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My Year at FDL: A Review

7:33 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

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

Torture protestors in orange jumpsuits with covered heads

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

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

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

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

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

* Revealing that Obama never rescinded all the torture memos.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

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

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

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

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

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Japanese WWII Torture Document Eerily Reminiscent of US Torture Program

9:44 am in Torture by Jeff Kaye

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

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

page from Soviet war crimes trial book

photo from war crimes book with Japanese text of torture instuctions

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

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

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

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

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

What Made the Khabarovsk Trial Special

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

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

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

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

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

Book Excerpt

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

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

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Serious Questions About Wikileaks’ Release of Purported Guantanamo SOP

5:17 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Did Wikileaks Release?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikileaks Responds

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New York Times Decides Guantanamo Detainee Committed Suicide

8:24 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

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

Guantanamo protesters in prisoner outfits with 'CLOSE GUANTANAMO' Banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narratives R Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Questions Remain”

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New Document Shows FBI Interrogation Advice Draws on CIA Torture Manuals

11:23 am in Torture by Jeff Kaye

Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBI Uses Isolation to Achieve “Rapport”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Appendix M Torture Virus Spreads to FBI Doctrine

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

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

Murphy and Chaffee write:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes in Procedures for Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “modified” rights form continues:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cross-posted at Invictus

The Significance of HRW’s New Call to Prosecute Bush Administration Officials for Torture

5:01 pm in Military, Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report Tuesday. As they stated in the press release announcing the 107-page report, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees” (HTML, PDF), there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” As a result, President Barack Obama is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

In particular, HRW singled out “four key leaders” in the torture program. Besides former President George W. Bush, the report indicts former Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet. But others remain possible targets of investigation and prosecution. According to the report:

Such an investigation should also include examination of the roles played by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as the lawyers who crafted the legal “justifications” for torture, including Alberto Gonzales (counsel to the president and later attorney general), Jay Bybee (head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)), John Rizzo (acting CIA general counsel), David Addington (counsel to the vice president), William J. Haynes II (Department of Defense general counsel), and John Yoo (deputy assistant attorney general in the OLC).

But the key passage in the HRW report concerns the backing for international prosecutions, under the principle in international law of “universal jurisdiction,” which was used back in 1998 by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón to indict former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for genocide and murder.

Unless and until the US government pursues credible criminal investigations of the role of senior officials in the mistreatment of detainees since September 11, 2001, exercise universal jurisdiction or other forms of jurisdiction as provided under international and domestic law to prosecute US officials alleged to be involved in criminal offenses against detainees in violation of international law. [emphasis added]

Indeed, in an important section of the report, HRW details the failures and successes of pursuing such international prosecutions in the face of U.S. prosecutors’ failure to act and investigate or indict high administration officials for war crimes. This is even more important when one considers that the Obama administration has clearly stated its intention to not investigate or prosecute such crimes, going after a handful of lower-level interrogators for crimes not covered by the Bush administration’s so-called “legal” approvals for torture provided by the infamous Yoo/Bybee/Levin/Bradbury memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel.

Nor has Congress shown even a smidgen of appetite for pursuing further accountability: not one Congressman or Senator has stepped forward as yet to endorse HRW’s new call. Instead, they demonstrated their obsequiousness by approving Obama’s nomination of General David Petraeus as new CIA director 94-0, despite the fact that Petraeus has been implicated in the organization of counter-terror death squads in Iraq, and was in charge of training Iraqi security forces who repeatedly were documented as engaging in widespread torture. It was during Petraeus’s tenure as chief of such training for the coalition forces, that the U.S. implemented the notorious Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) 242, which commanded U.S. forces not to intervene in cases of Iraqi governmental torture should they come across such it (which they often did). No one during Petraeus’s testimony in his nomination hearings even questioned him about this.

Why this report now?

I asked Andrea Prasow, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, why this report was issued now, noting that some on the left had already questioned the timing of HRW’s action.

“Because it really needed to be done,” Prasow explained. She noted the recent admissions by former President Bush and Vice President Cheney that they had approved waterboarding. Furthermore, “following the killing of [Osama] Bin Laden, we saw the immediate response by some that torture and the enhanced interrogation techniques led to the capture of Bin Laden. And it became a part of normal debate about torture. It shows how fragile is the current commitment not to torture.”

Prasow also noted the recent closure of the Durham investigation, which resulted in the decision to criminally investigate the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody, while 99 other cases referred to his office were closed. I asked her whether she felt, as I do, that the announcement of the two investigations were meant to forestall attempts by European (especially Spanish) prosecutors to pursue “universal jurisdiction” prosecutions of U.S. officials for torture.

“I don’t see how there’s a defensible justification that the investigations Durham announced can do that,” Prasow said. “It’s pretty clear that there should be an investigation into the deaths of these detainees,” she added, “but it’s so clear the investigation is very limited. The scope of the investigation is the most important part. Even if Durham had investigated the 100 or so cases that exceeded the legal authorities, it wouldn’t be sufficient. What about the people who wrote the legal memos? Who told them to write the memos?” she said, emphasizing the fact that Durham’s investigation was limited by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to only CIA crimes, and only those that supposedly exceeded the criteria for “enhanced interrogation” laid out in a number of administration legal memos. The torture, Prasow noted, was “throughout the military” as well, including “hundreds or thousands” tortured at sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

Prasow noted that the Obama administration has made it policy to block attempts by torture victims to get compensation for torture, asserting a policy of protecting “state secrets” to shut down court cases. “But there are other ways of providing redress,” she said, adding that “providing redress is part of international laws.” The HRW report itself states, “Consistent with its obligations under the Convention against Torture, the US government should ensure that victims of torture obtain redress, which may include providing victims with compensation where warranted outside of the judicial context.”

The new HRW report comes on the heels of a controversy roiling around a proposed United Kingdom governmental inquiry into torture. A number of British human rights and legal agencies have said they would boycott the UK proceedings as a “whitewash.” As Andy Worthington put it the other day:

As a result of pandering to the Americans’ wishes, the terms of reference are “so restrictive,” as the Guardian described it, that JUSTICE, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists, warned that the inquiry “was likely to fail to comply with UK and international laws governing investigations into torture.” Eric Metcalfe, JUSTICE’s director of human rights policy, said that the rules “mean that the inquiry is unlikely to get to the truth behind the allegations and, even if it does, we may never know for sure. However diligent and committed Sir Peter [Gibson] and his team may be, the government has given itself the final word on what can be made public.”

Andrea Prasow echoed Metcalfe’s fears, saying HRW had “some concerns about how much information [in the UK inquiry] was going to be kept secret. I think transparency, making it as public as possible, is most important.”

The fight for transparency also makes HRW’s call for prosecutions of high government officials, along with “an independent, nonpartisan commission, along the lines of the 9-11 Commission, [that] should be established to examine the actions of the executive branch, the CIA, the military, and Congress, with regard to Bush administration policies and practices that led to detainee abuse,” very timely. In a column the other day at Secrecy News — Pentagon Tightens Grip on Unclassified Information — Steven Aftergood reported on a Department of Defense proposed new rule regarding classification. While the Obama administration is supposedly on record for greater governmental transparency, the new rule imposes “new safeguard requirements on ‘prior designations indicating controlled access and dissemination (e.g., For Official Use Only, Sensitive But Unclassified, Limited Distribution, Proprietary, Originator Controlled, Law Enforcement Sensitive).’”

According to Aftergood, “By ‘grandfathering’ those old, obsolete markings in a new regulation for defense contractors, the DoD rule would effectively reactivate them and qualify them for continued protection under the new Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) regime, thereby defeating the new policy.” Even worse (if possible), “the proposed rule says that any unclassified information that has not been specifically approved for public release must be safeguarded. It establishes secrecy, not openness, as the presumptive status and default mode for most unclassified information.”

Much of what we know about the Bush-era torture program is due to the work of the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, who have used the Freedom of Information Act to gather hundreds of documents, if not thousands, that document the paper trail surrounding the crimes of the Bush administration. Reporters and investigators like Jane Mayer, Philippe Sands, Alfred McCoy, and Jason Leopold have also contributed much to our understanding of what occurred during the Bush years. The work of investigators going back years demonstrates that U.S. research into and propagation of torture around the world goes back decades.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has also produced an impressive, if still partially redacted, investigation (large PDF) into detainee abuse by the Department of Defense. Their report, for instance, concluded regarding torture at Guantanamo that “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.”

When one puts together the accelerated emphasis on “state secrets”; the Obama political program of “not looking back” in regards to U.S. war crimes (while supposedly pursuing accountability for torture and war crimes committed by other countries); the political passivity, if not cowardice of Congress; the fact that Obama “has not been transparent on the rendition issue, not even saying what its policy is,” according to Andrea Prasow; and finally the lies and propaganda spewed forth by the former Administration’s key figures and their proxies, one can only agree with HRW that enough is enough. The time for investigations and prosecutions into torture and rendition is now.

And if they won’t listen in Washington, D.C., perhaps they will in Madrid. Or some other intrepid prosecutor in — who knows? — Brazil or Argentina or Chile will pay back America, as a matter of poetic but also real justice for the crimes endured by their societies when the U.S. helped organize torture and terror in their countries only a generation ago. There were no U.S. investigations into actions of government figures then, and now we are faced with another set of atrocities produced by our own government. If we do not act now, what will our children face?

UK Torture Inquiry Farce on Last Legs, While Rendition to “Killing” Remains Uninvestigated

8:36 pm in Torture by Jeff Kaye

Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor at the UK Guardian are reporting that the widely heralded 2010 announcement of a British government official inquiry into UK torture is facing a boycott by British human rights and attorney groups. The reason is undue secrecy.

[British Prime Minister] Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. “Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret,” he said. “So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public.”

This from the UK Guardian… July 14, 2010.

The handwriting was on the wall for some time on this sham inquiry, but the British human rights and lawyer groups kept fighting to make something real out of it. I can understand the impulse to do this, but really the inquiry’s true intentions were telegraphed when Sir Peter Gibson was made its chair, as I noted when the news first broke.

The investigation is being conducted by a panel of three, whose head is the intelligence-connected Sir Peter Gibson, who is Intelligence Services Commissioner, responsible for monitoring secret bugging operations by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA). Many questions have been raised by the appointment of Gibson, and it is startling to think that British human rights groups will accede to the appointment, given Gibson’s likely bias, not to mention his track record in other “judge-led” investigations.

The legal human rights charity group Reprieve describes three fatal flaws embedded within the official rules recently published for the inquiry:

First, the definition of evidence that will remain classified forever is hopelessly overbroad. Set out in Annex A [of the Detainee's Inquiry Protocol - PDF], this effectively includes anything that would in any way breach an “understanding” between the UK and its allies – in other words, anything the Americans would find embarrassing will not be made public…. Given that the essence of British complicity involves working with the US on torture and rendition, the exception to publicity swallows the rule.

Second, there is no meaningful, independent (preferably judicial) review of what should be kept secret… Unlike other inquiries where victims have made serious allegations of torture, the victims will not have meaningful legal representation. Their advisers will be denied access to any documents or hearings deemed secret by the inquiry.

Third, the Inquiry is left toothless due to a lack of powers to compel the attendance of witnesses or the provision of evidence or information from any party or organisation.

Truly, the UK government’s so-called inquiry is being set up as Reprieve director Clive Stafford-Smith called it, “a whitewash.” According to the Guardian article Shami Chakrabarti, director of the British group Liberty, states the inquiry is “a sham.” “When is an inquiry not an inquiry?” Chakrabarti asked. “When it’s a secret internal review.”

Hiding Murder in the Rendition Program

While the U.S. Department of Justice is finally considering two cases of murder of detainees by the CIA, in general, the Obama administration has an official policy of “not looking back” and non-accountability when it comes to crimes of torture. But it seems likely there are more crimes waiting to be revealed.

Last July, around the time the UK torture inquiry was first proposed, I broke the story that the revelations of UK cooperation with U.S. rendition policies included possible “rendition to killing.”

Like much of what I report, the revelation was not consistent with the accepted narrative of what the U.S. media is allowed to report, so it was also ignored by the supposed alternative blogosphere, who mainly grubs after the crumbs that are begrudgingly reported by Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or second-tier establishment-organs-cum-alternative-press like Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, or Salon.com. The mainstream press reports what government officials tell them, while the “alternative” press and bloggers report what academic and governmental dissidents say. Rarely is any real investigative work done.

But this revelation was based on hard documentation, as reported in my July 14, 2010 article.

A series of documents released on July 14 in the UK Binyam Mohamed civil case, Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others, have produced a series of explosive revelations, reported in Britain and as yet unknown here in the U.S….

Now, one of the most incendiary revelations in the documents concerns instructions given to MI6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) over detention operations. According to Chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, “Detainees and Detention Operations”, “the following sensitivities arise” (PDF – bold emphasis added):

a. the geographical destination of the target. Where will she or he be held? Under whose jurisdiction? Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

b. what treatment regime(s) for the detainees can be expected?

c. what is the legal basis for the detention?

d. what is the role of any liaison partner who might be involved?

The “objective” of “killing” points to the existence of extrajudicial murders carried out by the intelligence services. It’s not clear if the killings are by UK or liaison — including United States — forces. “Liaison partners” refers to instances of operational cooperation with non-UK intelligence agencies.

I have since discovered that BBC reported the same revelations about “killing” on July 15, so at least it was reported in the British press, where it made some stir, the BBC labeling as “stark” the paragraph on about “killing” as “the objective of the operation.” Still, no U.S. news outlet picked up on this.

This is not the first time that unheralded killings of detainees has appeared in an otherwise unnoticed document. Last December I reported on a discussion of Guantanamo health protocols at a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, where officials were told that a “number of the detainees have died of the wounds that they arrived with.”

This is not as impossible or incredible as it may sound. We know that Guantanamo, like other DoD and CIA sites had their share of “ghost prisoners,” i.e., prisoners whose existence was never reported to the International Red Cross or anyone else. Some of these disappeared forever. We don’t know how many. (Maybe a real torture inquiry would shed some light on this.) Indeed, Manadel al-Jamadi, the subject of one of John Durham’s recently announced criminal investigations, was such a ghost prisoner. And he, too, ended up dead, murdered.

Nor are such renditions and ghost prisoners a recent phenomenon. Consider the case of a Bulgarian political activist Dmitrov (aka “Kelly”) who was rendered to U.S. Fort Clayton in Panama in the early 1950s, where, according to declassified CIA documents, he became a victim of the CIA’s Project Artichoke mind control program. The full story was reported by H.P. Albarelli and myself in a Truthout article last year.

The United States, Great Britain and their partners in torture and rendition believe they are above the law, and that they can game the system forever. Perhaps they are right, and we have lost the battle before it was ever really engaged. I refuse to believe this is so. I can’t believe that I am alone in wanting justice, and seeking a radical change in the configuration of forces that control this planet, which are currently organized in the name of power and oppression, for the benefit of an economic elite, and not around justice, social and economic equality, and a rational, humane world order based on cooperation and mutual respect for all nations and all individuals.

We desperately need a real, international inquiry into the crimes of torture, rendition, and aggressive war. But there is no political force currently operative that has the power and influence to make this happen, as the pending collapse of the UK torture inquiry enterprise demonstrates. And that is truly the dilemma of our times.

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.

Rep. Rogers: Kidnapped Argentinian Babies Distract From Fight Against Al Qaeda

4:45 pm in Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

How nice that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican Congressman from Alabama Michigan, and 206 of his House GOP colleagues live in a country where political opponents are not disappeared, tortured, or murdered in the dead of night, their children stolen to be brought up by the very intelligence officers that disappeared them.

So maybe Rogers didn’t appreciate the criminal absurdity of his comments to the Washington Post on Friday May 13, after a House vote defeated a proposed amendment by Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY) on the declassification of U.S. intelligence files regarding the 1976 Argentine generals coup and the bloody seven year dictatorship that followed. According to the Post, Rogers “said declassifying them would distract U.S. spies from the fight against al-Qaida.”

A similar Congressional vote for declassification of documents related to Chile, in a 1999 amendment by Rep. Hinchey, which passed, led to the release of over 24,000 documents, and to accelerated investigations and prosecutions of state crimes in Chile. But the GOP, which voted largely on party lines to defeat the amendment on declassification of documents related to Argentina, made this vote into a bogus stand in support of the “war on terror.”

The vote comes only weeks after a trial has opened in Argentina, placing into the dock two former Argentine dictators, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, for literally stealing babies during what has become known as Argentina’s “Dirty War.” A recently released document available via National Security Archive shows that the Chilean intelligence attaché to Buenos Aires estimated the number of dead and disappeared in Argentina as over 22,000 between 1975 and 1978 (original document PDF).

The Jurist summarized the baby stealing case against the dictators:

The two are accused in 34 separate cases of infants who were taken from mothers held in clandestine torture and detention centers, the Navy Mechanics School and Campo de Mayo army base. The case was opened 14 years ago at the request of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and includes as defendants five military judges and a doctor who attended to the detainees. The trial is expected to hear 370 witnesses and last up to a year. With the help of the Grandmothers’ DNA database, 102 people born to vanished detainees have recovered their true identities.

This is not the first trial of the criminal leaders of the former Argentine junta. Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced last year to life in prison for crimes against humanity. And just recently a former agent of the Argentine Secretariat of State Intelligence (SIDE), Miguel Angel Furci, was arrested and charged with human rights abuses, including kidnapping and torture. His trial starts this June. And there have been others brought up on charges and/or convicted as well.

The baby stealing charges are a particularly sickening part of the Dirty War history. As an AP story explained it, “the existence of babies belonging to people who officially no longer existed created a problem for the junta leaders.” So the solution was to falsify documents and arrange “illegal adoptions by people sympathetic to the military regime.” According to the indictment, there were hundreds of such “adoptions.”

American Complicity: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

The U.S. support for the Argentinian junta and Dirty War was part of a larger program known as Operation Condor, which operated throughout the Southern Cone, and was responsible for death squads and torture and a reign of terror throughout Latin America, as the right-wing operations spread northward into Central America in the 1980s.

Even though the U.S. government still seeks to hide documents implicating U.S. intelligence and other state agencies from complicity in the terrible crimes in Argentina, some documents have been released over the years. There’s a goodly collection of them at the National Security Archive website.

The documents include a formerly secret transcript of Henry Kissinger’s staff meeting during which he ordered immediate U.S. support for the new military regime, and Defense and State Department reports on the ensuing repression. The Archive has also obtained internal memoranda and cables from the infamous Argentina intelligence unit, Battalion 601, as well as the Chilean secret police agency, known as DINA, which was secretly collaborating with the military in Buenos Aires.

The documents record Washington’s initial reaction to the military takeover. I do want to encourage them. I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States,” Secretary of State Kissinger ordered his staff after his assistants warned him that the junta would initiate a bloodbath following the coup. According to the transcript, Kissinger’s top deputy on Latin America, William Rogers, told him two days after the coup that “we’ve got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long.”

Regarding that last quote, what Rogers actually said in full, according to the transcript (PDF) of Kissinger’s March 26, 1976 staff meeting, and following upon a discussion of how the regime would need U.S. financial support: “I think also we’ve got to expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they’re going to have to come down not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties.”

Kissinger then tells Rogers, who suggests the U.S. might want to hold off on recognition of the junta, that he wants to “encourage” the generals: “I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States.” Rogers then rushes to assure him his reasoning wasn’t humanitarian, but simply that he was concerned about “public posture.”

The U.S. government is complicit in war crimes that have killed and tortured and disappeared many, many thousands of people, millions going back to Vietnam. But the U.S. population appears to be largely untouched by these crimes, insensate, living in fear, or complacent… it’s hard to say. In any case, those in this country, like Rep. Hinchey, and the many fine workers in human and civil rights organizations, will have to keep pounding on these issues.

Note: Eighteen Republicans did vote for Hinchey’s amendment, and seven Democrats voted against it. Twenty-three were listed as “Not Voting,” including, surprisingly, two liberal Democratic congresswomen from the Bay Area, Zoe Lofgren and Jackie Speier.

Rendition Victim Mamdouh Habib Sues Omar Suleiman for Torture

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

The other day I wrote about the fight back by former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks regarding the lies told about him by the Detainee Assessment Brief released as part of large and ongoing document leak by Wikileaks. Another Australian also previously incarcerated at Guantanamo, and even more horrifically tortured, if that’s possible, by the U.S. and its allies, has filed suit in an Egyptian court against his tormenter, former Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, who for 15 years or more was chief of intelligence in that country. Habib’s JTF-GTMO summary is also available at the Wikileaks site.

The summary states that Habib admitted “under extreme duress” various terrorist activities and knowledge while under interrogation in Egypt, where he was sent via the U.S. program of “extraordinary rendition.” Habib recanted these confessions once at Guantanamo. This didn’t keep intelligence officials of labeling him as of “high” intelligence value, maintaining that Habib had knowledge of Al Qaeda financing, safe houses, training and tactics, operations in Thailand and Singapore, along with associations with the 9/11 German terrorist cell. All of these were lies, induced by torture.

While Mr. Habib has not released a fact sheet to answer these charges, he has been aggressively pursuing a redress for the lies and crimes done to him. His lawsuit against the powerful Suleiman, who until recently was fully supported by the Obama administration during the Egyptian uprising, goes along with articles, speaking engagements, and his own book on his life and treatment in the U.S. gulag, My Story: the Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is also named in the suit.

Habib has now spoken out on the claims cited in his Guantanamo assessment brief, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Referring to claims that he was planning the hijacking of a Quantas airplane, and other assertions in the Guantanamo document, the ABC article says:

Mr Habib, who was released from Guantanamo Bay without charge in 2005, says it is possible he admitted to things he did not do because Egyptian interrogators drugged him.

But he says he would not have said he was going to hijack a Qantas plane, because it is not true and he was being set up.

“Maybe some stuff happened by me under drugs, I’m not aware of it, to be honest,” he said.

“But as to a wake up person, I’m talking as very awake and I know, I’m knowledge, what’s going on, I never admit to anything, no.”

What follows is a little from Habib’s book, from the section where he was tortured by Suleiman:

He [Suleiman] continued, ‘If you tell us you knew about the attacks on the Trade Center on September 11th — that you were involved and that you were planning further attacks when you were picked up — if you tell us this, we can sell this information to the Americans for 10 million dollars. We’ll give you 4 million and we’ll keep the rest. You will then be under a witness-protection program…’

At this time, all I knew was that the World Trade Center in New York had been hit, but I had no idea about the other hit on the Pentagon and the failed hit on the White House. I had no idea of the immensity of 9/11…

I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English. He said, ‘Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands. Every singles person in this building has his life in my hands. I just make the decision.’

I said, ‘I hope your decision is that you make me die straight away.’

‘No, I don’t want you to die now. I want you to die slowly.’ He went on, ‘I can’t stay with you; my time is too valuable to stay here. You only have me to save you. I’m your saviour. You have to tell me everything, if your want to be saved. What do you say?’

‘I have nothing to tell you’….

Then they took me to another room, where they tortured me relentlessly, stripping me naked and applying electric shocks everywhere on my body. The next thing I remember was seeing the general again. He came into a room with a man from Turkistan; he was a big man but was stopped over, because his hands were chained to the shackles of his feet, preventing him from standing upright.

‘This guy is no use to us anymore. This is what is going to happen to you. We’ve had him for one hour, and this is what happens.

Suddenly, a guy they called Hanish, which means snake, came at the poor man from behind and gave him a terrible karate kick that sent him crashing across the room. A guard went over to shake him, but he didn’t respond. Turning to the general, the guard said, ‘Basha, I think he’s dead.’

‘Throw him away then. Let the dogs have him.’

They dragged the dead man out. [pp. 111-114]