Why was Mark Danner able to get hold of a classified report detailing torture of “high value” detainees and publish an article about it in The New York Review of Books before leading newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post?
Was this an example of one journalist “besting” another journalist? No. When “high value” detainees are tortured Americans and journalists are right there with 24’s Jack Bauer.
Mark Danner’s article, “US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites” details the content of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report about the treatment of fourteen “high value detainees,” while in the CIA’s secret prisons. These detainees were captured during various times beginning in 2002. The so-called "black sites" were set up by the Bush Administration after September 11attacks and existed separately from the Bush administration’s plan on rendition, surveillance and interrogation.
The most “infamous” of these detainees is Abu Zubaydah. He is quoted extensively in the report where he details the torture inflicted on him. Zubaydah was captured a few months after the September 11 attacks. Bush called him “a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden.”
Prior to the ICRC report we could only speculate what really occurred while the fourteen high value detainees were transferred between each of these off-shore prisons. Were the transfer procedures different for each detainee? According to the report, it wasn’t:
The detainee would be photographed, both clothed and naked prior to and again after transfer. A body cavity check (rectal examination) would be carried out and some detainees alleged that a suppository (the type and the effect of such suppositories was unknown by the detainees), was also administered at that moment.
The detainee would be made to wear a diaper and dressed in a tracksuit. Earphones would be placed over his ears, through which music would sometimes be played. He would be blindfolded with at least a cloth tied around the head and black goggles. In addition, some detainees alleged that cotton wool was also taped over their eyes prior to the blindfold and goggles being applied….
The detainee would be shackled by [the] hands and feet and transported to the airport by road and loaded onto a plane. He would usually be transported in a reclined sitting position with his hands shackled in front. The journey times…ranged from one hour to over twenty-four to thirty hours. The detainee was not allowed to go to the toilet and if necessary was obliged to urinate and defecate into the diaper.
Imagine a blindfold tied so tight it resulted in wounds to the ears and nose. Imagine only hearing two levels of sound for more than 24 hours, silence or loud music. Imagine having to lie flat on the floor of the plane with your hands cuffed behind your back, causing relentless pain. Imagine not knowing where you are going, while urine and irritates to your skin. All these scenarios are detailed in the report.
On September 6, 2006, President Bush delivered a speech in front of high officials, dignitaries, and specially invited September 11 survivor families, admitting to the existence of a program dedicated to high value detainees and forcefully reassuring Americans that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it—and I will not authorize it."
Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross traveled in early October 2006 to Guantanamo to begin interviews with the 14 “high-value detainees.” The officials hoped to use these interviews to create an account of what was occurring in these “black sites.” During their interview with detainees, the ICRC workers encountered descriptions of dietary manipulation, sleep deprivations, use of noise to induce stress and use of stress positions.
Are these descriptions of torture? Yes. ICRC personal are officially and legally require to make sure the rules of the Geneva Conventions are followed.
The report concludes:
The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Read the rest of the article here.