Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My APA Paper on Isolation, Sensory Deprivation & Sensory Overload

The following is the text of a paper I presented on Sunday, August 19, 2007 to an audience of about three hundred at the American Psychological Association (APA) convention in San Francisco, California. It is, in fact, an abstract of a much longer paper now in the final stages of preparation. Its brevity was dictated by the very short time speaking time allowed. I have included my bibliography here for those interested.

As many are no doubt aware, the APA Council of Representatives passed a resolution on psychologist participation in coercive interrogations that was long on rhetoric, but far short on substance. In essence, the APA legitimized psychologist practice in settings where indefinite detention occurs, along with sensory and sleep deprivation, sensory over-stimulation, and use of drugs (as long as not for the purpose of eliciting interrogation).

My paper was written with the intent to document the long history of behavioral science collaboration with abusive interrogation research, particularly around the subject of sensory deprivation (SD). I did not have time in this paper to address the strong observational and naturalistic evidence of the debilitating effects of isolation and SD, and readers will have to await my longer, published paper.

It is also worth noting that the negative effects of SD are powerfully amplified by the overall context of the coercive and abusive environment in the prison or detainee environment. In fact, as regards interrogation or conditions of prisoner incarceration, SD is never used alone, but in combination with other coercive techniques.


Isolation, Sensory Deprivation, and Sensory Overload: An Historical Overview

“The abuse of knowledge causes incredulity.” – Rousseau

The use of isolation and sensory deprivation at U.S. foreign prisons, the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, and the Charleston Naval Brig in South Carolina has been well documented. Physicians for Human Rights has an excellent pamphlet called “Break Them Down” that offers an overwhelming amount of documentation. The important thing to understand about the use of psychological torture is that the conditions of detention are inexorably intertwined with the techniques of interrogation.

This presentation is a historical look at the research project that was sensory deprivation, conducted 35-50 years ago, in which psychologists, psychoanalysts, and psychiatrists worked for the CIA and the Pentagon to understand the effects of sensory deprivation, and which ended in making sensory deprivation, and later sensory overload, an integral part of the U.S. coercive interrogation paradigm. One obvious problem with this research is the lack of any controlled experiments upon actual prisoners. A less obvious but even more serious problem concerns lack of access to classified materials and studies, especially given that much of the research was done by intelligence and military entities and kept secret.

The beginnings of concentrated psychological research into the manipulation of sensory and perceptual stimulation began early in the Cold War in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Donald Hebb, a past president of the American Psychological Association and an important theoretician in psychology, was an early researcher into sensory deprivation’s effects upon adult human beings.

Dr. Hebb explained his involvement at a Harvard symposium on sensory deprivation in June 1958.

The work that we have done at McGill University began, actually, with the problem of brainwashing. We were not permitted to say so in the first publishing.... The chief impetus, of course, was the dismay at the kind of “confessions” being produced at the Russian Communist trials. “Brainwashing” was a term that came a little later, applied to Chinese procedures. We did not know what the Russian procedures were, but it seemed that they were producing some peculiar changes of attitude. How?

One possible factor was perceptual isolation and we concentrated on that. (Solomon 1961)

Marks (1979) describes the atmosphere in behavioral and psychiatric research in the 1950s and early 1960s:

Nearly every scientist on the frontiers of brain research found men from secret agencies looking over his shoulders, impinging on the research.
University of Virginia bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, wrote recently (Moreno 2006):

To a great extent, modern psychology and social science were founded on the financial support they received from national intelligence agencies during and after World War II.... These close ties remained after hostilities against the Axis powers ended. In the early 1950s, nearly all federal funding for social science came from the military, and the Office of Naval Research was leading sponsor of psychological research from any source in the immediate postwar years. The CIA found ways to support a large number of Ivy League academics, often without the professors’ knowledge, as its funds were passed through dummy foundations that often gave grants to other foundations. (p. 65)

Besides Hebb’s research at McGill, other centers of extensive research on sensory deprivation during the period under consideration included many U.S. and Canadian sites, including, but not limited to: Princeton University; the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland; Boston City Hospital and Harvard University; the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland; the University of Manitoba; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the Research Center for Mental Health at New York University; Cornell University; various VA hospitals, and many others.

By the mid-1970s, however, there was a steep drop-off in published literature on sensory deprivation. The reason for this is unknown, but could be due to controversies over revelations of these and other programs by the military and CIA (Greenfield 1977). The decline in research is also coincident in time with the cancellation of the CIA’s MKSEARCH program, the successor of MKULTRA, in June 1972.

In any case, the use of isolation and sensory deprivation was continued by U.S. intelligence agencies, as evinced by the CIA’s 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual (HRETM) (CIA 1983). What follows is a selection of relevant quotes, presented here as giving an intelligence operational view of the effects of sensory deprivation and overload:

The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist. Regression is basically a loss of autonomy, a reversion to an earlier behavioral level. As the subject regresses, his learned personality traits fall away in reverse chronological order. He begins to lose the capacity to carry out the highest creative activities, to deal with complex situations, to cope with stressful interpersonal relationships, or to cope with repeated frustrations. (CIA 1983, p. K-1)

As regards deprivation of sensory stimuli, the CIA training manual explains:

Solitary confinement acts on most persons as a powerful stressor. A person cut off from external stimuli turns his awareness inward and projects his unconsious [sic] outward. The symptoms most commonly produced by solitary confinement are superstition, intense love of any other living thing, perceiving inanimate objects as alive, hallucinations, and delusions...

Deprivation of sensory stimuli induces stress and anxiety. The more complete the deprivation, the more rapidly and deeply the subject is affected...

Some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects. (CIA 1983, pp. K-6, K-7)

The conclusions of the anonymous authors of the CIA manual are congruent with many of the findings of psychological and psychiatric researchers over the previous three to four decades. Princeton psychologist Jack Vernon examined the effects of sensory deprivation and isolation on a group of 18 volunteer graduate students and reported the results in 1958. He found that sensory deprivation had “a significant and essentially deleterious influence upon the subjects”, as measured by tests measuring rotary pursuit ability, color perception, motor coordination, mirror tracing, body weight, and galvanic skin resistance (Solomon 1961). The longer the period of sensory deprivation, the more marked the influence.

In the early research literature, one outstanding feature was the variability of results across experimental conditions. One important and misunderstood variable concerned the presence or absence of hallucinations in different individuals. This variability was due, in part, to a lack of standardization of variables, of controls, of definitions, in addition to personality and neuropsychological factors.

One finding that held across multiple experiments was the susceptibility of the deprivation subject to suggestibility (Solomon, 1961; Zubek 1969; (Hebb 1970). One researcher, Peter Suedfeld, concluded:

Susceptibility to external influence, including both primary suggestibility and persuasibility, is clearly increased by SD. The data indicate that this phenomenon originates with the lack of information anchors in the SD situation: the subject is at loose ends, without guidelines for his behavior, unable to concentrate, and in a state of stimulus- and information-hunger… (Suedfeld 1969, p. 166)

The question of personality variables and their influence upon isolation and deprivation results was tackled early on. Goldberger and Holt (Solomon 1961; Goldberger 1961) found that the ability to handle primary process internal stimuli, as well as other measures of ego-strength, differentiated individuals better able to adapt to sensory deprivation and isolation environments than individuals who scored low on these variables. The government found the influence of personality variables to be very important in planning interrogations, and a large part of psychologist participation in interrogations is related to personality assessment (CIA 1963).

Over the years, researchers discovered other effects of the sensory deprivation situation. One researcher concluded that the evidence was substantial: “both simple and complex measures of visual and motor coordination are adversely affected by sensory and perceptual deprivation” (Zubek 1969). Cognitive tests show “considerable impairment… on unstructured behaviors” (p. 165).

A fairly robust finding was that sensory deprivation increases sensitivity to pain, at least in its initial stages (Solomon 1961). At a symposium held in April 1956 by the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, researcher Harold Wolff reported:

We also have reason to believe that the painful experience is one that has a highly symbolic significance and is closely linked with feelings of isolation and rejection, especially when imposed by other human beings under hostile circumstances. (Vernon 1956)

In their paper from the 1958 Harvard symposium, Ruff, Edwin and Thaler (Ruff 1961) described various reactions to reduced sensory input. Examining both military and civilian volunteers at experiments done at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, they described a series of experiments utilizing varying levels of sensory deprivation and conditions of isolation. They found that by the last experiment, in which the conditions allowed the least specific amount of structuring of time duration, communication, or other activities, that a high number of subjects terminated the experiment early, unable to tolerate the conditions of the procedure and displaying “impending or partial breakdown of defenses” (p. 76).

In his article for the book The Manipulation of Human Behavior (Biderman 1961), Lawrence Hinkle, Jr. (1961) described how isolation and sensory deprivation could produce a state of disordered brain function (DBF) similar to that produced by disturbance of brain homeostasis through fever, hypothermia, dehydration, blood abnormalities, shock, hemorrhage, vomiting, and starvation. Individuals with DBF experience thinking difficulties, along with “illusions, delusions, hallucinations, and projective or paranoid thinking” (p. 26).

Hinkle concluded:

It is well known that prisoners, especially if they have not been isolated before, may develop a syndrome similar in most of its features to the “brain syndrome” [see also (Grassian 1983)]... They become dull, apathetic, and in due time they become disoriented and confused; their memories become defective and they experience hallucinations and delusions…. their ability to impart accurate information may be as much impaired as their capacity to resist an interrogator...

From the interrogator’s viewpoint it has seemed to be the ideal way of “breaking down” a prisoner, because, to the unsophisticated, it seems to create precisely the state that the interrogator desires: malleability and the desire to talk, with the added advantage that one can delude himself that he is using no force or coercion…. However, the effect of isolation on the brain function of the prisoner is much like that which occurs if he is beaten, starved, or deprived of sleep.

Hebb (1970) succinctly described the effects at a presentation at the 1970 APA convention: sensory deprivation can produce “an acute disturbance of the normal personality”. It is an “atrocious procedure,” which “raises the whole question of the relation of man to his sensory environment”. Hebb noted, “making the isolation more drastic produces motivational and emotional disturbance more quickly”.

Sensory Overload

While there was for many years a multitude of studies on isolation and sensory deprivation, studies on excessive sensory stimulation were far fewer, and less focused (however, see Lindsley, 1961). Lipowski (1975) conducted a literature review of the research extant some 30 years ago. He reported on some of the work of the Japanese researchers at Tohoku University, whose reports echoed the methodological difficulties of the deprivation researchers in the U.S. Their results, however, were significant.

The Tohoku workers exposed their experimental subjects to intense auditory and visual stimuli presented randomly in a condition of confinement ranging in duration from 3 to 5 hr. The subjects showed heightened and sustained arousal, found sensory overload more aversive than deprivation, and had mood changes in the direction of aggression, anxiety, and sadness. Two subjects reported “hallucinationlike” phenomena. (Lipowski 1975)

Other U.S. researchers have replicated these results. Use of sensory overload has been a technique utilized by SERE schools, and has reportedly been transmitted to use by U.S. military and intelligence interrogators abroad (Streatfeild 2007).

In conclusion, sensory manipulation is well studied; its effects on interrogation have been known for over a generation. The belief that we don’t have enough research on these matters is unfounded. The use of sensory deprivation and overload constitutes torture, is outlawed by international treaties and agreements, and illegal under U.S. law. Active psychologist participation at facilities where it exists constitutes a war crime and should be abandoned immediately.

J------ K-----, Ph.D.

San Francisco, CA

August 19, 2007


Biderman, A. D. Z., Herbert, Eds. (1961). The Manipulation of Human Behavior. New York, John Wiley & Sons.

CIA. (1963). "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation." Retrieved August 15, 2007, 2007, from

CIA. (1983). "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual." Retrieved July 30, 2007, from

Goldberger, L. & Holt, R. R. (1961). A Comparison of Isolation Effects and their Personality Correlates in Two Divergent Samples. New York, Research Center for Mental Health, New York University: 1-52.

Grassian, S. (1983). "Psychopathological effects of solitary confinement." American Journal of Psychiatry 140: 1450-1454.

Greenfield, P. (1977). CIA's Behavior Caper. APA Monitor: 1, 10-11.

Hebb, D. O. (1970). "The Motivating Effects of Exteroceptive Stimulation." American Psychologist 25(4): 328-336.

Lipowski, Z. J. (1975). "Sensory and Information Inputs Overload: Behavioral Effects." Comprehensive Psychiatry 16(3): 199-221.

Moreno, J. D. (2006). Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense. New York Dana Press.

Ruff, G. E. L., Edwin Z.; & Thaler, Victor H. (1961). Factors Influencing Reactions to Reduced Sensory Input. Sensory Deprivation: A Symposium Held at Harvard Medical School. P. Solomon, et al. , Eds. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press: 72-90.

Solomon, P., Kubzansky, Philip E., Leiderman, P. Herbert, Mendelson, Jack H., Trumbull, Richard, & Wexler, Donald , Eds. (1961). Sensory Deprivation: A Symposium Held at Harvard Medical School. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Streatfeild, D. (2007). Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control. New York, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press.

Vernon, J., M. Meltzer, D. Tyler, Weinstein, E. A., Brozek, J., & Woolf, H. (1956). Factors Used to Increase the Susceptibility of Individuals to Forceful Indoctrination: Observations and Experiments. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, Asbury Park, NJ, Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry.

Zubek, J. P., Ed. (1969). Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts, educational division.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Murkier and Murkier: "The Ongoing Medicalization of Torture"

Though almost a month old now, I can't let a fascinating commentary by Luke Mitchell over at Harper's go unremarked. Mitchell's curiosity was piqued when he watched the performance of National Security Director Michael McConnell on Meet the Press back on July 22. (McConnell is also a former director of the National Security Agency, a retired vice-admiral, and was Intelligence Officer to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Bush I's Operation Desert Storm -- no small-time player he!)

McConnell was talking with Tim Russert about Bush II's executive order on CIA interrogation practices, signed only two days previously, which reiterated the Bush Administrations contention that "unlawful enemy combatants" don't deserve Geneva Convention protections. The E.O. also banned certain interrogation techniques that even an uninformed U.S. citizen could recognize as torture:

...willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency, such as sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation, forcing the individual to perform sexual acts or to pose sexually, threatening the individual with sexual mutilation, or using the individual as a human shield...

But Bush's order also was mum on a number of controversial forms of torture and abuse, including waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Furthermore, the order used a definition of cruel, inhuman, degrading and inhumane treatment or punishment that relies on weak federal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, rather than international treaties and agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory. (How like the recent parsing of the American Psychological Association in its latest "statement" on the use of psychologists in coercive interrogations!)

Unnamable Doctors & Unnamable Others

Russert asked McConnell about the CIA's now-presidentially approved "enhanced interrogation measures". McConnell was evasive, as Luke Mitchell notes:

He was clear about what was forbidden -— but perfectly unclear about what was permitted. In particular, he would neither confirm nor deny whether water boarding was permissible. “If I announce what the specific measures are,” he said, “it would aid those who want to resist those measures.” (He did allow, however, that he “would not want a U.S. citizen to go through the process,” whatever it was.)

McConnell assured Russert and his viewers that, according to Mitchell, "unnamed and unnameable techniques had in fact been approved by unnamed and unnameable medical professionals", and that all interrogations were performed under "medical supervision". The safety of these interrogation procedures are supposedly "based upon professional advice". McConnell made it clear that threats of torture, at least, were involved.

And so this, this is a program where we capture someone known to be a terrorist, we need information that they possess, and it has saved countless lives. Because, because they believe these techniques might involve torture and they don’t understand them, they tend to speak to us, talk to us in very—a very candid way. [emphasis added]

The latter set off alarm bells for Harper's columnist Mitchell, who knew, for one thing, that "threats of torture" are something prohibited by the American Medical Association (AMA), which "forbids physicians to be 'present when torture is used or threatened.'" Because McConnell had stated in interview that "doctors" monitored the CIA interrogations, Mitchell called the AMA to get clarification. What he got was the runaround, packaged within a surprising admission:

I also called AMA spokesman Robert Mills to see if the organization would be investigating McConnell’s claims. His response was a bit surprising. He suggested that perhaps McConnell had meant psychologists. Psychologists do not have medical degrees, of course, and like all other people without medical degrees, they are barred from practicing medicine in the United States. Mills’s point, though, seemed to be that psychologists, unlike physicians, have a long history of involvement with enhanced interrogation....

Mills’s concern was fine as far is it went. But I found myself in the odd position of reminding a spokesman for the American Medical Association that psychologists are not doctors. McConnell had specifically said “doctors.” Was this really the sort of ambiguity that the AMA wanted to endorse? Shortly thereafter, I received this follow-up via e-mail: “The feds commonly refer to psychologists as doctors. Psychiatrists and other M.D.s are referred to as physicians. Medical supervision is a vague term that could refer psychologist, nurse, corpsman, podiatrist or any of hundreds allied health professionals.”

Calling Dr. Behnke...

Luke Mitchell then contacted Stephen Behnke, director of the APA's Ethics Office, who assured him via quick e-mail reply that

...psychologists "do not provide ‘medical’ supervision” and second that the APA “strictly forbids the presence of a psychologist at an interrogation in which the subject is tortured or is threatened with torture.”

But even Behnke was hedging his bets, as he refused to comment on the question of psychologists being sanctioned for violations. (Of course, all this was before the passage of the APA's new resolution "reaffirming" its torture policy.)

Mitchell returned to the AMA with Behnke's denial of participation and got this statement from the director of AMA's board of trustees:

Since the questions of detainee abuse first surfaced, AMA leaders have met on several occasions with high-ranking officials at the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to advocate for the treatment of detainees that is consistent with AMA ethics policy. Representatives from the AMA have also visited the detention facilities at Guantánamo. These visits provided an opportunity for the AMA to tour the facilities, but our access was limited and at no time did we have a chance to speak with the detainees. Due to the limits placed on the AMA, we are unable to determine with any certainty if ethical policies prohibiting physician involvement in torture are being adhered to by the DoD. The AMA will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for treatment of all detainees in U.S. custody to be in accordance with our AMA Code of Medical Ethics and the medical provisions of the Geneva Conventions.

In other words: see no evil, hear no evil, which amounts to the new moral guidelines of medical and behavioral health associations embedded with Bush's "war on terror".

The non-denial denial of the AMA is disturbing, as is the refusal of the Director of the APA Ethics Office to even comment on APA sanctions against any psychologist who breaks their paper resolution on torture -- a resolution that allows certain kinds of sensory and sleep deprivation, use of drugs and other coercive measures as long as they aren't used in the undefined "interrogation process".

Psychologists and the Military

I think it's clear that psychologists play a distinctive role as consultants to the military. They do this not just in interrogations, but perhaps more broadly in assessment of military commanders, of specialized forces and personnel, as medical providers and clinicians, as designers of training programs and human factors engineering, as well as on general psychological adjustment to military life. But even in histories written on the subject, such as the collection edited by U.S. Army psychologist A. David Mangelsdorff and published by APA Press, Psychology in the Service of National Security, very little is written on the role of psychologists in counterintelligence and operational interrogations activity. This is still considered secret, despite what has been linked to the press. Not secret but suppressed is the massive participation of psychologists and psychiatrists and other social science professionals in the work of preparing modern interrogation techniques, including sensory deprivation, isolation, and use of drugs.

As Mangelsdorff put it:

Security needs of the United States shaped the evolution of its society, the roles and functions of its armed forces, the organization of national security, and the development of psychology... Psychologists play a vital role in military readiness. The story of psychologists in the armed forces addressing national security challenges is the story of the evolution of the science and practice of psychology itself.
As Mitchell's essay demonstrates, the medical sciences in general have been developmentally and organizationally warped by the demands of the neo-totalitarian national security state. Now the question is: what are we going to do about it? Or is it too late to do anything? We had better hope the answer lies in the former, as only demoralization and societal disintegration resides in the latter.

For more information on medical doctors and the ethics of interrogation, see Dr. Steven Miles' excellent article from the American Journal of Bioethics, 7(4):5, "Medical Ethics and the Interrogation of Guantanamo 063".

For more on the current situation, see psychologist-activist Stephen Soldz's recent article, "APA, torture, and the CIA", in addition to CTLiberal's excellent article on the arrest and torture by U.S. forces of Navy whistleblower Donald Vance, "Whistleblowers on Fraud are Jailed and Tortured".

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Backlash Grows on Psychologist Torture Resolution

My thanks to the ever-energetic Stephen Soldz (whose blog "Science, Psyche, and Society" is must reading) for bringing attention to some major fallout over the American Psychological Association's scandalous so-called anti-torture resolution. This resolution formally condemned torture and cruel, unusual, inhumane and degrading forms of behavior inflicted on detainees in Bush's phony "war on terror". But its fine print gave the stamp of approval to certain forms of torture, including sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, isolation, and even the use of psychotropic drugs on prisoners if not used for the immediate purpose of eliciting information. And the APA put its stamp of approval on psychologists working in settings where basic human rights, like habeas corpus, are not respected.

Soldz has written to colleagues to publicize the editorial in the Houston Chronicle yesterday, "Human wrongs: Psychologists have no place assisting interrogations at places such as Guantanamo Bay":

Though the American Psychological Association "unequivocally condemns torture," its members may still help interrogators at Guantanamo and similar facilities.

Still worse, a number of exposés show that in recent years psychologists have been pivotal in creating some of the most abusive tactics in use since 9/11....

The worst argument for psychologists' presence at interrogations comes from U.S. Army Col. Larry James, director of the psychology department of a military medical center.

"If we lose psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die," he said at the APA meeting. Psychologists, James suggested, can rein or report overzealous violators.

Any interrogation system that teeters so close to atrocities needs more than a psychologist. It requires thorough overhaul and specific bans of the most extreme methods....

No American psychologist should have a part in an interrogation system with the potential to devolve into murder. No American should.

In addition to newspaper condemnations of APA's pathetic resolution, prominent psychologists are responding as well. Well-known psychologist and author Mary Pipher, of Reviving Ophelia fame, has taken up the cause. She has chosen to return an APA Presidential Citation she received in 2006 from then-APA president Gerald Koocher. Koocher has been a big supporter of the current APA position on allowing psychologists to work in Bush's coercive and inhumane detention camps.

Dr. Pipher wrote in a letter to current APA president Sharon Brehm (no link):

President Brehm:

I am writing to inform you that I am returning my Presidential Citation dated 2/02/06 and awarded to me by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Gerald Koocher. I have struggled for many months with this decision, and I make it with pain and sorrow. I was honored to receive this award and proud to be a member of APA. Over the years I have spoken at national conventions many times and had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the APA and its staff. With this letter, I feel as if I am ostracizing a good friend.

I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members’ participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA Black Sites and at Guantanamo . The presence of psychologists has both educated the interrogation teams in more skillful methods of breaking people down and legitimized the process of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.

The behavior of psychologists on these enhanced interrogation teams violates our own Code of Ethics (2002) in which we pledge to respect the dignity and worth of all people, with special responsibility towards the most vulnerable. I consider prisoners in secret CIA-run facilities with no right of habeas corpus or access to attorneys, family or media to be highly vulnerable. I also believe that when any of us are degraded, all of human life is degraded....

I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture (Substitute Motion Three.) Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake....

All of my life I have tried my best to stand up for those with no voices and no power. The prisoners our government labels as enemy combatants are in this category.

I return my citation as a matter of conscience and in the hopes that the APA will reconsider its current unethical position.

The APA has proved it is out of the mainstream of decent society when it approved a resolution that allowed the degradation of its own basic principles, and showed more regard for militarism and abusive treatment than it did consideration for the well-being of individuals at places where psychologists may work.

Shame and infamy upon APA.

It is not too late for APA to call a special meeting of its Council of Representatives to repeal its infamous resolution and approve the original but suppressed resolution for a complete ban on psychologists at Guantanamo, CIA Black Sites, and other prisons where torture rules, and human rights are suppressed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Postmortem: APA Torture Resolution Puzzle

The American Psychological Association (APA) has posted on their site the text of a new resolution passed August 19 on the question of psychologist participation in torture and cruel, unusual, inhumane or degrading practices (CUID) related to interrogation of "enemy combatants".

Written with an attorney's eye to nuances of definition and interpretation, it offers a condemnation of specific torture techniques, and suggests psychologists can refuse to work for interrogations or in settings that use such odious coercive techniques. But what it offers with one hand, it takes back with the other.

A close reading of the resolution shows that not much has changed since the last time APA took up this issue in 2006. I commented then that an abandonment of international laws and treaties in order to rely for definitions of CUID upon U.S. constitutional standards meant an evisceration of protections against involvement in coercive interrogations.

This essay looks closely at the inner workings of this latest resolution by the largest psychological association in the world, and why it is woefully inadequate.

"Reaffirmation" Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

The title of the resolution is long, and even has its own footnote, which already might tell you something: Reaffirmation of the American Psychological Association Position Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Its Application to Individuals Defined in the United States Code as “Enemy Combatants". The footnote refers the reader to the definitions of "unlawful enemy combatant" in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This acceptance of the dubious Bush "war on terror" label for their prisoners from Guantanamo to Iraq to CIA secret prisons ("black sites") is an ominous foreshadowing of APA's true loyalties.

The reaffirmation concerns the fact that APA passed a resolution against torture in 2006, after a handpicked commission, stacked with military personnel that were already involved in suspect interrogation activities, studied the issue of psychologist involvement in national security interrogations. The 2006 resolution used a definition of cruel and unusual punishment or treatment that was taken from the McCain Amendment last year, which relied on an obscure set of legal reservations the U.S. held when ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture back in the early 1990s. These "reservations" were crafted earlier by Reagan and Bush, Sr. attorneys and relied on U.S. definitions of CUID, which are based on federal court interpretations of the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments to the Constitution. I refer readers back to my earlier article for a fuller analysis.

But this reaffirmation of the 2006 position -- formally a denunciation of torture -- by the APA leaves intact the mushy definition around CUID (called "torture-lite" by some), meant to bring in by the back door some hideous techniques of punishment and detention, including isolation, sensory deprivation and overstimulation, and sleep deprivation.

The More Things Change...

The APA is touting how the new 2007 resolution prohibits "specific techniques sometimes used in interrogations and calling on the U.S. government to ban their use". Here is the relevant text from the new resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED that this unequivocal condemnation includes all techniques defined as torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the 2006 Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and the Geneva Convention. This unequivocal condemnation includes, but is by no means limited to, an absolute prohibition for psychologists against direct or indirect participation in interrogations or in any other detainee-related operations in mock executions, water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation, sexual humiliation, rape, cultural or religious humiliation, exploitation of phobias or psychopathology, induced hypothermia, the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances used for the purpose of eliciting information; as well as the following used for the purposes of eliciting information in an interrogation process: hooding, forced nakedness, stress positions, the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate, physical assault including slapping or shaking, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats of harm or death; and isolation, sensory deprivation and over-stimulation and/or sleep deprivation used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to the individual or to members of the individual’s family...
Now, what kind of hairsplitter could I be to criticize such a definite blasting of the kinds of horrible torture techniques used by Bush's military and CIA? Even Physicians for Human Rights is trying to see the cup as half-full. And maybe they are right, but I have strong reservations of my own. Here's what PHR says:
The American Psychological Association's (APA) "unequivocal condemnation" of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA such as water-boarding, mock execution, exploitation of phobias, exposure to extremes of heat and cold reinforces the urgency of abolishing the use of these methods in all intelligence-gathering activities conducted by the US government, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today....

"The action by the American Psychological Association reflects what clinical experience and scientific study have long shown: that these techniques destroy people, amount to torture, and must never, ever be used," stated Leonard S. Rubenstein, President of PHR. "The Bush Administration must immediately follow the APA's resolution by expressly abolishing the use of these techniques by the CIA and all other agents of the US government."

The APA also determined that psychologists should have no role in planning, designing or assisting in these techniques, and urged tribunals to reject testimony elicited by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It recognized, too, that "conditions of confinement" as well as interrogation methods can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The resolution affirms that psychologists may not participate, directly or indirectly, in any activities that amount to or facilitate torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, even when these activities are authorized by law or regulation. [emphases mine]
... The More They Stay the Same

Looking back at APA's long list of prohibited techniques we see something strange in the wording. The first part of the list are odious forms of obvious torture. "Techniques" that are "unequivocally condemned" include rape, mock executions, waterboarding, etc. Note, however, that use of "psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances" are prohibited in instances where they are "used for the purpose of eliciting information". If they are used to sedate or "soften up" a detainee prior to the questioning, drugs are apparently not prohibited.

Even worse is what comes next: a subset of other techniques are also singled out as prohibited when they are "used for the purposes of eliciting information in an interrogation process". These are "hooding, forced nakedness, stress positions, the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate, physical assault including slapping or shaking, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats of harm or death".

A third subset of "prohibited" techniques concerns sensory deprivation and overstimulation, and sleep deprivation. Here, the APA goes completely off the rails. They define these techniques to be prohibited only if "used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm". (Emphasis mine)

Hey, APA, as Stephen Soldz noted at the convention to a number of people: what ever happened to Ethics Principle A of the APA's own Ethics Code?
Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence
Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons...
My objection is this: Not only has APA abandoned its own ethics code, using legalistic language reminiscent of the infamous Yoo and Bybee memos on torture, but they have rescued a set of coercive techniques which do serious harm to individuals who suffer them and are directly against Geneva Convention Common Article Three. These techniques -- like sensory deprivation -- are not typically used in interrogation anyway (except slapping, shaking and threats). They are used as part of an abusive prison environment and constitute coercive conditions of confinement, not interrogation. An individual may suffer isolation or sensory deprivation or stress positions for many months without even being questioned!

Why would the APA allow this? Also, why did the APA fight hard to defeat an amendment to their new resolution that would have allowed psychologists to serve only a health-care related function at U.S. "enemy combatant" detention centers? Why did APA drop this new resolution in the laps of the voting Council of Reps at the last minute?

APA Proxy War in Intelligence Dispute over Interrogations

When I spoke at the "Town Hall" meeting the night the new resolution was passed, where hundreds of disgruntled and angry psychologists came to speak their pain and anger over the APA still allowing psychologist participation at detention camps that violate international human rights law, I explained that the parsing of language over "prohibited techniques" was consonant with the division within the military and intelligence community over the introduction of SERE reversed-engineered torture techniques into Bush's prison camps. It cannot be a coincidence that techniques associated with SERE-style torture are "unequivocally prohibited", while techniques engineered by the CIA decades ago and codified in their KUBARK Counterintelligence Manual (like use of drugs, sensory deprivation, etc.) are only conditionally banned. (SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, and is a military program to "stress inoculate" military officers and other personnel against abusive POW experience.)

In my analysis, within the government, SERE is under heavy investigation. The release of a Pentagon Inspector General Report condemning SERE psychologists for bringing abusive practices to prisons from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan is leading to hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee this fall. Meanwhile, the CIA is granted carte blanche via executive order by President Bush to use "enhanced" techniques of interrogation at secret "black sites" abroad. In Bob Dylan's words, "You don't need a weather man / To know which way the wind blows."

The APA has been the obedient servant of military needs since its inception. In future articles, I will explore some of this history. Meanwhile, APA anti-torture activists are still reeling from recent events, trying to find the silver lining to some of APA's statements, or withdrawing in fatigue and demoralization.
One thing is for sure: the fight against abuse of state power, and misuse of scientific knowledge in the service of same, is a struggle that will go on for a long, long time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

APA Fails on Torture Question

Just got home from a full day at the convention. I'm too tired to write up a full diary/analysis of the APA's voting on the torture issue.

I'll try to get something up tomorrow night. Meanwhile, bottom line, nothing much changed. APA psychologists will still staff detainee prisons that don't allow human rights, like habeas corpus. On the other hand, psychologists are banned from participating in SERE-style torture, like waterboarding, mock executions, sexual humiliation, etc. But CIA techniques like sensory deprivation and isolation and sleep deprivation are not "prohibited" conditions when they are used as part of detention conditions, and not as part of the "interrogation process".

I would note these are my first impressions of the situation, and the implications of this latest APA torture resolution are partly unclear. The text was dropped on the APA Council of Representatives (who do the voting) less than 24 hours before the vote. The initial speaker from the division of APA that represents military psychologists, and who had helped craft the so-called anti-torture resolution, got a short laugh when he admitted that council members hadn't even time to read the resolution fully before having to vote upon it.

"Don't worry," the military psychologist rep told the crowd. "You can trust us."

There are lots of angry and disappointed people, 200 of whom filled a boisterous town meeting later that day. (Who says psychologists can't be passionate and committed, or at least some of them?)

I'll have more to say later...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Edge of the Precipice: APA Meets the Devil's Details

The American Psychological Association is set to pass a new resolution regarding psychologists at national security interrogations. Tomorrow (8/19) is the showdown, at the APA Council of Representatives meeting.

The APA is on the edge of complete capitulation. Physicians for Human Rights saw fit to write a letter to APA warning it that the language they wish to use in their new resolution, re its definition of what constitutes isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, will set things back, not move them forward.

From the letter from new PHR president Leonard Rubenstein to Stephen Behnke, APA Ethics Chair (no link -- I'm transcribing):

I am writing now to share one urgent concern I have discussed with Neil Altman [author of a moratorium resolution on psychologist participation in national security interrogations] about a qualification to the list of unacceptable interrogation techniques that could threaten to undermine the resolution, which is entirely unnecessary and is easily corrected. That is the qualification that isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation are only condemned if they lead to severe pain. Disapproval of other techniques is not so qualified. As you know, the Convention against Torture and other laws hold that all techniques that cause sever pain amount to torture. The entire point of listing the techniques is a statement by the APA that based on its knowledge and judgment, they amount to severe pain; moreover, they amount to cruel treatment. Condemning these techniques only if they cause severe pain is no different than not listing them at all. I note, too, that the language is actually worse than the board adopted last month. The entire qualification should be stricken -- just as there are no qualifications in the listing of other techniques....

If the APA cannot see clear to condemn them, but simply refers back to the Convention Against Torture, it will have gravely compromised the commitment it has made to oppose torture in all forms by our country.

"The Devil is in the Details"

For those who are confused, guess what? You've got it! You're supposed to be confused. The APA is crafting a resolution that is meant to sound anti-torture, using legalistic terms that seem innocuous, but have great meaning in federal courts. Intent to cause "severe pain" is a very difficult thing to prosecute. It almost never is, at least when it comes to torture and government officials. By crafting exceptions to the definitions of these techniques, the pro-torture forces are seeking to maintain the core program of their coercion paradigm: solitary confinement, sensory and sleep deprivation, which together work to break down an individual's psyche.

APA convention events on interrogation issues are constituted to appear even-handed. But the debate between anti-torture forces and the military is one-sided. Not because anti-torture activists aren't getting their say, but because of the tremendous weight of the U.S. government, and the psychological reality that conformity to power is a tremendously strong motivator. In addition, it's believed that the pro-government, pro-military forces already have the majority on the Council. It's not clear that the old moratorium resolution, or a new amendment crafted by Neil Altman and others that attempts to sneak a moratorium of sorts into the new resolution, will even be allowed to come to a vote.

Altman's amendment calls for psychologists only to work in health care roles, not as advisers to interrogation or conditions of detention. I still find this unacceptable, but it may be the most anti-torture forces can hope for at this point... if there's any reason left to hope at all.

After tomorrow, we'll know if my pessimism was merited.

Friday, August 17, 2007

News Brief from APA Convention

There was a great turnout for the rally against APA collaboration with the CIA and Department of Defense on interrogations today in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens. The rally, put on by Psychologists for an Ethical APA, capped a day of workshops at the APA's "mini-convention" examining the role of psychologists in national security interrogations. About 250 psychologists and anti-torture activists listened to speakers from around the country denounce APA's pro-military interrogation policy, and speak for a moratorium against psychologists collaboration with military interrogations and camps where indefinite detention and other abusive practices of detention take place.

The rally was covered by Democracy Now! Amy Goodman also interviewed Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner, two prominent APA activists who have been working to change APA policy. The interview can be watched or read in transcript here.

Readers of this blog will have to wait for any substantive analysis by myself, as events are unfolding at a dizzying, rapid pace, e.g., there is talk of another new "compromise" resolution between anti-torture forces, the division of military psychology, and the APA Board. In the meantime, I can report that the interrogation workshops were filled, standing room only, with about 300-350 participants per workshop, many of them speaking out against the history and practice of psychologist collaboration with the U.S. torture practice.

The highlight thus far of the event was the presentation by psychologist Jean Marie Arrigo, who detailed the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that made the APA's 2005 Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) a made-in-the-Pentagon farce. Arrigo quoted a statement by David DeBatto, a counterintelligence professional, retired from the U.S. Army, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom:

My interpretations of the PENS task force and DoD members being in on meetings and representing positions of high level government decision makers is very clear. They were there, in my opinion, basically to observe, to spy, if you will, and to report back to the DoD. This goes way, way up in the Department of Defense in my professional opinion. Probably as high as a deputy secretary, and beyond that, it definitely has the ear of the Secretary of Defense.

That's only one revelation from the convention. There's much more to report in the days to come. Meanwhile, the political tide flows towards the Sunday morning meeting of the APA Council of Representatives, which will consider potentially competing resolutions on psychologist participation in national security interrogations. Will psychologists join their sister organizations in medicine and psychiatry and forbid their members to participate in Bush's lawless interrogations and barbaric sensory deprivation-organized torture camps? Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guilty Verdict in Padilla Case

Breaking: the jury in the Jose Padilla case has just announced a guilty verdict. I don't have time to write a decent story on this at the moment, but the verdict is analyzed over at Firedoglake, which has been excellently covering the trial since day one.

The evidence presented by the prosecution was sparse at best – taped wiretaps of Hassoun and Jayyousi captured discussions of vegetables and family life – discussions the prosecutors claimed were code for terrorist activities rather than humanitarian aid work as claimed by the defense. For Padilla, the hyped charges that initially presented this “jomoke” (to quote Lew) as a “star recruit” for Al Qaeda amounted to a supposed “application” to AQ with seven Padilla fingerprints on it. Blocked from the trial was evidence of the torture of Padilla during the 3 1/2 years he was held as an enemy combatant....

Jonathan Turley on CNN says “many lawyers believed he could secure his freedom” because of his treatment. “The complication is that he has all these issues where he can appeal.”

Meanwhile, only a few days ago, The Christian Science Monitor had an excellent three part series on Padilla, the torture he endured, and the important legal and constitutional issues in this case. There is no way to think about this guilty verdict without feeling outraged. Here's the links to the CSM series:

US terror interrogation went too far, experts say

US Gov't broke Padilla through intense isolation, say experts

Beyond Padilla terror case, huge legal issues

From the CSM articles:

Padilla was delivered to the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., where he was held not only in solitary confinement but as the sole detainee in a high-security wing of the prison. Fifteen other cells sat empty around him.

The purpose of the extraordinary privacy, according to experts familiar with the technique, was to eliminate the possibility of human contact. No voices in the hallway. No conversations with other prisoners. No tapping out messages on the walls. No ability to maintain a sense of human connection, a sense of place or time.

In essence, experts say, the US government was trying to break Padilla's silence by plunging him into a mental twilight zone. Padilla was not the only Al Qaeda suspect locked away in isolation. Although harsh interrogation methods such as water-boarding, forced hypothermia, sleep deprivation, and stress positions draw more media attention, use of isolation to "soften up" detainees for questioning is much more common.

"It is clear that the intent of this isolation was to break Padilla for the purpose of the interrogations that were to follow," says Stuart Grassian, a Boston psychiatrist and nationally recognized expert on the debilitating effects of solitary confinement.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ex-APA President Part of Torture-linked Firm -- APA: See No Evil, Hear No Evil

A former president of the APA, now almost a generation ago, Joseph Matarazzo, has been outed by as one of five "governing people" in the firm Mitchell, Jessen and Associates in Spokane, Washington. Mitchell-Jessen's primary partners, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have been linked to the CIA and military use of torture in Afghanistan and Iraq. Matarazzo is also said to have a financial interest in the firm.

From the SpokesmanReview story by Bill Morlin:

Matarazzo refused repeated interview requests but said in an e-mailed statement that he "is not and never has been involved in the company's operational decisions," and that he only "attends brief and infrequent company meetings."

Matarazzo added in the e-mailed statement: "I have never been involved in the use either of torture or the legal or illegal interrogation of prisoners or anyone else. And I would strongly advise against it. I also have no knowledge of anyone who has been involved in such torture or interrogation."

Brad Olson, chairman of the APA Divisions for Social Justice, called the revelations "shocking and distressing".

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that besides being a well-known psychologist-teacher at Oregon Health & Science University's Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Matarazzo, who retired last June, was heavily involved in the assessment of police officers, and was also a "Distinguished Visiting Professor" at an APA doctoral program for the Air Force at Andrews Air Force Base. The program included a "choice of optional rotations in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, [and] the National Security Agency", among other more health-oriented internship possibilities. (There's nothing necessarily sinister about these latter associations, but they are suggestive of the milieu with which Matarazzo associated.)

According to a recent New Yorker article, Mitchell and Jessen, Matarazzo's partners, were involved in some pretty heavy duty bad behavior:

... the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)....

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

Despite all this, according to Bill Morlin's article, the APA responded with a sputtering utterance of bizarre denial:

APA President Sharon Brehm and Stephen Behnke, the director of APA's Ethics Directorate, both declined comment last week when asked about Matarazzo's ties to the private psychology firm working for the CIA.

"Dr. Matarazzo was president of APA 18 years ago," Rhea Farberman, the organization's director of public affairs, said in a prepared statement.

"Since that time, he has had no active role in APA governance but has been actively involved in the American Psychological Foundation (APF), the charitable giving arm of APA. Dr. Matarazzo currently holds no governance positions in either APA or APF," the statement said.

Matarazzo's "professional activities are outside and independent of any role he has played within APA and APF," the statement said. "We have no direct knowledge about the business dealing of Mitchell's and Jessen's company; however, APA's position is clear – torture or other forms of cruel or inhuman treatment are always unethical." [emphasis added]

So, being involved in torture or associated with torturers, if it is part of one's "professional activities", are not considered any business of the oh-so-staid-but-"liberal" American Psychological Association, as long as those activities are "outside and independent of any role... played within APA". No words of condemnation or distress! Without shame, the leadership of the APA continues to bury their head in the sand, the better to assure long-time links between their organization and some of their members with military and intelligence agencies.

Later this week, the APA's Council of Representatives is meeting to consider the role of psychologists in interrogations. With revelations falling upon their heads left and right, they would do well to consider the fate of the APA as any kind of respectable institution and vote to pass a moratorium resolution forbidding the collaboration of psychologists in the U.S. government's illegal and immoral program of coercive interrogation.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Inside Secret CIA Interrogation Program

Also posted at Daily Kos

The August 8 interview Amy Goodman of Demcracy Now! conducts with New Yorker writer Jane Mayer and Jameel Jaffner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Program, makes for more impeachment fodder. Mayer reveals that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) labelled the CIA's detention and interrogation methods "tantamount to torture". The ICRC warned that "U.S. officials responsible for the abusive treatment may have committed 'grave breaches' of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act". Mayer reported on much of this in her recent New Yorker article on the "black sites".

Even more disturbing, if that's possible, the ICRC, which keeps its reports to the government confidential, the better to maintain access to prisoners, reported on all this to the Bush Administration last year, but access to the report was limited to only a trusted few. Following Jaffner's analysis quoted below, I'll bet Gonzales was one of them.

Jaffner is involved in a Freedom of Information Act request for records regarding oncerning treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. He is also author of an upcoming book about torture: Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond. He began his comments with an indictment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his role in the Bush Administration's use of torture.

Well, it's actually, I think, a little frustrating that senior officials, including Alberto Gonzales, have not been held accountable for the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but also elsewhere. We now know that prisoners were abused in US custody all over the world -- Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay. We know that they were abused because of policies that were adopted at the highest levels. Alberto Gonzales is one of the people who participated in constructing the policies that led to the abuse and, in many cases, the torture of prisoners, and yet neither Mr. Gonzales nor any of the other senior officials who were involved in creating those policies have been held to account. I think that, you know, actually, most of the senior officials who should have been held to account have been rewarded instead.

Jaffner also spoke about the linkage between CIA and the military on interrogations:

But one of the things that struck me in reading the article is the numerous similarities between what happened in CIA custody and what happened in military custody. And if you look at how the military developed its techniques, its techniques that led to the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo, for example, they were developed in exactly the same way: by reverse-engineering, these SERE methods, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. These are methods that the military used ultimately against prisoners in its custody, and they are apparently the same methods that the CIA used against prisoners in its custody....

Later in the joint interview, Jane Mayer discusses "the use of psychologists in interrogations as "a way by the CIA to skirt the Convention Against Torture, among other international treaties":

Well, if you take a look at the so-called torture memos, the forty pages or so of memos that were written by Jay Bybee and John Yoo way back right after 9/11, and you take a look at how they -- they're busy looking at the Convention Against Torture, basically, it seems, trying to figure a way around it. One of the things they argued, these lawyers from the Justice Department, is that if you don't intend to torture someone, if your intention is not just to inflict terrible pain on them but to get information, then you really can't be necessarily convicted of torture.

So how do you prove that your intent is pure? Well, one of the things they suggest is if you consult with experts who will say that what you're doing is just interrogation, then that might also be a good legal defense. And so, one of the roles that these SERE psychologists played was a legal role. They were the experts who were consulted in order to argue that the program was not a program of torture. They are to say, “We've got PhDs, and this is standard psychology, and this is a legitimate way to question people.”

And now the government is trying to continue their campaign, taking it right into the convention of the American Psychological Association, where military psychologists stand ready to introduce a "substitute" resolution on psychologist participation in interrogations, the aim of which is to torpedo an earlier resolution calling for a moratorium on psychologists operating at foreign detention prisons! Jane Mayer hit the nail on the head, asked about the fate of the protest within APA on psychologists invovled in military/CIA interrogations:

And some of the psychologists who were key players in this actually are officials at the APA who have set the policy here. So there's a bit of a sort of a sense of the foxes guarding the chicken house.

So we await the next stage of the fight against the government and its insistence on maintaining the instruments of coercion, of abuse, of torture.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Moment of Truth Arrives: APA & Participation in U.S. Torture

On August 16, the American Psychological Association (APA) opens a five day convention in beautiful San Francisco. Behind the mise en scene of cable cars, wind-whipped fog, hot sourdough bread, and old Victorian gingerbread homes, a crucial political struggle is taking place over the future of coercive interrogation techniques and inhumane detention conducted by U.S. forces in the wrongly-named "war on terror".

In previous posts, I have explained how psychologists have participated in Pentagon and CIA-run torture of so-called "illegal enemy combatants", how there is a long history of this, and how a large group of APA internal critics and anti-torture activists have proposed a moratorium against use of psychologists in all operations concerning detention and interrogation of detainees in foreign prisons and at Guantanamo. A recent article by Jane Mayer at The New Yorker describes the fight within the Pentagon and CIA by some government behavioral scientific professionals against use of torture techniques:

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Unfortunately, this internal opposition by some CIA and military psychologists and psychiatrists proved impotent. No doubt, however, some of what we know about what's going on internally must have come from leaks by such disgruntled and disgusted personnel.

Bureaucratic Vertigo: Resolutions, Amendments, and Votes

Now the scene shifts to the civilized convention meeting rooms of the APA, where, somewhere, the APA's Council of Representatives will meet on Sunday, August 19 to vote on possibly two separate resolutions: one calls for a moratorium against psychologist participation at Guantanamo, in addition to detainee sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, and secret prisons abroad. The APA Board of Directors has proposed a different resolution, which details a number of prohibited interrogation techniques, but fails to support a moratorium, and will allow psychologists to still work in certain defined ways at prisons that allow indefinite detention. Forces within APA are working to derail the first proposal (on a moratorium) in favor of the weaker, new APA-crafted resolution. I detailed all this in my recent article: Will APA Psychology Convention Endorse Indefinite Detention?

Since the existence of this second proposal appears in part meant to remove the moratorium resolution from consideration, i.e., undemocratically not allow it to come to a vote, a number of the moratorium proponents have been working hard to amend the Board's resolution to make it more like the original proposal to ban psychologist participation (a "ban" by the way that was only advisory, with no enforceable provisions).

These amendments, some of which are very helpful, still have a number of problems. Not least is they leave intact the Board resolution's reliance on a definition of "cruel, unusual, inhumane and degrading treatment" (so-called "torture-lite") that is rooted in shifty and inadequate U.S. constitutional so-called protections, and not on international laws and treaties, which are much more specific in their protections. Consider the barbaric practices that exist in U.S. "supermax" prisons, and you get the idea. Additionally, the amendments fall short on nailing down the definition of certain prohibited techniques, creating loopholes for CIA and Pentagon torture proponents.

Closing the Loopholes

Recently, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) sent a letter to APA President Sharon Brehm calling for a vote on both proposals, and suggesting changes of their own to the Board's proposal to strengthen it. Their changes are worth noting:

We understand, of course, that the list of techniques in the proposed resolution is, by the very nature of a list, incapable of addressing all possible forms of torture; but the list does cover virtually all abusive psychological techniques used by the military and CIA and the Department of Defense since 2002....

To avoid creating loopholes, we urge that the resolution be amended in certain key respects that should not be objectionable:

A. Assure that the description of prohibited techniques leaves no room for ambiguity....

1. The use of isolation and sleep deprivation in interrogation is never permissible (thus eliminating the qualifier that they are condemned only if there is a detriment to health....

2. The use of psychotropic drugs is prohibited;

3. Any exploitation of fears or psychopathology (not just phobias) is unacceptable; and

4. Participation “during” interrogation is expanded to include “or in connection with detention,” because we now know that practices such as isolation, sleep deprivation, and use of persistent loud music have been used as part of a strategy to break down individuals both inside and outside the interrogation room....

The Board’s resolution serves to underscore the importance of other actions we urged in my letter of June 14, especially adopting a stance that psychologists not participate in the interrogation of individual detainees by performing pre-interrogation assessments, designing interrogation plans, assisting in interrogation, monitoring interrogation, or otherwise.

Brehm the Decider

Addressing the PHR letter to Sharon Brehm is more than just an organizational gesture, one organization speaking to the administrative head of another organization. In the APA internal struggle -- one you can be sure is monitored by the military, the CIA, and perhaps even by the White House itself, as the loss of APA support would be a huge blow to the attempt to make Bush's "war on terror" antidemocratic and torture techniques legitimate -- the battle of the two resolutions is likely to be partly decided by Brehm herself, as she is both APA President and also the presiding officer of the Council. This is because the APA Parliamentarian has asked her to judge the procedural matter in such a way that she may make the key decision as to whether the moratorium decision is allowed to come to a vote.

As one insider explained:

Thus, a member — indeed, THE most important member of the Board of Directors — is in a position to rule on the legitimacy of a motion that has been put forward by herself and her own Board of Directors!

Is the "fix" in? Or will Brehm allow, as many suggest, both resolutions to come to a vote? (The idea that the Board's resolution was meant to overturn the moratorium resolution and by the Council's own rules should be thrown out and only the moratorium resolution come to a vote is, while supported by a few, probably a non-starter.)

No one knows what Brehm will do. But one wonders if she wants to go down as the APA president that allowed continued psychologist participation in coercive detentions, and de facto endorsement of working at facilities that allow hellish indefinite (and often solitary) detention. Then again, the blandishments of the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA must be considerable, and the voice of the APA's own Society for Military Psychology (Division 19 of the APA) remains strong and vociferous against any moratorium.

Summing Up

This has been a long and complicated post, especially for those who may not have kept up with this political fight in the Siberia of American politics. But it is not an insignificant tussle. As recent articles in Vanity Fair, the Washington Monthly, The New Yorker, and elsewhere have made clear, the fight over psychologist participation in torture is central to how Bush and Cheney conduct their criminal "war on terror" abroad, with its black site secret prisons, its use of extensive torture and abuse, and its arrogant dismissal of international law and treaties. It's evident the U.S. Congress has little appetite to oppose the Bush regime in any substantive way. That leaves it up to us -- to the rank and file of various civilian organizations, such as the APA -- to fight back against the antidemocratic and criminal impulses and policies both proposed and implemented by the Bush Administration and its compliant Pentagon and CIA toadies.

But perhaps not everybody at Langley and the Pentagon complex are so compliant! There are those within these institutions who want to see the torture and inhumane treatment stop. Perhaps some of these will stand up and reveal more of the inner connections of the Bush war machine with torture and affronts to international law. Perhaps even a few may have something yet to whisper into Sharon Brehm's ear.

Still, it would be foolish to hope much for anything along such lines, as the socialization and organizational pressures of being in the military or intelligence organizations, not to mention on the APA Council or Board of Directors, shapes the context within which these people think and behave. No. It will be up to the APA rank and file, and the general public at large, to the degree they can be mobilized to pressure the APA and their Council of Representatives.

Rally for an Ethical APA

There will be a rally to end APA collaboration with illegal interrogations and torture on Friday, August 17, 4-5:30pm at Yerba Buena Gardens, right by the APA convention. It is endorsed by many psychological organizations, including sections of the APA, as well as by prominent individuals and organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights, Tikkun, School of the Americas Watch, Robert Jay Lifton, MD, Steven Miles, MD, and others. There will be speakers and music. Come show your support.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pentagon Endorses Christian Apocalyptic Video Games for Troops

Max Blumenthal has an article up at The Nation's blog, The Notion, entitled "Kill or Convert, Brought to You by the Pentagon". It describes how an evangelical Christian group, Operation Straight Up (OSU), has received Pentagon permission to send a controversial video game entitled "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" in their "Freedom Packages" to U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Like much of politics today, the entire story has an air of unreality about it, the kind of unreality that one feels after awaking from a particularly disturbing and frightening nightmare.

From Blumenthal's article:

The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books [which have sold 65 million copies and are second only to the Bible in sales of Christian books], the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist. (Video preview here).

According to some accounts, the video game makers hope to distribute a million copies of this game to churches throughout the U.S., so soldiers will not be alone in getting their chance to fantasize being a soldier of God who gets to kill (or convert -- does one get more points for one over the other?) infidel Jews, Muslims, Hindus, athiests, Wiccans, etc. This should go over big in neighborhoods from Fallujah to Karachi! One wonders how many pimply-faced church goers or bored and terrified soldiers will choose to play the game with the reverse option, as a general serving Antichrist.

More seriously, how many U.S. soldiers will now die because of inflamed passions against this neo-Crusader propaganda?

One of OSU's biggest names is Stephen Baldwin, the actor, whose craft is protected by the same first amendment which, by his organizational affiliations, he desecrates along with unknown Pentagon officials allied with OSU. But then, this is a secular desecration, isn't it?

I'm reminded of a passage by Milton, someone who knew Satan intimately, and Jesus, too.

For neither man nor angel can discern / Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks / Invisible...

Ah, Milton, not invisible anymore, but manipulated by joysticks, right-wing generals, pulp fiction zealots, and oblivious politicians.

Monday, August 6, 2007

6 August 1945

We remember.

From the Uranium Information Centre (UIC) in Australia, Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper No. 29.

The Effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombs

The devastating effects of both kinds of bombs depended essentially upon the energy released at the moment of the explosion, causing immediate fires, destructive blast pressures, and extreme local radiation exposures. Since the bombs were detonated at a height of some 600 metres above the ground, very little of the fission products were deposited on the ground beneath. Some deposition occurred however in areas near to each city, owing to local rainfall occurring soon after the explosions. This happened at positions a few kilometres to the east of Nagasaki, and in areas to the west and north-west of Hiroshima....

In Hiroshima, of a resident civilian population of 250 000 it was estimated that 45 000 died on the first day and a further 19 000 during the subsequent four months. In Nagasaki, out of a population of 174 000, 22 000 died on the first day and another 17 000 within four months. Unrecorded deaths of military personnel and foreign workers may have added considerably to these figures....

From the estimated radiation levels, however, it is apparent that radiation alone would not have been enough cause death in most of those exposed beyond a kilometre of the ground zero below the bombs. Most deaths appear to have been from the explosion rather than the radiation....

The total number of casualties at the Japan bomb sites is estimated at around 200,000. Estimates of casualties is a complicated affair, and a detailed discussion and breakdown of figures can be found at

From the UIC paper:

The atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons up to 1963 caused people to be exposed to radiation in a quite different way. The Japanese atomic bombs had caused lethal exposures locally from radiation at the time of the explosions, but very little radiation more than a few kilometres away. On the other hand, subsequent atmospheric tests did not cause any substantial direct exposures of people at the time of the tests. However, the fission products released into the atmosphere caused the whole world population to be exposed to very low but continuing annual doses from fallout. In at least two instances these fission products also caused substantial irradiation to small populations exposed to local fallout close to the site of testing.

A Hiroshima Victim Remembers

CBS television reporter David R. Ford visited the Atomic Bomb Hospital in Hiroshima, twenty years to the day the bomb fell on that city. He interviewed a woman there suffering from terminal radiation poisoning. She had no hair or nose, and a bandage around her eyes. She recounted the day that destroyed her life and changed the world:

"I was 13. I was in our school yard chatting with schoolmates, waiting for the bell to ring for school to begin. I saw a blue-red flash. It was like another sun. Minutes later, thousands of people were screaming in agony. Many were naked from the concussion, their bodies black. Blood was coming from all their body openings. For many, the flesh had been stripped, and hung so that one could see the bones. For some, it was like someone cut you with a razor at least a quarter-inch deep from shoulder to shoulder, then pulled the meat all the way down to your hips. Then burned you with a blow torch. I didn't know then how badly I was injured. A school friend raised her hand for me to help her. I reached for her hand. The skin came off like a glove, to the elbow. I vomited. Thousands of people were screaming and crawling to the river, desperate for water. As they drank, they died in horrible pain, filling the river like pieces of driftwood."

Pause. Think. Feel. Only silence is appropriate at this point.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Operation Phoenix Reborn: New Yorker Expose on CIA "Black Sites"

Jane Mayer at the New Yorker has written a riveting piece on the recent history of the CIA recent torture program, The Black Sites: A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program. The article helps us better piece together the history of CIA and military interrogation post 9/11, even if some of the information is fragmentary and contradictory.

One of the most startling revelations is that the CIA turned to its own history, resurrecting the techniques and model of its Operation Phoenix terror-torture program in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. While a program of "state-sanctioned torture and murder", where over 97% of the Vietnamese victimized were "of negligible importance", "C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model".

A Wikipedia article on "psychological warfare" notes:

The Phoenix Program had the dual aim of assassinating Viet Cong personnel and terrorizing any potential sympathizers or passive supporters. When members of the VCI were assassinated, CIA and Special Forces operatives placed playing cards in the mouth of the deceased as a calling card. During the Phoenix Program, over 19,000 Viet Cong supporters were killed.

Researcher Michael Otterman in his superlative examination of CIA/Pentagon torture over the years, American Torture, wrote of the Phoenix Program:

Phoenix was a CIA operation aimed at eliminating the Vietcong civilian infrastructure (VCI).... Unlike standard military operations, Phoenix targeted civilians, not soldiers. Phoenix was launched in 1965 -- the same year the USA announced it would abide by the Geneva Conventions in Vietnam....

There were two main components to the Phoenix Program: Provisional Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. The PrUs would kill VCI members, terrorise civilians and capture those deemed to have knowledge about VCI structures. At the interrogation centres, CIA interrogators, alongside their Vietnamese counterparts, would torture VCI prisoners in an effort to learn the identity of VCI members in each province....

PRUs were financed by the CIA, composed of Vietnamese fighters, and led on missions by members of the Navy SEALs. (pp. 60-62)

The CIA publishes on its own website the tale of one of Phoenix's prisoners, Nguyen Tai: The Man in the Snow White Cell.

As Tai must have anticipated, his confession did not end his ordeal. After giving him a short rest as a reward, his South Vietnamese interrogators came back with a request that he provide details about his personal background and history. Tai refused, and the torture resumed. He was kept sitting on a chair for weeks at a time with no rest; he was beaten; he was starved; he was given no water for days; and he was hung from the rafters for hours by his arms, almost ripping them from their sockets. After more than six months of interrogation and torture, Tai felt his physical and psychological strength ebbing away; he knew his resistance was beginning to crack. During a short respite between torture sessions, to avoid giving away the secrets he held in his head during the physical and psycho-logical breakdown he could feel coming, Tai tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists.

Hung by his arms from the rafters? Bashing his head against the wall? This is exactly what we read in Jane Mayer's article Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Al Queda "mastermind" kept in isolation and tortured by the CIA endured, along with other "high-profile" detainees, endured.

According to sources, Mohammed said that, while in C.I.A. custody, he was placed in his own cell, where he remained naked for several days. He was questioned by an unusual number of female handlers, perhaps as an additional humiliation. He has alleged that he was attached to a dog leash, and yanked in such a way that he was propelled into the walls of his cell. Sources say that he also claimed to have been suspended from the ceiling by his arms, his toes barely touching the ground....

Professor Kassem said his Yemeni client, Kazimi, had told him that, during his incarceration in the Dark Prison, he attempted suicide three times, by ramming his head into the walls. “He did it until he lost consciousness,” Kassem said. “Then they stitched him back up. So he did it again. The next time, he woke up, he was chained, and they’d given him tranquillizers. He asked to go to the bathroom, and then he did it again.”

The Mayer piece also describes a confidential International Red Cross report on the secret detentions that according to sources makes it clear that torture took place:

One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.
You can see in Mayer's New Yorker article the tension between two competing narratives. On one hand, like the recent Katherine Eban piece in Vanity Fair, some of Mayer's seek to make SERE psychologists responsible for the CIA's fall into torture, believing the CIA not to have any experienced torturers, oops, I mean interrogators on hand in October 2001. Elsewhere in the New Yorker article, someone tries to tell her the CIA has no experience in running prisons, something which the Phoenix history itself contradicts. On the other hand, Mayer alludes to the previous history of the Agency (the Phoenix material, the decades of sensory deprivation research, the quick transformation of the CIA program into strict professionalism, etc.), which is steeped in torture experience.

As the Red Cross report points to some serious legal and political repercussions -- someone seems to feel that congressional scandal and prosecutions are inevitable -- a scramble is taking place to selectively leak and to mold the narrative of what happened and who's responsible.

The history of American torture is a veritable lost continent of criminal activity with links to the highest levels of the U.S. government and civilian establishment. The time has come to expose the entire substance of this awful truth, and bring those responsible for crimes against humanity, ostensibly done in our names, to justice -- fair, swift, humane, and inevitable.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Enhanced" Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality

Human Rights First (HRF) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) have jointly published a new report, "Leave No Marks: 'Enhanced' Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality" (download the full report (PDF) here).

The context of its release involves the Bush Administrations issuance of new interrogation guidelines to the CIA, guidelines that appear to allow the continued use of torture and cruel and degrading or inhumane treatment of government detainees in the "war on terror". The other major context concerns the ongoing battle to keep medical professionals from participating in coercive interrogations in illegal places of detention -- a battle that is being fought out most imminently in the listservs and council chambers of the American Psychological Association.

From the HRF/PHR Executive Summary (footnotes in text must be referenced through link):

All U.S. personnel who engage in the CIA's so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques and similarly abusive techniques are at serious risk of violating U.S. law. Under U.S. law, as detailed below, the severity of physical pain or mental harm caused by an interrogation technique is key to determining whether the technique can be considered torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. An extensive body of medical literature, derived from the treatment and study of torture survivors worldwide, demonstrates that the "enhanced" techniques are likely to cause significant physical and mental harm to detainees. As a result, officials and interrogators who authorize and participate in interrogations using these techniques face a substantial risk of criminal liability under the provisions prohibiting "torture" and "cruel or inhuman treatment" in the U.S. War Crimes Act (WCA), as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA),[1] and under The Torture Convention Implementation Act of 1994 (the Torture Act).[2] Many of these interrogation techniques may also be prohibited by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA).[3] To protect U.S. officials and personnel from potential criminal liability and to ensure that all U.S. personnel adhere to U.S. law, these techniques should not be authorized.

The CIA "Enhanced" Interrogation Methods

On July 20, 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order interpreting the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to a program of detention and interrogation by the CIA.[4] The order does not clarify what techniques the CIA can and cannot lawfully engage in. Press accounts, citing anonymous Administration officials, suggest that at least one of the "enhanced" techniques, waterboarding, may no longer be used. The fact that the Administration officials may have ruled out some "enhanced" techniques, though, raises serious questions about whether the CIA guidelines implementing the Executive Order will permit Agency interrogators to resume the other techniques previously authorized.[5]

While the details of the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation program remain classified, credible reports have disclosed several of the techniques that were authorized in March 2002 for use in the program, including water-boarding (mock drowning), exposure to extreme cold (including induced hypothermia), stress positions, extreme sensory deprivation and overload, shaking, striking, prolonged sleep deprivation, and isolation, among others.[6] Without identifying specifically approved techniques, the President has, in the past, publicly endorsed "alternative interrogation methods," and declared that the MCA, which he signed into law in October 2006, allows the CIA "program" to continue.[7] The new executive order fails explicitly to rule out the use of the "enhanced" techniques that the CIA authorized in March 2002.

The Executive Order does state clearly that any program of detention and interrogation approved by the Director of Central Intelligence may not include any acts prohibited by the War Crimes Act or the Torture Act. Yet a close analysis of the War Crimes Act and other U.S. law, informed by medical and psychological expertise, reveals that these "enhanced" interrogation techniques, may constitute "torture" and/or "cruel or inhuman treatment" and, consequently, authorization of their use under the Executive Order would place interrogators at serious legal risk of prosecution for war crimes or other violations.

A recently declassified report by the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealed that these techniques were based in large part on techniques of torture and cruelty used by the U.S military in its Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program. The SERE program was intended to train personnel to resist interrogation under such abuse if captured.[8] According to the OIG, these techniques were transformed, with the assistance of military psychologists, into "standard operating procedure" (SOP) for interrogations at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. This Guantánamo SOP, the OIG reports, also was brought to Afghanistan and Iraq and, according to media reports, provided a basis for techniques used by CIA personnel, also with assistance from psychologists.[9] The origin of these techniques is directly related to the focus of this report. They were designed to inflict physical and psychological harm for the purpose of breaking down interrogation subjects. This report describes the nature and extent of that harm and the legal consequences to interrogators of employing techniques that cause it....

There must be no mistake about the brutality of the "enhanced interrogation methods" reportedly used by the CIA. Prolonged sleep deprivation, induced hypothermia, stress positions, shaking, sensory deprivation and overload, and water-boarding (which may still be authorized), among other reported techniques, can have a devastating impact on the victim's physical and mental health. [emphases added in bold]

Interested readers should go read the whole report.

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