On Torture, Theory Versus Practice

I'd like to point you to this article by the American Prospect's Adam Serwer, who compared the strictures placed on interrogations in the OLC memos with the practices described by the detainees in the International Committee of the Red Cross report. I am sympathetic -- or, at least, I am cognizant of the view that the detainees who described their conditions and experiences to the Red Cross might not be the most honest, most reliable witnesses. But the scope of the ICRC report, the cross-correlated evidence, the similarities of accounts between prisoners -- I believe that these will convince historians that the ICRC report fairly accurately describes the milieu of American torture, circa 2002-2009. Here's an excerpt from Serwer's account:

The Bybee memo also describes a procedure known as "walling." The detainee wears a thick collar, which the interrogator uses to throw him against a "flexible wall." This "false wall" is meant to be constructed in such a way that impact creates a loud sound. Bybee wrote, "The idea is to create a sound that will make the impact seem far worse than it is and will be far worse than any injury inflicted on an individual." In Bybee's description, the detainee's shoulder blades are meant to hit the wall, implying that the detainee's back is to the wall.

In practice though, the ICRC report indicates that Zubayda was slammed "directly against a hard concrete wall." Another detainee, Walid Bin Attash, said that he was not only slammed against the walls of his interrogation room but that he was led along the corridor by his collar and slammed against the wall as he went. Another detainee said his head was slammed against a pillar repeatedly. One of the other memos released yesterday, written in May 2005 by Steven G. Bradbury, who was then head of the OLC, indicates that "walling" could be used "20 or thirty times consecutively when the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question."