Sunday, November 27, 2016

CIA Withholds Key MKULTRA Document Because It Reveals WMD Concepts

Last summer I made a request for a mandatory declassification review, or MDR, of the CIA's 1957 Inspector General report on the "Operations of TSD." TSD is the acronym for the Technical Services Division of the CIA, which was a component of the Agency that fashioned and produced technological apparatus for the clandestine service -- sort of like "Q" in the James Bond movies. The CIA recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of this division.

A few weeks ago, I received the CIA's official rejection of my request. They would not release any portion of the decades old inspector general report -- even though pages from it had been previously declassified and long posted online -- because, in part, it purportedly contained information about "the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source; or... key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction"!

How we (and I use "we" as I am a member of the public, and my request was made on behalf of the public) got to this place, and the realization that CIA has been involved by their own account in the construction of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), is the subject of this posting.

I was motivated to pursue the declassification of this material due to revelations in government documents that the CIA's torture program under Bush and Cheney was in part created with the help of the Office of Technical Services (OTS), which is the modern incarnation of the old TSD. (For awhile, the name had also been the Technical Services Staff.) This chilled me, as I also knew that OTS/TSD was the component within CIA that fashioned its infamous MKULTRA mind-control research. MKULTRA was only one of the programs that was involved with such research, which also included the creation of assassination and disabling devices, behavioral studies of various sorts, research on the effects of drugs, hypnosis, and more. The program had various names over the years, including MKNAOMI, MKSEARCH, MKDELTA, MKOFTEN, MKCHICKWIT, and Project Artichoke, and had direct applications to interrogations.

There were a lot of dirty operations associated with MKULTRA operations, including experimentation upon unwitting subjects, and even the deaths of some victims. Operations were conducted overseas and domestically at home. The Wikipedia page on the subject is not a bad place to start, if you aren't familiar with this subject.

The mainstream and blogging press, as well as human rights circles, were uninterested in pursuing the OTS/TSD link to the CIA's torture program, content to follow the identification of two CIA contract psychologists from the military's SERE program who were linked to construction, promotion and operations of the post-9/11 CIA torture (or "enhanced interrogation") program. I, however, felt the link worth pursuing, and in an effort to better understand the role of TSD in MKULTRA, I asked for the declassification of CIA's own early inspector general report on the program.

Mandatory declassification requests are not the same as FOIA requests. They are subject to different deadlines and bureaucratic rules. The exemptions to departmental or agency declassifications are derived from Presidential Executive Order (EO). The current such EO governing such exemptions for MDRs is Executive Order 13526, "Classified National Security Information," released by President Obama on December 29, 2009. (No doubt a new President Trump will release his own EO on this in months to come, and that EO will supplant Obama's version, just as Obama's replaced that of earlier presidents.)

The CIA raised two objections to my declassification request. The first had to do with supposed threats to reveal human intelligence sources and/or "key design concepts" of WMD. The second objection was even more problematic, from the standpoint of making an appeal. It was based on EO language that states that even when governmental materials are more than 50 years old, they can be withheld by an agency head for whatever reason that person deems necessary! In other words, at least when it comes to requests for declassification based on EO laws, information can be denied for decades basically upon agency head say so.

The denial based on the presence of supposed "key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction" was startling to say the least. For one thing, it demonstrates how plastic the legal concepts of WMD are, and how they can be stretched to accommodate propaganda or in some cases legal or political actions. On the other hand, when it comes to MKULTRA, it reminds us that the CIA was for decades involved in the construction and deployment of some very dangerous materials and concepts. The fact that the parts of the agency involved in that are still involved in interrogation policy and research should give all of us pause. So should the fact that no persons were ever held accountable for the crimes committed under MKULTRA, nor for the admitted destruction of thousands of government documents related to that program. Despite the program's notoriety, there never were any indictments or, so far as we know, governmental accountability.

The mainstream press, the human rights community, and academia have done a disservice to the public (with some rare exceptions) in not reporting fully, nor evidently even pursuing, stories that would probe deeper into the U.S. torture scandal. I understand part of the problem: the U.S. government is still trying to hide material that is decades old, as this latest CIA declassification denial makes clear. But, especially when it comes to the press, it is their job to pursue such information for the greater good of the society. It was with such a principle in mind that I am still seeking exposure of government misdeeds in this area. See for instance how my MDR of the CIA's KUBARK interrogation manual produced new information about the government's historic use of rendition and torture.

Below is the full text of my appeal letter to CIA. It can also be found, with associated materials, at the Muckrock website.
November 27, 2016

Michael Lavergne
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505

Re: Reference No. EOM-2016-01415

Dear Mr. Lavergne,

This is a formal request for appeal of the decision made in regards to my mandatory declassification review (MDR) request (number referenced above) for the 1957 CIA Inspector General Report on “Operations of TSD” (hereafter IG REPORT). In a letter dated November 1, 2016, you wrote, “We completed a thorough search of our records and located material responsive to your request. We have determined that the material must remain classified on the basis of sections 3.3(h)(1) and 3.3(h)(2) of the [Executive] Order [13526] and cannot be released in sanitized form.” I thank you for your prompt response.

In my initial request, filed on August 13, 2016, I asked for “the 1957 CIA Inspector General Report on ‘Operations of TSD,’ wherein ‘TSD’ stands for the CIA division, the Technical Services Division.” I believe the decision to withhold the report, concluding it “cannot be released in sanitized form,” to be incorrect for the reasons adumbrated below.

1) Previous declassification of sections of IG REPORT

I noted in my initial request that a portion of IG REPORT had been declassified previously. CIA released a section of this report, specifically 8 pages long (numbered pages 199-206) in Folder 0000146167 of CIA's MKULTRA FOIA release made a number of years ago. This section of IG REPORT was posted online by the website at URL: (accessed 13 August 2016). An alternate posting online is available online at (accessed November 25, 2016).

2) A History of Declassifications

Besides the portion of IG REPORT identified above, there have been other declassifications associated with similar material. From the 1970s onwards, many declassified documents associated with both TSD and the MKULTRA program were declassified by CIA. A later IG report on the MKULTRA program, involving TSD operations, and dated July 26, 1963, was subject to declassification review per E.O. 12065, which was conducted on 17 June 17, 1981. This 1963 report is also available online at numerous websites. One such URL is (accessed November 25, 2016).

In addition to IG reports, many other documents related to MKULTRA’s history and operations have been declassified over the years. This material has been the subject of numerous books, and, even going back some years, Congressional hearings. The website The Black Vault has posted a complete selection of these documents at the URL: (accessed November 25, 2016).

3) Applicable Law

According to EO 13526, Section 3.5(c): “Agencies conducting a mandatory review for declassification shall declassify information that no longer meets the standards for classification under this order. They shall release this information unless withholding is otherwise authorized and warranted under applicable law.”

It is my understanding of your decision that the applicable law precluding the release of IG REPORT, or any portion of that report, is that it “remain classified on the basis of sections 3.3(h)(1) and 3.3(h)(2)” of Executive Order 13526.

The 3.3(h)(1) exemption, which is for documents over 50 years old, states that such exemption is reserved for documents that can “clearly and demonstrably be expected to reveal…. (A) the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source; or (B) key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction.”

Exemption 3.3(h)(2) is reserved for documents that constitute “extraordinary cases.” In such cases, an agency head “may, within 5 years of the onset of automatic declassification, propose to exempt additional specific information from declassification at 50 years.” Such claim of exemption from automatic declassification must be made according to the provisions of section 3.3(j) of the Executive Order, i.e., “[a]t least 1 year before information is subject to automatic declassification under this section…”

The EO continues:
“… an agency head or senior agency official shall notify the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, serving as Executive Secretary of the [Interagency Security Classification Appeals] Panel, of any specific information that the agency proposes to exempt from automatic declassification under paragraphs (b) and (h) of this section.

“(1) The notification shall include:

“(A) a detailed description of the information, either by reference to information in specific records or in the form of a declassification guide;

“(B) an explanation of why the information should be exempt from automatic declassification and must remain classified for a longer period of time; and

“(C) a specific date or a specific and independently verifiable event for automatic declassification of specific records that contain the information proposed for exemption.”

The claim by CIA that IG REPORT cannot be released in toto, i.e., without sanitization, seems highly unlikely in regards to exemption 3.3(h)(1). Sections have already been released, as noted above, with no danger as to whether a “confidential human source or a human intelligence source” were in danger. A 1963 Inspector General report on the same general subject as IG REPORT also was released in more substantive form. Furthermore, it seems unlikely IG REPORT was substantively concerned with identification of human intelligence sources.

Hence, the exemption for released material according to section 3.3(h)(1) of EO 13526 appears to concern “key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons are defined in U.S. law (18 U.S. Code § 2332a) as any “destructive device” (defined a weapon with a bore diameter of larger than one-half inch propelled by an explosive or propellant, or any “explosive, incendiary, or poison gas [see 18 U.S. Code § 921]); any weapon that “designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors”; “any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector”; or any weapon “designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.”

According to a July 26, 1963 memorandum to the then-director of the CIA from then-CIA Inspector General J.S. Earman, the MKULTRA program was concerned with, at least in part, “the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.” (See quote of the document at URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]). Hence, the apparent role of CIA in the development of weapons of mass destruction appears to be the basis of withholding material from declassification and release some 59 years after the fact.

But the EO language states that the exemption must be because the document would reveal “key design concepts” of such weapons of mass destruction. Given the arguments regarding prior declassifications made above, it seems that whatever exemption regarding “key design concepts” of WMD, or even identification of human intelligence sources, is segregable within IG REPORT, and there is no need to withhold that document in its totality.

Exemption 3.3(h)(2) presents a greater difficulty for this appeal, as it does not give any reason for the agency head to claim the exemption. But whatever those reasons are, they must presented to Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (hereafter ISCAP), along with a description of what information is exempted, and a projected date of declassification. I request that such information be released if IG REPORT is not to be released.

Further, I note that the language of Section 3.3(j) does not suggest the exemption of an entire document, and in fact argues against it. Section 3.3.(j)(1)(a) states the agency head must provide ISCAP “a detailed description of the information, either by reference to information in specific records or in the form of a declassification guide” to such information. This strongly suggests that only some portions of the document will be subject to exemption, not an entire document itself, especially one that is as long as an inspector general report, or one that has already had multiple pages previously declassified.

4) Public Interest

Finally, I argue that the material requested by MDR in this case is in the public interest. Much of the information in IG REPORT is already publicly available. Furthermore, it seems likely that the passage of time has reduced any potential harm from such release.

Nearly 40 years since the public revelations concerning the CIA’s MKULTRA and related programs, interest in this story remains high. Books published decades ago, such as John Marks’ “The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’: The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences” (W.W. Norton & Co.), and Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain’s “Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond” (Grove Press), remain in print and therefore in demand.

Newspaper and mainstream magazine articles continue to address the subject. As examples, see, for instance, “April 13, 1953: CIA OKs MK-ULTRA Mind-Control Tests,” by Kim Zetter, Wired Magazine, April 13, 2010 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); “The CIA Can Do Mind Control: MK Ultra / College campuses, for starters / 1953-1973,” by Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine, November 17, 2013 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); “Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD,” by Troy Hooper, SF Weekly, March 14, 2012 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); and “What Do You Do When Your Family Was the Victim of CIA Mind-Control Experiments?” by Rea McNamara, VICE News, April 15, 2016 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]).

Finally, in regards to public interest, it cannot be denied that there are a great deal of bogus or wild conspiratorial claims made about the CIA’s MKULTRA and related programs. Release of such documents as IG REPORT helps mitigate wild speculations, and therefore is in the public interest.

It is the contention of this appeal that due to prior releases and government investigations that the material discussed in IG REPORT does not constitute one of an unknown number of “extraordinary cases” that would require exemption from declassification. Even if the appeals panel finds that some material should be in fact exempt from release, I believe that all portions of IG REPORT that do not meet such exemption be released.

Therefore, Mr. Lavergne, in mind of all the arguments made above, I am appealing to the Agency Release Panel, and sending such appeal to your care and attention. If you, or anyone at the Panel, have any questions, or believe discussion of this matter would be beneficial, please contact me directly at or at (415) xxx-xxxx.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

NYT Article on Psychiatric Care at Guantanamo Hides More Than It Reveals

I suppose that The New York Times' recent article, Where Even Nightmares Are Classified: Psychiatric Care at Guantanamo, will be welcomed by some as a reminder of the horror that is Guantanamo. While I cannot expect that others will find significant the same episodes in the wide-ranging torture scandal as I do, this article by Sheri Fink (assisted by others, including James Risen) does a disservice to the public by misrepresenting many facts about what actually happened. The article hides and misrepresents more than it claims to reveal. It is, in fact, a classic example of a "limited hangout," something that The New York Times excels in producing.

The article gives us glowing photos of former Guantanamo mental health providers. It offers testimony from supposedly conflicted former doctors, psychologists, nurses and psych techs, without ever noting that retrospective testimony could be self-serving. Fink herself can't seem to make up her mind if these so-called conscientious medical professionals showed "willful blindness" to "abuse," or whether in fact "psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health teams... were often unaware of what happened." (I don't think anyone at Guantanamo was unaware of the torture going on, but they may have deliberately or unconsciously numbed themselves to it. No doubt recent reports of high levels of PTSD among guards assigned to Guantanamo is related to the exposure to widespread torture of detainees.)

Actual contemporaneous documentation of the attitudes of health care workers, or the subordination of medical decision making to military command authorities, was amply available to The New York Times, but they chose to ignore it. This omission amounts to a misrepresentation of the material, as the article promises in its very title to be an examination of psychiatric care at Guantanamo. Is the failure to provide such material because it would reflect very badly on the medical professionals there? The article suggests at times serious deficiencies in the behavior of medical personnel, only to pull its punches or offer up mea culpas.

The signal importance of mental health problems actually leading to suicide was mostly ignored by Fink and her collaborators. Not one concrete example of an actual suicide was given, though there exists copious public documentation (and though you'd think an article on psychiatric care would say more about suicides of detainees held in Guantanamo's psychiatric unit). 

In a powerful example of such evidence, we have on public record the sworn statement of the Chief of Behavioral Health Services at the Guantanamo prison camp, given to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in June 2009 as part of the investigation into the purported suicide of Mohammed Al Hanashi. Al Hanashi had come to the Chief the very day he was to die and complained about being tortured. The Chief told NCIS what happened from his perspective, which is damning enough. They had been talking about pending changes to rules to take place in the Behavioral Health Unit:

“[Al Hanashi] then said he felt was [sic] being tortured. This is a normal response to a verbal disagreement between staff and a detainee. In this case, to avoid an argument with [Al Hanashi] I walked away from him without a response. This is what I usually do when a detainee accuses staff of torture." [Kaye, Jeffrey (2016-09-10). "Cover-up at Guantanamo"/  (Kindle Locations 150-152). Kindle Edition. - See also June 4, 2009 “Statement” of the Chief of Behavioral Health Services for JTF GTMO. See Al Hanashi documents, Part 8, pp. 16-18, URL:]

In what NCIS regarded as Al Hanashi's suicide note, Al Hanashi described his response, and his descent into suicidal despair: "... when the highest ranking officer in the camp came and talked to me while I was walking he informed me that this camp [the Behavioral Health Unit] will have the same rules as the others, and when I asked the help of the [Chief] psychologist who was present, he said the rules will apply on everybody then he left without saying anything more. Even the officer who was close to him was surprised by his inappropriate behavior as someone who is supposed to be in a humanitarian position. At that time I knew that the only solution is death before they transgress on our religion the way they do in the other camps.” In fact, Al Hanashi died only hours later, purportedly at his own hand. [Kindle Locations 145-148 in "Cover-up at Guantanamo"; also Al Hanashi documents, Part 2, pp. 2-3, URL:]

None of this is even hinted at in Sheri Fink's article.


But even if The Times had covered these issues, I'm not sure it would have balanced out the falsehoods in the article, including the assertion that medical records were not shared with interrogators after 2005, and that "abusive tactics" ended at Guantanamo in early 2009. Both assertions are false. Taking on the latter claim, whether one references the ongoing forced cell extractions at Guantanamo, the forced feedings, or the Appendix M interrogations (which the UN Committee on Torture recently condemned) -- not to mention the fact that indefinite detention is itself a form of torture (according to the International Committee of the Red Cross) -- it is irrefutable that "abusive tactics" continue at Guantanamo. Fink's article presents a fairy tale.

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association now has recognized that it is impossible to conduct ethical psychological services in a place like Guantanamo and has told the government to pull all psychologists serving detainees clinically out of that setting. This was not mentioned in the article either, though James Risen, who has written on that story before, was a contributor to the Sheri Fink article. You'd think such information would be relevant in a news article reviewing psychiatric care at Guantanamo, but The New York Times saw fit to censor their own reporting.

As for the sharing of medical information with interrogators, the article describes the mistrust of detainees who knew their sensitive communications with mental health providers was being shared with the interrogators and used in their torture. Fink et al. claim this stopped in 2005, but in fact serious problems on this score continued even into Obama's term. According to a DoD Inspector General Review of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, "Inclusion of Detainee Mental Health Information in Intelligence Information Reports," issued May 4, 2010, "Present regulatory guidance authorizes health-care providers to share detainee medical information with interrogators, but does not provide specific guidance on how to do so. As a result execution of these policies at Guantanamo has been inconsistent, resulting in confusion for both health-care providers and interrogation elements." (See this link, page G-5.)

In other words, sharing of mental health information with interrogators continued well into the Obama administration, and there's no reason to believe they ever changed, nor that detainees were ever wrong to be suspicious of such providers.


There are at least two detainees who appear to have had their suicides facilitated by Guantanamo personnel: Mohammed al Hanashi and Adnan Latif. Four others were likely murdered or killed as part of some experiment, the three detainees who died in 2006, and Abdul Rahman Al Amri, found in his cell dead hanging with his hands tied behind his back and his body tested afterwards for the presence of the psychiatrically disabling drug mefloquine.

According to my own research published in my book cited above, Guantanamo personnel are documented as interfering with the computer recording of events surrounding these suicides, entering false information about these events (according to DoD investigators), or even shutting down computer systems so no one would know what was going on (according to NCIS records). Fink's article obliquely refers to some "critics" questions about the "suicides," but pointedly leaves examination of these suicides out of her article about psychiatric conditions at Guantanamo. The Big Lie lives on.

An encyclopedic deconstruction of Fink's article would be something few readers probably would have the stamina to complete. Just consider the article's whitewashing of retired Navy Captain Albert Shimkus, who signed off on the abusive mefloquine protocol used at Guantanamo, which led to widespread "pharmacological waterboarding," according to one medical professional. Or consider the abusive use of "chemical restraints" on prisoners, part of the unrestrained use of drugs on prisoners at Guantanamo, the full story of which at Guantanamo or formerly at CIA black sites is still not fully known.

It is infuriating to see an article put forth something meaning to do good -- and the article is not without some good points, such as its critique of the rotation system among Gitmo health care providers, or its examination of the manipulation of diagnoses to minimize the perception of damage caused to detainees -- while in actuality perpetuating untruths and misrepresentations, or even altering history. This is not reporting, it is the exercise of the  "limited hangout," the offering of so-called new information such that the public believes it is really getting something important, while key information remains hidden or a different, less damaging story is put in its place.

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