Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CIA Investigation Minimizes Use of Drugs on Rendition & Black Site Detainees

The CIA has released documents regarding a 2008 Inspector General (IG) investigation into the use of "mind-altering" drugs to enhance or facilitate interrogations undertaken as part of their rendition, "black site" detention, and interrogation-torture (RDI) program. Not surprisingly, a brief investigation found, according to a January 29, 2009 newly declassified letter sent from the CIA IG to Senator Dianne Feinstein, then-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), that CIA had not used any drugs on detainees for the purpose of interrogations.

The documents were released to Jason Leopold at VICE News, who posted a comprehensive article examining them earlier today. Leopold and I have previously written on the subject of drugging prisoners, and examined an earlier Department of Defense IG report on the subject a few years ago, as well as the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo, about which more below.

The CIA Inspector General, John L. Helgerson, referred Feinstein to a statement by the Director of CIA's Office of Medical Services (OMS), to the effect that "no 'mind-altering' drugs were administered to facilitate interrogations and debriefings because no medications of any kind were used for that purpose."

But as we shall see, there were many claims by prisoners of drugging during CIA renditions, and later by affiliated "liaison" government officials. Other prisoners claimed they were drugged during the time they were held by CIA itself at their black site prisons. None of those charges were addressed by Helgerson in his investigation, unless they were part of a 5-page section of the new CIA document release that was totally whited out by the CIA FOIA officials.

No CIA detainees were evidently ever interviewed as part of the IG investigation.

Helgerson said that he queried IG investigators working on another investigation of abuse claims by 16 high-value detainees then held at Guantanamo. The alleged abuse concerned treatment by CIA before the detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. Helgerson said the investigators had no knowledge of "the use of 'mind-altering' drugs as a part of the interrogation regimen." Nothing is known about this IG investigation on detainee complaints.

Helgerson, who is now retired, did refer in his letter to Feinstein to the May 2004 CIA IG report that examined "isolated allegations of mistreatment or abuse of detainees, though he never specifically states that there were no claims of drugging in that "comprehensive review."

Helgerson said that the CIA IG had investigated "a variety of specific unrelated detainee abuse allegations" since the 2004 report.

MKULTRA, KUBARK, and Phoenix

The issue of CIA drugging of prisoners has historical resonance since CIA engaged in a decades-long program of experimentation on the use of "truth serums" and other drugs, including LSD, for use in interrogations. Known under various acronyms, including Bluebird, MKDELTA and MKSEARCH, the program was best known in popular accounts as MKULTRA. The CIA's KUBARK interrogation manual from the early 1960s drew specifically upon MKULTRA research when it advocated use of "narcosis" or the use of drugs for interrogations.

The latest version of the KUBARK manual (PDF), released to me last year after a Mandatory Declassification Request, showed a much heavier emphasis on the use of foreign "liaison" agencies for detention of CIA prisoners than had been previously revealed.

The CIA's 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual also describes such liaison relationships in some depth, in addition to a discussion of using drugs during interrogation. According to National Security Archive, "The manual was used in numerous Latin American countries as an instructional tool by CIA and Green Beret trainers between 1983 and 1987 and became the subject of executive session Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights abuses committed by CIA-trained Honduran military units."

This aspect of the CIA's program both before and after 9/11 has probably had the least amount of emphasis in the press, for partly understandable reasons, as the actions of police or intelligence agencies in foreign countries is least penetrable or open to examination by government or human rights agency, not to mention journalists.

An important exception to this was Douglas Valentine's extensive evaluation of the CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. In his book on the subject, he described Phoenix as both a counter-terror assassination program and a interrogation-torture program which heavily relied on the use of South Vietnamese liaison personnel. Valentine detailed the use of drugs by both CIA Phoenix personnel and South Vietnamese police to both disorient prisoners and to obtain false confessions.

In a newly revealed section of the 1963 KUBARK manual, the CIA discussed use of foreign services for interrogation. It is worth referencing here as it is expresses issues still relevant to CIA rendition activities, and interactions with foreign intelligence services to whom CIA sends "ghost" or black site prisoners.
The legislation which founded KUBARK [CIA] specifically denied it any law-enforcement or police powers. Yet detention in a controlled environment and perhaps for a period is frequently essential to a successful counterintelligence interrogation of a recalcitrant source. Because the necessary powers are vested in the competent liaison service or services, not in KUBARK, it is frequently necessary to conduct such interrogations with or through liaison. This necessity, obviously, should be determined as early as possible. The legality of detaining and questioning a person, and of the methods employed is determined by the laws of the country in which the act occurs.
The issue of drugging detainees takes on even more relevance when one considers that the SSCI's report on CIA torture included revelations that James Mitchell worked for the CIA's Office of Technical Services (OTS) when he was referred to help lead the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, and later to construct the EIT program itself. At least one other OTS official was said to have worked on the EIT protocols along with Mitchell, a fact totally ignored by mainstream press accounts.

OTS is notable in CIA history for being the department in charge of the CIA's MKULTRA program for some years.

Narcotic drugs, "sedatives," and antidepressants administered to detainees

Despite the claims no drugs were used for interrogation purposes, like a September 2009 Department of Defense Inspector General report (PDF) on the same issue, released via FOIA in July 2012, CIA admitted other drugs were used on detainees for various health-related purposes.

A full list of such drugs, by name or family of drug, was redacted in the current CIA FOIA release. Hence, the most crucial information that we could obtain from the IG investigation was censored.

But a memo from the Director, OMS to Helgerson (dated May 29, 2008) indicated that drugs given to detainees in the CIA's RDI program included both narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics for "pain relief."

In addition, CIA's OMS administered oral, topical and injectable antibiotics; topical agents for skin conditions; antacids, laxatives and antidiarrheals; as well as non-prescription medications for sleep. The letter drily noted that medications "to assist with sleep on request" were not administered during interrogations. (The CIA's torture program is known for its heavy reliance upon sleep deprivation.)

The CIA's medical services director also indicated that antidepressant medications were given to "several detainees." In addition, "sedatives" were also give in "two instances" to detainees "with their knowledge and consent" for "agitation or anxiety."

CIA documents maintain that what drugs were administered to detainees were done with the informed consent of the prisoners. This contrasts with DoD's admission that drugs were forcibly administered to some detainees for purposes of "chemical restraint."

The only drug actually named by CIA officials in the FOIA release was Ambien, and that was said to have been administered to CIA officers for use in travel to and from CIA black sites.

The Director, OMS, also told Helgerson that he knew of no other use of drugs for purposes of interrogation "in any other program or site." Helgerson himself later told Feinstein and other U.S. senators who had asked for the information, that he was told there no "information that any CIA officer or contractor... has procured and/or administered such drugs to detainees since September 2001."

Helgerson never mentioned the possibility that such drugs were administered by foreign nationals or liaison officials in other countries where CIA had sent detainees via rendition. In fact, there has been a great deal of evidence of such drugging.

"Drugged repeatedly"

The CIA documents focus on claims of drugging by US agents of Adel al-Nusairi, as described in an influential April 2008 Washington Post article by Joby Warrick. Yet, the Post story was the latest in a number of articles accusing the CIA and DoD of drugging detainees. Another such article in 2007 at NBC News included charges that the CIA's interrogation program included use of "psychotropic drugs."

The CIA was dismissive of Warrick's claims, noting in one memo, most likely from CTC to CIA IG, that al-Nusairi was never a CIA prisoner, "nor did we render him," and therefore they knew little about him or his treatment.

But certainly a search of open source documentation would have found many other instances of charges of drugging by CIA prisoners.

For one thing, as documented in the recent release by the SSCI of their study on the CIA's interrogation program, high-value detainee Abd al Rahim al Nashiri made repeated charges that we was drugged while in CIA custody. "Over a period of years," the report states, "al-Nashiri accused the CIA staff of drugging or poisoning his food, and complained of bodily pain and insomnia."

In February 2007, a Washington Post article by Dafna Linzer and Julie Tate related the story of Marwan Jabour, "an accused al-Qaeda paymaster," who claimed he was drugged in June 2006 on his very last day in CIA custody.

Jabour "was stripped naked, seated in a chair and videotaped by agency officers. Afterward, he was shackled and blindfolded, headphones were put over his ears, and he was given an injection that made him groggy," Linzer and Tate wrote.

A number of detainees accused the CIA of forcibly administering suppositories, presumably containing some drug. In December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights found that CIA had in fact "forcibly administered" a suppository during the CIA rendition of Khalid el-Masri.

A 2007 ICRC report, based on interviews with high-value prisoners held at one time by the CIA, stated, "A body cavity check (rectal examination) would be carried out and some detainees alleged that a suppository (the type and the effect of such suppositories was unknown by the detainees), was also administered at that moment." (p. 6) One of these detainees was accused 9/11 plotter, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The ICRC report was released in 2010 by the New York Review of Books, over a year after the CIA IG investigation, but certainly Helgerson had access to the report if he so wanted.

In fact, Helgerson and CIA appear to have done very little in the way of investigating the charges. Like DoD, which also did a poor job of investigating the drugging, interviewing only three detainees, CIA construed the charge to investigate drugging as narrowly as possible. Hence charges of being drugged by foreign governments after CIA had rendered prisoners to countries like Egypt and Morocco were ignored by Helgerson, even though CIA and other allied government agents were present at these interrogation sites, if not directing the interrogations themselves.

Charges of drugging by detainees rendered by CIA to "liaison" services have been detailed in open source documents. Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib accused Egyptian jailers of drugging him after CIA rendered him to that country.

As a 2005 article on Habib in the Los Angeles Times reported: "'They outsource torture,' said Stephen Hopper, Habib's Australian lawyer. 'You get your friends and allies to do your dirty work for you.'"

British resident Binyam Mohamed, rendered by CIA to Morocco, and later to Guantanamo, said he was "drugged repeatedly" by Moroccan authorities, subsequent to CIA rendition.

In addition, there is the related issue of withholding of drugs as part of an overall manipulation of medical care. The SSCI report refers to this in the case of high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah. While it quotes CIA director Hayden as denying drugs were withheld from detainees, the report quotes a CIA cable from the time of Zubaydah's interrogation that mentions "the removal of formal obvious medical care to further isolate" AZ, which could refer also to withholding of medical drugs. (p. 491)

Another example of deleterious withholding of drugs concerns high-value detainee Ramzi bin al-Shibh. According to CIA documents quoted in the SSCI report, al-Shibh been in "'social isolation" for as long as two and half years and the isolation was having a 'clear and escalating effect on his psychological functioning." By April 2005, his psychological deterioration was considered "alarming." A CIA psychologist is quoted as saying, "significant alterations to RBS'[s] detention environment must occur soon to prevent further and more serious psychological disturbance."

The SSCI report notes that al-Shibh was placed on antipsychotic medication once he was transferred to Guantanamo on September 5, 2006. Evidently, al-Shibh was not placed on such medication prior to that, despite his desperate psychiatric condition.

While the CIA's Director of Medical Services told the Agency Inspector General that there were psychiatric problems and that antidepressants and "sedatives" were administered, nothing in the extant documents mentions antipsychotic medications. Conversely, the DoD IG report on drugging detainees mentions use of the antipsychotic drug haldol, and not just for antipsychotic use, but as a chemical restraint.

Blood Thinners and Antimalarials

The CIA IG investigation is disingenous in the way it approaches the question of drugs and their effects on prisoners, or the way in which drugs were used in the torture program.

The executive summary of the SSCI report released last December tells the story of Abu Ja'far al-Iraqi. According to CIA records, al-Iraqi "was subjected to nudity, dietary manipulation, insult slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holds, walling, stress positions, and water dousing with 44 degree Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes. He was shackled in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation, and experienced swelling in his lower legs requiring blood thinner and spiral ace bandages.... After the swelling subsided, he was provided with more blood thinner and was returned to the standing position" (p. 149, bold emphasis added).

Typical blood thinners that could have been used likely included heparin or warfarin, both drugs that can produce significant side effects, including headache, confusion, nausea, weakness, and fatigue, all conditions that would adversely affect a prisoner undergoing interrogation, not to mention torture.

The Helgerson investigation is also mum on the use of either scopolamine or mefloquine, both drugs that were administered to detainees rendered to Guantanamo. This presumably also included CIA prisoners transferred to Guantanamo from black sites. The use of scopolamine and mefloquine were standard operating procedures for prisoners entering Guantanamo. Nothing in the new documents speaks to whether such drugs were used on CIA prisoners at the DoD facility.

Former Guantanamo guard Joe Hickman has stated in his widely discussed new book, Murder at Camp Delta, that the CIA ran a secret "special access program" at Guantanamo that included a black site at the Cuba-based facility. It is Hickman's contention that the three detainees who died at Guantanamo in June 2006, which DoD officials called a case of concurrent suicide, were in fact victims of interrogations or experiments at the camp's CIA black site, known variously as "Camp No" and "Strawberry Fields."

Notably, one of the deceased detainees had needle marks on his arms. The suicides were also tested for the presence of the antimalarial drug chloroquine, and one of the deceased was tested for the presence of mefloquine. This was quite odd as, one, there is no malaria in Cuba, and two, the SOP that called for administration of mefloquine would have only been relevant to newly arrived prisoners. The three dead detainees had been at Guantanamo for approximately four years at that point.

What mefloquine, scopolamine, chloroquine, and blood thinners have in common are disagreeable, even potentially severe side effects, including psychiatric side effects, even as none of these drugs (with the possible exception of scopolamine) are considered psychotropic or "mind-altering" drugs. Their use by CIA or any government agency holding detainees or prisoners should be very carefully examined for their potential for abuse, as the drugs may not be considered primarily psychoactive, and yet affect mood, perception, consciousness or behavior.

It is worth recalling that the MKULTRA experiments on drugs were not solely about drugs like cannabis, mescaline or LSD. MKULTRA experiments included examination of antimalarials, and also drugs like curare and cancer medications. Indeed, according to an SOP for Physician Assistants at Guantanamo, the Detainee Hospital formulary stocked a number of older chemotherapy drugs. It also stocked heparin and the curare-based drug tubocurarine choloride.

In addition, the detainee hospital also had supplies of a very old malaria drug, quinacrine, as well as the fertility drug Clomid. Why detainees would need a drug that affected hormone levels of estrogen or testosterone is unknown. However, while the hospital stocked these drugs, the SOP indicated that physician assistants were prohibited from prescribing them.

Drugs in interrogations okay if no "lasting or permanent alteration or damage"

Leopold's article does a good job at detailing the history of the CIA's investigation, and the strange preoccupation of CIA officials in proving that they had never referred the drug issue to the Office of Legal Counsel for approval for use in the interrogation program. And yet, as Leopold points out, John Yoo, the primary author of the first three torture memos made a special point of giving legal cover to the use of drugs in interrogation.

It it worth noting that the use of drugs in interrogation also became a part of the Army Field Manual, which was revised in September 2006. While previously the military could not use drugs that that could cause a "chemically induced psychosis," the current Army Field Manual prohibits only the use of "drugs that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage."

In other words, any drugs can be used for interrogation that do not cause permanent damage or alteration in a prisoner, a very loose criterion that would allow for the use of many pernicious and harmful, not to say psychoactive or "mind-altering," medications. Today, per executive order by President Obama, the Army Field Manual is the official government guideline for interrogation for both the military and the CIA.

Crossposted from Firedoglake

Saturday, May 2, 2015

APA Ethics Director Consulted on Development of BSCT Training Program

A new report by what New York Times reporter James Risen called "a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists" has provided the best proof yet of collaboration and links between the CIA, Department of Defense, and the American Psychological Association (APA) regarding the government's interrogation program.

Not noted in the report but revealed here for the first time is the fact that APA's long-time Ethics Director Steven Behnke worked directly with Department of Defense officials in creating a training curriculum for psychologists working with interrogators at Guantanamo and elsewhere. He has never revealed his role in that.

It has been widely reported, and was the topic of two major Congressional investigations, that both CIA's and DoD's interrogation programs involved widespread use of torture. This policy was supported and endorsed at all levels of the Executive Branch, and the programs involved were repeatedly funded by Congress. Indeed, a high-level report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that I obtained recently via FOIA indicated that detainee facilities at Guantanamo's Camp Delta were built early on via solicitation of emergency contingency funds from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The new report, All the President's Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s ”Enhanced” Interrogation Program (PDF), draws on a cache of over 600 emails from a former RAND employee and presumed CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, who died in a mysterious accident in 2008.

The narrative -- as constructed by report authors, psychologists Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner, and Nathaniel Raymond, Director of Harvard's Signal Program on Human Security and Technology -- concentrates on events surrounding three key events: a July 2003 joint APA/CIA/RAND conference on "The Science of Deception"; a July 20, 2004 "confidential meeting between senior APA staff and senior national security psychologists and behavioral research personnel"; and the circumstances surrounding the June 2005 APA Task Force meetings, over a single weekend, to rush out policies on Professional Ethics and National Security, producing a report on the same (PENS).

While there is much that can be discovered from a close reading of the report and its accompanying documentation (one only wishes that more of the emails were released), one of the leading figures throughout the entire APA drama is its Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke.

Behnke Accused

As pointed out in a "Fact Sheet" on Behnke, put out by the Soldz and Reisner-linked Coalition for an Ethical Psychology in February 2011, the APA Ethics Director had been a key player in "the creation and management" of the PENS task force. Behnke kept the membership of the task force secret, even as it later turned out the members were largely drawn from the military and intelligence fields.

Indeed, an important email released in the new Soldz/Reisner/Raymond report describes the Science Policy Director at APA, Geoff Mumford, telling Kirk Hubbard, the chief of the CIA's Research & Analysis unit at the Operational Assessment Division, Special Activities Division, CIA, that the PENS task force members were "very carefully selected" to represent his views and that of CIA psychiatrist Charles "Andy" Morgan and DoD intelligence official Kirk Kennedy.

The Coalition fact sheet also criticized Behnke with ignoring blatant conflicts of interest among PENS personnel. They specifically cited the selection of Russ Newman, then Director of APA's Practice Directorate" to be an observer at the PENS meetings. The Coalition continued, "Dr. Newman's wife was Lt. Col. Debra Dunivin, a member of the Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) -- the very form of psychologist involvement that was a primary focus of the PENS Task Force's ethics deliberations."

The BSCTs were formed in the very early days of holding "war on terror" prisoners at Guantanamo. Over time, they were exposed as assisting interrogators in ferreting out psychological weaknesses, and even proposing "exploitation" of those weaknesses to interrogators.

But it wasn't Behnke who sent Newman to PENS. Newman was recommended by then-APA Board of Director liaison, Dr. Barry Anton. Anton is the current President of APA.

As for Dunivin, a 2004 APA Monitor story identifies her as also being a SERE psychologist. SERE is the U.S. military's program to inoculate soldiers and intelligence officers to the hardships of capture by foreign forces or terrorists. It includes a mock-torture camp experience, the procedures of which were utilized in forming the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture program, reportedly devised by former SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

Consulting with DoD on the BSCTs

The Coalition noted that after the PENS report was released and approved by the APA, Dunivin "subsequently joined members of the Task Force in revising the BSCT instructions on the basis of the PENS report." While the Coalition simplifies history a small bit here -- they were not simply "revising" BSCT instructions but developing a training curriculum for BSCT members, at the direction of then-Surgeon General Kevin Kiley.

Still, it is true that Dunivin and other PENS members, including Larry James, another Guantanamo BSCT, and Special Forces psychologist Morgan Banks, became advisers to top military officials on the organization of the BSCTs. They all attended a meeting on August 5, 2005, only a month after the public release of the PENS report, with its finding that it was ethically appropriate to work with government interrogators working with detainees in the "war on terror," a stance which was rejected by both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

It is with some irony that Behnke's own role working on the new BSCT training was revealed in a 2014 book chapter written by Dunivin and another Special Operations psychologist, Jay Earles.

In an essay entitled "Behavioral Science Consultation to Interrogation and Detention Operations: Policy, Ethics, and Training" (PDF) (Ch. 14 in the book Forensic and Ethical Issues in Military Behavioral Health, Borden Institute, 2014), Dunivin and Earles describe the tasking from Medical Command and the Surgeon General's office in 2005 to create new BSCT guidelines and procedures.
Then surgeon general of the Army, Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley, convened a group in the summer of 2005 to develop doctrine in this specialized area. He assembled subject matter experts, including several psychologists and psychiatrists who had served as BSCs, a medical ethicist, a military attorney, a master interrogator, and two general officers who trained and educated military medical personnel.
Dunivin and Earles don't go into more details on the tasking, but on May 24, 2005, Kiley approved the findings of a report by a "Functional Assessment Team" he had sent to Guantanamo and both Iraq and Afghanistan theater of operations to assess medical operations. (It is worth noting that by January 2004, BSCT staffing was only by psychologists.)

The recommendations in the report (long PDF) included this: "DoD should develop well defined doctrine and policy for the use of BSCT personnel. A training program for BSCT personnel should be implemented to address the specific duties." Some of the development of BSCT operating procedures and organizational definitions and boundaries can be ascertained by comparing an early 2002 version of BSCT Standard Operating Procedures with a DoD 2008 policy statement on BSCTs, which includes a section describing the training program devised back in 2005.

As Dunivin and Earles describe it, military authorities at MEDCOM and the Surgeon General's office were closely following the debates at medical and psychological associations regarding medical professionals in so-called behavioral consultant roles in interrogation. The military drew on a number of "experts" of their own, including Army, Navy and Air Force psychologists, and other personnel from JSOC, the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (then parent-command for SERE), the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, and the Criminal Investigation Task Force.

Consultants also came from the shadowy Intelligence Science Board, which is best known for its 2006 report, Educing Information -- Interrogation: Science and Art (large PDF). The members of the board are drawn from the intelligence community, broadly defined. It includes two members of the PENS board, NCIS's Mike Gelles and CIA's Scott Shumate, as well as the former Chief of the “Interrogation Control Element” in Guantanamo, David Becker.

Dunivin and Earles singled out Behnke as a significant consultant, though not by name, only title:
From the earliest stages, professional ethics and law were significant components of the curriculum development process; APA’s ethics director and staff judge advocates (attorneys) with expertise in law relative to interrogations and detention operations were consulted to ensure concordance with the ethics and the law." [bold emphasis added]
The APA ethics director then, and still is, Stephen Behnke. I emailed Dr. Behnke and asked for his input, including information on dates he consulted or "any information you deem helpful in understanding or describing your work in this regard." As of publication, Dr. Behnke had not responded to my request. It seems likely his contribution occurred roughly around the same period as that of Dunivin and Banks, i.e., early August 2005, maybe even that same meeting Morgan Banks mentioned on August 5.

In general, we can only say Behnke's contribution to DoD most likely came in the summer of 2005, and certainly well before the October 2006 release by MEDCOM of policy guidelines for medical personnel assigned to BSCTs (OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 06-029). The PENS report was "Enclosure 1" to the 2006 MEDCOM guidelines.

There was also an intriguing October 2005 visit by various "delegates from several major health and mental health associations, medical ethicists," and others to Guantanamo to "learn more about operations and speak with DoD officials and other delegates about appropriate and effective roles of healthcare professionals in detainee operations."

The BSCTs and "Learned Helplessness"

To understand the egregious nature of Behnke's contribution, it is important to remember that he never indicated that he had any role in the current construction of the BSCTs, while he continued to be involved in ethics matters related to complaints against former BSCT members, and while he continued to talk and make recommendations regarding APA ethics policy in relation to torture and the BSCTs.

But matters stand even worse when you consider that participation with a BSCT program meant you accepted the authority of the interrogating regime. This meant Behnke had to overlook the human rights violations inherent in the detention of the detainees, especially at Guantanamo, with its emphasis on total control over prisoners, use of isolation, sleep deprivation, and other manipulations of environment, forced injections of drugs, and brutal guard attacks. The insistence that most prisoners' detentions are in effect indefinite in nature, and that even those the government believes to be innocent or without intelligence value can be held in theory forever, is a gross violation of human rights norms, as well as deleterious to the health of the prisoners involved. (Regarding the latter, see this report by Physicians for Human Rights.)

Also alarming is the fact the training of BSCTs that was developed, and described in MEDCOM's 2006 policy guidelines, included as a specific recommendation the possession of "professional level expertise" in the "application" of "learned helplessness" as an area of "behavioral science" relevant "to the interrogation/debriefing process."

Learned helplessness (LH) was originally a theory developed by psychologist Martin Seligman. Seligman was a known consultant to SERE, and had met two or three times with James Mitchell, including at least once at Seligman's house. The emails revealed by Soldz and his co-authors show that Seligman had also worked for or consulted to the CIA, presumably at Kirk Hubbard's CIA Operational Assessment Division.

LH was subsequently the theoretical model behind the development of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture program, with the idea that use of inescapable shock and fear would break down captives into a state of "learned helplessness" -- "learned" in the psychological sense of being conditioned. Indeed, the BSCT curriculum also calls for expertise in use of operant and classical conditioning.

Whether Behnke knew of the inclusion of the "learned helplessness" recommendation is impossible to say with complete certainty. But he should have known. Or he should have known after the fact.

It is now more understandable why APA has refused to call for the closure of Guantanamo, or why they have stalled in implementing an APA-member-derived referendum on pulling psychologists out of human rights violating settings like Guantanamo -- one of their chief officers was involved in setting up the regime there, at least as it concerns the use of behavioral consultants.

Torture Program Assists Spread of Endemic Corruption

The meaning of the APA scandal opened up by the Soldz/Reisner/Raymond report, and James Risen's reporting on same in the New York Times, must be seen in the context of a much larger breakdown in ethical standards by the wider society at large, particularly, though not exclusively, when it comes to the torture scandal.

Most recently, we've seen that key figures from the Bush administration torture program have gone on to hold important positions in the Obama administration. A recent New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo last month showed how CIA officials implicated in the torture program, like former CIA Counterterrorism Center official Michael D’Andrea, who Obama put in charge of the CIA's drone operations. Meanwhile, former CIA officials from the days of the Bush administration torture program still essentially run the Agency -- John Brennan as Director, and Greg Vogel as chief of the Directorate of Operations.

President Obama's insistence that the nation should move on from the torture scandal, and his refusal to further investigations or prosecutions, is totally self-serving when looked at in the light of recent revelations.

It is worth noting that APA did not operate in a void either. They drew upon a top echelon of behavioral scientists when they worked with CIA or SERE officials, including, as I've noted in the past Albert Bandura, Richard Lazaraus, and Charles Speilberger, and more recently we have revelations regarding Seligman and Paul Ekman. As when CIA drew on the cream of behavioral science during the days of MKULTRA, many of these scientists and researchers are unwitting, in that they do not know (or deceive themselves) they are contributing to a torture program. But some of them certainly are very close to the CIA or other government intelligence agencies.

The APA announced last year they would conduct an "independent" investigation, and hired Chicago attorney (and former mayoral candidate), David Hoffman. Hoffman's report is supposed to be out in in another month or so. But the entire investigation is riddled with conflicts of interest. Hoffman used to work on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with soon-to-be CIA director George Tenet, the very man who led the CIA during the creation of the torture program.

The corruption of the APA is not very different than the corruption of many U.S. societal institutions, especially the police and the prison system, whose full racist and oppressive character is in the news daily lately. But this corruption is not reason for despair, but for further struggle. The actual roles of "experts" like Stephen Behnke need to be exposed, and the real nature of the institutions they serve revealed.

Crossposted at The Dissenter/FDL

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