30+ torture memos remain sealed while thousands of torture photos will eventually be released. Be prepared: Learn the deep history of US torture in SERE, Vietnam, Latin America, GMTO, Black Sites and beyond in American Torture.

Monday, April 28, 2008

'Turbans and/or Burqas' as a 'Hood Device'

Posted by Michael Otterman at 7:39 PM |

In the same week the New York Times published portions of a DOJ letter explaining, yet again, how an interrogation technique must "shock the conscience" in order to constitute torture-- Wikileaks made available a previously unseen Pentagon detainee manual.

Detainee Operations in a Joint Environment, dated 3 May 2004, was produced to fill "a void identified in lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Iraq by providing the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to be employed in planning for and executing the handling, transfer, transport, and release of detainees." Written in the wake of the April 2004 Abu Ghraib revelations, this document does repeatedly stress the importance of "providing firm, but humane treatment." But one section caught my eye: Field Expedient Restraints.

As noted by Valtin, currently legal field expedient "Separation" methods used by US military seek to elicit DDD-- debility, dependency and dread. This detainee ops manual adds one more technique to the DDD paradigm: exploiting a detainee's religious dress. According to page 97 the manual:
In some areas of the world, using the detainees’ own headgear as hood device is ideal, i.e. turbans and/or burqas.
This 2004 advice appears to run counter to the current, though limited, torture ban in place. While waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions are still legal in the eyes of the Department of Justice, last year's Executive Order 13440 did ostensibly ban a limited set of techniques "that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency". In addition to sexual humiliation, the Executive Order banned "acts intended to denigrate the religion, religious practices, or religious objects of the individual".

That said-- I wonder if Pentagon advice to use "turbans and/or burqas" as a "hood device" constitutes a violation of this 2007 ban? Has it been rescinded? According to the latest Pentagon interrogation field manual:
Although it is acceptable to use religion in all interrogation approaches, even to express doubts about a religion, an interrogator is not permitted to denigrate a religion’s symbols (for example, a Koran, prayer rug, icon, or religious statue) or violate a religion’s tenets, except where appropriate for health, safety, and security reasons. [page 8-8]
House Judiciary Committee Chair, John Conyers, should raise these questions on the committee's next hearing on May 6 into US "torture policy". Imagine using a devout Jew's yarmulka as a gag, or nun's hat as a blindfold? Surely that would rise "beyond the bounds of human decency".

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah

Posted by Andy Worthington at 3:42 PM |

Abu Zubaydah, an alleged senior al-Qaeda operative, has been held without charge or trial as a “high-value detainee” for over six years, first in secret CIA custody, and then in Guantánamo, while battles have raged within the administration over his supposed significance. Drawing, in particular, on the story of former Guantánamo prisoner Khalid al-Hubayshi, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, makes the case that Zubaydah’s importance has been wildly exaggerated.

A recent article in the Washington Post, Out of Guantánamo and Bitter Toward Bin Laden, which was based on an interview with former Guantánamo prisoner Khalid al-Hubayshi (released in 2006), was noteworthy as much for what it did not reveal as for what it did.

In the article, Faiza Saleh Ambah began by explaining how “A calling to defend fellow Muslims and a bit of aimlessness took Khalid al-Hubayshi to a separatists' training camp in the southern Philippines and to the mountains of Afghanistan, where he interviewed for a job with Osama bin Laden.”

Part of this story was previously known from al-Hubayshi’s long years in Guantánamo, as Detainee 155, when he admitted to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) in 2004 that he had trained in the Philippines and had also trained at the Khaldan camp in Afghanistan in 1997. He also said that he moved to Afghanistan in 2001, joining a “private small camp” outside Jalalabad, which was subsequently closed down by the Taliban. Throughout, he presented himself -- with some eloquence -- as a freedom fighter who focused on particular struggles that various Muslims around the world had with non-Muslim oppressors (the model that was largely superseded by bin Laden's declaration of global jihad in 1998).

It was for this reason, he said, that he trained at Khaldan, which was not associated with either the Taliban or al-Qaeda at the time, and it was also for this reason that he returned to Afghanistan in 2001, and joined the camp near Jalalabad. He insisted, “I wasn't a member of al-Qaeda or on the front lines with the Taliban because I don't believe in what they are doing. I believe what the Taliban did in Afghanistan was ethnic war [and] al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization.”

He also explained, “I think Osama bin Laden is wrong. He just wants to be famous. He doesn't care how he does it, killing people, killing Muslims, or destroying countries. I think he got what he wanted -- to be famous. I don't need to meet him. I don't understand the politics. People look at the vision of Osama bin Laden and believe America is their enemy. They don't understand what is going on or what happened in Afghanistan in 1980 [when the Soviet invasion began].”

This opinion of bin Laden, it transpired from al-Hubayshi’s interview with Faiza Saleh Ambah, was true, but rather lacking in context. In the interview he admitted that, although he had certainly become disillusioned with the inter-ethnic fighting in Afghanistan -- “I was not there … to help Afghans fighting Afghans for political gain,” he said, adding, “If I was going to die, I wanted to die fighting for something meaningful” -- his return to Afghanistan in May 2001, and what he subsequently did there, was both more complicated and more compromised than he had admitted at his tribunal.

He explained that, while attempting to return home in 1999, he had been arrested and imprisoned by the Pakistanis, who confiscated his passport, and that he had then returned to his job at a utilities company in Saudi Arabia on a false passport. His return to Afghanistan in 2001 came about when he discovered that he was wanted for questioning by the Saudi authorities, and it was at the camp near Jalalabad, where he became “adept at making remote-controlled explosive devices triggered by cellphones and light switches,” that he attracted the attention of al-Qaeda.

Introduced to Osama bin Laden, he said that he refused to join al-Qaeda because bin Laden’s fight “had changed from defending Muslims to attacking the United States. I wasn't convinced of his ideology. And I wanted to be independent, not just another minion in this big group.” After returning to his independent life, he was drawn once more into bin Laden’s orbit after 9/11, when, after fleeing Afghan persecution, he and others were invited to the Tora Bora mountains, for what, it seems, was touted as a glorious showdown with the Americans.

“Bin Laden was convinced the Americans would come down and fight,” al-Hubayshi said. “We spent five weeks like that, manning our positions in case the Americans landed.” He added, however, that as the airstrikes moved closer, and as the Americans’ Afghan allies advanced on their positions, bin Laden abandoned the fight and fled. “There was no dignity in what he made us do,” he told Faiza Saleh Ambah, adding that he was “sorry that Muslims carried out the Sept. 11 attacks because they targeted civilians.” “That was wrong,” he explained. “Jihad is fighting soldier to soldier.”

While this entire report fills in some rather large gaps in al-Hubayshi’s testimony in Guantánamo -- and also provides some apposite insight into his opinion of bin Laden -- what was missing from Faiza Saleh Ambah’s interview was any mention whatsoever of another allegedly pivotal figure in al-Qaeda: Abu Zubaydah, the Palestinian-born facilitator of the Khaldan camp, and one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons in September 2006.

In the interview, the only mention of Khaldan was that al-Hubayshi “learned to fire anti-aircraft missiles, anti-aircraft machine guns, anti-tank weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and became an expert in explosives,” whereas his comments in Guantánamo about his relationship with Abu Zubaydah struck me as enormously significant while I was researching The Guantánamo Files, and remain so to this day, as they cast important light on a fierce debate within the US administration, which has raged since shortly after Zubaydah was captured in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad in March 2002.

Contrary to claims made by the administration and the CIA -- which, as described in Time magazine shortly after his capture, indicated that he was “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations and top recruiter,” who would be able to “provide the names of terrorists around the world and which targets they planned to hit” -- the story that emerged in Ron Suskind’s 2006 book, The One Percent Doctrine, was that Zubaydah was nothing like the pivotal figure that the CIA had supposed him to be, and had actually turned out to be mentally ill.

Investigating his diary, analysts found entries in the voices of three people -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego -- which recorded in numbing detail, over the course of ten years, “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, the FBI's senior expert on al-Qaeda, explained to one of his superiors, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.” According to Suskind, the officials also confirmed that Zubaydah appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations, and was, instead, a minor logistician.

And yet, as Suskind also reports, so misplaced was the CIA’s belief in Zubaydah’s importance that when they subjected him to waterboarding and other forms of torture, and he “confessed” to all manner of supposed plots -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty -- “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each target ... The United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

Last December, when there was a brief uproar over the destruction by the CIA of videotapes showing the “enhanced interrogations” of Zubaydah and another “high-value detainee”, Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, Dan Coleman spoke out once more about Zubaydah, telling the Washington Post that the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the CIA cast doubt on the credibility of Zubaydah’s confessions. “I don't have confidence in anything he says,” Coleman explained, “because once you go down that road, everything you say is tainted. He was talking before they did that to him, but they didn't believe him. The problem is they didn't realize he didn't know all that much.”

Coleman also revisited the rift that developed between the FBI and the CIA when CIA operatives began holding him naked in his cell, “subjecting him to extreme cold and bombarding him with loud rock music,” explaining that FBI operatives who witnessed this said, “You've got to be kidding me. This guy's a Muslim. That's not going to win his confidence. Are you trying to get information out of him or just belittle him?”

Reiterating his skepticism about Zubaydah’s supposed importance, Coleman said that he “was a ‘safehouse keeper’ with mental problems who claimed to know more about al-Qaeda and its inner workings than he really did,” that his diaries were “full of flowery and philosophical meanderings, and made little mention of terrorism or al-Qaeda,” and that he and others at the FBI had concluded, by looking at other evidence, including a serious head injury that Zubaydah had suffered years earlier, that he had severe mental problems. “They all knew he was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone,” Coleman explained, referring to other al-Qaeda operatives, adding, “You think they're going to tell him anything?”

Largely unnoticed, although featured in my book, are two more analyses of Zubaydah’s role that reinforce the opinions expressed by Dan Coleman and Ron Suskind: those of Khalid al-Hubayshi, and of Zubaydah himself, during his CSRT in Guantánamo last spring.

Al-Hubayshi explained that, far from being a mastermind, Abu Zubaydah was responsible for “receiving people and financing the camp,” that he once bought him travel tickets, and that he was the man he went to when he needed a replacement passport. He also suggested that Zubaydah did not have a long-standing relationship with bin Laden. When asked, “When you were with Abu Zubaydah, did you ever see Osama bin Laden?” he replied, “In 1998, Abu Zubaydah and Osama bin Laden didn't like each other,” adding, “In 2001, I think the relationship was okay,” and explaining that bin Laden put pressure on Zubaydah to close Khaldan, essentially because he wanted to run more camps himself.

The echoes with Zubaydah’s own account are uncanny. In his CSRT, Zubaydah said that he was tortured by the CIA to admit that he worked with Osama bin Laden, but insisted, “I'm not his partner and I'm not a member of al-Qaeda.” He also said that his interrogators promised to return his diary to him -- the one that contained the evidence of his split personality -- and explained that their refusal to do so affected him emotionally and triggered seizures.

Speaking of his status as a “high-value detainee,” he said that his only role was to operate a guest house used by those who were training at Khaldan, and confirmed al-Hubayshi's analysis of his relationship with bin Laden, saying, “Bin Laden wanted al-Qaeda to have control of Khaldan, but we refused since we had different ideas.” He explained that he opposed attacks on civilian targets, which brought him into conflict with bin Laden, and although he admitted that he had been an enemy of the US since childhood, because of its support for Israel, pointed out that his enmity was towards the government and the military, and not the American people.

I await the development of Abu Zubaydah’s story with interest. Just a month ago, his lawyers, Brent Mickum and Joe Margulies, followed Coleman and Suskind’s lead by filing an unlawful detention suit arguing that their client is insane, and I’m fascinated to know what they -- and others who are wondering why, if Zubaydah was so important, he was not charged in February in connection with the 9/11 attacks along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five others -- will make of the testimony of Khalid al-Hubayshi, who, as Faiza Saleh Ambah reported, is now a world away from his previous life as a would-be soldier and US prisoner, happily married and working at the utilities company from which he twice escaped to pursue his dreams of jihad.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

The Torture Election: Fighting for the Soul of the American Psychological Association

Posted by Valtin at 5:44 PM |

Originally posted at AlterNet

In a surprising turn of events, New York psychologist Steven Reisner won over 30% of the votes in the mail balloting for nominations for the presidency of the American Psychological Association (APA), as announced at the beginning of April. This represented more votes than any other candidate running.

Dr. Reisner, a psychoanalyst, is a Senior Faculty member and Supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, and a consultant to the United Nations on stress and trauma. As a key leader of Psychologists for an Ethical Psychology, he is also a leading critic of APA's position on torture and interrogations.

A number of APA members see Reisner's showing as a great victory for critics of APA's position of allowing psychologists to participate in Bush's "war on terror" interrogations. Reisner received 1,765 votes, four hundred more than Robert E. McGrath, the next most popular candidate. The impressive numbers are testimony to two years of anti-torture activism within APA, involving scores of dedicated professionals. The electoral results guarantee that Dr. Reisner will be on the ballot for APA president next October.

All told, however, the vast majority of votes still went to candidates who have very different positions on interrogations. Moreover, there are signs that some APA office holders and loyalists are hostile to Reisner's candidacy. One inside source says that a top member of the California Psychological Association -- a state affiliate of APA -- called it "despicable" that Reisner was running for APA president, after all he's done to "disrupt" that organization.

The APA ostensibly takes a hard line against torture. But it refuses to forbid its membership from working at Pentagon or CIA prison sites that deny its prisoners basic human rights, like habeas corpus, and with documented histories of abuse and torture. Amy Goodman, in a recent column, summarized the battle within APA to turn the organization away from collaboration with governmental interrogators. The story of this collaboration, and how psychologists came to be key members of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs, popularly called "biscuits") at Guantánamo and elsewhere, has been told in great detail by myself, psychologist Stephen Soldz, and writers Katherine Eban, Jane Mayer, Arthur Levine, and Mark Benjamin, among others. The narrative is as dense or as simple as one wishes to make it, and depends how deeply one looks into the history of U.S. torture.

The APA's shifting position on interrogations is rooted in a long commitment to serve the national security apparatus of the United States. That commitment has been reflected in the current APA election, where Dr. Reisner appears as the first true candidate of change on this issue.

The Candidates: The Psychopharmacology Doctor

While Reisner received the plurality of votes in the first round of APA balloting, second place went to Robert E. McGrath at 1,340 votes. (Only 3-4% of APA members seem to have cast nominating ballots in this election.) McGrath runs a postdoctoral program in psychopharmacology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and was president of APA's Division 55, the American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy. (APA is a federated organization, divided into 53 professional divisions; each division, along with representatives to the state and provincial psychological associations, is represented on APA's Council of Representatives.)

McGrath has said little on the record regarding APA's interrogation policy, though he did write a letter to the house APA organ, the Monitor, last September on "psychologists' military roles":
In response to recent claims that psychologists have been involved in torture and abusive interrogations, some psychologists are now calling for a complete ban on any involvement in military interrogations. I am troubled by these claims, but I am also troubled by two questions concerning this proposed solution: By extension, shouldn't psychologists withdraw from all coercive interrogations, including those by law enforcement agencies? Don't further restrictions in the diversity of individuals involved in such interrogations increase the potential for abuse even further?
One wonders how objective Dr. McGrath is on this issue, given Division 55 is largely devoted to teaching psychologists psychopharmacology and lobbying for prescription rights for psychologists. The practice, which has been fought tooth and nail by the psychiatric establishment, has found its greatest support in the military, which established a Psychopharmacology Demonstration Project in 1989 to train military psychologists to prescribe. (In an article on psychologists and torture in Vanity Fair last year, Katherine Eban looked at the possibility of a "quid pro quo" between APA and the military, in which APA would give "its stamp of approval to military interrogations" in agreement for the Pentagon allowing "psychologists -- who, unlike psychiatrists, are not medical doctors -- to prescribe medication, dramatically increasing their income.")

McGrath's opposition to pulling psychologists out of Guantánamo and other military/CIA interrogation centers is manifest. Reading his letter, psychologist Martha Davis, a visiting scholar at John Jay School of Criminal Justice, was struck by how APA's position has totally changed the way psychologists view their professional role when it comes to interrogations. "The APA has so successfully finessed this business," Davis wrote on a listserve of APA critics, "that most people hearing about the interrogations and psychology controversy, including psychologists, think that psychologists 'do' or supervise interrogations of criminal suspects in the US. THEY DO NOT … There is no mention of interrogation work in the ethics code. You won't find panels on doing interrogations in forensic psychology conference programs. Psychologists do not have the authority to 'do' interrogations or to supervise them in the US."

The Military Nominee?

The author of Jews in Blue: The Jewish American Experience in Law Enforcement, and consultant "for the police and law enforcement community since 1983," Jack Kitaeff, Ph.D, JD, was a military psychologist (as a Major) in the late 1970s to early 1980s. Both his psychological internship and postdoctoral residency were in military settings. Currently, he is Secretary-Treasurer-Elect for the Police and Public Safety Section of Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).

While Dr. Kitaeff does not appear to have made a public statement on the current controversy on APA and interrogations, he did speak about his work and his views of himself as a "patriot" in an interview in 2006 at FrontPage Magazine, a well-known right-wing neo-conservative outlet run by David Horowitz's Freedom Center. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to guess where Kitaeff, who received 1,128 votes and third place in APA voting, probably stands on psychologist staffing of military interrogations.

The Insiders

Rounding out the final five nominees are Ronald H. Rozensky, PhD and Carol E. Goodheart, EdD, who received 1,057 and 134 votes, respectively. Goodheart was a last-minute write-in candidate; last year she came in second in the nomination balloting, behind eventual presidential winner, James Bray. Reisner, who also ran, failed to make the top five in 2007. Reportedly, Goodheart wasn't going to run in 2008, but she appears to have changed her mind. According to one APA insider, many on APA Council see her as a major competitor to Dr. Reisner in the upcoming election.

Goodheart is, as Steven Reisner once labeled her, an "APA stalwart." A psychotherapist in private practice, and a clinical supervisor in the psychology training program at Rutgers, she has served on the APA Board of Directors, and most recently was APA Treasurer. Currenly, she's working with APA President-elect Bray on his 2009 Presidential Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice. Is part of that future staffing the BSCTs for the military at Guantánamo and elsewhere?

When psychologists mobilizing to withhold their dues from APA in protest against APA's interrogation policy queried Dr. Goodheart about her position, she replied:
I know that some psychologists in good conscience and good faith want APA also to prohibit psychologists from any participation whatsoever in military interrogations. There is serious debate within APA about the appropriate role for psychologists and I do not know if we will ever be able to reach total agreement. I, along with the majority of the Council of Representatives, voted against a moratorium, after listening carefully and considering all views seriously. As my own act of personal conscience, in the hope that we will be able to influence policy and practices related to interrogations, I believe that we must support psychology's promotion of ethical interrogations to prevent violence, safeguard detainees' welfare, and facilitate communications with them. We must stay engaged and work with the people, both military and non-military, who are working with great dedication to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment.
In other words, as one prominent member of APAs Division of Psychoanalysis put it:
She feels that to exclude psychologists from morally problematic places may leave prisoners even more vulnerable, and she argues that defining psychologists' presence as unethical would jeopardize ethical professionals who have been in this situation.
This makes Goodheart's stance on psychologists and interrogation a mirror image of APA's official position: psychologists make interrogations safer for detainees. Yet overwhelming evidence implicates psychologists in both the construction and implementation of a torture paradigm that emphasizes sensory deprivation and overstimulation, sleep deprivation, inculcation of debility, psychological regression, and dependency. Furthermore, psychologists have been specifically singled out as the agents responsible for reverse-engineering the military's torture resistance program, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), in order to teach military interrogators coercive forms of interrogation. This was documented, no less, by the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General in a report on detainee abuse, declassified last year.

The news hasn't gotten through to a final candidate, Ronald H. Rozensky, Ph.D. Dr. Rozensky has a resume a mile long. Former Chair of APA's Board of Professional Affairs, President of the Illinois Psychological Association, award-winning Outstanding International Psychologist, and co-author of Psychological Assessment in Medical Settings, Rozensky is a major lobbyist for governmental money for psychologists, supporting especially research in neuroscience, functional MRI and space programs. Concerned, like the APA honcho he is, in expanding the role of psychologists in particular societal institutions, he is worried that the controversy over military interrogations will spill over to domestic correctional settings, considered by APA a "proliferating" source of psychologist jobs. According to Dr. Rozensky:
...current discussions about psychologists' roles in interrogation in the military have implications within organized psychology for those psychologists working within the correctional system. It is key that our field recognize the important role that psychologists in the correctional system play in assuring ethical treatment of individuals remanded to the system and that information obtained from those individuals is factual and useful.
Whither APA?

Steven Reisner's candidacy for president represents a significant challenge to the status quo of APA governance. While all the other candidates for APA president support the continued presence of psychologists as an integral part of Defense Department and CIA interrogations, Reisner says no:
When leaders of other health professions reject all participation in detainee abuse, and our leaders justify participation, I am ashamed of our profession....

My candidacy calls for a clear departure from the complicity of psychologists in state-sponsored abuses of human rights, whether these take place at Guantánamo, CIA black sites, or domestic supermax prisons.

I have been told that psychologists might fear for their jobs if we hold to a principled stance on detainees' basic human rights. I fear for our nation and our profession if we don't.
Whether Steven Reisner's candidacy for APA president represents the high-water mark for opposition to the pro-military APA bureaucracy, or the beginning of a real sea change within the civil institutions of U.S. society regarding complicity in torture and other criminal, unethical practices of the government, remains to be seen. If Reisner is able to carry the presidential vote, he will still have to contend with a ruling apparatus that remains committed to cementing its ties with the Department of Defense and the CIA.

But these are challenges that lie in the future. Right now, Dr. Reisner and his supporters are riding a wave of optimism that things can change. His electoral showing demonstrates that, within APA, critics of torture and interrogations are making a real impact. In the big picture, the future of APA is likely tied to how these same issues play out in the larger society, especially the U.S. presidential race. For now, however, Reisner's supporters can give themselves a hearty congratulations, even as a longer, larger, higher hill to climb lies before them.

[Much thanks to AlterNet editor Liliana Segura for editorial help on this article.]

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Support Call for Investigations on Drugging Detainees

Posted by Valtin at 3:47 PM |

Following a pivotal article by Jeff Stein at Congressional Quarterly a few weeks back, today's Washington Post published an important article today, "Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned." The story, by Post staff writer Joby Warrick, notes U.S. denials in using drug injections for coercive purposes during interrogations.

Adel al-Nusairi, a Saudi national imprisoned for years at Guanatanmo, and now released without charges, has a different memory:
"I'd fall asleep" after the shot, Nusairi, a former Saudi policeman captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, recalled in an interview with his attorney at the military prison in Cuba, according to notes. After being roused, Nusairi eventually did talk, giving U.S. officials what he later described as a made-up confession to buy some peace.

"I was completely gone," he remembered. "I said, 'Let me go. I want to go to sleep. If it takes saying I'm a member of al-Qaeda, I will.'"
U.S. authorities at the Department of Defense and the CIA say the stories of prisoners being forced to take drugs and make confessions are lies, or perhaps mistaken interpretations of various medical procedures. The Post article, which mentions the March 2003 John Yoo memo to the Department of Defense that gave legal cover to abusive interrogation methods, including the use of drugs on detainees, fails to mention that the CIA and military studied the use of drugs in interrogations for decades. Still, the Post article makes clear that drugs have been alleged to have been used on U.S.-held detainees for purposes of forcing confessions, as chemical restraint, and to forcibly psychologically condition detainees for interrogation.
Medical ethicists and experts in international law say such accounts raise serious questions. While the Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war, said Barbara Olshansky, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of a book on military tribunals. "If you're talking about interrogations, you're talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone," Olshansky said. "The law is beyond clear."
Physicians for Human Rights has called for both Congressional and Department of Justice investigations on the forcible drugging of detainees. This may be a good time, too, to support the ACLU's call for the release of a Justice Department Office of Inspector General report on a long-running investigation of the FBI's role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. It's believed that "FBI agents stationed at Guantánamo Bay expressed concern after witnessing military interrogators' use of brutal interrogation techniques." Did these techniques include the forcible drugging of detainees?

Investigations Needed, Though Much Information in Public Domain

Investigations are urgently needed to get the full picture of what exactly the government has been up to, as the full extent of the manifold use of torture by the United States government has not been fully documented. Such investigations are also sorely needed to change the political dialogue in this country, and to hold accountable government officials who have broken domestic and international law on torture and the treatment of prisoners.

If the press would do their job and report the known research and give the proper context on this subject, then the work of the investigators would be much easier. (Jeff Klein's work, noted at the beginning of this article, is a notable exception. Other exceptions are Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker, Scott Horton at Harper's, and Mark Benjamin at Salon.com.) The use of drugs in interrogations is not a new subject by any means. The government has researched this, including mixing drugs with other forms of coercive interrogation practice, such as sensory deprivation.

A Course in Narcosis, Part I

Online, I suggest the interested reader -- or Congressional or DOJ investigator -- begin with the CIA's own discussion of the matter in the declassified KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Here's some relevant quotes from the CIA on "narcosis" (if this website link is having problems, as it did when I went to reference it, use this cached link instead, or this alternate site, or the photocopy online of the manual itself). Bold emphasis in the following is mine. Remember, this "course" in narcosis was researched with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The CIA drew upon the work of the infamous MKULTRA program of the CIA.
Just as the threat of pain may more effectively induce compliance than its infliction, so an interrogatee's mistaken belief that he has been drugged may make him a more useful interrogation subject than he would be under narcosis....

In the interrogation situation, moreover, the effectiveness of a placebo may be enhanced because of its ability to placate the conscience. The subject's primary source of resistance to confession or divulgence may be pride, patriotism, personal loyalty to superiors, or fear of retribution if he is returned to their hands. Under such circumstances his natural desire to escape from stress by complying with the interrogator's wishes may become decisive if he is provided an acceptable rationalization for compliance. "I was drugged" is one of the best excuses.

Drugs are no more the answer to the interrogator's prayer than the polygraph, hypnosis, or other aids. Studies and reports "dealing with the validity of material extracted from reluctant informants... indicate that there is no drug which can force every informant to report all the information he has. Not only may the inveterate criminal psychopath lie under the influence of drugs which have been tested, but the relatively normal and well-adjusted individual may also successfully disguise factual data"....

Nevertheless, drugs can be effective in overcoming resistance not dissolved by other techniques. As has already been noted, the so-called silent drug (a pharmacologically potent substance given to a person unaware of its administration) can make possible the induction of hypnotic trance in a previously unwilling subject....

Particularly important is the reference to matching the drug to the personality of the interrogatee. The effect of most drugs depends more upon the personality of the subject than upon the physical characteristics of the drugs themselves. If the approval of Headquarters has been obtained and if a doctor is at hand for administration, one of the most important of the interrogator's functions is providing the doctor with a full and accurate description of the psychological make-up of the interrogatee, to facilitate the best possible choice of a drug.

Persons burdened with feelings of shame or guilt are likely to unburden themselves when drugged, especially if these feelings have been reinforced by the interrogator. And like the placebo, the drug provides an excellent rationalization of helplessness for the interrogatee who wants to yield but has hitherto been unable to violate his own values or loyalties.

Like other coercive media, drugs may affect the content of what an interrogatee divulges. Gottschalk notes that certain drugs "may give rise to psychotic manifestations such as hallucinations, illusions, delusions, or disorientation", so that "the verbal material obtained cannot always be considered valid." (7) For this reason drugs (and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive.

This discussion does not include a list of drugs that have been employed for interrogation purposes or a discussion of their properties because these are medical considerations within the province of a doctor rather than an interogator [sic].
A Course in Narcosis, Part II

If we go back and look at the Washington Post article printed today, we see that the reaction of the detainees who were (allegedly) drugged is replete with traumatic feelings. One wonders if the giving of injections rather than pills was psychologically designed to create greater fear in the prisoners.

The CIA's reference to Gottschalk is to Louis A. Gottschalk. At the time (early 60s), Gottschalk was Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Research Coordinator in the Department of Psychiatry at Cincinnati General Hospital. His essay, "The Use of Drugs in Interrogation" was published in the 1961 book, The Manipulation of Human Behavior. (Online via Questia, for some time this book could be read for free over the net at 4shared.com, but that link is gone now. The Questia read will cost you about $8.00 -- worth it in my opinion, though enterprising web surfers may find it elsewhere for less or free, for all I know.)

In Gottschalk's piece, he looks at such aspects of drug use in interrogation as the use of placebo administration; the effects of individual differences in personality and cerebral functions on drug reaction; the effects of physiological conditions, secondary to manipulation of biological rhythms, nutritional states, isolation and fatigue; and the efficacy of drugs in "uncovering information." Regarding the latter, Gottschalk wrote:
For certain personality types, some drugs lower conscious ego control, thereby facilitating recall of repressed material and increasing the difficulty of withholding available information....

... clinical experience and experimental studies indicate that, although a person's resistance to communicating consciously withheld information can be broken down with drugs, and particularly sodium amytal, the interrogator can have no easy assurance as to the accuracy and validity of the information he obtains.... An interrogator would have to evaluate many other factors... to decide how to interpret the outcome of an interview with a drugged informant.
Besides sodium amytal, Gottschalk and other government researchers (from the military, CIA, contracted or unwittingly funded) studied numerous pharmacological agents, including barbiturate sedatives and calmatives (amobarbital, secobarbital), non-barbiturate sedatives (Placidyl, Quiactin), stimulants (ritalin, benzadrine, and methamphetamine, the latter said to be "useful in the interrogation of the psychopath"), autonomic reactors and beta blockers, antimalarial drugs, heavy metals, hormones (ACTH, cortisone, thyroid), and classic hallucinogens like mescaline, LSD and PCP. Marijuana was also an early target of drug experiments on truth telling. Psychoactive medications have (or are?) been studied as well (thorazine, compazine, etc.).

Thorazine was also used heavily by Dr. Ewen Cameron, the famous Montreal psychiatrist, whose attempt to totally control the human mind via a technique called "psychic driving" destroyed many people's lives in the 1950s and 1960s. Cameron used drug-induced coma, multiple electroshock, and drugs like thorazine and LSD in an effort to totally control human beings, from their memory (which he sought to wipe out) and their behavior. The research was funded, in part, by the CIA. The story has been told in all its horrendous detail a number of times, most recently by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, and by researcher Gordon Thomas in his new book, Secrets and Lies.


While the Washington Post article demonstrates some movement among the official elite who run this country to address the latest revelations on torture, perhaps even to promote some kind of reform inside the Pentagon and CIA, it's also possible that official denials are all we are going to hear.

It's important that the calls from organizations like Physicians for Human Rights for hearings and investigations be supported by phone calls, letters, emails, and donations. The Yoo memo and other issues related to torture are supposed to be examined at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on May 9. Why not bring up the issue of involuntary drugging as part of that hearing? In any case, a full investigation is needed of U.S. torture. In my opinion, the government cannot be trusted to run this investigation. But, lacking any other authoritative forum, a Congressional investigation may be the best we can hope for at this point.

On this topic, with a special emphasis on the possible role of psychologists and other health professionals in these interrogation abuses, see Stephen Soldz's article, "Involuntary drugging of US detainees, a crisis for the health professions".

Cross-posted at Invictus.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Torture Planners: "Why are we talking about this in the White House?"

Posted by Valtin at 3:13 PM |

In a very interesting follow-up to the unfolding story on the 2003 John Yoo memorandum that justified the use of torture, ABC news is reporting how the CIA came to the White House after the spring 2002 capture of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan and asked for permission to use more "aggressive" interrogation techniques. Citing anonymous sources, ABC says that beginning with the Zubaydah case, "the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency." These discussions evidently included the use of waterboarding, as the CIA has admitted using this torture technique on Zubaydah.

The "Principals" -- high-level Bush administration officials -- present included National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice, who chaired the meetings, "Vice President Cheney... Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft."

While Ashcroft is said to have signed off on the legality of the interrogations, he got squeamish about how it was being approved. Perhaps he was afraid of future legal and political consequences. Perhaps he remembered how the secrets of the Wannsee Conference were ultimately leaked. Per the ABC story (also reported over at Reuters):

Lawyers in the Justice Department had written a classified memo, which was extensively reviewed, that gave formal legal authority to government interrogators to use the "enhanced" questioning tactics on suspected terrorist prisoners. The August 2002 memo, signed by then head of the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee, was referred to as the so-called "Golden Shield" for CIA agents, who worried they would be held liable if the harsh interrogations became public.....

But even after the "Golden Shield" was in place, briefings and meetings in the White House to discuss individual interrogations continued, sources said. Tenet, seeking to protect his agents, regularly sought confirmation from the NSC principals that specific interrogation plans were legal....

Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas....

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
Despite Ashcroft's qualms -- mainly concerned with his political neck, not the safety of prisoners -- the Principals "approved interrogations... pushing the limits of international law and even the Justice Department's own legal approval." Condi Rice was said to be particularly forceful in giving the CIA power to torture (with Powell echoing Ashcroft's wimpy protests).

As the blogger buhdydharma in an article today, the new revelations "clearly point to a high level, willful conspiracy to commit torture." Beyond the question of conspiracy, serious violations of a number of laws that prohibit torture and inhumane treatment have also been broken. Courtesy of Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First own examination of criminal laws governing laws on torture, let's review what Ashcroft, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Tenet, and possibly others, may find themselves vulnerable with aggressive prosecution (for footnotes, please refer to original via link):

The recent amendments to the War Crimes Act establish as war crimes “grave breaches” of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions,10 including “torture” and “cruel or inhuman treatment.”11 “Torture” is characterized, in pertinent part, as “an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”12 The separate war crime of “cruel or inhuman treatment,” is defined as “an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering.”13

For the crime of torture under the WCA14 and the Torture Act,15 severe mental pain or suffering is defined as “the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from” several specified actions, including “the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering” and “the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mindaltering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”16

For the WCA crime of “cruel or inhuman treatment,” serious mental pain or suffering is defined as “the serious and non-transitory mental harm (which need not be prolonged) caused by or resulting from” the same specified actions.17

The Detainee Treatment Act requires that “no person in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT).”18 The DTA defines CIDT as conduct prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Since the "CIA’s reported “enhanced” interrogation techniques cause the types of physical and mental anguish that are criminalized under the WCA and other laws," it's clear that top administration officials have committed war crimes.

But what are the governmental officials, including elected members of the legislature, going to do about it? Certainly we can expect nothing from Mukasey's Justice Department, which has all but signed off even on waterboarding, and refuses to rule out evidence obtained by same. Rep. Conyers has asked John Woo to appear at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee next month. Meanwhile, the story barely reaches the significance of the front pages in the U.S. press.

This is not surprising, as the Executive Branch of the U.S. government has gotten away with the criminal execution of an illegal, pre-emptive war in Iraq, even when the evidence for this was placed in the public domain for all to see (going back at least to the publication of the Downing Street memos). Reportedly, the congressional offices of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats receive emails and faxes demanding action, up to and including the initiation of impeachment hearings in the House. All to no avail.

The poet William Blake wrote over two hundred years ago:
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
We know that this is more than enough to put the criminal leadership of the Bush administration away in prison for many years. Therefore, enough!!

Give us our bill of indictment. Give us our impartial jury to examine the evidence. Give us justice. Failing this, I shudder to think what monstrous conclusion is being prepared for us in the bowels of history.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

National Lawyers Guild: Fire Yoo & Try for War Crimes

Posted by Valtin at 5:07 PM |

The National Lawyers Guild has issued a press release calling for University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school to fire Professor John Yoo. The NLG calls for the rescission of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 provisions that allow immunity and the prosecution of Yoo as a war criminal. Meanwhile, yesterday, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) threatened to subpoena John Yoo to testify about the memo at a May 6 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

The declassification and release of Yoo's memorandum to William Haynes, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, written in March 2003, has caused a firestorm in the press. Yoo's memo is the smoking gun for those looking for evidence of how the Bush Administration flouted basic human rights law, the UN Convention Against Torture, and the U.S. War Crimes Act to initiate a campaign of torture against detainees swept up in the aggressive U.S. military and covert campaigns that followed 9/11.

The NLG nicely summarizes much of what is outrageous about Yoo's memo. But as an excellent article in the current Vanity Fair, Philippe Sands' "The Green Light," explains, the torture began before Yoo's memo was even written.
Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks....

The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a “trickle up” explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense. At the heart of the matter stand several political appointees—lawyers—who, it can be argued, broke their ethical codes of conduct and took themselves into a zone of international criminality, where formal investigation is now a very real option.
Yoo's memo sought to give the legal justification to the worst kind of physical and psychological torture. The NLG memo and the press have not fully plumbed the significance of what doors were opened by Bush and his co-conspirators. Jeff Stein, at Congressional Quarterly, tied the Yoo memo to an increase of drug use on detainees. The use of drugs -- from marijuana to LSD to PCP to sodium amytal -- in interrogations was a hallmark of the CIA's MKULTRA research program in the 1950s-1960s.

There can be little doubt now that the government has used drugs on terrorist suspects that are designed to weaken their resistance to interrogation. All that’s missing is the syringes and videotapes.

Another window opened on the practice last week with the declassification of John Yoo’s instantly infamous 2003 memo approving harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.

Yoo advised top Bush administration officials that interrogators could employ mind-altering drugs if they did not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”

Yoo had first rationalized the use of drugs in a 2002 memo for top Bush administration officials....

“The new Yoo memo, along with other White House legal memoranda, shows clearly that the policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs was being laid,” says Stephen Miles, a University of Minnesota bioethicist and author of “Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror".... “The use of these drugs was anticipated and discussed in the memos of January and February 2002 by DoD, DoJ, and White House counsel using the same language and rationale. The executive branch memos laid a comprehensive and reiterated policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs.”
Stein also cites the CIA/Rand Corp./American Psychological Workshop in 2003 that looked at use of "pharmacological agents" on interrogation subjects as part of an attack on prisoner attempts at deception. The full story on this "workshop", which also included work on sensory overload mechanisms to "overwhelm the senses" of detainees, was first broken by me last year.

The heat is on the administration on torture yet again. But I warn all my readers that NONE of the crimes of the Bush Administration have yet met any legal consequences. The relevant governing bodies seem to have no stomach for actually prosecuting any top war criminals, much less taking Bush, Cheney, and their mob on politically. The news media of record, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc., bluster about the outrages, but have yet to call for any prosecution or impeachment. It seems likely that little of consequence will come from the latest expose over Yoo's 2003 memo. One can't help but feel that in America the government can declare they will pull the fingernails out of your children, and there still will be no action taken.

Is it fear? Is it laziness? What is it?

The following is the text of the NLG release, signed by Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, and Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director. I've added bold emphases for editorial effect.

Contact: Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, marjorie@tjsl.edu; 619-374-6923
Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director, director@nlg.org; 212-679-5100, x11


New York. In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war.

The federal maiming statute, for example, makes it a crime for someone "with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure" to "cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb or any member of another person." It further prohibits individuals from "throwing or pouring upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance" with like intent.

Yoo also narrowed the definition of torture so the victim must experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result; Yoo's definition contravenes the definition in the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the US has ratified which is thus part of the US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. Yoo said self-defense or necessity could be used as a defense to war crimes prosecutions for torture, notwithstanding the Torture Convention's absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances, even in wartime. This memo and another Yoo wrote with Jay Bybee in August 2002 provided the basis for the Administration's torture of prisoners.

"John Yoo's complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act," said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.

Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country's premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Also posted at Invictus

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Submissions to APA Ethics Casebook on Interrogation

Posted by Valtin at 1:36 PM |

The tireless activists at Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (CEP)have answered the call of the American Psychological Association for contributions to a proposed ethics casebook, which would examine critical or contentious issues that could arise for psychologists working for the military or CIA in Bush's "war on terror".

Of course, psychologists shouldn't be working at sites such as Guantanamo or CIA "black site" prisons, where basic human rights are limited, and psychological methods of torture are routine. Taking the latter as a touchstone of basic ethical practice, the submissions of CEP point out the absurdity of mixing "ethics" with illegal detention and torture.

I applaud the excellent job done by those who constructed the scenarios. Yet, I remain unconvinced that any actual reform of the process of national security interrogation can take place under the current political and military structure, into which APA has slowly been incorporated over many years. Even if reform were possible, it is inconsistent with the strategic and tactical pressures of trying to enforce a foreign policy that aims to dominate internationally by force.

While there are some at APA who sincerely hope that an ethical compromise can be achieved, and something short of a full withdrawal of psychologists from Guantanamo and elsewhere can still allow for ethical participation, I just don't see it happening. Others believe that the casebook process allows an excellent opportunity to polemicize and educate, and intend to keep pushing APA for a full moratorium on psychologist participation in interrogations. I publish this in the hopes of educating the wider populace in the ways behavioral "specialists", including psychologists, have been used by the national security apparatus for purposes of abuse and torture.

APA's call for contributions is as follows:

The Ethics Committee seeks critical incidents/vignettes concerning the casebook/commentary on psychological ethics and national security. The goal of the casebook/commentary is to provide ethical guidance to psychologists advising or consulting to national security-related interrogations.
I've been given permission to reproduce the following by a leading member of CEP. All critical incidentes/vignettes have been represented to me as official submissions to APA. I am making them public here, with no editorial changes of any sort, except for readability, in the spirit of APA's own stated determination that the process of developing this casebook be open and transparent.

According to international instruments and their accompanying jurisprudence, “disappearance,” i.e., the capture and transport of a human being to a place of detention without acknowledgement of the capture or detention, is a form of torture. It is a form of torture directed at both the detainee’s family and the detainee himself or herself. Detainees held at CIA black sites are considered “disappeared” according to the UN definition (i.e., the detainee, “by being subjected to prolonged incommunicado detention in an unknown location, is the victim of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment,” El-Megreisi v Libya, Report of the United Nations Human Rights Committee). The Inter-American Court of Human Rights states that, “prolonged isolation and deprivation of communication are themselves cruel and inhuman treatment, harmful to the psychological and moral integrity of the person.”

May a psychologist at a CIA black site supervise the interrogation of a detainee kept in such conditions? Or must the psychologist follow the 2006 resolution, which asserts that “should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure”?

Sources: The U.N. Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have all issued decisions on individual petitions that deal with the issue of "disappearances" amounting to possible acts of torture. For example, Mojica v. Dominican Republic ("the disappearance of persons is inseparably linked to treatment that amounts to a violation of Article 7") (449/1991, para 5.7). The European Court of Human Rights has also held that the extreme pain and suffering inflicted on the mother of the "disappeared" person is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Kurt v. Turkey, Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts, Case No.15/1997/799/1002, 25 May 1998, para.134). Similarly, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in the well-known case of Velásquez Rodríguez, held that "the mere subjugation of an individual to prolonged isolation and deprivation of communication is in itself cruel and inhuman treatment" (Inter-American Court H.R., Velásquez Rodríguez case, Judgment of July 29, 1988. Series C Nº 4, para.187).


In 2003, the CIA acknowledged that it had kidnapped two children of a suspected terrorist, ages 7 and 9, and held them at a CIA ‘black site.’ Before their father was captured, the children were interrogated so that the CIA might discover from them their father’s whereabouts. After their father was captured, the detained children were held as hostages to pressure their father into giving up information.

By one account, the two children were pressured into giving up information by having insects put on their legs to scare them. [Testimony of Ali Khan, father of Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, submitted to the Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantánamo in March 2007.]

CIA interrogators stated at the time that, “We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care."

Is it ethical for a child psychologist to offer care in such a circumstance?
Is it ethical for a child psychologist to permit his or her treatment of these children to be the basis of a propaganda statement for the U.S. government? For instance, how can it be said that children who have been kidnapped and are being held as hostages, away from home and family, in order to facilitate the interrogation of their father, be considered are held under “the best of care”?
Is it ethical for the child psychologist to allow the dissemination of such a statement to legitimize the governmental use of children for coercive purposes?

Source: http://intellnet.org/news/2003/03/08/17655-1.html


A psychologist is sent to Guantánamo to be Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group in order to put operating procedures in place for detainees.

During the four months he or she is there and responsible for supervising the psychologists that advise on the conditions of detention, the following operating procedures are written and instituted:

4-20. Behavior Management Plan
a. Phase One Behavior Management Plan (First thirty days or as directed by JIG). The purpose of the Behavior Management Plan is to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process. It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator. During the first two weeks at Camp Delta, classify the detainees as Level 5 and house in a Maximum Security Unit (MSU) Block. During this time, the following conditions will apply: …Restricted contact: No ICRC [Red Cross] or Chaplain contact... No Koran, prayer beads, prayer cap.
b. Phase Two Behavior Management Plan. The two-week period following Phase 1 will continue the process of isolating the detainee and fostering dependence on the interrogator. Until the JIG Commander changes his classification, the detainee will remain a Level 5 with the following: ...Continued MSU....Koran, prayer beads and prayer cap distributed by interrogator...

Would it be ethical for a psychologist to write such procedures?
Would it be ethical for a psychologist to institute such procedures?
Would it be ethical for a psychologist to supervise psychologists or others instituting such procedures?
Would it be ethical for a Chief Psychologist to claim that he/she did not know that such things were written, instituted and/or practiced by psychologists under his/her command?

Source: Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). 28 March 2003 http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Guantanamo_document_confirms_psychological_torture


Two psychologists are interrogating a prisoner using techniques which include isolation, humiliation, forced nakedness, and waterboarding. Their supervisor, also a psychologist, enters the room, sees what the two are doing, and leaves in disgust. The supervisor takes no further action and the interrogation techniques continue.

What ethical violations, if any, have been committed by the supervisor?

Source: Vanity Fair, Rorschach and Awe [http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/07/torture200707]


A prisoner is held in a cell that measures nine feet by seven feet. The windows are covered over... No pillow is given. There is no sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. He is fed through a slot in the door. If prison staff enter the cell, their identifying information is covered. The detainee has been held in these conditions for two years, during which time the detainee was prevented from seeing his/her lawyers. In preparation for trial, a psychologist evaluates the prisoner through a rectangular slot in his isolation cell for two minutes. The psychologist concludes, based on that interview and the reports of the guards, that there are no signs of “distress” or “lethality” and there have been no significant changes since a previous assessment two years earlier. This report is offered as testimony that the prisoner is competent to stand trial.

Is it ethical for the psychologist to neglect to report the isolation and sensory deprivation?
Is it ethical to make any form of assessment based on such minimal information?
Is it ethical for the psychologist to support the sensory deprivation plan by not entering the room and by not identifying him or herself?

Source: USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20070228/a_padilla28.art.htm


According to draft instructions written for military intelligence psychologists at detainee sites, including Guantánamo, operational psychologists supervising interrogations and detention conditions, “assist in helping make sure that the environment maximizes effective detainee operations. The psychologist can assist in making sure that everything that a detainee sees, hears, and experiences is a part of the overall interrogation plan.”

However, according to a report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, “the general conditions of detention [at Guantánamo], in particular the uncertainty about the length of detention and prolonged solitary confinement, amount to inhuman treatment and to a violation of the right to health as well as a violation of the right of detainees under article 10, paragraph 1, of ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." Another report by the U.N. Committee on Torture stated that "The Committee, noting that detaining persons indefinitely without charge, constitutes per se a violation of the Convention [The U.N. Convention on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment], is concerned that detainees are held for protracted periods at Guantánamo Bay, without sufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention."

Must operational psychologists at sites such as Guantánamo, where, according to reports by Human Rights First and Amnesty International, a majority of detainees continue to be held in indefinite detention and prolonged isolation, follow the requirements of the 2006 APA resolution, which asserts that “should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure”?

Do APA ethical principles and standards require operational psychologists (at sites where such conditions are chronic) to request a transfer?

How does the APA ethics committee assess a psychologist’s “willful ignorance” of such circumstances? For example, is it acceptable for a chief psychologists working at a site where a majority of detainees are held in conditions that the UN deems “inhuman treatment” to state, “I learned a long, long time ago, if I'm going to be successful in the intel community, I'm meticulously - in a very, very dedicated way - going to stay in my lane…So if I don't have a specific need to know about something, I don't want to know about it. I don't ask about it."? Is such willful ignorance ethical?

Sources: International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/16/america/web.0216un.php

Human Rights First,

CBS News and Associated Press,

Amnesty International,
Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of isolation for detainees at Guantánamo Bay

United Nations Committee on Torture,

United Nations Human Rights Commission,

Also posted at Invictus

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

John Yoo's Magnum Opus

Posted by Michael Otterman at 1:08 AM |

After years of unjustified delay, the Pentagon has now declassified a centerpiece of the Bush Administration torture memorandum: an 82-page torture tour de force instructing the President he can "torture", "maim", "assault", employ "mind-altering drugs" and even take up "interstate stalking" if he felt so inclined. All of these things are legal, in Yoo's view, because no person, institution, or law, can bind the hands of the Commander-in-Chief in wartime.

Marty Lederman has rightly called this memo "the source of the Nile for the abuse that occurred in Iraq in 2003." The memo (available here and here) is also the smoking gun that places Yoo, and co-conspirator Steven Bradbury, in the cross-hairs of future domestic prosecution. As discussed by Scott Horton:
Yoo and Bradbury are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law and may be chargeable in connection with the underlying crimes. And indeed, while Michael Mukasey certainly won’t charge these cases, the Attorney General he cited to the Judiciary Committee as his personal model, Robert H. Jackson, absolutely would. In fact, we can cut from the speculative: he did.

The case is called United States v. Altstoetter and the defendants in that case include two officials of the Justice Department who gave erroneous advice under international humanitarian law which led to more than a thousand persons being tortured or shot. The sentence? Ten years, less time served. And in fact the lawyers got off lightly– they were released after seven years for good behavior.