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and what if they don’t follow the script?

A point that’s been missed in the discussion of the Bush torture memos is that interrogators always go further than regulations allow. Police in the developed world aren’t supposed to beat prisoners in cells but everyone knows that, like, some of them do. Naturally, then, if the official instructions permit interrogators to waterboard, to slap prisoners, to push them into walls, to humiliate them, to keep them in cramped positions, some will push things to a whole different level. For instance:

Yes, I walked into this room, and it was a small room with the walls painted black. There was an interrogator sitting in a chair. To his left was an interpreter. The detainee was kneeling with his wrists handcuffed behind his back before the interrogator. Standing behind the interrogator was a guard carrying a — I don’t recall now if it was wood or iron rod — and it was almost stereotypical, being patted into his hand like it was some B movie, gangster movie, if you will.

And the questions were posed to the detainee, interpreted. The detainee would answer, the answer was interpreted, and upon that interpretation, the interrogator would slap him across the face. For those who have read the report, they talk about in survival training, an “insult slap.” It’s very important to understand that those are affected in a very careful fashion, and to truly shock someone rather than hurt them. And this type of slap was much more forceful. The other difference is, it was being delivered systematically, and when I walked in, I asked how long it had been going on, and I was told “30 minutes.” So this individual had been slapped continuously while he was on his knees for 30 minutes.

This was in Iraq. What do you suppose happens in the CIA’s black prisons, where the interrogators know that whatever happens in their cells will never, ever be known to the outside world?

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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