Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Sola, perduta, abbandonata"

Eva Marton sings "Sola, perduta, abbandonata" from the last act of Puccini's Manon Lescaut, Budapest Congress Center, 1988
Sola, perduta, abbandonata
in landa desolata!
Orror! Intorno a me s'oscura il ciel.
Ahime, son sola!
E nel profondo deserto io cado,
strazio crudel, ah, sola, abbandonata,
io la deserta donna!
Ah, non voglio morir!
Tutto e dunque finito.
Terra di pace mi sembrava questa
Ah, mia belta funesta
ire novelle accende
strappar da lui mi si volea; or tutto
il mio passato orribile risorge,
e vivo innanzi al guardo mio si posa.
Ah, di sangue s'e macchiato!
Ah, tutto e finito;
asil di pace ora la tomba invoco
No, non voglio morir. Amore, aita!
English translation, from ClassicalPlus:
Alone, lost, abandoned.
in this desolate plain!
Ah, the horror of it!
Around me
the day darkens. Alas I am alone!
And in the depth of this desert I fall -
what cruel torment!
Ah! alone, abandoned,
a woman deserted!
Ah! I do not want to die,
no, I do not want to die.
So all is over.
I thought this would be a land of peace.
Alas! my fatal beauty
arouses fresh troubles,
they wanted to snatch me from him.
Now all my past
rises up starkly
and stands vividly before my gaze.
Ah! It is stained with blood
Ah! All is over!
As a haven of peace
I now invoke the tomb.
No, I do not want to die,
I do not want to die,
No, no, I do not want to die: love, help me.

Omar Khadr Leaves Guantanamo, While Press Refuses to Report His Water Torture

reposted from Firedoglake

On a pre-dawn Saturday morning, September 29, the youngest prisoner in Guantanamo, Omar Khadr left the harsh US-run prison where he had been held since October 2002. At the time of his incarceration he was fifteen years old. According to a CBC report, Khadr was flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where he was to be transferred to the Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.

Khadr is supposed to serve out the remainder of an eight-year sentence, part of a deal his attorneys made with the U.S. government, with Khadr agreeing to plead guilty to the killing of SPC Christopher Speer during a firefight at the Ayub Kheil compound in Afghanistan, in addition to other charges such as "material support of terrorism" and spying. Khadr essentially agreed to participate in what amounted to a show trial for the penalty phase of his Military Commissions hearing. For this, he got a brokered eight year sentence, with a promise of a transfer out of Guantanamo to Canada after a year.

The Khadr deal was made in October 2010, but the transfer promise was dragged out as seemingly the Canadian government balked at accepting the former child prisoner, who was also a Canadian citizen. The entire affair became a magnet for right-wing propaganda in Canada, while human rights groups also fought for Khadr's release. But not long after Macleans leaked U.S. documents related to the Khadr transfer, including psychiatric reports by both government and defense evaluators, the Canadians appeared to move more quickly to accept Khadr into Canada.

CBC reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was "satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada" (CSC) could administer Khadr's sentence, presumably six more years of imprisonment. Speaking no doubt to those fear-mongerers who suggested Khadr's safety somehow threatened the average Canadian, he also noted the CSC could " ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration."

For those looking for an early release by Canadian authorities, Toews said, "Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law." According to Carol Rosenberg's report, Khadr could be eligible for early release because he was a juvenile at the time of his supposed crimes.

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy released a statement calling for Khadr's immediate release, and for President Obama to close Guantanamo and release the 86 known detainees already cleared for transfer.
Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials.

Like several other boys held at Guantanamo, some as young as twelve years old, Khadr lost much of his childhood. Canada should not perpetuate the abuse he endured in one of the world’s most notorious prisons. Instead, Canada should release him immediately and provide him with appropriate counseling, education, and assistance in transitioning to a normal life.
Azmy also suggested that Canada could "accept other men from Guantanamo who cannot safely return to their home countries," such as Algerian citizen Djamel Ameziane, who lived legally as a refugee in Canada from 1995 to 2000. Ameziane fears persecution if he were transfered back to Algeria.

Covering-up Crimes

No doubt the Khadr transfer will get a great deal of coverage in the mainstream press and the bloggers of the fictional Internet land of Blowhardia. Little of the digital ink will be meaningful, and much of it will be disinformation.

But even reputable sources will leave out many of the details surrounding Khadr's imprisonment and torture, details that may be too embarrassing for the U.S. government, or for a Democratic incumbent running for President who steadfastly refuses to punish those who engaged in the planning and implementation of torture during the Bush years, and who lies about the so-called nonabusive nature of current U.S. interrogation policy (while even the progressive press and bloggers give him a free pass on this, because such lies are printed on the front page of the New York Times).

In probably the most egregious cover-up surrounding the Khadr case, one recent document released in the Macleans' treasure drove of released reports on Khadr's treatment and mental condition under U.S. control states that Khadr received a form of waterboard-like drowning torture while held as a wounded teen at Bagram.

Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and former brigadier general in the U.S. Army, wrote in a February 28, 2012 summary report to Canada's Public Safety Minister Toews that while at the Bagram medical facility in late 2002, that Khadr  "was mocked" by U.S. personnel,  "and remembers having water poured on his face while hooded so that he felt unable to breathe." Dr. Xenakis confirmed to me by telephone that Khadr had told him this during one of the 300 hours he spent interviewing the famous Guantanamo prisoner.

Given the hullaballoo surrounding the issue of waterboarding in general, as evinced in the recent controversies over the release of a Mitt Romney campaign draft about his support for "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the wide reporting surrounding Human Rights Watch's recent report that included revelations about unreported waterboarding of a Libyan prisoner, it is shocking to see the total lack of interest in this new revelation. It is as if there were an invisible censor that determined what was appropriate to report, and never or rarely to go farther than that.

I was personally distressed by the lack of coverage (I believe I'm still the only one to report it in an article at The Dissenter earlier this month), but I directly approached human rights groups and members of the press who regularly cover the torture issue, and the Khadr case in particular. I never received a response from the press. Human Rights Watch told me they would look into it.

Meanwhile coverage by McClatchy's Carol Rosenberg quotes derogatory statements about Khadr by the government's psychiatric "expert," but is totally mum on the revelations about the water torture of the teenaged prisoner noted in a defense attorney's report. Nor do any reports seem to recall that there never was an eyewitness to Speer's death, or that documents long withheld from Khadr's defense showed the likelihood that Speer died from "friendly fire," as noted in this April 2008 LA Times story.

As for other overlooked details about the Khadr case, an initial look at report on Khadr's release shows that nothing is said about previously reported threats Khadr had about being transferred and raped, as came out at his military commissions "trial". According to the ACLU:
In bombshell testimony, Interrogator One described a “fictitious story” he told the 15-year-old about an Afghan they sent to prison in America because he was lying. Interrogator One said he told Khadr that “a bunch of big black guys and big Nazis,” patriotic and angry about the 9/11 attacks, “noticed the little Muslim” because he “speaks a different language, prays five times a day.” He said he told Khadr, “This poor little kid, away from home, kind of isolated,” was “in the shower by himself and these four big black guys show up, and say ‘we know about you Muslims.’ They caught him in the shower and raped him. The kid got hurt and we think he ended up dying.”

Interrogator One also explained the approved interrogation techniques he used on Khadr to extract information, including “fear up,” “fear up harsh,” “fear of incarceration,” “pride and ego down,” and “love of family.”
The references to "fear up" and the "approved interrogation techniques" are specifically to techniques that are part of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogations. Such techniques are, according to a most recent article by Charlie Savage, "nonabusive" in nature. Now Savage is reporting as fact what is in fact spin by the U.S. government, who loves counterpoising the abusive AFM -- which also includes in its "techniques" use of cruel isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and use of certain drugs -- to the equally repugnant but more splashy waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" tortures of the Bush era.

Savage and the New York Times were not challenged by the characterization of AFM tactics as "nonabusive," even by people who knew better. The fairy tale that the AFM is a "humane" alternative to the Bush-era torture is a fiction central to the Obama reelection campaign, and there's nary a "progressive" blogger that will challenge that these days, especially when the assertion is in a story on the election on the front page of the New York Times. The silence persists despite the fact the actual nature of the AFM and especially its notorious Appendix M has been documented by Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, Open Society Foundation, and other human rights groups.

Meanwhile, it seems likely that Khadr's release itself is related to U.S. presidential politics, with a thorny controversy related to Guantanamo finally stashed out of sight. No more questions, no more unsightly leaks (like this recent article two days ago revealing Dr. Michael "I-have-no-opinion-if-nearly-half-of-all-Muslims-are-inbred" Welner's seven-hour interview with Omar Khadr). Khadr will go now to Millhaven, a dangerous maximum security prison that had a prison riot in 2009, and where the exercise yard lacks prison staff and yard fights are broken up by rifle shots by guards.

Khadr's release will temporarily throw an embarrassing light on the Obama's administration's failure to close the controversial torture prison, and then the news will sink back into the turgid morass of bloated presidential campaign politics. And just like the story about a prisoner at Guantanamo, Adnan Latif, who was found dead on September 10, but was quickly forgotten (the press doesn't even care how he died), the Khadr case will slip out of sight, and the unsightly parade of lies and cover-up that masquerades as reporting on U.S. politics will continue.

But at least one prisoner will have left Guantanamo alive, soon to see family, and maybe have half a start at a life, a life he insisted had been taken from him first by his pro-Al Qaeda father, and then later by U.S. authorities and interrogators. "I never had a choice in my past life, Khadr once told CBC News, "but I will build my future with the right bricks, and that Islam is a peaceful, multicultural and anti-racism religion for all."

Friday, September 28, 2012

RT TV Discusses IG Report Cover--up of Drugging of Detainees

RT TV had a segment on 9/26 that followed from my Truthout article earlier this month, New Revelations Suggest DoD Cover-Up Over Detainee Drugging Charges. They initially asked me to be interviewed, but I couldn't be available in time, and they instead turned to journalist and human rights attorney Scott Horton, who was quoted in the article.

The following is from RT's YouTube blurb for the video:
According to a recent report on by Jeffrey Kaye (, detainees at Gitmo were drugged by the Pentagon staff. The prison which has been open for nearly a decade, has many questioning the validity and legality of site and the torture techniques implemented there. Now it seems the US Department of Defense is attempting to cover up allegations of drugging prisoners at Gitmo. So why does Gitmo remain in open and what really goes on there? Scott Horton, a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine, joins us with his take on the legality of Gitmo and how it could be hurting the US in the long run.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On Jonathan Moreno's "Mind Wars: Military Science and the Military in the 21st Century"

Join me in a Firedoglake Book Salon chat with Jonathon D. Moreno about his new book, Mind Wars: Military Science and the Military in the 21st Century. The event will go from 5-7pm, Eastern Time, Sunday, September 23.

What follows is my review of Moreno's book, published at Firedoglake as an introduction to Book Salon. I hope I "see" some of Invictus's readers over at the FDL event.
FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jonathan Moreno, Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century

In 2006, noted bioethicist Professor Jonathan Moreno published a book all about neuroscience and brain research by the Department of Defense and associated academic and private researchers. It was provocative, informative, and unsettling. In other words, it was one hell of a scary – and fascinating – book.

Six years later, Moreno, Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, has updated the book and released a second revised edition, Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century. The book is substantively the same as the earlier version, but updated in a number of places. For all of Moreno’s hopeful words about the military listening more to bioethicists these days, the totality of the work remains frightening in its implications.

Some of the updated material is purely factual. For instance, in the 2006 edition of Mind Wars, Moreno wrote, “The official research and development budget for the Department of Defense is around $68 billion.... Assuming the proportion of R&D to operations in the secret budget is about the same as it is in the Pentagon budget, black R&D funds would be in the neighborhood of at least $6 billion.”

Of course, those numbers were “highly speculative,” but in the new edition, Moreno has updated the figures. Now the official R&D budget for DoD is around $80 billion, while the black or secret R&D budget is estimated at $8 billion. That’s approximately a 17 percent hike in DoD R&D funds in general, but a 33 percent increase in the black, secret budget in just six years.

Moreno’s book is certainly timely, as military research into neuroscience and other brain and behavior-related research is certainly taking off. For instance, see this September 19 ExtremeTech article, “DARPA combines human brains and 120-megapixel cameras to create the ultimate military threat detection system.” (Readers will be glad to know Mind Wars has an entire chapter on the history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.)

Meanwhile Moreno asks the primary question: Is anyone minding the ethical store? Who is addressing the problems and dilemmas of subjugating science to national defense concerns?

Moreno appears to believe many of those involved in military neuroscience research are far more interested in the ethical issues of the research than is the general public. In addition, a good deal of the military-oriented research has peaceful, domestic applications of great value to society, such as the research that has gone into nervous system and machine interfaces that has revolutionized the field of prosthetics and robotics.

But Moreno also cannot help but notice the history of abuse and secrecy that lies behind much of the government’s actions in areas of research that touch on brain and behavior. Much of the tension in the book rises from this dual use conundrum.

Take the case of prosthetics mentioned above. Moreno notes that the DARPA “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” program is working on a “neutrally controlled robotic arm ‘that has function almost identical to a natural limb in terms of motor control and dexterity, sensory feedback… weight, and environmental resilience.” The research has had some tremendous recent successes, including the movement of “DARPA funded mechanical arms… via the brain signals of a volunteer with tetraplegia.”

Yet, Moreno also posits a “science fiction scenario” right out of the otherwise maligned Star Wars films by George Lucas: “an army of robots capable of movement nearly as precise as that of a human soldier, each controlled by an individual hundreds or even thousands of miles away.”

Imagine these robots could respond almost instantaneously with or even anticipate the intentions of their distant human operators. “Clone wars” indeed! But according to Moreno, “some of the technical requirements for the soldier-extender robot army are, literally, within reach.”

But the military is not waiting for the coming robot wars. Another section of the book concerns other research into changing the cognitive abilities of the Army’s all-too-human soldiers. One of the more controversial research programs concerns the use of drugs like propranolol to forestall the production of PTSD symptoms in soldiers traumatized by the barbarity of battle.

While finding a cure or sure treatment to stop or prevent PTSD is the Holy Grail for some researchers, there are moral and philosophical questions behind such purported medical interventions or treatments. And that’s what bioethics is for, to look at such questions, to try and get scientists and policy makers to look before they leap into the breach with such technology.

Moreno describes these dilemmas well, making them understandable for lay readers, while not hiding his own opinions, and allowing for airing of opposing positions.

But one wonders in the end whether the positive effects of bioethicist intervention can offset the social, political, economic, and psychological influences shaping national science policy, particularly when it comes to the military. How much have things changed since the National Academy of Sciences stated in a 1942 committee report, “The wide assumption is that any method which appears to offer advantages to a nation at war will be vigorously employed by that nation”?

At times the Moreno’s book necessarily ventures into philosophical questions, such as what constitutes Mind? What exactly is the connection between Mind and Brain, and can minds be read by an examination of purely physiological processes, as some of the scientists involved in brain scan research contend?

The book covers a number of different areas of research, including so-called “Augmented Cognition,” “brain fingerprinting,” drugs to undo the effects of sleep deprivation, and the use of “non-lethal” weapons, such as “acoustic and light-pulsing devises that disrupt cognitive and neural processes” and “optical equipment that causes temporary blindness.”

As one can see, some of this technology is “offensive” in nature, and promises to revolutionize not only warfare, but also methods of crowd control; and behind that is the larger game, political control. In pursuing such goals, governmental researchers have too often used human subjects in experiments that were highly unethical and illegal. Moreno reviews them here, too, including MKULTRA, the Cameron “psychic driving” experiments, controversies over “informed consent,” and more recent experiments in torture, up to and including Abu Ghraib.

Moreno has plowed some of this material before. In 2001, he published Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans, a worthy companion to the current book. He has more than an academic acquaintance with these issues, as during the 1990s he was a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.

There is much to talk about and chew over on these very important issues. I welcome Jonathan Moreno to FDL Book Salon.

New Revelations Suggest DoD Cover-Up Over Detainee Drugging Charges

Two new revelations, and a critical analysis of the recent Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) report on the drugging of DoD-held detainees, reveals a cover-up of such drugging by the Pentagon and possibly other government agencies.

A recent attorney's affidavit charges that at least one Guantanamo detainee was involuntarily drugged before his plea hearing at the military commissions. In addition, a declassified Guantanamo medical standard operating procedure (SOP) describes how scopolamine was administered to all detainees rendered to the US Cuban-based prison. Scopolamine has a long history as a supposed "truth drug."

The IG report held that it could not find evidence that detainees were administered "mind-altering drugs to facilitate interrogation of detainees." However, as reported in a July 2012 article at Truthout, which obtained the report by the Freedom of Information Act, the IG held that some detainees had been drugged with powerful antipsychotics and other medications that "could impair an individual's ability to provide accurate information."

Some of these detainees were interrogated even though they were "diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions, and being treated with psychoactive medications on an ongoing basis," the IG said.

The IG also concluded that some detainees had been involuntarily administered drugs as "chemical restraints ... used to control behavior or restrict the patient's freedom of movement." In addition, at least one prisoner, supposed "dirty bomber" José Padilla, held in isolation at a Navy brig in South Carolina, was tricked into believing he had been given a "truth drug."

But while the IG report was spurred by a June 2008 Washington Post article reporting a number of former detainees' complaints of drugging and a subsequent letter to the IG from three US senators, the IG report never interviewed any of the detainees mentioned in the Post story.

The IG interviewed only three detainees, all of whom were still held at Guantanamo. "We did not attempt to interview detainees who had been repatriated," the IG stated, which would include any of the detainees who had previously made public statements to the press that they had been forcibly drugged.

Drugs Placed in Detainees' Food

One of the detainees making such accusations was former Australian detainee David Hicks. Hicks detailed those charges in a book published last year, "Guantanamo: My Journey." The book is not for sale in the United States and the Australian government went to court to seize any profits Hicks could make from book sales in Australia.

In July 2012, the Australian government dropped its case against Hicks. Possibly this was because of revelations that could have come out in court over Hicks' torture in US custody.

One such document that had been prepared for by Hicks' defense team has been released. According to an affidavit by New York attorney Josh Dratel, who represented Hicks with military commission authorities, DoD "periodically sedated [Hicks] for non-therapeutic reasons."

A military prosecutor in Hicks' case confirmed one example of such drugging to Dratel in July 2007.

"David says the guards forced him to eat a meal which contained a sedative before you read him the charges," Dratel said he told the government prosecutor. To which the latter replied, "That was done to protect the officers reading the charges from any of the detainees' reactions."

Dratel's affidavit was first reported by Natalie O'Brien at the Sydney Morning Herald. Truthout has obtained a copy of Dratel's affidavit, which can be downloaded.

Human rights attorney and contributing editor to Harper's Magazine Scott Horton told Truthout, "The administration of drugs for non-medical purposes on prisoners held in wartime raises very serious issues under the Geneva Conventions - which establish a presumption that such use of drugs is generally unlawful and may rise to the level of a grave breach, or war crime - as well as other international agreements."

"The disclosure surrounding Hicks appears at first blush to be a criminal violation by US authorities," Horton said, "but it would be important to ascertain the reasons the US had for doing this before making any final judgment."

An Australian senator from South Australia has said that the new revelations backing Hicks' claims of forced drugging mean the government "can no longer put off" a formal inquiry into Australia's role in Hicks' incarceration and treatment by US authorities.

Scopolamine Patches for Rendition

While it has been assumed that some sort of medication was given to detainees who were subjected to the Bush-era program of extraordinary rendition, an October 2003 nursing SOP declassified a few years ago documented the use of scopolamine patches on all detainees rendered to Guantanamo.

The SOP describes the sequential steps of medical in-processing on all detainees. Only at step ten are nurses instructed to "remove the scopolamine behind each ear (used to prevent airsickness during transit)."

The stated rationale for the use of scopolamine - that is, for airsickness - is not repeated for other medical instructions in the SOP, including the administration of two other drugs during in-processing, mefloquine and Albendazole, raising questions as to why nurses had to be informed of the use of the scopolamine patches.

A separate SOP for "Out-processing Procedures" for detainees being flown out of Guantanamo Bay prison camp (revised July 2005) states, "A scopolamine patch will be placed on each detainee 4 hours before the flight" out of Cuba. There is no indication that any medical reasons might contravene this procedure.

The IG report on drugging of detainees never mentioned the use of scopolamine.

While DoD has studied scopolamine patches for motion sickness in military personnel, they are not the first-line medication used by DoD for this purpose. As far back as 1956, a military study complained that scopolamine: "gave the most distressing side effects of all the prophylactics used. For continued use, meclizine was the most satisfactory."

US Army psychiatrist, Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis (retired) confirmed military policy as regards medications for motion sickness.

“Military doctors recommended meclizine for motion sickness during my career & not scopolamine because of the side effects,” Xenakis told Truthout. “I have seen psychotic reactions to the drug," he said.
At times, the military has noted the effectiveness of scopolamine for some people in treating motion sickness. One NATO study described scopolamine's "high variability between subjects in both effectiveness and incidence of side effects." The side effects included lowered heart rate, blurred vision, impaired attention and alertness, and memory problems.

According to US Coast Guard instructions on "Antimotion Sickness Medications," the scopolamine patch is contraindicated in patients due to variability of effectiveness and associated medical precautions for some users. Scopolamine patches "should be used only after other methods of motion sickness control have proven unsatisfactory," the Coast Guard directive states.

The Coast Guard instruction, still in effect today, further states, "Uncommon but potentially severe side-effects [of scopolamine] include disorientation, hallucinations, and urinary retention."

Scopolamine has a very long history of consideration as a potential truth drug, going back over 80 years. Readers of 1960s military thrillers may remember discussion of the drug for interrogations in old Alistair MacLean novels.

According to a CIA account, the drug was ultimately rejected for use as a "truth drug." The reasons given for such rejection are interesting given the later use of the drug on "war on terror" detainees.

"Because of a number of undesirable side effects, scopolamine was shortly disqualified as a 'truth' drug," the 1961 CIA document states. "Among the most disabling of the side effects are hallucinations, disturbed perception, somnolence, and physiological phenomena such as headache, rapid heart, and blurred vision, which distract the subject from the central purpose of the interview. Furthermore, the physical action is long, far outlasting the psychological effects."

According to government documents, scopolamine was one of a number of drugs, including mescaline and LSD, which were investigated as part of a US Navy research program called Project Chatter. Chatter ran from 1947 until 1953 and "focused on the identification and testing of such drugs for use in interrogations and in the recruitment of agents."

Mefloquine as "Pharmacological Waterboarding"

The nursing SOP that mentioned scopolamine was first noted by Army public health physician Remington Nevin in an August 2012 article in a peer-reviewed medical journal examining DoD's purported medical rationale for another use of another drug, mefloquine.

The "empiric" use of mefloquine - an antimalarial drug that has long been controversial for its serious neurological and psychological side effects - on all incoming detainees at Guantanamo was the subject of a series of Truthout articles by Jason Leopold and this author.

Mefloquine has been connected to a number of serious side effects, including damage to the vestibular system, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, bizarre dreams, nausea, vomiting, sores, and homicidal and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The drug was previously sold under the brand name Lariam.

Nevin told Truthout in December 2010 that the high dosage of mefloquine Guantanamo detainees were forced to take upon arriving at the prison facility was akin to "pharmacologic waterboarding."

In Nevin's article for the August 2012 edition of Tropical Medicine and International Health, he wrote, "the troubling possibility that the use of mefloquine at Guantánamo may have been motivated in part by knowledge of the drug's adverse effects ... points to a critical need for further investigation to resolve unanswered questions regarding the drug's potentially inappropriate use."

As in the case of scopolamine, the IG report never mentioned the use of mefloquine.

Limiting the Investigation

One reason scopolamine, mefloquine or even the drugs put in David Hicks' food were never mentioned by the DoD inspector general was that the investigation was carefully limited to the purported use of "mind-altering drugs to facilitate interrogations."

The IG report states that its report was a response to "a tasking to the Inspector Generals of DoD and the Central Intelligence Agency from Senators Biden, Hagel and Levin." DoD's IG does not reproduce the April 24, 2008, letter from the senators, though an online version of the letter still extant at TPM Muckraker clearly describes the tasking precisely.

"We are deeply concerned about the allegations reported in the April 23rd Washington Post article entitled Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned regarding the alleged use of drugs on detainees to facilitate interrogations," the senators wrote. "They are the most recent in a series of allegations relating to the abuse and mistreatment of detainees in United States custody."

Pointing out as well that John Yoo, working for the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), had apparently approved of the legality of "the forced administration of mind-altering drugs to facilitate interrogation," Sens. Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel and Carl Levin wrote, "The allegations reported in the Washington Post article warrant a thorough investigation by the Inspectors General of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency."

The letter twice mentions the use of drugs "to facilitate interrogations," but the 2008 Washington Post article, written by Joby Warrick, did not limit itself to the use of drugs during interrogations. Warrick explained, "Other detainees, in interviews or in statements provided by their attorneys, described pills and injections being forcibly administered for reasons that were not always clear to them."

But an analysis of government documents shows that the dichotomy between using drugs to facilitate interrogations and using drugs to shape the detention environment are not counterpoised.

In a "Background Paper on the CIA's Combined Use of Interrogation Techniques," sent to the OLC in December 2004, the CIA explained that detention conditions "may be a factor in interrogation."

The CIA document noted, "Detention conditions are not interrogation techniques, but they have an impact on the detainee undergoing interrogation."

The DoD's own 2003 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures describe the detention environment to which incoming prisoners are to be exposed. New prisoners are to adhere to a "Behavioral Management Plan" for at least the first six weeks, whose purpose is to "enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process. It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator."

While the 2003 SOP never mentions the use of drugs to "enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization" of detainees, certainly the use of drugs such as scopolamine and mefloquine, among others, could help accomplish this purpose, and do so without technically being used to "facilitate interrogation." This would be one purpose, for instance, of Yoo's argument for the use of mind-altering drugs.

The DoD IG never mentions Yoo or his recommendation in their report. Nor do they mention that the current Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation allows for the use of drugs for interrogation-related purposes.

The AFM, revised in 2006, states that the only drugs forbidden for use are those "that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage." The earlier version of the AFM had prohibited drugs that caused "chemically induced psychosis," but this language was dropped in the new manual.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told Truthout that no further changes have been made to the AFM since its last rewrite in 2006, meaning the changes in drugging prohibitions still stands.

CIA and Drugging of Detainees

The DoD IG report was clear it was not addressing charges of CIA drugging, which was to be investigated by the CIA Inspector General. Truthout has filed a FOIA request for the CIA IG report.

Claims of the CIA's use of drugs on detainees rendered to its secret black site prison and "enhanced interrogation" torture program have been the subject of foreign investigations, even as in the United States, the DOJ has closed the book, it claims, on prosecuting CIA crimes.

But the truth about what was done under the CIA's program has leaked out over the years. In terms of its use of drugs, at Harper's Horton reported in November 2010 that German prosecutors told him that torture victim Khaled El-Masri, himself a German citizen who was kidnapped and rendered to a CIA prison in Afghanistan, had been given drugs by CIA jailers.

"By studying El-Masri's hair and skin samples," Horton wrote, German prosecutors "were able to confirm allegations that he was drugged and subjected to a bizarre starvation regimen."

The investigation into the illegal CIA kidnapping was shut down after a deputy US ambassador intervened with German Foreign and Justice ministry officials to register Washington's disapproval of any prosecution of its CIA torturers, according to cables released by WikiLeaks.

"I expect this would have figured in the prosecution that the German prosecutors were preparing before the United States shut down the case through threats and political manipulation," Horton told Truthout.

Historically, the CIA had approved the use of drugs in interrogations and to influence detention conditions that bear upon interrogation. In a declassified interrogation manual from the early 1960s, the CIA explained that the function of using drugs, "is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation."

"Once this shift has been accomplished," the manual reads, "coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive" for interrogation purposes.

Special Operations Command and the IG Report

In an interesting aside to the IG report, a letter to the DoD Inspector General from Col. William Melendez, deputy director for intelligence, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) noted that USSOCOM "cannot agree or disagree with the report findings" because its forces involved in any interrogations in Iraq and Guantanamo were under authority of Central or Southern military commands (CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM, respectively). The letter was included in an appendix to the IG report itself.

According to Colonel Melendez, SOCOM "did not contribute to the completion" of the IG report, raising questions as to what degree Special Operations forces' interrogation practices were investigated by DoD's inspector general.

Speaking of the recent reports concerning the drugging of detainees, Horton told Truthout: "The new evidence points to the use of drugs for nonmedical purposes as a far broader practice, which is troubling. It is hard to imagine this practice being undertaken without high-level authorization, particularly because it is at least arguably illegal, and the medical personnel involved would not likely have risked their professional licenses without getting some formal assurances that they would be protected."

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted without permission. Original URL:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Changes in Army Field Manual on Drugging Detainees Date to Bush Sr. Administration

This is one of those "for the record" posts I make from time to time, pending a larger article. Such posts are necessary as providing potentially important information that researchers or human rights activists may need for their work.

In the past I have written more than once on the changes made to language on drugs in the 2006 version of the Army Field Manual on interrogation (FM 2-22.3, "Human Collector Intelligence Operations"), most notably in this June 30, 2009 article at Firedoglake. In that article I noted how John Yoo had approved the use of drugs by CIA interrogators, so long as they did not "rise to the level of 'disrupt[ing] profoundly the senses or personality.'" Such a "profound disruption," Yoo wrote, "must penetrate to the core of an individual’s ability to perceive the world around him, substantially interfering with his cognitive abilities, or fundamentally alter his personality."

As an example of such disruption, Yoo pointed to DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses, including "drug-induced dementia," "brief psychotic disorder," obsessive-compulsive disorder, or induced suicidal or self-mutilating behavior. Even more, Yoo said that the use of "truth drugs," "where no physical harm or mental suffering was apparent," was rejected by the State parties to the UN Convention Against Torture as "not viewed as amounting to torture per se."

Yet a few years later, when the authors of the AFM rewrite (working for Stephen Cambone, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld's putative right-hand man) got to the sectio on drugs, even "profound disruption" wasn't too awful for them. They prohibited drugs to be used by Army interrogators to only "drugs that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage." Earlier language banning drugs that could produce "chemically induced psychosis" was dropped.

In my June 2009 article I wrote:
The main text of the AFM [2-22.3] also changed the wording from the previous Army Field Manual [FM 34-52] as regards the use of drugs on prisoners, and did so in a way that allowed greater latitude for drugs that cause disruption of the senses and temporary psychosis.
While this was true, I had not realized that FM 34-52 itself represented a change from earlier Army interrogation doctrine regarding the use of drugs for interrogations. According to authoritative military sources, the change in drugging policy in FM 34-52 represented a definitive break with previous post-Nuremberg military policy, as the documented below.

Nor did I realize that Yoo's point about "truth drugs" and the CAT were in actuality a feint.

FM 34-52 was dated September 28, 1992, so we can date the changes in DoD doctrine regarding use of drugs in interrogation at least back to the close of the Bush, Sr. administration. As we begin to look with a more critical eye at US government denials of drugging of "war on terror" prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere (see the stories about the Dod Inspector General Report on use of "mind-altering drugs to facilitate interrogation" and the lastest revelations about the drugging of former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks), it will be important to understand the historical record.

I discovered this not insignificant change on policy about drugging prisoners in a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report for Congress, "Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques under the Geneva Conventions." The report is dated September 8, 2004. The author is listed as Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division. The relevant part of the reported is excerpted below.
Under the interpretation set forth in [Army Field Manual for Interrogation] FM 34-52, “physical or mental torture and coercion revolve around the elimination of the source’s free will.”46 These activities, along with “brainwashing,” are not authorized, it explains, but are not to be confused with the psychological techniques and ruses presented in the manual. FM 34-52 includes in the definition of mental coercion “drugs that may induce lasting and permanent mental alteration and damage.” This appears to reflect a change from earlier doctrine, which prohibited the use of any drugs on prisoners unless required for medical purposes. 47 
46 FM 34-52 at 1-8
47 See Stanley J. Glod and Lawrence J. Smith, Interrogation under the 1949 Prisoners of War Convention, 21 MIL. L. REV. 145, 153-54 (1963)(citing JAGW 1961 / 1157, 21 June 21, 1961).
In an opinion by The Judge Advocate General of the Army reviewing the employment of [“truth serum”] in the light of Article 17, it was noted that Article 17 justly and logically must be extended to protect the prisoner against any inquisitorial practice by his captors which would rob him of his free will. On this basis it was held that the use of truth serum was outlawed by Article 17. In addition, its use contravenes Article 18, which states in part : “. . . no prisoner of war may be subject to . . . . medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental, or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.” The opinion declared that “. . . the suggested use of a chemical “truth serum” during the questioning of prisoners of war would be in violation of the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.” From this opinion it seems clear that any attempt to extract information from an unwilling prisoner of war by the use of chemicals, drugs, physiological or psychological devices, which impair or deprive the prisoner of his free will without being in his interest, such as a bonafide medical treatment, will be deemed a violation of Articles 13 and 17 of the Convention.
The 1987 version of FM 34-52 suggested that the use of any drugs for interrogation purposes amounted to mental coercion. FM 34-52 ch. 1 (1987).

Ethics Process Fails at APA, Psychologists Demand Review

Two psychologists with the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology have written an open letter to current American Psychological Association (APA) President Suzanne Bennett Johnson. The letter excoriates the APA Ethics Office for refusing to censure blatant cases of psychologist involvement in torture or other related crimes.

Doctors Steven Reisner and Trudy Bond review three cases that were brought to APA on charges of ethics violations -- Michael Gelles, John Leso, and Larry James. The letter is reprinted below, reproduced from its online posting here.

I was pleased to see that some of my own investigations into psychologist involvement in torture were referenced by Reisner and Bond, in particular my work on the Daniel King-Michael Gelles case.

APA Confirms It Exonerated Gelles

On August 8, 2010 I received an email from APA Communications Director Rhea Farberman. I had written to her after I'd seen a copy of an unpublished letter she had written to USA Today. According to Farberman, she had written to the paper because they were going to publish an op-ed by attorney Jonathan Turley on Gelles and the Daniel King case. She "wanted to let the USA Today editorial page staff know that at least one of Mr. Turley’s assertions was incorrect." The op-ed was subsequently cancelled.

While Reisner and Bond state in their Open Letter (italics in original): "The Ethics Committee apparently found that Dr. Gelles’ behavior did not violate APA ethics," Farberman confirmed she had written the letter to USA Today, and told me in the August 8 email (bold emphasis in original): "APA did investigate the allegations against Dr. Gelles and found no violations of the APA ethics code."

In the unpublished letter by Farberman to USA Today, written after the 2009 summer APA convention, where former King attorney Jonathan Turley had spoken about the King case and Gelles, the APA Communications Director wrote:
• Mr. Turley asserts that APA ignored his complaint. That is totally untrue. In April of 2001 a complaint was filed against an APA member, Dr. Michael Gelles. As a result of this complaint, filed by Mr. Turley, an ethics investigation was initiated and a formal ethics case was opened.

• Material relevant to the investigation was provided to APA by Mr. Turley who as the complainant’s representative received correspondence from the Ethics Office regarding this case.

• The complainant was provided multiple opportunities to submit information. Materials submitted by Mr. Turley included a videotape which was part of the record and thoroughly reviewed. According to APA’s procedures, the record also included Dr. Gelles’ responses to the charges against him.

• The full APA Ethics Committee reviewed the case and, on the basis of all the facts in the record, including materials provided by Mr. Turley and Dr. Gelles’ responses, determined that there had been no violation of the APA Ethics Code. On September 26, 2002, the APA Ethics Office informed the complainant through Mr. Turley of the final outcome of this matter.
I tried on multiple occasions to get comment from Turley, but he never responded to requests. Nevertheless, another of King's attorney's did speak to me, and revealed that not long after the Gelles interview, Daniel King made a suicide attempt or gesture. I wrote up this interview with former JAG Robert A. Bailey in a follow-up article to my first King-Gelles story, Broken Faith: How a Navy Psychologist Drove A U.S. Prisoner to Attempt Suicide.

I followed up the Aug. 8 email and asked Farberman if APA could "verify if the ethics investigation also contacted Daniel King's military JAG attorneys, Lieutenant Robert Bailey or Lieutenant Matthew Freedus, or reviewed their testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee as part of the ethics investigation?" I also asked if APA would share the video of the King interrogation, if they had a copy.

Farberman refused to make further comment. "We will not be releasing any further materials related to the investigation and review of Mr. Turley’s allegations against Dr. Gelles beyond what I have already told you," she said in her email response.

Actually, what Farberman confirms is far worse than what Turley originally claimed. He said that APA ignored the ethics charge. Farberman insists the charges were investigated but APA found Gelles did nothing wrong. What that means is that from APA's standpoint, misrepresentation of roles, lying, and participation in an abusive interrogation, using sleep deprivation on a prisoner, is totally fine with APA, and such behavior doesn't even merit the most minor of rebukes. (For more details on the King case, see the link above.)

I'd add that I also wrote on the role Col. Larry James played in supervising the rendition of child prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo. See Guantanamo Psychologist Led Rendition and Imprisonment of Afghan Boys, Complaint Charges. As one example of James' crime we have the testimony of Mohammed Ismail Agha, age 13, who told the Washington Post, he was "put on a plane with other prisoners, chained by the wrists and ankles, with a hood placed over his head." None of the parents of these children were informed what had happened to their sons.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to psychologists Steven Reisner and Trudy Bond, and other psychologists and medical professionals who have tried to stand up and get their professional associations, and the members of same, to be accountable. It is surely a dark, dark stain on the history of the helping professions to see them twisted into their exact opposites, agencies of cruelty and despair.

What follows is the text of the Open Letter. All italics were in the original.
Open Letter to
President Suzanne Bennett Johnson
American Psychological Association

A.P.A. has taken a very strong stance against the use of torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and if anyone is able to identify A.P.A. members who have been involved in such activities, we will take disciplinary action.
-- Gerald Koocher, former APA President, speaking on Democracy Now! (June 16, 2006)

September 18, 2012

Dear Dr. Johnson:

We are two psychologists committed to making certain that psychologists implicated in torture and prisoner abuse are held accountable by oversight bodies for their egregious ethical violations. We believe the public trust and the reputation of our profession depend upon such accountability.

We are writing at this time regarding ethics complaints filed with the APA Ethics Office against three psychologists who remain APA members in good standing: Dr. Michael Gelles, Dr. Larry James and Dr. John Francis Leso. Based on undisputed facts, these cases cry out for investigation and appropriate censure. We would like to briefly review some of the evidence for these complaints and express our concern with regard to the status of each complaint.

Attorney Jonathan Turley filed a complaint with the APA Ethics Office in 2001 against Dr. Michael Gelles for alleged complicity in the harsh treatment of US Naval Officer Daniel King, who had been accused of espionage.[i] [ii] King was held for 520 days without charge by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and interrogated for 29 days in 15-20 hour sessions. During this period, Navy investigators gave King multiple polygraph tests and lied to him about the results. By the end of the month, King had signed a confession despite having no recollection of the actions to which he admitted. Prior to his military hearing, King had become suicidal and felt he was losing his grip on reality, since he could not remember the event. He requested a consultation with a psychologist to help him remember, via hypnosis or truth serum, and King was sent to Dr. Gelles for a psychological consultation.[iii] [iv] [v] According to testimony of King’s defense attorney before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Gelles virtually ignored the statement of King that he had suicidal thoughts…two days before the interview.”[vi] He focused instead on pressuring King to give the agents “corroborating” evidence, offering to hypnotize King if he did so. These allegations are supported by the videotape of Dr. Gelles’ session with King (made by NCIS without consent) which was provided by Turley to the Ethics Committee. (Ultimately, all charges against King were dismissed when a military judge concluded there was insufficient evidence even to sustain a determination of probable cause.[vii])

The Ethics Committee apparently found that Dr. Gelles’ behavior did not violate APA ethics; in fact, subsequent to this case, Dr. Gelles was chosen by the Director of the Ethics Office to sit on the PENS Task Force and help develop ethical guidelines for national security interrogations.

On December 5, 2007, Dr. Trudy Bond filed a complaint with the APA Ethics Office against Dr. Larry James for his alleged involvement in the harsh treatment of detainees. Among numerous ethical violations, Dr. James oversaw the transport of three child prisoners – one 12 years old and two 13 years old[viii] – from Bagram, Afghanistan to Guantánamo, where Dr. James was the Chief Behavioral Science Consultation Team member (“BSCT #1”).[ix] [x] According to the New York Times, during transport the boys were “put on a plane with other prisoners, chained by the wrists and ankles, with a hood” placed over their heads. At Guantánamo, Dr. James oversaw the daily interrogations of these boys. For ten months the boys’ families were not told what had happened to their children, who had been “disappeared” by American authorities. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has held that such “disappearance” is torture – not only for the subject, but also for the family of the child taken without public acknowledgement. In addition, there is no dispute that such treatment of children is a violation of international law.

The ethics complaint against Col. James was dismissed by the APA Ethics Office without investigation.

In 2006, Dr. Alice Shaw filed a complaint against Dr. John Leso with the APA Ethics Office, which was never officially acknowledged. On April 15, 2007, Dr. Trudy Bond filed a similar complaint against Dr. Leso, which also was not acknowledged. Dr. Bond refiled the complaint on September 4, 2007. That complaint was formally acknowledged by APA on February 27, 2008. Declassified U.S. government documents indicate that while serving at the U.S. Station at Guantánamo Bay Dr. Leso, in his position as BSCT #1 (he preceded Dr. James in this position), co-authored a document recommending that a series of escalating physically and psychologically abusive interrogation tactics be used on detainees there. Many of these techniques were applied to Guantánamo detainee “063,” Mohammed al-Qahtani, under Dr. Leso’s direct supervision.[xi] [xii] Susan Crawford, the Convening Authority for the Guantánamo Military Commissions appointed by George W. Bush, dismissed the case against al-Qahtani precisely because “his treatment met the legal definition of torture.” Many of the techniques and conditions that appeared in Dr. Leso’s written interrogation document were subsequently applied to other men and boys held at Guantánamo and eventually to detainees held in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, more than five years after filing, the ethics complaint against Dr. Leso still remains unadjudicated by the APA Ethics Office (apparently the longest unadjudicated case in APA history).

The results of the case against Dr. Leso in New York clearly establish why the APA must take the lead in such cases. Unlike the NYOPD, the APA’s standards for psychologists do not permit the sidestepping of ethical issues through legal gymnastics. As the APA Ethics Code states:
This Ethics Code applies only to psychologists' activities that are part of their scientific, educational, or professional roles as psychologists. Areas covered include but are not limited to the clinical, counseling, and school practice of psychology; research; teaching; supervision of trainees; public service; policy development; social intervention; development of assessment instruments; conducting assessments; educational counseling; organizational consulting; forensic activities; program design and evaluation; and administration.
Most states follow the lead of the APA Ethics Office in determining ethical standards and in adjudicating cases.

Because of the Ethics Committee’s delay in adjudicating the Leso case, Dr. Steven Reisner initiated an ethics complaint against Dr. Leso with the New York Office of Professional Discipline (NYOPD), which grants his license to practice.[xiii] The NYOPD and the New York Attorney General acknowledged the fact that, “Dr. Leso, apparently, was asked to use his skills as a weapon; not to help the mental health of the detainees.” But the NYOPD used these very facts to determine that – since the aim of Dr. Leso’s activity at Guantánamo was explicitly to cause harm, and since there was no “therapist-patient relationship between Dr. Leso and any of the Guantánamo detainees” – Dr. Leso’s professional behavior could not be considered the “practice of psychology” under the New York Education Law and therefore the ethics code did not apply. The case was dismissed without investigation.

Dr. Reisner pursued the case against Leso in New York State Supreme Court. The Court refused to overrule NYOPD, not on the merits of the case, but based on a technicality: that harm to the profession at large notwithstanding, Dr. Reisner could not show that he had been personally harmed by Dr. Leso’s activities. But harm to the profession of psychology is precisely a central issue for the American Psychological Association. The ability of our association to establish and uphold ethical principles is the very basis upon which we garner and maintain public trust. And that trust has been sorely challenged by the failure of the APA Ethics Office to determine when a psychologist’s behavior in national security interrogations has violated our basic, time-honored ethical principles.

In light of the circumstances we have described here, we are requesting that you, as President of the APA:
1. Open a full review of the practices of the APA Ethics Office with regard to the investigation and adjudication of cases alleging torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in general, and the cases of Drs. Leso, James, and Gelles in particular.

2. Ensure that the case against Dr. Leso now receives a prompt adjudication, five years after it was filed.

3. Move to rescind the current statute of limitations on cases of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment so that there can be accountability for psychologists who participate in classified abuses whenever the evidence of such abuses becomes available.

Trudy Bond
Steven Reisner


[i] Kaye, J. (2009, July 24). Former Top Navy Psychologist Involved in Pre-9/11 Prisoner Abuse Case. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from Invictus:
[ii] Turley, J. (2007, August 20). Testimony in Senate Intelligence Committee on Abuses By Naval Intelligence and the Daniel King Case Published 1, Aug. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from
[iii] (Turley, 2007)
[iv] (Kaye, 2009)
[v] Soldz, S. (2009, December 7). The "Ethical Interrogation": The Myth of Michael Gelles and the al-Qahtani Interrogation. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from The PsySR Blog:
[vi] (Turley, 2007)
[vii] (Kaye, 2009)
[viii] James, L. (2008). Fixing Hell. Grand Central Pub. p. 43.
[ix] International Human Rights Clinic. Public Accountability for U.S. Doctors and Psychologists Involved in Torture. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from Human Rights Program Harvard Law School:
[x] Center for Constitutional Rights. Evidence: Larry James. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from When Healers Harm:
[xi] Center For Constitutional Rights. John Leso. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from When Healers Harm:
[xii] UC Berkeley School of Law. Do No Harm? Intelligence Ethics, Health Professionals and the Torture Debate. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from BerkeleyLaw - University of California:
[xiii] The Center for Justice & Accountability. Reisner v. Leso: Accountability for One of the Psychologists Behind the Guantánamo Abuses . Retrieved September 7, 2012, from The Center for Justice & Accountability:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Report on US Torture and Rendition to Libya Details New Waterboarding Claims

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a major new report detailing how the Bush Administration and other allied governments tortured and imprisoned opponents of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The prisoners were then rendered to Gaddafi’s own prisons where many of them were tortured.

According to a HRW press release, the 154-page report, “Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya,” is based on documents discovered by Human Rights Watch on September 3, 2011 in the offices of Libya’s former intelligence chief, Musa Kusa, after Tripoli fell to rebel forces last year.

The report also references 14 interviews with victims of both U.S. rendition and U.S. and Libyan torture. In addition, HRW provides new information on the mysterious last days of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who reportedly committed suicide in a Libyan prison in 2009, two weeks after HRW representatives briefly spoke with him.

According to HRW, other governments involved in torture and/or unlawful renditions to Libya included “Afghanistan, Chad, China and Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Sudan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.”

Perhaps the most explosive new information in the report concerns charges by one of the prisoners that he was waterboarded. US authorities have long maintained that only three CIA-held prisoners were ever waterboarded, and the Department of Defense maintains it never waterboarded prisoners in DoD custody.

According to the report, Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, who was former Deputy Head of the Military Council for the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), told HRW representatives earlier this year that he after he was captured by the Pakistanis in April 2003, he was imprisoned by the Americans in Afghanistan.

Shoroeiya told HRW that U.S. forces tortured him. He was “chained to walls naked—sometimes while diapered—in pitch black, windowless cells, for weeks or months at a time; being restrained in painful stress positions for long periods of time, being forced into cramped spaces; being beaten and slammed into walls; being kept inside for nearly five months without the ability to bathe; being denied food; being denied sleep by continuous, deafeningly loud Western music; and being subjected to different forms of water torture including… waterboarding.”

Shoroeiya said the interrogators wore “’special forces’ black uniforms with black caps on but no masks.” He also drew numerous pictures of the torture apparatuses used on him, including the board he was strapped to for waterboarding. Many of these pictures are reproduced in the HRW report.

Khalid al-Sharif, who was another LIFG leader captured at the same time as Shoroeiya, told HRW that he also was subjected to water torture while in U.S. custody. Today, Sharif is head of the Libyan National Guard.

“Sometimes they put a hood over my head and they lay me down and they start to put water in my mouth….They poured the water over my mouth and nose so I had the feeling that I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe…. I tried to turn my head left and right as much as I could to take in some gulps of breath. I felt as if I was suffocating,” Sharif told HRW in a telephone interview last May.

U.S. interrogators reportedly repeatedly threatened both Sharif and Shoroeiya with return to Libya. Despite pleas not to be returned, and despite the fact U.S. State Department reports on Libya described the widespread use of torture in Libyan prisons, both the men were unlawfully rendered to Libya.

The UN Convention Against Torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory, states, “No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Sharif has said the Libyans placed him in “extreme isolation.” Shoroeiya said initially the Libyans told him he would not be maltreated because they had made assurances to U.S. authorities as to his safety as part of his transfer. Nevertheless, after six months, the Libyans began to torture Shoroeiya, including both “long periods of solitary confinement” and beatings by guards, who used “sticks, steel pipes, and electrical cables that were used as a whip” to bloody the prisoner.

U.S. Water Torture of Teen

The new revelations concerning waterboarding and waterboarding-like torture of detainees comes a year after a two-part series at Truthout in August 2011 which revealed that, despite denials by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other DoD authorities, waterboarding-like torture was used in DoD facilities, including Guantanamo.

While the HRW report is certain to get wide U.S. coverage, the recent release of documents related to the incarceration of Omar Khadr, a long-term Guantanamo detainee who was brought to that prison as a 15-year-old teenager, has so far not gained much attention.

In one of the documents published August 31 by Macleans Canada, US Army psychiatrist, Brigadier General (retired) Stephen Xenakis, wrote to Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews last Feburary, describing his psychiatric evaluation of Khadr, based on hundreds of hours of meetings with the former child prisoner.

Xenakis’s report and that of other doctors and psychologists involved in examining Khadr were requested by the Canadian government as part of their deliberations in the contentious possible transfer of Khadr from Guantanamo to Canada. Such a transfer was reportedly part of a plea deal Khadr and his attorneys made last year when he pleaded guilty to purported war crimes at his military commission trial in October 2010. Khadr is a Canadian citizen.

According to Xenakis’s letter, after Khadr, who was “severely wounded” in a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, was brought to Bagram medical facility, he was “forcibly handled while still in his hospital stretcher.”

Xenakis continued, “He was mocked [by U.S. personnel] and remembers having water poured on his face while hooded so that he felt unable to breathe.”

Another story similar to that of Sharif and Khadr was described by this reporter in an article at Truthout last year. Saudi national Ahmed al-Darbi was rendered from Azerbaijan to Afghanistan in 2002. In a 2009 declaration, al-Darbi described torture by U.S. DoD interrogators, who placed "a sand bag or hood… over my head and tightened around my neck, and then they would grab my head and shake it violently while swearing at me and they would also pour water over my head while my head was covered."

“The Case of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi”

One section of the HRW report adds new details to what is known about the fate of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. Captured by Pakistani forces in late 2001, Al-Libi was turned over to the U.S. who rendered him to Egypt. There he was tortured until he “revealed” that Al Qaeda operatives were given training in use of biological and chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The torture infamously included being confined in a coffin.

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to this al-Libi’s “revelations” in making his case against Saddam Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons capacities at the UN in a speech on February 5, 2003. The U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003.

But Al-Libi recanted his confession months later. Even earlier, U.S. intelligence agencies were doubtful concerning the original revelations, in part because they were obtained by torture. But Al-Libi himself had disappeared into the maw of the U.S. rendition system.

According to the HRW report, Al-Libi was transferred to a number of prisons. After Egypt, it appears likely he was transferred to CIA custody at Bagram “where it seems he recanted the information he had provided earlier on links between Iraq and al Qaeda. On February 4 and 5, 2004, CIA officers sent cables to headquarters acknowledging that al-Libi’s account from 2002 was not reliable,” the HRW report said.

Speaking to Al-Libi family members and other prisoners, HRW determined that this high-value detainee was shuffled from Bagram to “a prison in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul from June 2003 to October 2003, then Kabul again, Morocco for about a year, Guantanamo for three to five months, Alaska, a US air base in Sweden, and finally to Libya.” Some contacts could not corroborate the Sweden or Guantanamo incarcerations, and others thought Al-Libi may have been held for a time on a prison ship, in Syria, or in Poland (or possibly another European country).

Al-Libi appears to have certainly been in Libya by December 2007, held first in Tajoura prison and later transferred to Abu Salim, where he reportedly committed suicide on May 9, 2009. HRW reports, “Libyan authorities claim he committed suicide by hanging himself with a sheet, tied into a loop and hooked onto the corner of the edge of the wall in the middle of his cell. “

But pictures taken the morning of Al-Libi’s death reportedly show he has a large bruise on his left arm, “a small bruise on the top of his back near his shoulder blades,” and “two long light scratches that go at an angle across his back from the middle of his shoulder blades to the middle of his lower back.” An autopsy supposedly was provided to a Libyan prosecutor.

Al-Libi’s brother and uncle have asked the new Libyan government for a full investigation.

Human Rights Watch reports that their representatives “saw al-Libi for a few minutes and tried to interview him. He appeared agitated and angry but he sat down with researchers and listened to a short introduction about Human Rights Watch. However, before he could be interviewed, al-Libi got up and said before walking away, ‘Where were you when I was being tortured in American jails?’”

Two weeks later, al-Libi was dead.

Call for New Investigations

The release of the HRW report comes only days after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the investigation by special prosecutor John Durham into the deaths of two detainees held in U.S. custody was being shut down with no charges being filed.

Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, is quoted in a press release, “The closure of the Durham investigation, without any charges, sends a message that abuse like that suffered by the Libyan detainees will continue to be tolerated.”

“The involvement of many countries in the abuse of Gaddafi’s enemies suggests that the tentacles of the US detention and interrogation program reached far beyond what was previously known,” Pitter said. “The US and other governments that assisted in detainee abuse should offer a full accounting of their role.”

HRW has called for the U.S. government to honor its commitment under the UN Convention Against Torture treaty and investigate allegations of torture, while taking steps to allow compensation for torture victims.

More specifically, HRW calls for President Obama to “[d]irect the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation into US government detention practices and interrogation methods since September 11, 2001, including the CIA detention program.”

They also call for Congress to create “an independent, nonpartisan commission to investigate the mistreatment of detainees in US custody anywhere in the world since September 11, 2001, including torture, enforced disappearance, and rendition to torture.” The commission should have “full subpoena power” to “compel the production of evidence, and be empowered to recommend the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal offenses, if the attorney general has not commenced such an investigation.”

Cross-posted from The Dissenter/Firedoglake

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