Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Details on BSCT-led Torture of Mohammed Jawad

Newsweek has a new article out giving more information on the role of a Guantanamo military psychologist working for the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) that interrogated "child prisoner" Mohammed Jawad. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer refused to testify in Jawad's military tribunal hearing last August, pleading the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. (Jawad's case is currently on appeal before the Convening Authority at Guantanamo, and the prosecutor in the case has resigned, citing government misconduct in the case.)

Dan Ephron's article begins with a profile of APA presidential candidate Steven Reisner, who is running as an opponent of APA's interrogations policy.
If he wins, Reisner says he will use his authority to expose the precise role individual APA psychologists have played in the interrogations, not only at Guantánamo but at the CIA's "black" sites around the world. He says wrongdoers will be brought before an ethics board; like doctors and other caregivers, psychologists are bound by a do-no-harm principle. But for Reisner the main point is to air the details publicly, in a kind of truth-and-reconciliation process. "The discussions … need to have a public venue so that we can learn the lessons and not let it happen again," he says.
Later in the same article, Ephron cites the Jawad interrogation as an example of how BSCT psychologists really do their work.
"Based on the BSCT recommendation, Mr. Jawad was moved into isolation..."

The full assessment penned by the psychologist after the interrogation is redacted from the [Jawad] court filing. But NEWSWEEK discovered through two independent sources familiar with the report (who could not be named discussing sensitive material) that the psychologist not only eased interrogators' worries, but also encouraged them to continue to dial up the emotional pressure on Jawad: "He appears to be rather frightened, and it looks as if he could break easily if he were isolated from his support network and made to rely solely on the interrogator," according to an excerpt of the report read to NEWSWEEK. The psychologist recommended that Jawad be moved to a section of the prison where he would be the only Pashto speaker, and be moved again if he somehow began to socialize in his new block. The psychologist also suggested that interrogators emphasize to Jawad that his family appeared to have forgotten him: "Make him as uncomfortable as possible. Work him as hard as possible."

The psychologist's name can be gleaned from a court witness list, but multiple e-mails sent by NEWSWEEK asking for a reaction went unanswered. The court filing goes on to say that two weeks after the start of his isolation, Jawad gave his interrogators a detailed account of the events surrounding the grenade attack (that did not implicate himself). But his mental condition deteriorated further and in late December 2003 he tried to commit suicide. "If the goal was to break him, the psychologist succeeded," says Maj. David Frakt, Jawad's military defense attorney.
It is a sad but true reality that medical doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists have been used by the U.S. government (and governments of many other countries as well, I might add) to help government and military/intelligence agencies research, implement, and operate abusive programs of interrogation and torture. They have done this, more or less, since the end of World War II. It must end now.

The APA presidential election is being conducted by mail ballot right now. I urge all APA members to vote for Dr. Reisner!

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