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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Interrogation Psychologists" and the Allure of "National Security Psychology"

Posted by Valtin at 3:30 PM |

Martha Davis Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist and a Visiting Scholar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, has produced an important new documentary, Interrogation Psychologists: The Making of a Professional Crisis”. The film premiered at a conference entitled “The Interrogation and Torture Controversy: Crisis in Psychology,” held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Center on Terrorism in New York City on September 12, 2008.

Dr. Davis describes the documentary:
"In 2005 the American Psychological Association endorsed the participation of military psychologists in detainee interrogations. This policy incited a firestorm of protest within the profession and around the world, but APA officials held fast, contending that the involvement of psychologists insured that interrogations were safe, ethical and effective. With interviews of experts and documentation of communications between APA and government officials, “Interrogation Psychologists” traces the origins of the policy and why the APA risked massive defections for it. The search leads to the emerging field of national security psychology, which has far-reaching implications for intelligence gathering operations and U.S. treatment of prisoners of war.”
The 46 minute long documentary is a fascinating examination of the issues and history involved in the psychologist-ethics-torture debate. The organizational turn of the APA, as exemplified by its policies around interrogations, towards "national security psychology" is what led me to resign from that organization earlier this year. At that time, I wrote:
Unlike some others who have left APA, my resignation is not based solely on the stance APA has taken regarding the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations. Rather, I view APA’s shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden....

In the recently APA published book, Psychology in the Service of National Security (APA Press, 2006), the book’s editor, A. David Mangelsdorff, wrote, “As the military adjusts to its changing roles in the new national security environment, psychologists have much to offer” (p. 237). He notes the recent forward military deployment of psychologists, their use in so-called anti-terrorism research, and assistance in influencing public opinion about “national security problems facing the nation.” L. Morgan Banks, himself Chief of the Psychological Applications Directorate of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, [a former SERE psychologist, and a member of the controversial APA Psychological Ethics and National Security or] PENS panel [in 2005], wrote elsewhere in the same book about the “bright future” (p. 95) for psychologists working with Special Operations Forces.
"Befehl ist Befehl"

The Davis film takes the viewer through the post 9/11 story of the APA, from the introduction of psychologists to the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) in Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Iraq, to the changes in the organization's ethical code which made adherence to military orders a valid option for psychologists, even if such orders went against a professional's ethical code or guidelines.

The primary culprit in this last case was the rewriting of APA's Ethics Code 1.02 back in 2002. It now infamously allows psychologists to obey commands and "governing legal authority," even when an action is at variance with professional ethics, remains a virtual get-out-of-jail card for military psychologists engaged in abusive interrogations. The code, rewritten after 9/11, places into APA's ethics code the Nazis' Nuremberg defense: "I was only following orders" ("Befehl ist Befehl"). The APA promised to insert a qualifying phrase about human rights into 1.02 back in 2006. No action has been taken to date.

Interrogation Psychologists takes the viewer on a guided tour of the political manipulations that guided APA's bureaucracy in the post-9/11 era, through the creation of a mysterious National Security Caucus within APA, and the stacking of the PENS panel that would assess ethical questions in this new national security environment with military and intelligence figures involved in the various dubious ethical misdeeds -- such as directing abusive interrogations at Guantanamo -- taking place under U.S. military and CIA command. Also covered by the documentary is the rise of a critical opposition within APA that would bring about numerous fights over anti-torture resolutions, and ultimately, a successful petition campaign to change APA official policy and pull the psychologists out of national security sites that violated international and domestic human rights laws.

The documentary appears to be a fusillade of sorts against the project of establishing a National Security Psychology (NSP) within the field of psychology proper. Dr. Davis describes NSP as providing jobs and funding for interrogation psychologists, intelligence research, and security screening and assessment. There are millions of dollars to be doled out in coming years, and already plenty of psychologists and psychology schools have lined up to suck up the funds. The greed has already spread down to the layers of the professional school movement, where schools like Pacific Graduate School in Palo Alto, have pitched in with military and CIA researchers to study the psychology of deception for homeland security purposes.

The Rise and Fall of CIFA

Until recently (and possibly still in some kind of existence), there was the Center for National Security Psychology (CNSP), as part of the Behavioral Sciences Directorate at the Department of Defense's agency for Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). Established under Rumsfeld's Pentagon in 2002, CIFA was formally shut down last August, after being associated with scandals over infiltration of U.S. domestic peace groups and charges of domestic spying.

CNSP's chief was CIFA psychologist Kirk Kennedy, who, according to Linkedin, now works for the Defense Intelligence Agency. (I guess if you are a "national security psychologist," there's always some agency that will hire you.) The contributions of "national security psychologists" are not always nefarious. Take this snippet from a review of a talk by Dr. Kennedy at a Special Libraries Association meeting in 2006:
But the similarities between a psychopathic murder, or a suicidal person, to a terrorist are few. Kennedy and other terrorism psychologists believe that terrorism is complex, driven from many factors. One of these factors, though, is not abnormal or psychopathological (that is, the terrorists are NOT crazy)....

Kennedy wants us to understand these cultures and religions rather than declaring the perpetrators as criminals. We have to accept the fact that the actions of terrorists may be explainable but not always understandable.
According to Gulf Times:
The Defence Department said it had “disestablished” the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, or CIFA, created in February 2002 by former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to manage defence and armed service efforts against intelligence threats from foreign powers and groups such as Al Qaeda.

Those responsibilities will now be carried out by a new organisation called the Defence Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, overseen by the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency.

CIFA’s operations stirred concern among members of Congress and civil liberties advocates. A CIFA database known as Talon, set up to monitor threats against US military installations, was found to have retained information on US antiwar protesters including Quakers after they had been found to pose no security danger, officials said.
As Interrogation Psychologists points out, one of the main members of the initial APA policy units looking at national security and interrogations (PENS) was R. Scott Shumate, then director of the psychology unit for CIFA. I don't know if the CNSP still exists, or has migrated over to the new Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center of the Pentagon (DCHIC).

Will Psychologists Really Stop Assisting National Security Interrogations?

The world of national security intelligence is a shadowy one. The spooks who run it never give up, and it is unlikely that the new policy of APA which aims at pulling psychologists from national security interrogation centers in places like Guantanamo will quietly be implemented. What's more likely is that we will see obfuscation, lying, more cover-up, and covert, classified actions that are aimed at keeping counterinsurgency-based torture policies active. Already there are plenty of reports that doctors and psychiatrists have not absented themselves from DoD interrogations, despite the official policies of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association against just such activity.

This is what Jonathan Marks and M. Gregg Bloche had to say in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine:
... documents recently provided to us by the U.S. Army in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) make clear that the Department of Defense still wants doctors to be involved and continues to resist the positions taken by medicine's professional associations. An October 2006 memo entitled "Behavioral Science Consultation Policy" ... fails to mention the APA statement and provides a permissive gloss on the AMA's policy, at some points contradicting it outright. The memo appears to claim that psychiatrists should be able to provide advice regarding the interrogation of individual detainees if they are not providing medical care to detainees, their advice is not based on medical information they originally obtained for medical purposes, and their input is "warranted by compelling national security interests." The advice envisaged by the memo includes "evaluat[ing] the psychological strengths and vulnerabilities of detainees" and "assist[ing] in integrating these factors into a successful interrogation"....

The policy memo also states that a "behavioral science consultant" may not be a "medical monitor during interrogation" and suggests that this is a "healthcare function." However, it appears to authorize monitoring as part of consultants' intelligence functions, since "physicians may protect interrogatees if, by monitoring, they prevent coercive interrogations." It asserts, more specifically, that "the presence of a physician at an interrogation, particularly an appropriately trained psychiatrist, may benefit the interrogatees because of the belief held by many psychiatrists that kind and compassionate treatment of detainees can establish rapport that may result in eliciting more useful information."
The government's position that physicians or psychiatrists can "protect interrogatees" is, of course, the same position taken by the American Psychological Association regarding the use of psychologists in interrogations. Or it was the position until a referendum by APA membership tossed out the old policy and instituted a new policy denying use of psychologists at governmental sites that deny basic human rights and engage in torture or other abusive treatment. How enforceable this policy will be, in the light of government inaction or obstruction, remains an open question. It is particularly unclear what goes on when psychologists work for the CIA, whose very prisons and even prisoners are mostly unknown and secret.

The Case of MKULTRA

It's important to remember, too, that this is not the first spate of scandals regarding the nefarious use of psychological knowledge. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were numerous revelations about CIA's recruitment of psychologists and other human behavior and medical specialists in government mind control programs, e.g. MKULTRA, and research into sensory deprivation and the "breaking" of prisoners. If I had any criticism of Davis's documentary, it was the failure to place the current controversy in the context of the decades-long history of the problem. One place the reader can start is with Patricia Greenfield's article in the APA Monitor (of all places) back in December 1977, CIA's Behavior Caper.
One major component of the CIA's program, dubbed ARTICHOKE, was described in a CIA memo of January 25, 1952, as "the evaluation and development of any method by which we can get information from a person against his will and without his knowledge." An internal review of the terminated ARTICHOKE program, dated January 31, 1975, lists ARTICHOKE methods has having included "the use of drugs and chemicals, hypnosis, and 'total isolation,' a form of psychological harassment." Another major component of the CIA's program, called MKULTRA, explored, according to a memo of August 14, 1963, "avenues to the control of human behavior," including "chemical and biological materials capable of producing human behavioral and physiological changes," "radiology, electro-shock, various fields of psychology, psychiatry, sociology and anthropology, graphology, harassment substances, and paramilitary devices and materials"....

While news of blatant attempts at behavioral control have had immediate shock value, the CIA's support of basic research has had the more lingering effect of posing many difficult and complex questions and issues for psychologists. How were psychologists and other social scientists enlisted by the CIA? What did they do? What, if any, is the scientist's responsibility for the applications of research? How are social scientists affected by social and political forces? What are the implications of covert funding?
Greenfield's questions are still pertinent today. We can add to them now the query as to how long psychologists will play operational roles in abusive interrogations and torture.

Documentaries like Martha Davis's Interrogation Psychologists help to bring the truth about how this process takes place out of the shadows of academia and government agencies into the full light of public exposure. Now it's up to us, the people, to demand an end to this barbarity.

Also posted at Invictus

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

APA Anti-Torture Victory Spurs Pentagon Policy Shift

Posted by Michael Otterman at 9:29 PM |

The recent successful APA resolution banning psychologists from working in places where human rights are violated has spurred significant change in Pentagon policy. A newly reissued Department of Defense interrogation directive, dated 9 October 2008, states:
Behavioral science consultants may not be used to determine detainee phobias for the purpose of exploitation during the interrogation process.
As FAS points out, this new rule-- along with a ban on "SERE techniques" and dogs "used as part of an interrogation approach"--was not listed in a previous edition of the directive. I'd chalk that up as a win for the fighters and supporters of Psychologists for an Ethical APA.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Full Picture of Torture at GTMO and US Naval Brigs Emerges

Posted by Michael Otterman at 8:30 PM |

For the first time, a full picture based on Pentagon operations manuals of the American torture program employed in Guantanamo and domestic torture centers has emerged.

The website of Torturing Democracy, a new essential documentary produced by Washington Associates and the National Security Archive, recently posted the SERE Standard Operating Procedures-- the true smoking gun torture document that describes in detail specific SERE tortures authorized for use at Guantanamo Bay. As noted by Stephen Soldz:
This document clearly specifies that the abusive interrogation techniques to be used at Guantamo [JTF GTMO] are based upon the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape [SERE] program. The document is notable for its documentation of the extent to which abuse was bureaucratically standardized for routine use. Both Katherine Eban and Jane Mayer referred to and described the SERE SOP back in the summer of 2007. A bit of it was included in documents released by the Senate Armed Services Committee June 17, 2008. But the bulk of the text remained classified and unavailable until today. An FBI commentary on the SERE SOP has been available since February 2006 at least, in heavily redacted form which obscured the content, but not the existence of the SOP.
The release of the full SERE SOP-- combined with last year's Wikileaks release of the 2003 Guantanamo SOP-- yields the full picture of human suffering awaiting new arrivals at Department of Defense prison camps.

Following a cavity search, shower, DNA extraction, photograph, and issuance of a wristband, detainees are subjected to "Phase One" of the "Behavior Management Plan" for up to "thirty days or as directed by JIG [Joint Intelligence Group". The manual continues:
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:

(1) Restricted contact: No ICRC or Chaplain contact
(2) No books or mail privileges
(3) MREs for all meals.
(4) Basic comfort items only:
(a) ISO Mat
(b) One blanket
(c) One towel
(d) Toothpaste/finger toothbrush
(e) One Styrofoam cup
(f) Bar of soap
(g) Camp Rules
(h) No Koran, prayer beads, prayer cap.
(5) Mail writing and delivery will be at the direction of the J-2.
After severe isolation, detainees are subject to "Phase Two". According to the SOP:
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:
(1) Continued MSU
(2) Koran, prayer beads and prayer cap distributed by interrogator
(3) Contacts decided by interrogator
(4) Interrogator decides when to move the detainee to general population.
What occurs during actual interrogation sessions-- outside the confines of strict DDD-inspired phase 1 and 2 detention? Now we know. Soldz has painstakingly transcribed the SERE SOP in full. It reads:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

INTERROGATION TACTICS

1. GENERAL STATEMENT

a. This document describes in detail the interrogation tactics authorized for use in detainee interrogation operations at JTF_GTMO and the safety precautions that must be used to prevent injuries. The tactics are the same as those used in U.S. military SERE schools.

b. ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT NOT EXPRESSLY AUTHORIZED HEREIN IS
PROHIBIIED.

c. INTERROGATION TACTICS FOLLOWED BY: ******* MAY ONLY BE USED BY THOSE INIERROGATORS DESIGNATED IN WRITING BY THE ICE CHIEF.

2. INTERROGATION SAFETY

a. Approved interrogation tactics are found in Sections 3-6.

b. Additional safeguards are as follows:

1. Detainee behavior and reactions are continuously observed and evaluated by the interrogator.

2. Both the detainee’s and the interrogators behavior are monitored by the Watch Officer.

3. IT IS CRITICAL THAT INIERROGATORS DO “CROSS THE LINE” WHEN UTILIZING THE TACTICS DESCRIBED BELOW. Therefore, verbal coded messages or nonverbal signals will be used by the Watch Officer (or other interrogators) when giving instructions to adjust interrogation procedure. For example, two kicks on the door indicated the interrogator should discontinue the current approach and move on to another approach. The statement, “Stop wasting time with this pig,” means to discontinue the current training tactic and take a break.

3. DEGRADATION TACTICS

a. SHOULDER SLAP. The shoulder slap is a moderate to hard, glancing blow to the back of the shoulder with an open hand. It is used as an irritant.

b. INSULT SLAP. *****

(1) The insult slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The slap is aimed at the detainee’s cheek only. Contact will be made only with the fingers in the open hand position and the fingers will be slightly spread and relaxed. The slap will be initiated no more than 12-14 inches (or one shoulder width) from the detainee’s face.

To ensure this distance is not exceeded and to preclude any tendency to wind up or uppercut, the slap will be initiated with the slap hand contacting the detainee’s body on the top of the shoulder. The target area is slightly below the cheekbone, away from the eyes and ears. Extreme care must be taken not to strike the lower jaw. Slaps aimed at the ears, mouth, nose eyes or throat are prohibited.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited because the detainee will duck or dodge the slap, creating possibility for an injury. Experience has shown that after a second slap, the effectiveness of the slap tactic is significantly reduced. Interrogators will cease using the slap if detainee begins ducking. At this point, a threatened slap with the hand will achieve the same purpose as a slap. Blows with the back of the hand, fists, elbows, feet and knees are prohibited. Insult slaps are only to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

C. STOMACH SLAP. ******

(1) As with the insult slap, the stomach slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The tactic is delivered with the back of the bare hand. The slap will be directed towards the center of the abdomen. The detainee will not be struck in the solar plexus, ribs, sides, and kidneys or below the navel. The slap will not be performed against the bare skin. Slaps will be initiated with the interrogator’s upper arm parallel to his/her body, extending the striking hand in a swinging motion to the target area. Detainees will be either facing or to the side of the interrogator when the slap is administered.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited.

D. STRIPPING

(1) Stripping consists of forceful removal of detainees’ clothing. In addition to degradation of the detainee, shipping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee. Interrogator personnel tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.

4. PHYSICAL DEBILITATION TACTICS

a. STRESS POSITIONS. Stress positions are used to punish detainees. ALL STRESS POSITIONS ARE -RESTRICTED TO A MAXIMUM TIME OF TEN MINUTES AND A LOGBOOK ENTRY IS REQURED. An interrogator/guard will remain with detainees during use of stress positions. The authorized positions are:

(1) Head Rest/Index Finger position - Detainee is placed with forehead or fingers against the wall, then the detainee’s legs are backed out to the point that the detainee’s leaning weight is brought to bear on fingers or head.

(2) Kneeling position - Administered by placing detainee on knees and having him lean backward on heels and hold hands extended to the sides or front, palms upward. Light weights such as small rocks, may be placed in the detainee’ s upturned palms. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(3) Worship-the-Gods - The detainee is placed on knees with head and torso arched back, with arms either folded across the chest or extended to the side or front. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(4) Sitting Position - the detainee is placed with his back against a wall, tree or post; thighs are horizontal, lower legs are vertical with feet flat on floor or ground as though sitting in a chair. Arms may be extended to sides horizontally, palms up and boots on.

(5) Standing position - While standing, the detainee is required to extend arms either to the sides

5. ISOLATION AND MONOPOLIZATION OF PERCEPTION TACTICS

a. HOODING

(1) Hoods are lightweight fabric sacks large enough to fit loosely over a detainee’s head and permit unrestricted breathing.

(2) Flooding us used to isolate detainees. Individually hooded detainees may be moved provided an interrogator/guard leads the detainee. Detainees may not be left standing alone with the hood on. They must be placed either on their stomachs, kneeling, or sitting. Detainee medical limitations must be considered.

6. DEMONSTRATED OMNIPOTENCE TACTICS

a. MANHANDLING. Manhandling consists of pulling or pushing a detainee. It is used as an irritant and to direct the detainee to specific locations. Detainees must be handcuffed and must grasp their trousers near mid-thigh with both hands. The interrogator firmly grasps detainee’s clothing and then moves the detainee at a walking pace. The interrogator must maintain positive control of the detainee The detainee is not released until the interrogator is positive the detainee has regained balance.

b. WALLING. ***** Walling consists of placing a detainee forcibly against a specially constructed wall. Walling will only be performed in designated areas where specially constructed walls have been built. Walling is used to physically intimidate a detainee. The interrogator must ensure the wall is smooth, firm, and free of any projections. If conducted outside, footing area must be solid and free of objects that could cause detainee or interrogator to lose their balance. A detainee can be taken to tfio wall a maximum of three,times per.shift. Walling is done by firmly grasping the front of the detainee’s clothing high on each side of the collar„ ensuring the top of the clothing is open. Care should be taken to ensure detainees with long hair do not get their hair tangled into the folds of clothes being grasped by the interrogator. To avoid bruising the detainee, roll hands under folds of clothing material and ensure only the backs of the hands contact detainee’s chest. Maintain this grip throughout, never allowing the detainee to be propelled uncontrollably. Ensure only the broad part of the shoulders contact the surface of the wall. Grip the detainee’s clothing firmly enough so the collar acts as a restrictive constraint to preclude the detainee’s head from contacting the wall does this. If the detainee’s head inadvertently touches the wall, walling will be ceased immediately. Walling is to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's crucial to note that these procedures were used not only on foreign nationals in Cuba-- but within the United States upon US citizens as well. This week the ACLU released documents revealing that US naval brigs in Virginia and South Carolina which held US citizens Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, plus US resident Ali al-Marri:
were ordered to follow the standard operating procedures developed for Guantanamo Bay; and ... interrogations at the brigs, like interrogations on Guantanamo, were conducted by the CIA and a component of the Defense Intelligence Agency known by the acronym "DHS," around the same time that the same agencies were conducting interrogations at Guantánamo.
Finally, over seven years after Cheney extolled the virtures of "the dark side"-- we can see what the dark side really meant in the dry, concrete language of official US memoranda.

Alas, the timing is tragic. Amid the current cavalcade of economic insanity, meaningful discussion among presidential candidates about US torture has been pushed even deeper than usual to the fringes of national debate. Still, these dramatic disclosures warrant high profile discussion. Hopefully, several upcoming US torture forums sponsored by the Campaign to End Torture featuring an array of former Bush Administration officials can help push the issue back into the spotlight in the final days of electioneering. With fundamental schisms between McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden on torture-- plus persistent support of torture among some Americans-- this debate is vital.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Debut Today: New Website Streams Torture Documentary

Posted by Valtin at 3:25 PM |

From the press release from the people who are bringing us the new documentary, Torturing Democracy:
Award-winning producer Sherry Jones presents a comprehensive documentary - more than 18 months in the making - that examines America's detention and interrogation practices in the "war on terror" in Torturing Democracy, premiering Thursday, October 16 at 9 p.m. on Thirteen/WNET.

The film examines how coercive interrogation methods were used by the CIA and migrated to the United States military at Guantanamo Bay and other locations as well as the charges that these interrogations became "at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture," in the words of the former General Counsel of the United States Navy, Alberto Mora. It carefully presents the evidence that the Bush administration promoted these methods and developed legal justification for the practice. The film features in-depth interviews with senior military and government officials who fought the policy and former Guantanamo detainees who experienced it, uncovers the origins of the tactics the White House calls "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Senior Bush administration insiders describe the internal debate over whether the U.S. government should opt out of the Geneva Conventions in order to avoid future prosecution for war crimes. Among the film's notable senior military and diplomatic officials is Richard Armitage, former United States Deputy Secretary of State, who describes - for the first time on camera - being waterboarded during his military training. "There is no question in my mind," says Armitage, "that this is torture. I'm ashamed that we're even having this discussion."

The 90-minute documentary will be followed by a half-hour panel discussion moderated by Wide Angle anchor Aaron Brown that updates and expands the documentary with an in-depth conversation on recent Congressional hearings and legal decisions, as well as what the methods used to combat terrorism may mean for America's standing in the world and how U.S. military personnel may be affected.

Bill Moyers has called Torturing Democracy "profoundly journalistic and profoundly affecting. This one will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, 'What did we do?'"

The documentary details how the secret U.S. military interrogation program - "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape" - or SERE - became the basis for many of the harshest methods used in interrogating prisoners in U.S custody. The simulated captivity is supposed to expose students to "a totalitarian evil nation with a complete disregard for human rights and the Geneva Convention," says SERE trainer Malcolm Nance in the film. Methods used include slapping, hooding, sleep disruption, stripping, exposure to temperature extremes, sexual humiliation, and the practice now known as "waterboarding." Nance adds, "We have recreated our enemies' methods in Guantanamo... It will hurt us for decades to come."

The film's website, www.torturingdemocracy.org, is scheduled to launch Friday, October 10. The site, a collaboration with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, will feature the entire film available for streaming; a timeline of key events; extended interviews; and the memos, legal opinions and other documents featured in the film.

Other government and military interviewees include Major General Thomas Romig, Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army, who reveals the inside story of a Pentagon task force set up by the Secretary of Defense in early 2003; retired Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; veteran Air Force interrogator Colonel Steven Kleinman; military prosecutor Colonel Stuart Couch; former Pentagon lawyer Richard Shiffrin; and Martin Lederman, senior advisor in the Justice Department.

Former detainees interviewed include Moazzam Begg (Detainee #558), Shafiq Rasul (Detainee #083), and Bisher Al-Rawi (Detainee #906).

Torturing Democracy was produced by Washington Media Associates in association with the National Security Archive. It was written and produced by Sherry Jones. Carey Murphy is the co-producer. Peter Coyote is the narrator. It was edited by Penny Trams and Foster Wiley. The 30-minute discussion following the film will be produced by Erin Chapman for Thirteen.
Here's a YouTube clip showing the film's promo:



Bill Moyers has called Torturing Democracy “profoundly journalistic and profoundly affecting. This one will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, ‘What did we do?’”

For more clips, check out the filmmakers' YouTube channel.

Also posted at Invictus

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Big Victory: APA Informs Bush -- No Psychologists at Military Interrogations

Posted by Valtin at 12:59 AM |

Readers of this blog know that dissident psychologists, along with human rights and anti-torture organizations and individuals have been working for years now to get the American Psychological Association to change its policy of supporting the use of psychologists in interrogations at Guantanamo, CIA black-site prisons, and other governmental sites involved in Bush's Global War on Terror.

Last month, a referendum that called for banning such participation was passed by a large majority of voting APA members. At first, APA bureaucrats mumbled something about instituting this new policy come August 2009! But large scale protest by the membership seems to have caused them to back down, and today, APA has released a letter to George W. Bush informing the head of the U.S. executive branch and commander-in-chief of U.S. armed forces of the new change in APA policy.

The letter was drafted collaboratively between APA staff and the primary authors of the referendum petition that led to the change in policy. Similar letters reportedly will be sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and to key congressional committees, including the Armed Services, Judiciary, and Intelligence committees.

What follows is the press release by APA on the change, and announcing the letter to Bush. The actual text of the letter can be found here.

The announcement by APA represents a major turnaround in their long-standing policy of backing the presence of psychologists at interrogations, and a victory for all who have fought to change that policy and fight back against U.S. torture.
APA LETTER TO BUSH: NEW POLICY LIMITS PSYCHOLOGIST INVOLVEMENT IN INTERROGATIONS

Prohibits psychologist participation in interrogations at unlawful detention sites


WASHINGTON—The American Psychological Association sent a letter today to President Bush, informing him of a significant change in the association's policy that limits the roles of psychologists in certain unlawful detention settings where the human rights of detainees are violated, such as has occurred at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at so-called CIA black sites around the world.

“The effect of this new policy is to prohibit psychologists from any involvement in interrogations or any other operational procedures at detention sites that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution or international law (e.g., the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture),” says the letter, from APA President Alan E. Kazdin, PhD. “In such unlawful detention settings, persons are deprived of basic human rights and legal protections, including the right to independent judicial review of their detention.”

The roles of psychologists at such sites would now be limited to working directly for the people being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights, or to providing treatment to military personnel. The new policy was voted on by APA members and is in the process of being implemented.

For the past 20 years, APA policy has unequivocally condemned torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which can arise from interrogation procedures or conditions of confinement. APA's previous policies had expressed grave concerns about settings where people are deprived of human rights and had offered support to psychologists who refused to work in such settings.

Noting that there have been credible reports of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees during Bush's presidency, APA called on the administration to investigate these alleged abuses. “We further call on you to establish policies and procedures to ensure the independent judicial review of these detentions and to afford the persons being detained all rights guaranteed to them under the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture,” Kazdin wrote.

A copy of the full letter may be viewed at: http://www.apa.org/releases/kazdin-to-bush1008.pdf
Whither APA
While this is a big victory, it doesn't mean torture will end at Guantanamo, CIA prisons, or elsewhere. Most psychologists working at such facilities, similarly to doctors, nurses, interrogators, etc., work under the chain of command and answer to the leadership of the military and the executive branch. But the new policy does explode a central pillar of the government's rationale for such abuse, i.e., that psychologists are present at such sites as "safety officers" to stop "behavioral drift" or abuse from taking place.

Now the APA has rejected this premise, and is lending its prestige to the withdrawal of behavioral health professionals from the CIA and the Pentagon's program of coercive interrogation.

Yet, the APA still widely collaborates with the national security apparatus. Their work on "deception", which I've written about here, is only one aspect of this far-reaching connectivity between U.S. behavioral science and the military. Nor should we believe that the APA apparatus, staffed by the same people who tried for years to make psychologists hand-servants for the worst aspects of military abuse, is suddenly composed of pacifists and anti-militarists. For instance, APA has not, to date, seen fit as an organization to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay Naval prison.

It's clear that struggles around the interactions of the health professions, academia, and major scientific institutions with the organs of national security and the program of a militarist state, remain ahead of us. Furthermore, the cynic in me wonders if this turnaround by APA isn't too convenient, as it potentially cuts the ground out from under anti-torture activist Steven Reisner's campaign for APA president, with the election coming later this month.

One prominent APA activist noted on a listserv earlier today that Kazdin's letter fails to call for an immediate removal of psychologists from interrogations at Guantanamo (for instance). The policy wherein Behavioral Science Consulting Teams, including psychologists, assist in interrogation planning and procedures is supposedly about due for review. It is time to ratchet up the pressure on the government to shut down Guantanamo, to decommission (if that is the word) the BSCTs.

A big question remains around the use of torture and the participation of same at CIA sites. CIA "enhanced interrogation" techniques remain supposedly approved by the President. No one knows exactly how the CIA's prisons work, who is there, or what goes on. APA should call for an immediate withdrawal of all psychologists from such secret prisons. While they are at it, to show they are serious, they could stop taking advertisements for CIA employment in their journals and publications.

[Update: I want to add here some important comments from the CEO of Physicians for Human Rights, Frank Donaghue on APA's letter:
"While today is a proud day for the APA and its membership, the APA must now act to permanently prohibit direct participation by psychologists in interrogations and to ensure those psychologists who engaged in abuse and torture are held to account," said Donaghue. "The APA has taken a tremendous step forward but has not yet reached the ethical standards of the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, organizations which have banned direct participation by physicians in all interrogations. Also, the APA has not yet specified what rights abuses would render a detention facility illegal under its new policy."]
Despite all caveats, it is time to savor the victory, and spread the word. Congratulations to everyone who worked to win this battle. Tops among them must be the folks who pushed the referendum, when it looked like a long-shot, and the hard working members of Psychologists for an Ethical APA, withholdapadues.com, etc.

Bravo, my friends and colleagues. Good work!

Also posted at Invictus and Never in Our Names

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