Monday, April 14, 2014

"You are completely destroyed": Testimony on Torture from Shaker Aamer's Medical Report at Guantanamo

On April 7, 2014, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held at Guantanamo, and his attorneys filed a habeas petition (PDF) asking for his release due to chronic health problems that can not be treated at Guantanamo. The worst of these problems apparently stems from PTSD from the torture Shaker has endured since he was captured by the Northern Alliance, then turned over to the Americans on Christmas Eve, 2001.

The details of his torture at Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo are described in lengthy quotations from a February 2, 2014 medical psychiatric report by Dr. Emily Keram, a forensic psychiatrist who has evaluated a number of Guantanamo detainees at the request of the U.S. courts, the Military Commissions, and various habeas attorneys. The report is appended to the habeas filing.

What follows here is a long section from her report (PDF), where Dr. Keram quotes Shaker's narrative about his experiences under torture after his capture. From my experience, it is one of the most remarkable and disturbing documents to have come out of Guantanamo, as Shaker Aamer is an intelligent, sensitive man who speaks English. He has left us a record of his torture that cries out to be read.

I reproduce portions of Shaker's testimony here in the hopes of mobilizing support for freeing him from Guantanamo (he has been "cleared for release" for years now). I also hope this helps mobilize support for freeing or transferring all the detainees/prisoners to humane incarceration with the certainty of quick adjudication of their cases. Those detainees who are not guilty of anything should be released, and at this point -- read the following and you will understand fully -- given the surety of medical treatment as long as they need it.

Both the habeas filing and the medical report were linked in a story by long-time Guantanamo expert and passionate advocate for an end to torture and indefinite detention, Andy Worthington. His article, "Gravely Ill, Shaker Aamer Asks US Judge to Order His Release from Guantánamo," is posted at the Close Guantanamo website.


From Shaker Aamer's Medical Report (verbatim):

Mr. Aamer and I reviewed his conditions of confinement at Bagram Airfield. He reported severe maltreatment by guards, interrogators, and medical personnel working in concert, by means of humiliation, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, manipulation of food and water, stress positions, threats of sexual assault against his young daughter, and beatings.

“The nakedness made me feel animal-like. I was not a human being anymore. I meant nothing to them. I lost my dignity, my pride, being a man. I had to take off my underwear and hand it to them. You lose your humanity. You are an animal. You know if you don’t do it, they will do it by force and it will be a lot worse. I respected and believed they would give me a fair chance because they were Americans. I was happy that I was with Americans because of their human rights.

I had sleep deprivation for 11 days. That made me crazy. They poured cold water over me. They kept me standing for 20 hours a day. I had to hold my hands and arms out. If I dozed off they would bang on the concrete with an axe. The sleep deprivation caused hallucinations. It started with noise. Then I heard old music from my childhood. I wondered, ‘Where did they get those tapes?’ I heard people talking. I started looking for who was talking. There was no one there. No one else heard them. Finally I heard music from my childhood that I knew they never could have found. I talked to the doctor about it. He said I was going crazy. He told me, ‘You should talk to the interrogators so then you can relax.’

They withheld food, except for frozen MRE’s. They would give you a bottle of frozen water. You didn’t want to drink because it would make you have to pee. The guards won’t take you to pee so I peed where I was sitting. I didn’t have a bowel movement for 25 days. My stomach became like a stone. I didn’t see a doctor initially because the interrogators were happy because I was telling them everything, whatever they wanted. [Interrogators controlled access to medical personnel] Then the doctor gave me a laxative. They took me to a hole. Female and male guards were watching. A guard pulled down my coveralls and told me to shit. It was very hard. I had to push hard. The female and male guards were joking. A female said, ‘Look, he’s having a baby.’ I passed what felt like stones. The guards gave me a tissue from an MRE to wipe myself. It was bloody. I felt so humiliated.

All of the statements I made at Bagram were during the sleep deprivation. I would have said anything. I told them, ‘I will tell you I am bin Laden if you want me to tell you I am bin Laden.’”

Mr. Aamer described the effects of maltreatment on his mental state.

“It’s a process of losing your mind. First it’s knowing you are not in control of yourself anymore. Someone else is in control of you. So you fool yourself and think, ‘Well, he’s only controlling me physically, but not mentally.’ They’re not in your head. But then you realize you’re wrong and they control your mind.

Then it’s welcome to the microwave. It’s easy to crack an egg from the outside. It’s hard to blow up the egg from the inside. They let you recover so you think you’re strong again. And then they break you again. And you thought you were strong again. And you don’t know your thoughts anymore. Like the microwave, they boil you from the inside to the outside until you explode.

After the microwave, the eggshell may be intact because the heat penetrated to the inside. The shell looks strong. But if you crack the egg, inside you will see charcoal.

So I would go to the interrogators thinking, ‘How can I lower the level of torture? What can I say to please him? I am going to be so easy with him today, I will please him.’”....

“It makes me scared to talk about it. I’ve been keeping it all inside. I’m scared because they are listening to us now and they’re learning; I’m teaching them how to interrogate. And now they will write a whole new book on interrogation with what they have learned....

“It’s a terrible procedure. The interrogator starts to talk with you about things that are small and well known. You agree. But he is driving you to a cliff. The more you drive with him on his interrogation, he starts throwing out fish bait, so little by little they show you that they are interested in knowing who you are. They do this by saying, ‘Shaker Aamer, we know you; we know who you are. We know you are nobody. We know you are a small fish rubbing shoulders with the big fish.’

My goal is, ‘How can I minimize the torture? I just want to sleep.’ I never had a goal more than that. It was never my goal to get out of the facility and be freed. My goal was just to lessen the torture. The problem is, not all the small fish know the big fish; but you want to lessen the torture.

So, their interest in you makes you trust them. You start to tell them the truth; you build the truth by telling the story in chronological order. You build the building one story at a time. Until I separated from my wife and go [sic] to hide in the mountains and wait for the man to take me through the mountains. The interrogators asked me the name of the mountains, the name of the man who would guide me. I didn’t know. And that’s when the interrogators went crazy.

The interrogators threw chairs. They put me in a grey disc with my legs spread. They banged the chairs. And you are just trying to avoid any hit. They shook me. They threw me on the ground. They banged my head into the wall.

I was telling them the truth. Their interest made me trust them. It made me hope the torture will decrease. But when I couldn’t tell them what they want [sic] to hear they made me stand for hours, they scream at me, they bang into me. You aren’t even thinking beyond how to protect yourself and not attack them so that you don’t get a bullet in your head. They do that until you are shivering, until they have broken you, until your mind is completely empty. You feel like you’re not real anymore. Like it’s a dream.

And now the worst part comes. They treat you with kindness. It destroys you completely. Your thinking is paralyzed. Your feeling is paralyzed. And the interrogator says, ‘I am trying to help you.’ You don’t know what to love and what to hate because it’s all happening at the same time. You don’t know anything anymore. You can’t tell apart good and bad, kind and evil. You lose the sense of the meaning of kindness.

You ask yourself, ‘Are they really trying to hurt me or are they trying to help me?’ You can’t tell anymore. They bang your head on the wall and then they give you a hot meal. One interrogator talked about what he would do to my five-year-old daughter in details that destroyed me. He said ‘They are going to screw her. She will be screaming, ‘Daddy! Daddy’’ You are completely disorganized. You are completely destroyed.

It happened many times. You learn they don’t really want to hear what the truth is. The truth only results in the same; more torture. So you begin to follow their story; they ask you questions, they give you descriptions and you agree. What was the color of the car? Did the driver look like this? Was the driver from al Qaeda? I answered, ‘How should I know.’ They said, ‘Well, a taxi driver wouldn’t drive to this compound would he, so he must be al Qaeda. The taxi driver takes you to the Arab guesthouse so the taxi driver is al Qaeda and the Arab guesthouse is al Qaeda.’

The interrogators give you the details, but they don’t want you to agree. They say have you seen a fat guy? A guy with a turban? This guy? That guy? Guess what? Those guys are al Qaeda. And then you feel like that you are al Qaeda. Then the interrogators tell you that al Qaeda recruited you without you knowing it; they were behind funding your travel.

Then they ask you to sign a statement. When I say no, the whole thing starts again. In the end, I offered to my interrogator to sign that I am al Qaeda, everything the interrogator wanted me to sign, if the interrogator would agree not to interrogate and torture me anymore. And the interrogator said, ‘I can’t tell you that we won’t interrogate you anymore.’

No matter what you said, they still wanted more. So they kept torturing me no matter what. The degree of the torture would change. Maybe they would let me sit for a brief period of time and then it would get worse again.

For the first 25 days at Bagram it was constant severe torture. For the last week they left me alone with the other detainees in a room with a heater. We all had frostbite. The interrogators only asked what we knew about certain people, but they weren’t pushing me for specific information. I didn’t see the sun except twice while I was at Bagram. And then there was ‘The Big Goodbye Party’ when you leave for Kandahar. I was beaten, shackled, and hooded. The guards laughed and cursed me. I was roped together with other detainees. Then the plane didn’t come. The next day they gave us another ‘Goodbye Party.’ We weren’t allowed to use the toilet. The plane came. I was fearful, thinking, ‘If this is happening right now, what is coming next? Maybe they’re getting ready to shoot me? Maybe it will be something worse than this.’”

Mr. Aamer experienced severe maltreatment at Kandahar Airfield with identical effects on his physical and mental state.

"I was shipped to Kandahar. The airplane was freezing cold. Someone took my socks from me. And then the ‘Welcome Party.’ They told the soldiers they could do anything they wanted with the detainees. We landed. They put us face first on cold concrete. We were shivering. They hit me with gun butts, kicked me with boots, and stomped on my back. There was a 17-year-old detainee. They put a gun up his rectum. He was screaming, ‘I’m no woman! I’m no woman!’ I yelled at the guards to stop in English. Then, because I spoke English the soldiers said, ‘He’s a traitor. He speaks perfect English.’ They beat me even harder. A black female soldier stopped them, saying, ‘You’ve had your fun.’

At about 0600, after 20 minutes of not being beaten, they put me in a cage with a blanket. They put me on my face and unshackled me. Then they ran out. They gave me bread. At about 0730 or 0800 they yelled at me to get up. They put my head on the ground, hooded and shackled me and took me to the interrogators tent. I was kept awake for 10 days.

The torture in Kandahar was more physical than in Bagram. They shook me, threw me on the floor, made me hold my arms out, hit my hands. There was no blanket, just lying on the ground. There was a nice thick blanket lying on the floor, but if I reached for it they would start beating me.

Two interrogators named John and Tony and a guy named Sallie or Sal took turns for three to six hours at a time or two to three hours at a time. There was also an Egyptian. They were with me almost all the time. At least I had my own place in Bagram; I was in a cage and the guards were on the outside. That was a comfort to me. But at Kandahar there was nothing between me and the guards. They were in the tent. If I closed my eyes, the guard would say to open them.

The interrogations at Kandahar had the same process as at Bagram in terms of the interrogators being both cruel and kind. The worst was Sal. He was so kind. He sat me outside the tent with the guards and heated up my food. The guards were starting [sic?] at me. I felt humiliated. Sal talked to me as if I were a human being. Then Sal would say he was going to screw my five-year-old daughter; he was going to do this and that to my daughter sexually; how my daughter would scream and scream. I thought about attacking Sal and getting killed. But I wouldn’t do anything aggressive. Force is the weapon of the coward.

This went on for 10 days. It was constant interrogation and torture. I told them the exact same truth that I had told the interrogators in Bagram, plus they had more true information about me. I also told the interrogators things that weren’t true in order to decrease the intensity of the torture I was suffering.

In those ten days, I only went to the toilet once. I had sleep deprivation. The ICRC came to see me in Bagram one time. Then they came to Kandahar to see me. They took me to a cage with other detainees. The judge from the ICRC saw me there, a Swiss judge. He gave me a card with my number on it.

After 10 days they sent the Egyptian guy who told me I was going to Guantanamo. They put me in a cage for four days and pretty much left me alone. A British agent came to see me, a young officer with a red beret. I wouldn’t talk with him because he said he couldn’t do anything to help me. The Americans only asked me questions those last four days at Kandahar like the last days at Bagram. They didn’t press me to lie about anything.

After four days they gave me the ‘Goodbye Party’ at Kandahar and a far worse ‘Welcome Party’ at Guantanamo.”

The maltreatment and its physical and mental effects continued at Guantanamo.

“The interrogations at Guantanamo have twists. There’s a 'frequent flyer program' where they move you every two hours. The guards shout at you in the same block. They switch the water off. They spray Pine Sol in my clothes.

It’s the same process psychologically; I can’t tell cruelty and kindness apart. I told the interrogators everything to decrease the torture severity. Another thing that was at Guantanamo that was not at Bagram was the circles within circles. The guards were connected with medical, were connected with the people who gave supplies like linens, were connected with the administration like the NCO’s, were connected with the Navy or the Army, were connected with the CIA, were connected with the FBI, were connected with the Republicans and the Democrats. All of these people want to squeeze my neck at the center of all of the circles. You tell them what they want to hear to decrease the severity of the torture.

For example, an internist came to see me. I asked for a blanket because I have arthritis and the cold air conditioning makes it worse. The doctor said the arthritis is in my record and agreed that it was cold. The doctor said, ‘I will ask permission from the Joint Detention Group (JDG) for a blanket for you.’ And the doctor says he’s independent.

The worst thing about torture is that you don’t know how to think, what to do, how to feel. You know you have your mind, but you don’t now how to react, which is horrible because you feel vulnerable. It’s terrible. We believed that the people here; the CIA, the interrogators, use ‘djinn.’ [spirits] The evil djinn. Some of the things that happened, you can’t explain. Some people with think that it was drugs or something, but 95% of us believe we got possessed by djinn.”

Also posted at Firedoglake/The Dissenter

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Newly Revealed Portions of CIA Torture Manual: Doctoring Tapes, Foreign Detentions & Interrogating 'Defectors”

Describing interrogation techniques and approaches used during the Cold War, an old 1960s CIA counterintelligence interrogation manual advised covertly photographing the interrogation subject and also audio taping his interrogations.

A tape player could free an interrogator from note taking, the CIA’s experts wrote, while also providing a live record of an interrogation that could replayed later. The manual’s author noted that for some of those interrogated, "the shock of hearing their own voices unexpectedly is unnerving."

Portions of the manual, originally declassified over 16 years ago, have remained censored until now. In March 2014, the CIA released an updated version [PDF] of the manual, which contains new revelations that extend our knowledge of CIA interrogation activities.

For example, in the case of audio taping interrogations, the newly declassified version of the manual adds that the CIA believed the doctoring of such tapes to be “effective.”

"Tapes can also be edited and spliced, with effective results, if the tampering can be hidden," the CIA manual explained in a section previously redacted. The CIA further elaborated on the effects of having a tape "edited to make it sound like a confession."

While controversy remains pitched over the release of a portion of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” torture program, the CIA’s release of material – including portions that speak to the agency’s years-long use of foreign intelligence services for detention and interrogation – was quietly released with little fanfare. Meanwhile, leaks to news media and analysis by commentators demonstrate that the CIA lied to Congress about aspects of its post-9/11 rendition, detention and interrogation (torture) program.

What has not been emphasized much until now is that the post-9/11 program in regards to torture, rendition and detention, both at "black sites" and by foreign intelligence services working with the CIA, is the continuation of a CIA practice going back decades.

KUBARK as a Model for Interrogation and Torture

The CIA’s 1963 set of instructions on counterintelligence interrogation, known as the KUBARK manual, was first declassified in 1997. (KUBARK was the CIA’s own code name for itself.) Recently, since that initial declassification, I obtained an update of the CIA’s infamous document, obtained on March 12, 2013 via Mandatory Declassification Request. The document was obtained by using the FOIA-activist website, and the document and all materials regarding its production, including my initial request, is posted at their site. Click here to download the document (or on the thumbnail below).

The updated version of the KUBARK manual still contains numerous redactions, even 51 years after the document’s origination. But it also includes brand-new information about the CIA’s use of torture, including never before revealed discussions of the CIA’s early use of foreign intelligence services for both interrogation and detention, including the use of such foreign services as cover for CIA interrogations. The new unredacted material includes the finding that KUBARK techniques were used at “defector reception” or interrogation centers during the Cold War.

The Baltimore Sun, which originally had gained the manual via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it first made in May 1994, linked the KUBARK manual to later torture and interrogation techniques utilized in a 1983 set of manuals used in Central America to train Honduran and other Central American interrogators.

The product of years of experimentation and field experience, the KUBARK manual written in 1963 utilized a set of torture and other interrogation techniques that included use of solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, fear, stress positions, electric shock, sleep deprivation, drugs, and other methods to induce compliance and the “exploitation” of the prisoner or subject interrogated.

After the Abu Ghraib scandal, when the kinds of abusive interrogation and detention techniques used on U.S. “war on terror” detainees were vividly visualized for U.S. and world audiences, the similarities between what the U.S. was doing and the early instructions in the KUBARK manual became front-page news in the mainstream U.S. press.

The similarity of the KUBARK techniques to certain abusive techniques used by other government agencies, such as the FBI, has been noted. But it is the connection with the CIA’s own Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program that resonates the most in the context of a major government dispute over the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA program.

The Intelligence Committee has voted to release the Executive Summary of the report, but most of the 6,000 page report will not be released. Meanwhile, the CIA itself has been asked (or demanded, perhaps) to be centrally involved in classification decisions made in the release of the Executive Summary. The chance we'll see much of that full report is slim. As we can see, it's taken 51 years and we still don't have all the information in the CIA's 1963 interrogation manual.

A recent article by Jason Leopold at Al Jazeera America suggested that the Senate report will show that CIA “enhanced interrogation” techniques “either went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or were applied before they had been authorized.” Those techniques included, among other forms of torture, physical slapping, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement of a prisoner in small box, stress positions, and waterboarding.

Early Evidence of Black Sites and Rendition

Among the most prominent portions of the KUBARK manual that were not originally declassified and held secret until now -- labeled KUBARK II here to forego confusion with the 1997 declassified version -- concern CIA’s interrogations conducted “with or through liaison.” Such liaison included “foreign” or “host” services, including those interrogations that “involved illegality.”

While there is no portion of the document that specifically uses the term "rendition," there is a lot of discussion about having to use foreign intelligence services as liaison on interrogation, and on the limited amount of detention time the CIA had when holding prisoners in other countries. (It is widely known that post-9/11, the CIA held prisoners at secret prisons in Thailand, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania, while rendition to torture sent kidnapped detainees to foreign intelligence prisons in Syria, Morocco, Egypt and other countries.)

CIA ex-Deputy Counsel John Rizzo recently admitted that the CIA rendition program was a practice of long standing. “Renditions were not a product of the post-9/11 era…” Rizzo recently told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, “... renditions, in and of themselves, are actually a fairly well-established fact in American and world, actually, intelligence organizations.”

Until now, most discussions of the U.S. post-9/11 CIA interrogation program have presumed that renditions to foreign interrogation services were something that originated after the Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or perhaps earlier, during the Clinton administration. But the newly restored sections in KUBARK II suggest that such activities by the CIA were common practice during the Cold War.

One example of this, not referenced in the KUBARK document, but known from other CIA documents, was known in intelligence circles as the “Kelly Case,” and described by H.P. Albarelli and this author in a 2010 article. Kelly, a code name for a Bulgarian operative named Dimitrov, was kidnapped by the CIA in the early 1950s and sent to a secret interrogation center run by the CIA at Fort Clayton, Panama (then Panama Canal Zone) where he was tortured using drugs and hypnosis, part of the Agency's Operation Artichoke.

In another example of early rendition practice, the CIA and the Army Intelligence Corps (CIC) allegedly ran a kidnapping program called "Snatch/Countersnatch" in Europe after World War II. There were notable early examples of CIA kidnapping as well. One of these was the case of Peter Moroz, an employee of the CIA's Institute for the Study of the USSR, who "was seized by CIA operatives posing as German police," and taken to a "safe house" near Munich. Munoz was subjected to loud music and bright lights for almost three months in isolation, all because the CIA wanted to question him after his son purportedly had defected to the East Germans. (See Maris Cakars & Barton Osborn, "Operation Ohio: Mass Murder by US Intelligence Agencies," Win Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 30, 9/18/1975*)

According to KUBARK II, "Interrogations conducted under compulsion or duress are especially likely to involve illegality and to entail damaging consequences for KUBARK." The newly declassified material shows approval for such actions, including interrogations involving “physical harm” and “medical, chemical or electrical methods or materials… used to induce acquiescence,” derived from a CIA official labeled “KUDOVE,” a cryptonym which according to a National Archives document describes the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations (DDO).

Such approval by the DDO was also necessary “[i]f the detention is locally illegal and traceable to KUBARK...."

James Pavitt was Deputy Director of Operations from 1999 to June 4, 2004. He was succeeded by Stephen Kappes, whose tenure only lasted until August 2004. Kappes was followed by Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr. Rodriquez famously ordered the destruction of video tapes used in the interrogation and torture of Abu Zubaydah and other "high-value detainees" held by the CIA at their Thailand "black site." During Rodriquez's tenure, the CIA's Directorate of Operations, which was once known as the Directorate of Plans, changed its name once again to the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Whether Directorate of Plans, Directorate of Operations, or NCS, this section of CIA is responsible for covert operations.

While it seems likely Rodriquez's destruction of the tapes was meant to destroy evidence of torture, the revelation about doctoring tapes in the new version of the KUBARK document raises the question whether or not the evidence had to be destroyed so that no one would know the tapes had been altered in an effort to produce or manufacture the appearance of confessions.

The Detention Problem

Most of the discussion of working with foreign intelligence agencies is in the manual’s section on “Legal and Policy Considerations.” In 1997, much of that material was redacted, so that it was difficult to know that there was any coordination between the CIA and foreign services. But the newly unredacted material shows that the CIA turned to foreign “liaison” services because the legislation that formed the Agency "denied it any law-enforcement or police powers."

As "the necessary powers are vested in the competent liaison service or services, not in KUBARK, it is frequently necessary to conduct such interrogations with or through liaison,” the CIA wrote. The legality of such an interrogation – whether conducted “unilaterally” by either CIA or the host service – was “"determined by the laws of the country in which the act occurs.”

According to the CIA document, detention of prisoners was the primary legal problem, as the CIA had no legal power to hold prisoners. "Even if the local authorities have exercised powers of detention in our behalf," the CIA wrote, "the legal time-limit may be narrow." Hence, the manual suggests that the determination has to how long a prisoner can be held in detention be determined as quickly as possible. As the reference to “locally illegal” detention cited earlier suggests, sometimes that determination included a decision to hold prisoners unlawfully. A full paragraph on how to determine how much time could be available to CIA for interrogation in such circumstances remains censored in KUBARK II.

The issue of control over a prisoner’s detention is raised more than once in the document. "As a general rule, it is difficult to succeed in the CI [counterintelligence] interrogation of a resistant source unless the interrogating service can control the subject and his environment for as long as proves necessary," the manual states. While most of the ensuing discussion remains classified in the latest manual release, a portion of this section was unredacted.

The CIA expresses concern over what is done to prisoners or detainees held by foreign liaison services. Some "sources may demand immediate release," the CIA document states, or "later bring suit for illegal detention.” There does not appear to be any easy solution to this dilemma, from the CIA’s standpoint, though the manual warns against either pressing “too hard” on a detainee or releasing him too early, before the information desired has been obtained. "Transfer to an interrogation center should not be used as an automatic solution,” the CIA manual noted.

It was not clear what type of "interrogation center" the manual was referring to at this point.

Security Leaks

The newly declassified material shows the CIA as very concerned with possible security leaks. A released prisoner, subjected to KUBARK-style interrogation and torture, is such a possible security leak, according to the manual.

If a "subject is to be turned over to a host service,” KUBARK II states, “it becomes more than usually important to hold to a minimum the amount of information about KUBARK and its methods that he can communicate." It is possible that these are some of the same types of concerns that, unspoken, keep dozens of detainees cleared for transfer or release held indefinitely at Guantanamo.

That the CIA wished to keep its collaboration with “foreign services” secret can be discerned from the numerous times even small references to such services, even in passing, were deleted from the original declassification release.

In an “Interrogator’s Checklist” towards the end of the manual, the CIA asks the interrogator to consider whether an arrest is "contemplated." "By whom?” the manual asks. “Is the arrest fully legal? If difficulties develop, will the arresting liaison service reveal KUBARK's role or interest?" Furthermore, "If the interrogatee is to be confined, can KUBARK control his environment fully?"

In a tantalizing revelation of even further considerations around sharing detention and interrogation with foreign services, one of the newly declassified “checklist” items asks, "If the interrogation is to be conducted jointly with a liaison service, has due regard been paid to the opportunity thus afforded to acquire additional information about that service while minimizing KUBARK's exposure to it?"

To date, none of the discussions about the post-9/11 RDI program have dwelled upon the intelligence activities the CIA and its allies may have conducted upon each other, or the intelligence vulnerabilities or risks the RDI program may have entailed in that regard.

“Defector Reception Center”

One of the topics the KUBARK manual touches upon is the existence of “defector reception centers.” In the original declassification, all references to such centers were censored, even though such centers concerned possible defectors from the Soviet Union or its allies, and the 1997 FOIA release of KUBARK came six years after the fall of the USSR and its East European satellite states.

Very little has been written about these centers. According to declassified CIA and State Department documents and some memoirs by former CIA personnel, we know that the CIA maintained a “defector reception center” near Frankfurt, West Germany. It was housed at the primary Allied post-World War II interrogation center, Camp King, at Oberursel.

According to a memoir by former CIA Deputy Director of Covert Operations, Ted Shackley, “all people defecting in Europe from countries of the Soviet bloc were brought here" (to Camp King). They were held in villas scattered around Frankfurt. CIA documents released a few years ago show the housing and resettlement aspect of this defector program was code-named HARVARD.

In Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks’s classic 1975 exposé, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, detainees at the Defector Reception Center at Camp King were “subjected to extensive debriefing and interrogation by agency officers who are experts at draining from them their full informational potential. Some defectors are subjected to questioning that lasts for months; a few are interrogated for a year or more.”

According to KUBARK II, all defectors, escapees, and refugees were “customarily sent to a defector center for detailed exploitation." "Detection reception centers and some large stations are able to conduct preliminary psychological screening before interrogation starts," the manual states.

While there is no direct evidence of torture of any defectors or East Bloc escapees held at any defector reception center, the fact the KUBARK manual itself describes procedures that amount to “coercion,” even by CIA standards, strongly suggests that some torture was conducted on Soviet and East European detainees held at one or more such reception centers.

Further exploration of the Defector Reception Center and activities at Camp King are a fruitful source of possible future research. Other authors have determined that the former Nazi doctor Kurt Blome, tried but released at Nuremberg, and former head of the Nazi’s biological warfare program, worked as a doctor at Camp King in the early 1950s. In addition, Camp King was known for using drugs and other experimental torture methods on Soviet bloc prisoners.

The CIA, explaining they could neither confirm nor deny any records on Blome, rejected a FOIA I filed with the CIA on Blome’s activities.

Blome was also a top member of Nazi Germany’s biological warfare program. On February 28, 2014, the CIA’s Agency turned down my appeal of their non-confirmation/non-denial, or “Glomar” response, for records on the Camp King physician.

“Squeezed dry”

There is a small amount of other newly unredacted material. Much of it consists of quotations from Albert Biderman's secret 1959 report, "A Study for Development of Improved Interrogation Techniques." It is not clear why these sections were originally withheld. The new declassification still contains a number of redactions of material referenced in the KUBARK manual.

One of the restored Biderman quotes notes, “skilled and determined interrogations are almost invariably successful in eliciting some information from their sources.” Biderman continued, describing those “who abandon the ‘name, rank, [serial] number only’ rule or other injunctions of silence, are between 95 and 100 percent.”

Another new section concerns the interrogation of “penetration agents.” The discussion included the pros and cons of coercive interrogation.

"All good interrogators avoid coercive techniques whenever the necessary information can be gained without them,” the CIA manual stated. “In other words, physical or psychological duress is counter-productive when employed against a source whose voluntary cooperation can be enlisted without pressure."

But if such “coercion must be used and is successful,” the interrogator is cautioned that such action is likely to leave a victim “drained and apathetic.” "A resistant source who has been 'broken' should not be disregarded as a person when squeezed dry," the manual warns. Left to his own devices after "the use of pressure exceeding his resistance (for example, narcosis or hypnosis)... he is likely to revert to the role of antagonist and try to cause us trouble by any means available to him."

Addendum: Click here to see the final response letter from the CIA to me granting the request for new declassified material, and giving their explanation why some of the material was censored.

*Use of materials from Win Magazine comes via Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.

Article adapted from original posting at Firedoglake/The Dissenter

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Real Roots of the CIA's Rendition and Black Sites Program

Originally posted at Truthout on February 17, 2010, but the article by H.P. Albarelli and Jeff Kaye is worth reposting now with all the controversy over the release of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Rendition program. Whatever the public gets from any putative release -- and the CIA is fully in charge of deciding what gets censored and what doesn't from the Executive Summary portion that is section supposedly up for declassification review -- we can be sure that we will only get a "limited hangout" about what the CIA really did... and does.

The article below has been lightly edited to allow for some changes in events in the past four years, and a link has been added to document the CIA material on the "Kelly case."


On Tuesday, February 10, the British High Court finally released a "seven-paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed." The document is itself a summary of 42 classified CIA documents given to the British in 2002. The US government has threatened the British government that the US-British intelligence relationship could be damaged if this material were released. The revelations regarding Mohamed's torture, which include documentation of the fact the US conducted "continuous sleep deprivation" under threats of harm, rendition, or being "disappeared," were criticized by the British court as being "at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities," and in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The Mohamed case is the most prominent of a number of cases that have come to public attention. While the timeline of Mohamed's torture places the implementation of the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" many months prior to their questionable legal justification in the August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee memo to the CIA, the use of torture and rendition has a much earlier provenance. Over the past decade, many Americans have been shocked and disturbed about the CIA's secret program of rendition and torture carried out in numerous secret sites (dubbed "black sites" by the CIA) around the globe. The dimensions of this program for the most part are still classified "Eyes Only" in the intelligence community, but the program's roots can be clearly discovered in the early 1950's with the CIA's Artichoke Project. Perhaps the best and strangest case illustrating this can be found in the agency's own files. This is the so-called "Lyle O. Kelly case." The facts of this case are drawn from declassified government documents.

An Early Example of Torture and Rendition: "The Kelly Case"

In late January 1952, Morse Allen, a CIA Security Office official, was summoned to the office of his superior, security deputy chief Robert L. Bannerman, where he met with another agency official to discuss what Bannerman initially introduced as "the Kelly case." Wrote Allen, in a subsequent memorandum for his files, the official "explained in substance the Kelly case as follows: "Kelly, (whose real name is Dimitrov), is a 29-year-old Bulgarian and was the head of a small political party based in Greece and ostentively [sic] working for Bulgarian independence." The official described Dimitrov [whose first name was Dimitre] to Allen as "being young, ambitious, bright ... a sort of a 'man-on-a-horse' type but a typical Balkan politician."

The official continued explaining to Allen that months earlier CIA field operatives discovered that Dimitrov was seriously considering becoming a double agent for the French Intelligence Service. "Accordingly," states the memo, "a plot was rigged in which [Dimitrov] was told he was going to be assassinated and as a protective he was placed in custody of the Greek Police." Successfully duped, Dimitrov was then thrown into prison. There he was subjected to interrogation and torture, and he witnessed the brutal torture of other persons the CIA had induced authorities to imprison. Greek intelligence and law enforcement agencies were especially barbaric in their methods. Highly respected Operation Gladio historian Daniele Ganser describes the treatment of prisoners: "Their toes and fingernails were torn out. Their feet were beaten with sticks, until the skin came off and their bones were broken. Sharp objects were shoved into their vaginas. Filthy rags, often soaked in urine, and sometimes excrement, were pushed down their throats to throttle them, tubes were inserted into their anus and water driven in under very high pressure, and electro shocks were applied to their heads."

According to Allen's memo, after holding Dimitrov for six months the Greek authorities decided he was no more than "a nuisance" and they told the CIA "to take him back." Because the agency was unable to dispose of Dimitrov in Greece, the memo states, the CIA flew him to a secret interrogation center at Fort Clayton in Panama. In the 1950's, Fort Clayton, along with nearby sister installations Forts Amador and Gulick, the initial homes of the Army's notorious School of the Americas, served as a secret prison and interrogation centers for double agents and others kidnapped and spirited out of Europe and other locations. Beginning in 1951, Fort Amador, and reportedly Fort Gulick, were extensively used by the Army and the CIA as a secret experimental site for developing behavior modification techniques and a wide range of drugs, including "truth drugs," mescaline, LSD and heroin. Former CIA officials have also long claimed that Forts Clayton and Amador in the 1950's hosted a number of secret Army assassination teams that operated throughout North and South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.

There in Panama, Dimitrov was again aggressively interrogated, and then confined as "a psychopathic patient" to a high-security hospital ward at Fort Clayton. Allen's memo makes a point of stating: "[Dimitrov] is not a psychopathic personality."

[The original Truthout article did not link to any documents on Artichoke or the "Kelly case." But these documents are fully available at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website. See this link.]

The Artichoke Treatment

This remarkable summary brought the official to the purpose of his meeting with CIA security official Morse Allen. After months of confinement in Panama, Dimitrov had become a serious problem for the agency and the military officials holding him in the hospital. Dimitrov had become increasingly angry and bitter about his treatment and he was insisting that he be released immediately. Dimitrov, through his strong intellect and observation powers, was also witnessing a great deal of Project Artichoke activity and on occasion would engage military and agency officials in unauthorized conversations. The official explained to Allen that the CIA could release Dimitrov to the custody of a friend of his in Venezuela, but was prone not to because Dimitrov was now judged to have become extremely hostile toward the CIA. "Hence," explained the official, "[CIA] is considering an 'Artichoke' approach to [Dimitrov] to see if it would be possible to re-orient [Dimitrov] favorably toward us."

Wrote Allen in his subsequent summary memorandum: "This [Artichoke] operation, which will necessarily involve the use of drugs is being considered by OPC with a possibility that Dr. Ecke and Mike Gladych will carry out the operation presumably at the military hospital in Panama. Also involved in this would be a Bulgarian interpreter who is a consultant to this Agency since neither Ecke nor Gladych speak Bulgarian." Allen noted in his memo that security chief Bannerman "pointed out" that this type of operation could "only be carried out" with his or his superior's (security chief Sheffield Edwards) authorization, and "that under no circumstances whatsoever, could anyone but an authorized M.D. administer drugs to any subject of this Agency of any type." (The "Dr. Ecke" mentioned above was Dr. Robert S. Ecke of Brooklyn, New York, and Eliot, Maine, where he died in 2001. "Mike Gladych," according to former CIA officials, was a decorated wartime pilot who after the war became "deeply involved in black market trafficking in Europe and the US," and then in the early 1950's was recruited to join a "newly composed Artichoke Team operating out of Washington, DC.")

Allen also wrote that Bannerman was concerned that the military hospital at Fort Clayton may not approve of or permit an Artichoke operation to be conducted on the ward within which Dimitrov was being held, thus necessitating the movement of Dimitrov to another location in Panama. Lastly, Bannerman stated to the official and Allen that "[the CIA's Office of] Security [through its Artichoke Committee] would have to be cognizant" of the operation, and may even want to "run the operation themselves since this type of work is one which Security handles for the Agency. Here it is interesting to note that among the many members of the agency's Artichoke Committee in 1952 was Dr. Frank Olson, who would about a year later be murdered in New York City.

Morse Allen concluded his memo: "While the [Artichoke] technique that Ecke and Gladych are considering for use in this case is not known to the writer [Allen], the writer believes the approach will be made through the standard narco-hypnosis technique. Re-conditioning and re-orientating an individual in such a matter, in the opinion of the writer, cannot be accomplished easily and will require a great deal of time.... It is also believed that with our present knowledge, we would have no absolute guarantee that the subject in this case would maintain a positive friendly attitude toward us even though there is apparently a successful response to the treatment. The writer did not suggest to [Bannerman and the CIA official] that perhaps a total amnesia could be created by a series of electro shocks, but merely indicated that amnesia under drug treatments was not certain." Interesting also is that Allen noted in his memo, about thirty days prior to his meeting, an official in the CIA's Technical Services Division, Walter Driscoll, discussed "the Kelly case" with him. No details of that discussion were provided.

About a month later, according to former CIA officials, after Artichoke Committee approval to subject Dimitrov to Artichoke techniques, a high-ranking CIA official objected to treating Dimitrov in such a manner. That objection delayed application of the techniques for about "three weeks." In March 1952, according to the same former officials, Dimitrov was "successfully given the Artichoke treatment in Panama for a period of about five weeks."

In late 1956, the CIA brought Dimitrov, at his request, to the United States. Apparently, the Agency felt comfortable enough with Dimitrov's diminished hostility and anger to agree to bring him to America from Athens, where he had returned for undetermined reasons. CIA files state, "The Agency made no further operation use of Dimitrov after he came to the United States, however, former CIA officials dispute this and relate that Dimitrov was "used on occasion for sensitive jobs."

This, however, was not the end of Dimitre Dimitrov's story.

After being relocated to the United States, Dimitrov either remained bitter or resumed his bitterness toward the CIA. In June 1960, he contacted the CIA's Domestic Contact Division and requested financial assistance for himself and additional covert support and assistance for activities against Bulgaria. In 1961, he contacted an editor at Parade, a Sunday newspaper magazine then with reported strong ties to the CIA, with the intention of telling his story. A Parade editor contacted the CIA and was informed, according to CIA documents, that Dimitrov was "an imposter" who was "disreputable, unreliable, and full of wild stories about the CIA."

About ten years after the JFK assassination, Dimitrov, operating sometimes under the aliases Lyle Kelly, James Adams, General Dimitre Dimitrov and Donald A. Donaldson, informed a number of people that he had information about who ordered the murder of JFK and who had committed the act. Reportedly, he had encountered the assassins while he had been imprisoned in Panama. He also told several people that he knew about military snipers who had murdered Martin Luther King. In 1977, Dimitrov actually met with US Sen. Frank Church, head of a Senate Committee investigating the CIA, and President Gerald Ford to share his information. Dimitrov said after the meeting that Ford had asked him to keep the information confidential until he could verify a number of facts. Immediately following the March 29, 1977, death of Lee Harvey Oswald's friend George de Mohrenschildt, Dimitrov became extremely frightened and contacted a reporter with a foreign television station who either mistakenly, or intentionally, revealed Dimitrov's name publicly on American television. Not long after this, Dimitrov disappeared in Europe where he had fled. He has never been seen or heard from since. Former CIA officials say privately, "Dimitrov was murdered" and "His body will never be found."

A 1977 memorandum written, before Dimitrov's disappearance, by an attorney in the CIA's General Counsel's Office, A. R. Cinquegrana, states: "[It appears] to me that the nature of the Agency's treatment of Dimitrov might be something which should be brought to the attention of appropriate officials both within and outside the Agency. The fact that he is still active and is making allegations connected with the Kennedy assassination may add yet another dimension to this story."

Binyam Mohamed's Torture

Dimtrov's story takes on added significance when one considers the latest stories of the unraveling torture conspiracy and operations conducted by the American CIA and Department of Defense, in conjunction with their British allied organizations, and a host of other governments, including Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland and numerous others. After a series of exposures during the 1970's, many assumed the worst excesses of the Cold War torture research program, and its implementation in programs such as the CIA's Operation Phoenix in Vietnam were a fixture of the past. However, subsequent revelations, e.g. the appearance of a US-sponsored torture manual for use in Latin America in the 1980's, including documentation of torture by US forces in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, demonstrate that a direct line exists between the torture and rendition programs of the past and the practices of the present day. Recently, articles have detailed how the 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual allowed for use of ongoing isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, induction of fear and the use of drugs that cause temporary derangement of the senses.

The Binyam Mohamed story is unfortunately not unique, but it does demonstrate that the implementation of a SERE-derived experimental torture program began months before it was given legal cover by the memos written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Other stories, for instance of "War on Terror" captives being drugged and tortured, have been related by the prisoners themselves, by their attorneys, and by US and international rights agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose report on the torture of CIA "high-value detainees" was leaked to Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books.

While Binyam in many ways had a very different personal background than Dimitrov, like the Bulgarian political leader, he was rendered to a US foreign ally for torture. He was drugged. He was considered unreliable and a "disposal" problem for US leaders, who kept secret the actual treatment they endured. Both were victims of a torture program run by the CIA. Both were sent from their foreign torturer back to US custody, where they endured intense psychological torture.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, where his torture, as evidenced by the latest UK court release, was supervised by US agents. This torture was akin to the treatment meted out to Abu Zubaydah. Binyam was subsequently sent to Morocco in July 2002, where he was hideously tortured for 18 months, including a period where multiple scalpel cuts were made to his penis, and a hot stinging fluid poured on the wounds in an attempt to get him to confess to a false "dirty bomb" plot. (The US only dropped the bombing claims in October 2008.) At one point, a British informer was used to try to "turn" Mohamed into an informant for the US or Britain, just as the Artichoke treatment was used to "re-orient" Dimitrov in a pro-US direction. Mohamed also indicated that he had been drugged repeatedly.

In January 2004, Binyam Mohamed was flown to a CIA "black" site in Afghanistan, the infamous "Dark Prison." Mohamed is one of five plaintiffs in an ACLU suit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., which ran the aircraft for the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program. According to an ACLU account:
In US custody, Mohamed was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of "ghost laughter," thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children. 
Interrogations took place on almost a daily basis. As part of the interrogation process, he was shown pictures of Afghanis and Pakistanis and was interrogated about the story behind each picture. Although Mohamed knew none of the persons pictured, he would invent stories about them so as to avoid further torture. In May 2004, Mohamed was allowed outside for five minutes. It was the first time he had seen the sun in two years.
Amazingly, this was not the end of Mohamed's ordeal. From the Dark Prison he was sent to Bagram prison, and then later to Guantanamo. In August 2007, the British government petitioned the US for release of their subject. Eighteen months later, and after being subjected to more abuse at Guantanamo, he was finally able to leave US custody and return to Britain.

[The ACLU's suit against Jeppesen was ultimately dismissed. In May 2011, the Supreme Court turned down an ACLU request to hear the suit.]

The Use of Drugs in Torture by the United States

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind-altering drugs by the US in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs. A recent account, by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post, described some of these allegations of drugging of "detainees." The Post article subsequently led to an ongoing DoD Inspector General investigation into Possible Use of Mind Altering Substances by DoD Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror (D2007-DINT01-0092.005) "to determine if DoD personnel conducted, facilitated, or otherwise supported interrogations of detainees and /or prisoners using the threat or administration of mind altering drugs." According to his attorney's filings in the Jose Padilla case, Padilla, who was also originally implicated in the "dirty bomb" so-called plot with Binyam Mohamed, was forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in South Carolina.

[The DoD IG report on drugging of prisoners was finally released in July 2012, thanks to a FOIA request I had filed. The report takes up some of the charges listed here, but only in a partial and misleading fashion. For a complete analysis, see the article by Jason Leopold and Jeff Kaye at this link.]

Another former Guantanamo prisoner, Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian Muslim released in 2005, has consistently told his tale of being subjected to electroshock, beatings and drugging while in US custody.

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed's treatment in Pakistan notes that "The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed." As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, "Why were these effects being 'carefully observed' unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted upon others? That is, the observations were designed to generate knowledge that could be generalized to other prisoners. The seeking of "generalizable knowledge" is the official definition of "research," raising the question of whether the CIA conducted illegal research upon Binyan Mohamed." The role of doctors, psychologists and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights.

Most recently, in an important article by Scott Horton at Harpers, the reexamination of the evidence in the supposed 2006 suicides of three prisoners at Guantanamo pointed to the possibility that the prisoners were killed in a previously unknown black site prison on the Guantanamo base - "Camp No" - run by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command. This raises the question of why they were taken off site at all. One prisoner, 22-year-old Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, had needle marks on both of his arms. The marks were notably not documented in the US military's autopsy report.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The tale of Dmitri Dimitrov documents the existence of a US-run torture and rendition program decades before the post-9/11 scandals of the Bush administration. Both the CIA and the Department of Defense have been implicated in both the research and implementation of torture for much of post-World War II US history. And yet, aside from the famous Church and Pike Congressional investigations of the 1970's, and the hearings and report from the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2008-09 on detainee abuse, the perpetrators of these crimes have gone unpunished. The current administration of President Barack Obama has clearly stated that it had little appetite to "look backwards" and seek accountability for the abuses of the past. Yet these abuses are never really "past," as the suffering of the victims and their families continues into the present. Additionally, the practice of torture, or use of "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" of prisoners has not ended, and the same generals, colonels, admirals and intelligence agency bureaucrats and politicians who have been linked to past programs are free to research or implement ongoing abuse of prisoners and experimentation.

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.

Monday, February 24, 2014

More Charges of Forced Drugging at Guantanamo

On February 21, attorneys for six former Guantanamo prisoners took their civil case against Donald Rumsfeld and a number of U.S. military officials to federal appeals court. Rumsfeld and the others are being sued "for the torture, religious abuse and other mistreatment of plaintiffs," according to a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

Unremarked in the otherwise thin press coverage of this case was the fact that four of the six former prisoners charge the U.S. with forced drugging, via pills or injections. In one case, a special riot squad known as the "Extreme Reaction Force" entered the cell of one of the prisoners to restrain him and force medications upon him.

The former prisoners were from Turkey, Uzbekistan and Algeria. According to an Agence France-Presse account published at The Raw Story the day of the hearing, "the judges will make their ruling in several weeks, but one of them, Judge David Tatel, said military and civilian officials at the Pentagon had failed in their duty.

"'Their job is to protect the detainees from abuse, they failed to do so,' he said."

A year ago, the case had been dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, despite the fact that three of the plaintiffs were held prisoner at Guantanamo and subjected to torture and other cruel treatment even after a Pentagon-initiated review process had found them not to be "enemy combatants."

According to CCR's press release, the current appeal is based in part on the fact that immunity doctrines used to shield "the actions of government officials who abused Guantánamo detainees" were based on the fact these prisoners "were suspected of being enemy combatants." The fact that the U.S. military tortured men who were not under the category of "enemy combatant" may undermine the government's immunity argument, or perhaps allow for a Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

Drugging led to Inspector General investigation

The forced use of drugs at Guantanamo and other U.S. military sites is not a minor issue, for such use of drugs is both medically unethical and illegal according to both domestic and international law. Back in Spring 2008, the controversy over reports of such forced drugging was a front-page story in the American press, leading three U.S. senators -- two of whom, Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel, are now the Vice-President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense, respectively -- to task the inspector generals (IG) of both the CIA and the Department of Defense to investigate the issue.

While the CIA report is still classified, DoD released a redacted copy of their IG report to me, and Jason Leopold and I published a thorough review of that report at Truthout in July 2012. Leopold and I found that the government admitted to interrogating prisoners while they were being medicated. The government maintained such prisoners were not specifically drugged for interrogation, but for other reasons. Indeed, the military admitted to forcibly drugging prisoners who they wished to be "chemically restrained."

In a follow-up story at Truthout in September 2012, I noted various ways in which the DoD IG report was a cover-up regarding the extent of the drugging of the prisoners.

"But while the IG report was spurred by a June 2008 Washington Post article reporting a number of former detainees' complaints of drugging and a subsequent letter to the IG from three US senators," I wrote, "the IG report never interviewed any of the detainees mentioned in the Post story.

"The IG interviewed only three detainees, all of whom were still held at Guantanamo. 'We did not attempt to interview detainees who had been repatriated,' the IG stated, which would include any of the detainees who had previously made public statements to the press that they had been forcibly drugged."

Indeed, many former detainees have charged Guantanamo officials with forced drugging. For instance, a military prosecutor admitted to former detainee David Hicks's attorney that prison authorities put drugs in Hicks's food, as they "periodically sedated [Hicks] for non-therapeutic reasons."

In another example, after he was forcibly repatriated to Algeria from his cell at Guantanamo, Abdul Aziz Naji, who was sentenced to prison in Algeria after his release from U.S. custody, told an Algerian newspaper that some prisoners at Guantanamo were forced "to take some medicines for three months to drive them crazy, loosing [sic] memory and committing suicide."

New charges about "unspecified pills and injections"

Four of the six men suing Rumsfeld and the others in the CCR case charge that they were forcibly drugged at Guantanamo.

According to court documents, Yuksel Celikgogus, a 39 year old Turkish citizen, "was repeatedly forced to take unspecified pills and injections. Mr. Celikgogus asked what type of medicine he was receiving, but the guards would neither let him refuse the medication nor tell him what they were giving him."

Twenty-six year old Turkish citizen Ibrahim Sen "was forcibly given unspecified pills and injections. The guards would neither let him resist the medication nor respond to his inquiries as to its substance."

Nuri Mert, who is a 35 year old Turkish citizen, released, like Ceilikgogus and Sen to Turkey some years ago, suffered physical attack when he tried to resist the forced drugging.

According to the court document, "Throughout his detention at Guantánamo, Mr. Mert was forcibly given unspecified pills and injections. The guards would neither let him resist the medication nor respond to his inquiries as to its substance. In multiple instances, when Mr. Mert refused the medication, he was forcibly medicated by an Extreme Reaction Force (“ERF”) team. As is typical in such instances, a group of soldiers in riot gear burst into his cell, threw him to the ground and restrained him, carried him out of the cell, and forced him to either take pills or an injection. During his time in Camp Delta, Mr. Mert became extremely ill; he experienced severe stomach and chest pains and regular vomiting. When Mr. Mert wanted medical care, he was often deprived of such care despite frequent requests."

Zakirjan Hasam was the fourth of the former detainees who claimed he was "forcibly medicated with pills and injections repeatedly while in Guantánamo." Hasam is an Uzbek refugee who transferred to Albania in 2006. Along with Abu Muhammad, the other Uzbek in the case, he currently lives in a refugee camp in Tirana.

All the former detainees are said to suffer terribly from their torture at the hands of the American armed forces. According to Shayana Kadidal, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, "These men’s lives were irreparably damaged at Guantánamo. The U.S. government acknowledges they were wrongly imprisoned for years yet refuses to compensate them and help them rebuild their lives."

Besides Rumsfeld, the other defendants in the suit include former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers and General Peter Pace, former commanders of Joint Task Force-GTMO Major General Michael Dunlavey, Major General Geoffrey Miller and Brigadier General Jay Hood, as well as the former director of the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantanamo, Esteban Rodriguez, among many others.

Besides forced drugging with "unknown substances," the former prisoners' suit describes a panoply of tortuous treatment, including "beatings, short-shackling, sleep deprivation... subjection to extremes of cold or heat and light and dark, hooding, stress positions, isolation, forced shaving, forced nakedness, forced sexual contact and intimidation with vicious dogs and threats, many in concert with each other."

Drugs and the Army Field Manual

While some of these "techniques" have now been banned by the military -- such as hooding -- others continue in use as official parts of the Army Field Manual, whose interrogation procedures have been propounded by President Obama's January 22, 2009 executive order on "lawful interrogations." These include sleep deprivation, manipulation of temperatures, isolation, and other so-called interrogation "approaches" and "techniques."

While it is not commonly known, the Army Field Manual does allow use of drugs on detainees, so long as they do not "induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage." This makes military use of drugs on prisoners even more permissive than John Yoo's allowance to the CIA in his famous 2002 memos. Yoo had told the CIA it could not use on prisoners "mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality." While Yoo's stricture had a lot of room for possible abuse, the current version of the Army Field Manual allows almost any kind of drug to be used, lacking proof of "lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage."

This is all a far cry from how the military once considered the issue of drugging prisoners. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service [CRS], earlier military doctrine "prohibited the use of any drugs on prisoners unless required for medical purposes." The CRS report describes a 1961 opinion by the Army's Judge Advocate General which stated, “'the suggested use of a chemical "truth serum" during the questioning of prisoners of war would be in violation of the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.' From this opinion it seems clear that any attempt to extract information from an unwilling prisoner of war by the use of chemicals, drugs, physiological or psychological devices, which impair or deprive the prisoner of his free will without being in his interest, such as a bonafide medical treatment, will be deemed a violation of Articles 13 and 17 of the [Geneva] Convention." [p. CRS-14]

Moreover, according to CRS, the 1987 version of the Army Field Manual on interrogation "suggested that the use of any drugs for interrogation purposes amounted to mental coercion."

How far we have come since those days can be traced by how the U.S. treats the drugging of prisoners today. The full story of how the U.S. used drugs on prisoners at Guantanamo, if in fact such use is still not happening, remains to be uncovered. The military's IG investigation was a whitewash. Meanwhile both Congress and the mainstream press have appeared to wash their hands of the matter. But the suffering of the prisoners remains, and their testimony may not be left lingering in limbo forever. Sooner or later these crimes will have their day in a court of law or other duly constituted tribunal.

Cross-posted at The Dissenter/FDL

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Group Condemns APA's Ethics Decision on Former Guantanamo Psychologist

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) released a copy of a letter they sent to the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association (APA). The letter sharply criticizes APA for sitting seven years on an ethics complaint made against Dr. John Leso, who was a military psychologist at Guantanamo and an early member of that prison's Behavioral Science Consultant Team (BSCT). Rather than a dust-up between psychology groups, the issue goes right to the heart of the US's ability to conduct coercive interrogations and torture with the input of behavioral specialists.

On December 31, 2013, the APA sent a letter to psychologist and complainant Trudy Bond, who in 2007 had filed a complaint against Leso for his reported participation in torture at Guantanamo, that APA was not going to hold make formal charges against Leso. They said they were closing the case.

A week ago, Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian broke the story on the APA's decision, which caused a great deal of consternation among psychologists who have been working against torture, and who support Bond and others who have made ethics or legal complaints against Leso and other psychologists involved in torture. (Full disclosure: I'm one of those psychologists supporting Trudy, and a member of PsySR.)

Ackerman described Leso's role in the most famous of his nefarious deeds, his participation in the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani:
Leso was identified as “MAJ L” in a leaked log, published by Time magazine in 2005, of Qahtani’s marathon interrogation in November 2002. With Leso recorded as present for at least some of the session, Qahtani was forcibly hydrated through intravenous drips and prevented from using the bathroom until he urinated on himself, subjected to loud music, and repeatedly kept awake while being “told he can go to sleep when he tells the truth”.

At one point, Qahtani was instructed to bark like a dog.

“Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man,” the log records. “Detainee was told he would have to learn who to defend and who to attack.”

During an interrogation on 27 November 2002, the log records a direct intervention by Leso: “Control puts detainee in swivel chair at MAJ L’s suggestion to keep him awake and stop him from fixing his eyes on one spot in booth.”
For more on Leso, see the information posted at The Center for Justice and Accountability.

In a key section of their letter, PsySR's steering committee tells APA: "Evidence clearly exists that Dr. Leso and other psychologists have utterly failed to ensure that detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo and elsewhere were kept 'safe, legal, ethical, and effective.' By closing this case in the manner you have chosen, it is only reasonable for members and the broader public to assume that APA will never sanction any psychologist participating in government-sanctioned abuses. No statements from APA’s PR office will change this perception."

Indeed, APA has been the biggest backer of psychologist participation in interrogations. APA's former Chief Scientist, for instance, Susan Brandon, is Chief of Research for the Obama Administration's High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, and was last seen involved in murky ways in the interrogation of purported Iranian assassin-would be, Mansour Arbabsiar.

APA claims that it is against torture and has issued numerous statements against psychologist participation in torture. While I believe APA membership is certainly anti-torture -- a member-initiated referendum passed calling for APA to support removal of psychologists from sites of human rights violations -- APA's leadership has moved over and over to sabotage any real anti-torture actions. The referendum has never been actualized in action. APA has never called for the closing of Guantanamo. Their anti-torture resolutions are eviscerated by legalistic and/or bureaucratic maneuvers.

In this, it must be said, they follow the plan constructed by their government mentors, who chopped down the significance of the U.S. signing of the UN Convention Against Torture by encumbering it with "reservations" and "understandings" that greatly reduced the power of the treaty to in fact exercise state power to rein in torture.

Below is the full text of PsySR's letter. Readers should feel free to copy and share.
January 29, 2014

Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD
Director, Ethics Office
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242

Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD
Director of Adjudication/Deputy Director, Ethics Office
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242

Dear Drs. Behnke and Childress-Beatty:

As representatives of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), we write to express our deep concern and dismay over the recent decision by the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association to dismiss the Complaint against Dr. John Leso, a former military psychologist at Guantántamo Bay Naval Base. According to your 31 December 2013 letter to complainant Dr. Trudy Bond (a PsySR member), your office does not dispute that Dr. Leso was instrumental in devising and administering the Guantánamo “enhanced interrogation” protocol in 2002. Declassified government documents and independent reports have revealed that this protocol included, but was not limited to, weeks or months of solitary confinement; sleep deprivation; sexual humiliation; exposure to extreme cold; prolonged removal of sheets, blankets, wash cloths and religious items; 20-hour interrogations, and painful stress positions.

The Ethics Office took almost seven years to review one of the most egregious examples of unethical behavior in the history of American psychology. Due to unusual circumstances (leaks and release by Congress of classified documents) more information is available about Dr. Leso’s participation in government-sanctioned torture and abuse than may ever be the case for any other APA member. Dr. Leso co-wrote the plan for and is documented as directly participating in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani. This interrogation was described as meeting the legal definition of “torture” by Susan Crawford, the Bush administration convener of the Guantánamo military commissions.

In the end, your office apparently decided that Dr. Leso’s months of involvement with the torture program were wholly mitigated because he did not volunteer to lead the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) that formulated the protocol; he was an early-career psychologist; and he reportedly expressed unease with the assignment and a preference for “rapport-building” methods. In reaching its decision the Ethics Office has set a stunning and disturbing precedent. Your office has now provided another layer of protection to psychologists who participate in the debilitating isolation of prisoners, the psychological abuses still permitted by Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, the brutal force-feeding of Guantánamo hunger-strikers, or other ethical violations. As well, this logic suggests that psychologists who engage in insurance fraud or sexual relations with their patients can evade censure if they are relatively inexperienced and express discomfort in advance of or concurrent with their actions.

For years APA has insisted that it would sanction any member for whom credible evidence existed of participation in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, yet no psychologist has ever been held accountable for involvement in our government’s post-9/11 torture program. Evidence clearly exists that Dr. Leso and other psychologists have utterly failed to ensure that detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo and elsewhere were kept “safe, legal, ethical, and effective.” By closing this case in the manner you have chosen, it is only reasonable for members and the broader public to assume that APA will never sanction any psychologist participating in government-sanctioned abuses. No statements from APA’s PR office will change this perception.

At this point, your office must realize that the Leso decision is being widely discussed in the media and has become a matter of profound concern to many members of the profession. We therefore believe that it is important for the Ethics Office to provide greater clarity regarding two key issues: First, substantively, how does this landmark decision align with the specific principles and standards of the APA's code of ethics, and with longstanding professional prohibitions against involvement in torture and abuse? Second, procedurally, how was the decision to close the case reached? While you state that the complaint was “carefully reviewed by multiple reviewers,” it is unclear who these reviewers were. Does this decision reflect an official vote of the entire Ethics Committee, or rather action taken by the Director of the Ethics Office, or some other group of reviewers, without the participation of the full committee? Confidentiality about these matters serves, in our perception, no constructive purpose and instead raises confusion and uncertainty about the priorities and procedures of the Ethics Office. We therefore request that this information be made public in order to begin to rebuild the moral authority of the profession.

We look forward to your timely reply. Thank you.

The Steering Committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility

cc: Members of the APA Ethics Committee
Members of the APA Board and Council of Representatives

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Contrary to Obama's promises, the US military still permits torture

cross-posted from The Guardian

The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.

On January 22, 2009, President Obama released an executive order stating that any individual held by any U.S. government agency "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3."

But a close reading of Department of Defense documents, and investigations by numerous human rights agencies, has shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.

Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out "war on terror" prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such “detainees,” i.e., prisoners without POW status.

Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special "technique" called "Separation," human rights and legal groups have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

According to Appendix M, sleep can be limited to four hours per day for up to 30 days, and even more with approval. The same is true for use of isolation. Theoretically, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement could be extended indefinitely.

According to a 2003 U.S. Southern Command instruction to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, sleep deprivation was defined "as keeping a detainee awake for more than 16 hrs.” Only three years later, when a new version of the AFM was introduced, detainees were expected to stay awake for 20 hours. Meanwhile, language in the previous AFM forbidding both sleep deprivation and use of stress positions was quietly removed from the current manual.

The use of isolation as a torture technique has a long history. According to a classic psychiatric paper on the psychological effects of isolation (aka solitary confinement), such treatment on prisoners can “cause severe psychiatric harm,” producing “an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid, and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive, often self-directed violence.”

The application of the Appendix M techniques – which are considered risky enough to require the presence of a physician – are supposed to be combined with other "approaches" culled from the main text of the field manual, including techniques such as "Fear Up" and "Emotional Ego Down." In fact, at the end of Appendix M a combined use of its techniques with other approaches, specifically "Futility," "Incentive," and "Fear Up," is suggested.

While "Fear Up" and "Incentive" approaches act somewhat like what they sound -- using fear and promises to gain the "cooperation" of a prisoner under interrogation -- "Futility" has a vague goal of imparting to a prisoner, according to the AFM, the notion that "resistance to questioning is futile."

According to the manual, "This engenders a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness on the part of the source."

A review of documents released under FOIA shows that use of the "Futility" approach in the AFM was the rationale behind the use of loud music, strobe lights, and sexualized assaults and embarrassment on prisoners. The “Futility” technique pre-dates the introduction of the current Army Field Manual, which is numbered 2-22.3 and introduced in September 2006. In fact, the earlier AFM, labeled 35-52 was the basis of numerous accusations of documented abuse.

In the executive summary of the 2005 the Department of Defense's Schimdt-Furlow investigation into abuse of prisoners, the use of loud music and strobe lights on prisoners was labeled "music futility," and considered an "allowed technique." DoD investigators looked at accusation of misuse of such techniques, but never banned them.

Military investigators wrote, "Placement of a detainee in the interrogation booth and subjecting him to loud music and strobe lights should be limited and conducted within clearly prescribed limits" (pg. 9). Those limits were not specified.

Additionally, the Schmidt-Furlow investigators looked at instances where female interrogators had fondled prisoners, or pretended to splash menstrual blood upon them. According to military authorities, these were a form of "gender coercion," and identified as a "futility technique."

President Obama's Jan. 2009 executive order would seem to have halted the use of what DoD called "gender coercion," but not "music futility." But we don't know because of pervasive secrecy exactly what military or other interrogators do or don't do when they employ the "Futility" technique.

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Foundations have called for the elimination of Appendix M and/or the rewriting of the entire Army Field Manual itself.

What has been lacking is a widespread public discourse that recognizes that swapping waterboarding and the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture with the Army Field Manual as an instrument of humane interrogation only replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More on the Press and the Question of Torture in the Army Field Manual

This is second of two articles revisiting work I did on the "selling" of the Bush Administration's rewrite of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on intelligence interrogations. As the first article showed, while beat reporters at the Pentagon knew something weird was going on with the introduction of the new AFM regulations, particularly around the use of sensory deprivation as outlined in the manual's Appendix M, none of that information made it into the mainstream press accounts on the September 2006 introduction of the revised AFM.

In my second article from January 2009 (originally posted at Invictus), I looked at the how the foreign press interpreted the Pentagon's introduction of the new interrogation manual. Similar to the domestic press, the foreign press quizzed Department of Defense and State Department officials about the way Guantanamo detainees and others held as "unlawful enemy combatants" were being treated according to the new regulations. They noticed that despite claims the AFM adhered to Geneva Conventions protections in regards to prisoners, "unlawful enemy combatants" were held to a different standard in Appendix M's so-called "Separation" technique.

The Nation's "Gold Standard" for Interrogation

Also highlighted in my 2009 article was the role of the alternative press. I specifically singled out at the time and its torture "beat" writer, Mark Benjamin, for failing to report the truth about the Army Field Manual. In fact, to this day, has never carried one article on Appendix M, or even a report on the many exposés in regards to the AFM and torture released by numerous human rights and legal groups.

Well, there was one mention. Glenn Greenwald, writing a 2010 article for Salon, used an extended quote from Scott Horton at Harpers magazine that mentioned "plenty of torture-lite techniques under Appendix M of the Army Field Manual." Greenwald made no comment about Appendix M on his own, and the article itself was mainly about the otherwise important issue of indefinite detention.

But the one time Greenwald did write about the 2006 Army Field Manual, in December 2008, he got caught up in the juxtaposition of the AFM to the CIA's waterboarding and so-called enhanced interrogation program, aligning himself with "those of us who insist that Democrats fulfill their commitment to compel the CIA’s compliance in all cases with the extant Army Field Manual." Greenwald quoted favorably Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Dianne Feinstein, and wrote that the AFM "authorizes robust and effective interrogation techniques."

While Greenwald is doing extremely important work on issues of government surveillance and civil liberties in general, and has shown bravery in doing so, he has failed for some reason to grasp the issues surrounding torture and the Army Field Manual.

It seems reasonable to assume that the liberal or progressive press failure to oppose torture -- or rather, to see torture -- in the Army Field Manual derives from reliance on or obedience to Democratic Party politicians. An example of the liberal Democrats stance on the AFM and torture was published at in October 2007. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy wrote an op-ed, "We must ban secretive U.S. torture." In his column, Kennedy called the AFM "the 'gold standard' for responsible and effective interrogation techniques." was not unique in touting the supposed benefits of the Army Field Manual, or in ignoring the criticisms made of its Appendix M, or aspects of the AFM that introduced abuse even outside the Appendix M category. The number of progressive bloggers who wrote about all this could be counted on one or two hands (Marcy Wheeler and bmaz at Emptywheel, Scott Horton, Andy Worthington, Spencer Ackerman, and Daphne Eviatar -- if I left anyone out, I apologize.) Some notable anti-torture bloggers, like the Hillman Prize-winning Atlantic columnist Andrew Sullivan, simply have kept quiet and said very little or nothing about the entire issue, at least once the new AFM was put in place and sold as a big reform.

An End to Torture?

I believe many commentators, outraged by the brutal CIA program of "enhanced interrogation" torture, exemplified by the use of waterboarding, squeezing people into tiny boxes, slamming them against walls, etc., assumed that the AFM prohibition of waterboarding, hooding, nudity, etc., meant an end to torture itself. But torture is not just about brutality; it is about how to break down a human being.

Years of study about the latter by this nation's intelligence and military researchers, assisted by top figures in medicine and behavioral science academia, led the CIA to adopt a torture program sometime between the mid-1950s and early 1960s that was based on "psychological" methods: using fear, feelings of helplessness or "futility", and "touchless" techniques like solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and even use of drugs to break down and control prisoners. In doing this the CIA borrowed also from the military survival, resistance, evasion and escape, or SERE, programs that they were monitoring, and apparently still do monitor and do research on as late as this past decade.

Below is the updated version of the Jan. 2009 story that continued my documentation on the "selling" of the Army Field Manual. I have added notes (in brackets) where applicable to bring up to date, and more silently corrected grammar and syntax to allow for greater comprehension.


The Foreign Press,, and the Army Field Manual

On September 7, 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) Lt. Gen. John Kimmons showed up at a State Department foreign press briefing on the then-new DoD Directive 2310.10E (on its detainee program) and the also then brand-new Army Field Manual on interrogations. Only the day before, Kimmons and Stimson had held a news briefing for U.S. reporters at the Department of Defense on the same subjects, which I covered in a recent article at AlterNet. (See updated version of this article here.)

While few bloggers paid attention to this September 6 DoD briefing (except one noted reporter, as I'll describe later), most likely that was because President Bush had one of his infrequent news conferences that same day, and this one was a blockbuster. Bush acknowledged the existence of a secret CIA prison network [which he also at the same time said he was closing]. He also announced he was ordering the transfer of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other "high-value detainees" [from the CIA black sites] to Guantánamo Bay to be put on trial.

As the Guardian UK described it:
Mr Bush's disclosure was intended to put pressure on the US Congress to support draft legislation put forward by the White House yesterday for a system of military tribunals for the Guantánamo detainees.

The US supreme court struck down the military tribunals established by the administration for the 450 inmates at Guantánamo last June, ruling that they had no basis in US law and violated the Geneva Convention [Hamdan v. Rumsfeld].
The pressure of the Bush administration to get a military commissions process in place -- to replace the one thrown out as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court -- resulted later that year in Congressional passage of the Military Commissions Act [of 2006]. As described by the ACLU, this infamous legislation, passed with the support of the vast majority of the GOP and certain key Democrats, eliminated "the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere." It also:
...[gave] any president the power to declare — on his or her own — who is an enemy combatant, decide who should be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime and define what is — and what is not — torture and abuse.
With so much going on at Bush's news conference, who would notice the goings on at DoD, with the decidedly less glamorous Kimmons and Stimson? But one reporter did. In an article for, journalist Mark Benjamin, who had been covering the torture beat for awhile, described the "mixed messages on torture" emanating from the White House and DoD.

While Bush was defending "tough interrogation tactics" and "black site" secret prisons, the DoD spokesmen were lauding the new Army Field Manual as "designed to fit squarely within the protections of the Geneva Conventions." [In his article,] Benjamin quoted Kimmons approvingly, describing the AFM as "humane" and in accord with the views of "conventional senior generals."

Yet Benjamin failed to notice, or report, that the bulk of the Q&A session with reporters at that news conference concentrated on serious questions about whether the Army Field Manual allowed abuse itself, particularly in its Appendix M, which describes an omnibus "technique" called "Separation." Appendix M allows the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and various forms of sensory deprivation on prisoners, mostly to be used with other AFM "approaches," like "Fear Up," "Ego Down," and "Futility."

The reporters grilled Kimmons and Stimson on the AFM and its use of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. But you wouldn't know that from Benjamin, the alternative and progressive [press] reporter, whose coverage of the event was as obtuse as that of the mainstream press. (See here or here for the full story of that news conference.)

The Foreign Press Have Their Say

The same day was publishing Benjamin's article, and the mainstream press was assessing Bush's news conference, Stimson and Kimmons traipsed over to the State Department to give their briefing to the foreign press on 2310.10E and the Army Field Manual. Also in attendance were Brigadier General Thomas L. Hemingway, Legal Adviser to the Appointing Authority, Office of Military Commissions, and Sandra Hodgkinson, State Department Deputy Director, Office of War Crimes Issues.

[Not long after this press conference, Hodgkinson, a former JAG attorney, moved to DoD where she served from 2007-2009 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs. Today she is Vice President, Chief of Staff for U.S. defense contractor, DRS Technologies, "a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide."]

During the State Dept. news conference, Reymer Luever, from the German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung, tried to nail down Lt. Gen. Kimmons on the use of the "Separation" technique and the applicability of Geneva Common Article Three. As we will see, skepticism from the press was met with double-talk, and a misrepresentation of the situation of "unlawful enemy combatants" and Geneva protections (bold emphasis added):
QUESTION: Thank you very much General Kimmons. You mentioned the 19 interrogation techniques and the 19[th] interrogation technique [S]eparation. You mentioned that this isn't covered by -- or is an exception from the Geneva Convention. Are there other exceptions from the Convention, the new manual?

LTG KIMMONS: Well, I take issue with you that it's an exception from the Convention. It's the wording in the Geneva -- the third Geneva Convention that causes us to place separation as a restricted technique and not to employ against prisoners of war or lawful combatants. It is the wording and the requirements of Geneva and the definition within Geneva of what is a lawful enemy combatant, what is a prisoner of war. And clearly al-Qaida and the Taliban and the people we are dealing with now in large portions, you know, of the battlefield do not fit the standard established in Geneva for prison of war or other types of lawful enemy combatants. And therefore, according to Geneva, those type of enemy combatants are not -- are just like spies and saboteurs in the older days. And traditionally are not entitled to the same protections under Geneva.
"Like spies and saboteurs"? Where did Kimmons come up with that? The reference is to the Fourth Geneva Convention on "Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War," [which allows for some reduction in rights for captured suspected spies and saboteurs, which is we'll examine more below.]  Of course, no one from DoD wants to refer to the Fourth Geneva Convention, because they would have to admit that such prisoners had rights even beyond those in Common Article 3, which protect against violence, "cruel treatment and torture." For instance, there's Article 31:
No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.
Now, Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions does not explicitly forbid coercion. Also, Kimmons is correct that the POW Geneva convention has a higher standard for POWs, forbidding all forms of coercion upon them. Unfortunately, the GCs don't define what is meant by "coercion." But the CIA's 1963 Kubark interrogation manual does.

The Purpose of Coercive Interrogations

Jennifer Elsen, in an an essay on the "Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques Under the Geneva Conventions," in The Treatment of Prisoners (ed. R.D. McPhee, 2006, Nova Science Publishers), pointed out that the CIA distinguished between coercive and non-coercive interrogations. Coercive interrogations were those "designed to induce regression," producing a loss of general cognitive capacities, including the ability to deal with complex situations, or the ability to "cope with repeated frustrations." The tools of the coercive interrogator include the induction of fatigue, pain, sleep loss, anxiety, fear, and the "deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods."

[As we can see, "coercive" interrogation is really torture, and the forms of that kind of torture are for the most part those which are allowed for use in the Army Field Manual. It's not an accident that Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the Constitution Project, Human Rights First, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and others have called for either the withdrawal of Appendix M or a rewrite of the Army Field Manual, or both.]

According to the Civilian Geneva Convention protocols, its protections include all civilians "taking no active part in hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause." [emphasis added] During the press conference, Kimmons noted the exception for "spies and saboteurs," equating the latter with the captured detainees. But those captured in their "war on terror" in Afghanistan and elsewhere were not spies and saboteurs. Yet, even if they were, according to the Geneva Conventions, they have only "forfeited rights of communication." One cannot lock them up and throw away the key.

The Civilian Geneva Convention protocol continues, discussing the plight of "spies and saboteurs":
In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity, and in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.
"Full rights and privileges of a protected person"... that doesn't sound like one could be subject to coercive interrogation or torture, or spurious military commissions, does it?

Kimmons Down the Rabbit Hole on Geneva

Let's go back to the briefing, and pick up just where we left off. Kimmons, asked if there exceptions to Geneva in the AFM, said that unlawful enemy combatants were "not entitled to the same protections under Geneva" as prisoners of war. But in his very next sentence, he continued, in an entirely different, and confusing vein:
As a matter of law here in the United States, we are going to provide the same single standard for humane treatment to all categories of detainees, both lawful and unlawful combatants.

That same legal requirement does not require us to afford additional privileges above and beyond that standard to unlawful combatants. And that's why separation is placed -- separated to it.

I'm sorry, could you repeat the second part of your question.

QUESTION: My question was are there other -- what I have called exceptions from the Convention in the field manual?

LTG KIMMONS: No. In accordance, as a matter of law, only those interrogation approach techniques that are listed in -- authorized by the Army Field Manual, this field manual, can be employed on any class of category of detainee across the Department of Defense.
The last statement makes no sense when compared with Kimmons remarks during his opening statement, remarks to which Mr. Luever alluded in his question above. [They don't even make sense grammatically!] For in his earlier statement, Lt. Gen. Kimmons stated (bold emphasis added):
Separation meets the standard for humane treatment, but the Geneva Conventions, specifically the third Geneva Convention, affords prisoners of war, lawful enemy combatants, additional protections above and beyond the single humane standard to which they're entitled. It entitles them to pay, entitles them to send and receive mail and packages, and it also protects them from separation from other prisoners of war with whom they were captured without their expressed consent.

Unlawful combatants are not entitled to those additional protections and privileges above the humane standard. So Geneva -- the common third -- Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all categories of detainees' [there may be missing text in the transcript here] [S]eparation, however, is only authorized for use on a by-exception basis with unlawful enemy combatants.
Threading the eye of the needle, DoD means to say one thing one moment and another thing the next. What's clear is that they believe Separation is not a group of techniques that can be used on regular POWs, only "unlawful enemy combatants." But the privileges enumerated by the third Geneva Convention -- Kimmons lists pay, getting mail and packages -- does not include in its text, as Kimmons maintains, the right not to experience "separation," i.e., solitary confinement, sleep and perceptual deprivation, etc.

This can all get quite confusing, but seems to boil down to this. The Pentagon, and perhaps their CIA mentors, want to slice and dice the Geneva Conventions at their will, in order to manifest the core program of coercive interrogation, as laid down by the CIA's KUBARK manual. DoD has done this by slyly implementing that core program into the Army Field Manual and Appendix M. Because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, they want to hide or forbid all types of treatment that became notorious due to press exposure, and that includes the revelations around waterboarding. But the induction of regression, using a paradigm the CIA referred to as DDD (Dependency, Debility, Dread), is still at the core of the coercive techniques they intend to rescue for their use.

And because of the ignorance or indifference, or in some cases, collusion, of the press and politicians, it appears that they will get their way.

Postscript, January 2014

George Hunsinger, who is the founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, wrote about the misrepresentation of the Army Field Manual and its Appendix M in the popular press. "It is sad to see the mainstream media display so much confusion about a heinous crime like torture," Hunsinger wrote.

"Torture is immoral under all circumstances.  It represents an extreme and shocking form of violating the human person.  Like slavery, genocide and rape, it is never justified."

Crossposted at The Dissenter/FDL

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