Last month, in a post on yet more torture and abuse in Iraq, I laid out the evidence that torture of detainees by US interrogators was condoned at the highest levels of the Bush administration:
We have widespread reports of torture and abuse, documented in photographs, videos, and statements from both victims, US personnel, and official interrogation records; we have memos from those at the top (notably Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld [PDF] and Lt General Ricardo Sanchez [PDF]) authorising such techniques to be used; testimony from commanding officers that in at least some cases such treatment was authorised (however erroneously) on the basis of those memos; arguments from Justice Department lawyers that its all perfectly legal [PDF] (despite clear statements in both international and US domestic law to the contrary); attempts by senior members of the executive to prevent it from being banned or even seriously investigated; and a stunning lack of prosecutions unless there are photographs which make the news (which implies that the crime isn't so much torture as getting caught). While we do not yet have a document from Rumsfeld or Sanchez ordering the torture of any particular detainee (though their memos suggest that such could exist, and we do have evidence that they ordered detainees to be kept "off the books" so their condition could not be monitored by the Red Cross), the abuses reported from the lowest levels match those authorised by the highest; while clearly some of what has gone on was unauthorised, it is also equally clear that there is a concrete policy that torture is acceptable in at least some cases, and that some of what has been reported was fully consistent with that policy.
If there's a weak point in this story, it's the gap between policy and implementation - a gap exploited in full by those at the top to deny responsibility and say "that wasn't what we really meant". But that gap is slowly being filled. Salon today reports that Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld personally supervised the interrogation of Mohamed al-Kahtani, a detainee who was subjected to treatment that even US military investigators called "degrading and abusive":
Kahtani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women's underwear and to perform "dog tricks" on a leash. He received 18-to-20-hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days.
Not mentioned by Salon, but mentioned in other material and in the interviews its story is based on, is the fact that al-Kahtani was menaced, Abu Ghraib-style, with snarling dogs, and kept in a lit cell in total isolation for 160 days. The end result of this treatment was described in passing in this National Journal article:
By late November 2002, an FBI agent wrote, [the detainee] was "evidencing behaviour consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to nonexistent people, reporting hearing voices, cowering in a corner of his cell covered with a sheet for hours on end.)"
In short, they psychologially tortured this man until he went mad. And all this time, Rumsfeld was showing a close, personal interest in this particular individual's treatment, receiving weekly briefings. While the report concludes that Rumsfeld did not specifically prescribe this treatment, it is entirely consistent with the general techniques he had previously authorised, and the close supervision exercised significantly undermines any claim that it was not condoned. Again, you have to ask, how much clearer can it be?