Reason Morning Links: Sneaky Banks, Careless Bureaucrats, Musical Bloggers

• The White House releases the torture memos that guided the Bush-era CIA. Obama won't prosecute the agents involved. (Some people see some ambiguity in his language. Maybe, but I'm not convinced the loophole is deliberate.)

• Banks look for ways to refuse bailout money without actually refusing all the bailout money.

• The City of Baltimore finds $40 million under the cushions.

• The Department of Homeland Security, not content to fret about broadly defined "right-wing extremists," is worried about broadly defined "left-wing extremists," too. Meanwhile, Michael German of the ACLU points out some of the problems with "threat reports that focus on ideology instead of criminal activity."

• The trouble with the Pakistan drone attacks.

• "How dangerous are the Taliban?"

• Bloggers ignore copyright laws, make long-forgotten music available again.

• Suspicious behavior: using the wrong operating system.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    yo fuck boston college.

  • Josh||

    When does invoking your inner-Gerald Ford make you an advocate of change?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Releasing the Bush memos shows that President Obama believes strongly in transparency.

    ...of the previous administration.

  • Abdul||

    Suspicious behavior: using the wrong operating system.

    Reading the acutal warrant application you find that someone accused the subject of the warrant of illegally changing students grades on the college's computers. The accuser also said that the subject used two operating systems on one computer because it helped to obscure his illegal activities.

    Given this context, the use of the "wrong operating system" seems relevant to the warrant application.

  • robc||

    As a linux user - Yes, we are all terrorists (I even have my certificate to prove it!- Thanks (t)reason*).

    Speaking of which, I finish up teaching a terrorist admin class today.

    *I thought that a funny opportunity to use that without invoking the drinking game

  • robc||

    Abdul,

    How does dual booting (or using a VM) obscure illegal activity?

  • Suki||

    Given this context, the use of the "wrong operating system" seems relevant to the warrant application.

    He should have been using VMS instead of Solaris, or something like that?

  • ||

    How does dual booting (or using a VM) obscure illegal activity?

    I assume the officer in question was previously unaware that such a thing was possible.

  • Mike in PA||

    I don't really care if the DHS report is on right-wing or left-wing extremists.

    What really scares me is that not only is our government "monitoring" political thought, but is actively trying to manage it. And now they're so bold to admit it openly.

    Tell me what "thought" the Virginia Tech killer had except "I hate you people". How about that dude in Binghamton?

    When we let them use our fear of attack as an excuse to control us, we've already lost.

  • robc||

    it won't forestall layoffs or postpone recreation center closures proposed last month by Mayor Sheila Dixon.

    Duh. Money cant prevent that. You have to win the break dancing contest.

  • /||

    Dissent is destabilizing.

    Self-defense is an affront to social order.

    Liberty is extremism.

  • VM||

    Mike - a wise final sentence. however, ask the DUMDEROOOOs and others of this board - that horse has long left the barn, and the barn has been foreclosed.

  • vM||

    (sorry for double)

    Mike - in other words, you're right, but for those who are just now realizing that, well, it was they who made this bed...

  • MNG||

    Shouldn't dual booting be protected under Lawrence v. Texas? As long as it was consensual of course.

  • ||

    VM, I am particularly dense this morning. At whom are you fingerpointing?

  • robc||

    Dual booting is rarely consensual. Any time I boot into Windows, it is against my will.

  • Mike in PA||

    VM...

    ...preaching to the choir, eh?

    I know but it's kind of cathartic to type.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Money can't prevent [recreation center closures]. You have to win the break dancing contest.



    +1. Awesome.

    Also, the scare quotes in the BC article around "fixing" [other people's computers] are great. Oooh! He may be "fixing" up an operating system that uses prompts! Terraist!

    I wonder about all those Mac users with the dual-boot Windows machines. Are they next?

  • Fluffy||

    I thought I could no longer be shocked by torture revelations, but that was not true.

    The torture guidelines released yesterday would have allowed a subject to be locked in a small, movement-restraining box with a BUCKET OF TARANTULAS.

    They also imply that, had the Bush administration captured someone with a known fear of, say, snakes, that they would have authorized the use of the snake pit. Or that someone with a fear of rats would have, for example, been strapped in a chair and covered with rats.

    And here I thought that the worst we might have done was beatings, maybe a fake execution here and there, MAYBE some mild electric shock.

    I didn't realize we went all the way to the MOST EVIL THING GEORGE ORWELL WAS ABLE TO IMAGINE.

  • Cabeza De Vaca||

    "Al Qaeda has very little to do with the militancy in the tribal areas of Pakistan," said Marvin Weinbaum, former Afghanistan and Pakistan analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence Research at the U.S. Department of State and now scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute.

    John McCreary, a senior intelligence analyst for the Defence Intelligence Agency until his retirement in 2006, agrees with Weinbaum's assessment. "The drone programme is supposed to be all about al Qaeda," he told IPS in an interview, but in fact, "the threat is much larger."

    McCreary observes that the targets in recent months "have been expanded to include Pakistani Pashtun militants." The administration apparently had dealt with that contradiction by effectively broadening the definition of al Qaeda, according to McCreary"

    This is what I had feared was going on. The government is just labeling people they don't like Al-Qaeda, whether they are or not. That way the government can kill them with impunity.

  • ||

    Nothing like reading a torture memo over a morning cuppa joe... Mmmmm

    "You have also orally informed us that through observing Zubaydah in captivity, you have noted that he appears quite flexible despite his wound."

    "In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect into the box. ... such as a caterpillar... [redacted]"

    How sweet of them. So what did they redact? I'm guessing, "you then orally informed us that you were just kidding, and planned to put a killer bee in the box for maximum LULZ!"

  • Mike in PA||

    Fluffy,

    War is ugly. That's why we should be avoiding them. However, war is sometimes justifiable (present conflicts excluded)and I'd hate to see us make a blanket statement about torture if it is in the defense of our country. I can envision psycological interrogations to be beneficial if they are done right.

    Again, I said "defense".

  • stuartl||

    From the Taliban article "...make clear that the Taliban was a reluctant host to al Qaeda in the 1990s and felt betrayed when the terrorist group repeatedly violated agreements to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad.

    This may be true, but if so, the author needs to address why the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda members when the US asked them to after 9-11.

  • ||

    Whether we admit it or not we love us some torture. Obviously some deserve it, and there are conditions that allow it, like when we are scared, like really, really scared. Or when we are, like, really angry. But only then.

    We will pursue this torture with great sadness and humility, the poor folks who perform the torture could not possibly enjoy it, they actual had tears running down their cheeks while humming god bless America.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I can envision psycological interrogations to be beneficial if they are done right.

    Not having read the CIA torture manual, I don't know the approved means from distinguishing useful intelligence obtained through "alternative interrogation" from the desperate ranting of a broken human being telling his captors anything they want to hear to make the pain stop.

    Care to enlighten us?

  • ||

    "This is what I had feared was going on. The government is just labeling people they don't like Al-Qaeda, whether they are or not. That way the government can kill them with impunity."


    The whole Pakistan thing is starting to worry me. First, I don't want to get in a war with Pakistan. Second, what the hell are we doing there? I am all for killing terrorists where we find them, but who are we killing down there. Further, you can't just go into someone else's country and kill civilians or if you do you better know damn well who they are and that the host country refuses to do something about it. I got no problem with things like the preditor strike in Yeman a few years ago. But there is a limit to even that.

  • ||

    During its March 30th search, police seized (among other things) the computer science major's computers, storage drives, cell phone, iPod Touch, flash drives, digital camera, and Ubuntu Linux CD. None of these items have been returned. He has been suspended from his job pending the investigation. His personal documents and information are in the hands of the state police who continue to examine it without probable cause, searching for evidence to support unsupportable criminal allegations.

    No fishing expedition here, folks; move along.
    Maybe they can hang him for illegally switching back from Vista to XP.

  • T||

    We will pursue this torture with great sadness and humility, the poor folks who perform the torture could not possibly enjoy it, they actual had tears running down their cheeks while humming god bless America.

    You've hit upon one of my primary objections to torture. I don't want the government turning a bunch of 20 year olds who volunteered for the military into torturers.

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Putting someone in a box with some kind of (presumably non-deadly, as that would defeat the point) insect or snake that they're scared of is the sissiest, least evil shit I can think of. If someone's scared of spiders or rats they need to harden the fuck up. I don't think we should use the same word to describe the rack and electrical wires to the nuts that we use to describe putting someone in a damn butterfly tent.

  • ||

    "Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct."

    Shorter: Intelligence officers who were only following orders have nothing to fear.

  • Suki||

    The torture guidelines released yesterday would have allowed a subject to be locked in a small, movement-restraining box with a BUCKET OF TARANTULAS.

    Sounds like it could be fun. Tarantulas are harmless, but have that sexy creepy effect.

  • creech||

    I guess we've all seen too many Hollywood movies where someone is given a simple shot of "truth serum" and spills everything. If it doesn't exist, then someone needs to invent it.
    Does torture work? Ask those in the French Resistance who were exposed when captured comrades met with Gestapo interrogation.

  • Mike in PA||

    Hugh, (nice name BTW)

    I'm not an interrogator, but I'd think the only way to distinguish intelligence is to verify it. I'm sure there's a lot of good intel as well as plenty of garbage. Either way, interrogating an unwilling prisoner will give you a certain percentage of valid intel.

    I think instead of limiting the methods of war, we should be limiting the reasons for the war.

  • Abdul||

    robc,

    I got the impression from the warrant application that the subject used dual booting to obscure illegal activity not from police investigation but from programs that search out illegally downloaded material. You seem to know more about computers than I do, you can tell me if that's plausible.

    It turns out the use of linux was also relevant because there was an investigation into who falsely created a profile on some website that claimed the victim was gay. Investigation revealed that the person who created the profile had used linux. At BC, there were only two people who had access to the particular network that the profile came from who regularly used linux. One of them was the subject of the affidavit.

  • ||

    On a side note, who won those Kindle2s? Those marvy little devices would make it easy to enjoy these torture memos while sitting on a park bench in the lovely April sunshine.

  • ||

    So calling someone gay in an email got his computer taken away from him? Good god, if that's the case, then everyone on this board could get taken away at any time.

  • VM||

    broB:

    at those who were all gung ho about the powers when their people were in charge. Now they're afraid. them.

    (see: reaction, post Oklahoma City, then post 9/11 then... etc etc etc)

    *fixes glare at THEM*

    Mike P: exactly! singing harmony. and you're right. there is a catharsis in that. dammit. WE SHOULDN'T EVEN HAVE TO HAVE THIS DISCUSSION.

    and now that the militia crap is back, who else has a hard time getting worked up over them?

  • ||

    a Virginia fusion center saw threats from across the political spectrum and called certain colleges and religious groups "nodes of radicalization."

    So, Hillsdale College [Hillsdale's educational mission rests upon two principles: academic excellence and institutional independence. The College does not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations.] is a node of dangerous anti-American radicalism?

  • T||

    Those marvy little devices would make it easy to enjoy these torture memos while sitting on a park bench in the lovely April sunshine.

    There's so much wrong with this sentence I don't know where to start.

  • Suki||

    Browyn,

    I was wondering that too. The first place my friend plans to publish is on Amazon for Kindle, plus .pdf on the website.

  • ||

    T, it's easier to understand if you've booted your sarcasmometer.

  • Suki||

    *fixes glare at THEM*

    Sexy look. Trying to scare me with that? LOL

  • ||

    ... But be sure your sarcasmometer is running Vista and Adobe 9.1. Otherwise, the sentence will just cause the system to freeze up and you may be arrested.

  • ||

    Ooh! Ooh! Unveiling of new "Family Tree" downstairs here at MedCenter Three. The Guv'nor's here! Should I go?

  • ||

    Those marvy little devices would make it easy to enjoy these torture memos while sitting on a park bench in the lovely April sunshine.

    There's so much wrong with this sentence I don't know where to start.


    Seriously. We haven't had more two decent sunny days yet this April. that's bullshit...

  • ||

    It's beautiful here, today.
    For once.

  • Fluffy||

    Putting someone in a box with some kind of (presumably non-deadly, as that would defeat the point) insect or snake that they're scared of is the sissiest, least evil shit I can think of. If someone's scared of spiders or rats they need to harden the fuck up.

    Yup, I'm sure that's what you thought when you read 1984 in junior high. "This is sissy shit!"

    That's the measure of the Bush administration for you, folks. The people who feel compelled to defend Bush's actions no matter what have reached the point where activities invented in the most celebrated dystopian novel of all time, and intended to show the naked horror of that dystopia and its insidious cleverness in crafting new ways to demean and to break the human spirit, are now dismissed as "sissy shit".

    You know who else needs to harden the fuck up? The former US hostages in Iran. Sure, they were subjected to fake executions, and blindfolded and marched out to be taunted by enraged mobs, but since none of these things caused organ failure they weren't actually mistreated.

    If you're afraid of people yelling at you while you're blindfolded, you really need to grow some stones. That's some real sissy shit right there. Right?

  • Rimfax||

    Regarding the computer science student:

    What is the burden on the judge in determining that the warrant has any merit? Can he just rubber stamp every ignorant yellow paper that passes his bench without any repercussions?

  • ||

    I defy anyone but an entomologist to sit for an hour in a box with some creepy crawlies and not get the willies.

    There are stinging caterpillars, too. Those mothers HURT.

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Fluffy, eat the shit out of my butthole.

    In 1984, the torture is when Winston is beaten repeatedly, subjected to aggressive psychological manipulation and hooked up to electroshock wires. NOT FUCKING CREEPY CRAWLIES.

    The former US hostages in Iran. Sure, they were subjected to fake executions, and blindfolded and marched out to be taunted by enraged mobs, but since none of these things caused organ failure they weren't actually mistreated.

    Since none of those things involve HAVING TO LOOK AT ICKY BUGS, I guess they're not even relevant, are they? I'm not defending Bush's actions "no matter what." Like most people here, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with something I'll go to the mat for him for. But it pisses me off when sissy shit like HAVING TO TOUCH FUCKING BUGS, (personal note: I am an amateur snake and spider hobbyist) or exposure to bright lights or loud noises, is some shit we need to self-flagellate for. Combine it with some beatings and electro-shock and waterboarding and then I'll agree that it's fucked up.

  • ||

  • ||

    Go All Rights Reserved. Fluffy just suffers from PTSD from the last 8 years. Nothing bad happened to him personally but he is nonetheless like some kind of whacked out Hollywood Vietnam vet.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Either way, interrogating an unwilling prisoner will give you a certain percentage of valid intel.

    And throwing a dart at the financial pages will give you a certain percentage of winning stocks.

    Most terrorist organizations (like the Campaign for Liberty or the Audubon Society) are pretty loose and disorganized. It seems like they should be pretty easy to infiltrate by any intelligence agency worth a damn. On the other hand, getting hopefully maybe useful intel by hooking a guy's nutsack up to a car battery is not only dubious in its efficacy, but a particularly poignant example of the hamhanded incompetence of the American intelligence community.

    I think instead of limiting the methods of war, we should be limiting the reasons for the war.

    Super. Problem is that good reasons for war are equal to whatever the majority of Congress feels like are good reasons. Unless its a national security emergency, then its up to the White House to protect our national security or distract the plebes.

    Torture dehumanizes both the victim and the perpetrator. Furthermore it blatantly defies both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Geneva Convention. No intel that cannot be gathered in other ways is worth that.

  • The Angry Optimist ||

    Fluffy, I appreciate you as a poster, usually, but the concepts and illustrative purposes behind Room 101 and Nineteen Eighty-Four are a lot more nuanced and interesting than the silly parallel you're drawing with the Bush Administration. Hysteria about using rats and snakes is...hysteria.

  • ||

    Hmm. If enclosing people with spiders or rats is enough to make someone break as if they were waterboarded, why isn't it morally equivilent? waterboarding is "safe" - one of the reasons (apart from its effectiveness) that it was used. So no one gets hurt there either, they are just afraid of drowning.

  • ||

    Well said, Hugh.

  • Michael Phelps||

    Putting someone in a box with some kind of (presumably non-deadly, as that would defeat the point) insect or snake that they're scared of is the sissiest, least evil shit I can think of. If someone's scared of spiders or rats they need to harden the fuck up. I don't think we should use the same word to describe the rack and electrical wires to the nuts that we use to describe putting someone in a damn butterfly tent.

    Putting someone on a board and pouring some clean water (presumably non-poisonous, as that would defeat the point) over their face to scare them is the sissiest, least evil shit I can think of. If someone's scared of water or having their face wet they need to harden the fuck up. I don't think we should use the same word to describe the rack and electrical wires to the nuts that we use to describe giving some douchbag a few glasses of water.

  • The Angry Optimist ||

    domo - drowning, even simulated drowning, is a psychologically scarring event. I can remember the few times that I have almost drowned with a partial-clarity tinted by horror.

    On the other hand, the innumerable times that I (and billions of Earthlings on a daily basis) deal with snakes, spiders, mice, rats, bats, etc. etc. makes it a laughable proposition that exposure = torture. Are we saying that the residents of Indian slums are subjected to torture every day? Or residents of seedier places in NYC, just because each category faces mice or rats?

    It's funny. I mean, really funny.

  • libertarian democrat||

    Hmm. If enclosing people with spiders or rats is enough to make someone break as if they were waterboarded, why isn't it morally equivilent? waterboarding is "safe" - one of the reasons (apart from its effectiveness) that it was used. So no one gets hurt there either, they are just afraid of drowning.

    This is roughly my feeling. Either both are okay are neither are, and I lean towards neither (especially for people not already convicted of a crime).

  • robc||

    Abdul,

    1. Who the hell is running a program to search for illegally downloaded material? That sounds like that requires a warrant to begin with.

    2. If BC requires it as part of an agreement to use their network then:

    2a. If they are too stupid to make their program OS independent then so be it

    2b. Why are the police involved? This is a contract disagreement, not a legal issue.

    3. Ditto on the gay thing. I dont see police involvment needed here either. Sounds like, at worst, a libel/slander type thing.

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Anyway, I don't want to come off as pro-torture. I agree with Hugh, and he put it very well. But I don't agree with such an expansive definition of torture that it includes the shit my five year old nephew does down at the Nature Center.

    Domo, I dunno. Maybe it would be more or less morally equivalent if these were venomous snakes and were biting the detainee and the venom was shutting down their bodily systems and they could feel it but they knew just at the last second they would be brought back and subjected to it all over again. That's what I would consider a parallel with waterboarding and drowning. But if just being next to a snake or rat makes you as stressed out as being seconds from drowning, honestly that's just pussy.

  • Warty||

    The Gulag Archipelago works as a better do-not-do guide than 1984. In one part, Solzhenitsyn talks about prisoners being tortured during their interrogations by being locked in boxes full of bedbugs. So we should be avoiding that.

  • libertarian democrat||

    TAO, individual differences are huge. I have no problems with rats (I think they're adorable, or need a bath and are then adorable). But some people have similar responses of extreme fear, helplessness, etc, from them. The subjective response could be near identical (and considering fear-research, I think they probably are in some cases).


    As a side note: It's sort of a just-so story, but some people argue that there is an evolutionary reason spiders, rats, and snakes often develop as major phobias, based on a useful pattern that is occasionally intensified in people many times.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Additionally, the moral difference between suicide bombing and torture isn't significant enough to use one to address the other. Put another way, we lose the moral high ground against the terrorists when we use fascist tactics against them.

    And its when you lose the moral high ground that the snakes and bugs get you.

  • libertarian democrat||

    But, beyond that explanation, I'm probably stepping out of the conversation. I mean, things like what ARR are saying are just substituting bias for an understanding of the way fear works, and I don't really feel like going over that today. (Unless there happens to be a Sullum column to troll regarding it; I can't help myself there.)

  • Michael Phelps||

    drowning, even simulated drowning, is a psychologically scarring event. I can remember the few times that I have almost drowned with a partial-clarity tinted by horror.

    Well, yes. to someone who is paranoid of spiders, such treatment would be equally as scarring. Not for you, of course, because spiders don't bother you. But of course, your torturers wouldn't use spiders unless they thought you would be especially likely to crack as a result. So I think you have to assume that spider/rat cage is used on people who are phobic of them - and is psychologically damaging.

    So is psychologically damaging treatment torture? I think so. ARR doesn't think so, he assumes you need to be having expectations of immediate death. I'm not so afraid of spiders, so I guess we'd need data from an arachniphobe who has had a near death experience to tell us which is worse. The question is one of phychology, so individuals perceptions matter. You can't just assume one is objectively worse.

  • ||

    "domo - drowning, even simulated drowning, is a psychologically scarring event. I can remember the few times that I have almost drowned with a partial-clarity tinted by horror."


    Everyone who goes through military SCUBA school drowns at least once, no kidding. They set it up so that at least once, more if you screw up, the student drowns only to be fished out and resusitated. Those guys don't seem too scared.

  • ||

    previous MP posts were (obviously) mine.

  • Warty||

    I have no problems with rats (I think they're adorable, or need a bath and are then adorable).

    You have clearly never had to stomp to death any rats in your shithole apartment's kitchen, dude. It's not really gross until the blood starts pooling around them...

  • ||

    You have clearly never had to stomp to death any rats in your shithole apartment's kitchen, dude. It's not really gross until the blood starts pooling around them...

    Dude, if you mount the dead ones skulls on little pikes around the place, the other ones start to get the joke and move on...

  • The Angry Optimist ||

    So, if I had an irrational fear of cars, everyone would be just as outraged if the government hired a NASCAR driver to take me a few hundred laps at 200+mph?

  • ||

    tao, especially if it was Kyle Busch.

  • Chest-Thumping Intertube BadAs||

    If those fuckers put rats in my cell, I'd just bite their heads off and eat them for the extra protein.

    Fuckin' SISSIES

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Anyway, my irritation I'm sure is motivated by personal bias in my case because I'm actually really interested in snakes in particular and go out looking for them and catching them. I definitely understand that a lot of people freak out about them, and l.d. is right about the potential evolutionary imprint of that (E.O. Wilson has written a lot about it, and it might also just-so-explain why they appear in dreams and religious tradition more than other creatures), it's interesting.

    But if everything that a potential interrogee stresses out about is off the table, I have to assume that our (already shoddy) intelligence will suffer for it.

  • The Angry Optimist ||

    I'm not here to say that I would particularly enjoy the experience of sleeping with snakes, rats or spiders, but that does not mean it rises to the level of torture, either.

  • Rimfax||

    Waterboarding is not just taking advantage of a fear of drowning. See "Believe Me, It's Torture" by Christopher Hitchens and the accompanying video. In my inexpert opinion, Christopher Hitchens has been acting like someone with post-traumatic stress disorder since he consensually endured this event. I can image that not consenting might make it a bit more tortuous.

    It triggers the brain at a very low level that overrides any "sissy" concerns about water on your face. You don't have to have a laser beam slicing towards your man bags to invoke a fundamental fear for survival. This kind of powerlessness and visceral distress are the perfect recipe for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is to say, it is definitively torture.

    Of course these guys are the bad guys, so who gives two shits if they're traumatized and cry to their mommies for the rest of their lives. Well, aside from the fact that it is simply fucking evil to punish someone without any type of due process, there is the matter of creating a monster where one didn't exist before.

    People with PTSD are not powerless, they are motivated with the same survival drive that causes even the suicidal to fight drowning. Only they are triggered by things that coincided with their trauma: smells, faces, sounds, colors. And when they are triggered, they might hide or they might kill, before they regain rational control.

    So, if you'd like to turn a bunch of misguided kids who wanted to play soldier with the Taliban into functional sociopaths, keep up the torture. You still won't get any good information, but it will be a lot easier to justify indefinite internment if you make them fucking crazy.

  • Warty||

    21. Sleeplessness, which they quite failed to appreciate in medieval times. They did not understand how narrow are the limits within which a human being can preserve his personality intact. Sleeplessness (yes, combined with standing, thirst, bright light, terror, and the unknown -what other tortures are needed!?) befogs the reason, undermines the will, and the human being ceases to be himself, to be his own "L" (As in Chekhov's "I Want to Sleep," but there it was much easier, for there the girl could lie down and slip into lapses of consciousness, which even in just a minute would revive and refresh the brain.) A person deprived of sleep acts half-unconsciously or altogether unconsciously, so that his testimony cannot be held against him.

    They used to say: "You are not truthful in your testimony, and therefore you will not be allowed to sleep:"" Sometimes, as a refinement, instead of making the prisoner stand up, they made him sit down on a soft sofa, which made him want to sleep all the more. (The jailer on duty sat next to him on the same sofa and kicked him every time his eyes began to shut.) Here is how one victim-who had just sat out days in a box infested with `bedbugs-describes his feelings after this torture: "Chill from great loss of blood. Irises of the eyes dried out as if someone were holding a red-hot iron in from of them. Tongue swollen from thirst and prickling as from a hedgehog at the slightest movement. Throat racked by spasms of' swallowing."

    Sleeplessness was a great form of torture: it left no visible marks and could not provide grounds for complaint even if an inspection-something unheard of anyway-were to strike on the morrow.

    "They didn't let you sleep? Well, after all, this is not supposed to be a vacation resort. The Security officials were awake too!" (They would catch up on their sleep during the day. j One can say that sleeplessness became the universal method in the Organs. From being one among many tortures, it became an integral part of the system of State Security; it was the cheapest possible method and did not require the posting of sentries. In all the interrogation prisons the prisoners were forbidden to sleep even one minute from reveille till taps. (In Sukhanovka and several other prisons used specifically for interrogation, the cot was folded into the wall during the day; in others, the prisoners were simply forbidden to lie down, and even to close their eyes while seated.) Since the major interrogations were all conducted at night, it was automatic: whoever was undergoing interrogation got no sleep for at least five days and nights. (Saturday and Sunday nights, the interrogators themselves tried to get some rest.)

    23. The bedbug-infested box has already been mentioned. In the dark closet made of wooden planks, there were hundreds, maybe even thousands, of bedbugs, which had been allowed to multiply. The guards removed the prisoner's jacket or field shirt, and immediately the hungry bedbugs assaulted him, crawling onto him from the walls or falling off the ceiling. At first he waged war with them strenuously, crushing them on his body and on the walls, suffocated by their stink. But after several hours he weakened and let them drink his blood without a murmur.



    Man, Solzhenitsyn is a bummer to read.

  • Hugh Akston||

    ARR,

    You're right on the money, son. Rather than rewarding the terrorists by letting them spend time tied down in enclosed areas with totally awesome snakes, we should improve our intelligence gathering by, I don't know, hiring some people who speak Arabic and have read the Koran.

    Fucking people got my hackles up this morning.

  • libertarian democrat||

    TAO, if you had an irrational fear of cars equal to the intensity of fear some people have of spiders or snakes, I would be as outraged.

    I have irrational fears of spiders and flying. My spider fear makes me freak out a bit with them (although I'm fine with snakes and feel positively about non-squished rats). If someone were to torture me with spiders, I would dislike it, and it might work, but it wouldn't be as bad as water boarding. There is a different subgroup of people where the difference, if there is one, would be infinitesimal, in terms of subjective experience (which is what torture is all about, after all).

    Apparently I lied about staying away, at least a bit.

  • ||

    "Well, aside from the fact that it is simply fucking evil to punish someone without any type of due process"

    If that is true, then it must be really evil to just kill them with a missile strike right? Is it your opinion that no violence can ever be done to anyone without due process?

    "there is the matter of creating a monster where one didn't exist before."

    That is just horseshit. If that were true, why aren't the millions of people who are survivors of gulags and death camps and experiences infinitely worse than water boarding all sociopathic killers? By that logic, holocoust survivors should have all or a good percentage of them been Hanibal Lectors.

  • ||

    I have to assume that our (already shoddy) intelligence will suffer for it.

    That's the core assumption here, and the one i would most like to challange. Coercion under threat of bodily harm or fear is probably the least effective interrogation technique there is. It does NOT lead to actionable timely intelligence as a rule. That is a sufficient objection to these techniques in itself - though the dabsing of our national reputation is, for me, a better one.

    The ticking bomb scenario does not ever happen. People who use this incredibly unlikely scenario as an exception to base overall policy on are making a serious error, and ensure that torture (or wanton mistreatment) happens frequently and is institutionally justified, despite yielding almost nothing of value.

    Somewhere along the line, we decided that getting involved with Bad Guys and working them as sources (to provide timely information that can actually be used proactively) was an unacceptable reputational risk to our country, but nearly drowning dudes to try and figure out what happened after the damage was already done is a-ok.

    As a former intelligence officer, I know institutionally how this happened. It's stupid and needs to change.

  • Warty||

    If that is true, then it must be really evil to just kill them with a missile strike right?

    Yes, dude. Yes it is. This is why we shouldn't be doing voluntary wars.

  • Abdul||

    In line with the exploiting phobias as torture thing. . . Billy Bob Thornton genuinely has a phobia of french antique furniture. Could you imagine a suspected terrorist with a similar fear and the human rights quesions involved in putting an expensive Louis XIV armoire into his cell? It's "antiques road show" meets "24."

  • Murray||

    "So calling someone gay in an email got his computer taken away from him? Good god, if that's the case, then everyone on this board could get taken away at any time."

    The only person at Reason I have ever called gay was Tim Cavenaugh. Can they really take my computer just for pointing out the obvious?

  • The Angry Optimist ||

    TAO, if you had an irrational fear of cars equal to the intensity of fear some people have of spiders or snakes, I would be as outraged.

    I suppose that's where you and I (and others) part ways. Not every irrational fear is something to be coddled and "helicoptered" about. I consider it a sign of a touchy-feely society that we cannot judge some people's fears as "stupid" and "not worthy of being taken seriously". If someone had a fear of ice cream, it'd be similarly as funny.

  • libertarian democrat||

    Also, most people with PTSD are not violent, even if their PTSD is from combat. It's a common misconception, but a relatively rare response (and one that court shows love to overplay). That's not to say it doesn't lead to violence for some, but it is not a common outcome.

  • Mike in PA||

    Hugh, you're talking about 2 different things.

    1. effectiveness of torture
    2. morality of torture

    Personally, I think the first is the only thing that matters. If it's effective, I see no reason why we should limit ourselves. Even if we gather only 25% of useful intel, that's 25% we didn't have before.

    As for the morality of it, once we've made the decision to go to war, we must use every means to end it. You do realize we KILL people in war! I'd say that's more damaging than torturing them - especially scaring them.

    This is why we truly have to think about what we're doing before going to war. War should only be in the defense of liberty - and if someone is threatening our liberty with force, we have every right to defend it with any effective means.

  • libertarian democrat||

    See, I may be wrong, but I imagine you are misunderstanding the level of fear response. It's not the average scared of spiders person I am talking about, but those who experience a reaction equivalent to impending death.

    I don't think people need to be "coddled" but to argue that one "harmless" thing is torture and another is not is non-sensical. In essence, if you are waterboarded, you really are quite okay. Stop needing coddling.

  • Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn||

    "In 1984, the torture is when Winston is beaten repeatedly, subjected to aggressive psychological manipulation and hooked up to electroshock wires. NOT FUCKING CREEPY CRAWLIES."

    We're inclined to agree and Nigger Jim will back up our assertion.

  • ||

    If that is true, then it must be really evil to just kill them with a missile strike right?

    Yes; it is really fucking evil.

    How can that be so fucking difficult to grasp?

  • libertarian democrat||

    Honestly, they are all stupid, irrational fears. I'm still not sure it's okay to take advantage of, but maybe it is?

  • ||

    Hugh Akston said;
    we should improve our intelligence gathering by, I don't know, hiring some people who speak Arabic and have read the Koran.

    Brilliant. It's amazing that someone hasn't thought of this before... My experience is that internal security makes the hurdle for hiring these people so high, that they don't generally bother. Ideally, you want to hire someone who is a little shady, who knows some people, who can get you information. But we intentionally ban these people from becoming sources (or at least give little credibility to the information they provide - they are bad guys after all, right?). You can't have you cake and eat it too. people that aren't involved in terrorism have no information worth having about the terrorists plans, by definition. This makes me angry, i have to stop...

  • Warty||

    If it's effective, I see no reason why we should limit ourselves.

    Fuck you. Seriously...fuck you.

  • Anonymous||

    Fluffy, Winston was being threatened with being murdered by way of rats scraping their way through his face, not threatened with being in proximity with them.

    It's nice to know there's still somebody whose time is worth complaining about Bush when brownshirts are finally roaming the land.

  • ||

    Being waterboarded is just the same as having water splashed in your face in a swimming pool. You can make it stop any time you want, by telling your captors the truth what they want to hear.

  • Colonel Kurtz||

    "Additionally, the moral difference between suicide bombing and torture isn't significant enough to use one to address the other. Put another way, we lose the moral high ground against the terrorists when we use fascist tactics against them.

    And its when you lose the moral high ground that the snakes and bugs get you."

    We'd left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't say.

    We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile, a pile of little arms, and I remember, I...I...I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget.

    And then I realized like I was shot, like I was shot with a diamond, a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, 'My God, the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

    And then I realized they were stronger than me because they could stand it. These were not monsters. These were men -- trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts who have families, who have children, who are filled with love - that they had the strength, the strength to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly.

    You have to have men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill - without feeling, without passion, without judgment - without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us.

  • ||

    I don't know the approved means from distinguishing useful intelligence obtained through "alternative interrogation" from the desperate ranting of a broken human being telling his captors anything they want to hear to make the pain stop.

    Internal consistency. Corroboration with external data. No different, really, from validating any testimony.

    The Department of Homeland Security, not content to fret about broadly defined "right-wing extremists," is worried about broadly defined "left-wing extremists," too.

    There were definite differences in the two memos. Broadly speaking, the anti-lefty memo focussed on affiliation with known violent extremists on the left, while the anti-righty memo focussed on political beliefs and attitudes.

  • High Every Body||

    Fluffy,

    Are you really that much of a pansey, or are you just trying to be ironic?

  • Charles||

    Hugh, you're talking about 2 different things.

    1. effectiveness of torture
    2. morality of torture

    Personally, I think the first is the only thing that matters. If it's effective, I see no reason why we should limit ourselves. Even if we gather only 25% of useful intel, that's 25% we didn't have before.

    As for the morality of it, once we've made the decision to go to war, we must use every means to end it. You do realize we KILL people in war! I'd say that's more damaging than torturing them - especially scaring them.


    I've read that several times during the Stalinist terror, people finally broke when their immediate family was threatened; one guy finally gave up when his wife and daughter were raped in front of him.

    If we bring in Johnny Jihad, and he says he's not terrorist, but you think he is, and he's got a 16-year-old daughter ...

    Nope. Torture is simply something that civilized society does not allow, from anyone, of anyone, for any reason.

  • ||

    I don't like the political categorization in the first place. If people are working with groups known to use violence to advance their agenda, then they might bear closer scrutiny. What difference does it make it they're left, right, religious, etc.?

    As much as the right demonizes the left, the left is flat out nuts about its prejudice against the right (as a general matter, I hasten to add). Evil, war-mongering, torture-loving, stupid, racist, religious wackos that prey upon poor people. All 60 million of them. That attitude combined with the political categorization of groups to watch is very disturbing.

    I'm categorically opposed to torture and even to "torture." We don't need to do it, it's of questionable utility, and I don't think it's morally proper. There might be some situations that call for it in extremis, but those are very rare and shouldn't be made legal.

  • ||

    Pro Lib,

    well put, and better written than I managed.

  • ||

    I'm a big fan, myself, of drumhead court-martials and summary execution of illegal combatants.

    For intelligence-gathering purposes, give them the opportunity to make themselves useful before we expend a .45 round into their heads. To my mind, that's not torture, that's clemency and plea-bargaining.

    All this other stuff with spiders and wet towels and whatnot, I doubt we need, especially if we can overcome our squeamishness about warfighting (leaving aside the issue of whether the war needs to be fought, for now).

  • Spoonman||

    If that is true, then it must be really evil to just kill them with a missile strike right?

    Look at the big brain on John! You're a smart motherfucker.

    Yes, it is.

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Subjecting a detainee to stress and discomfort: Maybe not effective, maybe not worthwhile, probably not morally objectionable.

    Subjecting a detainee to physical pain or suffocation: Probably not effective, probably not worthwhile, definitely morally objectionable.

    If spider-proximity is too stressful for detainees, is it ok to yell at them? I'd think some big barking interrogator screaming at you would be a pretty uncomfortable thing. By relying on their raised voices and threatening tone, aren't they trying to force information from the detainee with fear and stress?

  • Get a grip, puessies!||

    I don't give a rat's ass about the well being of a bunch of terrorists.

    Lock 'em up with snakes, spiders, whatever they can fine. Waterboard them. Do mock executions. I don't care, we must keep this country safe.

    What a bunch of pussies.

    You're just a bunch of politically correct wimps. It's WAR, people.

  • lolcat||

    Bad troll is bad

  • Jesse Walker||

    the anti-lefty memo focussed on affiliation with known violent extremists on the left

    The Ruckus Society? Crimethinc?

  • ||

    The Ruckus Society? Crimethinc?

    Code Pink!

    Them ruthless bitches is scary!

  • High Every Body||

    Them ruthless bitches is scary!

    Especially that scary blonde drag-queen looking one who seems to be at every event they have in DC.

  • Fluffy||

    Fluffy, eat the shit out of my butthole.

    In 1984, the torture is when Winston is beaten repeatedly, subjected to aggressive psychological manipulation and hooked up to electroshock wires. NOT FUCKING CREEPY CRAWLIES.


    Wrong.

    NONE OF THAT OTHER SHIT WORKED.

    Winston Smith is EXPLICITLY ONLY BROKEN when he is subjected to being tied in a chair while being told a cage full of rats is about to be attached to a mask on his face.

    Unable to withstand this pressure, because Room 101 is "the worst thing in the world" picked out specifically for him, he gives up Julia and his mind is utterly broken. Finally.

    And when you read it, you're SUPPOSED TO SAY TO YOURSELF "Wow, these guys are the best torturers ever. Being able to observe everyone since birth has given them the power to know the weakness of each and every person, and break them at will."

    You aren't supposed to say, "Wow, that Winston Smith was a real pussy."

    If that is true, then it must be really evil to just kill them with a missile strike right? Is it your opinion that no violence can ever be done to anyone without due process?

    The moral standard for what one can do to an adversary who is free and in the field is utterly different from what you can do to them when they are helpless prisoners in your power.

    Cops can shoot and kill armed bank robbers trying to shoot their way out of a bank, but that does not mean they should be allowed to randomly shoot people through the bars at a penitentiary.

    (personal note: I am an amateur snake and spider hobbyist)

    I think your perverse hobby really should bar you from commenting on this, then.

    I wouldn't ask someone who, I don't know, wrote rape fantasy for a living and repeatedly fantasized about being raped if we should rape people as part of the interrogation process.

    This is only 50% snark.

    Fluffy, Winston was being threatened with being murdered by way of rats scraping their way through his face, not threatened with being in proximity with them.

    Give me a break. He knew he was subject to execution at any moment. The reason this particular scenario was extraordinary to him was because it involved rats, and was restrained in a way that would prevent him from stopping the rats from doing whatever he imagined they might do.

  • Anonymous||

    Cornfed: Easy, Duckman, I know over two hundered ways to kill a man.

    Sherry: You could glue an open jar of rats to his face, then blow torch the other side of the jar so the rats have to eat their way out through his face.

    Cornfed: Two hundered one.

  • ||

    the anti-lefty memo focussed on affiliation with known violent extremists on the left

    The Ruckus Society? Crimethinc?


    I'm not saying there wasn't a bunch of overreach in that memo, Jesse. While it also mentioned violent extremist groups, saying it "focussed on them" was probably too strong. Nonetheless, I think it lacked the broad brush of tagging some people as potential threats merely because of their political views that the anti-righty memo had.

    The moral standard for what one can do to an adversary who is free and in the field is utterly different from what you can do to them when they are helpless prisoners in your power.

    Point well made. As is the moral standard for what you can do to an adversary who is a helpless prisoner in your power but has been determined via some due process to be an illegal combatant violating the laws of war.

    Adversary on the field: Shoot to kill.

    Adversary imprisoned and adjudicated a war criminal: Shoot to kill.

    Adversary imprisoned and not adjudicated: Temporary detention pending adjudication.

  • Fluffy||

    Point well made. As is the moral standard for what you can do to an adversary who is a helpless prisoner in your power but has been determined via some due process to be an illegal combatant violating the laws of war.

    Adversary on the field: Shoot to kill.

    Adversary imprisoned and adjudicated a war criminal: Shoot to kill.

    Adversary imprisoned and not adjudicated: Temporary detention pending adjudication.


    Actually, the Geneva Conventions are quite specific that a person suspected of violating the rules of war by committing acts that would be crimes if not undertaken by uniformed soldiery is subject to:

    1. Military justice by the occupying power, if martial law exists in the area where he committed his activities

    2. The system of criminal law in the area where he committed his activities, if a civilian government has been reconstituted in that area by the occupying power

    3. The system of criminal law of the occupying power.

    So, because civilian governments have been reconstituted in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have lost our opportunity to legally submit detainees captured in those areas to military justice. So that means we get to choose between our own civilian justice system, and the ones present in those other countries. Which do you choose?

    And, naturally, it would also mean that persons captured outside of war zones [such as in the US itself, or in Britain, or Italy, or what have you] have never been subject to anything BUT the criminal justice system of either the US or the host nation in which they were captured or in which they committed their crimes.

    So you might get your chance to shoot to kill, but that whole "adjudicated" bit is what's under dispute.

  • ||

    Fluffy wins the argument

  • ||

    All true, fluffy.

    My drumhead courtmartial/summary execution scenario applies during the hot phase, when the countryside is under martial law.

    Sadly, during the interim before a civilian government is constituted, then the illegal combatant would be subject to US law, and I doubt that we could get a federal death penalty and abbreviated due process in place even for war criminals.

    But, for now, they should all be shipped back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Have those countries said they are willing to accept them?

    Query: this all assumes the US is a signatory to that particular Geneva Convention. We haven't signed onto all of them. Do you know if we signed that one?

  • T||

    Query: this all assumes the US is a signatory to that particular Geneva Convention. We haven't signed onto all of them. Do you know if we signed that one?

    As a side note, the US never signed the 1856 treaty restricting letters of marque and reprisal. So theoretically, we could still be issuing those letters.

  • All Rights Reserved||

    Fluffy - Having gone back and reread the passage where Winston's deepest darkest lifetime fear turns out to be rats, I guess I actually will say "Wow, what a pussy."

    And nonvenomous snakes are just slithery lizards. It's only half snark to compare them to rape?

  • Internet Tuff Gais||

    We don't have any phobias, pussies!

  • Scooby||

    Even if we gather only 25% of useful intel, that's 25% we didn't have before.



    But now, that 25% useful stuff is buried in 75% non-useful bullshit, often with no way to distinguish the true from untrue. Why burden ourselves with useless intel gathered through immoral means?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Sorry about the silence; eight hours of work and no intertubes.

    Still, I feel obligated to get the last shot in.

    Hugh, you're talking about 2 different things.

    1. effectiveness of torture
    2. morality of torture


    True enough.

    1. It isn't
    2. It's not

    I think everything about the actual efficacy of torture has been said by domo and other above. There are more reliable ways to get intel.

    But even if it were effective, it would still be wrong. The "victory by any means" mentality leads down the dark path that makes a nation the bad guys of history, even if they win. I hate to play the geek card here, but the central pervasive question of Battlestar Galactica is whether humanity deserves to survive.

    Once we start persecuting wars like a troupe of nerve gas-deploying, fingernail-ripping, rat-caging, a-bomb-dropping, granny-raping apes, then we have compromised the values at the center of the civilization that we are ostensibly defending. We have lost our justification for survival every bit as much as the suicide bombers and jet hijackers have forfeited thiers.

    The difference is that their civilization has the defense that those are just the actions of a few angry people, not of the entire nation. We, on the other hand, are directly responsible for the actions of the idiots in power, the very ones who authorize and sanction all of this savage dehumanization.

    If we start throwing away our commitment to the sanctity of human life and autonomy when it becomes inconvenient, then we as a civilization have lost our survival prerogative.

  • Fluffy||

    And nonvenomous snakes are just slithery lizards. It's only half snark to compare them to rape?

    I actually did not compare them to rape.

    If I argue "A is to B as C is to D" that does not mean that I am arguing that B and D are the same.

    I would also argue that the fact that you personally LIKE insects and snakes does not mean that being involuntarily subjected to them [particularly in the case of phobics] is not torture or abuse. There are many, many people in the world who like being fucked in the ass, but if we started fucking detainees in the ass to get them to talk, I would not be cool with that.

    The 50% of my statement that wasn't snark was the part that was, um, true.

  • ||

    And nonvenomous snakes are just slithery lizards.

    And a room is just four walls and a roof, until men with guns won't let you out of it.

    Fucking moron.

  • ||

    Fucking moron.

    Prisons are just buildings. Words are just grouped collections of symbols. ;)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement