Monday, July 30, 2007

Double Feature: VF's Katherine Eban and APA critic Brad Olson on Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman over at Democracy Now! has a great show just posted. You can watch it streaming or listen to it on mp3.

Katherine Eban, who wrote "Rorschach and Awe" in Vanity Fair, talks about her research on psychologists torturing for the Defense Department. I reviewed her article a few weeks ago.

Brad Olson is an assistant professor at Northwestern University and a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical APA. He also chairs the Divisions for Social Justice, a coalition of 13 American Psychological Association (APA) divisions within the larger APA structure. Along with Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz, he was an author of an Open Letter to APA President Sharon Brehm calling for "APA [to] take immediate steps to remedy the damage done to the reputation of the organization, to our ethical standards, to the field of psychology, and to human rights". Such steps would include:

...APA leadership should support and the Council of Representatives must, at the August Convention, pass the Moratorium on Psychologist Involvement in Interrogations at US Detention Centers for Foreign Detainees proposed by Dr. Neil Altman and scheduled for a vote at Council....

The APA Board of Directors encourage, support, and cooperate with the Senate investigations of detainee treatment....

The APA Board of Directors commence a neutral third-party investigation of its own involvement, and that of APA staff, in APA-military conflicts of interest. [emphasis in original]

The Democracy Now! show is certainly very much worth watching. I think it's worth a donation to DN too, don't you?

Here's a snippet from today's interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Katherine Eban, you write about how the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, both of these associations have passed resolutions banning involvement in military interrogations. They will punish members who are involved. What has happened here with the APA, the larger association, American Psychological Association, of, what, some 150,000 members?

KATHERINE EBAN: Well, that is an open question. I mean, why does the American Psychological Association stand alone in allowing its members to participate in interrogations? Some would say because psychologists don't take a Hippocratic Oath. Some would say because they have had a long experience in assisting law enforcement with interrogations. However, I always found that comparison specious, because a military interrogation or a CIA interrogation is occurring in an environment where there is no habeas corpus, where it’s already been deemed that these detainees are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. So critics would argue that it’s a fundamentally coercive environment. So there's no level playing field. There’s no way in which detainees can invoke their rights, because it’s been deemed they have none.

Has Ms. Eban been channelling my last post, "Will APA Psychology Convention Endorse Indefinite Detention?" Who knows? I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet who sees the cruel irony of being an ostensible health care organization, and a UN-recognized NGO (non-governmental agency)(and the APA is SO proud of this), and then say it's okay to send one's members to work with interrogators in a prison that allows no hope of release, no hope of ever having your case heard. And this whether one formally "tortures" or not.

I'll close with this provocative and interesting exchange between Amy Goodman and Brad Olson:

AMY GOODMAN: Who is fighting this, having a moratorium to investigate further?

BRAD OLSON: Who is fighting it? Well, it’s difficult to tell. I mean, what we do know is that -- I mean, clearly the staff of the American Psychological Association, some staff members who are very high up are the ones that are really -- seem to be fighting tooth and nail.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is the APA so closely tied to the military and military intelligence? What is the history of this relationship?

BRAD OLSON: Well, I mean, the history certainly goes way, way back. I mean, certainly in -- you know, some people might question the morality of any wars, but certainly some people would argue that World War II, that psychologists really were -- really created some effective means and techniques to do some positive things, although that -- there's also a great history of that being very sordid and sinister and harmful, which is exactly why we need to stick to our ethics code. But, I mean, now it’s a question, why -- where are the ties? I mean, some people argue that this has a lot to do with our competition with psychiatry, psychologists' competition with psychiatrists.

I think the ties are about more than competition with rivals in the field. But I will forego a complete statement of my beliefs here, directing interested readers to two prior essays: Frankenstein's Children: Modern Torture's Scientific Bible and Military Psychologists Oppose Torture Moratorium.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Will APA Psychology Convention Endorse Indefinite Detention?

The American Psychological Association (APA), one of the biggest mental health practitioner, academic, and researcher organizations in the U.S., will hold its annual convention in San Francisco, Aug. 17-20. Concurrently, its Council of Representatives (COR) will be meeting to vote on a competing set of resolutions regarding psychologist participation in interrogation of "enemy combatants". (Technically speaking, only COR will vote on the resolutions, not the full convention.)

Until a few weeks ago, there was only one resolution, proposed by Neil Altman, Ph.D., calling for a moratorium in psychologist participation in such interrogations because of the history of abuse. Now, APA leadership, led by Stephen Behnke, director of the APA Ethics Office, has offered a "counter-resolution", and according to private list-serv gossip, has managed to bureaucratically place it for a vote prior to the original moratorium resolution, which may not come to a vote at all now, it seems.

The "new" resolution has a LOT of problems, and in my analysis is meant to sugar-coat APA criticism of torture, etc., while still allowing psychologists to serve Bush's "war on terror" in camps and prisons that still allow indefinite detention and torture. How could this be?

The Wearying Politics of Resolutions and Counter-resolutions

It is an insult to the many, many psychologists at APA who have worked tirelessly to get the moratorium to a vote, to sidestep it with a "new", "substitute" resolution carried up deep from the bowels of some APA or Pentagon or CIA office. -- Okay, maybe it wasn't edited at the Pentagon or at Langley. The APA has its own in-house link to the two latter through its Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology. The latter came out against the moratorium resolution some time ago.

Stephen Soldz gives the full text of the APA's new resolution on psychologists and interrogations, as well as the response of the internal APA opposition to this new resolution/counter-resolution. As one might expect, it's full of golden-sounding words and brave pronouncements against torture:

WHEREAS the American Psychological Association is an accredited non-governmental organization at the United Nations and so is committed to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

WHEREAS subjecting individuals to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment for any reason in any context is wholly antithetical to these goals and purposes;

BE IT RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association unequivocally condemns torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, for any and all purposes, including interrogation...

The APA even added a paragraph prohibiting psychologist participation in any interrogation that includes the following:

... direct or indirect participation during interrogation processes in: mock executions; water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation; sensory deprivation and over-stimulation; “hooding”; forced nakedness; sexual humiliation; cultural or religious humiliation; exploitation of phobias; stress positions; the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate; physical assault, including slapping and shaking; exposure to extreme heat or cold; induced hypothermia; mind-altering substances used for the purpose of eliciting information; isolation and sleep deprivation used in a manner that adversely affects an individual’s physical or mental health; or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to the individual or to members of the individual’s family...

What's Wrong with All This?

We could start by the fact that, unlike Dr. Altman's original moratorium resolution, the APA's in-house version has no statement about participation in unlawful detention settings where detainees are held indefinitely, without any judicial process. As one writer at the group list for Psychologists for an Ethical APA put it (link is to group site, not to the following quote, which is from a private list):

The APA resolution is a no-starter. And the very first reason is sufficient:

It does not prohibit psychologists from working in settings where indefinite detention and abrogation of legal rights guaranteed by international law and treaty are taking place.

This is a fundamental violation of human rights.

We can argue about APA's laundry list of prohibited activities later.

I think this is what Coalition for an Ethical APA is getting at when they say, "At present, there is no prohibition against psychologists' participating in detainee operations when detainees are kept in conditions that would be condemned as breaches of humane treatment, according to the instruments cited in the resolution. The resolution must address the psychologists' ethical responsibilities when asked to work in such an environment."

I can tell you now, this is a non-starter for the military psychologists/ CIA crowd.

(London, December 16, 2004) The ruling by Britain's highest court, the Law Lords, that the indefinite detention of foreign terrorism suspects is incompatible with the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a profoundly significant decision, Human Rights Watch said today.

From the amicus brief for Benitez v Mata by the Lawyers Committee, Amnesty, etc.:

No misuse of government power is more clearly established as a violation of international law than the practice of prolonged arbitrary detention. The right not to be unjustly detained, so central to our concept of ordered liberty, is articulated in the earliest documents on personal liberty as well as in the declarations, covenants, treaties, and constitutions that embody modern international law and the laws of free states. Indeed, the right is universally recognized among the democratic nations and among the international bodies that represent the nations of the world.

The Magna Carta, drafted in 1215 in response to abuses of power by the English monarchy, declared that "No Freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any otherwise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful Judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land"....

The most widely respected elaboration of human rights norms of the twentieth century, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states plainly that "[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile." G.A. Res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc. A/810, at 71 (1948); see Jordan Paust, International Law as Law of the United States 246 (1996)....

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Covenant in 1966, and it entered into force in 1976. As of November 2003 there were 151 parties to the Covenant, including the United States, which ratified it in 1992.

There's much more, but this is enough. It can't be passed, as it fails to make this basic bow to the most elementary of human rights. There's more reasons to oppose, but why waste our breath when even this issue is not addressed?

What is the Definition of "Is"? And Other Legalisms

I think there are also other serious problems of definition inherent in the APA list of banned activities noted above, especially those surrounding terms such as "sensory deprivation and over-stimulation", isolation, sleep deprivation, and "exploitation of phobias". In fact, it is precisely these terms that have come under some fire by Physicians for Social Responsibility, who protested to Secretary of Defense Gates recently that aspects of the Army's recent rewrite of the Army Field Manual allow for the continued use of these practices under its "Appendix M" -- and this despite the fact the Army maintains they now have eliminated such practices (except the use of isolation, which they admit will continue).

For more on this, see my recent article: Sec. Gates: Stop SERE-type Torture! Drop Appendix M from Army Field Manual.

The problem, of course, lies in the definition of these practices. How many hours a night or a week constitute sleep deprivation? What constitutes sensory deprivation and/or sensory over-stimulation, etc.? Psychologists have plenty to say from a research standpoint on these questions, and much of it is very condemnatory of U.S. interrogation and detention practices.

A Long, Sordid History

Psychology has a long and sordid history when it comes to participation in the activities of the U.S. government. Not everything has, of course, been bad, and no doubt psychological knowledge has contributed to the well-being of countless individuals. But this doesn't mean we should shun that portion of its history that is unsavory: research in mind control, in manipulation of human behavior, in new ways to bend the will of individuals and break it, in the unlawful interrogation of individuals held without recourse to legal process.

This must stop now! And those attending the APA convention in San Francisco are in a prime spot to show the government and their agents that the old ways will hold no more. Come to the PEAPA demonstration at the APA Convention, Friday, August 17, 4pm-5.30pm at Stone Stage, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco. -- Access to the gardens is one 3rd Street between Mission and Howard, a couple of minutes walk from the Moscone Convention Center. It's a public demonstration, so all are welcome!

Rally Endorsed by (to date):

American Friends Service Committee, San Francisco; California Physicians Alliance; Center for Constitutional Rights; Coaltion for Justice and Accountability; East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Berkeley; Institute for Labor and Mental Health, Oakland; Institute for Redress and Recovery; Robert Jay Lifton, M.D; Steven Miles, M.D., author Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror; Monterey Bay Psychological Association; Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy; Physicians for Human Rights; Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco; Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California; Sections II, III, and IX of Division 39 of the APA; Survivors International, San Francisco; Tikkun; Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club;; Women's International League for Peace and Justice, S.F.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Interview: Michael Otterman on BBC World

From Otterman's excellent website, American Torture.

In May 2007, I was interviewed by BBC World about American Torture [his new book, not the website] -- the four-minute clip is now on YouTube. Have a look, some interesting questions were raised.

Despair at Sayyida Zeinab: Iraqi Refugee Crisis at Crossroads

The war in Iraq was an illegal boondoggle. Hundreds of thousands have died or been terribly injured and/or maimed. Thousands have been tortured. And, barely reported on the television screens and front-pages of America, hundreds of thousands -- well over a million -- refugees have fled Iraq for the dismal "safety" of refugee camps in Syria, the only country that will take in refugees from the Iraq War. Jordan, which had taken in over half a million refugees fleeing the Americans and the sectarian civil war, not to mention the criminal lawlessness that has plagued much of the country, has now closed its borders to refugees from Iraq.

Hugh Naylor, at the foreign service desk at the San Francisco Chronicle, has written a compelling story on the crisis, drawing upon wire service stories and the like: Refugee Crisis in Syria Enters New, Dire Phase. (For another look at the Iraq refugee crisis, see the Washington Post's article earlier this year, "Iraq Refugees Overwhelm Syria".) Naylor writes:

For the first few years of the war, many of the estimated 1.4 million refugees eked out a living from savings and remittance payments from families still living in Iraq. But savings are rapidly drying up.

Forbidden to work in Syria, the refugees find that money coming from Iraq is all but gone, now that family members there have lost jobs and sold off their valuables.

"The situation has escalated," said Laurens Jolles, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative to Syria.

Last May, Maccabee wrote a diary giving Frank Rich's analysis on the growing humanitarian disaster. Quoting Rich:

Iraqis are clamoring to get out of Iraq. Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) Save the Children reported this month that Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave "God’s gift of freedom."

It’s easy to see why. To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins.

Naylor's story concentrates on the refugee camp at Sayyida Zeinab in Syria, "a dusty warren of dilapidated buildings on the outskirts of Damascus where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now reside." Naylor's article describes the hundreds or thousands of human beings dragging themselves around the camp, still sporting bullet wounds and other injuries from the war, too poor or too isolated to get medical attention, putting off medical care for major illnesses and wounds in order to scrape together a little food for their families.

But it's not as if they could go to their nearest emergency room. Ten thousand or more souls are pouring over the Syrian border every week, and there's almost nothing there for them. Of a $60 million budget for the entire region, only $14 million has been allocated to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Syria.

During several interviews, Iraqi refugees complained that they haven't seen U.N. personnel for months. One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said many have given up on international humanitarian organizations.

"There is no point, they aren't even providing basic health care here," she said. "Only around 100,000 of the official 1.4 million Iraqis are registered with the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in Congress play at opposition, with all the courage of a man risking a sleepless night. The GOP... well, forget it. They are totally engulfed in the web of the infallible leader(s), which is George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, take your pick.

Millions Made Into Miserable Pawns

Reuters reports that over 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since the war started, and approximately another 2 million are internally displaced. The same article shows that Iraqi refugees are quickly turning into the pariahs of the refugee world. The once social democratic European countries, who claimed to oppose the American war, have come under intense criticism from some human rights groups:

The campaign group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday criticised Germany's move earlier this year to revoke the refugee status of over 18,000 Iraqis, saying Iraq was still too violent and unstable to send people back there....

[While Swede's] migration board decided last week that Iraqis seeking asylum must prove they face personal risk in their homeland to avoid being sent back.

The Palestianians have lived in refugee camps for decades, the pawns of an intractable political conflict between different nationalist groupings and the Israeli state. Now, millions of Iraqi refugees are being thrown into the maw of endless war, nationalist and sectarian rivalry and power-grabs, and an imperialist striving for supremacy. Even the religious fundamentalists must realize how weak they must seem among their putative followers.

Only a socialist perspective, that seeks to unite the toilers and oppressed of all religions, nationalities, and nations, stands a chance of winning over the disaffected and posing a new hope of another way. It's less than a generation since the fall of the sclerotic Stalinist Soviet state, which had fought against a world-wide socialist order for decades. Now maybe we are ready to reconsider unfolding the banner that called for the oppressed and weak of the world to unite against all their oppressors.

Feels too radical? Well, the non-socialist perspective is becoming clearer and clearer: more death, more religious fanaticism, more displaced people, more invasions, more torture, more war.

How You Can Help

In the meantime, if you want to help, check out the website of the UN Refugee Agency, and donate if you can. Or donate to your local refugee center, or torture relief agency. Speak out against the criminal Iraq war. Read. Educate yourself. And put maximum pressure on this do-nothing Democratic Congress. Think of the thousands of suffering children at Sayyida Zeinab and camps just like it.

The invisibility of this issue from the everyday U.S. press is astounding. I am reminded of the lyric from Bob Dylan's classic song, Hurricane:

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties / Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise

How much suffering do the struggling people of this planet have to stand before the American people bring their corrupt and venal leadership to the dock of universal justice, until they begin to ACT with the integrity of a great people, and not like the denizens of a degenerate empire?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lederman on Bush's Murky CIA Interrogation "Guidelines"

I don't have a lot of time right now to give a good personal analysis of the pettifogging details in the Bush Administration's new guidelines on CIA interrogations. The text of the E.O. can be read here.

Luckily, Marty Lederman over at Balkinization has written an excellent analysis of why the new guidelines won't stop the torture and abuse: The CIA Interrogation Executive Order: Well, Did You Really Expect Anything Better?

Here's a brief excerpt (emphases in bold are mine, unless otherwise indicated):

Last month I surmised that the E.O. would be "very cryptic and uninformative, and that the public will not learn of what techniques our government is using and deeming not to be 'cruel treatment and torture.'"


Recall that the Court in Hamdan held that CA3 governs U.S. conduct in the conflict with Al Qaeda. Most importantly, CA3 [Geneva Convention Common Article Three] categorically prohibits "cruel treatment and torture." Until the MCA was enacted, all violations of CA3 were felonies under the War Crimes Act (WCA), but the MCA narrowed the scope of the WCA, such that only what the statute calls "grave" breaches of CA3 are now criminalized. And, not surprisingly, the subcategories of "cruel treatment" and "torture" that remain criminal under the MCA-amended WCA just so happen not to include the forms of cruel treatment that reportedly comprised the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" program. In other words, the MCA appears to have de-criminalized the CIA's use of those techniques -- such as stress positions, prolonged sleep deprivation, hypothermia... threats, extreme isolation, and possibly even waterboarding.

As I've explained in several posts, however -- including this one -- non-criminal does not equal legal. Common Article 3 remains the supreme Law of the Land, even if not all of it is incorporated in the War Crimes Act.... The MCA expressly cautions that its revised WCA definitions "are intended only to define the grave breaches of common Article 3 and not the full scope of United States obligations under that Article" (section 6(b)) [Emphases in this sentence are from original]....

The only truly important section of the E.O. is section 3(b)(i)(C), which defines the category of violence that will be deemed to violate Common Article 3 for purposes of determining whether a CIA interrogation program comports with CA3. In addition to torture as defined by the federal criminal statute, and the forms of violence that remain prohibited under the new WCA, that subsection of the E.O. prohibits only "other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in [the War Crimes Act]." [emphases in original

In other words, if a form of violence is not already prohibited by federal criminal law, and is not "comparable" to the forms of violence prohibited by the WCA, the CIA is not prohibited from using it....

The Bush Administration and the MCA have interpreted "serious" and "severe" in extremely confusing and unhlepful ways, all with an eye to permitting at least some of the CIA techniques. Today's order merely adds to the obfuscation.

This is no way to run a government ostensibly subject to the rule of law. As I've written repeatedly here, there is no excuse for the fact that neither the statute nor the E.O. defines with any clarity whatsoever which techniques are prohibited and which are not.

This means the core program of CIA/KUBARK torture -- the propagation of Debility, Dread, and Dependency via sensory and sleep deprivation, isolation, the manipulation of phobias and fear, and the physical weakening of the detainee/victim -- remains intact.

As Marty Lederman essentially says, coming from Bush, did we really expect anything different?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bush Executive Order Nullifies 5th Amendment

Many have taken notice of Bush's July 17 announcement of Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.

"Certain persons"? Here's much of the text of the order, with my emphases in bold:

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:

(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;

(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order....

Okay, let me get this right. Anyone suspected of an act of violence or supports anyone who is suspected of an act of violence or conspiracy to make an act of violence, all of which is vaguely intended to impede what the Administration thinks is "progress", will have their property seized without notice.

I think this is called illegal seizure. Will this stand? I'm no attorney, but this all sounds very scary.

By comparison, here's the text of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Is the Constitution now, too, nothing but shreds of ancient paper?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Center of the Storm: Fight to Expose the Torture Planners

Previously I described the new Vanity Fair article by Katherine Eban, which details how CIA and SERE psychologists directly implemented and spread torture at U.S. government bases and prisons abroad. (See Vanity Fair Article Links CIA/SERE Psychologists to Torture.) I noted that

From afar, this all looks like a crazy trip through a double looking glass. The insanity of even discussing the "right" way to conduct illegal interrogations in the "war on terror" belies a moral and political bankruptcy so profound that it may take us an entire political and social epoch to extirpate it.

Now, in the wake of the VF revelations, Psychologists for an Ethical APA (PEAPA) have released a press statement calling for a fundamental overhaul of the premier psychological organization in the United States, and an investigation of its leading members, as the tentacles of the U.S. torture apparatus have reached deep down into American civil and academic society.

The Politics of Torture

From the PEAPA statement, dated July 17, 2007 (Emphases are added in bold and not in original):

Today’s deeply disturbing revelations in Vanity Fair show the essential role US psychologists played in the torture of detainees in CIA and Department of Defense (DoD) custody, heightening the urgent need for the American Psychological Association (APA) to issue clear ethical guidelines prohibiting psychologists in the military or intelligence services from violating basic human rights as part of interrogation processes, the Coalition for an Ethical APA stated.... When read in conjunction with the recently declassified Defense Department investigation which revealed that psychologists re-engineered counter-terrorist training techniques as mechanisms for detainee abuse at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, this article is an indictment not only of participating psychologists, but of the Association which refuses to condemn these practices.

As will be clear, much of the press release concerns the politics around a fight within the APA to stop psychologist participation in coercive interrogations. That psychologists and other health care workers have participated in such is irrefutable, as evidenced by the VF article, and in such documentary works by others, including myself.

The politics of the fight within APA now centers around a proposal by dissident psychologists to pass a moratorium resolution this August, coincident in time with the 2007 APA Convention in San Francisco, calling for APA to ban psychologist participation in national security interrogations in the "war on terror" as historically and inherently abusive. The APA leadership, for their part, maintain that psychologist presence at such interrogations actually facilitates their supposedly non-abusive character.

The APA has posted the response of their division for Military Psychology (Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology) to the proposed moratorium:

... military psychologists believe they are performing a valuable service by being included in the interrogation process....

The ethical and clinical training of psychologists make them more likely to be protective of the detainees' interests than those who have not had such training. Psychologists are more likely to recognize when interrogations are headed in a direction that would be psychologically harmful to the detainees and are thus more likely to deter interrogations from heading in that direction.

Hmmm... Well, let's keep that in mind when we consider this quote from Eban's VF article. (For those who don't know, the SERE acronym refers to the Pentagon's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program, which is supposed to "stress inoculate" U.S. soldiers against the POW experience. JTF-GTMO refers to Joint Task Force Guantanamo. BSCT refers to Behavioral Science Consultation Team.)

On December 2, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld granted JTF-GTMO 170's request to apply coercive tactics in interrogations. The only techniques he rejected were waterboarding and death threats. Within a week, the task force had drafted a five-page, typo-ridden document entitled "JTF GTMO 'SERE' Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure."

The document, which has never before been made public, states, "The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at US military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations" and "can be used to break real detainees."

The document is divided into four categories: "Degradation," "Physical Debilitation," "Isolation and Monopoliztion [sic] of Perception," and "Demonstrated Omnipotence." The tactics include "slaps," "forceful removal of detainees' clothing," "stress positions," "hooding," "manhandling," and "walling," which entails grabbing the detainee by his shirt and hoisting him against a specially constructed wall.

PEAPA Presses On

In early 2005, the APA appointed a Presidential Task Force to form ethics policy that was dominated by psychologists from the military and intelligence establishment, some of whom were involved in the very interrogation chains of command now shown to have facilitated abuse. The ethics policy of the APA and the report of the APA’s Presidential Task Force, taken together, currently allow psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, unlike physicians and psychiatrists, and even permits contravening the ethics code when faced with a conflicting “lawful order” from a governing authority....

The Vanity Fair article reports the role of psychologists in developing the CIA’s regime of abusive interrogations (”torture”). The article states “that psychologists weren’t merely complicit in America’s aggressive new interrogation regime. Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the CIA.” Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen of the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program were brought in by the CIA to use SERE techniques, developed to help our soldiers resist collaboration if captured, to break down detainees.

While Mitchell and Jessen used so-called “enhanced” techniques such as waterboarding (i.e., simulated drowning), most of their techniques became staples of interrogation tactics toward detainees in the war on terror and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article quotes one source as describing the Mitchell and Jessen approach as being to “break down [the detainees] through isolation, [use] white noise, completely take away their ability to predict the future, [and] create dependence on interrogators.” The description of these techniques matches those techniques described by former interrogator Tony Lagouranis in his new book, Fear Up Harsh as being used by numerous interrogators in Iraq.

The PEAPA statement goes on to describe how the propagation of these abusive coercive techniquest -- of torture plain and simple -- was facilitated by the respectable cover of the scientific respectability of the psychological profession and of science in general.

I spoke out strongly against this latter role of modern "scientific" psychology over a year ago, in a diary at Daily Kos:

In [Alfred] McCoy's A Question of Torture, McCoy notes that a July 2005 survey of detainee medical care found the BSCT teams lacked clear guidelines, and "recommended the Army stop using psychiatrists and physicians to assist in interrogation". McCoy's narrative continues (p. 184):

Rejecting these recommendations... Lieutenant General Kevin C. Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, said they found, "no evidence of systemic problems in detainee medical care," praised the military's worldwide treatment for detainees, and deferred assessment of the BSCT teams to "more studies." In defense of his position that the role of these behavioral teams is "safe, legal and ethical," Kiley cited the APA task force report (PDF), noting that it reminded members to maintain "an ethical view of their duties. But it doesn't prohibit them from assisting in interrogations."

Thus do APA internal documents and resolutions make themselves into the very heart of Pentagon policy-making.

Action Against APA's Interrogation Position Becomes a Crucial Front Against Bush's War/Torture Policy

The PEAPA release continues:

In June, the Coalition for an Ethical APA sent an Open Letter to the President of the APA, Dr. Sharon Brehm, demanding swift and comprehensive changes in APA policy. In six weeks, the number of signatories to the letter has risen to over 650. The APA leadership has yet to respond to this letter. Soon afterwards, 58 psychologists from the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs issued an additional letter expressing outrage over the failure of the APA to adequately respond to the growing evidence of psychologist involvement in torture. Numerous individual psychologists have written additional letters of protest, and a group of APA members has organized a campaign to withhold their dues until the APA changes its ethical policy to prohibit such abuses.

While you should read the entire statement, PEAPA concludes with a strong call for action in cleaning up one of the United States's largest and most prestigious professional, scientific societies, one that has become over the years an adjunct to Pentagon misdeeds and imperialistic foreign policy:

The group urgently recommends the following:

1. The President of the APA must immediately acknowledge errors and abuses committed by its leadership, and substantively reaffirm its commitment to promoting adherence by all psychologists to international human rights standards.

2. The APA Board of Directors and Ethics Committee must endorse the APA Moratorium on psychologist participation in interrogations of foreign detainees, to be voted upon at the August convention.

3. The APA Board of Directors must encourage, support, and cooperate with ongoing Senate investigations into the role of psychologist’s utilization of SERE techniques in developing the US regime of psychological torture used at Guantanamo, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the CIA Black Sites, and elsewhere.

4. The APA Board of Directors must commence a neutral third-party investigation of its own involvement, and that of APA staff, in APA-military conflicts of interest. Among the issues this investigation must examine are:

a) the numerous procedural irregularities alleged to have occurred during the PENS process;

b) the role of the military and intelligence agencies in the formation and functioning of the PENS Task Force;

c) the reasons the APA and its leadership have systematically ignored the accumulating evidence that psychologists participating in interrogations are contributing to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, rather than helping to prevent it;

d) the overall nexus of close ties between the APA staff/leadership and the military and intelligence agencies, ties that may have contributed to a climate that permits undo influence of military and intelligence agencies in the creation of these policies and that encourages turning a blind eye to abuse;

e) the transformation of the APA Ethics Code, from one that protects psychologists’ ethical conduct when such conduct conflicts with law and military regulations to one that protects psychologists who follow unethical law and military regulations.

The Coalition for an Ethical APA calls on all concerned APA members and other psychologists to join them by signing the Open Letter to APA President Sharon Brehm at, to participate actively in mini-convention sessions on ethics and interrogation at the APA Convention in San Francisco beginning this August 18th, and to join the demonstrations planned for this Convention [information available at].


This has been a long article, but I cannot overemphasize the importance of the issues herein. As Congress reveals itself more and more to be a toothless lion when it comes to opposition to the Bush Administration's assault on civil liberties, and its everlasting war drive, assisted by torturers and military apologists and profiteers, the American people must stand up in their everyday institutions, at unions, at churches, in professional societies, if and where the opportunity arises.

Today, for better or worse, psychologists have a unique opportunity to both strike a blow against an illegal and immoral war and interrogation policy, and to save their own organization from calumny and ignominy as a handmaiden to barbaric treatment and callous indifference to the sufferings of the weak and the helpless.

Today, the center of the storm is moving incongruously over Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco, where next month a battle will be fought over the soul of an organization, and maybe, over the soul of a country. Will you be there?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Vanity Fair Article Links CIA/SERE Psychologists to Torture

An important new article by Katherine Eban, "Rorshach and Awe", has just been published at the VF website. According to the blurb at the head of the article:

America's coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical "black site" operation.

The "black site" operation was the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah in Spring 2002. Eban describes how the CIA stole the operation from the FBI, and "planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death."

The operation was headed by two SERE psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, hired for the purpose by the CIA. Eban explains they were rewarded well for their work:

Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics inflicted on sere trainees for use on detainees in the global war on terror, according to psychologists and others with direct knowledge of their activities. The C.I.A. put them in charge of training interrogators in the brutal techniques, including "waterboarding," at its network of "black sites." In a statement, Mitchell and Jessen said, "We are proud of the work we have done for our country."

There is much more to the article, which I and others will have to analyze and piece together with much that is already known. I've already written on psychologists involved in torture in Bush's "war on terror".

Other important articles on the use of psychologists and the military's SERE program (standing for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, and meant to train soldiers against the rigors of enemy capture) appeared recently in an important article, and an equally important New Yorker/Seymour Hersh piece. To complete one's understanding of current revelations, Stephen Soldz's article on the revelations in the recently declassified Department of Defense Inspector General Report is also must reading.

The VF article has quite a bit more in it than I have room or time to retail here. For instance, it was believed by some that the Pentagon won the support of the American Psychological Association's tacit support for the use of psychologists in the increasingly dangerous interrogations being conducted by way of a quid pro quo allowing psychologists to prescribe medications. The latter is a long sought-after desideratum by a coterie within APA. (Eban says she couldn't get enough evidence to make that link herself.)

I strongly encourage readers to go read Eban's well-researched article. She closes with what could open another promising direction in the effort to impeach Vice President Cheney. Explaining how the purported "success" of Mitchell and Jessen in breaking down prisoners became well-known throughout much of the government and military, Eban cites many experts, some from within SERE and CIA itself, to show how self-defeating and destructive the torture really was (or is). Then, she reports (emphasis mine):

In late 2005, as Senator John McCain was pressing the Bush administration to ban torture techniques, one of the nation's top researchers of stress in sere trainees claims to have received a call from Samantha Ravitch, the deputy assistant for national security in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. She wanted to know if the researcher had found any evidence that uncontrollable stress would make people more likely to talk.

Senator Levin (who is reportedly considering Senate hearings into this whole sinister mess), how about a subpoena for Ms. Ravitch?

Postscript: I think the article raises many questions, which I would like to take up more at another time.

But the primary question is simple: what the hell is going on inside the CIA? The CIA has a long-standing history of using coercive interrogations. Why did they go outside the agency to hire SERE interrogators? As I have speculated elsewhere, this raised a good deal of resistance among some older-fashioned CIA types (not to mention from the FBI, as the article states).

But it's not like there are guys with white hats anywhere here. The more traditional CIA types only have a more nuanced view of how to conduct interrogations, relying more on sensory deprivation and more psychological forms of torture, and less on beatings and waterboarding.

From afar, this all looks like a crazy trip through a double looking glass. The insanity of even discussing the "right" way to conduct illegal interrogations in the "war on terror" belies a moral and political bankruptcy so profound that it may take us an entire political and social epoch to extirpate it.

That is, if we survive it.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Justice Douglas' Condemnation of Government Surveillance

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision yesterday to dismiss a lawsuit over warrantless wiretapping stirred up a feeling of deja vu in this old sixties/seventies activist. There was already a case that poured over technicalities such as the Sixth Circuit invoked in the ACLU case against NSA wiretapping.

The case was Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1 (1972). Just as in the recent ruling, the then Burger Supreme Court ruled, in a case involving Army Intelligence surveillance of domestic political activities, on procedural grounds. In the current case, Sixth Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons maintained "the plaintiffs have failed to provide evidence that they are personally subject to the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program]. Without this evidence, on a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs cannot establish standing for any of their claims, constitutional or statutory...."

This was the Burger court's decision in Laird v. Tatum as well. Join me in exploring the powerful denunciation of this judicial "logic" by the great Supreme Court jurist William O. Douglas.

Per Wikipedia:

Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1 (1972) was a case in which the United States Supreme Court dismissed for lack of ripeness a claim in which the plaintiff accused the U.S. Army of alleged unlawful "surveillance of lawful citizen political activity." The Court determined that the plaintiff's claim was based on the fear that sometime in the future the Army might cause harm with information retrieved during their surveillance, but that there was no present threat. Therefore, the claim was too "speculative"....

The dismissal was made possible by the timely nomination by Nixon of Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court. Rehnquist had previously testified to Senator Sam Ervin's committee that there were no "serious constitutional problems with respect to collecting data or keeping under surveillance persons who are merely exercising their right of a peaceful assembly or petition to redress a grievance." He further stated that he felt that Laird v. Tatum should be dismissed on the procedural ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

The Army Intelligence Scandal

Along with many other scandals of that era, the revelation that military intelligence agents had infiltrated much of the protest movement and civil liberties organizations of that time caused a big ruckus. As even a military intelligence officer involved in these activities recalled some years later, in an article by Ralph Stein at Pace Law School in 1973:

Laird v. Tatum, a class action challenge to military surveillance of civilian politics, demonstrates with frightening precision the degree to which the force of protection can and has imperiled the instrument of freedom....

Stein explains how another military intelligence officer (who was also a lawyer), Christopher Pyle, blew the whistle in a Washington Monthly article in 1970, "CONUS Intelligence: The Army Watches Civilian Politics". Pyle had written that

"[the U.S. Army has been closely watching civilian political activity within the United States. Nearly 1,000 plainclothes investigators . . . keep track of political protests of all kinds-from Klan rallies in North Carolina to antiwar speeches at Harvard."

Stein added more revelations from his an amici curiae filing by twenty-nine former Military Intelligence officers:

The amici, twenty-nine former MI officers and enlisted personnel, urged the Court to allow the plaintiffs an opportunity to present witnesses and evidence in the trial court. They informed the Court that far from limiting its activities to clipping newspapers, MI, among other things, infiltrated agents into Resurrection City, had agents pose as newsmen with bogus identification cards to obtain information from unsuspecting civilians during protests had infiltrated the headquarters of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, had penetrated the Colorado Springs Young Adults Project and had assigned agents to stake-out Martin Luther King's grave to determine who came to the graveside.

Douglas' Dissent

Justice William O. Douglas, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court judges, and a powerful proponent of individual liberties, wrote a strong dissent to the Burger court's majority opinion in Laird. He was joined by Justice Brennan.

It is worth following Douglas's reasoning here. The ACLU and other interested parties, including educated and interested readers here, should pay heed to Douglas's argument.

Douglas wrote (emphases in bold added):

The claim that respondents have no standing to challenge the Army's surveillance of them and the other members of the class they seek to represent is too transparent for serious argument. The surveillance of the Army over the civilian sector - a part of society hitherto immune from its control - is a serious charge....

One need not wait to sue until he loses his job or until his reputation is defamed. To withhold standing to sue until that time arrives would in practical effect immunize from judicial scrutiny all surveillance activities, regardless of their misuse and their deterrent effect.... as we put it in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, the gist of the standing issue is whether the party seeking relief has "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."

The present controversy is not a remote, imaginary conflict. Respondents were targets of the Army's surveillance. First, the surveillance was not casual but massive and comprehensive. Second, the intelligence reports were regularly and widely circulated and were exchanged with reports of the FBI, state and municipal police departments, and the CIA. Third, the Army's surveillance was not collecting material in public records but staking out teams of agents, infiltrating undercover agents, creating command posts inside meetings, posing as press photographers and newsmen, posing as TV newsmen, posing as students, and shadowing public figures.

Finally, we know from the hearings conducted by Senator Ervin that the Army has misused or abused its reporting functions....

Douglas concluded with a stern and chilling warning, one which we would do well to consider over thirty years since it was set to paper:

This case involves a cancer in our body politic. It is a measure of the disease which afflicts us. Army surveillance, like Army regimentation, is at war with the principles of the First Amendment. Those who already walk submissively will say there is no cause for alarm. But submissiveness is not our heritage. The First Amendment was designed to allow rebellion to remain as our heritage. The Constitution was designed to keep government off the backs of the people. The Bill of Rights was added to keep the precincts of belief and expression, of the press, of political and social activities free from surveillance. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep agents of government and official eavesdroppers away from assemblies of people. The aim was to allow men to be free and independent and to assert their rights against government. There can be no influence more paralyzing of that objective than Army surveillance.

I was surprised to see none of our legal eagles here at Daily Kos refer to this pivotal case in our nation's recent history, nor to Justice Douglas's ringing dissent, calling as it does for the right to live free from government surveillance, and making the case that we ALL have standing to present as potential victims of government intrusion and spying.

I hope this diary gets large circulation, and Douglas's dissent wide dispersal in the fight to overturn the Sixth Circuit's narrow and chilling decision.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Fact Sheet: Psychologist Participation in Torture

Also posted at NION, Progressive Historians, and Daily Kos

Psychologists organized into "Psychologists for an Ethical APA" plan to meet at the August convention of the American Psychological Association with education, protests, and political pressure. The protest will be at noon, August 18 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, and will feature a number of prominent speakers from the psychology community. The aim of the protest is to support the proposed moratorium within APA to stop psychologist participation in national security and military interrogations associated with torture and abuse.

Opposition to stopping such collaboration often centers around claims that there is no documented evidence of psychologist participation in torture or abusive methods. The following brief fact sheet addresses such claims. I will follow with a more comprehensive essay on the subject in the near future.

This fact sheet documents the activities of a number of military psychologists in planning and participation in actions that can only be called torture. Names are not usually available, due to redaction in classified records. In such cases, we can only say that a psychologist is specifically named as a party to a particular activity.

Please note that what follows is not meant to be an inclusive list. Bold type indicates emphases added. Links to documentation are copious and I encourage readers to check them out for themselves.


Case No. 1 – Major John Leso and the Interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani

Two government documents detail medical and psychological participation with the interrogation of Prisoner 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani, at Guantanamo Bay between November 23, 2002 and January 11, 2003 (Zagorin and Duffy 2005). The first is an 83-page interrogation log (ORCON 2003). The second is an Army investigation of complaints of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including Prisoner 063 (United States Army 2005, 13–21)....

Major L [John Leso]., a psychologist who chaired the BSCT at Guantanamo, was noted to be present at the start of the interrogation log. On November 27, he suggested putting the prisoner in a swivel chair to prevent him from fixing his eyes on one spot and thereby avoiding the guards....

Transgressions against Islamic and Arab mores for sexual modesty were employed.... He was forced to wear a bra, and a woman’s thong was put on his head. He was dressed as a woman and compelled to dance with a male interrogator. He was told that he had homosexual tendencies and that other prisoners knew this.... interrogators repeatedly strip-searched him as a “control measure.”

Also,9171,1071201,00.html where you can read from the interrogation log of Prisoner 063.

Case No. 2 – Psychologist at the Secret Prison Interrogation of Marwan Jabour

The story of the arrest and detention of Marwan Jabour is described by Human Rights Watch, and can be accessed at the following:

Jabour’s testimony documents the presence of psychologists at secret prison sites, and involved in interrogation of so-called “ghost prisoners”, i.e., prisoners who have not been registered as captured. Mr. Jabour was never permitted to contact his family. He spent a year and a half in prison without ever seeing sunlight. He testifies to seeing two psychologists during his stay at a secret prison site, while undergoing environmental manipulation and torture, including forced stress positions, sensory overload, humiliation, and isolation.

Case No. 3 – Psychologist Participation in the Interrogation of a German Citizen Kidnapped by the CIA

Khaled El Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, gave testimony to a committee of the European Parliament in March 2006 regarding his kidnapping by CIA agents while he was in Macedonia in December 2003. According to the investigation of the Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners (which can be accessed at ):

In Afghanistan, Mr El Masri said he was tortured and interrogated by several individuals who addressed him in Arabic "with a Palestinian accent". According to Mr El Masri, a German called 'Sam' and an American psychologist also interrogated him before he was finally released in an airport in Albania.

Case No. 4 – Psychologist Present During Abusive Use of Military Dogs

The military’s Schmidt-Furlow report followed up on accusations by FBI agents at Guantanamo that illegal, abusive and coercive techniques were being used on detainees at the Naval Prison at Guantanamo Bay. The report can be accessed at

A portion of the report details the case of “Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was subjected to a coercive interrogation managed by a psychologist with the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (Special interrogation plan #2, p. 21-26)”.

Discussion: b. An interrogator testified that the MWD (Military Working Dog) was in the booth on one occasion for the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan.... Specifically, the first interrogator stated that the second interrogator told him that a MWD was brought into the doorway of the interrogation room and ordered by the dog handler to growl, show teeth and bark at the detainee. In addition a psychologist assigned to the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) for JTF-170/JTF-GTMO witnessed the use of a MWD named “Zeus” during a military interrogation of the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan during the November 2002 time period.

Case No. 5 – Sharing of Confidential Psychologist Evaluations of Prisoners

In June 2004, the Washington Post reported on medical personnel sharing information gleaned from medical records with interrogators. The following is from the Post article, “Detainees' Medical Files Shared”, which can be accessed at

Matthews said an individual's records would routinely list psychologists' comments about conditions such as phobias, as well as family details, including the names and ages of a spouse or children.

Such information, he said, would give interrogators "tremendous power" over prisoners. Matthews said he was disturbed that his team, which issued a generally favorable report on the base's medical facility, was not told patient records were shared with interrogators.

Similar accusations have been documented by Physicians for Human Rights at

In its leaked report, the ICRC [International Red Cross] complained to the US about BSCT and the fact that doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about detainees’ mental health and vulnerabilities directly to interrogators.... Evidently, interrogators found this approach effective. One e-mail about Guantánamo made available through the FOIA lawsuit says, “I’ve met with the BISC (Biscuit) people several times and found them to be a great resource. They know everything that’s going on with each detainee, who they’re talking to, who the leaders are, etc. I’ve encouraged the interview teams to meet with them prior to doing their interviews.”

Case No. 6 – Military Psychologists Transfer SERE-POW Training for Use in Abusive Interrogations

In an July 2005 article from the New Yorker magazine by Jane Mayer, “The Experiment”, accessed it was suggested that participation of military psychologists from SERE advised Guantanamo interrogators in abusive interrogation techniques. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, and is a military program begun in the early 1950s that is supposed to prepare U.S. military personnel for the stress of capture and the POW experience.

While other researchers had made similar charges, documentary corroboration can be found in the recently released Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General report on detainee abuse, originally dated August 2006, which can be accessed at

"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 Guantánamo] interrogation personnel. The Army's Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo.

Case No. 7 – SERE Psychologist Pushes “Harsher Methods” in Interrogation

In Jane Mayer’s July 2005 New Yorker article, “The Experiment”, online at

Mayer describes an incident involving a SERE psychologist named James Mitchell. He was involved in an interrogation at an “undisclosed location.” According to the article: early as March, 2002, James Mitchell, a psychologist formerly affiliated with sere, appeared inside an interrogation room where the C.I.A. was holding a “high-value” Al Qaeda suspect.... Mitchell worked for years as a SERE administrator....

According to a counter-terrorism expert familiar with the interrogation of the Al Qaeda suspect, Mitchell announced that the suspect needed to be subjected to rougher methods. The man should be treated like the dogs in a classic behavioral-psychology experiment, he said, referring to studies performed in the nineteen-sixties by Martin Seligman and other graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.... called “learned helplessness.”


I hope this short fact sheet contributes to the discussion and organization surrounding the structure and format by which the United States military and CIA use behavioral health workers as integral actors in their illegal interrogation activities.

For more information on this subject, you can read this diary: Open Letter to APA President Brehm: Change APA course on interrogations now

or this diary: Secretary Gates, Stop SERE-type Torture

and Action Diary! Your Help Needed RIGHT NOW to Stop Torture

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4: What do we celebrate? (a list)

The following started out as a comment in Meteor Blades's excellent posting [at Daily Kos] retailing Frederick Douglass's famous 1852 July 4 speech castigating America for slavery.

I've added some links to make what follows meatier. (And I mostly link to collections of original documents, not secondary sources). I wasn't originally going to write anything for today. But why shouldn't we know the truth? This diary is dedicated to Scooter Libby.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. -- John 8:32.

If, per Samuel Johnson, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then July 4th is one of the most evil days on our calendar.

Of course, we remember July 4th because of the ringing declaration of human rights in Jefferson's famous document.

But the reality is so mind-numbingly depressing, that I find this is a good day to hide my head in shame, and do penance for the "greatness of America".

Not meant to be definitive, here is my July 4 List of America's "Accomplishments":

*Native American genocide

*Breaking of treaties with Native Americans


*Returning runaway in slave territories to slavery, per order of the Supreme Court (Dred Scott case)

*Legal racial segregation (Jim Crow)

*Land grabbing wars against neighboring countries

*Seizing countries overseas (Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba)

*Joining the senseless War to End All Wars, killing tens of thousands of U.S. soldier-citizens for nothing

*Fighting unionization, killing strikers

*Using the atomic bomb on civilians, killing 100,000s

*Incendiary bombing raids on civilians, killing 100,000s (Dresden, Tokyo)

*Building a giant nuclear arsenal threatening the world with total destruction

*Ordering the killing of fleeing civilians in Korean conflict

*Assassination programs during the Southeast Asian conflicts, again, killing tens of thousands

*Putting forth a war on trumpted up charges of a fake attack (Gulf of Tonkin)

*Using chemical weapons to defoliate massive amounts of countryside, and kill untold thousands, and cause untold numbers of birth defects

*Use of torture against Vietnamese

*Training of torture to be used against Latin Americans (Project X)

*Overturning the elected government of Iran

*Overturning the elected government of Guatemala

*Overturning the elected government of Chile

*Intervening covertly in the elections of France and Italy

*Importing Nazi war criminals to work on weapons programs and covert operations, such as Operation Paperclip

*Assassinations planned against foreign leaders (Castro, and likely Patrice Lumumba)

*Invasion of a sovereign nation (Bay of Pigs)

*Secret bombings of countries we were not at war with and without Congressional notification, approval or oversight, killing untold thousands and destroying the viability of the government (Cambodia)

*Making domestic political parties illegal and blacklisting thousands (McCarthy Red Scare and outlawing of the Communist Party USA)

*Domestic spying on political and church groups, by spy and military agencies
*Illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens

*Blackmailing U.S. civil rights leaders

*Arming religious fanatics who stoned women and kill schoolteachers that try to teach girls (Afghanistan)

*Arming guerilla groups to overthrow governments the U.S. opposes (Nicaragua)

*Supporting countries that are despotic and use torture (Egypt, Morocco, the Greece of the colonels, the Argentina of the junta, etc.)

*Invasion of a sovereign nation based on lies and trumped up charges (Iraq)

*Use of torture, secret renditions, and the construction of a secret prison network (Iraq and throughout the Middle East, Asia, and East Europe)

*The use of "caging" and other techniques to illegally decertify thousands of American citizens from the voting rolls

*100,000s civilians killed in war started on false pretenses (Iraq)

*Women and children kidnapped and held hostage in secret locations, as part of so-called "war on terror"

and on and on...

(Thanks to Turkana for the graphic!)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blog Against Theocracy: Remember Chevalier de La Barre

A blogswarm entitled "Blog Against Theocracy" is running over the net from July 1 through July 4 this year. For my contribution, I'd like to bring up a very old, but once famous case. It provides the reductio ad absurdum of church-state theocratic criminality. This 18th century case was so infamous, it drew the attention of the famous French writer Francois Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire, by then 75 years old.

In July 1766, Jean Francois Le Febvre, chevalier de La Barre, was tried and executed in Abbeville, in the French province of Normandy. His crimes? La Barre was accused of singing anti-religious songs, being disrespectful to a religious procession, and harming a crucifix.

Wikipeda has a short entry on Monsieur La Barre:

On August 9, 1765, the wooden crucifix on a bridge in Abbeville was vandalized. Catholicism was then the state religion of France and the religion of the vast majority of the French public. The bishop of Amiens roused the furor of the faithful and asked churchgoers to reveal all they could about the case to the civilian judges, under pain of excommunication. Nobody actually revealed anything about the vandalizing itself, but some accused three young men... of not having removed their hats when a procession had passed. La Barre's bedroom was searched and three prohibited books, including Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, were found.

La Barre was tortured into confessing his alleged crimes. He was then sentenced by the Paris parlement (high court) to be tortured again, beheaded and then have his body thrown into the flames along with his copy of [Voltaire's] Philosophical Dictionary. Voltaire attempted to have his conviction reversed to no avail. It was reversed by the National Convention during the French Revolution in 1794.

Ian Davidson's book, Voltaire in Exile, fleshes out much more of the story. For instance, the other men accused with La Barre came from prominent families, including the mayor and chief investigating magistrate. These well-connected families were able to whisk their sons away to safety, leaving La Barre, an orphan, to stand trial. La Barre had been brought up by his aunt, Anne-Marguerite Feydeau, the abbess of the Villancourt convent. Some have said that the prosecuting magistrate had been spurned by Mlle. Feydeau, and that he therefore held a grudge against the young (probably around 20 years old) La Barre.

As Davidson describes it, like other notable cases of the same period, e.g. the Calas case, the campaign against La Barre

...had been based on a highly charged alliance between the bigoted Church-State machine and the superstitious local Catholic population. The evidence against La Barre was fragmentary, rumor-based, unreliable, and wholly insufficient. The legal basis for the charges of blasphemy and sacrilege was questionable... the charges of themselves were manifestly out of proportion to the offenses alleged.... Worst of all, the case against the accused had been deliberately whipped on by a local magistrate for reasons of personal grudge.... (pg. 171)

La Barre's Torture and Execution

Davidson also is less queasy in reporting the torture done to La Barre to get him to "confess". The sentence of the Abbeville court had to be confirmed by the Parlement in Paris. On June 4, 1766, by a vote of 15-10, La Barre's conviction was upheld. Before his execution, he was tortured to obtain confession. The young man's legs were enclosed between wooden planks, and wooden wedges hammered between the planks and legs. No confession was forthcoming. He was dragged to his beheading wearing a sign: "Impious, sacrilegious and hateful blasphemer."

Voltaire reported that in the shadow of the executioner's ax, La Barre's last words were:

"I did not believe that they could make a gentleman die for such a small thing." (Davidson, pg. 168)

As a final last mercy, the authorities did not tear out La Barre's tongue, as had been the sentence of the Abbeville court. Voltaire took up a campaign for La Barre's rehabilitation, which would not come until the French Revolutionary government reversed the decision posthumously in 1794, or 28 years later. In any case, and in part because of the publicity campaign of Voltaire, who wrote a pamphlet entitled Relation de la Mort du Chevalier de La Barre, Jean Francois Le Febvre would be the last person executed in France for "blasphemy". For a time, though, Voltaire was frightened by his being implicated by the religious authorities, who burned his famous dictionary with the body of La Barre at the stake, he thought seriously of emigrating from France.

A few weeks after the execution, Voltaire wrote to his friend, Jean le Rond d'Alembert:

I cannot understand how thinking beings can remain in a country of monkeys, which so often become tigers. As for me, I am ashamed even to be on the frontier. In truth, now is the time to break the connection.... Even the Inquisition would not have dared do what these Jansenist judges have carried out." (Davidson, pg. 173)

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

Just the other day, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the suppression of free speech in the case of Joseph Frederick, a high school student whose banner "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" was confiscated by the school, even though it was held aloft away from school property. While all Frederick may have lost was his banner, the country lost a battle in the fight against religious intolerance, and the inroads the latter is making in the courts and legislatures of this country.

Too bad, Juneau, Alaska school principal Deborah Morse doesn't have the powers the Catholic hierarchy and church-infested courts of La Barre's day had over "disrespectful" speech. But she has the hateful 5-4 decision of the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, we have the first amendment and a number of organizations trying to protect us against the trend to turn this country into a Christian theocracy.

Go to the website of First Freedom First, and sign their petition to safeguard separation of church and state and protect religious liberty in this country.

Recent Report Lists U.S. "Disappeared" Prisoners, Including Children

The barbarity of the U.S. government is profound. A report issued last month by Human Rights Watch, U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror”, includes a new list of those the U.S. government has "disappeared", i.e., kidnapped, and taken to secret U.S. detention centers. The list, compiled by a number of human rights group, such as Amnesty International, Cageprisoners, and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School, includes nationals from countries including Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Spain. These desaparecidos were seized in countries as far apart as Morocco, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kenya, and Spain.

The report also includes a section on women and children, the families of the kidnapped or disappeared prisoners, who have also been taken into secret imprisonment. The best known case of wives and children seized involves the family of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. His two young sons, aged seven and nine, were also arrested with Mohammed in September 2002. According to eyewitness reports

...the two were held in an adult detention center for at least four months while US agents questioned the children about their father’s whereabouts....

The human rights groups are calling on the US government to put a permanent end to the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, and to disclose the identities, fate, and whereabouts of all detainees currently or previously held at secret facilities operated or overseen by the US government as part of the “war on terror.”

The "forced disappearance" of a person is a "crime against humanity", subject to no statute of limitation, according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Of course, the United States, along with Libya, Qatar, China, and Iraq, have refused to ratify the Rome Statute. Other reluctant signators, Israel and Yemen, signed in late 2000.

The arrest and forced detention of children at secret locations must qualify as a war crime or crime against humanity if anything ever did. And -- for those who have followed my coverage of psychologist involvement in U.S. torture and war crimes -- of course, there had to be psychologists involved in this crime as well. True, they are supposedly involved in order to do good, as the handmaidens of war criminals.

According to the UK Telegraph account of the seizure of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family:

The boys [ages 7 and 9] have been held by the Pakistani authorities but this weekend they were flown to America where they will be questioned about their father.

Last night CIA interrogators confirmed that the boys were staying at a secret address where they were being encouraged to talk about their father's activities.

"We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children," said one official, "but we need to know as much about their father's recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care." [Emphasis mine]

I would like to have one of the great ethicists that seem to mushroom over at the American Psychological Association -- perhaps Stephen Behnke, or Melba Vasquez -- explain how ethical it is to be a psychologist at a secret prison, serving the kidnapped children of other kidnapped prisoners, who have no rights, and whose parents are being tortured. Is this what the tortured logic of the APA leadership has come to?

The UK Guardian reported the story when it broke early last month, including this bit on Mohammad's children:

The report also expresses concern over the fate of Yusuf al-Khalid and Abed al-Khalid, the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They were taken into custody, aged nine and seven, in September 2002, during an attempt to capture their father. A former detainee says that he saw them in March the following year, around the time their father was captured, in a secret prison where the guards tormented them with insects.

While Sheik Mohammad's situation got the most publicity, there were other families -- women and children -- who were also kidnapped and held incommunicado. HRW reported on some of these:

On March 28, 2003, Aafia Siddiqui (see page 21) was reportedly apprehended in Karachi, Pakistan along with her three children (then aged seven years, five years and six months)....

On July 24, 2004, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a detainee who the U.S. government has acknowledged was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program and is presently held at Guantánamo Bay, was reportedly apprehended in Gujarat, Pakistan, along with two women (his wife, an Uzbek national and the Pakistani wife of South African national Zubair Ismail) and five children. His apprehension was reportedly a joint Pakistani-U.S. operation, coordinated with CIA and FBI officials.

I almost don't know how to end an article such as this one. If I could, like the last episode of The Sopranos, I'd fade to black for a long time and let this one sink in.

Here's a link to the entire HRW/Center for Constitutional Rights/Amnesty International/Cageprisoners/et al. report (PDF). And here's an Action Link regarding the lawsuit against the government on the secret dentention centers, put up by Center for Constutional Rights.

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.