Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New DoD Directive on Detainees Allows Sleep and Sensory Deprivation, Biometric IDs

On August 19, 2014, the Department of Defense released an updated version of its Directive 2310.01E on the "DoD Detainee Program." It supercedes the previous version, dated September 5, 2006.

Earlier this month, Steve Vladek at the Just Security blog, pondered why the government chose this particular time to release the new, updated directive. While his observations are important and worth considering, much of importance is omitted from his brief analysis.

In my analysis -- besides the potential legalities explored by Vladek, which impact the definition of what the government considers the definition of an “unprivileged belligerent" (like the detainees at Guantanamo), and access of legal counsel to these prisoners -- the new directive propounds a number of new rules that summarize the Obama administration's detainee regime, particularly as it relates to Guantanamo.

The new directive expands upon what "humane treatment" means for those caught in its "detainee program." It also adds an item about the collection of biometric identification information (BII). Such information "will be collected from all detainees in accordance with DoDD 8521.01E." It also includes a statement of how long a detainee can be held, which appears to operationalize Obama's policy of indefinite detention of detainees. Finally, the directive greatly expands on the issue of who can be held, how charges can be brought against detainees, and what procedures are necessary for a detainee's release. (This article will not cover the very last item.)

A long analysis of all the changes would take many pages, and I am going to concentrate on those of immediate relevance to me. I would hope that Vladek, or other attorneys or human rights organizations will pursue the relevant legalities in the sections on how detainees are held and released.

No protection from sleep deprivation

In the 2006 version of the directive, the issue of humane treatment of detainees is summarized in a sentence: "All detainees shall be treated humanely and in accordance with U.S. law, the law of war, and applicable U.S. policy."

In the new 2014 version, the section on "humane treatment" expands to nearly 250 words. To understand the significance of what is written here, one must realize that the procedures "established for the treatment of persons consistent with this directive" includes U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3, “Human Intelligence Collector Operations" (AFM).

As I have written at various times, numerous human rights, medical, and legal groups have identified the AFM, and in particular its Appendix M on a "restricted Separation technique," to include methods of interrogation and conditions of confinement that amount to torture and/or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners. In particular, it allows use of isolation, sleep deprivation, use of drugs, sensory deprivation, environmental manipulation, and techniques that induce fear and degrading verbal treatment of prisoners, intending thereby to induce, according to the manual iself, "hopelessness and helplessness" in its victims.

Hence, while the new DoD directive makes some pretty noises about providing detainees with "Adequate food, drinking water, shelter, and clothing"; and while DoD claims detainees will be protected "against threats or acts of violence, including rape, forced prostitution, assault, theft, public curiosity, bodily injury, reprisals, torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," DoD never mentions any provision of adequate sleep. This is not, in my opinion, a mere oversight.

Sleep deprivation is a key foundational element, along with isolation (solitary confinement), of the torture program to break down individuals used by the CIA and the Department of Defense. The AFM's Appendix M provides specifically that prisoners (of the "unprivileged" sort) can be limited to 4 hours sleep per day for up to 30 days, and even longer. In principle, that can even be done indefinitely.

This sort of sleep deprivation is not as dramatic as the kind advertised in the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" version of torture, but it is debilitating nevertheless. Former DoD interrogator Matthew Alexander wrote in the New York Times, "The [Army Field] manual also allows limiting detainees to just four hours of sleep in 24 hours. Let’s face it: extended captivity with only four hours of sleep a night (consider detainees at Guantánamo Bay who have been held for seven years) does not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency."

Alexander added, "And if this weren’t enough, some interrogators feel the manual’s language gives them a loophole that allows them to give a detainee four hours of sleep and then conduct a 20-hour interrogation, after which they can “reset” the clock and begin another 20-hour interrogation followed by four hours of sleep. This is inconsistent with the spirit of the reforms, which was to prevent “monstering” — extended interrogation sessions lasting more than 20 hours."

Alexander was not alone in his analysis. The right to sleep is considered part of "humane treatment" under international law. A 2003 US Southern Command instruction (pdf) to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stated sleep deprivation was defined "as keeping a detainee awake for more than 16 hours" (see pgs. 5-6).

It is worth noting that the version of the AFM that preceded the current September 2006 version forbid use of sleep deprivation and stress positions.

The current version of the AFM, used to help define the parameters of treatment in the just released directive, eliminated the prohibitive language concerning sleep deprivation and stress positions. This is not an accident. And additionally, DoD's new directive also contains no prohibition on stress positions.

No protection from non-punitive sensory deprivation

Directive 2310.01E, like Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, does contain a prohibition on the use of sensory deprivation. The problem is in how the government defines "sensory deprivation."

The directive states, detainees "will not be subjected to medical or scientific experiments or to sensory deprivation intended to inflict suffering or serve as punishment."

One must ask, why is there a condition put on the prohibition of sensory deprivation? Sensory deprivation intended to inflict suffering, or as punishment is prohibited, but what about in other matters?

The directive is being opaquely coy here, as sensory deprivation is allowed in a particular procedure in the current Army Field Manual. In the description of the latter's "Field Expedient Separation," goggles or blindfold and earmuffs are put on a detainee for up to 12 hours. Again this is expandable upon official approval.

The AFM warns that care must be taken to protect the blindfolded, earmuffed prisoner from self-injury, and the prisoner must be medically monitored. The AFM doesn't explain why this is necessary, but the reason is that such sensory deprivation is intolerable for some people and can lead to hallucinations and self-injurious behavior. The inclusion of a procedure that so obviously needs medical monitoring should be a red flag that it violates basic humane treatment.

The purpose of the blindfold, goggles and earmuffs (and here, one may recall those pictures of be-goggled and earmuffed and bound detainees taken out of doors at Camp X-ray in the very earliest days at Guantanamo) is not to "inflict suffering." No, according to the AFM itself, it is to "prolong the shock of capture," prevent communication with other detainees, "and foster a feeling of futility." While the prevention of communication with other detainees may have a security factor, the other instances do not.

To that point, the new directive includes a section on the separation or "segregation" of detainees from each other for security and other reasons. It should be noted that such administrative segregation is not what is involved in the Appendix M version of "isolation." The AFM itself makes it clear that solitary confinement or isolation is used as an interrogation technique.

The use of "separation" itself as an interrogation technique should, according to the AFM, "be distinguished from segregation, which refers to removing a detainee from other detainees and their environment for legitimate purposes unrelated to interrogation...." (pg. M-1).

Isolation of prisoners is itself a form of sensory deprivation, in that it provides restricted environmental and social stimulation. (See this classic paper (long PDF) by Stuart Grassian on "The Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement.")

Of course, isolation is something that is also sanctioned by the Army Field Manual, for up to 30 days, with the possibility of indefinite extension. The "humane treatment" section of the new DoD directive provides no protection against such treatment.

Biometrics

Also new to the DoD directive on its detainee program is a section on the collection of biometrics.

Biometric data "will be collected from all detainees... as soon as practicable after their capture by, or transfer to, the custody or control of DoD personnel, and will be included in detainee records. BII collected on detainees who are U.S. citizens or U.S. resident aliens will be conducted in accordance with U.S. law and policy and all applicable DoD regulations."

The use of biometrics deserves its own lengthy analysis. The fact that U.S. citizens or resident aliens may have different legal rights when it comes to such collection than, for instance, the Guantanamo detainees, is a matter worth pursuing.

According to DoD, biometrics is "A measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristic that can be used for automated recognition." (italics added)

As a process, biometrics concerns "Automated methods of recognizing an individual based on measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristics....

"Biometrics-enabled Intelligence. Intelligence information associated with and or derived from biometrics data that matches a specific person or unknown identity to a place, activity, device, component, or weapon that supports terrorist / insurgent network and related pattern analysis, facilitates high value individual targeting, reveals movement patterns, and confirms claimed identity."

The use of "behavioral characteristics" stretches the definition to something beyond the biological. One source I consulted said such characteristics include "Speaker Recognition, Signature Recognition, Keystroke/Keyboard Dynamics," or any "measurable behavioral trait that is acquired over time and is used to recognize or verify the identity of a person."

According to an oft-cited paper, "An Introduction to Biometric Recognition," types of biometric identification include via DNA, face and ear recognition, gait, retinal scan, odor, voice, and even the way a person signs their name or types upon a keyboard."

The new provisions for biometric collection on detainees comes just weeks before the FBI announced the full operational capability of its own biometric database system.

The possible dangers inherent in use of biometrics is beyond the scope of this article, and tend to involved concerns about privacy and the expanding use of or security of biometric databases. I've included the information here because it is something new in the detainee program, as delineated by DoD. For more discussion of the issues, see this Electronic Frontier Foundation discussion.

Indefinite Detention

In this already long essay on the new DoD Directive, I should note that it includes a brand-new item that seems to speak to the powers of indefinite detention propounded by the Obama administration. The new item states, "Subject to the requirements of the law of war and this directive, POWs and unprivileged belligerents may lawfully be detained until a competent authority determines that the conflict has ended or that active hostilities have ceased, and civilian internees may lawfully be detained until the reasons that necessitated the civilian’s internment no longer exist."

Who will this "competent authority" be? Whatever the answer to that question may be, it is frightening to see in official language the assertion that "civilian internees" can be "lawfully" detained until whatever "reasons necessitated" their internment "no long exist." In the "war on terrorism" we know that will be never. In its bold proclamation of the powers of indefinite detention, the document is profoundly unconstitutional and undemocratic.

In summary, we can see there is a lot more in the new DoD Directive on its Detainee Program than indicated in the Just Security discussion of its release. In particular, the directive makes explicit policies concerning so-called "humane treatment" of detainees that allows for the use of torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of prisoners as set down in the current Army Field Manual. It does this despite formal statements of providing prisoners' rights, or following Geneva protocols, by omitting key items from its description of such "humane treatment," by burying actual abuse in references to other documents not specifically quoted in the directive, and by use of dodgy legalistic language that make things appear other than what they are.

If Bush or a Republican were President of the United States, this new DoD directive would have been subject to intense scrutiny and examination by a plethora of commentators and analysts. But because the Obama and the Democrats are in charge of the White House and Senate, a close examination of how Obama has perpetuated Bush and Cheney's torture program is not on the such analysts' political agenda.

The U.S. has become a Torture Nation. Torture is legalistically bound up in main government documents and how the government operates. Figures directly implicated in the planning and execution of torture have high positions in government or other major civil institutions (cf. John Yoo), while those who protest torture or expose it are punished.

[Update: Since writing this article, I discovered that were a few other postings at Just Security, besides that of Steve Vladek, including one by Gabor Rona, and one by Marty Lederman. These postings appear to be primarily concerned with the language around the definition of "unprivileged belligerents.” Neither of the other postings are critical of what Lederman called "expanded humane treatment provisions" in the new directive.

Meanwhile, Ryan Vogel, who says he "led the drafting and coordination process for DoDD 2310.01E", published today at Just Security a new article, "A Response on Department of Defense Directive 2310.01E (Detainee Program)."

Vogel writes, "... this new detainee directive is dramatically different from its predecessor, mandating, as a policy matter, those practices and lessons learned over the prior decade. Some of the more notable changes include: expanded humane treatment provisions and added emphasis by moving them into the main body from the attachments section; clarification regarding the general process for handling detainees from point of capture or assumption of custody until final transfer, repatriation, or release; expansion of the policies related to the transfer, repatriation, and release of detainees, including applicable humane treatment and security assurances; references to Article 75 of Additional Protocol I and Articles 4-6 of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as applicable detention principles (even though the United States is party to neither Protocol); and, most significantly, a new policy requirement to conduct detainee review processes, used to ascertain the status and continued necessity of detention for individuals detained by DoD under the law of armed conflict."

I think my answer to Vogel is explicitly aired above. What is disturbing is that the legal analysts at Just Security are so obtuse on the issue of what constitutes "humane treatment." Vogel is probably not obtuse. He must know where the textual bodies are buried, so to speak.]

Crossposted at FDL/The Dissenter

Monday, September 15, 2014

Navy Continues to Persecute Nurse Who Refused to Force-feed Guantanamo Hunger Strikers

Carol Rosenberg reported today that a Navy commander had decided not to court-martial a Guantanamo nurse for refusing to participate in the forced-feeding of hunger strikers at the U.S. military prison. Announcement of the "pending court-martial" was made in late August.

While on Twitter it appeared that many were relieved the nurse would not be going to jail for taking a principled stand against the medically unethical practice of forced "enteral" feeding -- and that must be some relief, after all -- the fact is the Navy announced that after some months of investigation, the nurse is now subject to an administrative review, or "Board of Inquiry," that may continue on for up to nine more months, according to Rosenberg.

The nurse, who is threatened with expulsion from the military and loss of his military benefits, is a 40-ish year old, possibly Latino, Navy Lieutenant. The discovery of his protest against the forced feeding of Guantanamo hunger-strikers, which he had participated in for many months, noted first in a letter from Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian prisoner cleared for release in 2010. Dhiab languishes in ill-health at the Cuban-based prison, as he awaits possible transfer to Uruguay. (See this latest report on Dhiab from Andy Worthington.)

The military is not interested in doing its conscientious-objector nurse any favors. The Board of Inquiry will no doubt cause the Navy Lieutenant a great deal of stress and money, with no certain outcome. Anyone who has been under administrative investigation and "review" for many months knows how difficult such a procedure really is. Whatever the outcome, the continued legal wrangling by the Navy amounts to persecution of a medical officer who had decided not to obey an unlawful order.

Forced feeding of prisoners is denounced as both medically unethical and in the form practiced at Guantanamo to amount to torture, according to a report from the prestigious Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) report released last year.

The Navy certainly had little interest in an actual court-martial proceeding. As Rosenberg reported, "The administrative review, also known as a Board of Inquiry, keeps the circumstances of that episode secret. A military trial could have put a very public spotlight on both Guantánamo’s hunger-strike policy and how the military manages medical-ethics issues." 

A very different fate for former BSCTs

It is very embittering for anyone who cares about this country's mainstreaming of torture to reflect upon the experience of this Navy nurse. It strongly reminds me of the case of former Guantanamo guard Albert Melise, who was threatened with dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all his military benefits because he spoke to reporter Jason Leopold about his experiences with former Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks. (Hicks today is fighting to have his conviction in the Guantanamo military commissions overturned.)

While the military continues to persecute those who stand against torture and medical maltreatment, key personnel who participated in interrogations and torture at Guantanamo are rewarded. I recently was made aware that one of the members of Guantanamo's infamous Behavioral Consultation Science or BSCT ("biscuit") teams, Lisa Teegarden, is today the chief of Psychology at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (not to be confused with Walter Reed Army Hospital, which, plagued with scandals over patient neglect, closed in 2011).

According to her LinkedIn page, she was Behavioral Science Command Consultant from May 2008 to October 2010. Teegarden indicates that during this period she "[s]erved as Special Staff to Commander, Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Served as the subject matter expert to the Commander, JTF-GTMO on matters pertaining to clinical psychology, organizational psychology / dymanics [sic] and social psychology principles as they pertain to military organizations. Specialized in behavioral management of detainees, behavioral drift, and counter-interrogation / intelligence operations."

The BSCTs were notorious for their participation in abusive interrogations, including use of SERE-derived torture. The American Psychiatric Association went so far as to prohibit its members from participating, while the American Psychological Association was (and to some degree still is) embroiled in controversies over allowing psychologists to staff the interrogation consultant role at Guantanamo. (For a full discussion of the pertinent issues, see this excellent article by psychologist Stephen Soldz.)

Teegarden's stint at Guantanamo, providing her expertise on clinical psychology and "behavioral management of detainees" and intelligence operations, at the time of the mysterious death of Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi in June 2009. Al Hanashi was found dead in a constantly-monitored cell in Guantanamo's Behavioral Health Unit. An NCIS report on his death has not been released.

I requested a copy of the report via FOIA in January 2012. NCIS to date refuses to even give me a date of completion for the FOIA request. A separate request for the AR 15-16 report on Hanashi's death has been sitting in Southcom's FOIA office since January 2013.

When the autopsy report for Hanashi's death was finally released, it raised many questions about what actually happened to the former hunger-striking prisoner. But one aspect of the latter document is especially relevant when it comes to Teegarden, as the autopsy stated Hanashi suffered from "stressors of confinement."

If true, Teegarden, a psychologist who as BSCT had great responsibility in regards to "behavioral management of detainees," should answer for what kind of conditions of confinement drove Hanashi to make multiple suicide attempts, and what the actual circumstances of his death were.

But Teegarden is not being investigated, unlike the nurse who protested the brutal process of forced cell extraction and forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners, despairing of years of indefinite detention, psychological torture, beatings, forced drug injections, isolation and more.

Instead, Teegarden isn't worried about her medical benefits or her job. Like scores of others involved in the torture of prisoners, including Department of Defense SERE officials, Pentagon attorneys, psychologists and doctors and nurses, flag officers, CIA and JSOC officers, Teegarden is rewarded with plum assignments for her adherence to a torture regime. Meanwhile, a lowly Navy lieutenant can only count himself lucky that he isn't being thrown into the brig, and only must endure a stressful "inquiry" about whether to throw him out of the military.

Teegarden is not alone in being an ex-BSCT who has gone on with her career. Former head BSCT and chief psychologist at Abu Ghraib, Larry James, who personally led the rendition and detention of young teens from Afghanistan, went on to a career as dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. (James ultimately left, and his subsequent attempt at a career has not been without controversy.)

At least one BSCT psychologist, Lt. Col. Dianne Zierhoffer was called to account for her participation in the torture of another Guantanamo juvenile prisoner, Mohammed Jawad (now released), but was allowed to plead the Fifth Amendment in order not to testify. John Leso, yet another BSCT, who had been identified in helping organize Guantanamo's SERE-inspired torture regime, was exonerated of ethics charges by the American Psychological Association

The real message is for those who staff or would staff the military and intelligence bureaucracy of 21st century America: Don't make waves. Do your job in support of or conducting torture, and you will be rewarded.

Crossposted from The Dissenter/FDL

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Did CIA/SSCI Revolving Door Lead Feinstein to Suppress Full Torture Report?

Marcy Wheeler at the Emptywheel blog is known for her facility at connecting the dots in relation to government and intelligence matters. An excellent recent example is her most recent posting, which looks at how "vague references to claims that surely were torture derived" were used back in 2004 by now-CIA chief John Brennan in a scare memo to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to substantiate his case for legally justifying a Internet dragnet. (I use the word "substantiate" guardedly.)

I have a tangential interest in this same memo, as it mentions (and not the first time this has been documented) that Tenet spent seven years working for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), the very same institution that was charged with investigating the torture program under George W. Bush's Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. For over four of those years with SSCI (November 1988 through January 1993), Tenet was SSCI Staff Director.

After leaving SSCI, Tenet went straight to the White House, where he worked as "Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs." In a relatively short time, he was appointed deputy director of the CIA in July 1995. By December 1996, Tenet replaced John Deutch as temporary director of the CIA. Bill Clinton would nominate him as full director the next year. (For more on the CIA scandals that led to the fall of Deutch and Tenet's accession, see this 2009 story.)

In four quick years, Tenet went from SSCI Staff Director to head of the CIA.

While Tenet was SSCI Staff Director, the Minority Staff Director was John H. Moseman. In February 1996, Moseman was appointed Director of Congressional Affairs of the Central Intelligence Agency, demonstrating that the revolving door between the CIA and its Congressional overseers was not a partisan affair.

Moseman went on to become Tenet's Chief of Staff at CIA in 2001, serving until 2005. Today, he is an "Executive Advisor" at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Not everyone went from Congressional cloakroom to Langley. The Chief Clerk for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kathleen McGhee, has served from Tenet's days at SSCI until January of 2014. In addition, sometimes the revolving door rotated in the opposite direction. When in February 2002, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees announced a joint investigation into the facts behind 9/11, they hired former CIA Inspector General L. Britt Snider to head the unified staff for the joint inquiry.

Another hire from CIA was Charles Battaglia. Battaglia, who had been the Navy's director for psychological operations during the Vietnam War, served as special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence from 1978 to 1981. He was a senior line manager at the CIA from 1981 to 1985, and then went to work on staff at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He ultimately became Staff Director, like Tenet, in the mid-1990s.

If this were any other institution, there would be an outcry, or a least some raised eyebrows, over this revolving door between IC regulators and the IC itself. One has to ask whether what we have with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees isn't an instance of what George Stigler called "regulatory capture."

But, you may ask, isn't there a big conflict between the SSCI and the CIA over the former's attempt to regulate the latter, in the sense of holding them accountable for their torture-interrogation program?

In fact, given the amount of worldwide outrage over the revelations surrounding the US/CIA/DOD torture program, the actions of the SSCI appear to be one of helping the CIA with damage control, rather than actually bringing the scofflaws to heel.

The Senate investigation only began years after the revelations about CIA torture were made public. Indeed, scandals over CIA torture and assassination have come and gone over the decades without the SSCI, including the SSCI under Tenet, initiating any major investigation.

Moreover, even now, with some 6000+ pages of report and millions of pages of documentation, the SSCI has indicated that it will only release a few hundred pages of "Executive Summary." This "Summary" will be so carefully controlled by the CIA, i.e., by the very agency the SSCI is supposed to be overseeing, that, as Jason Leopold revealed the other day, it will not even name key personnel in the torture program like James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, despite the fact their identities were revealed by a separate investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But behind the hullaballoo over the CIA fight with Feinstein and her committee over the Executive Summary is the unassailable fact that the SSCI has suppressed its own report. Feinstein has said there is no planned release of the actual report itself, even though the mainstream press continues to treat the fight over censorship in the Executive Summary as a fight over the report itself. No, there is no fight over the main report. George Tenet's former employers do not threaten the CIA with that.

Another Suppressed Congressional Report on the CIA

This is not the first time Congress has suppressed a report on the CIA. In 1976, Congress voted to suppress the House Select Committee on Intelligence's Pike Report. A sampling of the report's conclusions may help one understand why.

"If this Committee's recent experience is any test," the Pike report concludes, "intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond the lawmaker's scrutiny.
These secret agencies have interests that inherently conflict with the open accountability of a political body, and there are many tools and tactics to block and deceive conventional Congressional checks. Added to this are the unique attributes of intelligence -- notably, "national security," in its cloak of secrecy and mystery -- to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries.

Wise and effective legislation cannot proceed in the absence of information respecting conditions to be affected or changed. Nevertheless, under present circumstances, inquiry into intelligence activities faces serious and fundamental shortcomings.

Even limited success in exercising future oversight requires a rethinking of the powers, procedures, and duties of the overseers."
This was said even after the Committee had spent many months gathering a great deal of evidence (some of which today can be accessed here).

The Pike Report was suppressed by Congress after it was completed and after the CIA complained. It was never officially released to the United States citizens who paid for it. The late Daniel Schorr famously released a leaked copy to the Village Voice, which published it to great fanfare. Schorr was castigated, and his career and liberty temporarily threatened.

The history of what was in the Pike Report has mainly been ignored and forgotten, which is what happens when political history is suppressed.

Could the CIA have learned from this that to keep matters under control that one of their own should be well-placed inside the very oversight instruments of Congress itself? Could this have been George Tenet's role from his very first day working for SSCI?

I have no evidence that is the case, but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to present to at least ask the question.

Here's another question, though no one -- and ponder that "no one" a bit -- no one has asked Senator Feinstein and her committee why they are not releasing the full report. The taxpayers paid for it. The crimes ostensibly investigated therein constitute among the most heinous possible, being torture and murder by torture, ordered by the Chief Executive of the land.

Why is the SSCI acting as an agent of cover-up? If the Congress cannot do their job of oversight, what options are left for civil society?

Appendix: Who was on the SSCI back when Tenet served? Looking at a hearing from April 1992, we see that Democratic Senator David Boren was chairman , while Republican Senator Frank Murkowski was vice-chair. Others serving included Ernest Hollings, Bill Bradley, John Warner, Alfonse D'Amato, Alan Cranston, John Danforth, John Chafee, John Glenn, Dennis Deconcini, Slade Gorton, Howard Metzenbaum, and Bob Kerrey. George Mitchell and Robert Dole served Ex Officio. Sen. Feinstein entered the Senate as Tenet was leaving his post at SSCI to work for the NSC.

Appendix II (9/1/14): Recently, working on other materials, I discovered yet another CIA/SSCI link. In the mid 1980s, the SSCI Staff Director was Bernard F. McMahon (see this PDF file). Earlier, McMahon had served as Executive Director to the Director of the CIA (date documented as 1997 - see link and this 2002 Baltimore Sun article, which notes McMahon served under then CIA Director Stansfield Turner).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

CIA Intervention in Ukraine Has Been Taking Place for Decades

"The most powerful form of lie is the omission..." -- George Orwell

Of all the aspects of the current crisis over the NATO/Russia standoff in Ukraine, the determined intervention into Ukrainian political affairs by the United States has been the least reported, at least until recently. While new reports have appeared concerning CIA Director John Brennan's mid-April trip to Kiev, and CIA/FBI sending "dozens" of advisers to the Ukrainian security services, very few reports mention that U.S. intervention in Ukraine affairs goes back to the end of World War II. It has hardly let up since then.

The fact of such intervention is not hard to find. Indeed, it's hard to know where to start in documenting all this, there is so much out there if one is willing to look for it. But the mainstream U.S. press, and their blogger shadows, are ignoring this for the most part. Some exceptions at the larger alternative websites include Jeffrey St. Clair's Counterpunch and Robert Perry's Consortium News.

Even these latter outlets have almost nothing to say about the approximately 70 year history of U.S. intervention in Ukraine. The liberals and progressives avoid the subject because otherwise one would have to address the full reality of the intensive U.S. Cold War against the Soviet Union, and the covert and overt crimes and operations conducted by the U.S. against the USSR. Because the liberals share an anti-communist consensus, not far removed from Ronald Reagan's view of the USSR as an "Evil Empire," they have little to no interest in addressing the full history of the period.

But the current crisis in Ukraine, which pits a U.S.-backed coalition, which includes neo-Nazis, in Ukraine against Russian-speaking separatists in the eastern regions of the country, threatens to turn into a hot war between not just Ukraine and Russia, but between two nuclear-armed foes, NATO and Russia. Indeed, in the past six months, besides Brennan's visit,  the U.S. Vice-President and the head of NATO have all visited and consulted in Kiev with the current Ukrainian regime.

And now, the U.S. has announced it is sending military "advisers" to Ukraine, as the current government there prosecutes a major military operation against separatists in the East, which human rights groups say has included indiscriminate shelling, killing of civilians, torture, and kidnappings on both sides. The bulk of indiscriminate shelling, according to Human Rights Watch, has come from the U.S.-backed government forces. Amnesty International has documented that human rights violations and war crimes are committed by even a member of the Ukrainian parliament with total impunity.

Return of the Repressed: Recruiting Fascists as Anti-Soviet Allies

Back on March 28, The Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus published jointly an excellent article pulling up some of the relevant history, "Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret." The article does a good job showing how the right-wing, fascistic Svoboda Party in Ukraine has its roots in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN], which was one of a number of East Europe parties that allied at various points with the Nazis, and had their own racist, ethnic, nationalist doctrines.

After WWII, the U.S. made a pact with many of these leaders, ostensibly recruiting them as allies against the Soviets in the Cold War. Indeed, in the early years after World War II, the U.S. and the British hired Ukrainian nationalists, many of them associated with fascism, to parachute and conduct guerilla war in Ukraine and the USSR. When doing so, they turned a blind eye to many of these leaders' war crimes, including participation in the Holocaust. When these links were revealed years later, beginning in the 1980s, the CIA and State Department worked assiduously to deny these links to Congress and the press.

Almost all of these men were rounded up and shot. When the Soviets offered an amnesty to members of the Ukrainian Insurgents Army (UPA) in January 1950, 8,000 anti-Soviet guerillas still fighting within Ukraine turned in their arms. The U.S./CIA operation to use Ukraine as a base for war against Russia and the bulk of the Soviet Union ran out of steam. (See Stephen Dorril's MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, The Free Press, 2000, pp. 242-243.)

It has taken many years, and the dedicated work of people like John Loftus, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, Linda Hunt, Christopher Simpson, Tom Bower, and many, many others who fought governmental inertia and lies to get out the truth. Much of that truth still needs to get out, but slowly, surely, it is trying to find its way into the public's consciousness, as this Daily Beast article on Operation Paperclip taken from Annie Jacobsen's new book on the same subject demonstrates so well.

One important article, by Joe Conason in the Village Voice in 1986, examined the role OUN leader Mykola Lebed played for U.S. intelligence. I'm going to take up the controversy about the VV in the near future, looking at how the CIA continued to operate to protect its Ukrainian intelligence assets, even into the early years of the Clinton administration (and likely beyond). Such protection included lying to politicians, consulting with those under investigation for war crimes how best to deal with the political fallout, and in general falsifying history to protect their covert anti-Soviet program.

Yet can the truth stand up to the daily drumbeat of lies and anti-Russian propaganda coming at a feverish pace out of the White House? The U.S. has stepped up its overt intervention in Ukraine, and it would do well for everyone to know as much as possible the lead-up to this moment, as the pending NATO/US/Russia confrontation could threaten the very world we live in, that we all live in. The U.S. is clearly ratcheting up the political and military pressure against both Russia and China, and more than even what is happening in the Middle East, it is this renewed aggressive stance towards those two countries that will dominate the news and our lives in the coming decade.

U.S. National Archives Documents U.S. Collaboration with Fascist Ukrainian Nationalists

In a remarkable book published by the United States National Archives a few years ago, historians Richard Breitman and Norman J.W. Goda have examined recent declassified documents and put together an initial history of Army and CIA collaboration with some of the most important Ukrainian fascist leaders after World War II. Hitler's Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War (PDF) attempts to document "the Allied protection or use of Nazi war criminals; and documents about the postwar political activities of war criminals."

Hitler's Shadow was preceded by the 2005 publication, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, a Cambridge University Press book based on the earliest examination of new documents released as part of the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. While the history of Ukrainian nationalism shows that nationalist movements were squeezed between the policies -- and sometimes invasions -- of foreign states, the book makes clear that today's EuroMaidan heroes of yesteryear were in fact trained by the Gestapo and took part in the Holocaust.

Chapter Five of Hitler's Shadow, "Collaborators: Allied Intelligence and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists," examines recently declassified documents in regards to how US intelligence agencies recruited, paid, protected and used war criminals who collaborated with the Nazis. In particular, it looks at the careers Stepan Bandera and Mykola Lebed, two WWII "heroes" of the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

These Ukrainian fascists -- Lebed turned "democratic" once in U.S. hands after the war -- had their careers rehabilitated by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko. When Putin points to the pro-fascist tendencies and Nazis within Ukraine, he is referring at least to this kind of evidence.

However, Putin cannot really address the full history of the U.S. and CIA campaign because 1) the crimes of the Stalin government is not something the Russians like to talk about, and 2) the long history of U.S intervention in Ukraine is tied up with the decades-long Cold War against Soviet communism. Putin and his allies are antagonistic to Communism, and ambivalent, at best, about the Soviet period (even if many of them were in fact former Communists or Soviet officials themselves).

Like the dilemma of the U.S. liberals mentioned above, to fully embrace a history of U.S. Cold War intervention against the Soviet Union would mean assessing what the role of the Soviet Union was, and in this, Putin and his anti-Soviet allies within Russia (like the oligarchs in Ukraine and other former Soviet states), who got rich off the corpse of the USSR de-nationalization, are not interested in dredging up Cold War history. They all shared an animus against the Communists that matched that of the CIA.

Breitman and Goda describe how the CIA's Ukrainian operation, codenamed "Aerodynamic," worked (this is taken from a National Archives government document and the extensive quote is not subject to copyright restrictions):
AERODYNAMIC’s first phase involved infiltration into Ukraine and then ex-filtration of CIA-trained Ukrainian agents. By January 1950 the CIA’s arm for the collection of secret intelligence (Office of Special Operations, OSO) and its arm for covert operations (Office of Policy Coordination, OPC) participated. Operations in that year revealed “a well established and secure underground movement” in the Ukraine that was even “larger and more fully developed than previous reports had indicated.” Washington was especially pleased with the high level of UPA training in the Ukraine and its potential for further guerrilla actions, and with “the extraordinary news that... active resistance to the Soviet regime was spreading steadily eastward, out of the former Polish, Greek Catholic provinces.”97

The CIA decided to expand its operations for “the support, development, and exploitation of the Ukrainian underground movement for resistance and intelligence purposes.” “In view of the extent and activity of the resistance movement in the Ukraine,” said OPC Chief Frank Wisner, “we consider this to be a top priority project.”98 The CIA learned of UPA activities in various Ukrainian districts; the Soviet commitment of police troops to destroy the UPA; the UPA’s resonance with Ukrainians; and the UPA’s potential to expand to 100,000 fighters in wartime. The work was not without hazards. Individual members of teams from 1949 to 1953 were captured and killed. By 1954 Lebed’s group lost all contact with UHVR. By that time the Soviets subdued both the UHVR and UPA, and the CIA ended the aggressive phase of AERODYNAMIC.99

Beginning in 1953 AERODYNAMIC began to operate through a Ukrainian study group under Lebed’s leadership in New York under CIA auspices, which collected Ukrainian literature and history and produced Ukrainian nationalist newspapers, bulletins, radio programming, and books for distribution in the Ukraine. In 1956 this group was formally incorporated as the non-profit Prolog Research and Publishing Association [CIA cryptonym: QRPOOL]. It allowed the CIA to funnel funds as ostensible private donations without taxable footprints.100 To avoid nosey New York State authorities, the CIA turned Prolog into a for-profit enterprise called Prolog Research Corporation, which ostensibly received private contracts. Under Hrinioch, Prolog maintained a Munich office named the Ukrainische-Gesellschaft für Auslandsstudien, EV. Most publications were created here.101

.... Beginning in 1955, leaflets were dropped over the Ukraine by air and radio broadcasts titled Nova Ukraina were aired in Athens for Ukrainian consumption. These activities gave way to systematic mailing campaigns to Ukraine through Ukrainian contacts in Poland and émigré contacts in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and elsewhere. The newspaper Suchasna Ukrainia (Ukraine Today), information bulletins, a Ukrainian language journal for intellectuals called Suchasnist (The Present), and other publications were sent to libraries, cultural institutions, administrative offices and private individuals in Ukraine. These activities encouraged Ukrainian nationalism, strengthened Ukrainian resistance, and provided an alternative to Soviet media.103

In 1957 alone, with CIA support, Prolog broadcast 1,200 radio programs totaling 70 hours per month and distributed 200,000 newspapers and 5,000 pamphlets. In the years following, Prolog distributed books by Ukrainian writers and poets. One CIA analyst judged that, “some form of nationalist feeling continues to exist [in the Ukraine] and … there is an obligation to support it as a cold war weapon.” The distribution of literature in the Soviet Ukraine continued to the end of the Cold War.104

Prolog also garnered intelligence after Soviet travel restrictions eased somewhat in the late 1950s. It supported the travel of émigré Ukrainian students and scholars to academic conferences, international youth festivals, musical and dance performances, the Rome Olympics and the like, where they could speak with residents of the Soviet Ukraine in order to learn about living conditions there as well as the mood of Ukrainians toward the Soviet regime. Prolog’s leaders and agents debriefed travelers on their return and shared information with the CIA. In 1966 alone Prolog personnel had contacts with 227 Soviet citizens. [pp. 88-89]
This is the first in a series of articles examining the history of U.S. and CIA intervention in Ukraine, from World War II to today.

Crossposted from FDL/The Dissenter

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Obama Admits He Banned Only "Some" of the CIA's Torture Techniques

Forgive the tongue-in-cheek, but it is almost as if the only person who reads and responds to my work on torture is President Obama.

There was a cascade of coverage of the President's August 1 remarks concerning John Brennan and his defense of his embattled CIA chief, as Obama was also widely derided for his seeming defense of those who tortured "some folks" after 9/11. (Obama did not mention that the order to torture came from the Oval Office.)

"Well, at least he called the crimes out as 'torture," some observers noted. Others, including some in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), called for John Brennan's resignation as CIA director after he admitted the CIA had spied on Congressional investigators who were writing a thousands-of-pages-long report on the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.

An Executive Summary of that report, in a censored version produced by the CIA itself, is now back in the hands of the SSCI, who may or may not release it soon. The Committee has already decided the full 6000 or so page report itself will not be released for years (if ever), a cover-up of immense proportions.

Jason Leopold, who has been covering the story for Al Jazeera America and VICE, noted astutely in a tweet the other day, that Obama's comments at his August 1 press conference included a reference to his only banning "some" of the CIA's torture techniques. Leopold believed Obama previously had always been more absolute in his prohibition of torture.

The full quote from the August 1 presser is worth reproducing here. The quote below begins in the middle of Obama's defense of those who used torture after 9/11, i.e., those who are the subjects of the Senate's controversial torture report (bold emphasis is added):
And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
Only "some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques"? Not all? Was this merely a slip of the tongue by the President? No one in the press corp seemed to notice, and no one took him up on the issue. To date, no one has in the press has at all (besides Leopold's tweets), though it is very much worth noting that Jeremy Scahill reported in July 2011 on the CIA's continuing use of black sites and torture in an important article in The Nation. Others had surmised as much even earlier.

But there was a much more insidious and institutional salvage of torture by the U.S. government, which, rocked after the Abu Ghraib revelations, tried to hide and maintain its use of detention and interrogation techniques that relied on force, mental cruelty, fear, isolation, stress positions, sleep and sensory deprivation, and the use of drugs. Waterboarding, for all the attention given to that brutal form of torture, was never really a major component of U.S. torture. There were even some in the CIA who would be glad to see it go.

Using solitary confinement, loud music and 24 hour bright lights, verbal abuse and humiliation, "dislocating the expectations" of prisoners by, for instance, moving them around every day so they never had a sense of solid place or safety or time to rest, or using drugs to disorient them -- this is the kind of torture that leaves deep psychological wounds, and which the U.S. wanted to maintain in its interrogation arsenal.

What Obama Meant by Banning Only "Some" Torture

Over the past few years, I have shown how first the Bush administration hid their torture program within a 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual on interrogation, then how the Obama administration via Executive Order made that same field manual the law of the land, incumbent on both the CIA and the Defense Department.

I showed that when in January 2009 Obama publicly revoked the Bush torture program, which the government labeled "extraordinary interrogation techniques," and all the John Yoo/Jay Bybee/Steven Bradbury Justice Department memoranda approving that same torture program, he did not do it in a blanket fashion, but referred the memos themselves to Eric Holder for review. Ultimately, as a Department of Defense spokesperson actually told me, the Holder and the Justice Department never rescinded one of the Bush-era torture memos, in particular the one that approved forms of torture that would be used in a special section, called Appendix M, of the Army Field Manual.

Obama's admission that he had only banned "some" of the previous administration's torture techniques was not the first time the government has made such an admission, however obliquely.

Last April, I wrote how the Department of Defense's main directive on interrogations (3115.09), which supposedly had banned SERE-derived torture techniques (like waterboarding, hooding, etc.) used by the government after 9/11, in fact made a note that only some of the SERE techniques were banned. The ones that were not banned resided in -- the Army Field Manual on interrogation, the same manual Obama had endorsed in his Jan. 2009 executive order on "lawful interrogations."

SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, and is the name given to DoD's program to prepare military and CIA and other specific government personnel for capture and imprisonment by a brutal enemy. Its participants take part in a mock-prison camp exercise, and it was the kinds of torture practiced during that exercise that were utilized in full-blown operational mode by CIA and Defense Department interrogators in the so-called War on Terror.

The SERE-derived model, which is what the "extraordinary interrogation techniques" really were, was superimposed on an earlier torture program based on isolation and sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, fear and drugs, developed by the CIA and codified in a 1963 interrogation program that is referred to today as KUBARK. Earlier this year, I obtained a version of the previously declassified KUBARK manual with new portions now unredacted.

But oddly, besides myself, only Obama seems to have noticed that not all the torture techniques were rescinded by him. The press and certainly the Senate and the House of Representatives have ignored entirely the use of torture in the Army Field Manual. While some bloggers and human rights groups have noted the anomaly of having the nation's primary instructions on interrogation include torture techniques, and some have even called for a repeal of Appendix M or a rewriting of the field manual itself, none of these groups or individuals have made this a primary issue. Nor, when the controversy over the Senate report on the CIA torture program is discussed, is the ongoing presence of torture in the Army Field Manual ever mentioned.

The failure to take on the entire torture apparatus is one reason accountability for U.S. torture cannot get sufficient traction. The argument remains shackled by what the Establishment deems reasonable dialogue about torture. So one can criticize the embrace of euphemism to describe torture, or argue why waterboarding is torture, or shout loudly why the redacted portion of the SSCI's Executive Summary of their years-long investigation should be released, but evidently it is not reasonable, that is, establishment-sanctioned via the New York Times or other media or political authority, to bring up torture beyond the terms already established.

But now Obama has done it. He has said he banned only "some" of the torture techniques that were the target of the SSCI's report. Now, besides me, who's going to take him on about this?

Crossposted from The Dissenter/FDL

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Forbidden Book: Douglas Valentine's "The Phoenix Program: America's Use of Terror in Vietnam"

Article originally posted at FDL/The Dissenter

On June 10, Open Roads publishers announced a new "Forbidden Bookshelf" series. Curated by New York University Professor Mark Crispin Miller, "Forbidden Bookshelf" aims to "fill in the blanks of America’s repressed history by resurrecting books that focused on issues and events that are too often left in the dark."

One of the first books published in the series is Douglas Valentine's invaluable, in-depth history of one of America's most egregious counterinsurgency, torture and assassination programs, as described in his 1990 book The Phoenix Program: America's Use of Terror in Vietnam.

The book is intricately and densely written, yet reads like a Rashomon-like detective story, as Valentine allows many of the actors involved speak for themselves. Never has such an in-depth look at a major CIA operation been written. You know who did what and when. The larger picture is not lost either, as, for instance, Valentine refers to earlier counter-terror programs that influenced Phoenix, such as the UK's counterinsurgency-terror program in Malaysia after World War II.

An encyclopedic attention to detail is Valentine's forte, as those will know who have read his two-volume history on the rise of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Phoenix Program itself was created by the CIA as a way to coordinate numerous counterinsurgency programs during the Vietnam war, using methods of blanket surveillance, kidnapping and extrajudicial detention, interrogation and torture, and the paramilitarization of the police. The goal, beyond gathering of intelligence, was to eliminate -- via murder, mass use of informants, and terror -- what the U.S. called the "Viet Cong Infrastructure" (VCI), especially the top and middle levels of VC leadership.

Instead, Phoenix sank under the weight of institutional corruption and interagency competition, not to mention Washington's demand to produce results -- even if there were no results to produce. Phoenix itself grew out of the CIA's theory of "Contre Coup," or "counter-terror." The idea was the U.S. would match the terror used by opponent forces, but do it even better.

As Valentine wrote in a May 2001 article: "The object of Contre Coup was to identify and terrorize each and every individual VCI and his/her family, friends and fellow villagers. To this end the CIA in 1964 launched a massive intelligence operation called the Provincial Interrogation Center Program [PICs].... Staffed by members of the brutal [South Vietnamese] Special Police, who ran extensive informant networks, and advised by CIA officers, the purpose of the PICs was to identify, through the systematic 'interrogation' (read torture) of VCI suspects, the membership of the VCI at every level of its organization...."

As the Vietnam War grew in intensity and the U.S. intervention neared half-a-million troops, the CIA tried to rationalize their anti-terror campaign, uniting their counter-insurgency, police, and intelligence aims, while working closely with their fractious South Vietnamese partners.

What followed was murder and torture and graft and corruption on a grand scale. Untold thousands died and were tortured. The figures for those killed in the "counter-terror" program range from the CIA's admitted 20,000 to over 40,000.

A vast number of those killed had no connection with the VC at all. Valentine explains in his book, "most Vietnamese jailed under Phoenix were anonymous pawns whose only value was the small bribe their families offered for their release." The bribes didn't help thousands, as Phoenix managers imposed quotas as high as 1,800 "neutralizations" per month.

Phoenix and Torture

The PICs became an integral part of Phoenix, and torture was standard operating procedure, while CIA "advisers" stood by. Later, CIA personnel argued they had tried to teach their South Vietnamese partners more effective kinds of interrogation, but in practice, they often were present during torture sessions, and countenanced much of what went on. Indeed, CIA's Support Services Branch was in charge of training police Special Branch officers in interrogation methods.

Valentine describes the torture in the PICs: "rape, gang rape, rape using eels, snakes or hard objects, and rape followed by murder; electrical shock ('the Bell Telephone Hour')," as well as suspension in air, beatings with rubber hoses and whips, "use of police dogs to maul prisoners,"and more. But as the first director of the PIC program in Vietnam, John Patrick Muldoon, told Valentine, "You can't have an American there all the time watching these things."

The situation will sound familiar to those who have followed the actions of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan who routinely turned over prisoners for torture to local authorities, while shadowy U.S. agents lurked in the background of the foreign torture chambers. (A direct report on such actions in Iraq can be seen in Peter Maass's video report, Searching for Steele. More recent revelations in a new FOIA of the CIA's interrogation manual from the 1960s shows such interactions with foreign intelligence and police services during interrogation and torture was something the CIA thought and planned about a great deal.)

When the CIA was in control of their own captives, they used the kinds of "touchless" torture they had perfected and described in their KUBARK interrogation manual. Valentine describes the torture of high-level North Vietnamese officer Nyguyen Van Tai, who was kept in a specially-built prison cell, kept in isolation and constant surveillance by hidden cameras, in a room painted "snow-white," all the while exposed to frigid air conditioning. The solitary confinement continued over four years without Van Tai ever admitting who he was.

"Colby's imprimatur"

In her August 2007 New Yorker article on the CIA black sites, Jane Mayer noted the interest of the CIA in the Phoenix Program as a model for the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

"A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance," Mayer wrote. "But, after September 11th, some CIA officials viewed the program as a useful model."

While as a work of history The Phoenix Program is one of the most important books ever written on the CIA and the military, on the birth of US "counter-terror" policy, and government sponsored torture and assassination programs, its relevancy to post-9/11 history is self-evident. Anyone trying to understand the chaos and crimes committed by US and associated forces in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars must know this book.

There's a good reason national security historian and author John Prados has called Phoenix a "must read." Heavily researched over a number of years, more than any other book I know of about the period (with Nick Turse's book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, a close second), Valentine's book relied on over 200 interviews with participants, including top CIA and special forces personnel. How the author obtained such access, and what happened as a result is a story in itself.

Valentine described the story in an email exchange with The Dissenter:

"I began work on The Phoenix Program in the summer of 1984," Valentine wrote. "I approached the subject from two angles. First, I made a direct approach to William Colby, the former Director of the CIA and the individual most closely associated with Phoenix, based on his defense of the program before several Congressional committees. Colby agreed to help and referred me to several CIA officers who played prominent roles in Phoenix. These former, and in some cases current, agents spoke openly to me, simply because I carried Colby’s imprimatur.

"Colby generated access lasted into 1987, when I started to notice doors closing and people avoiding me. I’d always known it would happen sooner than later, and I’d pretty much made the rounds, so it didn’t bother me too much. I’d hustled the CIA, I’d gotten inside its walls and rummaged around, and now the CIA was going to exact its revenge. That’s just how it works. If you fuck with he bull, you get the horns. Everyone knows that.

"I also got asked by CIA officer Bob Wall to join the CIA before the door slammed shut altogether.

"But I wasn’t ready to quit, and I wanted to back the CIA off a bit, so I filed a Privacy Act request, and in 1992 I got some results, thanks to the ACLU and a sympathetic judge in the federal district in Springfield, Massachusetts."

"It may cause damage"

More of the story is documented in John Prados' book, The Family Jewels:

"Elements at Langley became uncooperative after one retiree asked CIA lawyers, in the summer of 1986, what things were safe to talk about. When a Publications Review Board lawyer checked to see whether Phoenix was off-limits (the Board had previously cleared Phoenix material in works by Colby himself and agency officer Ralph McGehee), he was advised to caution interviewees not to talk to Valentine....

"By April 1988 the Publications Review Board was advising clandestine service officers of a concern that Valentine’s 'forthcoming book will contain so much detailed information about Agency operations and officers that... it may cause damage,' and asking that senior management of the Directorate of Operations should have the entire matter brought to their attention. Spooks, including some in the ostensibly impartial Inspector General’s office, were ranging the halls telling each other that the author was bad news and hoping they might escape his attention. Valentine eventually discovered this stonewalling due to the reticence of CIA veterans—and the materials quoted here emerged in the course of legal discovery in the lawsuit Douglas Valentine brought against the Central Intelligence Agency."

Valentine has posted online some of the legal documents from his lawsuit against the CIA. His papers collected in the writing of the book are held by the National Security Archives, and available to researchers. Many of his taped interviews, including interviews with William Colby and other senior Phoenix personnel, can be heard online (thanks Cryptocomb.org).

What Phoenix Wrought

While a good knowledge of the Phoenix Program in necessary to understand how U.S. counterinsurgency acts in reality in countries around the globe, in a new introduction for the Open Roads edition of the book, Valentine writes about the corrupting influence of Phoenix upon democratic processes domestically.

Valentine speaks of the "insidious" spread of Phoenix methods in the United States for the purpose of "the political control of its citizens through terrorism, on behalf of the rich military-industrial-political elite who rule our society."

"Indeed, America's security forces were always aware of the domestic applications of the Phoenix," Valentine writes, "and the program has not only come to define modern American warfare, it is the model for our internal 'homeland security' apparatus as well. It is with the Phoenix program that we find the genesis of the paramilitarization of American police forces in their role as adjuncts to military and political security forces engaged in population control and suppression of dissent."

For Valentine, who makes a compelling case, the building of Guantanamo, the use of black sites and torture, the provision -- even as late as 2013 -- for the indefinite detention of Americans and other "war on terror" prisoners, "was easy to predict," if you knew about Phoenix.

I am grateful to Doug Valentine and Mark Crispin Miller for giving The Phoenix Program a new publishing life, to help educate a new generation, which faces a fight against forces of state repression every bit as difficult and important as any faced in this country's history.

Other books released as part of Open Road Media's "Forbidden Bookshelf" series include Christopher Simpson's landmark history, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Destructive Impact on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy; The Search for an Abortionist: The Classic Study of How American Women Coped with Unwanted Pregnancy Before Roe v. Wade by Nancy Howell Lee, Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football by Dan E. Moldea; and The Lords of Creation: The History of America’s 1 Percent by Frederick Lewis Allen. More titles are promised in the near future.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review - Surviving Evil: CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermont

While the CIA's MK-ULTRA mind control research, and associated experimental programs concerned with interrogation, torture, and use of incapacitating agents and lethal weapons, involved many dozens, if not hundreds of top U.S. researchers, and cost many millions of dollars, actual testimony from its victims is extremely difficult to find.

Publishers, news agencies, and mainstream bloggers have shunned such stories, while most victims have been either too psychologically and physically damaged, or too frightened, to come forward. Others have been written off as "crazy." Indeed, CIA stories about "mind control" have sometimes brought out persecutory delusions in the purely mentally ill.

An Involuntary Experimental Subject 

But this is not one of those stories. This victim of CIA mind control research will not be dismissed, and her book, Surviving Evil - CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermontis largely the tale of how she documents what happened to her.

While former MK-ULTRA subject Karen Wetmore was made an involuntary subject of CIA experiments from the age of 13, and suffered from ongoing psychiatric breakdowns over the years, involving major depression, PTSD, serious dissociation (including dissociative identity disorder), autoimmune disorders and psychotic episodes, her journey from powerless victim to intrepid researcher, whistleblower, and champion of historical truth is admirable.

Wetmore used FOIA, wide-ranging research, and a dogged determination, to gather materials that would document what happened to her. In the course of her journey -- meant to reconstruct her both her life and her sense of unified self -- she discovered that the story was bigger than just her own life and experience. By luck or circumstance, she was trapped inside a tremendously large, bureaucratic, inhumane, covert program in mind control and interrogation research, run by the CIA and the Department of Defense, with tentacles spread throughout the government, academia, and medical and pharmaceutical companies and associations.

Surviving Evil  is published by Manitou Comunications, a small firm owned by Colin A. Ross, M.D, who himself published an important book on the doctors who worked for the CIA in MK-ULTRA, and to whom Wetmore turned for advice and counsel during her journey. In the end, Ross helped her publish her memoir.

The book has all the strengths and a few of the weaknesses of a personal document and testimony. It is first of all an amazing story of Wetmore's recovery from psychiatric illness and trauma, made all the more impressive when you realize that she was not only combatting her own psychic demons but also government agents who did not want her to tell her story, or even know what had happened to her. Just as frustrating is the lack of help or interest in those to who she repeatedly reached out for assistance, documentation, and just plain human empathy.

Luckily for Karen, at crucial times she found people who were supportive or sympathetic. None of these were probably more important than Kathy Judge, the therapist that guided her out of the hell that is Dissociative Identity Disorder. It worth noting that while the Vermont native was horribly abused by many doctors and other medical personnel -- whose crime in many cases was silence in the face of unethical and illegal behavior -- she finds some doctors and nurses to praise for their humanity, kindness, and assistance.

Karen Wetmore was psychiatrically hospitalized at Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in the 1960s and early 1970s, and spent years there and in other psychiatric facilities. She was given powerful antipsychotic and tranquilizing drugs (and also likely hallucinogens like LSD), massive electroshock therapy, metrazol chemically-induced shock, was straightjacketed for months, probably hypnotized, and also likely sexually abused.

Recovering a History

Wetmore has searched diligently for records of her treatment, but was told they were destroyed. Yet by persistence and possibly luck -- including at one point a hint from an otherwise unhelpful CIA FOIA office -- she was able to put together some of the story, finally finding a link between psychological testing she was given at VSH and the CIA's MK-ULTRA testing psychologist, John Gittinger of Psychological Assessment Associates. (Gittinger's story was recounted in John Marks' classic book, Search for the Manchurian Candidate.)

Before she's done, Wetmore impressively linked her abuse to the operations of top CIA researcher, Dr. Robert Hyde, and others who occupied powerful medical and academic positions in the 1950s-1970s. An earlier version of her story was published in an important newspaper investigation at the Rutland Herald in November 2008. Journalist Louis Porter concentrated on following the links between Hyde and VSH. It's a rare instance of investigative journalism into the nationwide scandal that was MKULTRA (and associated programs), all-too-unique as for the most part researchers over the past 15 years have ignored the scandal. One major exception is H.P. Albarelli, who wrote an encyclopedic work on the subject, centered around the death of CIA-DoD researcher Frank Olson.

At one point in her book, Karen confronts Dr. Frederick Curlin, who had been Assistant Superintendent at VSH during part of her stay there. Her account of her conversation with the doctor is chilling. After telling Wetmore to look into his eyes, and telling her he will buy a plane or bus ticket so she can leave Vermont, Karen confronts Curlin:
"... Did you know that VSH was conducting CIA experiments?"

"Call me Doc. I love you Karen."

"Are you CIA, Dr. Curlin?"

"Not every good Indian is a dead Indian. I do love you."(p. 35)
The book is an exciting read, almost like a detective story, as Wetmore tries to put together the truth of what happened to her. At times the story rambles, and the book could sorely use an index. But in the end, her narrative holds together. When I looked up obscure references that relied on documentary evidence -- like the very little known Rockland Project, or the matter involved in MK-ULTRA subproject 8 -- the facts always checked out. Karen Wetmore has done her homework, and paid in blood and tears for having had to do it.

The narrative is often heart-breaking, and even the occasional repetitiveness works to help the reader understand how Karen's story was revealed to her over long periods of time, with sporadic new pieces of information or memories added after many iterations. The intrusive and often partial memories are like the heavy, persistent, if sometimes halting music played by PTSD, that can't be escaped.

Standing Witness

In the end, I can't review this as I would any book, for it's not just any book. It is an historical document, and the voice within is authentic. Wetmore can be plaintive, angry, sometimes confused, but more often authoritative. In my mind, she is a hero. She opens new avenues for researchers.

The best example of this is her research into deaths at VSH during the period it was presumably a CIA research facility. Wetmore documents inpatient death rates at the hospital of 11-15% per year from 1953-1972. While I could not find what normal death rates in hospitals were during that period, a CDC document I found states that normal hospital inpatient death rates from 2000-2010 were 2-2.5%. I believe that rates from thirty years earlier could not have been much more. In any case, this is a prime example of work still yet to be done.

Surviving Evil is the testimony of a witness and must be respected. We all owe Karen Wetmore a debt of gratitude. I know the impulse is to turn away from such evil as she reports, but we owe it to her, and to ourselves, not to do that. The people who did terrible things to Karen, and hundreds or thousands of others, were never held to account for it. Now a new generation practices their dark arts at CIA black sites, Guantanamo, and who knows where else. The archives remain mostly closed. Thousands of documents have been destroyed. Some few voices are still trying to speak out. Here's one. Listen.

Cross-posted at FDL/The Dissenter

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Punitive Use of Medical Restraints on Guantanamo Hunger Strikers

A partially redacted set of medical records released in the aftermath of the 2006 deaths of three Guantanamo prisoners shows that the use of "medical restraints" in the use of forced feeding of hunger striking detainees was used as a threat on hunger striking prisoners. At least one detainee was told over and over that use of "medical restraints" was due to his voluntary refusal to eat.

While Guantanamo medical authorities said the need for restraints was due to "medical necessity," such necessity was never documented. Instead, it was clear the use of restraints was punitive in nature.

The use of medical restraints in forced feeding, for which DoD uses a restraint chair, is not a normal procedure at other penal institutions. In a letter nearly one year ago from the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Feinstein noted, "When force-feedings do occur within the Bureau of Prisons, we have been told that nearly 95% of the time they are conducted with a fully compliant inmate requiring no restraints. At Guantanamo Bay, on the other hand, all detainees being force-fed—regardless of their level of cooperation—are placed in chairs where they are forcibly restrained." (Emphasis added.)

In the medical records (PDF) for Ali Abdullah Ahmed (ISN 693) in March 2006, a "Gitmo Nurse" noted in Ahmed's medical chart numerous discussions with the prisoner about his refusal to eat and the policy to feed him forcefully, a policy that insisted that the prisoner's behavior "must change":
Detainee placed in [redacted] Reason for Restraint: Medical Necessity [last two words are circled]

Detainee was advised by the Medical Staff that hunger striking is detrimental to his health. His behavior is due to his refusal to eat and not due to mental status change or illness. Medical Staff/Guards attempted to get the detainee to eat on his own. He is being offered food at every meal, yet he refuses to eat. Because the detainee refuses to eat, restraints were initiated for medical necessity for feeding. Detainee will be observed continually and he will be reminded of how his behavior must change (he must eat voluntarily) to avoid the use of medical restraints for present and future feedings. Detainee was told that he will remain in medical restraints until feed and post feed observation (60-120 minutes)

GITMO Nurse
Elsewhere in the medical notes (3/7/2006), the nurse states, "There is no evidence that medications or a medical process is causing this detainee's refusal to eat."

Other notes show that while Ahmed was kept in restraints, he remained under "Line of Sight Observation." Circulation checks were made every 15 minutes for the first hour, and then hourly thereafter. Vital signs were checked immediately after the restraints are attached, and every hour thereafter. The medical restraints order expired only after 12 hours. No reason why it is medically necessary to restrain the prisoner was ever given in the notes I saw. No evidence of opposition to the process of enteral feeding by Ahmed was ever described.

The policy of keeping Ahmed in medical restraints through his "post feed observation" was not consistent with the SOP for hunger striking as later revealed in the March 3, 2013 Standard Operation Procedure for hunger strikes and forced feeding obtained by Jason Leopold for Al Jazeera last year.

According to the portion of the policy titled "Chair Restraint System Clinical Protocol for the Intermittent Enteral Feeding of Detainees on Hunger Strike," "Medical restraints chair restraint system) should be used for the safety of the detainee, medical staff, and guard force.... Upon completion of the nutrient infusion and removal of the feeding tube, the detainee is removed from the restraint chair and placed in a 'dry cell'. The guard force will observe the detainee for 45-60 minutes for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting."

But this is not what happened to Ahmed, who perhaps along with other detainees was kept as long as possible in a five point restraint chair, or possibly a restraint bed. The purpose of prolonging his restraints could only be punitive in nature, to teach him a lesson and get him to "change."

Only three months after the notes quoted above, Ahmed was one of three prisoners found supposedly hanged in their cells. The government maintains the three prisoners hanged themselves in an act of "asymmetrical warfare," but recent revelations by researchers at Seton Hall Law School (and Scott Horton at Harper's) show that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), charged with investigating the deaths, withheld crucial information from their report, hiding information about the deaths that came from witnesses and even the Senior Medical Officer on site which contradicted the government's own narrative.

The new information which has come to light argues that Ahmed and the two other men died with socks or rags stuffed down their throats, possibly part of an interrogation session meant to force the prisoners to turn informants for the CIA or the Department of Defense. The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at Guantanamo who attended at least two of three high-profile “suicides” at Guantanamo concluded at the time that, contrary to the conclusions of the NCIS investigation, the detainees did not die by hanging but by “likely asphyxiation” from “obstruction” of the airway. His conclusion was never mentioned in the NCIS report, and later interventions by the Department of Justice prevented inquisitive congressional representatives from knowing that fact.

"The Torture Chair"

The secretive, abusive Guantanamo regime is under new scrutiny of its hunger striking procedures, thanks to a lawsuit by a Guantanamo prisoner.

According to Ben Fox at AP, attorneys for Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab have been viewing almost three dozen videotapes a federal judge ordered government authorities to turn over to the defense in Dhiab's appeal to stop his forced feeding. Dhiab is one of a number of hunger strikers currently refusing food at Guantanamo in protest of inhumane conditions and their indefinite detention.

Dhiab himself has been cleared for transfer or release from the Cuba-sited prison since 2009. The next hearing in his case is on June 18.

Due to a change in policy last December, DoD will not report the actual number of active strikers, or those refusing food, in what many believe was an attempt by authorities to reduce the political effectiveness of the prisoners' strike technique.

A lot has been written on the torture that is Guantanamo's forced feeding policy, which includes brutal beatings -- so-called Forced Cell Extractions (FCEs) -- to bring the hunger striking prisoner to a restraint chair, where he is strapped down and has liquid food put down a tube forced down his nose and into his stomach. The speed at which the liquid is forced down a prisoner's gullet is something defense attorneys have likened to the ancient "water cure torture."

The UN high commissioner for human rights, the World Medical Association, and other medical and human rights organizations have said forced feeding of prisoners amounts to torture.

In a June 3 filing by one of Dhiab's attorneys, Jon Eisenberg, wrote, Dhiab "does not object to being force-fed in order to keep him alive, as long as the force-feeding is 'civilized.' He states: 'I am willing to be force-fed in a humane manner.' His recent force-feedings, however, have not been humane. He asks: 'Is it necessary for them to torture me? Is it necessary for them to choke me every day with the tube? Is it necessary for them to make my throat so swollen every day? Do I have to suffer every day? Is it necessary for them to put me on the torture chair in order to feed me?'”

A new version of the Guantanamo SOP for use on hunger strikers, who are now called "Detainees With Weight Loss" on "long-term non-religious fasts," placed instructions on use of the restraint chair into its own new SOP. That document, like almost everything else at Guantanamo, is currently classified.

Cross-posted at FDL/The Dissenter

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