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A German researcher has studied medieval criminal law and found that our image of the sadistic treatment of criminals in the Dark Ages is only partly true. Torture and gruesome executions were designed in part to ensure the salvation of the convicted person’s soul.
Peter Nirsch would have been seen as a monster at any time in history. While traveling south through Germany, he had a penchant for cutting open pregnant women and removing their unborn babies. Nirsch butchered more than 500 people before he was captured near Nuremberg in September 1581.
The courts were not squeamish in their treatment of the serial killer. First he was tortured, and then hot oil was poured into his wounds. Then the culprit was tied to the rack, where his arms and legs were broken.
Tag Archives | Torture
Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:
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Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern published a brilliant and damning piece regarding former President Bush’s upcoming memoir, Decision Points. In his essay, McGovern points out W’s little talked about “damn right” remarks he made when authorizing the waterboarding of terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Not only did W sign off on the form torture as an acceptable practice, but added “damn right” and asserted that the torture saved lives.
McGovern not only points out the glaring falsehood in that assertion, but shows exactly how the torture of prisoners became a recruiting tool for insurgents in Iraq. In addition, he rightly states that the under-reporting of the torture issue in the media, coupled with plenty of support (or shoulder shrugging) of the American public at large implicates us all. The essay comes on the heels of Bush’s related comments regarding the “lowest point” in his presidency, when Kanye West hurt his feelings by saying he didn’t care about black people during Hurricane Katrina.
A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is "tantamount to torture." The mechanism, known as an "Assault Intervention Device," is a stripped-down version of a military gadget...
Press release from the ACLU, via Common Dreams:
NEW YORK – July 15 – A federal judge today ruled that the government can withhold information from the public about intelligence sources and methods, even if those sources and methods were illegal. The ruling came in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union for Justice Department memos that authorized torture, and for records relating to the contents of destroyed videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of detainees at CIA black sites.
The government continues to withhold key information, such as the names of detainees who were subjected to the abusive interrogation methods as well as information about the application of the interrogation techniques. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today ruled that the government can continue to suppress evidence of its illegal program.
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:
“We are very dismayed by today’s ruling, which invests the CIA with sweeping authority to conceal evidence of its own illegal conduct.… Read the rest
Nick Baumann and Daniel Schulman tell how human rights advocates investigating torture ended up snooping on the CIA—and in hot water with the feds, in Mother Jones:
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The CIA probably doesn’t want you to know this, but unmasking its covert operatives isn’t as hard as you’d think. Just ask John Sifton. During a six-year stint at Human Rights Watch, the attorney and investigator was hot on the trail of the CIA and some of its most sensitive Bush-era counterterrorism programs, including extraordinary rendition, secret Eastern European detention sites, and the legally dubious and brutal methods used to extract information from detainees. “Even deep-cover CIA officers are real people, with mortgages and credit reports,” Sifton once told CQ Politics. For researchers with a trained eye for the hallmarks of a CIA alias, there are obvious giveaways: “A brand new Social Security number, a single P.O. box in Reston, Virginia. You disregard those and focus on the real persons who lie behind, and you can find them.”
Sifton’s talent for uncovering the CIA’s secrets may have served him well—but now, it also has set off a firestorm in the human rights community, prompted a backlash from congressional Republicans, and helped trigger a federal investigation headed by none other than Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame affair.
Nick Pell at Red Star Times writes:
How many of you have woken up over the last couple weeks and almost immediately thought: damn, the world is in the toilet? Me too. The last month or so has been perhaps one of the most horrible times I have ever experienced, with the beginning of the Iraq War being one of the few things that even comes close.
Whether or not it’s a Chinese curse, the adage about living in “interesting times” becomes more and more apt with each passing week. Despite how awful things are, there seems to be a lingering scent of resistance in the air. I concede that this could entirely be wish-fulfillment and solipsism on my part, but it seems as if things could explode at any second.
Explosions in and of themselves go nowhere, however. A political analysis and direction is necessary to make an explosion travel in the right direction.… Read the rest
Dead at 89, Paul Schaefer sounds like a monster out of a horror movie, but he was terrifyingly real. Strangest detail: “He had a glass eye, having accidentally gouged out his right eye while trying to untie a shoelace knot with a fork.” The Washington Post reports:
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Paul Schaefer, 89, a German-born evangelical preacher who was convicted of sexually abusing 25 children while leading one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semitic and apocalyptic sects, died April 24 of a heart ailment at a prison hospital in Chile.
His enclave in southern Chile, Colonia Dignidad…doubled during the 1970s and ’80s as a detention and torture center for opponents of right-wing dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
At the time of his death, Mr. Schaefer was still under investigation in the 1985 disappearance of mathematician Boris Weisfeiler, an American citizen who went missing while hiking near Colonia Dignidad.
Mr. Schaefer turned to preaching after serving in the German military during World War II.
Is a crusading French documentary maker striking a blow at the abusive powers of television — or simply taking reality TV to a new low of cynicism and bad taste? That's the question viewers across France are asking in light of Christophe Nick's new film Game of Death, which aired on French television Wednesday night. The documentary has generated a massive amount of attention — and naturally, courted controversy — because of the dilemma that faced contestants on a fake game show in the film: Would they allow themselves to be cajoled into delivering near-lethal electrical charges to fellow players, or rather follow their better instincts and refuse? Game of Death is an adaptation of an infamous experiment conducted by a team led by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. In order to test people's obedience to authority figures, the scientists demanded that subjects administer increasingly strong electric shocks to other participants if they answered questions incorrectly. The people delivering the shocks, however, didn't know that the charges were fake — the volunteers on the other end of the room were actors pretending to suffer agonizing pain. The point was to see how many people would continue following orders to mete out torture.
MARK BENJAMIN writes on Salon:
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Self-proclaimed waterboarding fan Dick Cheney called it a no-brainer in a 2006 radio interview: Terror suspects should get a “a dunk in the water.” But recently released internal documents reveal the controversial “enhanced interrogation” practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney’s description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.
Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney “specially designed” to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner’s nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking — and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.
The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding “session.” Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath.
Documents reveal that burying detainees alive was sought as an interrogation method by the Bush’s torture psychologists, but rejected by the Department of Justice “in the rush to approve waterboarding”:
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CIA’s torturers asked DOJ to let them use mock burials. But DOJ said no.
PDF page 42 of the OPR Report (searchable copy here) includes a list of the torture techniques that Mitchell and Jessen recommended be used with Abu Zubaydah. Whereas the Bybee Two Techniques memo approves ten techniques, Mitchell and Jessen recommended twelve. In other words, Mitchell and Jessen asked for two techniques to be approved that did not get specific approval.
The twelfth technique–which Mitchell and Jessen wanted approved but which Yoo excluded because of the rush to approve waterboarding–is mock burial.
There must have been significant discussion about the decision to exclude mock burial from the Bybee Two memo, because the reference to its exclusion in the report itself (PDF page 60 in the Final Report) includes a page and a half of redactions following the discussion of leaving it out.