Right Out of 1984

August 14, 2007 at 3:56 pm | Posted in 1984, American politics, Bush Administration, Jose Padilla, Torture | Leave a comment

O’Brien would have been proud of our US military today. Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, on the justification for the permanent detention of one Jose Padilla (and the rest of those detainees outside the bounds of the Constitution).

Developing the kind of relationship of trust and dependency necessary for effective interrogations is a process that can take a significant amount of time. There are numerous examples of situations where interrogators have been unable to obtain valuable intelligence from a subject until months, or even years, after the interrogation process began.

Anything that threatens the perceived dependency and trust between the subject and interrogator directly threatens the value of interrogation as an intelligence-gathering tool. Even seemingly minor interruptions can have profound psychological impacts on the delicate subject-interrogator relationship. Any insertion of counsel into the subject-interrogator relationship, for example — even if only for a limited duration or for a specific purpose — can undo months of work and may permanently shut down the interrogation process. Therefore, it is critical to minimize external influences on the interrogation process.


Permitting Padilla any access to counsel may substantially harm our national security interests. As with most detainees, Padilla is unlikely to cooperate if he believes that an attorney will intercede in his detention. DIA’s assessment is that Padilla is even more inclined to resist interrogation than most detainees. DIA is aware that Padilla has had extensive experience in the United States criminal justice system and had access to counsel when he was being held as a material witness. These experiences have likely heightened his expectations that counsel will assist him in the interrogation process. Only after such as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla.

Because Padilla is likely more attuned to the possibility of counsel intervention than most detainees, I believe that any potential sign of counsel involvement would disrupt our ability to gather intelligence from Padilla. Padilla has been detained without access to counsel for seven months — since the [Department of Defense] took control of him on 9 June 2002. Providing him access to counsel now would create expectations by Padilla that his ultimate release may be obtained through an adversarial civil litigation process. This would break — probably irreparably – the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.

At a minimum, Padilla might delay providing information until he believes that his judicial avenues have been exhausted. Given the nature of his case, his prior experience in the criminal justice system, and the length of that has already elapsed since his detention, Padilla might reasonably expect that his judicial avenues of relief may not be exhausted for many months or years. Moreover, Padilla might harbor the belief that his counsel would be available to assist him at any point and that seven months is not an unprecedented for him to be without access to counsel.

Any such delay in Padilla’s case risks that plans for future attacks will go undetected during that period, and that whatever information Padilla may eventually provide will be outdated and more difficult to corroborate.

Here are the summaries of the later chapters of 1984 for comparison:


Chapter 2
Winston’s torture starts in real earnest and is presided over by O’Brien himself. At first it is sheer brutal physical torture, incessant blows all over, reducing him to a cowering animal confessing to anything and everything, implicating everybody if only the pain would stop. Then the guards are replaced by the intellectuals of the Party who inflict subtler kinds of pain and reduce him to an abject cringing wreck crying from sheer humiliation and exhaustion. In between, he is administered frequent drug injections which sometimes increase his pain and sometimes knock him out completely. In the last stage, O’Brien takes over personally, with Winston connected to an electric dial by means of which O’Brien can impose any degree of pain he wishes.
O’Brien tells Winston that he is there to be cured of his mental fallacies. He combines the relentless logic of doublethink and the administration of pain till Winston is reduced o saying that four fingers are actually five. O’Brien points out that unlike the persecutors of the old Regimes, Nazism or the inquisition, they did not stop with extorting forced confessions, they break men till they actually become what they are tortured into being. Even the three leaders Winston had once admired – Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford had been broken by the same method till they had been completely broken. He tells Winston that there is no escape, even if they allow him to live, there would be no capacity left in him to be a full human being again, and posterity will not vindicate him as posterity will not even hear of him.
Finally, O’Brien invites Winston to ask any questions he wants to. Winston asks about Julia and is told that she betrayed him totally and completely. He asks if Big Brother exists and is told that as the party says Big Brother exists then he exists. He asks about the Brotherhood and is told that that was something he would never know, even if he lives to be ninety it would be an unsolved mystery for him. Then Winston nerves himself to ask the last question “What is in Room 101?” O’Brien’s mocking answer is that everyone KNOWS what is in Room 101.


Chapter 3
In the next stage of his “education” Winston is told plainly by O’Brien that the Party wants power for its own sake. There are no lies now, the Party is not promising Utopia. The aim is to dehumanize the human race, to obliterate every emotion and instinct except loyalty to the Party. And Winston, as much as anyone else would come to accept this not just as inevitable, but desirable.
Winston puts up a feeble resistance even now. He says that finally, in the last instance the human spirit would overthrow the regime O’Brien was describing. O’Brien mockingly asks him if he considers himself a man. When he says that he does, he is told to look at himself in a mirror and he sees a rotting, emaciated stinking body. That, O’Brien tells him is the last remnant of humanity. It cannot survive. The symbol of the future, O’Brien says is a boot permanently stamping on the human face. He then tells Winston that they have broken his mind as badly as they have shattered his body and asks him if there is any degradation or humiliation that he has not been reduced to. As his last stand Winston claims that he has despite everything not betrayed Julia. O’Brien immediately understands what he means by this – he has revealed all of their secrets, but in the sense of not ceasing to love her, Winston had not betrayed Julia. That, then was the final stage he had to be reduced to.


Chapter 4
Winston was still in solitary confinement, but he was not tortured now. He was fed at regular intervals, he was even given cigarettes. At first he was content to lie free from pain, that in itself was bliss. Slowly as his physical health improved, he retreated into a dream world with the faces changing – his mother, O’Brien, Julia, it was all the same now. He was provided with a slate and pencil, slowly he set about educating himself in the way the Party wanted. He wrote the Party slogans on the slate and made himself believe them. He convinced himself that two and two was five, he acquired, laboriously the stupidity required to do that. Ha managed to convince himself that he had never seen the photograph confirming the innocence of the three executed leaders. He remembered seeing it, but that was an aberration.
On the whole, he was making excellent “progress” when one day he suddenly woke up from a dream crying out “Julia, my love.” His feelings, he realized were unchanged. He had surrendered his mind, but he still hoped to retain his heart. He clung to one last shred of hope, that in his heart he could continue to hate the Party, disguise that hatred even from himself and release it into consciousness only at the moment of his execution. Thus the Party would be unable to destroy his hatred and he would score a small victory by dying with his hatred inviolate.
However, O’Brien anticipated this as he did ever other thought of Winston’s. Entering the cell he tells Winston that intellectually he has made good progress but emotionally the final step remained to be taken. He then asks Winston about his true feelings towards Big Brother. Recognizing the futility of lying, Winston confesses “I hate him.” O’Brien now passes judgment, it is not enough to obey Big Brother, one must also love him. He then utters the dreaded words “Room 101.”


Chapter 5
Winston is confined in Room101, strapped to a chair in a way which rendered him completely immobile. In front of him were two tables on which stood two covered wire cages. O’Brien was holding a lever which would operate the cages. Impassively, O’Brien explains that what Room 101 contains is quite simply, “the worst thing in the world.” This varies from individual to individual. For some it may be torture, fire for some one else, drowning for yet others. For each individual, Room 101 held his greatest fear. When confronted with that, courage and cowardice lose their meaning, one will do whatever one has to do to avoid the horror in Room 101 as naturally and automatically as one will grab at a rope to keep from falling.
In Winston’s case, his greatest fear, his worst nightmare was rats and it was rats there were there in the cages in front of him. O’Brien informs him that he is going to open the cages and set the rats onto him. The rats are starving, they will sense Winston’s helplessness and devour him inch by inch. Winston cries out in terror asking O’Brien to only tell him what he has to do to avoid this. O’Brien vouchsafes no answer and lays his hand on the lever which would open the cages. In a total frenzy Winston sees the rats behind the bar and with a sudden flash of intuition realizes what he has to do to save himself. He has to take the final step of degradation, he has to betray Julia. It is no longer a matter of choice, before this threat, he is helpless. He cries out “Do it to Julia! Not me!” Repeating that cry he is aware that the lever has clicked back into place, the cage is closed. His degradation is finally completed in Room 101.

What is the relationship of the benefits of employing these techniques to the costs incurred upon using them? How does using these techniques reflect on America’s image, and more importantly on America’s credibility as an honest broker of justice? Is “security for all” really the overriding priority in life? Does that not, in fact, coincide with Satan’s plan, to save all, whatever the cost? Who still thinks any of this is right?

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