Hint: the ticking time-bomb exception, and the need for better intelligence about an insurgency - the same defense as the GOP establishment has used for exactly the same techniques - hypothermia, stress positions, sensory deprivation, etc. - in the US and Iraq. The terms and specific methods used are the same for the Gestapo's "Verschaerfte Vernehmung," "Third Degree," and Bush's "enhanced interrogation." Of course, we also learn from the documents that

The GESTAPO in general believed that other methods of interrogation, such as playing off political factions against each other, were much more effective than third degree methods.

So Bush has more faith in torture than the Gestapo did. A reader writes:

I read with great interest your 19 May post about the Gestapo directive concerning "enhanced interrogation techniques". I gather that you found the document through a 1948 Norway trial. However, the same directive seems to have also been in evidence at Nuremberg (though there the Tribunal apparently translated the term as "the Third Degree"). At Nuremberg it was used as part of the case against the Gestapo in seeking to have the Gestapo declared to be a criminal organization by the Tribunal.

Interestingly, a report was filed in the Nuremberg proceedings in which a Colonel Neave, acting under Commission from the Tribunal, reported the evidence of witnesses for the defense of the organizations. It is this report that draws the direct line back to the "ticking bomb exception".

The passage that sets out the Gestapo's defense of the "Third Degree" measures and authorization is as follows (pp. 55-56):


BEST said that he preferred to describe the so-called "third degree interrogations" as "severe interrogations". He did not hear of the decree which authorized this type of interrogation until sometime after it had been issued and he had once told HEYDRICH his scruples concerning it. HEYDRICH informed him that the measure had been approved by very high authority and similar methods were used in other countries.

HEYDRICH told him that he reserved for himself the final approval of such measures in Germany and he would see to it that they were applied only in the most urgent cases. BEST was shown Document PS-1531, US-248 which enumerated the severities of third degree interrogations. He remarked that the specified punishments in this document went further than the measures permitted by the German police. His office took disciplinary action against members of the GESTAPO and criminal police who committed excesses. He was, therefore, able to check whether the methods of interrogation employed were kept within reasonable limits. Offenses were punished by normal disciplinary measures and through the ordinary courts.

In cross-examination BEST was shown a document which stated that the commander of the security police and SD was authorized to use third degree in Kracow. He said it was his impression that this type of interrogation was adopted in order to discover the underground movements in Poland, which had come into being at that time.

Describing the use of third degree methods in Denmark, the witness HOFFMANN reiterated that third degree methods were based on a legal decree which authorized them. Disciplinary action was always taken against those concerned with excesses. In general, third degree was applied only when the saving of German lives required it. In this connection he instanced the use of such methods in order to find the whereabouts of arms and explosives belonging to the underground movement. The GESTAPO in general believed that other methods of interrogation, such as playing off political factions against each other, were much more effective than third degree methods. Third degree methods had to be approved by his head office and approximately 20 were allowed for Copenhagen (see reference to the case of Colonel TIMROTH).

The Nazis failed in their defense. Bush has so far succeeded in exactly the same argument. But in the past, America was a bulwark against torture, rather than its enabler and defender.