Eric Holder: Well, Maybe Just a Little Forced Nudity and Solitary Confinement…

Eric Holder has written a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Valdimirovich Konovalov. In it, he claims to address the issues Edward Snowden raised in his application for asylum to Russia (I’m not sure he accurately represents the claim — in other asylum applications Snowden made a clear case he was charged with a political crime, which Holder doesn’t mention at all).

The letter assures Konovalov that the charges currently charged don’t carry the death penalty and the government wouldn’t seek the death penalty if he were charged with such crimes.

But it also offers this guarantee that Snowden won’t be tortured:

Second, Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.

That’s it! The guy whose DOJ reviewed but chose not to charge a bunch of CIA torturers (and those who obstructed investigations into that torture) says torture is illegal here and therefore Snowden wouldn’t be tortured.

Assuming, of course, you believe the forced nudity and solitary confinement Bradley Manning was illegally (per the judge in his case) subjected to doesn’t amount to torture. I’m sure Vladimir Putin would agree, but much of the civilized world does not.

In other curious assurances, Holder promises that Snowden would have the right to counsel.

Any questioning of Mr. Snowden could be conducted only with his consent: his participation would be entirely voluntary, and his legal counsel would be present should he wish it.

I guess Holder ought to tell Dzhokhar Tsarnaev about this return to the good old days, because he asked for a lawyer several times under questioning before he got one.

These assurances are all very nice. But more and more, such assurances are easily disproven by our recent history. Again, I don’t think Vlad Putin gives a great shit about all that. But ultimately this increasingly shoddy recent history will hurt such claims in the international realm.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

33 replies
  1. bsbafflesbrains says:

    So Russia responds “Show me evidence you are prosecuting people who admitted torturing like GWB and then we can talk”.

  2. thatvisionthing says:

    John Walker Lindh, now legally gagged from speaking about it. Also was denied counsel.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/31/exclusive_john_walker_lindhs_parents_discuss

    FRANK LINDH: Well, this lawyer is heroic. He’s a wonderful lawyer, James Brosnahan in San Francisco. As soon as John was picked up on the 1st of December, I went in on Monday morning, the 3rd of December. I had known him as a lawyer. I asked him to represent my son. He agreed to do it. And he immediately, on that day, on the 3rd of December, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld; Secretary of State Powell; George Tenet, the director of CIA; several other government officials; and said, “I represent John Lindh. Please give me and his parents safe passage to come and visit with him.” So the government knew as of December 3rd. Attorney General Ashcroft was in that letter, as well, that John was represented by James Brosnahan.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

    FRANK LINDH: Well, the government never told him. They held him for fifty-four days incommunicado, until he was brought back to Washington, DC area, northern Virginia.

    AMY GOODMAN: Questioning him?

    FRANK LINDH: Oh, yes, yes, questioning. After the torture, he was brought in and said, “If you’ll talk to us, we’ll stop torturing you.”

  3. der says:

    Genius I swear. Putin’s playing right into our Commander-in-Chiefs elevendy dimensional hands, bringing back Boris and Natasha, getting the rabble roused. Now Mckayla Maroney is impressed. Led by fools.

  4. extegrity says:

    Non-refoulement is an absolute prohibition. Is Holder really enough of an ignoramus as to think he can lie his way out of documented torture? …oh wait, Holder got his job by lying about the US government’s extrajudicial killing of Martin Luther King. Lying is what Holder’s there to do.

    Let’s hope that Russia’s frisky legislators will rub Holder’s pornstachioed ferret face in the Big Lies he has plopped on the rug.

  5. jawbone says:

    Plus, our super max prisons with their solitary confinement, solitary limited exercise, no human contact is considered torture by the EU int terms of human rights. Right?

    The Holder thing is mostly for domestic consumption and is leading the NPR hourly new summaries. Good NPR, sit up, beg your listeners for money. Etc.

    (Edited for typo)

  6. Chetnolian says:

    What a truly sad day it is when the US Attorney General has to promise another government that it does not torture.

  7. orionATL says:

    “forced nudity and solitary confinement”

    but the real torture was sleep deprivation occasioned by having to answer a question from military prison guards every hour all night.

    was manning kept shackled?

    then there is whistleblower john kiriakou imprisoned in a special part of his federal prison called a “communications control unit”.

  8. grayslady says:

    Of course, Holder could always have him renditioned, right? The administration, in spite of trying to convince citizens that black ops sites have been closed down, still has “friendly” nations who don’t seem to mind that we torture people. Don’t forget Holder’s infamous speech at Northwestern University where he informed the students that “due process” was whatever the administration decided it was. Meanwhile, it was the Obama administration who continued to prosecute, and eventually imprison, John Kiriakou for publicly disclosing that torture was official White House policy. We have a very sick group of people running our country.

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    @grayslady: Can’t Eric just get Snowden with a drone by saying he was standing next to a terrorist target on Tuesday*? Some kind of process there somewhere.

    *blessed by moral rectitude death czar, hallowed be his process

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: From wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Walker_Lindh#Trial

    The court scheduled an evidence suppression hearing, at which Lindh would have been able to testify about the details of the torture to which he claimed he was subjected. The government faced the problem that a key piece of evidence – Lindh’s confession – might be excluded from evidence as having been forced under duress (i.e. torture).

    Michael Chertoff, then-head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, then directed the prosecutors to offer Lindh a plea bargain: […] He would have to consent to a gag order that would prevent him from making any public statements on the matter for the duration of his 20-year sentence, and he would have to drop any claims that he had been mistreated or tortured by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and aboard two military ships during December 2001 and January 2002. In return, all other charges would be dropped. The gag order was said to be at the request of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.[1]

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    @orionATL:

    YouTube: The Manning Cage, Melbourne Australia – Bourke Street Mall outside the General Post Office, June 1, 2013

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hBFB4f18PE

    “Are you ok?” … “Are you ok?” … “Are you ok?” … The guards would ask this question three or four times a night: “Are – you – O – K?”

    And Le Show, May 5, 2013:

    http://harryshearer.com/transcript-alexa-obrien-interview/

    HARRY SHEARER: Wasn’t there a period of time where guards were instructed to check on him and if he were asleep to wake him every five minutes?

    ALEXA O’BRIEN: That’s right. He went through that. And essentially every five minutes they would ask him if he was okay –

    HARRY SHEARER: (laughs)

    ALEXA O’BRIEN: – when he was on suicide risk. And they had a logbook specifically just for Manning. And it was so crazy and preposterous, like listening to the testimony, you know, that because they were forced to write this log they would write down everything, and then these items would be brought into court in a very sinister fashion.

  12. orionATL says:

    from the way this is unfolding i am getting a bad feeling that snowden is about to be handed over to the u.s. or kicked out of russia.

  13. tjallen says:

    We know how to waterboard people without torturing them! We know how to do mock executions with an electric drill without torturing them. We can wall slam, and slap silly without torturing! We play high volume music 24-7 to prevent sleep, and it isn’t torture. We can hold a person in a cell the size of a coffin without torturing them. We even know how to capture their wives and children and hold them secretly, without there ever being one wiff of torture!

  14. newz4all says:

    Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords

    Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57595529-38/feds-tell-web-firms-to-turn-over-user-account-passwords/

    Feds put heat on Web firms for master encryption keys

    Whether the FBI and NSA have the legal authority to obtain the master keys that companies use for Web encryption remains an open question, but it hasn’t stopped the usa government from trying.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57595202-38/feds-put-heat-on-web-firms-for-master-encryption-keys/

  15. grayslady says:

    @newz4all: Wow! Thanks for the links. I don’t typically read CNET news, but Declan McCullagh is a respected writer, so I suspect the leaks were directly to him.

  16. stevelaudig says:

    One is left wondering why Holder [or anyone else] bothers to say anything, no one who is paying attention should believe them. They must think most people are pretty stupid or effectively propagandized, or apathetic or all three. And that may be a correct assessment. “Torture is unlawful in the United States.” He doesn’t say that “Torture by, or at the behest of, the United States Government, is unlawful.” He doesn’t say it won’t be done. He identifies no prosecution of torturers [above the rank of private, corporal or sergeant, and few of those. If something is ‘unlawful’ and it is done then the perpetrators of the unlawful acts are prosecuted. In the US they are immunized. Cheney directed medical experiments in torture. John Yoo and Jay Bybee were accomplices before, and likely during. The USG has no moral credibility having tortured regularly since the War Against Philippine Independence 1898-1906 when it ‘discovered’ the Spanish techniques of water torture.

  17. JamesJoyce says:

    http://holt.house.gov/images/stories/Summary_of_the_Surveillance_State_Repeal_Act.pdf

    Summary of the Surveillance State Repeal Act
    The Surveillance State Repeal Act would:
    1. Repeal the PATRIOT Act (which contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision).
    2. Repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which contains the email harvesting provision).
    3. Ensure that any FISA collection against a US Person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause (which was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001).
    4. Retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific natural person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance.
    5. Retains provisions in current law dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. Persons.
    6. Prohibit the government from mandating that electronic device or software manufacturers build in so-called “back doors” to allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software.
    7. Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allow their reappointment.
    8. Mandate that the FISC utilize technologically competent Special Masters (technical and legal experts) to help determine the veracity of government claims about privacy, minimization and collection capabilities employed by the US government in FISA applications.
    9. Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law, including responding to Member requests for investigations and whistleblower complaints of wrongdoing.

  18. Archie1954 says:

    Don’t forget what the US considers torture. It’s torture if the victim dies and not otherwise. Also who would trust anything the US says? The lies and deceit that has been the government’s modus operandi would dissuade the most ardent American patriot from trusting the government, let alone the president of a competitor nation or a whistleblower who doesn’t want to die.

  19. Ronald says:

    The issue is as always power politics. Putin will do what’s right, or what he thinks is right, for Russia, and in this case it means hosting Obama in September. So it wd seem that Snowden will end up in jail for life, and, doubtless solitary confinement without his laptops.
    For a change the bad guys are winning.

Comments are closed.