“It’s surprising how little the analysis in this memo changed from the past memos, notwithstanding the passage of the [Detainee Treatment Act] and the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan,” said American Civil Liberties Union national security project lawyer Alex Abdo.So "degrading" treatment isn't degrading if it's "safe"?
The July 2007 opinion, for example, analyzed whether prolonged sleep deprivation for up to 96 straight hours (or 180 hours in a 30-day period) while a prisoner is forced to stand, shackled, in diapers, and eventually in his own urine and feces violates the Detainee Treatment Act and Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.
The Justice Department lawyers concluded that it does not violate either law, even if the sleep deprivation is combined with restriction to a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet (half the recommended daily human intake) of liquid formula, and with “corrective techniques” such as the “facial hold,” “facial slap,” and “abdominal slap”.
The rules are not violated because the CIA has determined that such techniques are “safe”, concludes the memo, meaning they cause no “serious,” permanent or long-lasting injury.
The lawyers are confident of that conclusion because “the CIA adapted each of the techniques from those used in the United States military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (“SERE”) training,” which is “designed to familiarize U.S. troops with interrogation techniques they might experience in enemy custody and to train these troops to resist such techniques.”Is all this continuing under Obama? Who knows?
Although the lawyers recognize “that a detainee in CIA custody will be in a very different situation from U.S. military personnel who experienced SERE training, the CIA nonetheless found it important that no significant or lasting medical or psychological harm had resulted from the use of these techniques on U.S. military personnel over many years in SERE training.”
That’s the same reasoning the OLC used to justify waterboarding and other techniques in its Aug. 1, 2002 memo.
The Aug. 31, 2006 Office of Legal Counsel memo goes on to say that the techniques don’t “shock the conscience” – the same standard the lawyers used in 2005 to say the CIA’s interrogation techniques didn’t violate the international Convention Against Torture.
In effect, in the Justice Department’s view, despite the new law and Supreme Court interpretation, nothing had changed.