Sleep Deprivation

Menachem Begin, victim of NKVD "enhanced interrogation" program.

Alex Massie has an excellent point about torture by so-called “sleep deprivation” including the point that this is a fairly misleading piece of terminology. The words suggest the idea of waking someone up to interrupt their sleep. The reality is of extended infliction of painful physical discomfort. In the words of federal judge Jay Bybee “detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached by a length of chain to the ceiling” or else “the detainee’s hands are manacled together and the arms placed in an outstretched position — either extended beyond the head or extended to either side of the body — and anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for either balance or comfort.”

What I really wanted to do, though, was pull out the account Massie quotes of Menachim Begin talking about being tortured by the NKVD:

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them – if they signed – uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.

This once again drives home the core points that Marc Thiessen is dodging with his absurd nitpicking. The torture techniques implemented by the Bush administration, and beloved by unintelligent and brutal people like Thiessen, are characteristic not of highly effective public security agencies but of brutal totalitarian dystopias. And their main systematic impact has never been the conduct of highly effective investigation, but rather the extraction of coerced confessions regardless of accuracy.