Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Not So Basic Training
Human Rights First, NY

Last night, Charlie Rose asked CIA Director General Michael Hayden what "enhanced" interrogation techniques were. The transcript is available here -- the whole thing is worth reading if you missed the show. Apparently it's the identity of the person on the receiving end of these "enhanced" techniques that determines whether or not the techniques themselves are objectionable.

Hayden contends that, while the Department of Defense is governed by Army Field Manual, there's a zone of permissible treatment for other detainees beyond the Army Field Manual techniques but within the limits of our treaty obligations and the Constitution. In judging the acceptability of practices in this outer zone, Hayden applies the "shocks the conscience" standard to define torture -- if the treatment doesn't "shock the conscience," then it's not torture or cruel treatment. He then compares the "enhanced" techniques to the training Marines receive on Paris Island, arguing that since this tough training doesn't "shock the conscience" when it's being done to the Marines, the "enhanced" interrogation program similarly isn't "absolutely wrong."

It's unclear to me whether he's arguing that the "enhanced" techniques shouldn't "shock the conscience" because they're being applied to presumed terrorists, or whether the techniques themselves are in fact similar to training exercises that Marines have to perform. Can we hear from the Marines out there about whether techniques like "cold cell" and "long time standing" are now part of basic training?

Gen. Michael Hayden: . . . But the[re] are a whole bunch [of]other activities. I read an interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, and I’m paraphrasing and I probably won’t get it perfectly right. But they were talking about the shock the conscience standard, all right? And they pointed out that if they took you and me, all right, people of our age, and put us, you and me, through what Marine Corps recruits at Paris Island and forced us to do that, that probably would shock the conscious. But it’s not illegal to do it to Marine Corps recruits, all right? That same behavior is not absolutely wrong --

Charlie Rose: Are you talking about things like sleep deprivation, cold and extreme, and --

Gen. Michael Hayden: All the things, all the stresses that we put these recruits through, all right? But we don’t think that’s torture or cruel and degrading --

Charlie Rose: But I don’t think when people think about torture that’s what they’re talking about. You know? This leads to another --

Gen. Michael Hayden:Well, that’s a wonderful point because maybe that is what I’m talking about.

Charlie Rose:So we’re saying we do --

Gen. Michael Hayden:[unintelligible]

Charlie Rose:-- do that it’s torture. If we do that, it’s not torture, that’s what you’re saying?

Gen. Michael Hayden: Again, I’m not going to talk about --

Charlie Rose:I know that, but what you just said to me. But there is -- I mean, if -- I -- you would say to me, clearly the United States does not torture.

Gen. Michael Hayden: Right.

Charlie Rose:T he president said that. The United State’s does not

Gen. Michael Hayden: That’s right.