Monday, May 31, 2010

Protest Israeli War Provocation Against Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla

Last night, Israeli commandos stormed a peace flotilla headed for Gaza, killing at least ten and perhaps as many as nineteen, and injuring many others. The 600+ activists aboard the ships were attempting to bring tons of supplies to the devastated Gaza region, where 1.5 million Palestinians suffer the debilitating effects of a years-long Israeli blockade of their land. In late 2008, the Israelis attacked Gaza, supposedly acting to interdict "terrorists," killing hundreds.

As in the 2008-09 attack, the Israelis used the pretext of self-defense, when in reality they were the provocateurs and attackers. When some on the ship perhaps attempted to defend themselves from this hijacking on the high seas, in international waters, the Israelis apparently opened fire. Subsequently, the ships were "escorted" to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where hundreds are currently held incommunicado. Already, thirty-two have been incarcerated. Meanwhile the Israeli government attempts to dominate airwaves with its own propagandistic version of events. Indeed, Fox News is now "reporting" Israeli claims that the six-ship flotilla had "ties to Al Qaeda," or so says the Israeli ambassador to Denmark, who wins the first medal for chutzpah from this terrible event. Runner-up? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who attempted to make the entire affair about Hamas and Iran.

According to
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Hanieyh has called on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to terminate indirect negotiations with Israel after the flotilla attack, saying, "it is not reasonable to continue talks in light of this crime," Ma'an News Agency reported Monday.
The political fallout from the Israeli attack has been swift and ongoing. There have been many, many protests against the Israeli action, from a number of governments, and most notably Turkey, whose ship MV Mavi Marmara was boarded by the Israelis, and where it appears much of the attack took place. The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in the flotilla. Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador and is considering a number of actions.

Elsewhere, the blatant criminality of the event brought thousands out into the streets, in London, in Paris, in Istanbul, and by leftists and antiwar activists in Tel Aviv, and activists certainly elsewhere.

But from Israel's number one patron, the response has been, per Reuters, "cautious":
President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he deeply regretted the loss of life in an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on Monday and urged him to quickly get to the bottom of the incident.
But Netanyahu and the Israelis have already made it clear that they are going to lie through their teeth about this. Furthermore, it is difficult to believe that the U.S. was unaware of what the Israelis were planning, or that they don't have excellent satellite or drone video of everything that happened. Instead, this appears to be a provocation whose ultimate aim is to strengthen the hand of the anti-terrorism and "attack Iran" crowd in the United States, by stirring up the hornets nest, and directing the U.S. military and its junior Zionist ally to turn their military machines against Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran, and likely, Sryia as well. The break with Turkey has been brewing for some time, with the U.S. playing a double game with the Turks and the Kurds. (See this interesting article by Thierry Meyssan, who, I think, underestimates the possibility of another Gladio operation in Turkey.)

The world should condemn this criminal attack by Israeli commandos on the peace flotilla bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza, and should defend those who in self-defense protected themselves against the military assault. Israeli must release everyone they are holding in custody from the flotilla now. Let the flotilla be freed to continue its mission.

AFP-TV gives the reaction from within Gaza:

Also, while sorting through the avalanche of messages over at Twitter, check the Google newsfeed for latest updates (H/T Jason Leopold).

Amicus Briefs Ask Supreme Court to Hear Abu Ghraib Contractors Torture Case

The following is a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). It concerns a petition to the Supreme Court by CCR stemming from last September's DC Court of Appeals decision ruling in favor of defendants CACI and L-3, whose employees were alleged to have been involved in torture at Abu Ghraib. The 2-1 decision said that that private contractors are entitled to immunity from lawsuit due to so-called “battlefield preemption.”

Will the Supreme Court recognize the fundamental need for redress for torture victims, the importance of protections for prisoners pronounced by international human rights and humanitarian law? I'm not too sanguine myself, but the Court has surprised before. I salute groups like CCR, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture, who are fighting to maintain civilized norms in these dark ages of American empire. This country needs fundamental change. We cannot rely on human rights and civil liberties organizations like ACLU alone to stem the tide of militarism that threatens to swallow up the last vestiges of democracy in the United States, as it rides rough-shod over other countries abroad. Sooner or later, this need for greater political organization will take form in either new political parties or new social entities that better express the will of the people for peace, fairness and democracy, and an end to barbaric practices like torture and military conquest.

In the meantime, please support CCR's lawsuit and press for the case to be taken up by the Supreme Court.
Retired Senior Military Officers, Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs Asking Supreme Court to Hear Abu Ghraib Torture Case Against Contractors CACI and L-3

May 28, 2010, Washington, D.C. – Today, three amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in the Supreme Court, in support of CCR’s petition for certiorari in its case against CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan), two corporations whose employees are alleged to have participated in the infamous torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. One brief, submitted by retired high-ranking military officers, argues that private military contractors are not the equivalent of U.S. soldiers and cannot be considered “combatants” because they are not fully incorporated into the armed forces or subject to a military chain of command. The Counsel of Record for the retired military brief is John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge of the Third Circuit, who served in the U.S. Navy in WWII, and signatories to the brief include: David M. Brahms, retired Brigadier General; James P. Cullen, retired Brigadier General and former Chief Judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals; Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, former Navy’s Judge Advocate General; and Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, also a former Navy’s Judge Advocate General. In a 2-1 decision rendered in September 2009, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the claims against CACI and L-3, finding that the private contractors were entitled to immunity from suit through “battlefield preemption.”

Another brief was filed by Professors of Federal Courts, International Law, and U.S. Foreign Relations Law, stating that there is no basis for immunity or a pre-emption defense for the federal claims, including war crimes, under the Alien Tort Statute. The third brief, filed on behalf of human rights organizations including Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture, as well as international law scholars, highlights the need for redress for torture victims and the protections that should be afforded to detainees under international human rights and humanitarian law.

Notably, the retired military officials brief reads: “Membership in the U.S. Armed Forces carries with it significant privileges but also heavy obligations, foremost among them being respect for the law of war and for the military chain of command. These cornerstones of the modern American Armed Forces reflect a culture and tradition that demands rigorous training, discipline and accountability. But private military contractors, by contrast, are no more than corporate entities, whose activities are governed only by contractual relationships with the military and who are primarily accountable to private shareholders. Because they are not subjected to the same standards of accountability as are members of the military, private contractors do not merit the immunity afforded to sovereign governmental entities, now provided to them by the decision of the court of appeals.”

“The amicus briefs filed today demonstrate why the Supreme Court must review the decision taken by the court of appeals against the individuals tortured at Abu Ghraib,” said Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Katherine Gallagher. “The lower court’s result not only places the United States on the wrong side of international human rights law, but it runs counter to the views of experienced military leaders on how best to ensure that our obligations regarding humane treatment of detainees are met, and what the nature of the relationship is between U.S. military personnel and private military contractors hired to assist them.”

Last month, CCR and co-counsel argued in their petition for certiorari that the Supreme Court should hear the case because the Court of Appeals decision of September 11, 2009, gave corporate government contractors more protections than even U.S. soldiers enjoy, and constituted judicial overreaching. In that decision, a majority of the panel effectively immunized contractors for torture and other serious mistreatment of Iraqi detainees because of the integration it found of contractors into the military’s operational mission and chain of command. The legal team argued that the military’s own investigations had found CACI and L-3 employees participated in the torture, humiliation and dehumanization of the Iraqi civilians detained at Abu Ghraib. The legal team further argued that corporations could be held liable for war crimes, including torture, under international law.

Saleh v. Titan, first filed in 2004, is a federal lawsuit brought by more than 250 former Iraqi prisoners against private contractors CACI and L-3 Services that alleges the companies’ employees participated in torture and serious abuses while they were hired to provide interrogation and interpretation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq.

The suit charges defendants with torture and other war crimes, as well as common law torts including sexual assault and battery, and negligent hiring and supervision. The acts to which the plaintiffs alleged they were subjected at the hands of the defendants and certain government co-conspirators include: rape and threats of rape and other forms of sexual assault; being forced to watch a family member tortured and abused so badly that he died; repeated beatings, including beatings with chains, boots and other objects; forced nudity; hooding; being detained in isolation; being urinated on and otherwise humiliated.

The victims are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, and law firms Burke PLLC, Motley Rice LLC, Akeel & Valentine, P.C , The Law Firm of L. Palmer Foret, P.C. and Edmond Jones Lindsay, LLP.

Download copies of the amici curiae briefs or visit the Saleh et al v. Titan et al case page for more information.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama Interrogation Official Linked to U.S. Mind Control Research

Originally posted at The Seminal/Firedoglake
A new article at Truthout, by H.P. Albarelli and Jeffrey Kaye, describes how the CIA’s Artichoke Project* was the contemporaneous and operational side of the MK-ULTRA mind control research program. It was not superseded by MK-ULTRA in the 1950s, as often supposed. Even more, Artichoke-derived methods of using drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation and overload, behavioral modification techniques and other methods of mind control have resurfaced as a primary component of U.S. interrogation practice.
The Truthout article includes some amazing revelations, including the largest description to date of the roles of then-Ford administration officials Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in working hand-in-glove with the CIA to suppress information on Artichoke from surfacing.
The article also references the November 2006 release of an "Instruction" from the Secretary of the Navy (3900.39D) regarding its "Human Research Protection Program." While this memo specifically prohibits the use of research upon prisoners, including so-called "unlawful enemy combatants," waivers of informed consent for research, or suspension of the protections enumerated in the memo can be made by the Secretary of the Navy under conditions of "operational contingency or during times of national emergency." It is likely the latter rests upon the legislative language within the September 18, 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, where terrorist acts are said to "continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
The waivers allowed for normal human research testing gains further piquancy when one considers the kinds of research referenced in the Secretary of the Navy’s memo. Section 7(a)(2)(a) describes the Undersecretary of the Navy as the "approval authority" for research done upon prisoners, as well as "Severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques)" [emphasis added].
This referencing of "mind-control techniques" in a document specifically discussing human subjects protections by then Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, is not an anomaly, but a rare instance in which the actual activities of the government in this area are openly revealed. Some of these activities can be documented via publicly available materials. This article describes how some of the individuals involved in U.S. government mind control and torture activities can be tracked and identified.
APA, CIA: "How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses…?"
Another instance in which the curtain was pulled back on mind control research by the U.S. government involved the online description by the American Psychological Association (APA) of a CIA and Rand Corporation workshop which it co-sponsored in July 2003 at Rand’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters. The event was attended by approximately 40 research psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, as well as "representatives from the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense with interests in intelligence operations."
One of these workshops, ostensibly on detection of deception, specifically described how participants should consider "sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors," including the use of "pharmacological agents. "How might we," the workshop asked, "overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?"
The man in charge of "recruiting the operational expertise" for the workshop was Kirk Hubbard, Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division of the CIA. It appears likely that Hubbard was responsible for the presence at the workshop of SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who were instrumental in the construction of the Bush administration’s "enhanced interrogation" torture program. Hubbard was also reported (by Scott Shane of the New York Times) to have brought James Mitchell to an informal meeting "of professors and law enforcement and intelligence officers… to brainstorm about Muslim extremism" at the home of former APA president Martin Seligman in November 2001.
Sometime in the past six months, the APA eliminated all references to the webpage described above, even going so far as to eliminate linked references to it on other webpages on its site. While the webpage that described the workshops has been scrubbed, mirrored images of the site remain available at well-known web archive sites, as I described in a recent article on this attempt to rewrite or hide APA’s offensive history. In one sense, this attempt to hide its history is not surprising, because the kind of activities discussed in these workshops are exactly like those that involved CIA and military mind control torture programs going back fifty years or more, and evidently still operational today.
The Role of Government Psychologist Susan Brandon
In a recent article, Scott Horton at Harper’s picked up on the unique link between the APA/CIA workshop and the recent revelations about torture at a hitherto unknown black site prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. That link was an individual, Susan Brandon.
Referenced by Horton as working for the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA), Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC), a recent publication identified Brandon more fully as Chief for Research in the DCHC’s Behavioral Science Program. As Horton notes, a recent column by Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic described the DCHC as providing "intelligence operatives and interrogators….. [performing] interrogations for a sub-unit of Task Force 714, an elite counter-terrorism brigade." Interrogations at the Afghan black site reportedly have included use of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, brutality, isolation, relying on the guidelines of the Army Field Manual, including its Appendix M. Many human rights groups have criticized Appendix M as including techniques tantamount to torture and/or cruel, inhumane and degrading and illegal by domestic and international law.
Back in 2003, according to an APA news article, Brandon "jointly conceived" the APA/CIA workshops with Rand Associate Policy Analyst, Scott Gerwehr. At the time, psychologist Susan Brandon was the Program Officer for Affect and Biobehavioral Regulation at the National Institute of Mental Health, and worked on the APA/CIA program while also serving as "Senior Scientist" at the APA.
In the early 2000s, Dr. Brandon served as Behavioral and Social Science Principal at the Mitre Corporation, a company highly linked to U.S. Air Defense. Subsequent to her stint as APA’s Senior Scientist, she went on to work in for the Bush administration as Assistant Director of Social, Behavioral, and Educational Sciences for the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. In addition, she became an instrumental member of the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBES) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committees on Science and Homeland and National Security.
Subsequently, as described in an important article by Stephen Soldz that extends many of the points in this essay, Brandon joined the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity group (CIFA), which was later disbanded and reformed as part of the DCHC. Soldz also reminds us that Brandon was "one of the silent observers at the [APA] PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] taskforce described by dissident taskforce member Jean Maria Arrigo as exerting pressure on members to adopt a likely pre-approved policy in favor of participation in Guantánamo, CIA, and other interrogations. According to a 2005 article by Geoff Mumford, APA’s Director of Science Policy, Dr. Brandon "helped steer much of the association’s scientific outreach relevant to counter-terrorism after 9/11."
One example of such outreach would include the June 11, 2002 meeting between Brandon, and other top APA officials with "two senior staff members in the National Security Council’s (NSC’s) Office of Combating Terrorism" (OCT). Since Vice Admiral William McRaven was head of OCT at that time, perhaps Brandon’s acquaintance with the world of Special Operations dates to that time, as McRaven was to become Commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
JSOC is the other Defense Department component, besides DIA, that has been linked currently with the management of the black site prisons run by the Obama administration, subsequent to President Obama’s apparent closure of the CIA black sites. One reputable source has informed me that there are eight such black site prisons in Afghanistan alone. A recent report by the BBC corroborated earlier reports by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The article by Ambinder further elaborated upon this story.
Why is the Obama Administration Still Involved in Torture?
It is not known if Dr. Brandon has been involved in any of the reported abuses of prisoners coming out of Bagram’s Tor prison, or elsewhere. Yet one would think the Obama administration and the Pentagon has a lot to explain in utilizing as their behavioral chief of research for an agency involved in intelligence operations, including interrogation. But then, why is the Obama administration involved in torture or operating secret prisons at all? President Obama has manifestly broken his promise to the American people to end torture and close all secret prisons. Nor has Congress done their due diligence in investigating these matters. Only when the American people fully understand the extent to which these activities have occupied the government and their various collaborators, like the APA, will society be able to take the necessary steps to end these abuses, and hold those accountable for what amount to crimes against humanity.
As for psychologists, Dr. Soldz rightly notes, "Psychology as a profession is at a crossroads." The same holds true for other professions involved with this abusive and criminal history, including the activities of anthropologists in the military’s Human Terrain System teams in Afghanistan, researchers in numerous academic departments across the country, and the many reports of doctors and other medical personnel involved in the monitoring of torture activities for the CIA and Defense Department. The use of torture has suborned U.S. civil society as a whole in activities that are dark and evil, and the society as a whole must make a tremendous effort if it is to extirpate such evil from its midst.
*For an early document referring to Artichoke’s history, see CIA, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Project ARTICHOKE, January 31, 1975. While this MOR downplays Artichoke’s history, it represents the degree to which the CIA was willing to reveal such operations. The Truthout article discusses Operation Dormouse, where then Ford administration officials Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld worked with the CIA to limit revelations about Artichoke and other CIA torture and assassination operations.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Soldz on "The 'Black Jail'"

With permission, I am reposting an important recent article by psychologist, researcher and social activist Stephen Soldz. Dr. Soldz is also the current president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.

The "Black Jail"

A recent pair of articles by Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic has shed new light upon activities in the secret so-called “black jail” on the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Among other aspects, these new revelations suggest that psychologists may be playing a major role inside the facility, raising questions about the reasons for American Psychological Association (APA) lobbying activities in support of the agency that Ambinder reports is running the detention center.

In recent months the Washington Post, New York Times, and BBC reported on a secret prison on fringes of the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Referred to by former prisoners as the “black jail,” this institution is reportedly a site where prisoner abuse is regular and systematic. The BBC reported that all nine former prisoners they interviewed:

told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night.

The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there.

Thus, we can assume that psychological torture techniques of isolation, sleep deprivation, and hypothermia are routine aspects of treatment inside the facility.

The Washington Post provided additional details through interviews with two youths imprisoned in the black jail. As one young man, Rashid, who is “younger than 16” described:

At the beginning of his detention, he was forced to strip naked and undergo a medical checkup in front of about a half-dozen American soldiers. He said that his Muslim upbringing made such a display humiliating and that the soldiers made it worse.

"They touched me all over my body. They took pictures, and they were laughing and laughing," he said. "They were doing everything."

He said he lived in a small concrete cell that was slightly longer than the length of his body. Food was tossed in a plastic bag through a slot in the metal door. Both teenagers said that when they tried to sleep, on the floor, their captors shouted at them and hammered on their cells.

When summoned for daily interrogations, Rashid said, he was made to wear a hood, handcuffs and ear coverings and was marched into the meeting room. He said he was punched by his interrogators while being prodded to admit ties to the Taliban; he denied such ties. During some sessions, he said, his interrogator forced him to look at pornographic movies and magazines while also showing him a photograph of his mother.

"I was just crying and crying. I was too young," Rashid said. "I didn't know what a prison looks like or what a prison is."

Ambinder received confirmation from the Defense Department of the existence of this secret detention center at Bagram that Department had previously consistently denied existed. [Ambinder has a picture of the facility here.] He reports that the center is run, not by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), as was previously reported, but by the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) in course of its providing intelligence services for Task Force 714. For those with long memories, DCHC is essentially where the Defense Department stuffed the old Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) after the latter was "disbanded" due to several major scandals involving spying on Americans and fraud connected with former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

It isn't clear if it really makes a difference if the "black jail" is run by JSOC or DCHC. After all, Task Force 714, which DCHC is serving, is itself a JSOC special ops force:

McRaven runs a secretive detachment of Special Forces known as Task Force 714 — once commanded by McChrystal himself — that the NSC staffer described as “direct-action” units conducting “high-intensity hits.” In an email, Sholtis said that because Task Force 714 was a “special ops organization” he “can’t go into much detail on authorities, etc.” But the NSC staffer — who called McRaven “McChrystal Squared” — said Task Force 714 was organized into “small groups of Rangers going wherever the hell they want to go” in Afghanistan and operating under legal authority granted at the end of the Bush administration that President Obama has not revoked.

[Scott Horton has made a similar point here.]

As Ambinder reports, the Defense Department now admits that this secret Afghan prison uses interrogation techniques from the Army Field Manual's infamous Appendix M. This appendix authorizes abusive techniques, including sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and "environmental manipulation [think freezing someone or blinding light] that often amount to torture.

Consistent with the multitudinous reports of severe abuse in the black jail, Ambinder reports that there is a top secret Special Action Program authorizing DCHC interrogations. As Jeff Kaye pointed out in an emptywheel comment, if only Appendix M-based techniques -- which are covered by the Army Field Manual -- are used, why the need for a Special Action Program? Thus, we must wonder what, exactly, DCHC is doing at Bagram and other sites. Whatever it is, it apparently isn't something they want us, the public, to know about.

For those who think that President Obama banned torture centers like this, think again. Obama's Executive Order only banned CIA secret prisons. This administration thus apparently intended from the beginning to maintain its torture facility, only under a Defense Department rather than CIA label.

Further information about the black jail is provided in a follow-up post, where Ambinder provides this description of the “black prison”:

From what information I've been able to gather, the interrogation environment is much like a social science laboratory, with psychologists and experts in human behavior looking for clues to see who might know more than they do, alternating with interrogators trained to ferret out actionable intelligence information. [emphasis added]

If the detention facility is being run as a “social science laboratory,” it raises concerns that the psychologists and others may be conducting research on the detainees without these detainees’ consent. As a result of the abusive research of the Nazi doctors and research on poor black men in this country denied by the US Public Health Service well-known treatments for syphilis as they got sick and died in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, informed consent has been a requirement in this country for all but the most benign research for decades. Thus, Ambinder’s report raises the prospect that detainees in the black jail may be subjects of otherwise banned research procedures.

Wherever psychologists are involved in national security work, links to the APA are seldom hard to find. In this case, the APA has regularly lobbied for funding for DCHC while a former top APA research scientist was until very recently at CIFA and its successor DCHC investigating “deception detection,” like that reportedly occurring inside the “black jail.”

Over the years, the APA has devoted considerable lobbying resources to maintaining Congressional funding for CIFA. Thus, in a report on APA lobbying for fiscal year 2009, the APA ignored all the issues regarding corruption and illegal spying at CIFA as they advocated for protecting the agency’s funding:

Dr. Boehm-Davis concluded her testimony by noting another APA concern – the potential loss of invaluable behavioral science programs within DoD’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) as it reorganizes and loses personnel strength. APA’s testimony urged Congress to provide ongoing funding in the next fiscal year for CIFA’s behavioral research programs on cyber security, insider threat, and other counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operational challenges.

After CIFA was folded into DCHC in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the APA lobbied Congress for money for "behavioral science" to support the DIA's activities, including the counterintelligence work now located in DCHC. Here is a section from the written APA testimony to the US Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense regarding appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget:

APA... is concerned with maintaining invaluable human-centered research programs formerly within DoD’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) now that staff and programming have been transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Within this DIA program, psychologists lead intramural and extramural research programs on counterintelligence issues ranging from models of “insider threat” to cybersecurity and detection of deception. These psychologists also consult with the three military services to translate findings from behavioral research directly into enhanced counterintelligence operations on the ground.

APA urges the Subcommittee to provide ongoing funding in FY10 for counterintelligence behavioral science research programs at DIA in light of their direct support for military intelligence operations.

There have been strong personal contacts between APA and CIFA/DCHC psychologists. The former Director of Behavioral Science for CIFA, Scott Shumate, was selected for the APA’s 2005 PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] taskforce, where he and the majority of other members from the military-intelligence establishment proclaimed it ethical, even essential, for psychologists to aid Bush-era interrogations at Guantánamo and elsewhere. Shumate had previously served with the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and was present for at least part of the 2002 torture of Abu Zubaydah; Shumate claims to have left in disgust, but the New York Times’ Scott Shane reports skepticism about this claim. He quotes “[o]ne witness [who] said he believed that ‘revisionism’ in light of the torture controversy had prompted some participants to exaggerate their objections.”

More recently, Susan Brandon – a former APA Senior Scientist who brought together psychologists and “operational personnel” from the intelligence community and later served as Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Educational Sciences for the Bush White House – landed at CIFA and after the reorganization at DCHC. Brandon was one of the silent observers at the PENS taskforce described by dissident taskforce member Jean Maria Arrigo as exerting pressure on members to adopt a likely pre-approved policy in favor of participation in Guantánamo, CIA, and other interrogations. Throughout her career, including her time at CIFA/DCHC, Brandon worked on “deception detection” and other matters relevant to interrogations.

Thus, personal ties as well as a general desire to curry favor with the military-intelligence establishment likely influence APA support for CIFA and counterintelligence efforts within DIA – that is, for DCHC. While these agencies employ a number of psychologists – CIFA reportedly employed 20 psychologists when Shumate was director of behavioral sciences there – the numbers of psychologists potentially affected by budget cuts alone cannot explain APA support over the years.

In pursuit of influence and a seat at the table with the national security apparatus, the APA has usually bought into unsubstantiated claims that these and other military-connected intelligence psychologists were opposed to torture and abuse, even as evidence mounted that many intelligence psychologists were participants in torture and other abuses that permeated much of US detention operations at Guantánamo, Bagram, and Iraq in recent years. That is, claims that psychologists were preventing abuses were cover for the fact that APA’s leadership apparently never cared what it was that these psychologists might be doing.

Given this history of APA’s leadership turning a blind eye to reports of psychologist involvement in abuses, we shouldn't hold our breath expecting the APA to change its position on DIA/DCHC funding now that the defense department admits that DCHC runs a detention facility using techniques like sleep deprivation that the APA itself has proclaimed unethical and amounting to either torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. After all, for the APA leadership in recent years, professional opportunities for psychology have always trumped professional ethics, at least in the national security sector.

Psychology as a profession is at a crossroads. As the connections discussed here illustrate, the profession has long-standing ties to the military-intelligence establishment that, outside of the awareness of many members, permeate much of its public policy making. While it is, perhaps, too much to expect that these relations will totally end, they must become more transparent and subject to public discussion and debate. A first step would be for APA leaders to express concerns and call for an independent investigation of the possibility that psychologists are studying or otherwise aiding abuses at the “black jail.” That, alas, is a simple step that is extremely unlikely from the profession’s current leadership.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Metamorphosis 2

Branka Parlic, piano, playing Philip Glass's Metamorphosis Two

Friday, May 21, 2010

ACLU Press Release: Federal Court Rules No Habeas Rights for Bagram Prisoners

The following is an important ACLU press release on today's federal court of appeals ruling on whether or not non-Afghan prisoners, kidnapped via rendition and sent to Bagram can challenge their incarceration in a U.S. court. As the ACLU explains, the court ruled in favor of the position of the Obama administration, which is continuing and seeking to extend the heinous prisoner policies of the Bush/Cheney years. I hope to write more about the news here, and the Stephen Soldz story mentioned below, as time allows. (Bold emphasis below is added.)

Federal Court Rules Bagram Prisoners Can't Challenge Their Detention In U.S. Courts

Decision Gives Government Unchecked Power To Detain Individuals Indefinitely Without Due Process Or Transparency, Says ACLU

NEW YORK - May 21 - A federal court of appeals ruled today that three prisoners who are being held by the United States at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The non-Afghan prisoners, some of whom were captured outside of Afghanistan far from any battlefield and "rendered" or transferred to Bagram, have been held at the detention facility for more than seven years without access to a court or counsel. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed habeas cases on behalf of several Bagram detainees and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records relating to the detention, rendition and treatment of prisoners held there. The ACLU's Bagram habeas cases were not addressed by the court of appeals ruling today; the cases at issue were brought by the International Justice Network, the organization coordinating Bagram habeas litigation.

"Today's decision ratifies the dangerous principle that the U.S. government has unchecked power to capture people anywhere in the world, unilaterally declare them enemy combatants and subject them to indefinite military detention with no judicial review and little to no process for challenging their detention in any forum. The rule embraced by the court of appeals permits the executive branch to manipulate whether its actions will or will not be subject to judicial scrutiny, simply by choosing whether to fly a prisoner to Bagram or Guantánamo," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "Locking up people who were picked up far from any battlefield for years without telling them why, without giving them access to lawyers and without giving them a fair chance to contest the evidence against them is unlawful and un-American."

In response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit for records related to the detention, rendition and treatment of prisoners at Bagram, the Defense Department in January released for the first time a list of the people imprisoned at the notorious detention facility. The list contains the names of 645 prisoners who were detained there as of September 2009, but other vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture has been withheld. The ACLU is challenging the withholding of this information in court.

The government also continues to withhold information about the implementation of its new detainee status review procedures as well as information about a separate "secret jail" on the base, reportedly run by either the Joint Special Operations Command or the Defense Intelligence Agency, where detainees maintain they have been abused and guards and interrogators may not be subject to the same rules that apply at the main Bagram detention facility.

"Today's decision makes the need for greater transparency at Bagram all the more pressing. The Obama administration has instituted a new military process for determining whether prisoners should be released but has not disclosed any information about the implementation of the process, such as transcripts of the new Detainee Review Board proceedings," said Goodman. "The military disclosed this kind of information about Guantánamo proceedings and should do the same for the Bagram proceedings. The military should also come clean about the secret 'second' prison at Bagram Air Base the Red Cross confirmed existed last week."

More information about the ACLU's Bagram FOIA lawsuit is available online at:

More information about the ACLU's Bagram habeas cases is at:

Rachel Myers, National ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;
For more on the situation with the second, secret black site at Bagram see the excellent article by Stephen Soldz, The "Black Jail": Obama's Afghan Torture Center and the American Psychological Association. Soldz ties together the American Psychological Association and CIFA/DCHC psychologists, some of whom may be tied to ongoing secret interrogation activities, including abuse of prisoners, at Obama's black site prisons.

Finally, see also Glenn Greenwald's article today on the court decision:
One other point: this decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which serves to further highlight how important the Kagan-for-Stevens replacement could be. If the Court were to accept the appeal, Kagan would be required to recuse herself (since it was her Solicitor General's office that argued the administration's position here), which means that a 4-4 ruling would be likely, thus leaving this appellate decision undisturbed. More broadly, though, if Kagan were as sympathetic to Obama's executive power claims as her colleagues in the Obama administration are, then her confirmation could easily convert decisions on these types of questions from a 5-4 victory (which is what Boumediene was, with Stevens in the majority) into a 5-4 defeat. Maybe we should try to find out what her views are before putting her on that Court for the next 40 years?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Constitution Project Releases Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act

The following is a press release from the Constitution Project. View it online here.
Legislation introduced by Senators Lieberman and Brown raises serious constitutional concerns

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON - Today, the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee released a Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act, in response to legislation introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) and Representatives Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA), shortly after the failed bombing attempt in New York's Times Square. The Statement explains the serious constitutional problems raised by this bill and ultimately urges Congress to reject this proposal. In particular, the 29 members of the Committee joining the Statement point out that citizenship is a fundamental constitutional right that cannot be taken away unless it was unlawfully obtained or voluntarily renounced.

The Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act states, in part:
"The Terrorist Expatriation Act raises several serious constitutional concerns. Moreover, there is no need for such a law. Whether they are American citizens or not, terrorism suspects can and should be prosecuted in court to the full extent of the law. Congress should reject such expatriation proposals as being both unnecessary and dangerous; unnecessary because existing laws already provide more than adequate penalties for U.S. citizens who engage in acts of terrorism; dangerous because such proposals would forever dilute one of our most fundamental constitutional rights."
"This legislation is not only unneeded for our counter-terrorism efforts, but it seeks to strip Americans of a most fundamental right--that of being a United States citizen," said William H. Taft, IV, legal advisor for the U.S. State Department during the George W. Bush administration and Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, and member of the Project's Liberty and Security Committee. "Sadly, although cloaked in patriotism, this legislative proposal is actually ugly demagoguery that should be rejected by Congress. Our law already provides harsh punishment for U.S. citizens who commit terrorist acts."

The Project's Liberty and Security Committee is made up of policy experts who represent the full political spectrum, including former members of Congress, former government, intelligence and military officials, academics and advocates. These members came together to express their concerns that Congress cannot and should not seek to strip protected constitutional rights. In addition, members point out that by incorporating existing laws on material support for terrorism, the bill also incorporates the constitutional flaws plaguing those laws. In particular, the material support statutes raise serious due process and First Amendment concerns.

"The Supreme Court has long recognized that the constitutional right of citizenship cannot be taken away unless a person obtained it illegally or voluntarily renounced American citizenship," said Sharon Bradford Franklin, Constitution Project Senior Counsel. "The Terrorist Expatriation Act is a distressing example of legislation based on fear and anger rather than smart counter-terrorism strategies. We call on Congress to reject this bill."

The Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee has put forth recommendations on a wide range of national security related issues, including the use of terrorist watch lists and immigration detention. Closely related to today's release, last fall the Committee issued a report on Reforming the Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by Prohibitions on Material Support to "Terrorist Organizations." That report explained how existing laws prohibiting material support sweep so broadly as to chill protected First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

To view the Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act in full, go to:

To view Reforming Material Support Laws: Constitutional Concerns Presented by Prohibitions on Material Support to "Terrorist Organizations," go to:

To view other reports and statements of the Liberty and Security Committee, go to:

Listen to Radio Interview with Tom Kiely

I had an enjoyable time yesterday talking with Tom Kiely, whose INN World Report runs online, Monday-Friday from 5-6pm Easter Time, over the Genesis Communication Network.

I was talking about some of my recent articles concerning the role of psychologists and the APA in the U.S. torture program, the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, and related matters. You can listen to a podcast of the show by clicking here.

INN World Report has had a great number of guests over the past month or two, including Attorney and author Charlotte Dennett, whose book The People Vs. Bush, was such a great success; Author of "A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson," Hank Albarelli; former CIA agent, Ray McGovern, and many others.

Have a listen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Alabama" at Jazz Casual, with Coltrane in '63

The John Coltrane Quartet (John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones), 1963, on the program "Jazz Casual"

Chris Floyd on America's "Creeping Terror"

I sure hope Chris Floyd doesn't mind my re-posting this excellent article of his from the other day :
Creeping Terror: The New American Way of War

Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 13:04

The American way of war is a marvelously ingenious thing. And thoroughly modern too. No more of that "don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes" jazz; your modern "warfighter" (they aren't called "soldiers" anymore, you know) prefers to view his targets through, say, a computer screen safely ensconced back in the Homeland or thousands of feet in the sky, or else through the unearthly greenish glow of night-vision scopes. And open combat? Forget it. The new American way is the sneak attack on civilian homes in the dead of night. You creep up, you break in, you cap a few ragheads, then you run away. What glory! What magnificent valor!

The Washington Post reports on yet another glorious page in the annals of the exceptional nation "intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world." It's the usual story. Secret "warfighters" suddenly attack a civilian compound in the middle of the night. This, not surprisingly, provokes a few shots from some of the inhabitants, who have no idea who is attacking their home. The superior firepower of the beacons of hope and Christian charity quickly overcome the piddling arms of the demonic heathens, however, and in a trice, there are dead gook – sorry, raghead – bodies all around. Including children – you've got to have children in your body count these days, if you want to be a thoroughly modern Christian beacon warfighter. Then you and your brave band of secret warriors run away and prepare for the next bold raid.

Naturally, the local losers come out and boo-hoo-hoo over their dead relatives, as if no one had ever seen their son shot to death in front of their eyes before. They trot out all their evidence that the victims had nothing to do with the "insurgents" (which is what your modern warfighter calls anyone who objects to the presence of armed foreigners prowling all over their land), they keen and wail and do all the other animalistic stuff that primitives do when one of the pack snuffs it. "Oh, I lost my son, oh my son, my precious son," etc., etc. – as if there's not a dozen more when he came from; you know how those people breed.

But anyway, here's the beauty part: if the local dorky darkies start to complain, you just say, "Hey man, we came under fire! Those monkeys shot at us when we came sneaking up on their house in the middle of the night with our guns drawn. That proves they were bad guys. We had to take them out."

That's it. That's the drill. It happens virtually every week now in Afghanistan – just as it happened time and again in Iraq, back when some guy named Stanley McChrystal was in charge of covert ops for that evil, reactionary throwback, George W. Bush. Whatever happened to old Stan anyway? Oh yeah; the nice, progressive, thoroughly modern Barack Obama put him in charge of the whole shooting match in Afghanistan, as well as the not-so-secret war of assassination in Pakistan. And oddly enough, the slaughter of civilians in both of these target countries has been rising ever since.

But hey, that's just how we roll nowadays. That's the American way of war. Creep, sneak, kill, run, lie – repeat. Sure, it only makes things worse, creates more enemies, keeps the wars going. But isn't that the point? Check it out, baby: they're piling an extra $33.5 billion of prime war pork on top of the mountain of Terror War funding already laid out for this year! And you need a whole lot of blood to wash down that meat – and a whole lot of new enemies to make sure the feast never ends.

Did Abu Zubaydah Have Dissociative Identity Disorder? And Why It Matters

Originally posted at Firedoglake/The Seminal

Last week, Jason Leopold got an important scoop in his interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou first became known when he revealed the CIA had indeed used waterboarding. He was also the agent known for capturing supposed Al Qaeda mastermind, Abu Zubaydah. His interview with Leopold is fascinating and bears re-watching, as he also touches on other subjects, including his role in the Plame affair.

Marcy Wheeler has noted the inconsistency between Kiriakou’s claims in the video that Abu Zubaydah’s diaries were not, as portrayed by Ron Suskind in his book, The One Percent Doctrine, the diaries of a mentally ill individual, but simply those of a creative mind, since the government relies on these diaries as supporting material in its terrorism case against Zubaydah. (See also this earlier story by Leopold.)

According to Kiriakou (Marcy’s transcription):

Those weren’t diaries…. They were journals and doodle books. He would write these letters to himself. They weren’t really letters to himself. It was like a work of fiction.

Well, were they letters or not, John?

The quick switch (they were, they weren’t) is highly suggestive of lying and the use of a cover story. The preponderance of the reports from third parties suggest that Zubaydah has a mental disorder. The use of different personalities would suggest that disorder could be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), one of the dissociative syndromes listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR, otherwise known as the DSM.

Could Abu Zubaydah simply have been a singularly creative fellow, a Muslim belles-lettrist? For one thing, that side of his personality never surfaced in the psychological profile written up on him in July 2002. While this psychological profile is full of lies, half-truths, and other material aimed at allowing for a decision to use advanced EITs on him (like waterboarding), there is no reason to think that it would have left out a significant aspect of his functioning regarding what was in his diaries. Instead, it likely points to the fact that the CIA cover story on Abu Zubaydah was not yet fully developed by the summer of 2002, or that is would have to change significantly in the following years.

The existence of a DID profile for Zubaydah (if that were to be true, and there is some indication that it might be) is also notable because the artificial creation of dissociated personalities was a primary aim of CIA interrogation research for decades. This article by Dr. Colin Ross, past president of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, describes some of this history, beginning with Projects Bluebird and Artichoke, and including the "psychic driving" experiments of Ewan Cameron (as described, among other places, in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine). Over the years, the subject was relegated to conspiracy websites, haunted by a combination of schizophrenic, paranoiacs, and dedicated would-be historians, in addition to real victims of former government experiments.

I say relegated, because discussion of this topic has long not been considered respectable. (This might change now that the current Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, has stated that MKULTRA was a "true" conspiracy (PDF).) There is only one successful, mainstream book, which has been in print for 30 years or so now, that even treats the subject of government-created dissociated personalities, and that is John D. Marks’ Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control – The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences. (This is not to belittle the other excellent authors who have published on the subject.)

Marks, who was once staff assistant to the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, wrote his book utilizing 16,000 documents obtained painstakingly via FOIA, as well as interviews with psychologists and CIA officers. He blew the whistle on the mind control programs, which had been partly revealed by the Rockefeller Commission and Congressional investigation.

DID is a relatively rare psychiatric disorder. If Abu Zubaydah has this disorder, it certainly could have been developed in the course of his life. On the other hand, it would also be quite a coincidence that the man trumpeted by the government as an Al Qaeda mastermind, close to Osama bin Laden, who later turned out to be no such thing, and who was a key experimental guinea pig in the CIA’s EIT program, should also turn out to have DID.

It should be noted, too, that the study of dissociative phenomenon among SERE trainees has been a primary focus of military and CIA researchers, as evidenced by this report (PDF), and this journal article. An article at Truthout last year explored the links between one of the key researchers of these studies and the CIA.

The Man Who Was Almost There

According to an article by Ron Suskind in Time Magazine, Zubaydah’s diaries, "which the government refuses to release, is written in three voices over 10 years and is filled with page after page of quotidian nonsense about housekeeping, food and types of tea." The diaries, discovered in the safehouse where Zubaydah was captured, are thousands of pages long. In a Washington Post review of Suskind’s book, Barton Gellman went into more detail:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

But according to George W. Bush, in a statement made as late as September 6, 2006, Zubaydah was "a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden" (H/T Blueness at Daily Kos). Who was this man captured by Kiriakou and his associates? There are only so many scenarios here that fit the known facts.

1) Abu Zubaydah was a lower-level jihadist who was the victim of bad intel and tortured. He was also a creative individual who wrote "doodle" notebooks to himself using multiple narrators as representing himself, mostly to amuse himself. Nevertheless, some good intel came from his interrogations.(Kiriakou’s narrative)

2) Abu Zubaydah was a high-level jihadist, worked with OBL. Was captured and tortured, and the U.S. obtained valuable intel that stopped terrorist attacks. His diaries contain evidence of his crimes. While they show evidence of "cognitive impairment," such impairment, or even any possible evidence re "multiple voices" is not relevant to the case against him. (Official U.S. government narrative)

3) Abu Zubaydah was thought to be a high-level jihadist, but upon examination wasn’t really too important. In fact, he appeared mentally ill, and wrote his diaries in multiple voices (three of them). He was inadvisedly used as a subject of the CIAs EIT program. (FBI interrogators’ and Ron Suskind narrative)

4) The biography of Abu Zubaydah is only partial known. He was a jihadist in the anti-Soviet war, and was badly wounded there. At some point he developed DID, or a DID syndrome was produced within him by government action. The government had a good deal of interest in experimenting on someone with DID, as it would have been valuable to them to know if the physiological variables they were testing (e.g., cortisol, catecholamines, etc.) would vary under "uncontrollable stress" (torture); in addition, if a learned helplessness syndrome could vary under different personalities. He was a very unusual and valuable guinea pig to them. It is also not impossible that they intended at some point to use him as a double agent, testing the use of dissociated personality "Manchurian Candidates" in dangerous Muslim extremist circles. (This is my quite speculative, hypothetical narrative, but grounded in reports of his possible mental illness, and in known practices and ambitions of the U.S. defense and intelligence agencies.)

By the way, Kiriakou’s assertion that Zubaydah did not seem schizophrenic or "mentally retarded," so therefore could not have multiple personalities shows his naivete or ignorance regarding DID. Someone with multiple personalities can appear quite normal and logical in some or all of these personalities. It is the dissociated or separate nature of the different personalities, far beyond the different tendencies or ways of operating publicly vs privately that is in all of us, that makes it unique and pathological. That and the fact that some of these personalities can be unconscious of the existence of other personalities. Remember, this is a rare phenomenon.

There are surely plenty of readers who believe this kind of analysis to be "far-out" there. Yet my hypothesis is quite possible. I won’t say it is probably true, because I don’t have enough information. Those still thinking that Zubaydah as a dissociated guinea pig is some sort of science fiction hokum should read more deeply into the history of U.S. mind control programs. One could start with an article by H.P. Albarelli and myself that reviewed the "Lyle case," an example of the CIA using Artichoke techniques to "re-condition" and "re-orient" a person through the use of drugs and hypnosis.

The attempt to control and predict human behavior, which was a cardinal principle of modern behaviorist psychology, has joined up with the imperial ambitions of post-Hiroshima America, and what it has produced are outlandish schemes and programs aimed at the control of individuals through psychological and physiological techniques that can only be called torture. Whether Abu Zubaydah was a potential Manchurian Candidate or not, the experiments done upon him and others to create an all-powerful form of coercive interrogation will go down as one of the horrors of modern times.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

APA Scrubs Web Pages Linking It to CIA Torture Workshops

Originally posted at Firedoglake/The Seminal

Like a modern-day Ministry of Truth, the American Psychological Association (APA) has scrubbed the webpage describing "deception scenarios" workshops that were part of a conference it conducted with the CIA and Rand Corporation on July 17-18, 2003. In addition, the APA erased the link to the page, and even all mention of its existence, from another story at its July 2003 Science Policy Insider News website that briefly described the conference.

In May 2007, in an article at Daily Kos, I noted that the workshops were describing "new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down interrogatees." Quoting from the APA’s description (and note, the link is to an archived version of the webpage; emphasis is added):

  • How do we find out if the informant has knowledge of which s/he is not aware?
  • How important are differential power and status between witness and officer?
  • What pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?….
  • What are sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors? How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?

In August 2007, in a landmark article at Vanity Fair, journalist Katherine Eban revealed that SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were participants at the APA/CIA/Rand affair. Mitchell and Jessen have since been linked with the implementation of the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation techniques" in 2001-2002.

Just last November, in an article at Firedoglake, I recalled the issue of the 2003 conference and asked Who Will Investigate CIA/RAND/APA Torture “Workshop”? I wrote at that time:

The APA and CIA have a very long history of working together on interrogation techniques, in particular on sensory deprivation and use of drugs like LSD and mescaline in interrogations, and other methods of breaking down the mind and the body of prisoners.

Use of drugs to influence interrogations, in addition to sensory deprivation, distortion and overload or bombardment were signal techniques in a decades-long interrogation research program that came to be known by its most famous moniker, MKULTRA (although these torture techniques were studied and tested by the CIA even earlier, in its 1950s projects Bluebird and Artichoke). Such techniques were codified by the early 1960s in a CIA Counterinsurgency Interrogation Manual, also known by its codename, KUBARK.

The story on the APA/CIA/Rand workshop received a good deal of dissemination on the Internet, and one can imagine that the description of the abusive techniques explored there were an embarrassment to the honchos of the APA, who strive to maintain an organizational aura of liberalism and scientific respectability, while at the same time selling its wares to the Defense Department and intelligence agencies in promoting the "war on terror" and "homeland security."

The URL for the former webpage — — now brings up a message that "the page is not available." A search of the APA site and a Google search does not retrieve a link to the original page, which can now be accessed, thankfully, only through a web archive search engine.

The same is true for the webpage for the APA’s July 2003 "Spin" newsletter, which has a story entitled "APA Works with CIA and RAND to Hold Science of Deception Workshop". Listed at the end of the story is a link telling readers to "View the thematic scenarios from the workshop." (See archived version.) The old URL —– brings up another "page not available" message. However, the bulk of the webpage now resides at a new address — — with the former link now missing from the story.

While the scrubbing of the page describing truth drugs and sensory overload could be attributed to some normal archiving decision, or the victim of a web do-over (and APA does appear to have redesigned their site), the excision of the text and link to the site on the referring page cannot be an accident.

What is APA up to?

Recently, APA has made some noises about finally respecting the decision of its membership in a September 2008 referendum that decisively repudiated "the APA leadership’s long-standing policy encouraging psychologist participation in interrogations and other activities in military and CIA detention facilities that have repeatedly been found to violate international law and the Constitution." The referendum voted to prohibit psychologist participation in settings where human rights violations take place. This policy took dead aim against use of psychologists in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (or BSCTs) used at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

To date, however, the referendum has had no effect, although the Public Interest Task Force for the APA recently has told APA members involved in passage of the referendum that it is gathering information on offending sites in order to implement the new policy, over a year and a half since the vote on the referendum took place. I will hope, though I have little trust, that APA will take the necessary steps.

But APA has a history of bad faith on such issues. Recently, they rewrote a problematic section of their ethical code, dubbed the Nuremberg loophole by some, which allowed psychologists to violate their ethical rules if done to comply with "law, regulations, or other governing legal authority." As Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) described it, "The new language restores the 1992 version of the code, which prohibits use of the standard ‘to justify or defend violating human rights.’"

But PHR also noted:

Section 1.02 was inserted into the APA ethics code in August 2002, and was used by both the APA and the Bush Administration to allow the participation of psychologists in the "enhanced interrogation" program, in which detainees were systematically abused and tortured under the supervision of health professionals. PHR is calling for the APA to also reform section 8.05 of the 2002 ethics code, which allows research on human subjects without their consent if such research comports with law or regulations.

Section 8.05 allows psychologists to dispense with the use of informed consent in research experiments where "permitted by law or federal or institutional regulations." The use of informed consent guarantees the voluntary participation of human subjects in research done upon them, and is considered a bedrock of ethical research.

The gyrations of the APA remind one of the razzle-dazzle misdirection of the Obama administration, which trumpets "transparency," but recently told the Supreme Court to turn down Maher Arar’s appeal of his rendition-torture lawsuit. In addition, President Obama’s own secret black site prisons have now been revealed, over a year since Obama made a big deal out of closing down the CIA black sites. When it comes to hiding the crime of torture, the U.S. government and its contracting agencies have made a fetish out of secrecy, and the promise of an end to torture after the hideous Bush/Cheney years is revealed to be a chimera.

[Since its original posting, the story was picked up by Scott Horton at Harper's.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Blueprint for Accountability" Event in NYC, June 7

Rescheduled from last April, the Culture Project has put out the following press release concerning their next event. As should be evident to my readers, I have strongly condemned the Obama administration's current interrogation and detention policies, which allow for secret prisons and torture. But as I wrote back in April, "While the fight against torture, state secrecy and surveillance, due process and the rule of law, and against U.S. militarism is not solely about the past administration, I believe those in attendance at this conference are well aware of this. It should be an exciting event."
May 11, 2010, New York, NY – Culture Project (CP) has announced that “Blueprint for Accountability,” a groundbreaking theater/film/journalism series launched at The Times Center in May 2009, will return for an encore presentation on June 7th at 7:30PM at NYU Skirball Center.

Culture Project created “Blueprint for Accountability” as a means of engaging the public in constructing a “blueprint” for a more just and democratic future. Igniting an unprecedented sense of hope and possibility, the election of Barack Obama served to position American resolve and commitment as never before. Spurred by the one-year anniversary of the President’s pronouncement to close Guantanamo, and the fates of nearly 200 detainees still hanging in the balance, the evening will assemble some of the nation’s leading and influential voices to debate the unparalleled events, policies and circumventions of the past administration—urging policy makers, the military, and world citizens to craft a decisive moral response to torture capable of restoring both America’s dignity and standing throughout the international community.

“Blueprint for Accountability” will feature a powerful and provocative panel discussion with former CIA Officer Valerie Plame Wilson, retired Iraq commander Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, author and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., best-selling author and investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, and Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Vince Warren. A brief look at the precedents set by the Nuremberg Trials and Geneva Conventions will inform a probing discussion of the historical framework for America’s policies limiting abuses in war, and our nation’s radical departure from international human rights laws and civil liberties protections post-9/11.

Punctuating the experts’ discussion, Director Fisher Stevens (The Cove, 2010 Best Documentary Academy Award) will screen vital archival footage and bring to life compelling dramatic scenes performed by acclaimed actors James Spader, Liev Schreiber, Julianna Margulies, Mariska Hargitay and Matt Dillon.

In 2002, Culture Project propelled to national prominence with its acclaimed production of The Exonerated, a groundbreaking dramatization of the real-life stories of six innocent prisoners released after decades on death row. The show embodied Culture Project’s mission to use art for social change at a time when executions in Texas were making national headlines. After seeing a performance, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted his state’s 156 death row sentences to life in prison.

Culture Project’s “Blueprint for Accountability” builds a case against the individuals and institutions threatening our system of democracy, serving as an urgent call to our elected officials for fundamental policy change. The evening will feature several calls-to-action from prominent human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, Alliance For Justice and Theaters Against War.

Culture Project is proud to partner with, an online forum that helps intelligent, engaged audiences get smart about the people, issues, and ideas changing the world. gathers the web's largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates consistently happening at the world's top universities, think tanks and conferences, for users to watch, interact with and share. The event will be streamed live by and made available on-demand following the presentation.

“Blueprint for Accountability” will be presented at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, NYU (566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012) on Monday June 7, 2010 at 7:30PM EDT. Tickets are available for $25 (Balcony), $35 (Parterre) and $55 (Orchestra). A limited number of VIP platinum level tickets are available at $250.

A press conference will directly follow the event at the Skirball Center.

Starting May 11th, tickets will be available online, at:

By Phone: 212.352.3101 or 866.811.4111
In Person: 566 LaGuardia Place, Tuesday-Saturday 12noon-6pm

To watch the live-streaming event on, please visit:

Breaking: Louisiana Court of Appeal Hears Case On Guantanamo Psychologist Today

The following is a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights. It concerns the ongoing fight by psychologist and anti-torture activist, Trudy Bond, and the Center for Constitutional Rights to hold former Army Colonel Larry James. Last February, Col. James and a colleague also associated with the spread of SERE-derived torture techniques during the early years of the Bush administration, Lt. Col. Morgan "Louie" Banks, were the subjects of a campus protest at Wright State University in Ohio, where James is dean of the professional psychology program (H/T Stephen Soldz). As a side note, former American Psychology Association president, Ronald Fox, was founding dean of James's professional program in the 1970s.
State Psychology Board Challenged over Refusal to Investigate Alleged Ethical Violations by Dr. Larry James

May 12, 2010, Baton Rouge and New York – Today, Toledo-based psychologist Dr. Trudy Bond challenged the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists’ failure to investigate alleged professional ethics violations by psychologist and retired U.S. Army colonel Dr. Larry C. James. The case centers on Dr. James’s conduct as a high-ranking psychologist and interrogations addvisor for the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay. A New Orleans native and former Louisiana State University employee, Dr. James is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Ohio, where he is now Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University.

Attorneys argued before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in the case Dr. Trudy Bond v. Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

According to his own statements and government records, Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention at the prison camps. Publicly-available information shows that while Dr. James was the chief intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo, abuse in interrogations was widespread, and cruel and inhuman treatment was official policy.

Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’s January to May 2003 deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful forced body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who is currently being tried by military commission at Guantanamo, is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003, when he was only 16 years old. James was also stationed in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and returned to Guantanamo in 2007.

As Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and a senior member of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantanamo, Dr. James, operating under his Louisiana license, also had access to the confidential medical records of people he was charged with exploiting for intelligence.

In compliance with her ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, in February 2008 Dr. Bond filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Board, the agency that issued and regulates his Louisiana license. Dr. Bond alleged that Dr. James breached professional ethics by violating his duties to do no harm, to protect confidential information and to obtain informed consent. She called on the Board to investigate and determine if action should be taken against Dr. James.

The Board, charged with enforcing the state's professional standards and conducting official investigations when unethical conduct is suspected, summarily refused to investigate Dr. Bond’s complaint, claiming that the statute of limitations had run, despite conclusive information to the contrary. Dr. Bond then filed suit against the Board in Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District Court, which in July 2009 dismissed her case without looking at the merits.
Attorneys argued today before the First Circuit Court in Baton Rouge that the District Court should have reviewed the Board’s incorrect legal decision.

Said Dr. Bond, “Dr. James’s job at Guantanamo was to advise interrogators on how to physically and emotionally break men and children. This was not only illegal, but a gross perversion of a healing art. Psychologists, whether or not they're in uniform, may not make a weapon out of their license to heal.”

Said CCR Cooperating Attorney Deborah Popowski, “The Louisiana psychology board has a legal duty to protect the public, and it failed to meet that obligation. That it offered clearly erroneous grounds for its decision only adds insult to injury. We believe the Court of Appeal will recognize the long-established role of Louisiana courts in checking an agency when it goes so far astray.”

Said Loyola University law professor Davida Finger, “The risk of harm to vulnerable populations in Louisiana could be great if courts leave patients with no remedy when professional boards refuse to investigate credible complaints of misconduct.”

On February 22 of this year, Professor Davida Finger of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law filed an amicus brief on behalf of New Orleans-based organizations the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, as well as the national groups Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility, and Psychologists for an Ethical APA.

For more information on the involvement of health professionals in torture, visit CCR's website When Healers Harm.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 50 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit

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