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[P]
Building Trustworthy Systems From Untrustworthy Components

By skyknight in Op-Ed
Thu May 13, 2004 at 03:55:07 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Short of living under a rock, you are apt by this point to have caught wind of the atrocities that have occurred within the Iraqi prison system under America's watch. Detainees have been beaten, sexually humiliated, and even raped. The dead have been defiled. Furthermore, this is only what we have heard so far. Rumsfeld has told us that we should mentally gird ourselves for worse things in the offing.

The world is justified in its moral outrage, as such unspeakable acts have no place in civilized society. One would like to think that such behavior represents the savagery of times long past. Unfortunately, calls for scapegoats and assertions that this is the natural product of America's misadventures in Iraq skirt a far more fundamental issue: the prisons of the world are fucked up.


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The MPs charged with guarding prisons in Iraq are indeed poorly trained and woefully ill-equipped to perform their duties, yet even had they received proper training there would still exist a problem at a more rudimentary level. The system architecture of the prisons of Iraq and, more generally, of the world, suffer from design flaws that make them hopelessly prone to barbaric abuse. While the US should be ashamed of its treatment of prisoners in Iraq, similarly terrible things happen here on US soil in domestic prisons all the time.

One of the marks of a good system is the implementation of protocols that are resilient and fault tolerant. Small defects should not result in catastrophic failure. No system will manage to operate flawlessly, but breakdowns should be well isolated, and provisions for automated repair in place.

The probability of a system containing defective components rises in proportion with the number of components in the system. Consequently, the larger the system, the more adaptive it must be to component failure. With an organization the size of the US military, consisting of a number of individuals on the order of millions, one is virtually guaranteed to have some rotten apples. As such, it is absolutely imperative that one assume a model of distrust and craft a system under these auspices.

The problem with prisons in general is that they place an enormous amount of trust in guards. In some ways this is unavoidable, yet there are some interesting strategies available for embedding safeguards against abuse.

Before we continue, we must first consider the asset we are trying to protect, the threats to it, and the resultant risk... The asset in question is the dignity of prisoners. This, however, is really only a sub-goal. What we are really trying to protect is the reputation of the US and its credibility in the world at large. The threat to this is abuse of prisoners by guards. The risk, it would seem, is enormous; not only is the probability of abuse quite high, but the damage to the public's perception of America in the case of such transgressions is great, and the consequences tragic for both US military personnel and Iraqi citizens.

How then might we go about mitigating the risk? The answer lies in leveraging different guards against one another.

Consider the present situation... In various prisons complexes guards are assigned details. These details can last for an indeterminate period of time. During these assignments, guards have substantial opportunity to probe one another for personality traits. Nobody is going to come out and expose his/her true nature in one fell swoop, but in a tit-for-tat fashion, guards sharing details can gradually feel one another out without putting themselves at substantial risk for censure or punishment. When an entire detail consists of sadistic guards, disaster is imminent.

The obvious solution is, of course, to somehow manage to make certain that no shift fails to have at least one decent individual that guarantees honesty. This solution is simple and functional, except for one niggling detail: it's impossible to actually ascertain the reputability of an individual until it is too late. Ask any HR person and they will tell you that successful personnel screening is an enormously difficult task.

Far better would be a system in which one could be reasonably guaranteed of integrity despite the exclusive presence of malicious individuals on a particular guard detail. In fact, such a scenario is possible; one must simply exploit the properties of the guards in a way that brings about accountability regardless of the guards' desires to misbehave.

What if, instead of hoping that guards behave decently, one were to foster an environment of mutual distrust that kept all involved parties honest? To accomplish this, the general strategy would be to minimize the opportunity of trust building, and maximize the tendency to snitch on those who engage in malicious behavior. This is counter to the model that the military uses in most situations, but this represents a sensible exception to standard protocol as the task of guarding prisoners is fundamentally different from that of any other task in the military.

First and foremost, in lieu of assigning guards to specific details for extended durations, they should instead be assigned to details on the order of days. The actual length would be contingent on psychological experimentation, but the general idea would be to make guard rotations occur frequently enough that the time between rotations spans less than the period of time required for guards to come to trust one another.

As an added layer, one might also provide generous incentives to those who proffer evidence of malign behavior. Not only should abuse of prisoners be punished, but audit of abusers could be rewarded. When a guard provides a credible report of another guard's abuses, the former ought to receive some kind of compensation.

In analyzing such a system, a tendency toward resiliency becomes evident. Whereas before one required at least one honest individual for a detail to be kept honest, now one could ostensibly have an entire detail composed of unscrupulous individuals and still have it kept honest as the result of mutual distrust.

Imagine the thought process of a guard prone to abusing prisoners. If he has not known the other guard(s) on his detail for a time sufficient to feel them out, then he is apt to act with great trepidation in his treatment of prisoners. He will be wary of other guards perhaps hankering to make a profit from turning him in for abuses. At the same time, he is (assuming a proper incentive structure) more than happy to cash in on the indiscretions of his fellow guards.

Instead of a gradual increase in comfort with one's fellow guards, there is instead a constant distrust that is resultant from the fact that one never manages to acclimate oneself to a given set of co-workers. Whereas in the present system the probability of abuse increases with the passage of time, in the proposed system it stays at a more or less fixed low value, something more precisely described as a saw-toothed function with a very low maximum amplitude.

The beauty of such a system is that it could be composed entirely of malevolent guards, and yet still run things in a decent fashion. Any ill-intentioned guard is apt to look askance at all of his compatriots, as well as view them as a chance to augment his income.

Of course, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Such a system would impose both financial costs on the operators of such a system, as well as psychological costs on the guards.

Man-power and transportation capacity would prove the main logistics of concern. For optimal functionality, no two guards would ever share a shift more than once. Not only might this prove problematic in the case of a limited guard population, but furthermore there is the issue of transporting guards. Instead of providing constant housing to guards at a specific location, both transportation and transient housing must be arranged.

There also exists a high human cost for the guards of the system. Starting a new job is always stressful, and the proposed system more or less simulates having a new job on an ongoing basis. Guards would never grow at ease with their co-workers, and would also be largely incapable of settling down in one place. This stress could translate into reduced effectiveness in their ability to perform in the work place. As a corollary of these psychological costs would also be a financial cost: less desirable work conditions would dictate better pay to keep the labor pool adequate, and turn over could be an issue as well, resulting in significant expenditure on training. The only way to mitigate the psychological strain would probably be to provide for long vacations to guards to recover from tours of duty.

The question, then, is whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Actually, more accurate is the question of whether the perceived benefits outweigh the perceived costs, and if political factions will be adequately aligned. In the case of prisoners of war, it may very well be deemed a worthwhile trade-off; the costs of political backlash are enormous, the military is fairly well funded, and there is a willingness to impose severe psychological strain on soldiers. In the case of domestic prisoners, people are apt to be tragically disinterested in such a proposal; nobody cares about these prisoners, the prison systems are woefully under-funded, and there exists an extremely lax code of discipline and a lack of oversight for the guards.

Fundamentally, people show interest in what the media covers and little else. In the hustle and bustle of making a living, it's easy to miss the things that are right under one's nose, noticing only the things to which the media holds up a magnifying glass. It took only a single photograph to inflame the whole world about atrocities against Iraqis occurring on the other side of the planet, and yet such barbarism is common place right here in our own backyard.

In light of such facts, it is difficult to believe that calls for Rumsfeld's resignation are something other than political opportunism. If the dignified treatment of prisoners were truly a sincere issue in our body politic, then there is plenty of cause for concern on a daily basis. The mundane just doesn't make for good news.

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Building Trustworthy Systems From Untrustworthy Components | 112 comments (99 topical, 13 editorial, 2 hidden)
You've missed the really obvious solution, (2.71 / 7) (#1)
by Ward57 on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:17:18 AM EST

which is to install CCTV throughout the entire complex, digitize it and send it home. Heck, put it on a public website (although block access from outside the west).

Not really practical, and... (none / 3) (#2)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:23:21 AM EST

certainly not fault tolerant. It is exceedingly difficult to successfully monitor such a vast array of cameras. Many security venues that actually deploy such strategies are actually just using the cameras as dummies; they aren't wired up, but rather are just acting to intimidate would be perpetrators. Also, if someone is ruthless enough to brutalize prisoners, how hard would it be to get around a camera system? All it takes is a convenient stack of boxes obscuring the view of a camera, or a well timed "power outage".

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Then you (none / 0) (#84)
by Ward57 on Thu May 13, 2004 at 10:25:48 AM EST

disciplin them for obscuring the view/damaging the camera. It doesn't take much.

[ Parent ]
That's a lot harder than you might think... (none / 0) (#88)
by skyknight on Thu May 13, 2004 at 11:44:14 AM EST

You might be able to mete out punishment for obvious obscurement of a camera, but there are much more subtle ways to subvert oversight. There could be a convenient "equipment failure", or the tapes could be doctored.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
oh. (none / 0) (#85)
by Ward57 on Thu May 13, 2004 at 10:27:49 AM EST

Yes, but if it's all being taped, then it will all come up. Yes, you could arrange to have that much video watched, just publish it on the net. Or give it to the world's newspapers.

[ Parent ]
Of course... (none / 0) (#87)
by skyknight on Thu May 13, 2004 at 11:43:02 AM EST

you realize that giving such videos to the general public would violate the Geneva Conventions, right? Not that the US is great about following them to begin with, but do we really want to explicitly encourage the flouting of the conventions?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Are you kidding? (none / 1) (#21)
by Skywise on Tue May 11, 2004 at 02:09:18 PM EST

Nobody would ever let those pictures be released to the public.  Can you imagine the uproar?

[ Parent ]
telescreens (none / 0) (#57)
by Gerhard on Wed May 12, 2004 at 04:34:49 AM EST

Big Brother is watching You

[ Parent ]
Why block access from outside the West? (none / 0) (#96)
by Russell Dovey on Fri May 14, 2004 at 04:28:47 AM EST

Surely the best way for the US to prove beyond all doubt that it's cleaning up Abu Ghraib is to allow access to the entire world, especially the Middle East.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Putting it on any publicly accessible place... (none / 0) (#97)
by skyknight on Fri May 14, 2004 at 06:22:21 AM EST

would violate the Geneva Conventions.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
-1, doesn't understand the military (2.82 / 17) (#3)
by zenofchai on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:34:04 AM EST

this isn't a "system" which could be tweaked with such an idea of "make it so the guards will snitch on each other more". it is a fundamental concept for military units that you just plain don't snitch no matter what. snitches are almost less esteemed than the enemy.

this is something you learn in basic training. don't snitch, don't whine, don't complain. do what you are told and shut the hell up about the rest of it. snitch on a soldier and you're black-marked forever. maybe you'll have done the "right thing" but enjoy the rest of your tour doing kitchen and latrine duty and also enjoy not having a single other soldier talk to you.

so the real problem is that we have soldiers as prison guards. although having humane, well-trained prison guards in Iraq doesn't seem like a good fit either -- there is still a need for just about every American there to be trained to fire assault rifles and take out a mortar position, etc.

these atrocities are a horror, but trying to tell soldiers to snitch on each other just won't work. anyone who goes through training on how to deal with desperate people (such as prisoners) has probably also been trained that you better bet your ass that you can rely on your fellow employee. because you are betting your ass on that.

it doesn't take much time at all to develop 'trust' in a fellow guard -- it's ingrained, part of the training, that you show up and each person is a piece of a single unit, period. the correct proposed change is for nearly constant monitoring of the guards by other personnel who have absolutely no interest in not being called a snitch -- obviously these should be non-military people. unfortunately Iraq is no place for non-military Americans at the moment.
--
as gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich,
so knowledge which he cannot apply will make no man wise.

This is just another argument... (3.00 / 10) (#4)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:40:37 AM EST

for separating the functions of soldiering and policing. I explicitly say in the article that such a mentality is incongruous to the general military mentality. For unit cohesion in battle, trust and loyalty is of utmost importance. Guarding prisoners, however, is a completely different matter and ought to be treated as such.

Iraq is a very dangerous place right now, and so I understand why you feel like only soldiers should be there, but with stuff like this happening it is only going to become increasingly dangerous. If we are seen as proprietors of Stalinesque gulags, then all hope is lost.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
hope (none / 2) (#6)
by zenofchai on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:44:57 AM EST

the real chance for peace is for the US to just come clean, be honest, and fess up to the fact that all we really want is the oil, yup, shucks, gee-willickers, everybody's right. OK, now that's out of the way, give us the fucking oil and people who fight us will be shot or tortured. just be honest as a starting point, then maybe, maybe we can get somewhere from it.
--
as gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich,
so knowledge which he cannot apply will make no man wise.
[ Parent ]
Yeah. (none / 0) (#107)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue May 18, 2004 at 01:04:39 PM EST

Would have a lot more respect that way, if they said it at the start. Won't be liked, but wouldn't be as despised.

I don't buy the excuse that the reason given was WMD because it was the only one thing everyone could agree on.

Look at the way the US is trying to set up a puppet government in Iraq. Open elections? No way - coz too high a chance of ending up with another Iran if Iraqis were allowed to pick their preferred government.

They need trouble in Iraq coz that way the puppet government will need the US just like the Saudi Royals need the US. Getting the right amount of trouble is a bit iffy, but without any trouble, the puppet government would be too strong and may tell the US to get lost.

[ Parent ]

all hope is lost long time ago (none / 2) (#33)
by svampa on Tue May 11, 2004 at 08:33:56 PM EST

CIA, so USA in South America has trained torturers (Escuela de las Americas) for 40 years.

USA is see by third world countries, from Spanish to Asian and Arabian, as anything but a liberator. So don't worry too much about.



[ Parent ]
Source for your sig quote? -nt (none / 1) (#50)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 02:21:49 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Samuel Johnson. (none / 1) (#53)
by Zerotime on Wed May 12, 2004 at 03:29:40 AM EST

...sez Google.

---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
Random testing (3.00 / 14) (#5)
by rujith on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:43:40 AM EST

I like the ideas presented. Here's an additional technique to use: random testing.

For example, some baggage screening machines can occasionally and randomly show a picture of baggage that contains a prohibited article, and see if the screener spots it. This keeps them from "napping" on the job. Of course, screeners hate this, so I believe that this feature is not widely used.

Similarly, one of the communist leaders (Stalin, I believe), justly fearing conspiracies against him, required all his staff to report conspiracies against him. To test this, Stalin would regularly select a high-level member of staff (A), instruct him to pretend to be plotting against Stalin, make him attempt to recruit another (B) into the plot, and see if B duly reported the plot by A to Stalin.

Prison guards could be similarly tested, by having one guard pretend to beat a prisoner, for example, and see if others present reported the violation.

- Rujith.

Yes, I like that idea as well... (3.00 / 5) (#7)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 09:50:00 AM EST

I think some further thought would need to be put into the details, but there is substantial merit to such a strategy. Basically, anything that eschews the naive assumption that guards are just going to play nice is a good avenue to pursue. Of course, we're not going to make any friends of prison guards proposing such systems, but prisoners might be grateful.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Saddam, also (2.85 / 7) (#19)
by mcc on Tue May 11, 2004 at 01:55:58 PM EST

To test this, Stalin would regularly select a high-level member of staff (A), instruct him to pretend to be plotting against Stalin, make him attempt to recruit another (B) into the plot, and see if B duly reported the plot by A to Stalin.

I heard it reported at one point-- but unfortunately do not remember the source for, so take this with a grain of salt-- that one of the final tests to become a member of Saddam's republican guard was that toward the end of your training, present members of the guard would burst into the room where you were sleeping in the middle of the night and bark that they were holding a coup and anyone who didn't agree to cooperate would be shot; are you in or out? Anyone who said "in" was promptly shot.

---
Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame
[ Parent ]

I recall hearing something like that, too... (none / 1) (#23)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 04:25:04 PM EST

Though I don't remember it being about the initiation part. I just recall it being a periodic test to verify loyalty, though I don't think it would be a very good one. It would be necessary to make sure that the target had a reasonable chance of fighting back, and in that case it would seem like the examiners were endangering their own lives.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Shit. I bet Castro does that shit too. (none / 1) (#49)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:57:36 AM EST

And here I've been wondering how those antique bearded bastards avoid being overthrown.

I guess this is the step Mussolini didn't take? :P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
I agree provisionally (none / 0) (#112)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 23, 2004 at 02:19:32 PM EST

As long as any repercussions are limited to firing the person in question or reassigning them, I'd agree.  Filing criminal charges based on such tests would constitute entrapment.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
All very well (none / 3) (#9)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue May 11, 2004 at 10:22:30 AM EST

But you misunderstand the basic deviousness of human beings. If there's a control built into the system, people will find a way around it.

---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
That is an unavoidable fact... (none / 2) (#10)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 10:57:12 AM EST

Security is always an arms race, and no system is perfect. That does not, however, mean that we should not bother with security at all. Robust security systems consists of defense, detection, and response. In this system, those would be respectively: training of guards, mutual distrust of guards, and the court systems to process those who violate the rules.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I see. So, let's just give up and have anarchy? (none / 1) (#47)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:40:18 AM EST

We have to TRY, at least, don't we?


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Not on Kuro5hin we don't. (nt) (none / 1) (#56)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Wed May 12, 2004 at 04:11:11 AM EST



---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
You obviously don't know much about prisons (2.75 / 12) (#12)
by duffbeer703 on Tue May 11, 2004 at 11:06:07 AM EST

It's been said that the only prison inhabitants worse than the inmates are the guards.

In a world where people are jailed for a decade for relatively minor offenses, the notion of "ethical behavior" and prisons are mutually exclusive.

The only thing unique about the Iraq incident is that the guards (soldiers aren't prison trained prison guards) were retarded and took pictures. When inmates are abused in regular jails, correction officer's unions encourage silence.

Hell, similar hazing incidents happen in fraternities and sports clubs all the time too.

The Iraqi incident is an example of what happens when 2nd-string, officers and non-coms who are incompetent or absent do not enforce a standard of disicipline.

I am not defending their actions -- just trying to frame the events in a non-sensational perspective.

Clearly... (3.00 / 4) (#13)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 12:23:06 PM EST

the system is horribly flawed in a very fundamental way. I say as much in my article. The problem is not uniquely Iraqi. It is endemic to prisons worldwide, and if we find that fact odious then we need to revamp the system from the bottom up. Sacking a Secretary of Defense does nothing to change the state of affairs in the cell blocks.

Of course, if we wanted a quick and easy remedy to the bulk of the problems, then we would just decriminalize all drugs. I am a strong proponent for this, but it probably won't happen for a long time if ever in the US.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Politics (none / 1) (#29)
by duffbeer703 on Tue May 11, 2004 at 07:38:24 PM EST

Democrats don't give a shit about prisons. In New York, prominent democrats have repeatadly shelved prison reform legislation, thanks to correction officers unions who donate tens of millions of dollars.

It is sickening that politics today has decended to the level of hate and malfunction that it has.

[ Parent ]

We need a benevolent dictatorship. (none / 2) (#30)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 07:42:10 PM EST

Democracy is just ugly. Unfortunately, the kind of people who are sufficiently ruthless to get into the position of a dictatorship are never benevolent. :-(

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
dictatorship (none / 1) (#32)
by adimovk5 on Tue May 11, 2004 at 08:12:28 PM EST

All dictatorships become malignant with time whether through corruption of the first dictator or his eventual successors, who are rarely of the same caliber.

A dictatorship of any kind in not sustainable in a society with a large middle class. The opportunity for leisure will always provide thinking time for enough politically minded people to plot overthrow.

Dictatorships can only remain in power if they suppress a large poor population with the support of a small upper class.



[ Parent ]

Do you think that democracy is stable? (none / 1) (#38)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 10:31:05 PM EST

The stability of the US does not come from it being a democracy, but rather it being a constitutional republic.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
ex Constitutional Republic (none / 3) (#41)
by adimovk5 on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:07:15 AM EST

No. Democracies are not stable. They can exist only until the voters decide to vote themselves raises at the expense of someone else. Then it all goes downhill.

The United States has not been a Constitutional Republic since the presidency of John Adams. It was founded as such but has drifted much since the founding. I could explain it to you in my own words but there are others who could do it better. Try this article from John Silveira.

The United States is a "Federal Republic". It has long ceased restricting its behavior to the confines of the Constitution.

[ Parent ]

I dunno. (none / 0) (#106)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue May 18, 2004 at 12:20:25 PM EST

The US as a democratic republic hasn't really been around that long.

So it's not really much proof of anything.

Whereas rule by dictators has been around for thousands of years.

If Corporate America has its way, then maybe the next dictators would be the most powerful of the corporations. In the US, corporations have the rights of individuals, minus some of the disadvantages/liabilities of individuals.

[ Parent ]

This is very true... (none / 0) (#108)
by skyknight on Tue May 18, 2004 at 06:20:42 PM EST

in the context of civilizations, a couple of hundred years is a very short time. Rome was around much longer than that, seemed poised to conquer the world, and was convinced that it had the most modern army that the world would ever see. We all know what happened to them.

Regarding corporations... It woulds seem that feudalism will forever be our constant companion in one for or another. That being said, feudalism keeps getting kinder and gentler overall.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
if it were me... (1.14 / 7) (#39)
by horny smurf on Wed May 12, 2004 at 12:00:14 AM EST

Sodomizing prisoners with glow sticks seems more like the legacy of "don't ask don't tell" but doesn't seem all that interesting to me (then again, New York's finest have been known to get crazy with the plunger). Given the treatment of American POWs and foreigners (beheadings, skinning alive, dragged through the streets, etc), it's surprising those camel fuckers don't fall down the stairs and break their arms more often.

[ Parent ]
The accident wasn't the torture. (1.28 / 7) (#14)
by rustv on Tue May 11, 2004 at 12:38:19 PM EST

The accident was getting caught. I'm pretty conservative, but I think this is obvious to the most casual observer.

____
"Don't tase me, bro." --Andrew Meyer
Yeah (3.00 / 7) (#34)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue May 11, 2004 at 08:36:16 PM EST

"Oh my god, I accidentally tortured several hundred prisoners! I'm such a klutz."

^-- THIS NEVER HAPPENS

[ Parent ]

IAWTP -nt (none / 2) (#45)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:38:43 AM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
This just goes to show what we've known all along. (1.19 / 21) (#15)
by rmg on Tue May 11, 2004 at 01:21:02 PM EST

Once again, the Western imperialist plies his culture of violent coercion to the domination of indigeonous people. Once again, he proves that he will stop at nothing, leave no rock unturned, no woman unraped, and no child unkilled, to further feed his burgeoning markets.

Truly, the white, American male's lust for the blood of colored people on every continent knows no bounds. Regardless of the pretext, there is one commonality between all his actions: The death, defilement, and destitution of the cultures, cities, and civilizations of the so-called "third world."

History shows us in no uncertain terms: Americans are the Great White Satan. It is time we oppressed masses stood in solidarity with our brothers abroad and wiped the stain of the red, white, and blue off of our sacred Earth.

Our course is clear: We must kill, kill, kill the white man.

----

i ♥ legitimate users.

dave dean

As soon as I saw your name on the voting list... (none / 2) (#16)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 01:23:44 PM EST

I foresaw this happening. :-)

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
kill my landlord, kill my landlord... (1.75 / 4) (#20)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 11, 2004 at 02:09:04 PM EST

Images by Tyrone Greene
Performed by Eddie Murphy (date unknown)

Dark and lonely on a summer's night
Kill my landlord
Kill my landlord
Watchdog barking
Do he bite?
Kill my landlord
Kill my landlord
Slip in his window
Break his neck
Then his house
I start to wreck
Got no reason
What the heck
Kill my Landlord
Kill my landlord
C-I-L-L
my l a n d l o r d


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

hardly. (none / 0) (#79)
by pb on Wed May 12, 2004 at 09:57:28 PM EST

From SNL Transcripts:

October 3rd, 1981

Prose and Cons
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

LOL, beautiful (none / 2) (#46)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:39:01 AM EST

I was just thinking it was your standard off-the-cuff troll, but the "kill, kill, kill the white man!" cracked me up. For some reason it always does.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
additional reading material (3.00 / 9) (#17)
by SocratesGhost on Tue May 11, 2004 at 01:25:18 PM EST

I found this article interesting and relevant. He talks about a couple of psychological experiments in how people interact in guard-prisoner situations. I knew about one but not the other.

-Soc
I drank what?


Good article /nt (none / 0) (#61)
by skyknight on Wed May 12, 2004 at 08:10:14 AM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
One possible counterpoint (3.00 / 4) (#18)
by aphrael on Tue May 11, 2004 at 01:47:43 PM EST

The effect of torture on a military effort intended to create a new, democratically legitimate regime is different than the effect of torture on everyday prisoners at home. The former will tend to outrage public opinion in the country in which we're conducting our social engineering project, resulting in the people of that country not liking or trusting us, and possibly causing our goals to come into disrepute or ill suspicion. IOW, torturing prisoners in Iraq directly undermines the goals of the operation in a way that torturing prisoners in Folsom does not.

This is not to say that torturing prisoners in Folsom is good; it is merely to say that there are legitimate reasons to be more concerned about one than the other.

Sure... (none / 2) (#24)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 04:29:27 PM EST

but only to the extent that people don't realize that we are raging hypocrites. A great deal of our foreign policy has mixed with it a substantial amount of deception, and I fear that that undermines any legitimate actions we take.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
And furthermore... (none / 1) (#25)
by skyknight on Tue May 11, 2004 at 04:30:56 PM EST

I'm not the only one dredging this hypocrisy up. The nytimes ran an article a couple of days ago saying as much. Whether that makes it into the public perception, who knows, but there is a groundswell of people who do recognize the incongruity of our purported respect for human life.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
"the prisoner's dilemna" (2.60 / 5) (#22)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 11, 2004 at 02:11:26 PM EST

that classic game theory scenario

now we need "the prison guard's dilemna" ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Very apropos, but that definition is a bit off. (none / 3) (#44)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:36:15 AM EST

The dilemma resides in the fact that each prisoner has a choice between only two options, but cannot make a good decision without knowing what the other one will do.

This is the definition of the dilemma itself from the site, but that's incorrect. Here's a more accurate definition of the Prisoner's Dilemma (taking the same situation as given):

"It is obvious from this that no matter which strategy the other player chooses each player is better off to Defect, therefore the rational choice is to Defect (in Game-theory-speak Defection is the dominant strategy). As this is the case for both players, the outcome of the game will be mutual Defection. However there is an outcome, mutual Cooperation, which both players prefer, but because they are rational egoists they cannot obtain that outcome. This is the prisoners' dilemma."

--from Anarchy and Game Theory, by Doug Newdick.


Which is to say, the "dilemma" is that there exists an ideal solution for two rational egoists (mutual coop) which cannot be obtained by their very nature as rational egoists.


-Kasreyn

P.S. It must really suck to have the last name "Newdick". >_<<br>

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
The problem is no defender for prisoneer (3.00 / 4) (#28)
by svampa on Tue May 11, 2004 at 07:09:59 PM EST

You need:

  • A defender that keeps after the prisoneer's interests.
  • An unbiased "referee" between guardian and defender, able to enforce decisions.

The more biased towards prisioneer, the more avantages for criminal. The more biased towards guardians the more abuses done by guardians. The perfect unbiased system is an ideal that can't be completly fullfilled, but things can be acceptable, bad, worse or a nightmare.

The problem in Iraq is that the defender has been ignored, banned and forbidden. USA soldiers can arrest who ever they want, they can do what ever they want.

This case: An Iraquí was arrested, during the arrest he was interrogated nude, etc, and liberated three months later with no charge. The relatives where so naive to ask why he was arrested, USA troops said "Fuck out, be thankful I don't arrest you"

Real or hypotetical case: Where his relatives could complain? Who could say "you are right, USA didn't the right thing"? Who could/would punish USA soldiers?

Red Cross?

Would USA itself send a doctor and a lawyer with the order of "Inform if the prisoneres are are right. You have all powers to go anywhere in this prision, none has authority to stop you. The report will be public."?

No. Of course they don't, simple because they have things to hide, or at least if they detect any abuse, they don't want to punish their own soldiers because of a bastard Iraqui.

As long as they say "Because of war, terrorism, national security, or what ever you want, we can't affort such controls over our interrogators. that would give to much advantages to bad boys", you will have abuses.

When you supress every defender for presioneer and an unbiased referee you get 0.01% chances for criminal and 99.99% abuses from guardians. Abuses are going to be part of the picture, and a few times the facts will get leaked, but from now on they will be more carefull.



The theory is broken (none / 2) (#35)
by jd on Tue May 11, 2004 at 08:55:15 PM EST

Time to use a new prison model.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but a system that is adversarial by nature is bound to create abuse.

a system that is adversarial by nature... (none / 0) (#76)
by the on Wed May 12, 2004 at 06:35:15 PM EST

You must love the American legal system then!

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
this whole thing (none / 1) (#40)
by Fuzzwah on Wed May 12, 2004 at 12:13:44 AM EST

The whole prison abuse drama which is unfolding is doing nothing but highlighting the wonderful job the US does of sanitising war and making it publicly comsumable.

We are, quite rightly, seeing moral outrage over the way these poor iraqi bastards are being treated. But we're all still cool with 18 year old USian soldiers putting bullets in even more poor iraqi bastards.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

Quite frankly, its the 18yr old's job! (none / 0) (#62)
by lukme on Wed May 12, 2004 at 08:57:32 AM EST

When you're in the military, it is your job, and thankfully they are there.

The real problem I have is with the missuse of the military. The military should only be used when diplomacy fails, unfortunately in iraq, diplomacy never really started.

PS: BTH, if www.fuzzslogic.com is your website, you should consider a more common design of the index on the left hand side of the page and the text at the same level as the index (not below the index). :)




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
Diplomacy (none / 1) (#99)
by kurioszyn on Sat May 15, 2004 at 01:06:41 AM EST

Diplomacy never really started ?
I remember Colin and others  going back and forth month after month, trying to make some sort of deal with French and Russians.

Yeah, it did fail but you can hardly accuse Bush administration of not trying.

Given all we know now,I think  it was a huge mistake to go thru all that nonsense - Colin simply  got outwitted by the French.
Bush should have taken the same road Clinton took back in 1998 - and simply skipped UN altogether.

[ Parent ]

There is a HUGE Point Being MIssed Here (1.50 / 14) (#42)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:07:22 AM EST

It was the US Army who uncovered these atrocities. It was the US Army, through the chain of command, that brought an end to these atrocities. It was the US Army who investigated and brought charges against the principle actors here. I know its inconsistent with your America-bashing ethics, but at some point you have to realize what a vindication this is for America's moral authority that there is no coverup, there is no stonewalling, and there is no closing of ranks. This may come as a shock to you, but outside of the Western World, not alot of people give a fuck about this. It' time for you to give up the wankery with the torture-pr0n and move on to more prevalent concerns...like the huge pile of bodies of Mahdi Militia, or the civilian contracters getting beheaded (and unlike the Security personnel some of you made an excercise of callousness out of last month, the latest guy wasn't even connected to the Coalition).
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
wow i agree with thelesbian (nt) (none / 2) (#48)
by circletimessquare on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:54:50 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
trapped in a man's body [n/t] (none / 1) (#65)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 09:48:31 AM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
There IS a huge point being missed here (3.00 / 8) (#55)
by driptray on Wed May 12, 2004 at 03:57:32 AM EST

It was the US Army who uncovered these atrocities.

It was the Red Cross, and any number of Iraqis.

It was the US Army, through the chain of command, that brought an end to these atrocities.

They've ended?

It was the US Army who investigated and brought charges against the principle actors here.

Seeing as the Taguba Report said the abuse was not isolated but systemic, have all the "principle actors" been charged?

...there is no coverup, there is no stonewalling, and there is no closing of ranks.

The Taguba report was handed down on Feb 26th, but the military did nothing until the 60 minutes story last week. The Red Cross have been complaining for a year. Sounds exactly like "coverup" and "stonewalling" to me.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

All Hail The Allmighty Media, right? (none / 1) (#64)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 09:48:07 AM EST

It was the Red Cross, and any number of Iraqis.
The October report of the ICRC did not provide any evidence or allegations of these types of abuses by US soldiers. It merely discussed the practice of keeping prisoners naked in the dark. The first clue the western media outlets had was in a statement by the US Army in late February that evidence of abuse at Abu Ghraib were being investigated, followed by a statement in March that some US soldiers were relieved of command and charges were pending for abuses.
They've ended?
It's kind of hard to abuse prisoners when you have set them free.
Seeing as the Taguba Report said the abuse was not isolated but systemic, have all the "principle actors" been charged?
You know what the definition of "principle" is?
The Taguba report was handed down on Feb 26th, but the military did nothing until the 60 minutes story last week. The Red Cross have been complaining for a year. Sounds exactly like "coverup" and "stonewalling" to me.
The military doesn't do things on CBS news's schedule. CBS didn't know anything until the US Military made the statement, and CBS didn't do anything until they had photos. Get real - all the media cares about is "if it bleeds, it leads". If you're going to accuse anyone of a coverup, it's more realistic that CBS is at fault (they did supress the story at the Army's request).
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Corruption in the armed forces (3.00 / 4) (#67)
by nebbish on Wed May 12, 2004 at 10:59:51 AM EST

It's kind of hard to abuse prisoners when you have set them free.

No Iraqis are imprisoned now? They've all been let go?

The October report of the ICRC did not provide any evidence or allegations of these types of abuses by US soldiers. It merely discussed the practice of keeping prisoners naked in the dark. The first clue the western media outlets had was in a statement by the US Army in late February that evidence of abuse at Abu Ghraib were being investigated, followed by a statement in March that some US soldiers were relieved of command and charges were pending for abuses.

Maybe not a report, but they did complain on numerous occasions. And maybe if the army didn't hide prisoners from them, they'd have known a bit better what was going on.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

No Iraqi Prisoners? (none / 1) (#80)
by JayGarner on Wed May 12, 2004 at 11:58:07 PM EST

No Iraqis are imprisoned now? They've all been let go?

I seem to remember Saddam springing a bunch of prisoners in late '02. First we torture them like Saddam did, then we set them free like Saddam did, what's up with this WWSD policy?

[ Parent ]

You see what you want to see. (3.00 / 5) (#60)
by skyknight on Wed May 12, 2004 at 07:58:44 AM EST

In your knee-jerk liberal bashing, you're no longer even bothering to check whether you're bashing the right people. I feel like instead of actually bothering to read my article for what it is, you just mentally laid down the stencil for a leftist rant and read it as that, and got all pissed off at a straw man.

First of all, in the very intro I categorized prison abuse as a world-wide problem, not as something exclusive to America. You can't just write everyone off as anti-American because they say something you don't like. Furthermore, I wasn't engaging in the laziness of simple criticism; I was trying to analyze the problem and to propose a concrete system that addressed the issue. I refer you to the quote in my bio when it comes to the mindset with which I approached this piece. What I have written here is fundamentally different from the whiny leftist rant that says only what is wrong, and does nothing to attempt proposals to fix things.

You might also consider my posting history before you write me off as an American hating robot, which I assure you I am not. In this story you might consider this comment, or perhaps in this diary you might consider this comment. They are typical of the way I react to blind hatred of America. I am wary of all extreme viewpoints.

You are too quick to assume that those who criticize America are the enemies of America. America would not be what it is today were it not for constant and thoughtful criticism.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Whose the Jerk with the Knee? (none / 1) (#63)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 09:34:57 AM EST

I didn't say anything about "your article" here, now did I?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
If I was mistaken, then I apologize... (none / 1) (#71)
by skyknight on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:04:30 PM EST

But you can't really blame for thinking that with a comment titled "There is a HUGE Point Being Missed Here" that my article was the one being referenced.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
It's pretty standard practice round here (none / 0) (#75)
by the on Wed May 12, 2004 at 06:34:10 PM EST

To use someone else's comment or story as an excuse to launch into your own rant and then claim it's completely obvious that you weren't actually replying to the story or comment, even though there were a million other places they could have posted their comment if they really weren't replying. I've been the victim of this type of hoax many times, but don't you be fooled!

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I wasn't quite buying the explanation... (none / 0) (#77)
by skyknight on Wed May 12, 2004 at 07:12:09 PM EST

While I suppose it's possible, it's not quite plausible.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Well, whoopee shit (none / 1) (#66)
by nebbish on Wed May 12, 2004 at 10:42:27 AM EST

Isn't the US just the big lovely good guy, despite torturing people in the first place.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Hey Trollboy (none / 3) (#74)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 03:36:14 PM EST

If you can't make at least one coherent comment, then making three + incoherent ones won't make up for it. Just shut up until you have something useful to say.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
I don't get it (none / 1) (#82)
by nebbish on Thu May 13, 2004 at 09:45:10 AM EST

You say everything's OK because the US has apologised. I say this is ridiculous. Where's the troll?

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

I never said that [n/t] (none / 0) (#92)
by thelizman on Thu May 13, 2004 at 10:39:06 PM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
By this logic (none / 0) (#68)
by nebbish on Wed May 12, 2004 at 11:01:23 AM EST

I could shoot your parents and you wouldn't be able to do anything so long as I owned up to it.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Well No Shit (none / 1) (#73)
by thelizman on Wed May 12, 2004 at 03:35:29 PM EST

Welcome to America, where vigilante justice isn't condoned. Now, aside from being a multiple troll, are you going to make any substantive comments?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#81)
by nebbish on Thu May 13, 2004 at 09:43:39 AM EST

This one.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

like in that movie (none / 0) (#110)
by livus on Fri Jun 04, 2004 at 10:49:13 PM EST

15 minutes. It's quite entertaining.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Kinda (none / 0) (#91)
by niku on Thu May 13, 2004 at 09:05:51 PM EST

From what I've seen reported on the news it was actually the father of one of the guards who submitted the photos to a news agency because he believed his son was going to be made a scapegoat.

I understand that their was also a military investigation, but who knows where it would have gone if those pictures had not come to light.
--
Nicholas Bernstein, Technologist, artist, etc.
http://nicholasbernstein.com
[ Parent ]

What's great about our country (none / 0) (#95)
by emmons on Fri May 14, 2004 at 12:56:47 AM EST

Is that it came out, and EVERYONE CARES. We're pissed. We're so pissed we're calling for the Defense Secretary's head. It's all we've talked about for a week. In this country the press is free to talk about it and the administration is being held accountable. The system will change.

Crap like what happend in Abu Gharib will inevitably happen under any government. The difference is that we care and are allowed to publicly criticize the government. And our government listens.

When we stop caring and the government stops listening, that's when it's time to worry.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

You make some good points, skynight. (3.00 / 7) (#43)
by Kasreyn on Wed May 12, 2004 at 01:29:28 AM EST

Here are some thoughts for the grist-mill:

Unfortunately, calls for scapegoats and assertions that this is the natural product of America's misadventures in Iraq skirt a far more fundamental issue: the prisons of the world are fucked up.

Personally, I hold with the strictest sense of military justice on this one. A commander is 100% responsible for ALL actions of those under his command. Whoever was in command of these guards, HIS commander, HIS commander, all the way up the chain until we find someone who honestly was ignorant of what was going on. That question of knowledge or ignorance is the only important one.

This is counter to the model that the military uses in most situations, but this represents a sensible exception to standard protocol as the task of guarding prisoners is fundamentally different from that of any other task in the military.

Well, what are you going to do when your planned team of guards, who have all been carefully led to mistrust one another, are faced with a rioting cell block? How will they work together as a team to quell the prisoners and prevent escapes and ensure their and the prisoners' safety?

I'd say a better solution to the problems of our prison systems is to set up an outside agency, overseen or audited regularly by such humanitarian agencies as Amnesty International, the ACLU, and the Red Cross. This organization would go into prisons with an auditor, a pair of their own armed guards, a bunch of blank slips with checkboxes for different common abuses ("rape", etc) and blank lines for writing in others, and a locked box with a slit in the top. They would visit every single prisoner and be alone with him in his cell. No one else would know whether that prisoner had written any grievances to be placed in the locked box. (Obviously, you have to visit every prisoner or else the corrupt guards could take revenge on any who went into a closed room with the audit team). The locked box full of possible grievances would then be taken out of the prison to a location where the contents would be examined with auditors from Amnesty International etc., as well as agents of the press, to ensure honesty. The board of this agency, which IMO would fall under the direction of the federal executive branch, would then request investigations into prisons where abuses were occurring.

Anyone else like my idea, or is it unworkable for some reason I haven't seen?

In light of such facts, it is difficult to believe that calls for Rumsfeld's resignation are something other than political opportunism. If the dignified treatment of prisoners were truly a sincere issue in our body politic, then there is plenty of cause for concern on a daily basis. The mundane just doesn't make for good news.

Sad to say, I must agree with you. Expecting that the Secretary of Defense himself would have known these details is a bit absurd. How many millions does our army number? It's unreasonable to expect him to know what's going on at a unit or squad level, or even a platoon or company level. It's not his job. Now, I dislike Rumsfeld personally, but this is going too far; he's earned flak and IMO earned a firing over his handling of the war, but not over this issue.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Uh.. (none / 1) (#54)
by joib on Wed May 12, 2004 at 03:46:06 AM EST

A commander is 100% responsible for ALL actions of those under his command. Whoever was in command of these guards, HIS commander, HIS commander, all the way up the chain until we find someone who honestly was ignorant of what was going on. That question of knowledge or ignorance is the only important one.

So, which one is it gonna be? Is the commander 100 % responsible, or can he cop out by saying he was ignorant?

Personally, I'm not too keen on the 100 % responsible thing, as it creates an incentive for the commander to hide any atrocities, as the commander would get fired if those higher up would hear about it.

[ Parent ]

That's difficult (none / 0) (#69)
by ZorbaTHut on Wed May 12, 2004 at 11:46:11 AM EST

It's a pity we don't have any systems for dealing with criminals who might lie to us. After all, every bank robber and murderer I've ever heard of has admitted their fault the first time they were questioned.

Honestly - it's not perfect, but at least the military courts are a step in the right direction. And at least we'd have something a little better than this "oh, you're liable for untold agony? Okay, just don't do it again next time!"

[ Parent ]

And.. (none / 0) (#94)
by emmons on Fri May 14, 2004 at 12:47:37 AM EST

Better than having the entire chain of command of the military thrown in prison every time one person somewhere in the military does something wrong.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
Yes, costs. (none / 2) (#59)
by megid on Wed May 12, 2004 at 05:53:12 AM EST

Dont forget that the majority of USian prisons are now (AFAIK, at least) privately owned companies. As such, they act like companies do.

--
"think first, write second, speak third."
[ Parent ]
That makes it an easy problem to solve. (none / 0) (#104)
by NFW on Tue May 18, 2004 at 12:19:18 AM EST

Easy for the taxpayers, anyhow: impose financial penalties for abuse. Companies like to protect their profits, which means keeping costs down, which means (in this case) minimizing abuse. Let them figure it out - and provide incentive for them to do so. Better yet, penalize the top management, and/or stakeholders, rather than the company's balance sheet. Doing an end-run around the corporiate liability shield is a whole other story in itself, but nothing can change corporate culture like motivated management can.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Not a better choice (none / 1) (#83)
by Control Group on Thu May 13, 2004 at 09:58:29 AM EST

Your auditing idea is an interesting one, but the implementation you've proposed has a problem. By basing the audit on interviewing prisoners and collecting their responses, you've shifted the burden of trust: you no longer have to trust the guards, you have to trust the prisoners.

I'm not about to claim that prison guards are the most scrupulous and/or trustworthy group of people on the planet, but by and large, they're probably more reliable than the prisoners. Making the guards accountable to a group of people proven untrustworthy (even if a prisoner is pure as the driven snow coming in, I have to believe prison life leads to a certain degree of cynicism and opportunism) is bound to be ineffective.

I tend to think the problem of trust in this situation is intractable. You can neither trust a group of people who are there specifically because society doesn't trust them, nor can you trust a group of people handed essentially absolute power over another group.

My answer is to ignore trust in favor of evidence. Every feasible corner of a prison should be under constant video surveillance, with the footage transmitted off-site to an independent auditing agency (Amnesty International and/or the Red Cross are good choices). This, in combination with the on-site auditing you've proposed, would, I feel go a long way towards ameliorating the rampant abuse of the system that goes on in prisons.

Unfortunately, I'm unfamiliar with what rights or expectations of privacy prisoners have even in domestic US prison system, much less elsewhere, so surveillance might not be legally feasible. Assuming it is, however, this is the approach I would take.

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

Feasible? Maybe. Legal? No. (none / 0) (#89)
by skyknight on Thu May 13, 2004 at 12:08:22 PM EST

Regardless of the efficacy of such a strategy, the Geneva Conventions explicitly prohibit the broadcasting of images of prisoners. Admittedly the US government isn't great about following the Geneva Conventions when they are inconvenient, but it is more than willing to follow them when it suits its purposes. As evidence of this, the White House is already saying that as much as they would like to release the Abu Ghraib photos to the public to put the mess behind them, they cannot do so because it would violate the Geneva Conventions.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
So interview the guards individually, too (none / 0) (#90)
by tzanger on Thu May 13, 2004 at 01:16:47 PM EST

I suspect that a lot of these attrocities are due to groupthink and the herd mentality -- giving the ones with consciences a chance to air their beefs anonymously might help back up or debunk the prisioner's stories.

[ Parent ]
3.00 IAWTP (but read on...) (none / 0) (#93)
by Kasreyn on Thu May 13, 2004 at 11:58:51 PM EST

Hi,

Good comments, and I think you have a very good idea. I'm not sure about the invasion of privacy with cameras, and how would you prevent prisoners from obscuring them, i.e. blocking, covering, or spraypainting the cameras in the cells and bathrooms (aka "rape central")?

Perhaps have a guard monitoring the cams for a block, merely for violence (ie riot), with recourse to a stored database of recorded footage if there is an accusation of abuse?

Note, an important thing I forgot which is CRITICAL: If a prisoner complains of abuse by another prisoner, the two MUST be instantly and thoroughly seperated. Otherwise, the rapist can terrorize his victim with a shiv and compel his silence. How can you accuse your cellmate of raping you when a.) the guard treats you like dirt for admitting it and b.) they throw you right back in lockdown with Bubba that night?

And finally, with the camera situation, who watches the watchers (as always)? I'd make it a requirement that the camera monitors be off-site and as far removed from the prison and its power structure as possible, so they have very little incentive to become corrupt (take payoffs or whatever).

Anyone have any more solutions to these problems?


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Some nits... (none / 0) (#103)
by skyknight on Sat May 15, 2004 at 10:48:28 AM EST

I hold with the strictest sense of military justice on this one. A commander is 100% responsible for ALL actions of those under his command.

I don't see how such a scenario is feasible unless commanders engage in excessive micro-management, and that would probably be quite damaging to combat effectiveness.

Well, what are you going to do when your planned team of guards, who have all been carefully led to mistrust one another, are faced with a rioting cell block?

Ideally, they should have extensive training on how to deal with such a scenario, and have their duties be well assigned. In the case of a prison riot, I think it's pretty obvious that all of the guards have overlapping and unambiguous interests in quelling the riot. Punishment would be in place for anyone who shirked their duties.

This organization would go into prisons with an auditor, a pair of their own armed guards, a bunch of blank slips with checkboxes for different common abuses ("rape", etc) and blank lines for writing in others, and a locked box with a slit in the top. They would visit every single prisoner and be alone with him in his cell.

At first I really liked this idea, but then after some thought I didn't like it so much. The problem I see with it is that now instead of the guards abusing the system, the prisoners would be able to game it. Certainly a prisoner would have motivation to report abuse anonymously, but what disincentive would he have not to falsely report abuse? The signal to noise ratio in such a sytem could be worse than on K5. :-p



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
This Joke, (none / 3) (#86)
by brain in a jar on Thu May 13, 2004 at 10:40:36 AM EST

Appeared in a German newspaper today (apologies for any loss of humour in translation).

Whats the difference between Saddam Hussain's Iraqi Government, and the present one?

The Americans really do have weapons of mass distruction...


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

It only matters... (none / 0) (#100)
by skyknight on Sat May 15, 2004 at 10:19:59 AM EST

when the other guy has something that you wish he didn't. It's irrelevant when you have something that the rest of the world wishes you didn't.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
yeah but it was funny anyway n/t (none / 0) (#109)
by livus on Fri Jun 04, 2004 at 10:45:55 PM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Obligatory link ... (none / 0) (#98)
by vryl on Fri May 14, 2004 at 02:33:57 PM EST

to the stanford prison experiment

Dipolmacy works through compromise (none / 0) (#105)
by lukme on Tue May 18, 2004 at 08:53:01 AM EST

The Bush administration doesn't comprimise, it's their way or no way. There seems to be no subtlety in any their actions. Powell is, perhaps, the only one of the administration who would be able to carry out a dipolmatic initiative, however, with the people above him unwilling to make concessions, any diplomatic endevor undertaken by Powell is doomed to failure, as we have seen.

Bottom line, they paid lip service to diplomacy, nothing more.




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
No, it sounds too much like (none / 0) (#111)
by livus on Fri Jun 04, 2004 at 11:08:13 PM EST

the ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff, to me. You're addressing the problem at the wrong end.

Imean, you assume that torture originates from individual "rotten apple" sadists trying to circumvent the rules, and then you advocate making it harder for them. Whereas, the conditions which enable individuals to act this way are much bigger, eg:

Societies at large don't even agree on what the purpose of prisons is (punishment, prevention, deterrence, rehabilitation).

Jokes about prison abuse are routine in western culture - this is the only sort of anal rape which it is acceptable to make explicit visual jokes about on primetime television, in mainstream movies, etc. Even children know what "don't drop the soap" refers to.  
Abuse in prison is seen by many as culturally "part of the punishment. To some extent there is public complicity with prison abuse.

There is also the attitude that male on male abuse although joked about is not taken seriously - it is "emarassing". Twice now I have found out about large cases where prisoners are suing prisons for raping them and it has not featured in the media the way a similar case involving, say, a woman and a school or a hospital would.

Where you have corporations like Wackenhut involved in running prisons then right there you have less direct public/state involvement in prison systems. You have less opportunity for direct culpability, more interest in economic efficiency over humanitarian goals, and a network of concerns which mean that cover ups will be the most feasable way of dealing with problems.

I think this article made a good point when it noted that the outcry has only been taken up because of media attention and political opportunism, etc. But I think basically on some level everyone has always known what goes on. It's the failiure to admit it which leads to the impossiblity of changing it. Mental health facilities used to be like this but most of them have zero tolerance for it now, and it is not impossible to change the climate in prisons to a similar one if we really wanted to.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Building Trustworthy Systems From Untrustworthy Components | 112 comments (99 topical, 13 editorial, 2 hidden)
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