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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

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 →

Could Durham’s CIA “Investigation” Lead to Understanding Migration of Torture Techniques?

10:31 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

photo: takomabibelot via Flickr

With the news that John Durham has decided to finally open criminal, and not just “preliminary,” investigations into the deaths of two prisoners held by the CIA (apparently Manadel al-Jamadi and Gul Rahman) the CIA can now “exhale,” as Spencer Ackerman describes it. The CIA’s sigh of release is related to the fact that of at least 101 cases of CIA abuse only two might be prosecuted. Spencer quotes outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta:


“On this, my last day as Director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” Panetta wrote to the CIA staff on Thursday. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency’s history.”

Ackerman also quoted the new CIA director, General David Petraeus: “During his confirmation hearing last Thursday, Petraeus issued a public plea to take the ‘rear view mirrors off the bus’ and drop any inquiries into CIA torture. He also suggested that the CIA might return to abusive interrogations in “special cases” of imminent danger…”

Petraeus was approved for his new CIA position on a unanimous Senate vote. No one in Congress bothered to ask about his affiliation with former “Salvador option” specialist James Steele, or his activities in relation to the training of Iraq security forces, at the same time as U.S. forces were given a “fragmentary order” (FRAGO 242) which told U.S. forces not to interfere with the torture of prisoners they were handing over to these same Iraqi security forces. FRAGO 242 was a direct contravention of U.S. treaty obligations under the Convention Against Torture not to turn prisoners over to forces that would likely torture them.

But this is America, and it appears most of the reporting class, both mainstream and of the more alternative, “blogging” sort, have taken to heart the no-accountability plea of the Obama administration, and never bothered to ask why Petraeus was given such a free ride re questions about torture and other abuse under his command noted above, or his association with the operations of terror groups like the Wolf Brigade. (I plan to write more about this later.)

Comparing the 2002 OLC Memos with Later CIA Iterations of its “Techniques”

But not everyone is letting things slide. Marcy Wheeler is taking a closer look at the new information that we can glean from the Durham investigations. One thing she notes, which she has covered before, is how the techniques used on Rahman were never approved by the Yoo/Bybee memos. The water dousing and exposure to extreme cold were techniques noted in a 2004 letter written by the CIA General Counsel to the OLC’s Jack Goldsmith, a follow-up request concerning the CIA’s “Legal Principles Applicable to CIA Detention and Interrogation of Al-Qa’ida Personnel,” otherwise known as the Bullet Points memo, and the earlier OLC memos . But did someone vet some of these techniques, at another time and place, for a different agency… at DoD perhaps?

I think it’s worth noting that the Bullet points memo cited 17 techniques (it’s really 16, though) the CIA relied upon, and it would be worth comparing those techniques in general with the ten approved torture techniques in the 2002 Yoo/Bybee memo.

Yoo/Bybee, 2002:
1. Attention grasp
2. Walling
3. Facial hold
4. Facial slap (insult slap)
5. cramped confinement
6. wall standing
7. stress positions
8. sleep deprivation
9. insects placed in a confinement box (really, the use of phobias)
10. the waterboard

– I’d note, as I have before, that some of these techniques were really omnibus in nature, particularly “sleep deprivation”, which included within its definition (from the Bradbury 2005 memo, which avers, however, to how “sleep deprivation” was already being used), “sleep deprivation, forced sleep deficit was combined, as we can see, with shackling, forced positions and forced standing, humiliation, manipulation of diet, sensory overload, and possibly other torture procedures.” (quote is from my article)

Now, let’s look at the Bullet Point document (4/28/2003), written (PDF) it appears by John Yoo and Jennifer Koester, with duplicated items from August 2002 asterisked; all others are “new” and presumably unapproved (though more on that in a moment).

1. Isolation
2. Sleep deprivation*
3. “reduced caloric intake (so long as the amount is calculated to maintain the general health of the detainee)”
4. deprivation of reading material
5. “loud music or white noise (at a decibel level calculated to avoid damage to the detainee’s hearing)”
6. the attention grasp*
7. walling*
8. the facial hold*
9. the facial slap (insult slap)*
10. the abdominal slap
11. cramped confinement*
12. wall standing*
13. stress positions*
14. sleep deprivation [this is a duplication in the list of #2, but is listed twice in the bullet point list, so is included here]
15. the use of diapers
16. the use of harmless insects* [though changed from the more precise use of insects in a confinement box from Yoo/Bybee 2002]
17. the waterboard*

On March 2, 2004, as Marcy Wheeler has noted, “CIA General Counsel Scott Muller [wrote] to Jack Goldsmith asking for reaffirmation of several legal documents, including [the] Legal Principles document, released with redactions”. (PDF to Muller’s letter)

Muller added some new techniques to the Bullet Points document, including pouring, flicking, or tossing of water (“water PFT) and “water dousing” (using water from a bucket or water hose). “Both water PFT and water dousing are used as part of the SERE training provided to US military personnel,” Muller wrote, noting later in his letter, “there are virtually no health or safety concerns with water PFT as part of an approved interrogation plan.”

Muller explains, too, that “[a] medical officer is present to monitor the detainee’s physical condition during the water dousing session(s), including any indications of hypothermia. Upon completion of the water dousing session(s), the detainee is moved to another room, monitored as needed by a medical officer to guard against hypothermia, and steps are taken to ensure the detainee is capable of generating necessary body heat and maintain normal body functions.”

These explanations about safeguards, written over a year after Rahman’s death, appear to be a cover for Rahman’s death, as evidently there were no safeguards used there. Or perhaps, Rahman was an experimental case, much as Zubaydah was when it came to other torture techniques (“walling” and waterboarding, for instance).

Gul Rahman died of hypothermia (and likely other torture) on November 20, 2002, shackled after a session of water dousing in a cold room in the CIA’s infamous Salt Pit prison. Was there a medical monitor present? We have reason to believe that CIA doctors were at all the black sites, so what were they doing on November 20, 2002?

CIA and DoD Techniques Compared

As we have seen, by April 2004, the number of CIA known techniques have escalated to 18 (or 19, given the replication of “sleep deprivation” in the original list, which is, as I will suggest below, a typo, as most likely the second mention of sleep deprivation is really meant to be “sleep adjustment”).

Finally, I think it’s worth looking at the techniques approved for DoD by Rumsfeld on April 16, 2003, after the infamous “Working Group” review. I’m not going to list them all. They were divided into categories of severity. One of the techniques that led to the Working Group review was “Exposure to cold weather or water (with appropriate medical monitoring”) in Jerald Phifer’s October 11, 2002 memo to the Commander of Guantanamo’s Joint Task Force 170 .

The DoD techniques, approved around the same time as the CIA’s Bullet Point list, included (the list below is not definitive, but meant to compare/contrast with those above):

1.  “Incentive/Removal of Incentive: Providing a reward or removing a privilege. ‘above and beyond those that are required by the Geneva Convention, from detainees. [Sounds very much like "deprivation of reading material" in the Bullet Point document, though could be more related to sensory deprivation]
2. “Fear Up Harsh: Significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee.”
3. “Pride and Ego Down: Attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee, not beyond the limits that would apply to a POW.”
4. “Futility: Invoking the feeling of futility of a detainee.”
5. “Mutt and Jeff: A team consisting of a friendly and harsh interrogator. The harsh interrogator might employ the Pride and Ego Down technique. [Caution: Other nations that believe that POW protections apply to detainees may view this technique as inconsistent with Geneva IIt, Article 13...]”
6. “Dietary manipulation: Changing the diet of a detainee; no intended deprivation of food or water; no adverse medical or cultural effect and without intent to deprive subject of food or water…” [bold emphasis added]
7. Environmental manipulation, including “adjusting temperature”
8. Sleep Adjustment, refers to shifting hours of sleep, i.e., playing around with circadian rhythms, “NOT sleep deprivation” [this may account for the confusion in the Bullet Points document, which appears to draw on approvals made for DoD, whatever the nature of those approvals).
9. False Flag
10. Isolation [which includes a host of caveats, including possible violations of Geneva III, Articles 13, 14, 34 and 126]

Savvy readers will remember that this was a ratcheting down of earlier DoD-approved techniques (Dec. 2002), that also included deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, stress positions, inducing stress by manipulation of detainee’s fears (IPCRESS for those who remember that book/movie), 20 hr. interrogations, and hooding, among others.

It appears, from a pursuit of how the torture techniques migrated, that there was a good deal of synergy going on between DoD, CIA, and likely Special Forces. I’d point out that in the Muller letter to Goldsmith, there are some redactions, one of them concerns a redacted technique, one that is associated with SERE.

Like other approved interrogation techniques, [approximately sixteen character spaces redacted] is used as part of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training provided to US personnel.

The implication is that some other SERE technique was approved and the technique is being ported over from DoD. I believe the redacted technique could be “exposure to cold”, which would fit the redacted area, and speaks to a technique otherwise unremarked in the Bullet Points document, but which was obviously used by CIA, as it was by DoD (under the rubric “environmental manipulation”).

It’s additionally worth noting there were psychologists and psychiatrists around who moved between all these agencies. Some techniques were apparently never written down or approved, but certainly used, particularly those that played on sexual humiliation or other cultural or religious sensitivities and vulnerabilities.

Factoring in the Experiments Angle

It would be a mistake to think that the documents will provide a full story of what occurred. This is especially true when it comes to considering what kinds of experimentation were actually being conducted on the detainees. Jason Leopold and I have written about the unprecedented use of the antimalarial mefloquine on all incoming detainees (see here, here, and here).

Another possible experiment may have surrounded the use of dietary manipulation, and the Seton Hall School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research’s study on The Guantanamo Diet noted, “The detainees’ weight varies so wildly that many have been obese briefly and underweight and malnourished at other times…. Professor Denbeaux concluded, “The most compelling question is how can the detainees’ weight swing from obese to under nourished when the medical staff is in complete control of all food intake.”

I’m looking into the latter issue, but will note that dietary manipulation, which shows up in the Bullet Point document as “reduced caloric intake”, as well as DoD docs,  is allowed so far as I can perceive in the current Army Field Manual (FM 2-22.3). The latter states “Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care” is “prohibited,” but I think, as in the caveat on dietary manipulation above, re the detainee’s “general health” that there is a lot of room for leeway, i.e., what is considered “necessary”? Note the use of the word “intended” as regards “dietary manipulation” in the April 2003 list of DoD “techniques.”

The list of AFM prohibited techniques is followed immediately by the following statement: “While using legitimate interrogation techniques, certain applications of approaches and techniques may approach the line between permissible actions and prohibited actions. It may often be difficult to determine where permissible actions end and prohibited actions begin.”

No kidding.

Making Guantanamo Permanent, and Other Portents

7:43 pm in Military, Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

A motley crew of Senate Republicans, joined by Sen. Lieberman, have introduced a bill to make Guantanamo a permanent “terrorist” prison. Once upon a time, this could have been dismissed as GOP posturing. But recent events suggest this is more likely a harbinger of the future fate of the US Naval prison, as President Obama has already pronounced that he will support indefinite detention of prisoners based on unchallenged U.S. executive fiat.

It’s hard to believe these GOP national security groupies, and their jester Lieberman, could really get this passed, much less signed by the President. But the ways things have been going, who would be ridiculed for thinking such things possible?

Human Rights First reports (H/T Barry Eisler):

Washington, D.C. — Legislation introduced today [11 May] in the Senate to force the Obama administration to declare Guantánamo a permanent prison for terror suspects will inspire America’s enemies and undermine the American justice system, a leading human rights group said.

U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Detaining Terrorists To Secure America Act” (S. 944) – legislation that would keep open the Guantánamo Bay terrorist detention facility for the detention and interrogation of current and future terrorism suspects. The legislation also permanently limits the transfer of detainees to foreign countries and prohibits funding for the construction of terrorist detention facilities within the United States.

A perpetual Guantanamo to match the indefinite detention policy enshrined by President Barack Obama is truly a sign of the debauched times in which we live, ruled by those whose lust for naked rule and capitalist gain are rarely hidden anymore. I presume, by the way, that the torture via isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, exploitation of fears, stress positions and drugs — all fine and “legal” thanks to the near-universal acceptance of the 2006 Army Field Manual on interrogation — will continue “forever” at Guantanamo as well.

The Terrorist Who Lived Happily Ever After — in Miami

I can tell you one person who will not be sent to Guantanamo, even though he was involved in bombing hotels and tourist spots in the 1990s. Luis Posada Carriles walked a free man out of a Texas courtroom last month, only weeks before another terrorist was shot in the head, “taken out” by the “heroes” of Seal Team Six. An article in the Mexican paper La Jornada, translated and reposted at The Nation. It was translated by Machetera/Tlaxcala describes more of Posada Carriles’ fascinating career:

In addition to working for the CIA, it’s worth recalling that Posada Carriles participated in the US-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs; that he was an officer in the US Army and that in 1976 he moved to Venezuela to head the intelligence service in that country. That same year he was arrested after being accused of being the mastermind of the attack on the Cuban airliner, and escaped before facing a civil trial for what was at the time the worst terrorist act in the hemisphere. In 2001, he was arrested in Panama, for planning to kill Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives, in a university auditorium filled with students in 2000, but was pardoned by then–Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso in 2004, showing up a short time later in the United States. In 2005 he was arrested here, which led to the beginning of the process that ended last Friday in El Paso with his acquittal.

Posada Carriles walked on charges of immigration fraud and obstruction of justice, and not for any of his terrorist actions, for which he was never charged by American authorities. The U.S. ignores extradition requests to Venezuela. With the latest court decision, the ex-CIA terrorist can return to Miami and sip cocktails and be lionized by the anti-Castro crowd, and the host of SOF that live in southern Florida. It’s enough to make me fantasize about leading a Cuban team in the extrajudicial rendition of Posada Carriles back to Cuba, where he could face his victims in trial. (I can’t even allow my fantasies the vicarious bloodlust that many Americans seem to luxuriate in, by imagining my neat placement of a kill shot straight through the eyeball of a non-human, reviled villain, monster of all fantasies.)

Will the Obama administration and the pathetic Democratic Party supporters, who have set forth their belief in indefinite detention for those prisoners it deems “unlawful” enemy combatants, who have shown inordinate lust for murder as it tries to assassinate even U.S. citizens (Al-Awlaki), or blow up more and more “enemies” with Hellfire missiles from drone aircraft buzzing with death in the skies, will they hesitate to move against the U.S. population itself with terrorist prisons, indefinite detention for those deemed “terrorists”? Damn if we are not already more than half-way there now.

Torture is the new state religion. The arguments between those who find torture effective and those who find it ineffective are like the arguments between Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century, articulated with great passion and earnestness, but totally besides the point. Underlying the actual conflicts and debates is nothing more than a raw grab for power, as the U.S. seeks greater instruments of repression at home and abroad in the name of securing the world for U.S. plunder for the greater good of a small clique of corporations and a coterie of military men, academics, and spies that keep the wheels of the machine well-oiled and ready to strike.

Bravo, Senators Ayotte, Graham, Lieberman, Chambliss, Brown, and Rubio. You have brought the logic of the “war on terror” to its true purpose. You have struck at the heart of the matter, and like the loyal knights-errant of a previous era, your adventures bring back to the King matter for great celebration at the castle. I know you will be well-rewarded.

UK Guardian Releases British Torture Tape

7:08 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

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.   . . . Read the rest of this entry →

The Wikileaks Effect: UK Guardian Reveals British Interrogation Manuals Authorize Torture

6:22 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

As the controversies over the Iraq logs released by Wikileaks last Friday escalate, with the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture calling on Barack Obama to initiate an investigation into the war crimes revealed in the documents’ release, not least U.S. connivance with wide-scale Iraqi torture, it is not surprising that other leakers and whistleblowers are wanting to get in on the act.

The story reported here also comes on the same sad day that Omar Khadr, after years of torture and solitary imprisonment in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, locked away at age 15 for eight years, pleaded guilty to “terrorism” and multiple murders — including crimes for which he had never been charged — in a show trial confession engineered by the Pentagon. More will be written on this later.

The UK Guardian is reporting that secret training materials used by the British military in recent years include actions and behaviors that are clearly abusive and outside the treatment of prisoners mandated by the Geneva conventions. The article emphasizes the use of humiliation and sensory deprivation as primary tools of the British interrogator. Even “recent training material [say] blindfolds, earmuffs and plastic handcuffs are essential equipment for military interrogators.”

The story comes from the magnificent Iab Cobain, who has been on fire of late:

The British military has been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions, the Guardian has discovered.

Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved….

Prisoners should be “conditioned” before questioning, with conditioning defined as the combined effects of self-induced pressure and “system-induced pressure”. Harsh questioning – or “harshing” – in which an interrogator puts his face close to the prisoner, screaming, swearing and making threats, is recommended as a means to provoke “anxiety/fear”. Other useful responses include “insecurity”, “disorientation” and “humiliation”.

The training material recommends that after a prisoner’s clothes are removed, the interrogator ensures he is searched behind his foreskin and that his buttocks are spread. This is part of the conditioning process, rather than as a security measure. One section of the training course is entitled “positional asphyxiation – signs and symptoms”.

Well, I think readers can get the idea, and should definitely read the entire story at the UK Guardian. The actions of the British military are consistent with the charges of torture in the torture-killing of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa in Basra in 2003, and of other atrocities committed by British troops. It is also redolent of the torture of IRA prisoners in Northern Irish prisons run by the British in the 1970s and 1980s. (Here’s a link to the diary of a famous hunger striker from another era, Bobby Sands.) The newly revealed British techniques are also similar to those in the U.S. Army’s Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which has a special appendix that describes the use of isolation, forms of sensory deprivation and sleep deprivation, and combines them with techniques that rely on threats and even possible use of drugs in the main portion of the manual. Abuse of prisoners linked to the Army Field Manual was recently the subject of a report by the George Soros-supported Open Society Foundations.

Between the U.S. crimes most recently revealed, and these admissions of British torture — and if not “torture,” a word most terrifically massaged these days, certainly cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, outlawed by the world — we have a veritable concatenation of horrific messages, all of which add up to one huge conclusion: the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom are war criminals, and the political machinery of these countries allow precious little, outside of creaky and corrupt electoral processes for the people of these countries to do much about it. And maybe that’s why we don’t see much outward protest yet… as if the entire rotten edifice, weakened by economic chicanery and greed in high places, and rent through with generations of lies, might totter over entirely if too much truth, too much protest were made.

In any case, for those who thought that the Wikileaks tempest might blow straight into a teapot, the latest revelations show that the Iraq logs might only be the beginning, that the military and civilian governments of these countries are full of disgusted patriots tired of serving amoral and criminal regimes. Who knows, maybe even the U.S. press might awake and do its duty. That might be hoping too much, but one never knows.

The British revelations should put new pressures upon a supposed British investigation into torture that was announced last July. As Amnesty International and eight British NGOs wrote in September to the putative head of this British inquiry, Sir Peter Gibson (PDF):

A sufficiently empowered and transparent inquiry could discharge the United Kingdom’s duty to effectively investigate damaging allegations of knowledge and/or involvement by state actors or agents in the torture, ill-treatment or rendition of individuals that have arisen in the last decade. Such an inquiry could also play an important role in clarifying how involvement in torture, ill- treatment or rendition might be prevented in the future.

It is incumbent on governments to promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and other related human rights abuses.

It is time for such an inquiry in the United States. Who will call for it? Who will organize it? How can we keep such an investigation prompt, independent, thorough, transparent and subject to public inquiry and oversight? Even more important, what will happen if we don’t have such an inquiry, if the torture regime, which is obviously out of control and still in existence, continues?

I think everyone knows the answer to that, and with a shudder, rejects it. We must not let cowardice and fear and confusion prevent us from pursuing the terrible chore history has thrown upon us. We need a far-reaching societal discussion of these issues, and we need it now.

Soros’ Foundation Links AFM’s Appendix M to U.S. Torture in Afghanistan

8:23 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Last week, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) published an important policy brief, “Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base.” The report has been widely described in the press, as in this article by AFP:

The US military is mistreating detainees — and violating its own rules — at a secret prison in Afghanistan, a US think tank said Friday in a report.

The 16-page report by the Open Society Foundation said Afghans call the secret site “Tor Jail,” or “Black Jail,” and that consistent accounts from detainees refer to being kept without adequate shelter or food or other basic rights.

The independent investigation by OSF is consistent with news reports of torture and abuse at secret black sites run by JSOC in Afghanistan, including articles by the New York Times and Washington Post. Last May, BBC reported that they received confirmation on the existence of the black site from a Red Cross spokesman, while Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic described the JOSC black site as being “manned by intelligence operatives and interrogators who work for the DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC)… [performing] interrogations for a sub-unit of Task Force 714, an elite counter-terrorism brigade.” The spate of news articles led Physicians for Human Rights to opine last May whether it was “possible that officials were relying on Appendix M of the 2006 Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations (AFM),” noting that the “appendix authorizes the use of two of the tactics — sleep deprivation and isolation — allegedly being applied to detainees.”

In an article for The Seminal, also posted last May, I noted that the Chief for Research for the DCHC’s Behavioral Science Program, psychologist Susan Brandon, was a primary organizer of a CIA/American Psychological Assocation/Rand Corporation workshop on “deception” in July 2003. This workshop asked questions about how to use sensory overload techniques and truth drugs to “overwhelm the senses” of prisoners, in order to detect deception. Scott Horton also picked up the connection between Brandon and the torture reports from Afghanistan. In a major investigative report at Truthout last week, Jason Leopold and I reported that changes in a DOD directive on human subjects experimentation protections signed by Paul Wolfowitz in March 2002 were implicated in “a top-secret Special Access Program at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which experimented on ways to glean information from unwilling subjects and to achieve ‘deception detection.’”

There is most likely much more to the detention story in Afghanistan than we know thus far, but the new OSF report is a welcome corroboration of most unwelcome and brutal facts about U.S. prisoner abuse and counterinsurgency practice in Afghanistan. But whether it’s AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC, or even Aljazeera, with only one exception, no press article on the OSF report indicated that as one of the OSF report’s “main findings” the abuse in the Bagram secret prison derives from the use of the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M. Appendix M is a portion of AFM dealing with prisoners who are held in other than Prisoner of War status. Appendix M techniques, concentrating on isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, use of fear techniques, and ambiguous “prohibitions” on “extreme” environmental manipulations, amount to torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and they are in use today. Only my fellow psychologist and anti-torture activist, Stephen Soldz, noted this most salient finding of the OSF investigation.

A link to the Army Field Manual, with its Appendix M, can be downloaded in PDF format here.

Jonathan Horowitz, author of the OSF report (PDF), described how he determined the use of Appendix M techniques:

The interviewees consistently described being held in a location where they were interrogated and held in small single person cells that prohibited verbal and visual communication with other detainees. This strongly suggests that the detainees were “screened” and subjected to interrogation methods described in Appendix M of the U.S. Army’s Human Intelligence Collector Operations Field Manual 2-22.3, which allows detaining authorities to physically separate detainees from other detainees and the outside world for the purposes of intelligence gathering—a technique known as “separation.”

Horowitz’s mention of Appendix M is not incidental. It is mentioned on fifteen different occasions in the text of the report’s 16 pages. OSF is very specific about its concerns regarding the current Army Field Manual on interrogation:

Despite the government’s insistence that Appendix M meets the minimum requirements for the protection of detainees under international law, analysts from the Open Society Foundations have expressed concerns with Field Manual 2-22.3 prior to this research, especially with regard to its authorization of sleep deprivation, refusing to classify stress positions as torture, and the deletion of key policy statements that, prior to the 2006 update of the manual, had informed interrogators that “[e]xperience shows that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources.”14 As this report demonstrates, additional concerns with the Field Manual 2-22.3 are warranted….

Field Manual 2-22.3 states, “[w]hile using legitimate interrogation techniques, certain applications of approaches and techniques may approach the line between permissible actions and prohibited actions. It may often be difficult to determine where permissible actions end and prohibited actions begin.”

The report notes that the totality of conditions and interrogation abuses at the Tor (or “Black”) prison at Bagram call into question whether fair assessment of enemy status can be made by the new-fangled Detainee Review Boards, meaning God knows how many innocent people are being picked up and held as prisoners, awaiting the day that a viable Afghan court system can supposedly try these “insurgents”.

The Detainee Review Boards taking place at the DFIP [Detention Facility in Parwan] prohibit the submission of information and evidence obtained through the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. If detainees are being held in conditions at an interrogation facility that rises to this level of abuse, the information obtained from those detainees should be rejected by the Detainee Review Boards.

I have been writing on the serious, indeed criminal, problems with the Army Field Manual since the new version was introduced in September 2006. I wrote a major piece on the problems with it for AlterNet in January 2009, and have followed up with reporting at Firedoglake (see here and here, for example; also coverage at this site by Emptywheel/Marcy Wheeler and bmaz).

But this kind of exposure, and the work of others, like Matthew Alexander, Stephen Rickard, Physicians for Human Rights and Center for Constitutional Rights, among other, has not been enough to fix the centrality of the use of Appendix M torture in the general political consciousness of the population. This can be largely attributed to the massive silence by politicians on this issue, and the assurances of the Obama administration that the AFM and Appendix M are safe, legal, and humane. So when a complacent and cowardly press and blogosphere are faced with the truth of the situation emanating from an establishment source such as the Open Society Foundations, what do they do? They ignore the truth.

Such is America in 2010, lost, rudderless, obsessed with trivia, as a monstrous war/intelligence/surveillance apparatus lurches on to either conquest or disaster (or maybe both) in its overseas campaigns, oblivious to how many are killed (the U.S. claims it doesn’t keep track of the killed in Afghanistan), maimed, displaced, lives destroyed and national ideals trampled.

It’s time the campaign against Appendix M went mainstream.

Slapping David Shedd, or How I Learned to Love the CIA Interrogation Program

11:21 am in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, is full of the same insider tales of government gossip as his previous books. One reads Woodward to pick out the various gems strewn along the way, cognizant that even those are the products of spin manufactured by the various principals involved. A particularly interesting nugget concerns the way the intelligence agencies passed on information about their torture program to the incoming Obama administration.

Woodward spends precious few pages on this subject, and the anecdotes involved can’t be relied upon to provide a real study of just what went on. But the couple of stories provided are juicy enough.

According to Woodward, on December 9, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama was shepherded into a tiny SCIF office to meet with CIA Director Michael Hayden and Director of National Intelligence Michael O’Connell. "Hayden sat directly across from Obama at a table so narrow that they were uncomfortably close to each other." Obama had brought Joe Biden, Jim Jones, Greg Craig, and "several others." Hayden and O’Connell reviewed various top secret clandestine and anti-terrorism programs, secret operations against North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, etc. Craig was apparently "shocked" when Hayden told Obama’s group that the U.S. "owned" the political structure and security forces of Iraq.

Be that as it may, Hayden, who apparently ran the briefing, got to their review of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program at the end of the meeting. While Obama apparently sat mostly impassively, Biden and the others were not convinced by CIA claims they got promises of "no torture" from the countries to which they sent kidnapped victims in the "war on terror." Hayden also noted that the CIA "black sites" had been shut down and "all the prisoners transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba." This timeline conflicts with the claim by Obama that he had closed the black sites himself in his early executive order on detentions.

Then the discussion wheeled around to the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EIT). At this point, Woodward’s narrative gets a bit confusing. Hayden tells Obama that, per a 2006 finding by President Bush, only six of the 13 original EITs remained in use. Woodward reminds us of the original 13 in an endnote. They are Dietary manipulation; Forced nudity; Attention grasp; Walling (slamming the prisoner into a wall multiple times); Facial hold; Facial or insult slap; Abdominal slap; Cramped Confinement; Wall standing (a kind of stress position); Stress positions proper; Water dousing; Sleep deprivation; and Waterboarding. (What happened to the insects in a box, Bob?) Woodward does describe the sleep deprivation in a way consistent with my contention in May 2009 that "sleep deprivation" was always combined with stress positions, shackling, partial nudity or humiliation, and dietary manipulation or partial starvation. This aspect of sleep deprivation, never totally emphasized by Woodward in the main text of the book, must be kept in mind when Woodward has Hayden tell Obama that the attenuated version of the EITs (which includes sleep deprivation) are more than enough to "break" "suspected terrorists" in "less than a week."

Obama asked what the remaining six EITs were? And Hayden’s reported answer appears to veer off from the EITs.

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.

"David, stand up please," Hayden said to David Shedd, the DNI’s deputy director for policy. Shedd rose. Hayden gently slapped his face, then shook the deputy DNI.

It was as rough as what might happen in "Little League football," Hayden said. [pg. 54]

From reading this account, 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. This is not a theory, but was the conclusion of years of research by the U.S. government into interrogation and torture. 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.

In 1956, in the pages of an obscure academic journal, Sociometry, I.E. Farber, Harry F. Harlow, and psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West published a classic work on interrogation, Brainwashing, Conditioning, and DDD (Debility, Dependency, and Dread) (BCD). It was based on a report for the Study Group on Survival Training, paid for by the U.S. Air Force. (See West LJ., Medical and psychiatric considerations in survival training. In Report of the Special Study Group on Survival Training (AFR 190 16). Lackland Air Force Base, Tex: Air Force Personnel and Training Research Centers; 1956.) This research linked Air Force “Survival” training, later called SERE, with torture techniques, and as we will see, use of such techniques by the CIA, something we would see again decades later in the Mitchell-Jessen “exploitation” plan.

BCD examined the various types of stress undergone by prisoners, and narrowed them down to “three important elements: debility, dependency, and dread”.

Debility was a condition caused by “semi-starvation, fatigue, and disease”. It induced “a sense of terrible weariness”.

Dependency on the captors for some relief from their agony was something “produced by the prolonged deprivation of many of the factors, such as sleep and food… [and] was made more poignant by occasional unpredictable brief respites.” The use of prolonged isolation of the prisoner, depriving an individual of expected social intercourse and stimulation, “markedly strengthened the dependency”.

Dread probably needs no explanation, but BCD described it as “chronic fear…. Fear of death, fear of pain, fear of nonrepatriation, fear of deformity of permanent disability…. even fear of one’s own inability to satisfy the demands of insatiable interrogators.”

…. This form of carrot and stick torture may not seem that sophisticated, but it is the use of basic nervous system functioning and human instinctual need that makes it “scientific”. The need for sensory stimulation and social interaction, the need to eat, to sleep, to reduce fear, all of these are used to build dependencies upon the captor, using the fact that “the strengthening effects of rewards — in this instance the alleviation of an intensely unpleasant emotional state — are fundamentally automatic” [p. 278]. This impairment of higher cognitive states and disruption and disorganization of the prisoner’s self-concept, producing something like “a pathological organic state”, was subsequently modified and used by the CIA in its interrogations of countless individuals. If more brutal forms of torture sometimes were used, especially by over-eager foreign agents or governments, DDD remained the gold standard, the programmatic core of counterintelligence interrogation at the heart of the CIA’s own intelligence manuals.

Now Bob Woodward is not going to explain all that. Being a stenographer for spooks and politicians, he offers very little analysis at all. His fable of how Obama got briefed on the use of torture by the CIA, and Obama’s subsequent decision to ban all the EITs and utilize the Army Field Manual may bear some elements of truth. It seems certain Obama knows very little if any of the historical material I adverted to above. And Barack Obama, like much of America, may not know that the Army Field Manual contains the very techniques that Hayden said the CIA was using (isolation, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, driving up of fear). The operative word here is ignorance: ignorance about what has gone on and is going on.

This nation has not gotten the full truth about this country’s torture program, past, present, and plans for the future. As the commentators latch onto the upcoming election with ever-greater avidity, it appears certain that these issues will get shoved even farther onto the back burner. We can’t let that happen. The City of Berkeley has announced that October 10-16 will be "Say No to Torture Week." I’ll be participating with a slew of other celebrities, bloggers, psychologists, and political activists to make it clear that "the community finds it unacceptable for an American torture apparatus to remain operational while those responsible remain unaccountable." What is your community doing?

What’s Up with Transparency? Government Hid Report on Drugging of Detainees for Months

3:47 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

A story by Jason Leopold and me, currently up at Truthout, reports that a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General investigation into allegations of drugging of detainees, completed almost exactly a year ago, was nevertheless hidden from public knowledge for months. Its results remain hidden, labeled classified. This is especially strange as this document was publicly requested by no less than now-Vice President (then Senator) Joe Biden, along with Senators Carl Levin and Chuck Hagel, after a couple of articles in 2008 — one by Jeff Stein and one by Joby Warrick at the Washington Post — blew the whistle on dozens of reports of alleged drugging of detainees.

The finished report, entitled "Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees," had been published on September 23, 2009. It was recently posted as finished at the OIG’s website (see 09-INTEL-13). I know that when I was looking for the progress of the report as recently as last February, for an article I was writing at the time, the investigation was still listed as "in progress." It also went under another title: "Possible Use of Mind Altering Substances by DoD Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror" (Project No. D2007-DINT01-0092.005). That listing has since expired.

Today I asked Vice President Biden’s office for comment, and am awaiting reply. But on the face of it, no one seems to want to talk about this report. Human rights workers and attorneys who were familiar with the fact of the investigation were quite surprised when I informed them the report had been finished twelve months ago! Multiple FOIA requests have now been made, but I don’t hold out much hope for getting answers to the basic questions around the many charges of drugging of detainees. This administration’s claims about greater transparency seem quite thin, especially when it means investigating their "war on terror" and detainee prison system.

As the Truthout article reports:

More recent accounts of drugging by detainees include charges by Abdul Aziz Naji, who was forcibly repatriated to Algeria from Guantanamo July 2010. Naji told an Algerian newspaper that detainees at Guantanamo were forced "to take some medicines for three months to drive them crazy, loosing [sic] memory and committing suicide." According to an important exposé by Scott Horton at Harpers last winter, at least one of the three Guantanamo prisoners that DoD claimed committed suicide in 2006 had needle marks on both of his arms. According to Horton, the Obama administration has refused to open an investigation into these mysterious deaths, which allegedly took place at a previously unreported black site at Guantanamo, known informally as Camp No.

What could drugs have been used for? It’s fairly well accepted and documented that the CIA (at least) used drugs for sedation of prisoners during rendition. Drugs could also be used to enforce compliance in prison, or to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation. Of course, the never-ending search for a "truth drug" may be in play here, as well as sinister kinds of experiments, akin to the MKULTRA or Edgewood Arsenal drug experiments of old. The U.S. veterans who were used as guinea pigs by the Army at Edgewood have been fighting a lawsuit for damages against the government for some time, with some recent successes in moving the case forward. See this website for more details and links to the filings.

And the drugs used? Jose Padilla’s chief federal defender asserted in a 2007 legal motion that Padilla was "was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations." Hank Albarelli suggested what some of them could be in an article (which I also co-authored) last June:

Recent reports concerning the CIA and Army have both organizations experimenting on a selected basis with a new mind altering drug whose effects are described as "incredibly mind altering yet at the same time allowing subjects to adhere to a sufficient sense of sanity thus allowing better opportunity for truth inducing techniques…" The drug, described by one former intelligence official as "ETX," is said to last for "about 48-hours."

We can’t really know what’s being given. Probably because doping up prisoners is supposed to be illegal, they are keeping whatever came up in the Inspector General’s investigation secret. Use of drugs on prisoners is a war crime — even though the Army Field Manual allows giving drugs for interrogations as long as they don’t cause "permanent" or "lasting" harm or damage. An older ban against "chemically induced psychosis" was dropped when the new AFM was adopted in September 2006. Given the AFM usage, it would appear that drugs could be used abusively, as torture, and still not meet the "legal" criteria of same. No wonder a Senate Armed Service Committee staff person told their press person "that the OIG investigation ‘did not substantiate allegations’ that mind altering drugs ‘were used for interrogation purposes’ on detainees." That would leave use of hallucinogenic drugs to disorient prisoners and produce compliance prior to interrogations to be considered legal.

So the Obama administration doesn’t want pot to be legalized, but they’re okay with giving mind-altering drugs to prisoners (on some level), and keep top-secret any information about government investigations into abuses. What a damaged and insane society we live in!

Only protests from an outraged citizenry will change such criminal actions — done in your name, by the way — to make the world safe for democracy U.S. corporate profits.

What We Can Learn from the Torture Scene in Shakespeare’s King Lear

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Perhaps the most famous torture scene in world literature takes place at the end of Act III of King Lear. In this scene, Lear’s ungrateful daughter, Regan, and her ambitious, power-hungry husband, the Duke of Cornwall, have discovered that the Earl of Gloucester, himself betrayed by his own bastard son, has proven loyal to the deposed king, Lear.

Having captured him, Cornwall and Regan torture Gloucester, supposedly to gain information. But as Shakespeare makes clear at the very beginning, the torture is not in the main about gaining information, but about exerting control, and serves as a release for Cornwall and Regan’s "wrath" and sadism.

Take note, as have generations of playgoers and critics, of the role of one of the play’s "bit players," the First Servant, who becomes the moral center of the scene, and recognizes, as the great powers do not, the horror of torture and its absolute prohibition among civilized persons.

Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.

Exeunt other Servants

Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a courtesy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control. Who’s there? the traitor?

Enter GLOUCESTER, brought in by two or three

Ingrateful fox! ’tis he.

Bind fast his corky arms.

What mean your graces? Good my friends, consider
You are my guests: do me no foul play, friends.

Bind him, I say.

Servants bind him

Hard, hard. O filthy traitor!

Unmerciful lady as you are, I’m none.

To this chair bind him. Villain, thou shalt find–

REGAN plucks his beard

By the kind gods, ’tis most ignobly done
To pluck me by the beard.

So white, and such a traitor!

Naughty lady,
These hairs, which thou dost ravish from my chin,
Will quicken, and accuse thee: I am your host:
With robbers’ hands my hospitable favours
You should not ruffle thus. What will you do?

Come, sir, what letters had you late from France?

Be simple answerer, for we know the truth.

And what confederacy have you with the traitors
Late footed in the kingdom?

To whose hands have you sent the lunatic king? Speak.

I have a letter guessingly set down,
Which came from one that’s of a neutral heart,
And not from one opposed.


And false.

Where hast thou sent the king?

To Dover.

Wherefore to Dover? Wast thou not charged at peril–

Wherefore to Dover? Let him first answer that.

I am tied to the stake, and I must stand the course.

Wherefore to Dover, sir?

Because I would not see thy cruel nails
Pluck out his poor old eyes; nor thy fierce sister
In his anointed flesh stick boarish fangs.
The sea, with such a storm as his bare head
In hell-black night endured, would have buoy’d up,
And quench’d the stelled fires:
Yet, poor old heart, he holp the heavens to rain.
If wolves had at thy gate howl’d that stern time,
Thou shouldst have said ‘Good porter, turn the key,’
All cruels else subscribed: but I shall see
The winged vengeance overtake such children.

See’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.

He that will think to live till he be old,
Give me some help! O cruel! O you gods!

One side will mock another; the other too.

If you see vengeance,–

Hold your hand, my lord:
I have served you ever since I was a child;
But better service have I never done you
Than now to bid you hold.

How now, you dog!

If you did wear a beard upon your chin,
I’d shake it on this quarrel. What do you mean?

My villain!

They draw and fight

Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger.

Give me thy sword. A peasant stand up thus!

Takes a sword, and runs at him behind

O, I am slain! My lord, you have one eye left
To see some mischief on him. O!


Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly!
Where is thy lustre now?

All dark and comfortless. Where’s my son Edmund?
Edmund, enkindle all the sparks of nature,
To quit this horrid act.

Out, treacherous villain!
Thou call’st on him that hates thee: it was he
That made the overture of thy treasons to us;
Who is too good to pity thee.

O my follies! then Edgar was abused.
Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him!

Go thrust him out at gates, and let him smell
His way to Dover.

Exit one with GLOUCESTER

How is’t, my lord? how look you?

I have received a hurt: follow me, lady.
Turn out that eyeless villain; throw this slave
Upon the dunghill. Regan, I bleed apace:
Untimely comes this hurt: give me your arm.


Cornwall dies off stage, between Acts III and IV, setting the stage for the dispute between Lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, over the villain, Gloucester’s son Edmund, and ultimately to the deaths of both daughters, and indirectly, to that of Edmund as well. Shakespeare, in probably his bleakest play, of evil rampant in the world, appears to be saying that taking responsibility and action for oneself and ones world, and standing up to evil, even by those otherwise humble and of minimal power, can have profound effects upon the course of events.

While I do not advocate running swords through the government’s torture plotters and policy makers, it is incumbent on all of us to take a stand against this poison that destroys the state and civil society. Tell your friends and family how much you abhor torture. Do not turn away from criticism of this administration’s stance of no accountability for torture, and cozening CIA and Department of Defense policies, such as the use of psychological torture techniques such as isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, in the Army Field Manual, or the continuing operation of secret "black" prison sites by Joint Special Forces Command.

The ensconced power of the torturers in the military, intelligence agencies, and even to some extent in the Department of Justice (consider David Margolis’s recent rescue of torture advocates John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, and Steven Bradbury) means accountability will NOT take place, UNLESS there is a major upsurge of pressure from the ranks of society itself, from the average citizen, the church, synagogue or mosque worshipper, the union member and the guild practitioner, from doctors and nurses, auto workers and construction workers, from all the "First Servants" of this world who are not content to be bit players to the major actors, drenched in torture, murder, and malfeasance.

What can one do? Write letters, join anti-torture and civil liberties organizations like ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, or the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, or send them money. Write your congressman and senator, write to President Obama. But most of all, do what you can to raise the level of disgust with these policies. Educate yourself and others. We must purge this evil from our society, and it begins with you.

Also posted at Invictus