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Did the CIA Mislead the Justice Department in 2005 About Prolonged Diapering?

Commenter Decora points to some references to diapering in the 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memoranda on torture. What’s striking is how the CIA describes the technique — evidently used, according to both the 2004 CIA inspector general report and the 2007 Red Cross report, in support of sleep-deprivation-by-stress-position — to the Justice Department as a supporting technique, rather than the explicitly “enhanced interrogation” technique described by former CIA Director George Tenet and CIA’s Office of Medical Counsel in 2003.

Here’s how Steve Bradbury, author of those 2005 memos, describes what he was told by CIA about diapering in the May 10, 2005 “techniques” memo. It comes in a discussion of sleep-deprivation-by-stress-position:

If the detainee is clothed, he wears an adult diaper under his pants. Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper. If the detainee is wearing a diaper, it is checked regularly and changed as necessary, The use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the

detainee, and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique. The detainee’s skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed as needed so that the detainee does not remain in a soiled diaper. You have informed us that to date no detainee has experienced any skin problems resulting from use of diapers.

There are other references, but this is the most substantive, and the others tend to recapitulate this factual information. Notice that Bradbury says CIA tells him diapering is “not considered to be an interrogation technique,” although two years before he wrote those words, it was included in the CIA director and Office of Medical Services’ own guidelines explicitly as an interrogation technique.

Bradbury’s memo, of course, is written after the CIA inspector general’s report. But it’s unclear what would have prompted any technique change from the CIA’s perspective. Former OLC chief Jack Goldsmith revoked the OLC’s memos authorizing torture in June 2004. But it’s far from clear why that would provoke the CIA to downgrade the technique’s status. Diapering may be traumatic, but it’s a far cry from waterboarding.

What’s more, it’s also misleading to describe the purpose of diapering as “for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee.” The whole use, even as Bradbury portrays it, is for supporting a detainee’s immobility while he’s contorted to the point of physical trauma necessary to prevent sleeping. And it’s not at all how the CIA’s Office of Medical Counsel described the purpose of the technique in its September 2003 guidelines: “In all instances the general goal of these techniques is a psychological impact, and not some physical effect, with a specific goal of ‘dislocat[ing] his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive…’”

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