Art Levine, who documented the APA interrogations issue in the Washington Monthly reminds people that the newly disgraced General Kiley, the man who did exactly nothing as wounded soldiers in their own filth in rooms infected with black mold, is also the man who has been covering up the abuses committed by the BSCT psychologists at Guantanamo [Lt. General "Coverup" Kiley: From Abused Detainees to Neglected Soldiers]:
The only question on Kiley’s future is this: will he be fired before the week’s out, after he testifies before Congress, or will he keep his job until assorted independent reviews and panels finish their work investigating outpatient care and issue their scathing criqiques?
But the Walter Reed scandal isn’t the first time that Kiley has covered up abuses. He was a point person for the Army’s coverup of the torture and degrading treatment of detainees by health professionals, including psychologists, at Guantanamo and other unaccountable military detention sites. He commissioned whitewashed “studies” of the problem that concluded that there wasn’t any abuse abetted by health professionals — even though his investigators never talked to any detainees or their attorneys. The problems were so widespread that the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association banned its members from being involved in interrogations, but the American Psychological Association allowed its members to continue to aid military interrogators. (The American Prospect and Salon , among others, helped publicize these issues in the last two years. ) Even so, Kiley appeared last year at the psychologists’ conference to plead for their continued involvement, while blithely downplaying the impact of coercive interrogation strategies.
Read it all.
March 5th, 2007
A new study in the March Archives of General Psychiatry examines the mental health consequences of the varied psychological manipulations which are commonly referred to as psychological torture., as compared to physical torture The equivalent effects of these two forms of abuse undercuts the Bush administration claim that these psychological manipulations are not torture and are not banned.
Here is an AFP article on the study:
US has no case for redefining torture: study
Psychological torture, including some of the techniques reportedly used on Guantanamo Bay detainees, appears to inflict the same kind of long-term mental damage as physical abuse, a study released Monday said.
Researchers who evaluated the mental health of soldiers and civilians tortured during the 1990s Balkan wars found that victims of psychological abuse were just as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression as victims of classic physical torture methods.
The researchers also reported that the torture victims rated some techniques such as stress positions, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding as distressing as most physical torture methods.
“Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause,” the study’s authors wrote.
“Thus, these procedures do amount to torture, thereby lending support to their prohibition by international law,” they wrote in the journal of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The investigators said their findings undermine moves by the US government to narrow its definition of torture in order to free interrogators to use certain psychological methods aimed at breaking a prisoner’s resistance.
In 2003, lawyers for the US Justice Department and a Pentagon working group report on detainee interrogations made the case for a narrow definition of torture that excludes procedures such as blindfolding and hooding, forced nudity, isolation and other psychological manipulations.
The Justice Department memorandum argued that the scope of the term torture should be limited to those acts which could be shown to result in “prolonged mental harm,” according to the study.
The development followed allegations of human rights abuses at US detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
However, the authors of this paper said that based on their analysis of the experiences of torture victims from the modern Balkans conflict, the US appears to be drawing a distinction without a difference.
They said their analysis of 279 Bosnian, Croatian and Serb torture survivors showed that the individuals who suffered psychological abuse had the same rates of depression, PTSD, and social and work-related problems as others who had endured beatings, burnings, sexual abuse and other forms of physical punishment at the hands of their captors.
They suggested that the trauma is the same, because regardless of the form of aggression, the effect is to create fear or anxiety in the detainee while at the same time removing any form of control from the person in order to create a state of total helplessness.
“The distinction between torture and degrading treatment is not only useless, but also dangerous,” said Steven Miles, professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in an accompanying editorial in the journal of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The study was written by Metin Basoglu, head of trauma studies at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, with help from colleagues at the department of psychiatry at the Clinical Hospital Zvezdara in Belgrade.
Here is the Abstract of the study:
Context After the reports of human rights abuses by the US military in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan, questions have been raised as to whether certain detention and interrogation procedures amount to torture.
Objective To examine the distinction between various forms of ill treatment and torture during captivity in terms of their relative psychological impact.
Design and Setting A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a population-based sample of survivors of torture from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banja Luka in Republica Srpska, Rijeka in Croatia, and Belgrade in Serbia.
Participants A total of 279 survivors of torture accessed through linkage sampling in the community (Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and Rijeka) and among the members of 2 associations for war veterans and prisoners of war (Belgrade).
Main Outcome Measures Scores on the Semi-structured Interview for Survivors of War, Exposure to Torture Scale, Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, and Clinician-Administered PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) Scale for DSM-IV.
Results Psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, exposure to aversive environmental conditions, and forced stress positions showed considerable overlap with physical torture stressors in terms of associated distress and uncontrollability. In regression analyses, physical torture did not significantly relate to posttraumatic stress disorder (odds ratio, 1.41, 95% confidence interval, 0.89-2.25) or depression (odds ratio, 1.41, 95% confidence interval, 0.71-2.78). The traumatic stress impact of torture (physical or nonphysical torture and ill treatment) seemed to be determined by perceived uncontrollability and distress associated with the stressors.
Conclusions Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome. Thus, these procedures do amount to torture, thereby lending support to their prohibition by international law.
Perhaps I’ll write more on this study later, when I’ve better digested it.
UPDATE: This article is available online here. Unfortunately, an Editorial Commentary by Steven Miles — Science and Torture — is apparently not available to non-subscribers. I will see if I can get a copy and make it available.
March 5th, 2007