UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 10, 2009

MEMOS DESCRIBE SLEEP DENIAL TO BE SERIOUS TORTURE

LA Times - Though widely perceived as more effective and less objectionable than other interrogation methods, memos show [sleep deprivation is] harsher and more controversial than most realize. And it could be brought back. . .

The technique is now prohibited by President Obama's ban in January on harsh interrogation methods, although a task force is reviewing its use along with other interrogation methods the agency might employ in the future.

Because of its effectiveness -- as well as the perception that it was less objectionable than waterboarding, head-slamming or forced nudity -- sleep deprivation may be seen as a tempting technique to restore.

But the Justice Department memos released last month by Obama, as well as information provided by officials familiar with the program, indicate that the method, which involves forcing chained prisoners to stand, sometimes for days on end, was more controversial within the U.S. intelligence community than was widely known.

A CIA inspector general's report issued in 2004 was more critical of the agency's use of sleep deprivation than it was of any other method besides waterboarding, according to officials familiar with the document, because of how the sleep deprivation was applied.

The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins, according to the Justice Department memos.

Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains.

The memos said more than 25 of the CIA's prisoners were subjected to sleep deprivation. At one point, the agency was allowed to keep prisoners awake for as long as 11 days; the limit was later reduced to just over a week. . .

When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs "anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort," a May 10, 2005, memo said.

"The position is sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of standing," it said.

In the Red Cross report, prisoners said they were also subjected to loud music and repetitive noise.

"I was kept sitting on a chair, shackled by hands and feet for two to three weeks," said suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner captured by the CIA, according to the Red Cross report. "If I started to fall asleep, a guard would come and spray water in my face."

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