Monday, July 23, 2007

The Un-Long-term Effects of Un-Torture (which, according to Mr. McConnell, we STILL don't want to inflict on US citizens)

Yesterday I reported Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell's bizarre (and breathless) "Meet the Press" string of claims that the US (1) doesn't use torture on detainees, that (2) he wouldn't like to see the untorture the US inflicts on foreign detainees inflicted on US citizens, and (3) but if it were, there'd be no permanent or longterm effects anyway. (As a sidenote: presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who never met an enhanced interrogation technique he didn't like, thinks The Decider's newly-released Executive Order on torture, the immediate reason for McConnell's TV appearance, is just peachy.)

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that the first and third claims made by McConnell are falsehoods (see this, for example), suggesting that he either knows nothing about torture or is lying. I'll take him at his word on the second claim, although history clearly shows that states which torture gradually extend the circle of those who are considered torturable.
Physicians for Human Rights has just released an executive summary of a forthcoming "Report on Criminality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," co-authored with Human Rights First. The entire summary is worth reading. One section in particular speaks to McConnell's idiotic claims:

"Medical literature clearly establishes that tactics such as the CIA’s reported “enhanced interrogation techniques cause the types of physical and mental anguish that are criminalized under the WCA and other laws. In a letter sent to Senator John McCain during the height of the MCA debate, several leading medical and psychological experts, including current and past presidents of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, conveyed this collective knowledge:

There must be no mistake about the brutality of the “enhanced interrogation methods” reportedly used by the CIA. Prolonged sleep deprivation, induced hypothermia, stress positions, shaking, sensory deprivation and overload, and water-boarding (which may still be authorized), among other reported techniques, can have a devastating impact on the victim’s physical and mental health.

The pain and suffering arising from the individual and combined use of water-boarding, hitting, induced hypothermia, prolonged bombardment with loud music and flashing lights, stress positions, total and long-term isolation, and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques is directly related to the purpose of these techniques: to “break” detainees, mentally and physically. The medical consequences of such abuse have been well-documented through years of research and treatment of survivors of violence and severe trauma.

Some of the enhanced techniques, particularly water-boarding, hitting, induced hypothermia, and stress positions are capable of causing “severe” or “serious” physical pain and suffering, the intentional infliction of which violates the “torture” and “cruel and inhuman treatment” provisions of the WCA. Each of the techniques can also cause significant psychological harm. According to one recent study, in fact, the significance of the harm caused by non-physical, psychological abuse is virtually identical to the significance of the harm caused by physical abuse.

This mental harm can take many different forms, including:

• Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), manifested in: prolonged, recurring flashbacks and nightmares; significant impairment and instability in life functions; suicidal ideation; and, weakened physical health, among other consequences. Rates of PTSD range from 45% to 92% of torture survivors, subjected to both physical and mental torture.

• Depressive disorder manifested in self-destructive and suicidal thoughts and behavior, and other characteristics.

• Psychosis, in the form of delusions, bizarre ideations and behaviors, perceptual distortions, and paranoia, among other manifestations.

These techniques, moreover, are generally used in combination – prolonged isolation, for example, combined with sleep deprivation, light and sound bombardment, and exposure to cold – compounding their devastating psychological impact."