Susan Crawford and the Media: Torture is as Torture Does
Crawford recently told Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that:
"We tortured (Mohammed al-) Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.
The basic premise of this story however, had apparently been completely refuted in retrospect, back in February of 2008. By whom? Why, the Washington Post.
On February 12th, 2008, the Post printed an article titled:
U.S. to Try 6 on Capital Charges Over 9/11 Attacks
New Evidence Gained Without Coercive Tactics
You read that correctly, the staff writers went out of their way to inform the public that the evidence against the 9/11 conspirators was ‘gained without coercive tactics.'
In fact, the opening is rather startling:
The admissions made by the men -- who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- played a key role in the government's decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.
Further, steps were taken to ensure against the admissions being marred by coercion, a fact that has escaped Ms. Crawford. According to the Post:
To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects' trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said...
... Observers watched the interrogations remotely so they could verify that the questioning complied with the Army's updated field manual on interrogations, which includes strict prohibitions against aggressive techniques.
For those who do not recall, Qahtani stands accused by military prosecutors of helping to plan the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. Officials believe he may have sought to participate first hand, possibly as the 20th hijacker. He was to meet plot leader Mohamed Atta on August 4th, 2001, but was instead denied entry. And, one of the biggest points not being transferred through the media is that:
FBI "clean teams," which gather evidence without using information gained during controversial interrogations, have established that Qahtani intended to join the 2001 hijackers.
Because of his conspiring to kill thousands of Americans, Qahtani was subjected to certain minor inconveniences by any standard, including isolation, nudity, and exposure to a cold room.
Woodward describes Crawford as ‘the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial.' While the article focuses on Qahtani, he was only one of six total men charged by the military for being involved in the September 11th plot. An Associated Press article from May of 2008 indicates that the five other men were also being charged with murder and war crimes for their alleged roles in the attack, but did not discern why Qahtani had charges dropped, while the others did not.
Because of the allegations of harsh interrogation, Crawford says, ‘I did not refer the case' for prosecution. Essentially, Crawford is saying that because Qahtani was tortured, she could not justify pursuing the case against him. However, in the Washington Post article she also believes, but can't confirm, that the other five men were tortured, saying (emphasis mine throughout):
Crawford said she does not know whether five other detainees accused of participating in the Sept. 11 plot, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, were tortured. "I assume torture," she said, noting that CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said publicly that Mohammed was one of three detainees water boarded by the CIA.
The question remains, when did Crawford come to this assumption? The interrogation of Qahtani was available in the form of an 84 page secret interrogation log which cites events from November, 2002, and was presented publicly in detail as far back as June of 2005, when Time Magazine covered the story. In short, the alleged torture of Qahtani just over six years earlier should have been no secret to ‘the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial.'
Additionally, an interrogation log of the five other detainees was likely available for Crawford's perusal. Standard operating procedures at Guantanamo, in which stress positions (aka torture) are utilized, require a logbook entry. Such detailed record keeping would be standard in the case of all detainees, so having to come to an assumption would be unnecessary.
What doesn't add up is Crawford's statement that she assumes the others were tortured as well. If that assumption came about recently, then her lack of research into the plight of the other five men at Guantanamo, who were up for charges at the same time, is worrisome. If however, this assumption was made at an earlier date, such as when she first reviewed details of Qahtani's interrogation, then the decision to drop charges against Qahtani while pursuing charges against the other men is curious at best. More curious is Crawford's apparent willingness to ignore the Military Commissions Act of 2006:
After the Supreme Court ruled in the 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case that the original military commission system for Guantanamo Bay violated the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, Congress rewrote the rules and passed the Military Commissions Act, creating a new structure for trials by commissions. The act bans torture but permits "coercive" testimony.
Crawford said she believes that coerced testimony should not be allowed.
Further muddying the logic, Crawford cites the public admission of CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, that one of the other five men, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was subjected to water boarding, as a backup statement to her assumption of torture. But she then ‘declined to say whether she considers water boarding, a technique that simulates drowning, to be torture.'
Mohammad, along with the other men, was charged with war crimes in February of 2008. Therefore, water boarding appears to be a question mark as a form of torture in Crawford's eyes, but being repetitively inconvenienced can definitively be classified as such?
A significant fact being glossed over is Crawford's admission that all of the techniques utilized were authorized - including water boarding - meaning everything alleged to have been perpetrated upon these men was legal. Or, as Hayden stated in a recent U.S. News & World Report article,
"If the techniques used are said to be legal, should they not be used?" he asked, adding that interrogations produced the "maximum amount of information" from the first groups of detainees captured after the 9/11 attacks.
It's difficult to assess the motivation behind Crawford's recent statements, but the motivation of the main stream media remains transparent. What exactly is the reason behind the media's lack of motivation in questioning Crawford more thoroughly? Are they simply no longer interested in finding the truth, or is this another clear-cut example of bias in the media? It can be classified not only as biased, but negligent as well.
Combined, Crawford and the media are putting our government, our troops, and the security of this nation in harm's way by carelessly reporting Americans as torturers. As evidence, lawyers for terrorists are already following suit, citing Crawford's comments as proof that charges should simply be dropped. The Miami Herald has reported one such case, in which a man accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suddenly wants charges dropped in light of the recent news.
While perplexing, Crawford may eventually provide further insights into her reasoning - and she should be given the benefit of the doubt - but it doesn't appear necessary. The media on the other hand, simply does not care. Their only concern is the headline's they can derive from this news, something akin to CNN's report which is titled:
Bush official says Gitmo detainee was tortured.
And there, friends, is the media's payoff - the opportunity to portray President Bush as a war-mongering torturer. They are presented the opportunity and once again are off and running, no longer concerned with asking questions to further investigate the story, and connecting dots that have no business being connected.
Need proof? How about this little effort from PBS?
"We do not torture," President Bush assured the world in 2005, in response to questions raised about U.S. interrogation methods at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Now, for the first time, a senior government official has explicitly said otherwise.
When Bush made the above statement, the U.S. had changed gears on special interrogation techniques. As outlined above, the tactics in question were all legal when they occurred. PBS intentionally phrases the above statement to infer that Crawford's statements have proven that Bush lied when he said ‘We do not torture.' This, of course, is categorically untrue, and has been reiterated by the administration when White House press secretary Dana Perino defended our President by saying,
'Let me just make sure it's clear - and I'll say it on the record one more time - that it has never been the policy of this president or this administration to torture.'
Problem being, Crawford and the media are playing the ‘the legal definition of torture' card to make their case. They are citing guidelines and handbooks which define torture in incredibly broad terms. They are failing to cite the Handbook of Common Sense, one in which the level-headed individual realizes there are differing degrees to the term ‘torture.'
If the allegations of abuse are indeed true, then Crawford must be careful to state that those abuses are considered torture only under ‘the legal definition.' The media has far more play in this matter, however. They operate with the understanding that, when the general public hears the word torture, they think of extreme measures meant to inflict agony or pain. Liberal journalists have no problem playing off of that association, cleverly keeping the specific torture tactics omitted from their columns.
One example of this is a recent column by Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In it, Bookman makes sweeping statements such as:
The United States of America - our nation, a country that has long taken justified pride in its role as a champion of human rights - tortured suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Crawford was appointed to a third major national security role, overseeing the military commissions created to try prisoners at Guantanamo. What she discovered in that job left her aghast.
What exactly left Crawford ‘aghast?' Such appalling techniques as:
- Standing naked in front of a female agent;
- Strip searches;
- Insults to the detainee's mother and sister;
- Threatened (not attacked) with a dog;
- Forced to wear a woman's bra;
- Having a thong placed on the head during interrogation.
In law, there are varying degrees and names for particular crimes - taking someone's life for example. A serial killer who meticulously plans and carries out the murder of his victims will be prosecuted differently than an individual who kills someone in self-defense. Subsequently, the punishments will differ as well, indicating that the severity of the crime is not the same.
President Bush however, has been prosecuted for eight years and counting in the media, and when it suits the liberal agenda, such things as degrees of torture are not considered.
Most Americans with two feet placed securely on the ground can see right through this media technique. One form of torture does not equal another form of torture.
When Crawford refers to our service men and women being subjected to the same treatment described above, does she really believe they'd have any other response than out of control laughter? Most would consider junior high gym class to have been a more difficult ordeal than what this particular Guantanamo prisoner endured.
Ask any of our troops if they would prefer torture by barking dog as opposed to what they currently face when captured by enemy combatants, and what do you think their response would be?
Do you think any of the 2,974 people who died on September 11th would choose insults to their mother, or burning alive?
Is there any doubt that someone like Nick Berg would prefer that a thong be placed over his head, as opposed to being decapitated with a knife for the world to see?
When our service men and women, as well as civilians are captured, and they do not talk to their captors, they are subjected to torture defined as inflicting agony or pain. They are not made too cold, or really uncomfortable. They are tortured until they are dead. Period.
How does the media get away with equating the two forms of torture? Quite simply, they downplay the details, and when they are called out on it, they accuse you of ‘moral relativism.'
The left likes the phrase ‘moral relativism' for two reasons: One, they honestly believe it is applicable to their argument, and two, they like the rare opportunity to use multi-syllabic words whenever they get the chance. It makes the absurd sound more intelligent.
The concept in this case is awash with irony. The media wants to equate the US and terrorists when speaking of torture, even though they clearly are not equal, while simultaneously insisting that the two should never be equal in their tactics.
The gist of the moral relativism argument is that, what works for our enemies is not necessarily what should be practiced by the United States. This is true, but the point is being missed. The glaringly obvious separation in the degrees of torture between our government, and that of others, DOES indicate that the behavior of the United States of America IS at a higher standard. We are a more civilized nation, and the accusations by Susan Crawford, and subsequent reporting by the media, do not diminish that stature, they only enhance it.
If only the media could hold itself to a higher standard as well...
Camp Justice - Peter Nicholls/The Times
Al-Qahtani - AP Photo/Getty Images
9/11 - The Record (Bergen County, NJ)/Thomas E. Franklin