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CIA torture

Hideous business, but not new

By Michael Kramer

A front-page article in the Dec. 26 Washington Post has focused attention on the CIA's decades-long policy that permits and encourages the use of torture on anyone in its custody.

According to the Post, the CIA currently maintains interrogation facilities at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the British island colony of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and "other overseas interrogation facilities [that] are off-limits to outsiders, and often even to other government agencies."

Detainees "are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles... . At times they are held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights--subject to what are known as 'stress and duress' techniques."

Also, "captives are often 'softened up' by MPs [military police] and U.S. Army Special Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. The alleged terrorists are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep."

These techniques were also used extensively against military personnel and civilians during the Korean and Vietnam wars. While the torturers maimed and killed many, they failed to break the steadfast resistance of the people of these countries to U.S. imperialism.

However, the torture did result in the psychological and emotional scarring of thousands of U.S. military veterans who were compelled to carry out the brutality. Today they continue to fill the drug and alcohol abuse outpatient clinics and hospital wards of the Veterans Administration.

The Washington Post quoted from speeches and congressional testimony of current CIA Director George Tenet and of Cofer Black, former head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. Most other sources are identified only as "intelligence specialists familiar with CIA interrogation methods," "national security officials," "one official who has supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists," "U.S. government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity," "Americans with direct knowledge and others who have witnessed the treatment" and "Bush administration appointees."

These sources do not want their names revealed because they know very well that public support for the Bush administration's so-called war on terrorism could collapse. If that leads to a falling-out within the ruling class, it might result in criminal charges being filed against them.

They must also fear Pinochet-type secret indictments in foreign courts for violating international law. They don't want this possibility hanging over their heads for the rest of their lives whenever they travel overseas on official business or vacation.

Former U.S. Secretary of State and war criminal Henry Kissinger, who is now wanted for trial in several countries, as well as various government officials and active-duty and retired military officers in Israel, are forced to limit their travels because of this potential scenario.

Uruguay, 1970

One of the most skilled torturers the CIA ever employed was Dan Mitrione, a former high-ranking Indiana police officer described in the book "Killing Hope/U.S. Military and CIA Intervention since World War II," by William Blum.

Mitrione was stationed in Brazil and Uruguay during the 1960s. He was an instructor in the art of torture.

He "had built a soundproofed room in the cellar of his house in Montevideo. In this room he assembled selected Uruguayan police officers to observe a demonstration of torture techniques."

On July 31, 1970, the Tupamaros--a radical anti-imperialist Uruguayan group whose members had been regularly tortured by graduates of Mitrione's course--kidnapped him. A few days later he was executed. The Greek director Constantin Costa-Gavros popularized the incident in his excellent film "State of Siege." He also directed "Missing," about the U.S. role in the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile.

CIA torture will not make the United States a more secure place to live. It will not provide a relaxed environment for U.S. citizens traveling overseas. It will have just the opposite effect. Further more, it can lead to disaster for those who fail to distance themselves from the gangster mentality and mindset in the CIA.

Reprinted from the Jan. 16, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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