This Day In History — “Horrifying and Unnecessary” (New York Time Editorial – March 2 2008)

“Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.”

US General David Petraeus

This image of a prisoner, Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, being tortured has become internationally famous, eventually making it onto the cover of The Economist

During the war in Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. On March 2 2008, the New York Time Editorial strongly criticized these violations. The CIA issued a reply on the next day. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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March 2 2008 — The New York Time Editorial “Horrifying and Unnecessary” reads:

In the next few days President Bush is expected to again claim the right to order mistreatment of prisoners that any civilized person would regard as torture.

Mr. Bush is planning to veto a law that would require the C.I.A. and all the intelligence services to abide by the restrictions on holding and interrogating prisoners contained in the United States Army Field Manual. Mr. Bush says the Army rules are too restrictive.

(…)

Such practices have long been prohibited by American laws and international treaties respected by Republican and Democratic presidents. Mr. Bush, however, declared that he was unbound by the laws of civilization in responding to the barbarism of Sept. 11, 2001. And reports soon surfaced about the abuse of prisoners at detention centers in Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

We urge him [US President G. W. Bush] to read the Army Field Manual, which says: “Use of torture by U.S. personnel would bring discredit upon the U.S. and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It could also place U.S. and allied personnel in enemy hands at greater risk of abuse.”

(…)

He could listen to 43 retired generals or a bipartisan coalition of 18 former members of Congress, secretaries of state and national security officials who all supported the anti-torture amendment.

He could check the testimony of Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who told Congress last week that waterboarding violated the Geneva Conventions.

Or he could read the letter that Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, wrote to his troops.

“Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy,” General Petraeus wrote.

“They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.”

On March 3 2008, The CIA replied.

The following letter to the editor, published in the March 9 edition of The New York Times, responds to a March 2 editorial:

To the Editor:

“Horrifying and Unnecessary” (editorial, March 2) cites interrogation measures that are specifically banned by the Army Field Manual, including forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts, applying electric shocks and conducting mock executions.

The implication is that those measures would be used by the Central Intelligence Agency or other intelligence services if the intelligence authorization bill is vetoed by the president. They would not. The C.I.A. neither conducts nor condones torture.

As the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, has said, the Army Field Manual meets the needs of the American military services and is sufficient for their purposes.

But it does not exhaust the universe of lawful interrogation measures available to the Republic to defend itself against hardened terrorists — techniques not useful or suited to the Army’s circumstances but fully consistent with the Geneva Conventions and with current United States law.

These are the interrogation measures in the C.I.A.’s current interrogation program — not the ones cited in your editorial. They have been fully briefed to the intelligence oversight committees, and their lawfulness has been confirmed by the Justice Department.

Mark Mansfield
Director of Public Affairs
Central Intelligence Agency McLean, Va.
March 3, 2008

Jimmy Carter on Abu Ghraib

REFERENCES

Horrifying and Unnecessary” — NYT March 2 2008

CIA Response to March 2 NY Times Editorial — March 11, 2008

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This Day In History —  “Horrifying and Unnecessary” New York Time Editorial (March 2 2008)

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