Torture of Solitary Confinement and other means:
Torture As American As Apple Pie:
News and Views about US Prisons,
and yes, allegations and evidence about
Information about the case of Daniel Boyd and co-defendants, etc
Daniel Boyd and some of his co defendants are in solitary confinement.
Yet they have not been convicted of any crime.
What is prolonged solitary confinement?
Nothing less that torture, as the experts inform us, and as seen below.
<> “Torture . . . any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . .” – U.N. Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1
<> Hmm,,, The LAW
18 U.S.C. § 2340 : US Code – Section 2340: Definitions
As used in this chapter –
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under
the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical
or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering
incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his
custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged
mental harm caused by or resulting from –
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of
severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened
administration or application, of mind-altering substances or
other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be
subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the
administration or application of mind-altering substances or
other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or
(3) “United States” means the several States of the United
States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths,
territories, and possessions of the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 2340A : US Code – Section 2340A: Torture
(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if - (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender. (c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
|Cruel and usual: US solitary confinement|
As incarceration rates explode in the US, thousands are placed in solitary confinement, often without cause.
James Ridgeway and Jean Casella Last Modified: 19 Mar 2011 09:51
The spectre of Bradley Manning lying naked and alone in a tiny cell at the Quantico Marine Base, less than 50 miles from Washington, DC, conjures up images of an American Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, where isolation and deprivation have been raised to the level of torture.
In fact, the accused Wikileaker, now in his tenth month of solitary confinement, is far from alone in his plight. Every day in the US, tens of thousands of prisoners languish in “the hole”.
A few of them are prison murderers or rapists who present a threat to others. Far more have committed minor disciplinary infractions within prison or otherwise run afoul of corrections staff. Many of them suffer from mental illness, and are isolated for want of needed treatment; others are children, segregated for their own “protection”; a growing number are elderly and have spent half their lives or more in utter solitude.
No one knows for sure what their true numbers are. Many states, as well as the federal government, flatly declare that solitary confinement does not exist in their prison systems. As for their euphemistically named “Secure Housing Units” or “Special Management Units”, most states do not report occupancy data, nor do wardens report on the inmates sent to “administrative segregation”.
Prosecutor, judge and jury
By common estimate, more than 20,000 inmates are held in supermax prisons, which by definition isolate their prisoners. Perhaps 50,000 to 80,000 more are in solitary confinement on any given day in other prisons and local jails, many of them within sight of communities where Americans go about their everyday lives.
Over the past 30 years, their numbers have increased even faster than the US’ explosive incarceration rate; between 1995 and 2000, the growth rate for prisoners housed in isolation was 40 per cent, as compared to 28 per cent for the prison population in general, according to Human Rights Watch.
Likewise, no one can state with any consistency what these prisoners have done to warrant being placed in solitary confinement or what their isolation is supposed to accomplish.
As it stands, prisoners can be thrown into the hole for rule violations that range from attacking a guard or a fellow inmate to having banned reading materials or too many postage stamps.
In doling out months or even years in solitary, the warden and prison staff usually serve as prosecutor, judge and jury, and unsurprisingly they often abuse that power. The cases are shocking and they abound.
Isolating the mentally ill
At the all-solitary Colorado State Penitentiary, Troy Anderson has spent the last 10 years in isolation, never seeing the sun or the surrounding mountains, due to acting out on the symptoms of untreated mental illness.
Anderson has been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, anti-social personality disorder, cognitive disorders, a seizure disorder and polysubstance dependence, and he has attempted suicide many times, starting at the age of 10.
His mental health treatment in prison has consisted largely of intermittent and inappropriate medications and scant therapy, most of it conducted through a slot in his solid steel cell door. By Colorado’s own estimate, 37 per cent of the prisoners in its isolation units are mentally ill.
Steve Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights described the case of a 15-year-old boy named JP – accused, but not yet tried or convicted, of murder – who stands to spend up to two years in isolation in a Tennessee county jail because his family is too poor to afford his bond, set at $500,000. Although he had previously attempted suicide and been treated for mental illness, JP has spent his time behind bars “with no physical contact from a member of his family and no schooling”.
His mother is allowed to “visit” him by seeing him twice a week for 30 minutes on a TV monitor. She has not touched her son in over a year. “The child has gone for over a year with no physical contact other than a correctional officer holding his arms when they move him.”
This story is far from rare: Children in adult prisons and jails often end up in solitary because there is simply nowhere else to put them to prevent them being victimised.
Prisoner Michelle Ortiz was first admonished, then shackled and sent to solitary confinement as punishment for reporting her molestation and subsequent rape by a male guard at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. As the Columbus Dispatch reported: “When Ortiz reported the first assault to prison official Paula Jordan, the official told the inmate that the male guard was being transferred from the facility and was ‘just a dirty old man’. That same evening, the male guard assaulted her again.”
She was sent to solitary, reportedly, so that she could not tell other prisoners what had happened to her. Victims of prison rape, like children, are often isolated “for their own protection”, or given a choice between solitary confinement and continued sexual assault.
Punishing jailhouse journalists
Timothy Muise, a prisoner at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Norfolk, protested to prison authorities about a sex-for-information racket being run by guards, in which certain prisoners were permitted to have sex in return for snitching on others.
He was thrown into solitary for two-and-a-half months, brought up on disciplinary charges for “engaging in or inciting a group demonstration”, and shipped out to another prison. It is far from unusual for prison whistleblowers to be silenced through the use of solitary confinement.
Maine prisoner Deane Brown, serving a lengthy sentence for burglary and robbery in the lockdown unit of Maine State Prison, began sending reports by letter then by phone to a community radio station; he called his reports “Live from the Hole”.
He was reprimanded by the warden who said he was “disclosing confidential information through the media”. Then Brown was suddenly whisked away to a series of maximum security prisons in Maryland, and ended up in a particularly brutal solitary confinement unit in New Jersey. Cases of jailhouse journalists being punished with isolation have surfaced in other states, as well.
At the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement following the murder of a prison guard. They maintain that they were targeted for the crime because of their membership in a prison chapter of the Black Panthers.
More than 38 years later they are still in solitary. Both men are now in their 60s, but the warden maintains they must be kept in isolation because they are “still trying to practice Black Pantherism” and he does not want to “have the blacks chasing after them”.
What conditions await these prisoners consigned to solitary for months, years or decades? A typical supermax cell runs about 2 x 3 metres and contains a toilet and sink, a slab of poured concrete for a bed and another slab for a desk.
Occupants may get a brief shower a couple of times a week and a chance to exercise in what looks like the run of a dog kennel three days a week. Food is shoved through a slot in the door. They get perhaps one phone call a month and an occasional visit, through a barrier, with an approved list of family and friends. They can select a book every so often from an approved list. On occasion, a TV inside or outside the cell blares programming at them, often of a religious nature.
If they are deemed to have misbehaved in some way they may be deprived of exercise, books or visits; if deemed a suicide risk, they can have their blankets and even their clothing removed. In one Louisiana parish prison last year, suicidal inmates were found being locked, alone and often naked, in so-called “squirrel cages” measuring 1 x 1 metre; one-fourth of the locally mandated size for caged dogs.
Wilbert Rideau, a renowned prison journalist (and now a free man), describes in his recent memoir In the Place of Justice the “bone-cold loneliness” of life in solitary confinement on Angola’s death row.
He describes solidarity as being: “Removed from family or anything resembling a friend, and just being there, with no purpose or meaning to my life, cramped in a cage smaller than an American bathroom. The lonesomeness was only increased by the constant cacophony of men in adjacent cells hurling shouted insults, curses, and arguments – not to mention the occasional urine or faeces concoction. Deprivation of both physical exercise and meaningful social interaction were so severe … that some men went mad while others feigned lunacy in order to get transferred to the hospital for the criminally insane.”
On occasion, prisoners facing the possibility of a lifetime in solitary have asked judges to sentence them to death instead.
Europe vs. the US
In Europe, solitary confinement has largely been abandoned, and it is widely viewed as a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of international human rights conventions.
Recently, four British nationals who face terrorism charges successfully delayed their extradition to the US by arguing in the European Court of Human Rights that they would face life in a federal supermax prison.
But American courts and politicians have, for the most part, failed to take a strong stand against solitary confinement. There are signs, however, that the consensus may be shifting in the US.
In Colorado, which holds more than 1,500 prisoners in long-term isolation, a bill was recently introduced in the state legislature to curb the use of solitary.
The legislation would significantly limit the isolation of prisoners with mental illness or developmental disabilities, and would demand that prisoners be reintegrated into the general prison population before their release. In addition, it emphasises what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – which is strongly supporting the bill – called “the staggering cost of using solitary confinement, rather than mental or behavioural health alternatives, as the default placement without regard to medical needs, institutional security or prisoner and public safety”.
A similar bill introduced in the Maine state legislature last year ended with legislators agreeing to “study” the issue further, and legislation on solitary confinement is being floated in New Mexico as well. At the same time, cases have been brought before federal courts in both Louisiana and Colorado, challenging on constitutional grounds the decades-long solitary confinement of several of the nation’s most isolated prisoners.
At the same time, the ACLU’s David Fathi believes that a combination of legislation and litigation, grassroots activism and investigative journalism are producing “a breakthrough in public awareness”.
If this is true, it may at least bring this form of “no-touch torture” out of the shadows of the prison walls and into the light of the public square.
James Ridgeway is a senior Washington correspondent with Mother Jones Magazine. He is the author of 16 books and has also worked for the New York Times Magazine, The Economist, Harper’s, The Nation and the Village Voice.
Jean Casella is a freelance writer and co-editor of Solitary Watch.
<> A New Yorker article entitled,
with the subtitle
“The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?”
“…. Most hostages survived their ordeal… Yet none saw solitary confinement as anything less than torture. This presents us with an awkward question: If prolonged isolation is—as research and experience have confirmed for decades—so objectively horrifying, so intrinsically cruel, how did we end up with a prison system that may subject more of our own citizens to it than any other country in history has? …..”
<> Dept. of Amplification: Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement
This week, Atul Gawande writes about the rise of solitary confinement, long held to be among the most cruel forms of punishment, throughout the United States prison system. He cites the 1890 Supreme Court case In re Medley, in which Justice Samuel Miller noted the extreme penalty of the practice in deciding whether the punishment could be applied ex post facto in the case of a man who had already been sentenced to death. Miller quoted from the American Encyclopedia to explain how solitary confinement had come into use:
The first plan adopted, when public attention was called to the evils of congregating persons in masses without employment, was the solitary prison connected with the hospital of San Michele at Rome, in 1703, but little known prior to the experiment in Walnut-Street Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, in 1787. The peculiarities of this system were the complete isolation of the prisoner from all human society…and no employment or instruction.
The dreadful repercussions of the Walnut experiment gave rise to a new system—ironically and perversely, a reform attempt, based on the notion of “penitence” (hence “penitentiary”)—conceived by the Philadelphia Society for Ameliorating the Miseries of Public Prisons. The new system did not do away with the practice but instead refined it. Though still isolated, prisoners were now given the opportunity to work in their cells; and, to insure that they never caught sight of a fellow-inmate, their heads were covered with hoods on leaving or returning from them. It was this modified system that was in place when Charles Dickens, in 1842, made his great tour of the United States, which included a visit to the Eastern Prison, outside Philadelphia. In his travelogue, “American Notes for General Circulation,” he wrote about his experience inside the prison’s walls:
Looking down these dreary passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails, is awful. Occasionally, there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver’s shuttle, or shoemaker’s last, but it is stifled by the thick walls and heavy dungeon-door, and only serves to make the general stillness more profound. Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired….He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years….
And though he lives to be in the same cell ten weary years, he has no means of knowing, down to the very last hour, in what part of the building it is situated; what kind of men there are about him; whether in the long winter night there are living people near, or he is in some lonely corner of the great jail, with walls, and passages, and iron doors between him and the nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.
Dickens visited with several of the penitents, all of whom exhibited a similar disturbed affect. One of them had been confined for a mere two years, and his release was imminent. Curious about how prisoners conducted themselves just before they were to be freed, he speculated to his guide that “they trembled very much”:
“Well, it’s not so much a trembling,” was the answer—“though they do quiver—as a complete derangement of the nervous sytem. They can’t sign their names to the book; sometimes can’t even hold the pen; look about ’em without appearing to know why, or where they are; and sometimes get up and sit down again, twenty times in a minute. This is when they’re in the office, where they are taken with the hood on, as they were brought in. When they get outside the gate, they stop, and look first one way and then the other: not knowing which to take. Sometimes they stagger as if they were drunk, and sometimes are forced to lean against the fence, they’re so bad:—but they clear off in course of time.”
The tour had a profound effect on Dickens’s views on solitary confinement; it did away with any traces of ambivalence he formerly had, and cleared the way for him to set forth his own opinion as to why the practice was unconscionable, an opinion that Justice Miller himself would likely have joined:
I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY
<> About Solitary Confinement
What Is Solitary Confinement?
Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names; isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security or permanent lockdown. Prisoners can be placed in these units for many reasons; as punishment, while they are under investigation, as a mechanism for behavior modification, when suspected of gang involvement, as retribution for political activism or to fill expensive, empty beds, to name but a few.
Although conditions vary from state to state and in different institutions, systematic policies and conditions of control and oppression used in isolation and segregation include:
- confinement behind a solid steel door for 23 hours a day
- limited contact with other human beings
- infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
- extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
- grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
- restricted reading material and personal property
- physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, and forced cell extraction
- mental torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
- sexual intimidation and violence
Recent History of Isolation
Beginning in the early 1970s, prison and jail administrators at the federal, state, and local level have relied increasingly on isolation and segregation to control men, women and youth in their custody.
In 1985 there were a handful of control units across the county. Today an estimated 44 states have supermax facilities confining more than 30,000 people. Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units.
(AFSC’s Justice Visions Briefing Paper, Prison Inside the Prison provides a more complete history.)
Mental Health Effects of Isolation
Increasingly isolation units house the mentally ill who struggle to conform to prison rules. An independent investigation from 2006 reported that as many as 64% of prisoners in SHUs were mentally ill, a much higher percentage than is reported by states for their general prison populations. Contrary to the perception that control units house “the worst of the worst’, it is often the most vulnerable prisoners, not the most violent who end up in extended isolation. The AFSC Healing Justice staff worked with 60 Minutes on the production of The Death of Timothy Souders, a riveting testimony. Numerous studies have documented the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners giving them the name; Special Housing Unit Syndrome or SHU Syndrome. Some of the many SHU Syndrome symptoms include:
- visual and auditory hallucinations
- hypersensitivity to noise and touch
- insomnia and paranoia
- uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear
- distortions of time and perception
- increased risk of suicide
If one is not mentally ill when entering an isolation unit, by the time they are released their mental health has been severely compromised. Many prisoners are released directly to the streets after spending years in isolation. Because of this, long-term solitary confinement goes beyond a problem of prison conditions, to pose a formidable public safety and community health problem.
Solitary Confinement Violates Basic Human Rights
Prison isolation fits the definition of torture as stated in several international human rights treaties, and thus constitutes a violation of human rights law. For example, the U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any state-sanctioned act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for information, punishment, intimidation, or for a reason based on discrimination.
For all these reasons – for the safety of our communities, to respect our responsibility to follow international human rights law, to take a stand against torture wherever it occurs, and for the sake of our common humanity – prison isolation and segregation must end.
What goes around comes around.
The Quakers first believed that solitary confinement could reform criminals, and to that end Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, was built, At one time among the most infamous and expensive prisons in the world, ESP opened in 1829 and remained in operation for 142 years, closing in 1971. Its radiating, spoke-like panopticon design of individual cell blocks guarded by a central rotunda kept its prisoners in near-constant solitary confinement (but for light work and their Bibles) and was based on the Quaker notion of penitence, and the assumption that once so confined, criminals would revert to a stage of “natural” innocence. The prisoners housed at ESP faced sentences of very little human interaction and most turned mad as a result.
<> Timeline: Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons by Laura Sullivan Library of Congress
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where the first American experiment in solitary confinement took place.
Pentonville is a prison built in 1842 in North London. Its design was influenced by the “separate system” developed at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association
Thirteen years ago, Pelican Bay State Prison was cut out of a dense forest near Crescent City, Calif. The highlight of the Supermax prison was the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where 1,300 of the state’s most hardened criminals are kept in near isolation.
July 26, 2006
An overview of key moments in the history of solitary confinement.
1829 – The first experiment in solitary confinement in the United States begins at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It is based on a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection. But many of the inmates go insane, commit suicide, or are no longer able to function in society, and the practice is slowly abandoned during the following decades.
1890 – In an opinion concerning the effects of solitary confinement on inmates housed in Philadelphia (Re: Medley, 134 U.S. 160), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller finds, “A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”
1934 – The federal government opens Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay to house the nation’s worst criminals. Most inmates spend many hours outside in the yard and on required work details. But a few dozen are kept in “D Block,” the prison’s solitary-confinement hallway. One cell in particular is called “The Hole” — a room of bare concrete except for a hole in the floor. There is no light, inmates are kept naked, and bread and water is shoved through a small hole in the door. Although most inmates only spend a few days in the hole, some spend years on D Block. Conditions are better than in The Hole — inmates have clothes and food — but they are not permitted contact with other inmates and are rarely let out of their cells. The most famous inmate on D Block is Robert Stroud, known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who spends six years there. A 1962 movie about Stroud — and subsequent media reports on the conditions on D Block — made solitary confinement a fixture of the American imagination for the first time.
1983 – Two correctional officers at a Marion, Ill., prison are murdered by inmates in two separate incidents on the same day. The warden at the time puts the prison in what he calls “permanent lockdown.” It is the first prison in the country to adopt 23-hour-a-day cell isolation and no communal yard time for all inmates. Inmates are no longer allowed to work, attend educational programs, or eat in a cafeteria. Within a few years, several other states also adopt permanent lockdown at existing facilities.
1989 – California builds Pelican Bay, a new prison built solely to house inmates in isolation. By most accounts, it is the first Supermax facility in the country. There is no need to build a yard, cafeteria, classrooms or shops. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day inside an 8-by-10-foot cell. The other 1 1/2 hours are spent alone in a small concrete exercise pen.
1990s – The building boom of Supermax or control-unit prisons begins. Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and a dozen other states all build new, free-standing, isolation units.
1994 – The U.S. Bureau of Prisons builds ADX Florence, the federal government’s first and only Supermax facility, in Florence, Colo. It’s known popularly as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” It currently houses 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen, Olympic Park and abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and many others.
1995 – A federal judge finds conditions at Pelican Bay in California “may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable” (Madrid v. Gomez). But he rules that there is no constitutional basis for the courts to shut down the unit or to alter it substantially. He says the court must defer to the states about how best to incarcerate offenders.
1999 – A report by the Department of Justice finds that more than 30 states are operating a Supermax-type facility with 23-hours-a-day lockdown and long-term isolation. The study finds that some states put 0.5 percent of their total inmates in this kind of facility, while other states lock up more than 20 percent of their inmates this way.
2005 – Daniel P. Mears, an associate professor at Florida State University, conducts a nationwide study and finds there are now 40 states operating Supermax or control-unit prisons, which collectively hold more than 25,000 U.S. prisoners.
And now the Quakers are in the forefront of those condemning this form of torture!!!
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in an April 2003 resolution noted that “prolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.”48 In interpreting Article 7 of the ICCPR on torture and other mistreatment, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that “prolonged solitary confinement of the detained or imprisoned person may amount to acts prohibited by article 7.”[ U.N. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7, Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30 (1994), para. 6. Article 7 of the ICCPR states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”]
The harm inflicted by solitary confinement is exacerbated by other aspects of the detention. Cell conditions are especially poor: underground cells and cells filled with artificial light 24-hours a day appear designed to inflict maximum physical and psychological discomfort. Incommunicado detention deprives detainees of access to family and counsel, allowing sole contact with interrogators and guards. This is psychologically damaging. Furthermore, incommunicado confinement is considered the single highest risk factor for torture because of the absence of external monitoring of the interrogation process. [See Camille Giffard, The Torture Reporting Handbook (Human Rights Centre, Univ. of Essex 2000), p. 17.]
The European Commission on Human Rights has stated that, “complete sensory isolation coupled with total social isolation, can destroy the personality and constitutes a form of treatment which cannot be justified by the requirements of security or any other reason.” [European Commission on Human Rights, Kröcher and Möller v. Switzerland, Application No. 8463/78 (1983); See also Nigel Rodley, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 294-297 (citing the view of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that ‘solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.’)]
<> Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture
Wired Science interviews UCSC’s Craig Haney, a psychologist who’s an expert on long-term solitary confinement, and concludes that solitary confinement is unequivocally torture. It makes people go insane. And 25,000 Americans are in long-term solitary in the US penal system…. solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.
Read the article here
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT TORTURE IN THE U.S.
Survivors of Solitary Confinement
June 3rd, 2009
President Obama recently declared that “we have banned torture without exception.” However, some would take exception to this claim. The practice of isolating a person in solitary confinement for extended periods of time causes severe sensory deprivation and has been denounced as torture by the United Nations. But tens of thousands are locked up in solitary confinement in American prisons. Producer Claire Schoen met nine formerly incarcerated people, who described what it’s like not to talk to or touch another person, for years at a time
<> Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons is ‘Torture’
July 29, 2008 Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media
OneWorld.net note: The removal of three wrongly-convicted Louisiana prisoners from solitary confinement after more than thirty years is a small victory for human rights, but more needs to be done to protect the mental and physical well-being of prisoners in America, writes author Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
<> Solitary Confinement In U.S. Prisons Making Thousands Psychotic March 26, 2009
www.opednews.com, March 24, 2009
TheUnited States today is housing tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement, a form of numbing mental torture that drives about one-third of them psychotic, induces irrational anger in 90 percent, and ups the likelihood they will commit violent crimes upon release.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” U.S. Senator John McCain once wrote of his two years spent in a fifteen by fifteen foot prison cell in Viet Nam. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Testimony from other notables that have endured long stretches in solitary have elicited like comments….
Sherwood Ross worker as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and as a columnist for wire services. He currently operates a public relations company for worthy causes. Reach him at email@example.com.
Solitary Confinement: A Brief History
Solitary confinement at Guantanamo
The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University
torturing democracy at
Moazzam Begg, a British citizen, was seized in January 2002 by Pakistani officers who burst into the Islamabad apartment were he and his family were living. As recounted in his 2006 book, “Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram and Kandahar,” after first being sent to the U.S. prison at Kandahar, he was transferred to the military detention facility at Bagram Air Base. Here he witnessed prisoners being subjected to strappado, and was himself hog-tied, sleep deprived, and led to believe his wife was being tortured in a nearby cell. In Guantanamo, Begg was held for almost two years in solitary confinement…..
for lots more
Solitary Confinement at Guantanamo Bay
Approximately 70% of the men imprisoned in Guantánamo are in solitary confinement or isolation. 2
Virtually none have ever been charged, and most will never be charged or tried. Yet, they remain in “super-maximum security confinement” conditions – held by a federal judge to “press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate.” 3
<> Document – USA: Three years on — Ali al-Marri remains in solitary confinement without charge or trial
from the August 13, 2007 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0813/p01s03-usju.html
US terror interrogation went too far, experts say
Reports find that Jose Padilla’s solitary confinement led to mental problems.
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Jose Padilla had no history of mental illness when President Bush ordered him detained in 2002 as a suspected Al Qaeda operative. But he does now.
The Muslim convert was subjected to prison conditions and interrogation techniques that took him past the breaking point, mental health experts say.
Two psychiatrists and a psychologist who conducted detailed personal examinations of Mr. Padilla on behalf of his defense lawyers say his extended detention and interrogation at the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., left him with severe mental disabilities. All three say he may never recover.
Padilla’s psychological condition is important because his situation marks the first time an enemy combatant in the war on terror is in a position to present a verifiable claim of abuse at the hands of US interrogators. Padilla’s mental health itself is a form of evidence, mental-health experts say, and it strongly suggests that – at least in Padilla’s case – the government’s harsh interrogation and confinement tactics went too far……
<> Judge Allows Civil Lawsuit Over Claims of Torture
Published: June 13, 2009
The decision issued late Friday by a judge in San Francisco allowing a civil lawsuit to go forward against a former Bush administration official, John C. Yoo, might seem like little more than the removal of a procedural roadblock.
John C. Yoo
But lawyers for the man suing Mr. Yoo, Jose Padilla, say it provides substantive interpretation of constitutional issues for all detainees and could have a broad impact.
Mr. Padilla was held as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement for more than three years in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Padilla, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and other crimes, demands that Mr. Yoo be held accountable for actions that Mr. Padilla claims led to his being tortured……
<> U.S. wartime prison network grows into legal vacuum for 14,000
… Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.
Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90% of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were “mistakes,” U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.
Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn’t cover CIA interrogators. And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law’s oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned….
<> The systematic destruction of Jose Padilla
|Written by Stephen Soldz|
|Saturday, 09 December 2006 08:00|
“……In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”
Was this treatment because Padilla was violent, a threat to the guards or to others? Evidently not:
One of Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, Orlando do Campo, said, however, that Mr. Padilla was a “completely docile” prisoner. “There was not one disciplinary problem with Jose ever, not one citation, not one act of disobedience,” said Mr. do Campo, who is a lawyer at the Miami federal public defender’s office.
In his affidavit, Mr. Patel (another attorney) said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”
Rather than any necessity to control him, Jose Padilla experienced the total isolation that is at the core of the U.S. government’s decades-under-development program of psychological torture. According to Padilla’s attorneys:
“his interrogations… included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of ‘truth serums.’”
Compare this with Alfred McCoy’s description of the CIA’s psychological torture techniques:
While these CIA drug experiments led nowhere and the testing of electric shock as a technique led only to lawsuits, research into sensory deprivation proved fruitful indeed. In fact, this research produced a new psychological rather than physical method of torture, perhaps best described as “no-touch” torture.
The Agency’s discovery was a counterintuitive breakthrough, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the seventeenth century — and thanks to recent revelations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we are now all too familiar with these methods, even if many Americans still have no idea of their history. Upon careful examination, those photographs of nude bodies expose the CIA’s most basic torture techniques — stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation.
We don’t know about sexual humiliation, but the rest of these techniques were apparently used upon Padilla.
[An excellent account of these these techniques, with extensive quotes from the CIA’s now declassified KUBARK interrogation manual are provided by Daily Kos diarist Valtin in his Torture 101: CIA text on teaching “coercive interrogation”]
As the Times article indicates, Padilla is textbook case of what these techniques accomplish:
Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”
“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr.
Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense….
Mr. Padilla’s lawyers say they have had a difficult time persuading him that they are on his side…….
Military Torture, Legal Fig Leaves & Premature Exculpation…
By Ernest A. Canning on 5/6/2009 12:07PM
“When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.” – Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (2006).
Truth and justice are essential components of democracy and the rule of law. We cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past. Accuracy is vital to every decision we make, be it impeachment, prosecution or a restoration of our nation’s honor and integrity.
This is the first in a five-part series of articles which will strive to correct misperceptions arising from the erroneous blending of military and CIA torture. This task has become especially relevant now that the Justice Department’s the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the very section which had issued the torture memos, tasked by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey with investigating itself, has now released a recommendation that none of the authors of the torture memos be prosecuted. This recommendation stands in stark contrast to our nation’s post-World War II decision to prosecute German judges for war crimes at Nuremberg…..
US PRISON TORTURE AND YOU
<> Document – USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois
AI index: AMR 51/042/2009 25 March 2009
USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois
Amnesty International is calling for measures to improve conditions at Tamms Correctional Center, Illinois – the state’s only super-maximum security facility – stating that the harsh conditions of isolation endured by many prisoners for years on end appear to be unnecessarily punitive and may breach international standards for humane treatment.
<> Mentally Ill Inmate Gets Nine Months in Solitary
During his confinement, Horton was not allowed to bathe, exercise, or see a doctor, according to reports. The video and news
News Channel 5.com – October 30, 2008
<> IN THE CELLARS OF THE HOLLOW MEN: USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN U.S. PRISONS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAWS AGAINST TORTURE*
By Tracy Hreskot
PACE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW — INTERNATIONAL LAW REVIEW
Volume XVIII, Number I Spring 2006
<> Torture Is Now Part of the American Soul
<> Case Study: Omar Khadr
He was captured by American forces at the age of 15 following a four-hour firefight with militants in the village of Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan. He has spent six years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps charged with war crimes and providing support to terrorism after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier.
….In February 2008, the Pentagon accidentally released documents that revealed that although Khadr was present during the firefight, there was no other evidence that he had thrown the grenade. In fact, military officials had originally reported that another of the surviving militants had thrown the grenade just before being killed…..
Courtesy from “Fire John Yoo” dot com
John Yoo wrote the famous (Bush-Cheney ?) “torture memo,” a legal opinion filed on Aug. 2, 2002, by the Office of Legal Counsel, a section of the U.S. Department of Justice. The memo examined what methods of inflicting pain and suffering constitute torture, legal basis for so-called “enhanced” interrogation …
….Yoo concluded that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could not “restrict the president’s ability to engage in warrantless searches that protect the national security” and that “unless Congress made a clear statement in FISA that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area – which it has not – then the statute must be construed to avoid such a reading.”
<> Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו, born in Marrakech, Morocco on 14 October 1954) is an Israeli former nuclear technical assistant who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy and kidnapped by Israeli intelligence operatives. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted of treason and espionage. According to Norwegian lawyers’ support group, Vanunu is a political prisoner, denied democratic freedom of speech.
Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement.
…. Vanunu said Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement…..
<> A Thousand Little Gitmos
How the federal courts turned into star chambers for terrorism cases—and why Obama may keep them that way.
…..Today Hashmi, who is 29, sits in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement. He is not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or read a newspaper unless it is at least 30 days old and censored. He is not allowed to speak to guards, other inmates, or the media, or to write anyone but his attorney and his family (once a week on three single-sided pages). The only people cleared to visit, besides his lawyer, are his mother and father, but he couldn’t see them for three months after he was caught shadowboxing in his cell—an infraction that cost him visiting privileges. Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, says the isolation is slowly driving his client mad.
Hashmi is not in Guantanamo Bay, nor is he an enemy combatant. He’s a US citizen, born in Pakistan and raised in Flushing, Queens, facing trial in federal court in Manhattan. His home for the past two years has been the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge. Hashmi might be guilty, he might not. We may never know—because when he goes before judge and jury later this year he won’t get a fair trial. Much of the government’s evidence against him is secret, and he can’t see it because he doesn’t have a security clearance. Maher, who does have a security clearance, can’t see much of it either. Maher finds this incredible…..
…. Prosecutors have also had wide latitude to use secret witnesses, as well as information of questionable origin. A 2005 case involving Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a US citizen, hinged on a coerced confession obtained by Saudi authorities. During the trial, which Amnesty International declared unfair, prosecutors used a controversial tactic called the “silent witness” rule to show some evidence to jurors but not defense attorneys…..
…All the secrecy might make sense if it involved truly sensitive information. But when such evidence has been exposed, it’s often proved to be flawed or irrelevant….
…the fact that most of the people tried on terrorism charges since 9/11 have only been charged with “material support,” which can mean helping terrorists or merely thinking about doing so someday….
By the way,
water boarding torture has a long history in the USA military,
as this Life magazine front page testifies , and note the date:
hmm,,, those were the days of the Philippines “conquest” (for an Asian extension of the empire into the ‘open door’ of markets in China) after the Spanish American War, and some say that the sinking of the the USS Maine was a false flag operation. Mark Twain in those days was one of the notable members of Anti Imperialist League: but who remembers these historical things anyways, and reflects on their bearings upon our current situation?
OBAMA CONTINUES TORTURE POLICIES
YESWECANISTAN By William Blum
- Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
- Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
By William Blum
December 09, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — All the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about? Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign:
We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state.
Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe. If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration.
But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”
Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.
And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.” 1
The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option. However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation: 2
The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents.
President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. 3
US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials. 4
Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways.
A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.
Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.
Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy.
The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban.
MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees.
Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured.
British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country.
British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.”
For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.” 5
On November 2, IslamOnline.net (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast … America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told IslamOnline.net.” 6
There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the IslamOnline.net story.
The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.” 7
Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal: “Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.” 8
From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience. Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest.
How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007. 9
Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt?
So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America.
Although the “surge” failed as policy, it succeeded as propaganda.
They don’t always use the word “surge”, but that’s what they mean. Our admirable leaders and our mainstream media that love to interview them would like us to believe that escalation of the war in Afghanistan is in effect a “surge”, like the one in Iraq which, they believe, has proven so successful. But the reality of the surge in Iraq was nothing like its promotional campaign. To the extent that there has been a reduction in violence in Iraq (now down to a level that virtually any other society in the world would find horrible and intolerable, including Iraqi society before the US invasion and occupation), we must keep in mind the following summary of how and why it “succeeded”:
We should never forget that Iraqi society has been destroyed. The people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their health care, their legal system, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their security, their friends, their families, their past, their present, their future, their lives. But they do have their surge.
The War against Everything and Everyone, Endlessly
Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 and wounded some 30 at Fort Hood, Texas in November reportedly regards the US War on Terror as a war aimed at Muslims. He told colleagues that “the US was battling not against security threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Islam itself.” 10 Hasan had long been in close contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric and al Qaeda sympathizer now living in Yemen, who also called the US War on Terror a “war against Muslims”. Many, probably most, Muslims all over the world hold a similar view about American foreign policy.
I believe they’re mistaken. For many years, going back to at least the Korean war, it’s been fairly common for accusations to be made by activists opposed to US policies, in the United States and abroad, as well as by Muslims, that the United States chooses as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But it must be remembered that in 1999 one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns ever — 78 days in a row — was carried out against the Serbs of the former Yugoslavia: white, European, Christians. Indeed, we were told that the bombing was to rescue the people of Kosovo, who are largely Muslim. Earlier, the United States had come to the aid of the Muslims of Bosnia in their struggle against the Serbs. The United States is in fact an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become an American bombing target appear to be: (a) It poses a sufficient obstacle — real, imagined, or, as with Serbia, ideological — to the desires of the empire; (b) It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.
William Blum is the author of:
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org
Not Just Guantanamo:
U.S. Torturing Muslim Pre-trial Detainee in
New York City
by Bill Quigley
April 3rd, 2010, Dissident voice
Today in New York City, the U.S. is torturing a Muslim detainee with no prior criminal record who has not even gone to trial.
For the last almost three years, Syed Fahad Hashmi has been kept in total pre-trial isolation inside in a small cell under 24 hour video and audio surveillance. He is forced to use the bathroom and shower in full view of the video. He has not seen the sun in years. He takes his meals alone in his cell. He cannot see any other detainees and he is not allowed to communicate in any way with any prisoners. He cannot write letters to friends and he cannot make calls to anyone but his lawyer. He is prohibited from participating in group prayer. He gets newspapers that are 30 days old with sections cut out by the government. One hour a day he is taken into another confined room where he is also kept in total isolation.
Children are taught that the U.S. Constitution protects people accused of crimes. No one is to be punished unless their guilt or innocence has been decided in a fair trial. Until trial, people are entitled to the presumption of innocence. They are entitled to be defended by an attorney of their choice. And the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
The punishment of Mr. Hashmi has been going on for years while he has been waiting for trial. In addition to the punitive isolation he is subjected to today, he was denied the attorney of his choice. He was allowed only counsel investigated and pre-approved by the government. He is not allowed to look at any translated documents unless the translator is pre-approved by the government. He is not allowed any contact with the media at all. One member of his family can visit through the heavy screen for one hour every other week unless the government takes away those visits to further punish him. The government took away his family visits for 90 days when he was observed shadow boxing in his cell and talked back to the guard who asked what he was doing.
If the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, what is the impact of forced isolation? Medical testimony presented in his case in federal court concluded that after 60 days in solitary people’s mental state begins to break down. That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, heart palpitations, sleep problems, withdrawal, anger, depression, despair, and over-sensitivity. Over time this can lead to severe psychiatric trauma and harms like psychosis, distortion of reality, hallucinations, mass anxiety and acute confusion. Essentially, the mind disintegrates.
That is why, under international standards for human rights, extended isolation is considered a form of torture and is banned. The conditions and practices of isolation are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Convention against Torture, and the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In 1995, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that isolation conditions in certain U.S. maximum security prisons were incompatible with international standards. In 1996, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture reported on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. supermax prisons. In 2000, the U.N. Committee on Torture roundly condemned the United States for its treatment of prisoners, citing supermax prisons. In May 2006, the same committee concluded that the United States should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in supermax prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”
John McCain said his two years in solitary confinement were torture. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” The reaction of McCain and many other victims of isolation torture were described in a 2009 New Yorker article on isolation by Atul Gawande. Gawande concluded that prolonged isolation is objectively horrifying, intrinsically cruel, and more widespread in the U.S. than any country in the world.
Who is this man? Syed Fahad Hashmi grew up in Queens and attended Brooklyn College. He became an outspoken Muslim activist. He moved to London and received a master’s degree in international relations there.
Yet the federal judge hearing his case continues to approve of the forced isolation and the rest of the restrictions on this presumably innocent man.
The reason that this is allowed to continue is that Hashmi is accused of being involved with al Qaeda.
Mr. Hashmi is accused of helping al Qaeda by allowing rain gear (raincoats, ponchos and socks) that were going to Afghanistan to be stored in his Queens apartment, he allowed his cell phone to be used to contact al Qaeda supporters and he made post-arrest threatening statements.
Supporters of Fahad have demonstrated outside his jail, set up a website and have worked for years to alert the public to his torture. Articles by Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges and Jeanne Theoharris have been written over the past several years documenting and protesting these human rights violations.
But, once accused of connections with terrorism or al Qaeda, apparently, the U.S. constitution and international human rights apparently do not apply. Torture by the U.S. is allowed. Pre-trial punishment is allowed. The presumption of innocence goes out the window. Counsel of choice is not allowed. Communication with news media not allowed.
Bill Quigley represented Pere Jean-Juste many times in Haiti along with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port au Prince and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is on leave from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans serving as Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill’s website.
More on Syed Fahad Hashmi’s inhumane torture by 24/7 solitary confinement while AWAITING trial, in other words he may be ruled as innocent and is innocent until proven guilty, according to law, so why then this torture for someone not aggressive and dangerous???
Feel Safer Now?
By William Fisher
Formerly served State Department and Agency for International Development
Posted: April 6, 2010 09:03 AM
I write a lot of stories, news mostly. They’re carried by InterPress News Service. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, so I’m usually able to separate myself from what I’m writing about so I don’t get emotionally involved.
But there are those times when I find myself getting so angry over the subject of the story I’m writing that I can’t write it.
Usually, when that happens, I distract myself. I write another story. I watch a ballgame. I play some old standards on the piano. Something.
But this time, none of my usual distractions helped very much. I am still angry; in fact, I am furious. Furious enough to try to tell this story. Here goes:
This is a story about a fellow named Syed Fahad Hashmi. For the last close to three years, this guy has been living in solitary confinement in a federal lockup, awaiting a trial.
He is under 24-hour video and audio surveillance, even when he uses the toilet. He eats all his meals in his small cell. He is not allowed to communicate with other prisoners. He is a Muslim but is not allowed to participate in group prayer. He is not allowed to phone anyone but his lawyer. He did not even have his free choice of that lawyer and had to take one approved by the government.
The newspapers he receives have whole sections cut out of them by the government. They are always at least a month old. Once a day, for an hour, he is taken to another room where he remains in isolation. He cannot read any translated documents unless the translator is pre-approved by the government. Contact with the media is forbidden.
For one hour every other week, one member of his family can “visit” through a heavy screen. No touching or hugging is allowed or possible. Sometimes the government takes away his family visits as punishment. He once lost his visits for three months; he was seen shadow boxing in his cell and when asked what he was doing his response apparently failed to pass muster with the authorities.
Who is Syed Fahad Hashmi? Well, for starters, he’s an American citizen. He grew up in Queens and attended Brooklyn College. He is an outspoken Muslim activist. Does that mean he’s a terrorist? Only if you’re Steve King.
After Brooklyn College, where Hashmi’s profs remember him as a guy who loved to engage in debate, he moved to London where he earned a master’s degree in international relations. And that’s where his current troubles began.
An acquaintance from America phoned him at his London apartment and asked if he could stay with Hashmi. He brought a suitcase, later discovered to be filled with raincoats, ponchos and socks.
Now Hashmi was accused of being involved with al Qaeda because the government claims that the rain gear in the suitcase was “military gear” reportedly headed for Afghanistan. Hashmi also allowed his cell phone to be used, and whoever used it allegedly contacted some bad guys from al Qaeda.
Hashmi was arrested based on the testimony of Junaid Babar, an informant attempting to get a reduction in his own 70-year prison sentence. This was the guy who had briefly stayed in Hashmi’s apartment in London
So, because of a suitcase full of raingear, and a cellphone allegedly used by someone to contact some unsavory dudes, an American citizen is held in solitary confinement for almost three years?
The answer is yes – which will be totally counter-intuitive to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution. Fashmi is held under Justice Department rules known as SAMs – Special Administrative Measures. He is held so he won’t escape. He is held so he can’t contact any Al Qaeda operatives.
Now, I have no idea whether Hashmi is guilty or not. That’s why we have trials.
But what about the Constitution? What about the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? What about the Constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial? And an attorney of our choice?
Those rules are evidently abandoned the instant someone utters the words Al Qaeda.
And how about the proscription against cruel and unusual punishment? Does three years in solitary sound “cruel” and “unusual?”
Well, the medical testimony presented in this case concluded that “after 60 days in solitary people’s mental state begins to break down.” According to Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, headaches, heart palpitations, sleep problems, withdrawal, anger, depression, despair, and over-sensitivity. Over time this can lead to severe psychiatric trauma and harms like psychosis, distortion of reality, hallucinations, mass anxiety and acute confusion. Essentially, the mind disintegrates.”
That’s why extended isolation is banned by international treaties as a form of torture. Just ask John McCain whether his life in solitary confinement affected his mind.
Meanwhile, Hashmi’s case has become something of a cause celebre. His supporters have staged demonstrations outside his jail, launched a website (www.freefahad.com) and worked to alert the public to his plight. And prominent figures such as Nat Hentoff, Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges and his old Brooklyn College professor, Jeanne Theoharris, have all written articles about Hashmi and his vanishing Constitutional guarantees.
Now, finally, Hashmi has a trial date — April 28. He will be tried for conspiring to send money and military gear — socks and rainproof ponchos — to al Qaeda associates in Pakistan.
And my lawyer friends tell me that the way the “material support” statute is written, you could convict a ham sandwich of supporting al Qaeda.
If this case didn’t make you angry, you need to take a refresher course in American History or Civics 101.
And you need to do it right away! Before the Constitution disappears altogether.
Using Coerced Evidence to
Prosecute Terrorist Suspects
Obama and the torture files
‘The past is a foreign country’?
Obama and the torture files
Opinion – n°0, May 2009
by Alexandra Barahona de Brito
The US has used torture for decades.
By ignoring past abuses, opponents of torture are in danger of pushing it back into the shadows instead of abolishing it
It was the “Mission Accomplished” of George Bush’s second term, and an announcement of that magnitude called for a suitably dramatic location. But what was the right backdrop for the infamous “We do not torture” declaration? With characteristic audacity, the Bush team settled on downtown Panama City.
It was certainly bold. An hour and a half’s drive from where Bush stood, the US military ran the notorious School of the Americas from 1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a motto, might have been “We do torture”. It is here in Panama, and later at the school’s new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, where the roots of the current torture scandals can be found.
According to declassified training manuals, SOA students – military and police officers from across the hemisphere – were instructed in many of the same “coercive interrogation” techniques that have since gone to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib: early morning capture to maximise shock, immediate hooding and blindfolding, forced nudity, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep and food “manipulation”, humiliation, extreme temperatures, isolation, stress positions – and worse. In 1996 President Clinton’s Intelligence Oversight Board admitted that US-produced training materials condoned “execution of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment”.
Some Panama school graduates went on to commit the continent’s greatest war crimes of the past half-century: the murders of Archbishop Oscar Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador; the systematic theft of babies from Argentina’s “disappeared” prisoners; the massacre of 900 civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador; and military coups too numerous to list here.
Yet when covering the Bush announcement, not a single mainstream news outlet mentioned the location’s sordid history. How could they? That would require something totally absent from the debate: an admission that the embrace of torture by US officials has been integral to US foreign policy since the Vietnam war.
It’s a history exhaustively documented in an avalanche of books, declassified documents, CIA training manuals, court records and truth commissions. In his forthcoming book, A Question of Torture, Alfred McCoy synthesises this evidence, producing a riveting account of how monstrous CIA-funded experiments on psychiatric patients and prisoners in the 1950s turned into a template for what he calls “no-touch torture”, based on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. McCoy traces how these methods were field-tested by CIA agents in Vietnam as part of the Phoenix programme and then imported to Latin America and Asia under the guise of police training.
It is not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when they blame abuses on “a few bad apples”. A startling number of torture’s most prominent opponents keep telling us that the idea of torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11 2001, at which point the methods used in Guantánamo apparently emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s brains. Up until that moment, we are told, America fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact.
The principal propagator of this narrative (what Garry Wills termed “original sinlessness”) is Senator John McCain. Writing in Newsweek on the need to ban torture, McCain says that when he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi, he held fast to the knowledge “that we were different from our enemies … that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them”. It is a stunning historical distortion. By the time McCain was taken captive, the CIA had launched the Phoenix programme and, as McCoy writes, “its agents were operating 40 interrogation centres in South Vietnam that killed more than 20,000 suspects and tortured thousands more.”
Does it somehow lessen today’s horrors to admit that this is not the first time the US government has used torture, that it has operated secret prisons before, that it has actively supported regimes that tried to erase the left by dropping students out of airplanes? That, closer to home, photographs of lynchings were traded and sold as trophies and warnings? Many seem to think so. On November 8, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott made the astonishing claim to the House of Representatives that “America has never had a question about its moral integrity, until now”.
Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring “Never again!” Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current torture crisis by crying “Never before”? I suspect it stems from a sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this administration’s crimes. And its open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented.
But let’s be clear about what is unprecedented: not the torture, but the openness. Past administrations kept their “black ops” secret; the crimes were sanctioned but they were committed in the shadows, officially denied and condemned. The Bush administration has broken this deal: post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame, legitimised by new definitions and new laws.
Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the real innovation has been in-sourcing, with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run prisons and transported to third countries in US planes. It is this departure from clandestine etiquette that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability. This shift is of huge significance. When torture is covertly practised but officially and legally repudiated, there is still hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could prevail. When torture is pseudo-legal and those responsible deny that it is torture, what dies is what Hannah Arendt called “the juridical person in man”. Soon victims no longer bother to search for justice, so sure are they of the futility, and danger, of that quest. This is a larger mirror of what happens inside the torture chamber, when prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can hear them and no one is going to save them.
The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the torture debate is that in the name of eradicating future abuses, past crimes are being erased from the record. Since the US has never had truth commissions, the memory of its complicity in far-away crimes has always been fragile. Now these memories are fading further, and the disappeared are disappearing again.
This casual amnesia does a disservice not only to the victims, but also to the cause of trying to remove torture from the US policy arsenal once and for all. Already there are signs that the administration will deal with the uproar by returning to plausible deniability. The McCain amendment protects every “individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States government”; it says nothing about torture training or buying information from the exploding industry of for-profit interrogators.
And in Iraq the dirty work is already being handed over to Iraqi death squads, trained by the US and supervised by commanders like Jim Steele, who prepared for the job by setting up similar units in El Salvador. The US role in training and supervising Iraq’s interior ministry was forgotten, moreover, when 173 prisoners were recently discovered in a ministry dungeon, some tortured so badly that their skin was falling off. “Look, it’s a sovereign country. The Iraqi government exists,” Rumsfeld said. He sounded just like the CIA’s William Colby who, asked in a 1971 Congressional probe about the thousands killed under Phoenix, a programme he helped launch, replied that it was now “entirely a South Vietnamese programme”.
As McCoy says, “if you don’t understand the history and the depths of the institutional and public complicity, then you can’t begin to undertake meaningful reforms.” Lawmakers will respond to pressure by eliminating one small piece of the torture apparatus: closing a prison, shutting down a programme, even demanding the resignation of a really bad apple like Rumsfeld. But he warns, “they will preserve the prerogative to torture.”
· A version of this article appears in the Nation www.thenation.com
Impunity for CIA torture is incompatible
with USA’s international obligations
Stuff of Life – Amnesty International film
© Amnesty International
17 April 2009
Four previously secret memorandums released by the new US administration give an insight into how its predecessor lost its legal and moral compass in turning to torture and other ill-treatment in the name of counter-terrorism.
The release of the memorandums, written in the US Department of Justice in 2002 and 2005 to provide legal cover to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques in its secret detention program, is welcome. Amnesty International has long called for all such documents to be published.
However, accompanying statements issued by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, effectively conferring impunity for acts of torture – crimes under international law, are incompatible with the USA’s international legal obligation to bring perpetrators to justice.
International law is clear. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can never be justified. They are never legal. Even in a state of emergency, there can be no exemption from this obligation.
International law is also clear about the state’s duties when this prohibition is violated. States must ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice.
In a letter to CIA officers, President Obama said: “In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful.
“The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them”. But there is no such thing as torture perpetrated in “good faith” or “reasonable” circumstances.
USA: Torture in black and white, but impunity continues
Department of Justice releases interrogation memorandums
|17 April 2009||AI Index: AMR 51/055/2009|
International law is clear. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can never be justified. They are never legal. Even in a state of emergency which threatens the life of the nation, there can be no exemption from this obligation.
International law is also clear about the state’s duties when this prohibition is violated. States must ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice. Victims of violations must be provided with remedies that are not only available in law, but are accessible and effective in practice.
On 16 April 2009, the US Department of Justice released, largely un-redacted, four memorandums written in the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in 2002 and 2005. The documents, which the previous US administration had classified as Top Secret, give an insight into how that administration lost its legal and moral compass in turning to torture and other ill-treatment in the name of counter-terrorism.
The release of the memorandums by the new administration is welcome. Amnesty International has long called for all such documents to be published. However, accompanying statements issued by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, effectively conferring impunity for acts of torture, crimes under international law, are incompatible with the USA’s international legal obligation to bring perpetrators to justice.
All four OLC memorandums were directed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and provided legal approval for various interrogation techniques that the CIA had used or wished to use in the USA’s secret detention program operated on foreign soil following the attacks of 11 September 2001.
The techniques variously approved by the OLC, for use singly or in combination, included:
- abdominal and facial slapping.
- confinement in small dark spaces, such as a box. If the space was large enough to stand in, confinement could last for up to 18 hours. For a space in which the detainee could not stand, confinement was restricted to two hours. This technique could be combined with exploitation of phobias, such as putting an insect in the box with a detainee who had a fear of insects.
- forced nudity. One of the 2005 memorandums notes that “this technique is used to cause psychological discomfort, particularly if a detainee, for cultural or other reasons, is especially modest… [I]nterrogators can exploit the detainee’s fear of being seen naked… For the purposes of our analysis, we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by a female”.
- stress positions such as forcing the detainee to kneel while leaning back at a 45 degree angle.
- sleep deprivation for up to 11 days. One of the 2005 memorandums notes that “the primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake. In this method, the detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached to a length of chain to the ceiling…. The detainee’s feet are shackled to a bolt in the floor…. Should the detainee begin to fall asleep, he will lose his balance and awaken, either because of the sensation of losing his balance or because of the restraining tension of the shackles”. Another method of sleep deprivation, the memorandum noted, is to shackle the detainee to a small stool: “The stool supports the detainee’s weight, but is too small to permit the subject to balance himself sufficiently to be able to go to sleep”.
- ‘dietary manipulation’, or the denial of solid food and its substitution by liquid nutrients.
- dousing with cold water; one of the 2005 memorandums notes that “cold water is poured on the detainee either from a container or from a hose without a nozzle. This technique is intended to weaken the detainee’s resistance and persuade him to cooperate with interrogators”.
- ‘water-boarding’, commonly known as simulated drowning. The 2002 memorandum found that the technique “constitutes a threat of imminent death”, but approved it on the grounds that it would not cause “prolonged mental harm” and therefore did not amount to torture under US law.
The cold detail of these memorandums written by Justice Department lawyers to provide “legal cover” for CIA operatives interrogating detainees held in secret detention should be read alongside the allegations of how these techniques were put into practice, as reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC’s confidential February 2007 report to the US government based on the organization’s interviews in Guantánamo in late 2006 with 14 detainees who had been held for up to four and a half years incommunicado in solitary confinement in the secret program before being transferred to the US Naval Base in Cuba has recently been leaked into the public domain. The ICRC concluded that:
“The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The ICRC also concluded that the 14 detainees had been subjected by the USA to enforced disappearance, like torture a crime under international law.
However, both President Obama and Attorney General Holder said that anyone who had relied “in good faith” upon the legal advice in the OLC opinions would not be prosecuted. The Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said that he would “strongly oppose any effort to investigate or punish those who followed the guidance of the Department of Justice”. The Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said that “it is important to remember the context of these past events…The CIA was struggling to obtain critical information”. The interrogation methods, he said, “read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing… We will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and those guidelines”. Again, under international law there can be no justification for torture and other ill-treatment.
In a letter to CIA officers, President Obama said: “In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful. The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them”. But there is no such thing as torture perpetrated in “good faith” or “reasonable” circumstances.
President Obama’s letter to the CIA continued: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution…. Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past”. There is justice and respect for human rights to be gained, however, and this is what drives demands for an end to impunity. Impunity breeds abuse. It is time for truth and accountability. It is time for the USA to meet its international obligations. This should include establishing an independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of US detention and interrogation practices since 11 September 2001.
AI Index: AMR 51/055/2009 Amnesty International 17 April 2009
Extraordinary rendition by the United States
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Truth, Torture, and the American Way:
The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture
Jennifer K. Harbury
From Publishers Weekly
When torture photos from Abu Ghraib became public in spring 2004, Americans reacted with revulsion: how could our military commit such horrible acts? In fact, Harbury’s well-documented volume reveals, American representatives abroad have been involved in torture for decades, much of it in Central America, where U.S. agents apparently encouraged the kidnapping, maltreatment and murder of left-wing fighters and their suspected sympathizers. Harbury’s own husband became one of the Guatemalan victims-she described his fate in Searching for Everardo-and this new volume alludes to his story repeatedly. Its central chapter compiles testimony from Latin American torture survivors, making a case for U.S. involvement in “torture by proxy.” Harbury accompanies her evidence with passionate if unsurprising denunciations, calling torture not just inhumane and illegal but ineffective: since tortured suspects confess to anything, she says, their statements may be worth nothing. Making use of her Harvard Law training, Harbury suggests legal avenues through which even federally sanctioned torturers may be held responsible. If her book holds few surprises for those who have followed these stories closely, its cases will certainly stoke the fires of outrage. Radio host Amy Goodman, of Pacifica’s Democracy Now program, contributes a foreword (not seen by PW).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jennifer Harbury’s investigation into torture began when her husband disappeared in Guatemala in 1992; she told the story of his torture and murder in Searching for Everardo. For over a decade since, Harbury has used her formidable legal, research, and organizing skills to press for the U.S. government’s disclosure of America’s involvement in harrowing abuses in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. A draft of this book had just been completed when the first photos from Abu Ghraib were published; tragically, many of Harbury’s deepest fears about America’s own abuses were graphically confirmed by those horrific images.
This urgently needed book offers both well-documented evidence of the CIA’s continuous involvement in torture tactics since the 1970s and moving personal testimony from many of the victims. Most important, Harbury provides solid, convincing arguments against the use of torture in any circumstances: not only because it is completely inconsistent with all the basic values Americans hold dear, but also because it has repeatedly proved to be ineffective: Again and again, “information” obtained through these gruesome tactics proves unreliable or false. Worse, the use of torture by U.S. client states, allies, and even by our own operatives, endangers our citizens and especially our troops deployed internationally
I found this a hard book to read because of the information presented. It is depressing to learn that America has such an oppressive government and sponsors torture and right wing terror throughout the world. After reading this book I have researched many more instances of torture funded by the CIA, etc. and it has spurred me to join Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among other human rights groups. Overall I found the book enlightening and well written and it has made a definite difference in my life
Torture by proxy
By Reuel S. Amdur
Saturday, 10.04.2008, 04:29pm
This is a book that should make you angry, depressed, and ashamed. Ashamed to be Canadian, ashamed to be American. It tells in graphic and gruesome detail of the tortures inflicted on innocent Muslim men. The tortures resulted from faulty information provided by Canadian and/or American governments about Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin.
As is well known by now, Arar was a victim of “extraordinary rendition,” ending up first in Jordan, where he was beaten and then transferred to Syria, where he was severely tortured. Arar provides the foreword, in which he speaks of “many” fellow prisoners in the Far’ Falastin Prison in Damascus who were “rendered to Syria courtesy of the U.S. government and its allies.”
Of course, there is a lot more blame to go around. Did the Italian government know about Presidential Aviation’s role in Arar’s rendition when it stopped over in Rome? And then there is of course the behavior of Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, all of whom seriously mistreated one or more of the men and all of whom routinely mistreat prisoners. Pither names some of the torturers.
Canada participated in the “war on terror” hysteria which precipitated this inhuman treatment because, as then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley put it, “from the Canadian point of view, the primary objective was economic.” Canada had to be seen by the U.S. to be doing its share in the war on terror in order to keep the border open to commerce. Besides, Canadian security had fumbled badly in losing track of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber, and in failing to deport him even after his deportation was ordered and even when he was incarcerated for criminal activity while under order for deportation.
Gar Pardy, was, before his retirement, the Director General of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s consular division. He was involved in dealing with the four cases, and he had unkind words for RCMP involvement. “We had inexperienced and, up to a point, inept people dealing with a subject matter that they know nothing about and absolutely no supervision of the people at a level that should have been taking place.” Even after the victimized Muslim men returned to Canada, the shadowy men in “intelligence” kept feeding doctored information to the media to cast doubt on the lack of the men’s culpability. True “cover your ass” behavior.
Pither is not prepared to leave the matter of responsibility at that. There is also the question of the role of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Agency (CSIS), and beyond the various public servants there are their political masters. Why are people like former cabinet ministers Jean Chrétien, John Manley, Justice Minister Anne McLellan, and Solicitor General Wayne Easter not made to pay for their role in all of this? Pither does not specifically mention criminal responsibility but why not? And of course there are American officials who share the guilt, beginning with President George W. Bush at the top. The answer of course is that people at the top rarely pay for such crimes.
British detainee’s tale of US ‘torture by proxy’
A west London man claims he is a victim of the US alleged “torture by proxy” policy, and has given the first account of abuse he says is inflicted on “ghost detainees” around the world.
Benyam Mohammed, 26, is accused of planning al-Qaida attacks. He says he spent 2½ years in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being taken to Guantánamo. During that time, he says, he was subjected to physical and mental torture. He also says he was questioned by American and British intelligence agents he believes to be FBI and MI6 officers
Mr Mohammed is accused of plotting to explode a “dirty bomb” in a US city – which he denies – as well as planning to blow up apartments.
Among allegations of torture in a dossier by his lawyer are being beaten, having his genitals slashed, and being forced to listen to loud rock music for long periods. He left London for Afghanistan “to find out whether it was a good Islamic country or not”, and was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He says he was flown to Morocco on a US plane and tortured in a secret prison.
One diary extract tells how four men entered his cell: “They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face …One took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. ‘I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,’ [one] eventually said.”
His claims cannot be independently verified, and some groups affiliated to al-Qaida are believed to be taught to make allegations of torture. But his account of a prison near Rabat tallies with the Temara torture centre identified by the US organisation Human Rights Watch. The Guardian has obtained records showing CIA jets flew in and out of Morocco on the dates he specifies.
The Foreign Office said the UK “unreservedly condemns” torture and would never allow the intelligence services to use it. US and Moroccan authorities did not return calls. The CIA declined to comment.
From Here to the end of page:
The horrendous story of
Police Torture in Chicago
Jon Burge and police henchmen torture
and the massive sustained
government cover up for decades:
the truth hurts sometimes
written by admin
Saturday, May 15th, This is Hell! broadcasted a live four hour show beginning at 9 AM (US central) on WNUR 89.3 FM. Roughly an hour later Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer (that’s me) debuted his new segment live in their studios.
Click to play audio:
Last week something unimaginable happened,finally after 20 years Police Commander Jon Burge walked into a Chicago Federal court house to select the jury that will be judging him on charges of perjury.
And on the 24th of May at 8:30am he’ll be attending his first day of court.
But I think I’m getting ahead of myself, some of you may not know who Jon Burge is, why he is facing jail time or even why you should care.
Burge is being charged with lying during the civil trial of Madison Hobley. See- Madison’s wife, children and neighborswere killed in a fire-and Jon Burge forced him to confess to their murder. Not because he did it but because he was torturedby Burge with the infamous “Black Box.” An electric crank generator often used in Vietnamas a quick way to torture prisoners captured by US forces. Jon Burge said he didn’t do this-after swearing on the Bible. That was a lie and that is a Federal crime.
And that is why he is going to trial, not because he tortured Hobley, but because he lied about torturing Hobley. But he wasn’t Burge’s only victim, and his experience was far from the worst.
Between the years of 1972 and 91, Burge and his “Midnight Crew,” arrested and tortured 135 to 200 people of color. For those 20 years Chicago made Guantanamo Bayseem like a quite beach resort. Their favorite methods of torture were electrocution- typically applied to the genitals and ears- or suffocation with a type writer bag. This was often followed by show executions, beatings,and chaining the victims to a redhot radiator. If a victim was uppity and threatened to talk or refused to sign a confession, Burge would threaten back that he’ll torture or kill their family.
But that’s still not the worst part! The truth of what happened at Area 2 would make the Catholic Church squirm. Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old! Can you believe that? They were torturing kids!What does this say about the Chicago police? After all, are they not sworn to protect us from monsters that molest children?
Yes, that’s right, I did say molest. John Burge and his Midnight Crew did more than just beat kids. They sexually assaulted them. This is something the media, prosecutors and the public dance around. But it’s the reality of their crimes.
I don’t care what your definition of torture is, if you think it’s sometimes justifiable or not, but whoever assaults the genitals of a kid is a child molester. PERIOD; THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT THAT!
Concerned parents all over the nation should be, at a minimum, demanding the resignation of the remaining 8 Midnight Crew officers who are still working for the CPD. But I don’t hear much of anything on the subject. Do you?
So what does that say about us? That, even today, after all we know, we still see and hear from Officer after Officer and Citizen after Citizen defending Burge and his thugs.
Well to be fair, there are committed activists who are doing everything in their power to ensure that Burge pays for his crimes. But as someone directly involved in this community, I have to say- it’s not very large.
Maybe the problem comes from ignorance-you know, a lack of understanding the facts. It’s easy to blame lazy journalism. Since John Conroy, the guy who broke the story about the Midnight Crew, was fired from the Reader in 2003 there has been an absence of valuable reporting on the torture scandal.
For example, this week the Chicago Tribune displayed their typical journalistic integrityby running an AP story where Michael McDermott, a former Midnight Crew detective, was able to express to the public, how he thought it is wrong for the prosecutorsto go after Burge this late in the game.
And that’s it, that’s all the story was about. What is that? That’s not a story! It was more like this Detectives press release. Nowhere in the article does the reporter even bother to mention, that while the detective may think it’s wrongthere are at least 135 victims of torture who feel otherwise. I am sure the journalist could have picked up a phone and found someone willing to provide a quote. Is this just laziness or a reflection of the attitudes of the public?
Which leads me to ask…
What the hell is wrong with you Chicago!?
I guess we just love torture. We love deep dish pizza, the Cubs and grossly violating peoples rights. Before America had Jack Bower, Chicago had the real deal! A real American hero- EVEN IF HE DID TORTURE PEOPLE, because sometimes you have to break a few eggs, right?
Or at least thats what his defenders would want you to believe. They paint Burge as a throw back to a better time. When cops got things done and kept us safe.
What kind of twisted logic is that? How does turning the police force into a lawless gang make anyone safe? I just doesn’t make any sense at all.How can torturing American’s make American’s any safer?
If you think about it for just a second…
You’re left asking, whose America? Could it be that that we are talking about White America? We only care about torture, when the victims look like us?After all, Americans living in the communities of colorwho are victimized by torture certainly don’t feel any safer.
Let’s take the case of Andrew Meyer vs Michael Jacobs. Meyer was a white, middle class college studentbest known to America as “Don’t Taze Me Bro.” His crime was being a dick and asking rude questions. He lived through the incident and sparked a national debateWhile Michael Jacobs is known to America as…
Well actually, Michael Jacobs, isn’t really known to many in America. He was a 24 year old black manwith problems of mental illness. He was off of his meds and acting irrationally forcing his parents to call the police. An officer threatened to taserthe unarmed Jacobs who foolishly replied, ”Go ahead, I’ve always wanted to see what that feels like anyway.” To this the officer tasered Jacobsfor over 50 seconds, killing him by, causing his heart to stop.
Why didn’t the Jacobs case spark a national debate over the use of tazers? They were both young and more or less victims of circumstance. They both had equally stupid last catch phrases. Was it simply because Jacobs was not on video? Maybe…
Or is it because when a person of color is killed by the police White America doesn’t pay much attention.
Try this experiment for a month. Subscribe to the “Injustice News Feed,” it’s on Twitter- I know- I apologize, and read each article they link. Within a week you’ll find at least one incident thatyou could reasonably classify as police torture. Note the race of the victim. And do a search to see if the story was picked upanywhere other than the local news. I bet, you wont be surprised by the results.
written by admin
Torture probe expands to cops under his command
Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge faces trial next month on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice linked to police brutality.(AP)
A new federal grand jury has been impaneled to expand the investigation of allegations of police torture under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News have learned.
The grand jury is investigating what was commonly referred to as the “Midnight Crew,” officers who worked for Burge, according to a source.
This comes as federal prosecutors ready their case against Burge. The aging detective commander is set to go on trial May 6, charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.
None of the officers under Burge’s command has ever been charged in connection with the torture allegations. The new grand jury may decide whether that time has finally come.
Burge and his detectives have always maintained they mistreated no one.
Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge faces trial next month on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice linked to police brutality. (AP)
But according to attorney Flint Taylor, Burge was the ringleader of a band of seven or eight officers that operated out of Area 2 in the 1970s and ’80s.
They were called the “Midnight Crew” because of the hours they worked.
“Under the cover of darkness and the fact that there were relatively few of them, they could do what other detectives felt they couldn’t get away with, and that is torture people,” Taylor said. “And you just have case after case under them of baggings, of electric shock, of mock executions in the ’80s which was the heyday of the Midnight Crew.” (more…)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Accessed May 24, 2010
|Jon Graham Burge|
|Born||December 20, 1947 (1947-12-20) (age 62)
|Residence||Apollo Beach, Florida|
|Education||Bowen High School
University of Missouri (one semester)
|Occupation||Police Commander (retired)|
|Employer||Chicago Police Department|
|Known for||police brutality|
Jon Graham Burge (born December 20, 1947) is a decorated United States Army veteran and a former Chicago Police Department detective and commander who gained notoriety for allegedly torturing more than 200 criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991, in order to force confessions. He served tours in South Korea and Vietnam and continued as an enlisted United States Army Reserve soldier where he served in the military police. He then returned to the South Side of Chicago and began his career as a police officer. Allegations were made about the methods of Burge and those under his command. Eventually, hundreds of similar reports resulted in a decision by Illinois Governor George Ryan to declare a moratorium on death penalty executions in Illinois in 2000 and to clear the state’s death row in 2003.
The most controversial arrests began in February 1982 in the midst of a series of shootings of Chicago law enforcement officials in Police Area 2, whose detective squad Burge commanded. Some of the people who confessed to murder were later granted new trials, and a few were acquitted or pardoned. Burge was acquitted of police brutality charges in 1989 after a first trial resulted in a hung jury. He was suspended from the Chicago Police Department in 1991 and fired in 1993 after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had used torture.
After Burge was fired, there was a groundswell of support to investigate his convictions. In 2002, a special prosecutor began investigating the accusations. The review, which cost $17 million, revealed improprieties that resulted in no action due to the statute of limitations. Several convictions were reversed, remanded or overturned. All Illinois death row inmates received reductions in their sentences. Four of Burge’s victims were pardoned by then-Governor George Ryan, and subsequently filed a consolidated suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the City of Chicago, various police officers, Cook County and various State’s Attorneys. A $19.8 million settlement was reached in December 2007 with the “city defendants”. Cases against Cook County and the other current/former county prosecutors continue as of July 2008. In October 2008, Patrick Fitzgerald had Burge arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to a civil suit regarding the torture allegations against him. On April 1, 2010, Judge Joan Lefkow postponed the trial, for the fourth time, to May 24, 2010.
 Early life
|Born December 20, 1947 (1947-12-20) (age 62)|
|Place of birth||Chicago, Illinois|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army/United States Army Reserve|
|Years of service||1966 – 1972|
|Unit||Ninth Military Police Company of the Ninth Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||Vietnam War (South Korea & Vietnam)|
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry
Raised in the South Deering community area on the Southeast side of Chicago, Burge was the second eldest son of Floyd and Ethel Burge. Floyd was a blue collar worker of Norwegian descent and Ethel was an aspiring fashionista of mixed Western European descent. Burge attended Bowen High School where he showed a keen interest in the school’s JROTC. There he was exposed to military drill, weapons, leadership and military history. He attended the University of Missouri but dropped out after one semester, which ended his draft deferment. He returned to Chicago to work as a stock clerk in the supermarket chain Jewel in 1966.
In June 1966, Burge enlisted in the army reserve and began six years of service, including two years of active duty. He spent eight weeks at a military police (MP) school in Georgia. He also received some training at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he learned interrogation techniques. He volunteered for a tour of duty in the Vietnam, but instead he became an MP trainer and then served as an MP in South Korea, gathering five letters of appreciation from superiors. On June 18, 1968, Burge volunteered for duty in Vietnam a second time, and was assigned to the Ninth Military Police Company of the Ninth Infantry Division. He reported to division headquarters, where he was assigned to provide security as a sergeant at his division base camp, which was named Dong Tam by William Westmoreland. Burge described his military police service as time spent escorting convoys, providing security for forward support bases, supervising security for the divisional central base camp in Dong Tam, and then serving a tour as a provost marshal investigator.
During his military service, Burge earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Army Commendation Medals for valor, for pulling wounded men to safety while under fire. Burge claimed no knowledge of or involvement in prisoner interrogation, brutality or torture. Burge was honorably discharged from the Army on August 25, 1969.
 Police career
|Jon G. Burge|
|Chicago Police Department|
|Born December 20, 1947 (1947-12-20) (age 62)|
|Place of birth||Chicago, Illinois, USA|
|Service branch||United States|
|Year of service||1970-1992|
|Rank||Sworn in as an officer – 1970
Detective – 1972
Lieutenant – 1981
Commander (Violent crimes) – 1981
Commander (Bomb & arson) – 1986
Detective Commander – 1988
Burge became a police officer in March 1970 at age 22 on the South side of Chicago. In 20 years of service, he earned 13 commendations and a letter of praise from the Department of Justice. In May 1972, he was promoted to detective and assigned to Area 2 (Pullman Area) robbery. He was next promoted to field lieutenant in the Monroe Street District. From 1981–1986 he served as the commander of the Area 2 Violent Crimes Unit until he was promoted to the Commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit in 1986. In 1988, Burge became Area 3 (Brighton Park) detective commander.
 Turning point
Allegations exist that torture began in 1972. However, the most prominent example occurred in 1982. On February 9, 1982, there was an incident on the streets in which a suspect took a police officer’s weapon, then shot and killed both the officer and his partner. This incident occurred within Burge’s jurisdiction, who was then a lieutenant and commanding officer of Area 2. The two fatalities brought the total to five officers (including two Cook County Sheriff’s Officers and a rookie CTA cop on February 5) who had been shot in the 60-square-mile (160 km2) area on the South Side within about a month.
Initial interrogation procedures allegedly included shooting pets, handcuffing questioning subjects to stationary objects for day-long time periods, and holding guns to the heads of minors. Operation PUSH spokesmen, Black Police Officers, the Chicago Defender and Jesse Jackson were outraged with techniques that were used. Renault Robinson, president of Chicago’s Afro American Police League characterized the dragnet operation as “sloppy police work, a matter of racism.” comparing the police action to that of a southern sheriff leading a posse that turned into a lynch mob. Jackson complained that the black community was being held under martial law. After all of the police excesses, mere coincidence enabled the capture of the suspects for the most recent two killings. Tyrone Sims identified Donald “Kojak” White as the shooter, and Kojak was linked to Andrew and Jackie Wilson by having committed a burglary with them earlier on the day of the killings.
 Torture methods
Andrew Wilson was arrested on the morning of February 14, 1982 for the murder of the two police officers, and by the end of the day, he was in Mercy Hospital and Medical Center with lacerations on various parts of his head, including his face, chest bruises and second-degree thigh burns. It was clear that Wilson had received sufficient injuries to be sent to the hospital, with more than a dozen of them caused while in police custody. During a two-week trial in 1983, Andrew Wilson was convicted of the killings and given a death penalty sentence, while his brother Jackie was convicted as an accomplice and given a life sentence. In 1985, Jackie’s conviction was overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court because his right to remain silent had not been properly explained. Because Andrew was given a death sentence, his case was not reviewable on the same grounds by the Appellate Court and went directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. In April 1987, the Supreme Court overturned Andrew’s conviction with a ruling that he had confessed involuntarily after being beaten by the police.
In October 1987, the Appellate court further ruled the Jackie Wilson should have been tried separately from his brother and that evidence against Andrew Wilson regarding other matters for which the police wanted him was incorrectly admitted. In June 1988, Andrew was re-convicted. However, with 10 women in favor and two men opposed, the jury was unable to agree on his eligibility for the death penalty after five days of deliberation, and the following month he was granted a life sentence.
Seven years after the original arrest, Andrew filed a civil suit stating that he had been beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag, burned (by cigarette and radiator), treated with electric shock, and been the victim of the pattern of a cover-up. Although the suit was against four detectives, a former police superintendent and the City of Chicago, it hinged on the testimonies of plaintiff Wilson and commander Burge, who oversaw all of the alleged activity.
Jury selection commenced on February 15, 1989. The original two-woman, four-man jury included three blacks and a Hispanic. When Burge took the stand on March 13, 1989, he denied claims he injured Andrew Wilson during questioning and denied any knowledge of any such activity by other officers. Gradually, charges against other officers were dismissed. On March 15, 1989, Sergeant Thomas McKenna was cleared of wrongdoing; and on March 30, 1989, Detectives John Yucaitis and Patrick O’Hara were unanimously cleared by the jury. However, the jury was at an impasse on the Burge verdict. U.S. District Judge Brian B. Duff ordered a retrial for Burge, former Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek and the City of Chicago on two other outstanding charges (conspiracy and whether the City of Chicago’s policy toward police brutality contributed to Wilson’s injuries). Burge was cleared in a second nine-week trial that began on June 9, 1989.
Burge was accused of using a cattle prod.
Burge and other Chicago Police officers allegedly used methods of torture that left few marks. They were accused of slamming telephone books on top of suspect’s heads. There were also three separate electrical devices that Burge and his detectives were accused of using: a cattle prod, a hand cranked device, and a violet wand. They allegedly used an old-style hand cranked telephone which generated electricity, and attach wires to the suspect’s genitals or face. According to veteran sergeant D. J. Lewis, this is a method of torture common in the Korean war (where Burge served), and usually results in a confession. Burge has denied ever witnessing such telephone torture procedures. The violet wand was said to be regularly placed either on the anus, into the rectum or against the victim’s exposed genitals. They also used stun guns and adapted hair dryers. Burge and his henchmen also allegedly engage in mock executions, in putting plastic bags over heads, cigarette burnings and severe beatings. At one point he is alleged to have supervised the electrical shocking of a 13 year old boy, Marcus Wiggins.
The verdict that cleared Burge and his colleagues also found the City of Chicago employed a policy of using excessive force on suspected killers of police officers. Initial reports of torture appeared in the pages of the alternative weekly the Chicago Reader in 1990. By 1990 there was growing momentum to an effort to seek disciplinary action against Burge. An investigation conducted by Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards concluded that Jon Burge and his detectives engaged in “methodical” and “systematic” torture, and “The type of abuse described was not limited to the usual beating, but went into such esoteric areas as psychological techniques and planned torture.”
Danny K. Davis turned police brutality and excessive force into a Chicago Mayoral race campaign issue for the February 26, 1991 Democratic Primary. He sought an independent citizens review. In January 28, 1991, Amnesty International called for an investigation into police torture in Chicago. After Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley showed reluctance to follow the Amnesty International directive, Davis raised an issue about a police coverup. Eventually, after pressure by citizens’ organizations and anti-brutality organizations an internal investigation resumed.
In 1991, Gregory Banks filed suit against Burge, three colleagues and the City of Chicago for condoning brutality and torture. The allegation was related to a false 1983 confession to murder obtained by placing a plastic bag over Banks’ head, putting a gun in his mouth and other acts. There were eleven other suspects that the officers allegedly abused with brutality such as electro-shock. The suit was brought by the same attorneys who represented Andrew Wilson in the previous 1989 brutality case. The suit described 23 incidents against black and Hispanic suspects between 1972–1985. A third suit was brought against Burge in 1993. The Banks suit named Sergeant Peter Dignan as one of the officers involved in the abusive handling. Dignan was promoted later for meritorious service despite the fact that the City of Chicago settled out of court with Banks.
In November 1991, the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards, an internal review division for police misconduct, acknowledged an October 25, 1991 request for action against Burge. This type of request was a common precursor to a police dismissal and gave the City of Chicago’s Corporation counsel 30 days to consider the report. Burge was suspended pending separation for 30 days starting on November 8, 1991. The Chicago Police Board set a November 25 hearing to formalize the firing of Burge and two detectives based on 30 counts of abuse and brutality against Wilson. The hearing related to the internal police investigation finding that Burge and Detective John Yucaitis physically abused Wilson in 1982, while Detective Patrick O`Hara did nothing to stop them. The suspension became controversial after the 30 day period ended and the officers remained suspended without pay. They sued for reinstatement, but their reinstatements were denied. During the hearing an internal report that had been suppressed for years revealed police review findings that criminal suspects were subjected to systematic brutality at the Area 2 detective headquarters for 12 years and that supervisory commanders had knowledge of the abuses. During the trial, several alleged victims testified against Burge.
The internal hearing concluded in March 1992, and the Chicago Police Board found Burge guilty of “physically abusing” an accused murderer 11 years earlier and ordered his firing from the police force on February 10, 1993. Detectives John Yucaitis and Patrick O’Hara, were given 15-month suspensions without pay and reinstated, which amounted to a penalty equal to time served. Upon reinstatement the two detectives were initially demoted, but almost a year later they were reinstated at full-rank with backpay for time served while demoted. Burge attempted to have the ruling overturned, but the suspension and subsequent firing was upheld.
The internal hearing resulted in a situation in which the City of Chicago was employing lawyers to defend Burge during an appeal by Wilson and a new case by Banks while employing lawyers to prosecute him on departmental charges. The City of Chicago had to hire outside counsel to prosecute the detectives at the internal hearing. After having spent $750,000 to defend Burge in the Wilson hearing, the City of Chicago was in a dilemma about whether to follow normal practices and pay for the defense of its police officers.
In 1993, Wilson was granted a new hearing by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling was based on the fact that the exoneration of the officers resulted from a trial strategy to “immerse the jury in the sordid details of Wilson’s crimes” rather than focus on a suspect’s “right to be free from torture and the correlative right to present his claim of torture to a jury that has not been whipped into a frenzy of hatred”.
 Abuse-related decisions
In 1998, Bianca Jagger, Anthony Amsterdam, George N. Leighton, Abner Mikva, R. Eugene Pincham and representatives from the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, and by the London-based International Center for Criminal Law and Human Rights called for a stay of execution for Aaron Patterson who was allegedly tortured into a confession.
In 1999, lawyers for several death row inmates began to call for a special review of the convictions based on evidence extracted by Burge and his colleagues. These inmates (Aaron Patterson; Madison Hobley; Stanley Howard; Leonard Kidd; Derrick King; Ronald Kitchen; Reginald Mahaffey; Jerry Mahaffey; Andrew Maxwell, and Leroy Orange) became known as the “Death Row 10”. In a report called the Goldston Report, the City of Chicago enumerated 50 alleged instances of police brutality and abuse by Burge and other officers. The City of Chicago struggled with the issue of coerced confessions for decades and in the 1990s it quietly reopened several controversial brutality cases. Despite an extensive investigation into the actions by a number of police employees, few others but Burge were sanctioned.
Several politicians, including state representative Bobby Rush, requested that State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine seek new trials for the Death Row 10 who were allegedly tortured by Burge. Devine met with representatives and supporters of the inmates and was convinced to request that the Illinois Supreme Court stay proceedings against three of the inmates. However, the Supreme Court denied Devine’s request. Rush also sought out Janet Reno to pursue federal intervention.
In February 1999, David Protess, a Northwestern University journalism professor and his students uncovered exonerating evidence on behalf of Death Row inmate Anthony Porter. The students produced four affidavits and a videotaped statement that placed the guilt on another suspect. Recantations of testimony at trial were among the affidavits obtained. One witness claimed that he named Anthony Porter after police officers threatened, harassed and intimidated him into doing so.
In 2000, Governor Ryan halted executions in Illinois after courts found 13 death row inmates had been wrongfully convicted. Ryan also promised to review the cases of all Illinois death row inmates. With the number of cases of alleged brutality, offers were made to allegedly coerced inmates to drop charges in exchange for reduced sentences. A plea agreement was reached with one convicted victim. Devine made a broader offer to several inmates. Aaron Patterson rejected the plea.
On January 10, 2003, having lost confidence in the state’s penal system, outgoing Republican Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 prisoners on Illinois’ death row. Ryan pardoned four death row inmates: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard. On January 11, Ryan decided to grant clemency to all death row inmates by converting death sentences to sentences of life without parole in most cases and reducing some sentences. Among those pardoned were four of the ten who claimed wrongful imprisonment. In the unusual proceeding, the governor took the extraordinary step of a direct pardon release rather than a court proceeding.
Daley, at the time the Cook County State’s Attorney, has been accused by the Illinois General Assembly of failing to act on information he possessed on the conduct of Burge and others. Daley has acknowledged his responsibility to be proactive in stopping the torture, but denies any knowledge which could have made him responsible. On July 19, 2006, US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. issued a press release calling Mayor Daley culpable, possibly even criminally culpable, for his failure to prosecute until the statute of limitations had run out. Jackson called for an investigation to determine if there was any planned delay to allow the cases to expire. Eventually, death penalty opponents requested that U.S. President Bill Clinton follow Ryan’s lead in halting executions. In August 2000, The Illinois Supreme Court reversed or remanded two Burge-related death row cases based on allegations of torture by police.
After being pardoned by Governor Ryan, Burge’s victims began to file lawsuits. Madison Hobley was the first of the four pardoned inmates to file suit in May 2003. Aaron Patterson followed in June with his own suit, and Stanley Howard filed suit in November. Eventually, the City of Chicago agreed to a $20 million settlement with the four pardoned inmates. Another result of the pardons was a series of legislative death penalty reforms that Ryan’s successor Rod Blagojevich vetoed. By 2005, the state mandated video recording of interrogations in homicide cases. Barack Obama had pushed the mandated video recording bill through the Illinois State Senate in 2003.
In 2002, the Cook County Bar Association, the Justice Coalition of Chicago and others petitioned for a review of the allegations against Burge. Edward Egan, a former prosecutor, Illinois Appellate Court jurist, and semiretired lawyer who lived in Florida, was appointed as a Special State’s Attorney (a/k/a “special prosecutor“) to investigate allegations dating back to 1973. He hired an assistant, several lawyers and retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers. The only prior official investigation, which resulted in Burge’s firing, had been by the Office of Professional Standards, which determined that “the preponderance of evidence is that abuse did occur and that it was systematic.” Former prosecutor Robert D. Boyle was also appointed as a special prosecutor. In 2003, former Chief of the Special Prosecution Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Gordon B. Nash Jr. was appointed as an additional special prosecutor.
A total of 60 cases were ordered to be reviewed. A special prosecutor was hired because Cook County State’s Attorney, Richard Devine, had a conflict of interest stemming from his tenure at the law firm of Phelan, Pope & John, which defended Burge in two federal suits. Criminal Courts Judge Paul P. Biebel Jr. presided over the determination of the need of a review to determine the propriety of criminal charges and the appointment of the special prosecutor.
During the written phase of the investigation Burge and eight other officers pled the Fifth Amendment. On September 1, 2004, Burge was served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in an ongoing criminal investigation of police torture while in town for depositions on civil lawsuits at his attorney’s office. Burge pled the Fifth Amendment to virtually every question during a 4 hour civil case deposition. He only answered questions about his name, his boat’s name (Vigilante) and his $30,000 annual pension. The City of Chicago continues to be bound by court order to pay for Burge’s legal fees. The service of the subpoena was quite storied with Burge eluding servers at Midway Airport and a team placed at his lawyers office before dawn. Eventually, several police officers were granted immunity in order to further the investigation into Burge.
Three years into the investigation no criminal charges had been filed although several civil suits were filed in federal court. By that time, a total of 139 victims were involved in the case as were 19 investigators. Disappointment on the progress caused the victims to request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights allot them an hour-long hearing at their October 2005 session.
On May 19, 2006 an initial ruling was made to release the special report on torture accusations. On June 20, 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court unblocked the release of the special report by Egan that took 4 years and cost $17 million. In the end 148 cases were evaluated. The investigation revealed that in three of the cases prosecutors could have proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court that torture by the police involving five former officers including Burge had occurred. Half of the claims were deemed credible, but because of the statute of limitations no indictments were handed out. Mayor Daley and all law enforcement officials who had been deposed were excluded from the report. Also, the 75 credible abuse cases were overlooked with the report focusing on doubts about the actual torture of pardoned death row inmates. Among the final costs were $6.2 million for the investigation and $7 million to hire outside counsel for Burge and his cohorts. Although the statute of limitations argument was a disappointment to many, the argument was very elaborately detailed in an 18 page section of the report. Debates in the op-ed pages continued for days and Egan explained his report to the public with legal theories and federal jurisdiction issues.
In 2002, Special State’s Attorney (a/k/a “special prosecutor“) Egan was appointed by Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who directed Egan to investigate (and, if appropriate, prosecute) the accusations. Egan’s review, which cost $17 million, revealed improprieties that resulted in no action due to the statute of limitations.
Four of Burge’s death row inmate victims—Aaron Patterson, LeRoy Orange, Stanely Howard, and Madison Hobley—filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the City of Chicago, Burge, several of Burge’s former subordinate police detectives, Cook County, and a few current and former State’s Attorneys and assistant state’s attorneys of Cook County (the precise list of police officers and prosecutors varied somewhat from plaintiff to plaintiff). Although each case was randomly assigned to a different district judge, the parties all consented to have the four cases consolidated for discovery management before Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown. A settlement of $19.8 million was reached in December 2007 between the plaintiffs and the so-called “city defendants” consisting of the City of Chicago, Burge, the other former detectives, and former Cook County State’s Attorney (now Mayor of Chicago) Richard M. Daley. The cases against Cook County and the other current/former prosecutors continue as of July 2008. Having never been convicted of a felony, Burge continues to receive a police pension to which he is entitled under Illinois state law.
Since being fired Burge has lived in Apollo Beach, Florida, a suburb of Tampa. In 1994, he bought his current wood-frame home for $154,000 and a 22 ft (6.7 m) motorboat. While a police officer Burge had owned a 40-foot (12 m) cabin cruiser named The Vigilante that he maintained at Burnham Harbor. Upon retiring at full pension he ran a fishing business in Florida. The precise amount of his pension is not a matter of public record, but he was eligible for 50% of his approximately $60,000 salary.
The torture revelations led to actions to mandate videotaping of confessions. The case has been chronicled in various formats in the mass media. The book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People (2001, ISBN 0520230396) by John Conroy includes four chapters on Burge’s story. Also, the 1994 Public Broadcasting Service documentary film, co-produced with Peter Kuttner, that was entitled The End of the Nightstick, analyzed the torture charges against Burge.
Although Burge had been presumed to be protected by a statute of limitations, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, in October 2008 charged Burge with two counts of obstruction of justice and count of perjury. Burge was arrested on October 21, 2008 at his home in Apollo Beach, Florida by FBI agents.
Under the charges, Burge may be subject to 40 years in prison for the two obstruction counts and five years on the perjury count. The charges are the result of convicted felon Madison Hobley’s 2003 civil rights lawsuit alleging police beatings, electric shocks and death threats by Burge and other officers against dozens of criminal suspects.
Burge has pleaded not guilty and been released on $250,000 bond. Fitzgerald noted that although Burge was being charged with lying and not the torture for which the statute of limitations has invalidated, he believed Burge to be guilty of both. In the October 21 press conference, Fitzgerald stated that Burge had “lied and impeded court proceedings” during his 2003 written testimony. In the indictment, the prosecution stated that Burge understood that he was a participant in and was aware of “such events involving the abuse or torture of people in custody”. The trial had been set for May 11, 2009. Instead, on April 29, Burge filed a change-of-venue motion and the trial in relation to a lawsuit filed by former Death Row inmate Madison Hobley is now set for October 29, 2009.
Also in April, Cortez Brown, who is seeking a new trial with respect to two 1990 murders and who has already subpoenaed two Chicago Police Detectives for his May 18, 2009 hearing, won the right to subpoena Burge for his hearing from a Cook County Judge. Burge was expected to exercise his 5th Amendment right not to testify against himself. However, the Florida judge refused to grant such a subpoena given the likelihood that Burge would exercise this right.
On May 6, jury selection began for the trial. 80 potential jurors were given a 29-page questionnaire to complete. Attorneys had until May 24 to review the questionnaires before final jury selection began. An additional batch of 90 potential jurors was given a questionnaire on May 17.
- ^ “Burge trial delayed for fourth time”. Chicago Sun-Times. 2010-04-01. http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/2135813,jon-burge-torture-trial-delay-040110.article. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j “Tools of Torture”. Chicago Reader. 2005-02-04. http://www.chicagoreader.com/policetorture/050402. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- ^ a b c d e f g Conroy, p. 61.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i LaPeter, Leonora (2004-08-29). “Torture allegations dog ex-police officer”. St. Petersburg Times. http://www.sptimes.com/2004/08/29/Worldandnation/Torture_allegations_d.shtml. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- ^ “Burge Federal Indictment”. United States Attorney. 2009-05-13. http://www.scribd.com/doc/7433512/Burge-Final-Ind1. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- ^ “Burge to head bomb and arson unit”. Chicago Sun-Times. Newsbank. 1986-08-14. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:CSTB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0EB36D1AC13FD28C&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=AA98CDC331574F0ABEAFF732B33DC0B2. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
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- ^ Mick Dumke (2007-12-13). “Hurry Up and Wait”. Chicago Reader. http://blogs.chicagoreader.com/politics/2007/12/13/hurry-and-wait. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
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- ^ Carpenter, John (2000-08-20). “Former cop accused of torture lies low in Fla.”. Chicago Sun-Times. Newsbank. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:CSTB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0EB42491A3382EEB&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=AA98CDC331574F0ABEAFF732B33DC0B2. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- ^ Adrian, Matt (1999-02-28). “Forced confessions targeted – Panel favors mandatory police videotaping”. Chicago Sun-Times. Newsbank. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:CSTB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0EB4240179779BFF&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=AA98CDC331574F0ABEAFF732B33DC0B2. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
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- ^ Goodman, Jill Laurie (2000-04-16). “A Disturbing Inquiry Into Torture and Human Nature”. Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:CTRB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0EB4866BB5652AFF&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=AA98CDC331574F0ABEAFF732B33DC0B2. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
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- Conroy, John, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture, ISBN 0520230396, University of California Press, 2001
 External links
An archive of articles by John Conroy
on police torture, Jon Burge, and related issues
By John Conroy
The Persistence of Andrew Wilson
A cop killer who fought to expose torture in the Chicago Police Department has died, but his testimony from beyond the grave could still help bring down its perpetrators.
November 29, 2007
Is This a Gag?
The city’s lawyers claim a gag order prevents them from discussing the strange deal they made to settle police torture lawsuits. There’s no order.
September 28, 2007
The Meter’s Still Running and the Mayor’s Still Mum
Since 2003 the city has paid some $7 million in legal fees to fight five police torture lawsuits it probably can’t win. The latest turn in this saga involves a secret settlement agreement designed to protect Daley.
July 6, 2007
Lawyers for police torture victims are trying to get Mayor Daley on the stand. We’ve got a few things to ask him too.
May 11, 2007
Confessions of a Torturer
An Army Interrogator’s Story
March 1, 2009
The Good Cop
Detective Frank Laverty did the right thing – and paid for it for years.
January 5, 2007
The prosecutors who sent police torture victims to prison are now the judges who keep them there.
December 1, 2006
Doe in the Headlights
By trying so hard to keep his name out of the police torture report, Lawrence Hyman has made sure it’s a name we’ll always associate with police torture.
July 19, 2006
The Police Torture Scandal: A Who’s Who
With the results of a four-year, multimillion dollar investigation due any day, here’s a guide by staff reporter John Conroy to the key figures in the scandal. Some of them may look familiar.
June 16, 2006
What Does John Doe Know? The guy blocking the special prosecutor’s report on Chicago police torture may be trying to protect more than his own name.
June 9, 2006
Tools of Torture
Though he continues to deny it, Jon Burge tortured suspects while he was a Chicago police detective. Now his contemporaries from Vietnam reveal where he may have learned the tricks of his trade.
February 4, 2005
The Mysterious Third Device
February 4, 2005
All over the world, torturers have one thing in common: they think they’re doing the right thing.
May 14, 2004
Deaf to the Screams The next state’s attorney to investigate police torture in Chicago will be the first.
August 1, 2003
A Hell of a Deal
His job is to prosecute criminals. But if the criminals are cops, state’s attorney Dick Devine doesn’t want to hear about it. Now, with Devine offering inmates their freedom if they’ll drop their claims of torture, some defense attorneys suggest appointing a prosecutor to go over his head.
October 12, 2001
What Price Freedom?
Darrell Cannon has accepted a plea bargain that will spare him a lifetime in prison. But there’s a catch: the police officers he’s accused of torture won’t be forced to testify.
March 2, 2001
The Magic Can
It grows. It shrinks. It leaps throught locked doors. If you believe that, you won’t mind if the state executes Madison Hobley.
May 26, 2000
Police lieutenant Raymond Patterson didn’t believe his son Aaron was a gangbanger. He was wrong. Then he didn’t believe that police officers had forced Aaron to confess to a double murder. He may have been wrong about that too.
December 3, 1999
Poison in the System
Darrell Cannon and a parade of men claim they were tortured by detectives at Area Two. Why won’t the police department confront its demons?
June 25, 1999
Shot in the Dark
In the confusion surrounding the bloody shoot-out that killed Nick Richard, one thing is perfectly clear—the police department doesn’t want to hear about it.
November 6, 1998
The Shocking Truth After insisting for years that Andrew Wilson was never tortured by police, why did the city then begin insisting that he was?
January 10, 1997
Town Without Pity Police torture: The courts know about it, the media know about it, and chances are you know about it. So why aren’t we doing anything about it?
January 12, 1996
House of Screams Torture by electroshock: Could it happen in a Chicago police station? Did it happen at Area 2?
January 26, 1990
My Kind of Town, John Conroy’s unforgiving new play about the Chicago police torture scandal, gets a reading at the Chicago Writers’ Bloc New Play Festival.
- by Deanna Isaacs
- Oct 8, 2009
- The Persistence of Andrew Wilson
A cop killer who fought to expose torture in the Chicago Police Department has died, but his testimony from beyond the grave could still help bring down its perpetrators.
- by John Conroy
- Nov 29, 2007
- Police Torture: Is This a Gag?
The city’s lawyers claim a gag order prevents them from discussing the strange deal they made to settle police torture lawsuits. There’s no order.
- by John Conroy
- Sep 27, 2007
- Follow-Up: The Meter’s Still Running and the Mayor’s Still Mum
Since 2003 the city has paid some $7 million in legal fees to fight five police torture lawsuits it probably can’t win. The latest turn in this saga involves a secret settlement agreement designed to protect Daley.
- by John Conroy
- Jul 5, 2007
- Twenty Questions
Lawyers for police torture victims are trying to get Mayor Daley on the stand. We’ve got a few things to ask him too.
- by John Conroy
- May 10, 2007
- The Good Cop
Detective Frank Laverty did the right thing–and paidfor it for years.
- by John Conroy
- Jan 4, 2007
- Blind Justices?
The prosecutors who sent police torture victims to prison are now the judges who keep them there.
- by John Conroy
- Nov 30, 2006
- Doe in the Headlights
By trying so hard to keep his name out of the police torture report, Lawrence Hyman has made sure it’s a name we’ll always associate with police torture.
- by John Conroy
- Jul 20, 2006
- The Police Torture Scandals: A Who’s Who
Since the first reports of Chicago police torture surfaced a quarter century ago the list has swelled to nearly 200 cases involving dozens of public employees–and still no one has been prosecuted. Now, with the results of a four-year, multimillion dollar
- by John Conroy
- Jun 15, 2006
- What Does John Doe Know?
The guy blocking the special prosecutor’s report on Chicago police torture may be trying to protect more than his own name.
- by John Conroy
- Jun 8, 2006
- Tools of Torture
Though he continues to deny it, Jon Burge tortured suspects while he was a Chicago police detective. Now his contemporaries from Vietnam reveal where he may have learned the tricks of his trade.
All over the world, torturers have one thing in common: they think they’re doing the right thing.
- by John Conroy
- May 13, 2004
- Shot in the Dark
It’s been nearly a year since Barry Cunnane was inexplicably gunned down, but his friends haven’t given up on finding the killer.
- by Ben Joravsky
- Mar 25, 2004
- Deaf to the Screams
The next state’s attorney to investigate police torture in Chicago will be the first.
- by John Conroy
- Jul 31, 2003
- A Hell of a Deal
His job is to prosecute criminals. But if the criminals are cops, state’s attorney Dick Devine doesn’t want to hear about it. Now, with Devine offering inmates their freedom if they’ll drop their claims of torture, some defense attorneys suggest appointin
- by John Conroy
- Oct 11, 2001
- Annals of Police Torture What Price Freedom?
Darrell Cannon has accepted a plea bargain that will spare him a lifetime in prison. But there’s a catch: the police officers he’s accused of torture won’t be forced to testify.
- by John Conroy
- Mar 1, 2001
- This Is A Magic Can
It grows. It shrinks. It leaps through locked doors. If you believe that, you won’t mind if the state executes Madison Hobley.
- by John Conroy
- May 25, 2000
- Pure Torture
Police Lieutenant Raymond Patterson didn’t believe his son Aaron was a gangbanger. He was wrong. Then he didn’t believe that police officers had forced Aaron to confess to a double murder. He may have been wrong about that too.
- by John Conroy
- Dec 2, 1999
- The Shocking Truth
After insisting for years that Andrew Wilson was never tortured by police, why is the city now insisting that he was?
- by John Conroy
- Jan 9, 1997
- Town Without Pity
Police torture: The courts know about it, the media know about it, and chances are you know about it. So why aren’t we doing anything about it?
- by John Conroy
- Jan 11, 1996
- House of Screams
Torture by Electroshock: Could it happen in a Chicago police station? Did it happen at Area 2?
- by John Conroy
- Jan 25, 1990
A center for the treatment of torture victims has opened in Uptown. Business is brisk.
- by John Conroy
- Aug 4, 1988
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Between the years of 1972 and 1991, approximately 135 African-American men and women were arrested and tortured at the hands of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command at Area 2 police headquarters. Some of these victims were as young as thirteen years old. Various court cases have established that the methods of torture used in the interrogation of suspects included electric shock to the ears and genitalia, mock executions, suffocation, and burning. While Jon Burge was ultimately fired by the Chicago Police Department, not a single perpetrator of the tortures has ever been criminally prosecuted.
These incidents were not isolated and allegations of abuse by Burge continue to surface. In fact, the Area 2 cases are seen by many observers as part of a pattern and practice of racially-motivated police brutality in Chicago that has been revealed over the course of many years. This site is devoted to telling the stories of the Area 2 victims and seeking justice for those without a voice.
Today, over two decades have passed since the first allegations of torture by Chicago police officers surfaced. Many of the allegations have been acknowledged to be credible. For example, Judge Milton Shadur of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Ill.) found that:
“It is now common knowledge that in the early to mid-1980s Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and many officers working under him in the physical abuse and torture of prisoners to extract confessions.” U.S. ex rel. Maxwell v. Gilmore 37 F. Supp.2d 1078 (N.D. Ill. 1999)
And yet—Jon Burge and his fellow torturers remain free. None of the perpetrators have faced a criminal trial. How has this grave impunity transpired? What does the future hold for Burge and his accomplices?
Please explore our site to find more information and learn what is being done to help bring justice to the Area 2 victims and their families.
This archive, an on-going project, is the result of a joint effort by Human Rights Program faculty and staff, Students for Human Rights, the MacArthur Justice Center, the People’s Law Office, and attorneys who have contributed their time and energy to working on these cases. The archive is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Robert Kirschner (1940-2002), an internationally recognized forensic pathologist, a founder of the University of Chicago Human Rights Program and faculty member of the Medical School. Dr. Kirschner played an essential role in the documentation of torture in these cases.
After decades of complaints, Chicago police torture trial begins
May 23, 2010, 7:25PM
View full sizeAssociated Press, FileIn this Oct. 21, 2008 file photo, former Chicago Police Department commander Jon Burge is seen outside the Federal Courthouse after he was released from custody in Tampa, Fla. On Monday, May 24, 2010, jury selection is scheduled to begin in Burge’s trial on charges that accuse him of lying about the torture of suspects. KAREN HAWKINS, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO, Illinois – Long after the statute of limitations on torture itself has run out, a trial finally begins. For decades, black men across Chicago described torture at the hands of former police Lt. Jon Burge and his officers, and for decades no one listened. Suspects landed in jail and even on death row for crimes they say they didn’t commit after Burge and his men coerced confessions using terrifying methods including suffocation, a form of waterboarding and electric shocks.
Finally those complaints from the 1970s and 80s are being taken seriously — and it could be Burge’s own words that send him to prison.
Jury selection begins Monday in Burge’s trial on federal obstruction of justice and perjury charges. He’s accused of lying when he denied in a civil lawsuit that he and other detectives had tortured anyone. He faces a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Burge has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bond.
Authorities have, to a degree, acknowledged that Burge may have committed these horrifying acts, but he does not face torture-related charges because the statute of limitations has run out. The police department fired him in 1993 for mistreatment of a suspect, but did not press charges. A decade later, then-Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men he said Burge had extracted confessions from using torture.
The allegations of torture and coerced confessions eventually led to a still-standing moratorium on Illinois’ death penalty and the emptying of death row — moves credited with re-igniting the global fight against capital punishment. But they also earned Chicago a reputation as a haven for rogue cops, a place where police could abuse suspects without notice or punishment.
The scandal has extended to the highest levels of city and county government, and the trial’s witness lists include Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who was Cook County state’s attorney during Burge’s tenure, fellow former State’s Attorney Dick Devine, and Daley’s predecessor in the mayor’s office, Jane Byrne.
View full sizeAssociated Press, FileDavid Bates, seen in this July 19, 2006 photo, says he was slapped, kicked and had a plastic bag placed over his head during interrogations by Chicago police in 1983.Prosecutors are expected to call former police officers and at least a half dozen men who say they were tortured by Burge or those under his command. The more than 100 victims say the torture started in the 1970s and persisted until the ’90s at police stations on the city’s South and West sides.
Burge is the first Chicago officer accused of torture to be criminally charged in the case.
“I’m just glad it came to trial in my lifetime, because it looked like it wasn’t going to happen,” said Jo Ann Patterson, whose son Aaron Patterson was one of the four whom Ryan freed from death row because he believed he had been tortured.
The Republican governor later cleared all of death row, saying the torture of innocent men at the hands of Chicago police had tainted the state’s entire death penalty system.
“How many more cases of wrongful convictions have to occur before we can all agree that the system is broken?” Ryan said at the time.
In July 2006, two special prosecutors named to look into the allegations said evidence indicated that dozens of suspects had been mistreated during the 1970s and ’80s but that the cases were too old to bring charges. The statute of limitations on the offenses they identified in the report is three years.
Two years later, Burge was charged with lying under oath in a civil lawsuit in which he denied he knew about or took part in beatings, threats and torture methods such as “bagging” — forcing a confession by a putting a plastic typewriter cover over a suspect’s head.
Other alleged victims spoke of beatings, gun threats and a mysterious black box used to emit electric shocks. One said his tormentors poured soda into his nose.
The police department fired Burge in 1993, and he now lives in retirement in Florida. He’s been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his trial was delayed for months while he recovered from treatment.
The 62-year-old Army veteran wasn’t prosecuted for torture even after police officials agreed that he’d participated in it, and some in the legal community say he wouldn’t be facing charges at all if it wasn’t for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
“There were a lot of people who could’ve done something about it and didn’t,” said Jon Loevy, an attorney who’s represented several alleged torture victims. “There were a lot of lost opportunities, and finally Mr. Fitzgerald’s office is going to do something about it.”
Victims, lawyers and police officers said they have mixed feelings about the trial. Some, like Patterson, are just glad it’s finally happening. David Bates, who says he was tortured by men under Burge’s command, called the trial a “win-win.”
But attorney Flint Taylor, who’s represented alleged victims over the last 20 years, isn’t satisfied, pointing to the dozens of alleged victims still in prison.
“There really can’t be any full justice until the torturers are all in jail, and the torture victims are released and given fair trials,” he said.
Burge’s trial in front of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow is expected to last six weeks.
Report on Chicago Police Torture Is Released
By JODI RUDOREN
Published: July 19, 2006
CHICAGO, July 19 — Special prosecutors said today that scores of criminal suspects were routinely tortured by police officers on the South Side in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but that extensive legal research convinced them that there was no way to skirt the statute of limitations preventing prosecution.
After four years, more than 700 interviews and $6 million, the prosecutors said that they could prove at least three cases, involving five fired or retired officers, beyond a reasonable doubt in court, and that they found credible evidence of abuse in about half the 148 complaints they had thoroughly investigated. Yet they rejected arguments by lawyers for the abuse victims that there is an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct justice that allows criminal charges to be filed now.
“We want to make it really clear, we only wish we could indict in these three cases,” Robert D. Boyle, the chief deputy special state’s attorney, said ruefully at a morning news conference downtown.
The prosecutors’ long-awaited 292-page report attempts to reach closure on an excruciating chapter in Chicago history, one that has helped cement a chasm between African-American citizens and white police officials, driven changes in police procedures, and played a critical role in the national debate over the death penalty. Among those interviewed in the probe were Mayor Richard M. Daley, the county’s top prosecutor when some of the most egregious complaints were lodged, and his former assistant and successor, Richard A. Devine.
Mr. Boyle condemned Chicago’s former police superintendent, Richard Brzeczek, saying he “did not just do his job poorly, he just didn’t do his job,” but had only mild criticism for Mayor Daley, who received a letter documenting serious abuse in 1982 but delegated its investigation. “We accept his explanation, but would not do it the same way he did,” Mr. Boyle said of Mr. Daley.
Torture victims and lawyers representing them expressed profound disappointment in the report, and said Mr. Daley and Mr. Devine should face federal indictment along with a fired police commander, Jon Burge, and rogue officers under his command for obstruction of justice, perjury, racketeering and civil rights violations.
“Somebody needs to go to jail,” said one of the lawyers, Lawrence Kennon. “Burge needs to go to jail. His henchmen need to go to jail. They mayor should be indicted for covering up.”
Locke Bowman, another attorney for the victims, said the “report stops short” because “it fails to place responsibility at the doorstep of other individuals.” He added, “I’m talking about Mayor Daley.”
Mayor Daley was in San Francisco today and a spokeswoman said he would not respond to the report until later in the week. Mara Georges, the city’s corporation counsel, released a statement saying the report “is lengthy and comprehensive and reflects the hard work of the special prosecutor and his staff,” adding, “we are in the process of thoroughly reviewing it and will comment on the report upon the completion of our review.”
In a written statement, Mr. Devine said today that during his tenure as first assistant state’s attorney, “claims of systemic abuse at Area 2 had not crystallized,” and that in terms of the critical complaint that came to his attention, “I had no reason to believe that the claims were not handled appropriately.”
“We cannot undo the past,” he added. “We can only commit ourselves to doing all in our power to prevent such abuses from happening in the future.”
Mr. Brzezcek, who ran against Mr. Daley for state’s attorney in 1984 after resigning as police superintendent and now is a lawyer in private practice, said the report is “a big political cover-up” that he has no plans to read.
“I think it’s the work of two political appointees who had to fix the blame on someone who’s not connected to Daley — that’s me,” he said in an interview, questioning why the lengthy investigation focused so heavily on a single case that occurred during his brief tenure when allegations stretch for many years before and after. “I read about 25 nonfiction hardcovers a year,” he added. “I establish priorities for reading. I have some back issues of the National Enquirer that I’m going to read first.”
Mr. Burge, who was fired over s0me of the allegations in 1993, has denied wrongdoing in the cases.
The report, along with 1,452 additional pages on the remainder of the 148 cases, will undoubtedly be used in five civil cases by abuse victims currently pending in federal court, as well as more than two dozen instances in which imprisoned victims are challenging their convictions based on the torture. Mr. Boyle said a copy had also been requested by the United States Attorney’s office, which gave the victims some hope.
“Something as serious as police torture, there shouldn’t be a statute of limitations,” complained another lawyer, Flint Taylor, who likened the situation to Ku Klux Klan killings in the 1960’s that remain under investigation and have led to convictions in recent years. “It’s like murder.”
June 9, 2006
The Chicago Files
Police Torture in America
By ERIC RUDER
During the last four years, a court-appointed special prosecutor has spent more than $5 million investigating a police torture ring that terrorized nearly 200 Black men on Chicago’s South Side during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.
But the report has still not seen the light of day–kept under wraps by the efforts of some of the city’s most powerful politicians.
Edward Egan, a former Illinois appellate judge, issued subpoenas, reviewed records of all sorts, heard testimony and finally wrote a report documenting the findings of his investigation into the torture of African American suspects in custody at Area 2 and Area 3 police headquarters.
Judge Paul Biebel, who appointed Egan, ruled that the report should be released, calling the torture allegations an “open sore on the civic body of the city of Chicago which has festered for many years.” Biebel wrote that the “interests of justice require the full publishing of the special prosecutor’s report.” But the police under investigation and their allies in the city’s political machine have so far kept the findings under wraps.
The facts of the Chicago police torture scandal are well established. Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers working under him used a variety of torture techniques–Russian roulette, electroshock, suffocation and beatings–to extract “confessions” during interrogations at Area 2 and 3 police stations.
For more than a decade, the officers suffered no consequences for their crimes. In fact, they were often promoted for “getting the bad guys” and “closing their cases” with speed and certainty, at a time when politicians nationally were declaring a “war on crime.”
Even if their victims did come forward, the detectives reasoned, who would take the word of poor, Black “criminals” over white cops? That assumption served them well–until an anonymous tip written on a Chicago Police Department (CPD) letterhead landed on the desk of Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office.
Taylor was representing Andrew Wilson, who was beaten so badly by detectives investigating a 1982 double police murder that he had to be hospitalized. After Taylor filed a civil rights lawsuit on Wilson’s behalf, he received the tip, which encouraged him to interview Melvin Jones, then being held at Cook County Jail. Jones suffered a torture session so similar to Wilson’s that it stunned Taylor.
Taylor himself uncovered 60 cases going back to 1983, and the numbers have only increased since.
After Wilson won his suit, the CPD’s own internal affairs division launched an investigation. In his 1990 report, CPD investigator Michael Goldston not only concluded that the torture had occurred, but that the cover-up reached far up into the chain of command.
“The preponderance of evidence is that abuse did occur and that it was systematic…that the type of abuse described was not limited to the usual beatings, but went into such esoteric areas as psychological techniques and planned torture…and that particular command members were aware of the systematic abuse and perpetuated it, either by actively participating in some or failing to take any action to bring it to an end,” wrote Goldston.
Grayland Johnson was one of the victims of this “planned torture.” Police handcuffed him to a metal ring in a wall and beat him with a telephone book. They placed the book on his head and hit it with a long flashlight, which produces an excruciating crushing sensation. Next, they put a plastic typewriter cover over Grayland’s head until he nearly suffocated.
Because Grayland still refused to confess and kept asking for a lawyer, the cops hung him out a bathroom window, threatening to drop him and make it look like he died during an escape attempt. When they brought him back inside, they forced his head into a toilet that an officer had just urinated in.
They continued with the typewriter cover, and Grayland could hear people laughing as he was gagging for air. “Guess who, nigger?” said the detective who took the bag off his head.
Grayland ended up on death row. Prosecutors went so far as to use someone else’s medical records to cover up the abuse inflicted on Grayland.
Like many victims of torture, Grayland, who is still behind bars, carries a sense of shame about what happened. “No, I don’t like remembering what they did, nor the fact that I was scared to tell the doctor all they had done, because the police were there, and I feared they would take me back and finish,” said Grayland. “I don’t like to remember because I was such a coward not to make them kill me right there.”
In all likelihood, Burge learned about electroshock while torturing Vietnamese prisoners before he was honorably discharged from the military in 1969–and brought the method back to Chicago’s South Side.
On one end of the device he and his officers used are alligator clips, which are attached to the ear lobes, testicles or limbs, or inserted into the rectum. On the other end is a black box with a hand crank that acts as a generator. The pain is intense.
The Goldston report led to Burge’s forced retirement in 1993. But to this day, Burge receives a police pension, enjoys the Florida sun and spends time on his boat–aptly named The Vigilante–while many of his victims still languish behind bars. Only two other officers were “disciplined” along with Burge, and they were reinstated after serving relatively brief suspensions.
How could torture carried out by Chicago police over two decades and corroborated by the CPD’s own investigation result in nothing more than this? Goldston’s report acknowledged the complicity of senior commanders, but the report didn’t say anything about the role of even more powerful people outside the police department.
In 1980, Chicago’s current Mayor Richard Daley was the Cook County State’s Attorney. As the city’s top prosecutor, he added to his resumé convictions against defendants who had “confessed” during torture sessions conducted by Burge and other officers. In 1989, Daley left the State’s Attorney’s office to become mayor.
Dick Devine was Daley’s right-hand man when the two held jobs at the prosecutor’s office, and he was eventually elected as Cook County State’s Attorney, a position he holds today.
How much did Daley and Devine know about Burge’s activities? We may never know the full extent, but we do know that former Chicago police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek, now a criminal defense lawyer, received a letter from Cook County Jail’s chief physician documenting “electric shocks” to a suspect’s mouth and genitals.
Brzeczek wrote to State’s Attorney Daley, seeking his direction on proceeding with an investigation. “I will forbear from taking any steps until I hear from you,” wrote Brzeczek. Daley never responded.
“I think he was more concerned with making political decisions as to what would be appropriate for his political career, rather than the appropriate legal decision,” Brzeczek told a reporter in May.
We also know that the city of Chicago spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending Burge from torture allegations. And we know that Dick Devine personally represented Burge in federal court on at least one occasion–and that Devine billed the city $4,287.50 in fees for legal work on Burge’s behalf.
Daley and Devine have a lot to lose and nothing to gain from a new report detailing the complicity of police and prosecutors in torture.
For years, activists, lawyers and family members of torture victims organized press conferences, pickets and lawsuits to publicize the allegations against Burge. Their efforts paid off when a court ruled that Dick Devine’s conflict of interest in the case warranted the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Recently, a series of pickets outside the special prosecutor’s office calling for the release of the report got headlines and lead coverage on the local news. With all the attention, the campaign to get the report out has taken on a life of its own.
In late May, Frank Sirtoff became the first independent eyewitness of the torture to come forward. In 1975, he was a 14-year-old Boy Scout. Along with his cousin, he regularly visited his scout leader, who was a detective at Area 3 headquarters.
One day, they stumbled on a horrifying scene–a Black man strapped to a chair with wires all over his body. “I’ve tried to put it in the back of my mind most of the time and tried to live my life as good as I could,” said Sirtoff, explaining his decision to put aside his fear and come forward after all these years. “But after seeing something like that, it’s a life-changing experience.”
The United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report in May, noting “the limited investigation and lack of prosecution in respect of the allegations of torture perpetrated in areas 2 and 3 of the Chicago Police Department” and calling on authorities to “promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of acts of torture” and to “bring perpetrators to justice.”
So far, a string of legal motions–first by police and now by the State’s Attorney’s office–have bottled up the special prosecutor’s report.
Darby Tillis, who spent more than nine years behind bars–several of them on death row–before he was exonerated and released in 1987, has been centrally involved in the struggle to expose police torture.
“One of my biggest concerns is the men rotting away in the penitentiary,” Darby said of the delay in the release of the special prosecutor’s report. “If they can stall for two or three years and get it tied up in the Illinois Supreme Court, that’s two or three years that innocent men will remain behind bars.”
But with continued pressure, many think the report will come out sooner–perhaps this summer. It’s time that Jon Burge faces prosecution–and that all the other powerful men who built careers by victimizing poor Black men finally pay a price.
ERIC RUDER is a reporter for the Socialist Worker.
Tools of Torture
Though he continues to deny it, Jon Burge tortured suspects while he was a Chicago police detective. Now his contemporaries from Vietnam reveal where he may have learned the tricks of his trade.
By John Conroy
Editors’ note: this story also contains “The Mysterious Third Device“, which ran as a sidebar to the cover story on February 4, 2005
Q. While you were in Vietnam on that base camp did you ever hear of any torture that went on in that POW compound?
A. No, sir, I didn’t.
Q. Never had any discussions about that that whole time you were there, is that right?
A. No. I was in the U.S. Army, counselor.
–from the cross-examination of Chicago police commander Jon Burge by People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor, March 15, 1989
Jon Burge seems to have begun abusing suspects not long after he became a Chicago police detective in 1972, but not until the late 80s was he cross-examined at length about his interrogation practices. Accused by convicted cop killer Andrew Wilson of torture, he testified fearlessly, presenting himself as guilty only of being a dedicated, resourceful policeman and an activist supervisor. He said he often stood at the door of interrogation rooms, listening to his detectives question suspects, and never saw any abuse.
Wilson had shot two officers dead in February 1982, and Burge worked five days straight to track him down, never going home. When Wilson was finally located, hiding in a west-side apartment, Burge was first at the door, attacking it with lock picks, tools rarely held by policemen. “I used a single-digit rake and tension bar,” he explained in a 1988 deposition.
After his conviction, Wilson sued the city, saying he’d been tortured by Burge and detectives under his command. He wasn’t the first former suspect to make this accusation, and scores have been uncovered since. Wilson said Burge wired him up to a black box and turned a crank that generated an electric shock. This technique bore a striking resemblance to what American troops in Vietnam called “the Bell telephone hour”–shocking prisoners by means of a hand-cranked army field phone. In defending himself against Wilson’s suit he said he’d never seen a black box, and though he’d served as a military policeman in the Mekong delta in 1968 and ’69 had never heard of field phone interrogations. He bristled at the suggestion that Americans in Vietnam had conducted them.
Burge’s peers from the Ninth Military Police Company, however, remember such torture in considerable detail.
Jon Graham Burge was born on December 20, 1947. In 1989 he told the Reader that his father had a blue-collar job with the phone company and that his mother, a sometime model, wrote a fashion column for the Chicago Daily News, organized fashion shows, and once wrote a book in the “dress for success” vein. The family lived in a modest duplex at 9612 S. Luella in Merrionette Manor, an all-white postwar housing development on the southeast side.
Burge attended Luella Public School, now called Robert H. Lawrence after the first African-American astronaut, and Bowen High School, graduating in 1965. Yearbooks show he was active with the fire marshals and in the Key Club, a service organization that collected more than 900 cans of food for poor South Chicago families in 1964. Burge’s primary interest, however, seems to have been the school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps.
According to e-mail from Ron Buzil, a member of the Bowen ROTC from 1964 to 1968 and later an infantry captain in Korea, the program was run by two army sergeants. Activities consisted of “drill, familiarity with weapons . . . leadership, army history and lore, sports, and more drill.” The cadets took target practice on a rifle range in the school’s basement, firing an assortment of rifles and handguns, which were kept in a vault.
If newspaper coverage is any indication, the local community thought more of the Bowen ROTC than almost any other group or team at the high school. Burge appeared on the front page of the Daily Calumet five times during his senior year in articles about or photos of the ROTC. His final report card shows him to have been a good student, his best grades scored in the ROTC.
Despite his promise, Burge lasted just one semester at the University of Missouri. He told me in 1989 that he’d enjoyed himself too much to study. He moved back in with his parents in 1966 and went to work as a stock clerk at a south-side Jewel. That July, Richard Speck entered a town house a few blocks from Burge’s home and within shouting distance of his grammar school and murdered eight student nurses. In August Martin Luther King Jr. marched on the southeast side, holding prayer vigils outside real estate offices on South Ewing. The marchers were pelted with rocks, bricks, bottles, beer cans, apples, and firecrackers.
In those days, American men who flunked out of college faced serious consequences–the end of their student draft deferments. While Burge labored as a stock clerk, American troops were dying in Vietnam at a rate of 477 per month. In June 1966 Burge enlisted in the army reserve, committing himself to six years of service, including two on active duty. In a form filed that fall, shortly before he reported for basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he indicated that he had been promised law enforcement duties. His eventual goal, he would testify in a 1989 deposition, was to join the Chicago Police Department.
Army records describe the 18-year-old recruit as red-haired, blue-eyed, six feet two inches tall, 210 pounds, a member of the Congregational Church, interested in cars and baseball. After basic training, he and 98 other soldiers spent four weeks at Fort McClellen’s drill corporal school in Alabama (only one other student scored better than Burge did in the course) and eight weeks at a military police school in Georgia. He became a trainer of MPs and then served as an MP in Korea, gathering five letters of appreciation from superiors that praised his loyalty, devotion to duty, outstanding performance, military bearing, appearance, attention to detail, tact, and extra effort. On June 18, 1968, with antiwar sentiment escalating back home and city officials bracing for what would be a violent Democratic convention, Burge volunteered for Vietnam. He arrived there in November as a sergeant.
Burge was assigned to the Ninth Military Police Company of the Ninth Infantry Division. He reported to division headquarters, which had moved three months earlier to a barren 600-acre island that the army had created from marshland about 50 miles southwest of Saigon. General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam, had named the base Dong Tam, which meant “united hearts and minds.” The delta region was a maze of rivers, canals, and streams subject to seasonal flooding, and among its rice fields, swamps, rubber plantations, and dense jungle were more than 1,600 hamlets. More than 15,000 troops were assembled there, many of them moving around by boat.
According to operational reports filed in 1969, there were also 3,500 Vietnamese civilians working on the base, a fair number of them of suspect allegiance.
The Ninth Military Police Company averaged about 200 members during Burge’s tour in Vietnam, some posted to the division base camp at Dong Tam, others to supporting firebases around the delta (Tan An, Tigers Lair, and Moore among them). Most veterans I interviewed had experience at both a firebase and at headquarters. The company had a broad range of responsibilities. At Dong Tam, they investigated crimes committed by soldiers and vehicle accidents on local roads, stood guard at the division’s tactical operations center, manned the main gate, and provided security for visiting celebrities.
Some Ninth MP members were detailed to combat duty–reconnaissance patrols, escorting convoys and vehicles, providing security for intelligence sweeps and medical missions in the hamlets–all of it hazardous in the delta, where the Vietcong laid ambushes, planted booby traps, and mined roads. The VC regularly attacked Dong Tam with mortars and rockets, and it was also the MPs’ duty to find out where they’d landed and help with damage control, casualty treatment, and evacuation. Locating an impact area had to be done quickly so return fire could be directed, and this put MPs in considerable danger, out and about before the shelling might have stopped.
During one such shelling in January 1969, one MP was killed and twelve others were wounded. Burge was given the Army Commendation Medal for his efforts that night. The general order announcing the award reads, “When his company area came under intense enemy mortar attack, Sergeant Burge, at the risk of his own life, repeatedly braved the flying shrapnel to evacuate wounded troops and fought the fires caused by the incoming rounds.”
The MPs were also responsible for processing, guarding, escorting, and transporting prisoners. Chicago defense attorneys representing victims of the Burge crew have long wondered whether this duty introduced Burge to the interrogation methods that showed up at Area Two.
Members of the Ninth MP Company manned POW holding centers at the base camps and division headquarters, and a boat that carried prisoners from the countryside to Dong Tam. Not all the prisoners were enemy soldiers. Some were civilians, many of them innocent, detained in sweeps. According to a Ninth Infantry operational report from early 1969, there were 1,507 detainees interrogated in the three-month period starting on November 1, 1968. The questioning was done by the division’s Military Intelligence unit with Vietnamese translators. Former Ninth Infantry MPs I interviewed said they were sometimes present during interviews and at other times stood guard nearby.
Burge has insisted that he never guarded prisoners, and in a September 1988 deposition he said he had no idea where they were interrogated. Before the Chicago Police Board in March 1992, he described his role with the MPs as “escort of convoys, security for forward support bases, supervising security for the divisional central base camp in Dong Tam, and I finished my tour as a provost marshal investigator.” A company roster of key personnel as of January 31, 1969, lists Burge as head of the traffic section, but he clearly moved on to other duties: the next report has someone else in that post.
Burge’s insistence that he didn’t know where prisoners were interrogated seems peculiar. According to Edwin Freeman, the company commander during part of Burge’s tour, the interrogation rooms at Dong Tam were adjacent to the POW compound and 20 steps from the MP command post. Prisoners were questioned individually in one of five interrogation rooms, and MPs escorted them back and forth. Freeman says the compound could hold 300 prisoners and at times was full. Given the statistics in the available Ninth Infantry operational reports, it’s likely that several thousand prisoners were moved back and forth between the compound and the interrogation room during Burge’s tour of duty. Would a man praised by his superiors in Korea for his “attention to detail” and “extra effort,” who would go on to become such a resourceful detective, not notice his fellow MPs moving handcuffed detainees–the enemy–back and forth, perhaps a hundred trips or more on some days? Would he not know that prisoners were being interrogated 20 steps from the MP command post?
Burge has also insisted, under oath, that he never heard any talk about brutality in the treatment of prisoners, that he never heard any allegations of such brutality, that he never heard of the use of electric shock on Vietnamese detainees.
My attempts to locate Ninth MP Company veterans whose service approximated or overlapped Burge’s turned up several others who said they’d never seen a prisoner abused. Former deputy provost marshal Ray Merrill, now responsible for the training of General Motors security officers, was a 25-year-old captain when he served with the Ninth MPs at Dong Tam in 1968. Merrill told me he classified reports of field telephone torture as “urban legends.”
Merrill, who was outraged by the abuses committed by MPs at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year, says he would have given no quarter to anyone abusing prisoners. “If you wouldn’t want it done to you, you wouldn’t want it done to somebody else. Period. Anybody that operates beyond that would be subject to the same law that everybody else is subject to.”
Philip Ash, provost marshal of the Ninth MPs during most of Burge’s tour, said he’d received no reports of any such torture of prisoners during his year of service from May 1968 to May 1969. He said his compound at Dong Tam was inspected regularly, and he thought it was one of the better-run facilities in Vietnam.
“Would I have been informed if there was something going wrong like that? I think maybe I would have, but I can’t guarantee it,” said Ash, who retired from the army as a colonel and served three cities as police chief. “You know, I think I was pretty much a straight arrow, and I don’t know what that contributed to what I heard and what I didn’t hear. There was in my mind always the possibility that I was not getting all of the information that I should get. There is always the potential for a gap between what the boss knows and what is happening.”
Ash and his deputy, Merrill, topped the Ninth MPs’ chain of command. Officers and enlisted men who’d served under Ash as company commander, executive officer, lieutenant, and sergeant all told the Reader they’d heard of or witnessed field phone interrogations. These men, some outranking Burge and others beneath him, told stories set both at outlying firebases and at Dong Tam.
Former lieutenant David Rudoi, now 66 and living in Florida, immediately recognized a description of the abuse that Burge has been accused of at Area Two. “What you are talking about here, overseas in Vietnam, a lot of that went on,” Rudoi said. “Can I tell you a little story? We were building this POW compound out at firebase Moore, a brand-new base. A patrol went out in front to a village and settled in. In the middle of the night they all got zapped. The villagers didn’t tell them that Charlie was around them. They just let these people go and 11 people died. Eleven guys. Next morning, Americans went out and brought in all the villagers. They also had Vietnamese soldiers with them. . . . And to get information from these people . . . they wired them up, and they did it in one of the buildings that we built.”
While the interrogation was going on, Rudoi said, he was putting up wire outside the building. “Soldiers that were bringing stuff in and out was telling us what was going on. And then almost at the same time–remember Jimmy Stewart, the actor? He come in on two choppers on a glad-handing tour, and he come in basically just about this time. He come walking through shaking hands. When he walked up to where we were at and got to talking to us, for some reason or another he wanted to look at the inside of the building, and we kind of had to steer him away from the building because we didn’t, you know–just don’t know nothin’, don’t want to see nothin’, that’s it. But at that point, as far as we were concerned, after all those Americans died, it really didn’t make any difference. But it happened a lot. . . . I just didn’t want to know. My people didn’t want to know. That was it, basically.
“But I can understand, if they did something like that and they were trying to get some fast information, that was the way to do it.”
Dennis Carstens, a draftee who served as specialist fourth class with the Ninth MPs, returned to the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day 1969 after 14 months in Vietnam. He spent part of his tour at firebase Tigers Lair, where the MPs, two interrogators from Military Intelligence, and the interpreters all lived in the same bunker. It was the custom there, he said, for MPs to be present during interrogations. “We would pretty much do anything as long as we didn’t leave scars on the people,” Carstens said. Field phone interrogations were common, he said. The device gave “a pretty good jolt, kind of like if you’ve ever had an electric fence charge.”
Carstens, now a postman in Minnesota, also served as a guard at Dong Tam, where he said that in addition to watching for escape attempts the MPs had to protect the prisoners from GIs. “It wasn’t unusual for our MP area to get CS’d [teargassed] from grunts thinking they were getting the POWs, ‘the gooks.’ They would get us gassed as well.”
Former sergeant D.J. Lewis, who served with the Ninth MPs from February 1968 to January 1969, said field phone interrogations were “not uncommon.” Lewis, who retired last year from his job as an engineer at a VA hospital in Wisconsin, spent part of his tour at firebase Tan An, where he was among the MPs present during the questioning of a group of Vietcong in a tent away from the base. “We were attached to this field unit out there, and they would take them in and they had a kind of large tent, and they would tie them up to the poles right in the center there, their hands behind them and their feet strapped to the pole. And they would give them treatment, and it was not uncommon for them to rig up a field telephone and put one [wire] around a finger and the other around the scrotum and start cranking. And they would eventually tell you what you wanted to know . . .
“It was Military Intelligence that done it, them and the ARVNs [the Army of the Republic of Vietnam]. The ARVNs are the ones that hooked the wire up and did the cranking, but it was with the blessing of the MI.”
Was it painful? “Oh, hell yes, it’s painful. I mean, you can hold the two wires and barely crank it and get a jolt. The more you crank the higher the voltage, and it’s DC voltage, so that’s more intense shock.”
Were the interrogators at all leery about MPs observing what went on?
“They didn’t really seem to mind. They didn’t want anybody else to see it, you know, but I guess since we were supposed to be, you know, we would keep our mouth shut, I guess, for lack of a better explanation. They wouldn’t let anyone else in, though, and we actually escorted the prisoners in and out.”
Wasn’t MI taking a chance that an MP would file charges?
“It would have been my word against an officer’s word, which the officer is always going to win. So what do you do? And at that time CID [Criminal Investigation Division] and Military Intelligence, they were held in the highest regard, they could walk on the clouds.”
So if some MP got it in his head to report the incident, what would happen to him?
“It would probably be swept under the rug, and he would either be sent to another duty station or put on shit duty the rest of the time–KP, picking up cigarette butts–anything they can think of that can keep him quiet and keep him in a certain place. Usually what they did, they sent him to a different destination. There were some instances where the guys came back to the States or wound up in Korea. There was a lieutenant, can’t think of his name, and he knew that there was a black market going on, and he started investigating it and he got close to them in Saigon in the upper echelon, and he wound up being a prisoner escort at Fort Leavenworth. He would come back to Vietnam, pick up prisoner GIs, and take them back to Leavenworth. That was his function in the army. It’s kind of degrading from where he was. And that happened rapidly. It didn’t take any time. ‘Well, here, you’re going to Leavenworth, pack your bags, be on the next plane out.'”
Former company commander Edwin Freeman said that MPs at Dong Tam brought prisoners to interrogation rooms and stayed during the questioning, but did no interrogating themselves. (Two members of the company who served at Dong Tam recalled MPs standing guard outside the interrogation rooms. It’s possible that procedures varied with interrogators and over time. According to David Rudoi, at firebase Moore it was up to the interrogator.) Asked about the use of field phones as torture devices in interrogations, Freeman said, “It was common, but it was not common with my people.” When asked to define “common,” he said, “Well, common is a bad word–I shouldn’t have said that. I have heard of it happening, I had one observation of it happening, and I put a stop to it.”
Freeman, a police officer in Portland, Oregon, before and after his Vietnam service, said the incident he heard about was reported by one of his guards, but no one was punished because Freeman didn’t know who the perpetrator was. He said he called a meeting of the MI interrogators and “made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen in my cage. I was a professional cop. My training was not to do that to people, even if they are combatants. They are just soldiers like we were.”
A Red Cross team visited the Dong Tam POW compound in June 1968, five months before Burge arrived. They met with Freeman, other Ninth Infantry officers, and three prisoners. According to their report, the prisoners complained of having been slapped when captured. The Red Cross team, however, held that the officer in charge of the compound wasn’t responsible for what might have been done to a prisoner in the field at the time he was detained. They concluded that the compound met all the Geneva Convention requirements, and that they were “well satisfied with their visit.”
But Philip Wolever, an army Ranger who served as executive officer of the Ninth MPs after Freeman left, believes field phone torture at the division base camp at Dong Tam was probably common. Wolever was in Vietnam from May 1968 to May 1969, and after being wounded with four or five months left in his tour he was named the company’s executive officer–third in command behind the provost marshal and company commander. Wolever said he then invited himself in to observe an interrogation. He saw the field phone put to use.
“I am closing my eyes trying to visualize that room,” he said. “But the pain, I know it is strong enough to where after a couple jolts you can fake a crank because the victim would be looking right at you, and the guy would go into convulsions.” Told that Andrew Wilson had come out of Chicago police custody with marks on his ears in the shape of alligator clips, Wolever said, “The contacts were attached to breasts, testicles. I don’t think I ever saw an ear.”
As a reconnaissance platoon leader Wolever had become familiar with the emotions and perceptions that accompany field operations. At firebase Tigers Lair, he said, it wasn’t uncommon to find that soldiers in the lead element had used their rifle butts on the people they captured. “I have seen them with broken cheeks and broken arms, and you know, that is understandable,” he said.
“I heard one report–and again, this is just a report. If I had witnessed it I would have pressed charges–[that] a hammer was used to interrogate a female prisoner. It was placed right in the vagina. And something like that you just do not do. I mean a field telephone, if it wasn’t overused–I’d have used it because, I mean, in the field, if you had contact, if somebody was just shooting at you, you’d want information. The field telephone is, you know, I think on the lower end of the list of things that probably was used.”
This isn’t to say that the use of a field telephone as a torture device was peculiar to members of the Ninth Infantry and their ARVN translators. Veterans from other units have admitted taking part in electrical interrogations. (See, for example, “Infantry Officer by Trade, Intelligence Officer by Accident,” a boastful account online by marine vet Dick Culver of a 1967 interrogation in which the Vietnamese suspect was forced to turn the crank himself.) In a 1971 report to President Nixon on war crimes allegations, the army’s judge advocate general, Kenneth Hodson, said that Vietnamese had been tortured with electrical devices “on occasion.” Security forces of other nations have used the device, and Philip Ash, the former Ninth MP Company provost marshal, said he’d heard stories of Americans inflicting such torture during World War II and the Korean war.
Americans captured in Vietnam were commonly tortured. But though it is typical of torturers–both individuals and nations–to defend themselves by saying that someone else is doing or has done something worse, that’s not the human-rights standard to which U.S. military and police forces are held. “To use a field telephone to interrogate somebody is a grave breach of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to prisoners of war,” said Gary Solis. In a recent interview, Solis, a Vietnam veteran, Georgetown University law professor, and historian of Vietnam-era courts-martial, went on to call a field phone interview “a war crime, punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as aggravated assault.”
Larry Booker, a private with the Ninth MP Company from August 1968 to August 1969, spent most of his time on reconnaissance missions. In an interview last spring he said he had no direct knowledge of field phone interviews but had certainly heard of them. In subsequent e-mail he added, “It would not take much effort however for someone like Burge to pick up this knowledge even if he were not directly involved. It’s not rocket science. . . .
“While I find what Burge is alleged to have done reprehensible, I am equally disturbed by the impression it leaves that we were all somehow involved in this behavior. It further perpetuates the perception of the Vietnam vet as either a pathetic character or something worse who can’t move beyond those experiences. The vast majority of us simply did our jobs there as best we could to survive and get on with our lives.”
In June 1969 President Nixon announced large-scale troop withdrawals from Vietnam. Ninth Infantry troops were among the first to leave, and Dong Tam was turned over to South Vietnamese forces. Burge was honorably discharged on August 25, 1969. He returned to his parents’ home in Merrionette Manor, took a job as a mechanic and gas station attendant, and watched his old neighborhood change from white to black.
A rapid and bitter population shift was under way. Bowen High School, which had been 93 percent white when Burge graduated in 1965, was only 36 percent white in 1970 and 14 percent white in 1972. Burge’s neighbors joined the flight. According to Fred Boland, a retired fireman and former president of the Manors’ Community Assembly, the first African-Americans moved into Merrionette and adjacent Jeffery Manor in 1966 or 1967, and the two communities were predominantly black by 1971. Burge’s parents sold their home in 1973.
While working at the gas station in 1969, Burge applied to the police department. Detective Joseph Martin, assigned to conduct the department’s customary background check, praised the applicant as neat, polite, honest, well built, and a pleasure to deal with. “It may appear I went overboard for this young man,” Martin said, “and he is all man.”
Burge became a police officer in March 1970. In November 1971 the Third District commander recommended him and his partner for an outstanding-performance award given by the Jaycees. The press took notice of the young officer in January 1972, after he saved a 22-year-old African-American woman in Woodlawn from committing suicide. An instant before she squeezed the trigger, Burge jammed his thumb into the firing mechanism.
Four months later, after little more than two years on the job, the 24-year-old Burge was promoted to detective and assigned to Area Two Robbery. Area Two covers a large swath of the far south side from the lake to Cicero Avenue, an area that included Burge’s high school and his parents’ home.
The total number of men tortured by Burge and detectives under his command will probably never be known. The People’s Law Office has a chronological list of more than 60 alleged victims from 1972 to 1991. It was provided to special prosecutor Edward Egan in 2002, and Egan, appointed to investigate the torture allegations, has added other names. His list, which has not been made public, has grown to 118.
In the People’s Law Office chronology, the first to receive electrical treatment was Anthony “Satan” Holmes, now 59 and serving a 75-year sentence in the Dixon Correctional Center. Holmes says he was tortured with a hand-cranked device after his arrest in 1973. According to police documents, Holmes was a leader of the Royal Family, a gang formed in prison that specialized in armed robbery. He was arrested by Area Two detectives Michael Hoke, William Wagner, and Burge and charged with the murder of Joe Murphy, a prospective witness in a murder case against Holmes’s brother-in-law. Attorney William Murphy, who represented Holmes, remembers him as a “tough guy,” a weight-lifting champion “built like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
In a statement given to People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor last spring, Holmes said he was taken to an Area Two interrogation room, where detectives put a plastic bag over his head. Holmes said that after he bit through the bag in order to breathe, Burge put a second bag over the first. Holmes told Taylor that he remembered hearing a crank turning and Burge saying, “You going to talk, nigger, you going to talk.”
“It feel like a thousand needles going through my body,” Holmes said. “And then after that, it just feel like, you know–it feel like something just burning me from inside, and um, I shook, I gritted, I hollered, then I passed out. . . . They put the bag back on me, took me through the same thing again. They did that I don’t know how many times. . . . I said to myself, ‘Man, he trying to kill me.’ And I thought I was dead because all I could see was blackness, and I said, ‘Man, this is it. I’m gone.’ When I looked up, they brought me back again. Burge was the one that was . . . bringing me back. Every time I come to, he be the one standing over me.
“But the point is, when you see police doing you like this here and there’s nobody there to help you, you like, ‘Man, is this real?’ You know it can’t be real. . . . But then you realize it ain’t no dream state because you started feeling this pain, just like somebody stabbing you in your heart, you know, and you fixing to die, but you won’t die. You just still there. . . . Ain’t nothing like it. It’s just like, you know, just diving in some water that’s ice-cold and it hits you at one time and it take your breath away and you get pain. It freezes you up. It’s just like somebody just cut away everything that’s inside you and there’s nothing to hold you back. . . . When they got through with me, I didn’t care what it was–if they said I killed Bob or the president or anybody, I would say, ‘Yeah, how do you want me to say this? This the way I did it? Yeah, this the way I did it.’ . . .
“When I tried to tell people that they did me like this, ain’t nobody want to listen to me. When I go to the parole board, I tell them the same thing. They look at me like, you know, ‘You got jailhouse slick.'”
According to a commendation the three detectives received, Holmes gave a statement admitting “his guilt in the murder and numerous other unsolved felonies. In addition, he implicated many members of the Royal Family who were also involved in the crimes. . . . They were charged with numerous felonies, including five murders and an armed robbery in which an off-duty police officer was shot.”
Holmes’s confession, given to an assistant state’s attorney in Burge’s presence, ran more than 40 pages. It offered incriminating statements about tavern robberies and crimes having nothing to do with the Murphy murder. The department commendation praised Burge, Hoke, and Wagner for their “skillful questioning.”
Accounts of electroshock torture by police in large American cities are rare, and the cases that have surfaced in the last 25 years typically involve stun guns, Tasers, and stun belts. As those weapons belong to some law enforcement arsenals, it seems safe to conclude that spontaneity and impulsiveness might figure in their abuse. The devices used under Burge at Area Two, however, included a cattle prod, a field telephone, and an unidentified instrument that plugged into a wall outlet (see sidebar). They suggest planning and considered intent. Reed College political science professor Darius Rejali, a historian of torture methods and author of the forthcoming Torture and Democracy (Princeton University Press), said cattle prod use by U.S. law enforcement authorities first came to public attention in 1963, when Alabama troopers and policemen openly used prods on civil rights demonstrators. New York Times reporter Austin Wehrwein purposely shocked himself on the palm with one. He wrote that the shock “felt as strong as that from a home electric light socket,” that he jumped a foot, that the two prongs left painful marks that lasted more than a half hour, and that his arm ached afterward. Those who allegedly used the device at Area Two were accused of targeting the genital area, not the hand.
Extrapolating from the number of excessive-force complaints filed against Chicago police over the last ten years (roughly 2,800 a year), it seems likely that far more than a million complaints of excessive force have been filed against law enforcement and prison authorities in the U.S. in the last 40 years. Yet there have been only a handful of reports of authorities using cattle prods on human beings. Professor Rejali says that when complaints about cattle prod use have surfaced, typically the device was alleged to have been used to control, move, or punish prisoners or demonstrators. The Burge crew used the prod to extort confessions–and in that, Rejali says, they were pioneers.
As for police use of a hand-cranked generator on suspects–that’s virtually unheard-of except in Chicago.
Prison authorities at the Tucker State Prison Farm in Arkansas used such a device to torture inmates until the mid-1960s (it was referred to as the “Tucker telephone”). But national authorities on excessive force, including Professor Rejali, New York University law professor Paul Chevigny, University of California criminology professor Richard Leo, and Allyson Collins, who wrote a 1998 Human Rights Watch report on U.S. police brutality, were unable to name a single other instance in which such a device was used by police officers in the U.S. in the last half century.
In the 18 years that followed Holmes’s interrogation, electrical torture gave way to other means to the same ends in Chicago. At Area Two, the three electrical devices seem to have been retired in 1984, around the time that a defense attorney told local reporters that Area Two detectives were using a black box to attack the genitals of suspects. The plastic bag, which in Holmes’s statement seemed an accessory to electric shock, later became a primary tool. The shock devices, however, were what did Burge in.
On the witness stand in 1989, Andrew Wilson seemed untroubled by having been beaten. It was the electric shock that seemed to feed his determination to proceed with his civil suit. The trial prompted someone to send anonymous letters in police department envelopes to the People’s Law Office, which was representing Wilson. The letters said that “almost all of the detectives and police officers involved” knew Wilson had committed the murders but did “not approve of the beatings and torture.” The letters went on to say “Burge hates black people” and that “he was always present, the machines and the plastic bags were his and he is the person who encouraged their use. You will find that the people with him were either weak and easily led or sadists.” The letter writer, who seemed highly knowledgeable about Burge, his gang of torturers, and those who did and didn’t belong to it, told the lawyers to talk to a Cook County jail inmate named Melvin Jones. Jones said he’d been given electric shock nine days before Wilson was arrested. The People’s Law Office located the transcript of Jones’s testimony about the interrogation. In it Jones said that Burge had mentioned two members of the Royal Family as having received the same electrical treatment. Those men led the lawyers to other victims, and eventually the notion that Wilson had made up his story became so untenable that even the city of Chicago’s attorneys acknowledged that electric shock had taken place. Burge was fired in 1993.
Burge declined to be interviewed for this story. In September he was deposed at length in four civil suits and one parole board hearing, cases involving five men who said they’d been tortured by Area Two detectives. He gave his name, said he’d worked for the police department, agreed that he’d received a subpoena to testify, and responded to all further questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
Over the course of the past eight months, 30 other men who served with and under Burge have also taken the Fifth in depositions for the same cases. Thus far, all have been white. (James Sotos, who represents Burge and other Chicago police officers in one of those civil suits, claims the officers were willing to testify until he told them not to.)
However, four black officers who served at Area Two with Burge have recently given sworn statements providing new information about the Burge era. Former detective Melvin Duncan, who worked at Area Two from 1971 to 1978, gave the People’s Law Office’s Flint Taylor an affidavit saying he’d seen a dark wooden box in the Robbery Unit office when Burge served there. The box, he said, reminded him of a hand-cranked electrical device his father had made and had demonstrated by giving him and his brother “little shocks.” Duncan’s sworn statement also says, “While working at Area 2, I heard that certain Robbery detectives used an electrical box and cattle prods on people to get confessions from them.”
Sammy Lacey Jr., now an attorney, worked as a detective in Area Two for about seven years, moving on to the Seventh District in 1988 when he was promoted to sergeant. In a sworn statement on October 12, Lacey said that even officers outside the unit noticed that detectives on Burge’s “A team,” most of whom worked the midnight shift, seemed to be getting a lot of confessions. There seemed to be a certain recognition, he said, “that something was not going right on the midnights.”
Lacey noted that the black detectives who worked under Burge in the Violent Crimes unit were not assigned homicides. “Every time he would give us our detective division evaluations, we would always be rated low. I don’t care what we did, how many arrests we made, he would always throw this in our faces, that ‘you didn’t do any homicides.’ [We’d say,] ‘But you didn’t assign homicides to blacks.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s your problem,’ or something like that.”
In those years, low efficiency ratings put a detective’s job in jeopardy, and Lacey recalled that the black detectives were always the lowest rated. He said that in 1983 they complained to Burge’s immediate superior, future police superintendent LeRoy Martin, about how they were being treated. The sole result, Lacey said, was that they were chewed out by Burge for taking their complaints up the chain of command. Martin did not return calls for comment.
In a sworn statement on November 9, retired sergeant Doris Byrd, who had been Lacey’s partner at Area Two Violent Crimes in the early 80s, recalled that black detectives were given unsolvable and unnewsworthy cases, and that their names were ranked lowest on the efficiency reports until Deputy Chief James O’Reilly interceded on their behalf.
Byrd said that she could hear screaming coming from interview rooms while Burge’s A team was on duty. She said suspects told her they had been beaten with a telephone book and had had bags put over their heads. She said she had not seen the black box, but had heard that it was “running rampantly through the little unit up there.”
When asked why she hadn’t said anything about this before, she replied, “We would have been frozen out of the police system. We would have been ostracized. We definitely wouldn’t have made rank. We probably would have been stuck in some do-nothing assignment.”
Byrd cited the example of Area Two Violent Crimes detective Frank Laverty, legendary within the department for testifying against his colleagues in the case of George Jones. Jones, the teenage son of an African-American Chicago police officer, was put on trial for a 1981 murder though Laverty had uncovered exculpatory information and had submitted a memo to his commanding officer naming a more likely culprit. Laverty was on leave when he learned Jones was on trial, and he came forward, revealed his role in the case, testified in Jones’s defense, and thereafter was ostracized at Area Two. When Laverty requested a transfer, he was moved to police headquarters and assigned the job of watching police recruits give urine samples.
Byrd recalled a day when she was in a room with Burge and other detectives, and Laverty was present, looking for a file. “When he left the room,” Byrd said, “Burge drew his weapon and pointed it at the back of Laverty and said ‘Bang.'”
Retired officer Walter Young, who served with the Chicago police for nearly 36 years, also worked as a detective under Burge in the early 80s. In a sworn statement given to Taylor on November 2, Young said he had no problem with his efficiency ratings during the decade he worked as a detective before coming to Area Two, but once there his ratings plummeted and he was ultimately busted down to patrolman. Young said he took an ostrich approach to the brutality, that when he thought something might happen he would “vanish.” He particularly didn’t want to be around when Andrew Wilson came out of the interrogation room. He said he had seen a hand-cranked device in the basement of Area Two but didn’t know what it was at the time. He wasn’t told the specifics of the techniques then in use, he said, but he heard them referred to as the “Vietnam special” or the “Vietnamese treatment.”
The Mysterious Third Device
Jon Burge and detectives under his command have been accused of using three electrical devices to torture suspects at Area Two–a cattle prod, a hand-cranked device, and a mysterious third appliance that plugged into a wall outlet. This third instrument was described by at least six men tortured between 1973 and 1984. They said it had been placed either on or up their rectum or against their exposed genitals. Some described it as a metal rod or prong attached by a cord to a black box.
The device was dismissed as “nonexistent, unbelievable, unfunctional, unreal” by William Kunkle, who represented Burge at the 1992 Police Board hearings that ended in Burge’s dismissal. Kunkle argued that a device that plugged into the wall as the victims described would deliver 110 volts of alternating current at a frequency of 60 hertz. That charge might leave no marks, Kunkle said, but it might also kill the recipient.
I recently located two museum curators who specialize in electrical equipment (one wishes to remain anonymous) and read them descriptions of the devices provided by Andrew Wilson and Melvin Jones, two men who claimed to have been shocked in February 1982. The curators concluded separately that each man was describing a violet ray machine. It’s a device that plugs into a wall outlet and is sold today as a “violet wand” to those who engage in BDSM–bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism.
Marketed as a medical device for much of the last century, the machine used a Tesla coil to transform ordinary household current into a high-voltage, high-frequency, low-amperage output that can safely be applied to human skin. The old kits came with two types of electrodes–glass and metal. When sparks passed through the glass tube, the air inside glowed violet–hence the name of the device. Many of the devices were sold with multiple electrodes of different shapes (kits made for doctors might contain two dozen, some meant for insertion into bodily orifices). The metal electrodes could be adjusted to provide sharp shocks.
Jeff Behary, curator of the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum, a Web site, said that the machines began as legitimate medical devices for treating skin problems and for relieving pain (they could provide heat under the skin without burning, and the ozone they gave off was supposed to kill bacteria). In time, manufacturers claimed that their instruments were effective against a wide range of ailments–asthma, catarrh, lumbago, nervous disorders, gonorrhea, prostate and vaginal problems, and “female hysteria” among them. According to Behary, between 1900 and 1939 more than three dozen companies, some offering a dozen models, produced hundreds of thousands of the devices. Many of the machines were housed in dark wooden boxes. Thus, it is entirely possible that Burge had two electrical instruments–a hand-cranked generator and a violet ray machine–that could each be called a black box.
In 1951, with the industry long past its prime, the FDA charged an Indiana firm with misbranding its violet ray machines as medical cures and confiscated the devices. According to Behary, a Chicago firm still markets the appliance for use in testing neon signs and other tubing for leaks.
As erotic toys, the devices have grown in popularity since at least the mid-1970s, when they could be purchased at flea markets, antique shops, and beauty supply stores (the machine had been used on bald men to stimulate circulation in the scalp). Eclectic Electric, a company that sells both new and antique devices on the Internet, advertises its violet wands as providing a range of sensations, “from lush tingles to sharp shocks to simulating the feelings of burning and cutting. . . . They pretty much feel like a jolt of static electricity.” The vintage wands “pack a more powerful punch,” and on the Web site’s intensity scale, the metal probe sits alone at the top. It “conducts the charge directly to your subject without diluting it.”
At a 1985 hearing, Leonard Hinton described being taken to the basement at Area Two two years earlier. He said his hands were handcuffed above his head, his pants and shorts were pulled down, his ankles were handcuffed to a pole so his legs were spread, and then “the officer with the mustache and with the glasses with the black hair, he came in with a rod, and one was carrying a box, a black box. . . . There was a cord to the long rod. . . . The handle on it was black and they plugged the wire into the box. . . . Then they put something in my mouth . . . it was cloth . . . and they tied it so I couldn’t holler. . . . Then they took the rod, long part, and they placed it under my genitals. . . . [It was] a pain out of this world. I couldn’t describe it. . . . They said, ‘Are you ready to talk yet?’ The other said, ‘I don’t think he’s ready to talk yet.’ He hit me with it again. . . . Then . . . he touched it in the crack of my rectum. . . . Then he took that [cloth] out of my mouth. I said, ‘I am ready to talk. Tell me what you want me to say, sir. Please stop.'”
John Conroy’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bettman/Corbis
Figure in Chicago police-torture cases admits to 1990 murder
Cortez Brown gets 40 years in prison
May 10, 2010
By RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
A man who says that he was beaten into confessing to a pair of killings by detectives working under disgraced former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge pleaded guilty to one of the 1990 murders today — even though he still insists he is innocent.
Flint Taylor, one of Cortez Brown’s lawyers, claimed his client only pleaded guilty to murdering Curtis Sims so Brown could start a new life as a free man as soon as possible.
Cortez Brown was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to the gang-related murder of Curtis Sims in 1990.
While Cook County Judge Clayton Crane sentenced Brown to 40 years in prison today for the murder, he could be eligible for early release in September since he has already served nearly two decades in prison for the slaying.
Brown, 39, didn’t make any statements before he was sentenced this morning in the plea agreement reached with prosecutors, who dropped murder charges against Brown in what police called another 1990 gang-related murder of a second man, Delvin Boelter.
Taylor said Brown, who also goes by the name Victor Safforld, made a “practical decision” by pleading guilty, explaining that he could have spent more time in jail awaiting trials.
However, at today’s hearing, Assistant Attorney General Vincenzo Chimera presented evidence linking Brown to Sims’ murder, specifically pointing to a 9mm Taurus used in the shooting that was purchased by Brown’s mother just weeks before.
Brown, an admitted former Gangster Disciple street gang member, maintains he is innocent in both murders. He said he only confessed after detectives beat him with their fists and steel flashlights.
“Even today, I’m still afraid these officers may do something to my family or have something done to me while I’m in jail,” Brown told Crane last year.
Brown initially was sentenced to 35 years in prison for Boelter’s murder. He was later convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for killing Sims, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Gov. George Ryan.
Last year, Crane overturned Brown’s conviction in the Sims murder and granted him a new trial, citing “staggering” and “damning” new evidence that he was tortured. Crane granted him a new trial in the Boelter case last month.
Burge’s federal trial on perjury and obstruction charges is scheduled to begin later this month.
CPD commander accused of torture wants trial moved
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Former Chicago Police Department commander Jon Burge leaves the Federal Courthouse after he was released from custody Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 21, 2008 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
By: Ann Pistone and Chuck Goudie
April 5, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — Having his case publically compared to the government’s trial against Al Capone, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is asking a federal judge to move his perjury trial out of Chicago.
In a motion filed today, Burge’s attorney stated that recently a “publicity campaign” mounted by plaintiff’s lawyer G. Flint Taylor exposed potential jurors to prejudicial publicity. Burge says he cannot get a fair trial here.
Taylor was interviewed by three Chicago media outlets last week which, according to defense attorney Richard Beuke “comes on the heels of the jury qualification letter being sent out to prospective jurors.”
It is rare for a judge to grant a change of venue. This is the second time Burge has filed such a request. In April of 2009, Burge said he would not receive a fair trial “due to the pervasive, prejudicial pretrial publicity”. U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow denied his motion exactly three months later.
Burge, who is 62 and lives in Florida, is scheduled to go on trial May 24th. He is charged with obstruction of justice and perjury. Prosecutors say Burge lied under oath in a 2003 lawsuit when he denied torturing black suspects into confessions in the 1970s and 1980s.
Burge has pleaded not guilty and denies knowledge of any torture
Chicago: Jail Jon Burge, Terrorist Cop
Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 09:44 PM UTC
Contributed by: Oread Daily
For over twenty years Chicago cops led by former police Commander Jon Burge beat and tortured prisoners, Blacks and Latinos with complete impunity. After years of people’s struggle a special prosecutor ruled in 2006 that Burge and several detectives under his leadership tortured more than 100 suspects into confessing to crimes through beatings, electric shock and other heinous methods between 1972 and 1991 while in custody at either Area 2 or Area 3.
JAIL JON BURGE!!!
For over twenty years Chicago cops led by former police Commander Jon Burge beat and tortured prisoners, Blacks and Latinos with complete impunity. After years of people’s struggle a special prosecutor ruled in 2006 that Burge and several detectives under his leadership tortured more than 100 suspects into confessing to crimes through beatings, electric shock and other heinous methods between 1972 and 1991 while in custody at either Area 2 or Area 3.
The city of Chicago, it should be noted, spent millions of taxpayers dollars defending Burge and his crew.
Burge is finally is set to go on trial this month. Of course, that may change. However, at this time a rally has been called on that day to demand that Burge be locked up once and for all. If you are in or near Chicago you ought to be there.
Did I mention that twenty of those tortured are still sitting in jail trying appeal.
The following is from South Side Chicago Anti-Racist Action.
Jon Burge Faces Protests During Torture Trial
As notoriously racist and corrupt former CPD Detective Jon Burge goes to trial, community groups and the recently exonerated are organizing protests to give Burge a Chicago welcome:
Jail Cops Who Torture! Retrials for Their Victims! Cut Their Pensions!
Over 20 years of terror, Police Cdr. Jon Burge and his “Midnight Crew” tortured 200+ Latino and African American men and their children to obtain confessions. 20 of these victims are still incarcerated, hoping to be re-tried. Burge has been evading justice since ‘93 and the City of Chicago has spent over $10 MILLION in taxpayer dollars paying for his defense even after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he was guilty of using torture! Take A Stand Against Torture on May 24th, 2010* @ Daley Plaza (55 W Randolph St) 8:30-10AM *Trial date may change. Visit jailjonburge.org for more info.
* Spread the word: Facebook event and Flyer: JPG or PDF
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jail Jon Burge Committee Calls for Justice on May 24
Taking a stand against torture, the Jail Jon Burge Committee urges the residents of Illinois to join in a cry for justice from 8:30 to 10:00am on May 24, 2010. The event will signal the commencement of the trial of former Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge, accused of perjury and obstruction of justice during a civil suit related to torture.
The event will feature appearances by victims who were tortured during Jon Burge’s tenure as commander, as well as their families. Speakers will include Mark Clements, Marvin Reaves and Nick Escamilla, who are all victims of Burge’s torture regime. Attorney Flint Taylor, renowned advocate for police torture victims, and 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins, fierce public advocate, will also appear.
The group has three demands, which include new trials by all who have alleged they have experienced police torture; cessation of pensions of all those who engaged in torture, as identified by the Special Prosecutor’s review; and indictment, trial, and imprisonment for all those found guilty of perjury related to their role in torture. United with organizations across Chicago, the Committee will advocate on behalf of these victims, their families, and Chicago taxpayers, who continue to bear the financial burden of Burge’s defense costs.
In 1993, the Police Department Review Board determined that Jon Burge had used torture to obtain confessions between the years of 1972 and 1991, torturing an alleged 200 African American and Latino suspects. Following an investigation by a special prosecutor that concluded in 2006, Burge was found to have committed torture in multiple instances. Due to the statute of limitations on torture crimes, however, Jon Burge and his “Midnight Crew” were never indicted for their offenses. The trial of Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice related to the special prosecutor’s investigation marks the first time that Burge will be held accountable for even a fraction of the crimes that he has committed.
The Committee urges all interested and concerned parties to join them in their cry for justice at the May 24 Event. Groups wishing to endorse the event should contact the Committee by calling 312-939-2750 or by emailing contact (at) jailjonburge.org.
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The man responsible for the torture of Mark Clements and some 200 other African American and Latino men in Chicago will go on trial on Monday in a downtown courtroom.
Jon Burge is former police commander who oversaw a squad of detectives who were notorious for using torture techniques to coerce false confessions out of suspects. One of their victims was a 16-year-old Clements. The incriminating statement that was tortured out of him was the main evidence used at the trial where he was convicted. Clements was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years.
Clements became an activist while behind bars. Finally, in the summer of 2009, with protest and pressure building for new trials for Burge torture victims who are still behind bars, Clements was finally freed–after serving 28 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Today, he is a member of the Jail Jon Burge coalition, a board member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and an activist with the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Clements talked to Jon Bougie and Lyn Kotecki about his experiences and about the rally planned for the first day of Burge’s trial. (more…)
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The beatings began in the early and late 1970s and went on at least until 1991. But at least three victims, allegedly tortured by the hands of former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and his men, remember it vividly as if it were yesterday.
Mark Clements, Melvin Jones and Marvin Reeves also remember the sounds of men being tortured in the next room while they were in custody decades ago.
Now, the click of handcuffs on Burge’s wrist would be “sweet music” to their ears, said Clements.
A special prosecutor ruled in 2006 that Burge and several detectives under his leadership tortured more than 100 suspects into confessing to crimes through beatings, electric shock and other heinous methods between 1972 and 1991 while in custody at either Area 2 or Area 3.
Many alleged torture victims were convicted of crimes they allege they weren’t involved in. Some had their convictions overturned; some were sentenced to death.
After several lawsuits by victims and an investigation by the then-Office of Professional Standards, Burge was eventually fired in 1993 from the Chicago Police Department. The statute of limitations for the alleged torture had run out, however, the former commander was indicted in October 2008 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying to special prosecutors during the 2006 investigation. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled to begin May 24. (more…)
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Saturday, May 15th, This is Hell! broadcasted a live four hour show beginning at 9 AM (US central) on WNUR 89.3 FM. Roughly an hour later Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer (that’s me) debuted his new segment live in their studios.
Click to play audio:
Last week something unimaginable happened,finally after 20 years Police Commander Jon Burge walked into a Chicago Federal court house to select the jury that will be judging him on charges of perjury.
And on the 24th of May at 8:30am he’ll be attending his first day of court.
But I think I’m getting ahead of myself, some of you may not know who Jon Burge is, why he is facing jail time or even why you should care. (more…)
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Ex-Chicago police detective charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, after allegedly lying about torture of suspects
One of the city’s most persistent and troubling scandals reaches federal court Thursday when jury selection begins in the trial of Jon Burge, the former Chicago police detective accused of overseeing the torture of suspects.
For nearly two decades, Burge and his detectives allegedly sent dozens of men to prison on the basis of coerced confessions, deepening bitterness between police and minorities and helping inspire former Gov. George Ryan to reject capital punishment and empty the state’s death row.
But Burge, now 62, living on a police pension and reportedly in poor health, will not be tried for any act of torture. While federal prosecutors say they will prove that he and his detectives abused suspects, the statute of limitations expired long ago. Instead, Burge stands accused of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying in 2003 when he denied under oath he knew of or participated in abuse of suspects.
The fact that Burge is facing any kind of criminal charge is seen by some as a long-overdue opportunity for vindication.
“Jon Burge standing trial means a lot to the African-American community, and it means a lot to me, that finally some justice will come out of this ordeal of torture,” said Mark Clements, 45, an alleged victim of Burge’s officers who was released from prison in August after 28 years behind bars.
But Ronald Kitchen, 51, another alleged victim who was freed in July after 21 years in prison, isn’t satisfied.
“Who wouldn’t want to see him put in the same cage he put us in?” Kitchen said. “But unless he gets up on the stand and admits what he did, there’s no justice in it for me.”
Burge is expected to attend Thursday’s session in Judge Joan Lefkow’s courtroom, where potential jurors will be given a questionnaire. On May 24, they will return for the completion of jury selection.
Burge’s attorney, Richard Beuke, declined to allow his client to be interviewed by the Tribune but said the former detective will “vehemently deny all these allegations.”
“He is looking forward to an opportunity to finally face these people in court with a jury that will hopefully understand the law and the evidence and do their best to give him a fair trial in light of all the negative publicity that plaintiff’s lawyers and politicians have feasted upon at his expense,” Beuke said. “We want to make sure that this trial is tried in the courtroom.”
TAMPA – The burly man strode confidently from a Tampa courthouse last week, his lawyer placing a protective hand on his back as he passed the news cameras lying in wait.
Curious passers-by stopped and wondered about the guy with the shock of pure white hair smoothed perfectly back.
Few know him here, and that’s how he likes it. But back in Chicago, Jon Burge is big news. He’s known as the police commander who, for 20 years, tortured suspects to make them confess.
The accusations are like something out of a wartime prison: electric shock and cattle prods; near suffocation with a typewriter bag; mock executions with a pistol.
Four people who confessed to him were released from death row last year; they’re suing him. A special prosecutor has been on his tail for two years.
Fired from the Chicago Police Department, he settled into a waterfront community of brick and stucco houses on Tampa Bay 10 years ago, his police pension intact, a boat out back. He has never been charged with a crime.
Now people in Chicago are trying to bring him back, back to where he made a name for himself, as hero, then villain. People back home say Jon Burge needs to be called to account.
The book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People delves into how and why torture takes place among ordinary people. Written by Chicago author John Conroy, the book explores torture in Israel, Northern Ireland and Chicago. Burge gets four chapters.
The son of a blue-collar phone company worker and a fashion columnist for the Chicago Daily News, Burge flunked out of college and volunteered to go to Vietnam twice, according to Conroy’s book.
He earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two army commendations for valor, for pulling wounded men to safety while under fire.
Back home, Burge joined the Chicago Police Department at 22, working the poor neighborhoods of the south side. He had a knack for defusing volatile situations; once he plucked a gun from the hands of a woman about to shoot herself in the neck.
Twenty years later, as commander of the detective division, he “outranked 99 percent of the policemen in his city,” Conroy’s book says, and had picked up 13 commendations and a letter of praise from the Department of Justice.
His fall from grace can be traced to Feb. 9, 1982, when two police officers, 34-year-old William Fahey and 33-year-old Richard O’Brien, pulled over a Chevrolet Impala for a traffic stop.
One of the two men in the car stripped Fahey of his weapon and shot him in the head and O’Brien in the chest. The shootings brought to four the number of officers fatally shot in Chicago that month. Emotions ran hot.
Five days after the shootings, police brought Andrew Wilson in for questioning.
Thirteen hours later, he confessed. He emerged from the interrogation with severe bruising and cuts on his head, a torn retina, burns on his chest and thighs and U-shaped marks on his body. Officers at the jail refused to accept him for fear they would be blamed.
He was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Illinois Supreme Court threw out his confession and ordered a new trial, ruling: “The evidence here shows clearly that when the defendant was arrested at 5:15 a.m. on Feb. 14, he may have received a cut above his right eye but that he had no other injuries.
“It is equally clear that when the defendant was taken by police officers to Mercy Hospital sometime after ten o’clock that night he had about fifteen separate injuries on his head, chest and leg. The inescapable conclusion is that the defendant suffered his injuries while in police custody that day.”
Convicted at retrial, Wilson was sentenced to life without parole.
He sued the city of Chicago, Burge and other detectives. He testified that Burge and another officer used two electroshock devices on his ears, nose, fingers and groin area. Throughout the torture, he said, he was handcuffed to rings on a wall in front of a radiator that burned him.
“It’s black and it’s round and it had a wire sticking out of it and it had a cord on it,” Wilson testified, describing one of the shocking devices. Burge “took it and he ran it up between my legs, my groin area, just ran it up there very gently … up and down, up and down, you know, right between my legs, up and down like this, real gentle with it, but you can feel it, still feel it.
“Then he jabbed me with the thing and it slammed me … into the grille on the window. Then I fell back down, and I think that’s when I started spitting up the blood and stuff. Then he stopped.”
Police denied using torture. Other prisoners came forward, saying they had suffered similar treatment. A judge ultimately awarded Wilson $1-million.
The attention spawned more cases.
“It has been for many years an open secret that at the police headquarters where Burge worked, a large number of African-American citizens were detained and subjected to horrific forms of abuse,” said Locke Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago and a lawyer for a man who says Burge’s detectives abused him.
Amnesty International asked for an independent investigation, calling the treatment “a clear violation of international law.”
An investigator for the police department’s professional standards office reviewed 50 complaints of abuse against Burge and his officers – electric shock, beatings, jabs with a cattle prod, pistols jammed in mouths in a mock execution, suffocations – and declared that the abuse was “systematic.”
As many as 108 men have accused Burge and his detectives of torturing confessions from them.
With fundraisers and benefits, thousands of officers supported Burge and his men.
In 1993, Burge and his officers, who had been suspended without pay for more than a year, met different fates. The officers were reinstated. Burge was fired.
He took his pension and moved south to Florida. He left behind people angry not only with him but with the system that took his job but otherwise let him walk away unpunished.
“They protected him. They got him out of town and tried to sweep this issue under the rug and they got away with it,” said the Rev. Calvin Morris, executive director of the Community Renewal Society in Chicago, which fought to get the city to look into the charges against Burge.
“We’re left here with people who may be languishing in jail unfairly plus this is a slap on the wrist, and he’s in sunny Florida.”
Chicago police spokesman David Bayless responded: “I speak for the Chicago Police Department but I can’t speak for every single opinion here, but I can say that the city of Chicago Police Department fired him. And that speaks for itself.”
Why didn’t the department pursue charges? Bayless said he would get back with the answer, but he never did.
Burge was gone, but the investigations continued. City investigators found evidence of torture. They shelved the cases in 1998, figuring the statute of limitations had run out, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Lawsuits were filed. Inmates who called themselves the “Death Row 10” said Burge or his detectives tortured confessions out of them. Their number grew to 13.
Illinois began finding fault with its death penalty system. A Northwestern University journalism professor and his students dug up evidence that exonerated some death row inmates, including one who said Burge and his detectives tortured him.
In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan halted executions in Illinois after courts found 13 of the men on the state’s death row had been wrongfully convicted. Last year, Ryan pardoned four of the Death Row 10, saying the evidence against them rested solely on confessions generated by torture from Burge and his officers.
“The four men did not know each other,” Ryan said, “all getting beaten and tortured and convicted on the same basis of the confessions that they allegedly provided. They are perfect examples of what is so terribly broken about our system.”
One of the pardoned men was Leroy Orange, then a 33-year-old self-employed maintenance man and scrap collector who was married with two children. His only prior arrest had come 14 years earlier at age 18, for criminal property damage. He was picked up for the murder of two women, a man and a 10-year-old in a Chicago apartment. The four had been bound and stabbed, the apartment set on fire.
Orange confessed after 12 hours of questioning during which he said he was shocked with wires attached to his buttocks, testicles and arms and suffocated with a plastic bag over his head.
He spent 19 years in prison before Ryan pardoned him. This year he was arrested on drug charges.
“What I see with Leroy is that his life was devastated by the conviction and the amount of time he spent in prison,” said Thomas F. Geraghty, Orange’s lawyer and a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. “He made this claim since day one and no one listened to us. It’s more like he is a victim of the system’s failure to acknowledge and curtail the antics of these police officers.”
Burge’s Chicago lawyer, Richard Levy, pointed out that although Ryan pardoned four of the Death Row 10, the Supreme Court of Illinois had upheld their convictions. Levy is paid by the city of Chicago, which must represent Burge in lawsuits. He offered this explanation for why so many have made similar claims:
“We believe that these allegations of coercion are false and that these individuals were guilty of their underlying crimes. And there can be many reasons why shared allegations of torture are seen. Obviously, they’re represented by the same law firm and many of these people were incarcerated together.”
For the past decade, Burge has lived on the eastern edge of Tampa Bay in Apollo Beach, the winter spot for manatees attracted to the warm water outflow of Tampa Electric’s power plant.
Burge’s white wood-frame home, which he bought for $154,000 in 1994, has coral shutters, a well-manicured yard and a 22-foot motorboat on a canal.
His next-door neighbor, 55-year-old retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Stevens, said Burge has watched Stevens’ home when he’s been on vacation and helped him install a door, fix a pool pump and put a timer in his pool.
He never talks about what happened in Chicago, and Stevens doesn’t ask. “I don’t know what it is about him being a cop in Chicago, but he’s been an excellent neighbor.”
What happened in Chicago is what everyone up there wants to hear. Burge was in court in Tampa twice this month fighting a subpoena to give a deposition in Chicago. He walked into County Judge Walter R. Heinrich’s tiny courtroom and immediately struck up a conversation with the bailiff in the corner.
Burge, who is 56, says he is retired except for some security consultant work. He was jovial and amiable but shook his head when a reporter approached.
“I can’t, my dear,” he said. “I would love to, but I can’t. They’ll tell you why. I just can’t.”
In one of the suits, Burge’s lawyers have said he will invoke the Fifth Amendment against incriminating himself.
That’s because a special prosecutor is investigating. He was appointed in 2002, after the Cook County Bar Association, the Justice Coalition of Chicago and others filed a petition asking for a special prosecutor to review the allegations.
Edward Egan, a former judge from the Illinois Appellate Court and semiretired lawyer, was at his retirement home in Venice, Fla., when he got the call from Illinois asking if he would investigate.
Egan and an assistant put together an entire law office to handle the investigation. They hired more lawyers and a company of retired FBI officers to do legwork on allegations dating to 1973.
Now 81, Egan said he told his wife the case would take a year. It’s taken two years and four months, and he’s not done. He comes home to Venice for holidays and their anniversary.
“I’ve stopped prognosticating,” he said. “It’s slower than we anticipated. There were a lot of big problems about getting records and finding people. And many died and many people moved out of state.”
Burge has been subpoenaed to give depositions Wednesday in two suits filed by former death row inmates.
“I know there’s a strong sense that justice has not been done,” said Jane Bohman, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “That’s why the civil suits were filed. Because the truth was never acknowledged by our government.
“He’s got a pension. He moved to Florida. He probably wanted to go softly into the night, as they say.”
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report, which includes information from the Chicago Tribune and “Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People” by John Conroy.
|Police/Prosecutor Misconduct||Recommended Reading|
April 19, 2004
Study Suspects Thousands of False Convictions
By ADAM LIPTAK
comprehensive study of 328 criminal cases over the last 15 years in which the convicted person was exonerated suggests that there are thousands of innocent people in prison today.
Almost all the exonerations were in murder and rape cases, and that implies, according to the study, that many innocent people have been convicted of less serious crimes. But the study says they benefited neither from the intense scrutiny that murder cases tend to receive nor from the DNA evidence that can categorically establish the innocence of people convicted of rape.
Prosecutors, however, have questioned some of the methodology used in the study, which was prepared at the University of Michigan and supervised by a law professor there, Samuel R. Gross. They say that the number of exonerations is quite small when compared with the number of convictions during the 15-year period. About 2 million people are in American prisons and jails.
The study identified 199 murder exonerations, 73 of them in capital cases. It also found 120 rape exonerations. Only nine cases involved other crimes. In more than half of the cases, the defendants had been in prison for more than 10 years.
The study’s authors said they picked 1989 as a starting point because that was the year of the first DNA exoneration. Of the 328 exonerations they found in the intervening years, 145 involved DNA evidence.
In 88 percent of the rape cases in the study, DNA evidence helped free the inmate. But biological evidence is far less likely to be available or provide definitive proof in other kinds of cases. Only 20 percent of the murder exonerations involved DNA evidence, and almost all of those were rape-murders.
The study, which will be presented Friday at a conference of defense lawyers in Austin, Tex., also found that very different factors contributed to wrongful convictions in rape and murder cases.
Some 90 percent of false convictions in the rape cases involved misidentification by witnesses, very often across races. In particular, the study said black men made up a disproportionate number of exonerated rape defendants.
The racial mix of those exonerated, in general, mirrored that of the prison population, and the mix of those exonerated of murder mirrored the mix of those convicted of murder. But while 29 percent of those in prison for rape are black, 65 percent of those exonerated of the crime are.
Interracial rapes are, moreover, uncommon. Rapes of white women by black men, for instance, represent less than 10 percent of all rapes, according to the Justice Department. But in half of the rape exonerations where racial data was available, black men were falsely convicted of raping white women.
“The most obvious explanation for this racial disparity is probably also the most powerful,” the study says. “White Americans are much more likely to mistake one black person for another than to do the same for members of their own race.”
On the other hand, the study found that the leading causes of wrongful convictions for murder were false confessions and perjury by co- defendants, informants, police officers or forensic scientists.
A separate study considering 125 cases involving false confessions was published in the North Carolina Law Review last month and found that such confessions were most common among groups vulnerable to suggestion and intimidation.
“There are three groups of people most likely to confess,” said Steven A. Drizin, a law professor at Northwestern, who conducted the study with Richard A. Leo, a professor of criminology at the University of California, Irvine. “They are the mentally retarded, the mentally ill and juveniles.”
Professor Drizin, too, said that false confessions were most common in murder cases.
“Those are the cases where there is the greatest pressure to obtain confessions,” he said, “and confessions are often the only way to solve those crimes.”
Professor Drizin said that videotaping of police interrogations would cut down on false confessions.
The authors of the Michigan study offered dueling rationales for the murder exonerations, and both reasons, they said, were disturbing.
There may be more murder exonerations, they said, because the cases attract more attention, especially when a death sentence is imposed. Death row inmates represent a quarter of 1 percent of the prison population but 22 percent of the exonerated.
That suggests that innocent people are often convicted in run-of-the-mill cases. Indeed, the study says, “if we reviewed prison sentences with the same level of care that we devote to death sentences, there would have been over 28,500 non-death-row exonerations in the past 15 years rather than the 255 that have in fact occurred.”
The study offered a competing theory, as well. Mistakes, it said, may be more likely in murder cases and far more likely in capital cases.
“The truth,” the study concludes, “is clearly a combination of these two appalling possibilities.”
Critics of the Michigan study questioned its methodology, saying it overstated the number of authentically innocent people. The study calls every nullification of a conviction by a governor, court or prosecutor declaring a person not guilty of a crime an exoneration.
In Astoria, Ore., Joshua Marquis, the district attorney for Clatsop County, said that many of the people exonerated under the study’s definition may nonetheless have committed the crimes in question, though the evidence may have become too weak to prove that beyond a reasonably doubt.
“The real number of people on death row exonerated in the sense of being actually innocent in the modern era of the death penalty is about 25 to 30,” Mr. Marquis said. The Michigan study put the number at 73.
He added that even the error rate suggested by the study was tolerable given the American prison population.
“We all agree that it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted,” Mr. Marquis said. “Is it better for 100,000 guilty men to walk free rather than have one innocent man convicted? The cost-benefit policy answer is no.”
At the University of Michigan, Professor Gross said that was the wrong calculus.
“No rate of preventable errors that destroy people’s lives and destroy the lives of those close to them is acceptable,” he said.
Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project, said Mr. Marquis’s analysis ignored another point.
“Every time an innocent person is convicted,” Mr. Scheck said, “it means there are more guilty people out there who are still committing crimes.”
Click HERE to read the University of Michigan Law School study report. (pdf format – use Acrobat Reader)
|How the System Works||Truth in Justice|
Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010 02:15 ET
The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention
(updated below – Update II)
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article — entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?” — the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.” By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”
For that reason, many Western nations — and even some non-Western nations notorious for human rights abuses — refuse to employ prolonged solitary confinement except in the most extreme cases of prisoner violence. “It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his experience in isolated confinement in Vietnam. “It crushes your spirit.” As Gawande documented: “A U.S. military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam . . . reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered.” Gawande explained that America’s application of this form of torture to its own citizens is what spawned the torture regime which President Obama vowed to end:
This past year, both the Republican and the Democratic Presidential candidates came out firmly for banning torture and closing the facility in Guantánamo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners have been held in years-long isolation. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain, however, addressed the question of whether prolonged solitary confinement is torture. . . .
This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. . . . Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America’s moral stature in the world. In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement . . . .
It’s one thing to impose such punitive, barbaric measures on convicts who have proven to be violent when around other prisoners; at the Supermax in Florence, inmates convicted of the most heinous crimes and who pose a threat to prison order and the safety of others are subjected to worse treatment than what Manning experiences. But it’s another thing entirely to impose such conditions on individuals, like Manning, who have been convicted of nothing and have never demonstrated an iota of physical threat or disorder.
In 2006, a bipartisan National Commission on America’s Prisons was created and it called for the elimination of prolonged solitary confinement. Its Report documented that conditions whereby “prisoners end up locked in their cells 23 hours a day, every day. . . is so severe that people end up completely isolated, living in what can only be described as torturous conditions.” The Report documented numerous psychiatric studies of individuals held in prolonged isolation which demonstrate “a constellation of symptoms that includes overwhelming anxiety, confusion and hallucination, and sudden violent and self-destructive outbursts.” The above-referenced article from the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law states: “Psychological effects can include anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis.”
When one exacerbates the harms of prolonged isolation with the other deprivations to which Manning is being subjected, long-term psychiatric and even physical impairment is likely. Gawande documents that “EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement.” Medical tests conducted in 1992 on Yugoslavian prisoners subjected to an average of six months of isolation — roughly the amount to which Manning has now been subjected — “revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.” Gawande’s article is filled with horrifying stories of individuals subjected to isolation similar to or even less enduring than Manning’s who have succumbed to extreme long-term psychological breakdown.
Manning is barred from communicating with any reporters, even indirectly, so nothing he has said can be quoted here. But David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security when entering the U.S.) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes palpable changes in Manning’s physical appearance and behavior just over the course of the several months that he’s been visiting him. Like most individuals held in severe isolation, Manning sleeps much of the day, is particularly frustrated by the petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets, and suffers from less and less outdoor time as part of his one-hour daily removal from his cage.
This is why the conditions under which Manning is being detained were once recognized in the U.S. — and are still recognized in many Western nations — as not only cruel and inhumane, but torture. More than a century ago, U.S. courts understood that solitary confinement was a barbaric punishment that severely harmed the mental and physical health of those subjected to it. The Supreme Court’s 1890 decision in In re Medley noted that as a result of solitary confinement as practiced in the early days of the United States, many “prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition . . . and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better . . . [often] did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.” And in its 1940 decision in Chambers v. Florida, the Court characterized prolonged solitary confinement as “torture” and compared it to “[t]he rack, the thumbscrew, [and] the wheel.”
The inhumane treatment of Manning may have international implications as well. There are multiple proceedings now pending in the European Union Human Rights Court, brought by “War on Terror” detainees contesting their extradition to the U.S. on the ground that the conditions under which they likely will be held — particularly prolonged solitary confinement — violate the European Convention on Human Rights, which (along with the Convention Against Torture) bars EU states from extraditing anyone to any nation where there is a real risk of inhumane and degrading treatment. The European Court of Human Rights has in the past found detention conditions violative of those rights (in Bulgaria) where “the [detainee] spent 23 hours a day alone in his cell; had limited interaction with other prisoners; and was only allowed two visits per month.” From the Journal article referenced above:
International treaty bodies and human rights experts, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, have concluded that solitary confinement may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. They have specifically criticized supermax confinement in the United States because of the mental suffering it inflicts.
Subjecting a detainee like Manning to this level of prolonged cruel and inhumane detention can thus jeopardize the ability of the U.S. to secure extradition for other prisoners, as these conditions are viewed in much of the civilized world as barbaric. Moreover, because Manning holds dual American and U.K. citizenship (his mother is British), it is possible for British agencies and human rights organizations to assert his consular rights against these oppressive conditions. At least some preliminary efforts are underway in Britain to explore that mechanism as a means of securing more humane treatment for Manning. Whatever else is true, all of this illustrates what a profound departure from international norms is the treatment to which the U.S. Government is subjecting him.
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The plight of Manning has largely been overshadowed by the intense media fixation on WikiLeaks, so it’s worth underscoring what it is that he’s accused of doing and what he said in his own reputed words about these acts. If one believes the authenticity of the highly edited chat logs of Manning’s online conversations with Adrian Lamo that have been released by Wired (that magazine inexcusably continues to conceal large portions of those logs), Manning clearly believed that he was a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives, and probably was exactly that. If, for instance, he really is the leaker of the Apache helicopter attack video — a video which sparked very rare and much-needed realization about the visceral truth of what American wars actually entail — as well as the war and diplomatic cables revealing substantial government deceit, brutality, illegality and corruption, then he’s quite similar to Daniel Ellsberg. Indeed, Ellsberg himself said the very same thing about Manning in June on Democracy Now in explaining why he considers the Army Private to be a “hero”:
The fact is that what Lamo reports Manning is saying has a very familiar and persuasive ring to me. He reports Manning as having said that what he had read and what he was passing on were horrible — evidence of horrible machinations by the US backdoor dealings throughout the Middle East and, in many cases, as he put it, almost crimes. And let me guess that — he’s not a lawyer, but I’ll guess that what looked to him like crimes are crimes, that he was putting out. We know that he put out, or at least it’s very plausible that he put out, the videos that he claimed to Lamo. And that’s enough to go on to get them interested in pursuing both him and the other.
And so, what it comes down, to me, is — and I say throwing caution to the winds here — is that what I’ve heard so far of Assange and Manning — and I haven’t met either of them — is that they are two new heroes of mine.
To see why that’s so, just recall some of what Manning purportedly said about why he chose to leak, at least as reflected in the edited chat logs published by Wired:
Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?. . .
Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] – and god knows what happens now – hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the video gave me immense hope; CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded – people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . – i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
if i knew then, what i knew now – kind of thing, or maybe im just young, naive, and stupid . . . im hoping for the former – it cant be the latter – because if it is… were fucking screwed (as a society) – and i dont want to believe that we’re screwed.
Manning described the incident which first made him seriously question the U.S. Government: when he was instructed to work on the case of Iraqi “insurgents” who had been detained for distributing so-called “insurgent” literature which, when Manning had it translated, turned out to be nothing more than “a scholarly critique against PM Maliki”:
i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…
And Manning explained why he never considered the thought of selling this classified information to a foreign nation for substantial profit or even just secretly transmitting it to foreign powers, as he easily could have done:
Manning: i mean what if i were someone more malicious- i could’ve sold to russia or china, and made bank?
Lamo: why didn’t you?
Manning: because it’s public data
Lamo: i mean, the cables
Manning: it belongs in the public domain -information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open… it should be a public good.
That’s a whistleblower in the purest and most noble form: discovering government secrets of criminal and corrupt acts and then publicizing them to the world not for profit, not to give other nations an edge, but to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” Given how much Manning has been demonized — at the same time that he’s been rendered silent by the ban on his communication with any media — it’s worthwhile to keep all of that in mind.
But ultimately, what one thinks of Manning’s alleged acts is irrelevant to the issue here. The U.S. ought at least to abide by minimal standards of humane treatment in how it detains him. That’s true for every prisoner, at all times. But departures from such standards are particularly egregious where, as here, the detainee has merely been accused, but never convicted, of wrongdoing. These inhumane conditions make a mockery of Barack Obama’s repeated pledge to end detainee abuse and torture, as prolonged isolation — exacerbated by these other deprivations — is at least as damaging, as violative of international legal standards, and almost as reviled around the world, as the waterboard, hypothermia and other Bush-era tactics that caused so much controversy.
What all of this achieves is clear. Having it known that the U.S. could and would disappear people at will to “black sites,” assassinate them with unseen drones, imprison them for years without a shred of due process even while knowing they were innocent, torture them mercilessly, and in general acts as a lawless and rogue imperial power created a climate of severe intimidation and fear. Who would want to challenge the U.S. Government in any way — even in legitimate ways — knowing that it could and would engage in such lawless, violent conduct without any restraints or repercussions?
That is plainly what is going on here. Anyone remotely affiliated with WikiLeaks, including American citizens (and plenty of other government critics), has their property seized and communications stored at the border without so much as a warrant. Julian Assange — despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime — has now spent more than a week in solitary confinement with severe restrictions under what his lawyer calls “Dickensian conditions.” But Bradley Manning has suffered much worse, and not for a week, but for seven months, with no end in sight. If you became aware of secret information revealing serious wrongdoing, deceit and/or criminality on the part of the U.S. Government, would you — knowing that you could and likely would be imprisoned under these kinds of repressive, torturous conditions for months on end without so much as a trial: just locked away by yourself 23 hours a day without recourse — be willing to expose it? That’s the climate of fear and intimidation which these inhumane detention conditions are intended to create.
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Those wishing to contribute to Bradley Manning’s defense fund can do so here. All of those means are reputable, but everyone should carefully read the various options presented in order to decide which one seems best.
UPDATE: I was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote: specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted from accessing news or current events during the prescribed time he is permitted to watch television. That is squarely inconsistent with reports from those with first-hand knowledge of Manning’s detention, but it’s a fairly minor dispute in the scheme of things.
UPDATE II: On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann did a segment on the conditions of Manning’s incarceration, with FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley. At least on its website, CBS News also reported on the story. And I was on Democracy Now Thursday morning elaborating on my Manning article yesterday, as well as discussing Savage’s article this morning and the imminent release of Assange from prison (the transcript is here):
- More: Glenn Greenwald
Ouch, knowledge can hurt..
We never said that truth would not be painful.