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, September 29, 2008

A Colonel Takes on the Torturers: More on SERE Torture Details

Posted by Valtin at 12:06 AM |

At the center of the bottom of the lowest circle of hell, one finds the souls abandoned to torture. They are placed so far from heaven and earth because they are totally forgotten. The witnessing of their torture is almost unnoticed, trivial, when matched against the "great" issues of the day.

And so it was that in a week of elections, economic meltdowns, and other shenanigans, a lonely U.S. Senator sat alone in the hearing room of his own committee and listened to an Air Force instructor and sometime historian, Col. Steven Kleinman, tell his fantastic tale of witnessing the migration of SERE-style torture to Iraq. Kleinman's testimony belies years of excuses from the government that claims Abu Ghraib's "excesses" were merely the work of a "few bad apples," or "behavioral drift" at worst.

Joby Warrick at the Washington Post told the story in his article, "Air Force Instructor Details Harsh Interrogations."
In dramatic testimony before a Senate panel yesterday... [Kleinman] gave a rare account of how the Pentagon adapted an Air Force training program to squeeze information from captured Iraqis.

What Kleinman witnessed in Baghdad in September 2003 prompted him to order a stop to three interrogations, and to warn his superiors that the military's interrogation practices were abusive and, in his opinion, illegal.

"I told the task force commander that the methods were unlawful and were in violation of the Geneva Conventions," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator Carl Levin's Committee has already established that techniques from the Defense Department's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program had been reverse-engineered by military psychologists into an "exploitation" or torture program of purported interrogation techniques. These techniques -- stress position, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, beatings, and more -- were gathered secondary to a Cold War propaganda program regarding "brainwashing" by the Soviets and Chinese, which programmatic elements were debunked by the government's own researchers. But never mind, the torture inoculation program continued for decades.

In 2003, Col. Kleinman, a long-time intelligence officer, was working with the Air Force Combat Interrogation Course and was DOD Senior Intelligence Officer for Special Survival Training. As of 2006, he was Reserve Senior Intelligence Officer and Mobilization Augmentee to the Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, HQ Air Force Special Operations Command. He is also an independent contractor for the MITRE Corporation, which works on "scientific" ways to "educe information" from prisoners.

The Colonel Says No to Torture

According to an AP report:
The special forces task force asked Kleinman's team to teach them the interrogation methods used in the SERE course. Kleinman refused. He was overruled by the task force's lawyers.

They then demanded that Kleinman's team demonstrate the techniques on an Iraqi prisoner. Kleinman again refused and again was overruled, according to testimony from retired Air Force Col. John Moulton II, Kleinman's commander at the time as the head of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

The interrogation went forward. Kleinman stopped it. He and his team subsequently were sent home by the task force, according to Moulton.
According to the Washington Post article, Kleinman "was shocked in 2003 to see the same harsh methods used haphazardly on Iraqis in a U.S. prison camp." The colonel said he witnessed detainees being slapped repeatedly, subjected to sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, and stripped naked.

Col. Kleinman's protests to his superiors went unheeded. They agreed the "techniques" violated Geneva, but by then the government already had in place cover-your-ass legal memos citing the abuse of detainees as "legal" because they were "unlawful enemy combatants."

I commend Col. Kleinman for coming forward to testify, and for his actions protesting the torture of prisoners. However, I wish someone had asked him whether, as military trainer for JPRA, he or Moulton had knowledge of DoD's approach to JPRA/SERE in December 2001 about ways to utilize SERE's "exploitation" techniques in the interrogation of prisoners in Afghanistan. (I also wish someone had asked if contracting interrogators, such as those from CACI or Titan, had any contact with the SERE instructors.)

The timeline is of some importance, because it would prove criminal malfeasance by the administration in abusing prisoners prior to any determination (not made by them until February 2002) that such prisoners were "unlawful enemy combatants," and therefore a clear violation of international and domestic war crimes laws.

Kleinman's Revisionist History

While praising Col. Kleinman's stance in Iraq, I take exception to his description of the origins of SERE techniques. From the WP article:
Kleinman said the Air Force's training program was distorted into an offensive program. He noted that the harsh techniques were adapted from torture methods used by Chinese communists, and were never regarded as useful in eliciting intelligence. Instead, they break a prisoner psychologically and make him eager to say anything to stop the pain.
I have painstakingly documented elsewhere statements by U.S. researchers at the time (1950s) that Soviet and Chinese interrogation techniques were nothing unusual, and SERE techniques didn't necessarily derive from them. U.S. researcher Albert Biderman explained, in a 1957 essay entitled "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War." Regarding the origin of communist interrogation methods, Biderman and his colleagues, working for the Air Force, concluded (emphases added):
It is that the finding of our studies which should be greeted as most new and spectacular is the finding that essentially there was nothing new or spectacular about the events we studied. We found, as did other studies such as those of Hinkle and Wolff, that human behavior could be manipulated within a certain range by controlled environments. We found that the Chinese Communists used methods of coercing behavior from our men in their hands which Communists of other countries had employed for decades and which police and inquisitors had employed for centuries....

It should be understood that only a few of the Air Force personnel who encountered efforts to elicit false confessions in Korea were subjected to really full dress, all-out attempts to make them behave in the manner I have sketched. The time between capture and repatriation for many was too short, and, presumably, the trained interrogators available to the Communists too few, to permit this.
While the origin of inhumane treatment may be a marginal issue for most, it is important to understand because discussion and utilization of modern torture techniques by the United States has, since its inception, been linked to disinformation by the government. In the case of the 1950s, the "brainwashing" scare, regarding POWs in the Korean War, was linked to a massive cover-up of the use of biological weapons by the United States in that conflict. See my article covering this aspect of the story, posted last July.

Kleinman's historical bias surfaced, as well, in an essay published in an essay on the CIA's KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual he wrote in 2006 for the Intelligence Science Board's report, "Educing Information." In it, he makes, for a historian, a remarkable statement:
The KUBARK manual offers unique and exceptional insights into the complex challenges of educing information from a resistant source through noncoercive means. While it addresses the use of coercive methods, it also describes how those methods may prove ultimately counterproductive. Although criticized for its discussion of coercion, the KUBARK manual does not portray coercive methods as a necessary — or even viable — means of effectively educing information. [p. 133]
Not necessary? The CIA manual expends twenty percent of its exposition upon coercive interrogation techniques. Not viable? Here's what the manual has to say about the "counterproductive" methods of torture:
Psychologists and others who write about physical or psychological duress frequently object that under sufficient pressure subjects usually yield but that their ability to recall and communicate information accurately is as impaired as the will to resist. This pragmatic objection has somewhat the same validity for a counterintelligence interrogation as for any other. But there is one significant difference. Confession is a necessary prelude to the CI interrogation of a hitherto unresponsive or concealing source.
Col. Kleinman stubbornly maintains that torture doesn't work, that torture, as he put it in an interesting interview, is poor at gaining operational information, and "largely counterproductive in that... [it] stiffen[s] the resolve of detainees under questioning and undermine[s] the stature of the U.S. on the world stage." Of course, Kleinman is correct, in so far as it goes.

But he seems to misunderstand the purpose of torture on a larger, political, military-operational scale. He misunderstands the use of torture to cow the populace, an important component of counterinsurgency work. He minimizes the opinion of many of his colleagues over the decades who in fact approved of coercive methodology. He would do well to study the techniques of Edward Lansdale, applied in the Philippines and Vietnam over a 20 year period, as described in John Prados's recent book, Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Like Kleinman, Lansdale was an Air Force officer. (He was also a CIA officer.)

I am in agreement with Col. Kleinman (it goes without saying) that torture is morally wrong, illegal, and should never be used. But I wonder how this military intelligence officer could work so long for special forces, intelligence agencies, and the military, and not understand the coercive nature of U.S. foreign and military policy in general. Perhaps Col. Kleinman could take on, as another project, a study of the use of torture by the U.S. in Vietnam, either directly, or in supervision of their Vietnamese allies. (He could title the paper, "Barriers to Success: Critical Challenges in Understanding the Current and Long-Standing Educing Information Paradigm.")

How SERE Took Over

For me, the picture is getting quite clear. When Bush initiated his "war on terror" in 2001, it consisted in sending in special operations forces into Afghanistan. This small scale kind of intervention on the ground was congruent with Rumsfeld's go-small kind of military. But special operations combat teams, while peppered with CIA personnel, like the ill-fated Johnny Spann, did not have the expertise in interrogating large groups of prisoners. There was a CIA program of psychological torture, exemplified by sensory deprivation, isolation, and the physical weakening or debility of the body (possibly through drugs), all meant to induce fear, psychological dependency and a weakened will in a prisoner. The program had been constructed by psychologists and psychiatrists as one outcome of the CIA's notorious MK-ULTRA program. It was codified in the CIA's KUBARK manual.

But the Special Ops teams in Afghanistan either didn't know KUBARK, or didn't have time to construct the proper environment for that kind of treatment. So they turned to the SERE program, who, as recent documents have made clear, aggressively courted the military for the assignment of reverse-engineering SERE and teaching it as coercive interrogation (i.e., torture). The Department of Defense and the White House, in a panic after 9/11, and staffed by incompetents and careerists with little sense of history or legal process, pushed the SERE-related torture, and then had their attorneys write memos to cover themselves legally after the fact.

The SERE-style techniques took off, though there was protest from interrogation professionals, like Kleinman, who well understood the counterproductive nature of that kind of treatment. Only later, as the CIA began to establish control over the "war on terror," and built a network of secret black prisons, did the SERE techniques recede somewhat into the background. A parallel process occurred at Guantanamo. The CIA utilized the worst of the SERE techniques, such as waterboarding, and propagated wide-scale knowledge of their use, mainly to instill fear of such treatment in prisoners, knowing full-well that induction of fear is a far more "effective" technique than physical brutality itself. At Guantanamo, a KUBARK-style prison routine was implemented, based upon isolation, psychological derangement, and the inculcation of dependency.

The Historical Meaning of Torture

Facts don't fall out of the sky. They are gathered based upon hypotheses, and if you are a historian or a social critic, with some narrative in mind. In a stepwise process of induction and deduction, one tries to determine what has actually occurred. The use of torture by the United States can only be understood as part of a decades long official program, involving well-funded covert study by the military and the academic establishment -- primarily physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists -- in addition to the implementation of this program in a number of operational theaters, including Vietnam, Central and South America, Afghanistan, and the Middle East (among others).

The use of torture is closely tied to U.S. foreign policy goals. It is good to see the U.S. Senate try to take on the Pentagon and executive branch generally over this uncivil, criminal activity. Military critics, like Kleinman, or psychologist Michael Gelles, are to be commended for standing up against tremendous internal pressures within the organizations to which they belong. I also salute the courageous military attorneys working for little recompense and against tremendous odds to defend the charges made against the pariah-prisoners at Guantanamo, held without recourse to basic human rights.

I would hope all critics would agree that something as basic as stopping or banning torture involves both operational and political changes of a profound nature. One cannot happen without the other. And neither will happen, as the path of these investigations and hearings makes clear, without significant political, and perhaps, social struggle.

Also posted at Never In Our Names and Invictus

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

SASC Hits Paydirt: Full Story on SERE Torture Timeline Emerges

Posted by Valtin at 3:53 PM |

I have not had enough time to digest the wealth of new documents recently declassified by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in conjunction with their hearings today constituting Part II of an investigation into the organization of torture and abuse of detainees in Bush's "war on terror." Today's hearing concentrated on the migration of these techniques to Iraq.

The number of revelations is already startling, and it's hard to know where to begin. Since I took Senator Carl Levin to task for his rendition of the torture timeline as presented after Part I of the hearings, I think it's fair to give Sen. Levin the chance to describe the fuller story as it is now emerging. This is from his opening statement today. Noting, first, that the first set of hearings established that techniques from the Defense Department's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program had been reverse-engineered by military psychologists into an "exploitation" or torture program of purported interrogation techniques, Levin continued:
While some have claimed that detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were simply the result of a few bad apples acting on their own, at our June hearing we heard that as far back as December 2001, senior Department of Defense officials, including from General Counsel William J. “Jim” Haynes’s office, sought out information from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), the DoD agency responsible for overseeing SERE training. We heard how, when he later reviewed a request from Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) to use techniques similar to those used in SERE training, Mr. Haynes ignored strong concerns from the military services that some of the techniques were illegal, cut short an effort by the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct a legal and policy review of the techniques, and recommended that the Secretary of Defense approve most of them for use against detainees. In December 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld approved Mr. Haynes’s recommendation, sending the message that stripping detainees, placing them in stress positions, and using dogs to intimidate them was acceptable. Policies authorizing some of those same abusive techniques in Afghanistan and Iraq followed the Secretary’s decision. We’ll hear this morning how one military commander in Iraq sought and obtained interrogation support from JPRA, an agency whose expertise, again, is in teaching soldiers to resist abusive interrogations conducted by our enemies.
"Strong concerns" from some in the military about the illegality of the techniques; the spiking of an internal legal and policy review; the migration of SERE techniques to Iraq, demolishing the official narrative that the torture at Abu Ghraib was the work of a few bad apples; these are only some of the juicy items awaiting reporters and other intrepid investigators who pursue the documents coming out of today's hearing.

"We stand ready to assist..."

Of course, I was pleased to see that my insistence on taking the Bush Administration's torture timeline back to December 2001, following upon Lt. Col. (Ret.) Baumgartner's revelations at the last SASC hearing, is gratifying. I will not, however, dwell upon this too long. Whatever reason the committee was not able to emphasize this earlier is far secondary to the truth as it is now emerging.

But the one document produced from the December 2001 contact -- a fax cover sheet from the Pentagon's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), sent from "Lt. Col. Dan Baumgartner" to "Mr. Richard Shiffrin," who worked for Haynes's in Rumsfeld's DoD General Council office -- introduces a theme of aggressive courting by JPRA/SERE personnel to take on the interrogations/exploitation task:
Mr. Shiffrin --
Here's our spin on exploitation. If you need experts to facilitate this process, we stand ready to assist. There are not many in DoD outside of JPRA that have the level of expertise we do in exploitation and how to resist it.
This theme of JPRA pushing SERE expertise surfaces in Iraq a little less than two years later. A September 9, 2003 email from Col. Randy Moulton, Commander of JPRA to Col. Mike Okita and a redacted addressee (could this be Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who, coming from his command in Guantanamo, on September 9 was just concluding his evaluation of interrogation procedures in Iraq) again makes the same point about JPRA "expertise". (For a sample of this expertise, check out my earlier essay, "Nuts & Bolts: How U.S. Organized Torture Program.")
There is a strong synergy between the fundamentals of both missions (resistance training and interrogation). Both rely heavily on environmental conditions, captivity psychology, and situation dominance and control. While I think this probably lies within DHS responsibility lines, recent history (to include discussions with DHS, USSOCOM, CIA) shows that no DoD entity has a firm grasp on any comprehensive approach to strategic debriefing/interrogation. Our subject matter experts (and certain Service SERE psychologist) have the most knowledge and depth within DoD on the captivity environment and exploitation.
I would remind my readers here that SERE exploitation famously includes the use of physical assault, stress positions, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, sensory overload, and other forms of physical and psychological torture.

The treasure chest of interviews and documents that came out of the today's hearings will keep me and other investigators plenty busy in days to come. I'm certain I, for instance, will have more to say about this "certain Service SERE psychologist" in the near future. (Is he Bruce Jessen, implicated in earlier investigations as propagating SERE techniques to interrogators, and as a then-member of JPRA, a recipient of an April 2002 email from Moulton?)

Stay tuned.

How the Mainstream Press Covered Today's Hearings

Meanwhile, the New York Times and the Washington Post both already have their own stories out on today's hearings.

From the NY Times piece, written by Mark Mazzetti:
WASHINGTON — Senior White House officials played a central role in deliberations in the spring of 2002 about whether the Central Intelligence Agency could legally use harsh interrogation techniques while questioning an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, according to newly released documents....
The meetings were led by Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, and attended by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top administration officials....
Mr. Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said the new documents showed that top Bush administration officials were more actively engaged in the debate about the limits of lawful interrogation than the White House had previously acknowledged.

“So far, there has been little accountability at higher levels,” Mr. Levin said.
The Washington Post story, written by Joby Warrick, amplifies this aspect of the story:
The details of the controversial program were discussed in multiple meetings inside the White House over a two-year period, triggering concerns among several officials who worried that the agency's methods might be illegal or violate anti-torture treaties, according to separate statements signed by Rice and her top legal adviser.

"I expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations," John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Rice at the State Department and formerly her top legal aide at the National Security Council, said in written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee....

The written accounts specifically name former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as participants in the discussions...
The noose is tightening around the criminals who brazenly thought they could get away with torturing individuals with impunity. I am heartened by today's hearings that moral elements within both civil and military departments of government, and in society generally, will not let this terrible blot on our country go unanswered. To do so would be to fall into the abyss. We've looked into that deep, dizzying vortex lately, and I don't think any of us likes what we see.

Also posted at Invictus

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Insurgent Psychologists Win Key Anti-Torture Vote

Posted by Valtin at 12:50 AM |

The Election Committee of the American Psychological Association announced today that the referendum of APA members, in regards to prohibiting psychologist participation in settings where human rights violations take place, has passed with almost 60% of the vote. The total vote, which took place by mail ballot and closed officially on September 15, exceeded the total number of votes cast in the 2005 and 2007 APA presidential elections, and recent by-law votes. The vote turnout clearly indicates a great deal of interest in the interrogations issue by the membership.

The vote for the referendum represents an important victory for anti-torture, civil liberties forces, both inside and outside the APA. Dan Aalbers, one of the authors of the referendum text, and who along with psychologists Ruth Fallenbaum, Brad Olson, and Ghislaine Boulanger, was one of the members of Psychologists for an Ethical APA who worked hard to secure the measure's passage, in a phone interview called the vote "a decisive victory.... Now we have to work to ensure that APA bows to the will of its members."

The election also included a ballot for APA president. Steven Reisner was running a candidacy that uniquely targeted the APA position on allowing psychologists to act in support of military and national security interrogations. There is currently no word on the results of the presidential race.

Meanwhile, the APA Office of Public Affairs has released a statement, "APA Members Approve Petition Resolution on Detainee Settings." (A link is not yet available.) In their press release, APA's leadership, who had largely opposed the resolution, noted the results and then reminded everyone they would move forward on this member-initiated policy change with all deliberate slowness:
Per the Association's Rules and Bylaws, the resolution will become official APA policy as of the Association's next annual meeting, which will take place in August 2009. At that time, the APA Council of Representatives will also determine what further action may be necessary to implement the policy.
The Art of Spinning

Per their press release on the matter, the APA recognizes the new resolution represents "a significant change in APA's policy regarding the involvement of psychologists in interrogations." At the same time, an attempt is made to link this new policy to APA's previous flawed anti-torture resolutions. Again, per APA's press release (emphasis added):
This new petition resolution expands on the 2007 APA resolution, which called on the U.S. government to ban at least 19 specific abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that are regarded as torture by international standards. The 2007 resolution also recognized that "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment can result not only from the behavior of individuals, but also from the conditions of confinement," and expressed "grave concern over settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights."
"Grave concern"? Not enough to pull psychologists out of such settings where the U.S. government still practices psychological torture techniques, including isolation, manipulation of environment, threats, sensory manipulation, sleep deprivation, and rendition to countries that torture.

The APA leadership should consider this: their membership has decisively voted to end the policy of bogus "concern" and implement a policy of withdrawal and prohibition. Not to act on such a clear statement by the membership -- especially on a matter concerning basic human rights and the suffering of individuals -- places the leadership in a moral and possibly legal morass from which the membership may yet choose to extract them, and sooner rather than later.

At the very least, we should now see statements from Stephen Behnke, Ethics Director at APA, promoting the new policy of APA. According to a Q&A to members about the petition resolution made last July, here's what's supposed to happen when/if the resolution passed:
Q: If adopted, would this resolution become APA policy?

Yes, if adopted the resolution would become official APA policy.

Q: If adopted would the petition amend the APA Ethics Code?

The petition as written has been interpreted as an attempt to set forth new APA policy but not amend the Ethics Code....

Q: If adopted would the petition be enforceable by APA?

As explained above, the petition would not become part of the APA Ethics Code nor be enforceable as are prohibitions set forth in the Ethics Code. Such amendments to the Ethics Code require a more deliberative process and by rule must include review by the full APA governance and a public comment period. However, the resolution would become APA policy. APA communicates its policy statements broadly to media, legislators and the public. Policy statements can be considered by the Ethics Committee in adjudicating cases. They may also be considered by third parties in their engagement of, interaction with or employment of psychologists.
Upon initial examination, it seems the APA is spinning the the referendum as somehow a logical extension of previous APA policy (when in fact it opposed it), while attempting to shelve the new policy as long as it can. They say the resolution cannot be submitted to APA Council for consideration until the next "annual meeting," i.e., next August. But the Council of Representatives always has a meeting in February (see this APA Governance webpage).

Of course, APA leadership will try to convince the unwitting that it is too late to get this matter on the February meeting agenda. But then, the APA bureaucracy is expert in delay tactics and obfuscation and double-talk. As it is, their current position now gives APA and military/CIA lawyers another 11 months to try and figure out how to minimize or distort this new APA policy the best they can. APA members should not allow this to happen.

What Happens Now?

To understand what the vote means, let us revisit the language of its text. Here is the key section:
Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.
A footnote to this section adds, "It is understood that military clinical psychologists would still be available to provide treatment for military personnel."

One thing the resolution does not mean is an immediate pullout of psychologists from sites where human rights violations take place. Psychologists like U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, a former but now resigned APA member, still staff the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Lt. Col. Zierhoffer exercised her Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions about her participation in the interrogation of controversial "child soldier" Guantanamo prisoner Mohammad Jawad. Her refusal to answer questions about her actions -- Zierhoffer is accused of signing off on keeping Jawad in solitary confinement, despite his mental deterioration -- was widely noted and condemned,
The psychologist’s testimony would have marked the first time that a member of the secretive Behavioral Science Consultation Team (known as BSCT or “biscuits”) had been called to testify in a detainee hearing. The BSCT program has been highly controversial among psychologists and other health professionals....

“The fact that the BSCT Psychologist now apparently recognizes that her conduct was criminal in nature is very significant,” said Maj. Frakt. “We have alleged, based on classified government records that the BSCT psychologist's recommendation led directly to the illegal abuse and inhumane treatment of Mohammad Jawad. This invocation of the right to remain silent seems to confirm that.”
If the resolution won't get Zierhoffer and her cohorts out of the BSCTs, or kicked out of CIA secret prison sites, or pulled from operational interrogation roles with U.S. Special Operation teams, what will it do?

The resolution is aimed at changing the official policy of the American Psychological Association when it comes to supporting the presence of psychologists at U.S. detention sites in the "war on terror." APA leadership has long maintained that the presence of psychologists at sites like Guantanamo help make prisoners safer, less prone to abuse. In their official statement in support of the petition, the referendum authors defended the need for change in APA policy.
Psychologists, as “consultants”, have been active in interrogations that have brought about extreme forms of torture. In at least one of these cases, the psychologist advocated for an escalation to even more extreme 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'

Psychologists have also played a critical role in this administration's legal defense of torture. Justice Department lawyers have argued that torture can only take place if the perpetrator intends to cause 'prolonged mental harm' which, in turn, is measured by a subsequent diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychologists instead routinely provide diagnoses other than posttraumatic stress disorder, thus giving the illusion of safety and legal cover in otherwise objective instances of “torture”. Moreover, psychologists play a role in maintaining the conditions of detention, for instance, by removing “comfort items” such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap.

In settings that fail to meet basic standards of international law, it is unrealistic to rely on psychologists to challenge their superiors, report on violations, and protect abused detainees. We know, from decades of psychological research, that good people do bad things in bad situations. Psychologists are no less vulnerable to “behavioral drift” than others, particularly when subject to the chain of command in the closed environment of a geographically isolated detention center.
It is now incumbent upon APA as an organization to implement the policy voted upon by a notable majority of their membership via free election. The APA must notify all relevant parties -- the Pentagon, the President, the CIA -- that it is now the position of the APA that psychologists not be utilized at settings where detainees are not allowed rights such as habeas corpus, and where abusive conditions of detention and coercive interrogation are well documented.

More, the APA should communicate the new policy statement broadly to media, legislators and the public. This APA has previously promised to do. They must not be allowed to bury the will of the APA membership. Members who have been withholding their dues in protest of APA policy should wait to see if APA has any real intention of implementing this new policy.

I suspect that APA will continue to procrastinate, as they have done with the so-called ethics casebook called for multiple times over the years (last at the 2007 APA convention). (The deadline for submissions of suggestions for such an ethics casebook was recently extended until the end of 2008.)

The reason for all the delays? The APA is deeply enmeshed in the governmental apparatus of military and intelligence organizations, while also serving varied private consultation and "scientific" organizations, and academia, all under the auspices of serving the national security state. Hence, APA belongs to a wide-ranging set of special interests, which forms an extremely formidable opposition to those who would fundamentally change the policies and personnel responsible for the institution of a world-wide network of secret prisons and institutionalized torture.

My congratulations on the referendum vote extends beyond those activists who wrote and campaigned for it to APA members, who showed themselves, in their majority, ready and willing to oppose the unethical and pro-military stance of their organizational leadership, and call for an end to the cooperation of the medical and psychological professions with Bush's illegal and inhumane interrogation program.

Also posted at Invictus

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The DDD State Takes a Hit

Posted by Michael Otterman at 8:42 PM |

The CIA's 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual advises that:
If the debility–dependency–dread state is unduly prolonged, the subject may sink into a defensive apathy from which it is hard to arouse him. It is advisable to have a psychologist available whenever regression is induced. [Page k-3]
Today, it will become a lot harder-- if not impossible-- for psychologists to further supervise torture in US interrogation centers. Last week, an American Psychological Association resolution passed 8,792 to 6,157 banning psychologists from working in places where human rights are violated-- except for groups like the Red Cross that work to protect human rights.

This important policy shift-- which received notable press coverage-- finally brings APA policy in line with the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association. The member-driven initiative was spearheaded, among others, by anti-torture mavericks Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner and Jeff Kaye-- psychologists that have refused to stand by while the Bush Administration dragged their profession into the dark side. Thus the pendulum swings back towards the side of justice-- tell Cheney the dark side just got a bit brighter.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Victim of Rendition and Torture Freed from Guantánamo

Posted by Andy Worthington at 3:25 AM |

As published on the website of Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files.

News that three more prisoners have been released from Guantánamo is cause for celebration, as all three men should never have been held in the first place. In a report to follow, I’ll look at the stories of the two Afghans released -- one a simple farmer, the other a juvenile at the time he was seized -- but for now I’m going to focus on the extraordinary story of the prisoner released to Pakistan, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, whose grotesque mistreatment involves “extraordinary rendition” and torture spanning several continents.

A Pakistani-Egyptian national and the son of an Islamic scholar, Madni was 24 years old when he arrested in Jakarta by the Indonesian authorities on January 9, 2002, after a request from the CIA. He was then rendered to Egypt, apparently at the urging of the Egyptian authorities, working in cooperation with the CIA. In Egypt, he was tortured for three months, and was flown back to Afghanistan on April 12, 2002 with Mamdouh Habib, an Australian prisoner, seized in Pakistan, who was released in January 2005, and who has spoken at length about his torture in Egypt. Eleven months later, Madni was transferred to Guantánamo.

Although Madni did not speak about his treatment during any of his military reviews at Guantánamo, several prisoners confirmed that he was tortured by the Egyptians. Rustam Akhmyarov, a Russian prisoner released in 2004, said that Madni told him of his time “in an underground cell in Egypt, where he never saw the sun and where he was tortured until he confessed to working with Osama bin Laden,” and added that he “recalled how he was interrogated by both Egyptian and US agents in Egypt and that he was blindfolded, tortured with electric shocks, beaten and hung from the ceiling.”

Akhmyarov also said that Madni was in a particularly bad mental and physical state in Guantánamo, where he “was passing blood in his faeces,” and recalled that he overheard US officials telling him, “we will let you go if you tell the world everything was fine here.” Mamdouh Habib confirmed Akhmyarov's analysis, recalling how Madni had “pleaded for human interaction.” He said that he overheard him saying, ”Talk to me, please talk to me ... I feel depressed ... I want to talk to somebody ... Nobody trusts me.” On the 191st day of his incarceration, according to Madni’s own account, he attempted to commit suicide.

The Tipton Three -- Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, British citizens released in 2004 -- also recalled Madni in Guantánamo (PDF). They said that “he had had electrodes put on his knees: and that “something had happened to his bladder and he had problems going to the toilet,” but explained that he had been told by interrogators that he would not receive treatment unless he cooperated with them, in which case he would be “first in line for medical treatment.”

Quite what Madni was supposed to have done to justify this torture and abuse was never adequately explained at Guantánamo. The US authorities urged the Indonesians to arrest him after they claimed to have discovered documents that linked him to Richard Reid, the inept and mentally troubled British “shoe bomber,” who was arrested, and later received a life sentence, for attempting to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001, but Madni persistently denied the connections. In his Combatant Status Review Tribunal -- in which he pointed out that he is from a wealthy and influential family, is fluent in nine languages and is a renowned Islamic scholar -- he maintained that he was betrayed by one of four radical Islamists whom he met by accident on a trip to Indonesia in November 2001 to sort out family business after his father's death.

This account was backed up during an investigation by the Washington Post, who concluded that he rented a house in Jakarta, and did nothing more sinister than visiting the local mosque, handing out business cards “identifying him as a Koran reader for an Islamic radio station,” and spending “hours on end watching television at a friend's house.” Succinctly summing up what happened to him, he told his tribunal, “After I went to Indonesia, I got introduced to some people who were not good. They were bad people. Maybe I can say they were terrorists. When someone gets introduced to someone, it is not written on their foreheads that they are bad or good.”

According to Ray Bonner of the New York Times, the entire basis for Madni’s capture, rendition and torture was that Madni, described by an uncle in Lahore as a young man who “had a childish habit of trying to portray himself as important,” had made the mistake of telling the men he had met -- members of the Islamic Defender Front, an organization that espoused anti-Americanism, but had not been involved in an terrorist attacks -- that bombs could be hidden in shoes.

The comment was picked up by Indonesian intelligence agents, who were monitoring the men, and was relayed to the CIA, who decided to pick him up after Richard Reid’s failed shoe bomb attack a few weeks later. Although a US intelligence official confirmed Madni’s uncle’s account, calling Madni a “blowhard,” who “wanted us to believe he was more important than he was,” and another thought that he would be held for a few days, “then booted out of jail,” more senior officials clearly had other plans. Madni’s six and a half year ordeal, therefore, was based on a single ill-advised comment.

If Madni’s family are sufficiently well connected, it may well be that we haven’t heard the last of this particular story of the gruesome impact of torture arrangements between the United States and Egypt, based on inadequate intelligence, and the quiescent role of the Indonesian authorities. On the other hand, Madni, if released in Pakistan, may just want to rebuild his life in seclusion. This would be understandable, of course, but his abominable treatment deserves to be more than a mere footnote in the history of the Bush administration’s vile and unprincipled policies of “extraordinary rendition” and torture.

This article draws extensively on passages in my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sign Petition to Help Guantanamo "Child Prisoner" Mohammad Jawad

Posted by Valtin at 10:47 AM |

Last week I publicized the extraordinary appeal campaign for Guantanamo detainee Mohammad Jawad initiated by his military attorneys. Jawad, who was arrested as a teenager in Afghanistan in December 2002, is the first child soldier to be tried as a "war criminal" in modern times. In U.S. custody, he has suffered beatings, threats, physical isolation, sleep deprivation, been subjected to 24-hour bright lights, and more. His attorneys have called for letters to be written to the Convening Authority at Guanatanamo, asking them to withdraw and dismiss the charges against Jawad.

Now, his attorneys have initiated an online petition campaign in his behalf. You can follow this link to go straight to the petition. Please sign it and pass the info on to whomever you can.

The latest news in the Jawad case is that Susan Crawford, the Convening Authority for the Military Tribunals at Guantanamo, has denied Major David Frakt's request for a face-to-face meeting with the defense. It is more important now then ever that we let the powers that be at Guantanamo and in the Pentagon know that we condemn this miscarriage of justice.

From the petition's appeal:
Mohammad Jawad is one of two juveniles captured in the war in Afghanistan to face charges before military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammad Jawad is charged with attempted murder stemming from a hand-grenade attack forces in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 17, 2002 in which two U.S. special forces soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were injured. Charges were referred to trial by the Convening Authority (the senior official in the military commissions) in January 2008. Since that time, significant new evidence has come to light casting doubt on Mr. Jawad's involvement in the attack. Additionally, significant evidence has come to light about the torture and abuse Mr. Jawad has suffered during his detention at Bagram Prison and Guantanamo Bay over the last 5 years and 8 months.

The charges against Mr. Jawad are unsupported under international law. Charging a child soldier with war crimes is unprecedented in modern history. The military judge has ordered the Convening Authority to reconsider her decision to refer the charges to trial and has afforded the defense an opportunity to submit written matters to the Convening Authority for her consideration. This petition drive and an associated letter-writing campaign are part of the defense efforts to persuade the Convening Authority to drop the charges. Thank you for your support.
The good folks at Cageprisoners.com have posted a sample letter with talking points on the case. Did you know, for instance...
Significant doubt exists about Mohammad Jawad’s role in the grenade attack of December 17, 2007:
· Afghan Interior Minister Taj Wardak publicly stated in a press conference on December 18, 2008 that three men were arrested, one teenager and two adults, in connection with the attack, and all three men had confessed their role. Only one hand grenade was thrown.

· Contemporaneous press accounts and military incident reports all indicate there were multiple perpetrators involved in the attack, and that more than one person was arrested.

· The adult perpetrators of the attack are not in U.S. custody and have not been brought to justice for their role in the attack.

· According to Mohammad Jawad, he was forcibly drugged for weeks prior to the attack including on the day of the attack. Several officials involved in interrogating Mohammad Jawad after the attack, both Afghani and American, observed that he appeared to be under the influence of drugs or going through withdrawal from drugs.

· The case against Mohammad Jawad relies almost entirely on a “confession” purportedly taken from Mohammad Jawad by Afghan authorities on December 17, 2002. According to Mohammad Jawad, he was subjected to both physical abuse and coerced by threats while in Afghan police custody. The confession itself was not written by Mohammad Jawad, who was functionally illiterate, and bears only his thumbprint. The confession is not even written in Mohammad Jawad’s native language of Pashto. Virtually all of the independently verifiable facts in the so-called confession are demonstrably false....

· Mohammad Jawad has been interrogated approximately 36 times at Guantanamo. In all of these interrogation sessions, he has never admitted throwing the hand grenade and has affirmatively and adamantly denied it, despite the use of illegal “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Mohammad Jawad, the same techniques which have broken hardened terrorists. Some of the interrogators and even the Combatant Status Review Tribunal have expressed doubt as to whether he threw the hand grenade.

· Mohammad Jawad is the only person charged under the MCA who is not even alleged to have any affiliation with al Qaida or the Taliban.

· No one died in the attack allegedly perpetrated by Mohammad Jawad. The injuries sustained by the two Special Forces soldiers in the attack, while painful, were not life-threatening. Both soldiers have been fully rehabilitated. One is back on active duty with the military and the other is a police officer in California. The Afghan interpreter received a humanitarian visa to the United States and has resettled permanently in Virginia.

· Significant doubt exists over whether the commission has jurisdiction over the alleged offense of Mohammad Jawad. Hand grenades are lawful weapons and uniformed soldiers in a combat zone are lawful military targets. Mohammad Jawad’s alleged actions are not a violation of the law of war. Even if we assume that he did throw the hand grenade, and was able to form the specific intent to kill the U.S. soldiers, this constitutes the domestic crime of attempted murder, it does not constitute the offense of attempted murder in violation of the law of war.
Mohammad Jawad is a human being -- on the battlefield, a mere teenager kidnapped and forced to fight for an Afghan militia. He has suffered tremendously. You can do something about it. It only takes a minute to sign a petition. You'll rarely have a chance to make so much difference with one minute of your time. Hopefully, you'll be inspired to email the petition link or this article to someone else.

A young man's life, swept up in the chaos and drama of a conflict half a world away, a man who is no terrorist or killer, stands in the balance. On the other side stands the Bush Administration's jerry-rigged, unfair military tribunal system, and its gulag of prisons, adept in the administration of psychological torture, built to extend the dictatorial reach of the President of the United States over every spot in the world.

Drop the charges and release Mohammad Jawad. Close down Guantanamo and the CIA secret prison system. Stop the torture and abuse of detainees.

(Also posted at Invictus)

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