Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Evidence on CIA Medical Torture: Injection "to the Bone" on Former Black Site Prisoner Majid Khan

Quite recently, U.S. authorities allowed the declassification of notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Wells Dixon that described what his client, high-value detainee Majid Khan, told him about his torture at the hands of the CIA. Khan, a Pakistan citizen, is currently at Guantanamo, and awaits trial by military commission.

Dixon has described the hideous torture of his client, which comes on the heels of revelations in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of their report on the CIA's torture program.

According to a June 2 Reuters report, Dixon described from interview notes with Khan, CIA use of solitary confinement; sexual abuse, including frequent touching of "private parts"; threats of physical harm; being hung naked from a pole for days; so-called "rectal feeding" (a form of anal rape); denial of food; water immersion and waterboarding, among other atrocities.

According to a CCR press release on Khan's torture, CIA doctors onsite were among the "worst torturers." Both Reuters and CCR have noted how doctors would check Khan's condition, ignore his appeals for help, and send him back into extreme forms of torture.

In a June 10 phone interview with Wells Dixon, Khan's attorney revealed there was more unreported material left out of the Reuters and CCR reports. In particular, Dixon revealed that Khan told him he was "also injected with a needle to the bone, and screamed in pain, then lost consciousness."

According to my research, an injection that just happens to hit a bone does not usually cause great pain. But an injection that enters the bone can. The latter is called an intraosseous or IO injection, and is used to quickly infuse drugs, particularly in instances where a person's life is at stake. It is usual medical procedure to insert lidocaine, a pain reliever, with or prior to injection because of the great pain associated with IO injections. Certain kinds of drugs can also cause great pain upon injection.

Did the CIA have medical need to make an IO injection, and withhold lidocaine or other pain reliever? Did CIA use the IO injection specifically to cause pain? Was a drug injected into Khan that specifically, or as side effect, caused great pain, in order to further torture him?

We don't know exactly what the CIA did with this, or any other injection, but the evidence of such forms of medical torture cannot be denied, despite recent attempts by the CIA to minimize allegations of such medical torture, such as the use of drugs in interrogation. In fact, a recent FOIA release from CIA obtained by Jason Leopold at VICE News showed that the CIA used blood thinners to prolong certain forms of torture.

It has not been easy to obtain this information. As Dixon noted in a June 22 op-ed at Al Jazeera, "The CIA has long tried to bury evidence of its crimes. When we filed a legal case challenging Majid's detention after his arrival at Guantanamo, the government prevented us from meeting with him for a year so that we would not learn about his torture."

UN Special Rapporteurs' "Letter of Allegation" to U.S. on Medical Torture and Experimentation

A new article by Adam Goldman at the Washington Post revealed that hundreds of photos from the CIA black sites exist. The fact they may be evidence at any future military commissions trial is currently being determined, as military prosecutors review the photos, which are said to include pictures of naked detainees, CIA personnel, and "photographs of confinement boxes where detainees such as Abu Zubaydah... were forced into for hours."

But it seems highly unlikely the public will see these photos, and we will have to rely on detainee testimony, and other various attempts by journalists, domestic and international bodies and organizations to pry out the information from the U.S. government. Along those lines, CCR has called for the full Senate CIA torture report and the Panetta Review to be released. A letter initiated by ACLU and signed by approximately 100 national and international rights groups on the need to ensure accountability for the U.S. CIA Torture Program was delivered to the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council.

In another attempt to gain more information and some degree of accountability on CIA torture, last January 15 two UN Special Rapporteurs wrote a letter to U.S. officials. In the wake of the revelations in the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of their report on the CIA's torture program, the rapporteurs, Dainius Puras (Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health) and Juan E. Méndez (Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) asked the U.S. to respond to charges that doctors and other medical personnel were involved in torture and experimentation on detainees held by the CIA.

The letter was made public in relation to a periodic report submitted to the Human Rights Council earlier this year. (See this webpage, and then page 40 at document linked at A/HRC/29/50, "Communications report of Special Procedures.")

The UN officials also expressed "concern at the reported lack of investigation into these allegations."

Puras and Méndez  asked U.S. officials to respond to these charges and "explain how the role of health professionals in the CIA interrogation program is compatible with international human rights standards, including those ratified by the United States of America."
CIA health professionals played a central role in the CIA interrogation programme to an extent not understood or seen before. These health professionals designed, directed and profited from the CIA interrogation program; intentionally inflicted harm on detainees; enabled the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) lawyers to treat the interrogation practices as safe, legal and effective; engaged in potential human subjects research to provide legal cover for torture; monitored detainee torture and calibrated levels of pain; evaluated and treated detainees for purposes of torture; conditioned medical care on cooperation with interrogators; and failed to document physical and/or psychological evidence of torture.

The role and conduct of these health professionals, which included psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians assistants, would not only imply a gross violation of medical and professional ethics but also violations of domestic and international law given the seriousness of the crime of torture, which is subject to universal jurisdiction.
Puras and Méndez also asked the U.S. to "provide details, and where available the results, of any investigation, medical examination, judicial or other inquiries carried out in relation to this case. If no inquiries have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why."

The Special Rapporteurs gave the U.S. 60 days to reply.

State Department Kicks the Can on UN Charges

Last week I asked the State Department about the UN letter and whether the U.S. had replied. On June 24, a State Department official told me, "Our exchanges with mandate holders, such as the Special Rapporteurs, are private correspondence. We expect the mandate holders to treat these exchanges as such, and we do the same on our part."

The State Department didn't mention -- and likely does not want people to know -- that the communications are actually posted online a year after the initial communications take place. See this example of an October 2013 statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture on the situation of detainees held at Guantanamo, and its link at bottom to the actual communication, or "letter of allegation" to the U.S., originally sent to U.S. authorities on November 2012.

Or maybe the State Department doesn't want the public to know that many communications from the U.S. to these "letters of allegation" and "urgent appeals" from UN human rights officials go unanswered. Indeed, in the past 4 years, according to one U.N. document, 95 such communications were sent by UN officials to the United States, but the U.S. only replied to 56 of them. (Hat-tip to Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program, for this stat.)

Perhaps nothing portrays the weakness at present of international human rights mechanisms as the degree to which UN member states ignore these "special procedures" or communications from UN officials on human rights matters. Indeed, this is a large-scale problem. In a 2005 report summarizing statistics on these "letters of allegation" and "urgent letters" from different UN Special Rapporteurs, the overall government response rate from 137 member countries was only 46%. (The U.S. rate described above is 59%. Examples of recent non-responses by the U.S. to urgent appeals and letters of allegation from UN officials can be examined here.)

Feinstein Hiding Information on CIA Medical Experimentation

It's not only State Department officials who are reticent to engage dialogue on torture. The Senate Select Committee has determinedly stated they will not release their full report on CIA torture. As explained below, medical experimentation by the CIA is presumably included in the classified portions. Over 90% of the report remains classified.

I remembered that back in 2010, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, then chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me that in response to a revelatory report by Physicians for Human Rights on the question of CIA experimentation on detainees she would issue further comment on the matters discussed in the PHR report after the SSCI's report was done.

"The findings of the new report from Physicians for Human Rights will be considered in our review," Feinstein said, "and I will have further comment on this when the report is completed.”

A few days ago, Feinstein's press secretary Tom Mentzer replied to my query about Feinstein's 2010 promise, "The study’s executive summary includes details about CIA medical and psychological personnel involved in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Any additional information included in the full report is classified. The committee did closely examine the Physicians for Human Rights report, and the senator commented on the more recent APA report here."

Mentzer's link is to an April 30, 2015 statement by Sen. Feinstein in relation to allegations of links between the American Psychological Association and the CIA torture program.

Feinstein's statement said she was "troubled" by the allegations. "I understand an independent review has been commissioned by the APA and look forward to reviewing its conclusions," she wrote. "This is a stark reminder that torture can corrode every institution it touches, including medical and psychological professions.”

I wrote back to Mentzer to ask whether Sen. Feinstein was aware of links I've made between Chicago attorney David H. Hoffman leading the supposed "independent review... commissioned by the APA" and CIA figures George Tenet and Kenneth J. Levitt, and Rand Corporation figure Newton Minow. Tenet was CIA director when the "enhanced interrogation" and "extraordinary rendition" programs were initiated.

Mentzer did not respond to my query. (An Illinois psychologist has recently written calling for the resignation of Hoffman for conflict of interest in the APA matter.)

Feinstein's reply to my recent query, to the point that "any additional information in the full report" on CIA experimentation on detainees is "classified," constitutes a cover-up of possible grave war crimes. At the very least, PHR should demand that Feinstein release all materials in the Committee's possession that bear on medical torture and human experimentation by the CIA.

As I told Mentzer in my request to Sen. Feinstein, "the issue of experimentation arises in the Executive Summary in the context of an interchange between OMS personnel and the CIA Inspector General on the feasibility of doing research on the 'effectiveness' of the CIA techniques. The PHR report, however, was concerned with specific data requested and transmitted regarding the operations of the techniques themselves, including measuring oxygen levels in waterboarding victims, and adjusting temperatures in detention settings for maximum discomfort."

It is likely that CIA experimentation went well beyond this, including new ways to measure physiological correlates of supposed deception, as well as physiological markers of being overwhelmed by the various torture techniques applied.

If, as Mentzer/Feinstein now maintain, the SSCI did take up PHR's charges of medical experimentation, the SSCI is not revealing what they found, and has no recommendations about what to do about it.

Sadly, the authors of the 2010 PHR report on CIA experimentation tried to steer public outrage into a complaint made to the Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But OHSP referred the complaints back to the CIA, as such is their policy.

The authors of the PHR report knew this was OHSP policy to begin with, but led their supporters down the dead end of OHSP "protections." In personal correspondence, one of the report authors told me they knew the appeal to OHSP was a "long shot," but that "PHR lawyers went through law journals and found evidence that OHRP could be interpreted as having jurisdiction, though the situation was ambiguous." (Because this was personal correspondence, I am not using the person's name.)

Another example of the kinds of information being kept from the public was revealed recently by Jason Leopold at VICE News, who released a letter from former Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who was himself a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to the CIA complaining about their refusal to show him "four written passages — located in an unknown document that may still be classified — related to the agency's destruction of interrogation videotapes."

Did this information ever surface in the classified SSCI report? We don't know. Just as we don't know what the U.S. will say to UN Special Rapporteurs about charges of medical torture and illegal experimentation, or if they even bother to respond. (Actually, we will know that, but not for another six months or so.)

For now, all we have -- and it is hideous enough -- are the cries from the torture chamber itself, as witnessed and reported by the detainees' attorneys. Will such cries be loud enough to stir real action and change?

Crossposted at Firedoglake

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Déjà vu on Interrogation "Reform": McCain/Feinstein Amendment Won't Stop Torture


"There's truth that lives and truth that dies..." - Leonard Cohen

In a bizarre mixture of the sincere and the insincere, an amendment proposed by a bipartisan group of senators to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is being touted as all but ending torture by the U.S. -- if it passes.

According to an article in The Intercept, "Human rights and transparency organizations are applauding the effort." But is there really anything here to celebrate?

If you read The Intercept article all the way to the end, there's mention that a group of medical experts found the Army Field Manual "permits techniques that are 'recognized under international law as forms of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.'” So why is there applause?

Mark Fallon, the former deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantanamo, and currently Chair of the Research Committee of President Obama's inter-departmental High-value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), told Jason Leopold at Vice News the amendment "mandates and advocates the use of science and evidence-based research so we can be more effective during interrogations." Furthermore, there would be "a review of the Army Field Manual [AFM] to ensure we are only using best and lawful techniques" during interrogation.

Constitutional scholar David Cole writes at the Just Security website that he supports the amendment, which is jointly sponsored by Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Jack Reed and Susan Collins. Cole adds that others support it, too, including "David Keene, former President of the National Rifle Association and editorial page editor of the Washington Times..."

Newsweek posted an article by Rupert Stone this week, titled "Beyond Torture: The New Science of Interrogating Terrorists," which includes a long discussion of the importance of putting interrogation on a science-centered base.

Stone's article goes into more detail than others about problems concerning "the current version of the Army Field Manual [which] still offers a back door to some of the brutal tactics authorized after 9/11." Stone is of course talking about Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, which allows theoretically indefinitely extended amounts of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation on so-called "unlawful enemy combatants." The interrogation methods of Appendix M are so severe, they require at times physician and/or psychologist in attendance to implement (shades of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program!).

But problems with the Army Field Manual do not start or end with Appendix M. The main section of the manual includes coercive methods of interrogation, including psychological techniques to induce fear, to tear down the ego and self-esteem of prisoners, to tear down their resistance to interrogation by inducing "hopelessness and helplessness," and allowing use of drugs on prisoners, so long as the drugs don't cause "lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage."

But Fallon and others, like veteran interrogator and Col. (ret.) Steven Kleinman, believe that the review mandated by the amendment will take care of the problems sometime in the future. Meanwhile, they urge passage of the amendment now. Kleinman told Newsweek, "Passing strongly worded legislation that would stand as a bulwark against torture... is the single most important step we must take.” (Both Fallon and Kleinman have impeccable anti-torture credentials.)

According to The Hill, this view is echoed by Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, who said of the senators' amendment, “This is how a strong democracy deals with its mistakes — we examine what we did, and take the necessary steps to make it right.”

Meanwhile, in my email box, I have a plea from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The mailing promises the "introduced legislation... could permanently end CIA torture." It asks I call my senators now, even as a group of seven human rights and civil liberties organizations, have released a statement, including ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights, supporting the amendment.

The entire campaign around the whole Feinstein-McCain amendment has an unreal quality. It arose all of a sudden. There's no real period of public discussion about it. The interpretation of the amendment itself is via sanitized sources we are supposed to trust. It's presented as a slam dunk issue for those who oppose torture. You'd have to be an ingrate to oppose such a good thing.

"Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday"

Where have I heard this all before? When the current Army Field Manual was released in September 2006, there was the same near-universal acclaim, the same pious intonations by human rights groups, the same spate of articles in the mainstream press. But nine years later -- though many news outlets still downplay or simply eliminate reference to it -- we know the 2006 version of the Army Field Manual contained forms of ill-treatment that the UN, reviewing torture policies by the United States, recently condemned.

I analyzed the PR campaign to sell the current version of the Army Field Manual in an article at Alternet in 2009. I pointed out how when the Army Field Manual was released in 2006, we had the same gushing praise and platitudes from the press.

The Washington Post bragged that the then-new Army Field Manual "repudiated the harsh interrogation tactics adopted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

Human rights groups chimed in. As reported by the Post, Tom Malinowski, then Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (but previously a Senior Director of the Clinton White House National Security Council), stated, "This is the Pentagon coming full circle... This is very strong guidance."

Recently, Malinowski was tapped by the Obama administration to answer the United Nations in their questions about ill-treatment in Appendix M. In 2007, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he praised the AFM for using using "professional, humane interrogation methods."

Over and over I read how the Army Field Manual had "safeguards," "oversight," was a big "step-forward." Amnesty International's advocacy director called the AFM "an important return to the rule of law.... It is an important public statement."

But it was no such thing.

Similar misrepresentations take place today. In Cole's piece at Just Security, for instance, he claims that the Office of Legal Counsel memos authorizing torture memos, "written between 2002 and 2007, have all been rescinded and rejected."

But that's not true. One of them was not, and tellingly, it was the one dealing with the Army Field Manual and Appendix M.

"You know something is happening, but you don't know what it is"

Let's examine the text of the Feinstein-McCain amendment (download PDF) and see if the promises of its supporters holds any water.

"An individual... shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3"

Okay. We see that the existing Army Field Manual, including use of techniques and "approaches" such as "Fear Up," "Futility," "Ego Down", "False Flag" and "Separation" will continue to be the law of the land. The "Separation" or Appendix M approach is really an omnibus set of abusive techniques that includes use of solitary confinement, sleep and sensory deprivation, and environmental or dietary manipulation.

I asked via FOIA for DoD to produce examples of requests to use Appendix M, as is described by the Army Field Manual. DoD said it could not find any documents pertaining to that. So much for transparency and safeguards.

For 14 months I have had an outstanding FOIA requesting materials related to review of Appendix M by the Office of Secretary of Defense. I asked because the Army Field Manual itself states, "The Office of the Secretary of Defense will review these activities periodically in accordance with DOD Directive 3115.09." That FOIA is still pending. But if the partisans of the Feinstein-McCain amendment believe that DoD or the government will do any better in producing oversight material upon request to the public or press, I have a fine bridge in Brooklyn to sell them.

The Feinstein-McCain amendment states that "a thorough review" of the AFM is to be conducted at least one year after the enactment of the Authorization Act, and then every subsequent three years "to ensure that Army Field Manual 2-22.3 complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use of threat of force."

The "thorough review" is to be conducted by "the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of National Intelligence." In other words, the Executive Branch is to have total control over assessments of compliance of Army Field Manual practice with so-called "evidence-based, best practices for interrogation." What that really means is that there will be no "checks and balances" oversight here.

The model for such review would be DoD's 2009 Review of Department Compliance with President's Executive Order on Detainee Conditions of Confinement (PDF), which produced a wildly unrealistic picture of Guantanamo as consistent with Geneva norms of humane treatment. At the time there were continuing hunger strikes, as prisoners were savagely beaten by teams of guards. By June 2009, yet another detainee was found dead in a cell in the GTMO Behavioral Health Unit, where prisoners were observed every three minutes, supposedly dead by his own hand, having been driven insane by what the autopsy report called "conditions of confinement."

The highly-regarded researcher of the Guantanamo camp, Andy Worthington, called the 2009 review "a bitter joke." There's no reason not to expect the same from the Feinstein-McCain Amendment's proposed AFM reviews.

Interestingly, however, it's worth noting that the the Central Intelligence Agency appears to be frozen out of the proposed review process.

"People writing songs that voices never share"

"Not less than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the interagency body established... shall submit to the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, and other appropriate officials [could this be the CIA?] a report on current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force.... The report required... may include recommendations for revisions to Army Field Manual 2-22.3 based on the body of research commissioned by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group."

While HIG experts like Fallon and Kleinman may take umbrage in such verbiage -- indeed, it's flattering to see your own research touted as something of governmental importance -- there is nothing mandated in this language, at least as regards any updating or change in techniques or approaches in the Army Field Manual.

"The report... may include recommendations," and nothing is said about any recommendations being enforced. Indeed, we already have public members of the HIG on record as being against some of the abuse in the Army Field Manual, and still nothing changes.

One of those associated, Col. Kleinman, was on record as recently as 2011 as stating in an article, "The Obama Administration has made a good-faith attempt to bring standards to American interrogation practices by issuing an Executive Order that extended the relevant U.S. Army Field Manual’s directives to all government-wide interrogation efforts." That "good-faith attempt" included making via Executive Order Appendix M the law of the land.

Kleinman is on-record as criticizing the current AFM as being unscientific. He wrote a paper that supposedly elaborates on that with another current HIG official, psychologist Susan Brandon, and two other researchers. But according to Stone's Newsweek article, the 2010 review of AFM techniques was not publicly released for fear it "could have jeopardized the HIG’s relationship with the military." If releasing a critical article is too dicey for critics of DoD's Army Field Manual, what can one expect from any future reviews led by the Secretary of Defense?

Meanwhile, Brandon is under a cloud of controversy recently for her participation in activities with the American Psychological Association in regards to allegedly facilitating torture.

Brandon helped organize a workshop with the APA, CIA and Rand Corporation back in 2003 that looked at, among other things, "what pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior," and "sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors." One of her workshop discussion questions asked, "How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?"

In 2005, Brandon was an "observer" at an APA meeting that met to consider ongoing use of psychologists in national security investigations. She reportedly helped write the part of the report from the meeting that spoke to issues bearing on national security research, just the sort of research, it seems, that the HIG is either doing or proposing when it comes to interrogations. One of those research projects on "false confessions," as recently reported at Bloomberg, left some participants "angry," and one woman who "dissolves into tears."

Hence, there are ethical questions about the kinds of research being done, what can be accomplished in such research, and the fact that even if some kind of "evidence-based" interrogation protocols that don't involve "force" are suggested by research and then DoD-led review, there's no mandate or promise in the new legislation that it will ever be implemented.

Indeed, there is nothing in the new legislation that calls for the removal of Appendix M.

"Into the night, shadows fall"

A most interesting section of the amendment, unique in its hypocrisy and unstated cover for torture, concerns the FBI and other Federal law enforcement agencies:

"Nothing in this subsection shall preclude an officer, employee, or other agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or other Federal law enforcement agency from continuing to use authorized, non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force, threats, or promises."

Anyone familiar with the work of the FBI, or other Federal agencies will find this presentation of "non-coercive" agents never threatening suspects something of a fairy tale.

A few years ago, I reported the case of Petty Officer Daniel King, who the Naval Criminal Investigative Service coerced into a false confession of treason, and with the assistance of a Navy psychologist, drove to such a degree of desperation he tried to kill himself. (See here and here.)

But the FBI probably has a lot more charges of abuse than most other Federal law enforcement agencies. None of these charges have been bigger than those surrounding the massive FBI investigation into the July 2010 World Cup bombings in Kampala, Uganda.

The FBI interrogated a number of prisoners from Kenya and other East African countries who were renditioned to Uganda. It was the largest foreign FBI investigation since the USS Cole attack in 2000. A 2011 report by Ian Cobain at The Guardian detailed accusations of abuse by FBI agents involved in the investigation.

A more recent case of FBI malfeasance and complicity in torture is the case of Yonas Fikre, a 36-year-old Eritrean-born American who charges the FBI had pressured him to collaborate with them, and when placing him on a no-fly list failed, had him "arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates," according to a report in The Guardian.

The issue of FBI torture deserves a lot more public examination, and in a subsequent article I plan to go into much more detail on the World Cup bombing case.

"Always something happening and nothing going on"

The issue of torture by proxy or liaison-country cover is also important, and was a major factor in the scandal surrounding extraordinary rendition, where CIA and DoD prisoners were turned over to U.S.-friendly intelligence agencies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and other nations, where they were terribly tortured.

More recently, there are similar charges surrounding the World Cup bombing case, but better reported in the U.S. was Jeremy Scahill's 2011 report at The Nation concerning CIA-run black sites in Somalia. Ostensibly under the control of Somalia's National Security Agency, the sites were used to train Somali intelligence agents, while CIA interrogators are given direct access to prisoners held in the Somali secret detention sites.

In fact, as a recent FOIA release of a 1963 CIA interrogation manual shows, use of "liaison" or "host' countries as cover for torture is very old practice, honed during the Cold War.

It is a fact that the CIA chief of interrogations in the early years of its post-9/11 rendition and torture program was previously known (and supposedly chastised) for using a 1983 torture instruction manual -- "Human Resource Exploitation" -- the U.S. had distributed to Latin American police and intelligence forces for the purposes of instruction in torture. Nothing could better illustrate how the use of proxy or "host" countries for torture is on a continuum with the worst of the CIA's torture program.

But it is not the CIA or FBI alone who act this way. During the U.S.-instigated Iraq War, the Department of Defense notoriously issued a "Fragmentary Order" (FRAGO 242) that had U.S. armed forces turn prisoners over to Iraq security forces, even though they knew they would be tortured. In many cases, the Iraq security forces themselves had been trained by the U.S.

Nothing in the Feinstein-McCain amendment speaks to this long-practiced method of torture by proxy used by U.S. intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies.

"Everybody knows the deal is rotten"

It is highly unlikely that most Americans will hear anything negative about the Feinstein-McCain Amendment, except perhaps from right-wing types who lust for the good old days of CIA's "enhanced" torture brutality. But for the record, this amendment does nothing to stop torture.

Despite all the caveats and evidence I've gathered here, the truth is almost none of it will reach the ears or eyes of American citizens. But then, only the simulacrum of a reasonable debate on this policy is expected. The Establishment of respectable citizens, who make up human rights organizations and government-academic merry-go-round that employs them, has already spoken. The consensus has already been drawn.

But that doesn't mean the amendment is worth a damn. While no one is held accountable for disgusting and barbaric forms of torture, from driving people insane with music and bright lights, to holding them in solitary for years, to waterboarding or water immersion, to injecting blood thinner drugs into them so they can be forced to maintain body positions for hours on end, and much more worse ("rectal feedings"? no, anal rape)... while no one is held accountable for this, an anemic and mostly window-dressing reform is dressed up as something significant and sold by hucksters. Backing them are those sincerely anti-torture individuals and groups who still trust the usual authorities to do the right thing.

But none of that can hide what this amendment is: fraud, trickery, deception, the most meretricious sort of sham. The fact that some of those supporting the amendment are sincere and good individuals doesn't change a thing.

Crossposted at Firedoglake.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Questions About Conflict-of-Interest Throw Doubt on APA's "Independent Review" of CIA Links

A report by psychologists and human rights workers released at the end of April charged officials of the American Psychological Association with collaborating with Bush administration officials, including members of the CIA, in furthering the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture program. The report, titled "All the President's Psychologists," drew upon emails from a deceased RAND Corporation researcher, Scott Gerwehr, who evidently worked in some capacity with the CIA.

"The APA's complicity in the CIA torture program, by allowing psychologists to administer and calibrate permitted harm, undermines the fundamental ethical standards of the profession," the report, which was published by The New York Times, said.

APA countered these charges, which also were raised by New York Times journalist James Risen last year, by engaging "David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review of whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of 'enhanced' interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror," according to a statement by the psychologist organization last November.

But this "independent review" into links between APA and the CIA torture program was compromised, according to my own research, by links between its leader, David H. Hoffman, and former members of the CIA, including former director George Tenet, who headed the Agency at the time it constructed and implemented its post-9/11 torture program.

This article will demonstrate that Hoffman and his law firm also have professional links to a former chairman of the think-tank RAND Corporation, Newton Minow. RAND played a key role in the controversies surrounding APA and torture, as discussed below. It is the contention of this article that together with the revelations concerning Hoffman's ties to former CIA figures, including Tenet, and now links to a key RAND figure, that the potential for conflicts-of-interest can not be ignored.

RAND's History

According to RAND's website, its organization is nonprofit and "nonpartisan.... independent of political and commercial pressures." The Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch website reports that "one-half of RAND's research involves national security issues." RAND reports that roughly five percent of its work is classified. Besides national security issues, RAND has long produced analyses concerning health care, education, and other topics.

RAND was active in the counter-terror/counterinsurgency prosecution of the Vietnam War. They offered expertise to CIA advisers working on the interrogation-torture-assassination program known as Project Phoenix. Such collaboration is mentioned in a 2009 RAND history of Phoenix. This study has nothing to say of Phoenix's history of torture, and barely even mentions the use of interrogation, while trying to refute charges of assassination by Phoenix teams. According to RAND's analysis, "decisionmakers would be wise to consider how Phoenix-style approaches might serve to pry open Taliban and Al-Qaeda black boxes." [pg. 24])

Douglas Valentine in his book, The Phoenix Project, describes how top CIA Phoenix official, Robert "Blowtorch" Komer, left the Agency to work for RAND in 1970.

Perhaps most famously, RAND Corporation was the source of the famous Pentagon Papers, as RAND analysts, including Daniel Ellsberg, had been involved in collecting the papers that made up the famous secret history of U.S. policy in Vietnam. Interestingly, it was Minow, as then-appointed chair of RAND's Board of Trustees who led the damage control effort there after the Ellsberg leak.

Most recently, RAND has been active in consulting on counterinsurgency tactics in the post-9/11 "war on terror."

The Role of RAND Corporation in CIA's Torture Scandal

While charges of APA collaboration with both CIA and the Department of Defense on interrogation policies, including use of torture, go back some years now, the issue took on greater urgency after New York Times journalist James Risen revealed details of such collaboration in his book Pay Any Price.

Risen's new information was based on a collection of emails he obtained that belonged to a deceased RAND Corporation researcher, Scott Gerwehr. The emails proved Gerwehr worked closely with CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard. Hubbard was the head of CIA's Operational Assessment Division, and from 2005-09 was a contractor with Mitchell-Jessen and Associates, a company linked by Senate investigators to use of torture.

A key instance of the alleged collaboration between APA and CIA was the joint sponsorship of a group of workshops on "The Science of Deception," held at RAND's Arlington, Virginia offices on July 17-18, 2003. As I reported back in May 2007, one of the workshops included "scenarios" for discussion that included "pharmacological agents... known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior, and the use of "sensory overloads" to "overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors."

Journalist Katherine Eban reported much the same about the workshop later that year in a seminal article for Vanity Fair, which exposed the fact CIA psychologists James Bruce Mitchell and Jessen had been present at the event.

The APA-CIA-RAND joint workshops were organized by RAND's Gerwehr, CIA's Hubbard, and APA's then "senior scientist" Susan Brandon, and APA's Director of Science Policy, Geoff Mumford. In 2010, I reported that APA's online linkage to the offensive "scenarios" had been scrubbed from APA's website.

Someone doesn't want the full story on this event to be known. As recently as November 2011, in a FOIA response to this author, the CIA claimed it could find no records pertaining to the 2003 APA-CIA-RAND meeting or workshops. (See PDF of response.) Risen and his collaborators on the Gerwehr-APA story also have failed to release all the information they have in their possession regarding the same event.

Similarly, in response to a FOIA I filed, the FBI could find no responsive documents regarding documents supposedly turned over to it by one of the authors of the "President's Psychologists" report,  Nathaniel Raymond. Raymond told me via email, "I directed the FBI and Durham in fall of 2010 during an in person meeting at DoJ HQ to where and how to obtain the [Gerwehr] emails. Durham and the FBI independently obtained the emails in the spring of 2011 based on the information I provided in 2010.... Any requests for access to the additional 600+ emails used in our analysis should be directed to [James Risen]." At the FBI's request, on May 6, 2015 I provided more information to assist the FBI in their records search. The FOIA request is still active.

Campaign Contributions

The critics who have opposed APA, or at least those who wrote the "President's Psychologists" report, which highlighted charges of APA complicity with intelligence agencies in the furtherance of the CIA's torture program, have publicly ignored charges that the APA-initiated "independent investigation" had serious conflict-of-interest problems due to Hoffman's relationships with Tenet and also Tenet's CIA Special Counsel from 1998-2000, Kenneth J. Levit.

(The use of "investigation" rather than "review" is a preference of APA's critics, and has been taken up by most of the press. It is my contention that the "review" barely, if at all, deserves the nomenclature of an "investigation." The word "investigate" or "investigation" never appears in the APA's "Board of Directors Resolution Regarding Independent Review." Hoffman himself, however, has used the term, as will be seen below. )

The "President's Psychologists" report never mentions or raises any questions about the obscure association between Hoffman and Tenet and Levit, nor do they seem to have investigated any such associations on their own.

The mainstream press fares no better. Articles that mention the Hoffman "investigation," including by James Risen at the New York Times and Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, fail to mention Hoffman's link to CIA figures. One exception to this coverage was James Bradshaw at the National Psychologist who noted Hoffman's uncovered links to key CIA personnel.

In an email exchange with this author last December, David Hoffman refused to elaborate on the nature or his relationship with both Tenet and Levit in recent years. His known professional relationship goes back to Hoffmann's work in Sen. David Boren's office in the early 1990s, when Boren was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Tenet was the SSCI's Staff Director. Levit also worked in Boren's office at that time.

Recently I discovered that Levit gave over $1,700 to Hoffman's abortive Senate campaign in 2010, a fact Hoffman had not revealed. I've asked Hoffman whether he knew about Levit's contributions, but as of press time he has not responded on that issue. I will update this post with Hoffman's response if or when I receive it. Meanwhile, Hoffman's response to other issues raised here is discussed below.

Meanwhile, discussion of the role of RAND Corporation in the whole scandal is either muted or totally ignored. In The Intercept's October 2014 story about the APA controversy, Gerwehr's employment by RAND is never mentioned. He is only referred to as a "behavioral science researcher." Gerwehr's work on counterterrorism and urban combat is never mentioned. The author of the story, Cora Currier, also never mentions the 2003 joint APA-CIA-RAND workshop described above, even though it is a key part of the narrative of the entire scandal, as reported by Risen, Eban, and others.

Minow's Links to RAND, Donald Rumsfeld, and David Hoffman

The most intriguing new information regarding the APA-CIA scandal concerns the fact that one of a handful of senior counsels in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin where David Hoffman works is Newton Minow. According to Sidley Austin's website, Minow was "a partner with the firm from 1965-1991." For much of that time, and beyond, he was also a member of the Board of Trustees for RAND Corporation, and was Chair of the Board in the early 1970s.

Minow is not only the former chairman of RAND Corporation, he is an incredibly well-linked member of the political establishment, going back to the Kennedy Administration. In more recent years, he has been a political consultant to President Barack Obama. (Obama had been an intern for Sidley Austin in Chicago, recruited by Minow's daughter, Martha, who is currently dean of Harvard Law School.)

Minow's resume is by Establishment standards quite distinguished. He is a former chairman of the FCC and of the Carnegie Foundation. He is a former Vice Chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, and is still listed as a member of its Board of Directors.

Minow's plea for more U.S. funding for international broadcasting efforts like those of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Radio Marti, and his vilification of Al Jazeera as Osama bin Laden's "favored news outlet" made it into the pages of Congressional Record.

Perhaps most telling in Minow's resume is the sponsorship of a scholarship in his name at the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California, which RAND bills as "the largest public policy analysis Ph.D. program in the United States." The Newton M. Minow Scholarship was initially funded with a $150,000 grant from Donald Rumsfeld, a noted torture figure himself.

Minow's linkage to RAND does not end there. As recently as 2003, he was on the Board of Advisors for RAND's Public Safety and Justice division. He is one of a small number of individuals in RAND's "Legacy Circle," having contributed an estate gift to RAND. According to RAND's 2006 Annual Report, Minow has donated something between $100,000 and $249,999 to RAND over the years.

Hoffman's known public linkage to Minow is sparse, but worth noting. He serves with Minow on the advisory board for the Chicago chapter of the American Constitutional Society. (To be fair, H. Candace Gorman, a noted attorney for Guantanamo detainees, is also on the ACS advisory board.)

Hoffman also served as a co-author for an amicus brief for which he represented Minow, and others, as Amici Curiae. The brief was published in January 2015.

According to an article in The New York Times, in 2002, Minow was one of a number of "outside experts" the Bush Administration consulted with on its implementation of military commissions. The Times described Minow as a "longtime friend of Mr. Rumsfeld."

Rumsfeld led the Department of Defense at a time it was implementing torture at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. He personally approved "use of 'stress positions,' the removal of clothing, the use of dogs, and isolation and sensory deprivation" on detainees. Many forms of torture were countenanced under Rumsfeld, including water torture. Numerous lawsuits have been filed to hold the former Bush administration figure accountable.

In a request for comment from APA, Public Communications Executive Director Rhea Farberman did not respond to a direct question about foreknowledge regarding any link between Hoffman and Minow. In an email, she said only, "APA has complete confidence that Mr. Hoffman is conducting his review in a thorough and fully independent manner."

But as we shall see, soon after accepting APA's charge as "independent" reviewer, Hoffman was discussing the project with Newton Minow.

Hoffman Responds

I asked David Hoffman to further explain his contacts with Minow. He replied via email.
As you may know, Newt Minow was FCC Chairman under JFK and gave the famous “TV as a vast wasteland” speech in 1961. At 89 years old, he remains a prominent civic and community figure in Chicago. I had heard of Newt Minow but had not met him before I joined Sidley in 2011. I speak with him from time to time, but not frequently, and do not socialize with him.
As regards possible contact with Minow on the amicus brief noted above, Hoffman explained that Minow "was one of the former governments [sic] officials and public interest groups who were the listed amici in the matter," and Minow did not work on the brief.

Even more specifically, Hoffman explained, "Mr. Minow is not working on the APA matter, and I have never worked on a matter with him."

Still, soon after Hoffman took the job to head the APA-initiated review into the charges of collusion with the CIA, raised by James Risen and others, Hoffman did discuss the matter with his firm's senior counsel:
Shortly after the public announcement by APA in November 2014 that I had been engaged to conduct an independent investigation in this matter, I saw Mr. Minow and told him about this new engagement. At the time, I did not know that he had been affiliated with the Rand Corp. I have not had any contact with Mr. Minow about the matter since then.
Hoffman added, "In response to your inquiry, I looked up when Mr. Minow was chairman of Rand, and I see that it was 44 years ago (1970-71). I do not believe that Mr. Minow’s past affiliation with Rand creates a conflict of interest for us in this matter."

Indeed, Minow was Chair of the Board of Trustees at RAND at the time the Pentagon Papers were released by former RAND researcher Daniel Ellsberg. A RAND history of the period describes the Pentagon Papers leak as sending RAND management into "a tailspin." The government took away RAND's security clearance, and it was Minow who led the campaign to get it back, and make the necessary changes to policy and personnel to restore the think-tank back to the government's good graces.

But Minow's contribution to RAND did not end there. As noted above, he served on RAND advisory boards until the 2000s. While he was Chair of RAND's Board of Trustees as far back as the early 1970s, Minow was a member of the Board almost continuously from 1965-1997. As recently as 2007, he was an "advisory trustee" to the organization.

I also asked Hoffman that, given Minow's close relationship with Donald Rumsfeld, Hoffman had any contact with George W. Bush's former Secretary of Defense. Hoffman stated flatly, "I have never met or spoken with Donald Rumsfeld."

In a follow-up email, I asked Hoffman to elaborate more on the substance of his conversation with Minow about the APA review. Hoffman has not replied.

Minow is not the only person with links to RAND working in the Chicago Sidley Austin office. Another partner in the firm, Anne E. Rea, serves on the RAND Institute for Civil Justice Board of Overseers. In 2014, Rea gifted RAND with something between $25,000 and $49,999. (The same year Minow is listed as donating between $1,000 and $4,999.)

Hoffman said this about Rea, "I know Anne Rea, as she is a partner in Sidley’s Chicago office. We have never worked on a matter together; we have not spoken about the APA matter; and I did not know about any work she has done for the Rand Corp."

Authors of "President's Psychologists" report respond

I asked the authors of the report "All the President's Psychologists" -- who told me they did not know about Hoffman's links to Minow until I told them -- to respond to this revelation. Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond sent me an email on May 27:

"We and others have pressed for 'internal review,' an independent investigation of APA since our Open Letter in Response to the American Psychological Association Board in 2009 signed by 13 organizations," Soldz and his colleagues wrote. "Our call was always for the investigatory organization to be selected by independent human rights organizations precisely to avoid the types of potential conflicts of interest you raise. Thus, we were initially concerned when the APA Board itself selected Mr. Hoffman to investigate potential complicity by key staff and elected officials including possible complicity by past and current Board members."

The email noted that "questions have only escalated" about the investigation when APA Board of Representatives revealed their plan to delay the report’s public release for months of alleged “internal review.” Soldz et al. have alleged such delay violates "the clear precedent that investigations of unethical or criminal behavior by organizations are immediately made public."

The authors of the critical report told me, "once Mr. Hoffman was selected, we chose to work with his team and have shared whatever information, documents, and opinions they requested.... Our experience with Mr. Hoffman and his team has given us every reason to believe that they are pursuing leads without limitation or constraint.... The proof of their independence will be in the honesty and comprehensiveness of their report."

Soldz and his co-authors state, "We intend to assess the true independence of the Hoffman team’s work through observing how he accounts for the evidence already in the public domain, including the data we released in our April 30, 2015 report."

But accounting for "evidence already in the public domain" seems a weak demonstration of investigatory zeal and honesty, much less comprehensiveness. Such accounting has little to do with an investigation qua investigation, but seems to be more about validating previously held beliefs or findings. Such an investigation isn't expected to dig deeper or make new findings.

Indeed, it seems tendentious to call it an investigation at all, if that is all that is expected from it. The APA has termed only an "internal review of whether there is any factual support" for charges of collusion on torture during the Bush years. Such a "review," for instance, would not touch on current APA support for psychologists at U.S. detention sites like Guantanamo where Appendix M interrogations take place. Last November, the United Nations stated that some Appendix M techniques created psychosis in prisoners and others amounted to "ill-treatment."

The APA has been silent about this, even though there is an APA-member initiated referendum that passed some years ago stating APA should tell psychologists not to work at sites that have human rights violations, as determined by organizations such as the United Nations.

Meanwhile, supporters of the "President's Psychologists" report have launched a petition campaign after news leaked out that the APA was going to take its time in making any release of Hoffman's findings public.

Such supporters would do as much or more good by asking the authors of "President's Psychologists" to release the full list of attendees at the 2003 APA-RAND-CIA workshops, which I am under the impression they hold.

[Correction: Stephen Soldz has written to remind me that a list of those attendees was given by him and the co-authors of the President's Psychologists report to The Intercept. It was disclosed in a link published within an April 2015 article by Cora Currier. The full list and accompanying documentation has been posted online at DocumentCloud. Sadly, Currier never analyzed the document in depth. But most immediately what springs up as important is the presence at these meetings (which included Mitchell, Jessen, and other CIA personnel) of the chief of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, Stephen Band, among other FBI personnel. What that means is that the collaboration on interrogation matters was much wider among governmental agencies than previously disclosed.]

In the spirit of complete transparency, the full text of the responses to my inquiries, sent via email by Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Nathaniel Raymond, and David Hoffman, are available at this link.

For a Fair, Just Inquiry

Those who are repelled by the actions of APA and other professional organizations and institutions in regards to the U.S. torture scandal likely will have to look beyond this "independent review" by APA's contractor. The entire affair is reminiscent of the controversy over the UK torture inquiry that was headed by Sir Peter Gibson.

That inquiry, following on revelations about UK collaboration with the U.S. rendition program and the torture of prisoners like Binyam Mohamed, was announced by the British government. But British human rights groups refused to support this blatant attempt at a whitewash or limited hangout of UK involvement in torture, not least because the man picked to lead the investigation, Peter Gibson, had deep ties himself to the intelligence world. The lack of transparency over procedures was another problem. In 2012, the British government scrapped the investigation, citing conflicts with other investigations.

British human rights groups at the time made clear just what is needed in an inquiry of this sort. They noted that "to comply with basic human rights standards, it is essential that an inquiry, among other things" should be both "independent" and "subject to public scrutiny."

Amnesty International and eight other UK NGOs wrote: "The persons responsible for and carrying out the inquiry must be fully independent of any institution, agency or person who may be the subject of, or are otherwise involved in, the inquiry."

As far as I know, Hoffman's links to the intelligence world are much less dramatic than Gibson's, and reasonable people may disagree about the degree of conflict of interest involved in his "review" or "investigation."

Yet, while in the case of the Gibson inquiry, Amnesty and the others were writing about a governmental investigation, the same need for independence and transparency is true for any inquiry, including into the relationships of APA with intelligence or military-linked agencies. It is not any claim upon Mr. Hoffman's own integrity to say that his links, and that of the firm where he works, to former CIA and RAND officials, not to mention the fact APA chose its own "investigator," in this instance present conflicts of interest that place into doubt the integrity of his "review," no matter what results it may claim, or when it is released.

Crossposted at Firedoglake.com

Responses to new charges of Hoffman conflict of interest

I am presenting for readers the full text of responses by Chicago attorney David Hoffman, and by the authors of a report accusing the American Psychological Association of collaboration with intelligence agencies in the implementation of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture program. The requests for comment were made in the process of writing a new article documenting links of Hoffman and the law firm for which he works to the former chairman of the RAND Corporation, noteworthy because the role of RAND is highlighted in the matters under "independent reivew" by Hoffman.
Jeff,

Thanks for your email. As you may know, Newt Minow was FCC Chairman under JFK and gave the famous “TV as a vast wasteland” speech in 1961. At 89 years old, he remains a prominent civic and community figure in Chicago. I had heard of Newt Minow but had not met him before I joined Sidley in 2011. I speak with him from time to time, but not frequently, and do not socialize with him. Regarding, the amicus brief you note, I was one of five Sidley attorneys who worked on the matter. Mr. Minow did not work on the matter but rather was one of the former governments officials and public interest groups who were the listed amici in the matter. Mr. Minow is not working on the APA matter, and I have never worked on a matter with him. Shortly after the public announcement by APA in November 2014 that I had been engaged to conduct an independent investigation in this matter, I saw Mr. Minow and told him about this new engagement. At the time, I did not know that he had been affiliated with the Rand Corp. I have not had any contact with Mr. Minow about the matter since then. In response to your inquiry, I looked up when Mr. Minow was chairman of Rand, and I see that it was 44 years ago (1970-71). I do not believe that Mr. Minow’s past affiliation with Rand creates a conflict of interest for us in this matter. I know Anne Rea, as she is a partner in Sidley’s Chicago office. We have never worked on a matter together; we have not spoken about the APA matter; and I did not know about any work she has done for the Rand Corp. I have never met or spoken with Donald Rumsfeld.

Best regards,
David [Hoffman]

Hi Jeff,

Here is a comment from the three lead authors of All the President’s Psychologists, as you requested:

We and others have pressed for "internal review,"an independent investigation of APA since our Open Letter in Response to the American Psychological Association Board in 2009 signed by 13 organizations. Our call was always for the investigatory organization to be selected by independent human rights organizations precisely to avoid the types of potential conflicts of interest you raise. Thus, we were initially concerned when the APA Board itself selected Mr. Hoffman to investigate potential complicity by key staff and elected officials including possible complicity by past and current Board members.

The APA Board, through this process themselves raised questions about whether they intended Mr. Hoffman to conduct a truly independent investigation. These questions have only escalated as the Board has revealed their plan to delay the report’s public release for months of alleged “internal review,” violating the clear precedent that investigations of unethical or criminal behavior by organizations are immediately made public. Nonetheless, once Mr. Hoffman was selected, we chose to work with his team and have shared whatever information, documents, and opinions they requested.

We intend to assess the true independence of the Hoffman team’s work through observing how he accounts for the evidence already in the public domain, including the data we released in our April 30, 2015 report. The smoking gun is already in the public domain: high officials at the APA worked conjointly with high officials at the CIA and the White House to comport APA’s ethics policy with what the Bush administration needed to continue the torture program. The question for us is how much will the Hoffman investigation add to what has already been revealed about the APA?

Our experience with Mr. Hoffman and his team has given us every reason to believe that they are pursuing leads without limitation or constraint. Ultimately, we all are waiting to see what they come up with. The proof of their independence will be in the honesty and comprehensiveness of their report.

Steven Reisner
Stephen Soldz
Nathaniel Raymond

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New Horrific Details of Former CIA Detainee Majid Khan’s Torture Finally Made Public


Attorneys for CIA "high-value detainee," Majid Khan, currently held at a highly-classified prison at Guantanamo, have released recently declassified details of the torture their client endured in CIA black site prisons. It is powerful, and I fear that the common psychological response to turn away from horror will once again manifest itself in response to these new revelations.

Commenting on the release of the Khan account, Cori Crider, an attorney at the international human rights NGO, Reprieve, said. It has long been clear that the Senate torture report was only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the worst CIA abuses we know of were absent from the public version of the study."

Crider cited the case of the Belhaj and al Saadi families, where both the U.S. and the UK's MI6 were involved in rendition to torture in Gaddafi's Libyan prisons back in 2004.

The Khan story is being carried by the Reuters news agency. According to their account, "Khan's is the first publicly released account from a high-value al Qaeda detainee who experienced the "enhanced interrogation techniques" of President George W. Bush's administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S."

Reuthers reports that Khan's torture narrative "is contained in 27 pages of interview notes his lawyers compiled over the past seven years."

Khan's story is truly horrifying. Something of the agony he endured under long CIA torture is captured in the Reuters article. Khan hallucinated at times under the ongoing abuse. According to his own testimony, "I lived in anxiety every moment of every single day about the fear and anticipation of the unknown."

One thing I noticed right away is the new findings regarding use of waterboarding and other forms of water torture. Such torture was used extensively by both CIA and the Department of Defense, and the long myth that "only" three prisoners were waterboarded should be jettisoned at last.

It is a scandal of the highest sort that this kind of treatment could take place and there is zero accountability for it in U.S. society.

What follows is a press release on the subject from Center for Constitutional Rights:
Former CIA Detainee Majid Khan’s Torture Finally Public

Details Go Beyond Senate Torture Report to Include Waterboarding, Further Sexual Assault, Threat with Tools
June 2, 2015, New York – Today, unclassified information detailing the CIA’s torture of Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan was made public for the first time by Reuters, including the fact that he was waterboarded on two separate occasions. Khan’s attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), J. Wells Dixon, commented:
“Majid Khan’s personal experiences, notes of which were cleared by the government for release, confirm that the CIA has repeatedly and continuously lied about the torture program. As layers of secrecy have been peeled away throughout the Obama administration, we see more and more evidence of CIA savagery and treachery. There must be greater transparency and accountability for what happened in the CIA torture program:
  • CIA Director John Brennan should be fired;
  • The full Senate torture report and the Panetta Review should be disclosed publicly; and
  • The Justice Department should reopen its criminal investigation of the CIA torture program, including how it was authorized and carried out, as well as new questions raised by Khan’s recollections and the continuing cover up and minimization by the CIA about what actually happened in the black sites.
This is the only way to ensure that the U.S. never again resorts to torture, and the only way to move the country forward.”
Khan’s torture, according to the declassified notes, included the following:

Khan was waterboarded on two separate occasions, in May and July 2003

“Guards and interrogators brought him into a bathroom with a tub. The tub was filled with water and ice. Shackled and hooded, they placed Khan feet-first into the freezing water and ice. They lowered his entire body into the water and held him down, face-up in the water. An interrogator forced Khan's head under the water until he thought he would drown. The interrogator would pull Khan's head out of the water to demand answers to questions, and then force his head back under the water, repeatedly. Water and ice were also poured from a bucket onto Khan's mouth and nose when his head was not submerged.”

Khan was raped while in CIA custody (“rectal feeding”) and sexually assaulted

“As described in the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, Khan was raped while in CIA custody (‘rectal feeding’). He was sexually assaulted in other ways as well, including by having his ‘private parts’ touched while he was hung naked from the ceiling.”

Khan was hung on a wooden beam for days on end

“Interrogators and guards at a black site hung Khan by his hands from a wooden beam for three days. He was naked and shackled. He was provided with water but no food.”

Khan spent much of 2003 in total darkness

“Majid had an uncovered bucket for a toilet, no toilet paper, a sleeping mat and no light…. For much of 2003 he lived in total darkness.”

Khan was held in solitary

“Khan was essentially held in solitary confinement from 2004 to 2006.”

Khan’s family was threatened by interrogators

“They also threatened to harm his family, including his young sister. He was told, ‘son, we are going to take care of you. We are going to send you to a place you cannot imagine.’”

Khan experienced repeated beatings and threats to beat him with tools, including a hammer

“They would come in with a bag of tools and set them down next to Majid. They would pull out a hammer and show it to Majid. One of them threatened to hammer Majid’s head. They sometimes smelled like alcohol.”

Doctors were among Khan's worst torturers; Khan was hung on a metal bar

“When a physician came to examine him, Khan begged for help. In response, the physician instructed the guards to take Khan back into the interrogation room with the metal bar and hang him. Khan remained hanging there for another 24 hours before being interrogated again and forced to write his own ‘confession’ while being filmed naked if he wanted some rest. He was finally placed in a cell, where he remained numb and immobile for several days.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights has represented Majid Khan since he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 after being held in secret overseas CIA “black sites” for more than three years. After he was transferred, CCR had to fight the government for a year to meet with our client, and Khan’s own memories of his torture remained classified until May 2015.

For more information, please visit Majid Khan’s case page on the CCR website.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo since 2002 – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CIA Investigation Minimizes Use of Drugs on Rendition & Black Site Detainees

The CIA has released documents regarding a 2008 Inspector General (IG) investigation into the use of "mind-altering" drugs to enhance or facilitate interrogations undertaken as part of their rendition, "black site" detention, and interrogation-torture (RDI) program. Not surprisingly, a brief investigation found, according to a January 29, 2009 newly declassified letter sent from the CIA IG to Senator Dianne Feinstein, then-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), that CIA had not used any drugs on detainees for the purpose of interrogations.

The documents were released to Jason Leopold at VICE News, who posted a comprehensive article examining them earlier today. Leopold and I have previously written on the subject of drugging prisoners, and examined an earlier Department of Defense IG report on the subject a few years ago, as well as the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo, about which more below.

The CIA Inspector General, John L. Helgerson, referred Feinstein to a statement by the Director of CIA's Office of Medical Services (OMS), to the effect that "no 'mind-altering' drugs were administered to facilitate interrogations and debriefings because no medications of any kind were used for that purpose."

But as we shall see, there were many claims by prisoners of drugging during CIA renditions, and later by affiliated "liaison" government officials. Other prisoners claimed they were drugged during the time they were held by CIA itself at their black site prisons. None of those charges were addressed by Helgerson in his investigation, unless they were part of a 5-page section of the new CIA document release that was totally whited out by the CIA FOIA officials.

No CIA detainees were evidently ever interviewed as part of the IG investigation.

Helgerson said that he queried IG investigators working on another investigation of abuse claims by 16 high-value detainees then held at Guantanamo. The alleged abuse concerned treatment by CIA before the detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. Helgerson said the investigators had no knowledge of "the use of 'mind-altering' drugs as a part of the interrogation regimen." Nothing is known about this IG investigation on detainee complaints.

Helgerson, who is now retired, did refer in his letter to Feinstein to the May 2004 CIA IG report that examined "isolated allegations of mistreatment or abuse of detainees, though he never specifically states that there were no claims of drugging in that "comprehensive review."

Helgerson said that the CIA IG had investigated "a variety of specific unrelated detainee abuse allegations" since the 2004 report.

MKULTRA, KUBARK, and Phoenix

The issue of CIA drugging of prisoners has historical resonance since CIA engaged in a decades-long program of experimentation on the use of "truth serums" and other drugs, including LSD, for use in interrogations. Known under various acronyms, including Bluebird, MKDELTA and MKSEARCH, the program was best known in popular accounts as MKULTRA. The CIA's KUBARK interrogation manual from the early 1960s drew specifically upon MKULTRA research when it advocated use of "narcosis" or the use of drugs for interrogations.

The latest version of the KUBARK manual (PDF), released to me last year after a Mandatory Declassification Request, showed a much heavier emphasis on the use of foreign "liaison" agencies for detention of CIA prisoners than had been previously revealed.

The CIA's 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual also describes such liaison relationships in some depth, in addition to a discussion of using drugs during interrogation. According to National Security Archive, "The manual was used in numerous Latin American countries as an instructional tool by CIA and Green Beret trainers between 1983 and 1987 and became the subject of executive session Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights abuses committed by CIA-trained Honduran military units."

This aspect of the CIA's program both before and after 9/11 has probably had the least amount of emphasis in the press, for partly understandable reasons, as the actions of police or intelligence agencies in foreign countries is least penetrable or open to examination by government or human rights agency, not to mention journalists.

An important exception to this was Douglas Valentine's extensive evaluation of the CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. In his book on the subject, he described Phoenix as both a counter-terror assassination program and a interrogation-torture program which heavily relied on the use of South Vietnamese liaison personnel. Valentine detailed the use of drugs by both CIA Phoenix personnel and South Vietnamese police to both disorient prisoners and to obtain false confessions.

In a newly revealed section of the 1963 KUBARK manual, the CIA discussed use of foreign services for interrogation. It is worth referencing here as it is expresses issues still relevant to CIA rendition activities, and interactions with foreign intelligence services to whom CIA sends "ghost" or black site prisoners.
The legislation which founded KUBARK [CIA] specifically denied it any law-enforcement or police powers. Yet detention in a controlled environment and perhaps for a period is frequently essential to a successful counterintelligence interrogation of a recalcitrant source. Because 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. This necessity, obviously, should be determined as early as possible. The legality of detaining and questioning a person, and of the methods employed. is determined by the laws of the country in which the act occurs.
The issue of drugging detainees takes on even more relevance when one considers that the SSCI's report on CIA torture included revelations that James Mitchell worked for the CIA's Office of Technical Services (OTS) when he was referred to help lead the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, and later to construct the EIT program itself. At least one other OTS official was said to have worked on the EIT protocols along with Mitchell, a fact totally ignored by mainstream press accounts.

OTS is notable in CIA history for being the department in charge of the CIA's MKULTRA program.

Narcotic drugs, "sedatives," and antidepressants administered to detainees

Despite the claims no drugs were used for interrogation purposes, like a September 2009 Department of Defense Inspector General report (PDF) on the same issue, released via FOIA in July 2012, CIA admitted other drugs were used on detainees for various health-related purposes.

A full list of such drugs, by name or family of drug, was redacted in the current CIA FOIA release. Hence, the most crucial information that we could obtain from the IG investigation was censored.

But a memo from the Director, OMS to Helgerson (dated May 29, 2008) indicated that drugs given to detainees in the CIA's RDI program included both narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics for "pain relief."

In addition, CIA's OMS administered oral, topical and injectable antibiotics; topical agents for skin conditions; antacids, laxatives and antidiarrheals; as well as non-prescription medications for sleep. The letter drily noted that medications "to assist with sleep on request" were not administered during interrogations. (The CIA's torture program is known for its heavy reliance upon sleep deprivation.)

The CIA's medical services director also indicated that antidepressant medications were given to "several detainees." In addition, "sedatives" were also give in "two instances" to detainees "with their knowledge and consent" for "agitation or anxiety."

CIA documents maintain that what drugs were administered to detainees were done with the informed consent of the prisoners. This contrasts with DoD's admission that drugs were forcibly administered to some detainees for purposes of "chemical restraint."

The only drug actually named by CIA officials in the FOIA release was Ambien, and that was said to have been administered to CIA officers for use in travel to and from CIA black sites.

The Director, OMS, also told Helgerson that he knew of no other use of drugs for purposes of interrogation "in any other program or site." Helgerson himself later told Feinstein and other U.S. senators who had asked for the information, that he was told there no "information that any CIA officer or contractor... has procured and/or administered such drugs to detainees since September 2001."

Helgerson never mentioned the possibility that such drugs were administered by foreign nationals at liaison officials in other countries where CIA had sent detainees via rendition. In fact, there has been a great deal of evidence of such drugging.

"Drugged repeatedly"

The CIA documents focus on claims of drugging by US agents of Adel al-Nusairi, as described in an influential April 2008 Washington Post article by Joby Warrick. Yet, the Post story was the latest in a number of articles accusing the CIA and DoD of drugging detainees. Another such article in 2007 at NBC News included charges that the CIA's interrogation program included use of "psychotropic drugs."

The CIA was dismissive of Warrick's claims, noting in one memo, most likely from CTC to CIA IG, that al-Nusairi was never a CIA prisoner, "not did we render him," and therefore they knew little about him or his treatment.

But certainly a search of open source documentation would have found many other instances of charges of drugging by CIA prisoners.

For one thing, as documented in the recent release by the SSCI of their study on the CIA's interrogation program, high-value detainee Abd al Rahim al Nashiri made repeated charges that we was drugged while in CIA custody. "Over a period of years," the report states, "al-Nashiri accused the CIA staff of drugging or poisoning his food, and complained of bodily pain and insomnia."

In February 2007, a Washington Post article by Dafna Linzer and Julie Tate related the story of Marwan Jabour, "an accused al-Qaeda paymaster," who claimed he was drugged in June 2006 on his very last day in CIA custody.

Jabour "was stripped naked, seated in a chair and videotaped by agency officers. Afterward, he was shackled and blindfolded, headphones were put over his ears, and he was given an injection that made him groggy," Linzer and Tate wrote.

A number of detainees accused the CIA of forcibly administering suppositories, presumably containing some drug. In December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights found that CIA had in fact "forcibly administered" a suppository during the CIA rendition of Khalid el-Masri.

A 2007 ICRC report, based on interviews with high-value prisoners held at one time by the CIA, stated, "A body cavity check (rectal examination) would be carried out and some detainees alleged that a suppository (the type and the effect of such suppositories was unknown by the detainees), was also administered at that moment." (p. 6) One of these detainees was accused 9/11 plotter, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The ICRC report was released in 2010 by the New York Review of Books, over a year after the CIA IG investigation, but certainly Helgerson had access to the report if he so wanted.

In fact, Helgerson and CIA appear to have done very little in the way of investigating the charges. Like DoD, who also did a poor job of investigating the drugging, interviewing only three detainees, CIA construed the charge to investigate drugging as narrowly as possible. Hence charges of being drugged by foreign governments after CIA had rendered prisoners to countries like Egypt and Morocco were ignored by Helgerson, even though CIA and other allied government agents were present at these interrogation sites, if not directing the interrogations themselves.

Charges of drugging by detainees rendered by CIA to "liaison" services have been detailed in open source documents. Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib accused Egyptian jailers of drugging him after CIA rendered him to that country.

As a 2005 article on Habib in the Los Angeles Times reported: "'They outsource torture,' said Stephen Hopper, Habib's Australian lawyer. 'You get your friends and allies to do your dirty work for you.'"

British resident Binyam Mohamed, rendered by CIA to Morocco, and later to Guantanamo, said he was "drugged repeatedly" by Moroccan authorities, subsequent to CIA rendition.

In addition, there is the related issue of withholding of drugs as part of an overall manipulation of medical care. The SSCI report refers to this in the case of high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah. While it quotes CIA director Hayden has denying drugs were withheld from detainees, the report quotes a CIA cable from the time of Zubaydah's interrogation that mentions "the removal of formal obvious medical care to further isolate" AZ, which could refer to withholding of medical drugs. (p. 491)

Another example of deleterious withholding of drugs concerns high-value detainee Ramzi bin al-Shibh. According to CIA documents quoted in the SSCI report, al-Shibh been in "'social isolation" for as long as two and half years and the isolation was having a 'clear and escalating effect on his psychological functioning." By April 2005, his psychological deterioration was considered "alarming." A CIA psychologist is quoted as saying, "significant alterations to RBS'[s] detention environment must occur soon to prevent further and more serious psychological disturbance."

The SSCI report notes that al-Shibh was placed on antipsychotic medication once he was transferred to Guantanamo on September 5, 2006. Evidently, al-Shibh was not placed on such medication prior to that, despite his desperate psychiatric condition.

While the CIA's Director of Medical Services told the Agency Inspector General that there were psychiatric problems and that antidepressants and "sedatives" were administered, nothing in the extant documents mentions antipsychotic medications. Conversely, the DoD IG report on drugging detainees mentions use of the antipsychotic drug haldol, and not just for antipsychotic use, but as a chemical restraint.

Blood Thinners and Antimalarials

The CIA IG investigation is disingenous in the way it approaches the question of drugs and their effects on prisoners, or the way in which drugs were used in the torture program.

The executive summary of the SSCI report released last December tells the story of Abu Ja'far al-Iraqi. According to CIA records, al-Iraqi "was subjected to nudity, dietary manipulation, insult slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holds, walling, stress positions,and water dousing with 44 degree Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes. He was shackled in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation, and experienced swelling in his lower legs requiring blood thinner and spiral ace bandages.... After the swelling subsided, he was provided with more blood thinner and was returned to the standing position" (p. 149, bold emphasis added).

Typical blood thinners that could have been used likely included heparin or warfarin, both drugs that can produce significant side effects, including headache, confusion, nausea, weakness, and fatigue, all conditions that would adversely affect a prisoner undergoing interrogation, not to mention torture.

The Helgerson investigation is also mum on the use of either scopolamine or mefloquine, both drugs that were administered to detainees rendered to Guantanamo. This presumably also included CIA prisoners transferred to Guantanamo from black sites. The use of scopolamine and mefloquine were standard operating procedures for prisoners entering Guantanamo. Nothing in the new documents speaks to whether such drugs were used on CIA prisoners at the DoD facility.

Former Guantanamo guard Joe Hickman has stated in his widely discussed new book, Murder at Camp Delta, that the CIA ran a secret access program at Guantanamo that included a black site at the Cuba-based facility. It is Hickman's contention that three detainees who died at Guantanamo in June 2006, which DoD officials called a case of concurrent suicide, were in fact victims of interrogations or experiments at the camp's CIA black site, known variously as "Camp No" and "Strawberry Fields."

Notably, one of the deceased detainees had needle marks on his arms. The suicides were also tested for the presence of the antimalarial drug chloroquine, and one of the deceased was tested for the presence of mefloquine. This was quite odd as, one, there is no malaria in Cuba, and two, the SOP that called for administration of mefloquine would have only been relevant to newly arrived prisoners. The three dead detainees had been at Guantanamo for approximately four years at that point.

What mefloquine, scopolamine, chloroquine, and blood thinners have in common are disagreeable, even potentially severe side effects, including psychiatric side effects, even as none of these drugs (with the possible exception of scopolamine) are considered psychotropic or "mind-altering" drugs. Their use by CIA or any government agency holding detainees or prisoners should be very carefully examined for their potential for abuse, as the drugs may not be considered primarily psychoactive, and yet affect mood, perception, consciousness or behavior.

It is worth recalling that the MKULTRA experiments on drugs were not solely about drugs like cannabis, mescaline or LSD. MKULTRA experiments included examination of antimalarials, and also drugs like curare and cancer medications. Indeed, according to an SOP for Physician Assistants at Guantanamo, the Detainee Hospital formulary stocked a number of older chemotherapy drugs. It also stocked heparin and the curare-based drug tubocurarine choloride.

In addition, the detainee hospital also had supplies of a very old malaria drug, quinacrine, as well as the fertility drug Clomid. Why detainees would need a drug that affected hormone levels of estrogen or testosterone is unknown. However, while the hospital stocked these drugs, the SOP indicated that physician assistants were prohibited from prescribing them.

Drugs in interrogations okay if no "lasting or permanent alteration or damage"

Leopold's article does a good job at detailing the history of the CIA's investigation, and the strange preoccupation of CIA officials in proving that they had never referred the drug issue to the Office of Legal Counsel for approval in use in the interrogation program. And yet, as Leopold points out, John Yoo, the primary author of the first three torture memos made a special point of giving legal cover to the use of drugs in interrogation.

It it worth noting that the use of drugs in interrogation also became a part of the Army Field Manual, which was revised in September 2006. While previously the military could not use drugs that that could cause a "chemically induced psychosis," the current Army Field Manual prohibits only the use of "drugs that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage."

In other words, any drugs can be used for interrogation that do not cause permanent damage or alteration in a prisoner, a very loose criterion that would allow for the use of many pernicious and harmful, not to say psychoactive or "mind-altering" medications. Today, per executive order by President Obama, the Army Field Manual is the official government guideline for interrogation for both the military and the CIA.

Crossposted from Firedoglake

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