Rohrabacher: Frat Parties Aren’t Torture

June 4, 2008 5:15 p.m.
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Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine was on Capitol Hill this morning to testify to the House Subcommittee on International Relations, Human Rights and Oversight, about his report on the FBI’s role in detainee interrogations, released two weeks ago.

While some saw the hearing as a long-awaited chance for a serious examination of the torture techniques at Guantanamo Bay, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, took an almost frat-boy glee in the torture details. In a statement of just 13 minutes, Rohrabacher managed to use the phrase “panties on [someone’s] head” eight times.

But perhaps more significantly, he managed to work it into a comical (if this wasn’t so serious) jab at Inspector General Fine:

ROHRABACHER: Let me — I don’t know what’s — I have never interrogated someone, either a criminal, which the FBI has to deal with, with the criminals, domestically, nor have I interrogated someone who’s a foreign enemy, unless, of course, we include the people who have sat on this side…

FINE: I’ll tell you what — I was going to add that one.


ROHRABACHER: I won’t ask you to wear anything on your head.


So I don’t know what is — what is effective and what’s not. I do see here things that seem to be fraternity boy pranks and hazing pranks that I do not — they might be unacceptable, but they certainly don’t fit into the category of torture, which is the word that’s been bandied around here.

More hazing after the jump.From the transcript, emphasis ours:

And here’s a guy who had participated in the conspiracy and now we have him under — and now we have him in custody, and you’re suggesting that the behavior of, what, panties on his head in order to try to, you know, confuse him and to pressure him, that is unacceptable interrogation technique for a man who was involved in a conspiracy to kill tens of thousands of Americans?

and again. . .

Let’s go through some of those other abusive things, then. Panties on the head. What are some of the others?

and again. . .

I mean, this wasn’t — we’re not even talking about really — well, maybe this would be — maybe putting panties on somebody’s head would be considered torture by someone.

and again. . .

I will have to tell you, when most people hear the word “torture,” which has been bandied around here, I don’t believe that they think of it as holding a growling dog near somebody but not the growling dog — you know, it’s one thing to have the growling dog eating someone’s leg or arm versus — which is absolute torture. It’s another thing to have a growling dog around, or putting panties on someone’s head, or discussing — telling him he had repressed homosexual tendencies in his presence.

and again. . .

OK. So when we’re talking about this position that the FBI, this moral stand that the FBI took on this, it was basically to say that a man who might have information that could lead us to prevent an attack that would cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, that we should not — we should never think that it was acceptable to put panties on his head or try to humiliate him verbally in order to break his will? That’s not an acceptable interrogation even if it’s going to save the lives of all these other people in the end?

and again. . .

I would suggest that there’s a difference between torture and putting panties on people’s heads and saying that they’re — and trying to humiliate them and make them disoriented so they might give information.

and again. . .

Except — except when it came down to putting panties on the head of some guy who was actually engaged in the conspiracy to kill all these Americans, the FBI again decided that they were holier than thou…

and again. . .

And I don’t know if the public would agree that torture would be any or even a few of the items used against this man who was a conspirator in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, whether or not these were actually, by ordinary people’s definition of torture, whether or not actually stripping him naked or making him wear women’s underwear on his head and things like that, whether or not — most people, when they think of torture are thinking in terms of cutting somebody’s finger off or putting them through great physical pain rather than just great psychological, let’s say, pressure, rather than physical pain.

and finally. . .

Well, with that said, let me note that I am happy to send that letter with you. But I in no way will ever apologize that someone put panties on the head of this 9/11 terrorist and treated him without respect. That man should have no respect.

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