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Ten lessons from recent torture hearings

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TEXT ON SCREEN: In June 2008, Congress conducted a series of hearings about detainee interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A number of lessons emerged. Here are ten of them: Lesson #1. Americans were abusing prisoners at Guantanamo.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress positions, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them.

GLEN FINE, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Twenty-hour interrogations. Tying a dog leash to his chain and leading him through a series of dog tricks. Stripping him naked in the presence of female. Repeatedly pouring water on his head. Instructing him to pray to an idol shrine.

SENATOR: Stress position. Short shackling. Isolation. Growling military dogs. Twisting thumbs back. Using a female interrogator to touch or provoke a detainee in a sexual manner.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #2. Donald Rumsfeld approved the "enhanced" techniques.

SENATOR: Isn’t it true that Secretary Rumsfeld approved the use of stress positions like short shackling and temperature manipulation as interrogation techniques, and that these were not the actions of a few bad apples on the night shift?

FINE: Yes, they were; those techniques were approved and authorized.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #3. FBI agents thought the treatment was wrong but did nothing to stop it.

FINE: —Director Mueller said, Senator Specter, was that he was aware that the legality of this was being assessed by the Department of Justice. It was changing.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): It seems to me that that is insufficient, to say that the practices were changing—your words. That is not to say that they were changed. That is not to say that they were stopped. It seems to me it’s not sufficient not to participate in improper or illegal conduct, and if they see it, they ought to blow the whistle and do what’s necessary to stop it. To say that they should have pressed harder is not to say very much.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #4. The Bush Administration’s "policy of cruelty" was a mistake.

ALBERTO MORA, FORMER TOP NAVY LAWYER: Mr. Chairman, our nation’s policy decision to use so-called harsh interrogation techniques during the war on terror was a mistake of massive proportions. It damaged and continues to damage our nation. This policy, which may aptly be labeled a policy of cruelty, violated our founding values, our constitutional system and the fabric of our laws, our overarching foreign policy interests, and our national security. The net effect of this policy of cruelty has been to weaken our defenses, not to strengthen them.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #5. Torture gets you bad information.

JACK CLOONAN, FORMER FBI INTERROGATOR: I accept the argument that coercion will obtain a certain kind of information. I do not, however, accept the argument that sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, head-slapping, isolation, temperature extremes, stress positions, waterboarding, and the like will produce accurate information.

PHILIPPE SANDS, AUTHOR, "THE TORTURE TEAM": The coercive interrogations were illegal. They didn’t work. They have undermined moral authority. They have migrated. They have served as a recruiting tool for those who seek harm to the United States and to Britain, and they’ve made it more difficult for allies to transfer detainees and to cooperate in other ways.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #6. Torturing detainees makes us less safe.

CLOONAN: Based on my experience in talking to al-Qaeda members, I am persuaded that revenge in the form of a catastrophic attack on the homeland is coming.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #7. Administration lawyers who approved the harsh tactics are now under fire.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (D-SC): Administration lawyers used bizarre legal theories to justify harsh interrogation techniques. The guidance that was provided during this period of time I think will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and short-sighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military and intelligence communities.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #8. Jim Haynes, Donald Rumsfeld’s top lawyer at the Department of Defense, was one of those who justified the harsh tactics.

WILLIAM "JIM" HAYNES II, FORMER TOP LAWYER AT DEFENSE DEPT: Well, Senator, you’re assuming something that’s not so. You’re assuming that there were no understood conditions.

SENATOR: But understood by who?

HAYNES: Understood by everybody involved in the process.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #9. Haynes and his fellow administration lawyers are increasingly being challenged by others.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): But is it your sense that military interrogators did not know what they were permitted to do in the constantly shifting policies and mixed messages that they were getting?

FINE: I think there was some sense that with the changes in the policies, they didn’t always get down to the level of the interrogators who were actually conducting the interrogation.

HAYNES: People who were knowledgeable about the proposal and how it would be applied all understood what was meant by the proposal.

FINE: And so that, at points, they weren’t sure or aware what exactly was authorized.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Lesson #10. Never lecture a West Point graduate about military honor while trying to justify your own actions.

HAYNES: —not to mention, Senator—

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), WEST POINT GRADUATE (1971):Where in this memorandum is the reference to those conditions?

HAYNES: —not to mention, as you know, the training and the quality of the soldiers that I think these questions malign.

REED: I object strenuously to that. You did a disservice to the soldiers of this nation. You empowered them to violate basic conditions which every soldier respects—the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention. Here’s what soldiers do. You said the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply, and they honestly asked, "What does apply?" And the only thing you sent them was, "These techniques apply"—no conditions, nothing. So don’t go around with this attitude that you’re protecting the integrity of the military. You degraded the integrity of the United States military. And I’ve finished my question.

TEXT ON SCREEN: There will be more interrogation hearings on the Hill this week, and more lessons.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.