Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Important Articles Expose Government Torture Practices

Stephen Soldz has a new article out at Counterpunch: Pentagon IG Report Details Central Role of Psychologists in Detainee Interrogations and Abuse -- Shrinks and the SERE Technique at Guantanamo. Additionally, the New York Times has an article today on the growing chorus of official criticism aimed at Bush's interrogation policies. The NYT article validates, though with much less details, Soldz's reporting on the use of "reverse engineering" by the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Program (SERE) of its POW training into torture practiced on detainees in the government's "war on terror". The use of torture by the U.S. has been documented from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq to Afghanistan to U.S. secret prisons abroad.

Dr. Soldz based his article on the declassification of a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse". The report was dated August 26, 2006. One result of this investigation was that it seemed to expedite the issuance of the new Army Field Manual 2-22.3, "Human Intelligence Collector Operations" (AFM). I have critiqued the AFM before, which even in its "new" version still contains interrogation techniques that are abusive and constitute psychological torture.

Soldz highlights portions of the OIG report that detail the use of SERE psychologists in the implementation of coercive interrogation techniques in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He writes, quoting the OIG report:

Central to SERE is the role of psychologists. A psychologist is required to be present during certain aspects of the process, such as waterboarding as a "safety officer," to stop the training if (s)he perceives the trainee is being overly-traumatized....

"On September 16, 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency co-hosted a SERE psychologist conference at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 [the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo] interrogation personnel. The Army's Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation techniques and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The JTF-170 personnel understood that they were to become familiar with SERE training and be capable of determining which SERE information and techniques might be useful in interrogations at Guantanamo. Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team personnel understood that they were to review documentation and standard operating procedures for SERE training in developing the standard operating procedure for the JTF-170, if the command approved those practices. The Army Special Operations Command was examining the role of interrogation support as a " Sere Psychologist competency area" (p. 25, emphasis added.)

For those of opposed to the participation of psychologists in abusive interrogations, this document contains the first definitive proof that the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), consisting at that point of psychologists and psychiatrists (later, the military announced that they preferred psychologists for this role), were deliberately trained in abusive SERE techniques.

The NYT article also mentions the SERE training, as well as Senator Carl Levin's announcement that he will hold hearings into the SERE torture trainings.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he found the report “very troubling” and intended to hold hearings on how the SERE training methods became the basis for interrogation. “They were put to a purpose that was never intended,” Mr. Levin said.

The NYT highlighting of various critiques of the administration's interrogation policies comes at an opportune time, as the article makes clear:

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. (emphases mine)

Dr. Soldz's article returns to the important subject of the use of psychologists in Bush's torture plans, and the facilitating role of the American Psychological Association in giving institutional cover to these inhumane and criminal policies. the Bush administration, the APA is always against torture and abusive treatment but never actually sees it. Thus, the APA has never expressed concern as reports have come flooding out suggesting that abuse treatment (whether formally "torture" or merely "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment") is common in US detention facilities holding so-called enemy combatants. Neither has the APA expressed concern at the repeated reports of psychologist participation in abusive interrogations. Rather, they have attacked the critics of psychologist abuse....

However, the APA, like other health provider professional organizations felt the heat as these reports escalated. Thus, in June 2005 they convened a Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), clearly designed to provide a rubber stamp on the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations....

Especially relevant, given the revelations in this newly-released OIG, at least two of the members of this Task Force had direct SERE connections....

Given what the OIG's report reveals about the central role of SERE in the development of US abusive interrogation techniques, as well as revelations regarding other PENS members, it appears ever more likely that the APA appointed some of this country's top torturers to formulate its policy on participation in abusive interrogations. The PENS report lacks any credibility. If the APA maintained a shred of decency, they would take the opportunity provided by the release of the OIG report to admit that they made a mistake in creating the PENS Task Force and would immediately set aside the PENS report and begin a new open discussion of the facts and the ethics involved in participation in national security interrogations.

Please go read Soldz's entire article, for he has done a terrific job of parsing the OIG's over 100 page report. And also, support his call, along with Physicians for Human Rights and torture researcher Dr. Steven Miles, for congressional investigations. Now that Senator Levin has apparently responded to this call, I'd suggest calling his office and offering support.

The Bush Administration plans to issue "guidelines" for CIA interrogation that will go beyond what is already allowed in the Army Field Manual. The AFM already allows, for "special" cases, use of sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, debilitation of the prisoner, and techniques that enhance fearfulness. Long ago, Dr. Lawrence E. Hinkle demonstrated how these activities alone can bring about a state of "disordered brain syndrome", producing organic states of confusion, mental impairment, and delirium, often with long-term effects.

Turn up the heat now on the Bush administration and demand NO to ALL Torture Practices!

No comments:

Search for Info/News on Torture

Google Custom Search
Add to Google ">View blog reactions

This site can contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my effort to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.