You are browsing the archive for Iraq War.

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 →

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”

Read the rest of this entry →

NY Times Tale of US Soldier Intervention Against Torture is a Lie

12:31 am in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Much more is certain to be written and reported from the 400,000 or so documents from the Iraq War released today by Wikileaks. The government is putting forth its own spin, claiming damage to U.S. security and troops, while the press has its own version of spin. One example comes from the New York Times, who along with the UK Guardian, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde, are releasing all or some of the documents, often with fancy and very interesting interactive graphs and databases.

Last July, I noted that the New York Times had listed the total number of individuals on a secret U.S. commando “capture/kill list” as "about 70," while the European press reported the more accurate number of 2,058.

Well the Times is up to its old tricks, and it is an object lesson in not believing what you read, and the necessity to review the original documents yourself.

An October 22 story, Detainees Fared Worse in Iraqi Hands, Logs Say, by Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren, details some of what the Times found in a review of the Wikileaks documents concerning abuse by Iraqi forces. Buried in the article is the lede, i.e., that the U.S. had a deliberate policy of ignoring wide-spread torture by their Iraqi allies (or puppet government, take your pick). At first, Tavernise and Lehren write that the "abuse cases… seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug…" But five paragraphs into the story we learn that the indifferent "shrug" was really a deliberate policy, as it’s revealed there is a "report dated May 16, 2005, saying that if ‘if US forces were not involved in the detainee abuse, no further investigation will be conducted until directed by HHQ.’”

This is the now notorious FRAGO-242 (FRAGO being short for fragmentary order). According to the UK Guardian, it was issued in June 2004, not May 2005, as the New York Times article implies. So far as I can tell from the various news stories, this policy begun during the Bush years is still in effect. It certainly was as late as 2009, well into the administration of President Barack Obama.

According to the UK Guardian:

Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands. In effect, it means that the regime has been forced to change its political constitution but allowed to retain its use of torture….

With no effective constraint, the logs show, the use of violence has remained embedded in the everyday practice of Iraqi security, with recurrent incidents up to last December. Most often, the abuse is a standard operating procedure in search of a confession, whether true or false. One of the leaked logs has a detainee being beaten with chains, cables and fists and then confessing to involvement in killing six people because "the torture was too much for him to handle".

But the particular New York Times article in question here has a more egregious example of spin than burying the lede. In the following paragraph, an American soldier’s witnessing of torture is reported as if the soldier intervened to stop it. In fact, the very documentary evidence the New York Times links to demonstrates the exact opposite.

Here is the relevant quote from the article (emphasis added):

In August 2006, an American sergeant in Ramadi heard whipping noises in a military police station and walked in on an Iraqi lieutenant using an electrical cable to slash the bottom of a detainee’s feet. The American stopped him, but later he found the same Iraqi officer whipping a detainee’s back.

Here’s the document this paragraph links to — note, you will not find any evidence of the soldier stopping any torture. A report is made, no investigation is initiated, and the prisoner and his torturer are said to remain at the Ramadi jail. The case is closed five days later.

*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IRAQI POLICE IN RAMADI ON 17 AUG 2006
SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE RPTD AT 171100D AUG 06

1. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT/SUSPECTED VIOLATION (WHO REPORTED INCIDENT AND WHAT HAPPENED):

SGT –––––, 300TH MILITARY POLICE COMPANY, REPORTED IRAQI POLICE COMMITTING DETAINEE ABUSE AT AN IRAQI POLICE STATION IN RAMADI. SGT ––––– WITNESSED 1LT –––– WHIP A DETAINEE ACROSS HIS BACK WITH A PR-24 STRAIGHT SIDE HANDLED BATON AND 1LT –––– KICKING A SECOND DETAINEE. THAT NIGHT SGT ––––– HEARD WHIPPING NOISES WALKING THROUGH THE HALLWAY, AND OPENED A DOOR TO FIND 1LT –––– WITH A 4 GAUGE ELECTRICAL CABLE, WHIPPING THE BOTTOM OF A DETAINEE*S FEET. LATER THAT NIGHT, SGT ––––– CAUGHT 1LT –––– WHIPPING A DETAINEE ACROSS HIS BACK WITH AN ELECTRICAL CABLE. SGT ––––– DOCUMENTED EACH EVENT ON A SWORN STATEMENT FORM AND REPORTED THE INCIDENTS.

2. LOCATION (GRID COORDINATES OR OTHER REFERENCE): 38S LB 37142 99770

3. TIME OF OCCURRENCE AND TIME OF DISCOVERY: REPORTED 17 1100 AUG 06

4. WHO CAUSED (IF KNOWN) OR IDENTITY OF FRIENDLY AND ENEMY UNITS OPERATING IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA (IF KNOWN):

IRAQI POLICE FROM THE AL HURYIA IRAQI POLICE STATION

5. NAME OF WITNESSES (W/UNIT OR ADDRESS): SGT –––– ––––– –––––, 300TH MP COMPANY, MP PIT TEAM

6. UNIT POINT OF CONTACT: CPT –––– – –––– AT DNVT 551-2044 OR ––––.––––@–––––.ARMY.SMIL.MIL

7. EVIDENCE GATHERED AND ITS DISPOSITION: SWORN STATEMENTS AND PICTURES ARE ATTACHED

8. WEAPONS/EQUIPMENT INVOLVED: 4 GAUGE ELECTICAL CABLE, PR-24 BATON

9. DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGE OR INJURIES TO GOVERNMENT/CIVILIAN PROPERTY AND PERSONNEL: CIRCULAR WHIP MARKS, BLEEDING ON BACK, DARK RED BRUISING ON BACK

10. CURRENT LOCATION OF SUSPECTS AND VICTIMS (JAIL, HOSPITAL, AT SCENE, ETC.) BOTH ARE STILL AT AL HURYIA POLICE STATION

11. HOW IS THE SITE BEING SECURED? N/A

12. INVESTIGATING OFFICER. STATUS OF INVESTIGATION: NO INVESTIGATION INITIATED AT THIS POINT.

CLOSED: 22 AUG 2006

The American sergeant documents each incident of torture, but there is no evidence of any other intervention.

I suppose the authors may have been unaware of what they wrote. The savagery and butchery may have made them unconsciously prettify the picture, and project fictional heroism by the American soldier. But the truth is ugly, and can’t be covered up. That’s the beauty of having actual documents, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Wikileaks and the anonymous leaker(s) for bringing us the truth.

No doubt there were cases where U.S. military personnel intervened to stop torture, but even in the documents I’ve seen thus far, plenty of victims are left in control of their captors. The news reports seem to emphasize the wide-spread nature of the crimes.

Among whatever other truths are to be revealed, one truth stands out, and the UK Guardian headline is clear in its reporting: Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture. The truth. Both under the administration of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the United States forces in Iraq countenanced the use of torture on a massive scale by its allies in the Iraq government. They did not publicize what was happening, and to this day, they say this policy is acceptable.

The stories of the torture are horrific, as are the murders, the deaths of tens of thousands of non-combatants. And the casualty figures cannot themselves be trusted, as the U.S., for instance, reports no civilian casualty figures for the attack on Fallujah.

This is a country without a moral compass. War crimes on a massive scale, and a populace too afraid, too inured, too ignorant or self-satisfied to do anything about it. A terrible reckoning is coming, but it will not be from Al Qaeda, or from terrorists, or from God. It will be when the people of this country wake up and throw the rotten murderers and torturers and their apologists out of power.

Through its wide-ranging acceptance and tolerance of torture, the U.S. destroys its own integrity. I await the outrage or lack of it in coming days, but I won’t hold my breath. The country has been made stupid by its addiction to elections funded by the wealthy, elections that only perpetuate the same evil powers, and offer little if any real choice to the voting public.

By claiming these documents will aid the enemy, the U.S. rulers only reveal their own guilt. It is not tactics and procedures they fear will be released, but an image of their own crimes.

UPDATE: Since first writing this diary, more material related to U.S. complicity in wide-spread and systematic torture by the Iraqi government is coming to light, as well as information about other war crimes. One of especial interest is a video at UK Guardian, which also has an interview with New York Times correspondent Peter Maass, who was allowed time with Iraq’s notorious special commandos, Wolf Brigade. Maass puts Gen. Petraeus special adviser, James Steele, a “retired United States Army colonel who also helped develop the special police as a member of General Petraeus’s team”, in the same room as himself when both heard an Iraqi being tortured in another room.

A January 2007 article by Dahr Jamail noted the connections between Steele and his old El Salvador counterinsurgency boss, John Negroponte, who was U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005. Negroponte then was U.S. ambassador as FRAGO 242 was put into operation.

It is Negroponte who oversaw the implementation of the “Salvador Option” in Iraq, as it was referred to in Newsweek in January 2005.

Under the “Salvador Option,” Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980′s, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi’ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance.

Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiraled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq. Intentional or not, the scores of tortured, mutilated bodies which turn up on the streets of Baghdad each day are generated by the death squads whose impetus was John Negroponte. And it is this U.S.-backed sectarian violence which largely led to the hell-disaster that Iraq is today.

Of course, Jamail didn’t know of FRAGO 242, but the implication of his article have been borne out with a vengeance, as the U.S. appears to have organized and unleashed torture and death squads in Iraq, much as they did in Latin America over the decades, in Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, etc.

As for Steele, his presence in Iraq told ominously of the real U.S. mission there. As a 1988 article in The Nation explained, “as head of the U.S. Military Group at El Salvador’s Ilopango Air Base, [Steele] was a critical operative in the contra resupply outfit run by Oliver North and Richard Secord. Steele made sure the Enterprise’s planes could come and go from Ilopango.” According to a 2005 New York Times Magazine piece by Maass, Steele was close to Iraqi General Adnan Thabit, leader of the Special Police Commandos. One of the latter’s projects was a TV show broadcast over the U.S.-financed Al Iraqiya television station — “Terrorism in the Grip of Justice” — which broadcast insurgents’ confessions, which appear to have been largely induced by torture.

The very first thing anyone who considers themselves progressive in this country must do is hold the current administration responsible for what is happening right now, end the FRAGO 242 policy, and begin the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. The “don’t look back” policy of Obama must be renounced, and a movement for accountability and social justice began in this country. Otherwise, the torturers are waiting to take over. They already have control of much of the military.

Time is short.

My thanks to the brave folks at Wikileaks. With some luck, there will be enough time, but not unless we give up illusions in washed-up U.S. politicians who have no intent on changing the course of Empire, an empire built on terror, murder, and torture.