an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman marty.lederman at comcast.net
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
F.B.I. memorandums portray abuse of prisoners by American military personnel in Iraq that included detainees' being beaten and choked and having lit cigarettes placed in their ears, according to newly released government documents.
The documents, released Monday in connection with a lawsuit accusing the government of being complicit in torture, also include accounts by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who said they had seen detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, being chained in uncomfortable positions for up to 24 hours and left to urinate and defecate on themselves. An agent wrote that in one case a detainee who was nearly unconscious had pulled out much of his hair during the night.
One of the memorandums released Monday was addressed to Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, and other senior bureau officials, and it provided the account of someone "who observed serious physical abuses of civilian detainees" in Iraq. The memorandum, dated June 24 this year, was an "Urgent Report," meaning that the sender regarded it as a priority. It said the witness "described that such abuses included strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees' ear openings and unauthorized interrogations."
The memorandum did not make clear whether the witness was an agent or an informant, and it said there had also been an effort to cover up the abuses. The writer of the memorandum said Mr. Mueller should be aware of what was occurring because "of potential significant public, media and Congressional interest which may generate calls to the director." The document does not provide further details of the abuse, but suggests that such treatment of prisoners in Iraq was the subject of an investigation conducted by the bureau's Sacramento office.
Beyond providing new details about the nature and extent of abuses, if not the exact times or places, the newly disclosed documents are the latest to show that such activities were known to a wide circle of government officials.
The documents, mostly memorandums written by agents to superiors in Washington over the past year, also include claims that some military interrogators had posed as F.B.I. officials while using harsh tactics on detainees, both in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay.
In one memorandum, dated Dec. 5, 2003, an agent whose name is blanked out on the document expressed concern about military interrogators' posing as F.B.I. agents at the Guantánamo camp.
The agent wrote that the memorandum was intended as an official record of the interrogators' behavior because, "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, D.O.D. interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done by 'F.B.I.' interrogators. The F.B.I. will be left holding the bag before the public." D.O.D. is an abbreviation for the Department of Defense.
Asked about the possible impersonation of F.B.I. agents by military personnel, Bryan Whitman, the deputy Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that "It is difficult to determine from the secondhand description whether the technique" was permissible.
The Pentagon did not offer any fresh reaction to the descriptions of alleged abuse. But it said in response to other recent disclosures that the Defense Department did not tolerate abusive tactics and that some of the allegations contained in such documents were under investigation.
The documents were in the latest batch of papers to be released by the government in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to determine the extent, if any, of American participation in the mistreatment of prisoners. The documents are the most recent in a series of disclosures that have increasingly contradicted the military's statements that harsh treatment of prisoners happened only in limited, isolated cases.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H.W. Bush accused my MA Governor Mike Dukakis of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU. With this inspiration, I promptly joined the ACLU and have continued since as a card-carrying member. Kudos to the ACLU for protecting all Americans and other human beings. The other day at a Christmas lunch, a right wing acquaintance from New Hampshire (the "Vote First Or Die!" state) derogated the ACLU, which prompted my pulling out of my wallet my ACLU card and waving it about the group. Then I got an inspiration from the song "YMCA" and with my arms spelled out and sang "ACLU". It can be contagious. Try it.