More Charges of Forced Drugging at Guantanamo

On February 21, attorneys for six former Guantanamo prisoners took their civil case against Donald Rumsfeld and a number of U.S. military officials to federal appeals court. Rumsfeld and the others are being sued “for the torture, religious abuse and other mistreatment of plaintiffs,” according to a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

Unremarked in the otherwise thin press coverage of this case was the fact that four of the six former prisoners charge the U.S. with forced drugging, via pills or injections. In one case, a special riot squad known as the “Extreme Reaction Force” entered the cell of one of the prisoners to restrain him and force medications upon him.

The former prisoners were from Turkey, Uzbekistan and Algeria. According to an Agence France-Presse account published at The Raw Story the day of the hearing, “the judges will make their ruling in several weeks, but one of them, Judge David Tatel, said military and civilian officials at the Pentagon had failed in their duty.

“‘Their job is to protect the detainees from abuse, they failed to do so,’ he said.”

A year ago, the case had been dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, despite the fact that three of the plaintiffs were held prisoner at Guantanamo and subjected to torture and other cruel treatment even after a Pentagon-initiated review process had found them not to be “enemy combatants.”

According to CCR’s press release, the current appeal is based in part on the fact that immunity doctrines used to shield “the actions of government officials who abused Guantánamo detainees” were based on the fact these prisoners “were suspected of being enemy combatants.” The fact that the U.S. military tortured men who were not under the category of “enemy combatant” may undermine the government’s immunity argument, or perhaps allow for a Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

Drugging led to Inspector General investigation

The forced use of drugs at Guantanamo and other U.S. military sites is not a minor issue, for such use of drugs is both medically unethical and illegal according to both domestic and international law. Back in Spring 2008, the controversy over reports of such forced drugging was a front-page story in the American press, leading three U.S. senators — two of whom, Joseph Biden and Chuck Hagel, are now the Vice-President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense, respectively — to task the inspector generals (IG) of both the CIA and the Department of Defense to investigate the issue.

While the CIA report is still classified, DoD released a redacted copy of their IG report to me, and Jason Leopold and I published a thorough review of that report at Truthout in July 2012. Leopold and I found that the government admitted to interrogating prisoners while they were being medicated. The government maintained such prisoners were not specifically drugged for interrogation, but for other reasons. Indeed, the military admitted to forcibly drugging prisoners who they wished to be “chemically restrained.”

In a follow-up story at Truthout in September 2012, I noted various ways in which the DoD IG report was a cover-up regarding the extent of the drugging of the prisoners.

“But while the IG report was spurred by a June 2008 Washington Post article reporting a number of former detainees’ complaints of drugging and a subsequent letter to the IG from three US senators,” I wrote, “the IG report never interviewed any of the detainees mentioned in the Post story.

“The IG interviewed only three detainees, all of whom were still held at Guantanamo. ‘We did not attempt to interview detainees who had been repatriated,’ the IG stated, which would include any of the detainees who had previously made public statements to the press that they had been forcibly drugged.”

Indeed, many former detainees have charged Guantanamo officials with forced drugging. For instance, a military prosecutor admitted to former detainee David Hicks’s attorney that prison authorities put drugs in Hicks’s food, as they “periodically sedated [Hicks] for non-therapeutic reasons.”

In another example, after he was forcibly repatriated to Algeria from his cell at Guantanamo, Abdul Aziz Naji, who was sentenced to prison in Algeria after his release from U.S. custody, told an Algerian newspaper that some prisoners at Guantanamo were forced “to take some medicines for three months to drive them crazy, loosing [sic] memory and committing suicide.”

New charges about “unspecified pills and injections”

Four of the six men suing Rumsfeld and the others in the CCR case charge that they were forcibly drugged at Guantanamo.

According to court documents, Yuksel Celikgogus, a 39 year old Turkish citizen, “was repeatedly forced to take unspecified pills and injections. Mr. Celikgogus asked what type of medicine he was receiving, but the guards would neither let him refuse the medication nor tell him what they were giving him.”

Twenty-six year old Turkish citizen Ibrahim Sen “was forcibly given unspecified pills and injections. The guards would neither let him resist the medication nor respond to his inquiries as to its substance.”

Nuri Mert, who is a 35 year old Turkish citizen, released, like Ceilikgogus and Sen to Turkey some years ago, suffered physical attack when he tried to resist the forced drugging.

According to the court document, “Throughout his detention at Guantánamo, Mr. Mert was forcibly given unspecified pills and injections. The guards would neither let him resist the medication nor respond to his inquiries as to its substance. In multiple instances, when Mr. Mert refused the medication, he was forcibly medicated by an Extreme Reaction Force (“ERF”) team. As is typical in such instances, a group of soldiers in riot gear burst into his cell, threw him to the ground and restrained him, carried him out of the cell, and forced him to either take pills or an injection. During his time in Camp Delta, Mr. Mert became extremely ill; he experienced severe stomach and chest pains and regular vomiting. When Mr. Mert wanted medical care, he was often deprived of such care despite frequent requests.”

Zakirjan Hasam was the fourth of the former detainees who claimed he was “forcibly medicated with pills and injections repeatedly while in Guantánamo.” Hasam is an Uzbek refugee who transferred to Albania in 2006. Along with Abu Muhammad, the other Uzbek in the case, he currently lives in a refugee camp in Tirana.

All the former detainees are said to suffer terribly from their torture at the hands of the American armed forces. According to Shayana Kadidal, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, “These men’s lives were irreparably damaged at Guantánamo. The U.S. government acknowledges they were wrongly imprisoned for years yet refuses to compensate them and help them rebuild their lives.”

Besides Rumsfeld, the other defendants in the suit include former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers and General Peter Pace, former commanders of Joint Task Force-GTMO Major General Michael Dunlavey, Major General Geoffrey Miller and Brigadier General Jay Hood, as well as the former director of the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantanamo, Esteban Rodriguez, among many others.

Besides forced drugging with “unknown substances,” the former prisoners’ suit describes a panoply of tortuous treatment, including “beatings, short-shackling, sleep deprivation… subjection to extremes of cold or heat and light and dark, hooding, stress positions, isolation, forced shaving, forced nakedness, forced sexual contact and intimidation with vicious dogs and threats, many in concert with each other.”

Drugs and the Army Field Manual

While some of these “techniques” have now been banned by the military — such as hooding — others continue in use as official parts of the Army Field Manual, whose interrogation procedures have been propounded by President Obama’s January 22, 2009 executive order on “lawful interrogations.” These include sleep deprivation, manipulation of temperatures, isolation, and other so-called interrogation “approaches” and “techniques.”

While it is not commonly known, the Army Field Manual does allow use of drugs on detainees, so long as they do not “induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage.” This makes military use of drugs on prisoners even more permissive than John Yoo’s allowance to the CIA in his famous 2002 memos. Yoo had told the CIA it could not use on prisoners “mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.” While Yoo’s stricture had a lot of room for possible abuse, the current version of the Army Field Manual allows almost any kind of drug to be used, lacking proof of “lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage.”

This is all a far cry from how the military once considered the issue of drugging prisoners. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service [CRS], earlier military doctrine “prohibited the use of any drugs on prisoners unless required for medical purposes.” The CRS report describes a 1961 opinion by the Army’s Judge Advocate General which stated, “’the suggested use of a chemical “truth serum” during the questioning of prisoners of war would be in violation of the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.’ From this opinion it seems clear that any attempt to extract information from an unwilling prisoner of war by the use of chemicals, drugs, physiological or psychological devices, which impair or deprive the prisoner of his free will without being in his interest, such as a bonafide medical treatment, will be deemed a violation of Articles 13 and 17 of the [Geneva] Convention.” [p. CRS-14]

Moreover, according to CRS, the 1987 version of the Army Field Manual on interrogation “suggested that the use of any drugs for interrogation purposes amounted to mental coercion.”

How far we have come since those days can be traced by how the U.S. treats the drugging of prisoners today. The full story of how the U.S. used drugs on prisoners at Guantanamo, if in fact such use is still not happening, remains to be uncovered. The military’s IG investigation was a whitewash. Meanwhile both Congress and the mainstream press have appeared to wash their hands of the matter. But the suffering of the prisoners remains, and their testimony may not be left lingering in limbo forever. Sooner or later these crimes will have their day in a court of law or other duly constituted tribunal.

Group Condemns APA’s Ethics Decision on Former Guantanamo Psychologist

Case closed.
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) released a copy of a letter they sent to the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association (APA). The letter sharply criticizes APA for sitting seven years on an ethics complaint made against Dr. John Leso, who was a military psychologist at Guantanamo and an early member of that prison’s Behavioral Science Consultant Team (BSCT). Rather than a dust-up between psychology groups, the issue goes right to the heart of the US’s ability to conduct coercive interrogations and torture with the input of behavioral specialists.

On December 31, 2013, the APA sent a letter to psychologist and complainant Trudy Bond, who in 2007 had filed a complaint against Leso for his reported participation in torture at Guantanamo, that APA was not going to hold make formal charges against Leso. They said they were closing the case.

A week ago, Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian broke the story on the APA’s decision, which caused a great deal of consternation among psychologists who have been working against torture, and who support Bond and others who have made ethics or legal complaints against Leso and other psychologists involved in torture. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those psychologists supporting Trudy, and a member of PsySR.)

Ackerman described Leso’s role in the most famous of his nefarious deeds, his participation in the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani:

Leso was identified as “MAJ L” in a leaked log, published by Time magazine in 2005, of Qahtani’s marathon interrogation in November 2002. With Leso recorded as present for at least some of the session, Qahtani was forcibly hydrated through intravenous drips and prevented from using the bathroom until he urinated on himself, subjected to loud music, and repeatedly kept awake while being “told he can go to sleep when he tells the truth”.

At one point, Qahtani was instructed to bark like a dog.

“Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man,” the log records. “Detainee was told he would have to learn who to defend and who to attack.”

During an interrogation on 27 November 2002, the log records a direct intervention by Leso: “Control puts detainee in swivel chair at MAJ L’s suggestion to keep him awake and stop him from fixing his eyes on one spot in booth.”

For more on Leso, see the information posted at The Center for Justice and Accountability.

In a key section of their letter, PsySR’s steering committee tells APA: “Evidence clearly exists that Dr. Leso and other psychologists have utterly failed to ensure that detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo and elsewhere were kept ‘safe, legal, ethical, and effective.’ By closing this case in the manner you have chosen, it is only reasonable for members and the broader public to assume that APA will never sanction any psychologist participating in government-sanctioned abuses. No statements from APA’s PR office will change this perception.”

Indeed, APA has been the biggest backer of psychologist participation in interrogations. APA’s former Chief Scientist, for instance, Susan Brandon, is Chief of Research for the Obama Administration’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, and was last seen involved in murky ways in the interrogation of purported Iranian assassin-would be, Mansour Arbabsiar.

Group Condemns APA’s Ethics Decision on Former Guantanamo Psychologist

Case closed.
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) released a copy of a letter they sent to the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association (APA). The letter sharply criticizes APA for sitting seven years on an ethics complaint made against Dr. John Leso, who was a military psychologist at Guantanamo and an early member of that prison’s Behavioral Science Consultant Team (BSCT). Rather than a dust-up between psychology groups, the issue goes right to the heart of the US’s ability to conduct coercive interrogations and torture with the input of behavioral specialists.

On December 31, 2013, the APA sent a letter to psychologist and complainant Trudy Bond, who in 2007 had filed a complaint against Leso for his reported participation in torture at Guantanamo, that APA was not going to hold make formal charges against Leso. They said they were closing the case.

A week ago, Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian broke the story on the APA’s decision, which caused a great deal of consternation among psychologists who have been working against torture, and who support Bond and others who have made ethics or legal complaints against Leso and other psychologists involved in torture. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those psychologists supporting Trudy, and a member of PsySR.)

Ackerman described Leso’s role in the most famous of his nefarious deeds, his participation in the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani:

Leso was identified as “MAJ L” in a leaked log, published by Time magazine in 2005, of Qahtani’s marathon interrogation in November 2002. With Leso recorded as present for at least some of the session, Qahtani was forcibly hydrated through intravenous drips and prevented from using the bathroom until he urinated on himself, subjected to loud music, and repeatedly kept awake while being “told he can go to sleep when he tells the truth”.

At one point, Qahtani was instructed to bark like a dog.

“Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man,” the log records. “Detainee was told he would have to learn who to defend and who to attack.”

During an interrogation on 27 November 2002, the log records a direct intervention by Leso: “Control puts detainee in swivel chair at MAJ L’s suggestion to keep him awake and stop him from fixing his eyes on one spot in booth.”

For more on Leso, see the information posted at The Center for Justice and Accountability.

In a key section of their letter, PsySR’s steering committee tells APA: “Evidence clearly exists that Dr. Leso and other psychologists have utterly failed to ensure that detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo and elsewhere were kept ‘safe, legal, ethical, and effective.’ By closing this case in the manner you have chosen, it is only reasonable for members and the broader public to assume that APA will never sanction any psychologist participating in government-sanctioned abuses. No statements from APA’s PR office will change this perception.”

Indeed, APA has been the biggest backer of psychologist participation in interrogations. APA’s former Chief Scientist, for instance, Susan Brandon, is Chief of Research for the Obama Administration’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, and was last seen involved in murky ways in the interrogation of purported Iranian assassin-would be, Mansour Arbabsiar.

APA claims that it is against torture and has issued numerous statements against psychologist participation in torture. While I believe APA membership is certainly anti-torture — a member-initiated referendum passed calling for APA to support removal of psychologists from sites of human rights violations — APA’s leadership has moved over and over to sabotage any real anti-torture actions. The referendum has never been actualized in action. APA has never called for the closing of Guantanamo. Their anti-torture resolutions are eviscerated by legalistic and/or bureaucratic maneuvers.

In this, it must be said, they follow the plan constructed by their government mentors, who chopped down the significance of the U.S. signing of the UN Convention Against Torture by encumbering it with “reservations” and “understandings” that greatly reduced the power of the treaty to in fact exercise state power to rein in torture.

Below is the full text of PsySR’s letter. Readers should feel free to copy and share.

January 29, 2014

Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD
Director, Ethics Office
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242

Lindsay Childress-Beatty, JD, PhD
Director of Adjudication/Deputy Director, Ethics Office
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242

Dear Drs. Behnke and Childress-Beatty:

As representatives of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), we write to express our deep concern and dismay over the recent decision by the Ethics Office of the American Psychological Association to dismiss the Complaint against Dr. John Leso, a former military psychologist at Guantántamo Bay Naval Base. According to your 31 December 2013 letter to complainant Dr. Trudy Bond (a PsySR member), your office does not dispute that Dr. Leso was instrumental in devising and administering the Guantánamo “enhanced interrogation” protocol in 2002. Declassified government documents and independent reports have revealed that this protocol included, but was not limited to, weeks or months of solitary confinement; sleep deprivation; sexual humiliation; exposure to extreme cold; prolonged removal of sheets, blankets, wash cloths and religious items; 20-hour interrogations, and painful stress positions.

The Ethics Office took almost seven years to review one of the most egregious examples of unethical behavior in the history of American psychology. Due to unusual circumstances (leaks and release by Congress of classified documents) more information is available about Dr. Leso’s participation in government-sanctioned torture and abuse than may ever be the case for any other APA member. Dr. Leso co-wrote the plan for and is documented as directly participating in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani. This interrogation was described as meeting the legal definition of “torture” by Susan Crawford, the Bush administration convener of the Guantánamo military commissions.

In the end, your office apparently decided that Dr. Leso’s months of involvement with the torture program were wholly mitigated because he did not volunteer to lead the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) that formulated the protocol; he was an early-career psychologist; and he reportedly expressed unease with the assignment and a preference for “rapport-building” methods. In reaching its decision the Ethics Office has set a stunning and disturbing precedent. Your office has now provided another layer of protection to psychologists who participate in the debilitating isolation of prisoners, the psychological abuses still permitted by Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, the brutal force-feeding of Guantánamo hunger-strikers, or other ethical violations. As well, this logic suggests that psychologists who engage in insurance fraud or sexual relations with their patients can evade censure if they are relatively inexperienced and express discomfort in advance of or concurrent with their actions.

For years APA has insisted that it would sanction any member for whom credible evidence existed of participation in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, yet no psychologist has ever been held accountable for involvement in our government’s post-9/11 torture program. Evidence clearly exists that Dr. Leso and other psychologists have utterly failed to ensure that detention and interrogation operations at Guantánamo and elsewhere were kept “safe, legal, ethical, and effective.” By closing this case in the manner you have chosen, it is only reasonable for members and the broader public to assume that APA will never sanction any psychologist participating in government-sanctioned abuses. No statements from APA’s PR office will change this perception.

At this point, your office must realize that the Leso decision is being widely discussed in the media and has become a matter of profound concern to many members of the profession. We therefore believe that it is important for the Ethics Office to provide greater clarity regarding two key issues: First, substantively, how does this landmark decision align with the specific principles and standards of the APA’s code of ethics, and with longstanding professional prohibitions against involvement in torture and abuse? Second, procedurally, how was the decision to close the case reached? While you state that the complaint was “carefully reviewed by multiple reviewers,” it is unclear who these reviewers were. Does this decision reflect an official vote of the entire Ethics Committee, or rather action taken by the Director of the Ethics Office, or some other group of reviewers, without the participation of the full committee? Confidentiality about these matters serves, in our perception, no constructive purpose and instead raises confusion and uncertainty about the priorities and procedures of the Ethics Office. We therefore request that this information be made public in order to begin to rebuild the moral authority of the profession.

We look forward to your timely reply. Thank you.

Sincerely,
The Steering Committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility

cc: Members of the APA Ethics Committee
Members of the APA Board and Council of Representatives

More on the Press and the Question of Torture in the Army Field Manual

Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, U.S. Army, holds up a copy of the Army Field Manual, FM 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations as he briefs reporters on the details of the manual in the Pentagon on Sept. 6, 2006. The manual details guidelines for the interrogation of detainees in U.S. military custody.
This is second of two articles revisiting work I did on the “selling” of the Bush Administration’s rewrite of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on intelligence interrogations. As the first article showed, while beat reporters at the Pentagon knew something weird was going on with the introduction of the new AFM regulations, particularly around the use of sensory deprivation as outlined in the manual’s Appendix M, none of that information made it into the mainstream press accounts on the September 2006 introduction of the revised AFM.

In my second article from January 2009 (originally posted at Invictus), I looked at the how the foreign press interpreted the Pentagon’s introduction of the new interrogation manual. Similar to the domestic press, the foreign press quizzed Department of Defense and State Department officials about the way Guantanamo detainees and others held as “unlawful enemy combatants” were being treated according to the new regulations. They noticed that despite claims the AFM adhered to Geneva Conventions protections in regards to prisoners, “unlawful enemy combatants” were held to a different standard in Appendix M’s so-called “Separation” technique.

The Nation’s “Gold Standard” for Interrogation

Also highlighted in my 2009 article was the role of the alternative press. I specifically singled out at the time Salon.com and its torture “beat” writer, Mark Benjamin, for failing to report the truth about the Army Field Manual. In fact, to this day, Salon.com has never carried one article on Appendix M, or even a report on the many exposés in regards to the AFM and torture released by numerous human rights and legal groups.

Well, there was one mention. Glenn Greenwald, writing a 2010 article for Salon, used an extended quote from Scott Horton at Harpers magazine that mentioned “plenty of torture-lite techniques under Appendix M of the Army Field Manual.” Greenwald made no comment about Appendix M on his own, and the article itself was mainly about the otherwise important issue of indefinite detention.

But the one time Greenwald did write about the 2006 Army Field Manual, in December 2008, he got caught up in the juxtaposition of the AFM to the CIA’s waterboarding and so-called enhanced interrogation program, aligning himself with “those of us who insist that Democrats fulfill their commitment to compel the CIA’s compliance in all cases with the extant Army Field Manual.” Greenwald quoted favorably Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Dianne Feinstein, and wrote that the AFM “authorizes robust and effective interrogation techniques.”

While Greenwald is doing extremely important work on issues of government surveillance and civil liberties in general, and has shown bravery in doing so, he has failed for some reason to grasp the issues surrounding torture and the Army Field Manual.

It seems reasonable to assume that the liberal or progressive press failure to oppose torture — or rather, to see torture — in the Army Field Manual derives from reliance on or obedience to Democratic Party politicians. An example of the liberal Democrats stance on the AFM and torture was published at Salon.com in October 2007. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy wrote an op-ed, “We must ban secretive U.S. torture.” In his column, Kennedy called the AFM “the ‘gold standard’ for responsible and effective interrogation techniques.”

Salon.com was not unique in touting the supposed benefits of the Army Field Manual, or in ignoring the criticisms made of its Appendix M, or aspects of the AFM that introduced abuse even outside the Appendix M category. The number of progressive bloggers who wrote about all this could be counted on one or two hands (Marcy Wheeler and bmaz at Emptywheel, Scott Horton, Andy Worthington, Spencer Ackerman, and Daphne Eviatar — if I left anyone out, I apologize.) Some notable anti-torture bloggers, like the Hillman Prize-winning Atlantic columnist Andrew Sullivan, simply have kept quiet and said very little or nothing about the entire issue, at least once the new AFM was put in place and sold as a big reform. [cont’d.]

More on the Press and the Question of Torture in the Army Field Manual

Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, U.S. Army, holds up a copy of the Army Field Manual, FM 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations as he briefs reporters on the details of the manual in the Pentagon on Sept. 6, 2006. The manual details guidelines for the interrogation of detainees in U.S. military custody.
This is second of two articles revisiting work I did on the “selling” of the Bush Administration’s rewrite of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on intelligence interrogations. As the first article showed, while beat reporters at the Pentagon knew something weird was going on with the introduction of the new AFM regulations, particularly around the use of sensory deprivation as outlined in the manual’s Appendix M, none of that information made it into the mainstream press accounts on the September 2006 introduction of the revised AFM.

In my second article from January 2009 (originally posted at Invictus), I looked at the how the foreign press interpreted the Pentagon’s introduction of the new interrogation manual. Similar to the domestic press, the foreign press quizzed Department of Defense and State Department officials about the way Guantanamo detainees and others held as “unlawful enemy combatants” were being treated according to the new regulations. They noticed that despite claims the AFM adhered to Geneva Conventions protections in regards to prisoners, “unlawful enemy combatants” were held to a different standard in Appendix M’s so-called “Separation” technique.

The Nation’s “Gold Standard” for Interrogation

Also highlighted in my 2009 article was the role of the alternative press. I specifically singled out at the time Salon.com and its torture “beat” writer, Mark Benjamin, for failing to report the truth about the Army Field Manual. In fact, to this day, Salon.com has never carried one article on Appendix M, or even a report on the many exposés in regards to the AFM and torture released by numerous human rights and legal groups.

Well, there was one mention. Glenn Greenwald, writing a 2010 article for Salon, used an extended quote from Scott Horton at Harpers magazine that mentioned “plenty of torture-lite techniques under Appendix M of the Army Field Manual.” Greenwald made no comment about Appendix M on his own, and the article itself was mainly about the otherwise important issue of indefinite detention.

But the one time Greenwald did write about the 2006 Army Field Manual, in December 2008, he got caught up in the juxtaposition of the AFM to the CIA’s waterboarding and so-called enhanced interrogation program, aligning himself with “those of us who insist that Democrats fulfill their commitment to compel the CIA’s compliance in all cases with the extant Army Field Manual.” Greenwald quoted favorably Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Dianne Feinstein, and wrote that the AFM “authorizes robust and effective interrogation techniques.”

While Greenwald is doing extremely important work on issues of government surveillance and civil liberties in general, and has shown bravery in doing so, he has failed for some reason to grasp the issues surrounding torture and the Army Field Manual.

It seems reasonable to assume that the liberal or progressive press failure to oppose torture — or rather, to see torture — in the Army Field Manual derives from reliance on or obedience to Democratic Party politicians. An example of the liberal Democrats stance on the AFM and torture was published at Salon.com in October 2007. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy wrote an op-ed, “We must ban secretive U.S. torture.” In his column, Kennedy called the AFM “the ‘gold standard’ for responsible and effective interrogation techniques.”

Salon.com was not unique in touting the supposed benefits of the Army Field Manual, or in ignoring the criticisms made of its Appendix M, or aspects of the AFM that introduced abuse even outside the Appendix M category. The number of progressive bloggers who wrote about all this could be counted on one or two hands (Marcy Wheeler and bmaz at Emptywheel, Scott Horton, Andy Worthington, Spencer Ackerman, and Daphne Eviatar — if I left anyone out, I apologize.) Some notable anti-torture bloggers, like the Hillman Prize-winning Atlantic columnist Andrew Sullivan, simply have kept quiet and said very little or nothing about the entire issue, at least once the new AFM was put in place and sold as a big reform.

An End to Torture?

I believe many commentators, outraged by the brutal CIA program of “enhanced interrogation” torture, exemplified by the use of waterboarding, squeezing people into tiny boxes, slamming them against walls, etc., assumed that the AFM prohibition of waterboarding, hooding, nudity, etc., meant an end to torture itself. But torture is not just about brutality; it is about how to break down a human being.

Years of study about the latter by this nation’s intelligence and military researchers, assisted by top figures in medicine and behavioral science academia, led the CIA to adopt a torture program sometime between the mid-1950s and early 1960s that was based on “psychological” methods: using fear, feelings of helplessness or “futility”, and “touchless” techniques like solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and even use of drugs to break down and control prisoners. In doing this the CIA borrowed also from the military survival, resistance, evasion and escape, or SERE, programs that they were monitoring, and apparently still do monitor and do research on as late as this past decade.

Below is the updated version of the Jan. 2009 story that continued my documentation on the “selling” of the Army Field Manual. I have added notes (in brackets) where applicable to bring up to date, and more silently corrected grammar and syntax to allow for greater comprehension.

+++++++++++++++++

The Foreign Press, Salon.com, and the Army Field Manual

On September 7, 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) Lt. Gen. John Kimmons showed up at a State Department foreign press briefing on the then-new DoD Directive 2310.10E (on its detainee program) and the also then brand-new Army Field Manual on interrogations. Only the day before, Kimmons and Stimson had held a news briefing for U.S. reporters at the Department of Defense on the same subjects, which I covered in a recent article at AlterNet. (See updated version of this article here.)

While few bloggers paid attention to this September 6 DoD briefing (except one noted reporter, as I’ll describe later), most likely that was because President Bush had one of his infrequent news conferences that same day, and this one was a blockbuster. Bush acknowledged the existence of a secret CIA prison network [which he also at the same time said he was closing]. He also announced he was ordering the transfer of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other “high-value detainees” [from the CIA black sites] to Guantánamo Bay to be put on trial.

As the Guardian UK described it:

Mr Bush’s disclosure was intended to put pressure on the US Congress to support draft legislation put forward by the White House yesterday for a system of military tribunals for the Guantánamo detainees.

The US supreme court struck down the military tribunals established by the administration for the 450 inmates at Guantánamo last June, ruling that they had no basis in US law and violated the Geneva Convention [Hamdan v. Rumsfeld].

The pressure of the Bush administration to get a military commissions process in place — to replace the one thrown out as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court — resulted later that year in Congressional passage of the Military Commissions Act [of 2006]. As described by the ACLU, this infamous legislation, passed with the support of the vast majority of the GOP and certain key Democrats, eliminated “the constitutional due process right of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.” It also:

…[gave] any president the power to declare — on his or her own — who is an enemy combatant, decide who should be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime and define what is — and what is not — torture and abuse.

With so much going on at Bush’s news conference, who would notice the goings on at DoD, with the decidedly less glamorous Kimmons and Stimson? But one reporter did. In an article for Salon.com, journalist Mark Benjamin, who had been covering the torture beat for awhile, described the “mixed messages on torture” emanating from the White House and DoD.

While Bush was defending “tough interrogation tactics” and “black site” secret prisons, the DoD spokesmen were lauding the new Army Field Manual as “designed to fit squarely within the protections of the Geneva Conventions.” [In his article,] Benjamin quoted Kimmons approvingly, describing the AFM as “humane” and in accord with the views of “conventional senior generals.”

Yet Benjamin failed to notice, or report, that the bulk of the Q&A session with reporters at that news conference concentrated on serious questions about whether the Army Field Manual allowed abuse itself, particularly in its Appendix M, which describes an omnibus “technique” called “Separation.” Appendix M allows the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and various forms of sensory deprivation on prisoners, mostly to be used with other AFM “approaches,” like “Fear Up,” “Ego Down,” and “Futility.”

The reporters grilled Kimmons and Stimson on the AFM and its use of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. But you wouldn’t know that from Benjamin, the alternative and progressive [press] reporter, whose coverage of the event was as obtuse as that of the mainstream press. (See here or here for the full story of that news conference.)

The Foreign Press Have Their Say

The same day Salon.com was publishing Benjamin’s article, and the mainstream press was assessing Bush’s news conference, Stimson and Kimmons traipsed over to the State Department to give their briefing to the foreign press on 2310.10E and the Army Field Manual. Also in attendance were Brigadier General Thomas L. Hemingway, Legal Adviser to the Appointing Authority, Office of Military Commissions, and Sandra Hodgkinson, State Department Deputy Director, Office of War Crimes Issues.

[Not long after this press conference, Hodgkinson, a former JAG attorney, moved to DoD where she served from 2007-2009 as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs. Today she is Vice President, Chief of Staff for U.S. defense contractor, DRS Technologies, “a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide.”]

During the State Dept. news conference, Reymer Luever, from the German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung, tried to nail down Lt. Gen. Kimmons on the use of the “Separation” technique and the applicability of Geneva Common Article Three. As we will see, skepticism from the press was met with double-talk, and a misrepresentation of the situation of “unlawful enemy combatants” and Geneva protections (bold emphasis added):

QUESTION: Thank you very much General Kimmons. You mentioned the 19 interrogation techniques and the 19[th] interrogation technique [S]eparation. You mentioned that this isn’t covered by — or is an exception from the Geneva Convention. Are there other exceptions from the Convention, the new manual?

LTG KIMMONS: Well, I take issue with you that it’s an exception from the Convention. It’s the wording in the Geneva — the third Geneva Convention that causes us to place separation as a restricted technique and not to employ against prisoners of war or lawful combatants. It is the wording and the requirements of Geneva and the definition within Geneva of what is a lawful enemy combatant, what is a prisoner of war. And clearly al-Qaida and the Taliban and the people we are dealing with now in large portions, you know, of the battlefield do not fit the standard established in Geneva for prison of war or other types of lawful enemy combatants. And therefore, according to Geneva, those type of enemy combatants are not — are just like spies and saboteurs in the older days. And traditionally are not entitled to the same protections under Geneva.

“Like spies and saboteurs”? Where did Kimmons come up with that? The reference is to the Fourth Geneva Convention on “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,” [which allows for some reduction in rights for captured suspected spies and saboteurs, which is we’ll examine more below.]  Of course, no one from DoD wants to refer to the Fourth Geneva Convention, because they would have to admit that such prisoners had rights even beyond those in Common Article 3, which protect against violence, “cruel treatment and torture.” For instance, there’s Article 31:

No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

Now, Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions does not explicitly forbid coercion. Also, Kimmons is correct that the POW Geneva convention has a higher standard for POWs, forbidding all forms of coercion upon them. Unfortunately, the GCs don’t define what is meant by “coercion.” But the CIA’s 1963 Kubark interrogation manual does.

The Purpose of Coercive Interrogations

Jennifer Elsen, in an an essay on the “Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques Under the Geneva Conventions,” in The Treatment of Prisoners (ed. R.D. McPhee, 2006, Nova Science Publishers), pointed out that the CIA distinguished between coercive and non-coercive interrogations. Coercive interrogations were those “designed to induce regression,” producing a loss of general cognitive capacities, including the ability to deal with complex situations, or the ability to “cope with repeated frustrations.” The tools of the coercive interrogator include the induction of fatigue, pain, sleep loss, anxiety, fear, and the “deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods.”

[As we can see, “coercive” interrogation is really torture, and the forms of that kind of torture are for the most part those which are allowed for use in the Army Field Manual. It’s not an accident that Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the Constitution Project, Human Rights First, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and others have called for either the withdrawal of Appendix M or a rewrite of the Army Field Manual, or both.]

According to the Civilian Geneva Convention protocols, its protections include all civilians “taking no active part in hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause.” [emphasis added] During the press conference, Kimmons noted the exception for “spies and saboteurs,” equating the latter with the captured detainees. But those captured in their “war on terror” in Afghanistan and elsewhere were not spies and saboteurs. Yet, even if they were, according to the Geneva Conventions, they have only “forfeited rights of communication.” One cannot lock them up and throw away the key.

The Civilian Geneva Convention protocol continues, discussing the plight of “spies and saboteurs”:

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity, and in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

“Full rights and privileges of a protected person”… that doesn’t sound like one could be subject to coercive interrogation or torture, or spurious military commissions, does it?

Kimmons Down the Rabbit Hole on Geneva

Let’s go back to the briefing, and pick up just where we left off. Kimmons, asked if there exceptions to Geneva in the AFM, said that unlawful enemy combatants were “not entitled to the same protections under Geneva” as prisoners of war. But in his very next sentence, he continued, in an entirely different, and confusing vein:

As a matter of law here in the United States, we are going to provide the same single standard for humane treatment to all categories of detainees, both lawful and unlawful combatants.

That same legal requirement does not require us to afford additional privileges above and beyond that standard to unlawful combatants. And that’s why separation is placed — separated to it.

I’m sorry, could you repeat the second part of your question.

QUESTION: My question was are there other — what I have called exceptions from the Convention in the field manual?

LTG KIMMONS: No. In accordance, as a matter of law, only those interrogation approach techniques that are listed in — authorized by the Army Field Manual, this field manual, can be employed on any class of category of detainee across the Department of Defense.

The last statement makes no sense when compared with Kimmons remarks during his opening statement, remarks to which Mr. Luever alluded in his question above. [They don’t even make sense grammatically!] For in his earlier statement, Lt. Gen. Kimmons stated (bold emphasis added):

Separation meets the standard for humane treatment, but the Geneva Conventions, specifically the third Geneva Convention, affords prisoners of war, lawful enemy combatants, additional protections above and beyond the single humane standard to which they’re entitled. It entitles them to pay, entitles them to send and receive mail and packages, and it also protects them from separation from other prisoners of war with whom they were captured without their expressed consent.

Unlawful combatants are not entitled to those additional protections and privileges above the humane standard. So Geneva — the common third — Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all categories of detainees’ [there may be missing text in the transcript here] [S]eparation, however, is only authorized for use on a by-exception basis with unlawful enemy combatants.

Threading the eye of the needle, DoD means to say one thing one moment and another thing the next. What’s clear is that they believe Separation is not a group of techniques that can be used on regular POWs, only “unlawful enemy combatants.” But the privileges enumerated by the third Geneva Convention — Kimmons lists pay, getting mail and packages — does not include in its text, as Kimmons maintains, the right not to experience “separation,” i.e., solitary confinement, sleep and perceptual deprivation, etc.

This can all get quite confusing, but seems to boil down to this. The Pentagon, and perhaps their CIA mentors, want to slice and dice the Geneva Conventions at their will, in order to manifest the core program of coercive interrogation, as laid down by the CIA’s KUBARK manual. DoD has done this by slyly implementing that core program into the Army Field Manual and Appendix M. Because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, they want to hide or forbid all types of treatment that became notorious due to press exposure, and that includes the revelations around waterboarding. But the induction of regression, using a paradigm the CIA referred to as DDD (Dependency, Debility, Dread), is still at the core of the coercive techniques they intend to rescue for their use.

And because of the ignorance or indifference, or in some cases, collusion, of the press and politicians, it appears that they will get their way.

Postscript, January 2014

George Hunsinger, who is the founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, wrote about the misrepresentation of the Army Field Manual and its Appendix M in the popular press. “It is sad to see the mainstream media display so much confusion about a heinous crime like torture,” Hunsinger wrote.

“Torture is immoral under all circumstances.  It represents an extreme and shocking form of violating the human person.  Like slavery, genocide and rape, it is never justified.” (more…)

How the Press, the Pentagon, and Even Human Rights Groups Sold Us an Army Field Manual that (Still) Includes Torture (updated)

I’m marking the 12th anniversary of the abomination that is Guantanamo with a couple of repostings related to how the Bush administration, with the connivance of key members of the press and the human rights community, sold a continuation of torture as an end to torture.

Such a reposting seems necessary as the entire press, human rights groups, and blogging world continues to ignore the ongoing issue of torture via interrogations. While indefinite detention, forced cell extractions aka beatings, and the painful forced-feeding of hunger strikers still garners attention, and rightly so, the fact the U.S. continues to have an official policy of torture in its interrogation manual continues to be ignored, even though it is the most important issue about torture facing America today.

Eschewing the worst-looking forms of torture, like waterboarding, in 2006, at the same time that “high-value detainees” like Khalid Sheik Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah were transferred out of the CIA black sites and sent to Guantanamo, the U.S. put out a new Army Field Manual (AFM) with instructions on interrogations that claimed to be “humane.”

Origin of AFM Rewrite Out of Ashes of Abu Ghraib Scandal

Only recently have I found the possible origin of the new AFM’s drafting in the August 2005 recommendations of a Joint Chiefs of Staff panel subsequent to the military investigations into the Abu Ghraib scandal. (See pg. 315-16 of this document.)

Recommend a policy-level review and determination of the status and treatment of all detainees, when not classified as EPWs [Enemy Prisoners of War]. This review needs to particularly focus on the definition of humane treatment, military necessity, and proper employment of interrogation techniques. (e.g. boundaries or extremes)….

Recommend study of the DoD authorized interrogation techniques to establish a framework for evaluating their cumulative impact in relation to the obligation to treat detainees humanely.

The study of “authorized interrogation techniques” was tasked to the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone.

But a number of the new techniques that ultimately showed up in the newly written AFM were not humane at all. In fact, they amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhumane and degrading behavior. Over the years various human rights groups recognized this and came out publicly for changes to the AFM. (See here, and here, and here, and here, and here.)

The AFM made changes to its text that allowed wider latitude in use of drugs in interrogations, while eliminating prohibitions against sleep deprivation and stress positions that had been in the pre-2006 AFM. Even worse, a category of prisoners that were not considered subject to Geneva Convention POW protections was singled out for a special kind of interrogation “technique,” as described in the manual’s Appendix M.

Appendix M allowed for use of isolation for 30 days, and potentially indefinitely; sleep deprivation for up to 30 days, but potentially indefinitely; manipulation of environment and diet (so long as it wasn’t “extreme”); and forms of sensory deprivation, so long as every form of sensory input wasn’t affected.

There was very little interest in whether or not or how these new techniques were being used. In fact, no one had apparently even thought to ask the government until I did in January 2010 whether or not Appendix M had even been used. Not surprisingly, the Department of Defense confirmed it was using Appendix M interrogations at Guantanamo.

More surprising was my discovery, confirmed by a DoD spokesman, that the use of the Appendix M torture techniques was approved in a Bush-era Office of Legal Council memorandum, and left in place by the Obama administration despite claims that all such memos were withdrawn in January 2009. Even to this day, in a massive political failure, not one human rights group or legal organization has recognized this fact.

The Torture Never Stopped

Intense abusive interrogations continue. We know from a filing by Omar Khadr in his Canadian court case that prior to release from Guantanamo to Canadian authorities, and shortly after his plea deal with Military Commissions authorities in October 2010, Khadr was subjected to prolonged interrogation that likely was conducted, given the key presence of the use of isolation, to Appendix M parameters: “Following the Pre-Trial Agreement, the Americans transferred Omar to a maximum security detention facility restricted for prisoners convicted of offenses. Omar was thrown back into solitary confinement and continued to be subjected to months of prolonged interrogations consisting of a sequence of 9 hours of interrogation per day for 9 days at a time.”

With an even dozen years of crimes at Guantanamo — fully over 1/3 of them under the auspices of the Obama administration — I think it’s time to review just how consensus around torture takes place in actuality. As we shall see, it is a complex story, involving media manipulation, psychological effects such as denial, and subordination of human rights to party politics and an achingly slow platform of reformist change. I say “consensus” because silence about all this amounts to consensus.

The following was published at Alternet and my own blog, Invictus, in January 2009. (My first writing recognizing torture in the AFM goes back to the introduction of the new manual in September 2006, when I wrote under my pseudonym Valtin.) In a day or two, I will publish part two, which will look at how the foreign press saw through what DoD was doing, and how a major blogging news and opinion site helped cover that up.

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How the Press, the Pentagon, and Even Human Rights Groups Sold Us an Army Field Manual that (Still) Includes Torture

A January 17 [2009] New York Times editorial noted that Attorney General designate Eric Holder testified at his nomination hearings that when it came to overhauling the nation’s interrogation rules for both the military and the CIA, the Army Field Manual represented “a good start.” The editorial noted the vagueness of Holder’s statement. Left unsaid was the question, if the AFM is only a “good start,” what comes next?

The Times editorial writer never bothered to mention the fact that three years earlier, a different New York Times article (12/14/2005) introduced a new controversy regarding the rewrite of the Army Field Manual. The rewrite was inspired by a proposal by Senator John McCain to limit U.S. military and CIA interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual. (McCain would later allow an exception for the CIA.)

According to the Times article, a new set of classified procedures proposed for the manual “was pushing the limits on legal interrogation.” Anonymous military sources called the procedures “a back-door effort” to undermine McCain’s efforts at the time to change U.S. abusive interrogation techniques, and stop the torture.

A Forgotten Controversy

Over the next six months or so, a number of articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the L.A. Times described the course of the controversy. By mid-June 2006, the NYT was reporting that, under pressure from unnamed senior generals and members of Congress (including McCain, and Senators Warner and Graham), the Pentagon was rethinking its plan to have a classified annex to the AFM, which would include a different set of interrogation rules for “unlawful combatants,” like the detainees at Guantanamo. Included in the discussion about these classified procedures were, reportedly, members of the State Department and various human rights organizations.

According to an article in the L.A. Times, this latest fight over the classified procedures went back at least to mid-May 2006. The manual itself had been written at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, roughly a year earlier, and then sent to the Pentagon for further evalution. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s right-hand man, Stephen Cambone, was put in charge of its final draft. According the L.A. Times article, members of Congress were “keen to avoid a public fight with the Pentagon.” The announcement that the controversial and still unknown procedures might not be included in the manual was seen as a success by human rights groups.

Yet the proverbial chickens never hatched, and by early September 2006 the new Army Field Manual was finally released. The section on special interrogation procedures for “unlawful combatants” was included as a special appendix (Appendix M), and published in unclassified format. According to a L.A. Times story on September 8, Cambone was crowing that the new Army Field Manual instructions would give interrogators “what they need to do the job.” The article noted:

The new manual includes one restricted technique that will only be used on so-called unlawful combatants – such as Al Qaeda suspects – not traditional prisoners of war.

That technique, called “separation,” involves segregating a detainee from other prisoners. Military officials said separation was not the equivalent of solitary confinement and was consistent with Geneva Convention protections.

As for the proposed secrecy surrounding the new techniques, the Pentagon had decided it couldn’t keep them secret forever. Senator Warner was also on record as against any classified annex to the manual.

Not long ago, I wrote about what was included in Appendix M, which purports to introduce the single technique of “separation.” In fact, the Appendix M includes instructions regarding solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and, in combination with other procedures included in the Army Field Manual, amounted to a re-introduction of the psychological torture techniques practiced at Guantanamo, and taught by Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE psychologists and other personnel at the Cuban base and elsewhere.

The rewrite of the Army Field Manual included other seemingly minor changes. It introduced dubious procedures, such as the “False Flag” technique, wherein interrogators could pretend they were from another country. It also redefined the meaning of “Fear Up,” a procedure meant to exploit a prisoner’s existing fears under imprisonment. Now, interrogators could create “new” fears. The AFM rewrite was a masterpiece of subterfuge and double talk, which could only have been issued from the offices of Rumsfeld and Cambone.

One would think this turnaround of the Pentagon’s position regarding a removal of these controversial procedures would have been a matter of some note. But there was no protest from Congress, no mention of the past controversy in the press, and only vague comments at first and then acceptance by human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Only Physicians for Human Rights protested the inclusion of the techniques listed in Appendix M. For the rest… silence.

[Author’s Note, 1/13/2014: By 2009, Amnesty International had clearly come out against Appendix M, as we can see at this posting. In 2010, Open Society Foundations, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch signed a letter to the Pentagon, along with other groups, asking for the removal of Appendix M. The letter stated, “we are concerned that Appendix M creates a legal precedent that may be used in the future by other governments to justify abusing captured U.S. personnel…. Appendix M can be interpreted to allow serious abuse, including months of abnormal sleep deprivation.]

DoD Rolls Out the New Model

On September 6, 2006, a news briefing was held by the Department of Defense, as part of the unveiling of the new Army Field Manual, in conjunction with the then-new Defense Department Directive for Detainee Programs (DoD Directive 2310.01E). Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) Lt. Gen. John Kimmons were the DoD presenters.

Much of the belief that the AFM provides an improvement over previous policies of the Department of Defense is likely due to a confusion between the two documents introduced that summer of 2006, the new Detainee Program Directive and the new Army Field Manual.

DoD Directive 2310.10E made a number of changes in regards to detainee operations and management. It made clear that “All persons subject to this Directive shall observe the requirements of the law of war, and shall apply, without regard to a detainee’s legal status, at a minimum the standards articulated in Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949…” The same type of language appears in the text of the Army Field Manual itself.

During the press briefing on September 6, and a different one the next day for the foreign press, reporters were not so easily fooled.

One unnamed reporter at the DoD briefing challenged Lt. Gen. Kimmons on the “single standard” issue:

Q General, why was the decision made to keep these categories — the separate categories of detainees? You have traditional prisoners of war and then the unlawful enemy combatants. Why not treat all detainees under U.S. military custody the exact same way?

Kimmons’s answer gives us insight into the kind of convoluted legal thinking that went into the Pentagon’s rationale for the acceptability of coercive interrogation — for some (emphasis added):

GEN. KIMMONS: Well, actually, the distinction is in Geneva through the Geneva Convention, which describes the criteria that prisoner — that lawful combatants, such as enemy prisoners of war — which attributes they possess — wearing a uniform, fighting for a government, bearing your arms openly and so on and so forth. And it’s all spelled out fairly precisely inside Geneva.

Geneva also makes clear that traditional, unlawful combatants such as in the — 50 years ago, we would have talked about spies and saboteurs, but also now applies to this new category of unlawful — or new type of unlawful combatant, terrorists, al Qaeda, Taliban.

They clearly don’t meet the criteria for prisoner of war status, lawful combatant status, and so they’re not entitled to the — therefore to the extra protections and privileges which Geneva affords.

But Kimmon’s clarification was not very helpful. In fact, if a prisoner is judged not a “lawful combatant”, then he or she immediately becomes covered by Geneva IV, the “Civilian Convention,” which protects anyone “who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever find themselves” held prisoner. According to the International Red Cross Commentary on the Geneva Conventions:

Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third [POW] Convention, [or] a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention…. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law.

Separation and Sensory Deprivation

One questioner took on the topic of the “Separation” technique. Wasn’t it the same as solitary confinement, and wasn’t solitary confinement “banned by Common Article 3 in the affront to human dignity, other provisions? “Are you confident,” a reporter asked, “that separation is permitted under Common Article 3?”

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs responded by denying that separation amounted to solitary confinement, even though the AFM describes the technique as, among other things “physical separation” “limited to 30 days of initial duration.” Extensions for such physical separation must be reviewed and approved the General Officer or Flag Officer who initially approved the original “separation.”

Kimmons’ reply was even more disingenuous:

We have always segregated enemy combatants on the battlefield at the point of capture and beyond, to keep them silent, segregate the officers from the enlisted, the men from the women, and so forth. That’s traditional; it goes back to World War II and beyond.

So, is “separation” a matter of segregating prisoners, or what? In the Army Field Manual itself, one gets that same kind of double talk. At first it is presented thus:

The purpose of separation is to deny the detainee the opportunity to communicate with other detainees in order to keep him from learning counter-resistance techniques or gathering new information to support a cover story; decreasing the detainee’s resistance to interrogation.

This description sounds a lot like segregation for security purposes, although there is that phrase “decreasing the detainee’s resistance.” A page or so later, however, we find the following (emphasis added):

The use of separation should not be confused with the detainee-handling techniques approved in Appendix D [Guide for Handling Detainees]. Specifically, the use of segregation during prisoner handling (Search, Silence, Segregate, Speed, Safeguard, and Tag [5 S’s and a T]) should not be confused with the use of separation as a restricted interrogation technique.

Furthermore, we learn that “separation” requires an interrogation plan, and medical and legal review, as well, of course, as “physical separation.” If this is not solitary confinement for the purposes of breaking a prisoner down for interrogation, then the English language has lost all purpose in explaining things.

Another line of questioning took on the AFM’s contention that it banned sensory deprivation. The entire exchange at the September 6 hearing is worth reproducing here. It represents, among other things, the most thorough line of inquiry I have seen by any reporter in quite some time. The following quote contains added emphases.

Q General, as an expert in interrogations, do you believe that sensory deprivation was abusive, or did it ever prove to be helpful in interrogation?

GEN. KIMMONS: Sensory deprivation is abusive and it’s prohibited in this Field Manual, and it’s absolutely counterproductive, in my understanding of what we have used productively. Sensory deprivation, just to be clear — and we define it in the Field Manual, but basically, it comes down to the almost complete deprivation of all sensory stimuli, light, noise, and so forth, and to the point where it can have an adverse mental, psychological effect on a — disorienting effect on a detainee.

Q So could there be deprivation of light alone for extended periods of time, as opposed to complete sensory deprivation?

GEN. KIMMONS: I think the total loss of an external stimulus, such as deprivation of light, would not fit what we have described here as — for example, if you’re hinting about separation, separation does not involve the darkness or lack of that type of sensory stimulation.

Q That wasn’t the question, though. Would sensory — would the deprivation of light alone be permitted under the current manual, as opposed — because you described sensory deprivation as total deprivation —

GEN. KIMMONS: That’s correction.

Q — of all senses. So deprivation of light alone for extended periods would be permitted?

GEN. KIMMONS: I don’t think the Field Manual explicitly addresses it.

It does not make it prohibited.And it would have to be weighed in the context of the overall environment. If it was at nighttime during sleep hours, then it would make personal sense to turn the lights off.

Q You know what I’m talking about. I’m trying to get at — because you said specifically total sensory deprivation — so deprivation of any one sense might be permitted. Like light, for example. They could be kept in the dark for extended periods of time beyond the usual nighttime hours.

This is really too specific and challenging for the DoD briefers, and they turn on their double-talk machine:

MR. STIMSON: Jim, questions like this are good questions to ask. And what’s important to remember is that interrogation plans are put together for a reason so that not just one person can decide what he or she wants to do and then run off and do it. They’re vetted. It’s laid out how they’re vetted. General Kimmons could go into that in exhaustive detail. Typically, there would be a JAG, as I understand it, General Kimmons —

GEN. KIMMONS: That’s correct.

MR. STIMSON: — that would have to review that. It goes up through various chains of command. And so, you know, types of questions like this would have to be asked and then vetted through that process.

Burying the Story

With all the hard questioning by the press, you’d think the issues would have been aired in the media in the days and weeks following the introduction of the Army Field Manual. As should be evident by now, that’s not what happened.

Here’s how the L.A. Times covered it (9/6/06), getting the story exactly backwards (emphasis added):

Bowing to critics of its tough interrogation policies, the Pentagon is issuing a new Army field manual that provides Geneva Convention protections for all detainees and eliminates a secret list of interrogation tactics.

The manual, set for release today, also reverses an earlier decision to maintain two interrogation standards – one for traditional prisoners of war and another for “unlawful combatants” captured during a conflict but not affiliated with a nation’s military force.

There is no mention of Appendix M or any controversy over techniques. Jumana Musa, an “advocacy director for Amnesty International, is quoted as noting, ““If the new field manual embraces the Geneva Convention, it is an important return to the rule of law.'”

The 9/7/06 article in the Washington Post was, if anything, even more laudatory of the new AFM:

Pentagon officials yesterday repudiated the harsh interrogation tactics adopted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, specifically forbidding U.S. troops from using forced nudity, hooding, military dogs and waterboarding to elicit information from detainees captured in ongoing wars.

The Defense Department simultaneously embraced international humane treatment standards for all detainees in U.S. military custody, the first time there has been a uniform standard for both enemy prisoners of war and the so-called unlawful combatants linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

The article falsely claims the AFM bans manipulation of sleep patterns. Regarding any controversy, the article explains:

Three expanded techniques — good cop, bad cop; pretending to be an official from another country; and detention in a separate cell from others — are allowed but require approval from senior officers. Officials originally considered keeping those three techniques classified but decided to make them public for the sake of full transparency.

The Post article also briefly mentions the generally positive response of human rights groups:

“This is the Pentagon coming full circle,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This is very strong guidance.”

As for the human rights organizations, Amnesty International later essentially signed off on the AFM. In an article from the Winter 2007 issue of Amnesty International Magazine, Jumana Musa, quoted in the L.A. Times article above, had this to say about the new AFM:

AIUSA also worked with U.S. representatives and senators to introduce legislation to create a single, transparent standard for interrogations and to limit the CIA to approved interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual.

In a telephone interview for this article, Mr. Malinowski said he supported using the Army Field Manual as a replacement for the CIA “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and described the question of abuse in Appendix M as not entirely clear. The language in Appendix M was “ambiguous,” and open to criticism due to a “lack of clarity.” He maintained, however, that using the current Army Field Manual as a model was merely a beginning, and that a new overhaul of interrogation techniques was on the agenda.

A call made to Amnesty International’s press contact regarding this issue, and an e-mail sent to Jumana Musa, were both unreturned.

Conclusion

Two conclusions can be drawn from the above examination of the “selling” of the Army Field Manual to the American public in the late summer of 2006 and beyond. One is that reporters on the beat were very aware of the origins and implications of the issues surrounding Geneva and the AFM, and the controversies surrounding the use of isolation and other techniques under the rubric of “Separation.” The extremely muted or non-existent discussion in the mainstream press of these issues after the AFM was introduced means that a decision to suppress these issues was made at an editorial level, and were not the result of laziness or dilatory reporting on behalf of reporters.

Secondly, the role of some human rights organizations in promoting the new Army Field Manual — in particular, the actions of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — are curious, to say the least. Press reports and the interview with Malinowski show that inclusion of certain human rights organizations in the vetting of the AFM started at the very beginning. We may not be able to find out what went on in the editorial offices of the nation’s top newspapers, but we should know more about the discussions within the human rights organizations on how they advised, or were fooled, by talks with Bush administration and Pentagon personnel.

Meanwhile, other human rights organizations, such as the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights, have criticized the language and techniques described in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, and called for rescission of the offending text. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in May 2007, Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR, and retired Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, former Commanding General of the Southeast Regional U.S. Army Medical Command, wrote:

The new Army Field Manual on human intelligence gathering… explicitly prohibits several SERE-based techniques, yet Appendix M of the manual explicitly permits what amounts to isolation, along with sleep and sensory deprivation. The manual is silent on a number of other SERE-based methods, creating ambiguity and doubt over their place in interrogation doctrine….

PHR, therefore, respectfully urges you to take the following actions:

1. Fully implement the OIG’s recommendation to “preclude the use of Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape physical and psychological coercion techniques” in all interrogations. (Id, pp. 29-30.) This includes rescission of Appendix M of the new Army Field Manual and specific prohibition, by name, of each of the known SERE-based methods and their equivalents.

It seems likely that the Army Field Manual, whether by executive order (most likely) or by legislation, will become the new “single standard” for U.S. interrogation. Press reports hint that the Obama administration may yet allow a loophole for CIA interrogators. I don’t know how that will sit with the many military lawyers and officers who have been instrumental in opposing Bush/Rumsfeld’s torture policies from the beginning. I’m thinking of people like Alberto Mora and Antonio Taguba, or the new nominee for DoD General Counsel, Jeh Charles Johnson, who apparently intends to seriously change the policies set by his predecessor, Jim Haynes.

[Author’s note, 1/12/2014: Johnson never did change the Army Field Manual/Appendix M policies. Last month, he was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Homeland Security.]

In any case, the full history and controversy behind torture and U.S. interrogation policy deserves a full airing. What happened, for instance, between June and September 2006, allowing for Pentagon acceptance of the Appendix M abusive procedures? When it comes to the implementation of a host of torture and cruel, inhumane interrogation techniques by the U.S. government, both an investigation and prosecutions are needed.

It will be a challenge for our society to bring out the full story, while also bringing to justice those individuals who broke both domestic law and international treaty. We will need both investigations and prosecutions in order to settle scores with the past, to understand where we stand now, and what we need to change to move forward.

My Year at FDL: A Review

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.

(more…)

My Year at FDL: A Review

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.

(more…)

CIA Document Suggests U.S. Lied About Biological, Chemical Weapon Use in the Korean War

Alan Dulles
Former CIA Director Alan Dulles

According to a CIA document declassified in March 2006, the U.S. government lied publicly about pushing for a United Nations “on-the-spot” investigation into Soviet, Chinese and North Korean charges of U.S. use of biological weapons (BW) during the Korean War.

According to the document, a “Memorandum of Conversation” from the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) dated July 6, 1953, the U.S. was not serious about conducting any investigation into such charges, despite what the government said publicly. The reason the U.S. didn’t want any investigation was because an “actual investigation” would reveal military operations, “which, if revealed, could do us psychological as well as military damage.”

The memorandum specifically stated as an example of what could be revealed “8th Army preparations or operations (e.g. chemical warfare).”

Psychological Strategy Board

The document in question was an enclosure to a memorandum to CIA director Allan Dulles from Horace S. “Pete” Craig. As CIA director, Dulles sat on the PSB board along with the Undersecretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, or their designated representatives. Craig was CIA and close to Dulles, working for CIA’s Advisory Council on “comint” (communications intelligence). He seems to have been Dulles’s representative for awhile at Board meetings. He later was a member of the Operations Coordinating Board, President Eisenhower’s replacement for the PSB.

The July 6 meeting was attended by Craig, Wallace Irvin, Jr., Erasmus Kloman, and Richard L. Sneider. The group had many intelligence connections. This was not surprising as “psychological warfare” or “strategy” during the heyday of the early Cold War was, as one historian put it, “most of the time understood as synonymous with covert operations”.

The PSB itself was meant to coordinate the activities of different U.S. agencies and departments. Controversial and disbanded about two years after it was founded in 1951, according to the Truman Library website, which has an extensive list of PSB holdings, its function was “to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations.”

Board member Sneider was at the time a State Department “policy analyst and intelligence expert” who also associated with the United Nations Association of the United States. Later he became Officer in Charge of Japanese Affairs. By the late 1960s, he was active on Nixon’s National Security Council. From 1973 to 1978, he was U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Irwin worked closely with UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in shepherding through the latter’s “human rights” proposals at the United Nations in the early 1950s. The latter project was organized as a working group within the PSB, with Irwin acting as “Chair”. Later, he became a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush, and became ensconced within the foreign policy establishment. He would ultimately become editor for the journal Foreign Policy.

“Ras” Kloman ran the meeting. In a brief telephone exchange I had with Mr. Kloman on November 18, he confirmed he had been with the PSB. He had no memory of the meeting in question, but told me he had been “the principal man on psychological warfare.” Ill, and in a nursing home, Kloman declined answering any more questions. He is the only living member of the group who met that summer day 60 years ago.

Kloman had been a World War II Office of Strategic Services operative. He wrote a book about his experiences. An online biography states that Kloman also served in “the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State, and Foreign Policy Research Institute at Penn, and as a corporate executive for AMAX and IBM. He was a Senior Research Associate at the National Academy of Public Administration from which he retired in 1985.”

Trouble Countering Charges of Biological Warfare

The “memorandum of conversation” — really the minutes of the meeting — concerns a discussion of the difficulties U.S. psywar experts were having getting academics to back the government’s own propagandistic critique of the World Peace Council-backed International Scientific Commission’s (ISC) conclusion supporting Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean claims that the U.S. had used offensive biological weapons in Korea. The situation was crucial because the evidence was backed up by the statements of a number of captured U.S. airmen, including some officers, providing confessions of use of BW, and giving detailed descriptions of who ordered it and how it was done.

The U.S. responded to the airmen’s confessions with claims they were coerced, false confessions. Some claimed (with CIA connivance, if not inspiration) the POWs were “brainwashed.” The origins of the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” torture program can be traced in part to CIA and military research meant to counter, supposedly, the possibility of such “brainwashing.” But since they knew it wasn’t actually “brainwashing,” the whole explanation was really a cover story for the creation of a psychologically based torture program.

(For more on the history of the ISC, which was chaired by the famous British historian of Chinese science, Dr. Joseph Needham, click here.)

An Army epidemiologist, Col. Arthur Long, had been asked to submit a report on ISC’s work. Long, of course, found the ISC’s own report to be a “complete fabrication.” According to Long, the problem was “very few of [the ISC]… particular items of scientific ‘evidence’ could be demolished as such.”

So a committee was formed under Detlev Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences. But, Kloman bemoaned, the NAS committee had “accomplished very little of substance.” Bronk had disappointed them. A letter he wrote to support Long’s analysis was, according to Kloman, “pitched in an extremely low key — so much so as to be of dubious effect.” Even U.S. diplomats at the UN refused to promote Bronk’s letter.

The State Department sent a “circular airgram,” written by Kloman, to US embassies in all the countries represented by the ISC (Italy, France, Brazil, UK, Sweden), asking them to find scientists to refute ISC’s report. But the U.S. was having very little luck. Even the British “were pleasant but did nothing.”

Kloman was perturbed but somewhat understanding. The ISC scientists were, he said, “politics aside… highly competent people.”

The meeting turned towards countering BW claims at the UN, via pushing a U.S. call for an investigation by the United Nations of the Korean charges. (Of course, North Korea and China were at war with UN forces at the time.) Sneider described the different proposals the U.S. was putting forward, condemning the BW charges and calling for an investigation, while analyzing the results of the UN votes on these proposals. But the results of this campaign were “obscure.” There was a sense the U.S. had missed an opportunity to more effectively win propaganda points. Sneider told the group the State Department verdict on the anti-ISC campaign was “no victory and no defeat.”

The meeting continued with a discussion of “future possibilities” for action, but it ended with a bombshell.

The Dangers of an “Actual Investigation”

The PSB memorandum (PDF link) concluded with a stunning admission of duplicity, and — I cannot believe but the CIA’s censors were asleep at the switch here, to all our benefit — a revelation about U.S. military actions in the Korean War that from our standpoint in the 2010s have been buried for decades.

Mr. Kloman observed that US policy, while favoring the proposal for an on-the-spot investigation, does not favor an actual investigation. One reason for this, he said, is the feeling of the military that an investigating commission would inevitably come across the 8th Army preparations or operations (e.g. chemical warfare) which, if revealed, could do us psychological as well as military damage. This reasoning assumes that the commission would have authority to examine anything they liked on either side of the battle line.”

While historians of the Korean War BW controversy will find it fascinating to analyze what this document means in the context of the long-standing feud between those who believe one side or the other, I think what is most important for us today is the reopening of the question of U.S. use of chemical weapons in that war.

Most people are probably unaware that there ever were charges of CW use by the U.S. in Korea. I know I was. Yet as early as March 1952, a Commission of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) had visited North Korea to examine charges of war crimes, releasing a report that included documentation of chemical warfare.

“American planes have on various occasions used asphyxiating and other gases or chemical weapons at least since 6th May, 1951,” the IADL commission wrote. “The commission took eye witness and expert testimony. Post-mortem examinations and autopsy results argued that some chemical had been used, with a “disagreeable smell, resembling the smell of chlorine…. In the affected area of the city it was noted that grass became yellow brown, objects containing an alloy of copper became blue green and rings of silver became black.”

Victims of another alleged attack “felt an itching on the exposed parts of the body…. they observed red spots which grew to a size like haricot beans, which then swelled and were filled with pus.” Some had injuries like “second-degree burns but with a much more, serious erosive action and taking a longer time to recover.”

Critics of the IADL wrote off their findings as communist, fellow-traveller propaganda. Before long, the main controversy over US war crimes turned to the BW allegations, but the North Koreans have never withdrawn their allegations. In the 2001 Report and Final Judgment on US Crimes in Korea 1945-2001 by the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal, whose indictment was drafted by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark, the U.S. was found guilty of use of both chemical and biological warfare during the Korean War.

A Circumstantial Case, Records Destroyed

It’s worth noting that the Chinese and North Koreans had ample reason to believe the U.S. capable of using biological or chemical warfare. The U.S. then had refused to sign the 1925 Geneva Protocol against use of chemical or biological weapons. The Chinese and Koreans knew the U.S. had amnestied the Japanese scientists of Unit 731, who had undertaken fatal experiments on both BW and CW on prisoners. Indeed, the ISC report had included a chapter on Unit 731.

Moreover, both Chinese and Koreans knew the Japanese had extensively used both biological, and even more so, chemical weapons during the Sino-Japanese War (coinciding in its last years with World War II).

An October 1988 article by historian Yuki Tanaka in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Poison Gas: the Story Japan Would Like to Forget,” described the CW campaign waged by Japan in China, and how the U.S. helped keep the subject from coming up in war crimes trials at the end of WWII. Meanwhile, the U.S. had become cozy with former Japanese war criminals, now being allowed back into Japanese civil and political life, while former collaborators with the Japanese were members of the U.S. backed Republic of Korea government.

The scope of Japan’s chemical war unleashed in China can be ascertained by the damage left afterward. According to Nationalist Chinese sources in Taipei, approximately 700,000 chemical munitions were left abandoned in China after World War II. The Chinese government says that approximately 2,000 people still die each year from encounters with such ordinance. An ongoing clean-up of the chemical mess, in part paid for by Japan, is still ongoing in 2013.

A list of Japanese chemical ordinance and equipment that was captured by the U.S. at the end of WWII was recently declassified, and, revealing here for the first time, documentation shows the chemical weapons were shipped to the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal “for detailed study.”

Historians

U.S. historians either ignore the subject of chemical warfare entirely, or dismiss the charges of chemical warfare. “The United States did not use gas warfare in Korea although authority to do so was requested by some of our commanders in the field,” wrote George Bunn in a 1969 article for the Wisconsin Law Review.

For whatever reason, a Chemical Mortar Battalion was sent from Edgewood Arsenal to the Korean theater, though I could not find evidence they had actually used chemical weapons. Perhaps this is evidence of the “preparations” Kloman alluded to and what Bunn meant by “requested authority.” We won’t know until the government opens up its archives completely. Meanwhile those who lived through the period are quickly passing from this world.

There are some documented, if circumstantial, pointers to possible CW activities. For instance, according to one document, the U.S. Air Force Psychological Warfare Board had a Biological-Chemical Warfare team under Lt. Col. L. N. Stead.

Meanwhile, it is also a fact that many documents of the Army Chemical Corps, which had responsibility for both chemical and biological weapons, were destroyed after recall from the National Archives in 1956. See Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (York University), “United States Biological Warfare during the Korean War: rhetoric and reality.”

Endicott and Hagerman are also the authors of a major analysis of the evidence for U.S. use of biological weapons during in Korea. See The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (1999, University of Indiana Press). A totally opposite point of view can be found Milton Leitenberg’s “False Allegations of U.S. Biological Weapons Use during the Korean War”, in Terrorism, War, or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons (2008, Stanford Security Studies, Anne L. Clunan, Peter R. Lavoy, and Susan B. Martin, eds).

Of course, chemical weapons of a sort were definitely used during the Korean War. The United States extensively used napalm in an extensive bombing campaign that destroyed most of North Korea’s cities and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. According to one source, “During the Korean War, the United States dropped approximately 250,000 pounds of napalm per day.” Later, in the late 1960s, the U.S. sprayed the defoliant Agent Orange, also being used widely in the Vietnam War, near the demilitarized zone in Korea.

There is no book detailing the charges or refutation of charges of chemical warfare in the Korean War. It’s never alluded to in Seymour Hersh’s 1968 book, Chemical and Biological Warfare, nor in any book on U.S. chemical warfare that I’ve looked at, except perhaps in a very passing way. If I am wrong, I’m hoping someone will point that out to me.

“Whose Sarin?”

Seymour Hersh’s article in The London Review of Books, “Whose Sarin?”, set off a storm of commentary about his motives, his accuracy, and the significance of the revelations. Hersh claimed the Obama administration had been quick to “cherry-pick” intelligence findings. Obama had “failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin….”

For some reason, Hersh did not bring up the history he knows so well of U.S. secrecy and misdirection when it comes to use of chemical and biological weapons. Failing to do so only weakened his argument in what is otherwise a compelling analysis of events inside the Obama administration after news broke of the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in a neighborhood near Damascus.

But the document and evidence I’ve laid out above should make anyone think twice, if not three times, about relying on U.S. assurances or propaganda regarding the use of chemical weapons by anybody. U.S. citizens should call for an opening of all archival material, which after 60 or more years cannot constitute a national security threat, though it may be an national shame and embarrassment for the U.S. government.

Photo via WikiCommons

Top US Psychologist Allegedly Met with James Mitchell in Days Before Zubaydah Torture

Dr. Martin Seligman

America 2013: A top U.S. psychologist touting “Positive Psychology” is to be a keynote speaker at a huge Southern California conference on psychotherapy. Other speakers include psychiatry heavies Aaron Beck, Irvin Yalom, as well as Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, and big media names like James Foley and Alanis Morissette.

The famous psychologist — Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania — has been linked to the CIA’s Bush torture program. The charges lack a smoking gun, but there is lots of circumstantial evidence. What is reported below shows that Seligman wasn’t fully open about his contacts with those accused of waterboarding Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and torturing various CIA “black site” prisoners circa 2002-2006. Why did he hide this information?

A Forgotten Book

A 2011 book written by Georgetown academic and ethics expert M. Gregg Bloche (currently co-director for the Georgetown-Johns Hopkins Joint Program in Law and Public Health) broke important new ground about the origins of the post-9/11 CIA torture program. Unfortunately, he did so just as the Obama administration’s policy of non-investigation and non-prosecution of those involved in U.S. torture had gained ascendancy among both press and the public.

Bloche described a hitherto unreported meeting between Martin Seligman and James Mitchell during the crucial period when Mitchell, the former Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program (SERE) psychologist, was involved with both the CIA and the Pentagon in setting up a torture program for prisoners captured in what the U.S. was calling the “war on terror.”

Various reports say that Seligman met Mitchell and Jessen twice before, in December 2001 and May 2002. What hasn’t been reported previously was that Seligman also allegedly met with Mitchell literally days before Mitchell and another CIA psychologist, Kirk Hubbard, were called to fly to Thailand, where the CIA was holding a very special “high-value” prisoner, the terribly injured Abu Zubaydah.

While Seligman has discussed his interactions with Mitchell numerous times before (here’s one such link), he never mentioned this other meeting — in late March or early April 2002 — whose timing was so suspicious. Within days, Mitchell arrived in Thailand to take over Zubaydah’s interrogation from FBI agents and institute his “new” version of “enhanced interrogation” that relied on a theory — “learned helplessness” — associated with Seligman himself.

According to Ali Soufan’s book, The Black Banners, Mitchell (called Boris in Soufan’s book) arrived when Zubaydah was still in the hospital recovering from wounds received during his capture in Pakistan. Scandalously, much of Soufan’s account was censored by the government.

I emailed Seligman to ask him to confirm or deny Bloche’s allegation, and offered him plenty of space in this article to explain himself. I never heard back from him. Meanwhile, the major media, for reasons of their own, passed by this story, even though I know it was offered to them.

[Update, 12/9/13, 8:50am PST: Dr. Seligman has emailed me this morning with a reply to this article. It states, in full:

“Dr. Kaye:  Your allegation is entirely fiction.

“To the best of my knowledge, I have met Mitchell exactly twice. Once at my home in December of 2001, and once at the SERE meeting. There was no other meeting BEFORE or after the SERE meeting.

“Once again, I disapprove of torture. I have never and would never aid or abet it.

“Martin Seligman”]

“Learned Helplessness”

Buried in two chapters towards the end of his book, The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche described a narrative of events surrounding Mitchell and his SERE associate Bruce Jessen. Bloche obtained the new information in a series of email exchanges with a key CIA player in the torture scandal, psychologist Kirk Hubbard, who was Chief of Operations, and later Chief of the Research and Analysis Branch for the CIA’s shadowy Operational Assessment Division (OAD).

(In July 2003, Hubbard would be in charge of putting together a CIA/Rand/American Psychological Association workshop on detecting deception that would investigate new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down prisoners for interrogation. His partner in organizing the event was then-White House senior scientist Susan Brandon. Today, Brandon is head of Obama’s HIG interrogation research program.)

Bloche wrote that Hubbard’s work at the CIA brought him into contact with “an informal network of military and civilian psychologists and psychiatrists with shared interests in psyops, Special Forces selection, resistance training, and the reliability of ‘humint’ (human intelligence)” (p. 135).

Hubbard apparently knew Mitchell from this milieu. (I’ve written before about the military/special ops/SERE/contractor environment Mitchell sprang from.) According to Bloche, “in the weeks after 9/11″ Hubbard brought Mitchell to the attention of higher-ups in the CIA (p. 136). Perhaps he introduced Mitchell’s SERE colleague Bruce Jessen at the same time, though Bloche is unclear on this. Hubbard does say, however, he introduced both Mitchell and Jessen to his Agency superiors as “potential assets.”

Mitchell reportedly had long been interested in the behavioral theory of “learned helplessness,” which was associated with the academic work of Martin Seligman. “Learned helplessness” (LH) was an animal model of breakdown via uncontrollable stress which was later used to help understand the clinical manifestation of depression in humans. Mitchell believed using a combination of physical and psychologically extreme pressures would reduce a prisoner to a state of compliance, similar to the helpless state produced by LH. This would make a prisoner or interrogatee extremely dependent on an all-powerful interrogator “god,” someone who could be easily “exploited” by government forces.

The rationale for all this was described in notes Mitchell’s SERE associate, Bruce Jessen, wrote when he and Capt. Michael Kearns, then head of operations for Air Force Intelligence’s Special Survival Training Program, were forming in 1989 a survival class for “Special Mission Units,” i.e., for secret “black” operations personnel. This course, SV-91, meant to help U.S. Special Forces survive torture and captivity by a brutal enemy, became the template for the kinds of techniques Mitchell and Jessen would flip to use now on U.S. prisoners.

Meeting Mitchell

Bloche writes that Seligman admitted being invited by the CIA to speak at a May 2002 SERE conference before an audience that included Mitchell and Jessen. Subsequently, Scott Shane wrote in the New York Times that Mitchell met Seligman in a small meeting at the latter’s house in December 2001.

In an article by Mark Benjamin at Salon.com, Seligman confirmed the December meeting, describing it as (as Benjamin described it) “a small gathering of professors and law enforcement personnel as well as at least one ‘Israeli intelligence person,’ to conduct an academic discussion about the so-called war on terror.” Seligman told Benjamin the meeting at his house had nothing to do with interrogation. What Mitchell was doing at such a meeting, when he had no academic expertise on the “war on terror” or “Jihad” or moderate Islam, no one has ever said.

Here’s how Bloche described the meeting between Seligman and Mitchell just before the latter left for Thailand.

[Seligman] acknowledged only that he spoke on learned helplessness at a JPRA meeting in May 2002 and that Mitchell and Jessen were in the audience:

I was invited to speak about how American… personnel could use what is known about learned helplessness to resist torture and evade successful interrogation by their captors. This is what I spoke about.

Seligman added:

I have had no professional contact with Jessen and Mitchell since then….

It is important to point out that Seligman here only denies contact with Mitchell and Jessen after May 2002. He doesn’t say anything about contact with them prior to that period. He simply never mentions anything about the late March or early April meeting. Bloche continued:

But sometime in the spring of 2002, according to a CIA source, Seligman met with Mitchell, Jessen, and Hubbard in Philadelphia. “The fact that we had a meeting in Philadelphia,” said the source, a meeting participant [possibly Kirk Hubbard — JK], “means that Mitchell/Jessen were at least thinking about interrogation strategies.” Seligman wanted to help and understood what Mitchell had in mind. But having built his reputation as a clinical pioneer — the man who’d discovered learned helplessness, then transformed depressed people’s lives through “learned optimism” — he didn’t want to be seen as telling CIA operatives how to break people by inducing despair. So he walked a careful line, keeping to the question of what the science did and didn’t support while abstaining from how-to advice. Seligman, said the CIA source, had a “classic approach-avoidance conflict regarding helping us”….

By the time of the Philadelphia meeting, CIA preparations for “enhanced” interrogation had reached high intensity, energized by what looked like an extraordinary opportunity.
[Bloche M.D., M. Gregg (2011-03-15). The Hippocratic Myth: Why Doctors Are Under Pressure to Ration Care, Practice Politics, and Compromise their Promise to Heal (p. 141). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition. — bold emphases added]

The opportunity was the capture of Abu Zubaydah in a joint U.S.-Pakistan raid on March 28, 2002. Zubaydah had been taken to a hospital with life-threatening wounds, though that didn’t stop FBI interrogators from beginning their interrogation of Zubaydhah while still hospitalized.

According to Bloche, “Months would pass before final Justice Department approval for what Mitchell had in mind. But once approval seemed likely, CIA leadership made the call. Kirk Hubbard answered it, quite literally, on the way back from Philadelphia. “I received a phone call indicating ‘they’ wanted Mitchell to depart that night along with others from CTC [Counter-Terrorism Center],” Hubbard remembers. “Mitchell had about twelve hours’ notice that he was being flown to meet AZ [Zubaydah].” Exactly when Mitchell began his brutish efforts with Zubaydah (and based on what sort of approval) remains a matter of dispute.” (p. 142)

Zubaydah’s Torture

According to Soufan’s account in Black Banners, the abuse began right away, with Zubaydah subjected to nudity, loud music, white noise (a form of sensory deprivation), and sleep deprivation. Weeks later Mitchell stepped up the abuse to the level of full-on physical torture. This was probably in early to mid-May, around the time even Soufan, who’d been playing good-cop to CIA’s bad-cop, left the CIA black site, apparently disgusted with Mitchell’s techniques, though his FBI partner, Special Agent Stephen Gaudin, stayed on for some weeks more, and may have even participated in some of the “enhanced interrogation,” according to a Department of Justice Inspector General report.Hubbard told Bloche that Mitchell and Jessen, who joined the CIA at the Thailand black site after he retired from the Air Force later in the year, were not running a “maverick” operation.

“Jim Mitchell, et al. didn’t take a pee without written approval from headquarters…” Hubbard said. “CIA leadership approved and is responsible for all that occurred” (p. 142). Mitchell’s appointment had been supported by CTC’s director, Cofer Black, and CIA director George Tenet, against some push-back from CTC’s chief operational psychologist, R. Scott Shumate. (Shumate also served at the Thailand black site, leaving supposedly in protest at Mitchell’s EIT program later in the year.)

Bloche’s book also specifically states that James Mitchell was the author of the psychological assessment of Abu Zubaydah that was used to justify the torture techniques to the Office of Legal Counsel. As Bloche put it, Mitchell’s assessment was based on “direct interviews with and observations of the subject,” and “gave the OLC cover to conclude that waterboarding wouldn’t cause Zubaydah ‘severe mental pain or suffering.'” According to the written evaluation, Mitchell relied also on Zubaydah’s written diaries, which were captured with him.

But with the release of Zubaydah’s pre-capture diaries, obtained by Jason Leopold at Al Jazeera America, we know that much of what was written in Mitchell’s psychological report was bogus. Claims of Zubaydah’s massive influence were exaggerated, as the diaries make clear.

In addition, there is no mention of Zubaydah’s serious medical problems and previous neurological injuries, which would have likely disqualified Zubaydah for the “enhanced interrogation” torture, even under the CIA’s morally dubious criteria. Nor was there any mention of Zubaydah’s previous torture, or an assessment of how that affected him. Leopold, who wrote a number of article analyzing the AZ diaries, has written up the story of Zubaydah’s tortureby Pakistani authorities during a pre-9/11 arrest.

How bad was Zubaydah’s torture by the CIA? Zubaydah described it to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC report was leaked to Mark Danner in 2010, and the following is a small representative sample of what Mitchell did, using his version of learned-helplessness via “enhanced interrogation”:

After the beating I was then placed in the small box. They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds….

I was then dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited…. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.

A Long Tradition

Breaking down prisoners to make them compliant, to either use them for “exploitation” or to gain information, was a subject of great interest for the CIA going back to the beginning of the Cold War. One of the researchers from decades earlier, Albert Biderman, created a “chart of coercion” which was later taught by SERE associates of Mitchell to interrogators at Guantanamo in December 2002. (To see the actual chart, go to pg. 51 of supporting documentsin the Senate Armed Services 2008 report on detainee abuse.)

There is no evidence that Seligman’s original research on learned helplessness, which made him famous, was associated with the CIA research into torture, even though other prominent behavioral researchers at the time, such as psychiatrist Louis West, and psychologist Harry Harlow (who was also an American Psychological President at one point), had created by the late 1950s a theory of breaking down human beings psychologically by inculcating dependency, debility and dread into them. The CIA incorporated this into their KUBARK manual for interrogation, and a version of these techniques even informs current practicein the Army’s current Field Manual for interrogation. Seligman’s research on LH, which went back to the 1960s, made him famous. In 1997, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association (serving his term a year later).

Whither Psychology? Wither America?

On December 15, 2013 Seligman will be one of a handful of keynote speakers at the Milton H. Erickson Foundation’s “Evolution of Psychotherapy” meeting in Anaheim, California, where he will speak on “Positive Psychology,” his 21st century enthusiasm. His Positive Psychology work garnered Seligman a huge “no-bid” contract with the Department of Defense a few years ago.

There’s been precious little interest in recent years in pushing harder to get to the bottom of the CIA/Pentagon torture scandal.

Many Americans, including those on the left, believe that President Obama ended torture, and on that basis supported his call to ignore the past crimes of the Bush administration, and trusted that the current political regime had eschewed torture and such cruelty forever.

But that’s not true, and disinterest in pursuing investigation into the torture story further has a political agenda at its root, i.e., protecting the Democratic Party’s image as an alternative to the GOP on matters of national security, while also protecting top Pentagon and CIA brass.

While Guantanamo remains an embarrassment for Obama and occasionally makes the press — mostly due to the actions of the prisoners there who have gone on hunger strike over and over again to bring the world’s attention to their plight — there is precious little interest in bringing the former or current torturers to any real accountability. That must change, because the logic and morality of torture calls for its resurrection as needed. Already, the US public has been fooled into believing there is no torture, even as the country’s primary military and intelligence manual allows use of isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, instillation of fear and manipulation of phobias, not to mention use of drugs.

Only an informed and impassioned public can make the difference between the continuing barbarism of torture and the civilized and humane practices that our country pretends to believe in.