The Dayton Daily News contains an article on Col. Larry James, who seems to be confused why critics want him investigated for violating professional ethics and for possible war crimes.Evidently, the fact that he claims to have “Fixed Hell” at Guantanamo while simultaneously having no power or influence or abuses there might help him understand. Or perhaps the fact that Guantanamo was Hell before, during, and after the time he was there “Fixing” it might help. [BTW my latest writing on James is here.]:
Retired colonel puzzled by Guantanamo critics
WSU dean said he was sent to the detention center in Cuba to clean up the abuses there, which he feels he did
By Jim DeBrosse
During an interrogation at Guantanamo Bay in April 2003, an Army psychologist watched while MPs pinned a detainee to his knees and then repeatedly slammed his upper body and face to the floor up to 30 times. A contractor who also witnessed the abuse said “the floor was shaking” from the force of the blows, according to a 2008 investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee released in April.
The psychologist “believed that the technique was appropriate, approved, applied properly and was common practice in the teams.” The interrogator told the Senate investigator he agreed.
Col. Larry C. James, now retired from the Army, was the leader of the team of five psychologists assigned to Gitmo interrogators. James, who didn’t testify, says he never witnessed that incident nor any other abuse involving a health care professional during his deployments at Guantanamo from January to May 2003 and June 2007 to June 2008.
James, 52, a recipient of a Bronze Star Medal for his military service in Iraq and now dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University, has been under fire for several years by psychologists and human rights advocates. They doubt the effectiveness of his reforms at Gitmo and question whether he may have turned a blind eye to abusive practices there or perhaps even helped set abusive policies.
In the colonel’s defense
By his own statements, including those in his book “Fixing Hell,” James said he was sent by the Army “to clean up the abuses” at Gitmo and later the Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq.
James said the worst abuses at Guantanamo occurred in 2002, before he arrived, when interrogators terrorized prisoners with guard dogs, resorted to waterboarding and withheld medications. “You have to understand the context” following 9/11, he said. “The nation had been attacked 6 to 8 months before, and the pressure from (the Bush administration) was to get intelligence, get intelligence, get intelligence.”
Kathy Platoni, a Centerville psychologist and Army Reservist who counseled soldiers at Gitmo from 2003 to 2004, has been a defender of James. Although she didn’t meet him until he arrived at Wright State, she said, “I will back him to the hilt.”
To suggest that James or any psychologist was involved in torture or inhumane treatment of detainees is “absurd and offensive,” Platoni said. On the contrary, she said, military personnel at Gitmo were often subject to abuse from prisoners, who frequently hurled bodily fluids, excrement and insults from their cells.
Complaints against James
Trudy Bond, a Toledo psychologist who has taken legal action against James, said documents and media reports show that “torture and abuse of detainees never stopped at Guantanamo.” Bond has filed complaints against James with the state psychological boards in Ohio and Louisiana where James holds licenses. Both boards have declined to investigate, saying there is not enough evidence.
With the backing of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights organization in New York, Bond went to court in Louisiana to force the state board to investigate James. The court dismissed the case in August, saying Bond had not exhausted the board’s administrative process. Bond and her attorney have appealed in federal court.
For several years, members of the American Psychological Association have been embroiled in debate over the role James and other military psychologists may have played in detainee interrogations under the Bush administration. Bush critics in the APA charge that the White House used the supervision of psychologists and other health care professionals to legitimize interrogation techniques outlawed by the U.S. Constitution and the international Geneva Conventions. Their presence was supposed to prevent permanent physical or psychological harm.
In June 2007, 350 members of the APA signed an open letter to then-APA President Sharon Brehm asking the association to investigate James and other members of the APA who served at Guantanamo Bay. The letter alleges that “psychologists played an integral role in the development, justification and implementation of abusive interrogation techniques.” Brehm declined, but the association later changed its ethics code to ban involvement in specific forms of torture.
One claim: To support their claims, APA activists point to a July 13, 2003, e-mail from the Gitmo commander to Army superiors, a weekly update that also was forwarded to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at his request. The e-mail said that Lt. Col. Luie “Morgan” Banks, a Ft. Bragg psychologist who trained U.S. soldiers in how to resist torture, had been brought to Gitmo to offer advice to interrogators on how “to fracture… detainee resistance to cooperation.”
The commander’s e-mail, cited by Senate investigators, said Banks provided “very valuable insights.”
James’ response: Having known Banks for more than 20 years, James said his colleague has been unfairly blamed by critics who allege he developed ways to turn around Army torture survival techniques and use them for breaking down detainees. “We were both adamant that torture and abuse were the wrong way to go” for effective interrogations, James said.
James is bringing Banks to Wright State on Oct. 7-8 as a presenter in a workshop, “The Psychology of Terrorism,” on ways to prevent the development of the terrorist mind-set and defend against terrorist psychological tactics.
Another claim: Critics also have noted that James was the chief psychologist at Gitmo when a 16-year-old Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, alleged he had been abused. In a court affidavit, Khadr said interrogators threatened to send him to Egypt so he would be raped, cuffed him in painful positions for more than an hour, forced him to sit and stand in shackles repeatedly and, when he faltered, lifted and dropped him to the floor.
Finally, when he urinated on himself, they poured pine oil on the floor “and dragged me back and forth through the mixture of urine and pine oil,” Khadr said. The treatment was repeated two weeks later, he said.
James’ response: James said he was never involved in the interrogation of Khadr and that he spent “95 to 98 percent” of his time at Gitmo tending to three other juvenile detainees at Camp Iguana. The adult detainees — those Khadr’s age and older — were kept in a separate camp called Delta.
Getting to the bottom of it
Deborah Popowski, a research fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said it’s been difficult “to get to the bottom of James’ role” at Guantanamo because the claims in his book often conflict with Army documents. She said a standard operating procedure issued at Gitmo in February 2003 shows James may have had a role in developing abusive behavioral management plans, or BMPs, for detainees.
According to the document, BMPs were designed “to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process” by “concentrat(ing) on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator.” That included isolating incoming detainees for 30 days — including youths — and longer at the discretion of the interrogator.
Popowski said the procedure was issued following James’ arrival at Gitmo. Further implicating James, she said, a 2002 draft of procedures for psychologists said developing behavorial plans was one of their “mission essential tasks.”
James said he had nothing to do with the behavioral plan for isolating detainees. “The warden and his staff wrote that,” he said.
While he had the authority to set policy for his small team of psychologists, James said he could not set policy for the entire camp. “I wish I’d had the kind of power (my critics) say I had,” he said. “It would have meant a big raise in pay.”
New York psychologist Steve Reisner, who treats survivors of torture, also said there are still too many unanswered questions about James and the role that all health care professionals played at Gitmo to let it go.
“When the position of health professional is turned away from the welfare of the individual and aligned with the interest of the state to abuse the individual,” Reisner said, “that is such a travesty of ethics that I have to do all I can to oppose it.”
Puzzled by his critics
James says he can’t understand why a handful of critics persist in seeking an investigation of his actions. “No matter what third party, objective review board or person, they’ve all come to the same conclusion — there’s no probable cause,” James said. “There’s no detainee, there’s no guard, there’s no psychologist who’s come forward and said, ‘With my own eyes, I’ve seen Dr. James do X, Y or Z.’ ”
A place at Wright State
James came to Wright State in August 2008 following his retirement from the Army. He was living in Honolulu and looking to enter academia when a friend told him about the position at the school in Fairborn, he said. “It’s been a very good fit,” he said.
Wright State officials issued a statement this week that the search committee had been aware of James’ military service at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. “Dr. Larry James is a respected Board-certified psychologist who was selected as Dean of the School of Professional Psychology (SOPP) after an extensive review that included a careful examination of his academic credentials, professional accomplishments, and character,” the statement said.
1 comment September 20th, 2009