In my last post, I showed how the Bybee Two memo, purporting to find each of ten torture techniques used with Abu Zubaydah legal, was a very specific response to John Yoo’s July 13 memo to John Rizzo. The July 13 memo had basically said, “if you consult with experts that tell you techniques won’t cause prolonged mental harm, then it will “negate” any intent you had to use specific acts listed in the torture statute to cause mental pain and suffering.” So, in response, CIA barraged John Yoo and Jennifer Koester with information purportedly showing that waterboarding and sleep deprivation did not cause prolonged mental harm, Yoo and Koester threw it into a memo, and said that as a result those techniques weren’t torture.
But there’s a problem with the gimmick (even aside from the offensiveness of the premise): the timing.
The memo itself bears evidence that the CIA had already used at least some of these techniques by the time they asked for the opinion. And the details we now know surrounding the process make it clear that they didn’t even consult the experts until after they used some of the techniques. Indeed, it appears that one of the studies they claim to have “consulted” was actually an experiment they conducted on Abu Zubaydah himself. That is, they’re citing their own “study” on Abu Zubaydah as their expert advice to prove they didn’t have the intent of causing him prolong mental suffering.
The torturers had already used the techniques before getting approval
Now, there are many reasons to suspect that the torturers used waterboarding (and perhaps mock burial) before August 1. But I can’t prove that. But their single-minded concern about mental suffering–and not physical suffering–dating back at least to July 10, 2002 strongly suggests that they may have already done something to cause AZ prolonged mental suffering. Otherwise, what would explain the imbalance in their focus?
But there are several details in the Bybee Two memo itself that show they had already used some of the techniques on AZ.
Take, for example, my observation of the other day: a draft of Abu Zubaydah’s psychological evaluation noted that “he showed strong signs of sympathetic nervous system arousal (possibly fear) when he experienced the initial ‘hard’ dislocation of expectation intervention following session 63.” [my emphasis] Well, it turns out we have seen that term, “dislocation of expectation” before … in the Bybee Two memo, where Yoo describes the whole point of the ten torture techniques!
As part of this increased pressure phase, Zubaydah will have contact only with a new interrogation specialist, whom he has not met previously, and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (“SERE”) training psychologist who has been involved with the interrogations since they began. This phase will likely last no more than several days but could last up to thirty days. In this phase, you would like to employ ten techniques that you believe will dislocate his expectation regarding the treatment he believes he will receive and encourage him to disclose the crucial information mentioned above. [my emphasis]
They knew at this point that AZ had already been subjected to such a condition, even while they were purportedly approving the ten techniques in the future.
More damning, though, are the admissions that they had already subjected him to sleep deprivation. There’s the admission they had subjected him to sleep deprivation in the description of the technique itself.
You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.
Then there’s a more interesting reference, because it shows up in the section on page 8 that regurgitates his psychological evaluation.
During detention, Zubadaydah has manged his mood, remaining at most points “circumspect, calm, controlled, and deliberate.” He has maintained his 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). [my emphasis]
Now, this entire larger section repeats back the content of the psychological evaluation (though the use of the word “confrontational” shows they were citing from the later draft of it), almost all in the same order at the paragraph level as it appears in the evaluation. There is nothing in the unredacted document referring to sleep deprivation. But this entire passage otherwise replicates the paragraph spanning pages 3-4 of the evaluation. Which strongly suggests that the redaction also spanning pages 3-4 includes a discussion of both aggressive interrogations and sleep deprivation.
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