Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Soldz Article Pounds Gelles/FBI Story on Al Qahtani Interrogation

Psychologist Stephen Soldz has written a scathingly accurate article on ex-PENS task force member Michael Gelles, and the truth behind the myth that Gelles and others intervened at Guantanamo and tried to stop the abusive interrogation of Mohamed Al Qahtani and replace it with a benign and more effective form of "rapport"-based interrogation.

Soldz describes, in The "Ethical Interrogation": The Myth of Michael Gelles and the al-Qahtani Interrogation, how the FBI and other interrogators working in the Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo in late 2002, proposed an interrogation approach to a psychiatrically debilitated Al Qahtani that would exploit months of isolation and abuse with -- another year of near-total isolation! 

Soldz quotes "former police investigator and veteran Army counterintelligence operative David DeBatto" on the likely result of the plan Gelles was proposing:

"That [the initial three-months isolation] is an excessively long time and on the face of it, violates the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and international law. Two major problems I have with this is first, solitary is a punishment reserved for the worst kind of behavior by inmates in a prison, not for refusing to answer questions. Second, it is the worst possible way to interrogate anyone and will almost always produce negative results."

There's a lot more I could say about Dr. Soldz's excellent article, but for now I simply want to direct my readership to it. I'll have more to comment in a few days.

In the meantime, I'll note that in the same batch of material from the ACLU FOIA release upon which Stephen drew for the article, I found this strange admission from an anonymous member of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, in a memo addressed to Raymond S. Mey in FBI's Counterterrorism Unit, Marion Bowman (Senior Counsel for National Security Affairs) and various Special Agents in the Bureau's Miami office. The memo's date is 5/30/2003. (Note, Mey's name is redacted on the latest version of this memo, which otherwise unredacts much of the text; but Mey's name appears on earlier versions.) Emphasis is added to quote below:

Although SERE techniques may be effective in eliciting tactical intelligence in a battlefield context, the reliability of information obtained using such tactics is highly questionable, not to mention potentially legally inadmissible in court.
Now, since this memo was written to complain about the use of "aggressive interrogation tactics" at Guantanamo, which we know were based on the SERE techniques, it's interesting to see this FBI agent note that such techniques "may be effective" on the battlefield. Why even make this comment? Was it understood that Special Forces were already using such techniques in theater operations? Is torture okay in certain circumstances?

Just asking...

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