Friday, November 28, 2014

UN Review Cites Torture & "Ill Treatment" in U.S. Army Field Manual's Appendix M

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) has released their "Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of United States of America" in regards to US adherence to the prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading forms of treatment of prisoners.

Within the context of the world of diplomacy, the UNCAT findings belie the US insistence that it abides by the Convention Against Torture treaty (CAT), or that it is an adequate model for humane treatment of prisoners.

In particular, the committee took aim at the presence of ill-treatment and torture within the Army Field Manual's Appendix M, which purports to describe a "restricted interrogation technique" called "Separation." In a victory for those who oppose government-sanctioned torture and abuse of prisoners, the UNCAT called for the US "to review Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (AFM) in light of its obligations under the Convention."

More specifically, UNCAT identified the "minimal" sleep regulations in the manual as actually a form of sleep deprivation -- "a form of ill-treatment" -- and called for adherence to humane norms. In addition, the committee called for the elimination of sensory deprivation in the "field expedient" section of Appendix M, as such sensory deprivation can "create a state of psychosis with the detainee."

The UNCAT findings should be a wake-up call to the US press, which has repeatedly reported as true the assertion by the Bush and Obama administrations that the AFM allowed only humane interrogations. (The findings also validate my years-long campaign against the use of torture and abuse in the AFM, which has also been the focus at times of most of the human rights and legal groups who have made torture an issue, and bloggers such as Marcy Wheeler.)

While I want to concentrate here on what UNCAT said about the Appendix M and the Army Field Manual, which President Obama by executive order made the primary interrogation tool for forces in "armed conflict," the committee's other findings also are worth noting. The relative effectiveness of the UNCAT review process, or lack of same, is something that deserves its own analysis, but for the purposes of this article we'll put that off for now.

UNCAT Findings

The UNCAT found fault with the US's federal definition of torture -- the way it implements its torture laws -- not to mention the very way the US interprets the CAT treaty. It called for the US to consider withdrawing its "interpretive understandings and reservations" with which it ratified the CAT treaty. The UNCAT did the same thing in its May 2000 review of US practices. (For more on this, see this ACLU report.) The US "reservations" to the CAT treaty in particular eviscerate the protections against torture by replacing adherence to international norms on cruel treatment to less stringent US judiciary interpretations.

UNCAT also called for the US to criminalize "the specific offense of torture" at the federal level, and to remove the caveat in other statutes that says psychological torture requires evidence of “prolonged mental harm”. The UN officials warn that the presence of "serious discrepancies between the Convention’s definitions and those incorporated into domestic law create actual or potential loopholes for impunity."

In other notable, though not exhaustive, findings in the US review, the UNCAT told the US it had "concern over the ongoing failure to fully investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of suspects held in U.S. custody abroad, evidenced by the limited number of criminal prosecutions and convictions." It called for "prompt, impartial and effective investigations," noting in addition that "alleged perpetrators and accomplices are duly prosecuted, including persons in positions of command and those who provided legal cover to torture..."

In particular, the UNCAT noted that the US had supplied "minimal statistics on the number of investigations, prosecutions, disciplinary proceedings and corresponding reparations" from the US military.

In regards to the military's regime at Guantanamo, the UNCAT forcefully pronounced that "force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike constitutes ill-treatment in violation of the Convention." The committee called for the immediate release of all uncharged or cleared detainees, an end to force-feeding and indefinite detention, and investigation of all torture, abuse or ill-treatment charges, including prosecution of those responsible and redress to victims.

The UNCAT and Appendix M

The back and forth between US and UN officials over whether certain practices used in the Army Field Manual constitute torture or other forms of abuse sounded like a diplomatic version of "he said, she said." But readers may not be aware what all the shouting was about.

In 2006, the US rewrote the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation (formally known as FM 2-22.3, "Human Intelligence Collector Operations"). In 2009, in Executive Order 13491, "Ensuring Lawful Interrogations," President Obama declared that US officials could not use "any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2-22.3."

The 2006 AFM banned certain practices associated with the CIA and/or DoD's harsh interrogation and torture programs implemented under the Bush Administration, including forced nakedness, hooding, use of military dogs to threaten, and "waterboarding." But at the same time, the AFM removed restrictions against "abnormal sleep deprivation," use of stress positions, and "chemically induced psychosis."

The question of what constitutes sleep deprivation arose in the argument back-and-forth between the US and UNCAT on Appendix M.

In 2006, Appendix M was one of the new portions of the rewritten Army Field Manual. It involved the use of certain techniques, collected under the amalgam "Separation," which were not allowed for use on prisoners protected under the Geneva Conventions rules for POWs. So-called "unprivileged combatants" (or "unprivileged belligerents," as the Obama administration likes to call them) were subject, after approval, to the use of isolation (solitary confinement), sleep deprivation, adjustments in environmental and dietary rules, and, in the case of a special "field expedient" application of "separation," subjected to use of blindfolds or goggles, and earmuffs to shutoff both vision and hearing.

The UNCAT was specific in pointing out that the field expedient form of "separation" was in fact sensory deprivation, and that "based on recent scientific findings with high probability will create a state of psychosis with the detainee (Daniel C., Lovatt A., Manson OJ. Psychotic-like experiences and their cognitive appraisal under short-term sensory deprivation. Frontiers in Psychiatry; Vol. 5, Art 106:1), raising concerns of torture and ill-treatment."

As the UNCAT and the press have pointed out, Appendix M's stated purpose is to prevent communication among detainees, the better to prevent learning "counter-resistence techniques". But it is also, as Appendix M states, about "decreasing the detainee's resistance to interrogation." Indeed, both physical and so-called field expedient forms of "separation," are specifically described in Appendix M as meant to "foster a feeling of futility."

"A feeling of hopelessness and helplessness"

Appendix M does not describe what is meant by "futility," but the term is defined elsewhere in the AFM. When describing a technique known as "Emotional-Futility," the DoD-authored manual notes that the purpose of "futility" is to convince "the source that resistance to questioning is futile. This engenders a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness on the part of the source."

The manual clearly states that the use of futility is not enough to assure a prisoner's cooperation. Hence it strongly recommends the combination of Appendix M "separation" (which, remember, includes both isolation, sleep deprivation, and at times application of psychotic-inducing sensory deprivation) with other AFM "approaches." Indeed, Appendix M itself suggests combining "separation" with the use of the "futility" technique (actually, a natural extension of the purpose of Appendix M), "incentive," and "fear up."

In other words, shorn of all the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, an Appendix M interrogation means keeping a detainee isolated for up to 30 days, or even months longer, exposed to noise (as long as it is not "excessive") or other environmental changes (again, so long as they are not "excessive"), and allowed no more than 4 hours sleep per day for weeks and perhaps months on end. The detainee is meant to feel both hopeless and helpless about their condition. Psychological and sociological weaknesses are exploited to increase the sense of despair. Incentives are offered to entice the prisoner to cooperate and end the solitary confinement and sleep deprivation or sensory deprivation. If the prisoner should still refuse to divulge information or otherwise cooperate (such as to turn informant), then the level of fear a prisoner feels is to be increased, playing off fears the prisoner may feel, including phobias.

While the US representatives responding to UNCAT's review -- and one of these was Tom Malinowski, who as a representative for Human Rights Watch back in 2006 applauded the then-new version of the Army Field Manual -- have offered only boiler-plate defenses to the depredations of Appendix M, the AFM itself calls for the presence of medical personnel, including, optionally, a "behavioral health consultant," whenever an Appendix M interrogation takes place. To my knowledge, the presence of medical personnel is not required for any other kind of interrogation in existence -- with the sole exception of the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" torture.

The use of certain "approaches" in the main body of the AFM, such as Fear Up, Ego-Down, and Futility, demonstrate that use of cruel treatment is not limited to Appendix M, but exists within the main body of the AFM itself. As an example of the kind of warnings such "approaches" generate, the instructions regarding Fear Up warn the interrogator not to induce so much fear the prisoner becomes unresponsive.

Drugs and the Army Field Manual

Another area of abuse that exists in the main body of the AMF concerns the use of drugs. A close examination of the current AFM with its predecessor shows that the wording regarding restriction of the use of drugs changed in 2006. As noted above, the prohibition against use of drugs that cause psychotic-like symptoms was removed from the current AFM. The prohibition now is only against drugs that cause "lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage," a significantly lowered bar for use of drugs in interrogations.

In September 2009, a Department of Defense Inspector General report concluded that drugs had not been used in DoD interrogations. Even so, the report did reveal that detainees who were drugged for ostensible non-interrogation reasons were interrogated while drugged. There was also at least one case -- that of Jose Padilla -- where DoD used deception to make a prisoner believe he had been give "truth serum."

Still the IG report was seriously flawed, particularly in that it did not interview any of the released detainees who had alleged use of drugs. One of who made such a charge was Murnat Kurnaz, who was in Geneva for the UNCAT review. Kurnat has charged that he was subjected to repeated beatings, had his head dunked in water, was given electric shock to his feed, suspended by his arms, humiliated, and placed in solitary confinement by US forces. He has also said in the past he was forcibly administered drugs. But when he gave a statement to the UNCAT, unfortunately it did not mention the forcible use of drugs.

When Kurnaz gave, with the parents of Michael Brown, a teleconference in Geneva on November 12, I asked him about his drugging charges. Kurnaz stated, "I was forced to take medication. I didn't know what it was. When I refused they came afterwards... five to ten people held me down and tie me and give as injection." Kurnaz also charged that he was forced to take an "antimalaria medication," while, as Kurnaz added, "the whole world knows in Guantanamo there is no malaria." He further charged the drug was given "for its side effects, which include hallucinations."

Last year, a report by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundation called for an investigation into the use wide-spread use of the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (Lariam) at Guantanamo.

None of the press reported Kurnaz's charges in relation to drugs. UNCAT never referred to the issue of drugging at all (see even the full transcript of the UNCAT review). As an article in the Jurist noted, "legislation implementing the Convention Against Torture defines torture to include 'the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.' 18 U.S.C. 2340. (In fact, under federal law, committing such acts outside of the United States is a very serious crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 18 USC 2340A)."

The UNCAT is to be praised for bringing to the fore some of the worst aspects of the current use of torture and abuse by the US government, and in particular for calling out the endemic abuse in the practices of forced-feeding and Appendix M techniques in the Army Field Manual. But the full story is still not out there, and the investigations called for by UNCAT are not on anyone's agenda. (There is a supposed "independent review" concerning collaboration of leading figures of the American Psychological Association with the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program, but that will be the subject of a future article.)

In addition, the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA torture program -- or at least it's Executive Summary -- keeps being delayed. The latest word is that it might be out by the end of the year, lost in the news wasteland that is the Christmas and New Years' holidays.

It's good to take some time to reflect upon the progress made in the fight against torture, but there's still a long, long way to go before such crimes are truly eliminated, and the perpetrators of such crimes prosecuted.

Cross-posted at The Dissenter/FDL

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Letter to Sen. Udall Asking Him to Release the Senate's Report on CIA Torture

The following was sent to Senator Mark Udall on the evening of November 17, answering the request of my fellow colleagues in Psychologists for Social Responsibility for psychologists to personally write to the senator, who has made some gestures relating to getting out the truth of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the CIA torture and rendition program. The report's release itself has been throttled, with the Senate leadership limiting any public access to an Executive Summary of the full 6,000+ page report, which itself has been withheld pending charges of CIA excessive censorship.

I can't say I am sanguine about the results of such an appeal, and at first I felt that it would only sow illusions to hope that Sen. Udall will do for the Senate report what Sen. Mike Gravel did for the Pentagon Papers so many years ago. But I have put aside my own political feelings for the sake of those who are and have been tortured, and their loved ones. Such evil must be stopped somehow. If there's a chance a U.S. Senator can help facilitate that, then I must surely ask.
Dear Sen. Udall,

I am a psychologist who has worked on torture issues for some years now. I found myself turning to such activism after my experiences working with torture survivors from other countries who had come to the United States seeking political asylum.

I can tell you there is no terror worse and as deeply damaging as torture. It destroys not only the souls of those who are victimized, but their families and the entire civil society that countenances such torture, whether directly or by failure to stop it, or to render justice.

U.S. society has already been terribly damaged by the adherence to torture. Practices amounting to torture have not yet been fully extirpated, as the members of the Committee Against Torture at the UN reminded us via their questions during the recent U.S. review.

It would be naive to think that even your release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's full report on CIA torture will be enough to undo the damage done by the turn to torture by the military and intelligence agencies in this country. But it would be a giant blow against those that support such barbarism.

I know that you personally would pay a heavy toll for taking such a step. It would be facile to say otherwise. But you do have a responsibility, one you took when you made an oath to the Constitution when you took office. The Constitution lies in tatters, shredded by policies the Founders of the Republic held anathema.

You can make a difference. This is what it means to stand at the apex of history. No one will likely remember if you fail here. But you will be a hero if you choose to stand on the side of those fighting against the forces of ignorance, prejudice, and blind vengeance.

The people of this country need to know about what was done in their names. I humbly ask that you help them.

Sincerely, Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gitmo "Team Leader" in Slahi Torture Sued for Framing Innocent Chicago Man for Murder

Two worlds of governmental crime. Both involve the imprisonment of innocent men. The article that follows links the torture booths at Guantanamo to the interrogation rooms run by crooked Chicago cops. It is the story of a part of America as it really is. For those caught up in it, it is a living nightmare.

"I am dying in here man..."

July 2003, Guantanamo. A sole man was kept in a darkened solitary cell for months on end. For many days in a row he is interrogated 16 hours a day. Loud music blared constantly, dogs menaced. Guards cursed him, banged on his cell at all hours to keep him awake. The temperature in the cell was purposely set close to freezing. An interrogator told the prisoner about a dream he had, one that supposedly had other detainees digging a grave and carrying a coffin with the prisoner's number on it.

Another interrogator, actually the chief of a "Special Projects Team" at the American naval base prison, lied and told the prisoner his mother had been detained, and that if he did not cooperate she would be brought to Guantanamo and kept as the only woman prisoner there. The implication of the threat against his mother seemed dire. The chief of the SP team produced a forged letter to back up his contention. But the prisoner had nothing to admit, and kept telling interrogators the truth, until finally he gave in under torture and told them what they wanted to hear.

The Guantanamo prisoner was Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The interrogation team leader in charge of Slahi's "Special Project" torture was then-Lieutenant (and former Chicago homicide detective) Richard Zuley.

Meanwhile, also in 2003, another man sat in solitary confinement in an Illinois prison. Lathierial Boyd had been sentenced to 82 years in jail for the alleged shooting of two men, one of whom, Michael Fleming, died at the scene; the other was permanently paralyzed. Police called it a revenge drug murder. Both the victims and Boyd were African-American.

For 13 years Boyd had proclaimed his innocence. He told the story of how Chicago police officers had hid witness testimony, fabricated evidence, lied in reports, and coerced witnesses. In 2002, his plight picked up some news interest after a Chicago television station's investigation dug up new evidence (see video), but Boyd, a former fashion model, remained in jail awaiting another appeal. He told anyone who would listen, "I am dying in here man, can't you see I am dying."

According to recent legal filings, one of these cops was alleged to have withheld the fact the sole survivor of the shooting, Ricky Warner, could not identify the shooter, nor could any of those who viewed the police line-up.

This same cop was said to have coerced Warner's father to say his son had been threatened by Boyd. The cop fabricated evidence for the father to look at. He also convinced Warner to ID Boyd as the man who shot him and his partner. In this, the cop worked together with other Chicago police. Later, the cop allegedly helped fabricate a piece of evidence for Warner to use to help "lead" interrogators to Boyd.

The cop was the same man who years later led Slahi's torture, Richard Zuley.

Zuley's role in the torture of Mohamadou Slahi can be gleaned from the footnotes in the Nov. 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report, Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody (see pages 137 and 140), while he is identified more specifically in a July 7, 2010 declassified legal filing in Slahi's case.

Zuley was also profiled in Jess Bravin's book, The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. Bravin wrote that in July 2003 Zuley became the head of the Special Team that conducted "enhanced interrogations" at Guantanamo. Elsewhere in the book, Bravin quotes Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt, who testified that "Zuley was a 'zealot' who loved tormenting his prisoner."

Zuley also helped identify himself. In his sole review at, Zuley signs himself:
"LCDR Richard Zuley, USN (Ret)
Former EUCOM LNO, senior interrogator
and Special Projects Team Chief,
Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (2002-2004)"

EUCOM stands for U.S. European Command. LNO stands for Liaison Officer. Today, according to his LinkedIn page, Zuley is Projects Administrator at City of Chicago's Department of Aviation, Aviation Police division.

A Miscarriage of Justice

In September 2013, Boyd walked out of prison free, released after a review of his case, subject previously to numerous rejected appeals, showed he was in fact innocent. Last month, he filed a $20 million civil suit against Zuley and five other Chicago officers for destruction and/or concealment of material exculpatory and impeachment evidence, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy to deprive him of his Constitutional rights. The other officers named are Lawrence Thezan, Andrew Sobolewski, Steve Schorsch, John Murray, and Wayne Johnson.

The particulars of the case are astounding, as Zuley and his cohorts are alleged to have manufactured evidence regarding Boyd, coerced the only eyewitness (shooting survivor Ricky Martin) to ID Boyd at the scene, withheld evidence of eyewitnesses who specifically said Boyd could not have been the shooter, and fabricated a note with supposedly incriminating evidence against Boyd, among other instances of malfeasance. The fact Boyd had an alibi staying at his sister's home with her boyfriend, a Cook County Sheriff, was ignored.

The miscarriage of justice in Lathierial's case was so egregious that the judge who sentenced him called for his case to be reopened. Many of the facts concerning the frame-up against Boyd can be read in his 2008 habeas filing (PDF).

Boyd's time in prison was a terrible ordeal. According to his October 4 lawsuit complaint, Boyd wrote "thousands of letters, pleading with lawyers and the media to help him." He spent approximately 90 percent of his 23 years in prison confined to his cell. He lost contact with friends and family. Due to what he alleges was poor medical care, he lost sight in one eye. Boyd, who was a former fashion model, "sank into a black hole of depression so profound and debilitating that he frequently contemplated suicide as the only way to be free again."

"Extensive and severe mistreatment"

The Slahi case was singled out by the Senate Armed Services Committee as a primary example of detainee abuse, produced under the auspices of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (Wolfowitz signed off on a memo recommending the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and "sound modulation," or sensory overload, on Slahi.)

Slahi, who was severely beaten, subject to false flag deception and threats of torture and harm to his family, sexually humiliated, deprived of religious comfort, and also experienced at times sensory deprivation, has told his own story in a 466-page draft memoir about his seizure and incarceration, portions of which were published at in April 2013. The full diary is supposed to be published in January 2015.

Like the torture of Mohamed al-Qahtani some months before him, Slahi's torture supposedly was justified by his alleged role in 9/11. As a high-value detainee, he was kidnapped and rendered first to Jordan, and then via Bagram, Afghanistan to Guantanamo in August 2002. The "evidence" against Slahi came via what was likely coerced interrogation by Ramzi Binalshibh, who told the CIA that Slahi was involved in the planning for 9/11. Subsequent "evidence" came from Slahi's confessions made under torture.

When it came time to try Slahi under President George W. Bush's first attempt at military commissions, the MC prosecutor, Col. Stuart Couch, famously refused to prosecute Slahi's case because it was based primarily on tortured evidence.

In April 2010, Slahi's habeas petition was granted by Judge James Robertson, who stated "there is 'ample evidence in this record that Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantánamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003.'" But in November 2010, the government, who appealed Robertson's decision, won a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate Robertson's decision, remanding the case to the D.C. District Court, where it still languishes. Not one habeas petition that has gone to that court has ever been approved.

A System Out of Control

The oozing scandal that is the Chicago Police Department has been the subject of numerous investigations and news reports. Torture, kidnapping of witnesses, robberies and criminal home invasions, these are only some in the long list of corrupt operations exposed over the years.

After many attempts, some of Chicago's crooked cops have gotten justice. But the system remains pathetically slow, and no one knows how many lives have been ruined by cops out of control in Chicago and many other major urban areas in the United States. Recently, an activist group has produced a "shadow report" for the UN Committee on Torture, testifying to the ongoing use of police violence.

Meanwhile, an ongoing scandal concerning U.S. government torture by both the CIA and the Department of Defense, centered on operations at Guantanamo and elsewhere, has been the subject of Congressional investigations and dozens of books and articles. But despite a good deal of attention, torture techniques in some cases similar to those used on Slahi, based on SERE methods used to inoculate US soldiers against torture, are still in use.

Most recently, a controversy over the release of an executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the CIA torture program has dragged on for months. It's not clear the report will tell us that much more than what other investigations and leaks have already produced. A McClatchy article last month indicated that the report will not touch upon the responsibility for the torture program among top Bush Administration officials.

While the Senate Committee, led by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, has announced it is suppressing (for now) the full report they made, they are seeking release of its executive summary, which the White House gave the CIA to vet for declassification. Not surprisingly, the CIA wants more classified in the rump report's release than the Senate Committee does.

The press rarely reports on the full extent of the torture scandal. Rarely are the dots connected that place issues like massive use of solitary confinement in US prisons, or the epidemic of police abuse and prosecutorial frame-up, in conjunction with US use of torture and rendition at Guantanamo and abroad.

It's time for a reckoning on torture and abuses of justice, whether in the name of "law and order" or "war on terrorism." What we have now is a system out of control with abuse of power.

Crossposted at The Dissenter/FDL

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