January 22nd, 2009
today President Obama signed four Executive Orders ordering the closing of Guantanamo within one year, and ending the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture techniques and secret black sites. All government agencies were ordered to follow the Army Field Manual for interrogations.
The AFM, while a decided advance, is problematic. Most importantly, as psychologist Jeffrey Kaye recently pointed out, in its Appendix M, allows the continued use of isolation (called “separation”) on so-called “unlawful enemy combatants.”
“Separation will only be used during the interrogation of specific unlawful enemy combatants for whom proper approvals have been granted in accordance with this appendix. However, separation may not be employed on detainees covered by Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPW), primarily enemy prisoners of war (EPWs).”
In many senses, isolation is the essence of U.S. detainee abuse. All else follows. Isolation can cause serious mental deterioration in many individuals. This deterioration can occur within days, well under the 30 day initial period allowed by Appendix M. [This 30 days can be followed by additional periods, if the proper approval is obtained.]
Additionally, while ostensibly banning it, the AFM also allows sensory deprivation:
“As a last resort, when physical separation of detainees is not feasible, goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs may be utilized as a field expedient method to generate a perception of separation. “
My retired 20-years veteran army interrogator friend agrees that use of isolation as authorized by Appendix M is very problematic. He also states, as have other interrogators I’ve discussed with, that they don’t want to know where The Line (of abuse) is, because they neither want, not need, to get anywhere near that line. If they are close, they are in the danger zone. They are likely also to get bad information. Prolonged isolation is already well over that line.
Prsident Obama said today:
“I can say without exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture,”
If the administration is going to follow through on this pledge and thoroughly renounce all abusive interrogation techniques, they must remove Appendix M and ban the use of prolonged isolation as an interrogation technique.