Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lepidopteran torture

For years the Bush administration lied, stonewalled, and obstructed justice to conceal its ghastly record of torture, but the ACLU has finally blown the lid on the cover-up. And the truth is even worse than we could possibly imagine:

The Obama administration will not prosecute US intelligence officials involved in harsh interrogations of terror suspects, the president pledged on Thursday.

The 2002 Bybee memo...also approved a request to lock Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box with an insect. The memo says: "You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Abu Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him."

Bybee says the plan would be to trick Abu Zubaydah into thinking he was about to be stung. "You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect, such as a caterpillar, in the box with him," Bybee wrote.

"Through these memos, Justice Department lawyers authorized interrogators to use the most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the US once prosecuted as war crimes," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said in a statement."


  1. Do caterpillars have six legs and chitinous exoskeletons? Ah well, I don't suppose one needs a basic knowledge of entomology to be a brutal torturer. You know, unless the guy is afraid specifically of insects.

    Still, it's just as well I guess, as now anyone involved can rest easy that even if they are prosecuted, they'll get let off on the basis that no one was really brutalized owing to incompetence. Phew! I mean, that would have been some unconscionable, horrific, savage stuff. Insects in boxes. Day-amn.

  2. Watch out, though - they ALSO put diapers on detainees. That should change the mind of even the most hardened of us.

  3. Well... The torturee was Iraqi, wasn't he? Maybe he was inexpertly translating a word that means, roughly, "creepy crawly thing". And the torturer just used that definition.

  4. "In addition to waterboarding, the 2002 Bybee memo authorized slapping, pushing, confinement in a small, dark space, painful stress positions, and sleep deprivation for up to 11 days. It also approved a request to lock Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box with an insect."

    What? No rack? No iron maiden? No thumbscrews?

    Evidently we've gone soft since the Middle Ages.

  5. Depending on what they mean by "afraid", that could indeed be a very cruel and effective technique. It's possible the guy had an actual phobia about insects, not just your common-or-garden dislke of bugs.

    I don't get the point of placing a caterpillar in the box, though. If it was dark, why bother placing anything in at all; and if it wasn't, he'd be able to see it wasn't a stinging insect, so what's the point? Or do US torturers have scruples about lying to the people they're trying to terrify...?

  6. Smokering,

    I believe the box also contained Abu Zubaydah: "...approved a request to lock Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box with an insect."

  7. Smokering,

    Because sight isn't the only sense. If someone says, "We're going to put a stinging insect in here with you" and then you start feeling a caterpillar crawling up your leg, you're gonna assume it's a stinging insect. And I just wonder how easily it would be for someone who's blinded to tell the difference between a centipede and a caterpillar when it's crawling on them. It may be possible for someone who's been blind a long time, but someone who's just picked up and blindfolded or put into a dark box isn't going to tell the difference.

    As way of analogy, have you ever thought you felt an insect crawling on you so you slapped your hand down only to discover a piece of thread from your shirt? It's the same basic principal.