Thursday, January 28, 2010

Abu Ghraib, U.S.A.

Will Grigg
LRC Blog -

The iconic photograph of the torture inflicted on Iraqi detainees by U.S. military personnel depicts a hooded prisoner, his arms stretched out as if in crucifixion, standing on a box with electrodes attached to his body. The victim wasn’t electrocuted. Instead, he was put through a pantomime of an execution by torturers who displayed an entrenched sadism akin to that of a cat toying with its helpless prey before killing it at will.

The staging of fake executions is a notorious torture method employed by the CIA and its kindred spirits in the KGB and other secret police organs. A repulsive incident in a New Jersey prison last October suggests that this kind of abuse is commonplace within the Torture State’s domestic prison system as well.

“One week before Javier Tabora’s release from the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel [New Jersey], a specialized prison for sex offenders, he was summoned to an examination room,” reports the Newark Star-Ledger. “Once there, Tabora later told investigators, a sergeant instructed him to sit in an electronic chair used to scan inmates for contraband and pretend to be electrocuted. Tabora sat in the chair yelling and shaking, `pretending that electricity was coming from the chair,’ he said. Then he placed `cream soup’ in his mouth and allowed it to seep out `for added effect.’”

This charade was carried out to terrify a second inmate named Robert Grant, described as “a sex offender with a history of mental health problems whom officers planned to question.” Grant later told investigators that he saw an inmate with “foam” coming from his mouth and was frantic about the possibility of being electrocuted when he was instructed to sit on the chair.

A third inmate described how Grant, who had told several inmates that he had been threatened with electrocution, was mocked by prison guards who made a “sizzling sound” as if they were “frying meat.”

No video recording was made of the incident. But investigators have upheld serious misconduct charges against the three “veteran officers” implicated in the mock electrocution. Sergeants Mark Percoco and Steven Russo and officer Edward Aponte have admitted to several infractions, including “conduct unbecoming” and various safety regulations. Percoco and Russo, also charged with neglect of duty, were suspended 105 days without pay; Aponte was suspended for 14 days.

Predictably, none of them was terminated. Then again, as Rush Limbaugh would assure us, this kind of thing is to be expected from hard-working heroes in state-issued uniforms who need to let off steam every now and then.