The UK Guardian yesterday released a videotape of a 2007 interrogation of a suspected Iraqi insurgent, one of 1,253 tapes made by interrogators at a secret British military center near Basra, run by the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (JFIT). The release came only days before the U.S. Justice Department investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of the torture of three high-value detainees at secret black site prisons was closed, with no charges brought. The news about torture was not a complete surprise as revelations last month showed torture techniques were taught to British interrogators in secret training manuals.
The release of the British torture tapes was the result of a lawsuit brought before the British high court by 220 former Iraqi prisoners. The Guardian warns that the video embedded here “contains material that viewers may find disturbing.” Having watched it, I can vouch it is difficult material to watch. Amazingly, the U.S. press, and much of the British press, have totally ignored this material. The truth is going to be difficult to stomach, but this is a taste of what might have occurred had U.S. tapes found their way to public viewing.
One difference between the tape here and the tapes the CIA destroyed (if in fact they were all destroyed), is that the tape here is not of waterboarding or any of the “enhanced interrogation techniques”, but of what the British call “harshing” — techniques that appear to be similar to the U.S. Army Field Manual’s “Fear Up,” i.e., the induction of fear into the prisoner. As I noted in an article that examined the latest (2006) version of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation, in the previous version of the AFM (FM 34-52), published in 1992, the use of fear-based techniques was divided into Fear Up Harsh and Fear Up Mild. A strong warning was issued noting the use of Fear Up “has the greatest potential to violate the law of war.” In the current version of the AFM, the cautionary language is weakened, while the definition of Fear Up has changed as well. . . .
From the 1992 manual:
The fear-up approach is the exploitation of a source’s pre-existing fear during the period of capture and interrogation. (pp. 3-15)
In the 2006 manual, the definition adds a sinister new twist (emphasis added):
In the fear-up approach, the HUMINT [human intelligence] collector identifies a pre-existing fear or creates a fear within the source. He then links the elimination or reduction of the fear to cooperation on the part of the source. … The HUMINT collector should also be extremely careful that he does not create so much fear that the source becomes unresponsive. (pp. 8-10)
What that means is that the in the 2006 version of “Fear Up”, creating a new fear within a detainee becomes part of the interrogation “approach.” Interestingly, the old 1992 AFM says that “increased fear-up” is a “proven effective” technique, but elsewhere describes fear-up harsh as “usually a dead-end,” interrogation-wise.
The Guardian video appears to be a standard example of “harshing” or “fear up technique” as utilized by the British. As Ian Cobain at the UK Guardian reports:
The recordings… show this man being forced to stand to attention while two soldiers scream abuse at him and threaten him with execution. They ignore his complaints that he is not being allowed to sleep and that he has had nothing to eat or drink for two days. At the end of each session, he is forced to don a pair of blackened goggles, ear muffs are placed over his head, and he is ordered to place the palms of his hands together so that a guard can grasp his thumbs to lead him away.
At the end of one session, an interrogator can be heard ordering the guard to “rough the fucker off”, or possibly “knock the fucker off”. The guard then runs down a corridor, dragging the prisoner behind him by his thumbs. This man’s lawyers say he was then severely beaten: they allege that the initial blows, and their client’s moans, can be heard faintly at the end of the video.
The British Ministry of Defense is claiming that any inquiry as a result of this release of tapes be restricted to the Ministry. Of course. The British courts have already demonstrated that they are not the lap dogs to the executive that the courts and Department of Justice in the United States have become. According to another UK Guardian story on November 9, Birmingham human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who represents the former prisoners and is pressing for a public investigation, “has documented 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of earmuffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 160 of sight deprivation, including 117 using blackened goggles, 132 of the use of stress positions,” 39 of enforced nakedness, and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops. Meanwhile, three of the interrogators have been “referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions, who has been asked to consider war crimes charges under the 2001 International Criminal Court Act.”
One can only guess what evidence exists in the many, many videotapes hidden away on disk drives in the vaults of the U.S. Defense Department, not to mention those held by or destroyed by the CIA. Barack Obama’s Justice Department is doing all it can to make sure that the truth about U.S. torture will never come out. But as the British lawsuit and the posting of videos makes clear, you can’t hide all of the evidence forever. It’s bound to come out, no matter how many John Durhams try to pull the wool over our eyes. Just yesterday, the UK Guardian released a second video of the torture in Basra, with the headline “‘I hope you die of cancer… I hope your kids die’”.
Watch the video posted here, and then ponder what role we all play in this monstrous enterprise. If we do not speak out, if we do not demand that all torture stop, and that the entire secret archives be opened so we can know once and for all what has been and is going on, then we put our own futures into dire jeopardy, and will surely earn the scorn of future generations. The Wikileaks Iraqi war logs already have plenty of evidence of torture and war crimes by the United States. Where are the investigations? The prosecutions? The outcry?