Shaking: Torture, Not 'Aggressive Interrogation'

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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Central Intelligence Agency operatives acknowledged that the CIA uses shaking as an aggressive interrogation technique, but CIA Director Porter J. Goss denied that it constituted torture ["Director of Torture," editorial, Nov. 23].

I examined shaking victims as part of a Physicians for Human Rights investigation in 1997 in Gaza and the West Bank. Typically, the prisoner was seated on a stool with his legs and hands bound while the interrogator grabbed him by the shoulders or collar and violently shook him back and forth.

When this kind of violent shaking is done to babies, it can result in brain damage and death.

The same consequences can occur in adults. I interviewed and examined a dozen Palestinians who had been violently shaken while in Israeli custody. Many had personality, behavioral and cognitive changes consistent with frontal

lobe brain damage. At least one man died in custody when violent shaking caused, as an autopsy revealed, tearing of the blood vessels under the skull and lethal intracranial bleeding.

In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court deemed shaking to be torture and banned it. The effect of the court's ruling has been murky, but the judgment that shaking constitutes torture is inescapable.

LEE D. CRANBERG

Boston

The writer is a clinical instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.


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