Not in MY name! A collection of quotes on the past, present, and future of the practice of torture / Selected and arranged by Ella Mazel


Detailed Table of Contents


1. What is torture?

2. The more things change ...

3. The purpose of torture

4. The "rules" of torture

5. The techniques of interrogation

6. Can torture ever be justified?

7. What about terrorism?

8. Secrecy and public relations

9. Does torture get results?

10. The torturers

11. The victims

12. Human rights

Index of sources

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8. Secrecy and public relations

The form of trial used by the Holy Inquisition made a farce of justice. The accused were arrested in secret, and the proceedings, which were in the highest degree arbitrary, were held in secret.
John Swain, The Pleasures of the Torture Chamber, 1931

The long tradition

The Inquisition shrouded itself in the awful mystery of secrecy. . . . All knowledge of what took place . . . was confined to the few discreet men . . . who were sworn to inviolable silence. . . . Released from all the restraint of publicity and unrestricted by the formalities of law, the procedure of the Inquisition . . . was purely arbitrary.

Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 1887

The political idealism of the [French] Enlightenment did not abolish torture, but it removed the stamp of legitimacy it had hitherto enjoyed. From that time forth, torture has been a backroom practice with no role to play as a legitimate mode of criminal procedure.

Irving R. Kaufman, "A Legal Remedy for International Torture?" NY Times Magazine, 11/9/1980

Throughout [South Africa] . . . in every prison where detainees are held . . . magistrates . . . have entered into the conspiracy to permit, and then to conceal, acts of torture. "This law [90 days] is a mighty weapon in our hands," boasted a security policeman. . . . A Johannesburg magistrate refused to allow counsel for the accused in a sabotage case to produce affidavits relating to their torture under 90-day detention, on the grounds that the affidavits might be used by certain people "to create a sensation."

Hilda Bernstein, "Torture in the apartheid state," National Guardian, 12/26/1964

Secrecy is the first impulse of bureaucrats seeking to avoid controversy and to manage public perceptions. Invoking national security provides a formidable barrier to inquisitive reporters and ordinary citizens. Classifying inconvenient facts is an understandable temptation, but one that is poisonous to democratic institutions.

Steven Aftergood, "Torture and Secrecy," In These Times, 6/21/2004

In a democracy governed by the rule of law, we should never want our soldiers or our president to take any action that we deem wrong or illegal. A good test . . . is whether we are prepared to have it disclosed -- perhaps not immediately, but certainly after some time has passed.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

Behind the exotic brutality so painstakingly recorded in Abu Ghraib, and the multiple tangled plotlines that will be teased out in the coming weeks and months about responsibility, knowledge, and culpability, lies a simple truth, well known but not yet publicly admitted in Washington: that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, officials of the United States, at various locations around the world . . . have been torturing prisoners.

Mark Danner, "The Logic of Torture," The New York Review of Books, 6/24/2004

The White House was so determined to suspend the normal rights and processes for the hundreds of men captured in Afghanistan -- none of them important members of Al Qaeda and most of them no threat at all -- that it hid the details from Secretary of State Colin Powell and never bothered to consult Congress. . . . This happened in secret, at the same time that administration officials were testifying . . . about the president's allegiance to the Geneva Conventions and to American constitutional values.

Editorial, "Abu Ghraib, Unresolved," NY Times, 10/28/2004

What is . . . dismaying is the way in which the administration has taken every opportunity since Sept. 11, 2001, to utilize the lofty language of freedom, democracy and the rule of law while secretly pursuing policies that are both unjust and profoundly inhumane. . . . It may be that most Americans would prefer not to know about these practices, which are nothing less than malignant cells that are already spreading in the nation's soul. Denial is often the first response to the most painful realities. But most Americans also know what happens when a cancer is ignored.

Bob Herbert, "Iraq, Then And Now," NY Times Op Ed, 2/21/2005

While it is not clear whether intensified intelligence gathering led to mistreatment of prisoners . . . the loosening of rules after Mr. Hussein's capture adds a new element to the evolving picture of abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. It also shows the role of a previously unreported military intelligence unit at the prison . . . which was assembled to interrogate Mr. Hussein's loyalists.

Andrea Elliott, "Capture of Huseein Aides Spurred U.S. Interrogators," NY Times, 7/3/2004

When photos leak

If the Vietcong cruelly employs terror, South Vietnamese troops have behaved brutally, too. Anyone who has spent much time with Government units in the field has seen the heads of prisoners held under water and bayonet blades pressed against their throats. Photographs of such incidents were common until the Government decided the publicity was not improving Saigon's public relations.

William Tuohy, "A Big 'Dirty Little War'," NY Times Magazine, 11/28/1965

The snapshots, entered as exhibits in court-martial proceedings, show Canadian soldiers at a desert outpost in Somalia posing with a blindfolded, bruised and bloodied Somali teen-ager, who was tortured until he died a few hours later.. . . The allegations have come chiefly from . . . a military doctor . . . who said unidentified senior military officers ordered the destruction of photographs and other evidence in April 1993.

Clyde H. Farnsworth, "Torture by Army Peacekeepers in Somalia Shocks Canada," NY Times, 11/27/1994

SENATOR BYRD: . . . the president and his advisers are only now publicly condemning the prisoner abuses in Iraq when apparently the Defense Department had known about them for months. . . . Why did it take the televised broadcast of graphic photos of prisoner abuse, a broadcast General Myers has acknowledged he tried to suppress, to galvanize the leadership of the Defense Department to express its outrage over the situation? Why was a report that described sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses by Amerian soldiers left to languish on a shelf in the Pentagon unread by the top leadership until the media revealed it to the world? . . .

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The story was broken by the Central Command, by the United States Department of Defense, in Baghdad. . . . in January . . . What was not known is that a classified report with photographs would be given to the press before it arrived at the Pentagon. . . .

BYRD: Have you read the . . .

RUMSFELD: The report . . . is sitting over -- right there on the floor. And it is, I don't know -- what? -- two feet high. There is a . . .

BYRD: Did you read it?

RUMSFELD: I read the executive summary, which is 50 to 75 pages, and I looked at some of the annexes and appendices and references. I had been briefed on it in full and as have the people at this table. And you can be certain of that.

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq prisoners, as transcribed by eMediaMillWorks Inc., 5/7/2004

Leakers are often accused of being partisan, and undoubtedly many of them are. But the measure of their patriotism should be the accuracy and the importance of the information they reveal. . . . Information should never be classified as secret merely because it is embarrassing or incriminating. But in practice . . . no information is guarded more closely.

Daniel Ellsberg, "Truths Worth Telling: Sometimes, leaking is the highest form of patriotism," NY Times Op Ed, 9/28/2004

Ours is a government of laws, laws duly promulgated and laws duly observed. . . . No one is above the law: not the executive, not the Congress, not the judiciary. . . . If the documents are more of an embarrassment than a secret, the public should know of our government's treatment of individuals captured and held abroad.

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, quoted in press release, American Civil Liberties Union, 9/15/2004

Extraordinary rendition

To much of the world, America looks like a place where top officials condone and possibly order the torture of innocent people, and suffer no consequences. What we need is an effort to regain our good name. What we're getting instead is a provision . . . in the intelligence reform bill, to legalize "extraordinary rendition" -- a euphemism for sending terrorism suspects to countries that use torture for interrogation. . . . Just what we need to convince other countries of our commitment to the rule of law.

Paul Krugman, "America's Lost Respect," NY Times Op Ed, 10/1/2004

"Extraordinary rendition" . . . one of the great euphemisms of our time . . . is the name that's been given to the policy of seizing individuals without even the semblance of due process and sending them off to be interrogated by regimes known to practice torture. In terms of bad behavior, it stands side by side with contract killings. . . . How in the world did we become a country is which gays' getting married is considered an abomination, but torture is O.K.?

Bob Herbert, "Torture, American Style," NY Times Op Ed, 2/11/2005

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