While discussing the recent release of Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel torture memos last night on CNN, host Anderson Cooper asked President Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer if he believes that torture took place. “Waterboarding is pretty close to the line,” Fleischer responded. “Sleep deprivation,” however, “I have no problem with,” he said.
Cooper noted that the torture tactics OLC lawyers authorized were “techniques that the Nazis used,” but Fleischer dismissed this concern. “I think it’s all how it’s conducted and to what extent things go,” he added, justifying the techniques because “medical people” were “present.” Watch it:
Either Fleischer hasn’t read the memos or he thinks hanging detainees from shackles to keep them awake is fine. The May 30, 2005 memo says that “shackling is used only as a passive means of keeping the detainee awake,” and therefore does not constitute torture. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross documented this technique’s true effect:
Although this position prevented most detainees from sleeping, three of the detainees stated that they did fall asleep once or more while shackled in this position. [...] When they did fall asleep held in this position, the whole weight of their bodies was effectively suspended from the shackled wrists, transmitting the strain through the arms to the shoulders.
Despite Fleischer’s relief that doctors were present during the interrogations, some medical professionals overseeing the harsh techniques actually enabled some of them. Moreover, the Bush administration manipulated scientists’ work on sleep deprivation to justify the tactic. One scientist equated the CIA’s use of his study results to the overdosing of medication. “It’s like giving a drug to a patient: if you administer it in small doses for therapeutic reasons, it helps them. If you give it in huge volumes, it becomes toxic — and can even kill them.”
Many conservatives, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have been arguing over the past few days that the torture tactics these memos approved are justified because they “work” (they don’t). However, it doesn’t appear that Fleischer has received the memo. Later in the segment Cooper asked, “If it works, do you think, then, it’s justified?” “No, I don’t,” Fleischer replied.