Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out of Hitchcock: The Story of Hesham Abu Zubaydah

Jason Leopold was interviewed on RT's The Alyona Show on May 30, talking about his big Truthout investigation published the other day. The story is pure Americana, circa 21st century, as the courts, immigration, the FBI, Army CID, and even a problematic ex-wife all descend upon a man who just happened to be the brother of one of the three or four most famous "terrorists" known, Abu Zubaydah. An innocent man persistently hounded by police agents is something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but here it really happened.

The word "terrorists" above is in quotes, because one, no charges have ever been filed against Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammed Husein, who sits rotting in solitary confinement in Guantanamo these past six years. (His lawyers have demanded the government charge him.) And two, it is not clear that whatever actions Abu Zubaydah took, they were not merely the actions of a person involved in a civil war, undeserving of the nebulous label of "terrorism," which is more of a political label than it is anything else.

And why at this point can anyone be so uncertain about who this man actually is? (And it is a piquant irony in Jason's article that Zubaydah's own brother cannot say exactly who the man is the government holds called Abu Zubaydah, that he really doesn't recognized him.) Well, for one thing, the government has reneged on its accusations that he was a high Al Qaeda figure, and offered zero explanation for why they thought that, or why they changed their minds. Then, there is the little matter of the horrendous torture of Zubaydah and many, many others, throwing real doubt on the veracity of whatever supposed revelations came from such criminal abuse.

Zubaydah was the first of the CIA torture victims to be waterboarded, and not once, but 83 times. He was the "high-value detainee" for which John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote a legal memo to the CIA redefining torture and the legal understanding of "pain" so the CIA could put, for instance, Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, or deprive him of sleep, or repeatedly slap him, or waterboard him, etc.

Jason Leopold's article is not about the Abu Zubayah we "know." It is about his brother, Hesham. Watch the two videos below, both the Alyona interview and one of Jason Leopold interviewing Abu Zubaydah's brother himself (originally posted with the Truthout article). Besides the inherent human interest of such a story, there is much to ponder from what is revealed: about how informants are recruited by the FBI via pressure, false promises or blackmail; how the full story about what the government saying and what it was really doing in the "war on terror"; on the lies and secrets still withheld from the American people about 9/11, and much more.

(An important related side story about how the FBI tried to get Hesham Abu Zubaydah to drop his permission to let Jason Leopold have access through FOIA to his FBI files is something Jason wrote up separately, and is a disturbing story in and off itself.)

From the beginning of Jason's Truthout story, "From Hopeful Immigrant to FBI Informant - the Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah"
Hesham opened the envelope at the bar, expecting a green card. Instead it was a subpoena from a federal prosecutor, which would force him to testify--against his brother.

He thought about fleeing to Norway or Poland with his wife and daughter. But it would be much easier to cross the border into Canada in his Cadillac Escalade and avoid the hassle of airport security and the possibility that his name would pop up on the no-fly list.

Hesham Abu Zubaidah speaking to Truthout in November 2011 at his home in Florida. (Photo: Lance Page / Truthout)
In Canada, he could start over again. Raise farm animals or something. Change his name. Never look back. Hesham had played this fantasy out in his head dozens of times since he had quit working as an informant for the FBI.

"This is what you wanted from me all along, isn't it?" Hesham asked the FBI agent who handed him the envelope. "You guys used me."

When he'd been living in Portland, Oregon, Hesham had agreed to infiltrate mosques and spy on other Muslims because his FBI handler led him to believe she could help him obtain a green card. She didn't, and he cut off contact with the agency when he moved to a small town in Florida. But they had found him again.

[Click here to read the rest]

Monday, May 28, 2012

More Evidence SERE Training Caused PTSD in Some Soldiers

The fact that the brutality of the stress-inoculation version of torture perpetuated by DoD's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program can cause Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has gone totally unremarked by the nation's media, including "progressive" bloggers and various human rights groups. The issue has greater import when you consider that when the government was looking to SERE authorities and the military to vet the possible dangers of these techniques (they wanted to use them for "interrogations," right?), they were told that nobody, or practically nobody ever had a serious injury or response from SERE training.

John Yoo wrote it up accordingly in his August 2002 torture memo (PDF) to CIA's John Rizzo: "Through your consultation with various individuals responsible for such [SERE] training, you have learned that these techniques have been used as elements of a course of conduct without any reported incident of prolonged mental harm."

Hence, this is an interesting case to ponder, today being Memorial Day and all, from a government record:
A May 1989 service medical screening form for survival, evade, resist and escape (SERE) training shows that the line for whether the veteran had been seen by a doctor or psychologist in the past three months was unchecked. The veteran reported he was under no emotional strain at present. It was commented that the veteran no longer drank or was dependent, and it was not felt this would be a problem.

A psychiatric disorder was not diagnosed at the appellant's February 1993 separation examination.

In February 1994, the veteran filed a claim of entitlement to service connection for an anxiety disorder.

On VA examination in March 1994, the veteran reported symptoms of anxiety and depression over the past few months. He stated the symptoms increased since his wife left him in November 1993. The veteran reported he had panic attacks in 1989, which started following in-service survival training. During the training, he was "drowned" on a torture board, and since then he had nightmares of the incident. He reported being distressed about the flashbacks and nightmares. The veteran stated that he continued with the survival training since he volunteered to do so. Prior to 1989, he did not have anxiety or panic attacks, but since then he had unusual fears.

After examination, it was commented that the veteran by history had symptoms of anxiety, panic disorder, and symptoms suggestive of PTSD. The trauma in his case was the training he had received in the military. The drowning incident had affected his life quite significantly. Although he had PTSD symptomatology, his disability was related to associated anxiety, depression, and psychosocial stressors, particularly regarding his two difficult marriages. The diagnoses were major depression, recurrent, in partial remission; PTSD, delayed, of mild severity; panic disorder, in remission; and history of alcohol use, active.

By rating action of April 1994, with notice to the veteran in the same month, service connection for PTSD was denied. The RO determined that the VA examiner accepted the veteran's report regarding the incident in service at face value, and there was no independent verification that the rigorous training actually existed.

Evidence included in the claims file subsequent to the April 1994 rating action, includes VA treatment records dating from December 1993 to December 2002 that show treatment for alcohol abuse, PTSD, panic disorder, depression, and anxiety. A record from December 1993 shows the veteran was seen with sleep disorder. He had a history of anxiety attacks for three and one-half weeks. He reported he could not sleep, and was paranoid and edgy. He thought this related to his survival training in service when drowning was simulated. The diagnostic impression was anxiety/depression and question panic.

A record from February 1994 shows the veteran reported anxiety and panic attacks. He had survival training in service where he was strapped and tied. A few months later, he started having panic attacks. Stressors were trauma while in a service prisoner of war training, leaving service, break up of marriage, and finding a place in civilian life. The impression was dysthymia, anxiety, panic, and adjustment reaction to civilian life.

A VA record from September 1998 notes that the veteran reported that he had experienced panic attacks over the prior 10 years which he believed stemmed from specialized "POW training" in service when he was nearly drowned. He believed that he was going to die and experienced panic attacks and nightmares ever since. He stated he drank to avoid panic attacks. He also described problems with relationships, and wanted to be isolated. A December 1998 record shows that the veteran had PTSD with the traumatic event being well documented in the record.

A Vet Center record from November 1998 shows that the veteran reported that in service he volunteered for a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape school in May 1989. He reported being tied, stripped of clothing and beaten. He also reported that a bag was placed over his head, an unloaded gun was placed to his head and the trigger was pulled. With respect to the drowning episode the veteran stated that he was strapped to a table with a cloth over his mouth and was unable to breath and water was poured in his mouth when the cloth was removed and replaced quickly to prevent breathing. He reported experiencing panic attacks one month later and having violent nightmares. The diagnosis was chronic PTSD....

In response to a request from the veteran sent to people who had been in the SERE program with the veteran, Mr. G. stated that he would like to help concerning the VA claim, however all events that occurred during SERE school were classified and could not be discussed without the service's permission.
Interesting, eh?

Don't worry, I wouldn't bum you out on Memorial Day. There is a happy ending to this story. In June 2003, the VA heard this vet's appeal, and decided to consider a statement he made under oath in November 2001 about his experiences to constitute "new evidence", even though it mainly repeated his earlier story. In any case, the VA appeal board stated:
In light of the fact that the veteran has been diagnosed with PTSD, as the evidence shows that the appellant did experience a verified in-service stressor at SERE school, and as the SERE school experience is the basis for the diagnosis of PTSD, the undersigned finds that service connection for PTSD is in order.
Now, this is not the only case in which a VA service connection for PTSD related to SERE training has taken place. A few years ago, I wrote about another such case here.

Given the inherent interest of these cases for their impact on the lies that were used to justify SERE-style torture and the psychological and permanent damage resulting therefrom -- even in school training -- lies presented by and to OLC, DoD, CIA, etc., and not to mention the fact that SERE training may just be too dangerous to use in general... how much media interest has there been in these cases? I'll tell you. Zero.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Penn Gillette on Obama's Pot Hypocrisy: "It's Not a Goddamn Joke!"

H/T to, which posted the video with this brief commentary: "Our favorite magician has uncorked one hell of a righteous rant about our pot-smoking president and his life-destroying Drug War hypocrisy:"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Abu Zubaydah's Attorneys' Memo to the Military Commissions, and Convening Authority Reply

The following is taken from a PDF (h/t emptywheel) of a letter from the attorneys of Abu Zubaydah to the top military legal figure for the Military Commissions. The surprising substance of the letter, i.e., that Abu Zubaydah is requesting he be charged with crimes "at the earliest possible date," makes sense when you realize he has been held in U.S. custody for over ten years now.

In a pro forma May 17 reply (PDF) to Zubaydah's attorneys from Bruce MacDonald, the Military Commissions Convening Authority said that the decision to prosecute would first be made by the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, and that if charges were ever referred, "I will separately make my own, independent decision on whether to refer any sworn charges to trial by a military commission."

MacDonald also indicated that he knew that Zubaydah's attorneys were also pursuing a habeas case for their client in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. For MacDonald, this "means a process, guaranteed by the United States Constitution to challenge the legality" of their client's incarceration. According to the Military Commissions official, Zubaydah is held "pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force... as informed by the principles of the law of war."

MacDonald, of course, never alludes to the fact that the habeas process in the D.C. District Court has become basically a joke, a hollow shell of form with no substance, as this May 1, 2012 study by the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Reseach makes clear:
It is an open secret that Boumediene v. Bush’s promise of robust review of the legality of the Guantanamo detainees’ detention has been effectively negated by decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, beginning with Al-Adahi v. Obama....
After Al-Adahi, the practice of careful judicial fact-finding was replaced by judicial deference to the government's allegations. Now the government wins every petition. 
Given the fact-intensive nature of district court fact-finding, the shifting pattern of lower court decisions could only be due to an appellate court’s radical revision of the legal standards thought to govern habeas petitions, raising questions about whether the D.C. Circuit has in fact correctly applied [the Supreme Court decision in] Boumediene
Since his capture, Abu Zubaydah has spent years in secret CIA prisons, and even more years in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, Abu Zubaydah has been subjected to repeated torture, and his conditions of confinement currently amount at least to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of a prisoner.

The Zubaydah case is important for another reason, as he was the linchpin in a series of circumstances that engaged the CIA torture program in early 2002, and resulted in a series of infamous legal memos by the Bush Administration's Office of Legal Council, written by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury and others. And yet, the actual facts behind the Zubaydah case remain enshrouded in mystery. Even the account of what happened to his missing eye remains classified... unknown.

Jason Leopold revealed in a March 2010 article that the U.S. government, in an unheralded court filing, "quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration made about Abu Zubaydah."

I've written some on the Zubaydah case, highlighting how "Abu Zubaydah was a primary subject of JPRA/SERE’s reverse-engineering of torture techniques, using the paradigm of psychologist and former American Psychological Association president Martin Seligman’s theory of 'learned helplessness.'"

In September 2009, I examined the so-called psychological profile of Abu Zubaydah, which was presumably used to sell in summer 2002 a certain image of Zubaydah to the OLC, who was then writing the first torture memos. Zubaydah's attorneys in the memorandum below also reference the picture of Zubaydah painted by the OLC, what I called in my article, the portrait of "a superman-terrorist."

Of course, Zubaydah was nothing like that. And above all, he is a man, a human being, held in indefinite detention by the U.S. state. I'm reprinting the full attorney document here for use by the public. Only the footnotes have been left out, and they can be referenced in the original document at this link.

For more on the Zubaydah case, see Andy Worthington's recent article, "Why No Trials for Abu Zubaydah and Seven Other “High-Value Detainees” in Guantánamo?"
10 May 2012

MEMORANDUM FOR The Convening Authority, Military Commissions


1. This letter requests that the Convening Authority immediately commence proceedings against our client, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (abu Zubaydah), ISN # 10016. Failure to act would raise serious questions about the integrity and legitimacy of the Convening Authority and, indeed, of the whole process established to try or release Guantanamo detainees.

2. Abu Zubaydah has been detained without a hearing for ten years. Since his capture on 28 March 2002 until the present day, there have yet to be any charges brought against him. There has been no court finding that he needs to be imprisoned, or that he was associated with al Qaeda, or that he committed any act of terrorism as the U.S. government has alleged in the past. To date, his repeated requests for legitimate evaluation of his case have been met with nothing but deafening silence. He now formally requests that the Convening Authority commence prosecution of him before a military commission at the earliest possible date.

3. The failure to convene abu Zubaydah’s military commission proceeding jeopardizes the legitimacy of the entire military commission structure. In September 2006, President Bush told a nationally televised audience that abu Zubaydah had been transferred from CIA to DoD custody so that he could be prosecuted in a military commission proceeding. Now, five and half years later, he has yet to be charged. No system that detains prisoners for years without charge can be legitimate. No system that only allows hearings in cases where the government can first secure a guilty plea, or guarantee a conviction, can be legitimate. No system that refuses to give a hearing because the truth will reveal enormous governmental over-reaching, illegal conduct, and false claims by our highest ranking officials can be legitimate. For the reasons discussed below, abu Zubaydah is entitled to the immediate commencement of his military commission proceedings.

4. This request for prosecution does not rely upon classified information. If the classified evidence corroborates the statements about abu Zubaydah made by some government officers, then a trial would provide the government with an easy victory. But if the classified evidence does not support their reckless hyperbole, this fact would explain why his long-sought hearing has been continually avoided. He simply requests the opportunity to test the government’s evidence and demonstrate in a legitimate setting why his detention and treatment during detention have been unwarranted, and that he is innocent of any crimes.

Why Has Abu Zubaydah Yet to Be Prosecuted Despite President Bush’s Statements?

5. Nearly six years ago, President Bush announced that abu Zubaydah and thirteen other socalled high-value detainees were to be tried by a military commission:
So I’m announcing today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and 11 other terrorists in CIA custody have been transferred to the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. They are being held in the custody of the Department of Defense. As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September the 11th, 2001, can face justice. (Cheers, applause)....

With these prosecutions, we will send a clear message to those who kill Americans: No matter how long it takes, we will find you and we will bring you to justice. (Emphasis added).1
6. Despite the President’s promise to the nation, the Office of Military Commissions has taken no steps to prosecute him.

7. A decision to prosecute abu Zubaydah seems commonsensical if what the government has stated publicly about him is true. Officials at the highest levels of government have repeatedly claimed that he was not only associated with al Qaeda but that he committed numerous specified acts of terrorism against the United States. These officials include the President of the United States, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the CIA, high-level officials in the State Department, and high-level officials in the Department of Justice.

8. For example, in that same September 2006 speech urging the creation of military commissions, President Bush spoke from the East Room about the existence of secret CIA prisons:
Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived to liberate that country.... (Emphasis added [sic]).
9. The President also claimed that abu Zubaydah provided:
information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States -— an attack about which we had no previous information [and]  provided physical descriptions of the operatives and information on their general location. Based on the information he provided, the operatives were detained -— one while traveling to the United States.
10. Were even a fraction of such repeated assertions supported by credible evidence, the most straightforward course for the government would be to convene a military commission, produce the appropriate evidence under the relaxed commission standards, obtain what the government seems to think is a foregone conviction, and administer the resulting punishment. And yet this logical course of action has yet to be taken.

11. Abu Zubaydah has not been tried, has not been charged, and has not even had military commission counsel assigned to him. He has requested the appointment of military commission counsel repeatedly but has received no response. This overt failure to prosecute a supposed terrorist leader causes the world to wonder why. One possibility is that the claims, despite their number and decibel level, are simply untrue, so that the government cannot prove all (or any) of them. A second possibility is that the prosecution would be successful but only at the unacceptable cost of exposing the government to worldwide censure for the manner in which Zubaydah was treated and the evidence against him was obtained. The third possibility, worst of all, is both that the claims are not true and that his treatment is too shameful to be revealed to the world.

12. The factual premises for these scenarios, if untrue, could be put to rest by beginning the prosecution. Failure to do so can only further erode the legitimacy of the military commission process. The ultimate test of the legitimacy of any judicial system is the willingness to hold hearings even when the truths that the hearings may reveal could be embarrassing or politically damaging to high-level officials. Abu Zubaydah formally requests that he receive his military commission hearing immediately. Without such a hearing he may be detained forever as an uncharged prisoner—not necessarily for anything that he has done but because so many people have made so many false allegations to justify government policies that are themselves indefensible that no possibility of disclosure or, far worse, exoneration can be borne.

13. The public record already reveals that the government has long had reason to doubt the accuracy of its accusations. At the very time that President Bush was making the above statements, he was aware of serious reservations about their truth. According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind, even as Bush was publicly proclaiming abu Zubaydah’s malevolence, he was privately being briefed about misgivings within the intelligence community regarding his significance—and mental stability. President Bush was concerned about the consequences for his own reputation. Suskind quotes the following exchange between Bush and then-CIA Director George Tenet:
I said [abu Zubaydah] was important,” Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” (emphasis added). Director Tenet then assured him he would not
The government’s failure to prosecute him continues the protection that Tenet promised.

14. Endless delays of a proceeding promised long ago by the President reflect the government’s implicit recognition that the “abu Zubaydah” who was held out to the American public to justify our nation’s torture, rendition, and detention policies was merely a manufactured distortion of the real person. His false portrayal, once known, will discredit many of the government’s most horrific policies. It was largely by virtue of unwarranted and inaccurate characterizations of abu Zubaydah that the government was able to adopt its torture policies, defend its dark sites and rendition policies, and continue on its course of detaining hundreds of individuals around the world without any process.

Role of the Discredited “Torture Memos” in Abu Zubaydah’s Military Commission

15. If abu Zubaydah’s case might inflict the very public embarrassment that President Bush feared so much, as revealed in his exchange with the then-CIA Director, the “torture memos” provide another source of shame for the government. The already notorious memos would be even more universally condemned were it known that their supposed efficacy in revealing the truth about our enemies was based -- in significant part, at least -- on lies about abu Zubaydah.

16. On August 1, 2002, attorneys with the Office of Legal Counsel completed a memorandum regarding the “Interrogation of al Qaeda Operative” that described the factual basis upon which that torture memo rested. The authors of this memo explained that “[a]s we understand it, Zubaydah is one of the highest ranking members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization.” The Office of Legal Counsel’s advice was “based upon the following facts, which you have provided to us....”
Zubaydah is currently being held by the United States. The interrogation team is certain he has additional information that he refuses to divulge. Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas....

...Zubaydah, though only 31, rose quickly from very low level mujahedin to third or fourth man in al Qaeda. He has served as Usama Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. In that capacity, he has managed a network of training camps. He has been instrumental in the training of operatives for al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist elements inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. He acted as the Deputy Camp Commander for al Qaeda training camp (sic) in Afghanistan, personally approving entry and graduation of all trainees during 1999-2000. From 1996 until 1999, he approved all individuals going in and out of Afghanistan to the training camps. Further, no one went in and out of Peshawar, Pakistan without his knowledge and approval. He also acted as al Qaeda’s coordinator of external contacts and foreign communications. Additionally, he has acted as al Qaeda’s counter-intelligence officer and has been trusted to find spies within the organization.

Zubaydah has been involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al Qaeda. He was a planner of the Millennium plot to attack U.S. and Israeli targets during the Millennium celebrations in Jordan. Two of the central figures in this plot who were arrested have identified Zubaydah as the supporter of their cell and the plot. He also served as a planner for the Paris Embassy plot in 2001. Moreover, he was one of the planners of the September 11 attacks. Prior to his capture, he was engaged in planning future terrorist attacks against U.S. interests.
17. What an incredible political embarrassment it would be for the world to discover that the torture and mistreatment of abu Zubaydah were pointless exercises in cruelty. Vice President Cheney, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and many others all have claimed that the torture and mistreatment of abu Zubaydah led to the discovery of useful information. Vice President Cheney stated that:
[t]he techniques worked…. Abu Zubaydah gave up information about Ramzi bin al-Shibh who had assisted the 9/11 hijackers, and on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was captured after a shoot-out in Pakistan. At he time of his apprehension he was plotting to use commercial airliners in suicide attacks on Heathrow Airport and other structures in London.
18. Director Hayden also stated that abu Zubaydah’s interrogation “led to reliable information,” that he was a “prolific producer” of information, and that roughly 25 percent of the information on al Qaeda that came from human sources that originated from him. Imagine the political and policy implications that would follow the revelation that no such information was obtained from visiting these abuses on him.

Role of Rendition and Indefinite Detention in Abu Zubaydah’s Military Commission Proceedings

19. The torture policies are not the only programs that would be exposed during the military commission hearing. The U.S. government’s justification of its policies of extraordinary rendition, maintaining secret CIA black sites, and indefinite detention would also be shown to have rested on false and exaggerated claims. Obviously, statements about abu Zubaydah were not the only basis for the creation of the Global War on Terror apparatus. There were many other claims. However, he was the symbol constantly deployed to justify the creation of that apparatus. The numerous fabricated statements made about him constituted a key part of the foundation of that structure. For instance, abu Zubaydah’s supposed misdeeds were used to justify the CIA’s use of black sites and extraordinary rendition as critical elements in the War on Terror.

20. John Kiriakou, the highest ranking CIA officer on the ground in Pakistan involved in abu Zubaydah’s capture, reported as follows:
He was one of the financiers of the September 11th attacks. He was a logistics chief of al Qaeda. We knew that he was close to bin Laden, although not co-located obviously.... [W]e knew at the time that he had a line to bin Laden.

[We knew] that he knew everybody who was worth knowing in al Qaeda. He knew cell leaders. He knew logistics people. He knew finance people. We knew that he was really one of the intellectual leaders of the group.
21. John Rizzo was the CIA’s acting general counsel during the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) program. He was interviewed on September 13, 2011, about abu Zubaydah:
He wasn’t necessarily a shooter or a guy who would climb into an airplane, fly into a building. But he basically was moralistically chief operating officer, made sure and facilitated the plan, the travel of various al Qaeda officials. So there was a lot of information derived from him on that score that I recall.... And it’s not just me saying it. Subsequent investigations by the CIA inspector general and other independent bodies confirmed that there was valuable, actionable intelligence derived first from Abu Zubaydah and later (from) other high-value detainees that were subject to the enhanced techniques....
22. Abu Zubaydah has also been frequently used to justify the continued operation of Guantanamo. For example, consider the statement of the State Department’s John Bellinger:
I will just say up front that the issue of a source of great frustration for this administration. On the one hand, it serves a very important purpose, to hold and detain individuals who are extremely dangerous, people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, people who have been planners of 9/11, others who were captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan and who personally killed U.S. soldiers.

23. The government fears that a military commission hearing for abu Zubaydah will reveal that the facts upon which the American torture policy substantially rests were false and known to be false at the time. The military commission hearing will also reveal that many statements made by the highest officials about him were false and known to be false when made. The government has attempted to conceal the fabrication of the factual basis for his torture, the same basis detailed in the “torture memo” that focused exclusively on him.

24. The government has also gone to great lengths to destroy all evidence that one of its most trusted attorneys had written a dissenting memo arguing that the treatment approved by the “torture memos” was torture that should have been known to be torture. The legal memo revealing the robust dissent to the very practices inflicted upon abu Zubaydah was not only concealed but extraordinary efforts were made to destroy all copies of the memo. Although use of the word “concealment” may seem harsh, this characterization is, if anything, an understatement. The more accurate description of this conduct would be spoliation of evidence revealing the false factual and legal basis upon which abu Zubaydah was tortured. The spoliation efforts were revealed by Phillip Zelikow, a high ranking State Department lawyer and confidant of Secretary Condoleeza Rice, in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009. His memo titled “The McCain Amendment and U.S. Obligations under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture,” dated February 15, 2006, concluded that several of the enhanced interrogation techniques, “singly or in combination, should be considered ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ within” the meaning of the Convention Against Torture. Zelikow explained that the memo caused senior figures in the Bush White House to become enraged, and that they actually sought to collect and destroy all the copies.

25. The government that has engaged in the spoliation of evidence, including authoritative legal dissent about abu Zubaydah’s treatment, is the same government that holds him in indefinite pretrial detention, too afraid to prosecute him—because such a hearing would reveal even more disturbing truths.

26. The refusal to bring charges and seek judicial review of abu Zubaydah’s case, to provide a forum that will reveal the truth about him and the demonstrably false factual basis for the torture memos and his torture is but another way to conceal the truth. That a government concealed and destroyed documents evidencing dissent to its justification for torture speaks volumes about why that government would refuse to provide abu Zubaydah judicial process that would disclose an even more damning truth: that the factual basis for his torture was false and known to be false at the time.

27. The failure of the Office of Military Commissions to charge and try abu Zubaydah inevitably will be viewed as part of the lamentable pattern of conduct that began with the assertion of false facts to justify his torture in 2002, and produced distorted, inaccurate and incomplete legal opinions as the government labored in vain to contrive the legality of his torture. And that perception undermines the legitimacy of the entire military commission program.

28. Abu Zubaydah asks only for what he was promised by the president of this nation: a military commission hearing. The reformed military commissions have been trumpeted as wholly consistent with basic American precepts of justice. So we say: charge abu Zubaydah and let the chips fall where they may.

29. If the military commissions are to be viewed as legitimate, they should not appear to be complicit in disguising the truth. Instead, military commissions should serve as a vehicle that reveals the truth. The failure to prosecute abu Zubaydah discredits not only American political practices but also the military commissions themselves. Abu Zubaydah asks simply that he be allowed to have a legitimate hearing at which he may challenge the allegations and evidence leveled against him. But as time lingers on, what legitimacy will be found in a system that continues to delay the trial of a man the government once described as a high-ranking al Qaeda operative? Abu Zubaydah is ready for the process to begin, and after ten years of detention and evidence gathering, the government ought to be too.

30. After more than ten years of waiting, your prompt consideration of this request is appreciated.

Very truly yours,

Joseph Margulies
Clinical Professor of Law
Roderick MacArthur Justice Center
Northwestern University School of Law
375 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611....

George Brent Mickum IV
5800 Wiltshire Drive
Bethesda, MD 20816

Mark Denbeaux, Esq.
366 Kinderkamack Road
Westwood, NJ 07675....

Amanda Jacobsen
University of Copenhagen
Faculty of Law
Studiestraede 6
Copenhagen Denmark 1455-K

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Repost of Appeal to CIA on Mitchell-Jessen Al Qaeda Paper

The following is the text of my letter to the CIA, appealing their decision not to release the paper written by James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, “Recognizing and Developing Countermeasures to Al Qa’ida Resistance to Interrogation Techniques: A Resistance Training Perspective.” The Mitchell/Jessen paper has been referred to in numerous news accounts and Senate testimony as the precursor to the SERE-based torture program used by both the CIA and the Department of Defense beginning (it seems) in early 2002.

In a letter to me dated March 7, 2012, the CIA responded that my appeal had been "accepted and arrangements will be made for its consideration by the appropriate members of the Agency Release Panel. The Acting Information and Privacy Coordinator for the agency noted that they didn't think they could respond within the 20 working days they were supposed to. He was right, as I have not heard anything back yet.

Nevertheless, I'm publishing the letter because it documents the ridiculousness of holding such documents secret. I'd note that since I wrote my letter, revelations about the use of SERE's PREAL manual in the construction and approval of the CIA's program (the latter by Yoo and Company at the OLC), only amplifies what I've written here.
February 13, 2012

Agency Release Panel
c/o Susan Viscuso
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505

Reference: EOM-2012-00039

Dear Agency Release Panel:

This letter constitutes an administrative appeal to the Agency Release Panel, such appeal being guaranteed by Section 3.5(e) of Executive Order 13526.

I am writing to appeal the determination by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with regard to my Mandatory Declassification request filed on September 28, 2011, reference number EOM-2012-00039, for the paper titled “Recognizing and Developing Countermeasures to Al Qa’ida Resistance to Interrogation Techniques: A Resistance Training Perspective.” Copies of the original request letter and the agency responses are attached to this appeal request.

By a letter of February 8, 2012, the CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator Susan Viscuso informed me the document responsive to my request had been located. However, Ms. Viscuso informed me the CIA determined the document could not be released in sanitized form, citing Section 1.4(c) of Executive Order 13526.

The following are my reasons for appeal:

1) According to the CIA denial letter, cting Section 3.5(e) of Executive Order 13526, it would appear that the CIA contends that “unauthorized disclosure” of this document “could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security” as it pertains to intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology.”

2) In his book, The Black Banners, former FBI agent Ali Soufan stated what the authors of this document concluded about countermeasures to Al Qaeda resistance methods. This was also covered in the worldwide press, as this quote from the UK Telegraph demonstrates:
“It was on the basis of the information in this manual that the two reportedly concluded that harsh techniques would be needed to break al-Qaeda detainees,” he writes in a new book called “The Black Banners.”

“This constituted a misreading of the Manchester manual and in fact Boris’s techniques played into what the manual instructed captured terrorists to do.”
URL accessed 2/13/2012

Accordingly, I contend that the general conclusions drawn in the article withheld is already a matter of public record, and should be declassified and released.

3) Given the place this paper holds in the development of the government’s interrogation program after 9/11, as stated in both the Senate Armed Service Committee “Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” and the CIA Inspector General’s May 2004 Special Review, “Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities,” it strains credulity to believe that some of the factual material in this document has not been made publicly available in other formats.

An example of such likely material can be found in the public release of the Al Qaeda Manchester Manual, which includes a chapter on Al Qaeda countermeasures to interrogation. If the paper I have asked to be declassified includes a discussion of the Al Qaeda countermeasures of any descriptive sort, then I argue that at least some of this material, which could be segregable, should be released.

The Manchester Manual itself can be accessed on the Internet at

4) In the Senate Armed Services Committee report referenced above, there are numerous references to the kinds of materials that had been identified as countermeasures by one of the authors of the report requested. As one instance, the Committee report references use of such materials in a slide show training by JPRA given to DIA personnel on March 8, 2002. The kinds of countermeasures advocated include “isolation and degradation,” “sensory deprivation,” and both physiological and psychological “pressures.”

5) Furthermore, a JPRA trainer participating in the March 8 training, Joseph Witsch, is quoted as saying the countermeasures identified in the slides were “just an interpretation of what we were doing at the time and what we constantly did when we trained SERE students.” (pg. 9 of the report). The SASC report then lists a number of such SERE techniques that were also included in the slide show, and likely concern countermeasures, as pointed out by Mr. Witsch, in regards to Al Qaeda resistance methods, including, in addition to the above techniques, “sensory overload,” “disruption of sleep and biorhythms,” and “manipulation of diet.”

Therefore, I maintain that in this instance, too, the material in the requested document is at least largely in the public domain, or already previously declassified.

6) In addition to the instances quoted above, there are a number of instances wherein countermeasures for the resistance methods of proposed Al Qaeda prisoners is described. Indeed, the August 2, 2002 “Memorandum for John Rizzo” on the “Interrogation of an al Qaeda Operative,” declassified by the Obama administration, discusses a number of techniques used as part of an “increased pressure phase” made necessary because of the operatives supposed unwillingness “to disclose further information.”

The list of techniques does not need to be enumerated here, as they were publicized in a plethora of articles following release of the Memorandum. Once more, it appears more than likely that these countermeasures used in the interrogation of the operative (Abu Zubaydah) drew upon the initial analyses utilized in the first examination of Al Qaeda countermeasures written in December 2001 or January 2002, for which I have requested declassification. In other words, it seems highly likely that the substantive discussion of countermeasures in the contested document has already largely been a subject of public revelation and discourse.

7) Finally, I would argue that release of this material is in the public interest, far beyond whatever intelligence activities, sources or methods are involved. Human intelligence sources that might be identifiable could be redacted from the document, as is so often done. The source of the material, largely from the Manchester document, and the methods enumerated, either from the Manchester document, or from SERE methods of counter-resistance, are already well-established in the public record.

There remains only the possibility that this document is associated with some covert action that could cause damage to national security if revealed. However, I find it unlikely that such covert action is discussed in this particular document. Should a classified program of some sort be mentioned in the document, surely that could be segregated and redacted.

The origins of the CIA interrogation program, particularly the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” has been of high interest to the public, with hundreds of articles and books written, symposiums organized and attended. It has been the subject of documentaries and newspaper editorials. The public’s interest in release of this document would have the following benefits:

a. It would provide information about relatively recent and controversial government policy decisions, in particular in relation to interrogation
b. It could potentially expose government wrong-doing or misconduct
c. It would contribute to the ongoing national debate about torture and interrogation, a debate that includes both civil liberties organizations, such as the ACLU, and former administration high officials, such as former Vice President Cheney
d. It would be of scholarly interest for those who are writing the histories of the early years in the “war on terror”

In conclusion, I ask that the Agency Release Panel reconsider the decision to maintain classification of the paper titled “Recognizing and Developing Countermeasures to Al Qa’ida Resistance to Interrogation Techniques: A Resistance Training Perspective,” and release it in total or segregable portions.

I look forward to receiving your decision on this appeal in a timely fashion. If you have any questions, or believe discussion of this matter would be beneficial, please contact me directly at or (415) XXX-XXXX.


Former Guantanamo Psychiatrist Promotes Dubious Drug Theory on Afghan Killings

Originally posted at

A tag team of two contributors to Time Magazine's Battleland blog have misrepresented the facts concerning the possibility that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales may have been under the influence of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine (also known as Lariam) when he allegedly killed 17 men, women and children in two villages outside Kandahar last March.

Using false information; faulty interpretation of documents and innuendo; and in one case, withholding key disclosures regarding their background, these authors took a serious issue - the dangerous psychiatric and neurotoxic effects of mefloquine on some people and the history of the use of this drug by the military - and twisted it to further an agenda that just happened to match US interests in limiting speculation about the Kandahar massacre to Bales.

One of the two authors, Mark Benjamin, who years ago had written a number of articles on mefloquine's terrible side-effects, published his article on Bales and mefloquine at Huffington Post.

The other author, a former top Army psychiatrist, Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, has written three articles for Time's Battleland that have strongly suggested Bales' alleged crime was linked to mefloquine use. She recently also gave an interview on the topic to Nina Shapiro at Seattle Weekly.

Ritchie's background in certain aspects is not well known and certainly is surprising, given the mefloquine issue. Currently, she is chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health. But back in 2002, she was Lieutenant Colonel Ritchie, program director for mental health policy for the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and consultant on suicidal detainees at Guantanamo. Interestingly, this was at the same time all incoming detainees were forced to take large treatment doses of mefloquine, even as she likely had access to their medical records.

In addition, at an unspecified time between 2002 and 2007, she trained psychiatrists for Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) that worked closely with Guantanamo interrogators. While the UN and numerous human rights groups have decried the use of health professionals in interrogations, Ritchie continues to defend the policy.

An "Emergency" Review of Mefloquine?

When it was first leaked that a single soldier, part of an Army Stryker Brigade, was in custody for the March 11 killings of up to 17 men, women and children in two villages near a counterinsurgency-inspired "Village Stability Platform" [VSP]), the horror of the massacre made it difficult to understand how the soldier - later identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales - could have done the killings.

Accordingly, a slew of news media reports focused on Bales' family life, his police record, his associates, the history of his duty postings and the possibility of his having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even while the Department of Defense (DoD) was quickly pulling off the Internet as many references to and pictures of Bales from military sources that it could. Meanwhile, reports were leaking out, including a major investigative piece by Australian SBS reporter Yalda Hakim, broadcast on March 28 atCNN, that a number of witnesses, including those in US custody, were saying there was more than one soldier present at the killings and perhaps as many as 20.

It is not surprising that some of the speculation surrounding the DoD's account of Bales as a lone shooter should focus upon what drugs he had been taking. One of the drugs discussed, mefloquine, is a controversial antimalarial drug known to have possible psychiatric and neurotoxic side effects. The first article proposing a Bales-mefloquine link appeared in the March 16 edition of Counterpunch.

But it wasn't until Benjamin's March 25 Huffington Post article that the mefloquine hypothesis took off in the press, leading to interviews for Benjamin at Democracy Now! and CNN. The reason for the heightened interest was Benjamin's contention that nine days after the killings, "a top-level Pentagon official ordered a widespread, emergency review" of how the drug was administered to troops. The implication was that a mefloquine-induced psychosis in Bales was possibly connected to the murders. [As described below, Benjamin's contention was later dropped, but the original version, including the quotes above, can be viewed at this linked web site.]

Yet, as a March 27 Truthout critique of Benjamin's article noted, there was no "widespread, emergency review" of mefloquine undertaken after the Kandahar killings, undermining the very premises of The Huffington Post piece. Benjamin had mistaken a March 20 "tasker" memo by a regional US medical command for the original order, which had been given by the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs (ASD-HA) back on January 17.

In his article, Benjamin quoted a March 20 Battleland post by Ritchie where she first raised the Bales-mefloquine link:
"'One obvious question to consider is whether he was on mefloquine (Lariam), an antimalarial medication,' Elspeth Cameron Ritchie wrote this week in TIME's "Battleland" blog, noting that the drug is still used in Afghanistan. "'This medication has been increasingly associated with neuropsychiatric side effects, including depression, psychosis and suicidal ideation.'"
In an email response to queries from Truthout, Benjamin would not comment upon any collaboration between himself and Ritchie. "My discussions with people who may or not be my sources will remain private."

Subsequently, Ritchie returned the favor to Benjamin, mentioning his Huffington Post article in an April 2 Battleland post. Ritchie asked "whether mefloquine or other toxic exposures - to licit or illicit drugs - might have been a contributing factor in the Afghan massacre."

Bales' attorney has picked up on the Benjamin-Ritchie mefloquine angle, telling CNN that he was interested in mefloquine as one of many possible drugs that might have affected his client's behavior.

Army Policy on Antimalarial Drugs

Bales was assigned to the Army's Third Stryker Brigade and, as such, his medical protocols fell under Central Command (CENTCOM) policy. According to CENTCOM rules, the antibiotic doxycycline, not mefloquine, is to be used for all malaria prophylaxis in Afghanistan, unless specifically medically contraindicated. This has been the case since, as Benjamin himself reported, the DoD in 2009 pulled back from use of Lariam except in special circumstances.

Moreover, according to CENTCOM orders, all departing soldiers are given "enough [antimalarial] medication for their deployment" when they leave the US. For soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, that medication has been overwhelmingly doxycycline, not mefloquine. There is no evidence that Bales was ever prescribed mefloquine, and while the Army's January review was prompted by known failures to prescribe the drug correctly, there is no evidence that this happened to Bales.

According to prescription figures provided to Truthout by DoD officials, mefloquine prescriptions have been declining for some time. In 2011, the Army gave out 169,690 scripts for doxycycline to 151,802 soldiers. (The DoD could not say if all of these were for malaria, or for other antibiotic use.) At the same time, only 1,780 soldiers (utilizing 1,921 scripts) were prescribed mefloquine, down approximately one-third from 2009 levels.

Bales' Stryker unit was part of I Corps stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McCord. In 2011, there were 6,566 scripts written for I Corps personnel and only 150 for mefloquine. On December 2, 2002, right around the time of Bales' actual deployment, the Army's policy changed again and mefloquine was downgraded from a second-line to a third-line malaria prophylactic drug. While none of the above proves Bales did or did not take mefloquine in Afghanistan, it makes the likelihood quite small.

[UPDATE 4/20 9:55 pm PST: The statistics for the number of DoD prescriptions of antimalarials were derived from the DOD Pharmaeconomic Center, which, as a DoD official explained to Truthout, "can pull data stateside because that reporting system exists." However, "this record of systems for visibility from Afghanistan (or Iraq) back to the states does not exist." Hence, there is no way to specifically say how many prescriptions of mefloquine (or any other antimalarial drug) was given inside Afghanistan. The official added, "within theater they certainly have visibility as to what is being dispensed and to who."

Yet, as explained in the article, as someone deployed from a stateside base to Afghanistan, Bales would have been prescribed enough antimalarial medication for his entire deployment before he left. Hence, assuming Bales correctly was prescribed doxycycline upon deployment, one would have to posit that Bales somehow lost his medication and then wrongly was prescribed mefloquine by some doctor in theater. There is no evidence or claim to date that this ever happened, though anecdotal reports have suggested that some events like this have occurred from time to time.]

Amplifying the problem with Benjamin and Ritchie's hypothesis concerning Bales and mefloquine is Ritchie's own contrasting history concerning mefloquine policy, some of it known and some of which can only be presumed or remain subject to speculation.

Ritchie, Guantanamo and Mefloquine

Ritchie had gone to Guantanamo, by her own account, four times. In October 2002, Ritchie indicated she first went to Guantanamo in order to "review all the suicidal gestures among the detainees." She said she "recommended many basic changes."

One can't say exactly how effective her recommendations were, in part because DoD figures concerning the number of suicide attempts and gestures by Guantanamo detainees has changed over the years and because the DoD labels some of the suicide gestures as attempts at "self-harm," but not suicide. But one damning report by BBC in 2005 noted that, in the year after Ritchie left, there were "350 incidents of self-harm, including 120 'hanging gestures."

In a 2003 New York Times article, a Guantanamo spokesman, Capt. Warren Neary, is quoted as saying that in the "18 months since the detention camp opened," there had been 28 suicide attempts by 18 individuals." "Most of those attempts" had been made in the first six months of 2003, that is, in the period just after, or even during, Ritchie's intervention on Guantanamo suicides.

As a physician, Ritchie likely reviewed the medical records for some or many of the detainees under her review. As previously reported at Truthout, the records would have shown that every detainee had been administered treatment doses of mefloquine upon arrival.

The treatment dose is a single 1,250 mg dose, versus the weekly 250 mg dose given for malaria prophylaxis, and what Bales would have taken (if he had taken mefloquine) upon arrival in Afghanistan.

Both treatment and prophylaxis dosages of mefloquine can cause serious side effects, according to medical reports. An April 16, 2002, meeting of the Interagency Working Group for Antimalarial Chemotherapy, which included DoD officials, the Working Group warned, "other treatment regimes should be carefully considered before mefloquine is used at the doses required for treatment." At this point, mefloquine had been given in treatment doses to all incoming detainees for three months and the policy would continue for years to come.

[UPDATE, May 19, 2012: The minutes of an Armed Forces Epidemiological Board Meeting on May 20, 2003 describes the presence of "Cameron Ritchie" at the IWG group meeting in January 2003. The speaker, Dr. Monica Parise, noted that the group specifically looked at the neuropsychiatric side effects of mefloquine. While the "serious reactions" were said to be "pretty rare," something along the order of "1 in 200 or so up to 1 in 10,000 of seizures or major psychiatric problems," she noted "there are a host of other more acute less severe neuropsychiatric issues that occur short-term, such as insomnia, strange dreams, fatigue, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, and some people have reported that those effects  have lasted a very long time."

Parise continued (bold emphasis added): "I've heard cases that this has just ruined people's lives. I don't if anybody  -- I had heard that there may be some data in DOD about how some of the studies that might shed light on that, but I've not seen anything in terms of effect on the brain. But I don't really think we have a good explanation of what that is. I mean, as I mentioned, at the meeting there was discussion -- and we did have a psychiatrist there -- of, well, are people susceptible, are they susceptible to these problems and this drug has brought that out?"

Presumably this psychiatrist was Dr. Ritchie.]

An Army physician who has published many journal articles on mefloquine called the mass presumptive treatment with mefloquine "pharmacological waterboarding."

Truthout's investigation determined that no US soldiers or contractors, even those brought from malarial-endemic regions by Halliburton subsidiary KBR, were administered presumptive doses of any anti-malaria drug, including mefloquine at Guantanamo.

Ritchie has never spoken out on the detainees' mefloquine dosing, which continued at least through 2005. She did not return a request for comment for this article.

Ritchie returned to Guantanamo in 2007 and/or 2008 to work in a forensic capacity on psychiatric evaluations of prisoners slated for trial by military commissions. In one high-profile evaluation, of Salim Hamden - whose case ultimately led to the Hamden v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court case in 2006, which threw out the first version of the military commissions as violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions - Ritchie disagreed with the defense psychiatrist that Hamden, who had been tortured, suffered from PTSD and found him "manipulative."

In any case, Ritchie certainly would have looked at the medical records for the detainees she examined and could hardly have overlooked the presence of mefloquine. Given Ritchie's interest in suicide and her history of consulting on suicides at Guantanamo, one wonders if she were aware of the toxicology results for reported 2007 Guantanamo "suicide" Abdul Rahman Al Amri, which made special note of looking for mefloquine in his blood.

As reported by Truthout, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is looking into the Al Amri case, as well as that of 2009 reported suicide, Mohammad Al Hanashi.

Ritchie and the BSCTs

It is not known if Ritchie did more at Guantanamo, however, in an October 2008 article at Psychiatric News examining ongoing controversies over the use of psychiatrists in military interrogations at Guantanamo and elsewhere, Ritchie revealed she had taken a leading role in bringing psychiatrists onto the BSCTs. "The Army requires psychiatrists to complete a 136-hour course before taking part in interrogations," the article said. "Ritchie has taught parts of that program and said that four psychiatrists have attended it so far."

Ritchie may have taught the BSCTs when she worked in the Office of the Army Surgeon General (OASG) under Maj. Gen. Kevin Kiley. In 2006, a controversy arose when it was discovered that Kiley's office had continued to recommend the use of psychiatrists in interrogations, despite a policy statement from the American Psychiatric Association against use of doctors or psychiatrists in interrogations.

An October 20, 2006 OASG/MEDCOM policy memo issued by Kiley discussed BSCT training, including instruction in the "application" of "learned helplessness" "to the interrogation/debriefing processes."

"Learned helplessness" is a psychological syndrome so named by psychologist Martin Seligman, who was invited by the CIA to lecture on the topic at a Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school in May 2002. Both James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have said they relied on the theory in their construction of a torture program for the CIA that same year.

An important 2007 article by Dr. Steven Miles in the American Journal of Bioethics looked closely at the experience of psychiatrists and psychologists working for the BSCT at Guantanamo. The article focused on the interrogation of Mohammad Al Qahtani in late 2002, an interrogation the Guantanamo military commissions convening authority admitted amounted to torture.

"Clinicians were integral to this abusive interrogation," Miles wrote.

In the 2008 Psychiatric News article, Ritchie defended the use of psychiatrists in interrogations, claiming, "Psychologists and psychiatrists are experts at enhancing rapport.... They also can counteract behavioral drift, the spiraling down of interrogation into a culture of coercion." Ritchie also defended the BSCT policy in an interview with NPR in September 2008. NPR said Ritchie contended "at the beginning of the war on terror, there was misunderstanding of 'what the rules were' for interrogations." Ritchie added, ""We don't try to defend (that)."

Ritchie has not changed her beliefs in these regards over the years. In the 2012 book "Women in Psychiatry: Personal Perspectives," Ritchie wrote, "Although controversial in the American Psychiatric Association and the media, I continue to believe that psychologists and forensic psychiatrists can contribute in a very positive way to legal, safe and effective interrogation."

A Mefloquine "Expert"

In January 2003, not long after she first went to Guantanamo, Ritchie, then working in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, attended an "Experts Meeting" on malaria chemoprophylaxis organized by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A year later, in 2004, Ritchie, now "Psychiatry Consultant to the Army Surgeon General," gave a presentation to the DoD's Deployment Health Clinical Center on the "Neuropsychiatric Side-Effects of Mefloquine."

No published work by Ritchie could be found that referenced mefloquine or anti-malaria treatment or medication. Ritchie mentioned, as if in passing, her 2004 presentation in an April 4 article at Battleland two days after this author informed an anti-Lariam activist of its existence. In a very brief posting, Ritchie wrote, "There is a lot more in the literature since a 2004 talk I gave on the neuropsychiatric effects of the medication. There followed a flood of anecdotal information and articles in the media, but rigorous scientific literature was limited."

In fact, there were dozens, if not hundreds of studies and articles on mefloquine prior to her 2004 talk. Indeed, a 2004 review article on antimalarial drug toxicity in the journal Drug Safety listed dozens of peer-reviewed articles on mefloquine, its efficacy as a drug and its potential side effects. In the same year, the CDC issued guidelines indicating mefloquine should only be used when other standard drugs were not available, as it "associated with a higher rate of severe neuropsychiatric reactions when used at treatment doses."

In her April 4 article, Ritchie coyly did not indicate what the substance of her 2004 presentation was, nor what data she drew upon. For full disclosure sake, she should release her paper or notes pertaining to that presentation.

Why Push a Bales-Mefloquine Link?

Both Benjamin and Ritchie appear to have had an agenda: to make it appear far more probable than any facts would admit that Bales could have gone psychotic on mefloquine.

None of their articles ever considers that Bales may not have acted alone, or that indeed, is not proven to have killed anyone in those hamlets where 17 died. Most of all, their stories ignore problems with the DoD's narrative of events, with charges by Bales' attorney that the DoD has hidden evidence from his defense team, or, as this USA Today article notes, "blocked them from interviewing survivors and are withholding evidence of the March 11 attacks ..."

Key evidence that eyewitnesses to the attacks saw helicopters, men with walkie-talkies and upwards of 15 soldiers, as evidenced by this CNN interview and this Global Post article, is never mentioned by Ritchie or Benjamin.

Lacking such balanced reporting, it would seem the anti-torture journalist Benjamin and the former trainer for Guantanamo interrogation consultants have joined up to help promote the mainstream narrative of Bales as a single and possibly deranged killer. Together, they were quite successful in spreading the idea that Bales might have gone crazy from mefloquine.

Deranged Bales may have been, but whether his actions, if proven, were taken alone or as part of a larger US military or Special Forces operation that dark March night are matters for full investigation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

If Obama Withdrew Yoo, Bradbury Torture Memos, What Gov't Opinion Now Covers the AFM & Appendix M?

An article in the July-Sept. 2004 edition of the journal Military Intelligence (PDF) sheds further light on the origins of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation, FM 2-22.3, HUMINT Collector Operations (PDF), that became operational in September 2006. The AFM became the de jure standard for government interrogations in the "Global War on Terror" as a matter of policy with the passing of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA). Except, in 2005, the AFM was an earlier version.

By September 2006, the newer version included less restrictive controls on a number of questionable interrogation techniques, and had seriously lightened the restriction on the use of drugs in interrogations. It also included an annex to the manual, Appendix M, that was meant strictly for detainees not covered by Geneva POW protections, i.e., the detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Appendix M allowed for the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation (as a "field expedient" method), and anticipated at least some use of environmental and diet "manipulations."

But back in Summer 2004, Command Sergeant Major Lawrence J. Haubrich, U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps, writing for the journal Military Intelligence (PDF) about military ethics in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, noted that the new AFM had already been vetted by Judge Advocate General corps' [JAG] legal officials.
The DA [Dept. of the Army] Office of the JAG and JAG School reviewed each draft of FM 2-22.3, HUMINT Collector Operations, and each draft has been (and still is) in compliance with all Geneva Conventions, international agreements, and U.S. law. Additionally, the manual clarifies the responsibilities of HUMINT collectors and clearly delineates between HUMINT collection and other activities associated with internment operations. Finally, the manual now includes HUMINT collection techniques like strategic debriefing and elicitation as a result of the recent HUMINT and Counterintelligence Integrated Concept Team and lessons learned.
We can't, of course, know what drafts the JAG officials had seen in 2004. We don't know, for instance, whether or to what degree the techniques that ended up in the final document's Appendix M were then included in the earlier drafts. The fact that the manual went through numerous iterations was noted in a couple of blog posts by Marcy Wheeler, who noted the existence of a little examined Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel 2006 memorandum (PDF) on the AFM and its Appendix M.
"The Department of Defense ("DOD") has asked us to review for form and legality the revised drafts of the Army Field Manua1 2-22.3 ("Human Intelligence Collection Operations"), Appendix M of FM2-22.3 ("Restricted Interrogations Techniques"), and the Policy Directive regarding DOD's Detainee Program," Acting Attorney General Stephen Bradbury wrote in an April 13, 2006 "Memorandum for the Files." Naturally, Bradbury found that Appendix M was "consistent with the requirements of the law, in particular with the requirements of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005..."
Wheeler noticed a couple of years ago, however, that the description of Appendix M in the Bradbury memorandum was not congruent with the version that was ultimately published.
Speaking of all those references to specific paragraphs of Appendix M, note that Bradbury wrote this memo on April 13, 2006. Appendix M was not finalized and released until September 6, 2006. And the contents of Appendix M changed significantly between the time Bradbury wrote his approval letter and the time the Appendix was put into effect five months latter.... Even the title changed–from the plural “Restricted Interrogation Techniques” to the singular “Restricted Interrogation Technique–Separation”....
A couple of examples of some of the changes Wheeler pointed out (bold emphases in original):
Bradbury cites M-23 for language limiting the use of Appendix M only to DOD interrogators specially trained and certified to use these techniques; that language now appears in M-22, but the paragraph now authorizes properly trained contract interrogators and “non-DOD personnel” to use the techniques as well. 
Bradbury cites M-21 for medical limits, including that “Detainees determined to be unfit for interrogation may not be interrogated” (note, this does not appear to be a direct citation from the appendix, but rather Bradbury’s summary of it); in the current Appendix, language on medical oversight appears in several places (M-16, M-20, M-23, M-24, M-30), but never includes an explicit restriction against using the techniques on an unfit detainee....
Then, just last August, Wheeler noted this in a legal opinion issued in the Donald Vance/Nathan Ertel lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld for the torture they suffered when falsely held prisoners in Iraq:
The plaintiffs contend that, after the enactment of the Detainee Treatment Act, Secretary Rumsfeld continued to condone the use of techniques from outside the Army Field Manual. ¶ 244. They allege that on the same day that Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act in December 2005, Secretary Rumsfeld added ten classified pages to the Field Manual, which included cruel, inhuman, and degrading techniques, such as those allegedly used on the plaintiffs (the plaintiffs refer to this as “the December Field Manual”). Id. The defendants describe this allegation as speculative and untrue, but we must accept these well-pled allegations as true at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage of the proceedings.8 
On appeal, the plaintiffs 8 cite a newspaper article reporting on the development of this classified set of interrogation methods. See Eric Schmitt, “New Army Rules May Snarl Talks with McCain on Detainee Issue,” New York Times (Dec. 14, 2005), available at (last accessed Aug. 4, 2011) (“The Army has approved a new, classified set of interrogation methods... The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual...”). The plaintiffs contend that Secretary Rumsfeld eventually abandoned efforts to classify the Field Manual, but that the “December Field Manual” was in operation during their detention and was not replaced until September 2006, after plaintiffs had been released, when a new field manual (Field Manual 2-22.3) was instituted.
This is evidence of the likelihood that the changes to the AFM materially changed it from what the JAG officials vetted in 2004. Nevertheless, I don't believe we have heard any protest or even a peep of protest from JAGs or other military legal sources over the AFM that was ultimately issued. The Bradbury memorandum itself is a deeply dishonest document, and relies heavily for its opinion on the earlier OLC memos by Yoo, Bybee, and Bradbury himself. In the memorandum, Bradbury cites the earlier OCL torture memos as having "previously concluded that techniques virtually identical to these [i.e., in Appendix M] are consistent with applicable U.S. legal obligations..."

He then refers readers to the July 14, 2004 testimony of Patrick F. Philbin before the House Select Committee on Intelligence (PDF). "There is no need to revisit those determinations here," Bradbury wrote. But since the Obama administration withdrew by Executive Order (13491) "All executive directives, orders, and regulations... from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals," where does that leave the legal assurances regarding Appendix M?

 This question is of high importance as, even though numerous human rights organizations (Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Open Society Foundations, and others) have expressed grave misgivings about the abuse inherent in the current Army Field Manual instructions, the government, including key Democrats on the Intelligence and Armed Services committees, and the Obama administration itself, support the current AFM as the relevant and sufficient standard for all U.S. government military and CIA interrogations.

The inadequacy of the Bradbury memorandum in vetting "legal" techniques for interrogation, techniques said to be "Geneva compliant" is laughably belied by the fact that four of the six "restricted interrogation techniques" discussed by Bradbury are redacted in the declassified release of the memorandum. Truly, the government must think we can't see what is right before our eyes.

Additionally, of the two techniques openly discussed -- "Mutt and Jeff" (Good cop/Bad cop) and "False Flag -- both were ultimately incorporated into the main text of the final AMF draft. Even though the other techniques were left unclassified in the final version, the government still censors the techniques Bradbury was describing in his 2006 memo.

In a particularly Bradburyian moment of bad conscience, or possibly only to cover his ass, the former top Bush lawyer remarks in a footnote, the "six restricted interrogation techniques" might not satisfy the DTA if used on "all DoD detainees" (italics in original). Even more: "Nor does our analysis suggest that these techniques would be lawful if used in the criminal justice process as a means of obtaining information about ordinary crimes."

Hence we can see the result of the Bush-Gonzales-Yoo removal of the GWOT detainees from protected POW status soon after 9/11. Since Appendix M is still used in interrogations, we must conclude the Obama administration has never withdrawn the order that removed Al Qaeda/Taliban and associated prisoners from Geneva protections. Or has the administration has issued new opinions that have never been made public?

It must not matter to the Congressional oversight mavens, who have said not a peep about these issues, and continue to push the AFM and Appendix M. Nor does the proud JAG corps, who in some cases were known to protest the torture as it unfolded at Guantanamo, or the unfairness of the "Star Chamber" military commissions process, have any update I know of from their early stamp of approval given to the AFM.

One could not hope for much from a government that slaughtered two million Indochinese, and was never held accountable for that and many crimes that followed. It may be tilting at windmills to believe that the ongoing use of torture, even as one version of it is enshrined now in a formal military document, would become a matter of some social protest or media condemnation. This is a society and a nation totally adrift in a sea of moral nihilism when it comes to military and intelligence matters.

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