Thursday, August 27, 2009

A New Form of the Clinical

The New York Times recently reported on the degree to which the CIA premeditated and executed its intelligence-gathering program "with the painstaking, eye-glazing detail beloved by any bureaucracy." The protocol included hour-by-hour prescriptions on interrogation practices, calorie intake, and confinement and enforced nudity duration, as agreed upon by select managers, doctors and lawyers. One CIA document puts it this way: the detainee “finds himself in the complete control of Americans; the procedures he is subjected to are precise, quiet and almost clinical.”

'Almost clinical.' Reminiscent of Foucault's work on the birth of the medical clinic, the phrase smacks of institutionalized gazes and self-preservation below the "level of the noisy episodes of its history." In her own unique penetration of the body's secrets, the CIA interrogator invents new tests and signs, even touches and prods the 'patient,' in the name of "diagnostic wisdom," so as to uncover hidden truths. From clergy to doctors to psychiatrists and now intelligence officers, the trajectory of clinical authoritarianism takes a new turn towards national security.

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