Guantanamo bound (image via Spectacle Productions)

Guantanamo bound (image via Spectacle Productions)

Recently, it occurred to me that, with all the debate or controversy over the Obama administration’s policies on torture, no one had asked the military, and in particular those running America’s “terror” prisons, if they had been using the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M. So, I called Guantanamo’s Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Commander Brook DeWalt, and asked him if Appendix M interrogations had taken place at Guantanamo.

This question may have more than intrinsic interest, as the administration has now announced that it is pursuing moving over a hundred Guantanamo “detainees” to a prison in Illinois. (The actions of Umar Abdulmutallab on an American Airliners jet on Christmas Day may have thrown a monkey-wrench into the “closing” of Guantanamo, but, most likely, Obama’s plans will move forward.)

Lt. Commander DeWalt took a few days to get confirmation, but when he spoke to me on December 11, he confirmed that while “not routine,” Appendix M interrogations are conducted at Guantanamo “as authorized,” “in accordance with DOD directives and U.S. law.” He would not go into operational specifics. Officer-In-Charge of the 4th Public Affairs Detachment (Guantanamo Forward), Lt. Col. James Crabtree, whom was also contacted, declined to be more forthcoming about dates when asked for more specific dates of operational usage.

Appendix M is the portion of the 2006 revised Army Field Manual that covers “unlawful enemy combatants” who don’t meet the U.S. government’s criteria for Geneva treatment as prisoners of war. Obama doesn’t want to call them illegal combatants anymore, so the government doesn’t call them anything, except people with lesser rights.

Famously, President Obama has proclaimed, as did his predecessor, that he was against torture, and was banning it in his administration. As a result, the Obama administration closed down the CIA secret black site prisons, though not, as it turns out, all secret black site prisons.

Obama also rescinded the torture memos of Bybee/Yoo/Bradbury/Addington/Levin, and replaced them with an interrogation policy oriented around the Bush-era Army Field Manual (AFM), whose latest incarnation was the brainchild of Donald Rumsfeld’s assistant, Stephen Cambone. At first, the new AFM was supposed to have a secret annex, so the “worst of the worst” could be grilled in U.S. military prisons, and not have any bleeding hearts or Al Qaeda types getting wind of what was going on.

But, brilliantly, one has to admit, they hit on the idea of simply laying the document openly among the people, and when there was no protest, and the politicians dutifully saluted, the new torture policy was ready to go. First, they had to line up some right-wingers to protest the new AFM was “too soft,” especially for use by the CIA. Then, they had to conduct a PR campaign that sold the AFM to the public, as humane, Geneva-compliant, and the negation of former Bush torture policies. Hence hoary old Senator Feinstein was rolled out to give the stamp of approval from “pragmatic liberal” types. No one else around the Beltway would peep boo from the left.

Appendix M was certainly not the old “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but they weren’t exactly not them either. The new AFM was supposed to be better than the old one, like any new product, but in fact, old prohibitions against abusive interrogation techniques were removed, and in some cases, the techniques formally reintroduced. An example of the latter is sleep deprivation, which used to be explicitly proscribed, but is now part of Appendix M procedure. “Fear Up” procedures are strengthened. Modes of sensory deprivation are introduced. The ban against drugs that cause serious derangement of the senses or temporary psychosis is replaced by a ban against drugs that cause “permanent damage.” Stress positions are, notably, not explicitly banned.

Next: “Will Military Torture Be Transferred to the United States?”