SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
As a result of Congressional demands, the Pentagon’s inspector general took a look at the way the Pentagon investigated mistreatment of detainees in its custody. The study was completed on August 25, 2006 and was classified “secret.” It has now been declassified and is available online.
This document is revealing on a number of points, but little about it is quite so revealing as how national security classifications have been wielded. There is a consistent pattern, namely passages have been classified either to avoid political embarrassment or to avoid documentation of official sanctioning of torture. Indeed, the major rationale for security classification is apparent enough: to insure that the document would not become public during the last weeks of a highly charged national election campaign.
Here are some key conclusions:
“Allegations of detainee abuse were not consistently reported,
investigated, or managed in an effective, systematic, and timely
“Reports of detainee abuse by special mission unit task force personnel
dated back to June 2003, but we believe it took the publicized abuse at
Abu Ghraib [in spring 2004]… to elevate the issue to the Flag Officer
“There are many well-documented reasons why detention and interrogation
operations were overwhelmed [including] … inconsistent training; a
critical shortage of skilled interrogators, translators, and guard
force personnel; and the external influence of special operations
forces and OGAs ["other government agencies," namely, the CIA].”
As is usually the case with Pentagon reports, the most interesting thing about this is what has not been considered. That would, of course, be the relationship between Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie to the process of abusing detainees. By commissioning not one, but more than a dozen separate inquiries, and by narrowly delimiting each investigation, Rumsfeld used his consummate diplomatic skills to avoid a comprehensive study of the problem and to avoid attracting any attention to himself. The other major tool he wielded was the security classification process, as investigators were repeatedly told that materials they sought were classified and were unavailable to them–particularly when the materials related to torture. Finally, as we see in this report, the Office of Secretary of Defense repeatedly intervened in the editorial process of the reports, pushing to neuter the executive summaries and conclusions.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average amount of time a child spends in Santa Claus’s lap at Macy’s (in seconds):
Beer does not cause beer bellies.
Following the arrest of at least 10 clowns in Kentucky and Alabama, Tennesseans were warned that clowns could be “predators” and Pennsylvanians were advised not to interact with what one police chief described as “knuckleheads with clown-like clothes on.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”