A reader writes:

Menachem Begin was not, of course, the first person to undergo sleep deprivation. The inquisition used it as well, and considered the tormentum insomniae to be one of its most useful tools. And since torture was forbidden in England, when the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins went after the alleged witches in the 1640s, he had to make do with sleep deprivation. It worked well enough: people confessed to crimes they couldn't possibly commit, knowing the punishment was death - and accepting it for a few hours of undisturbed sleep.

Yep: it's enough to make you want to accept death if you can finally sleep. Sleep deprivation was, in fact, a routine form of judicial torture in the early modern period in Europe. It was also a critical part of the Rumsfeld-monitored torture of al-Qahtani in Gitmo. At the end of months of sleep deprivation and other forms of torture, Qahtani, according to an FBI letter,

"was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end)."

You can argue whether what was done to Qahtani was justified or not. But you cannot argue that it was not torture. And it was authorized directly by Donald Rumsfeld. You cannot argue against that either.

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