Neil A. Lewis has two powerful stories in this morning's New York Times. "Justice Dept. Toughens Rule on Torture" (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/01/politics/01torture.html)
and "Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo" (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/01/national/01gitmo.html) inside the paper.
Both are recommended. We'll do a cutting from both below. Just before Alberto Gonzales (will use the "R." when he tells us what it stands for) is to go before the Senate (he wants to replace J-Ass as attorney general), a new policy is suddenly put into place regarding torture:
The Justice Department has broadened its definition of torture, significantly retreating from a memorandum in August 2002 that defined torture extremely narrowly and said President Bush could ignore domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security.
The new definition was in a memorandum posted on the department's Web site late Thursday night with no public announcement.
. . .
The new memorandum, first reported in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, largely dismisses the August 2002 definition, especially the part that asserted that mistreatment rose to the level of torture only if it produced severe pain equivalent to that associated with organ failure or death.
"Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms," said the new memorandum written by Daniel Levin, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, which had produced the earlier definition.
. . .
A memorandum in January 2002 to President Bush that Mr. Gonzales signed sided with the Justice Department in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not bind the United States in its treatment of detainees captured in the fighting in Afghanistan.
[from front page article]
"We are detaining these enemy combatants in a humane manner," General [Geoffrey D.] Miller told reporters in March 2004. "Should our men or women be held in similar circumstances, I would hope they would be treated in this manner."
[from inside the paper story; Miller was "the commander of the Guantánamo operation from November 2002 to March 2004" (Lewis's inside the paper article). Where is Miller today?
House and Senate members are also focusing on the role of Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was so effective at eliciting useful information from terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he was named last month to run U.S. prisons in Iraq. It was Miller who recommended last September that military intelligence officials have command over prisons and prison guards to improve the intelligence gleaned from interrogations. -- Army Times, May 17th (http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-2923919.php)]
Interviews with former intelligence officers and interrogators provided new details and confirmed earlier accounts of inmates being shackled for hours and left to soil themselves while exposed to blaring music or the insistent meowing of a cat-food commercial. In addition, some may have been forcibly given enemas as punishment.
While all the detainees were threatened with harsh tactics if they did not cooperate, about one in six were eventually subjected to those procedures, one former interrogator estimated. The interrogator said that when new interrogators arrived they were told they had great flexibility in extracting information from detainees because the Geneva Conventions did not apply at the base.
[from story inside the paper]
Military officials who participated in the practices said in October that prisoners had been tormented by being chained to a low chair for hours with bright flashing lights in their eyes and audio tapes played loudly next to their ears, including songs by Lil' Kim and Rage Against the Machine and rap performances by Eminem.
In a recent interview, another former official added new details, saying that many interrogators used a different audio tape on prisoners, a mix of babies crying and the television commercial for Meow Mix in which the jingle consists of repetition of the word "meow."
The people who spoke about what they saw or whose duties made them aware of what was occurring said they had different reasons for granting interviews. Some said they objected to the methods, others said they objected to what they regarded as a chaotic and badly run system, while others offered no reason. They all declined to be identified by name, some saying they feared retaliation.
[from story inside the paper]
Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has sued the administration over its interrogation policies, said Friday that the redefinition "makes it clear that the earlier one was not just some intellectual theorizing by some lawyers about what was possible."
"It means it must have been implemented in some way," Mr. Ratner said. "It puts the burden on the administration to say what practices were actually put in place under those auspices."
The International Committee of the Red Cross has said in private messages to the United States government that American personnel have engaged in torture of detainees, both in Iraq and at Guantánamo.
[from story on the front page]
Neil A. Lewis has two strong articles. Both need to be read to get a fuller picuture. (I won't say complete because I think more will emerge.)