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Brass Tacks | The Nation

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Brass Tacks

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Despite these obstacles, a blizzard of information has spewed forth from the Pentagon. Ballesteros, a boyish-looking 41-year-old officer with dark hair and bloodshot eyes who graduated from the University of Kansas journalism school this past May, says he spent the first couple of weeks on his job simply reading the military reports on detainee abuse.

About the Author

Tara McKelvey
Tara McKelvey, a 2011 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret...

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"There's a danger of 'Abu Ghraib fatigue' setting in," says Eugene Fidell of the NIMJ. "Whether this is intentional or not is beside the point. The point is the public has not been served by the plethora of investigations."

Scott Horton, a partner with the New York law firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler who teaches a class on humanitarian law at Columbia University, has analyzed many of the military reports while sitting in his Avenue of the Americas office, surrounded by a Russian Orthodox icon, the German magazine Stern and a poster of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by his client, the late Andrei Sakharov. Glancing at the poster, Horton says, "I never thought I'd end up spending my time with torture cases in the US."

Horton says most of the reports are nothing more than "whitewashing" and "scapegoating." The Fay report, Horton says, may have been hampered by its author's scant credentials for the job: A reservist and executive vice president of Chubb & Son, a division of Federal Insurance Companies, he had been a financial supporter of the New Jersey Republican Party. For the report, he visited US bases in Germany in late spring 2004.

"He would say, 'Now, if anyone saw anything and failed to intervene, they can be charged with a crime. Did anyone see anything and fail to intervene?'" says Horton, who has spoken with four military officers who have described the meetings.

"They'd all say, 'No, Sir!'"

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