Friday, July 08, 2005

NYT: "Army Finds Few Lapses in Health Care of Prisoners" (Eric Schmitt)

An Army assessment has found no evidence of systemic problems in medical care of prisoners at American detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba, Army officials said Thursday.
[. . .]

The review, however, was not intended to delve into accounts from some interrogators that military psychiatrists or psychologists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, provided advice on how to conduct coercive interrogations of detainees
[. . .]
As such, the assessment, which included interviews with more than 1,000 military medical personnel, shed no new light on the conduct of doctors involved in interrogations, particularly those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or BSCT, and informally referred to as biscuit teams.

The above is from Eric Schmitt's "Army Finds Few Lapses in Health Care of Prisoners" in this morning's New York Times. BSCT is a topic you'll be hearing more on due to Jane Mayer's article in The New Yorker. This article from the Times adds little to the discussion. As Schmitt notes, there was no intent for the review to explore the issues. The military investigated itself in a superficial manner and gave itself a verdict of "not guilty." Is that surprising? Is that news?

It is news in regards to the report coming out just as people are beginning to talk about Mayer's article "The Experiment." Though the article is not available online yet (and may not end up being made available online), "Q. & A.: In Gitmo," a discussion of the article conducted by Amy Davidson, is available online.

We noted this discussion Wednesday and we'll note another portion of it today:

Davidson: You talk about a period in late 2002 and 2003 when there was a great deal of pressure on the interrogators at Guantánamo to get results. How high up does responsibility for what happens in an interrogation room go?
Mayer: When the commanders in Guantánamo wanted permission to use more coercive interrogation methods than those allowed under the U.S. Military Code of Justice, their requests went up to the top of the Pentagon, to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This is where responsibility resides.

We'll also note that Democracy Now! has aired one of a two part interview with Jane Mayer on this subject. (The other installment may or may not air today due to yesterday's events.)

From Wednesday's "The Gitmo Experiment: How Methods Developed by the U.S. Military For Withstanding Torture are Being Used Against Detainees at Guantanamo Bay" where the issue of the methods developed by behavioral scientists for US soldiers to withstand torture had found a new use:

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the curriculum.
JANE MAYER: It's bizarre to many of us who are not part of the military, I think. It’s a curriculum that is designed to create maximum stress and anxiety. They talk about acute anxiety. The idea is that if we can put our own people through something almost as bad as what they might have to go through if they were taken captive, they will inoculate themselves. It would be like practicing going off a high dive. So under very, very carefully monitored circumstances, soldiers in danger of being taken captive are put through this classified program in which they -- they're hooded, they’re bound, they're deprived of sleep, they’re exposed to extremes of temperature, they’re held in tiny little cells, they are starved to some extent. They are sometimes water-boarded which is a form of torture in which you're bound to a board and they pour water on your face so that you can’t breathe; you have the sense that you’re going to die of asphyxiation.
And to me, it was interesting, some of the people I had interviewed who knew the insides to this program said that they also, to create anxiety and upset in the soldiers, they take Bibles and they trash them. They throw them on the ground, they rip them in the air. Many of the soldiers are quite religious, and it is very upsetting to see this happen to them. And, you know, for the people that I talked to who knew the program well, when we began reading about Korans being trashed, a number of people said, 'Oh, my god,' you know, they just wondered -- they thought, 'God, there is a, you know, connection between these things.' And, in fact, there is a connection, the people who designed this here program and who implement it are the same people who are overseeing and helping in the interrogations of detainees in places like Guantanamo.

Again, there is a second part to the interview and it may air today on Democracy Now! so watch (read or listen) for that.

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