Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Important Articles Expose Government Torture Practices

Stephen Soldz has a new article out at Counterpunch: Pentagon IG Report Details Central Role of Psychologists in Detainee Interrogations and Abuse -- Shrinks and the SERE Technique at Guantanamo. Additionally, the New York Times has an article today on the growing chorus of official criticism aimed at Bush's interrogation policies. The NYT article validates, though with much less details, Soldz's reporting on the use of "reverse engineering" by the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Program (SERE) of its POW training into torture practiced on detainees in the government's "war on terror". The use of torture by the U.S. has been documented from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq to Afghanistan to U.S. secret prisons abroad.

Dr. Soldz based his article on the declassification of a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse". The report was dated August 26, 2006. One result of this investigation was that it seemed to expedite the issuance of the new Army Field Manual 2-22.3, "Human Intelligence Collector Operations" (AFM). I have critiqued the AFM before, which even in its "new" version still contains interrogation techniques that are abusive and constitute psychological torture.

Soldz highlights portions of the OIG report that detail the use of SERE psychologists in the implementation of coercive interrogation techniques in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He writes, quoting the OIG report:

Central to SERE is the role of psychologists. A psychologist is required to be present during certain aspects of the process, such as waterboarding as a "safety officer," to stop the training if (s)he perceives the trainee is being overly-traumatized....

"On September 16, 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency co-hosted a SERE psychologist conference at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 [the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo] interrogation personnel. The Army's Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation techniques and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The JTF-170 personnel understood that they were to become familiar with SERE training and be capable of determining which SERE information and techniques might be useful in interrogations at Guantanamo. Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team personnel understood that they were to review documentation and standard operating procedures for SERE training in developing the standard operating procedure for the JTF-170, if the command approved those practices. The Army Special Operations Command was examining the role of interrogation support as a " Sere Psychologist competency area" (p. 25, emphasis added.)

For those of opposed to the participation of psychologists in abusive interrogations, this document contains the first definitive proof that the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), consisting at that point of psychologists and psychiatrists (later, the military announced that they preferred psychologists for this role), were deliberately trained in abusive SERE techniques.

The NYT article also mentions the SERE training, as well as Senator Carl Levin's announcement that he will hold hearings into the SERE torture trainings.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he found the report “very troubling” and intended to hold hearings on how the SERE training methods became the basis for interrogation. “They were put to a purpose that was never intended,” Mr. Levin said.

The NYT highlighting of various critiques of the administration's interrogation policies comes at an opportune time, as the article makes clear:

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. (emphases mine)

Dr. Soldz's article returns to the important subject of the use of psychologists in Bush's torture plans, and the facilitating role of the American Psychological Association in giving institutional cover to these inhumane and criminal policies. the Bush administration, the APA is always against torture and abusive treatment but never actually sees it. Thus, the APA has never expressed concern as reports have come flooding out suggesting that abuse treatment (whether formally "torture" or merely "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment") is common in US detention facilities holding so-called enemy combatants. Neither has the APA expressed concern at the repeated reports of psychologist participation in abusive interrogations. Rather, they have attacked the critics of psychologist abuse....

However, the APA, like other health provider professional organizations felt the heat as these reports escalated. Thus, in June 2005 they convened a Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), clearly designed to provide a rubber stamp on the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations....

Especially relevant, given the revelations in this newly-released OIG, at least two of the members of this Task Force had direct SERE connections....

Given what the OIG's report reveals about the central role of SERE in the development of US abusive interrogation techniques, as well as revelations regarding other PENS members, it appears ever more likely that the APA appointed some of this country's top torturers to formulate its policy on participation in abusive interrogations. The PENS report lacks any credibility. If the APA maintained a shred of decency, they would take the opportunity provided by the release of the OIG report to admit that they made a mistake in creating the PENS Task Force and would immediately set aside the PENS report and begin a new open discussion of the facts and the ethics involved in participation in national security interrogations.

Please go read Soldz's entire article, for he has done a terrific job of parsing the OIG's over 100 page report. And also, support his call, along with Physicians for Human Rights and torture researcher Dr. Steven Miles, for congressional investigations. Now that Senator Levin has apparently responded to this call, I'd suggest calling his office and offering support.

The Bush Administration plans to issue "guidelines" for CIA interrogation that will go beyond what is already allowed in the Army Field Manual. The AFM already allows, for "special" cases, use of sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, debilitation of the prisoner, and techniques that enhance fearfulness. Long ago, Dr. Lawrence E. Hinkle demonstrated how these activities alone can bring about a state of "disordered brain syndrome", producing organic states of confusion, mental impairment, and delirium, often with long-term effects.

Turn up the heat now on the Bush administration and demand NO to ALL Torture Practices!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Shocking: 2003 CIA/APA "Workshop" Plots New Torture Plans

Imagine that the top behavioral scientists of this country got together with top secret intelligence agencies, not 20, 30 or 50 years ago, but today, to plot new ways to conduct torture interrogations. Imagine that there was irrefutable proof of this. And finally, imagine they did this all in plain view.

Imagine no longer, and read how the CIA, the RAND Corporation, and the American Psychological Association (APA) met on July 17-18, 2003, and in a workshop entitled the "Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory" discussed new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down interrogatees. The latter are signal techniques of psychological torture long utilized by the CIA and other intelligence agencies and military around the world.

The kicker is: the CIA denies it uses torture, and the APA claims that its official position is against torture and involvement in psychologists in research, planning or implementation of coercive interrogation. So what's going on?

Let's get to the meat of the revelations right away. At Arlington, Virginia, at the headquarters of the privately-held but long linked-to-the-government think tank, the RAND Corporation, approximately 40 participants met at a "workshop" to discuss the issue of deception in interrogations, with "generous financial support" from the CIA, which also provided "operational expertise". The participants included:

...research psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists who study various aspects of deception and representatives from the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense with interests in intelligence operations. In addition, representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security were present.

What did they discuss?

According to APA's Public Policy Office, who publishes an online newspaper called, with perhaps an unconscious taste for irony, "Spin":

The scenarios dealt broadly with issues such as embassy walk-in informants, threat assessment, intelligence gathering, and law enforcement interrogation and debriefing. Participants were prompted in advance to think about research issues and practical considerations they wanted the broader group to consider. Across the two days, there were a number of thought-provoking discussions suggesting the need to develop both short-term and long-term research programs on deception

Research into Torture

The workshop proceeded to discuss various "scenarios", per their program. Some of these scenarios -- really questions for consideration by the agencies involved -- are not remarkable in and of themselves. Others appear potentially sinister.

But none are more sinister than those that appear in the section "Law Enforcement Interrogation and Debriefing". (All following quotes, unless otherwise noted, come from the APA's Government Policy: Science Policy website.)

Law enforcement routinely question witnesses and suspects regarding criminal activity. How do you tell if the individual is telling the truth, lying, or something in between? Acts of omission and acts of commission are both important to identify.

This truly is an ancient problem. The accused of former times were brought before judges and called to "the question". In the Parlements of France that preceded the French Revolution, the accused would be first given the question ordinaire, which only consisted of arms and legs stretched on the rack. If that didn't work, the accused would be encouraged to confess via the question extraordinaire, i.e., compelled to drink up to 20 jugs of water. (Thanks to Ian Davidson and his research in the marvelous book, Voltaire in Exile, for info on French medieval torture.)

But the modern APA and their police and intelligence cohorts have another idea.

  • How do we find out if the informant has knowledge of which s/he is not aware?
  • How important are differential power and status between witness and officer?
  • What pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?....
  • What are sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors? How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?
  • The Unknown History of Psychological Torture, or How They Do It

    Using drugs to influence interrogations; using sensory deprivation, distortion and overload or bombardment; these were signal techniques in a decades-long research program that came to be known by its most famous moniker, MKULTRA. Its techniques were codified by the early 1960s in a CIA Counterinsurgency Interrogation Manual, also known by its codename, KUBARK.

    According to numerous researchers, the CIA, and the psychologists and psychiatrists they contracted to work with them, including many of the top behavioral scientists of their day, experimented with many drugs in their quest to find a "truth" drug that would open up the recalcitrant and expose the liar and the dissembler. It's not hard to find information on this in many places, some dubious, some not, on the Internet. The CIA has declassified a paper from its in-house intelligence journal from the early 1960s, "'Truth' Drugs in Interrogation", where they discuss research on drugs for interrogation ranging from scopolamine, amphetamine and barbiturates to cannabis, LSD, and mescaline. The CIA authors discuss the limitations of using drugs, based on research, and conclude that a special use for drugs may be found in detection of deception.

    The general abhorrence in Western countries for the use of chemical agents "to make people do things against their will" has precluded serious systematic study (at least as published openly) of the potentialities of drugs for interrogation.... best a drug can only serve as an aid to an interrogator who has a sure understanding of the psychology and techniques of normal interrogation. In some respects, indeed, the demands on his skill will be increased by the baffling mixture of truth and fantasy in drug-induced output. And the tendency against which he must guard in the interrogatee to give the responses that seem to be wanted without regard for facts will be heightened by drugs: the literature abounds with warnings that a subject in narcosis is extremely suggestible.

    It seems possible that this suggestibility and the lowered guard of the narcotic state might be put to advantage in the case of a subject feigning ignorance of a language or some other skill that had become automatic with him. Lipton found sodium amytal helpful in determining whether a foreign subject was merely pretending not to understand English. By extension, one can guess that a drugged interrogatee might have difficulty maintaining the pretense that he did not comprehend the idiom of a profession he was trying to hide.

    But the quotes from the CIA/RAND/APA deception workshop are not from 40 years ago. They are from 2003! Evidently the research into using drugs on captured or arrested or incarcerated prisoners or "enemy combatants" has not ended.

    Sensory Bombardment, or Why Can't We Watch the Movie "The Ipcress File?

    In the hit 1960s spy drama, The Ipcress File, starring a young Michael Caine as the British intelligence agent Harry Palmer. Palmer stumbles upon a secret government project codenamed Ipcress, which stands for "Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under strESS".
    In the film, Palmer is himself tortured by the proponents of Ipcress, shut into a small chamber and bombarded for hours by extremely loud noises and music, meant, it seems to drive him insane. He keeps his sense of personal self by jamming a secretly hidden nail into the palm of his hand: the pain keeps him centered and helps him resist the brainwashing.

    I've gone into the plot because if you live in the U.S., you cannot obtain this film new on DVD or video. Despite the fact it stars the popular star Michael Caine, and despite the fact it won British awards for Best Screenplay and the BAFTA Award for Best British Film of 1965, and despite siring three sequels, the picture has not been released in the U.S. for many years. It's probably some legal hang-up, but given the subject matter, one wonders.

    Research into sensory deprivation, sensory and perceptual distortion, and sensory overload or bombardment constituted a gigantic research project in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. Subsequently, the research, which had engendered hundreds if not thousands of papers, many of them with research funded by the Pentagon, seemed to disappear. Yet strangely, the topic did not disappear. It remained part of the apparatus of secret intelligence programs, and one would presume, classified research.

    I have written some on this before in my recent essay, "Heart of Darkness: Sensory Deprivation and U.S. Torture -- Where from Here?" But what is needed is a full history, and an explanation that the layman will understand. I will attempt a small example of the latter here. But those wishing to investigate further will have to send away to their local used bookseller to find two important books that document this history and research:

    Sensory Deprivation, A Symposium held at Harvard Medical School, Solomon, Philip, Jack H. Mendelson, Philip E. Kubzansky, Richard Trumbull, P. Herbert Leiderman & Donald Wexler, Editors, 1961, Harvard University Press

    Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research, John Zubek, Editor, 1969, Appleton-Century-Crofts

    Sensory Bombardment and Deprivation: A Crash Course

    The brain needs a certain amount of stimulation. Early developmental studies show that early sensory deprivation during formative periods of development often results in the failure of the somatosensory systems to develop normally, both neuroanatomically and neurochemically. For those of you into such disputes, "nature" needs "nurture" to express itself.

    What the research on sensory deprivation/distortion/overload demonstrated was that the nervous system is adapted to a range of stimuli, and requires an certain minimum of cortical activation. If this range is exceeded (sensory overload) or is lacking (sensory deprivation), the brain does not operate correctly. A special case is sensory or perceptual distortion. As the researchers got more deeply into it, they found that distortion of expected stimuli, or producing a vague, featureless visual field, caused greater disruption of psychological functioning than sensory deprivation per se.

    What all this comes down to is that the CIA and Pentagon, searching for ways to disrupt the will and functioning of those being interrogated, found in the various modalities of sensory disruption a shiny new tool in their armamentarium of coercive techniques, joining it to isolation (itself a special form of deprivation), stress positions, sleep deprivation, and the induction of fear and physical debility (e.g., starvation).

    According to the British writer Dominic Streatfeild, in his recent book Brainwashed: The Secret History of Mind Control (2007, St. Martin's Press), both the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) at Guantanamo Bay, and the British Intelligence Corps have lately experimented with the effects of loud, overpowering sounds upon interrogatees, including "babies crying, discordant car horns, bloodcurdling screams and Chinese opera tapes" (p. 360). Americans preferred to torture via thrash-metal music and white noise.

    The actual choice of noise doesn't appear to make much difference: what matters is that it's loud, repetitive and annoying. To an interrogation subject who hasn't been allowed proper sleep for a couple of days, an unexpected cacophony will cause him to jump out of his skin. This is how the big boys maintain the shock of capture.

    How CIA Uses This Kind of Torture

    The CIA's torture manual, known as KUBARK, declassified in part some years ago, but still bearing many redactions, describes in its Chapter IX, "Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources" its theory and practice of coercion. I will highlight what it says on sensory forms of torture, as it also describes in this chapter alone use of threats and fear, induction of weakness and debility, hypnosis, narcosis (drugs), and pain.

    Coercive procedures are designed not only to exploit the resistant source's internal conflicts and induce him to wrestle with himself but also to bring a superior outside force to bear upon the subject's resistance....

    All coercive techniques are designed to induce regression. As Hinkle notes in "The Physiological State of the Interrogation Subject as it Affects Brain Function" (7), the result of external pressures of sufficient intensity is the loss of those defenses most recently acquired by civilized man: "... the capacity to carry out the highest creative activities, to meet new, challenging, and complex situations, to deal with trying interpersonal relations, and to cope with repeated frustrations. Relatively small degrees of homeostatic derangement, fatigue, pain, sleep loss, or anxiety may impair these functions." As a result, "most people who are exposed to coercive procedures will talk and usually reveal some information that they might not have revealed otherwise."

    So much for the idea that torture produces nothing. It does in fact produce information, it's the reliability of the information that is often in question. But this author has direct experience of talking with people who have been interrogated under torture, and I can tell you that it does sometimes produce actionable intelligence, at the expense of the humanity and suffering of the "subject". Much of the time, however, it produces nothing, because the arrested person is innocent, or has been made too disabled by the torture, or is producing what he or she hope the interrogator wants, irregardless of truth value.

    The CIA puts it this way:

    Psychologists and others who write about physical or psychological duress frequently object that under sufficient pressure subjects usually yield but that their ability to recall and communicate information accurately is as impaired as the will to resist. This pragmatic objection has somewhat the same validity for a counterintelligence interrogation as for any other. But there is one significant difference. Confession is a necessary prelude to the CI interrogation of a hitherto unresponsive or concealing source.

    ...the use of coercive techniques will rarely or never confuse an interrogatee so completely that he does not know whether his own confession is true or false. He does not need full mastery of all his powers of resistance and discrimination to know whether he is a spy or not. Only subjects who have reached a point where they are under delusions are likely to make false confessions that they believe.

    As for sensory distortion:

    ...a person cut off from external stimuli turns his awareness inward, upon himself, and then projects the contents of his own unconscious outwards, so that he endows his faceless environment with his own attributes, fears, and forgotten memories....

    (1) the deprivation of sensory stimuli induces stress; (2) the stress becomes unbearable for most subjects; (3) the subject has a growing need for physical and social stimuli; and (4) some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects.

    The astute reader will note that KUBARK does not mention sensory overload (although it does mention disruption of familiar "patterns" in a person's life). But the research literature is clear: sensory overstimulation is meant to disrupt a person's normal functioning, and like other forms of psychological torture, leaves scars upon a person's psyche, having been subjected to a regimen of dependency, debility and dread.

    I've gone into some detail here so the casual but interested reader can understand the import of what is here discovered.

    Stop Psychological Research into Coercive Interrogation -- Summary

    1. The CIA bankrolled a meeting of behavioral scientists, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists, under the banner of the American Psychological Association, and hosted by the RAND Corporation. Also present were officials from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House.

    2. At this workshop, the participants considered ways of combatting deception in interrogations. Two ways they discussed were consistent with a long-standing use of coercive interrogation techniques -- use of drugs in interrogation, and the use of sensory manipulation of subjects, both in order to produce debilitating changes in subjects that make them more pliable in interrogations

    3. This meeting proves that the research that made up the mind control project of the 1950s and 1960s is not dead, and that psychological forms of torture and mind manipulation are studied at the highest levels of government, and with the connivance and collaboration of major U.S. academic and social institutions, in this case the American Psychological Association.

    A group of psychologists in the APA are fighting to stop the use of psychologists in the kinds of interrogations discussed in this article. You can read about it here and here. I suggest the following: write to the President of the APA, and tell her your opposition to the kinds of activities documented herein.

    I would also suggest that these activities and the deception workshop itself involved unethical, if not illegal, actions, and that the members involved should be sanctioned. -- You can contact Sharon Brehm, Ph.D., President of the APA at her webpage, where there is a form for this purpose. Or you can write APA at

    American Psychological Association, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242

    Or call the Ethics Office of APA and complain directly: (800) 374-2721, extension 5930. Tell them to direct your message to Dr. Stephen Behnke, the APA flack working on these issues.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Democrats Cave to Bush on Iraq Funding

    An AP story published online at the New York Times today reports the Democratic Party Congressional leadership has decided to give Bush his war funding for the occupation of Iraq, at least until the end of the fiscal year in September.

    In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday....

    While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. [emphases mine]

    The story adds that Democrats "are expected to seek other opportunities to challenge Bush's handling of the unpopular conflict later this year". Additionally, they are said to be tying passage of the long-stymied minimum wage hike to the Iraq funding. But nothing can hide their craven capitulation to the Bush veto and the war party's thirst for militarist imperialism.

    The minimum wage maneuver is all the more obscene, as it attempts to link the needs of the lowest and most vulnerable strata of workers to the needs of the war machine. One would have thought that only the GOP could turn the minimum wage into the equivalent of blood money, but the Democrats appear to be outdoing themselves these days.

    The article also states that the legislation was "subject to change", and the story's author could get no Democrat to speak on the record about the pending legislation. What a surprise!

    It remains to see if this is a trial balloon, or the last popgun shot in the Democrat's phony antiwar stance.

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    Did Gonzales Skip Out on SERE/Torture Training?

    Also posted at NION

    Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is known to have served in the U.S. Air Force. Multiple sources describe his transfer to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he spent two years, 1975-1977. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Academy, in those days SERE training was mandatory for all cadets between their 3rd and 4th years. But Gonzales never made it to his third year, per Wikipedia's anonymous author(s):

    Prior to beginning his third year at the academy, which would have caused him to incur a further service obligation, he transferred to Rice University (Houston, Texas), where he was a member of Lovett College and earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1979. He then earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1982. [Emphasis mine]

    Now the further service obligation was probably another sign up, as he had already been in the Air Force four years, spending the first two years in Alaska as an enlisted man. But could the "further obligation" have been attending SERE training, known to be horribly onerous?

    For those not familiar with SERE, the acronymn stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. A program that started with the Air Force, and had its roots in resistance to capture programs in the Cold War, it spread to the other services over the years.

    One area of concentration in SERE's curriculum is resistance to interrogation, and is said to include teaching of and experience of the following:

  • extreme temperatures
  • waterboarding - being tied to a board with the feet higher than the head and having water poured into the nose
  • noise stress - playing very loud and dissonant music and sound effects. Recordings have been reported to include babies wailing inconsolably, cats meowing, and irritating music (including a record by Yoko Ono)
  • sexual embarrassment
  • religious dilemma - being given the choice of either seeing a religious book desecrated or revealing secrets to interrogators.
  • flag desecration
  • prolonged cramped or restrictive confinement
  • sleep deprivation
  • starvation
  • mock execution
  • overcoming food aversion (finding nutrition from alternate sources which might include insects, roadkill, dumpsters)
  • height/water/enclosed spaces
  • physical beating
  • "stress inoculation"
  • According to a document discovered by Mark Benjamin of Salon in a ACLU cache of released government documents:

    A March 22, 2005, sworn statement by the former chief of the Interrogation Control Element at Guantánamo said instructors from SERE also taught their methods to interrogators of the prisoners in Cuba.

    "When I arrived at GTMO," reads the statement, "my predecessor arranged for SERE instructors to teach their techniques to the interrogators at GTMO ... The instructors did give some briefings to the Joint Interrogation Group interrogators."

    This is directly relevant to those in the American Psychological Association who are fighting to gain a moratorium on psychologist participation on interrogations, such as those at Guantánamo, and who maintain the leadership of the APA is pro-government and pro-torture, despite all their protestations and pretty, if legalistic, resolutions.

    Why? Because the the Chief Psychologist of SERE at the time was Colonel Morgan Banks. Banks was also, and importantly, handpicked by then APA President Gerald Koocher to serve with five other members of the military (out of 10 members total) on the PENS committee of the APA, which in 2005-06 investigated the question of psychologist involvement in coercive interrogations and torture in Bush's "war on terror". It issued a report that formally condemned torture, and psychologist participation in same, but supported ongoing psychologist participation in national security interrogations.

    For his part,Banks denied to the Washington Monthly introducing SERE techniques to Guantánamo interrogators, but then he may not have been "chief of the Interrogation Control Element". Nevertheless, he is

    responsible for the training and oversight of all Army SERE Psychologists, who include those involved in SERE training and in the repatriation of former detainees and prisoners of war. He provides technical support and consultation to all Army psychologists providing interrogation support, and his office currently provides the only Army training for psychologists in repatriation planning and execution, interrogation support, and behavioral profiling.

    By the way, thanks to the Kiley report (of then Army Surgeon General, the now-disgraced Kevin Kiley), we know that all Behavioral Science Consultation Team or BSCT members at Guantánamo must undergo SERE training. And, New York Times writers M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks had a source tell them that Banks was intimately involved in constructing interrogation policy at Guantánamo, just as he had been when stationed at Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in 2002-2003:

    We also learned from a Pentagon official that the SERE program's chief psychologist, Col. Morgan Banks, issued guidance in early 2003 for the "behavioral science consultants" who helped to devise Guantánamo's interrogation strategy (we've been unable to learn the content of that guidance).

    And this is the man who was to dispassionately investigate and counsel on the role of psychologists in interrogations for the oh-so-liberal APA?

    Which takes me back to Alberto Gonzales. He, of course, is infamous for counseling Bush for rejecting Geneva Convention protections to prisoners captured in the military actions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Here's a link to his memo of January 25, 2002.

    Would Gonzales have as easily made his recommendation to allow torture if he himself had suffered, as many Air Force cadets of his age did, the torments of SERE training? Or if he had taken the training, and I cannot be sure he didn't undertake it, could that experience have hardened him, made him ready to revenge his sufferings on nameless men, women, and children he had never seen, who would undergo coercive interrogations because they were deemed "enemy combatants" in a new kind of war that Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales felt existed above national and international law?

    We can't answer that question. But one thing for sure, the torture continues. The perpetrators escape accountability. And the nation sleeps in restless slumber, dreaming of American Idol fame, of Jack Bauer rescue and failure, and of invisible American and Iraqi corpses, hidden from the T.V. screens.

    Gonzales's likely skipping of SERE training is like Bush's playing hooky from National Guard service. Both are symbols of American adolescent irresponsibility and hauteur: let the others do the dirty work, and screw everybody else.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Baghdad Fallen: Diplomats Ordered into Flak Jackets

    Crossposted at Daily Kos

    No. Bagdad has not fallen to the "insurgents". Not yet. But it's only a matter of time before the headline of this diary appears upon the front pages of U.S. newspapers.

    Today, the Green Zone of Baghdad -- the so-called safety zone that is the hub of U.S. operations, a 3.5 square mile area in the heart of the city -- was hit by mortar fire for the second day in a row. According to an AP report, two people were killed and at least 10 wounded. The State Department minimized the attack, but U.S. Embassy officials "ordered diplomats to wear flak jackets and helmets while outdoors or in unprotected buildings."

    It's the anti-surge. Instead of making Baghdad safer, the various groups that make up the Iraqi insurgency are stepping up their attacks in the very heart of the U.S. war and occupation regime.

    Both the intensity and skill of the attack were noteworthy. The shells, believed to be 122mm, exploded in rapid succession over about a three-minute period.

    The blasts were relatively close to one another, suggesting an experienced mortar crew using more than one launcher.

    On May 3, four Asian contractors were killed by a rocket attack in the Green Zone. Yesterday, nine were wounded. Over and over, in the AP article, Americans are voicing their fears:

    Nevertheless, the recent increase in attacks has raised alarm among American staffers living and working in what had been considered an oasis of safety in the turbulent Iraqi capital....

    Later this year, the United States plans to open a massive new embassy inside the Green Zone despite the ongoing security threat. Embassy staffers have expressed concern that the new facility lacks enough space to house the estimated 1,000 employees in safety.

    It was only a little over a month ago that a suicide bomber got into and blew up the cafeteria in the Iraqi Parliamentary Building. Meanwhile, as most news articles covering this story point out, such as this one from the Chicago Tribune, thousands of U.S. soldiers are searching for three soldiers reportedly captured in a surprise raid on a U.S. Humvee patrol. (Today, the Washington Post reports the names of the seven who were slain in the attack.)

    The images are building up to an overwhelming sense of conclusion: events in Iraq are spiralling out of control, even from a strictly military point of view. One wonders if the sudden censorship of soldier-bloggers and the military shut down of sites like MySpace aren't related to efforts to stem the tide of information.

    Even the British, who saw the departure of Bush ally, Blair, recently, have reversed course and saved the royal body of Prince Harry, announcing he will not be sent to Iraq, citing unacceptable risks and "specific threats".

    No one is safe in Iraq today, least of all its ordinary citizens, who have died in the hundreds of thousands. Americans and their allies who felt safe in the Green Zone are beginning to bear the psychic and bloody cost of American imperial policy, and Bush's megalomania.

    Today, the Senate failed to cut off war funds, though the vote was larger than ever to do so (67-29). But the entire affair in D.C. has a hallucinatory quality, as does the political analyses that surround it.

    U.S. diplomatic staff cannot walk around even the Green Zone without wearing helmets and flak jackets. Rocket and mortar attacks are becoming a daily affair.

    The U.S. must be forced to withdraw from Iraq now. Articles of impeachment are likely a necessity to remove the increasingly remote and Nero-esque Bush and his Rasputin-like cohort Cheney (if you can excuse the mixed historical metaphor).

    As events related herein make clear: time is short. Tomorrow, Baghdad will be fallen.

    [Updated: around 8:00 PM PDT, 5/16]

    I wanted to add some links, as there are some sources that deserve credit on reporting a few days back on the fear growing in the Green Zone, and on the precautions ordered for diplomatic personnel.

    ABC News: "U.S. Embassy: Wear Flak Jackets, Helmets"

    Daily Kos diary by Olds88, 5/14/07, No Warning Sirens During Cheney Visit

    McClatchy's story, 5/14/07, U.S. Embassy employees fearful over Green Zone attacks

    BBC: War-torn Iraq 'facing collapse'

    The latter is an important story, detailing a new British Chatham House think tank report:

    Iraq faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation, British foreign policy think tank Chatham House has warned.

    The report says the Iraqi government is now largely powerless and irrelevant in many parts of the country.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Is Establishment Turning Against Bush Detainee Torture?

    Daily Kos has an article by bejammin075 that quotes former Colin Powell Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, as calling for impeachment investigations against Bush and Cheney. This may be remarkable in itself, but I found his rationale, as stated by Wilkerson in an interview with CNN, to be just as important. The man who part of the administration that built a phony case to go to war against Iraq, now says:

    I would start my investigation into the detainee abuse issue, which constitutes, I think, a defilement of everything America stands for, and has done irreparable damage to our reputation, and thus to our power around the world. If that doesn't rate a 'high crime' definition, I don't know what does.

    And I would also look closely at how we got into this war, particularly the cooking of the books in intelligence. [Emphasis is mine]

    Wilkerson has been saying some pretty critical things about the Bush administration since he left some time ago, but the emphasis on detainee abuse, i.e., torture, is welcomed in any case. I wonder how many individuals within the administration or the establishment in general oppose Bush on this. What they don't tell us is how extended and expansive is the organizational reach of the agencies that research and implement this torture. Will they say the "C" word?

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    A Letter to Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm, APA President

    The following letter was sent to the President of the American Psychological Association, following the call by this blog for action to support the proposed moratorium against using psychologists in national security interrogations, since they have been compromised by copious reports and evidence of torture.

    Dear Dr. Brehm,

    I write to support Dr. Reisner's proposed moratorium. There is more than adequate evidence to demonstrate that psychologists have been involved in unethical and probably illegal interrogations, especially those related to work in Special Forces and BSCT teams.

    I know of at least two specific instances of documented, direct psychologist misconduct during interrogations. Additionally, Former Army Surgeon General Kiley wrote in his report that BSCT hires from 2004 were primarily psychologists. If you put this simple fact together with the latest report from the International Red Cross on ongoing torture and misconduct concerning treatment of detainees and interrogations at Guantanamo, you have a high likelihood of psychologist misconduct.

    The moratorium also must go with a greater openness and an end to secrecy surrounding the activities of the BSCT teams. Redacted documents should be released in unaltered form, and APA must demand this.

    The future of the APA hangs by a thin thread, and it would be folly not to recognize this. I am an APA member, and talking with other members, I know that unhappiness with APA leadership on this question is wide-spread.

    I also know that you have a tough job, and that many APA members support the current situation, including many in Division 19, but not only inclusive of them.

    The history of professional, especially academic, psychology in collaborating with government entities in the preparation of interrogations that use torture is a sordid part of our history. It must end now if psychology is to emerge in the 21st century as a progressive and positive scientific force.

    Otherwise, it will be anathemized and become, in the public's mind, congruent with the worst elements of human nature. If you think this is impossible, I ask you to reflect upon the Lysenko scandal among geneticists in the old Soviet Union.

    Psychology may suffer soon the same fate. It will take leadership and courage to lead our guild away from this terrible future. I pray you have the wisdom to follow this course.

    San Francisco, CA

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    U.S. Forcibly Drugs Immigrants -- ACLU Suit

    From the ACLU press release on May 8:

    Two Men Given Powerful Drugs Against Their Will

    LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has learned that two immigrants were forcibly sedated by the United States government. Raymond Soeoth and Amadou Diouf, clients in an ACLU of Southern California lawsuit, revealed that they had both been drugged involuntarily during attempts to deport them.

    Diouf was under court protection from deportation when officers put him on an airplane for return to his native Senegal. When he attempted to protest to the flight captain, he was sedated against his will.

    While undergoing deportation Soeoth, a Christian minister from Indonesia, was drugged by guards even after he explained he did not want to be sedated.

    In the end, neither man was deported. Both men were released last February after approximately two years in a federal facility in San Pedro as part of a lawsuit in which the ACLU of Southern California has won the release of more than a dozen people held indefinitely in violation of federal rules.

    “These druggings were medically unnecessary, immoral, and dangerous,” said ACLU of Southern California Staff Attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who represents Diouf and Soeoth. “Officers sedated these perfectly sane men, apparently just to silence them. The routine nature of these actions raises serious questions about how common this practice is.”

    An article published today in the Los Angeles Daily Journal documents the men’s experiences. The reporter learned about the drugging during interviews with Diouf and Soeoth.

    Medical experts consulted by the ACLU of Southern California say the drugs used on Soeoth, Haldol and Cogentin, are used to treat psychosis and should not have been prescribed for someone with no history of mental illness. A federal policy prohibits medication of detainees “solely to facilitate transport, unless a medical professional determines that they present a danger to themselves or to others.” [emphasis added]

    The ACLU said that is a loose medical standard that is open to abuse.

    “It is frightening that the government is using anti-psychotic drugs on immigrants who have no history of mental illness,” Arulanantham said.

    The ACLU of Southern California is aggressively investigating the practice with the pro-bono assistance of the law firm Munger, Tolles, and Olson LLP.

    I want to know what medical professional determined these men were a danger to self and others, allowing government agents (who are unspecified, but presumably Homeland Security) to use powerful psychotropic drugs to unwilling victims. Haldol, in particular, can cause permanent nerve damange and a chronic tic-like condition called tardive dyskinesia, sometimes, though rarely, after one administration.

    It is hard to keep registering one outrage after another, but this practice must be stopped. Hopefully, the ACLU suit will bring us more information on the policies and personnel involved in this heinous misuse of medical procedure.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Video: What If You Were Imprisoned at Gitmo? (Viewer Advisory: Strong, Graphic Images)

    Stephen Soldz found an amazing, if shocking, video that recreates the experience of being imprisoned and abused at Guantanamo prison. I'll let him explain it:

    British Channel 4 TV took seven volunteers and subjected them for 48 hours to the tactics authorized for use at Guantanamo. Quite chilling. It took only 10 hours for the first volunteer to be removed due to the severe trauma he underwent. Only four of the seven survived 48 hours of hell. Many of the Guantanamo detainees have been there over four years: 35,040 hours, 730 times as long. If we do not help them, they may spend the rest of their lives there. Everyone, including all APA members, should watch this.

    Wednesday, May 9, 2007

    Heart of Darkness: Sensory Deprivation & U.S. Torture -- Where From Here?

    Many students and college graduates who have taken a psychology course have probably heard of Jerome S. Bruner. One of America's most famous psychologists, he helped found Harvard's Center for Cognitive Studies. Under Lyndon Johnson, Bruner ran the National Institute of Child Health and Development. His book, The Process of Education, became a classic in the 1960s, with its far-reaching program of school curriculum reform.

    Today, Bruner is 91, and still active as Research Professor of Psychology and Senior Research Fellow in Law, at New York University. What's not commonly known is that during World War II, he was conscripted, as so many behavioral scientists were, into the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS). Or that in the later 1950s, Bruner was involved in research in sensory deprivation, much of which was funded by the U.S. government in an attempt to counter so-called Chinese brainwashing, and as part of the U.S. mind control and interrogation programs. Bruner, it seems, was unaware of his role in the latter, as we shall see.

    Brainwashing Fascinates the Academy

    As part of a massive U.S. program to understand what appeared to some U.S. intelligence observers to be a large brainwashing program by the Russians and the Chinese, U.S. intelligence and the military began recruiting and sponsoring psychiatrists and psychologists to do research on "brainwashing" methodology, including use of hypnosis, drugs, sleep deprivation, and isolation (solitary confinement). But there was a separate and new line of mind control research, whose headquarters were at McGill University in Montreal. There, the famous psychologist Donald O. Hebb, later president of the American Psychological Association, crafted the first large experiments on sensory deprivation from 1951-53.

    Hebb's famous article, Drives and the C.N.S. (Conceptual Nervous System), and his pioneer experiments on sensory deprivation, spawned a great deal of interest in the military. And, through the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the money started to flow, reaching numerous universities and medical/psychology departments. Some of the biggest names in the field of behavioral science and medicine became witting and unwitting recruits in a research program that would culminate in a new paradigm of torture interrogation, as exemplified in the CIA's now-famous (and still partly censored) KUBARK interrogation manual of the early 1960s.

    As historian Alfred McCoy described it in his book, A Question of Torture:

    Although Hebb later admitted, with some sense of remorse, the clandestine source of his funding, he still incorporated findings from the sensory deprivation experiments, without any apparent regrets, into the theoretical relections that contributed to his rising scholarly reputation. In his Essay on Mind, published in 1980 after all the revelvations about CIA funding and Dr. Ewen Camerons's abusive research [at McGill University], Hebb wrote that his "so-called sensory-deprivation experiment" demonstrated "that the integrity of the mind at maturity continues to depend on... the sensory stimulation of the normal complex environment." These tests, Hebb concluded, "supported the prediction that... such [sensory deprivation] conditions would have a disorganizing effect on thought"... (p. 220) [emphases added, not in original]

    While Hebb may have been involved, others in the academic research community may not have understood all the implications. Jerome Bruner is an example of the latter. Although he was not without experience in interrogations, having been involved in OSS interrogations during the period surrounding D-Day, Bruner came to a Harvard symposium with a new paper on the effects of early sensory deprivation, which was a special interest of his. Perhaps it was personal: Bruner had been blind for the first two years of his life.

    The Harvard Symposium on Sensory Deprivation

    According to McCoy, the 1958 Harvard symposium on sensory deprivation was funded covertly through an ONR contract -- Nonr 1866 [29]. Other government agencies had funded much of the individual research done, including the Army, Air Force, and the National Science Foundation. The papers from this symmposium were edited and printed up in a volume that one can still purchase, used, online: Sensory Deprivation, A Symposium Held at Harvard Medical School. One of the book's editors, Philip Kubzansky, was also a an author of an essay entitled "The Effects of Reduced Environmental Stimulation on Human Behavior: A Review", which appeared in another book from the same period, one I've previously reviewed, The Manipulation of Human Behavior. (Kubzansky was also Chief Psychologist at Boston City Hospital at the time.)

    Jerome Bruner appears to have been interested in the developmental aspects of sensory deprivation, especially as they affected the neurological and cognitive aspects of a child's maturation. His essay for the symposium as reprinted and can be read entirely on-line (one of the reasons for using it as the centerpiece of this article) by anyone who is interested. It appeared as a stand-alone article in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. XXI, No. 2, in 1959. As a primer in the topic of sensory deprivation, you couldn't ask for a better introduction.

    According to Bruner's paper, "The Cognitive Consequences of Early Sensory Deprivation", the whole issue stemmed from a new understanding of the development of perception in the maturing organism. Bruner was conscious of his precursors in the field, and explained their primary discoveries:

    For bringing this matter into a proper empirical perspective, we must be grateful for the work of Hebb and his students in investigating the effects of early sensory deprivation in animals. I do not propose to review the work, for it is well known. In general, an impoverished environment, one with diminished heterogeneity and a reduced set of opportunities for manipulation and discrimination produces an adult organism with reduced abilities to discriminate, with stunted strategies for coping with roundabout solutions, with less taste for exploratory behavior, and with a notably reduced tendency to draw inferences that serve to cement the disparate events of its environment...

    But Bruner was not just concerned with the effects of early sensory deprivation, as he was aware that the early SD experiments were almost all conducted on adults, and there were effects, usually reversible, that were still psychologically profound. Bruner continued:

    ... let me remind you of the parallel findings on prolonged sensory deprivation in adult organisms that have the effect of disorganizing cognitive function, upsetting the constancies, even disrupting the perception of continuous contours that extend beyond the immediate focus of attention at the center of the visual field. I remind you of these matters in advance of setting forth some speculations to underline the likelihood that perception and cognitive activity generally depend upon a dynamically stable though ultimately disruptible equilibrium that depends, even in adult life, upon contact with stimulus heterogeneity and a shifting environment. [emphases are mine]

    This was something akin to Philip Kubansky's observations of the effects of isolation and sensory deprivation upon an interrogation detainee, as written in The Manipulation of Human Behavior:

    The boredom, restlessness, irritability, and other mood changes observed also may well apply. The stimulus-hunger and increased suggestibility which have been observed may make an individual more vulnerable to revealing information he might otherwise withhold, particularly when accompanied by the social uncertainty induced in the interrogation situation. Unprepared for these consequences of isolation and deprivation, like many experimental subjects, an individual may become apprehensive and indeed panicked by his reactions. The appearance of hallucinatory-like phenomena and their emotional accompaniments have often been quite anxiety provoking. (p. 90)
    Why Are We Doing This?

    Yet, at this Harvard symposium, at the school where he worked for so long, Bruner looked at the other contributions of the behavioral scientists and seemed befuddled. An essay by the psychoanalytic researchers Holt and Goldberger on the personality correlates of response to sensory deprivation flumoxxed him. He wrote:

    The work reported by Goldberger and Holt in this symposium on "individual differences in reaction to experimental interference with reality contact" and also by Bennett on the effect of sensory isolation in high altitude flying suggests that people respond differently to the initial stages of isolation, some finding it exciting and even intoxicating, others, terrifying and disrupting. I do not know what bearing this has on our present problem, save that when one is isolated from external stimulation one is thrown on internal resources, and people differ in the degree to which they live comfortably and confidently with their inner impulses and cognitive models.

    Bruner seemingly did not see or understand what all this research was reaching for. With his own personal interest in the then-new field of cognitive psychology, and his passion for developmental themes, he overlooked the sponsorship of the Office of Naval Research. After all, it was common enough in those days to have military sponsorship of one's psychological research. Goldberger's work on psychological types had been sponsored, for instance, by the Air Force. But there was a point. The work on isolation and sensory deprivation was to be used in formulating a "scientific" model of interrogation, which in the end amounted to psychological torture.

    This new scientific model delineated profound and disturbing vulnerablities in human nature and the ways human beings construct reality. As the physicists did with atomic physics, the psychologists and psychiatrists researching isolation, sensory and sleep deprivation, responses to various drugs, and to hypnotism, had discovered some important aspects to the workings of our minds and bodies... and they would use it to construct technologies of destruction and governmental control.

    In brief, what did they discover? According to Peter Suedfeld, a psychologist writing 10 years after Bruner's paper, in a retrospective on SD research, these behavioral scientists had discovered "a manipulation that made a difference -- unlike so many pallid experimental situations, a difference you could almost taste." (Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research, ed. J. P. Zubek, Appleton-Century-Crofts, NY, 1969, p. 3)

    Sensory deprivation research touched on more than deprivation, it covered aspects of human psychological and physiological functioning under conditions of isolation, sensory blurring, near-total deprivation, personality and drug interactions, among other potential effects. It posited human beings as sensation-seeking organisms (and not just humans, but higher animals). In fact, the need for stimulation was raised to the status of a human drive or instinct. Along the lines of the cognitive psychologists, like Bruner, who were coming into prominence at this time, the patterning of stimuli and perception was seen as linked to some kind of relatively stable environment. As Bruner pointed out, if that environment, or the cognitive map a person had made of an expected environment were to change radically, or become random, or unfocused, the organism/nervous system responded maladaptively. Negative changes took place along a number of psychological dimensions: cognitive, emotional, stress tolerance, susceptiblity to persuasion, etc.

    As Hebb pointed out at the 1958 Harvard Symposium, the whole SD research project began as an attempt to understand and counter what was believed to be a Russian and Chinese Cold War project to control others' behavior and minds. They called it "brainwashing". In the end, they twisted it into a form of coercive interrogation that was utilized by the CIA and military up to the present day.

    From Harvard Yard to Guantanamo Bay

    From PHR's essential book, Break Them Down:

    A legal memorandum prepared by Lt. Col. Diane E. Beaver in October 2002 considered the legality of the techniques proposed for use at Guantánamo. The memorandum approved the use of waterboarding, isolation, sensory deprivation, removal of clothing, hooding, and exploitation of detainees’ phobias. (p. 46)

    Not surprisingly, behavioral specialists were called upon to monitor and consult on these torture techniques. Psychologists were utilized because they had special expertise in areas such as... well, sensory deprivation!

    Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, described to General Taguba how that worked in practice.

    If the interrogation plan falls within the outline set by LTG Sanchez then the O5 Deputy Director or myself approve the plans. Those interrogation plans include a sleep plan and medical standards. A physician and a psychiatrist are on hand to monitor what we are doing.
    . . .
    Typically, the MP has a copy of the interrogation plan and a written note as to how to execute. There should also be files in the detainee files as to what is going on when an exception is needed. The interrogator uses these files to keep a record as to what has happened to the detainee. The doctor and psychiatrist also look at the files to see what the interrogation plan recommends; they have the final say as to what is implemented.... At Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, “behavioral science consultation teams” (hereinafter BSCT), composed of psychologists and psychiatrists, were formed with the purpose of facilitating interrogation. (p. 46-47)

    None of this was really new. The old CIA KUBARK manual, which directed its interrogators in counterintelligence "interviews" made clear that "experts" were often needed, and that sensory deprivation, among other psychological forms of torture, was to be utilized.

    As this selection from the CIA's "Interrogator Checklist" makes clear, psychological knowledge of the type we have been discussing here, is necessary in the torture chamber:

    6. Does the interrogators selected for the task meet the four criteria of (a) adequate training and experience, (b) genuine familiarity with the language to be used, (c) knowledge of the geographical/cultural area concerned, and (d) psychological comprehension of the interrogatee?

    7. Has the prospective interrogatee been screened? What are his major psychological characteristics? Does he belong to one of the nine major categories listed in pp. 19-28? Which? ....

    41. As above, for confinement. If the interrogates is to be confined, can KUBARK control his environment fully? Can the normal routines be disrupted for interrogation purposes?

    42. Is solitary confinement to be used? Why? Does the place of confinement permit the practical elimination of sensory stimuli?

    43. Are threats to be employed? As part of a plan? Has the nature of the threat been matched to that of the interrogatee?

    44. If hypnosis or drugs are thought necessary, has Headquarters been given enough advance notice? Has adequate allowance been made for travel time and other preliminaries?

    45. Is the interrogatee suspected of malingering? If the interrogator is uncertain, are the services of an expert available?

    An Action Call

    In other postings, I have called for the public to place pressure upon the American Psychological Association to stop its members from participating in coercive intelligence interrogations, i.e., in torture! Because a portion of the APA membership is fighting for such a moratorium, the American public is in a unique position to vote, in a manner of speaking, on the use of torture by the U.S. government, by calling and writing APA top office holders and telling them "We don't want any participation in torture or coercive intelligence or military interrogations."

    For more details on this campaign, click here. Or go ahead and write directly to the President of the American Psychological Association by clicking through to this link, which the APA calls "Ask the President".

    We can make a difference. The history of science and psychology cannot be hijacked by a group of militarists and jingoists in order to maintain an immoral interrogation program of torture and inhumane treatment. Ask yourself, what have I done to change this barbarous practice, then do something about it!

    Sunday, May 6, 2007

    Thanks to All Supporting Campaign to Pressure APA on Interrogations

    Voltaire began his campaign to stop torture practices left over from the days of the Inquisition when he was already well into his 70s. I'm only in my 50s, so I figure I have a lot of catching up to do. (Of course, our torture practices are left over from our own version of the Inquisition... the Cold War.) I have a link to yet another new letter from a psychologist to the Sharon Brehm at the American Psychological Association (APA). It was posted over at Stephen Soldz's Psyche, Science, & Society.

    Dear Dr. Brehm:

    You have an opportunity to make things right.  You have an opportunity to restore integrity to the APA with respect to its activities that have supported the immoral, illegal, and unethical interrogations of innocent human beings in U.S. detention centers around the world.

    I ask you to push APA toward prohibiting psychologists' involvement in the interrogations of detainees happening in Guantanamo and other detention centers.

    I ask you to remove the "Nuremberg" defense (Standard 1.02) from our Ethical Principles.

    I ask you to let the world know by your actions that psychologists are not a bunch of barbarians; that we truly care and are compassionate and strive to be healers not destroyers of human psyches.

    What will you say to your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren when they ask you what you did to stop the torture of human beings  in U.S. detention centers?

    What would you say to the children of the detainees who have been tortured under the guidance of psychologists?

    Do you have the compassion and courage to stop this evil?

    Art Eccleston, Psy.D.

    For those of you who don't know yet, Sharon Brehm is the new President of the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA remains the only health-care related association that continues to allow its membership to participate in national security interrogations such as occur or did occur at Guantanamo Bay Naval Prison, at Abu Ghraib, Baghram, and numerous other sites.

    The interrogations that took place, and continue to take place at these prisons, are notorious for using techniques of psychological torture that require the participation of medical and mental health personnel. We have a special opportunity to squelch the participation of psychologists, who have been crucial to Pentagon and CIA staffing at interrogation sites, and slow down, if not stop much of the torture practices the U.S. is undertaking. How? By supporting the moratorium being promoted by APA membership to stop participation in national security interrogations abroad. For more on the hows and whys behind this campaign, read the original call here.

    Much thanks to all who have promoted and helped circulate this call to action. I intend to keep the pressure on all the way to the APA convention in San Francisco this August. If you want to know more how to help, e-mail me at sfpsych at gmail dot com. (Spelled out because the spam situation is getting out of hand.)

    Write or call the APA:

    American Psychological Association
    750 First Street, NE
    Washington, DC 20002-4242
    (800) 374-2721
    (202) 336-5500

    Write and call, now. Let them know how upset you are.

    Send an email to the Public Affairs Office of the APA, expressing your outrage:

    Phone the Ethics Office directly at (202) 336-5930 or use APA's toll free number (800) 374-2721, extension 5930, and give them a piece of your mind.

    And finally, write to the President of the APA, Dr. Sharon Stephens Brehm. Be nice, be polite, but be firm (this is true for ALL communications).

    Dr. Brehm has a web page, Ask the President. Follow the link to leave an email message directly for her.

    If we apply enough pressure, it might make the APA stand up and take notice. Don't forget to write your congressman/congresswoman and senator, too!


    We don't have to be powerless. We aren't helpless. Write, call, email today. Copy this diary's URL and send it to your friends.

    I want to see APA inundated with thousands of messages saying "Stop torture. Stop psychologist participation in coercive interrogations.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2007

    Feinstein Introduces Bill to Close Gitmo in One Year

    Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced a bill to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The closure would be slated for one year after the passage of the bill -- a long time if you are a detainee being held in solitary confinement, or otherwise.

    A recent Amnesty International report, quoted by Turkana in a diary over at Daily Kos on this issue, describes the current conditions for those imprisoned at "Gitmo":

    The isolated prisoners are now spending 22 hours alone in a windowless cell with no natural light or fresh air. They exercise alone, often at night and can go for days without seeing daylight. Inmates have their meals alone in their cells, which are constantly lit, and they are observed 24 hours a day.

    Senator Feinstein has previously supported both the Patriot Act and the incarceration of "war on terror" detainees at Guantanamo Bay. (Her bill says nothing about other U.S.-run prisons abroad that hold similar "enemy combatants", and also are similarly tarred with reports of torture.)

    In her website statement, she declares:

    “Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for international condemnation.... This has greatly damaged the nation’s credibility around the world. Rather than make the United States safer, the image projected by this facility puts us at greater risk. The time has come to close it down.”

    “I want to be clear. I am absolutely opposed to releasing any terrorists, Taliban fighters or anyone else held at Guantanamo who is committed to harming the United States.

    “At the same time, we must recognize the sustained damage this facility is doing to our international standing. We are better served by closing this facility and transferring the detainees elsewhere.”

    Feinstein's language, oddly, shows greater concern for the image of the United States than for the human beings broken by coercive interrogation, isolation, sensory deprivation, beatings, and other forms of torture. Her bill would call for a transfer of detainees to U.S. courts to be charged with crimes, or turned over to an international tribunal, or returned to their own or a third country, with "guarantees" of no torture if returned.

    As an example of the kind of pressure being exerted upon the politicians of this country around the torture issue, Feinstein's bill represents a victory, albeit only one step in a long and arduous process. It may be the best bill that can be expected at this time out of this Congress. George W. Bush will be hard pressed to veto this bill, but sabotage it or veto it he will.

    Or, will he go ahead and let Gitmo close, as a damage control operation, transferring the prisoners elsewhere in his gulag? It will be a symbolic defeat. But hell, they can handle symbolic defeats. They don't challenge the raw naked power of the military state.

    I nevertheless cannot help but feel heartened by Feinstein's bill. Her website contains a detailed timeline that discusses the torture that has taken place at Guantanamo at the hands of U.S. agencies. I don't know of any other Congressional website that does that. Here's a sampling:

    November 30, 2004: The New York Times reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross charged, in confidential reports to the United States government, that the American military had intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on Guantanamo Bay detainees. The report said detainees were forced to endure "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions." The story also revealed that a January 2003 confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross raised questions whether “psychological torture” had taken place at Guantanamo Bay.

    December 21, 2004: The Washington Post reported that FBI agents, in memos spanning a two-year period, witnessed a variety of abuses at Guantanamo Bay. The newspaper reported that one FBI agent, on August 2, 2004, wrote: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more." In once case, the agent continued, "the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."

    June 2005: An official Department of Defense report by Air Force Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt, launched in response to the FBI concerns, found three instances of “degrading and abusive treatment” in violation of Department of Defense guidelines. These included the use of dogs in interrogations, extended period of solitary confinement and sleep deprivation. The report concluded that these acts did not constitute torture or inhumane treatment, and that some of the abuses alleged to have been witnessed by the FBI could not be corroborated.

    If you feel so inclined, call Sen. Feinstein's office and give her your support, and maybe you'll want to add that the legislation doesn't go far enough. Tell her you want the restoration of habeas corpus and the outlawing of all forms of psychological torture, and that you want those who authorized the torture held accountable. Tell her you want an end to secret renditions and the closing of the black prisons. Who knows? She may be inclined to listen (though I wouldn't hold my breath).

    Washington, DC - (202) 224-3841
    San Francisco - (415) 393-0707
    Los Angeles - (310) 914-7300
    San Diego - (619) 231-9712
    Fresno - (559) 485-7430

    (tip of the hat to Turkana)

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