Technology with attitude

An Army Interrogator Speaks

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I’m against torture, but not against interrogation. However, what’s considered interrogation anymore by our government is, yes, torture. But right now in the American consciousness it’s simply a means to an end. We’ve been so seduced by ticking-bomb scenarios from our politicians and television (ahem, 24!), that we forget what real interrogation is (merely asking questions) and how SIGNIFICANTLY different it is from torture. We also forget how torture deeply and profoundly affects people for the rest of their lives, even if you’re not getting your fingernails torn off. And the affect happens to those on both sides of the room, both the tortured and the torturer.

What’s even worse is we’re talking mostly about completely innocent people. You only have to look several posts down from this one to learn about Khaled El-Masri who was taken unjustly, tortured in a foreign country and subsequently released because our government had made a mistake. What’s more is that US courts won’t even hear his case because the CIA’s techniques are secret! This is the reality we find ourselves in.

So it’s in this unjust, unAmerican climate that I turn to new article in the Chicago Reader. It’s about a guy named Tony Lagouranis who interrogated, and yes, tortured people at Abu Ghraib

Lagouranis says he once interrogated four brothers who’d been arrested during a general search because soldiers had found a pole in their house that they’d argued could be used for sighting targets for mortars. The brothers, interrogated separately by Lagouranis, contended they used it to measure the depth of water in a canal, and there was nothing incriminating in the house. Though he was convinced they were telling the truth, his superiors would not release the men. A man arrested because he had a cell phone and a shovel met a similar fate. The army contended the shovel could be used to plant an IED and the cell phone could be used to help set it off, and though Lagouranis bought his explanation, nothing he said shook that belief. The army wanted to be able to boast about the number of terrorists apprehended, and the four brothers with the striped stick, the two who ran the aid station at the potato factory, and the man with the shovel were close enough.

The vast majority of the men and women in Lagouranis’s MI brigade remained at Abu Ghraib and a nearby base for their entire tour, and at the end of that year they published an intelligence report he says was full of empty claims. “It was like, ‘The top ten detainees and what we got out of them,’ � Lagouranis says. “It was all bullshit. And that’s for an entire year of interrogating thousands of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They got nothing out of that place. That’s not just my assessment�you can talk to anybody I worked with over there. The main reason for that is because 90 or 95 percent of the people we got had nothing to do with the insurgency. And if they did we didn’t have any good evidence on them. And the detainees knew that and they knew they didn’t have to talk to us.� A February 2004 Red Cross report based on the estimates of coalition intelligence officers said that 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners were innocent.

“I got nothing in Iraq,� says Lagouranis. “Zero.�

What Lagouranis did get was some severe emotional trauma from torturing people. You see, it’s not just the tortured who emerge with scars from all this. You can read more about Lagouranis’ problems in the story.

However, again, just because the military claims that their current techniques do not cause any physical or emotional harm, does not mean it’s true…

Asked what she might expect to see in a man who’d been held in a shipping container, his vision obscured, bombarded with strobe lighting and loud music, deprived of sleep, exposed to hypothermia, and threatened by a large dog, Rosa Garcia-Peltoniemi, senior consulting clinician for the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, said she wouldn’t be surprised if the man suffered severe physical and psychological damage for the rest of his life.

People, I love my country, but I absolutely hate these policies. They hurt so many for so very little. But what to do?