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November 20, 2009

Did Rumsfeld Tour KGB Torture Museum to Pick Up Useful Tips?

Where has the CIA tortured people? ABC has just reported that one place was Lithuania:

The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week.

Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.

But here's the lighter side of the CIA-Lithuania torture story, which ABC didn't mention: Donald Rumsfeld visited Vilnius in 2005, where he took the time to tour the KGB torture museum there. Then the U.S. embassy in Vilnius released an "Open Letter to People of Lithuania" from Rumsfeld:

I also had the chance to spend an enjoyable and educational Sunday morning walking through your historic, old town district and visiting the KGB museum. The museum was a stark reminder of the importance of preserving our liberty at all costs...

"Enjoyable and educational." Yes, sounds about right.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 20, 2009 04:43 PM

"The museum was a stark reminder of the importance of preserving our liberty at all costs."

after everybody made fun of alanis morrisette for that irony song i'm sure if i really know what it is, but i think this might be a little ironic. what say ye?

Posted by: Guest at November 20, 2009 10:10 PM

Oh Rummy, you lovable scamp. What laws would you, Dickie and Davy have broken next?

Posted by: Batocchio at November 20, 2009 10:43 PM

When is someone going to investigate the doctors and shrinks that helped in these tourtures?

Posted by: jackshadenfrruede at November 21, 2009 08:35 AM

Nice catch on the synchronicity there. It looks like the CIA modernized, but it must be hard to do good work in shabby surroundings.

Pretty soon the CIA won't even bother with trying to keep anything secret.

"Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public

--Marshall McCluhan

Posted by: N E at November 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Is this for real??? Rummy was actually inspired by Soviet torture techniques?

Posted by: jurassicpork at November 21, 2009 10:58 AM

I think it's pretty well documented ideas were gleaned from the TV shows like "24" or similar shows glorifying such techniques(torture) so Soviet torture techniques aren't a great leap.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 21, 2009 05:15 PM

I'd say "excited" is probably a better word for how Rumsfeld felt about the KGB museum, but noboubt is certainly right that he didn't have anything to learn about torture by 2005. He and Dick Cheney were assured their place in the international torture hall of fame by then.

Anyone who wants to understand what a monstrosity Guantanamo is--and what Rumsfeld meant (ironically) when he said the KGB museum showed the Lithuanian people the importance of preserving freedom "at all costs"--should read Andy Worthington's The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison. It's remarkable that Worthington kept it to an understated 300 pages that tell so much so well, and let the reader's rage and disgust build by the simple accumulation of facts.

Worthington selects as the saddest Afghan case one Kakai Khan, an illiterate young man when an enemy turned him over to the Americans. The case is especially sad because of what it says about us. A Defense Department employee named Jeffrey Norwitz has publicly admitted that there isn't even close to enough evidence to convict Khan in court, yet that same Jeffrey Norwitz also has commented that Khan should be appreciative of the good food and dental care he has received at Guantanamo, as well as "other options he would not have had [upon his eventual release] if not for his time in Guantanamo." (255-256)

Worthington's book is the only one that talks about all the detaines, not just the famous five that President Obama and Attorney General Holder to my great dismay have already convicted in the press to justify, ironically, bothering to give them a trial at all.

We Americans have far too little collective capacity to see ourselves honestly enough to ever have a "CIA torture museum," at least a museum that will make torture and the CIA look bad. But we will have scores of Tom Clancy and Ian Fleming movies, thousands of episodes of 24, and gazillions of anti-terrorist video games that will create legions of Jeffrey Norwitzes convinced that locking up illiterate young "tribal" men without trial in legal black holes for years on end is somehow a tribute to freedom because they had bad teeth when they were confined.

Posted by: N E at November 21, 2009 07:11 PM

I guess Norwitz is applying a logic similar to that which guided Barbara Bush in her comments on the refugees from Katrina who were being housed in the Houston Astrodome:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them".

That's the closest thing to empathy that you're going to get from these people. Take it or leave it.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at November 21, 2009 09:10 PM

I wonder what it takes to take the quotation marks off the 'CIA "Torture" Center.'

Maybe the head of the CIA videotaped out in the front yard with a prisoner, exclaiming, "look at me, I'm torturing!"

Posted by: grimmy at November 21, 2009 09:47 PM

Disgusting but not surprising.

Posted by: Janet Zehr at November 22, 2009 08:52 AM

In support of my previous comment Doonesbury offers this cartoon today:

So sick and pitiful the only way left is to view it as funny. I loved the quote supplied by NE about the protection provided by public incredulity. This stuff is so beyond anything imaginable that we are only left with incredulity.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 22, 2009 09:52 AM

Jon, I don't think you're getting on the 'just look forward' bandwagon quick enough. Here you are bringing up this ancient history from 2005!

Posted by: par4 at November 22, 2009 11:05 AM

Festering sores, like torture and shredding the Constitution, left "untreated" continue to fester and demand attention until they get the treatment they deserve..., accountability.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 23, 2009 06:58 AM