Jay Bybee, Mormon, Advocated Sleep Deprivation, and Medical Personnel To Assist

April 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Posted in American politics | 1 Comment

These are things to be angry at. A Mormon lawyer (now a judge in the 9th Circuit), argued the following in the newly released torture memos:

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.

1. The purpose of using sleep deprivation is supposedly to “reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet,” and to supposedly “motivate him to cooperate.”

2. Sleep deprivation’s effects remit after a couple nights worth of sleep (which they don’t really).

3. Depriving someone of sleep could induce “abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation.” But hey,

4. “personnel with medical training are available” to make sure the person doesn’t die.

5. They wanted to deprive Zubaydah of ELEVEN DAYS of sleep (which they most likely attempted, because after all, no “mental or physical harm resulted” from 72 hours of lack of sleep).

Of course those who researched sleep deprivation forgot to research how those who were deprived of sleep tended quite frequently and consistently to tell their captors exactly what they thought their captors wanted to hear, just so they could get that sleep they so badly longed. That’s because the purpose of using sleep deprivation was never to extract actionable intelligence but TO GET FALSE CONFESSIONS!

It is really sad that Jay Bybee, a Mormon, would write such crap. He studied at BYU. He went on a mission. He knows the Gospel. He ought to know right from wrong. It makes it much harder for someone like me to identify myself with Mormons when Mormons have so strongly supported torture. Torture is EVIL. It is NOT of God. We are taught in the Mormon church to seek after good things, and to avoid the bad. Why would a Mormon advocate for torture? Why would a Mormon who believed that God was on his side, would ever think he needed to stoop to that level, the level of our previous enemies?


Five worthy posts on these memos. More to come, I’m sure.

Spencer Ackerman, who quotes Jay Bybee:

… you [the CIA] have informed us [the Office of Legal Counsel] that he [Abu Zubaydah] would spend at most two hours in this box. You have informed us that your purpose in using these boxes is not to interfere with his senses or his personality, but to cause him physical discomfort that will encourage him to disclose critical information. Moreover, your imposition of time limitations on either of the boxes indicates that the use of the boxes is not designed or calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality. For the larger box, in which he can both stand and sit, he may be placed in this box for up to eighteen hours at a time, while you have informed us that he will never spend more than an hour at a time in the smaller box. These time limits further ensure that no profound disruption of the senses or personality, were it even possible, would result….

[Y]ou would also like to introduce an insect into one of the boxes with Zubaydah. As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar. If you do so, to ensure you are outside the predicate death requirement, you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain. If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so, you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death.

Anonymous Liberal, noting:

I wish I had more time to write about the truly revolting Bush administration torture memos that were released today. They really need to be required reading for everyone. I think the line that probably sums them up best is on page 11 of the Bybee memo, where he casually observes that “[t]he waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.”

With that wonderful bit of “analysis,” our government lawyers concluded that the most iconic example of torture in human history–a technique that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, if not earlier–was not in fact torture. That’s like writing a memo concluding that forced sexual intercourse doesn’t constitute rape so long as you make it quick.

hilzoy, noting an obvious comparison to 1984.

Glenn Greenwald, who has pressed on this issue tirelessly.

Jeff Toobin noting that Jay Bybee keeps a low profile (guilty conscience mayhap?)

The author of the memo, which is dated August 1, 2002, is Jay S. Bybee, who was the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Bybee concludes that all of these various techniques, including waterboarding, do not constitute torture under American or international law.

Bybee is generally the forgotten man in torture studies of the Bush era. The best known of the legal architects of the torture regime is John Yoo, who was a deputy to Bybee. For better or worse, Yoo has been a vocal defender of the various torture policies, and he remains outspoken on these issues. But whatever happened to his bossë/p>

Today, Bybee is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2003—some time before any of the “torture memos” became public. He has never answered questions about them, has never had to defend his conduct, has never endured anywhere near the amount of public scrutiny (and abuse) as Yoo. It is an understatement to say that he has kept a low profile since becoming a judge.

It’s a lesson in the vagaries of politics, and timing, that Bybee could slip through the cracks of this story so easily.

Frankly, Jay Bybee ought to be tried for war crimes. Same goes with John Yoo. Same goes with David Addington. Same goes with Stephen Bradbury. These are the men who justified torture. These are the men who told CIA operatives that the torture they were going to perform on detainees was not going to get them into legal trouble, when really, it was. They need to be punished for their crimes if we are to ever get closure on this terrible moment in our nation’s history.


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  1. Jay Bybee should be excommunicated from the Mormon Church. He is a scumbag. But the mormon church will probably give him an Award For Excellence or something. They are opposed to Gay Marriage, which builds families, but it is okay to kill, maim, and torture because Jesus said to ignore what Caesar does.

    When I used to attend the DC Ward, Bybee’s fiancee broke up with him because he abandoned her when his car broke down on the beltway near Fairfax, VA. He has always been a very successful loser. May he rot in hell.

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