Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is it torture when the police do it?

(Cross-posted at Coalition for Clarity.)

In case you missed it, here's a frightening look at the increased use of things that a sane nation would call "torture" by American police agencies on American soil against American citizens (Hat tip: Mark Shea):

After Daniel Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn’t taken to Gitmo. Instead, the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to death in the process.

Chong, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Following the interrogation, the student was told that he would be released and provided with paperwork to sign. He was then handcuffed and put into a five-by-ten-foot detention cell, where he was held for five days in conditions that qualify as torture under any rational reading of either domestic or international law.

The DEA’s story was that Chong was simply "forgotten." A likelier explanation is that he was ignored, or even singled out for deliberate abuse. Chong shouted and screamed for help, kicking against the heavy door of his cell. Although his hands were cuffed, he managed to tear a small fragment from his jacket, which he shoved under the door in an effort to get the attention of his jailers.

Since Chong had no difficulty hearing conversations and other sounds outside his cell, there’s no reason to doubt that his pleas were heard, and simply disregarded. [...]

By the time two agents "discovered" him, Chong was literally pleading for his captors to kill him. He was hospitalized for acute dehydration, renal failure, a perforated esophagus, and severe cramps. He had shed 15 pounds. He has never received an apology.

If a dog had been subjected to treatment similar to the abuse inflicted on Daniel Chong, those responsible would face felony charges. Thanks to the spurious principle of "supremacy clause immunity," there is no measurable likelihood that the people who nearly tortured Chong to death will face criminal charges. It’s quite likely they will never be identified.

There's more--a lot more--here, including the stories of the torture-death of a man named Nick Christie, another man named Raul Rosas, the physical abuse of Derena Marie Madison, and several more. The moral of all of these stories is that by condoning torture, we're increasingly choosing to turn a blind eye when it happens on our own soil, and to insist on the immunity of the police even when they cross a very bright line.

Is that really a surprise? In the moral realm, when we remove religion or other philosophical guidelines from questions of morality and ethical conduct, what are we left with except "might makes right?" And what protections do ordinary citizens have from the abuses of the people we trust to serve and protect?

1 comment:

John Henry Lamming said...

So you go on. Gandalf, Elrond - all these folk have taught you to say so. For themselves they may be right. These elves and half-elves and wizards, they would come to grief perhaps. Yet often I doubt if they are wise and not merely timid. But each to his own kind. True-hearted Men, they will not be corrupted. We of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial. We do not desire the power of wizard-lords, only strength to defend ourselves, strength in a just cause. And behold! in our need chance brings to light the Ring of Power. It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, these alone will achieve victory. What could not a warrior do in this hour, a great leader? What could not Aragorn do? Or if he refuses, why not Boromir? The Ring would give me power of Command. How I would drive the hosts of Mordor, and all men would flock to my banner!