Friday, May 29, 2009

Pressure Grows Over Torture Pics, Obama Turns to SCOTUS

First, President Obama said he would agree to the release of 21 photos of prisoner abuse by U.S. military personnel (and 23 additional photos "identified as responsive"), as ordered by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a suit filed by the ACLU. Then Obama changed his mind, and on Thursday, went to back to the Circuit Court and asked it, according to the Washington Post, "to recall its order requiring the release of photographs held by the Pentagon."

But, there was a new wrinkle. The UK Telegraph released a story saying the photos that could be released included horrific pictures from Abu Ghraib that "show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." Furthermore, their sourcing was impeccable, as the information came from Gen. Antonio Taguba, who had conducted an internal Pentagon investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004.

Of course, as Peterr's post pointed out, the Telegraph story was met with immediate denial by the Pentagon. The Daily Telegraph was accused of having "completely mischaracterized the images."

Do you smell the rising smoke of a pending scandal growing? If not, consider what came next.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Fair and Balanced" in Academia: Twisting Recent Torture History in the Journal "Nature"

A dust-up in academia concerning torture and the role of psychologists has failed to make a dent in the reportage of either the establishment media or the blogosphere. Nevertheless, the issue has fired up e-mail listservs over at the American Psychological Association, and among opponents of APA's long-time pro-military interrogations policy.

It all started when the May 21 edition of the prominent scientific journal Nature carried an unsigned editorial entitled "Responsible Interrogation." The editorial makes some unequivocally strong statements against the Bush policy of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Despite plausible-sounding talk about ‘states of induced dependency' and the like, there is no scientific basis for asserting that techniques such as waterboarding, or slamming people against a wall, are fast or effective ways of getting at the truth (see Nature 445, 349; 2007). Indeed, it is hard to imagine any ethical way a controlled study on that question could be carried out....

And even if physical or mental torture could be shown to be effective in some immediate, tactical sense, that would be beside the point: torture is a violation of human rights and of international law, and is a threat to the long-term health of democracy. It is not to be tolerated.

But then, noting "there are no easy answers," the editorial launched into a discussion of the controversies that beset the American Psychological Association (APA) when it tried to reconcile professional ethics with the job of assisting military and intelligence interrogations. Even worse, especially for those APA activists who worked so hard to pass a referendum-inspired change in APA policy on interrogations, the Nature article returned to a line of argumentation that APA had supposedly now rejected.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Repeal Proposition 8! For the Right to Marry Who You Choose! has released a video to fight for the repeal of California's Proposition 8, which took away the right of gays in that state to get married. Today, the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop. 8 initiative.

The video here speaks to the issue of allowing intolerance and denial of basic human rights to be a matter for popular vote. Either human rights are inalienable -- including by "popular" vote -- or they are not. While some are arguing the California Supreme Court's decision is much narrower than pro-Prop 8 supporters could hope for, making it a Pyrrhic victory of sorts for them, the fact that some 10% of the population does not have the same rights as the other 90% is horribly wrong, and must be rectified.

H/T Eugene

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Exposing Health Professionals’ Complicity in Torture

The Center for Constitutional Rights sent out a press release today. They are launching a new campaign, with accompanying website, to address the latest revelations regarding the collaboration of various health professionals, including psychologists, in the torture practiced by the CIA and the U.S. defense establishment. What follows is the text of their press release (followed by an important link to another relevant article).
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) launched the website as part of a larger campaign to hold health professionals accountable for torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Federal officials, licensing boards and professional associations refuse to hold individual health professionals accountable for their complicity in the torture program,” said CCR Fellow Deborah Popowski. “Their excuse – ‘we do not have enough information’ – doesn’t hold water. This campaign is about exposing the plenitude of evidence that is already out there.”

The campaign strives to expose existing evidence to launch ethical, and in some cases criminal investigations of the psychologists and physicians involved in the mistreatment of men, women and children held captive at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA black sites by U.S. military and intelligence forces since the so-called “war on terror” began on September 11, 2001.

“The harm continues under President Obama,” said. “Medical personnel still participate in the brutal force-feeding of prisoners, and mental health providers are complicit in preserving the regime of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation that is steadily breaking down their physical and mental health.”

In addition to specific tools to take action on the issue, the website houses a growing roster of individuals complicit in torture in the hopes of exposing the true extent of health professionals’ complicity in torture. The first individual on the roster is Dr. John Leso, an Army psychologist who participated in the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo. Dr. Leso also helped develop abusive interrogation techniques and detention conditions at the prison. A clinical psychologist trained at SUNY-Albany and Bellevue Hospital, he remains licensed to practice psychology in New York despite widely-known evidence of his participation in torture. The New York Office of the Professions, the body charged with investigating and prosecuting professional misconduct by NY-licensed psychologists, has refused to even open an investigation.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change and uses litigation to empower poor communities and communities of color, to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights. Visit
Of course, whenever I think about health professionals and complicity with torture, I think about the American Psychological Association. Psychologist Trudy Bond has delivered a wonderful critique of current APA President James Bray's latest missive to the membership. I'll let Trudy's own words describe the situation:
Dr. James Bray, current president of the American Psychological Association (yes, those guys again), recently responded to a group of psychologists with the admonition, “I have a request for each of you. As you know, our association has a long history of adamantly opposing torture and the abusive interrogation of detainees. I hope you will accurately reflect this in your communications.” (Sarcasm in italics added.)

If only . . . IF ONLY APA would abide by its own counsel. In his most recent press release, Dr. Bray asserted, "APA has declared that psychologists have an obligation to intervene to stop torture or abuse, and a further obligation to report any instance of torture or abuse." Really Dr. Bray?? Then perhaps you could explain to us why, out of the many military psychologists that have been deployed to Guantanamo, we've only heard a brief complaint from psychologist Mike Gelles. APA has repeatedly used him as an example of psychologists "doing the right thing." What about the many other psychologists at Guantanamo the last seven years . . . why haven't we heard from them when detainees were brutalized outside of the interrogation room, with the military forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner's head, banging their heads on concrete floors, hog-tying them, sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end, days and days and weeks and weeks in isolation or subject to sleep deprivation.

We know some of their names, these military psychologists at Guantanamo, but none of them have come forward to "intervene to stop the torture and abuse" that continues at Guantanamo, as Dr. Bray demands in his best, politically-correct, hollow announcement.

Dr. Bray continues: "Furthermore, APA stands ready to adjudicate reports that any APA member has engaged in prohibited techniques." And this becomes my personal Groundhog Day.

You see, Dr. Bray, I've been here before. Ironically, one year ago this month, I appealed to your organization for truth and action, after the three previous presidents of APA made the same meaningless statements:
Gerald Koocher, APA President 2006: "I should also note that A.P.A. has taken a very strong stance against the use of torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and if anyone is able to identify A.P.A. members who have been involved in such activities, we will take disciplinary action."

Sharon Brehm, APA President 2007: "Any allegations that a member has violated APA’s strict prohibition against engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment will be investigated and, if the evidence warrants, adjudicated."

Alan E. Kazdin, APA President 2008: "Any APA member found to have violated this prohibition would be subject to sanction under our Code of Ethics."
And now you, Dr. Bray, offering the same empty promise. There is no truth in your statement, or the statements of the preceding three presidents of APA. Your organization has refused for two years to rule on a complaint I have filed against a member of APA who has clearly violated your Code of Ethics.

Follow your own sanctimonious advice to others and "accurately reflect" the intentions of the American Psychological Association. Stop intoning the glittering generalities of your predecessors. You insult those who of us who still believe in our ethics and you demean the victims of those psychologists who have perpetrated criminal acts.

Dr. Trudy Bond is a licensed psychologist in Ohio. She can be reached at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Our Government Is Looking Out For Us

Doctor Strangelove, Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott (1964)

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Bad Apples"? The Interrogation of Abu Ghraib Internee #151363

The following is an example of the requested approval for exceptions to the interrogation policy at Abu Ghraib, in this case made on behalf ofthe interrogation plan for internee #15163, a (presumably young) Syrian male. Such requests meant that extraordinary means were to be used, i.e., torture, and needed, per Pentagon policy, approval by the higher ups. This request was made by Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, Iraq, to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

The version here comes from A big H/T for my finding this document goes to Dr. Steven Miles, where a large excerpt and analysis of the document can be found on pp. 56-57 of his excellent book, Oath Betrayed: America's Torture Doctors (UC Press, 2009).

Miles notes:
It is reasonable to infer that a behavioral scientist helped design this proposal. At the time is was written, the Abu Ghraib BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] was functional and psychological monitoring of interrogations was being done. The plan contains a psycho-cultural approach to exploiting a prisoner's religion.
As you read, note the integration of MPs into the interrogation "plan." When the guards said they were instructed by military intelligence and others to "soften up" the prisoners, they were given short shrift by the media and the public. Here is documentary proof of planning of the Abu Ghraib torure from high up, and only months before the scandal over it broke.

In the following document, I have taken the liberty of emphasizing some text in bold.
MEMORANDUM THRU Commander, CJTF- , ATTN: C2 (AETV-CJ2), BG(P) Fast, Victory Base, Iraq, APO AE 09342

Commander, CJTF- , ATTN: StaffJudge Advocate (AETV-JA), COL Warren, Victory Base, Iraq, APO AE 09342

FOR Commander, CJTF- 7, LTG Sanchez, Victory Base, Iraq, APO AE 09342

SUBJECT: Request for Exception to CJTF- 7 Interrogation and Counter Resistance Policy

1. Request exception to the CJTF - 7 Interrogation and Counter Resistance Policy to authorize the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JDIC) interrogator to be authorized to use the Fear up Harsh and isolation approaches during interrogations with the following detainee.

a. Name: J[redacted] K[redacted]

b. ISN: 151363

c. Date request employment of approach: As soon as possible.

d. Circumstances of capture: Detainee is a Syrian male [redacted] years of age, captured in an attempted IED attack in Baghdad, IZ. Detainee is an admitted foreign fighter who came to commit Jihad against Coalition Forces in Iraq. He was captured with [approx. four words redacted] and [approx. three words redacted] while attempting to set up an IED.

e. Assessment of detainee: Detainee is at the point where he is resigned to the hope that Allah will see him through this episode in his life, therefore he feels no need to speak with interrogators. Detainee will not answer open ended questions, has a smug attitude and is running counter approaches on interrogators. Detainee needs to be put in a position where he will feel that the only option to get out of jail is to speak with interrogators.

f. Potential information: Detainee can provide information related to safe houses facilitators, financing, recruitment and operations of foreign fighter smuggling into Iraq. Detainee can also potentially provide names and target information of local facilitators in Ar-Ramadi. Detainee can also confirm information provided from others captured with him.

g. Limitations of approach: Detainee will be interrogated in the Camp Vigilant Steel site. Detainee argues that Allah is the only one that can decide his fate. Interrogators will establish control of detainee by allowing detainee to take this stance then implement a Fear up harsh approach. Interrogators will reinforce the fact that we have attempted to help him time and time again and that they are now putting it in Allah' s hands. Interrogators will at a maximum throw tables, chairs, invade his personal space and continuously yell at the detainee. Interrogators will not physically touch or harm the detainee, will take all necessary precautions that all thrown objects are clear of the detainee and will not coerce the detainee in any way. If the detainee has not broken yet, interrogators will move into the segregation phase of the approach. Interrogators will coordinate with Military Police guards in the segregation area prior to initiation of this phase. For the segregation phase of the approach the MPs will put an empty sandbag onto the prisoners head before moving him out of Vigilant B. This measure will be for force protection purposes and transporting the detainee to the segregation area by HMMWV. MPs will be transporting the detainee with the interrogators present. During transportation, the Fear up Harsh approach will be continued, highlighting the Allah factor. Interrogators will take all necessary precautions in conjunction with the MPs to ensure detainees safety during transport. Upon arrival at site, MP guards will take him into custody. MP working dogs will be present and barking during this phase. Detainee will be strip searched by guards with the empty sandbag over his head for the safety of himself, prison guards, interrogators and other prisoners. Interrogators will wait outside the room while detainee is strip searched. Interrogators will watch from a distance while detainee is placed in the segregation cell. Detainee will be put on the adjusted sleep schedule (attached) for 72 hours. Interrogations will be conducted continuously during this 72 hour period. The approaches which will be used during this phase will include, fear up harsh, pride and ego down, silence and loud music. Stress positions will also be used in accordance with CJTF- 7 IROE in order to intensify the approach.

2. The approval for this approach is essential due to the information this detainee possesses. It will greatly enhance and expedite the collection effort in support of CJTF - 7 Intelligence requirements and could potentially save countless lives of American soldiers in the future.

3. POC for this action is CPT Fitch, 205th MI Bde SJA at DNVT 302-559-4031 or via SIPR at or CPT Wood, JIDC Interrogation OIC, at DNVT 302-559- 1764 or via SlPR at


Exception to the CJTF- 7 Interrogation and Counter Resistance Policy is granted/not granted.

Request for Exception to CJTF - 7 Interrogation and Counter Resistance Policy


This document totally destroys the "bad apple" theory of the torture, if it hasn't been adequately destroyed already. But sometimes documents speak their own tremulous truth, in ways that even well-written journalism cannot.

Feel free to pass this one around.

APA Ethics Policymaker Clarifies Defense of Torture; Reveals APA-Pentagon Link

The following article is reposted by permission of the author, Dr. Stephen Soldz. Dr. Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and a steering committee member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He maintains the Psyche, Science, and Society blog.
APA ethics policy-maker clarifies defense of torture; reveals American Psychological Association - Pentagon collusion

The recently public posting on the Propublica web site of the listserv from the American Psychological Association’s secretive 2005 PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] task force has again focused attention on the nature of this task force and on potential collusion between the APA and the Pentagon to provide “ethical” cover for psychologists aiding Bush administration interrogations at Guantanamo, the CIA’s “black sites,” and in in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One piece of evidence supporting a claim of collusion is that, in a highly unusual step, the task force membership was kept confidential from both the APA membership and the press and public. Salon reporter Mark Benjamin had to go to Congressional sources to get the names a year later, though it turned out that they had been available on an obscure website, if one had known to look there. APA members learned from Benjamin that a majority of members were from the military-intelligence establishment. Five of these members had aided Bush-era interrogations, with four from chains of command accused of abuses; among other ethical problems with the task force composition, these members were giving themselves get-out-of-jail-free cards by pronouncing these interrogations “ethical.”

Not long after the listserv release psychologist and PENS member Bryce Lefever was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, defending CIA torture psychologists Mitchell and Jessen and the reverse-engineering of the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape [SERE] techniques. Lefever revealed in that interview that he saw no ethical problems with Bush administration interrogation tactics, based as they were on the techniques used on US service members in the SERE school where Lefever had served as a psychologist monitoring trainees for possible harm.

The Lefever NPR interview created quite a stir among psychologists, including members of the APA’s Council of Representatives, as it revealed the questionable ethical reasoning of those chosen to form policy for the APA in this critical area. Reportedly, a major figure in the APA military psychology division wrote a letter distancing the division from Lefever’s extreme views, as depicted on NPR. In response to the criticism, Lefever has issued an Open Letter to military psychologists in which he taken exception to this criticism, and to the NPR interview, claiming major distortions of his views by NPR. In addition to clarifying and defending his views, in this Open Letter Lefever incidentally provides additional evidence of APA-Pentagon collusion in forming the PENS task force.

Before examining his Open Letter, it is useful to understand that this NPR interview was not the first time Lefever made the arguments supporting US interrogation tactics. In an article on the NPR interview, I quoted material from the PENS listserv indicating that he made many of the same arguments to the task force, and was largely ignored, but met with no objection from other members. Further, in August 2007, Lefever defended the SERE-based abuse [torture] of Jose Padilla to a Christian Science Monitor reporter:

” ‘There’s something to be said for sending the message that the gloves are coming off,’ says Capt. Bryce Lefever, a Navy psychologist and former SERE school instructor. ‘You don’t take a knife to a gunfight.’

Captain Lefever says it is unfair to compare US antiterror interrogations with Soviet interrogation techniques. ‘Their abuse was a systematic practice to conceal the truth,’ he says. ‘If Padilla was abused, then it was for a righteous purpose – to reveal the truth.’

Lefever opposes the use of torture because in most instances it is ineffective. But sometimes, harsh and brutal tactics can produce results, he adds. The key is that interrogators must be careful in their questions not to telegraph an agenda to the subject, because if the technique is coercive enough, the subject will say anything to make it stop.’ “

Here is the Lefever Open Letter:

Open Letter to Military Psychology

To Bill Strickland, Eve Weber and members of the military psychology community:

Over the years, I have granted interviews to various publications on matters pertaining to clinical psychology. I have done so with the intention to inform, educate and persuade both the professional and lay community on matters that I believe are important to the practice of psychology and to the defense of our nation. I believe that it is the responsible obligation of citizens to debate matters that affect policy, health, freedom, as well as US and world opinion. I also believe that free, open and honest expression, in pursuit of the truth, is the only way in which any idea can mature or truly progress. Actions based on ignorance, if they succeed, will do so on dumb luck. Clarity in our terms, philosophies and ideas will lead to informed decisions.

When I have spoken to the press, I have done so judiciously and have maintained, in every instance, that I speak as a private citizen. I have never desired or pretended to speak for another person. And, I have insisted that I do not speak for the Navy, the Department of Defense, or military psychology. Until recently, this admonition has been largely respected.

There has been a strong reaction to the interview and accompanying article on NPR All Things Considered. Much of the negative reaction has come from the military psychology community. This has caused me considerable anguish-particularly because those colleagues critical of the interview condemned it, me, my participation, etc. without first contacting me or seeking to understand. The Strickland letter immediately sought to distance the military community from what were assumed to be my views. In the material that follows, I will address a few of the particulars in where and how NPR misrepresented my views. Now you might ask how, within a recorded interview, my stated views could be twisted or misrepresented. Let me provide a few examples:

1. The correspondent, Alix Spiegel, promised that the story would be mine, that she would be in the background and that I would be able to lay out the thesis. Now, I am not as naïve as some of you would think. I am aware of NPR’s reputation. However, with the various assurances, and that my statements would be recorded verbatim, I agreed to the interview. Hindsight is perfect, however, going in, I had no particular reason to suspect that she would lie, twist and manipulate so egregiously.

2. The title: “Military Psychologist Says Harsh Tactics Justified.” If you believe in the honesty of NPR’s reporting, and logic, you would assume that the rest of the interview would support that headline. However, I never made such a statement. In fact, the article quoted me as saying I was opposed to torture and advocated only slow, rapport-building techniques. When Strickland’s letter stated: “…we strongly disagree with the assertions attributed to Dr. Lefever,” I was quite taken aback. I thought that he believed the “hit piece,” didn’t read the story, and disagreed with my position opposing torture. It is important that we not twist and mischaracterize or misrepresent each other’s positions.

3. I did not defend Mitchell and Jessen. I like them and respect them. However, I told Alix Spiegel several times that they were big boys and could defend themselves. I did point out I was convinced that harsh tactics worked in interrogation as did a host of other, less harsh measures. I emphatically told her that this was my opinion and that it was a matter for empirical investigation. I stated that in pursuit of the truth, the key when using any interrogation technique, was to never lead the detainee during questioning.

4. Alix skillfully wove in Answer A on Question B. For example, I did say that I liked and was proud of the work we did at the SERE Schools. I did not say or remotely imply that I liked torturing people. In fact, I have never tortured anyone nor have I advised anyone to do it. And, by the way, I have never seen it done.

5. Alix implied that we engaged in tying a prisoner’s arms behind his back and keeping him awake lying on the ground-or advocated these tactics. In fact, I told the story of CAPT Rod Knutson, whose account was well described in the Reader’s Digest Book: POW, under the title: “A Tough Nut to Crack.” The technique described was used by the enemy (North Viet Nam-Viet Cong) and is called the rope torture or “rope trick.” Nothing of the like, to my knowledge, has ever been suggested for use by the American Armed Forces.

6. Alix made it sound like I advocated putting a bug in with a prisoner. I never suggested this and believe it is a hapless, stupid idea. However, I did point out that there were similarities between what was called torture in one context and therapy in another. My general thesis, over three hours of interviewing, was that empiricists, ethicists, behavioral researchers, academicians, and philosophers needed to debate and decide what constituted torture and the effect of context on the topography of behavior.

7. I was given a voice in this important debate. This occurred by my appointment to the PENS Taskforce in 2005. This appointment was officially requested by my Specialty Leader. It was sanctioned by the Navy. It is important that those of us who can contribute to the war of ideas and philosophies do so and that the right, reasonable, prudent, and ethical side win. For example, the pacifist movement before WWII and the appeasers in England, France and other countries had catastrophic consequences on the events that set the stage for the invasion of Europe by Germany, Nazism, and the Third Reich. My side of the debate includes standing against terror, protecting America, upholding the Constitution, and adhering to American values and rights as protected by the Constitution. I am resoundly opposed to pacifism as I believe it is a moralistic-feel good about oneself-philosophy which has no historical support for its efficacy and is contrary to everything I know about human (or animal) behavior.

8. I pointed out to Alix that I was waterboarded in 1990. I have been quoted as saying (Vanity Fair) that it was terrifying. It was. However, I was not harmed by the experience. I pointed this out to NPR as well as Vanity Fair and others. This point is never reported by the press. I told her that there is no life free of pain or adversity. And, the Waterboard made me stronger, more able to face the various problems of my life. My general thesis was, if something does not harm you, can you call it torture? This has been my consistent question from the PENS Taskforce until now. By this definition, I have now been tortured by NPR, and by those who have chosen to perpetuate their lies-far more so than by my experience on the Waterboard. I believe that torture must include the element of harm. Clearly, as psychologists, we are ethically bound to do no harm.

9. I also informed Alix that my colleagues at APA have passed a resolution that has the breathtaking arrogance of suggesting how my military colleagues should and should not practice in settings that they have decided are or have been abusive to our Detainees. I am sure that there have been psychologist consultants to business and industry and that many of those businesses, banks or industry are now failing at great cost to Americans. Perhaps we should pass a resolution limiting their activities. Perhaps those consultants should be limited to treating only those who have lost money at those banks or businesses. The fact of the matter is that those who have committed heinous acts (criminals, terrorists) are deprived of some or all of their human rights (through incarceration, loss of rights to vote, death penalty, etc.). Even those accused of committing these acts, though presumed innocent, are deprived of their liberty for the benefit and safety of society. Human Rights and Ethics are different concerns-although in an ideal world, one becomes the other. In a world of terror, the peaceful, moral, productive citizen must be protected by those who would deprive his rights by force, terror and deceit. This is what I swore to do when I took my oath. Our enemies are both foreign and domestic.

10. This is the easiest possible criticism that someone can make: “You should have done more, or you should have done something different.” The set of things we don’t do is infinitely larger that the set we choose to do. Our first order of business is to seek and to promote understanding so that we will be wise in the few things we choose to do.

11. Finally, I told Alix that the reputation of America-mostly to other Americans-was a vital concern. It is our own self-opinion of what America stands for that is at issue. It was correctly reported that I have no particular fondness for our enemy-but I would and have behaved correctly and ethically in regard to him for our sake.

Yours truly, Bryce Lefever”

In this Letter Lefever apparently is saying that “harsh” techniques are sometimes effective, and that they are, in many cases, not harmful, and therefore cannot be considered to be “torture.” Lefever similarly told the PENS task force that they shouldn’t assume that SERE-based techniques would be harmful to US detainees because, he claimed, they were character-building for US troops who went through SERE:

“When I brought up the idea of harm, and what is harm, it fell on deaf ears. I pointed out that behavioral and psychological techniques used in training our high-risk-of-capture students in Survival Schools [SERE] are viewed as vital, necessary, good, and for the greater good. Psychologists are strong proponents of these techniques even though they inflict psychological and physical pain. Yet the very same behaviors are proscribed by the Department of Defense and viewed as harmful when applied to America’s prisoners.”

This new letter helps clarify his claim to the PENS listserv. His argument is that, because these SERE-based techniques are not “harmful,” they are not torture.

” I was waterboarded in 1990…. However, I was not harmed by the experience…. My general thesis was, if something does not harm you, can you call it torture? “

Therefore psychologists, ethically-bound as they are to “do no harm,” can ethically adopt waterboarding or any other SERE-based techniques. Because of this reasoning, he can claim that he never used or witnessed “torture.” Not when he was a SERE psychologist witnessing SERE techniques used on US service members , one presumes. And not when he trained interrogators in Afghanistan. Given his caveats, we are still left wondering what techniques he did use in Afghanistan. Lefever says he only used “rapport-building.” However, we now know that the abuses in Guantanamo from 2003 on were often described as “rapport-building.” Thus, we are left wondering which “non-harmful” techniques he taught US interrogators in Afghanistan.

Another very important element of this letter is that it confirms the extensive collaboration between the APA and the military in the creation of the PENS task force. Lefveer tells us:

“I was given a voice in this important debate. This occurred by my appointment to the PENS Taskforce in 2005. This appointment was officially requested by my Specialty Leader. It was sanctioned by the Navy.”

Lefever here tells us that he, a member of the task force was “officially requested” by a military official and was officially sanctioned by the Navy. This puts the lie to any claim that APA leaders selected the task force. Rather, they merely ratified choices “officially requested” by military officials. They thus surrendered the association’s ethics decision-making to the military.

Lefever, in his sincerity, further informs us that “human rights” are divorced from “ethics” in the real world. While human rights are concerned about the rights of individuals, Lefever makes clear that he feels an ethical obligation to ride roughshod over those rights in order to protect “the peaceful, moral, productive citizen.” He shows a profound misunderstanding of the fundamentals of our criminal justice system when he state, and his willingness to dispense with many of the protections that protect our freedoms:

“Even those accused of committing these acts, though presumed innocent, are deprived of their liberty for the benefit and safety of society.”

Perhaps most chillingly, Lefever concludes his discussion of the flaws and dangers of “human rights” and of pacifism by stating “Our enemies are both foreign and domestic.” Given the totality of the Letter, it certainly is reasonable to wonder if “pacifists” and “human rights” advocates are among those domestic enemies he has sworn to fight. Safe to say, few even among the APA leadership would openly support such views.

In putting Bryce Lefever, along with the other military-intelligence members, on the PENS task force and making them their “ethics” policy-makers, and in keeping their participation secret, the APA demonstrated the extremes to which they were willing to go to do the Bush administration’s bidding.

With a new administration in Washington, the APA is busy trying to scrub their recent history. They may even rescind the PENS report, defended so vigorously for years, that resulted from this flawed process. But no mere policy change can be sufficient without a detailed understanding of how and why the nation’s largest organization of psychologists created this obviously flawed and unethical “ethics” process. Four organizations – Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Psychologists for an Ethical APA, and Physicians for Human Rights — have so far called for independent investigations of APA-Bush administration ties. This investigation is necessary to begin the process of reforming an organization that has gone so far astray. The investigation must then be followed by changes in organizational structures and personnel to reduce the chances of a recurrence of flawed policy-making in the wake of the next national crisis.

Gingrich's Long History as Bully-Boy for the CIA

Ex-House Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich has been apoplectic about current Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied about briefing her about the use of torture ("enhanced interrogation techniques") at a meeting in September 2002. Like a diminutive Zeus, thundering from the heights of Mt. Lilliput, Gingrich railed against what he called Pelosi's "despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort," and called for investigations.

Whatever Pelosi's ultimate political fate on this matter -- and she appears to have backed off a little on Friday, shifting her emphasis from the lies of the CIA to the lies of the Bush administration in general, after a letter from CIA Director Leon Panetta to his troops -- a person would have to be totally obtuse not to see Gingrich's attack as cover for the CIA and its torture crimes. It is also a fiercely partisan attack, laying down a smokescreen for the real criminals, Cheney, Bush, Tenet, Rumsfeld and their ilk.

But this is not the first time we've seen Newt play this role. In 1995, then-Democratic Representative Robert G. Torricelli received information from a State Department whistleblower, Richard Nuccio, that a long-time Guatemalan CIA agent, Colonel Julio Roberto Alpirez, was responsible for the controversial killing of an American innkeeper living in Guatemala, as well as the murder of a leftist guerrilla leader married to an American citizen, Jennifer Harbury. The guerrilla leader, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, was ordered killed at the end of his interrogation by Alpirez, who also was a Guatemalan military intelligence officer. Both the State Department and the National Security Council knew the identity of the killer, but withheld the information, even as Harbury was conducting hunger strikes to get the government to pursue what then appeared to be her husband's disappearance.

Torricelli, who was a member of the House Intelligence Committee, released the name of the CIA agent and announced in a letter to President Clinton:

The direct involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in the murder of these individuals leads me to the extraordinary conclusion that the agency is simply out of control and that it contains what can only be called a criminal element..."

Torricelli's bombshell caused a huge scandal, coming in the wake of revelations of a bloody U.S.-backed Guatemalan counter-insurgency campaign that killed over 100,000 civilians, led by the Guatemalan military and intelligence services. According to a New York Times article in March 1995, Alpirez had been a CIA informer since the 1980s, and then trained at the U.S. Army-run School of the Americas in 1989.

By the time of the 1990 murder of Michael DeVine, "an American citizen who ran a hotel in the Guatemalan rain forest and apparently had stumbled onto a smuggling operation involving the Guatemalan military," Alpirez was a contract agent for the CIA. The controversy over DeVine's murder forced the Bush I administration to cut off military aid to the Guatemalan regime, all the while, according to the UK Independent, secretly channeling $7 million a year to the Guatamalan government through the CIA.

The mid-90s scandal grew uglier and uglier. From the NY Times article:

The role of Guatemala's military and intelligence services in death-squad killings has long been suspected. In 1993 that role was confirmed by two Guatemalan soldiers, who linked many such killings to the military high command.

The C.I.A.'s station in Guatemala has had close links to the military since 1954, when the intelligence agency led a coup that overthrew the nation's President, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, and helped install a right-wing junta.

The stage was set for Speaker Newt to spring into action. He called Torricelli's disclosures "explicitly inappropriate," and called for the House Intelligence Committee to expel the New Jersey congressman. "I think he just decided it was better to go ahead and cause a public embarrassment to the United States," Gingrich said.

In the end, Gingrich did not get his way, as supposedly "not wanting to make the Democrat a martyr," the Republicans backed down and Torricelli stayed on the committee. Meanwhile, the next year found Gingrich mixing it up with fellow Republican Arlen Specter, as Gingrich fought to increase the CIA budget for covert operations against Iran from $4 million to $18 million dollars ($19 million was already set aside for destabilization operations against Iraq). And then it seems only yesterday (2007), when Newt attacked then-Senator Biden's call for a special prosecutor in the case of the destroyed CIA torture tapes.

According to a Jeff Stein interview with Nuccio in 1997, published at Salon, the Torricelli disclosures led to a change in Clinton-era CIA hiring policy, which now was to exclude hiring agents who were implicated in human rights abuses. Even further, then CIA-director John Deutch ordered an internal review of current agents involved in such abuses, and approximately 100 agents fitting such criteria were fired.

The denouement was not so pretty, however. The CIA rank-and-file mutinied -- "poor morale," don't you know -- and got Deutch kicked out and a new CIA director appointed. Before Deutch was gone, two senior CIA officials were also let go for lying to Congress. Meanwhile, the CIA saw to it that Nuccio lost his security clearance, thereby wrecking his career. Torricelli won the New Jersey Senate seat, only to bow out after one term because of financial scandal. Gingrich went on to even bigger game, helping impeach President Clinton for lying about a blow job, only to fall in disgrace himself a few years later. Deutch was replaced by George Tenet.

The CIA and the U.S. government's policy over prisoners did not fall from the clouds. Nor did it come from the original sin of Dick Cheney, as guilty as he may be in this instance. All these "secret cabals" (Lawrence Wilkerson's term, not mine) within the government are incubated in the attitudes and crimes of normative government/military functioning. Just ask the 100,000 dead Guatemalan civilians, predecessors to the 100,000s thousands of dead in Iraq. Or ask Jennifer Harbury... or Abu Zubaydah.

Newt Gingrich's charges against Nancy Pelosi are not motivated by a desire for truth, but to cover for the crimes of the CIA. This is his M.O. This is his job. If only the press had a memory they would not report the fulminations of this shill for torturers and murderers. They might report this, from a story by Jeremy Scahill on the "extrajudicial terror squad" still active at Guantanamo, published in Friday's AlterNet:

As the Obama administration continues to fight the release of some 2,000 photos that graphically document U.S. military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, an ongoing Spanish investigation is adding harrowing details to the ever-emerging portrait of the torture inside and outside Guantánamo. Among them: "blows to [the] testicles;" "detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep;" being "inoculated … through injection with 'a disease for dog cysts;'" the smearing of feces on prisoners; and waterboarding. The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, all occurred "under the authority of American military personnel" and was sometimes conducted in the presence of medical professionals....

The force is officially known as the the Immediate Reaction Force or Emergency Reaction Force, but inside the walls of Guantánamo, it is known to the prisoners as the Extreme Repression Force. Despite President Barack Obama's publicized pledge to close the prison camp and end torture -- and analysis from human rights lawyers who call these forces' actions illegal -- IRFs remain very much active at Guantánamo.

Or they could do the kind of digging Jason Leopold did in his latest article, Documents Describe Prisoner Abuse Photos Obama is Withholding. Besides describing a number of the photographs Obama does not now want the U.S. public to see, the article demonstrates how widespread the abuse and torture of prisoners actually was, a horrific combination of official policy, and an army brutalized by its own leadership, inured to the idea of prisoner abuse by observing the policy of the higher ups:

Another photograph that was set for release at the end of month that is now being withheld was taken in December 2003 and was found on a government computer. The image shows three soldiers at the St. Mere Forward Operating Base posing with three Iraqi detainees “zip-tied to bars in a stress position, fully clothed, with hoods over their heads.”

One female soldier in the photo is pointing a broom "as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into the rectum of a restrained detainee," she testified to Army investigators in April 2004....

One soldier said they “kept the detainees awake by holding them up or by playing the loud music,” the report noted. The soldier said Special Forces instructed soldiers that prisoners who were “violent or had information” were “flex-cuffed on their hands, heads covered and not allowed to sleep"....

Most of the soldiers interviewed in all of the incidents stated that they were not aware of any set policy on the treatment of detainees, and did not realize at the time that their actions were wrong nor did they believe it was inappropriate. A sergeant stated that he had also seen pictures on Army computers of detainees being kicked, hit or inhumanely treated while in U.S. custody.

Another soldier said he had “seen a few pictures of this nature before but thought nothing of it since these people are the ones that are trying to kill us.”

On Wednesday, Obama told reporters that the photographs “are not particularly sensational.”

Also posted at Firedoglake

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Zubaydah Torture "Experiment": Connections to the al-Libi Case?

The death of former CIA "ghost prisoner" Ali Mohamed al-Fakheri, aka Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, is beginning to make some serious waves in the press. The story was initially broken in the U.S. on May 10 by Andy Worthington. Now Newsweek is reporting (H/T, again, the redoubtable Mr. Worthington) that al-Libi was "healthy and had no apparent physical ailments" when Human Rights Watch (HRW) visitors met him on April 27, only days before he was found dead in Tripoli's Abu Salim prison.

But Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have even stranger circumstances to report (emphases added):

Human-rights workers and Libyan dissidents tell NEWSWEEK they have independently confirmed the report [of Libi's death] from sources inside Libya and demanded an immediate independent investigation into the circumstances of his death. Libi, who once served as emir of the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan, had recently been identified by defense lawyers in the U.S. as a prime potential witness in any upcoming trials of top terror suspects, either in revamped military commissions or in U.S. federal courts. Brent Mickum, a U.S. lawyer who represents Abu Zubaydah, another high-value CIA detainee who is alleged to have worked closely with Libi, says he had recently begun efforts through intermediaries to arrange to talk to Libi. "The timing of this is weird," Mickum says.

Mickum's characterization of the timing of al-Libi's death is apt. It certainly raises serious questions when a potential witness in either U.S. federal courts or military trials is healthy one day and suddenly turns up dead a week later. The questions take on an added piquancy when one considers that this witness was also a primary victim of U.S. rendition and torture, and recanted a confession, the substance of which was used to justify going to war with Iraq.

What makes the timing especially odd is that after a number of years of silence and obscurity, whereabouts supposedly unknown, “intermediaries” were being assembled to talk with al-Libi. What were they going to talk about? Did Abu Zubaydah's attorney hope for exculpatory testimony from al-Libi? One wonders if Human Rights Watch appeared at Abu Salim prison and only coincidentally found al-Libi there.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's in a Name? It Was Never Just "Sleep Deprivation"

Also posted at Firedoglake

An article by Greg Miller at the L.A. Times has lifted the veil on the profound terror lying behind the supposedly known nomenclature of torture. Miller focuses on the use of "sleep deprivation," a term we will now have to always render in quotes, as the irony of describing one sort of torture as a means of covering up three or four other kinds of torture is both diabolical and morbidly depraved.

Let me explain. The L.A. Times article begins as a tale of GOP and CIA pushback against President Obama's decision to release the Office of Legal Counsel memos a few weeks back, igniting thereby the dry tinder of scandal, and, if you believe the scaremongers, threatening the security of the country.
...CIA Director Michael V. Hayden... expressed disbelief that the administration was prepared to expose methods it might later decide it needed.

"Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of a detainee?" Hayden asked a top White House official, according to sources familiar with the exchange.
Hayden, who must have pulled a couple of all-nighters in his time, mimics the arguments of a myriad of ignorant commentators who compare the sleep deprivation forced upon "war on terror" prisoners with the time they stayed up all night with the buds and still aced the test the next day, or dragged through work, or drove to Las Vegas on jugs of hot coffee and NoDoz (or something not entirely OTC). How impudent and naive these anti-torture liberals must be?

Yes, how ignorant! for I had been preparing an article for some time to counter such views, combing through the U.S. Army's own manual on combat stress and sleep deprivation, scientific literature, and clinical case studies, but it turned out that I didn't even know what "sleep deprivation" was. Seriously. I didn't know it needed to be understood with bracketed quotes. The government has taught me, and now I know, and now you will know.

The reason, as Miller tells us, John Helgerson's 2004 CIA Inspector General report on the Company's interrogations found "sleep deprivation" more problematic than any other technique, except waterboarding, was "because of how it was applied." Stephen Bradbury describes "sleep deprivation" in his May 10, 2005 memo. Up until now, the media has focused on the outrageous time limits: up to 180 hours of continuous wakefulness (over 7 full days), down from 240 hours earlier in the CIA), but the duration was only the half of it:
The primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake. In this method, the detainee is standing and is handcuffed, and the handcuffs are attached by a length of chain to the ceiling. The detainee's hands are shackled in front of his body, so that the detainee has approximately a two- to three-foot diameter of movement. The detainee's feet are shackled to a bolt in the floor. Due care is taken to ensure that the shackles are neither too loose nor too tight for physical safety. We understand from discussions with OMS [CIA Office of Medical Services] that the shackling does not result in any significant physical pain for the subject. The detainee's hands are generally between the level of his heart and his chin. In some cases, the detainee's hands may be raised above the level of his head, but only for a period of up to two hours. All of the detainee's weight is borne by his legs and feet during standing sleep deprivation. You have informed us that the detainee is not allowed to hang from 'or' support his body weight with the shackles. Rather, we understand that the shackles are only used as a passive means to keep the detainee standing and thus to prevent him from falling asleep; should the detainee begin to fall asleep, he will lose his balance and awaken, either because of the sensation of losing his balance or because of the restraining tension of the shackles. The use of this passive means for keeping the detainee awake avoids the need for using means that would require interaction with the detainee and might pose a danger of physical harm.
Shackled in forced positions with limited movement, mostly forced to stand for hours or days on end, and kept awake, these techniques amount to forced standing, forced positioning, limitation of movement (hence a form of kinesthetic deprivation), and disorientation (fear of falling).

Yet there is more. The prisoner is often if not usually nude, save for a diaper, which is reportedly changed often enough not to cause a rash, but certainly humiliating and meant to induce shame. Meals are fed to the prisoner by hand, which is also humiliating, but these meals are not food as we might think of it, but "bland, unappetizing" "commercial liquid meal replacements" containing 1500 calories maximum per day. (The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 1800 calories per day for men, 1200 for women. In other words, these prisoners are slowly starving. The restricted diet is to be discontinued if a prisoner were to lose ten percent of their body weight. By way of comparison, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM), loss of five percent or more body weight in a given period is a telling sign of clinical depression.)

If the prisoner cannot stand, due to disabling swelling in the legs, edema or other physical disability, which Bradbury assures us is not painful -- because CIA medical personnel told him so! -- then they are removed from the hanging shackle and "would not be permitted to dangle by his wrists." But, supposedly standing sleep deprivation does not allow hanging by the shackles or wrists. One must presume then that some dangling by the wrist would be allowed by standing sleep deprivation, or why the prohibition for those medically released? So now we can add suspension to our list of techniques included under the rubric "sleep deprivation."

The non-standing prisoner is shackled to a stool too small "to permit the subject to balance himself to be able to go to sleep." If this, too, is beyond the physical capacities of the prisoner, they undergo "horizontal sleep deprivation."
The detainee's hands are manacled together, and the arms placed in an outstretched position -- either extended beyond the head or extended to either side of the body -- and anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort.
Once the prisoner is able to, it's back to the standing form of sleep deprivation.

In practice, as Bradbury's other May 10, 2005 memo makes clear, these "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- of which "sleep deprivation" is only "one" -- are usually used in combination with each other. The baseline environment consists of white noise and continuous light, which Bradbury disingenuously ascribes to security concerns, but it is really a form of environmental and sensory/perceptual manipulation, to be traded off with sensory overload ("loud noises").

What this L.A. Times story demonstrates is the proclivity of the CIA and other government torturing agencies to twist the meaning of words, and stuff into the nomenclature of one "technique" or procedures a veritable cornucopia of different torture methods. In this "enhanced interrogation" version of sleep deprivation, forced sleep deficit was combined, as we can see, with shackling, forced positions and forced standing, humiliation, manipulation of diet, sensory overload, and possibly other torture procedures.

So this is what the CIA and U.S. government has been selling as "sleep deprivation"! The situation is reminiscent of the Army Field Manual's use of the "Separation" technique in its Appendix M. It, too, is really an omnibus set of procedures, including solitary confinement, restriction of sleep (I'm not using the term "sleep deprivation" here in order to avoid confusion), partial sensory or perceptual deprivation, use of fear, and likely use of sensory overload, and manipulation of environment, among other possible variations. The AFM purposely confuses procedures used for security with those used to break down a human being. It talks about isolation or separation as if it were a single procedure, when, like the CIA's use of "sleep deprivation", it masks an entire torture program of its own.

In the case of Bradbury/CIA's EID techniques, we can understand now that when Hayden, or Cheney, or any other torture apologist says sleep deprivation only means the disruption of sleep cycles, we know that to be a blatant, criminal lie. When the CIA says "sleep deprivation", they mean forced shackling and forced positions, suspension, production of swelling in the lower extremities, disorientation and fear, humiliation, diet manipulation and slow starvation, along with forced wakefulness.

Like an evil version of a Russian Matryoshka doll, as you look deeper and deeper, behind a supposedly straight-forward, if debilitating torture technique like sleep deprivation, there lies nested, one within the other, greater and greater forms of torture and abuse. As Miller's article makes clear, they would like to return to this form of extreme torture. When proponents ask for a return to use of "sleep deprivation," at least now we know what they are talking about: extreme torture. (Apparently the use of sleep restriction under isolation and fear and partial sensory deprivation or overload, with sleep rationed at 4 hours maximum per day for up to 30 days, with possible extensions, as currently the case in the Army Field Manual for GWOT prisoners, is not enough for the EIT crowd, even if the Army's own Combat Stress manual cites the debilitating nature of the 4 hour minimum, particularly if circadian rhythms are disturbed.)

Everything the government says about torture and interrogation is a lie. At least that's what I have to assume until and unless the government makes it clear that it will call things what they are, will hold the most blatant and depraved sorts of criminal behavior to account. Meanwhile, it is the least we can ask of the press, and now the blogging world, that they do what Greg Miller has done, not take government pronouncements as received wisdom, but begin to speak the truth.

[Update: After writing and posting this story, it was pointed out to me that the bulk of the material, as concerns the mixing of sleep deprivation with stress positions and other torture procedures by the CIA, as part of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" described in the Bradbury memos, was discussed in an excellent article by Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent back on April 29. I should have known an astute reporter like Spencer would have been on this issue from the beginning, beating out the L.A. Times by over a week. I regret missing his story at the outset, and encourage readers to follow up their interest in this issue by reading his rather more newsworthy piece. -- Jeff Kaye]

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Torture News Roundup: Breaking: al-Libi Found Dead in Libyan Prison

Also posted now at Daily Kos and Antemedius

This just in from Andy Worthington (H/T Barb):
The Arabic media is ablaze with the news that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of an Afghan training camp — whose claim that Saddam Hussein had been involved in training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons was used to justify the invasion of Iraq — has died in a Libyan jail. So far, however, the only English language report is on the Algerian website Ennahar Online, which reported that the Libyan newspaper Oea stated that al-Libi (aka Ali Abdul Hamid al-Fakheri) “was found dead of suicide in his cell,” and noted that the newspaper had reported the story “without specifying the date or method of suicide.”
It was al-Libi who was tortured by the CIA, subjected to mock burial in a box 20 inches high, in order to "confess" to a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, just days after the start of the Iraq War. Al-Libi later recanted. Afterwards, he was disappeared.
This news resolves, in the grimmest way possible, questions that have long been asked about the whereabouts of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, perhaps the most famous of “America’s Disappeared” — prisoners seized in the “War on Terror,” who were rendered not to Guantánamo but to secret prisons run by the CIA or to the custody of governments in third countries — often their own — where, it was presumed, they would never be seen or heard from again.
Top Story

Holder cautious on U.S. interrogations probes
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday vowed to move cautiously and avoid partisan politics in deciding whether any Bush-era officials should be prosecuted for justifying harsh interrogation techniques.

Holder said he had not yet read the draft report from a review by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility conducted during the previous administration of lawyers who wrote the Bush-era interrogation legal opinions.

"I have not reviewed it. It is not in final form yet," Holder said. "It deals, I suspect, not only with the attorneys but the people that they interacted with, so I think we'll gain some insights by reviewing that report."

He said the review could lead to probes of other officials.
See also, Republicans Warn Holder on Torture.
This is an ongoing weekly series with editors Valtin, Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily. If you have not signed the petition for a special prosecutor to investigate Bush, Cheney et al, you’re just one click away!
(Those who read all the way through this diary will be rewarded by a real treat: a long suppressed U.S. document made public here for the first time on the Internet!)

ALSO BREAKING: Memos shed light on CIA use of sleep deprivation
As President Obama prepared last month to release secret memos on the CIA's use of severe interrogation methods, the White House fielded a flurry of last-minute appeals.

One came from former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, who expressed disbelief that the administration was prepared to expose methods it might later decide it needed....

"Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of a detainee?" Hayden asked a top White House official, according to sources familiar with the exchange....

A CIA inspector general's report issued in 2004 was more critical of the agency's use of sleep deprivation than it was of any other method besides waterboarding, according to officials familiar with the document, because of how the technique was applied.

The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins, according to the Justice Department memos.

Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains....

When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs "anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort," a May 10, 2005, memo said.

"The position is sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of standing," it said.

In the Red Cross report, prisoners said they were also subjected to loud music and repetitive noise.
What this L.A. Times story demonstrates is the proclivity of the CIA and other government torturing agencies to twist the meaning of words, and stuff into the nomenclature of one "technique" or procedures a veritable cornucopia of different torture methods. In this "enhanced interrogation" version of sleep deprivation, forced sleep deficit was combined, as we can see, with shackling, forced positions and forced standing, humiliation, manipulation of diet, sensory overload, and possibly other torture procedures.

So this is what the CIA and U.S. government has been selling as "sleep deprivation"! The situation is reminiscent of the Army Field Manual's use of the "Separation" technique in its Appendix M. It, too, is really an omnibus set of procedures, including solitary confinement, restriction of sleep (not using the term "sleep deprivation" here in order to avoid confusion), partial sensory or perceptual deprivation, use of fear, and likely use of sensory overload, and manipulation of environment, among other possible variations.

The Bush Administration Homicides

An important piece by John Sifton at The Daily Beast:
For five years as a researcher for Human Rights Watch and reporter, John Sifton helped investigate homicides resulting from the Bush administration's torture policy. His findings include:

An estimated 100 detainees have died during interrogations, some who were clearly tortured to death.

• The Bush Justice Department failed to investigate and prosecute alleged murders even when the CIA inspector general referred a case.

• Sifton’s request for specific information on cases was rebuffed by the Bush Justice Department, though it was “familiar with the cases.”

• Attorney General Eric Holder must now decide whether to investigate and prosecute homicides, not just cases of torture.
Cheney tried to revive torture after Hamdan decision
From a New York Times article (H/T indiemcemopants):
The real trouble began on May 7, 2004, the day the C.I.A. inspector general, John L. Helgerson, completed a devastating report. In thousands of pages, it challenged the legality of some interrogation methods, found that interrogators were exceeding the rules imposed by the Justice Department and questioned the effectiveness of the entire program....

Nobody knew it then, but the C.I.A.’s fateful experiment in harsh interrogation was over. The “enhanced” interrogation, already scaled back, would not be used again....

Still, Mr. Cheney and top C.I.A. officials fought to revive the program. Steven G. Bradbury... began drafting another memorandum in late 2006 to restore legal approval for harsh interrogation....

Early drafts of the memorandum, circulated through the White House, the C.I.A. and the State Department, shocked some officials. Just months after the Supreme Court had declared that the Geneva Convention applied to Al Qaeda, the new Bradbury memorandum gave its blessing to almost every technique, except waterboarding, that the C.I.A. had used since 2002.
Meanwhile, Cheney appeared today on CBS Face the Nation, and did not rule out testifying under oath to Congress about the Bush administration use of coercive interrogations (he'd never call it "torture"), or did he simply artfully dodge the question? You be the judge.

Psychologists, the APA, and the Torture Scandal

Psychologists Complicit in Torture, Physicians’ Group Charges

Bill Fisher of Inter Press Service describes how, in 2005, Department of Defense officials monopolized an ethics review by the American Psychological Association (APA) on national security and psychological ethics (PENS). They they were able to do this with connivance of top APA officers.
Nathaniel Raymond, director of PHR's Campaign Against Torture, told us, “The APA’s ethics task force on national security interrogations produced a report that was rushed, secret, and being driven to already-reached conclusions – conclusions that violated the Geneva Convention.”

“The APA made ethics subservient to law by following guidelines set out by the Pentagon. Members of the task force had long-standing ties to the Pentagon, and the task force was stacked with Defense Department and Bush Administration officials. There were clear conflicts of interest,” he said, adding, “The APA needs to explain how that happened. And the Pentagon’s Inspector General needs to look into how this was allowed to happen.”
The scandal over the APA's role in legitimating psychologists participation in torture was explored in an article by Sheri Fink published at both ProPublica and The APA's Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) Task Force report "'found it to be "consistent with the APA Ethics Code' for psychologists to consult with interrogators in the interests of national security."
While noting that psychologists do not participate in torture and have a responsibility to report it, and should be committed to the APA ethics code whenever they "encounter conflicts between ethics and law," the task force decided that "if the conflict cannot be resolved ... psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law."
The controversy over APA and the DoD has simmered for some time, and has erupted again with the publication of the private email listserv (PDF) between the participants at the APA PENS Task Force, including the top military figures involved.

The Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and Physicians for Human Rights, among others, have called for an independent investigation of the ties between the American Psychological Association and the Defense-Intelligence Establishments.

Meanwhile, one psychologist has been doggedly trying to pursue APA members who have been implicated in torture.
Lawsuit seeks board action -- Psychologist demands censure
A Louisiana-licensed psychologist played a key role in harsh Army interrogations at U.S. prisons in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq, according to a lawsuit filed in state district court in Baton Rouge.

The suit pits Ohio psychologist Trudy Bond against the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and accuses retired Army Col. Larry C. James of professional and ethical violations in his former role as chief psychologist at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

Bond, who filed a complaint against James with the Baton Rouge-based LSBEP in February 2008, sued the board in July after it dismissed her complaint and rejected her request for an investigation of James.

Bond wants a 19th Judicial District Court judge to send the case back to the board “for a full and complete investigation and hearing,’’ according to her petition for judicial review of the board’s actions.

James, a former New Orleanian who has been licensed in Louisiana since 1990, became dean of Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 1.
Noted bioethicist Steven Miles, author of Oath Betrayed: America's Torture Doctors, discusses implications of the APA/PENS scandal and other aspects of medical complicity with the U.S.'s torture program on Jon Elliott's "This is America" show on Air America (H/T Ms Grin).

Bloggers Against Torture listserve
Bloggers Against Torture oppose torture and cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment of all persons, whether they be prisoners at Guantanamo, Bagram or CIA black sites; immigrants; civilians, or prisoners in civilian prison systems. Most members support investigation & prosecution of Bush officials for war crimes & torture.
The Pelosi Scandal: Did She or Didn't She?

Records suggest Pelosi, others were told of harsh interrogations
A chart compiled by the CIA indicates that Pelosi (D-San Francisco) was briefed on Sept. 4, 2002, on the agency's interrogation of alleged Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, and that the session covered "the particular [enhanced interrogation techniques] that had been employed." The chart does not list the specific methods covered during the briefing. But during the preceding month, the CIA had used the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times, according to a Justice Department memo released last month.

Pelosi has acknowledged being briefed on the CIA's interrogation program, but said she was told only about methods the agency was considering, not about techniques it had actually employed.

As recently as a week ago, Pelosi said, "We were not -- I repeat were not -- told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used."
Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel) at Firedoglake led a host of bloggers who shot holes in the press story.
We knew that CIA was playing around with its obligation to inform the intelligence committees before it starts any big new projects--like opening torture factories around the world.

But that's the real story of this briefing list--aside from what a bunch right wingers are claiming it says, the actual details of the briefing list notwithstanding. The real story is that the CIA was playing a bunch of games to be able to claim it had informed Congress, even while only informing some of Congress some things.

First, CIA has officially confirmed what I have been saying for weeks. The CIA first briefed Congress on torture on September 4, 2002, 35 days after CIA purportedly began waterboarding and much longer after we know CIA started torturing Abu Zubaydah. Moreover, we have on the record statements from Pelosi and Goss (and I've had even stronger assurances elsewhere) that CIA did not tell Congress they were already in the business of torture.
Meanwhile, Greg Sargent at The Plum Line is reporting that there are more docs to follow:
GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra is upping the stakes of the torture fight in response to Nancy Pelosi’s claims that she wasn’t briefed on the use of waterboarding.

His office tells me that he’s seen documents that will prove this isn’t true.
Meanwhile, EW counters that with the fact that there are discrepancies between the CIA timeline and that found in the recently released Senate Armed Services Committee narrative released last month.

Meanwhile, a new wrinkle from Saturday's Washington Post: Top Pelosi Aide Learned Of Waterboarding in 2003
Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.

A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel.
Glenn Greenwald concludes (emphasis in original):
But what's the point of all of this? Secretly telling Nancy Pelosi that you're committing crimes doesn't mean that you have the right to do so. And the profound failures of the other institutions that are supposed to check executive lawbreaking during the Bush era -- principally Congress and the "opposition party" -- is a vital issue that demands serious examination. This dispute over what Pelosi (and Jay Rockefeller and others) knew highlights, rather than negates, the need for a meaningful investigation into what took place.
Torture and the CIA

Two from Jason Leopold, who continues to keep a close eye on developments in the torture scandal. Patriot Daily posted the first one in Friday night's Overnight News Digest:

CIA Refuses to Turn Over Torture Tape Documents to ACLU
The CIA claims the integrity of a special prosecutor’s criminal investigation into the destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes will be compromised if the agency if forced to turn over to the American Civil Liberties Union detailed documents identifying the individuals responsible for destroying the material, the reasons for the purge, and the torturous tactics depicted on the tapes, according to newly released court documents....

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said the move is “a classic CIA delay tactic.”

In court papers, she said the government is using the criminal investigation “as a pretext for indefinitely postponing” its obligation to produce documents related to the destruction of the videotapes.
Top CIA Officials Were Given Daily Torture Updates of Zubaydah

Leopold's second article looks at how the hunt for records of the CIA's torture as turned up some new evidence.
The first set of indexes contains information about cables sent on Aug. 1, 2002 and ends on Aug. 7, 2002. The second set of indexes begins on Aug. 8, 2002 and ends on Aug. 18, 2002 but does not contain an entry for correspondence sent back to the CIA on Aug. 13, 2002 describing the status of interrogations.

The indexes were turned over as part of a contempt lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Department of Defense related to 92 interrogation videotapes that were destroyed by the agency in 2005 as public attention began focusing on allegations that the Bush administration had subjected “war on terror” detainees to brutal interrogations that crossed the line into torture....

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said, “it’s disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing to withhold the text of these cables despite the promise of transparency"....

“I think the frequency of the cables showed that CIA headquarters and senior officials had sanctioned interrogation methods that were illegal,” she said. “We see no basis for continuing to withhold this information.”
The OLC Memos on Torture

Another round of scandal and speculation was generated by a New York Times report that an internal Justice Department inquiry into the memos written by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradley and others to justify Bush administration torture would censure the attorneys but not call for prosecutions.

Interrogation Memos: Inquiry Suggests No Charges
An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on its findings.

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask state bar associations to consider possible disciplinary action, which could include reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.

The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
According to an Huffington Post report:
The Washington Post reports that former Bush administration officials are "launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign" to urge Obama Justice officials to "soften" the ethics report on the torture memo authors.
Israel/Palestine: Facility 1391

UN committee charges Israel with maintaining secret jail
GENEVA, (PIC)-- The UN committee against torture has denounced the Israeli general security apparatus for using a secret detention center for interrogation that could not be visited by the Red Cross, lawyers or relatives of those detainees.

The ten independent experts, members of the committee, said that the installation "1391" was located in an unspecified area in Israel. They added that the committee received complaints on torture, maltreatment and inappropriate detention conditions in this installation....

Such practices include severe beating, forcing detainees to sit in awkward positions for long period, tightening the handcuffs, violently shaking the detainee and turning his head suddenly and violently, the committee elaborated....

It asked Israel on the measures taken in response to the UNHCR call for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza Strip, which deprives one and a half million Palestinians from the simplest human rights.

The committee is expected to hear answers from Israel before issuing its report at the end of its current session on 15th May.
The story was further reported in the Jerusalem Post:
The Jewish state is one of seven countries under period review this year by the committee, which has received reports on Israeli violations of the UN Convention Against Torture from at least eight NGOs, including B'Tselem, Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

In a report submitted to the committee in late 2007, Israel said it had made improvements in a number of areas relating to that convention since it last submitted a report in 2001....

The committee also said it was concerned about allegations that the Shin Bet was operating a secret detention and interrogation facility known as Facility 1391, where detainees had no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It asked Israel to explain allegations that Palestinian detainees were beaten, bound, denied sleep and placed in odd positions such as crouching in a frog position or bending their backs in a banana position.

Binyam Mohamed ruling: Judges will re-consider public disclosure of UK complicity in torture
The High Court has announced that it will re-open its original judgment that details of the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed should remain secret in the interests of national security.

In February the High Court refused the application of Mr Mohamed and a coalition of media organisations seeking public disclosure of details of his ill-treatment at the hands of the CIA and Pakistani intelligence services. The Court had already found that the British Security Services had colluded in his illegal treatment. After the Foreign Secretary informed the Court that US had threatened to down-grade intelligence sharing with the UK if details were made public, the Court judged that it had no choice but to refrain from publishing details....

Mr Miliband is to be given a final opportunity to present evidence to the Court of the true situation if he wishes to continue to seek to suppress the details of Mr Mohamed's treatment. The Court will then reconsider the question of whether it will publish those details. It is anticipated that the issue will finally be determined in June.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director, of Reprieve, said: "It is long past time that this evidence was made public. How can it be that two governments that purport to uphold the rule of law be working together to cover up crimes committed against Binyam Mohamed?"
Royal Sheikh Detained by UAE Over Torture Tape Allegations

A member of the royal family in the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, has been "detained" in Abu Dhabi by authorities investigating a chilling videotape that shows him torturing an Afghan grain dealer, according to officials in Washington.
Religious leaders call for a commission of inquiry on torture by U.S.

Fiery Response to Pew's Torture Analysis
A firestorm erupted this week over an analysis from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showing that white evangelical Protestants are far more likely than those in other faith traditions to support the use of torture against suspected terrorists....

But the original analysis overlooked a centrally important piece of information: the big dividing line on public support for torture as a tool in terrorism investigations is along partisan lines, not religious ones.
Government Could Destroy Records in Hundreds of Guantanamo Cases

A stockpile of documents about hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees, some written by the prisoners themselves, could be destroyed under a little-known provision of a federal court order the Bush administration obtained in 2004.
Senators Urge Obama to Block Release of New Detainee Abuse Photos (article by William Fisher)
The plea to intervene to stop the expected May 28 release of the photos came in a letter Thursday to President Barack Obama from Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham.

"The release of these old photographs of past behavior that has now been clearly prohibited will serve no public good, but will empower al-Qaeda propaganda operations, hurt our country's image, and endanger our men and women in uniform," the Senators wrote.

Release of the photos is expected in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We urge you in the strongest possible terms to fight the release of these old pictures of detainees in the war on terror, including appealing the decision of the Second Circuit in the ACLU lawsuit to the Supreme Court and pursuing all legal options to prevent the public disclosure of these pictures," the senators wrote.
If Lieberman and Graham aren't the slimiest, most unctuous creatures in Congress, then I don't know who would be.

The Bush Era Torture-Homicides, By Scott Horton
In a recent television appearance, one of the nation’s foremost retired military leaders, General Barry McCaffrey, said: “We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees. We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” The fact of dozens of homicides is frankly acknowledged in discussions with military and intelligence experts, but the press seems to regard the subject as taboo.
Why is Condi Rice Joining the Torture Debate?

The NYT's definition of blinding American exceptionalism (Glenn Greenwald -- H/T Stephen Soldz)

Greenwald takes on the hypocrisy of how torture is covered by The Gray Lady, and the press in general, where it's torture if it's done to an American, and "harsh tactics some critics decry as torture" if done by Americans to other people.

Sleight of Hand: Obama's Military Commissions Redux
I don’t think, however, that the resurrection of the military commissions is a manifestation of laziness on Obama’s part. Nor is it a failure of leadership, per se. The Military Commissions are a constituent part of the torture program which, even now, is not dismantled, and continues in somewhat attenuated form as part of the Army Field Manual. It is also part of the cover-up of the previous torture program, allowing for the use of torture evidence without the political explosion that would take place by having to release or acquit “terrorists” (really “accused terrorists,” but who cavils about such things in our modern America anymore?) because the evidence was tainted by torture, and therefore inadmissible.

All signs point to the fact that when it comes to national security and military matters, Obama is compliant to the wishes of the Pentagon, that he has no real policy of his own.
A new Torture Evidence Database, collected by Edger at Antemedius

Andy Worthington on Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture

Among other things, Andy reports that Amnesty International (PDF) has picked up the campaign pushed by myself and others to expose the use of abusive interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual, and that organization's "disappointment that the administration was 'endorsing without qualification' a document 'which permits prolonged sleep deprivation, isolation and manipulation of a detainee’s fears contrary to the international ban on torture.'"

Final Archival Treat: From the Pike Committee Report

The transcribed quote that follows is from the introduction to the suppressed 1975 Pike Committee Report, the product of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. This committee's report on CIA activities was never published by the government, as Congress backed down after the CIA protested any distribution, claiming national security would be harmed. Over 30 years later, I can't imagine why this report has not been made public.

This selection from Part One: The Select Committee's Oversight Experience has never been published in full on the Internet. In the future, I will post more from this extraordinary report, a copy of which I have secured.
If this Committee's recent experience is any test, intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congress are, today, beyond the lawmaker's scrutiny.

These secret agencies have interests that inherently conflict with the open accountability of a political body, and there are many tools and tactics to block and deceive conventional Congressional checks. Added to this are the unique attributes of intelligence -- notably, "national security," in its cloak of secrecy and mystery -- to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries.

Wise and effective legislation cannot proceed in the absence of information respecting conditions to be affected or changed. Nevertheless, under present circumstances, inquiry into intelligence activities faces serious and fundamental shortcomings.

Even limited success in exercising future oversight requires a rethinking of the powers, procedures, and duties of the overseers. This Committee's path and policies, its pluses and minuses, may at least indicate where to begin.

Access to Information

The key to exercising oversight is knowledge. In the case of intelligence agencies, this translates into a need for access to information often held by the agencies themselves, about events in distant places.

It is an uncertain approach to gathering facts, given the best of circumstances. The best of circumstances thereby become a minimum condition.

The Select Committee's most important work may well have been its test of those circumstances, testing perhaps for the first time what happens when Congress unilaterally decides what it wants to know and how it wants to know it.

There were numerous public expressions by intelligence agencies and the Executive that full cooperation would be accorded. The credibility of such assurances was important, since almost all the necessary materials were classified and controlled by the executive branch. Despite these public representations, in practice most document access was preceded by lengthy negotiations. Almost without exception, these negotiations yielded something less than complete or timely access.

In short, the words were always words of cooperation; the reality was delay, refusal, missing information, asserted privileges, and on and on.

The Committee began by asserting that Congress alone must decide who, acting in its behalf, has a right to know secret information. This led to a rejection of Executive "clearances" or the "compartmentation" of our staff. The Committee refused, as matter of policy, to sign agreements. It refused to allow intelligence officials to read and review our investigators' notes, and avoided canned briefings in favor of primary source material. The Committee maintained that Congress has a right to all information short of direct communications with the President.

Our ability to abide by these policies has been a mixed record.

On the plus side, an aggressive pursuit of facts and a willingness to back up this pursuit with subpoenas produced some unprecedented results. As an example, never before had either the Executive or Congress put together a ten-year review of covert action projects. By subpoena -- which unfortunately, had to be taken to the brink of contempt enforcement -- the staff of the Committee analyzed all official covert action approvals since 1965, and reported its results to the Committee in a closed hearing. That presentation was one of the most interesting and accurate pictures of U.S. covert policies yet assembled, and was of no small value to our findings. Other examples appear throughout the remainder of this report.

Nevertheless, if that is the positive side, it was offset by the extraordinary efforts that were required, even in a climate favorable to reviewing past Executive conduct, to identify and obtain document.

It is a commentary in itself that subpoenas were necessary.

It is a further commentary that much of the time subpoenas were not enough, and only a determined threat of contempt proceedings brought grudging results.

In the future, I'll post more of this extraordinary document, a part of our history, suppressed by our own government.

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Thanks to Patriot Daily, Meteor Blades, and all those cited and uncited, all those hard workers in the cause of justice and against cruelty and inhumanity from whom I gathered these links, and to those who have survived unbelievable pain and mental anguish, I honor all of you.

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