Sunday, December 29, 2013

CIA Cannot Confirm or Deny Having Files on Infamous Nazi Doctor

Some things never fail to surprise. And surprise was my reaction to my recent FOIA request at the MuckRock website on a notorious Nazi doctor who had been tried at Nuremberg. The CIA returned a "Glomar" response to my FOIA on Doctor Kurt Blome.

The CIA wrote, "In accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request."

Towards the end of the article, and quoted in full, is my appeal of this decision to the CIA. It is published here as a public service, to educate the public about an aspect of the war fought by the "greatest generation," that is not fully explored in a Tom Hanks movie or even a decent World War II history book. (A "no responsive records" on a similar FOIA to the FBI is also being appealed. A FOIA request to the Army has not received any response thus far.)

Glomar responses are considered in cases of "sensitive national security." Just how sensitive a national security issue can it be to admit the CIA has or does not have files on Kurt Blome? For those who are trying to get the truth out of the government on a multitude of different issues, beyond which whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or Chelsea (formerly "Bradley") Manning have been able to provide us, the fact that information more than 60 years old is so sensitive that the government can't admit or deny knowledge of it boggles the imagination.

As readers may or may not be aware, I've been researching the allegations that the U.S. used biological weapons during the Korean War. The charges are still considered valid in China and North Korea, and along with the connivance of the United States in covering up Japanese biological and chemical warfare and medical experimentation in China during World War II, the truth or falsity of these charges are still a hot-button issue in Asia. (My recent article on the subject showed documentary proof that the U.S. was lying, at least in part, publicly about what was going on, and also showed that the U.S. was possibly involved in chemical warfare in Korea as well!)

A South Korean newspaper, The Chosunilbo, responding to Japan's latest provocation -- a visit by Prime Minister Abe to the notorious Yakasuna war shrine, where war criminals from World War II are buried -- reported, "By visiting Yasukuni, Abe has made it clear that he does not intend to back down from a diplomatic and even military confrontation with South Korea and China over the issue of whitewashing his country's wartime atrocities, Tokyo's flimsy colonial claim to South Korea's Dokdo islets and other territorial issues. It is obvious that he will push ahead with his rightwing agenda at all costs."

But what's all this got to do with Nazis, you may ask?

The research took me to the issue of the Nazis' own biological warfare program. According to the Nuremberg trial record, and the few histories on the subject written since, the Nazi doctor Kurt Blome was in charge of the National Socialists' "bacteriological warfare" program. He had built a testing facility in Posen, Poland, reportedly not too different from the Unit 731 facility in Ping Fan. It was captured by the Soviets, but Blome got away. He was later captured by the Americans, and interrogated by the secretive ALSOS group. He was tried as part of the famous Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg, but was acquitted. Some have implicated a deal was made with him for his BW information, and what he could tell the Americans about other Nazi scientists.

My research into the Unit 731 story had led me to track down the intelligence (OSS/Central Intelligence Group) connections of one primary figure involved in the decision to give amnesty to the Japanese BW war criminals, in exchange for getting BW (and other) data from them for use by U.S. scientists working at Ft. Detrick (and likely, too, for the Special Operations Division there, working on poisons and mind control research for the CIA). (This is the subject of an article to come, so I'm not going to give many details on who that intelligence person was.)

So I thought I should at least send a FOIA on Kurt Blome to the CIA. After all, according to historians Ute Deichmann, Linda Hunt, and Tom Bower, Blome had been a candidate for Army's Operation Paperclip, which sought out Nazi scientists to bring to the U.S. (like Werner von Braun). But presumably the U.S. Foreign Office or State Department balked on bringing this Nazi zealot to the America. After he was released from U.S. custody, he was interviewed by Ft. Detrick scientists, and subsequently, was said to be employed by the United States as a "camp doctor" at the European Command Intelligence Center at Oberursel, West Germany.

Now why, I wondered, was a Nazi doctor hired at the largest U.S. interrogation facility in post-World War II Europe? Moreover, why did Blome's trail end there? (A few sources state he was later arrested by the French and jailed, but I can find no clear documentary evidence of this.)

For the record, and I believe the readers' interest, I'd like to quote a bit from the June 16, 1947 closing brief at the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg for the United States of America versus Kurt Blome:
Blome was Deputy Reich Health Leader and Deputy Leader of the Reich Chamber of Physicians and the National Socialist Physicians' Association. He was a close collaborator of [Reich Health Leader, Leonardo] Conti, who was in direct charge of the civilian health service. By virtue of these positions, Blome held considerable power and influence. He knew that concentration camp inmates were being systematically used in criminal medical experiments. 

As the responsible head of bacteriological warfare, Blome personally suggested and carried out criminal experiments in that field. In the same connection he had poisons tested on human subjects and reported to Himmler on this matter.

Blome had full knowledge of the murderous freezing experiments by [SS doctor Sigmund] Rascher, supported his efforts to gain admission as an academic lecturer on that subject, and, as a member of the Reich Research Council, personally issued a research assignment to Rascher for further freezing experiments. He collaborated with Rascher in the Polygal experiments, during which inmates were shot and killed. He also issued a research assignment to Rascher in support of these experiments.

Blome had knowledge of [August] Hirt's [mustard] gas experiments in Natzweiler and furthered his work by issuing an assignment from the Reich Research Council.

As Deputy Reich Health Leader, Blome worked with the murderer [Arthur Karl] Greiser, Gauletier of Warthegan, who among other things assisted in the extermination of Jews in that area of Poland....
Historian, Michael H. Kater, in his book Doctors Under Hitler, said that Blome was one of a number of German doctors who were "instrumental not only in developing and introducing the Nuremberg race legislation but also in creating the severity with which its various enactments affected German Jews and the murderous ramifications thereafter" (p. 182)

Despite the crimes involved here, the story of U.S. government refusal to release records, and particularly obfuscation by the CIA, is nothing new. According to a 2005 Reuters story, "the CIA has refused to disclose documents about its postwar dealings with former Nazis who have not been accused of war crimes but belonged to organizations like the German Nazi party and the SS, congressional officials said. Some of the material is believed to deal with former Nazis who joined the allied Cold War effort against the Soviet Union in Europe, the officials said."

Former New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman told UPI at the same time as the Reuters article, "I think that the CIA has defied the law, and in so doing has also trivialized the Holocaust, thumbed its nose at the survivors of the Holocaust and also at Americans who gave their lives in the effort to defeat the Nazis in World War II."

What follows is the text of my FOIA appeal to the CIA:
December 12, 2013

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

Reference: F-2014-00114

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 FOIA request filed on October 23, 2013, reference number F-2014-00114, for "all files pertaining to the former Nazi doctor Kurt Blome.”

The CIA response of November 6, 2013 indicated that, in accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA could “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive” to my request. CIA’s notification continued, “The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended, and section 102A(i)(l) of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended.” This will be referred hereafter in this appeal by the popular name given to such a rejection, i.e., as a “Glomar” response.

The following are my reasons for appeal:

1) Some information related to cooperation Kurt Blome gave to both the military and intelligence agencies of the US government have already been released and are in the public record, and is further discussed below.

2) In her book, "Secret Agenda: The United States Government, Nazi Scientists and Project Paperclip, 1945-1990" (St. Martin’s Press, 1991), Linda Hunt noted that Kurt Blome had been interrogated as part of the Alsos missions at the end of World War II. Alsos was jointly staffed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the Manhattan Project, and Army Intelligence (G-2), and mandated to investigate enemy scientific developments. The investigation included biological weapons. From the Nuremberg trial, where Blome was a defendant, we know that he was involved in biological weapons research for the Nazi government.

3) The record of Blome’s Alsos interrogation is in the public domain. See Alsos interrogation at the National Archives in the Kurt Blome INSCOM dossier XE001248. Arrest reports: in Blome's Nuremberg arrest file, Record Group (RG) 238, NARS.

INSCOM stands for U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

Blome’s status as an accused defendant in the Nuremberg proceedings is well-known. The records of that trial are public domain, and it is difficult to believe that the CIA has no files or records or reports that discuss Blome in relation to the war crimes charges or the trial itself.

At the trial, it came out that Blome admitted at the Nuremberg Trial that he had been head of an institute in Posen that did research on biological warfare for the Nazis. Experiments had been carried out on Soviet prisoners-of-war as part of this research. See The Nuremberg Medical Trial, 1946/47 (Walter de Gruyter, 2001), p. 56.

4) Kurt F. L. Blome (F. L. for Friedrich Ludwig, the middle names of the same Kurt Blome who is the subject of my FOIA request and this appeal) is mentioned by name in a declassified list of “Foreign Scientist Case Files, 1945-1958”, part of the scientists who signed up to work for the U.S. government as part of Operation Paperclip, or the later Project 63. See URL:

5) After Blome was acquitted at the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial in August 1947, according to Hunt’s book, two months later, “four representatives of Fort Detrick -- the Maryland army base that was also headquarters of the CIA's biological warfare program -- interviewed Blome about biological warfare…. During a lengthy interview Blome identified biological warfare experts and their locations and described different methods of conducting biological warfare.” (p. 180) Blome was ultimately given a position working for the Americans at Camp King interrogation center, Oberursel, West Germany.

The Fort Detrick interrogation is known from Blome’s INSCOM dossier and his Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) dossier, RG 330, NARS.

According to the National Archives website, JIOA was “was established in 1945 as a subcommittee of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The JIC served as the intelligence arm of the JCS, responsible for advising the JCS on the intelligence problems and policies and furnishing intelligence information to the JCS and the Department of State. The JIC was composed of the Army's director of intelligence, the chief of naval intelligence, the assistant chief of Air Staff-2, and a representative of the Department of State.”

“The JIOA was given direct responsibility for operating the foreign scientist program, initially code-named Overcast and subsequently code-named Paperclip.” (URL:

Hence, the fact that Blome acted as an “intelligence source” for U.S. intelligence circles is no secret.

6) Some of the information that Blome could have given interrogators has been pieced together from German archives. The German historian, Ute Deichmann in her book, "Biologists Under Hitler" (Harvard Univ. Press, 1996) mentions, as an example of this kind of information, the Wolfram Sievers at the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte (MA 1406/1).

In these diaries, Blome is described as having conducted neutron radiation experiments, as well as making plans to carry out experiments with bacterial pathogens (p. 417).

7) According to BBC television producer Tom Bower in his book, "The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists" (Little, Brown & Company, 1987), it is public record that Kurt Blome was hired by the U.S. Chemical Corps in August 1951 and certified by U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John McCloy, as “not likely to become [a] security threat to the US” (p. 254) Bower gives as citation for this material RG 330 JIOA case file, “Blome,” in the National Archives.

8) The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (P.L. 105-246, 5 U.S.C. § 552) mandated that Government agencies, including the CIA, take necessary steps necessary to declassify and open remaining classified records related to Nazi war criminals and criminality. This included “any person with respect to whom the United States Government, in its sole discretion, has grounds to believe ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion, during the period beginning on March 23, 1933, and ending on May 8, 1945, under the direction of, or in association with…. the Nazi government of Germany”.

This law included an exception that would “reveal the identity of a confidential human source, or reveal information about the application of an intelligence source or method, or reveal the identity of a human intelligence source when the unauthorized disclosure of that source would clearly and demonstrably damage the national security interests of the United States.

While there is an exception made similar to that which the CIA claimed in its “Glomar” response to my FOIA request, I would argue from the information above that there is already a good deal about Kurt Blome in the public record that likely is in CIA files, and withholding such information because of a possible revelation re an intelligence or methods source is a moot issue.

While there may be aspects of the request that could still be denied under one or another FOIA exemption, I would ask that the elements of the files and other information from my original request that can segregably be released, be so released.

In conclusion, I ask that the Agency Release Panel reconsider its “Glomar” decision to neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to my request.

I have shown that there is already a documentary of both the interrogation and employment of Kurt Blome by U.S. military and intelligence sources. I have shown that Kurt Blome is known to have been a used as an intelligence and/or methods resource after he came under U.S. custody. I have further shown that some of Kurt Blome’s expertise in scientific matters that may have been of interest to U.S. intelligence, and hence the CIA, has already been made public in German archives.

Finally, I would argue that lacking any reason to consider information on Kurt Blome something subject to a “Glomar” denial, it is also important to consider that it was the legislative intent of the United States Congress, in a law signed by the President of the United States, to release information related to Nazi war criminals or possible criminality by such persons.

According to the CIA’s own website, the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act was “the largest congressionally mandated, single-subject declassification effort in history, and a special website at the CIA was set aside to openly display documents the CIA released under this act. (URL:

In the spirit of that Act, and of the CIA’s own efforts to release information according to such lawful request and special effort, and given that so much about Kurt Blome has already gone into the public record concerning his activities as an intelligence and/or methods resource, and, finally, given the blood and treasure the citizens of the United States spent in fighting the Nazis, I ask that the “Glomar” exception be removed and my FOIA request appropriately processed.

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 or MuckRock News.


My thanks to both Jason Leopold and NSA Archive for their assistance, online and off, for help in understanding the Glomar experience!

[Update, 2/9/2014: In a letter dated January 22, 2014, the CIA responded to my appeal letter with the statement, "Your appeal has been accepted and arrangements are being made for its consideration by the Agency Release Panel."]

Monday, December 9, 2013

CIA Document Suggests U.S. Lied About Biological, Chemical Weapon Use in the Korean War

According to a CIA document declassified in March 2006, the U.S. government lied publicly about pushing for a United Nations "on-the-spot" investigation into Soviet, Chinese and North Korean charges of U.S. use of biological weapons (BW) during the Korean War.

According to the document, a "Memorandum of Conversation" from the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) dated July 6, 1953, the U.S. was not serious about conducting any investigation into such charges, despite what the government said publicly. The reason the U.S. didn't want any investigation was because an "actual investigation" would reveal military operations, "which, if revealed, could do us psychological as well as military damage."

The memorandum specifically stated as an example of what could be revealed "8th Army preparations or operations (e.g. chemical warfare)."

Psychological Strategy Board

The document in question was an enclosure to a memorandum to CIA director Allan Dulles from Horace S. "Pete" Craig. As CIA director, Dulles sat on the PSB board along with the Undersecretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, or their designated representatives. Craig was CIA and close to Dulles, working for CIA's Advisory Council on "comint" (communications intelligence). He seems to have been Dulles's representative for awhile at Board meetings. He later was a member of the Operations Coordinating Board, President Eisenhower's replacement for the PSB.

The July 6 meeting was attended by Craig, Wallace Irvin, Jr., Erasmus Kloman, and Richard L. Sneider. The group had many intelligence connections. This was not surprising as "psychological warfare" or "strategy" during the heyday of the early Cold War was, as one historian put it, "most of the time understood as synonymous with covert operations".

The PSB itself was meant to coordinate the activities of different U.S. agencies and departments. Controversial and disbanded about two years after it was founded in 1951, according to the Truman Library website, which has an extensive list of PSB holdings, its function was "to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations."

Board member Sneider was at the time a State Department "policy analyst and intelligence expert" who also associated with the United Nations Association of the United States. Later he became Officer in Charge of Japanese Affairs. By the late 1960s, he was active on Nixon's National Security Council. From 1973 to 1978, he was U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Irwin worked closely with UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in shepherding through the latter's "human rights" proposals at the United Nations in the early 1950s. The latter project was organized as a working group within the PSB, with Irwin acting as "Chair". Later, he became a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush, and became ensconced within the foreign policy establishment. He would ultimately become editor for the journal Foreign Policy.

"Ras" Kloman ran the meeting. In a brief telephone exchange I had with Mr. Kloman on November 18, he confirmed he had been with the PSB. He had no memory of the meeting in question, but told me he had been "the principal man on psychological warfare." Ill, and in a nursing home, Kloman declined answering any more questions. He is the only living member of the group who met that summer day 60 years ago.

Kloman had been a World War II Office of Strategic Services operative. He wrote a book about his experiences. An online biography states that Kloman also served in "the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State, and Foreign Policy Research Institute at Penn, and as a corporate executive for AMAX and IBM. He was a Senior Research Associate at the National Academy of Public Administration from which he retired in 1985."

Trouble Countering Charges of Biological Warfare

The "memorandum of conversation" -- really the minutes of the meeting -- concerns a discussion of the difficulties U.S. psywar experts were having getting academics to back the government's own propagandistic critique of the World Peace Council-backed International Scientific Commission's (ISC) conclusion supporting Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean claims that the U.S. had used offensive biological weapons in Korea. The situation was crucial because the evidence was backed up by the statements of a number of captured U.S. airmen, including some officers, providing confessions of use of BW, and giving detailed descriptions of who ordered it and how it was done.

The U.S. responded to the airmen's confessions with claims they were coerced, false confessions. Some claimed (with CIA connivance, if not inspiration) the POWs were "brainwashed." The origins of the Bush-era "enhanced interrogation" torture program can be traced in part to CIA and military research meant to counter, supposedly, the possibility of such "brainwashing." But since they knew it wasn't actually "brainwashing," the whole explanation was really a cover story for the creation of a psychologically based torture program.

(For more on the history of the ISC, which was chaired by the famous British historian of Chinese science, Dr. Joseph Needham, click here.)

An Army epidemiologist, Col. Arthur Long, had been asked to submit a report on ISC's work. Long, of course, found the ISC's own report to be a "complete fabrication." According to Long, the problem was "very few of [the ISC]... particular items of scientific 'evidence' could be demolished as such."

So a committee was formed under Detlev Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences. But, Kloman bemoaned, the NAS committee had "accomplished very little of substance." Bronk had disappointed them. A letter he wrote to support Long's analysis was, according to Kloman, "pitched in an extremely low key -- so much so as to be of dubious effect." Even U.S. diplomats at the UN refused to promote Bronk's letter.

The State Department sent a "circular airgram," written by Kloman, to US embassies in all the countries represented by the ISC (Italy, France, Brazil, UK, Sweden), asking them to find scientists to refute ISC's report. But the U.S. was having very little luck. Even the British "were pleasant but did nothing."

Kloman was perturbed but somewhat understanding. The ISC scientists were, he said, "politics aside... highly competent people."

The meeting turned towards countering BW claims at the UN, via pushing a U.S. call for an investigation by the United Nations of the Korean charges. (Of course, North Korea and China were at war with UN forces at the time.) Sneider described the different proposals the U.S. was putting forward, condemning the BW charges and calling for an investigation, while analyzing the results of the UN votes on these proposals. But the results of this campaign were "obscure." There was a sense the U.S. had missed an opportunity to more effectively win propaganda points. Sneider told the group the State Department verdict on the anti-ISC campaign was "no victory and no defeat."

The meeting continued with a discussion of "future possibilities" for action, but it ended with a bombshell.

The Dangers of an "Actual Investigation"

The PSB memorandum (PDF link) concluded with a stunning admission of duplicity, and -- I cannot believe but the CIA's censors were asleep at the switch here, to all our benefit -- a revelation about U.S. military actions in the Korean War that from our standpoint in the 2010s have been buried for decades.
Mr. Kloman observed that US policy, while favoring the proposal for an on-the-spot investigation, does not favor an actual investigation. One reason for this, he said, is the feeling of the military that an investigating commission would inevitably come across the 8th Army preparations or operations (e.g. chemical warfare) which, if revealed, could do us psychological as well as military damage. This reasoning assumes that the commission would have authority to examine anything they liked on either side of the battle line."
While historians of the Korean War BW controversy will find it fascinating to analyze what this document means in the context of the long-standing feud between those who believe one side or the other, I think what is most important for us today is the reopening of the question of U.S. use of chemical weapons in that war.

Most people are probably unaware that there ever were charges of CW use by the U.S. in Korea. I know I was. Yet as early as March 1952, a Commission of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) had visited North Korea to examine charges of war crimes, releasing a report that included documentation of chemical warfare.

"American planes have on various occasions used asphyxiating and other gases or chemical weapons at least since 6th May, 1951," the IADL commission wrote. "The commission took eye witness and expert testimony. Post-mortem examinations and autopsy results argued that some chemical had been used, with a "disagreeable smell, resembling the smell of chlorine.... In the affected area of the city it was noted that grass became yellow brown, objects containing an alloy of copper became blue green and rings of silver became black."

Victims of another alleged attack "felt an itching on the exposed parts of the body.... they observed red spots which grew to a size like haricot beans, which then swelled and were filled with pus." Some had injuries like "second-degree burns but with a much more, serious erosive action and taking a longer time to recover."

Critics of the IADL wrote off their findings as communist, fellow-traveller propaganda. Before long, the main controversy over US war crimes turned to the BW allegations, but the North Koreans have never withdrawn their allegations. In the 2001 Report and Final Judgment on US Crimes in Korea 1945-2001 by the Korea International War Crimes Tribunal, whose indictment was drafted by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark, the U.S. was found guilty of use of both chemical and biological warfare during the Korean War.

A Circumstantial Case, Records Destroyed

It's worth noting that the Chinese and North Koreans had ample reason to believe the U.S. capable of using biological or chemical warfare. The U.S. then had refused to sign the 1925 Geneva Protocol against use of chemical or biological weapons. The Chinese and Koreans knew the U.S. had amnestied the Japanese scientists of Unit 731, who had undertaken fatal experiments on both BW and CW on prisoners. Indeed, the ISC report had included a chapter on Unit 731.

Moreover, both Chinese and Koreans knew the Japanese had extensively used both biological, and even more so, chemical weapons during the Sino-Japanese War (coinciding in its last years with World War II).

An October 1988 article by historian Yuki Tanaka in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "Poison Gas: the Story Japan Would Like to Forget," described the CW campaign waged by Japan in China, and how the U.S. helped keep the subject from coming up in war crimes trials at the end of WWII. Meanwhile, the U.S. had become cozy with former Japanese war criminals, now being allowed back into Japanese civil and political life, while former collaborators with the Japanese were members of the U.S. backed Republic of Korea government.

The scope of Japan's chemical war unleashed in China can be ascertained by the damage left afterward. According to Nationalist Chinese sources in Taipei, approximately 700,000 chemical munitions were left abandoned in China after World War II. The Chinese government says that approximately 2,000 people still die each year from encounters with such ordinance. An ongoing clean-up of the chemical mess, in part paid for by Japan, is still ongoing in 2013.

A list of Japanese chemical ordinance and equipment that was captured by the U.S. at the end of WWII was recently declassified, and, revealing here for the first time, documentation shows the chemical weapons were shipped to the Army's Edgewood Arsenal "for detailed study."


U.S. historians either ignore the subject of chemical warfare entirely, or dismiss the charges of chemical warfare. "The United States did not use gas warfare in Korea although authority to do so was requested by some of our commanders in the field," wrote George Bunn in a 1969 article for the Wisconsin Law Review.

For whatever reason, a Chemical Mortar Battalion was sent from Edgewood Arsenal to the Korean theater, though I could not find evidence they had actually used chemical weapons. Perhaps this is evidence of the "preparations" Kloman alluded to and what Bunn meant by "requested authority." We won't know until the government opens up its archives completely. Meanwhile those who lived through the period are quickly passing from this world.

There are some documented, if circumstantial, pointers to possible CW activities. For instance, according to one document, the U.S. Air Force Psychological Warfare Board had a Biological-Chemical Warfare team under Lt. Col. L. N. Stead.

Meanwhile, it is also a fact that many documents of the Army Chemical Corps, which had responsibility for both chemical and biological weapons, were destroyed after recall from the National Archives in 1956. See Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (York University), "United States Biological Warfare during the Korean War: rhetoric and reality."

Endicott and Hagerman are also the authors of a major analysis of the evidence for U.S. use of biological weapons during in Korea. See The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman (1999, University of Indiana Press). A totally opposite point of view can be found Milton Leitenberg's "False Allegations of U.S. Biological Weapons Use during the Korean War", in Terrorism, War, or Disease? Unraveling the Use of Biological Weapons (2008, Stanford Security Studies, Anne L. Clunan, Peter R. Lavoy, and Susan B. Martin, eds).

Of course, chemical weapons of a sort were definitely used during the Korean War. The United States extensively used napalm in an extensive bombing campaign that destroyed most of North Korea's cities and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. According to one source, "During the Korean War, the United States dropped approximately 250,000 pounds of napalm per day." Later, in the late 1960s, the U.S. sprayed the defoliant Agent Orange, also being used widely in the Vietnam War, near the demilitarized zone in Korea.

There is no book detailing the charges or refutation of charges of chemical warfare in the Korean War. It's never alluded to in Seymour Hersh's 1968 book, Chemical and Biological Warfare, nor in any book on U.S. chemical warfare that I've looked at, except perhaps in a very passing way. If I am wrong, I'm hoping someone will point that out to me.

"Whose Sarin?"

Seymour Hersh's article in The London Review of Books, "Whose Sarin?", set off a storm of commentary about his motives, his accuracy, and the significance of the revelations. Hersh claimed the Obama administration had been quick to "cherry-pick" intelligence findings. Obama had "failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin...."

For some reason, Hersh did not bring up the history he knows so well of U.S. secrecy and misdirection when it comes to use of chemical and biological weapons. Failing to do so only weakened his argument in what is otherwise a compelling analysis of events inside the Obama administration after news broke of the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack in a neighborhood near Damascus.

But the document and evidence I've laid out above should make anyone think twice, if not three times, about relying on U.S. assurances or propaganda regarding the use of chemical weapons by anybody. U.S. citizens should call for an opening of all archival material, which after 60 or more years cannot constitute a national security threat, though it may be an national shame and embarrassment for the U.S. government.

Crossposted at The Dissenter/FDL

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top US Psychologist Allegedly Met with James Mitchell in Weeks Before Zubaydah Torture

America 2013: A top U.S. psychologist touting "Positive Psychology" is to be a keynote speaker at a huge Southern California conference on psychotherapy. Other speakers include psychiatry heavies Aaron Beck, Irvin Yalom, as well as Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, and big media names like James Foley and Alanis Morissette.

The famous psychologist -- Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvannia -- has been linked to the CIA's Bush torture program. The charges lack a smoking gun, but there is lots of circumstantial evidence. What is reported below shows that Seligman wasn't fully open about his contacts with those accused of waterboarding Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and torturing various CIA "black site" prisoners circa 2002-2006. Why did he hide this information?

A Forgotten Book

A 2011 book written by Georgetown academic and ethics expert M. Gregg Bloche (currently co-director for the Georgetown-Johns Hopkins Joint Program in Law and Public Health) broke important new ground about the origins of the post-9/11 CIA torture program. Unfortunately, he did so just as the Obama administration's policy of non-investigation and non-prosecution of those involved in U.S. torture had gained ascendency among both press and the public.

Bloche described a hitherto unreported meeting between Martin Seligman and James Mitchell during the crucial period when Mitchell, the former Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program (SERE) psychologist, was involved with both the CIA and the Pentagon in setting up a torture program for prisoners captured in what the U.S. was calling the "war on terror."

Various reports say that Seligman met Mitchell and Jessen twice before, in December 2001 and May 2002. What hasn't been reported previously was that Seligman also allegedly met with Mitchell literally days before Mitchell and another CIA psychologist, Kirk Hubbard, were called to fly to Thailand, where the CIA was holding a very special "high-value" prisoner, the terribly injured Abu Zubaydah.

While Seligman has discussed his interactions with Mitchell numerous times before (here's one such link), he never mentioned this other meeting -- in late March or early April 2002 -- whose timing was so suspicious. Within days, Mitchell arrived in Thailand to take over Zubaydah's interrogation from FBI agents and institute his "new" version of "enhanced interrogation" that relied on a theory -- "learned helplessness" -- associated with Seligman himself.

According to Ali Soufan's book, The Black Banners, Mitchell (called Boris in Soufan's book) arrived when Zubaydah was still in the hospital recovering from wounds received during his capture in Pakistan. Scandalously, much of Soufan's account was censored by the government.

I emailed Seligman to ask him to confirm or deny Bloche's allegation, and offered him plenty of space in this article to explain himself. I never heard back from him. Meanwhile, the major media, for reasons of their own, passed by this story, even though I know it was offered to them.

[Update, 12/9/13, 8:50am PST: Dr. Seligman has emailed me this morning with a reply to this article. It states, in full:

"Dr. Kaye: Your allegation is entirely fiction.

"To the best of my knowledge, I have met Mitchell exactly twice. Once at my home in December of 2001, and once at the SERE meeting. There was no other meeting BEFORE or after the SERE meeting.

"Once again, I disapprove of torture. I have never and would never aid or abet it.

"Martin Seligman"]

"Learned Helplessness"

Buried in two chapters towards the end of his book, The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche described a narrative of events surrounding Mitchell and his SERE associate Bruce Jessen. Bloche obtained the new information in a series of email exchanges with a key CIA player in the torture scandal, psychologist Kirk Hubbard, who was Chief of Operations, and later Chief of the Research and Analysis Branch for the CIA's shadowy Operational Assessment Division (OAD).

(In July 2003, Hubbard would be in charge of putting together a CIA/Rand/American Psychological Association workshop on detecting deception that would investigate new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down prisoners for interrogation. His partner in organizing the event was then-White House senior scientist Susan Brandon. Today, Brandon is head of Obama's HIG interrogation research program.)

Bloche wrote that Hubbard's work at the CIA brought him into contact with "an informal network of military and civilian psychologists and psychiatrists with shared interests in psyops, Special Forces selection, resistance training, and the reliability of 'humint' (human intelligence)" (p. 135).

Hubbard apparently knew Mitchell from this milieu. (I've written before about the military/special ops/SERE/contractor environment Mitchell sprang from.) According to Bloche, "in the weeks after 9/11" Hubbard brought Mitchell to the attention of higher-ups in the CIA (p. 136). Perhaps he introduced Mitchell's SERE colleague Bruce Jessen at the same time, though Bloche is unclear on this. Hubbard does say, however, he introduced both Mitchell and Jessen to his Agency superiors as "potential assets."

Mitchell reportedly had long been interested in the behavioral theory of "learned helplessness," which was associated with the academic work of Martin Seligman. "Learned helplessness" (LH) was an animal model of breakdown via uncontrollable stress which was later used to help understand the clinical manifestation of depression in humans. Mitchell believed using a combination of physical and psychologically extreme pressures would reduce a prisoner to a state of compliance, similar to the helpless state produced by LH. This would make a prisoner or interrogatee extremely dependent on an all-powerful interrogator "god," someone who could be easily "exploited" by government forces.

The rationale for all this was described in notes Mitchell's SERE associate, Bruce Jessen, wrote when he and Capt. Michael Kearns, then head of operations for Air Force Intelligence’s Special Survival Training Program, were forming in 1989 a survival class for "Special Mission Units," i.e., for secret "black" operations personnel. This course, SV-91, meant to help U.S. Special Forces survive torture and captivity by a brutal enemy, became the template for the kinds of techniques Mitchell and Jessen would flip to use now on U.S. prisoners.

Meeting Mitchell

Bloche writes that Seligman admitted being invited by the CIA to speak at a May 2002 SERE conference before an audience that included Mitchell and Jessen. Subsequently, Scott Shane wrote in the New York Times that Mitchell met Seligman in a small meeting at the latter's house in December 2001.

In an article by Mark Benjamin at, Seligman confirmed the December meeting, describing it as (as Benjamin described it) "a small gathering of professors and law enforcement personnel as well as at least one 'Israeli intelligence person,' to conduct an academic discussion about the so-called war on terror." Seligman told Benjamin the meeting at his house had nothing to do with interrogation. What Mitchell was doing at such a meeting, when he had no academic expertise on the "war on terror" or "Jihad" or moderate Islam, no one has ever said.

Here's how Bloche described the meeting between Seligman and Mitchell just before the latter left for Thailand.
[Seligman] acknowledged only that he spoke on learned helplessness at a JPRA meeting in May 2002 and that Mitchell and Jessen were in the audience:
I was invited to speak about how American... personnel could use what is known about learned helplessness to resist torture and evade successful interrogation by their captors. This is what I spoke about.
Seligman added:
I have had no professional contact with Jessen and Mitchell since then....
It is important to point out that Seligman here only denies contact with Mitchell and Jessen after May 2002. He doesn't say anything about contact with them prior to that period. He simply never mentions anything about the late March or early April meeting. Bloche continued:
But sometime in the spring of 2002, according to a CIA source, Seligman met with Mitchell, Jessen, and Hubbard in Philadelphia. “The fact that we had a meeting in Philadelphia,” said the source, a meeting participant [possibly Kirk Hubbard -- JK], “means that Mitchell/Jessen were at least thinking about interrogation strategies.” Seligman wanted to help and understood what Mitchell had in mind. But having built his reputation as a clinical pioneer — the man who’d discovered learned helplessness, then transformed depressed people’s lives through “learned optimism” — he didn’t want to be seen as telling CIA operatives how to break people by inducing despair. So he walked a careful line, keeping to the question of what the science did and didn’t support while abstaining from how-to advice. Seligman, said the CIA source, had a “classic approach-avoidance conflict regarding helping us"....

By the time of the Philadelphia meeting, CIA preparations for “enhanced” interrogation had reached high intensity, energized by what looked like an extraordinary opportunity.
[Bloche M.D., M. Gregg (2011-03-15). The Hippocratic Myth: Why Doctors Are Under Pressure to Ration Care, Practice Politics, and Compromise their Promise to Heal (p. 141). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition. -- bold emphases added]
The opportunity was the capture of Abu Zubaydah in a joint U.S.-Pakistan raid on March 28, 2002. Zubaydah had been taken to a hospital with life-threatening wounds, though that didn't stop FBI interrogators from beginning their interrogation of Zubaydhah while still hospitalized.

According to Bloche, "Months would pass before final Justice Department approval for what Mitchell had in mind. But once approval seemed likely, CIA leadership made the call. Kirk Hubbard answered it, quite literally, on the way back from Philadelphia. “I received a phone call indicating ‘they’ wanted Mitchell to depart that night along with others from CTC [Counter-Terrorism Center],” Hubbard remembers. “Mitchell had about twelve hours’ notice that he was being flown to meet AZ [Zubaydah].” Exactly when Mitchell began his brutish efforts with Zubaydah (and based on what sort of approval) remains a matter of dispute." (p. 142)

Zubaydah's Torture

According to Soufan's account in Black Banners, the abuse began right away, with Zubaydah subjected to nudity, loud music, white noise (a form of sensory deprivation), and sleep deprivation. Weeks later Mitchell stepped up the abuse to the level of full-on physical torture. This was probably in early to mid-May, around the time even Soufan, who'd been playing good-cop to CIA's bad-cop, left the CIA black site, apparently disgusted with Mitchell's techniques, though his FBI partner, Special Agent Stephen Gaudin, stayed on for some weeks more, and may have even participated in some of the "enhanced interrogation," according to a Department of Justice Inspector General report.Hubbard told Bloche that Mitchell and Jessen, who joined the CIA at the Thailand black site after he retired from the Air Force later in the year, were not running a "maverick" operation.

“Jim Mitchell, et al. didn’t take a pee without written approval from headquarters..." Hubbard said. "CIA leadership approved and is responsible for all that occurred" (p. 142). Mitchell's appointment had been supported by CTC's director, Cofer Black, and CIA director George Tenet, against some push-back from CTC's chief operational psychologist, R. Scott Shumate. (Shumate also served at the Thailand black site, leaving supposedly in protest at Mitchell's EIT program later in the year.)

Bloche's book also specifically states that James Mitchell was the author of the psychological assessment of Abu Zubaydah that was used to justify the torture techniques to the Office of Legal Counsel. As Bloche put it, Mitchell's assessment was based on “direct interviews with and observations of the subject,” and "gave the OLC cover to conclude that waterboarding wouldn’t cause Zubaydah 'severe mental pain or suffering.'" According to the written evaluation, Mitchell relied also on Zubaydah's written diaries, which were captured with him.

But with the release of Zubaydah's pre-capture diaries, obtained by Jason Leopold at Al Jazeera America, we know that much of what was written in Mitchell's psychological report was bogus. Claims of Zubaydah's massive influence were exaggerated, as the diaries make clear.

In addition, there is no mention of Zubaydah's serious medical problems and previous neurological injuries, which would have likely disqualified Zubaydah for the "enhanced interrogation" torture, even under the CIA's morally dubious criteria. Nor was there any mention of Zubaydah's previous torture, or an assessment of how that affected him. Leopold, who wrote a number of article analyzing the AZ diaries, has written up the story of Zubaydah's tortureby Pakistani authorities during a pre-9/11 arrest.

How bad was Zubaydah's torture by the CIA? Zubaydah described it to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC report was leaked to Mark Danner in 2010, and the following is a small representative sample of what Mitchell did, using his version of learned-helplessness via "enhanced interrogation":
After the beating I was then placed in the small box. They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds....

I was then dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited.... I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.
A Long Tradition

Breaking down prisoners to make them compliant, to either use them for "exploitation" or to gain information, was a subject of great interest for the CIA going back to the beginning of the Cold War. One of the researchers from decades earlier, Albert Biderman, created a "chart of coercion" which was later taught by SERE associates of Mitchell to interrogators at Guantanamo in December 2002. (To see the actual chart, go to pg. 51 of supporting documentsin the Senate Armed Services 2008 report on detainee abuse.)

There is no evidence that Seligman's original research on learned helplessness, which made him famous, was associated with the CIA research into torture, even though other prominent behavioral researchers at the time, such as psychiatrist Louis West, and psychologist Harry Harlow (who was also an American Psychological President at one point), had created by the late 1950s a theory of breaking down human beings psychologically by inculcating dependency, debility and dread into them. The CIA incorporated this into their KUBARK manual for interrogation, and a version of these techniques even informs current practicein the Army's current Field Manual for interrogation.Seligman's research on LH, which went back to the 1960s, made him famous. In 1997, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association (serving his term a year later).

Whither Psychology? Wither America?

On December 15, 2013 Seligman will be one of a handful of keynote speakers at the Milton H. Erickson Foundation's "Evolution of Psychotherapy" meeting in Anaheim, California, where he will speak on "Positive Psychology," his 21st century enthusiasm. His Positive Psychology work garnered Seligman a huge "no-bid" contractwith the Department of Defense a few years ago.

There's been precious little interest in recent years in pushing harder to get to the bottom of the CIA/Pentagon torture scandal.

Many Americans, including those on the left, believe that President Obama ended torture, and on that basis supported his call to ignore the past crimes of the Bush administration, and trusted that the current political regime had eschewed torture and such cruelty forever.

But that's not true, and disinterest in pursuing investigation into the torture story further has a political agenda at its root, i.e., protecting the Democratic Party's image as an alternative to the GOP on matters of national security, while also protecting top Pentagon and CIA brass.

While Guantanamo remains an embarrassment for Obama and occasionally makes the press -- mostly due to the actions of the prisoners there who have gone on hunger strike over and over again to bring the world's attention to their plight -- there is precious little interest in bringing the former or current torturers to any real accountability. That must change, because the logic and morality of torture calls for its resurrection as needed. Already, the US public has been fooled into believing there is no torture, even as the country's primary military and intelligence manual allows use of isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, instillation of fear and manipulation of phobias, not to mention use of drugs.

Only an informed and impassioned public can make the difference between the continuing barbarism of torture and the civilized and humane practices that our country pretends to believe in.

Cross-posted at ShadowProof

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Poland knew about CIA torture prison on its soil, secret court session hears

The following is a press release today from the UK prisoners support group, Reprieve, which has been in the forefront in exposing the crimes of torture and rendition. The story concerns a very important case in Poland concerning torture that took place at a CIA black site prison on Polish soil. The CIA's presence was apparently known and allowed by Polish authorities. As described below, Abu Zubaydah and his attorneys have sued Poland in the European Court of Human Rights for allowing the torture prison.

Abu Zubaydah, who is currently held as a "high-value detainee" at Guantanamo's Camp Seven, is also in the news because of the blockbuster release of all six of his pre-capture diaries, published by Al Jazeera America. Jason Leopold has been analyzing these diaries in a number of articles that are important reading for a deep look into the mind and struggles of this man, who was so often vilified in the early days of the "war on terror," and horrifically tortured as part of an experimental program by the CIA. -- I'll have more to write about these diaries myself in coming days.

Reprieve's press release:
A court has heard “overwhelming and uncontested evidence” of the existence on European soil of a CIA “black site,” used to torture prisoners – with the knowledge of host-government Poland.

Sitting in a secret session closed to public and press, the European Court of Human Rights yesterday heard from a range of expert witnesses – who cannot currently be named – that a CIA torture prison existed in Poland, and that the Polish Government was aware of it and the uses to which it was being put.

The account of yesterday’s secret hearing is provided by Reprieve investigator Crofton Black, who has been researching the issue of secret prisons in Europe during the ‘War on Terror’ and was allowed access.

Dr Black said: “We have now heard overwhelming and uncontested evidence that the CIA was running a secret torture prison on Polish soil, with the Polish Government’s knowledge. Despite being given many opportunities to do so, the Polish Government has failed to contest that it knew prisoners were being held beyond the rule of law and tortured by the CIA inside their own country. It has also become clear that the Polish Government’s investigation into the issue was in reality nothing more than a smoke-screen, which was neither designed nor intended to get to the truth.

“European support for the CIA’s torture programme is one of the darkest chapters of our recent history – it is encouraging that the court now looks set to bring it to light, where the government has sought to sweep it under the carpet.”

Abu Zubaydah v. Poland is the first time a European country has been taken to court for allowing the CIA to run a torture site on its territory. Declassified US government documents and Reprieve’s renditions investigations demonstrate that current Guantanamo detainee Mr Zubaydah was flown from a CIA prison site in Thailand to one in Poland in Dec. 2002. The fact that Poland knowingly hosted this prison means that it is directly responsible for the violations of his rights that took place there in 2002-2003.

Today (3 December) saw the second day of a two-day hearing, the first day of which was held in a closed court.

Friday, November 15, 2013

IMAP/OSF Report Calls for Investigation of Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees

Breaking a three-year silence by the medical and human rights community, a panel of doctors, attorneys, human rights professionals, university professors and ethics experts have called for an investigation into the use of mefloquine on detainees at Guantanamo Naval Prison. The prison camp had instituted in very early 2002 an unprecedented policy of administering full-treatment doses of mefloquine to all incoming detainees at Guantanamo.

Mefloquine is an anti-malaria drug that has been very controversial over the years. It has been linked to severe neurological and psychiatric side effects, including depression, suicide, hallucinations, seizures, neurotoxicity as well as adverse and sometimes long-lasting central nervous system problems. The drug was also sold for years under the brand name Lariam in the United States, but Swiss manufacturer Hoffmann–La Roche ceased marketing it in here in August 2009.

The rationale for the Department of Defense policy on mefloquine at Guantanamo -- ostensibly to counter a supposed threat of malaria brought in by the newly arriving detainees -- underwent a withering analysis in a series of articles I wrote with Jason Leopold (see here, here, and here). At the same time, there was a strongly critical  2010 report by Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research. This was followed by an article by Dr. Remington Nevin in the October 2012 edition of the medical journal, Tropical Medicine and International Health, entitled "Mass administration of the antimalarial drug meflouqine to Guantanamo detainees: a critical analysis" (PDF).

Nevin, a former Army doctor, concluded "there was no plausible public health indication for the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo," and suggested "the troubling possibility that the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo may have been motivated in part by knowledge of the drug’s adverse effects...."

The call to investigate mefloquine was made in the context of the report's strong recommendation that President Obama "order a comprehensive investigation of U.S. practices in connection with the detention of suspected terrorists... [including] inquiry into the circumstances, roles, and conduct of health professionals in designing, participating in, and enabling torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in interrogation and confinement settings and why there were few if any known reports by health professionals."

The report, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror, was released last week by its sponsors, the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) [link to PDF of full report]. IMAP is a major player in the medical ethics field and is funded by a number of foundations, including the Open Society Institute, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., the Selz Foundation, and the The Pew Charitable Trusts. IMAP also plays a central role in funding Columbia University's Center on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The bulk of the report described how the CIA and the Department of Defense, with the connivance of the Department of Justice and health professional organizations like the American Psychological Association, changed the rules and procedures surrounding the use of health care professionals in interrogations and national security detention centers such that doctors and psychologists were enlisted in the design, participation and enabling of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.

In an article on November 5 at The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola looked at the ways doctors and other health professionals participated in unethical forced-feedings of hunger strikers. In a previous look at the report, I noted its call for a new executive order banning certain interrogation techniques currently used in the Army's field manual on interrogation, which has been falsely sold to the public as "nonabusive."

The Role of Captain Shimkus

While labeling as "highly questionable" and "unexplained" the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo, the IMAP/OSF report did not investigate its use at length because, strangely enough, its task force panel included the former commanding officer at the Guantanamo Naval Hospital and chief surgeon (until summer 2003), Captain Albert Shimkus. Shimkus was the Guantanamo official who signed off on the mefloquine protocol to begin with.

IMAP/OSF report writers realized the dilemma they were in. Here's what they wrote about it:
Questions have arisen about the unexplained administration of an antimalaria drug with neuropsychiatric side effects to detainees at Guantánamo, including whether there were intelligence or security reasons rather than medical reasons for doing so. As the conduct of a member of the task Force has been questioned on this subject, the task Force does not address the matter here, but urges that the circumstances of the use of mefloquine, including the reasons for choosing it, be addressed as part of the full investigation of medical practices we recommend. [p. 48]
Asked to comment on Shimkus's inclusion on the IMAP/OSF panel, and on the report's recommendation on mefloquine, Dr. Nevin replied via email:
"While the recommendations of the Task Force to investigate the highly questionable use of mefloquine among Guantanamo detainees is welcome and long overdue, the Task Force has missed an opportunity to further explore this issue independently owing to the remarkable fact that one of the Task Force’s own members, CAPT (Retired) Albert Shimkus, former commander of the Guantanamo detainee hospital, was critically involved in the formulation and administration of detainee mefloquine policy.

For years CAPT Shimkus has consistently defended the practice by denying any misuse of the drug, including in a report published this year by the Constitution Project. Given the seriousness of allegations of misuse of mefloquine and the reluctance of CAPT Shimkus to acknowledge his role in having facilitated its questionable use, the Task Force should have recused CAPT Shimkus of involvement in their work so that the remaining panel members may have independently investigated this practice themselves, free of overt conflicts of interest. The loss of this opportunity will only further delay obtaining answers to the question of why mefloquine was used, and lessens the value of this report relative to its full potential."
Dr. Nevin's citation of The Constitution Project (TCP) report on detainee abuse is worth expanding upon, because Captain Shimkus was interviewed at length by TCP report investigators. Here's how the mefloquine issue was handled in their report, issued earlier this year:
Among Shimkus’ continuing critics are some who have suggested he aided interrogators by approving and initiating a regime of prescribing anti-malaria medication for all the detainees, at dosages far higher than those normally used for prevention rather than treatment of malaria. The drug, mefloquine, had side effects that could include paranoia, hallucinations, and depression, theoretically making recipients more vulnerable to interrogation. But Shimkus denied that this was the purpose of the anti-malarial medication, and the allegations that it was prescribed to assist in interrogation are speculative. Shimkus said he agreed with the medical decisions of others, including senior military medical officers, to conduct the medication program, and had consulted with officials at the Centers for Disease Control. He said that no one involved in the interrogation regime had any role in the decision or discussed the matter with him.

According to press reports from February 2002, malaria was far more prevalent in Afghanistan than in Cuba, where it was largely eradicated, and Cuban doctors had raised the issue of malaria prevention in meetings with Shimkus. In 2011, a Pentagon spokesperson told Stars and Stripes that the high doses of medication were appropriate because “[t]he potential of reintroducing the disease to an area that had previously been malaria-free represented a true public health concern. Allowing the disease to spread would have been a public health disaster.” [p. 32, link to PDF of full report]
"...certain issues we were advised not to talk about"

Shimkus appears to have gone out of his way to involve himself with investigations into detainee abuse, but his claims in the TCP report that he didn't notice abuse of Guantanamo detainees because he wasn't imagining any abuse would be taking place is just plain lame. (Shimkus was also a prominent positively portrayed figure in Karen Greenberg's book, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days.) His involvement in the mefloquine decision, including his explanations to this author about his motivations and actions, are, as the IMAP/OSF report indicate, matters for a full investigation.

For instance, rather than Shimkus's claim that no one discussed the mefloquine matter with him, he told me in an interview in 2010 that he was told by unspecified others not to discuss certain aspects of the mefloquine decision.

“There were certain issues we were advised not to talk about,” Shimkus told me, explaining the reason the policy was never publicly disclosed (see link).

Shimkus claims that he was worried about a possible "public health disaster." Yet he told me, in a separate interview from that noted just above, that he did not bother to discuss the malaria matter with KBR contract personnel or management when such workers were brought to Guantanamo in later 2002 to work on building Camp Delta, even though those workers mostly came from India and the Philippines, and areas where malaria can be endemic. So far as I was able to investigate, not one of those hundreds of workers could be documented to have taken mefloquine at Guantanamo.

No one knows the reason why mefloquine was mass administered at Guantanamo. Was it just poorly thought out medical policy? Was it covert testing on the side effects of mefloquine, a drug that was under fire at that same time at the Department of Defense (see link)? Was it an attempt to disorient or chemically weaken the detainees upon arrival?

The last question is not so strange when you realize that for years the CIA stockpiled another anti-malaria drug, cinchonine, to use as a chemical "incapacitating agent."

Many I speak to are not hopeful about the chances for a needed investigation. But I think that it would be premature to call over the struggle to fully unmask the torture that took place and get some form of accountability. More likely is that it would be part of, or even help spark a larger social struggle against the national security state and forms of injustice and inequality that plague this society.

Crossposted from The Dissenter/FDL

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Former Gitmo Prisoner David Hicks Seeks to Vacate Conviction, Cites "Unlawful Process," Torture

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released a press release yesterday on its filing, with co-counsel, on behalf of former Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks of an appeal of his 2007 conviction in the Guantanamo military commissions. While Hicks pled guilty, he did not admit guilt, under a special legal strategem known as an Alford Plea. In any case, as the press release explains, the charge for which Hicks was convicted -- "material support for terrorism" -- has been deemed by a federal court to be not a war crime. Hicks' filing includes information about his torture at Guantanamo, and describes Hicks' "guilty" plea as made under duress.

For more on David's case, see the link at end of the press release. Also check out The Justice Campaign website, and Jason Leopold's 2011 interview with Hicks, the first with a journalist after he was released from prison in Australia.

CCR states that it "is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change."
Court’s Rejection of “Material Support” as a War Crime Invalidates Military Commission Conviction, Attorneys Say

November 5, 2013, Washington D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed an appeal on behalf of former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks seeking to vacate Hicks’ conviction in the military commissions for “material support for terrorism.” Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007. He was the first prisoner to be convicted in a Guanánamo military commission and a party in the historic Supreme Court ruling in Rasul v. Bush, which established that Guantánamo prisoners had a right to access U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The appeal comes in the wake of the D.C. Circuit’s 2012 decision in Hamdan v. United States, which held that material support for terrorism is not a war crime and thus beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions.

“The D.C. court’s rejection of material support as a war crime is a reminder that a military commission prosecution can unravel at any time” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon. “Years after Hicks was convicted and served his sentence, a federal court has concluded that the process by which he was convicted was unlawful. This is just another reason why Obama needs to end the failed experiment in Guantánamo.”

In a 74-page affidavit released in 2004, Hicks detailed torture he suffered at the hands of U.S. forces during the five and a half years he spent at Guantánamo, which included beatings, forced sedation, and sexual assault. In 2007, he entered an Alford plea, in which he pleaded guilty while continuing to assert his innocence. According to Hicks the plea was coerced and he pleaded guilty only because he believed it was the only way to get out of Guantánamo and escape the ongoing abuse and torture.

“Today is just the first step in a long process to correct the wrongs committed against me,” said David Hicks. “I was detained for six years without having committed an offense (as recognized by the CDPP in the proceeds hearing) and was tortured and pressured with duress into making unfair decisions which did not reflect the facts. I had no choice but to sign the plea deal or I would have died in Guantánamo.”

After his release from Guantánamo, Hicks returned to Australia and was placed under a one-year gag order prohibiting him from speaking to the media. As part of his plea agreement, he was also required to withdraw allegations that the U.S. military abused him and agree not to take legal action against the United States.

Co-counsel in the case are Joseph Margulies and military defense counsel Samuel Morrison and Captain Justin Swick. David Hicks is represented in Australia by Stephen Kenney.

The case is Hicks v. United States. More information, including today’s filing, is available here.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for nearly 12 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blue Ribbon Task Force Says Army Field Manual on Interrogation Allows Torture, Abuse

A report by a multidisciplinary task force, made up largely of medical professionals, ethicists and legal experts, has called on President Obama to issue an executive order outlawing torture and other abusive techniques currently in use in the military's Army Field Manual on interrogations. The Task Force, which wrote the report for The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), has also called on the Department of Defense to rewrite the Army Field Manual in accordance with such an executive order.

The recommendation for action on the Army Field Manual (AFM) was the second finding and recommendation in the report (PDF):
The president has issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and has repudiated Justice Department legal memoranda authorizing its use. However, the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations, which binds both military and CIA interrogators, permits methods of interrogation that are recognized under international law as forms of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Such methods include sleep deprivation, isolation, and exploitation of fear.
Besides recommending that the Department of Defense (DoD) revise the AFM itself, the Task Force report calls for the United States to "accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which requires the creation of an independent domestic monitoring body for the purpose of preventing torture against individuals in custody."

The recommendation to issue a new executive order on current forms of torture and abuse, and to rewrite the Army Field Manual is one of eight findings and numerous recommendations in the report. The first recommendation was for President Obama to "order a comprehensive investigation of U.S. practices in connection with the detention of suspected terrorists following 9/11 and report the results to Congress and the American people."

The report continued, "The investigation should include inquiry into the circumstances, roles, and conduct of health professionals in designing, participating in, and enabling torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in interrogation and confinement settings and why there were few if any known reports by health professionals." In the body of the report, the Task Force indicated the investigation should include an examination of the "highly questionable" and "unexplained" use of the drug mefloquine on all the Guantanamo detainees, something I will examine in more depth in a future article.

Entitled Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror”, the IMAP/OSF report was written by the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers. The TF roster included a former president of the American Psychiatric Association; the President of IMAP; the Chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights at the Boston University School of Public Health; a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross; a former Army general; and, controversially, the former Chief Surgeon and head of the Naval Hospital at Guantanamo, among other distinguished members.

Transforming Physicians into "Agents of the Military"

The bulk of the report concerns the ways in which the CIA and the Department of Defense, with the connivance of the Department of Justice, changed the rules and procedures surrounding the use of health care professionals in interrogations and national security detention centers such that doctors and psychologists were enlisted in the design, participation and enabling of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees.

The task force moreover found that health care professionals caused grave harm to those who otherwise should have been in their care, or to those whom they were otherwise under an ethical and professional obligation not to harm. Task Force member Dr. Gerald Thomson, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University, said in a press release, "It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”

According to the Task Force, DoD and the CIA accomplished the subornation of doctors and psychologists to torture by three mechanisms: the government's labeling of prisoners as “'unlawful combatants' who did not qualify as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions," along with the Department of Justice approval of "interrogation methods recognized domestically and internationally as constituting torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment"; "undermining health professionals’ allegiances to established principles of professional ethics and conduct through reinterpretation of those principles; and pervasive secrecy. (See Kevin Gosztola's story at The Dissenter.)

This is the second report in a little over six months to document the activity of medical professionals in the torture and abuse of detainees. Published last April, The Constitution Project's report on detainee abuse also noted that the Army Field Manual allowed for abuse and called for DoD "to eliminate [the AFM's] Appendix M, which permits the use of abusive tactics.... Language prohibiting the use of stress positions and abnormal sleep manipulation that was removed [from the AFM] in 2006 should be restored." (For the full report, see PDF.)

The AFM's Covert Actualization of Torture

I have followed the story of the new Army Field Manual since it was released in September 2006. In a January 2009 article at AlterNet I noted that rather than an alternative to torture, the Army Field Manual eliminated some of the worst of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques," like waterboarding, only to take the standard operating procedure of Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay and expand it all over the world.

In its Appendix M, meant only for detainees who did not qualify for the Geneva Conventions' Prisoner of War protections, under a deceptive omnibus "technique" called "Separation," the new AFM allowed for ongoing isolation and sleep deprivation of prisoners, for dietary and environmental manipulations, so long as they were not "extreme", and for forms of sensory deprivation (under the description "field expedient separation").
The President of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn has stated that portions of the AFM protocol, especially the use of isolation and prolonged sleep deprivation, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is illegal under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, has stated that portions of the AFM are "deeply problematic" and "would likely violate the War Crimes Act and Geneva," and at the very least "leave the door open for legal liability." Physicians for Human Rights and the Constitution Project have publicly called for the removal of problematic and abusive techniques from the AFM.

Yet, the interrogation manual is still praised by politicians, including then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who in December 2007 said he would "have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors."
The authors of the 2006 Army Field Manual presented their work as reform, and at first that's what many believed. Even today, Appendix M is represented as a single "technique." Some misunderstand the idea of "separation" and think it has something to do with isolating prisoners for safety or security reasons. But the Manual itself (PDF) calls such separation for security reasons "segregation," and specifically says the "Separation" discussed in Appendix M is not the same as security segregation but is meant for interrogation purposes, its techniques to be applied with others in the Army Field Manual, including Fear Up and Ego Down techniques, i.e., with use of fear and humiliation.

Yet all of this was presented with prettified words of adherence to Geneva, and forbidding of torture and abusive techniques like waterboarding and hooding, or use of dogs, types of torture and abuse allowed by the CIA and DoD during the Bush years.

The Torture Memo That Obama Never Rescinded

Obama was a man of his word, and he eliminated the CIA "enhanced interrogation" program, and withdrew the torture memos that had justified it. Or at least that was the impression. In fact, as I revealed in an article at The Dissenter on May 1 this year, Obama never rescinded all the Yoo/Bybee/Bradbury Office of Legal Council memos on interrogation, but had passed them on to his Attorney General for final disposition. Bradbury's April 16, 2006 memo on the Army Field Manual and Appendix M was never rescinded, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Defense. (DoJ has refused substantive comment on the issue.)

Bradbury's memo was deeply dishonest. It made assertions about the legality of techniques that were never documented (though they were presented in a verbal report to Congress). He approved the constitutionality of the bulk of the AFM (everything except Appendix M) in one sentence, hiding the fact that the manual had changed in substantive ways from earlier versions, besides the addition of Appendix M. This included an expansion of the "Fear Up" technique to include the exploitation of "new" phobias in prisoners, the elimination of the prohibition against stress positions and sleep deprivation, and a widening of the latitude in using drugs on prisoners.

The truth about how the Army Field Manual has been used to hide abuse of prisoners has been largely hidden from the public. Although both the IMAP/OSF and Constitution Project reports have gotten a lot of press coverage, very little of the coverage has noted the calls for a revision of the Army Field Manual, or the fact the AFM even has techniques that amount to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

To the calls for an executive order and rewriting the field manual must be added the revocation of the Bradbury Army Field Manual/Appendix M memo.

Obama, the Army Field Manual, and Torture

A lot has been made in recent years about how the New York Times is reticent to use the word "torture" to describe what is under any common sense or legal definition torture. That is certainly a disgraceful adaptation to the U.S. government's policies on interrogation, which include Bush and Cheney's outright advocacy of torture to the Obama administration's refusal to investigate or hold accountable those who tortured.

Even more egregious has been the characterization by the Times of the Army Field Manual as "nonabusive." Charlie Savage characterized the Army Field Manual as "nonabusive" in a widely-distributed article, "Election to Decide Future Interrogation Methods in Terrorism Cases" (Sept. 27, 2012). Savage's contention that Obama has stuck to a "strict no-torture policy" is belied by the evidence. Such misinformation, whether intentional or not, does real harm, the more so as it comes from an authoritative source.

As difficult as it is for many people to accept, we know from all that is described above that the Obama administration is itself involved in torture, from its approval of extraordinary rendition to the documented operation of detention centers, ostensibly under the administration of allied forces, where torture takes place. (See this 2011 report in The Nation by Jeremy Scahill about CIA torture sites in Somalia.) Other accusations of torture by agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation exist as well.

Yet it is the covert actualization of torture in the Army Field Manual that is the most pervasive application of torture at this date, as the AFM is the primary standard for interrogations used by both DoD and the CIA.

The IMAP/OSF report notes that the U.S. torture program was predicated on the production of "debility, dependency and dread" in those who are interrogated (see pgs. xiv and 18). The origin of this "DDD"-style torture was the research done under the CIA's MKULTRA and associated programs, which included DoD behavioral research on SERE-style training to withstand torture even as early as the 1950s. (For more on this aspect of the story, see "Beware Misdirection on Torture (the 'DDD' Story)" and "Top U.S. Behavioral Scientists Studied Survival Schools to Create Torture Program Over 50 Years Ago.")

The Army Field Manual utilizes precisely this program: isolation and sleep deprivation to produce both debility and dependency, use of "Fear Up" and sensory deprivation to cause "dread." Sometimes drugs are used to enhance these effects. The IMAP/OSF report notes the research I did with Jason Leopold, which culminated in the FOIA release of the DoD's Inspector General report on drugging, which admitted to both involuntary drugging of prisoners, and the fact that at least one prisoner (Jose Padilla) was made to think he had been given hallucinogenic drugs, in order to cause fear and disorientation.

The reason serious problems with the Army Field Manual issue do not command more interest among the American people is political. The issue usually goes unreported. The significance of the fact the nation's primary interrogation manual utilizes torture and abuse is not recognized, though this is primarily because the press does not push it. Even the human rights organizations who have publicly taken the AFM to task, or publicly called for change, do not put the issue on the front burner. Indeed, even IMAP left their recommendation to rewrite the Army Field Manual out of its press release.

But the fact remains that more and more sections of the Establishment are able to see through the propaganda and ignorance surrounding the nation's interrogation protocols. While the IMAP/OSF and Constitution Project reports represent important steps forward in the battle to end torture, it will take a political battle with major elements within the Democratic Party who still support the Army Field Manual and other aspects of the militarist program that is the "war on terror" to make the changes in interrogation policy something concrete and not only aspirational.

Also posted at The Dissenter/FDL

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