenges the use of the DOJ and other admin lawyers for sicknesss) He was a trained interrogator with as much background as anyone on the players involved. In any event, you have multiple layers of the mistatements to OLC, and while I don’t think you can discount Coleman’s mental states assessment that he has been very open and public about, there is also the very blatant misrepresentation that Zubaydah was No. 3 or 4 in Al-Qaeda. It doesn’t take a psychologist to disprove that, it does take someone like Coleman and he was forthright and up front.

    But Bush had already told the country that Z was that important. So for Rizzo trying to ingratiate himself and for Yoo’s OLC, that became the new reality. Not what was true, but what Bush wanted to be true. And it wasn’t really about trying to disrupt plans and schemes – as Suskind notes, it was about not letting Bush down by making him “look good” and getting something out of a guy who wasn’t what they said he was. And of course, once you start the torture and don’t get anything worthwhile, you are locked into having to keep torturing – because your whole original justification was that you “had” to torture to get “necessary” intelligence.

    One of the really disturbing parts of the memos was the description of how a detainee avoided getting tortured. To do that, the was a ‘high threshold’ requirement of the detainee offering up information on existing planned future attacks. If they didn’t give that up, they were in line for torture. If they didn’t have it to give up -? We know what happens then. What always happens when people adopt *torturer* as their persona.

  26. klynn says:


    Thank you for all your work on the OLC memos. It gets difficult for me to focus on the details at times because the larger picture is a disturbing distraction. Thanks for being focused for me.

    So while Yoo does just rely on Rizzo, Bradbury has the IG report right in his lap and STILL ignores the facts in it, even where they prove Rizzo’s prior misrepresentations. There’s almost a sly wink in those memos when he discusses how “you” (Rizzo, to whom the memo is addressed) have read Z’s diaries – those are the diaries by the “Hannis” and there is never any mention of the multiple personality issues.

    Well stated Mary. Sums up intentional actions on his part. Thanks.

  27. bmaz says:

    Contrary to Obama’s suggestion, these memos should not correct any assumptions we’ve made about the torture our government conducted in our name. Rather, they should make it crystal clear that John Rizzo lied repeatedly about what the CIA was doing.

    Rizzo, John Rizzo. Such a common name. Say isn’t there a John Rizzo that is the key cog in the information train that “Bull” Durham is using to find no criminal conduct in the criminal destruction of the torture tapes?

    Okay, I posed a rhetorical question.

  28. Mary says:

    Getting to the nitty gritty, in addition to how things walk back to Brennan and Rizzo, another reason that no one wanted the memos released is not just how egregious and bad they are, but also how little cover they actually do provide for things that were done. The deaths by hypothermia and blunt trauma that have been reported didn’t result from any of those “approved” tactics.

    Beyond that, even the analysis of what can be done and in what combinations ignores the two biggest and most inter-related items –

    “disappearing” and isolation

    Unlike SERE, all of these techniques were being applied to someone who had been disappeared and nowhere is there any discussion of any kind about that very central issue. It is coming to the fore a bit in the roundabout way of habeas corpus suits, but I don’t know of any civilized nation and people anywhere who don’t view having a government assume the right to disappear people across the world with abhorrence. And I don’t see any discussion of the effect on the family of someone disappeared under the torture statute. I guess no one wants to ante up and say there’s no prolonged mental suffering for a child whose parent is disappeared into torture.

    They also never really discuss isolation, other than a quickie reference in Yoo’s first memo to the 30 day limitation of a period where there will only be a new interrogator and a psyhologist having any relationship with the detainee.

    Bradbury specifically references the Hilo v. Marcos case on multiple occassions and yet never discusses the application of the isolation factor from that case vis a vis the CIA detentions. Especially because, unlike when Yoo wrote his memo, by the time Bradbury is writing, years of isoloatino have taken place.

    Actually, the reference to that case would almost be humorous if it were not so chilling. In the discussion of sleep deprivation, Bradbury says you do have this case where sleep deprivation was a part of an assortment of things done that were considered torture, but hey, it was just one of several things so the court might not have meant sleep deprivation by itself. Then in the waterboarding section he says hey, that same case describes a man who was given the “water torture” and finds that there was torture, but you know, a) the Judge probably didn’t really mean to call it water torture as “torture” but instead just used that as an off hand reference, and b) there were things other than water torture done to the guy (oh, you mean like the sleep deprivation Stevie? – you know, from your earlier section and discussion?)

    The main other issue for that man was the years of isolation – you have to kind of think that a lawyer trying to “distinguish” his case from what was being done to the detainees might mention that, but I guess even the OMS guys and lawyers didn’t want to cough up memos on disappearing people and keeping them in isolation for years having no bad effects.

    You also have to think that, in all the discussions by Bradbury of “well, we aren’t really sure what will happen to these guys when you do all this stuff to them” at some point the Executive Order on human experimentation might have crossed his mind.

    You also have the issue of drugs and drugging. Almost all the detainees had episodes involving not only being stripped and hooded (and the memos don’t discuss hooding and sight deprivation) but also of having their anus probed and being drugged with suppository drugs. Something else not touched on by Bradbury or Yoo, despite their rapt descriptions of how people touching all the naked men are trained on how not to get excited. blergh.

    And then there are the issues of threats against family members. From the reports on al-Libbi and others and even Higazy’s information from his US interrogation, the interrogators were really happy to include references to raping family members.

    Then there are the threats to (and follow through on) shipping people to Jordan, Syria, Morocco, etc. for things like penis razoring.

    Not so much in the memos about that.

    The problem is that Obama is claiming that all this is “policy” and not crimes, so we should slavishly adore the kind new king, who is going to have a “kinder, gentler” policy, as long as he’s in the mood. That argument become the argument – that an Executive can order up torture on demand. It is especially chilling with his assertion that it is also just fine to go around and take people from anywhere and hold them forever without habeas. Oh, if he has to he’ll close GITMO and maybe some will get trials, but he’ll dispose of others as he thinks is good “policy” and besides, he doesn’t need GITMO, he can disappear people to Bagram as a matter of policy, and keep them there without habeas.

    And conspire to ship them off to other places like Syria for more torture as a matter of “policy” as well.

    IMO, someone needs to re-bring el-Masri’s suit as a TVA claim for his children. And let’s see the OLC memo on how there’s no problem with disappearing a child’s father as an “accident.”

    • TheraP says:

      I like your analysis, Mary.

      It seems to me the reason they make such as big deal about trying to “prove” someone has such a resilient and well-defended personality is to buttress the “reasons” for using torture. And to me, it’s like they’re saying: “We have to break down this personality.” And we’re torturing for the purpose of breaking down a personality. So, I would say, in addition to the methods by which they tortured, and I totally agree that among the methods is “disappearing” (the prolonged isolation and incarceration without any legal recourse whatsoever, with no Red Cross monitoring etc.), the “purpose” of the torture (being “personality breakdown”) is itself cruel and unusual; it is degrading and demeaning. And there is no way to claim that “personality breakdown” is temporary and has no long-lasting consequences, particularly when you break down the personality and leave them cold, unfed, isolated and so on “forever”!

      So, to summarize, my view is that they proposed to effect “personality breakdown” – and they laid out why and how that was ok. They tortured to effect “permanent mental torture”!!!

  29. Mary says:

    51 – I don’t know that Rizzo did interview, did he? I didn’t see that but he might have.

    Here’s the point, though. It has to do with the “cherry picking” vs the actual mental states. A reliance opinion is that because it goes to all relevant facts. The opinion then pretends to offer up information as to the physical and mental health or lack thereof as a prerequisite to the application of the torture/enhanced techniques.

    So the opinion only mentions these “mood” type references and never even mentions fact issues like, “one experienced FBI with extensive al-Qaeda experience disputes the designation of Z as No. 3 or 4 in al-Qaeda and also disputes that he is mentally healthy. In part the FBI agent points to diaries that were written by Z in the name(s) of Hanni (1,2 and 3) and which seem to be written in different personas” Now, if it had mentioned that and gone on to say “psychologist A (but no pyschiatrists) have reviewed those diaries and also peformed an interview of Z and (go on to detail) and based on those A is convinced that, despite the odd diaries, Z’s mental state is not more fragile or more susceptible to injury from the enhanced techniques…. yada yada —- then you’d have a different situation. But no one even mentions this info in the supposed reliance opinion. That is cherrypicking I think and is the kind of thing that undercuts the value. You don’t withhold relevant facts or possibly relevant facts or irrelevant facts that still look really bad to generate a reliance opinion. You put them out there and deal with them, and if you don’t, then there is no cover of reliance for the opninion’s conclusions as those facts dribble out.

  30. rkilowatt says:

    1. Is there confusion of relevant words? A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor [M.D.] with specialty training in psychiatry. A psychologist has no medical training requirement and is rarely an M.D.

    2.Redacted “documents” are always suspect, as are the givers of such docs. For example, even a redacted name of a person has been known to cover that a doc is a forgery [the name found to be in different typeface in separately disovered, authentic copy of the “doc”.]

    3. Reference to an “expert” is silly without agreement on qualification of said “expert”. Ever notice that “experts” abound in proportion to how little is known about the field of “expertise”?
    There are not many arithmatic experts. Or walking experts. Or legibility experts. Or ditchdigging experts. Or tapemeasure experts.

    But lots of economics experts!

    • marymccurnin says:

      A psychologist has no medical training requirement and is rarely an M.D.

      A psychologist is only a M.D. if that person happens to also have an M.D. degree.

  31. Beerfart Liberal says:


    At least one high-profile attorney [Rivkin] says the declassified Department of Justice memos detailing interrogation techniques prove the U.S. did not torture, even as the ACLU and some lawmakers claim the memos are proof positive the Bush administration did.

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