Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Smoking Gun on CIA Torture Conspiracy? Human Experimentation Central to EIT Program

Originally posted at Firedoglake and The Public Record
A close reading of the CIA's Inspector General Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee's narrative on the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) torture memos reveals a more detailed picture of the CIA's involvement in the construction of the OLC memos. What emerges is consistent with recent charges of CIA experimentation on prisoners, and of the overall experimental quality of the torture program itself. It also points to a crucial piece of "analysis" by the CIA's Office of Technical Services, a memo which may or may not include damning medical and psychological evidence of the damaging effects of SERE techniques, and which the IG report maintains was utilized "in substantial part" in the drafting of the August 1, 2002 Bybee memos. If one is looking for a smoking gun in the torture scandal, in my opinion, one doesn't have to look much further than this.
The quote below is from the April 22, 2009 Senate Intelligence Committee narrative of the Office of Legal Counsel's opinions on the CIA's interrogation program. Please keep in mind as you read the quote and the added bolded emphasis, that recent documentation has shown that for years the CIA and Special Operations had researchers studying the effects of SERE training. Moreover, the research had been published in peer-reviewed journals, in part because the research was also meant to add to the psychiatric community's understanding of the mechanisms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of the research had also been published in the June 2000 edition of Special Warfare, "The Professional Bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School."
So, keeping this all in mind, consider the following from the Intel Committee's narrative (emphasis added):
According to CIA records, because the CIA believed that Abu Zubaydah was withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel met with the Attorney General, the National Security Adviser, the Deputy National Security adviser, the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, and the Counsel to the President in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.
The CIA’s Office of General Counsel subsequently asked OLC to prepare an opinion about the legality of its proposed techniques. To enable OLC to review the legality of the techniques, the CIA provided OLC with written and oral descriptions of the proposed techniques. The CIA also provided OLC with information about any medical and psychological effects of DoD’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School, which is a military training program during which military personnel receive counter-interrogation training.
While the fact that the OLC accepted at face value the CIA's statements regarding the safety or the effects of the interrogation procedures they were proposing is no surprise to anyone who has read the torture memos -- and evidence of the unprofessionalism and bias of the memo's authors -- the degree to which the conspiracy (by CIA or OLC, or both) to withhold evidence of the real effects of the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs) by the CIA has never been made more concrete than now.
To my knowledge, we do not have the specific document wherein the CIA provides the "medical and psychological effects" of SERE school. I have been told that this document is still classified. But it seems possible that the CIA did pass on the details of the research that was available to it, including the debilitating effects of SERE techniques, which sent stress hormone levels, according to one research report, "some of the greatest ever documented in humans." Another report cited "neuroendocrine changes... [that] may have significant implications for subsequent responses to stress."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Police State Tactics at Pittsburgh G20 Protests

Essential reporting from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! Apparently, the use of sound cannon is the first reported usage in the United States.
Nearly 200 Arrested as Police Unleash Tear Gas, Sound Cannons at G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh

As leaders of the world’s richest nations gathered in Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit, thousands took to the streets in protest amidst a heavy police crackdown. Heavily armed riot police were out in force and used tear gas, stun grenades, smoke canisters and sound cannons, which direct extremely loud shrill sounds. Democracy Now! producer Steve Martinez files a report from the streets of Pittsburgh.
Watch the whole video report at Democracy Now!

Physicians for Human Rights report on CIA IG review

Washington Director, John Bradshaw, was recently interviewed by PressTV about PHR’s new report, Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report.

PHR link, if you cannot see this video.
A team of PHR doctors authored the white paper, which details how the CIA relied on medical expertise to rationalize and carry out abusive and unlawful interrogations. It also refers to aggregate collection of data on detainees’ reaction to interrogation methods. Physicians for Human Rights is concerned that this data collection and analysis may amount to human experimentation and calls for more investigation on this point. If confirmed, the development of a research protocol to assess and refine the use of the waterboard or other techniques would likely constitute a new, previously unknown category of ethical violations committed by CIA physicians and psychologists.
H/T (once again) to Ulana Odezynsky

Former Intelligence Officers Protest CIA Directors' Attempt to Spike Torture Prosecutions

This was posted at consortiumnews.com today (H/T Ulana Odezynsky). Hatred for George Tenet is quite extensive in the intelligence community, and as you read the text below, you will see why. It's my belief the CIA has a portion within its covert operations and science and technology directorates whose hands are not as clean over the years as VIPS might like to think, or portray.

Be that as it may, this open warfare within the intelligence agencies is a significant event within the intelligence community, and the VIPS statement deserves wide circulation.
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Accountability for Torture

We write you, Mr. President, as former intelligence professionals to voice strong support for Attorney General Eric Holder’s authorization of a wider investigation into CIA interrogation. We respectfully disagree with the direct appeal to you by seven former CIA directors to quash that wider investigation.

The signatories of this Memorandum are former intelligence officers and analysts who have worked with CIA directors going back as far as Allen Dulles. Our cumulative experience totals more than 200 years.

We are encouraged by your own support for Attorney General Holder’s decision to have federal prosecutor John Durham investigate possible criminal activity by individuals engaging in torture and other violations of international agreements on the treatment of detainees.

From our own experience in intelligence, both as field operators and as senior analysts, we know that personal accountability is vital to maintaining an effective intelligence service that reflects our best traditions and the rule of law.

Among the former CIA directors who, by letter of September 18, asked you to “reverse” the attorney general’s decision are some who were cognizant of and involved in decisions that led to the abuses in question. We find that troubling.

Clearly, the role of CIA directors in issuing orders that led to inappropriate behavior, and their failure to hold officers accountable, helped create the environment in which abuses occurred — the ones detailed in the Special Review of the CIA Inspector General, for example.

No analytical leap is required to conclude that those particular CIA directors might have understandable interest in blocking investigation of their own complicity. They include, first and foremost, George Tenet — many of whose misdeeds are already a matter of public record. To mention just a few:

—Tenet was the chief enabler of torture. He also oversaw widespread kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”), which in some cases led to torture.

—Our sources tell us that Tenet knew about the overstepping of the guidelines approved by the lawyers and that he knew the people doing it. Rather than restrain them, he pushed them still harder, in an attempt to please his masters.

We strongly believe that investigations of possible wrongdoing cannot, in all fairness, be limited to the proverbial “bad apples at the bottom of the barrel.” Rather, in our view, such investigations must be allowed to go wherever the evidence leads.

The inquiry last year by the Senate Armed Services Committee provides a good model for doing precisely that. The main conclusion of the committee’s “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,” approved last fall without dissent, was captured in its first subhead: “Presidential Order Opens the Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques.”

The Hollywood version of the CIA portrays amoral spies willing to do anything without regard to ethics or human rights. Our own long experience persuades us that the intelligence community has an abundance of men and women of outstanding character, who are committed to the rule of law, and whose primary desire is to serve the nation and protect the American people.

However much former CIA directors and other people at risk might wish to derail an investigation into possible war crimes, we believe the moral standing of our nation requires that we apply the same standards to offenses by U.S. officials as we would to accusations of war crimes by those in other countries.

For all these reasons, we strongly endorse efforts by the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses by any Americans — CIA officers and contractors included.

Please regard this Memorandum as follow up to the more extensive comments on torture in the VIPS review prepared for you in late April. A copy of that Memorandum was eventually posted at Consortiumnews.com (see http://tinyurl.com/cvvr2x).

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Steering Group

Ray Close, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Princeton, NJ
Phil Giraldi, National Clandestine Service (CIA), Purcellville, VA
Melvin A. Goodman, US Army, CIA, Dept. of State, Dept. of Defense, Bethesda, MD
Larry Johnson, CIA & Department of State, Bethesda, MD
Pat Lang, US Army (Special Forces), DIA, Alexandria, VA
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council, Linden, VA
Tom Maertens, Department of State, Mankato, MN
Ray McGovern, US Army, CIA, Arlington, VA
Sam Provance, US Army (Abu Ghraib), Greenville, SC
Coleen Rowley, FBI, Apple Valley, MN
Greg Thielmann, Dept. of State, Sen. Intelligence Committee Staff, Arlington, VA
Ann Wright, US Army, Department of State, Honolulu, HI
Here is a PDF of the letter from the CIA directors to President Barack Obama, H/T Opinio Juris.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

CIA/SERE Experiments Evidence of Attempt to Mislead on OLC Torture Memos

Originally posted at Firedoglake

Professor Shane O’Mara at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin has written an article which has caught the attention of the mainstream media. Pamela Hess at Associated Press described Prof. O'Mara's article,"Torturing the Brain: On the folk psychology and folk neurobiology motivating ‘enhanced and coercive interrogation techniques,’" as showing that the CIA's "severe interrogation techniques appear based on... a layman's idea of how the brain works as opposed to science-based understanding of memory and cognitive function." (Bmaz also reported on this.)

What neither Ms. Hess nor Professor O'Mara apparently realized is that in conducting his research for his review on how the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" caused debilitating damage to the brain and nervous system -- producing confabulation more readily than information -- one of the scientific papers O'Mara relied upon was itself produced by a CIA researcher. Such close participation between CIA and military researchers and the world of stress research adds a sinister dimension to the production of the OLC memos, which Professor O'Mara otherwise believes were based on naive "folk" beliefs and a faulty neuropsychobiological model.

But this is not the case. The CIA was well-aware of the type of research he cites -- because it was a major contributor to such research!

In an article posted at The Public Record last week, CIA Experiments on US Soldiers Linked to Torture Program (later picked up by Truthout), I showed how a Yale psychiatrist, and researcher for the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, had received hundreds of thousands of dollars to do research on the psychological and physiological effects of stress produced by SERE techniques. The researcher, Charles A. Morgan, III, has identified himself, in certain settings, as a CIA behavioral scientist.

(SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, and is the name for the military survival schools that provide select members of the armed forces with "stress inoculation" training by subjecting them to a reduced amount of torture and captivity. The CIA's EITs were famously reverse-engineered by SERE psychologists from the techniques utilized during SERE training.)

In the AP article, Hess writes, "A 2006 Intelligence Science Board report on interrogation also noted possible negative effects of certain methods." But Hess doesn't mention, nor does she likely know, that one of the primary members on the ISB board that produced the report was the same Dr. Morgan.
... in the Information Science Board (ISB) document, Educing Information [PDF] — which was heavily drawn upon by President Obama’s task force on interrogations, for recommendations on the interrogations issue — Dr. Morgan is identified as a member of the 11-person “Government Experts Committee,” and listed as affiliated with the Intelligence Technology Innovation Center (ITIC). According to Intelligence Online, ITIC is “a research organization under the CIA’s authority,” which “answers directly to the CIA’s Science and Technology directorate.”
Research on SERE Techniques and the OLC Memos

The "CIA Experiments" article described some of the research Dr. Morgan and his associates have conducted using SERE trainees, many of them Special Forces personnel. (Professor O'Hara cites one of Morgan's articles himself -- see footnote 9 to his paper.) In a June 2000 article, “Assessment of Humans Experiencing Uncontrollable Stress: The SERE Course,” in Special Warfare (PDF), Morgan and his Special Operations psychologist co-author cite "recorded changes in cortisol levels" among individuals subjected to SERE techniques as "some of the greatest ever documented in humans." As Professor O'Mara notes in his own essay, a "substantial increase in cortisol levels has a deleterious effect on memory." The same article described testosterone levels falling in male subjects to below castration levels.

Another article by Morgan and his team looked at dissociative psychological effects of SERE techniques upon human subjects. (Dissociation produces symptoms such as depersonalization, derealization, psychic or emotional numbing, and general cognitive confusion.)
RESULTS: In study 1, 96% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms in response to acute stress. Total scores, as well as individual item scores, on the dissociation scale were significantly lower in Special Forces soldiers compared to general infantry troops. In study 2, 42% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms before stress and 96% reported them after acute stress.
Professor O'Mara's essay is an excellent brief review of the relevant literature on stress, as it pertains to the kinds of torture conducted by the CIA, and its effects upon memory, and the presumed ability to produce accurate information. It easily deserves wide dissemination. But evidence of CIA participation in the very research that was suppressed in the OLC memos shows that the conclusions drawn in the torture memos were not simply due to "bad faith" lawyering. As I wrote in my original article:
The frenzied search for data on waterboarding, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement in a small box, etc., to submit to OLC attorneys making legal determinations on whether proposed interrogation techniques constituted torture, was a kabuki organized by the CIA. The OLC attorneys involved — John Yoo, Stephen Bradbury, Jay Bybee, and others — were witting or unwitting partners in suppression of CIA research on torture (as future investigations will disclose). Given the participation of members of the Office of the Vice President, particularly David Addington and Vice President Cheney himself, in the promulgation of the torture program, and the composition of the memos, it seems likely they were also involved in the suppression of this material. As a result, the memos produced authorizing the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were composed as the result of fraud and bad faith, the result of a criminal conspiracy to implement illegal torture techniques.
In this earlier article, I had taken Dr. Morgan at his word, as reported in a 2007 New York Times article, that he was incredulous at how SERE techniques could have migrated over to the torture program. But, as I recently discovered (H/T to fellow psychologist Brad Olson), the CIA scientist had a different take on the uses of SERE research in an essay in the 2006 book, Military Psychology, Clinical and Operational Applications (p. 252):
The SERE platform offers a unique opportunity to evaluate old and new assessment techniques under conditions that are more realistic than traditional laboratories....
The SERE training environment affords the military services the opportunity to collaborate with various other government agencies in exploring old and new techniques in gathering human intelligence.
The O'Mara essay and AP article appear only a few weeks after Physicians for Human Rights released a "white paper" highlighting evidence of illegal human experimentation on U.S.-held “terrorism” prisoners undergoing torture. The allegations of torture experimentation are consistent with reports of CIA experimentation upon Abu Zubaydah, and of the Pentagon running an interrogation "Battle Lab" at Guantanamo. In his book, Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors, bioethicist Steven Miles calls Mohammed al-Khatani’s interrogation an experiment: “The peculiar content and structure of this document makes sense if it is the log of research on coercive interrogation....” (p. 176).

Experimentation upon subjects to further "scientific" understanding of the effects of torture is also not new. In the 1950s, the CIA and Pentagon funded top psychologists and psychiatrists in research upon the effects of SERE training. These researchers established a protocol for psychological torture, based on torture tactics that induced "debility, dependency, and dread." (See West LJ., Medical and psychiatric considerations in survival training. In: Report of the Special Study Group on Survival Training (AFR 190 16). Lackland Air Force Base, Tex: Air Force Personnel and Training Research Centers; 1956.) This protocol was later incorporated into an early 1960s CIA (KUBARK) interrogation manual.

It is not enough to understand what research the Office of Legal Counsel attorneys failed to include in their infamous torture memos. One must understand why this research was not included, and who was involved in that. The evidence points to a deliberate attempt to implement and then hide a torture program, whose very basis for existence may have been, in part, to study the effects of torture upon involuntary subjects, in order to implement (or hide) an updated protocol for coercive interrogation. Only a full, wide-ranging, and open investigation -- including not only politicians, academics, lawyers, and blue-ribbon, distinguished experts, but representatives of human rights organizations, church and labor leaders, and other important societal participants -- will, given full subpoena power, be able to get to the bottom of this sinister program that seized hold of the governmental apparatus, and steered it towards brutality and a catastrophic breakdown of law.

"For the Record"

Dr. Morgan has left a comment about the original article at The Public Record. In it, he criticizes the story as "inaccurate and misleading." He offers no examples of the purported inaccuracies, but does state:
The research conducted by our research team at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not, and never has been, conducted for any other purpose than to help us understand the pathophysiology of stress disorders and we might better help in the treatment of veterans. Our research on PTSD and our studies of stress in healthy soldiers began in the 1990s – long before 2001 and the Bush Administration’s policies. We will continue to investigate how we might better help individuals who suffer from trauma related disorders.
I will answer Dr. Morgan's comment at greater length in the very near future, but suffice it to say that nothing said in my articles, including this one, was untrue or misrepresented the facts. I take Dr. Morgan's statement as a denial that his research for the National Center for PTSD was meant for purposes of conducting torture.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Law & Order TV Series Highlights Torture Scandal

Yesterday's episode of NBC's Law and Order, “Memo From The Dark Side”, which looked at the controversies surrounding torture and the legal shenanigans of government attorneys to allow it under the Bush administration, was by all accounts very well-researched, and quite dramatically effective. Here's a video clip from YouTube, entitled "John Yoo ripped from the headlines - Good Faith and the Ticking Time

The Memo from the Dark Side episode repeats on NBC, Saturday, September 26, at 8:00pm Eastern Time. The episode also is available, I'm told, on I-Tunes for $2.99.

Marcy Wheeler has a nice post about the Law & Order episode over at Emptywheel/FDL.

In Time for G20, CCR Re-Issues Its Pamphlet, "If an Agent Knocks"

Just in time for the G20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has issued a new edition of its 1989 pamphlet, If an Agent Knocks (PDF).

Bill Quigley, legal director at CCR, describes in an article at Alternet the circumstances surrounding the G20 summit and accompanying protests:
The recent decision of Federal Judge Gary Lancaster in Pittsburgh allowing protests at the upcoming G20 summit is an important one because, since 9/11, protesting against the government has become quite a bit harder.

Six peace and justice groups sued local state and federal government officials over severe restrictions on protesting at the gathering this month of the industrialized world's leading Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors -- precisely the sort of public event that free speech rights were designed for. The case, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Pennsylvania ACLU, resulted in the government giving more permits to protest and the court allowing a tent city protest.

.... government has poured billions into law enforcement with the result that their response to protests are in many cases no longer civil law enforcement but now quasi-military, a chance to both show off their new toys, and an opportunity for security forces to practice their mass response actions.... federal forces have taken over the leadership for security at any large protest so that local and state law enforcement have less and less to say in how the event is managed.

Additionally, local and state law enforcement forces have been given billions of extra dollars to fight terrorism. Hundreds of millions of these dollars have gone into special riot control and high tech security equipment. This means all police departments have lots of extra headgear, shin guards, shields, batons, pepper spray, tasers, bigger weapons and communication equipment. Most big city police departments have new armored vehicles and helicopters to fight terror. Every big police department has an anti-terrorism squad now. At big protests it is now common to see local police dressed up like and acting like military commandos. This militarization of law enforcement clearly inhibits the free exercise of the First Amendment right to protest.
As an email announcement for the re-release of If An Agent Knocks (PDF) explained:
Right now, thousands of activists who have gathered in Pittsburgh to protest at the G20 summit have been met with what we have come to expect: overreaction by authorities and illegal preventive tactics by law enforcement officials at all levels. A secret communications hub with "electronic eyes" has been established by the Secret Service, working with over 40 other agencies to infiltrate, spy on, and disrupt all forms of opposition. Raids and arrests are mounting, and the aggressive and well-planned system of cracking down on dissenting voices and reducing media coverage is strongly in effect.

CCR has responded to the increasing threat to dissent in a number of ways. For months now a CCR board member and cooperating attorney, Jules Lobel, has worked with on the ground organizations to secure permits and challenge restrictions to protests. Last week, in collaboration with the ACLU, he successfully represented several organizations in court and secured the right to demonstrate in a city park during the G20 gathering. And in a filing on Monday, we charged the local police with illegal searches, vehicle seizures, raids and detentions of Seeds of Peace members aimed at preventing them from providing food to protestors. CCR's legal director, Bill Quigley, is in Pittsburgh advocating on behalf of the protestors, and CCR will continue its support....

Since its original release in 1989, CCR's "If an Agent Knocks" [PDF] has been widely circulated in progressive activist communities across the country. This guide includes both the timeless advice included in the original version and extensive updates to reflect the current state of the law and law enforcement tools. It also includes a comprehensive discussion of today's technology, including cell phones, e-mail and Web browsing.

"If An Agent Knocks" is an invaluable tool for activists in a time when efforts to repress expressions of opposition are intensified. We want to get this publication into as many hands as possible. To obtain a free copy, please email iaak@ccrjustice.org. You can also download it in pdf form. Tell your friends and fellow activists about "If An Agent Knocks," and urge them to place an order too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New "State Secrets" Policy? More Lipstick on the National Security Pig

The New York Times reports:
The Justice Department is preparing to impose new limits on the government assertion of the state secrets privilege used to block lawsuits for national security reasons. The practice was a major flashpoint in the debate over the escalation of executive power and secrecy during the Bush administration.
But the Obama administration believes it's enough now that any claim of "state secrets" privilege by the executive branch be reviewed now by the Attorney General. The ACLU notes with some derision that "on paper" there is some purported progress, while Marcy Wheeler at FDL reports that Center for Constitutional Rights is calling the proposed policy "smoke and mirrors." Ben Wizner at the ACLU had more to say (emphasis added):
In recent years, we have seen the executive branch engage in grave human rights violations, declare those activities 'state secrets,' and thus avoid any judicial oversight or accountability. It is critical that the courts play a meaningful role in deciding whether victims of human rights abuse will have an opportunity to seek justice. Real reform of the state secrets privilege must affirm the power of the courts to reject false claims of 'national security.
Writing also at FDL, bmaz sees the timing of the "new" policy as related to government attempts to bury the evidence of government misdeeds in the wiretapping al-Haramain case:
The al-Haramain case is a perfect storm of problems for the government, there is warrantless wiretapping, the surveillance invaded an attorney-client relationship, there is known proof in the form of the sealed surveillance log under the protective custody of the court, and at least some of the surveillance is known to have occurred during the period after the infamous "John Ashcroft hospital scene"....

Tack in the distinct possibility that the government made material misrepresentations about their data mining and warrantless surveillance to the FISA Court and that illegally information thusly obtained inappropriately made its way into the affidavit for the search warrant executed on the al-Haramain Foundation in Oregon, and you see the veritable cornucopia of problems the government could be so determined to stop inquiry into in the al-Haramain litigation before Judge Walker....

There is a lot the government has to hide in al-Haramain, and they are desperate to do just that. It would be a perfect time to whip out a ruse in the form of a "new state secrets policy". Even if there is nothing at all new about it.
The spanking new proposed policy only raised spitting disgust from civil liberties legal blogger Glenn Greenwald:
...the so-called "new state secrets policy" which the Obama DOJ is set to unveil is such a self-evident farce -- such an obvious replica of all the abuses that characterized the Bush/Cheney use of that privilege which Obama himself has spent the last eight months embracing -- that I couldn't even bring myself to write about it. It would not have altered a single one of the controversial uses and is a complete non-sequitur to the objections raised to its abuses (including, once upon a time, by Obama himself).
For those who haven't gotten the picture yet, let me draw it as simply as possible: when it come to defending U.S. military and national security interests, there's not a cent's worth of difference between the Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden administrations. Those waiting for the confirmation of Dawn Johnson to change things might as well be waiting for the Second Coming (or the Messiah, if you're Jewish).

And as an aside -- and switching topic somewhat -- those waiting for the Congressional bill to slap down Acorn as somehow being used in some sort of progressive jujitsu to bring down the entire military-industrial complex (see the Greenwald link above), let's not waste our time with such utopian fantasies. Some poor naive activists might believe it, and only demoralization results from pursuing such pipe dreams. The MIC will not be brought down by a trick.

Meanwhile, for readers pursuing other items of interest, this appears promising:
In an interview with former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi, FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds named Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle as having been wiretapped and recorded discussing plans with the Turkish ambassador in the Summer of 2001 to invade Iraq and occupy the Kurdish region bordering Turkey.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Psychologist accused of war crimes opposes torture investigations"

In the onrush of events and the constraints of my time, I sometimes miss impmortant stories that I feel need to be posted and promoted. This is one of them, and it remains timely and newsworthy, though originally posted by Stephen Soldz about ten days ago. It concerns Colonel Larry James, one of the major psychologist apologists for U.S. policy on interroations, and as Dr. Soldz and others point out -- and is described in the story below -- has himself been associated with some of the worst torture sites in the U.S. "war on terror."
Psychologist accused of war crimes opposes torture investigations

As a conflict has arisen as to whether the nation should seek accountability for torture and other human rights abuses during the so-called “War on Terror,” the public and media have largely ignored the spectacle of those, like Richard Cheney and John Yoo, who are likely targets of human rights abuse investigations. Potential investigations are denounced as political attacks that will gravely damage the country’s security. The media have largely ignored the self-serving nature of these denunciations.

The latest human rights abuse target to join the anti-accountability chorus is former Guantanamo intelligence psychologist Col. Larry James (retired), about whom questions have been raised regarding unethical or even illegal participation in war crimes. In a press release from Wright State University, where he is now Dean of the School of Professional Psychology, James –– has come out against Attorney General Holder’s limited criminal investigation of CIA torture :

“To reopen cases that were adjudicated as legal may be harmful to the mission and morale of the intelligence community,” said Col. (Ret.) Larry James, now the Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University. “That said, I agree with President Obama’s statement several months ago to ‘turn the page’ and move on with regard to the interrogation of detainees of the Global War on Terrorism.

James said the outcome of appointing the special prosecutor could have negative repercussions on the intelligence-gathering function.
“Being an interrogator is a stressful, challenging and dangerous job,” he said. “If there is new evidence that suggests crimes have been committed, then it would make sense to move forward with an investigation. However, since at the time of the interrogations they were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration, I do not believe the investigation is warranted or necessary. I advise the president to be supportive of our current mission and be very careful as he moves forward in this sensitive area.”

James has previously made clear his belief that intelligence professionals should close their eyes to possible abuses outside of their immediate sphere of action. Thus, when asked by an Associated Press reporter to comment on reports of a secret Camp 7 at Guantanamo, James replied:

“I learned a long, long time ago, if I’m going to be successful in the intel community, I’m meticulously _ in a very, very dedicated way _ going to stay in my lane…. So if I don’t have a specific need to know about something, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t ask about it.”

Like so many others arguing against torture investigations, James may have reason to desire a shut down of torture inquiries. Last month, the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed to the Canadian government for a criminal investigation of James for potential involvement in war crimes:

“Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’ January to May 2003deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003 when he was only 16 years old.

“Based on this information, the CCIJ and CCR called on the Canadian government to investigate whether action should be taken against Dr. James or other attendees of the APA Convention who may have been involved in abuse of detainees.”

The two human rights organizations outlined the evidence justifying a criminal investigation in a background
they presented to the Canadian government. At that time, James was in Toronto for the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association [APA], where he became President of the APA Division of Military Psychology Among the serious concerns regarding James’s behavior warranting investigation are that he consulted to interrogators at Guantanamo while isolation was part of the standard operating procedure to make new detainees dependent on their interrogators.

James, however, has repeatedly claimed credit for ending all abuses at Guantanamo, and later, at Abu Ghraib. Thus, his sanitized memoir detailing these claims is entitled Fixing Hell. Similarly, James told a task force convened by the American Psychological Association in 2005 that he and other psychologists ended abuses at detention facilities:

“I am very proud of the fact, it was psychologists who fixed the problems and not caused it. This is a factual statement! the fact of the matter is that since Jan 2003, where ever we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.” [Emphasis in original.]

James has an idiosyncratic definition of “abuse.” He claims at times never to have witnessed abuses at Guantanamo, where he was deployed as a member of the Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and BSCT #1 [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] in 2003 and 2007:

“When I walk through the camps, I can’t tell you that I have stumbled across a lot of things that are wrong. During my time here, I am proud to say that I have not seen a guard or interrogator abuse anyone in any shape or form,” said James. “These young men and women go out of their way well beyond the call of duty to make sure that detainees are treated safely and humanely at all times.”

James’s account, of course, differs from that of every independent source that has examined Guantanamo and found persistent abuses continuing up to the present. [Even in his own account of his deployment at Guantanamo in his self-justifying "memoir," James reports witnessing several instances of abuse - abuses which, however, he apparently failed to report to his commanders.]

In his memoir James claims to have had special responsibility for juveniles detained at Guantanamo. Yet, during his deployment there, young Mohammed Jawad [evidently between 12 and 16 when incarcerated there] was subjected to the mandatory four weeks isolation upon his arrival in February 2003. Later that year Jawad was subjected to further isolation and other abuse on the recommendation of a BSCT psychologist; James declined to condemn this abuse to a Newsweek reporter, implying that there were extenuating circumstances.
Later, in May 2004, Jawad was also subjected to extended sleep deprivation in the so-called “frequent flyer program” in which, in the words of his military JAG attorney:

“Mohammad Jawad’s arms and legs were … shackled in preparation for the first of 112 moves up and down the hall of L Block, every 3 hours for the next 14 days.”

Also while James was deployed at Guantanamo, adolescent Omar Khadr reported being used as a human mop “because he had urinated on himself during a bout of shackled isolation.” The claim was investigated by the military, which has refused to release any information regarding the investigation. Records released by the Canadian government show that Khadr, like Jawad, was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program in 2004. Despite his professed concern for the decent treatment of juvenile detainees, other than his Newsweek comment, James nowhere describes his relationship to the Jawad or Khadr cases or comments on the documented abuse these young boys suffered at Guantanamo during and after his deployment.

Does James believe that no investigation of his actions at Guantanamo is warranted as his actions there “were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration”? In other words, was he just following orders?

Due to the secrecy surrounding Guantanamo, we do not know James’s actual conduct at Guantanamo. With his call to stop investigations of detainee abuses, James seems to desire that we never know. If he is innocent of participation in abuses, only an investigation will clear his name. If, however, he did participate in abuses, no defense that “at the time of the interrogations they were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration” should be allowed to obscure the truth, and no claims of damage to the morale of the intelligence community should be allowed to impede an investigation and appropriate criminal and/or professional penalties.

Only the full truth can allow the abused detainees, the nation, and the profession of psychology, to “turn the page and move on.” In the absence of the truth we will be forever looking over our shoulders, wondering just who did what and what did happen during this sorry chapter in our nation’s recent history


Air Force Doctor Gets Medal for Serving on Rendition Torture Flights

Originally posted at Firedoglake

Maxwell-Gunther Dispatch.com, the web news site for personnel and interested partisans of Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, reported on September 17 that Col. (Dr.) James W. Walter has been awarded the Air Medal "for his meritorious service on delicate assignments providing medical care to enemy detainees."

From January 2007 to 2009 as the senior detainee movement flight surgeon, he provided 106 combat hours of support to the 14 Joint Task Force Detainee Movement Operations missions in the C-17A. His service included travel into 15 different countries, some of them in an active enemy fire zone.

The article goes into great detail about "self-professed military brat" Walter's career as a NASA space shuttle launch and recovery physician, and says nothing more about the service for which he was awarded a medal. That's because the military's rendition program is highly secret. Stephen Grey in his 2006 book, Ghost Plane, noted the existence of the military's rendition program, and proclaimed it was larger than the CIA's. But Grey's research concentrated on the CIA's program. The Pentagon's rendition program received its first major outing in the pages of the New York Times only in August 2008:

WASHINGTON - The United States military has secretly handed over more than 200 militants to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries, nearly all in the past two years, as part of an effort to reduce the burden of detaining and interrogating foreign fighters captured in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to American military officials.

The system is similar in some ways to the rendition program used by the Central Intelligence Agency since the Sept. 11 attacks to secretly transfer people suspected of being militants back to their home countries to be jailed and questioned.

And tortured? The United States supposedly seeks "assurances" that the prisoners will not be tortured when sent back to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview on Peter B Collins Show

Last week, I was interviewed by well-known radio host Peter B Collins. He presented challenging questions and was well-prepared with thoughtful comments of his own. The interview lasted about 40 minutes and was wide-ranging over a number of topics related to torture. A good deal of the interview concerned my recent article on CIA research on SERE techniques and its relationship to the torture scandal.

You can listen to this interview via podcast.

Retreat into Ignorance: Darwin Picture Effectively Banned in America

Lisa Derrick has a rundown over at La Figa on the recent news that domestic distributors are balking at bringing the Darwin biopic, Creation, to the United States. The film is said to depict the loss of faith in Christianity by Darwin, following upon the death of his 10-year-old daughter, Annie. As the trailer for the film shows up above (H/T Derrick), the film appears to portray many of the conflicts, personal and professional, that Darwin faced as he struggled with the idea of bringing his theory to the public. In the end he did... 20 years after he had first formed it.

Lisa notes that poll after poll shows that a majority of the American people do not believe in the theory of evolution. Darwin's theory is evolution through natural selection, but there are other theories of evolution. His theory became the core of the modern scientific understanding of evolution, which rests on many more facts than even Darwin had available to him at the time he wrote (genetic understandings and researches, radioactive dating processes, etc.). American ignorance and/or hostility to evolution is a reflection of the horrendous education system foisted upon the bulk of the population, and a turning away from truth and scientific curiosity, with a population addicted to trivia and mindless game playing -- all of which is promoted by a ruling elite that wants nothing more than a nation of sheep so their government can pursue unmolested an imperialistic foreign policy. To think in America is becoming a crime. Independent thought becomes labeled as deviancy.

An article in the UK Telegraph notes the failure of the film to find a U.S. distributor, which has not been a problem in the rest of the world. Right-wing, evangelical and fundamentalist Christian hostility is seen as the main obstacle.
Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying"....

Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars Bettany's real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin's deeply religious wife, Emma.
Where is the courage of the U.S. film community? Steven Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, David Geffen, where are you on this? Big-name U.S. actor/director/producers, Sean Penn, Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro, etc., are you calling in your chips on this issue? What do you stand for? The failure to distribute this film amounts to a de facto banning of the film. It is an indictment of the entire U.S. film community, and the fault should not be laid at the feet of the distributors only (though they deserve the immediate blame).

I wrote a comment at the La Figa post, replying to a commenter who thought too much emphasis was being placed on Darwin himself: "he’s not some saint of science, he just figured out evolution. Let’s talk about Evolution, not Darwin."
Oddly enough, Darwin would agree with you. He hated the idea of biography, and was himself a shy, retiring man. Still, he knew he had become an icon by the end of his life. He also knew that the battle to win over adherents to his views would take a long time. He urged patience on his followers who wanted to to build a militant Athiest league (though he’d have them over for dinner).

The story of Annie is a heart-breaking one. Darwin nursed his daughter through a horrifying fatal illness, his wife, Emma, being laid up in the final stages of pregnancy. His daughter is buried in the Malvern Hills, a rare outcrop in western England from which one can look out over the flat countryside, towards the Cotswolds and beyond.

For years, Darwin and his wife could not bring themselves to visit the grave. When they finally did, during a particularly terrible health and emotional crisis fifteen years later, it helped the man break through his stifled grief, and give him strength to return to his work and writings post-Origin, as he was worn down with the defense of himself and his views.

No one knows for sure when Darwin lost his faith in the Anglican Church. It’s not clear how far he ever moved past agnosticism. The theory that he lost his faith after the death of his daughter comes from a book by Darwin scholar, Randal Keynes. Surely there were many contributory factors. When Darwin left on the Beagle journey at age 24, he believed he would become a clergyman. By the end of his voyage, where he saw not only geological and biological phenomena that helped shape him into an evolutionist, but also slavery, coups, and close-up the wars of extermination against native South American populations, he had decided in a career as a scientist (actually, a geologist, at that point).

The suppression of this movie is an outrage. It would certainly help humanize Darwin, whom the religious right want to demonize and make pariah. You cannot at this point in time separate Darwin from the issue of evolution. Years after his death he remains a symbol not only of the fact of evolution, but of courage and truth-telling, or belief in the powers of reason to subdue those of superstition and destructive passions.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama Introduces Guantanamo II

Both Andy Worthington and Spencer Ackerman are following the Obama's administration pursuit of indefinite detentions and renditions policy at the prison at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base.

Worthington writes:
Following briefings by Obama administration officials (who declined to be identified), both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported yesterday that the government is planning to introduce a new review system for the 600 or so prisoners held at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which will, for the first time, allow them to call witnesses in their defense.

On paper, this appears to be an improvement on existing conditions at the prison, but a close inspection of the officials’ statement reveals that the proposed plans actually do very little to tackle the Bush administration’s wayward innovations regarding the detention of prisoners in wartime, and, moreover, the officials also provided the shocking news that prisoners are currently being rendered to Bagram from other countries.
And Ackerman notes:
“They’re setting up what amounts to a CSRT,” said David Remes, the legal director of the non-profit Appeal for Justice law firm who represents 19 Guantanamo detainees. A CSRT is the acronym for a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, the old mechanism at Guantanamo to adjudicate not a detainee’s guilt or innocence, but whether he constituted a threat to U.S. national security. Detainees were at the mercy of hearsay evidence and had the burden of proving that they weren’t a threat and the government’s case against them was erroneous. The Bush administration contended that CSRTs provided all the process rights to which Guantanamo detainees were entitled. But in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Boumediene case that detainees were entitled to habeas corpus protections.

And so, Remes said, several years and several thousand miles later, here we are again.
Finally, as Andy Worthington makes clear, from the statements of U.S. officials on the "new" policy, at "no point... was any mention made of the government’s obligations to hold prisoners seized in wartime as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions."

And that is the point, isn't it? The U.S. government, seemingly no matter what executive is nominally at its head, operates a military policy that is scornful of the needs or opinions of its populace. (This was clear with the Iraq War.) The obliviousness to which the supposedly liberal blogosphere in general treats these issues makes one think of what liberals of another generation used to say about feckless GOP President Gerald Ford, that he couldn't chew gum and walk at the same time.

With the the most popular sites in the liberal blogosphere transfixed by the fight for full healthcare (a noble cause), and various trivial scandals (e.g., the latest Kayne statement, or the Joe Wilson "no"), articles on the war, or on torture and attacks on civil liberties are left to a committed but small handful of bloggers.

In the 1960s, an old peacenik slogan went: "what if they gave a war and nobody came?" Today, in the 00s, one could rewrite that: "what if they gave a war and tortured prisoners, and kidnapped people and locked them up forever, shredding age-old rights protections, like habeas corpus, and nobody gave a damn?" No wonder Obama isn't afraid to escalate the war in Afghanistan, even when his head general says that the terrorist Al Qaeda isn't even a real presence there anymore.

You'd think I'd have to make up ironies like this last point, but no need to anymore, not in an America that is unconscious of itself, like a big, lumbering, destructive lunatic on a binge, afraid of itself and of the world in general, but unable to exercise self-reflection, or correct course before it is too late.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Statement by Clinical Psychologists Against Torture & Current APA Policies

The following statement is a very welcome addition to the increasing pressure put upon the bureaucracy of the American Psychological Association regarding its policies around psychologist participation in interrogations and the involvement of some psychologists in torture of prisoners. It also takes head-on the APA position around its Ethics Code 1.02, which controversially allows psychologists to adhere to organizational demands above and beyond ethical prohibitions. The latter has been considered to be a major way in which military psychologists involved in abusive interrogations for the military or CIA have escaped ethical and legal (licensing board) charges.

A version of this statement can also be found at the blog Psyche, Science and Society.

SSCP Executive Board Statement Against Torture
September 9, 2009

We, the Executive Board of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (Division 12, Section III of the American Psychological Association), hereby (1) declare our unequivocal condemnation of any involvement of psychologists in torture or abusive treatment of prisoners, including such actions that may be disguised under the euphemism of "enhanced or harsh interrogation" techniques, (2) express our serious concern about individual and systemic factors that may have contributed to any such involvement, and (3) recommend corrective action to hold all relevant parties accountable and reduce the likelihood of any involvement of psychologists in such behaviors in the future.

It has become increasingly apparent that at least a few psychologists likely were involved in the design, implementation, justification, and/or concealment of torture or abusive treatment of prisoners. Regardless of the number of psychologists involved, such actions are clearly in violation of the principles of the American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics code: "Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm… Because psychologists' scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence" (Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence); "Psychologists exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices" (Principle D: Justice); "Psychologists are aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making" (Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity).

We therefore make the following recommendations:

  1. APA should make an immediate, complete, and public declaration of any information the organization possesses regarding the role of psychologists or psychological associations in the design, implementation, justification, and/or concealment of torture or abusive treatment of prisoners. Such information should be provided specifically to the membership of APA, to the State licensing boards of any individual psychologists named in the declaration who may have been involved in such actions, and to federal law enforcement authorities, so that appropriate legal and ethical judgments can be made.
  2. Upon receipt of such information, we recommend that State licensing boards and federal law enforcement authorities conduct their own independent investigations of whether the psychologists' actions constitute an ethical or legal violation.
  3. If APA asserts that no such information is available, the organization should declare any complaints regarding such actions that it and its committees or other organizational units have declined to accept or to take action on, and should make public what steps the organization took or is taking to discover what role, if any, psychologists and psychological associations have played in the design, implementation, justification, and/or concealment of torture or abusive treatment of prisoners.
  4. APA Council should move immediately to retract the 2002 revision of Section 1.02 of the APA Ethics Code, which added a sentence inconsistent with the broader principles of the Ethics Code, specifically, the second sentence of the following passage: "If psychologists' ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict. If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority."
  5. A direct result of the retraction of Section 1.02 should be to declare immediately null and void the report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS), which is partially predicated on the revised Ethics Code. A new Task Force should be assembled to determine APA's policy on interrogations; this process should include an open forum, including full discussion of the issues by the APA membership.
  6. An independent, nonpartisan commission should be created to investigate fully the specific role of individual psychologists, their subordinates, and psychological organizations, including the American Psychological Association, in the design, implementation, justification, or concealment of torture or abusive treatment of prisoners.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CIA Experiments on U.S. Soldiers Linked to Torture Program

Cross-posted from The Public Record

A number of new articles highlight evidence of illegal human experimentation on U.S.-held "terrorism" prisoners undergoing torture. The articles follow the release of a "white paper" by Physicians for Human Rights [PHR], Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 Inspector General’s Report.

This article looks at those recent charges, and reveals that experiments by a CIA researcher on human subjects undergoing SERE training went unreported in the legal memos the Bush administration drafted to approve their torture program. It will also connect major military and intelligence figures to the SERE experiments, and tie some of them to major science and "experimental" directorates at the CIA and Special Operations Command.

An article by veteran journalist William Fisher, looking at PHR's white paper, asks, "Did physicians and psychologists help the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency develop a new research protocol to assess and refine the use of waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques?"

A column at Scientific American quotes PHR's medical advisor on the subject:
[PHR] also raises questions about the ethics of medical note-taking during some of the interrogations. "Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation," Scott Allen, lead study author and PHR medical advisor, said in a prepared statement.
Finally, a story in Wednesday's UK Guardian discussed the significance of the charges of unlawful human experimention:
Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.

The Geneva conventions also ban medical experiments on prisoners and prisoners of war, which they describe as "grave breaches".
After describing how "[h]ealth professionals in the Office of Medical Services and psychologist contractors engaged in designing and monitoring" torture, as "selecting and then rationalizing" the use of various harmful interrogation techniques, the PHR report goes on to say:
By requirement, all interrogations were monitored in real-time by health professionals. Previous reports, including the ICRC report, document allegations that a medical device called a pulse oximeter (a device to measure oxygen saturation in a subject’s blood) was placed on the finger of a detainee to monitor the effectiveness of his respiration during waterboarding. In this way, medical professionals were used to calibrate physical and mental pain and suffering....

The possibility that health professionals monitored techniques to assess and improve their effectiveness, constituting possible unethical human experimentation, urgently needs to be thoroughly investigated.
An Experimental "Battle Lab"

The CIA's Office of Medical Services was supposed to be in charge of monitoring "detainee" health under interrogation. However their instructions, described in an annex to the CIA Inspector General report, exemplifies the dual nature of the "monitoring," as this example from the report shows:
If there is any possibility that ambient temperatures are below the thermoneutral range, they should be monitored and the actual temperatures documented. [2 or 3 redacted lines]

At ambient temperatures below 18 [degrees]C/64 [degrees]F, detainees should be monitored for the development of hypothermia. [Four redacted paragraphs]
Rather than make changes to ambient temperatures, to prevent harm to prisoners, medical professionals are instructed to monitor and document the situation. The torture techniques used by SERE are known to cause endocrine and metabolic disorders (see section on CIA research below), prisoners tortured and subjected to cold are at higher risk of hypothermia, which for a normal person can set in at an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F. The monitoring in this case seems to be as much about experimentation as it is any concern for a prisoner's health. (For what other possible reason could this section be mostly redacted?) Parallels to the experiments on hypothermia by Nazi scientists at Dachau are chilling, as is the fact that some of these scientists were later imported, along with their data, to the United States.

Questions were raised around possible human experimentation in an article last May at Firedoglake on "The Zubaydah Torture 'Experiment,'" noting, "Of the many fascinating details coming out of [the May 2009 Senate] Judiciary hearing... the references to the application of an experiment by the ex-SERE CIA contractor, most likely James Mitchell, seemed especially important."

The experimentation was not limited to "high-value" CIA prisoners. Last April, another article at Firedoglake reported how the Senate Armed Services Committee report (PDF) on prisoner abuse described the creation of an experimental "battle lab" at Guantanamo, demonstrating support for the torture program from the main Army intelligence school at Ft. Huachuca.
According to the Levin report, in August 2002, "COL John P. Custer, then-assistant commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona" conducted a review of interrogations operations at Guantanamo. Custer called Guantanamo "America's 'Battle Lab'" in the war on terror, and recommended combining FBI and military techniques to extract "information by exploiting the detainee's vulnerabilities." The "Battle Lab" label stuck, though some, like Colonel Britt Mallow, of the Criminal Investigative Task Force, objected.

MG Dunlavey and later MG Miller referred to GTMO as a "Battle Lab" meaning that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DOD in other places. While this was logical in terms of learning lessons, I personally objected to the implied philosophy that interrogators should experiment with untested methods, particularly those in which they were not trained.

Later, Dunlavey denied using the term, and Miller testified he couldn't remember.
Pre-9/11 Experiments on SERE Torture

The experiments on the effects of SERE-torture techniques began even earlier -- upon SERE trainees themselves. An April 2009 AlterNet article reported on the history of experimentation on soldier subjects undergoing SERE training. (SERE is a military program, the acronym standing for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.) The article explained how the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the CIA "ignored a wealth of other published information about the effects of SERE 'stress inoculation,'" citing a June 2000 article, "Assessment of Humans Experiencing Uncontrollable Stress: The SERE Course," in Special Warfare (PDF). Special Warfare is "The Professional Bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School" (emphases added to following quote):

As shown in the charts on page 7, SERE stress caused significant changes in students' hormone levels. Recorded changes in cortisol levels were some of the greatest ever documented in humans. In some cases, the changes noted among the trainees were greater than the changes noted in patients undergoing heart surgery....

Changes in testosterone levels were similarly remarkable: In some cases, testosterone dropped from normal levels to castration levels within eight hours.
The Alternet article also quoted from a May 2000 article in Biological Psychiatry, Hormone profiles in humans experiencing military survival training (emphasis added):
Conclusions: The stress of military survival training produced dramatic alterations in cortisol, percent free cortisol, testosterone, and thyroid indices. Different types of stressors had varying effects on the neuroendocrine indices. The degree of neuroendocrine changes observed may have significant implications for subsequent responses to stress.
Looking beyond more than physiological symptoms, other studies have looked at purely psychological data. Consider this oft-quoted study from the August 2001 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, which looked at dissociative symptoms, such as depersonalization, derealization, psychic or emotional numbing, and general cognitive confusion, produced in military subjects exposed to SERE torture techniques (emphasis added):
The current study was designed to assess the nature and prevalence of dissociative symptoms in healthy humans experiencing acute, uncontrollable stress during U.S. Army survival training. METHOD: In study 1, 94 subjects completed the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale after exposure to the stress of survival training. In study 2, 59 subjects completed the Brief Trauma Questionnaire before acute stress and the dissociative states scale before and after acute stress. A randomly selected group of subjects in study 2 completed a health problems questionnaire after acute stress. RESULTS: In study 1, 96% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms in response to acute stress. Total scores, as well as individual item scores, on the dissociation scale were significantly lower in Special Forces soldiers compared to general infantry troops. In study 2, 42% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms before stress and 96% reported them after acute stress.
Other research results include the effects of SERE-style torture upon the immune system and other biological markers. The findings regarding high levels of cortisol upon subjects was corroborated by a SERE psychologist at the Navy Brunswick, Maine, SERE school, who -- according to an unclassified, undated Talking Paper from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency -- found "empirical medical data... [of] elevated levels of cortisol in the brain stem caused by stress levels incurred during water-boarding." The Brunswick school subsequently discontinued waterboarding as part of its SERE training, as it created a "negative learning environment." The other Navy SERE school, in North Island, California, refuses to eliminate exposure to waterboarding as part of its training program, despite the opposition of JPRA and the other SERE schools, which believe it can induce a "learned helplessness" state in students.

SERE Research and the Development of the Torture Program

One of the lead researchers in a number of these studies is Yale psychiatrist Charles A. Morgan, III. According to one source, "Over the past 10 years, Dr. Morgan has served as a Subject Matter Expert to the US Special Operations Command." But at a June 2004 symposium on "The Nature and Influence of Intuition in Law Enforcement," sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, and the American Psychological Association, Dr. Morgan is listed as affiliated with "Behavioral Science, CIA."

Additionally, in the Information Science Board (ISB) document, Educing Information -- which was heavily drawn upon by President Obama's task force on interrogations, for recommendations on the interrogations issue -- Dr. Morgan is identified as a member of the 11-person "Government Experts Committee," and listed as affiliated with the Intelligence Technology Innovation Center (ITIC). According to Intelligence Online, ITIC is "a research organization under the CIA's authority," which "answers directly to the CIA's Science and Technology directorate."

The Obama Interrogations Task Force recently made clear they found a lot to value in the ISB study (emphasis added):
The Task Force concluded... that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board.
Whatever the fate of the HIG, what is noteworthy here is that the Office of Technical Services (OTS), which was cited in the recently released 2004 CIA Inspector General report as having vetted the aggressive SERE interrogation techniques, is, along with the ITIC, also a part of the Science and Technology directorate. OTS, formerly the Technical Services Division (or Technical Services Staff), was the branch of the CIA in charge of torture and assassination. It was also in charge of the experimental mind control and interrogation program known as MKULTRA.

Dr. Morgan's online profile states that between 1998 and 2002 he received over $400,000 in research grants from the Army and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for studies on "Psychobiological Assessment of High Intensity Military Training" and "Neuro endocrine assessment of Survival School Training." A 1977 Washington Post expose -- those were the days of scandalous revelations surrounding the CIA's MKULTRA program -- describes CIA use of ONR to funnel funds for secret experiments in the 1950s and 1960s. The same relationship was also explored during a 1977 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. This is not evidence that Morgan's research was paid for by the CIA, but along with his institutional affiliation, it is suggestive of possible CIA involvement.

While it is unknown to what degree the CIA was directly involved in the SERE research (outside of Dr. Morgan's affiliation), Special Operations Command reportedly was a major supporter.

The co-author of the Special Warfare article referenced above, and working with Dr. Morgan on a number of other SERE research papers looking at physiological and psychological effects of SERE techniques, was Gary Hazlett, a clinical psychologist with the Psychological Applications Directorate at U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Moreover, Morgan and Hazlett cited "the approval and support [for their research] of Lieutenant General William Tangney, Major General Kenneth Bowra, Major General William G. [B]oykin and many others..."

Maj. Gen. Bowra retired from the military in 2003, after serving as Commanding General of Army Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command. Following the military, he went to work as Senior Program Director with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, serving as national laboratory liaison to U.S. Joint Forces Command, J9 Directorate. Another source states that currently Bowra is senior mentor/concept developer at USJFCOM J9 for Joint Urban Operations and Homeland Security experimentation. J9 stands for the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (JCD&E). It "leads the development of emerging joint concepts, conducts and enables joint experimentation, and coordinates DoD JCD&E efforts in order to provide joint capabilities to support the current and future joint force commander in meeting security challenges."

The possible involvement of USJFCOM's J9 in research upon SERE follows upon the revelation, discussed above, that CIA's OTS, part of CIA's Science and Technology directorate, was heavily involved in the implementation of the SERE techniques for use by the CIA. While the use of the term "experimentation" appears to have a broad meaning in military usage, beyond that of conducting scientific experiments, given the charges surrounding human experimentation upon torture victims, any connections between these secretive "experimental" directorates and the SERE torture program, or research upon it, is worrisome.

Maj. Gen. Boykin was the controversial former commander of Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who resigned over statements that indicated he saw the "war on terror" as a religious war. At the time he was Special Operations commander at Fort Bragg, according to a recent New York Times article, SERE psychologist James Mitchell was completing his last military assignment as "psychologist to an elite special operations unit in North Carolina." Boykin previously served as CIA Deputy Director of Special Activities, and in June 2003, became Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Donald Rumsfeld right-hand man, Stephen Cambone.

Lt. Gen. Tangney is yet another former commanding general at Army Special Operations Command. Also retired from the military, he is currenly Senior Vice President for Intelligence, Security, and Special Operations, at Future Technologies, Inc., a supplier of, among other things, a "well-developed global network of experienced intelligence, security and special operations professionals" working with Special Operations, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other military customers.

While Dr. Morgan appears to be well-connected among the military and intelligence elite, it is important to remember that there is no reason to conclude that Dr. Morgan or his co-researchers have ever been involved in torture or experiments meant to be used for torture. (We cannot say the same for CIA or military medical or psychological personnel, however.) In fact, it is possible that Dr. Morgan's research has led him to oppose coercive interrogation techniques, as his published research documents the debilitating effects of SERE torture, which utilized against a prisoner could only be considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, if not torture. (Although, at the 2007 convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Morgan indicated he was against the idea of removing psychologists from national security interrogations, which was being considered in a motion before APA at that time.)

A 2007 New York Times article quotes Dr. Morgan:
Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.

“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.
Dr. Morgan's comments appear to put him at odds with other members of the CIA's Science and Technology directorate, particularly those who work for OTS, as well as individuals within the Pentagon and Special Operations Command, who have been tied to elements of the U.S. torture program.

The Suppression of Research on SERE in the OLC Memos

What is clear is that the CIA and the Pentagon had plenty of experimental evidence from the peer-reviewed, published research of Dr. Morgan and his associates (and possibly others), both before and after 9/11, that SERE techniques had serious, debilitating effects on individuals subjected to them. As this research is never cited in any of the Office of Legal Counsel memos issued to the CIA around their torture program, it appears such research was deliberately withheld from government attorneys as the CIA sought approval for the use of SERE-style torture. Nor was this obscure research, but had been funded by the government at a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and promoted by some of the Pentagon's highest generals.

The frenzied search for data on waterboarding, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement in a small box, etc., to submit to OLC attorneys making legal determinations on whether proposed interrogation techniques constituted torture, was a kabuki organized by the CIA. The OLC attorneys involved -- John Yoo, Stephen Bradbury, Jay Bybee, and others -- were witting or unwitting partners in suppression of CIA research on torture (as future investigations will disclose). Given the participation of members of the Office of the Vice President, particularly David Addington and Vice President Cheney himself, in the promulgation of the torture program, and the composition of the memos, it seems likely they were also involved in the suppression of this material. As a result, the memos produced authorizing the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were composed as the result of fraud and bad faith, the result of a criminal conspiracy to implement illegal torture techniques.

The public response to the recent "white paper" by Physicians for Human Rights shows there is great interest in following up on charges of human experimentation upon torture victims of the U.S. government. The Congress and Department of Justice should move swiftly to initiate full, open investigations and charges against those involved.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sign Petition to End the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan

Tom Hayden's gotten an impressive response to a petition calling for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The petition may not be as strong in its language and not quite as militant as I might like (calling, for instance, vaguely for timelines for "near-term" withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan). But I imagine most will find it quite militant enough. And given the political atmosphere of the times, it's a blockbuster of a petition, aimed at the Gates-led DoD, Gen. McChrystal and their allies. I support signing it.
We, the undersigned peace and justice leaders, believe that the American military interventions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are deepening quagmires that threaten a Long War without end.

At the current rate of American deaths in Afghanistan, over 1,000 additional American soldiers will be killed in the next two years of “hard fighting” predicted by the Pentagon as the next phase of a ten year occupation. Another $130 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq now is being rushed through a sleeping Congress. An escalation of even more troops is pending.

Now is the time for an exit strategy to end these wars. The government of warlords, drug lords, and landlords we prop up in Kabul is losing more legitimacy by the day. A majority of Americans – including 70 percent from the majority party – now consider Afghanistan a mistake. Leading national security experts even deny that it’s a necessary war.

If we do not decide to disengage at once, our dreams of domestic reform will be squandered by years of war budgets. Our dreams of clean energy will be buried in wars over oil and pipelines. The global good will extended to our new President will be jeopardized.

We understand how difficult it is to reverse a mistaken course. But that is the leadership we need, not one that continually escalates in order not to lose. We have been there.

- Our government should adopt an exit strategy from Afghanistan based on all-party talks, regional diplomacy, unconditional humanitarian aid, and timelines for the near-term withdrawal of American and NATO combat troops.

- The aerial bombardments of Afghan and Pakistan villages, like burning down haystacks to find terrorist needles, should end.

- Military spending should be reversed in Afghanistan to focus on food, medicine, shelter, the socio-economic needs of the poor, and the dignity of women and children.

- President Obama should keep his pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq by 2011, and prevent American interference in the forthcoming Iraqi elections.

- The President should oppose any Israeli attack on Iran, which will only inflame the regional and global conflict.

Much as we were inspired by Barack Obama’s election, we will not be taken for granted by the President and the Congressional majority. The historic victories in 2006 and 2008 were fueled by popular enthusiasm and unprecedented voter turnouts that cannot be reignited by e-mail solicitations. A growing disenchantment with a costly quagmire will threaten all the hopes of 2008. Everything is related now: we cannot afford national health care, housing, and clean energy while spending billions on quagmires across several continents.

We are prepared to create a storm of protest in Congressional districts and close Senate races. We will form alliances with all those whose hope for health, energy and economic reform are diminished by these wars. We will defend dissent in the armed forces and protect our children from the snares of military recruiters. We will reach out to strengthen a global peace movement, especially in NATO countries.

History shows that terrorist threats can come from German cities, African villages, and even homegrown American cells, not simply the caves of Pakistan.

Our security needs cannot be served by provoking the growing hatred of America caused by repeated invasions of foreign lands. We are human beings who refuse to be defined in the world as mindless military drones and Predators.

ARIEL DORFMAN, Author, Duke University

RABBI STEVEN B. JACOBS, Progressive Faith Foundation
REV. GEORGE REGAS, pastor emeritus, All-Saints Episcopal Church
REV. ED BACON, Pastor, All-Saints Episcopal Church
REV. PETER LAARMAN, Progressive Christians United
DR. NAZIR KHAJA, President, Islamic Information Service
REV. JOHN B. COBB, Claremont Theology School
REV. GEORGE HUNSINGER, Princeton Theology Seminary
REV. JAMES CONN, Director, New Ministries, United Methodist Church
REV. JANET EOLLERY MCKEITHEN, Westside Interfaith Coalition
STEPHEN ROHDE, president, Inter-faith Communities for Peace and Justice, Los Angeles

SENATOR JOHN BURTON, chairman, California Democratic Party
KAREN BERNAL, chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party
SUSIE SHANNON, Executive Board Member, California Democratic Party
PAUL HAGGIS, film director
SONALI KOHATKAR, Co-director, Afghan Women's Mission
MICHAEL RATNER, President, Center for Constitutional Rights
LESLIE CAGAN, co-founder, United for Peace and Justice
RUSTI EISENBERG, United for Peace and Justice
MICHAEL MCPHEARSON, Veterans for Peace

VAN GOSSE, co-founder, Historians Against the War
MARC BECKER, co-chair, Historians Against the War
BILL FLETCHER, Jr., executive director, Black Commentator, co-founder Progressives for Obama
RICHARD FALK, professor, Princeton University, United Nations rapporteur
LEONARD WEINGLASS, human rights attorney
MATTHEW EVANGELISTA, chair, Department of Government, Cornell University
STANLEY ARONOWITZ, graduate center, City University of New York
JOE FEAGAN, professor, Texas A&M University

GAEL MURPHY, Code Pink, Washington
TIM CARPENTER, Progressive Democrats of America [PDA]
LEONARD WEINGLASS, human rights attorney

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