May 14th, 2010
Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic has received confirmation of the existence of the secret torture center at Bagram Air Base that the Washington Post, New York Times, and BBC have been reporting on. [Ambiner has a picture of the facility here.] He reports that the center is run, not by the Joint Special Operations Command, aws previously reported, but by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) in course of proving intelligence services for task Force 714. For those with long memories, DCHC is essentially where the Defense Department stuffed the old Counterintelligence Field activity (CIFA) after the latter was “disbanded” due to several major scandals.
It isn’t clear if it really makes a difference if the “black prison” is run by JSOC or DCHC. After all Task Force 714 is itself a JSOC special ops force:
McRaven runs a secretive detachment of Special Forces known as Task Force 714 — once commanded by McChrystal himself — that the NSC staffer described as “direct-action” units conducting “high-intensity hits.” In an email, Sholtis said that because Task Force 714 was a “special ops organization” he “can’t go into much detail on authorities, etc.” But the NSC staffer — who called McRaven “McChrystal Squared” — said Task Force 714 was organized into “small groups of Rangers going wherever the hell they want to go” in Afghanistan and operating under legal authority granted at the end of the Bush administration that President Obama has not revoked.
As Ambinder reports, the Defense Department now admits that this secret Afghan prison uses interrogation techniques from the Army Field Manual’s infamous Appendix M. This appendix authorizes abusive techniques, including sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and “environmental manipulation [think freezing someone or blinding light] that often amount to torture.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Ambinder reports that there is a Top Secret Special Action Program authorizing DCHC interrogations. As Jeff Kaye pointed out in an emptywheel comment, if only Appendix M-based techniques — which are covered by the Army Field Manual — are used, why the need for a special SAP? Thus, we must wonder what, exactly, DCHC is doing at Bagram and other sites. Whatever it is, it isn’t something they want us, the public, to know about.
For those who think that President Obama banned torture centers like this, think again. Obama’s Executive Order only banned CIA secret prisons. This administration thus intended from the beginning to maintain its torture facility, only under a Defense Department label. Obama apparently was thinking ahead.
An additional aspect of this new revelation is that the fact that the prison is run by DCHC is of special interest to psychologists. Over the years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has devoted considerable lobbying resources to maintaining Congressional funding for CIFA. Now that CIFA has been folded into DCHC in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the APA is lobbying Congress for money for “behavioral science” to support the DIA’s military intelligence activities. Here is a section from their written testimony to the US Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense regarding appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget:
APA… is concerned with maintaining invaluable human-centered research programs formerly within DoD’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) now that staff and programming have been transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Within this DIA program, psychologists lead intramural and extramural research programs on counterintelligence issues ranging from models of “insider threat” to cybersecurity and detection of deception. These psychologists also consult with the three military services to translate findings from behavioral research directly into enhanced counterintelligence operations on the ground.
APA urges the Subcommittee to provide ongoing funding in FY10 for counterintelligence behavioral science research programs at DIA in light of their direct support for military intelligence operations.
APA support for CIFA and DIA is at least partly because the DCHC employs many psychologists. The APA apparently never cared what it was that these psychologists might be doing. Thus, we shouldn’t hold our breathe expecting the APA to change its position on DIA/DCHC funding now that the defense department admits that DCHC runs a detention facility using techniques like sleep deprivation that the APA itself has proclaimed unethical and amounting to either torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. After all, to the APA leadership, professional opportunities for psychology always trump professional ethics, at least in the national security sector.