The NYT Finally Prints “Torture”

Here we have it in broad daylight: the New York Times' cowardice in the face of its own government. In an obit today, the editors manage to use the word "torture". It's in an obit. The obit runs:

Col. Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American fighter pilot who was routinely tortured in a Chinese prison during and after the Korean War, becoming — along with three other American airmen held at the same prison — a symbol and victim of cold war tension, died in Las Vegas on April 30. He was 83 and lived in Las Vegas. The cause was complications of back surgery, his son Kurt said.

From April 1953 through May 1955, Colonel Fischer — then an Air Force captain — was held at a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria. For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air.

After a short mock trial in Beijing on May 24, 1955, Captain Fischer and the other pilots — Lt. Col. Edwin L. Heller, First Lt. Lyle W. Cameron and First Lt. Roland W. Parks — were found guilty of violating Chinese territory by flying across the border while on missions over North Korea. Under duress, Captain Fischer had falsely confessed to participating in germ warfare.

You will notice how the NYT defines torture when it comes to foreign governments – isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation. Much milder than anything the US did to one of its own citizens, Jose Padilla. But the parallel is almost perfect: these are, after all, the exact Chinese Communist techniques that were reverse engineered from the SERE program. So you have a perfect demonstration of the NYT's double-standard. If Chinese do it to Americans, it's torture; if Americans do it to an American, it's "harsh interrogation." Does Jill Abramson really expect us to take this lying down?

You will also notice the quality of the intelligence procured through methods milder than the Bush administration's:

None Dare Call It Torture

Check out this NYT piece I read this morning. It’s about the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia and other well-documented torture techniques throughout the centuries, all clearly outside the Geneva Conventions, and all universally recognized and prosecuted as torture in the past. And what do you find? Scott Shane uses the following terms:

"harsh treatment"
"tough interrogation methods"
"coercive techniques"

The only use of the word "torture" is when detailing critics’ assertions or a specific legal accusation. Everywhere else, the NYT wimps out. Then there is this passage:

The deaths of several prisoners who had been questioned by C.I.A. officers or contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan — but outside the detention program for high-level Qaeda prisoners — have been referred to the Justice Department. Only one C.I.A. contractor, David A. Passaro, has been prosecuted, receiving an eight-year sentence for beating an Afghan man who later died. Still, investigations can impose a high price no matter how they end. “It’s not just the fear of going to jail,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “It’s the enormous expense of hiring lawyers. It’s seeing your reputation destroyed. It’s losing your career.”

Again: "beating an Afghan man who later died." Here is the reality:

According to the prosecutors, Wali, while chained to the floor and wall of a cell, was tortured and beaten by Passaro on the arms, wrists, knees and abdomen using a metal flashlight, closed fist and shod foot. Passaro also, on at least one occasion, kicked Wali in the groin." According to Reuters, prosecutors also claimed Passaro kicked Wali so hard that the detainee was lifted off the ground and probably fractured his pelvis, making it impossible for him to urinate.

Here we have a case in which a CIA contractor tortured a man to death – and the sympathy is supposed to be primarily for those who may have to deal with legal bills!

Charlie, Blasphemer

[Re-posted from earlier today]   You can probably tell I’ve been really sick because I couldn’t manage to write about the Charlie Hebdo Jihadist mass murder. Now that the immediate crisis is past and my fevers are back under some control, some thoughts. I was actually surprised and gladdened by the response to the slaughter … Continue reading Charlie, Blasphemer


Also important from NYT announcement: "reporters urged that The Times recalibrate its language." Thank you NYT reporters. — emptywheel (@emptywheel) August 7, 2014 The NYT will, from now on, use the English language to describe the torture that the CIA inflicted on terror suspects. There was never any justification for the euphemisms but cowardice in … Continue reading Victory!

Live-Blogging SCOTUS’ ACA Ruling: Broccoli Wins!


[Re-posted from earlier today. Extensive coverage after the jump.]

1.12 pm. Normal blogging will resume shortly. My take on this morning's drama: for millions of people, this will mean one thing. They will have an opportunity to purchase healthcare that would otherwise be denied them because of a pre-existing condition or simply lack of means to buy it. This has been done through the private health insurance sector along lines many Republicans were proud of until very recently. And this is a good thing.

The fact that there is no constitutional issue in doing this federally, as opposed to by the states, also removes Mitt Romney's only argument in defense of his own almost identical law in Massachusetts. And so the GOP candidate will be running against his own record in his own state on no rational grounds whatever. And against a Chief Justice appointed by George W. Bush.

But that matters less to me than that someone in America who once had to suffer in silence may now get some help to tackle her health issues. For me, that's a moral principle. Much more needs to be done, specifically in restraining healthcare costs and reforming Medicare. But the core beginning of this process will be getting everyone in the same boat. That now seems unstoppable. So Obama's first term remains historic. And his re-election to cement this change essential.