Report: 98 Detainees Died in U.S Custody

Via Raw Story, a human rights researcher says 98 detainees died in U.S. custody. Of them, he says 34 deaths were labeled homicides, and between 8 and 12 were tortured to death.

The researcher, John Sifton, worked for five years for Human Rights Watch. In a posting Tuesday, he documents myriad cases of detainees who died at the hands of their US interrogators. Some of the instances he cites are graphic.

Sifton's article on his report is at Daily Beast. It's based on a 2006 Human Rights First report and follow-up investigations. Sifton says: [More...]

A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.

Sifton's 2005 report for HRW on torture deaths is here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The evidence of the crime (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 06, 2009 at 11:46:04 AM EST

    Unbelievably... (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by desertswine on Wed May 06, 2009 at 11:53:45 AM EST
    it's even worse than I thought. And I knew it was bad.

    It's worse than I thought too (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Wed May 06, 2009 at 11:55:58 AM EST
    More tortured to death than I had figured, like I can read minds for their secrets :)  I tried though.  I suppose we all did because the whole thing is so disturbing and but for the grace of whatever God there go I.

    The number is lower than I thought. (none / 0) (#19)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed May 06, 2009 at 05:40:55 PM EST
    Given the pictures from Abu Gharib and the number of black sites that were reported, it occured to me that there may be many hundreds or even thousands who have been effectively "disappeared".

    The key was that they kept these activities off of American soil and I always suspected that that was done more as a way of keeping secrets than as a way of avoiding US law as they claimed (which was bad enough in and of itself).


    One thing I know about many of the (none / 0) (#38)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 10, 2009 at 01:41:51 PM EST
    Abu Ghraib photos is that military intelligence took a lot of photos of naked Iraqis to use as a form of blackmailing "information" out of them.  There is nothing more shaming in the Muslim world than a distributed photo of yourself nude.  The photos of the young female soldier who was not England with her thumb up next to the dead Iraqi......that was a photo taken to be used to show you what could happen to you.....and an American woman in it rejoicing in photographs was an extra insult to your possible death.  I do believe though that the dead man in those photos was the man that was tortured to death at Al Asad.  When they killed him the word got out about that quickly and it raised a nasty stink (which caused me to think the number of those tortured to death would be lower when we found out the truth) in which my husband's commander at that time went on record saying that the man's death was A-Okay.  What his body ended up doing at Abu Ghraib.......heaven only knows.  They had it on ice there.

    Four Years Later (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by CDN Ctzn on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:28:34 PM EST
    and still no investigations, only denials, along with all the crap about "Enhanced Interrogation", and a policy of "Let the past be the past..."
    This story, along with the news of our military killing 100 civilians in a bombing raid in Afghanistan sickens me.
    How low can we sink?

    How can this be my country? (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by ruffian on Wed May 06, 2009 at 02:28:37 PM EST
    I'm just so sad right now.

    The juxtaposition of this report (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Anne on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:57:25 PM EST
    with the DOJ Inspector General's report that is expected to be released sometime this summer, and which will - if what is currently being leaked is true - only recommend the referral of Bybee and Yoo to their state bar associations, could not be more jarring or more incomprehensible.

    Or sickening.

    The IG's report was the first topic on Washington Journal this morning, with Democrats and Independents almost universally expressing the opinion that state bar referrals and no prosecutions were not enough consequence for the severity of what transpired; Republicans called in to remind us that (1) there had been no attacks since 9/11, so what Bush did worked, (2) if we were training our own forces in how to resist the same techniques we were using on detainees, it couldn't possibly be torture and (3) even if it was, it was all done by patriots who had our safety as their highest priority.

    Perhaps the revelations from the Human Rights Watch report, together with the photos due to be released at the end of this month, will help people realize just how despicable the torture advocates were, that their actions in devising a policy of, providing legal opinions in support of, and overseeing the implementation of, torture were criminal, and that the DOJ's slap-on-the-wrist recommendations are an insult to the intelligence and humanity of American citizens.

    I don't see how Holder can pass on this, or how Obama can not show some leadership on this, but no one who could do anything has shown any signs of paying any attention to what I think, so there you have it.

    Leadership? Obama? (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by lentinel on Wed May 06, 2009 at 04:57:26 PM EST
    Don't hold your breath.

    And - speaking of that...

    I can't believe I am still seeing that crap about "training" to resist these "techniques". Supposing someone learned how to hold their breath for 10 minutes - which is I believe the world's record - what are they gonna do at the 11 or 12 minute mark while their head is in the tub?

    If Holder does pass on this, and Obama continues to talk about looking forward, they will become as close as one can be to co-conspirators in my opinion.

    Ford gave the same BS reason for letting Nixon off the hook.
    It would be a "distraction" to prosecute. To let Nixon off was so that we could "heal" and move on. So we moved on to Bush.


    What's the distinction between "tortured to (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by No Blood for Hubris on Wed May 06, 2009 at 08:20:47 PM EST
    death"  and "victim of homicide," exactly?

    Maybe one is (none / 0) (#29)
    by Anne on Wed May 06, 2009 at 08:31:39 PM EST
    killing in the search for information and the other is killing for sport.

    Not a lot of detail in this report (none / 0) (#5)
    by Slado on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:40:33 PM EST
    I highly doubt 98 is a good number just like 183 was not a good number.

    I'll take the position of presuming innocence until I see some evidence.

    presuming innocence? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:54:36 PM EST
    The government must love you.  They get to keep it all secret as a "matter of national security," and keep the presumption of innocence along with it.

    Have you seen "Taxi to the Dark Side"?

    There is actually quite a bit of evidence out there that details the detainees who have been interrogated to death.


    Presumed innocence... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by oldpro on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:56:10 PM EST
    of course, when an individual is charged.  But first, we need an investigation...wouldn't you say?

    Given that no one's been charged (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by scarshapedstar on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:58:23 PM EST
    "presuming innocence" is neither here nor there.

    Unless your position is that no torture or deaths ever occurred, i.e. "who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"


    I'm not dumb enough (none / 0) (#22)
    by Slado on Wed May 06, 2009 at 06:00:19 PM EST
    to believe no torture took place.

    Nor am I partisan enough to beleive the US government is personally responsible for 98 deaths.

    Once again you have the argument between two extremes for partisan purposes.

    This torture debate is useless in my opinion because neither side admits the whole truth.  

    The left wants to hold our governments handling of non uniformed combatants to a higher standard then we'd hold a local sheriff department too and often those offenders are really innocent.

    This whole exercise in my opinion has been self indulged moral grandstanding for partisan purposes and me and the rest of the country are ready to move on.


    Kind of makes me wonder what (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Anne on Wed May 06, 2009 at 09:14:42 PM EST
    you are dumb enough to believe...

    With that question hanging out there, let me ask you another question: how can you claim that the US government is not responsible for those deaths when, presumably, they occured at the hands of those working as agents of the government or otherwise in their employ?

    This isn't so much about "sides" as it is about law, and holding accountable those who are supposed to be following it.  Is the law partisan?

    I agree with you that the torture debate is useless; torture is illegal under both domestic and international law - once you accept that, where is the debate?  It doesn't matter that sometimes it works, because the illegality of torture isn't about effectiveness, but humanity.

    You may be ready to move on, but to what?  A place where torture is available to be used by whoever is in power, for whatever reasons make sense to those in power and ready to be justified by a compliant legal system that stands ready to provide an alibi for those who give the orders and those who carry out those orders?

    No thanks.

    But I have figured out the answer to that question you inadvertently posed about yourself.


    How is outright torture (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by jondee on Wed May 06, 2009 at 10:50:44 PM EST
    "a higher standard than we'd hold a local sheriff department to"?

    I'll give you credit though, Slado, not terribly long ago you guys were still calling it frat house hazing; at least now you've finally gotten around to admiting it was actually torture all along.


    I'm not ready to move on, as I would like (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Wed May 06, 2009 at 06:05:50 PM EST
    to know who did what to whom and why.  But I understand some of the bad actors were contractors.  

    The left? (none / 0) (#25)
    by Dadler on Wed May 06, 2009 at 07:15:10 PM EST
    There hasn't been a left in this country in decades, be serious.  

    Why is 183 not... (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Romberry on Wed May 06, 2009 at 08:37:12 PM EST
    ...a "good" number? And why do you apparently afford the presumption of innocence in the case of American officials and interrogators, but not in the case of the human beings known as detainees who have been locked away without charge, trial or even access to counsel and the legal system for years?

    We can presume innocence if we want, but we are a nation of admitted torturers and in every case, when the truth has come out, it has been progressively worse:

    Seymour Hersh: "Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."


    Republican Senator Lindsay Graham: "The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

    Wish I could act surprised. (none / 0) (#8)
    by clio on Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:56:31 PM EST
    Always thought it would come to this.
    After allowing the most depraved and sadistic CIA agents, along with their professional and political enablers, free rein how could they let these people go free?
    Free to talk.
    Free to publish.
    Free to become victims even though they committed heinous acts themselves:  living proof that America really is as bad as bin-Laden says it is.

    It was never going to happen.
    And it didn't.

    It's no wonder Obama wants to look forward, not back.  The horrors and the shame are gaining.

    Reprint (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by lentinel on Wed May 06, 2009 at 05:00:34 PM EST
    I am posting this comment by Chris Dodd again because it is directly responsive to your comment, clio.

    "I know people don't want to go back, because it is uncomfortable. The president has said I want to look forward," he said. "You know my father was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. They were not a popular idea.... Nuremberg became a symbol of who we were. Even these thugs got a lawyer, even these thugs got a trial despite their acts. And so we became a symbol of jurisprudence and the rule of law."
    "Not to prosecute people or pursue them when these acts occur is, in a sense, to invite them again."


    Agree with Dodd (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by MO Blue on Wed May 06, 2009 at 05:53:00 PM EST
    100% on this.

    Me, too - but is anyone even (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Anne on Wed May 06, 2009 at 06:13:17 PM EST
    listening to Dodd?  I mean, I feel like no one is listening to us, not just on this, but on a host of issues.  This morning, the Democratic guest on Washington Journal was on to talk about health care.  He said that there was a lot of interest among the public for single-payer, but there just weren't votes for it in the Congress.  What?  So, the people want their representatives to legislate single-payer, but the Congress knows better, or feel they can ignore us?

    Well, when it's convenient they want to listen - there's a new CNN poll that says a majority of people do NOT want either an investigation or prosecutions - even though they think torture is wrong.  Yeah, it makes no sense to me either.  I didn't see the particulars, and I don't know if it was a "real" poll or a viewer poll, so to me, it means nothing, but others are latching onto it as proof that we should just quit complaining and move on.

    I wish I knew what was wrong with people, but I have no clue.


    Leahy is still pushing for a TC (none / 0) (#26)
    by nycstray on Wed May 06, 2009 at 07:59:10 PM EST
    I got this today:

    In spite of all the recent news, we still have some skeptics.
    The release of new Bush-Cheney era torture memos by the Justice Department reveal just how far the past administration strayed from the law and our fundamental principles.
    There is a renewed public call for accountability at BushTruthCommission.com, and many congressional leaders -- like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chris Dodd -- have now thrown their support behind our proposed truth commission, too.
    But some in Washington still need to be sold on the idea.
    Watch my new YouTube video, thanking the over 100,000 Americans who have signed our petition at BushTruthCommission.com, and add your name to continue building momentum behind this proposal:


    "Overlooked"?? (none / 0) (#10)
    by coast on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:00:50 PM EST
    Maybe by Sifton, but not by others.  This has been out there for sometime now.

    criticizing the wrong person, I think (none / 0) (#11)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:13:19 PM EST
    Sifton didn't overlook it.  He's been researching it for years.  He is saying that it is being overlooked by many who are debating the whole issue of torture in the wake of the memo release.

    The waterboarding "debate" (none / 0) (#12)
    by cal1942 on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:35:30 PM EST
    has been a real distraction.

    The minute those Abu Grahib photos came to light it was apparent that we were engaged in torture well beyond waterboarding.

    the thing to remember about those (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:38:12 PM EST
    awful photos is that, as far as we know, none of those people were actually "interrogated".
    someone need to ask, why, exactly, were those things being done to them?

    To "soften them up," iirc (none / 0) (#14)
    by Spamlet on Wed May 06, 2009 at 01:46:19 PM EST
    You remember... (none / 0) (#20)
    by desertswine on Wed May 06, 2009 at 05:41:11 PM EST
    the lovely Sabrina Harmon...

    "The job of the MP (military police) was to keep them awake, make it hell so they would talk,"


    On Sabrina Harman.... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Romberry on Wed May 06, 2009 at 08:30:27 PM EST
    ...please see the links in posts 1331 and 1332 in the Torture and the King thread at Salon's Table Talk. What most people think they know concerning Harman and Abu Ghraib is, if not wrong, at least incomplete. Sabrina Harman is not the face of torture.

    For The Sake of Our Troops President Obama (none / 0) (#31)
    by john horse on Wed May 06, 2009 at 08:42:24 PM EST
    needs to change his position on investigation and prosecution of those who committed and authorized torture.  In a recent interview President Obama said how impressed and grateful he was to our troops for their extraordinary sacrifices on our behalf.  

    Yet that is precisely why he cannot sweep this under the rug.  He does not honor their sacrifice when he chooses not to prosecute those who committed and authorized torture.  Those who were involved in torture dishonored our country, our military, the values of our country.

    There is another reason why Obama must prosecute.  Suppose in some future war some of our troops were captured.  If there is some question about whether "enhanced interrogation" is torture than can't a country use those very techniques against American POWs?  

    Torturing People To Death (none / 0) (#35)
    by john horse on Thu May 07, 2009 at 06:05:44 AM EST
    is also a "major torturing technique".  98 detainees have been tortured to death.

    I would hope that Obama would do more than decide not to do this any more.  

    We need to investigate and prosecute.  How is torturing someone to death any different than murder?  There are some crimes that can't just be swept under the rug.

    denominator? (none / 0) (#37)
    by diogenes on Fri May 08, 2009 at 07:35:13 PM EST
    How many people around the world were under US control (GITMO, foreign prisons, US control in Iraqi prisons) for how many years?  What is the death rate per person-year?  
    What would the death rate per person-year have been if we had extradited the prisoners to their home countries (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, early 2000's Iraq, China) to do prison time there?  After all, I don't think that Denmark and Norway were lining up to take these guys in their prisons.  What would the death rate of prisoners have been if they had been released upon capture and started fighting again in the war against us?