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My Year at FDL: A Review

7:33 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

I thought it might be interesting to summarize the work I’ve done at FDL this past year. My output shrank in relation to prior years, due to conflicts with work and the inevitable slowing of the aging process, but I’m proud of what I’ve been able to bring FDL readers.

Torture protestors in orange jumpsuits with covered heads

Another year of drawing attention to torture and human rights abuses on Firedoglake.

Since I have posted at both MyFDL and The Dissenter, as well as contributing to Firedoglake Book Salon, I thought a personal post such as this might fit in best here.

While the following is not a complete listing of all my work here this year, it highlights those articles that involved original research or analysis.

In no particular order, the work I thought important included (first, at The Dissenter):

* Writing in-depth analysis of the frame-up of Ahmed Abu Ali, whose confession under torture was allowed in court, and how that was allowed to happen by cherry-picking the testimony of psychological experts

* Revealing that Obama never rescinded all the torture memos. One of these, written by Stephen Bradbury, was a spurious defense of the newly written Army Field Manual for interrogation and its “Appendix M” that allowed for psychological forms of torture.

* Provided a full examination of the Army report on the controversial death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Latif. The only other comprehensive look at the Army’s report was by Jason Leopold at Al-Jazeera. (I wrote a separate article as well on Col. Bogdan at Guantanamo and his onerous search policy, which led to the detainees’ wide-spread hunger strike, and whose origins had to do with Latif’s death.)

* When US was pushing for military intervention in Syria because of a chemical weapon attack in that country’s civil war, I noted the US was not trustworthy, as they had a history of the US covering up large-scale biological and chemical warfare, a history that has a decades-long cover-up that is still only partially understood (see this recent blog post at my personal site). (This article was a good adjunct to the Foreign Policy article on how the US helped Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gas Iran.)

* Revealed a hitherto unremarked CIA/Psychological Strategy Board document that showed the U.S. was lying about claims it wanted independent investigations into the charges by China, North Korea and the USSR that the U.S. had used biological weapons during the Korean War. Moreover, the document hinted at other hidden U.S. war crimes, including possible use of chemical weapons in Korea as well. I can say that I’ve gotten a number of emails and engaged in discussions with multiple historians privately since release of this article, which seriously challenged not only U.S. histories written on the period, but again, like the other article mentioned one paragraph above, draws grave questions about the credibility of what the U.S. government says about WMD threats — I’ll have more to write about this very soon.

* My Dissenter article was the only press or blog report on the findings of a Georgetown professor that placed well-known and influential psychologist Martin Seligman into even greater contact with Mitchell and Jessen, who allegedly helped form the CIA’s torture program, than had been previously known.

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Japanese WWII Torture Document Eerily Reminiscent of US Torture Program

9:44 am in Torture by Jeff Kaye

The following is taken from a 63 year old book published in the early days of the Cold War. Titled Materials on the Trial of Former Serviceman of the Japanese Army Charged with Manufacturing and Employing Bacteriological Weapons (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1950), the book contains trial summaries and testimony from the Khabarovsk war crimes trial in December 1949.

Derided as just another Stalinist show trial at the time, historians have since confirmed the evidence regarding the crimes prosecuted, including deadly biological experiments on prisoners by special units of the Japanese Imperial Army, the most famous of which was Unit 731.

page from Soviet war crimes trial book

photo from war crimes book with Japanese text of torture instuctions

The selection below is one of the exhibits contained in the book, collected in a section labeled “Documentary Evidence.” The book itself has been out of print for decades, and is generally unavailable, except via some few libraries and antiquarian bookstores.

The selection included here is on the Japanese Army use of torture. The reader will notice that the Japanese Army demonstrated many of the same techniques and concerns the U.S. showed when it was implementing its own torture program under the CIA and the Department of Defense.

The Japanese torture program included, as described here, use of stress positions, physical attack, and a form of waterboarding. The interrogators were instructed to be aware of possible false information by prisoners in order to get “relief from suffering.” They appeared to also be concerned in the truthfulness of information obtained, and the possibility of deception.

Moreover, the Japanese were quite worried about others knowing about the torture. While they do not outright call for the murder of prisoners, one is left to guess at what “measures must be taken” so that prisoners did not talk of the torture “afterwards.”

The material from the Khabarovsk trial is consistent with that published in a report by the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers on “Japanese Methods of Prisoner of War Interrogation” (June 1, 1946). Techniques described there include: beatings of various sorts (derided, though, as “the most clumsy method”); threats of “murder, torture, starving, deprivation of sleep, solitary confinement, etc.”; psychological threats; water torture, which sometimes resulted in fatalities; attaching a prisoner’s thumbs to a “motor car which proceeds to pull him around in a circle until he falls exhausted,” and other tortures. Some Japanese soldiers and officers were prosecuted for war crimes after the war for such inhumane and criminal conduct.

What Made the Khabarovsk Trial Special

What makes the selection from the Khabarovsk trial unique is the degree to which the document discusses the importance of hiding the torture, and how to deal with deception. Interestingly, there is no discussion of producing false confessions.

It is noteworthy, too, to understand that thousands of prisoners who were sent to Unit 731 had also been, or were interrogated and/or tortured, at the site where biological experiments on them were done. All the prisoners were killed after the experiments were completed. The results of the experiments were operationalized in biological warfare campaigns by the Japanese in China that killed, recent estimates claim, perhaps as many as half a million people.

In future stories, I will discuss at much greater length aspects of this material that has gone unreported for years. The reasons for such a lack of historical writing is not lack of interest, but the fact that what materials the Japanese did not destroy were kept classified by the Americans for decades as part of an amnesty deal made with the leaders of the Japanese biological warfare program. The deal included a transfer of data on the fatal human experiments to the U.S. Army and intelligence services. Both the Department of Defense and (most likely) the CIA were involved in the decision to give amnesty to the Unit 731 et al. criminals.

For more information on the deal made between the U.S. and the Japanese described here see Peter Williams and David Wallace, Unit 731: The Japanese Army Secret of Secrets, 1989, Hodder and Stoughton, London; Sheldon H. Harris, Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-up, rev. ed. 2002, Routledge, New York; and Daniel Barenblatt, A Plague Upon Humanity: the Secret Genocide of Axis Japan’s Germ Warfare, 2004, Harper, New York.

The Khabarovsk selection reprinted below appears on pages 235-237 of Materials. I have tried my best to reproduce the material as it is in the book. What is italic or bold here is italic or bold in the book. Extra spacing between letters is as in the printed material. Case has been preserved. Paragraph breaks are by extra lines, while in the book they are by indent.

Book Excerpt

File No. 48. Pages 90, 112, 113, 124, 125, 126. “Operation Officer’s Guide (Part I).” From the files of the Mutankiang J.M.M.

Translated from the Japanese
S t r i c t l y  C o n f i d e n t i a l

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Serious Questions About Wikileaks’ Release of Purported Guantanamo SOP

5:17 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

On October 25, 2012, Wikileaks began to release what they indicated would be “more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody.” They labeled the release “The Detainee Policies.”

One of the first documents released was of the purported 2002 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). According to the accompanying press release, this was “the foundation document for Guantanamo Bay (‘Camp Delta’).” Julian Assange is quoted in the press release as saying, “This document is of significant historical importance…. how is it that WikiLeaks has now published three years of Guantanamo Bay operating procedures, but the rest of the world’s press combined has published none?”

Assange, who has been fighting extradition to Sweden, and currently resides under asylum protection at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, also challenged the press and the public to read and analyze the documents. “Publicize your findings,” he asked.

But over three months later, there has been essentially zero analysis. Even though the Wikileaks “Detainee Policies” release had extensive world-wide coverage in the press and blogosphere, outside of a few tweets, there’s been practically no follow-up investigation of these documents.

The non-coverage after the initial release is in itself astounding, but even more surprising is the fact that when examined some of the documents appear to be problematic and of doubtful provenance. (In addition, strangely, the documents do not allow cut and paste commands to accurately reproduce text, which is not typical of Wikileaks documents.)

Sadly – since a good deal of reporters, myself included, have come to rely on the accuracy of what Wikileaks has posted over the years – an examination of the Camp Delta 2002 SOP raises serious reasons as to whether it is a reliable document. At best it is a very corrupted draft of an authentic document. At worst, it is a sloppy forgery.

In addition, there are further questions about other documents released as part of “The Detainee Policies,” as well questions as to whether Wikileaks personnel understood the material they were releasing. In the past, Wikileaks has used the resources of major media like the New York Times, the UK Guardian, El Pais, etc., and independent authoritative analysts, like Andy Worthington, for outside analytic assistance.

Wikileaks has been under significant economic and legal pressure from the US government and its corporate and other governmental allies, and it is no secret that the organization operates under serious constraints as a result. According to the organization, “An extrajudicial blockade imposed by VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, and Western Union that is designed to destroy WikiLeaks has been in place since December 2010.”

Whatever Wikileaks has accomplished in other document releases and analysis, the failure to accurately report or vet the “Detainee Policies” documents, by either Wikileaks or the world press and blogging community, calls into dire question the accuracy of a good deal of what passes for reporting by media outlets and commentators.

The only expert I could find who had anything to say about the Camp Delta SOP document was Almerindo Ojeda, who posted a link to the purported “Standing [sic] Operating Procedures” at the website for the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas (CSHRA), along with his caveats on the document. Ojeda’s own independent analysis largely concurred with my own.

What Did Wikileaks Release?

We cannot know the source of the documents Wikileaks released. So any analysis of the documents must rely on a close textual perusal of the documents themselves. And thanks to Wikileaks, who released the 2003 and 2004 Camp Delta SOPs a few years ago, we can contrast and compare very similar documents.

The “2002” Camp Delta SOP does not look like other DoD documents of this type. It has no markings regarding its classification status, for instance. The formatting is often erratic, with whole paragraphs published with centered rather than justified or left aligned text. There is a good deal of missing, mispaginated, and misordered text. A number of pages begin with text that does not follow logically from the preceding page.

There’s no doubt we are not looking at the SOP itself, even if we were to grant it was a genuine document. The Wikileaks document is not presented in the discrete pages of an actual document, but as a long running text document, as if from a word processor, with headings within the text indicating what page number out of 48 supposed pages a given block of text represents.

In addition, the page headers do not appear at the top or bottom of actual pages, but are interspersed within the text. The text itself does not go beyond “Page 47 of 48″. The Wikileaks description of the document itself at the home page for the “Detention Poliicies” states that the document has 33 pages.

What Wikileaks calls the “Main [2002] SOP for Camp Delta, Guantanamo” states on its first page that it is a revision dated November 11, 2002. The subsequent SOP for Camp Delta is dated March 23, 2003, approximately five and one-half months later. That SOP, according to its text, was “reorganized” from the previous SOP, so it could consolidate “all aspects of detention and security operations” so the SOP could be “more efficient for its intended users.”

Indeed, the new Wikileaks release of the purported 2002 Camp Delta SOP refers to separate SOPs for relating to detainee matters in relation to the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as one for the “Use of IRF”. IRF refers to “Internal Reaction Force,” which according to this latest Wikileaks release is a 24 hour force available for “possible emergency response situations.” Over the years, the IRF teams have been implicated in brutal beatings of prisoners and violent cell extractions.

The Wikileaks press release for the Detention Policies states, “The ’Detainee Policies’ provide a more complete understanding of the instructions given to captors as well as the ’rights’ afforded to detainees.” It also asks “lawyers, NGOs, human rights activists and the public to mine the ’Detainee Policies’” and “to research and compare the different generations of SOPs and FRAGOs to help us better understand the evolution in these policies and why they have occurred.”

Unfortunately, at least in the case of the purported 2002 Camp Delta SOP, it is unclear just what this document represents. Was it a faulty reconstruction of the original document, a draft of the SOP, a forgery based on some knowledge of the material? We can’t know.

Another problem with the initial analysis by Wikileaks concerns unfamiliarity with the larger world of relevant documents on interrogation. For instance, in their press release, Wikileaks touts one document as revealing “a formal policy of terrorising detainees during interrogations.” This 13-page interrogation policy document from 2005 describes interrogation policies “that apply to… all personnel in the Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF–I). Wikileaks points out as examples of “exploitative techniques” the use of “‘approved’ ‘interrogation approaches’” such as “Emotional Love Approach” and “Fear Up (Harsh).”

While it is interesting to see that these interrogation techniques were applicable to the MNF-I, they are not, as the press release implies, new or unique “interrogation approaches,” but are drawn from the Army Field Manual (AFM) for Intelligence Interrogation in use at that time. That particular version of the AFM came out in 1992. The two “approaches” remain in the current AMF as well, which was significantly updated in September 2006.

While Wikileaks may be wrong about the significance of discovering the use of Fear Up and other problematic techniques, the organization is correct that these are abusive techniques. In fact, such techniques in use by the Department of Defense’s interrogation manual only got worse after it was updated, with the addition of techniques of sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation that were not allowed in the earlier AFM, nor indeed, in the MNF-I document Wikileaks released. They are, however, allowed by the current Obama administration.

Wikileaks Responds

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New Document Details Arguments About Torture at a JSOC Prison

12:06 am in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Torture

Amnesty International projection "Torture is Wrong" outside of the Newseum during the screening of Zero Dark Thirty in Washington DC

Journalist Michael Otterman, author of the excellent book, American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, was kind enough to forward to me some months ago a document he obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. The document consists of the after-action reports made by Colonel Steven Kleinman and Terrence Russell, two of the three team members sent by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) to a top-secret special operations facility in Iraq in September 2003.

The reports, written shortly after both JPRA officials finished their assignment, present two starkly different accounts of what took place that late summer in the depths of a JSOC torture chamber. Even more remarkable, Col. Kleinman, who famously intervened to stop torture interrogations at the facility, had his own report submitted to Russell for comment. Indeed, Kleinman’s report as released contains interpolations by Russell, such that the documents become a kind of ersatz debate over torture by the JPRA team members, and at a distance, some of the Task Force members.

This extraordinary document is being posted here in full for the first time. Click here to download.

“Cleared Hot”

Kleinman told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which in 2008 was investigating detainee abuse in the military (large PDF), that he thought as Team Leader (and Intelligence Director at JPRA’s Personnel Recovery Academy) he was being sent to the Special Mission Unit Task Force interrogation facility to identify problems with their interrogation program.

Much to his surprise, he and his JPRA team were being asked to provide training in the kind of techniques originally used only for demonstration and “classroom” experience purposes in the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, or SERE program. (JPRA has organizational supervisory control over SERE, though the constituent arms of the military services retain some independence in how they run their programs.)

But not far into his mission, JPRA’s Commander, Colonel Randy Moulton, told Kleinman and his team they were “‘cleared hot’ to employ the full range of JPRA methods to include specifically the following: Walling – Sleep Deprivation – Isolation – Physical Pressures (to include stress positions, facial and stomach slaps, and finger pokes to chest) – Space/Time Disorientation – White Noise”.

The story of the JPRA team visit and how it went bad, how Kleinman intervened when he saw a kneeling prisoner being repeatedly slapped, how he refused to write up a torture interrogation protocol for use at the TF facility — widely believed to be Task Force 20 (as reported by Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals) — has been told at this point a number of times.

But never has the degree of acrimony and conflict that went on between Kleinman and his other JPRA team members, and the back and forth with superiors and TF personnel been so carefully detailed.

Russell, who was a civilian manager for JPRA’s Research and Development division, was in particular open about why the team had been sent, and who they were helping. Kleinman, on the other hand, explained in his report at the outset that a nondisclosure agreement put “significant limitations on the details of our actions that can be reported herein.”

Russell was not so reticent. He’s quite clear the purpose of the TDY (temporary assignment) was “To provide support to on-going interrogation efforts being conducted by JSOC/TF-20 elements at their Battlefield Interrogation Facility (BIF)…. At the request of JSOC, a JPRA support team was formed to advice [sic] and assist in on-going interrogations against hostile elements operating against Coalition Forces in Iraq. The mission of the TF-20 interrogation element, J2-X, was to exploit captured enemy personnel and extract timely, actionable intelligence to support operations that would lead to the capture of ‘Black List’ and other high-value and terrorist personnel.”

According to Russell, “TF-20′s deputy commander and JPRA/CC [that is, Commander, who was Col. Randy Moulton] approved the support team to become fully engaged in interrogation operations and demonstrate our exploitation tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to the J2-X staff.”

“A lack of clear guidance”

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David Remes on the Tragic Death of Adnan Latif: What is the Military Trying to Hide?

2:40 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

The following is posted by permission. It was written by David Remes, an attorney for the late Adnan Farhad Abdul Latif.

The Tragic Death of Adnan Latif: What is the Military Trying to Hide?

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

by David Remes

A few weeks ago, as Truthout first reported, the US military began saying that my client Adnan Latif, a Yemeni at Guantanamo, who died in his cell on September 8, committed suicide by overdosing on medication he smuggled into his cell. On Saturday, December 15, the military further stated that acute pneumonia was a contributing factor in Adnan’s death. The government’s theory doesn’t stand up. It leaves urgent questions unanswered.

Extraordinary scrutiny

By way of background, my unclassified notes indicate that Adnan’s tragic saga unfolded between August 8 and September 8.

The tragic saga began when Adnan was in Camp 6, a medium security facility, where detainees are allowed to socialize and have other privileges. On August 8, Adnan was moved from Camp 6 to the psych ward, and from there to the camp hospital. On Friday, September 7, though suffering from acute pneumonia, Adnan was moved from the camp hospital to Camp 5, a maximum security facility. There, he was put in the “punishment” cellblock, in the cell where he was found “motionless and unresponsive” the next day.

Though he was slight in build, and his weight fluctuated between 100 and 120 pounds, Adnan could be difficult to control. Guards asked other detainees how to manage him. As many as six guards “escorted” him from place to place. He was searched repeatedly wherever he went. He was monitored in his cell day and night by an overhead dome camera. Instead of the usual solid steel door (0:50-0:60), Adnan’s cell door may have been toughened glass (0:40-0:45), designed for constant observation of “vulnerable prisoners.”

Adnan’s exit from Camp 6 illustrates this scrutiny-on-steroids. As he was about to be moved to the psych ward, Adnan asked to go back to his cell to change clothes. The guards would not allow it and instead sent another detainee to fetch the clothes. The guards watched Adnan change in the hallway. This scrutiny alone prevented Adnan from smuggling anything out of Camp 6.

Important Questions

Given these barriers, designed just for him, is it plausible that Adnan smuggled medication into his cell, much less kept and used it? Or did the military, perhaps, plant medication in his cell to facilitate his suicide? (Other detainees have reported such apparent suicide prompts.) Did Adnan actually commit suicide, or was he forced to take the medication? Was he tricked? Did he even die of overmedication?

What medications was Adnan administered? In what doses and on what schedule? How were the medications administered—By injection? Orally? If orally, how were they administered—As pills? Capsules? Liquids? Solutions? Where were the medications administered—in Adnan’s cell? The hallway? A dispensary? Somewhere else?

This past Saturday, September 15, the military disclosed, out of the blue, that acute pneumonia was a contributing factor in Adnan’s death. Why did the military wait to disclose that information? The military continues to withhold the other information in the autopsy report. Why the selective disclosure? And how could the military have discharged from the hospital a man with acute pneumonia?

Also on Saturday, the military announced that it had repatriated Adnan’s remains to Yemen. Until then, the military held the remains at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Why did the military hold onto Adnan’s remains in the first place? Why did it repatriate them now? Did the military let Adnan’s body decompose to a point that an independent autopsy cannot be performed?

A Cover-Up?

The autopsy report undoubtedly answers many of these questions. Yet the military will not release the report.

Why is the military stonewalling? What is the military trying to hide?

On Sunday, the family buried Adnan’s remains.

Rahmato Allah Aleih

رحمة الله عليه

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Gitmo Detainee Death Mystery Deepens with News of Drug Overdose

11:37 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

Charlie Savage at the New York Times reports that “several people briefed on a Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry” into the death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, who was found unresponsive in his cell last September, have revealed that the prisoner “died from an overdose of psychiatric medication.”

As Savage notes, the military autopsy has reportedly declared Latif died a suicide. Accordingly, investigators are said to be following up a scenario wherein the Yemeni detainee, recently moved from the psychiatric ward to a disciplinary solitary unit at Camp 5, hoarded medications somehow, and used them to overdose last September 8.

To date, we do not know what kinds of medications were involved, except they were “psychiatric” in nature. Nor do we know how many different medications were supposedly involved. While the Times article implies investigators are looking at pills, as explained below, Latif also received forcible injections of drugs at various times.

Jason Leopold broke the story labeling Latif’s death a suicide in a November 26 article at Truthout. The autopsy report itself has not been publicly released, and has been the subject of wrangling between U.S. and Yemen authorities, a dispute that has left the former Guantanamo’s body in limbo (allegedly frozen) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Cause of Death vs. Manner of Death

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New York Times Decides Guantanamo Detainee Committed Suicide

8:24 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Jason Leopold continues to do superb reporting on the mysterious death last September of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif. Monday, Leopold posted breaking news that a government autopsy report on Latif, not yet officially released, concludes that the 36-year-old prisoner died of suicide.

Guantanamo protesters in prisoner outfits with 'CLOSE GUANTANAMO' Banner

Despite years of pressure (& a presidential promise) Guantanamo remains open.

Leopold sourced the revelation to Yemeni government officials and “a US military investigator close to the case.” The Department of Defense has not yet officially stated any cause of death for Latif, who was discovered inert in his cell at Guantanamo’s Camp 5 on September 8.

Leopold wrote that a “spokesman for United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Joint Task Force-Guantanamo’s (JTF-GTMO) higher command” told Truthout that DoD would “issue a statement as soon as [Yemen] accepts [Latif's] remains.” Just two days after Latif’s death, a Guantanamo spokesman told Associated Press, “There is no apparent cause [of death], natural or self-inflicted.”

But none of this stopped the New York Times from stating in an editorial Sunday calling for Guantanamo’s closure that Latif had in fact committed suicide. Coming out of nowhere, such a statement was, frankly, bizarre.

Here’s what the Times wrote, some 12 hours before Leopold even posted his story at Truthout, and with no published source anywhere definitively reporting Latif’s cause of death as suicide (bold emphasis added):

In September, a member of this stranded group, a Yemeni citizen named Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, killed himself after a federal judge’s ruling ordering his release was unfairly overturned by an appellate court. It was the kind of price a nation pays when it creates prisons like Guantánamo, beyond the reach of law and decency, a tragic reminder of the stain on American justice.

Narratives R Us

There is a lot wrong about the claims in the NYT op-ed, as much as I might agree with the overall thrust of the editorial about shutting down Guantanamo. The Times editors may have thought the latest death of a prisoner at Guantanamo highlighted the crime of keeping Guantanamo open. And they are right about that, but their conclusion — their narrative of Latif’s death — closes off inquiry into what actually occurred, and in doing that they are not acting as a watchdog upon possible government abuse.

First of all, there is no affirmative statement by the government that Latif’s cause of death was suicide. In fact, as Leopold points out in his article, all the earlier statements from DoD led one to believe that suicide was not a cause of death. The only recent article to claim otherwise was by Leopold, and it was not published until many hours after the NYT made their claim.

Secondarily, not only does the New York Times supposedly know how Latif died, they also imply they know why he killed himself, i.e., he “killed himself after a federal judge’s ruling ordering his release was unfairly overturned by an appellate court.”

Well, yes, he did die after the appellate court ruling — nearly eleven months afterward, as the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia came in October 2011. A subsequent appeal by Latif’s attorneys to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected last June, also approximately three months before Latif died.

Since no one reads articles very carefully, and it is enough to spread a particular narrative in mainstream media sources to manufacture a version of Truth, the NYT does its readers a disservice by producing a bogus narrative of the death of Adnan Latif. According to the Times, Latif killed himself, and it was likely because his court case was overturned.

To be fair to the Times, there were stories in the press that speculated upon just such a scenario, as the Reprieve spokesperson in this Alternet article from last September appeared to do. In addition, the Swiss chapter of Amnesty International wrote about the Latif death on November 1, and indicated that the Guantanamo prisoner had died of suicide. (“Le suicide du détenu yéménite Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif en septembre 2012 nous rappelle la cruauté de ce régime de détention qui permet une détention illimitée et illégale.”).

But statements by human rights groups are not the same as statements by the editorial board of the New York Times. One wonders what led them to assert that Latif had died from suicide, when no public source, indeed no story in their own paper had reported the same, until Truthout published Leopold’s story nearly 12 hours later.

“Questions Remain”

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Anti-Torture Psychologists Respond to Attack from APA Division Chief

1:47 pm in Torture, Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

TortureChamberBodrumTurkey_bazylek100-Flickr

Torture Chamber. Bodrum, Turkey.

The battle within the American Psychological Association (APA) to bring that organization into line with other human rights groups and attorney organizations in opposing the use of psychological personnel in national security interrogations accelerated last month when a prominent APA official came out strongly against a petition to annul APA’s ethics policy on national security and interrogations.

In June 2005, the APA published their report on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS report). APA, stung by criticism that psychologists had been involved in torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere, nevertheless stacked the panel hastily assembled that Spring with over fifty percent military and/or military connected members.

These were not just any military individuals, but included the former Chief of Psychology at Guantanamo, a SERE psychologist who supported use of SERE techniques in interrogations, and a Special Forces top psychologist who, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had actually trained interrogators in use of SERE torture techniques in interrogations.

Reposted below is a letter from the Coalition for Ethical Psychology (CEP), responding to an October 26  letter from the President of the American Psychological Association’s Division 42, Psychologists in Independent Practice, who had written a reply to CEP’s request for support for their call for annulment of the APA’s PENS report.

The original petition to annul the PENS report was posted at CEP’s website in October 2011. The petition called PENS “the defining document endorsing psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations.”

The petition continued: “Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations ‘safe, legal, ethical and effective.’ With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional healthcare organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged.”

The political heat around the anti-PENS petition increased noticeably when CEP came out publicly against a so-called “member-initiated task force” to “reconcile policies related to psychologists’ involvement in national security settings.” This task force, actually established with APA Board and staff support, was opposed to the annulment petition, and likely was formed to blunt the impact of CEP’s call for annulment, which was gaining much support. One of the prominent members of this new “task force” is William Strickland, the president and CEO of the long-time military contractor-research group, Human Resource Research Organization (HumRRO),

A number of APA divisions have signed onto CEP’s petition, including Div. 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience & Comparative Psychology), Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and Action), Div. 39 (Psychoanalysis), and others. The CEP petition also gained the support of the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Physicians for Human Rights, and other organizations, as well as prominent individuals, including past APA President Philip Zimbardo, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, and Nobel Prize winning geneticist Richard Lewontin, among many others.

“Harming our practice of psychology”

The Div. 42 letter was written by Jeffrey Younggren, a psychologist who has long presented himself or been recognized as an expert in psychological ethics, and who has a long-time association with military psychology, including a posting as Colonel in the United States Army Reserve to the Office of the Surgeon General, 1999 – 2002, and four medals for service to the Department of Defense.

Readers interested in Dr. Younggren and the Division 42 board’s point of view on PENS are encouraged to read their letter.

Quoted directly below is a portion of Younggren’s letter, wherein he describes the response of Div. 42′s Board to CEP’s original request to them for support of PENS annulment. Dr. Younggren concludes Div. 42 “will not introduce or sign onto any resolution about recalling or annulling the PENS report,” but his discussion goes farther than a mere statement of position on annulment.  He lambasted CEP itself (bold emphases are added for emphasis):

We request that your Coalition stop using the press to spread all negative information about its dissatisfaction with APA. You are harming our practice of psychology by giving false and biased information and therefore, impacting negatively on the ability of people who need psychological services to receive them from ethical and competent psychologists in independent practice….

[The PENS report] was properly vetted at the APA COR [Council of Representatives] meeting that voted to accept it. It is not APA policy. Rather COR merely accepted the information that may or may not be used in formulation of formal APA policies. Annulment [of PENS] would disenfranchise the COR members who voted to accept the report in 2005 and further would be disrespectful to the work done by members whose contribution may have helped the report be more honest than if only members who agreed with the Coalition’s were represented on it….

By distributing copies of this letter, we will ask APA to maintain a vigorous response to any further complaints publicized by the Coalition in the media that may damage our members’ independent practice of psychology. We believe that only by giving a partial story to the media, the Coalition is damaging the entire field of psychology.

PENS, Younggren, and APA’s Council of Representatives

Read the rest of this entry →

Omar Khadr Leaves Guantanamo, While Press Refuses to Report His Water Torture

10:00 am in Military, Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Omar Khadr as he looked when he was first sent to Guantanamo. (photo: Sherurcij / wikimedia)

On a pre-dawn Saturday morning, September 29, the youngest prisoner in Guantanamo, Omar Khadr left the harsh US-run prison where he had been held since October 2002. At the time of his incarceration he was fifteen years old. According to a CBC report, Khadr was flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where he was to be transferred to the Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.

Khadr is supposed to serve out the remainder of an eight-year sentence, part of a deal his attorneys made with the U.S. government, with Khadr agreeing to plead guilty to the killing of SPC Christopher Speer during a firefight at the Ayub Kheil compound in Afghanistan, in addition to other charges such as “material support of terrorism” and spying. Khadr essentially agreed to participate in what amounted to a show trial for the penalty phase of his Military Commissions hearing. For this, he got a brokered eight year sentence, with a promise of a transfer out of Guantanamo to Canada after a year.

The Khadr deal was made in October 2010, but the transfer promise was dragged out as seemingly the Canadian government balked at accepting the former child prisoner, who was also a Canadian citizen. The entire affair became a magnet for right-wing propaganda in Canada, while human rights groups also fought for Khadr’s release. But not long after Macleans leaked U.S. documents related to the Khadr transfer, including psychiatric reports by both government and defense evaluators, the Canadians appeared to move more quickly to accept Khadr into Canada.

CBC reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was “satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada” (CSC) could administer Khadr’s sentence, presumably six more years of imprisonment. Speaking no doubt to those fear-mongerers who suggested Khadr’s safety somehow threatened the average Canadian, he also noted the CSC could “ ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration.”

For those looking for an early release by Canadian authorities, Toews said, “Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law.” According to Carol Rosenberg’s report, Khadr could be eligible for early release because he was a juvenile at the time of his supposed crimes.

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy released a statement calling for Khadr’s immediate release, and for President Obama to close Guantanamo and release the 86 known detainees already cleared for transfer.

Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials.

Like several other boys held at Guantanamo, some as young as twelve years old, Khadr lost much of his childhood. Canada should not perpetuate the abuse he endured in one of the world’s most notorious prisons. Instead, Canada should release him immediately and provide him with appropriate counseling, education, and assistance in transitioning to a normal life.

Azmy also suggested that Canada could “accept other men from Guantanamo who cannot safely return to their home countries,” such as Algerian citizen Djamel Ameziane, who lived legally as a refugee in Canada from 1995 to 2000. Ameziane fears persecution if he were transfered back to Algeria. Read the rest of this entry →

New Document Shows FBI Interrogation Advice Draws on CIA Torture Manuals

11:23 am in Torture by Jeff Kaye

Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal

A 2010 FBI interrogation “primer” (PDF), apparently a fifth version of earlier FBI manuals dealing with “Cross-cultural, Rapport-based” “intelligence-oriented interrogations in overseas environments,” repeatedly draws upon advice from two CIA torture manuals, the 1963 KUBARK Counter-intelligence Manual and the 1983 Human Exploitation Resource Manual.

According to the National Security Archive, the KUBARK manual “includes a detailed section on ‘The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources,’ with concrete assessments on employing ‘Threats and Fear,’ ‘Pain,’ and ‘Debility.’ “ Even so, the manual is on the FBI’s “Recommended Reading” list for agents conducting overseas interrogations.

The 1983 Human Exploitation manual, which has been connected with atrocities by Latin American governments, drew upon both KUBARK and U.S. Army Intelligence manuals, describing the interrogator as someone “‘able to manipulate the subject’s environment… to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception.’”

The FBI document quotes the 1983 manual twice. While not referenced by name in the body of the document, the source is noted in the footnotes. One such quote from the 1983 torture document describes “the principle of generating pressure inside the source without the application of outside force.”

“This is accomplished by manipulating [the prisoner] psychologically until his resistance is sapped and his urge to yield is fortified,” the Human Exploitation Resource manual states, and FBI agents are so advised. The quote is in bold in the FBI instructions and reproduced as such here.

Meanwhile, the KUBARK manual is repeatedly mentioned in the body of the FBI work. “There are two purposes of screening according to the KUBARK Manual,” the “primer” states. According to the FBI, the “wise Interrogator” will follow “KUBARK Manual guidance.”

According to an ACLU blog posting, the FBI document was “written by an FBI Section Chief within the counterterrorism division.”

The rehabilitation of the KUBARK document began with an essay by U.S. interrogation consultant Colonel (ret.) Steven Kleinman. The essay was published in an Intelligence Science Board (ISB) December 2006 monograph, Educing Information. Kleinman noted KUBARK’s “disturbing legacy,” but added he felt the manual contained “the potential for lessons learned that could be derived from a highly controversial document.”

The FBI “rapport-based” manual repeatedly references another ISB document. Written in 2009, Intelligence Interviewing: Teaching Papers and Case Studies, includes in its two case studies a long discussion of a case of years-long isolation of a very senior North Vietnamese military official. While the interrogator in charge, Frank Snepp, said the treatment of this official ultimately disillusioned him about what the U.S. was trying to achieve in Vietnam, the ISB authors found Snepp had been successful in establishing “some operational accord” with the prisoner.

In his essay, Kleinman seriously played down the nature of the CIA’s manual, which had drawn upon years of MKULTRA research into use of drugs, sensory deprivation and the induction of fear and debility in interrogation subjects.

“Although criticized for its discussion of coercion, the KUBARK manual does not portray coercive methods as a necessary — or even viable — means of effectively educing information,” Kleinman wrote.

But in fact the CIA manual devotes fully a fifth of its instructions to coercive interrogation techniques, or torture, including isolation, “deprivation of sensory stimuli,” induction of physical weakness, use of “fear and threats,” hypnosis, and “narcosis”, i.e., use of drugs (including use of drugs as a placebo to fool prisoners).

Kleinman is the Director for Strategic Research for The Soufan Group, an organization named after ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan, and includes ex-FBI interrogators on its list of experts. It would seem that unwittingly Kleinman’s focus on what was of use to the legal interrogator in the KUBARK manual did not stop some FBI officials from allowing certain forms of coercive interrogation, i.e., reliance on use of isolation and manipulation of human emotional needs to get information and confessions. At times this is taken to extremes that amount to torture.

Kleinman himself is on the record as opposing all coercive interrogation methods. The 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into detainee abuse described then-Col. Kleinman’s efforts to stop torture occurring at a JSOC interrogation facility in Iraq. The criticism of his KUBARK essay is not meant to imply that he supports in any way the kinds of coercive techniques described therein.

[Update, 8/6/12: Furthermore, it is worth noting, and after hearing critique regarding the first version of this article from Mr. Kleinman himself, that in his essay on the CIA manual, Kleinman specifically says "long-term isolation" causes "profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort, and that such abuse would therefore fail to measure up to the standards for the treatment of prisoners as set forth in international accords and U.S. Federal statutes" (p. 138)]

FBI Uses Isolation to Achieve “Rapport”

The FBI manual also argues for the use of isolation to achieve rapport by leveraging the isolation or solitary confinement of a detainee.  Kevin Gosztola highlighted this aspect of the FBI “primer” in an August 2 article at Firedoglake’s The Dissenter blog.

What both Gosztola and the ACLU miss in their otherwise important commentary about the coercive isolation technique (even the CIA’s KUBARK manual recognizes isolation is a coercive technique, i.e., torture) is how the FBI intends to leverage the effects of isolation to achieve effects under their “rapport” paradigm. This psychological aspect of the use of isolation has not been generally publicized.

“The need for affiliation is one of the advantages the Interrogator has if a subject has been isolated from fellow detainees, “ the FBI “primer” states.

In this matter, the FBI is following in the footsteps of the CITF doctrine it followed in DoD interrogations under an October 2003 directive that stated, “The use of isolation facilities will not be employed as an interrogation tactic; however, on a case-by-case basis it can be used as an incentive.” Perversely, the use of isolation under this directive was supposed to be “approved” by the detainee.

The KUBARK manual describes the anxieties, emotional discomfort and psychological regression that follow from enforced isolation, and how the interrogator exploits this situation (italics added for emphasis):

“As the interrogator becomes linked in the subject’s mind with the reward of lessened anxiety, human contact, and meaningful activity, and thus with providing relief for growing discomfort, the questioner assumes a benevolent role….

“At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject’s tendencies toward compliance.”

The Appendix M Torture Virus Spreads to FBI Doctrine

Writing in an August 2 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, ACLU Director Laura Murphy and Legislative Counsel Devon Chaffee make the important connection between FBI policy on using isolation and current Department of Defense interrogation policy.

As official interrogation doctrine of the Obama administration, Army Field Manual FM 2-22.3 (AFM), Human Intelligence Collector Operations made use of isolation part of their “Separation” technique, as described in its Appendix M.

Murphy and Chaffee write:

“By recommending that FBI agents ask the U.S. military to isolate detainees in its custody, the FBI primer appears to be encouraging the application of Appendix M of the Army’s interrogation manual—a controversial, restricted appendix that allows detainee isolation only in certain circumstances not involving prisoners of war. The FBI primer states that in a Department of Defense facility ‘a formal request from the FBI must be made to isolate the detainee’ and that this request ‘must be approved by the first O-6 in the chain of command.’ Appendix M of the military’s interrogation manual (which requires O-7 level approval) permits the use of isolation—as well as the placement of goggles, blindfolds, and earmuffs on the detainee—to ‘foster a feeling of futility.’ Experienced interrogators and human rights groups, however, have called for Appendix M to be revoked, questioning the technique’s effectiveness and highlighting the risk that its use will lead to serious human rights abuses.”

The abusive techniques of Appendix M, which also includes sleep deprivation and allowed environmental manipulations, along with the AFM’s allowance for use of fear techniques and even use of drugs, were approved in a 2006 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum for the files (PDF) by torture memo author Steven Bradbury.

Although President Obama, with the advice of Attorney General Eric Holder, revoked the 2002, 2005 and a few other OLC Bush-era torture memos, the administration never revoked the memo on Appendix M.

Use of isolation was something the FBI adopted early on, and its use was in evidence even in the early days at Guantanamo, where FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan was in charge of the interrogation of Mohamed Al Qahtani. While Al Qahtani’s interrogation was later the subject of an escalation of use of torture techniques by the military, which was itself a matter of some protest within DoD and FBI circles, while the FBI was in charge, Soufan had Al Qahtani placed in harsh isolation.

Soufan went so far as to remove Al Qahtani from the usual cellblock and built a special cell for him alone, meant to duplicate the hard isolation conditions Jose Padilla had been placed into in a Charleston, South Carolina Navy brig. When Soufan, NCIS Chief Psychologist Mark Gelles, and others protested use of other techniques of physical and psychological torture on Al Qahtani, their alternate proposal was to put the already near-psychotic and ailing prisoner in months more intense isolation.

The use of isolation to break prisoners has a long history. When two former prisoners in the USSR gulags, writing under the pen names F. Beck and W. Godin, published their account of Soviet torture in 1951 in a book entitled Russian Purge and the Extraction of Confession, they described the use of isolation at the start of their detention by the Stalin secret police:

“When a man was arrested he was completely isolated from the outside world….

“Each prisoner was carefully isolated from fellow prisoners who knew him. Consultation with defense counsel was unheard of, and in the overwhelming majority of cases no defense of any kind was permitted.” (pp. 40-41)

American sociologist Albert Biderman studied the effects of coercive interrogation on prisoners. His famous “chart of coercion” was taught to interrogators at Guantanamo. With its emphasis on isolation to deprive the prisoner of all social report and the will to resist, it could be a blueprint for modern FBI interrogation, minus Biderman’s emphasis on induction of debility.

For instance, Biderman’s chart describes demonstrating interrogator “omnipotence” and the use of threats and degradation of the prisoner. The FBI manual explicitly allows AFM “techniques” that play exactly on this, including “Emotional Fear Up,” “Emotional Pride and Ego Down,” “Emotional Futility,” and “The All Seeing Eye or We Know All.”

Changes in Procedures for Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas

Unremarked by the ACLU or other commentators is the FBI manual’s Annex B, “Conducting Custodial Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas.” The first FBI concern is evidence tainted by torture (though they don’t use the word “torture” anywhere in the document, at least in its redacted form).

The FBI counterterrorism Section Chief notes, drily, “Given the extensive media coverage of interrogation activities at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram and other facilities the threshold is particularly high for establishing that any statement you obtained overseas was not coerced in some way.”

Three sentences in the document are then redacted, and the text continues, “The assumption of the court may be that you used prior knowledge of the subject’s statements to obtain a statement which you are asserting is admissible even if you did not confront the subject with information he previously provided. Always keep in mind that you may one day be on the stand swearing that you had no knowledge of the subjects previous statements during intelligence interviews.” [Bold emphasis in original]

A second concern is the videotaping of interrogations. Recognizing that DoD routinely videotapes all interrogations, the FBI manual infers that the government may destroy or has destroyed such interrogation recordings.

“This creates a tremendous suppression hearing issue,” the FBI notes, “because the defense will become aware that the U.S Government (USG) taped the interview but the tape cannot be provided to the defense if a copy was not retained. The obvious accusation will be that the tape was destroyed to hide the fact that the confession was coerced. Seek out information on the videotaping policy for any facility you work in and document it.”

A third concern is the reading of rights to a subject held by a DoD or a foreign power, while emphasizing that the FBI agent has “no control” over such detainees and how they are held. While it requires the agents to document the subject’s condition, the manual does not forbid agents from interrogating subjects held in tortuous or cruel, degrading or inhuman conditions. In fact, the FBI manual’s section about “Recommended practices” regarding agents in such situations is entirely redacted.

A further distortion of normal FBI functioning concerns the advice of rights given to interrogation subjects held by DoD or another state.  The FBI uses a “modified advice of rights” form in such cases, which begins with standard wording regarding the right to remain silent, to have an attorney present.

The “modified” rights form continues:

“If you cannot afford lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.

“Our ability to provide you with counsel at this time, however, may be limited by the decisions of local authorities or the availability of an American or qualified attorney.”

The “modified” form concludes the same as the FBI standard form, informing the individual that even if they talk without an attorney present, they “have the right to stop answering at any time.”

The modification of procedure is necessary because, as the FBI manual states, “there is no way that a detainee in DOD or foreign custody will be allowed access to an American defense attorney…”

Conclusion

The FBI is often contrasted with the military and the CIA in regards to its use of abusive procedures during interrogation. While eschewing “enhanced interrogation” techniques that amount to torture, such as waterboarding, close confinement, and stress positions, the FBI relies instead on psychological manipulations of “rapport” building procedures, while using the harsh pressure of isolation and sensory deprivation to break down the prisoner psychologically.

Isolation itself is a form of sensory deprivation, and is described as such in the KUBARK manual.

This form of psychological torture is added to standard police techniques, and in particular a form of interrogation procedure known as the Reid Technique. The FBI manual references several times the 1963 work on this technique, Criminal interrogation and confessions.

A 2009 study of this kind of interrogation technique in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology found “innocent people are sometimes induced to confess to crimes they did not commit as a function of certain dispositional vulnerabilities or the use of overly persuasive interrogation tactics.”

These are exactly the tactics the FBI uses, though they are then supercharged via use of isolation of a prisoner, which, as the FBI itself notes, “advantages” the interrogator by playing off the human need for “affiliation” or communication with others. Modern psychological and neuroscience investigators understand that this “need” is hard-wired in the brain, and deprivation of such social stimulation is a direct attack on the nervous system of the individual.

The failure to hold anyone accountable for the use of torture by U.S. officials, including accountability for those who planned and sanctioned such torture, meant that forms of torture were institutionalized in U.S. policy documents, such as the Army Field Manual.

The declassification of this FBI interrogation manual has allowed us to understand that such institutionalization has extended as well to the Department of Justice and the FBI.

[This article has been altered to reflect feedback from Col. Steven Kleinman received after the story was first published.]

Cross-posted at Invictus