Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"How Government Tries To Mess With Your Mind"

There's a very good podcast interview by Lew Rockwell of author Doug Valentine on the question about government infiltration of the media. Really, given the massive amounts of money spent, as Valentine points out in the interview, by the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the CIA on propaganda meant for both foreign and domestic consumption, I don't know if infiltration is even the right word anymore.

The question of government influence on the media, particularly through direct intervention, is not one that is often aired in media circles, for obvious reasons. But it's important to know this kind of history, as it's not about the past, but about our present and our future. My thanks to Doug and Lew for such a stimulating discussion.

Listen directly to podcast by clicking here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Are Politics Why IMAP Won't Publish Until 2013 Their Report on Doctors and Torture?

In 2010, the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP), along with the Soros-financed Open Society Institute (OSI) convened a Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers. On June 1, 2012, I received an email notification that the TF report "is now complete." But much to my surprise, the report was not due for release, however, until "early 2013."

Entitled "Doing Harm: Physician Participation in Interrogation and Torture, it is the result of two years of analysis by the Task Force, which was comprised of human rights, legal and medical experts," the email said. "They analyzed the role that health professionals played in the torture and interrogation of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. This topic has never been investigated in such depth and contains original research, analysis and policy recommendations."

IMAP has published a brief excerpt from the introduction to the report at their website. Here it is in toto:
“Everyone concerned with the integrity of medical professionalism and respect for human rights considers the participation of physicians in the interrogation and torture of military prisoners to be an egregious and alarming violation of the precepts of medical ethics and international conventions. Medical oaths and international declarations unambiguously prohibit and condemn such behavior. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of 9/11, these violations occurred at the detention camps in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. How did physicians and other health professionals come to participate in these activities? Why were accepted principles and codes ignored? What we can we learn from these events to prevent future occurrences? These are the central questions this report addresses—and although their significance is self-evident, they are by no means simple to answer.”
The Task Force Includes a Guantanamo Official

Initially, the task force membership was not public, but at the insistence of Jason Leopold and myself, IMAP published the list of members on their website. It's a formidable listing of experts in medical abuse and torture and medical ethics. It includes anti-torture candidate for presidency of the American Psychological Assocation, Steven Reisner; physicians Vincent Iacopino and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Stephen Xenakis, who wrote a PLoS research article last year concluding that military medical personnel at Guantanamo "neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm" of detainees; Physicians for Human Rights Chairman of the Board Robert Lawrence; former American Psychiatric Association president Steven Sharfstein; ethicist George Annas; Deborah Popowski from Harvard's International Human Rights Clinic, and a number of others.

Interestingly, the IMAP TF included a former Guantanamo medical official, Captain (ret.) Albert Shimkus, Jr., who had been Chief Surgeon for JTF-160 at Guantanamo until mid-2003, and commanding officer at the Naval Base Hospital during the same period. Shimkus was not a doctor, but a nurse practitioner. Currently he teaches National Security Affairs at the U.S. Navy War College.

Of much importance to me, and presumably my readers, he was the official who signed off on the medical SOP that dosed every detainee entering Guantanamo with treatment-level doses of the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (also known as Lariam).

The unprecedented use of the drug, whose controversial history of side effects was already a subject of debate and research within the Department of Defense and CDC, was criticized by some public health experts. It was also the subject of an investigation by the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, published the same time as Jason Leopold and I issued the first of our Guantanamo mefloquine reports. The bulk of the public health field, however, stayed quiet on the subject; none came out in support of the measure, however.

More recently, government documents show that anti-malaria drugs were once used by the CIA as chemical "incapacitants." It remains an open question whether mefloquine was used in such a fashion on the Guantanamo prisoners, but the fact that two suicides at the facility were tested specially for the presence of meflqoquine at autopsy years after the administration of mefloquine raises questions about use of the drug on these detainees, and in general on all the prisoners.

The TF members I spoke to were nonplussed by the presence of Shimkus on the panel. None of the TF members had reacted strongly to the mefloquine revelations, although two members, Iacopino and Dr. Scott Allen, did say "the questionable use of mefloquine for malaria prevention at Guantanamo underscores the need for transparency of detention policies and procedures” at the prison facility. At the time they gave this quote to Leopold and myself, we were unaware that they were on the IMAP TF panel with Shimkus, and they did not reveal that to us.

Another TF panel member told me that by April 2011, the TF had only met twice. Shimkus was present at both meetings, and seemed "regretful and decent."

Captain Shimkus has always been responsive to my queries to him about the Guantanamo-mefloquine story, although responsive doesn't mean fully open. He explained there were things that were classified and he was unable to talk about, or was told specifically not to talk about. In addition, he never seemed "regretful" about anything he did or policies undertaken from a medical standpoint at Guantanamo. He disagreed with the conclusions of Drs. Iacopino and Xenakis about medical neglect and/or cover-up at Guantanamo, and he maintained, in more than one interview, that he consulted on the mefloquine SOP and it was undertaken for public health reasons and was nothing more than that.

The Politics of Delay

According to IMAP's tax return covering 2009, IMAP spent over $70,000 on a project looking at "Medical Professionalism and Dual Loyalty," a task force of military/department of defense experts; legal and human rights experts, and medical experts; to develop institutional mechanisms for preventing involvement of health professionals in interrogation and detainee abuse." This certainly seems a noble undertaking.

By 2010, according to IMAP tax records, it would seem this project metamorphosed into the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers, with expenses over $92,000. And now the TF has completed its work, but the report won't be published until 2013. On June 12 I wrote to IMAP Chief Operating Officer, Michael Pardy, and asked him why the big delay.

Pardy wrote back the next day, explaining, "The publication date is tentative. We are moving it along as quickly as possible."

I felt that was still too vague for reporting purposed, so I wrote back:
OK, but for the purposes of an article I'm writing, the announced tentative publication date is still early 2013, is that correct? I really don't understand if the report is "done," that the publication could take so long. Either you are much more poorly funded than I thought (and I don't believe that is the case), or it appears to me the publication is being held back until after the election for political purposes.

Also, I was wondering if you could say if the report intends to cover at all the issue of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams [BSCT] run by the Department of Defense?
I have yet to get a reply. Other task force members I asked about the delay in publishing, or the BSCT issue either didn't know, or did not answer my query. One person did say that the medical-ethical controversies over use of doctors and the force-feeding of detainees would be addressed in the report.

There is nothing in the delay in publishing that is nefarious, necessarily. And who really cares, in the end, what IMAP publishes or not, as the details are meant for medical journals and the medical or public policy elite, and not read by the general public?

But the question of medical ethics in the context of the US military's "war on terror" and DoD and CIA history in relation to torture and interrogation, including use of doctors and psychologists in the interrogation of detainees, in the monitoring of torture, and the construction of individualized torture protocols, is of high relevance and interest to the public at large.

I suspect, as I mentioned in the email to Pardy, the delay is due to the elections, with the intent to bury the problematic torture issue since it embarrasses the administration before its more liberal or human rights supporters. The embarrassment stems from President Obama's policy of non-accountability for the Bush-era torture program. His administration does not support the "looking back" at these issues that would bring about prosecutions, more investigations, or other forms of accountability. And the administration's supporters and backers pretty closely toe the party line on such things.

But it is sickening to think that human beings suffer in isolation and under indefinite detention, endure brutal ERF beatings, not to mention ongoing interrogations under the Army Field Manual's Appendix M protocols, in part because it would be politically inopportune to highlight their abuse before November 2012. In essence, the issue of detainee abuse is subordinated to the exigencies of American electoral politics.

Appendix M, by the way, includes, besides isolation, use of sleep deprivation and forms of sensory deprivation, which the manual advocates using in combination with the techniques that induce "debility" in prisoners (for instance, dietary manipulation), as well as use of techniques that produce emotional abuse ("Ego Down") and fear-generating treatment or manipulation of phobias, all with the intention of breaking-down the detainee... for what? Guantanamo is a "strategic interrogation center," according to government sources, and the interrogations there are not about operationally imminent intelligence, e.g. the so-called ticking bomb.

The answer is: for production of intelligence agents for use by the government, as well as the production of more false confessions, and cooperation with show trials, just as, for instance, Stalin used such torture when similar forms of prisoner abuse and interrogation was used by the NKVD once upon a time. It is possible as well that certain forms of experiments are conducted on these prisoners under the auspices of field trials of various instruments, procedures, or detention policies.

IMAP should heed its supposed call for change in the area of medical ethics and quickly publish their findings for the public. At the very least, an Executive Summary of the report could be published online. There is no excuse not to do this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Come See California Premier of "Doctors of the Dark Side"

American Friends Service Committee, Physicians for Human Rights, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility are co-sponsoring the California premier of “Doctors of the Dark Side.” Martha Davis’s critically acclaimed documentary will be followed by a panel discussion, which will include yours truly, along with anti-torture activist Ruth Fallenbaum, Ph.D., solitary confinement expert and UC Santa Cruz professor Craig Haney, MD, and Bob Flax, Ph.D. of Saybrook University.

[Update, 6/26: Event organizers have informed me Dr. Haney will not be able to attend, and he will be replaced with another panel participant.]

"Doctors of the Dark Side" describes the complicity of doctors and psychologists in the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The website for the film project is www.doctorsofthedarkside.com. To see a preview clip of the film, made by Martha Davis, Ph.D. and an award-winning crew, including Oscar-winners Mark Jonathan Harris (Writer), Mercedes Ruehl (Narrator), and Emmy-winner Lisa Rinzler (Director of Photography), click here.

The event will held Saturday, June 30, 7:00-9:30 PM (doors open at 6:30), at Delancy Theater, 600 Embarcadero St., San Francisco. The event is free, and it is wheelchair accessible. Donations will be welcomed.

Interested readers can also view a new video, "How to Help Doctors Prevent Torture." This is a nine-minute introduction to the crucial role of physicians and psychologists in the detainee torture program and how new state legislation could stop this post-9/11 misuse of health care professionals and secure them as a force for torture prevention. It is made with excerpts and additional footage from the documentary "Doctors of the Dark Side."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Slapping David Shedd, Part 2, or How to Spin the Torture Story in Two Simple Lessons

Marcy Wheeler's over at Emptywheel picked up on Daniel Klaidman's version of Bush CIA Director Michael Hayden's December 2008 briefing of then-President-elect Barack Obama, and in particular of Hayden's defense of certain interrogation techniques then in use by the CIA.

Wheeler notes the discrepancy between the kinds of techniques Hayden said were in use at that time and the techniques approved by Bush's Department of Justice Office of Legal Council in the final year of that administration. Steven Bradbury was the author of these memos, of which the most substantive appears to be his July 20, 2007 memo to John Rizzo, then-CIA Acting General Counsel on "Application of the War Crimes Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to Certain Techniques That May Be Used by the CIA in the Interrogation of High Value Al Qaeda Detainees."

Now in that memo, the techniques the CIA proposed as "necessary" were "dietary manipulation," "extended sleep deprivation," "insult (or facial) slap," "facial hold," "attention grasp," and "abdominal slap." The latter four are meant to shock the detainees, who supposedly (and this is a lie on Bradbury's part) believe the U.S. will not touch them during interrogation.

How Bradbury can get away with such a statement three years after the Abu Ghraib revelations is strange enough, but the Manchester Manual explicitly told detainees to expect physical maltreatment from intelligence agency interrogations, as former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan pointed out in his book The Black Banners: "It was on the basis of the information in this manual that the two [former SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen] reportedly concluded that harsh techniques would be needed to break al-Qaeda detainees.... This constituted a misreading of the Manchester manual and in fact Boris’s [CIA/EIT] techniques played into what the manual instructed captured terrorists to do.”

But that's not what I'm here to write about today.

Klaidman's tale of the Hayden briefing was actually told once before, but I've not seen anyone note that. Bob Woodward wrote about it in his book, Obama's Wars, back in 2010, and I analyzed that portion of Woodward's narrative in a posting at Firedoglake not long after.

Learn this Mantra: "Debility, Dread, Dependency"

In Woodward's earlier version of the account of Hayden’s Shedd shaking we get a somewhat different listing of what techniques Hayden was selling Obama.

Woodward's version:
Hayden said: Isolation of the detainee; noise or loud music; and lights in the cells 24 hours a day. There was limited use of shackles when moving a prisoner or when the prisoner was a danger. In addition, blindfolds were used when moving prisoners or when the prisoners might gain information that could compromise the security of the facility.
And then followed Hayden's demonstration of the facial slap upon Director of National Intelligence Deputy Director for Policy Shedd. "Then [Hayden] shook the deputy DNI." The latter could be construed as the "attention grasp," which, per Bradbury's memo cited above, used a towel or other collaring device... to prevent any whiplash from the sudden motion."


While Woodward reports Shedd was "shaken," he doesn't mention "walling." He may not have had the entire story and his reporting of Shedd being shaken may have lacked the missing explanation about the "flexible artificial wall" Klaiman's sources provide. Or there may not have ever been any discussion of "walling," and it was about "attention grasp" all along, with "walling" added later, as I explain below.


Klaidman's version:
Not long into his presentation., Hayden called Shedd over. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Hayden slapped Shedd's face. Then he grabbed him by the lapels and started to shake him. He'd wanted to throw him up against the wall during this demonstration, but there were chairs in the way. Instead he explained to Obama and his aides about the interrogation technique known as "walling," in which detainees were thrown against a flexible artificial wall that made a loud noise on impact but cause little physical pain.

Hayden went on to explain that the only other three techniques still used then were playing loud music, keeping lights on all day and sleep deprivation. He didn't mention that sleep deprivation was accomplished by hanging prisoners from ceiling hooks.
So, whoever Klaiman's sources were, they left out the use of isolation and use of blindfolds on the detainees, itself a form of sensory deprivation. And where do we find such techniques used otherwise? In the Army Field Manual on interrogation's Appendix M, precisely the approved standard for all interrogation per Obama's Executive Order. Can this sudden switch in narrative be accidental?

Klaiman's sources elide the blindfolding entirely, while Isolation is replaced (supposedly) by Walling, as there must be only "six techniques," and the narrative is bound by the numerical restriction, which was originally laid out in Bradbury's 2007 memo.

Even more, while Wheeler notes that "Walling" is not an approved technique in the latter-stage Bush OLC memos, it's worth noting that neither is Isolation, or the sensory overload techniques noted by both Woodward and Klaiman ("loud music," 24-hour lights).

Every opponent of torture should note carefully this very important statement from Bradbury's 7/20/07 memo:
The [CIA] program is designed to dislodge the detainee’s expectations about how he will be treated in U.S. custody, to create a situation in which he feels that he is not in control, and to establish a relationship of dependence on the part of the detainee.
This is not spin, but the psychological core of the program, based, as I’ve repeatedly emphasized, on decades-old research showing that the induction of Debility (sleep deprivation, isolation, dietary restrictions) and Dread (the physical assaults, dislocating the expectations, humiliation) produced Dependency for the purpose of CONTROL.

(Interested readers should see how this is all documented in early writings by Bruce Jessen, in a story Jason Leopold and I wrote at Truthout in March 2011.)

As I wrote in my first Shedd-related posting (bold emphasis added here):
From reading this account [Woodward's], apart from the hilarious bit of play-acting with the ever-obliging David Shedd, it’s difficult to see what six of the EITs were retained, and what, besides waterboarding, was eliminated. For one thing, Hayden’s reply focuses on techniques that were not part of the EITs — isolation, sensory overload, and partial sensory deprivation — while demonstrating by a slap to O’Connell’s deputy that “Facial or insult slap” was still in use.

Hayden then makes his play to keep “these methods” under an Obama administration, because “the very existence of the interrogation program was more important than its content.” The CIA director told the President-elect, “Terrorists would know they faced a more severe interrogation if picked up by the CIA than by the military, which used the Army Field Manual.”

But how would the terrorists know this, when even I can’t figure out what exactly the U.S. intelligence agencies do? Woodward quotes Hayden in an unintentional moment of self-revelation. For the CIA, the form is more important that the content. The “terrorists” don’t really know, but they believe they know they can expect something terrible, something especially bad. The point of this is to engender fear. And fear is an essential component to psychological torture. It enhances the effects of sensory overload and sensory deprivation, and contributes to the psychological breakdown of the victim. The use of SERE trainees as experimental subjects for coercive interrogation and techniques did not begin in 2001 or 2002 — it began at least over 50 years ago.
It's easy to get righteously indignant over the torture program of the CIA, but I'm amazed at how easy it's been to be lulled over the torture program inserted into the 2006 Army Field Manual. I think it's not an outrageous thought to believe that in the interim between Woodward's tale of the Hayden meeting and the Shedd slap-heard-round-the-intertubes and the one told by Klaiman, someone said "hey, icksnay on the the isolation-ay."

James Corbett Interviewed by "Smells Like Human Spirit"

James Corbett of The Corbett Report was interviewed the other day by the new "Smells Like Human Spirit" podcast. Corbett is an amazing independent media voice, and I think the interview definitely worth a listen.

If you like the interview, you can subscribe to the SLHS podcast at iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/smells-like-human-spirit-podcast/id530984313.

Please note, if you don't want to be challenged about the mainstream narrative, don't bother to listen to this.

(Full disclosure: James Corbett interviewed me twice, on the Iron Man/JFIC 9/11 stories I wrote with Jason Leopold at Truthout, and on my more recent investigation into the deaths of two detainees at Guantanamo in 2007 and 2009.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shutting the Door on Habeas at Guantanamo

Andy Worthington was on RT TV yesterday (June 11) talking about the recent Supreme Court decision not to review seven lower court rulings denying habeas release to Guantanamo prisoners. (The Court also declined review of a lawsuit by US prisoner, and Jose Padilla, who was tortured in a US Navy brig as an "enemy combatant" and later sentenced to prison for "material support" to terrorism.)

Back in June 2008, then-Presidential candidate told election crowds, "That's why we're going to close down Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus." But as Lyle Denniston, at SCOTUSblog noted in an article yesterday -- "Court bypasses all new detainee cases (FINAL UPDATE)" -- that's not what actually happened.
The [2008] Boumediene case was the last major terrorism case that went against the government. There, while establishing a constitutional right for Guantanamo prisoners to file habeas challenges to their detention, the Crt left it to lower courts to sort out just how that judicial process would work, case by case. More than a dozen District Court judges in Washington then took on the initial review task and, for a time, found in a majority of cases that the government had not justified further detention of the individual involved. But, when the government appealed release orders, the D.C. Circuit ruled against the detainee, or else ordered the District judge to reconsider.

In a string of decisions, not one of which the Supreme Court has been willing to review, the D.C. Circuit fashioned its own legal rules for Guantanamo cases, including at least two review methods that strongly favored the government’s evidence. Along the way, three judges on the D.C. Circuit — Senior Judges A. Raymond Randolph and Laurence H. Silberman, and Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown — have publicly and sharply criticized the Boumediene decision. The Supreme Court, turning its judicial cheek, has never responded to any of those criticisms, other than to leave the D.C. Circuit with virtually sole control of continuing litigation by Guantanamo prisoners and their volunteer lawyers.
Denniston made the point, as well, that Obama appointee Elena Kagan was probably involved in the decision not to review. Even more to the point, though, the Obama administration argued against SCOTUS review of the detainees' appeals.

The implicit instigators of this decision are the liberals who have sold out any semblance of belief in civil rights and civil liberties, unless such pertains to their own favorite group. Instead, for the sake of electoral "lesser-evil" politics, human beings held in solitary confinement, in indefinite detention, many if not most innocent of any crimes, and subjected to brutal medical treatments like forced feedings, or violent cell extractions, and God knows what else, are reduced to merely chips in the poker game of US election politics. This attitude goes hand-in-hand with the bizarre cheerleading for Obama's drone killings, and his policies of military intervention from Afghanistan to Libya to Mexico, and (barely) covert warfare against Iran.

As Andy Worthington said at his blog, introducing the RT video, "On the fourth anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, this is a truly depressing state of affairs, and one made all the more depressing because of the general indifference of the US media and the American people, and I hope my contribution, and RT’s interest in the story, will help people to understand how depressing it is that the men in Guantánamo have been so shamefully failed by all three branches of the US government."



Other important discussions of the recent SCOTUS decision are taking place at Emptywheel and Lawfare. Adam Serwer at Mother Jones also wrote a good story. The best review of all the coverage on this was by Jason Leopold at Truthout, who also talked to some of the Guantanamo attorneys affected by the decision:
Brent Mickum, an attorney who has spent nearly a decade working on the habeas cases of several Guantanamo detainees and currently represents the high-value prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, said, "For those of us who have been working in the trenches for years and years this is a really sad and disappointing day."

"All of our work has essentially been for naught," Mickum said. "This leaves open a glaring question, what is the next step? All of the habeas attorneys will be getting together for a major meeting to discuss that."

In an interview, Mark Denbeaux, the director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research who has represented several Guantanamo detainees and is also a member of Zubaydah's legal team, said the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Boumediene is now as "legally effective as a law review article."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

US Army, Martin Seligman "CSF Research Fails the Test"

Last week, psychologists Stephen Soldz and Roy Eidelson published their analysis of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. It's a professional look at the much-hyped program that finds it seriously wanting. A press release by Coalition for an Ethical Psychology details their findings, and I've reposted it below.

Their report, "Does Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Work? CSF Research Fails the Test" (PDF), seriously dismantles the structure and implementation of the Army's program, while understanding the rationale -- to lower rates of mental illness, suicide, and PTSD among enlisted personnel -- is both meaningful and important.

The conclusions of the report were foreshadowed in a March 2011 Psychology Today article by Eidelson, Soldz and Mark Pilisuk, "The Dark Side of 'Comprehensive Soldier Fitness'". The PT article stressed ethical concerns with the CSF program, particularly the fact that it constituted a research program, but that soldiers were not given informed consent regarding their participation, and no Institutional Review Board had reviewed the program.

In January 2011, Jason Leopold at Truthout published an investigation describing criticism of CSF from those who found its emphasis on "spiritual fitness":
CSF is comprised of the Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool, which measures soldiers’ “resilience” in five core areas: emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. Soldiers fill out an online survey made up of more than 100 questions, and if the results fall into a red area, they are required to participate in remedial courses in a classroom or online setting to strengthen their resilience in the disciplines in which they received low scores. The test is administered every two years. More than 800,000 Army soldiers have taken it thus far and more than 100,000 soldiers have participated in the remedial training.

But for the thousands of “Foxhole Atheists” like 27-year-old Sgt. Justin Griffith, the spiritual component of the test contains questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God or another deity, meaning nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly and will be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

Griffith, who is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, took the test last month and scored well on the emotional, family and social components. But after completing the spiritual portion of the exam, which required him to respond to statements such as, “I am a spiritual person, my life has lasting meaning, I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world, ” he was found to be spiritually unfit because he responded by choosing the “not like me at all” box.
The Soldz/Eidelson paper does not focus on this "spirituality" critique, but on more technical matters of quantification of effectiveness, and the self-promotion aspect of program. Their work includes a "Technical Appendix" for those who wish to follow the statistical and methodological arguments.

The critique of self-promotion includes a look at the role of psychologists Martin Seligman and the American Psychological Association in promoting this shoddy program, dressing it up with the language of science, and reaping millions of dollars for those who are contracting with the government to implement the program. In October 2010, Mark Benjamin at Salon revealed Seligman's Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvannia was the ultimate recipient of a $31-million no-bid contract for the Army's resiliency program.

Seligman, of course, is best known as the primary theorist of "learned helplessness," a theory of the total psychological break-down of animals or humans due to uncontrollable stress. "Learned helplessness" (LH) became one of the primary theories behind the use of certain torture techniques used by DoD/CIA psychologists after 9/11. LH was taught to incoming members of the Behavioral Consultant Science Teams (BSCT) used by DoD to assist interrogations of "war on terror" detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Behavioral Science Consultants are psychologists or psychiatrists, and they are still used in interrogations to this day. A former trainer for BSCT teams is today the Chief Clinical Officer of the Washington DC Department of Mental Health.

Finally, there is the question of just what this program is actually trying to do. Reducing PTSD rates is one thing, but producing "indomitable" soldiers who can fight brutal wars without psychic damage to them is another, for it presents an unrealistic view of what war actually is, and hides the fact it seriously damages the mental health and psychic coherence of those who engage in it. (Of course, war outright kills untold tens of millions, both soldier and civilian, and physically damages tens of millions of individuals more.)
In a report released today by the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (http://www.ethicalpsychology.org/Eidelson-&-Soldz-CSF_Research_Fails_the_Test.pdf), two psychologists call upon the Army to retract or publicly correct a recent research report that claims the Army’s $140 million Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) resilience program “works.” The psychologists Roy Eidelson and Stephen Soldz argue that the study design is flawed and that the results do not justify the researchers’ favorable conclusions.

Report coauthor Roy Eidelson stated: “The over-hyping of CSF’s effectiveness should be of concern to everyone, including taxpayers who have paid over $100 million for the program, and especially the one million soldiers who are forced to participate in this massive experiment, whether they want to do so or not.”

Without pilot testing, the CSF program was launched in 2009. It trains soldiers in thinking skills that purportedly diminish the likelihood of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicide, and other combat-related psychological problems. CSF is based upon the “positive psychology” framework of University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman.

In their new report Eidelson and Soldz identify five areas of serious concern with the Army’s CSF evaluation: (1) the researchers’ failure to measure the important outcomes of PTSD, depression, or other psychological disorders despite the availability of validated measures for doing so, (2) a flawed research design that fails to control for important confounding variables, (3) significant problems with the method of data analysis, (4) the researchers’ failure to acknowledge plausible risks of harm from the CSF intervention, and (5) miscellaneous related issues of concern. Individually these concerns raise troubling questions regarding the CSF study. Taken together, they severely undercut the CSF researchers’ assertion that “There is now sound scientific evidence that Comprehensive Soldier Fitness improves the resilience and psychological health of Soldiers.”

Stephen Soldz, Professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and report coauthor, noted that CSF has been the subject of a wide range of criticism since it was rolled out in 2009: “The problems identified with CSF are legion. It is time for the Army to step back from uncritically promoting this untested program. A careful, independent, evaluation is urgently called for.”

Concerns raised by critics in the past span a wide range of significant issues, including indications that CSF is actually a research study involuntarily imposed upon troops without mandated protections such as independent ethical review by an institutional review board (IRB) and informed consent; the possibility that CSF may serve as a distraction from the documented adverse effects of multiple and lengthy deployments and high levels of combat exposure; potential negative effects of CSF, common in prevention programs, that have not been carefully considered or monitored; and the insufficient examination of ethical questions posed by efforts to build “indomitable” soldiers.

This new Coalition report follows a detailed critique last year of CSF by Eidelson, Soldz, and their colleague Marc Pilisuk, The Dark Side of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, which led to Congressional inquiries regarding the program. CSF has also been criticized in a series of comments in the October 2011 issue of the American Psychologist and by experts interviewed by the PBS NewsHour and other press.

About the research weaknesses they identify, Eidelson and Soldz conclude in their report:

“These scientific shortcomings are all the more troubling given the obvious importance of what is at stake here: soldiers’ welfare. It may be comforting to some to assume that, at worst, CSF is merely ineffective. However, we should not settle for such wishful thinking. It is not outlandish to suggest that CSF may negatively impact some soldiers, and unjustified enthusiasm about the program can prove costly in terms of directing attention and funding away from the consideration and development of alternatives that may be far more beneficial for our troops.

“It is not hard for us to imagine the tremendous pressures faced by those responsible for addressing and protecting the psychological health of the men and women who serve in our military. We recognize and admire the dedicated work of so many toward this goal. But in the search for answers, nobody benefits from research that, inadvertently or not, misrepresents the current state of knowledge and accomplishment in this arena. For this reason, we believe it is essential that the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness leadership correct the record in regard to their Research Report #3.”

For more information go to: http://www.ethicalpsychology.org
Both Eidelson and Soldz are past presidents of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Dr. Eidelson is also the former executive director of the Solomon Asch Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and today is the president of Eidelson Consulting. Dr. Soldz is Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He was also a contributing writer on the Physicians for Human Rights report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Where's thy conscience now?"


Act I, Scene 4, Shakespeare's Richard III

The two murderers dispatched by Richard to kill his brother Clarence are having second thoughts...

From a 1983 BBC television production, with Paul Jesson as George, Duke of Clarence, and Bernard Hill as First Murderer. The actor who played the Second Murderer is not named on the YouTube page, but screenonline lists him as Derek Fuke. The play's director was Jane Powell. The playwright we know.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Guantanamo Connection? Documents Show CIA Stockpiled Antimalaria Drugs as "Incapacitating Agents"

Listen to my interview with Peter B. Collins discussing this story


A Truthout analysis of historical records concerning government research and nonmedical use of antimalarial medications has revealed that such drugs were the objects of experimental research under the CIA's MKULTRA program. Even more, one of these drugs, cinchonine, was illegally stockpiled by the CIA as an "incapacitating agent."

Antimalarial drugs were studied as part of the CIA's mind control program MKULTRA. Cinchonine, an antimalarial drug derived from chichona bark, was one of the drugs used by the operational components of MKULTRA, code-named MKNAOMI and MKDELTA. The CIA worked with researchers for the Army's Special Operations Division, a secret component of the US Army Chemical Corps based at Fort Detrick, to develop delivery systems for the drugs.

Revelations concerning CIA interest in use of antimalarial drugs would be of historical interest, as it has never been written about before. But such interest gains contemporary significance in the light of actions taken by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the "war on terror," and the fact that a key DoD expert on antimalarial drugs was a psychiatrist involved in training personnel for Guantanamo interrogations.

In January 2002, the DoD deliberately decided that all incoming detainees at Guantanamo would be given a full treatment dose of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine, also known as Lariam. The purpose was supposedly to control for a possible malaria outbreak, in deference to concerns from Cuban officials.

But specialists in malaria prevention have said they have never heard of such presumptive treatment for malaria by mefloquine in this type of situation. Furthermore, a summary of antimalarial measures at Guantanamo given to Army and Center for Disease Control (CDC) medical officials at a February 19, 2002, meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board failed to describe the mefloquine procedure approved a month earlier.

Was mefloquine used at Guantanamo to help produce a state of "learned helplessness" in detainees? Were experiments conducted on adverse side effects of mefloquine on the prisoners held there?
Some years ago, this might have been considered a crazy scenario to even consider. While there is no smoking gun that can prove mefloquine was used for nefarious purposes, a strong case can be made that use of the drug at Guantanamo was not related to malaria control.

Antimalaria Drugs and MKULTRA

The revelation concerning cinchonine came from hearings the Senate's Church Committee held in September 1975 on CIA "Unauthorized Storage of Toxic Agents." The agency's illegal stockpile of chemicals and drugs, which included the antimalarial drug cinchonine, was supposed to have been destroyed by order of President Nixon in December 1969.

At the time of the president's order, the US had also signed an international agreement that such chemical and biological weapons would be destroyed, so the revelation of the CIA's stockpiling of such substances was highly embarrassing to the US government at the time.

At the behest of Congressional investigators, the CIA provided an inventory of all "lethal" and "incapacitating agents" they had kept contrary to presidential order. On this list, the CIA indicated it held two grams of cinchonine, stored as an incapacitating agent, that is, a substance meant to temporarily disable an individual. Temporary incapacitant or not, the CIA inventory listing for cinchonine states, "Overdose leads to severe cardiac convulsions, nausea and vomiting."

In separate testimony from another Senate investigation, a CIA-linked researcher, Dr. Charles F. Geschickter, told Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1977 hearings that the CIA was interested in antimalarial drugs that "had some, shall I say, disturbing effects on the nervous system of the patients." Geschickter's CIA researchers became interested in these antimalarial drugs as part of the work they were doing in the CIA's MKULTRA program. Dr. Geschickter ran the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research, and the Kennedy hearings also revealed how the fund laundered money for MKULTRA projects.

According to MKULTRA documents released as part of a related Senate investigation in 1977, research into quinolines, the class of drugs that include cinchonine, quinine and the modern antimalarial drug mefloquine (Lariam), was part of MKULTRA subprojects 43 and 45.

The CIA prior to the Congressional investigations destroyed most records concerning MKULTRA and chemical, biological and bacteriological research. Moreover, according to Senate testimony by former CIA Director William Colby, many of the organizational directions concerning both research and operationalization of such weapons were never written down.

An Antimalarial "Incapacitant"

Cinchonine is a quinine-derived drug and similar in some ways to the artificial quinine derivative antimalarial drug mefloequine, also known as Lariam. Mefloquine, a product of Army research, has been the subject of numerous controversies over its side-effect profile, and as recently as 2009, the DoD significantly cut back on its use for the military.

The stockpiling of cinchonine as an "incapacitating" agent was directly contrary to Nixon's order that all such toxic and bacteriological stockpiles held by the DoD and the CIA be destroyed. Other incapacitating agents held by the CIA for years after the disposal order included the powerful hallucinogen BZ; the anticholinergic drug Cogentin; digitoxin; and Phencyclidine HCL, commonly known as "Angel Dust"; among other drugs.

The CIA's stockpile of dangerous substances also included numerous "lethal agents," including shellfish toxin; cobra venom; fish toxin; and numerous substances only known by their code names ("E-4640," "F-270" etc.). It is not known if any of the lethal or incapacitating agents were ever used, or if so, by whom or where. (The one exception the CIA admitted to was the use of an arsenic suicide pill provided to Francis Gary Powers, a U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Powers did not use the pill.)

According to Senate testimony, the stockpile was discovered after a review of secret programs ordered by Colby. Originally, the various drugs and weaponized biological substances were kept at the Army's Fort Detrick compound and were apparently moved later to a CIA storage facility.

The neurological side-effects of mefloquine are similar to the side effects of cinchonine. Cinchonism (or quinism) includes such side-effects as blurred vision, tinnitus, skin rashes, vertigo, nausea, headaches and other even life-threatening serious health problems. Mefloquine has been cited for neurological, but also psychological side-effects, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams and suicidal and homicidal behavior. The effects can be long or short-term.

But even the "short-term" effects can be debilitating, as one military doctor, Captain Monica Parise, told a group of other physicians at a government meeting in May 2003. Parise told the meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) that "there are a host of other more acute less severe neuropsychiatric issues that occur short-term [with mefloquine], such as insomnia, strange dreams, fatigue, lack of energy, inability to concentrate and some people have reported that those effects have lasted a very long time."

Parise noted that it takes "three, four, or five months to really wash the drug out of your system," and that she'd "heard that there might be some data in DoD ... that might shed light" on how the drug had "ruined people's lives." As we shall see, a psychiatrist present at this same meeting was also involved in training other psychiatrists to assist Guantanamo interrogators.

Administering Mefloquine to All the Guantanamo Detainees

In December 2010, Truthout and Seton Hall School of Law's Center for Policy and Research revealed that it was medical standard operating procedure (SOP) to give all arriving detainees full treatment doses of the antimalarial drug mefloquine upon arrival at the US prison camp. The military's own newspaper, Stars and Stripes, followed up with their own story a few weeks later.

[Update, 6/9/2012: Both the Truthout and Seton Hall investigations also noted the CIA's MKULTRA research into the quinoline family of drugs. The Seton Hall report described how "potential use of these drugs in an interrogation setting was a stated purpose for the [CIA] study."]

A treatment dose of mefloquine is five times the amount taken weekly by those who use the drug for prophylactic purposes. Larger doses are associated with a higher percentage of side effects.

The Truthout investigation showed that at the time the SOP was put in place, internal discussions within the DoD and an Interagency Malaria Working Group were expressing strong doubts about the serious neuropsychiatric side effects of the drug. Despite this, the surgeon general of the JTF-160 Task Force at Guantanamo signed off on the unprecedented mefloquine protocol.

The chief surgeon, who also served as commander of the Navy Hospital at the base, was Capt. Albert Shimkus. Shimkus told Truthout in late 2010 that he had first sought consult regarding the use of malaria drugs from an assortment of agencies, including officials from the CDC, the Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC) and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. All three agencies have told Truthout they were not involved in this decision or had no documents related to such consultation.

Shimkus told Truthout in a phone interview last October that the US State Department "would have been involved" in discussions about malaria concerns at Guantanamo, though he maintained no State Department officials were directly involved in the "clinical decision making."

In June 2004, the CDC announced, "'presumptive treatment' without the benefit of laboratory confirmation should be reserved for extreme circumstances (strong clinical suspicion, severe disease, impossibility of obtaining prompt laboratory confirmation)." Hence, "presumptive treatment" - the mass administration of a drug without knowing whether or not it is actually necessary - is reserved for situations when there is no possibility of laboratory confirmation of malaria, but that was not the case at Guantanamo.

Yet, even a year later, the mefloquine SOP was renewed at Guantanamo.

DoD spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher told Truthout, "A decision was made to presumptively treat each arriving Guantanamo detainee for malaria to prevent the possibility of having mosquito-borne [sic] spread from an infected individual to uninfected individuals in the Guantanamo population, the guard force, the population at the Naval base, or the broader Cuban population."

According to Bradsher, "The mefloquine dosage was entirely for public health purposes to prevent the introduction of malaria to the Guantanamo area and not for any other purpose." Nevertheless, when hundreds of contract workers from malaria-endemic countries such as India and the Philippines were brought by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to build the new Guantanamo Delta Block in 2002, there was no DoD scrutiny of any exposure by these workers to malaria.

According to Bradsher, KBR alone was responsible for its own workers, belying a concern over possible reintroduction of malaria to Cuba, which, according to Captain Shimkus, had produced State Department concerns when it came to the arriving detainees.

In his October 2011 interview, Shimkus also said he sent "pretty detailed reports" regarding the mefloquine decision to JTF-160's Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert. He had nothing further to say about a statement made to Truthout a year earlier in which he stated that he had been told not to talk about the mefloquine decision.

When Shimkus was asked if he was aware of any detainees who had suffered psychiatric problems because of drugs administered to them, he said, "Maybe. That's confidential," adding a moment later, "No for that."
He also rejected the opinions of two medical researchers who wrote in PLoS Medicine in April 2011 that "medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the DoD neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm" to detainees. "They have an opinion and it should be out there," Shimkus said.

Army Mefloquine "Specialist" Trained Psychiatrists for Interrogations

A top psychiatrist working for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (OASD-HA), Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, traveled to Guantanamo in October 2002, purportedly to investigate a spurt of suicide attempts among the detainees. Within weeks, according to the AFEB minutes cited earlier, she attended an "experts" meeting on "Malaria Chemoprophylaxis" at the CDC in January 2003 that considered problems with the "neuropsychiatric adverse drug reactions" of mefloquine. Indeed, according to the AFEB speaker, Captain Parise, they specifically included a psychiatrist - presumably Ritchie - in their discussions.

Did Colonel Ritchie bring knowledge of the effects of mass mefloquine administration at Guantanamo to this meeting? We don't know and Colonel Ritchie, now retired from the military and chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health, would not return a request for comment. A public spokesperson for OASD-HA told Truthout it had no connection with any decision to use mefloquine at Guantanamo.

It would be strange, if not highly unlikely that, given the widespread interest in mefloquine adverse reactions at the DoD and contemporaneous statements that the DoD was conducting research on this, that the effects of the Guantanamo mefloquine SOP were never examined.

Ritchie's involvement in mefloquine issues can also be ascertained by the fact that, in 2004, Ritchie, by then "Psychiatry Consultant" to Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley, gave a presentation to the DoD's Deployment Health Clinical Center on the "Neuropsychiatric Side-Effects of Mefloquine."

Of convergent interest is the fact that, according to Dr. Ritchie, she taught psychiatrists slotted for assignment to the military's Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) working at Guantanamo and possibly elsewhere. She is, at this point, the only known person potentially linking military activities surrounding both mefloquine and interrogations or torture.

According to an Army surgeon general description of BSCT training during the period Colonel Ritchie was involved, such training included instruction in methods of inducing "learned helplessness."

"Learned helplessness" is a condition of near-total psychological breakdown produced by inability to escape an extreme set of stressors. Its study is associated with the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, who did research on the subject as far back as the 1960s. In the 1990s, all the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape schools except the Navy school discontinued the use of the waterboard in their training program precisely because it tended to produce "learned helplessness" in its students, the opposite of the kind of effect they were seeking.

A Guantanamo Autopsy Tests for Mefloquine

The months-long period of time it takes for mefloquine to leave the system may have been involved with a decision to test a detainee at Guantanamo who had committed suicide for the presence of mefloquine in his bloodstream. But the detainee, whose autopsy report included toxicology results that show he was tested specially for mefloquine, had been at Guantanamo for five years at the time of his death.

Abdul Rahman Al Amri entered Guantanamo in February 2002 and would have been given a treatment dose of mefloquine at that time. We do not know why he would have been tested for its presence over five years later. All but one of the other detainees for whom we have autopsy reports due to purported suicides were not tested for mefloquine, showing such testing was not standard procedure.

Al Amri was also found dead with his hands bound behind his back, and his death as well as that of 2009 suicide Mohamed Salih Al Hanashi are under investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, primarily because of Truthout's coverage of these events.

A Plausible Hypothesis

The discovery that the CIA researched antimalarial drugs as part of its mind control program and, moreover, operationalized at least one of these drugs as an "incapacitating agent" means that the hypothesis that mefloquine was used for similar purposes at Guantanamo is not inconsistent with a known pattern of governmental behavior.

There are many reasons to question the supposed use of mefloquine at Guantanamo for purely public health purposes. Consider the following:

-- The mass use of treatment levels of mefloquine at Guantanamo was unprecedented.

-- The drug was limited to only one group of potential malaria carriers.

-- Use of mefloquine for presumptive treatment continued for years past the point when the DoD was already manifestly aware of the drug's dangers.

-- The mefloquine SOP was hidden from medical authorities at the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board.

-- Finally, there is the fact no government agency will admit to advising use of the drug, even when a Guantanamo medical officer states they were involved.

As a result of all the above, it appears highly possible that the motive for the drug's use was to psychologically disorient and physically debilitate all or some portion of incoming prisoners.

Copyright Truthout.org - Reprinted with permission (Original URL)

Monday, June 4, 2012

U.S. AEC document: "Subject: Medical Experiments on Humans"

An early document from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, reposted here from the National Security Archive website as a clear example of how the U.S. government deliberately had a policy of covering up secret research on human subjects. It's not known exactly what experiments this document is referring to, except that it is related to research on the effects of radiation on human subjects. The AEC document is released as part of a number of documents NSA posted as part of webpage dedicated to the "Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), [which] was created by President Clinton on January 15, 1994 to investigate and report on the use of human beings as subjects of federally funded research using ionizing radiation."

Note, by April 1947, the AEC had already prohibited some of the experiments on humans, as the document below describes. Unfortunately, radiation experimentation on humans did not end in 1947, as the government's own ACHRE report makes clear.
DOCUMENT J
April 17, 1947

U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
P. O. Box E
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Attention: Dr. Fidler

Subject: MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS ON HUMANS

1. It is desired that no document be released which
refers to experiments with humans and might have adverse
effect on public opinion or result in legal suits.
Documents covering such work field [sic] should be classified
"secret". Further work in this field in the future has been
prohibited by the General Manager. It is understood that
three documents in this field have been submitted for
declassification and are now classified "restricted". It is
desired that these documents be reclassified "secret" and
that a check be made to insure that if distribution has
inadvertent been made to the Department of Commerce, or
other off-Project personnel or agencies.

2. These instructions do not pertain to documents
regarding clinical or therapeutic uses of radioisotopes and
similar materials beneficial to human disorders and
diseases.

ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION


O. G. HAYWOOD, JR.
Colonel, Corps of Engineers.

CLASSIFICATION CANCELLED
AUTHORITY : DOE/SA-20
By H.R. SCHMIDT, DATE:
2/22/94

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: Doug Valentine's The Strength of the Pack

The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics and Espionage Intrigues that Shaped the DEA is a book about the corruption of not just an agency, but of an entire state apparatus. Douglas Valentine, whose copiously detailed history of The Phoenix Program (1990) provided the definitive book on that CIA-South Vietnam torture-assassination program, has turned his attention to the way the CIA and its backers suborned the anti-drug war for their own purposes.

He took on the task of describing the creation and evolution of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which as the years went by, became subordinated politically to the CIA's overseas covert operational apparatus. In the end, DEA agents found themselves going after some drug traffickers, while protecting others, particularly those of interest to or supported by the US government for its own purposes. In the meantime, there was also a lot of incidental personal corruption, with millions of dollars there for the taking for those looking to skim some cream off the heady concoction of government covert business and the immense profits of illegal drug trafficking.

Taking advice from Andy Tartaglino, an old Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) man, whose investigation into corruption at the FBN helped bring about the demise of that agency in the late 1960s, Valentine began his investigation into DEA corruption by first exploring the early history of that agency's predecessors, the FBN and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD). The equally impressive result of his researches into this earlier history can be found in the 2006 fascinating introductory volume to Pack, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs.

The Strength of the Pack begins where Wolf left off, with the merger of the old FBN with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control into the BNDD, and later, the transformation of the latter during the second Nixon administration into the DEA. Along the way, we meet a heterogeneous collection of sincere drug agents and careerist apparatchiks, Corsican gangsters, Italian Mafia, old OSS men, foreign guerillas and tribal chieftains, corrupt national leaders, MKULTRA operatives, and many, many more. The history takes us from the years of Johnson's Great Society through Vietnam, the French Connection, the ugly Nixon years, Watergate, supporting the opium-running muhajadeen (to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan), all the way to the build-up to the war in Iraq. (As Valentine points out, a key U.S. adviser to the Iraqi Interior Ministry after the U.S. invasion was Steve Casteel, a former high-level DEA agent.)

Doug Valentine is a meticulous researcher, and the book is accordingly well footnoted, and includes photos of key individuals, and some, though not an overwhelming amount, of reproduced documentation. The book is an intense, though entertaining read, as Valentine knows how to carry the reader right into the heart of the unfolding operations. Much of his information, as with The Phoenix Program, comes from interviews with key participants, and many will be the future historians beholden to Valentine for capturing this kind of testimony before it was forever lost.

Valentine is no supposedly "objective' historian, but understands that history is always written from some point of view. It's clear he is outraged at the corruption and hypocrisy of the drug "wars," not to mention sickened by those killed, disappeared, tortured, etc., so that the intelligence agencies -- primarily the CIA -- will not be disturbed in their skullduggery, which often as not is in the service of some of the most corrupt and criminal individuals on the planet.

This is most important because, as Valentine documents, following other authors (whom he generously cites) like Alfred McCoy and Gary Webb, the history of the drug wars and the agencies that presumably fight them is really a history of the subordination of those agencies for political ends. The money and the political leverage that comes from these "wars" is used to bankroll the CIA's covert wars and interventions. Indeed, by the end of the period Valentine documents, he indicates that nearly every overseas DEA agent works in one way or another for the CIA (while at home, the management of DEA was taken over by the FBI). The cost of all this to the American public is immense, both in terms of billions of dollars, but also in terms of attacks on personal liberties, as the counterinsurgency tactics employed abroad are turned increasingly back upon citizens at home.

This is an essential book, and the reader will want to keep it, along with Strength of the Wolf, as a reference work in an area of contemporary history that is solely lacking reference works. In sum, The Strength of the Pack is a seminal work on the history of federal drug law, the creation and transformation of the drug enforcement agencies, and their interpenetration with U.S. imperialist policy abroad, from the days of the Vietnam War through the current narco-terrorism "wars."

Originally posted as an Amazon review

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