Yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee [SASC] conducted its hearings on the origins of torture practices at Guantanamo. the hearings revealed an organized campaign to apply the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape [SERE] tactics to GTMO detainees. Perhaps the best account of the hearings is by Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent.
In addition to the hearings SASC released a 63 page set of documents. While some of these had been publicly available for years, others were new. Yesterday’s testimony, and these documents, confirm once ad for all that the US torture policies were modeled on SERE tactics, as many of us have been arguing for years. And at the core of SERE are psychologists. The testimony and documents also established once and for all the centrality of psychologists in the development of the US torture regime. In fact, one of yesterday’s witnesses was a SERE psychologist.
The charade of the American Psychological Association [APA], pretending that psychologists were preventing abuse, not designing and promoting it, is collapsing. Any APA official who continues that line is an apologist for US torture plain and simple. The evidence that psychologists were central participants in designing, implementing, standardizing, and training US torture is now clear and incontrovertible.
As Gen. Taguba wrote in his preface to the new Physicians for Human Rights report — Broken Laws: Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact:
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
The General also says, apropos psychologists and other health providers:
[T]he healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.
It is now time for APA leaders to acknowledge that their members have been complicit in the “willful infliction of harm” and to put a stop to it.
This morning, Phillip Carter blogs at the Washington Post on some of the contents of these documents:
The Genesis of Torture
By Phillip Carter
Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a 63-page set of documents that illuminates how the Pentagon developed, selected and approved its list of coercive interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay.
As Joby Warrick reports in today’s Post, the documents clarify the role that the CIA (and senior government officials such as DoD General Counsel William “Jim” Haynes) played. “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong,” CIA lawyer Jonathan Friedman proclaimed in a working group meeting that led to the development of this DoD memo on approved interrogation techniques.
Even more significant, the documents show how the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (“JPRA”) helped develop interrogation techniques, borrowing extensively from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (“SERE”) courses. (Mark Benjamin provides a detailed timeline in Salon for precisely how this unfolded.) These techniques — which include waterboarding, confinement to small boxes, and stress positions, among others — were developed to mimic the interrogation practices of our worst enemies, such as the North Koreans and the North Vietnamese. It speaks volumes that they were adopted by the U.S. at Gitmo.
Some of the things that struck me while reading the documents last night:
Tabs 2 and 3 confirm Jane Mayer’s reporting on the use of SERE practices as an interrogation template — both at Gitmo and elsewhere by the CIA. There wasn’t a lot of hard evidence to support this narrative though, and many chalked up the similarities between the Gitmo and SERE techniques to coincidence or chance. For instance, in Philippe Sands’s new book, retired JAG officer Diane Beaver and retired Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey recount a somewhat hazy process by which tactics made their way into memo form. Both hint that personnel from the CIA and other agencies were placed at Gitmo to seed ideas. The memos released yesterday, however, indicate that there was a much more deliberate effort to share the SERE/JPRA community’s tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs in military parlance) with the interrogation community at Gitmo. (Tab 16 shows this link too.)
Tab 4 discusses the military’s psychological assessment of personnel during SERE training. Taken by itself, this is a sign that the military cares about its personnel and wants to avoid “crushing the spirit of the students.” But in the interrogation context, this memo reads uncomfortably like Mengele or Cold War-era research on torture.
In the October 2002 meeting described in Tab 7, FBI agents report talk of “wet towel” treatment during interrogations, despite the fact that waterboarding was explicitly not authorized by Haynes and Rumsfeld at that point. So it appears that DoD personnel at Gitmo took the initiative to use SERE techniques before they were approved by higher HQ. These meeting notes also confirm the presence and role of CIA personnel. And they strongly suggest that the Justice Department memoranda authored in Washington — but previously thought to have not reached Gitmo — were probably shared with Gitmo lawyers and intelligence personnel in some manner. This connects those memoranda with the one that then-Lt. Col. Beaver authored, which ultimately made its way to Rumsfeld’s desk in December 2002.
Tab 19 further documents the relationship between SERE training and the interrogation practices at Gitmo. But at some point, probably around the time of Abu Ghraib and the post-scandal investigations of all Defense Department detention and interrogation operations, there comes a break. Tab 24 contains a memo by the head of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency that comes pretty darn close to refusing any future orders to participate in interrogations. The uniformed military seems to be trying to correct its course. But by that point, three years had passed and it may have been too late to undo the damage wrought by the Pentagon’s torture policies.
McClatchy Newspapers published extracts of these documents:
‘If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong’
Following are excerpts from some of the documents released today by the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“The CIA is not held to the same rules as the military. In the past when the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of the ICRC. Upon questioning from the ICRC about their whereabouts, the DOD’s response has repeatedly been that the detainee merited no status under the Geneva Convention. The CIA has employed aggressive techniques on less than a handful of suspects since 9/11.
“Under the Torture Convention, torture has been prohibited by international law, but the language of the statutes is written vaguely. Severe mental and physical pain is prohibited. The mental part if explained as poorly as the physical. Severe physical pain described as anything causing permanent damage to major organs or body parts. Mental torture described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to the senses or personality. It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.
” . . . Any of these techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present to treat any possible accidents. . . . When the CIA has wanted to use more aggressive techniques in the past, the FBI has pulled their personnel from the theatre.
” . . . if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.”
_ Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel, CIA Counter-terrorism Center, according to the minutes of an Oct. 2, 2002, Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting.
“This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of. Quotes from LTC (lieutenant colonel) Beaver regarding things that are not being reported gives the appearance of impropriety. Other comments like ‘It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong’ and ‘Any of the techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present to treat any possible accidents’ seem to stretch beyond the bounds of legal propriety. . . . Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.”
_ e-mail from Mark Fallon, deputy commander, Defense Department Criminal Investigation Task Force to five other DOD officials, Oct. 28, 2002.
“I am forwarding Joint Task Force 170′s proposed counter-resistance technologies. I believe the first two categories of techniques are legal and humane. I am uncertain whether all the techniques in the third category are legal under US law, given the absence of judicial interpretation of the US torture statute. I am particularly troubled by the use of implied or expressed threats of death of the detainee or his family. However, I desire to have as many options as possible at my disposal and therefore request that the Department of Defense and Department of Justice lawyers review the third category of techniques.”
_ Gen. James T. Hill, USA, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, in a memo to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 25, 2002.
“The Air Force has serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques, particularly under Category III. Some of these techniques could be construed as ‘torture,’ as that crime is defined by 18 U.S.C. 2340.
” . . . Implementation of these techniques could preclude the ability to prosecute the individuals interrogated. Successful prosecutions in military commissions or subsequent use of detainee statements in Federal prosecutions will require that the evidence obtained be admissible.
” . . . The Level III techniques will almost certainly result in any statements being declared as coerced and involuntary, and therefore inadmissible. Such a finding may also exclude any evidence derived from the coerced statement. . . . Additionally, the techniques described may be subject to challenge as failing to meet the requirements outlined in the military order to treat detainees humanely and to provide them with adequate food, water, shelter and medical treatment. Defense counsel will undoubtedly argue that any evidence derived by the prosecution must be excluded because the Government did not abide by its own rules.”
_ Col. Donald E. Richburg, USAF, in a memo to the United Nations and Multilateral Affairs Division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nov. 4, 2002
“The suggested Tier III and certain Tier II techniques may subject service members to punitive articles of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice).
” . . . any information derived from the aggressive techniques, although admissible, will be of diminished value during any subsequent proceedings. The taint concerning the diminished weight accorded the statements would apply not only to the detainee making the statements, but also against those individuals about whom the detainee has provided incriminating information.
” . . . One detainee subjected to these techniques could taint the voluntary nature of all other confessions and information derived from detainees not subjected o the aggressive techniques.”
_ Maj. Sam W. McCahon, Chief Legal Advisor, Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Task Force, in a memo to the commander of the CITF, Nov. 4, 2002
“As set forth in the enclosed memoranda, the Army interposes significant legal, policy and practical concerns regarding most of the Category II and all of the Category III techniques proposed.
” . . . From a policy standpoint, employing many of the suggested techniques would create a PA (public affairs) nightmare. The War on Terror is expected to last many years and ultimate success requires strong domestic and international support. Whatever interrogation techniques we adopt will eventually become public knowledge. If we mistreat detainees, we will quickly lose the morale (cq) high ground and public support will erode.”
_ Memo from John Ley to the Office of the Army General Counsel, undated
“Navy staff recommends, however, that more detailed interagency policy review be conducted on proposed techniques. Such policy review should address the possibility, if not the likelihood, that techniques will be inadvertently disclosed through the visits to the detainees in Cuba by the International Red Cross or foreign government delegations, which could lead to international scrutiny. Navy staff also recommends that the classification level of counter-resistance techniques be increased to the Top Secret level.”
_ Memo from Capt. D.D. Thompson, USN, special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations for Joint Chiefs of Staff matters, to the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate of the Joint Staff.
“I have discussed this with the Deputy (Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz), (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy) Doug Feith and (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Gen. (Richard) Myers. I believe that all concur in my recommendation that, as a matter of policy, you authorize the Commander of USSOUTHCOM to employ, at his discretion, only Categories I and II and the fourth technique listed in Category III (‘Use of mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing’).
” . . . While all Category III techniques may be legally available, we believe that, as a matter of policy, a blanket approval of Category III techniques is not warranted at this time. Our Armed Forces are trained to a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.”
_ Memo to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld from William J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Nov. 27, 2002. Rumsfeld, who used a stand-up desk in this Pentagon office, approved the recommendation, but wrote at the bottom:
“However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”
“LEA (law enforcement agency) does not believe that coercive interrogation techniques are effective. However, on those rare occasions when these techniques have yielded results, the reliability of the information gathered has proven to be highly questionable. Detainees who are coerced into making admissions often develop strong feelings of anger and resentment toward their interrogators. Instead of creating an environment conducive to fostering continued cooperation, the interrogation process ends up fueling hostility and strengthening a detainee’s will to resist.
“A recovered Al Qaeda training manual instructs its members to expect Americans to use coercive interrogation tactics, even torture, to elicit information. The manual draws attention to these techniques and characterizes them as further proof of the evil and unjust acts which Americans commit against Muslims. Thus, the use of coercive techniques only serves to reinforce these erroneous perceptions. In essence, we end up proving ourselves worthy of the detainees’ righteous resolve and inspiring continued resistance.
“Despite the advice of LEA behavioral experts who have consistently advocated the use of a rapport-based approach, there seems to be a tendency to revert to a shortsighted coercive model of interrogation.”
_ Memo from Timothy C. James, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigation Task Force, Guantanamo, to Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, Dec. 17, 2002.
5 comments June 18th, 2008