Daily Sentinel parrots Bush denial of torture

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In an editorial, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction parroted President Bush's dubious claim regarding captured terror suspects that "[n]one of the interrogations involved physical torture." But the public record shows that, in a memorandum authorizing the CIA to use 20 coercive interrogation techniques, the Bush Justice Department had stated that "interrogation methods just short of those that might cause pain comparable to 'organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death' could be allowable without being considered torture," a definition it later disavowed.

In an editorial in its September 8 edition, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction parroted President Bush's dubious claim regarding captured terror suspects that "[n]one of the interrogations involved physical torture." The president made the claim during a televised September 6 address in which he disclosed the existence of secret CIA prisons for terrorism suspects and proposed legislation to try terrorism suspects in military tribunals. But in fact, the public record suggests that from August 2002 until June 2004 the CIA operated pursuant to an August 2002 Bush Justice Department memorandum that stated that "interrogation methods just short of those that might cause pain comparable to 'organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death' could be allowable without being considered torture." The memo authorized the CIA to employ 20 coercive interrogation techniques and later was withdrawn when the Justice Department disavowed this definition of torture.

The New York Times reported September 8 that "[a] review of public documents and interviews with American officials raises questions about Mr. Bush's claims ..." With regard to the use of physical torture, the Times noted that "the Bush administration has yet to make public the legal papers prepared by government lawyers that served as the basis for its determination that [interrogation procedures used on CIA prisoners] did not violate American or international law." As the Times reported, the August 2002 memo was repudiated by a December 30, 2004, Justice Department memo. The December 2004 memo noted that Bush had ordered the earlier memo withdrawn after it became public in June 2004. The new memo, which "supersedes [sic] the August 2002 Memorandum in its entirety," notes that "we disagree with statements in the August 2002 Memorandum limiting 'severe' pain under the [torture] statute to 'excruciating and agonizing' pain, id. at 19, or to pain 'equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,' id. at 1."

From the editorial "Congressional support due for Bush's anti-terror plan" in the September 8 edition of The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction:

Bush said this week that interrogations in overseas holding facilities might continue for the worst suspected terrorists. Other captured terrorists will be questioned, then tried, at known facilities such as Guantanamo Bay.

None of the interrogations involved physical torture. Even so, Bush has asked Congress to approve new guidelines that would essentially adopt prohibitions in the Geneva Conventions for interrogation techniques that involve "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

That vague language could make it more difficult for authorities to obtain the kind of information they have in the past. But Bush asked for it in an attempt to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision this June that rejected Bush's handling of some terrorist suspects.

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