Perfecting a New Form of Torture

What works?

Jose Rodriguez, former chief of CIA Clandestine Services, published his uncensored memoirs under the provocative title Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions after 9/11 Saved American Lives. In a promotional television interview, he called FBI claims of success with empathetic methods “bullshit.”

But..

Army Staff Sergeant Eric Maddox, who has interrogated hundreds of Iraqis, identified and followed an enemy chain of command that led up to Hussein and ultimately to his underground hideout on Dec. 13, 2003. To get information at each link in that chain, Maddox said he had to win the trust of a detained informant and to convince that person that the interrogator would protect his loved ones. “For him to trust me, imagine if I tortured the guy,” said Maddox, adding, “Under no circumstances would torture work.”

See the torture effectiveness is measured by the intel derived..

Maddrox offers proof. Rodriguez does not.

Many survivors of torture report that the truthful information they revealed was intentionally incomplete or mixed with false information (Harbury, 2005). The goal was to appease the torturer, not to reveal the truth. And, because the interrogators were not omniscient, they could not discern which bits of information were true and which were false.

 

There is no mention of the most successful tactic.

Prison informants.

Cellmates consistency get information that interrogation does not.

Again the physical torture proponents claim was that the water-boarding (simulated drowning) of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed produced vital information that allowed them to break up a plot to attack the Liberty Tower in Los Angeles in 2002.

Slight problem – in 2002 Shaikh Mohammed was busy evading capture in Pakistan.

Suppose I start beating you around the head, demanding that you tell me that Justin Bieber is in fact a supremely talented artist. Eventually, although it may take several days of torture to get there, you’ll tell me what I want to hear, but that doesn’t make it true.

The second major problem is that human memory just isn’t reliable. Take a bunch of witnesses from any major news event: a bombing, 9/11, a car crash, wherever. The more people you interview, the more different stories you’ll get, because our recall of past events isn’t always very accurate. On top of that, there is a vast body of scientific literature telling us that one way to make a person’s memory even less reliable is to deprive them of sleep, or put them under great stress, or otherwise confuse them.

You know, like the #CIA does with torture.

Another case.

#FBI have asserted, for example, that harsh treatment led Mr. Mohammed to reveal the plot to attack the Library Tower in Los Angeles. But that plot was thwarted in 2002, and Mr. Mohammed was not arrested until 2003.

This latest claim will come as news to Mr. Mohammed’s prosecutors, to his fellow detainees (whom he instructed, at his arraignment, not to cooperate with the United States) and indeed to Mr. Mohammed himself.

He told the International Committee of the Red Cross that “I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear.”

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine all supported the fair and decent treatment of even our enemies. Both the Redcoats and Hessian mercenaries were treated with decency and respect. Our Founding Fathers did this even though more American soldiers died as prisoners than died on the field of battle. They knew that American ideals meant something, and that fair and decent treatment was not only the right thing to do but the practical thing to do (many Hessian mercenaries stayed here and became loyal American citizens, for instance). Surely we can learn something from the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.

Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 says:

“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

The C.I.A.’s 1963 interrogation manual stated:

Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.

The act of torturing can even interfere with a subject’s ability to tell the truth.

Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or ‘enhanced’ interrogation

The modern American urge to use torture did not, of course, begin on September 12, 2001. It has roots that reach back to the beginning of the Cold War and a human rights policy riven with contradictions. Publicly, Washington opposed torture and led the world in drafting the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Geneva Conventions in 1949. Simultaneously and secretly, however, the Central Intelligence Agency began developing ingenious new torture techniques in contravention of these same international conventions.

From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led a secret research effort to crack the code of human consciousness, a veritable Manhattan project of the mind with two findings foundational to a new form of psychological torture. In the early 1950s, while collaborating with the CIA, famed Canadian psychologist Dr. Donald Hebb discovered that, using goggles, gloves, and earmuffs, he could induce a state akin to psychosis among student volunteers by depriving them of sensory stimulation. Simultaneously, two eminent physicians at Cornell University Medical Center, also working with the Agency, found that the most devastating torture technique used by the KGB, the Soviet secret police, involved simply forcing victims to stand for days at a time, while legs swelled painfully and hallucinations began.

In 1963, after a decade of mind-control research, the CIA codified these findings in a succinct, secret instructional handbook, the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual. It became the basis for a new method of psychological torture disseminated worldwide and within the U.S. intelligence community. Avoiding direct involvement in torture, the CIA instead trained allied agencies to do its dirty work in prisons throughout the Third World, like South Vietnam’s notorious “tiger cages.”

The Korean War added a defensive dimension to this mind-control research. After harsh North Korean psychological torture forced American POWs to accuse their own country of war crimes, President Dwight Eisenhower orderedthat any serviceman subject to capture be given resistance training, which the Air Force soon dubbed with the acronym SERE (for survival, evasion, resistance, escape).

Once the Cold War ended in 1990, Washington resumed its advocacy of human rights, ratifying the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, whichbanned the infliction of “severe” psychological and physical pain. The CIA ended its torture training in the Third World, and the Defense Department recalled Latin American counterinsurgency manuals that contained instructions for using harsh interrogation techniques. On the surface, then, Washington had resolved the tension between its anti-torture principles and its torture practices.

A year later, when the Clinton administration launched its covert campaign against al-Qaeda, the CIA avoided direct involvement in human rights violations by sending 70 terror suspects to allied nations notorious for physical torture. This practice, called “extraordinary rendition,” had supposedly been banned by the U.N. convention and so a new contradiction between Washington’s human rights principles and its practices was buried like a political land mine ready to detonate with phenomenal force, just 10 years later, in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Right after his first public address to a shaken nation on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush gave his White House staff expansive secret orders for the use of harsh interrogation, adding, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”

Soon after, the CIA began opening “black sites” that would in the coming years stretch fromThailand to Poland. It also leased a fleet of executive jets for the rendition of detained terrorist suspects to allied nations, and revived psychological tortures abandoned since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, the agency hiredformer Air Force psychologists to reverse engineer SERE training techniques, flipping them from defense to offense and thereby creating the psychological tortures that would henceforth travel far under the euphemistic label “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

In a parallel move in late 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed General Geoffrey Miller to head the new prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, and gave him broad authority to develop a total three-phase attack on the sensory receptors, cultural identity, and individual psyches of his new prisoners. After General Miller visited Abu Ghraib prison in September 2003, the U.S. commander for Iraq issued orders for the use of psychological torture in U.S. prisons in that country, including sensory disorientation, self-inflicted pain, and a recent innovation, cultural humiliation through exposure to dogs (which American believed would be psychologically devastating for Arabs). It is no accident that Private Lynndie England, a military guard at Abu Ghraib prison, was famously photographed leading a naked Iraqi detainee leashed like a dog.

In the months after 9/11, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz launched a multimedia campaign arguing that torture would be necessary in the event U.S. intelligence agents discovered that a terrorist had planted a ticking nuclear bomb in New York’s Times Square. Although this scenario was a fantasy whose sole foundation was an obscure academic philosophy article published back in 1973, such ticking bombs soon enough became a media trope and a persuasive reality for many Americans — particularly thanks to “24,” every segment of which began with an oversized clock ticking menacingly.

Just two weeks later, on September 12, 2011, former FBI counterterror agent Ali Soufan released his own memoirs, stating that he was the one who started the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah back in 2002, using empathetic, non-torture techniques that quickly gained “important actionable intelligence” about “the role of KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.”

Angered by the FBI’s success, CIA director George Tenet dispatched his own interrogators from Washington led by Dr. James Mitchell, the former SERE psychologist who had developed the agency’s harsh “enhanced techniques.” As the CIA team moved up the “force continuum” from “low-level sleep deprivation” to nudity, noise barrage, and the use of a claustrophobic confinement box, Dr. Mitchell’s harsh methods got “no information.”

By contrast, at each step in this escalating abuse, Ali Soufan was brought back for more quiet questioning in Arabic that coaxed out all the valuable intelligence Zubaydah had to offer. The results of this ad hoc scientific test were blindingly clear: FBI empathy was consistently effective, while CIA coercion proved counterproductive.

But this fundamental yet fragile truth has been obscured by CIA censorship and neoconservative casuistry. Cheney’s secondhand account completely omitted the FBI presence. Moreover, the CIA demanded 181 pages of excisions from Ali Soufan’s memoirs that reduced his chapters about this interrogation experience to a maze of blackened lines no regular reader can understand.

Moreover, in February 2009, Obama’s incoming CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the agency would indeed continue the practice “in renditions where we returned an individual to the jurisdiction of another country, and they exercised their rights… to prosecute him under their laws. I think,” he added, ignoring the U.N. anti-torture convention’s strict conditions for this practice, “that is an appropriate use of rendition.”

As the CIA expanded covert operations inside Somalia under Obama, its renditions of terror suspects from neighboring East African nations continuedjust as they had under Bush. In July 2009, for example, Kenyan police snatched an al-Qaeda suspect, Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan, from a Nairobi slum and delivered him to that city’s airport for a CIA flight to Mogadishu. There he joined dozens of prisoners grabbed off the streets of Kenya inside “The Hole” — a filthy underground prison buried in the windowless basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency. While Somali guards (paid for with U.S. funds) ran the prison, CIA operatives, reported the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill, have open access for extended interrogation.

Simultaneously, Washington’s Afghan allies increasingly turned to torture after the Abu Ghraib scandal prompted U.S. officials to transfer most interrogation to local authorities. After interviewing 324 detainees held by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in 2011, the U.N. found that “torture is practiced systematically in a number of NDS detention facilities throughout Afghanistan.” At the Directorate’s prison in Kandahar one interrogator told a detainee before starting to torture him, “You should confess what you have done in the past as Taliban; even stones confess here.”

I leave you with this

CIA’s top spy – Michael Sulick, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service – said that the spy agency has seen no fall-off in intelligence since waterboarding was banned by the Obama administration. “I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint.”

The CIA’s own Inspector General wrote that waterboarding was not “efficacious” in producing information.

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