Some Genuinely Harmful Outsourcing


Nat Hentoff's column in the recent Village Voice on legislative wrangling over the utterly loathesome practice of "extraordinary rendition." New York City's bar association has a new report on the outsourcing of torture here (PDF).

NEXT: The Thrill Is Gone

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This is not news. We’ve known it for a while now. For all Bush’s pious opposition to torture, the buck stops on his desk. And now, on the desks of some 59 million Americans.

    THE reports have been
    emerging only slowly, but they are chilling. American
    intelligence agents have been torturing terrorist
    suspects, or engaging in practices pretty close to
    torture. They have also been handing over suspects to
    countries, such as Egypt, whose intelligence agencies
    have a reputation for brutality.

    , Jan 9th 2003

  2. And the majority of these Republicans in the House call themselves ‘Christians’. I must have missed the part in the Bible where it talks about torturing those from whom you seek information. Is that in the House-amended version?

  3. raymond, I note the phrase, “…practices pretty close to torture.” What does that mean? Does it mean we don’t like this Administration and whilst we couldn’t find any torture we want to get our licks in? Or is it sleep depriavtion or long interviews or spreading rumours that the prisoner is gay/talked to the CIA/is a MOSSAD agent to his fellow prisoners? What?And is NEAR-Torture wrong?

  4. War is the gateway drug to the highly addictive torture.

    RandyAnn, what does the Bible say about torture?

  5. Remove for a minute the pragmatist argument that torture is simply “fighting fire with fire” and couch it in terms of religious faith

    Why don’t the Dems, innocently and with straight faces, simply ask Frist, Delay and Hastert (evengelicals all) “What Would Jesus Do.”?

    I consider myself a devout Christian who’s been appalled for years at the seeming lack of Christian behaviour on the part of evangelical wing-nuts.

    But for once, I just wish those gutless democratic jackasses would point out in succint and direct terms just how hypocritical the Right-wing’s positions are to what they profess to believe – this being a terrific example.

  6. Joe L. the Sophist,

    Oh, here we go with the sophistry and apologies. And let’s note here that you conveniently avoid the subject of Hentoff’s article. And let’s also note your careful effort avoid the following from the quoted language: “…have been torturing terrorist suspects…” How do your write your posts with a straight face I wonder?

  7. Wait–Christians are supporting the torture of those that differ from them? My God, how unprecedented!!!

    Gimme dat ol’ time religion….

  8. I don’t think religious shame is enough to address the problem, though it’s probably worth keeping in the mix. The bigger problems are the failure to address from the top when and why torture is used, and what the pros and cons are. (Yes, I think the cons outweigh the pros.) I suspect at least some degree of torture is condoned, in the hope of extracting timely information. More happens uncondoned (rogue guards), and some is winked at as an unofficial form of punishment or deterrence.

    Torture can work to extract reliable information. Any given subject will say what you want to hear, but if you don’t give them clues, you can use their information to confirm what you get elsewhere. This is why it is so difficult to completely eradicate torture, even in a rational culture with some respect for prisoners’ rights. It may be that the best we can achieve is a system that condemns torture, but allows the torturers to throw themselves on the court’s mercy and plead justification. Even that would be a significant improvement.

  9. I guess what I’m arguing for is the de facto application of our current, de jure rules. Which probably would require more stringent rules, as de facto always seems to lag de jure.

  10. madpad

  11. Umm, madpad, try reading the Old Testament sometime. These Christians believe Jesus would extract retribution on heathens with a flaming sword, or something. Not the kinder, gentler Jesus you admire.

  12. raymond-

    “Despite the prohibition against torture and refoulement to torture under CAT and the ICCPR, so-called “diplomatic assurances” have been used by the United Sates as well as certain European states and Canada as a basis for the transfer of alien detainees or asylum seekers to states where the individual faces the risk or danger of torture”

    It seems the buck may be comming to a desk near you. I hope you haven’t saved you disdain just for the US blogosphere.

  13. This is from the Apocrypha (Wisdom of Solomon) …

    “For the ungodly said, ‘… let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death.'”

    This would seem to indicate that torture is a no no for the religious.

  14. trainwreck,
    Jesus’ teachings are to be found in the New Testament. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that nowhere in there does Jesus say, ‘Verily, I say unto Thee, Place the Phosphorescent Light Into The Rectum of Thy Detainees…’

  15. War is the gateway drug to the highly addictive torture.

    Ruthless, that is the most profound observation you have ever made on this forum. I salute you!

    But let’s not forget that these were all Islamo-fascists, and we wouldn’t have had to outsource the torture if those wimpy liberals would just let the Republican President do what needs doing. Then we could have the torture done by good, decent Americans!

  16. I agree with Shelby. For a culture that treats death at the hands of the enemy as martyrdom and hence to be desired, a moderate tryst of pain and suffering — psychological or physical — could at times be just what the doctor ordered to give the detained some perspective. As far as extraordinary rendition, why should we keep suspects from requesting countries given diplomatic assurances? Because HRW and Amnesty Intl want to define a weighting system to be given to the diplomatic statements issued from the nations of the world? Even the legal brief seemed horribly one-sided. Middle Eastern cultures are rife with anachronisms; a little barbarism in the interrogation room is to be expected. But if Egypt is bullshitting the U.S. and Sweden in diplomacy, how about you spend a little time picking on Egypt?

    I think the greatest opposition to this rests not in some altruistic concern for human rights, but rather the fading relevance of “international law” as a binding code on states. A law is only as existent as the ability to enforce it.

  17. Then we could have the torture done by good, decent Americans!

    No…the other guy won the election.

  18. It’ll be a tough one to get traction (this story).

    You’ve got several political problems when selling this to the electorate:

    1. Piss the American people off enough, and they’ll just plumb turn their head away from torture – especially if they believe that the right people are being tortured.

    2. The U.S. has probably outsourced torture for a very long time. When CIA agents engaged in any insurgency/counterinsurgency programs with foreign nations, they would act as advisers to the group to which they’re giving aid, who would perform all of the strong arm tactics. (See: Foreign entanglements).

    3. The shaming of Christians into ‘inconsistent practices of behaviour’ is a dead end proposition. If it were that simple, the “Religion of Peace” would have long ago cut down on the acts of violence.

    4. If couched in terms of ‘moral equivalency, it’ll be yet another tough sell. Torture is wrong, but depending on what actual level of torture is uncovered, if it’s not as brutal as, well, beheadding someone slowly with a dull knife, the electorate again, will turn a blind eye.

    Torture could arguably come under the umbrella of subjecting someone to sleep deprivation. The Israeli’s use a technique where a subject is physically shaken until their fillings rattle. Again, in the case of the Israeli’s, it’s hard for the general population to get up in arms over a prisoner being shaken when it might stop a bomb from going off in a schoolyard or restaraunt.


  19. Randy I didn’t mean that Jesus is found in the Old Testament. Check out the Yurica report or this:

  20. Trainwreck,

    As a Christian, it’s always been my interperatation (mainly because it was pretty straightforward and directly stated) that Jesus would take care of that stuff upon his return.

    In fact, He’s pretty specific about us not worrying about when he will return. He simply tells us to be ready.

    Until then, we are told, we are to be focused in 2 areas: spreading the word and helping the poor, sick, needy and those in prison (today they’re known as ‘social justice’ issues).

    As Christians, nowhere in the New Testamenet does it tell us to engage in torture. In fact, it tells us to do quite the opposite.

    As for these folks who declare every word of the Bible and Jesus to be accurate and without flaw, they sure find it easy to set aside such gems as “turn the other cheek” whenever it’s inconvenient for them.

    I’m not going to debate the merits of their position on torture as a tool of war. I’m merely saying that their aggressive desire to promote it is pretty much unChristian.

  21. What does that mean? Does it mean we don’t like this Administration and whilst we couldn’t find any torture we want to get our licks in?

    You obviously do not read The Economist which, before this election, supported the Bush administration’s war. (And which, though I detested and still do detest that position, continues to be my news magazine of choice.)

    “Despite many requests, we
    are still denied access to Bagram and
    Guant?namo Bay prisons and once again we call
    upon US government to address Amnesty International’s
    concerns about the detainees”, the organization added.

    “In addition, we call for a
    full, impartial inquiry into allegations of torture
    and ill-treatment by US personnel against alleged
    al-Qa’ida and Taleban detainees held in US Air Base in
    Bagram, Afghanistan”.

    News Release, Amnesty International: 25 March

    Mr. Allawi’s team want to be
    seen to be up to the job; this is not, they believe, a
    time for soft talk. The justice minister has called
    for the revival of the death penalty, the defence
    minister has promised personally to cut off rebels’
    hands and heads…

    The Economist, June 26th, 2004

    And this Amnesty press release from a year ago.

    And is NEAR-Torture wrong?

    You’ve read this, no doubt. And been convinced.

    I hope you haven’t saved you disdain just for the US blogosphere.

    Oh don’t worry. Members of Amnesty are active all over the world when it comes to the violation of human rights.

    But I’m not one of those who believe that because Somalia, Nigeria, China, Iran kill or torture their citizens that somehow that excuses US torture and execution. And I admit to particular bitterness towards US hypocrisy. I expected better.

    … some altruistic concern for human rights…

    (I’m trying not to spit.) You think concern for human rights is “altruistic”? By your tone you seem to denigrate that concern. Wow. You are one scarey guy, if you do.

    The Geneva Conventions must be adhered to because otherwise _American_ soldiers will be hurt. Human rights must be respected because otherwise I WILL BE HURT!

    but rather the fading relevance of “international law” as a binding code on states. A law is only as existent as the ability to enforce it.

    Given that the president of the United States himself signed an executive order allowing his (your) agents to act “outside the law” by killing terrorist suspects, considering that the US is supposed to be a nation of laws, and since the US is the only present “super-power”, international law hasn’t got much of a chance. Fifty-nine million Americans have seen to that.

  22. Somolia, Nigeria, Iran … ? My post concerned Canada and the EU.

  23. Time out. Let’s all read the fucking thing before we start the flame war.

  24. You think concern for human rights is “altruistic”?

    As a subject, sure it is. An unselfish concern for the welfare of others. In practice however it is chiefly a political and diplomatic device. I don’t denigrate the theory, just the application.

    international law hasn’t got much of a chance.

    International law NEVER had much of a chance. It is enforced solely via treaty, and it’s only a minority of treaties that even hold up for more than a few years.

    As for the Geneva Conventions, I’m sure Zarqawi is losing sleep over how using non-uniformed militias and taking hostages violates those precious Conventions. They only matter when they can be used to censure a western state (or Israel). Beyond that, they don’t do much.

  25. (T)he Geneva Conventions… only matter when they can be used to censure a western state (or Israel). Beyond that, they don’t do much.

    Here is an interesting little law.

    Here’s Powell’s memo on the Gonzales proposal.

    But let’s face it. “Law” and treaties aren’t something the present administration really cares all that much about.

    Article VI

    Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    Not as popular with some as the 2nd amendment, but hey.

    And who knows. After they’ve managed to define “marriage”, maybe they can do something about “treaties”.

  26. At one point Christians owned slaves too.

    Not sure what that has to do with anything, but I just felt like saying it.

  27. Where does the Bible condone torture? The Inquisition could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you.

  28. Joe L-

    raymond, I note the phrase, “…practices pretty close to torture.

    I heard something like this on MSNBC yesterday…

    Human rights organizations are outraged that we forced prisoners to kneel for so long that they ended up with… bruised knees.

    You can’t make this sh!t up.

  29. Somolia, Nigeria, Iran … ? My post concerned Canada and the EU.

    I thought I’d compare what was comparable.

    1. “as well as certain European states” does not equal “the EU”.
    2. The European cases cited in the document refer to refoulement of asylum seekers, which is, indeed, very often abusive. If you’d like to join in Amnesty’s efforts to defend the rights of refugees, please click here.

    …bruised knees

    The most detailed account of these (interrogations), a long article in the Washington Post at the end of December, quotes these officials as claiming that prisoners are being subjected to a range of “stress-and-duress” techniques such as hooding, sleep deprivation, being held in awkward positions and, in some cases, denied painkillers for injuries. They are sometimes beaten, too. One official puts it bluntly: “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.”

    One tactic, however, is clearly forbidden in both domestic and international law: handing over suspects to someone else to torture. This is explicitly ruled out in the Convention Against Torture. Moreover, no court in any democratic country, including the United States, would agree to send a defendant to another country if it were known that he would be tortured there. America, therefore, seems already to be allowing its frustration to lead it to bend, and probably break, the law. Hard though the choice is, it would be good if America stopped. (The Economist, January 2003)

    Note this sentence: “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.”

    Teams of lawyers within the government, most of them political appointees, formulated new legal policies that redefined torture as limited to the pain equivalent to “major organ failure or death”. They argued that in any case the president, as the commander-in-chief in the war on terror, could not be bound by international treaties or federal laws forbidding torture. … Torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib soon became routine. (The Economist, November 2004)

    Article II, Section 1

    Clause 8: Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    The 53-page report, drawn up by Major-General Antonio Taguba in late February, details numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses” of detainees by American troops, male and female, in an attempt to “set favourable conditions for subsequent interviews”. At first classified secret, it became public this week after leaks in the media.

    Among the abuses listed in the report and by American eye-witnesses are: sodomising a detainee with a chemical light; pouring phosphoric liquid on detainees; beatings; threats of rape and electrocution; stripping detainees naked; and forcing them to masturbate and simulate other sex acts in public. Photographs and videos taken by American soldiers who allegedly witnessed the abuses were not included in the report because of their “extremely sensitive nature”, said the major-general. (The Economist, May 2004)

    “Bruised knees”.

    libertarian, n.

    1. One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.
    2. One who believes in free will.

    How “libertarians” can defend Bush, his administration, and his policies is beyond me. How 59 million Americans of any stripe can re-elect a man who has repeatedly broken his oath of office is beyond me, too.

  30. raymond-
    Kerry is no different than Bush, you are a fool if you think as much. I voted for the true libertarian candidate, Badnarik.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.