Torture Times

Torture Times

Torture Times

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 6 2005 3:28 AM

Torture Times

The Washington Postleads with a lawsuit filed by an Aussie being held at Gitmo whose lawyers say the U.S. once rendered him to Egypt, where he was electrocuted, beaten, and nearly drowned. The lawyers are trying to stop what they say are plans to send him to Egypt again. Three Gitmo detainees who have since been released said that, when the man first came back, he was missing his fingernails and medics didn't treat him although he was bleeding from his nose, mouth, and ears. The New York Timesleads with ten former WorldCom directors agreeing to pay $18 million of their own money to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by investors after the company imploded. The Times calls the personal payments a "remarkable concession." USA Today leads with, and others front, two studies concluding that inflammation can be as big a contributor to heart disease as high cholesterol. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Gov. Schwarzenegger's state of the state address in which he called for toppling some sacred cows, including changing the redistricting process. Another Times piece says the guv is about to propose 2 billion dollars in education cuts.

The NYT devotes a few hundred words inside to the detainee's lawsuit, but it fronts the latest torture-related documents nabbed and now released by the ACLU. They show FBI officials complaining about "coercive tactics" back in late 2002. Agents cited what they saw as 26 instances of abuse but were later told 17 of them involved Pentagon-approved techniques. As for the non-approved actions, what some neophytes might call torture, a "military lawyer" told the LAT inside, "We don't define most of these as abuse. We define most as misconduct."

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Though this morning's papers don't dwell on it, the ACLU itself says the newly released documents show the FBI's investigation was "sharply scaled back." The organization also points out that records from the FBI's investigation are still being withheld and those that were released have more blank spots than Mad Libs, rendering many of them unintelligible. (TP recently wrote about how the administration's response to the ACLU, and other FOIA requestors, is indicative of the administration's retreat from transparency.)

The NYT mentions and the Post stuffs a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine that Army doctors helped interrogators carry out abusive interrogations. The WP has previously reported that the doctors had Gitmo gave interrogators detainees' medical files. But according to this latest report, which is based on interviews with doctors as well as those ACLU papers, the docs did the same in Iraq. (In other words, though the papers don't seem to mention it, this seems to be another instance of Gitmo techniques "migrating" to Iraq, where the Geneva Conventions were supposed to apply.)

Everybody mentions the military's announcement that it's launching an investigation into the abuse allegations detailed by the FBI, which the ACLU docs originally revealed last month. Question: Was the military given copies of the FBI memos back when they were written, and if so, why did it wait to investigate? Also, doesn't the FBI itself have the authority to investigate if any civilians might have been involved?

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a tsunami update. Australia upped its aid to $764 million, making it the new top donor. Germany also increased its offering to about $690 million. The LAT notes some strings attached.

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Knight-Ridder has one of the sobering assessments about Aceh, saying "medical care remained largely unavailable" along much of coast. But the Journal has a glimmer of hope, pointing out that an early decision by Singapore is beginning to pay off: Soon after the tsunami, the country sent an amphibious unit to set up a base for relief operations in the previously cut-off Melulaboh and it's just about up and running.

The NYT's Jane Perlez reports from one of Aceh's few functioning hospitals, where many survivors who had small cuts are now facing amputations. "A couple of drops of this putrid water gives these people rip-roaring pneumonia and lacerations that get horrendously infected," said one doctor. The potential amputees are the lucky ones. "People with no treatment at all are already dead." The Post has a similar though less evocative report.

Nobody fronts three separate bombings in Iraq that killed about 20 Iraqis, mostly policemen. The Post says Baji's city council quit en masse after being threatened; an elections official was kidnapped in Baquba; and a police colonel was assassinated east of the capital.

After calling President Bush a few days ago, apparently to test the water about delaying the elections, appointed Prime Minister Allawi clarified that he is "committed to holding the elections on schedule." Also yesterday, Bush chatted with Iraq's interim president who has also suggested delayed the elections. Citing "aides," the NYT says, Bush "pressed his point that the voting has to go ahead as scheduled."

The Post fronts, and other stuff, the head of the Army Reserve saying his 200,000 soldiers are "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force." The general made the comments in a memo to top brass leaders and cited the "Army Reserve's inability to meet mission requirements" for Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 40 percent of the soldiers in Iraq are reservists.

The LAT fronts word that one of the biggest business lobbies is going to launch a "multimillion-dollar campaign" supporting President Bush's court nominees, apparently marking one of the first times the biz world has made a big push for court picks.

In a NYT op-ed, Mark Danner says there's something different about how the torture scandal has unfolded:

The traditional story line in which scandal leads to investigation and investigation leads to punishment has been supplanted by something else. Wrongdoing is still exposed; we gaze at the photographs and read the documents, and then we listen to the president's spokesman "reiterate," as he did last week, "the president's determination that the United States never engage in torture." And there the story ends.

The headline: "WE ARE ALL TORTURERS NOW."