Thursday, December 21, 2017

Updated: The Suppressed Report on 1952 U.S. Korean War Anthrax Attack

[Link to download PDF of the document above]

With the U.S. threatening a pre-emptive attack on North Korea for the latter's pressing development of a nuclear warfare capability, it is more imperative than ever that the history of the U.S.-North Korea conflict be made available to the world, the better to assess the claims made by both sides.

While many see North Korea as a dictatorship run by a madman or evil, others see a rational government - dictatorial, yes - that seeks to defend itself against a power that once obliterated its country in war, and threatened it with nuclear weapons. Indeed, even today, the U.S. says it will not forego using nuclear weapons against North Korea and even executes military war games with South Korea that involve practice runs with nuclear bombers almost up to the border of North Korea.

Back in the early 1950s, during the Korean war, until the Soviets began to fly MiGs over the Korean peninsula in defense of the North Koreans, the U.S. had near unconstrained freedom of airspace over North Korea and China, and in particular, dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of Napalm on North Korea, wiping out nearly every city, and contributing to over a million civilian deaths, maybe 15% of the entire population. Because of the relentless bombing, the people were reduced to living in tunnels. Even the normally bellicose Gen. MacArthur found the devastation wreaked by the U.S. to be sickening.

Most controversially, both North Korea and China maintain that the U.S. used biological or germ warfare weapons against both North Korea and China during the Korean War. The U.S. has strenuously denied this. Captured U.S. flyers who told their North Korean and Chinese captors of the use of such weapons were told under the threat of courts martial to renounce such confessions after they were returned to U.S. custody. They all did so.

To convince the world of the truth of their claims, the North Koreans and Chinese, sponsored a purported independent commission, using the auspices of the World Peace Council, gathering together a number of leftist scientists from around the world. Most surprisingly, this commission, which came to be known as the International Scientific Commission, or ISC, was headed by one of the foremost British scientists of his time, Sir Joseph Needham. The ISC travelled to China and North Korea in the summer of 1952 and by the end of the year produced a report that corroborated the Chinese and North Korean claims that the U.S. had used biological weapons in an experimental fashion on civilian populations.

This posting is not meant to examine the full range of opinions or evidence about whether or not the U.S. used biological weapons in the Korean War. It is instead an attempt to publish essential documentation of such claims, documentation that has been withheld from the American people, and the West in general, for decades. I am publishing here Appendices AA and BB from the Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China.

I introduced that report to the world and posted the report itself online back in January 2015. But the report itself is only some 60-odd pages long, and I was unable at that time to post or publish any of the voluminous appendices that documented the claims of the report. (I am reposting the original executive summary report at the close of this post, for reference sake.) The ISC appendices are crucial in assessing the claims made in the report, and the later denials from U.S. and other allied governments, such as Great Britain.

Appendices AA and BB concern claims of air attacks against various villages in Northeastern China in the Spring of 1952. Using the same kinds of insect (fleas, beetles, etc.) and related "vectors" (such as dropping feathers or rodents) that were studied intensely by Imperial Japanese military scientists and doctors as part of the infamous Unit 731 program. In a matter of proven historical record, but still largely unknown in the United States, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies, with knowledge of scientists working out of the Army's Ft. Detrick chemical and biological warfare labs, gave amnesty to the Unit 731 war criminals, who conducted their biological warfare experiments on live prisoners, who were incinerated after the Japanese scientists were done with them.

In the executive report, the ISC examined claims of a biological warfare attack in the town of "K'uan-Tien, which lies in the southeastern part of Liaotung province near the Yalu River," as well as a number of other "localities in the provinces of Liaotung and Liaohsi." They looked in depth at five "fatal human cases of respiratory anthrax and haemorrhagic anthrax," including "a railwayman, a tricycle-rickshaw driver, a housewife, a school-teacher, and a farmer." They considered the extreme, indeed, unprecedented appearance of this disease in that part of the world, and the fact that respiratory or inhalational anthrax had earlier been the subject of research by Ft. Detrick scientists. The analysis included laboratory examination from the bodies and from insects discovered in the area and believed to be spreading the disease, after being dropped by U.S. aircraft.

The ISC concluded (pg. 34 of the summary report, which can be accessed at end of this post):
On the basis of the evidence presented, and on their own searching and prolonged interrogation of a considerable number of witnesses, both medical and lay, the Commission was compelled to conclude that the delivery of various biological objects contaminated with anthrax bacilli to many places in the two Chinese provinces had taken place, and that this had given rise to a number of cases of a mortal infection hitherto unknown in the region, namely pulmonary anthrax and ensuing haemorrhagic meningitis. Eye-witness statements impossible to doubt indicated American airplanes as the vehicles of delivery of the infected objects.
The U.S. denied all biological warfare charges. They demanded the International Red Cross be allowed to independently examine the evidence and document the charges. But unknown to all, in secret meetings of top U.S. Pentagon, the CIA, and State Department officials, gathered together as the U.S Psychological Strategy Board, agreed that there never would be any independent investigation, as the Eighth Army was conducting operations during the Korean War which if they became known ("e.g. chemical warfare") "could do us psychological as well as military damage.” (See full article here.) The scholars Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman found similar evidence of an unwillingness to really examine the North Korean/Chinese/Soviet charges in their 1998 book on the BW controversy.

The controversy has simmered every since.

But convergent evidence of the charges was made in Chapter 13 of the 2006 book Deadly Cultures. Entitled "Allegations of Biological Weapons Use," the chapter was written by Martin Furmanski and Mark Wheelis. While these authors were highly dubious of the claims of U.S. biowarfare, they couldn't discount the anthrax charges. Primarily, they found that the description of inhalational anthrax made at this time - for instance, the wide range of incubational periods reported for the Chinese cases - came before a detailed scientific examination of such cases of anthrax had already been studied. But the ISC description was peculiarly apt and prescient. Furmanski and Wheelis concluded that the deaths documented by the ISC as due to inhalational anthrax had to be real and not faked.

"These results must have been from real human inhalation anthrax cases, since the information did not exist in 1952 to have allowed fabrication using textbook or medical literature sources," Furmanski and Wheelis wrote. (See pg. 260 of Deadly Cultures.)

But I should note, Furmanski and Wheelis in the end did not conclude this was full evidence of biological weapon attack. Indeed, they concluded it must have been of natural origin, though how such a coincidence of widely dispersed, unprecedented appearance of the disease occurred coinicentally with charges of biowar attack.

What they solely relied on for their conclusion was an April 2004 "personal communication" from a U.S. scientist that isolates from the B. anthracis samples from China, which by inference included those from the 1952 putative attack were "subjected to genomic analysis, and all were clearly indigenous to China." Furmanski and Wheelis believe that despite the "highly suspicious" nature of the inhalation anthrax cases discussed in the 1952 ISC Needham report, the genomic analysis proved that the anthrax cases reported to the ISC were of natural origin, and not from a U.S. biological warfare attack.

I have been in touch with all the people involved in this supposed genomic analysis, and while I find it odd that nothing was every published on this genomic or DNA analysis, I will leave a full analysis of the refutation of the ISC report on this score for a future and more scholarly essay. In the meantime, I have decided to publish the ISC documentation as in the West all we ever seem to get are what Cold War scholars publish. Even when critics of the U.S. historical account publish, the actual documentation is thin. This leaves us reliant on the authority of the scholars, which is an extraordinary situation.

[Update, December 21, 2017 - In spring 2017 I contacted U.S. anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones, whom Furmanski and Wheelis had referred to in their book as the source of a "genomic analysis" that showed the inhalation anthrax cases in China could not have come from U.S. stocks of anthrax. Professor Hugh-Jones referenced a Chinese scientist, Wang Bingxiang, who worked on bacterial vaccines at the Langhou Institute of Biological Products, who Hugh-Jones said had supplied samples of the 1952 anthrax cases to the Special Pathogens Lab (SPL) at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University.

I subsequently contacted both a U.S. scientist, Kimothy Smith, who Professor Hugh-Jones said worked on the identification of the anthrax strains brought from China to the SPL, and Mr. Wang in China. Neither of them backed up Hugh-Jones' story that the 1952 anthrax strain had been identified, much less worked on. Wang denied knowing anything even about it. Prof. Hugh-Jones subsequently told me in an email, "And as it seems that no one, including the Chinese, have any cultures from the 1952 'incident' (true or false) matters must remain at that. It was a time rife with governmental disinformation, especially by the Chinese & Soviets, so one must be cautious with any personal conclusions."

Professor Hugh-Jones did not reference any possible governmental disinformation from the U.S. side. But the failure to dismiss the inhalation anthrax accounts from the ISC, which Furmanski and Wheelis found so compelling that only the presence of supposed "genomic analysis" - now discredited - could dispel, means that hard evidence indeed exists to prove the presence of U.S. biological warfare attack upon China, and most likely North Korea, during the Korean War.

For his part, Professor Furmanski in correspondence to me maintains for other reasons that the North Korean and Chinese claims of germ warfare attacks were a hoax. He does this for a number of reasons, and seems among them to embrace the fairly recent publication of a Chinese official at the time, Wu Zhili, who had a posthumous publication stating the germ warfare attacks were a "false alarm," one which was then amped up for propaganda reasons into a full-scale campaign around the ostensibly false charges.

Few have embraced my main concerns, which center around the suppression of information in general around this historical incident. I cannot speak to North Korean or Chinese suppression, but I can document and obviously comment about the suppression by the U.S. and its allies, as information slowly is obtained about them. I can also encourage others to pursue original documents and do their own analysis, as I have done.

For his part, despite much professional obloquy, Dr. Needham maintained until the day he died that the U.S. had indeed used biological weapons against the North Koreans and the Chinese. His investigation went far beyond that detailed in this essay, and concerned more than the dissemination of anthrax.

Was there any fraud involved in Chinese, North Korean, or Soviet evidence of germ warfare attacks by the U.S.? I think it's possible there was, just as a suspicious patient might exaggerate symptoms to get the attention of a doctor they fear isn't taking them seriously. The importance of the suppressed ISC report is the attention given to many multiple sources of evidence. Sir Joseph Needham wasn't one of the leading scientists of his day for nothing. He understood the scientific approach to evidence.]

I hope that the publication of this material will lead to a greater effort by U.S. and European media and other commentators to assess the real history of U.S. and North Korean and Chinese relations, the better to counter the claims of the hawkish Trump administration and Pentagon spokespeople, who are threatening to plunge this country, and possibly the world, into a terrible new war, painting the North Koreans as unreasonable and dangerous people. But any fair historical account will see that while not by any means perfect, the North Korean regime has plenty to complain about and fear from U.S. intervention.

[Link to download PDF of the document above]

Original version of this article, without update, was published on April 26, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review - Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture

This review is adapted from my posting at

Mark Fallon's new book, Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, is the story of one man's journey towards bitter illumination. It is also the story of a nation's journey into a moral abyss.

Fallon was a top counterintelligence official and investigator, someone who believed in patriotic idealism, who discovered a core of thuggery inside the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus. From 2002 to 2004, he was a top official for the government's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF). Rather than turn aside (something repugnant to him), he tried to intervene against the barbarism of torture. What he encountered was the corruption of institutions to which he otherwise had been loyal, which he had served for decades. The book is the story of what he experienced and what he felt driven to do.

But this book also has a metastory, manifested in the form of words, sentences, paragraphs and ultimately pages of redactions. The repeated blackened lines of typeface represent the arm of that same torturing government Fallon opposed reaching into the reader's own personal universe, that sacred connection between reader and author. The shadow of the evil that conjured up torture, and then acted to protect it, seeps into the realm of the reader him or herself.

As anyone who has studied the torture issue for some time can readily see, many of the redactions are embarrassingly stupid, including censorship of names that were recorded in otherwise declassified government documents, or opernly reported by the press. But other redactions are serious and frightening, such as the attempt to still hide the full story about the torture of Mohammed Al Qahtani, the so-called 20th hijacker.

Mark Fallon is a congenial author, and he wishes to convey some of the shock and outrage he felt as the full implementation of the CIA's torture program unfolded, born out of the government's embrace of modern psychological and psychiatric forms of control over human behavior, and spread into the military.

I wouldn't look to this book for a full history of how that all took place, nor does the author pretend to present such a history. His is the account of a whistleblower. His former position inside Guantanamo and corridors of the Defense Department apparatus provides a unique and invaluable perspective of just how the torture policy spread and how it was covered-up.

In the end, Fallon witnesses the bureaucratic institutions to which he pledged fealty fatally infected by the virus of torture. His is a harrowing journey, and one that, it is clear from the narrative, haunts him still.

Along with books recently written by former detainees themselves, this book by someone on the other side of the interrogation booth is essential reading. I think the torture scandal is even far deeper and darker than even Mark Fallon presents it -- and his is a pretty dark portrayal -- but U.S. readers in particular must understand the courage it took for some of the government's most loyal and idealistic officials and servants to confront those in power with the truth of their crimes.

I believe that the torture policy began far earlier than after 9/11, and was inimitably linked to long-time policies of war and conquest. It's current manifestation was itself a logical extension of the "war on terror." From that standpoint, one can see Fallon's battle against torture, and others like him (some of whom he discusses in the book), is important and certainly courageous, as the people they come to oppose are seriously dangerous, with a great deal of power behind them.

Rather than the sense of failure that haunts Mark Fallon -- many times he bemoans the fact he could not actually stop the full torture program -- his moral awakening at a dire time in history is a triumph of the human spirit.

The confrontation with the urge to torture goes back centuries now, to Voltaire and the French Enlightenment, and on to Nuremberg, to those who organized ad hoc tribunals against Vietnam War crimes in the 1960s, to citizens in North Carolina today trying to bring their own state government to account for its collaboration with CIA torture, and many, many more. The latter include those I've known in the psychology profession who have fought to end collaboration with torture and war crimes in their own profession.

The fight against torture is something that has unfolded over generations, and sadly, I've come to realize, will take generations more to win. But what Mark Fallon and others like him achieved was significant. Some of the torture was cut back. The policy dragged out of the shadows and exposed in public. It is not so easy for the torturers to operate as before.

In the end, Mark Fallon's book is a document about a significant time in our history. Every partisan of human rights and liberty will want it on their bookshelf.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Detainee Reported Gitmo Guards Having Oral Sex, 2 Weeks Later He Was Dead

Having received hundreds of new pages of information regarding the deaths of Saudi detainee Abdul Rahman al Amri (ISN199) and Yemeni detainee Mohammed Salih Al Hanashi (ISN78) at Guantanamo, I've now finished revising my book, Cover-up at Guantanamo, published at Amazon*.

The new version is now online and ready to be purchased and downloaded. It's full of new revelations that will interest all who have followed or are still following the deaths of these two detainees, and others who have died at Guantanamo.

As a sneak preview, I thought I'd reveal one of the more disturbing, if not bizarre, details surrounding Al Amri's case. It just might also represent a motive for his murder by Guantanamo authorities.

Al Amri was found in his cell, almost dead (he still apparently still had a pulse), on May 30, 2017. According to guard accounts, he was hanging from a rope made from his bed sheet, attached to a second piece of sheet-derived rope whose end was ripped or torn into ten different strands and then looped through very small holes in an air conditioning vent some nine feet up off the floor.

As people can read when they buy the new 2nd, revised edition of my book, the method by which Al Amri supposedly died is very suspicious, not just that it seems nearly physically impossible for this particular detainee to have killed himself in the way described, but because the time it would have taken the 5'6" Al Amri to get up on some apparatus to tie the rope to the air vent almost nine feet up off the floor was far longer than very tight surveillance at Guantanamo made possible.

There's much more to the story, of course, but I wanted to mention one aspect that leads to the question of motive.

Perhaps Al Amri was not in fact a suicide, but was murdered. While it sounds outlandish, the fact is it's possible that guards at Guantanamo, having been reported to be having oral sex while on duty, decided to kill the detainee who blew the whistle on them.

According to a sworn statement by a Guantanamo linguist, dated June 5, 2007 - six days after Al Amri died - and released to me via FOIA request, approximately two weeks before he died, Al Amri asked for an interpreter. The linguist responded.

Interestingly, besides being an interpreter for detainees, this linguist also started each day listening to tapes made of detainee talk or chatter the night or day before, making transcripts of them for officials for "exploitation as well as interpretation." This linguist may have had more to do with certain details surrounding Al Amri's death, but you'll have to get my book to read about it.

The linguist told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which was looking into Al Amri's death:
"When I arrived, ISN 199 informed me that the guards were performing oral sex on each other. I asked him how he knew. He responded that while he was not able to see the act, he could hear what was going on. At no time did ISN 199 allege that he had been sexually assaulted or violated by any of the guards."
Now there can really only be three possibilities here: either 1) the guards were really having oral sex; or 2) guards or interrogators were trying to make Al Amri think guards were having oral sex, as a way of messing with his mind. The use of sexualized situations or abuse as a means of torture of the religious Islamic detainees has been well documented, and anyone who saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib knows about that.

Finally, 3) perhaps there was no indication of oral sex taking place at all and the entire thing was a figment of Al Amri's imagination. If so, it would indicate a possibility of mental illness, or maybe a past instance of sexualized abuse or behavior, predisposing Al Amri to believe in such a situation as his guards having oral sex with each other. (There are other more distant possibilities, such as the linguist making the whole story up, or that guards were not having oral sex with each other, but with other detainees. But these all seem very unlikely.)

What makes the story noteworthy is that Al Amri was found dead in his cell about two weeks after making this allegation. Furthermore, the circumstances of his case are highly suspicious. He was found hanging in his cell with his hands tied "snugly" behind his back in a figure-eight fashion, attached via a rope made from bed sheets (prison sheets that weren't supposed to tear) to an air vent far above his reach.

NCIS tried to hide the fact of Al Amri's hands being tied behind him, not reporting on it in Executive Summaries of their investigation to NCIS and Guantanamo higher-ups. They did, however, tell the autopsy doctors, but misrepresented the circumstances, telling them the bindings were bound "loosely," the better to lead to an inference Al Amri did it to himself.

According to the FOIA documents released, the guard who actually cut the hand bindings off Al Amri described them as "snugly" bound. (All the relevant documents are now posted at

As readers of the new edition of Cover-up at Guantanamo* will know, investigators ruled out his standing on either the cell toilet or sink to reach the vent from which he was hanged. There was no evidence that the other possibility -- standing on a folded bed mattress -- happened either. Even if he managed to reach the vent, it would have taken a lot longer to construct this death apparatus than the every three minutes or less constant visual surveillance upon him would have allowed.

The mainstream press let the death of this detainee for the most part go unexamined. I hope with the revelations here and in my book, about which I intend to write other stories, will lead authorities to look very seriously at what really happened inside Guantanamo, and that a process of accountability for the crimes there will commence.

[*Reader note: As of September 18, 2017, the updated revised version of Cover-up at Guantanamo is available in both paperback and its ebook version. Buy the paperback and get the ebook for only $1.99 more.]

Friday, August 11, 2017

Guantanamo Detainee Was Disciplined by Putting Him in the Morgue

You'd think the crazy things done to prisoners of the United States in the "war on terror" couldn't get any more bizarre. The U.S. government has waterboarded prisoners, placed them in coffin-like confinement boxes, threatened them with drills, given them forced enemas of hummus and pasta, and sealed them up in all-white rooms and blasted music at them night and day.

ISN 00156, Adnan Farhan Latif
By JTF-GTMO (File:ISN 156's Guantanamo detainee assessment.pdf) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But a newly surfaced document, part of a FOIA release on the death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif in September 2012, seems to state that subsequent to an alleged rock throwing incident by Al Latif on July 25, 2012, he was taken to Guantanamo's morgue for some unspecified punishment.

Even more, a series of reports, beginning July 25, and ending August 2, indicated that Al Latif had been sent to or located in the "morgue." The reports were each labeled "DIMS Observation/Disciplinary Report Form" and classified "Secret." See end of this post for all the documents. DIMS stands for "Detainee Information Management System" and is the primary documentary record at Guantanamo for literally everything a detainee does or happens to him. For more on DIMS, see my Truthout article here.

I asked the JTF-Guantanamo Public Affairs Office for an official explanation. I queried, "Was Mr. Latif imprisoned for a time in the morgue at Guantanamo as some kind of discipline or punishment for perceived or actual infractions?"

Commander John Robinson at PAO replied tersely, "We don't discuss details of camp operations." (I've asked whether this means they don't deny Al Latif was placed in the morgue as discipline. I've not yet had a reply but will update this post when I do.)

[Update, August 15, 2017: Today received a further communication from JTF-GTMO's Public Affairs Office, responding to a second query of mine on August 11. I had asked if military authorities weren't really going to deny use of the morgue as a disciplinary action. Commander Robinson wrote back:
"JTF GTMO does not discuss the details of camp operations or specific locations of specific detainees. However, the morgue is only used for proper handling of detainee remains, not for detention. In response to apparent confusion regarding Detainee Information Management System data received via FOIA, please note that when an electronic query is conducted in DIMS, a detainee's 'Current Location' in block 7 will show the physical location (updated to date) of the detainee at the time the search was conducted. The 'Current Location' in block 7 is not associated with the "Date" of the report shown in block 2. Therefore, the location 'Morgue' in block 7 was the updated (most current) location of the detainee at the time the electronic file query in DIMS was conducted."
This would seem to negate the essence of the claims made in this article. But in the service of transparency, I'll leave open what I wrote as a cautionary tale about the use of government documents, and because the other points in the article are still relevant. I'd note, as you'll see in update below, this explanation for the surfacing of the location as the "morgue" as something generated by computer or software dynamism was first brought to my attention by Charlie Savage of The New York Times.]

The period July 25 to August 2, 2012 produced a flurry of disciplinary reports on Al Latif. Only three days earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to hear Al Latif's appeal of a lower court's overturn of his habeas appeal. For the young Yemeni detainee, the Supreme Court's decision was devastating, condemning him to an unending detention with no hope of knowing when it would end. Such indefinite detention has been found to be extremely emotionally and mentally stressful.

Indeed, Al Latif's behavior became more erratic and confrontative after he was in effect sentenced to indefinite detention, following the Supreme Court's decision. If we can believe camp accounts, Al Latif assaulted guards and a nurse with urine and feces, threw a rock at a guard in a watch tower, and possibly even grabbed for a guard's gun in the recreation yard. Only a little over a month later, he was found dead in his cell in Camp 5, ostensibly from a drug overdose of prescription antipsychotic medication. He was also suffering from pneumonia only a day after being medically cleared to be moved from the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at the Detainee Hospital to Alpha Block at Camp 5.

During the period in question in this article - July 25 to August 2, 2012 - Al Latif was ostensibly quartered in the BHU for ongoing suicidality and psychotic behavior. The registered nurse who worked closely with him told government investigators after Al Latif's death that during the period we're looking at Al Latif was “particularly agitated about events that had taken place the previous two days....”

The nurse described Latif as "jumping from the bed to the sink to the table to the toilet.” The jumping behavior would not stop. There was a lot of back and forth about giving Al Latif a forced injection of drugs to calm him. He refused the injection, and in the end, they opted to simply observe him, though there were other times when the prisoner was supposedly agitated when he was involuntarily injected with the drug Haldol to sedate him.

While the government isn't about to explain what really happened, reading between the lines, it looks like Al Latif became very upset when the Supreme Court denied his habeas appeal. His protests and psychological regression overwhelmed camp personnel, who responded ham-handedly by upping the discipline on him. While he was sprayed with pepper spray and involuntarily drugged, it looks like they also imprisoned him in the morgue for hours each day, returning him to the hospital later each day.

While it seems Al Latif was driven insane, or at least driven to desperate acts of defiance and protest by his despair at conditions at Guantanamo, things definitely seemed to get worse after July 25, the first day at the morgue. What happened to Al Latif there? Was he placed in a coffin-like box, as happened to Abu Zubaydah at a CIA "black site" prison? Was he threatened with death? Did he have contact with a corpse, or a fake corpse? Did Guantanamo authorities try to worsen his already fragile mental health?

We don't know the exact answer to the questions above, but given the macabre imagination of the torturers in the U.S. government, anything is possible.

[Update, 8/12/2017: Journalist Charlie Savage at the New York Times saw the documents online, and thought a simpler explanation for the "morgue" location could be that, since the documents contained "dynamic content" (as described at the top of each report), the "current location" was really simply the last location for Al Latif at Guantanamo. That would have been Guantanamo's morgue. In other words, the document automatically updated when it was processed for FOIA. Mr. Savage links to this webpage as an explanation. I think it's a possibility, at this point, and will look more into this explanation.]

The entire episode is an indication of how much we still don't know about the U.S. torture activities undertaken by both the CIA and the Pentagon. Meanwhile, apparently the U.S. is trying to suppress the publication of a "tell-all" book about Guantanamo from an insider, Mark Fallon, who worked with the Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2004.

There is also the fact the Senate Intelligence Committee has refused, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, to fully declassify and release their report on CIA torture.

Only a public outcry against torture and its effects, the human costs of which are staggering, will put an end to this censorship. Societal indifference to such inhumanity is highly damaging, the effects of which are to brutalize the society and render it less able to fend off authoritarian or even totalitarian impulses from above.

NOTE: The documents released from SOUTHCOM that are the basis for this story came from a FOIA I filed some years ago. The initial filing for the documents, however, was made by Jason Leopold, a journalist who now works at Buzzfeed, and with whom I worked on various stories about torture a few years back. Jason followed the Al Latif story for some time (see here and here). I've previously covered Al Latif's death as well, most recently in my book, Cover-up at Guantanamo.


If the embedded documents below don't work for you, you can download them here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Saudi government defends imminent protest-related executions

The following is an August 4 press release from the international human rights and legal group, Reprieve. I'd note only that Saudi Arabia is a firm ally of the United States, and U.S. apologia for that government's human rights violations have been going on for decades.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice has released a rare response to criticism over the imminent execution of 14 Saudi nationals on protest-related charges - including juveniles and a man with disabilities. The statement, released today, makes a number of apparently false claims about the trial of the 14.

The Saudi government is facing criticism over plans to execute the 14, who were arrested in the wake of protests and sentenced to death on protest-related charges in a secretive counter-terrorism court. Among the group is a juvenile, Mujtaba al Sweikat, who had a place to study at university in Michigan, but was arrested at the airport en route to the USA; and Munir Adam, who has disabilities. Both men were tortured into making false confessions, which were used against them at trial. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the 14 protest-related death sentences, meaning the executions are now imminent.

In a statement released today, Sheikh Mansour Al-Qafari, the spokesman of the Ministry of Justice, responded to criticism over the standard of the trial of the 14. The statement claimed that all trials before the controversial Specialised Criminal Court - which sentenced the 14 to death - meet international standards for fairness and due process, and allow for access to lawyers, the preparation of a defence, and even access to the trials by media and human rights observers.

The public statement on the executions is at odds with assessments by the UN, as well as rights groups such as human rights organization Reprieve. Reprieve has established that at least one defendant, Mujtaba, was never permitted to see a lawyer; in Munir's case, no evidence against him was presented at trial. Mujtaba told the court at trial that he was tortured into a false confession, but this claim was dismissed by the judges and never investigated.

In November 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said of the Specialized Criminal Court that “such a special court, specifically designed to deal with so-called terrorism cases, raises serious concerns about its lack of independence and due procedure.” The UN Committee Against Torture has accused judges of the Court of “repeatedly refus[ing] to act on claims made by defendants facing terrorism charges that they had been subjected to torture”.

Today’s Saudi statement also claimed that death sentences are only handed down for the most serious crimes. However, the Saudi authorities continue to carry out executions for non-violent alleged crimes, including political protest and drug offences. Some of the 14 men were convicted of offences such as using mobile phones to organise demonstrations, and using social media.

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director of Reprieve – said: “Saudi Arabia’s attempts to justify these 14 unlawful executions are appalling. This statement is a serious mischaracterisation of the trial process against the 14 men, and it is risible to claim that a protester like Mujtaba – who never even saw a lawyer – received a fair trial. Governments close to Saudi Arabia – including the Trump Administration and the UK – must urgently call on the Kingdom to halt these executions.”
According to Reprieve, English translations for the Saudi documents linked in their press release can be arranged via request. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on:, or +44 (0)7792 351 660.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Writing to NARA to Stop CIA Destruction of Records

Following a story at Unredacted, the blog for The National Security Archive, regarding the potential changes in the rules allowing destruction of historical CIA documents, I wrote the following letter. Today is the deadline to submit comments to I strongly recommend readers mail their comments in ASAP!
Margaret Hawkins
Acting Director, Records and Management Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

Dear Ms. Hawkins:

I was alarmed to read that the National Archives had tentatively approved a CIA request to destroy a number of potentially important documents that are 30 years old or older, including classified information related to the Agency’s official actions abroad, investigative files from the offices of the Inspector General, Security, and Counterintelligence, and files relating to CIA assets (spies) that the CIA itself does not deem “significant.”

This action would amount to a destruction of history itself, as there is no guarantee that the government operations covered by these records exist anywhere else, even if the CIA maintains that it does. Historians have too often seen documents destroyed. It was as recent as the late 1990s that historian Sheldon Harris complained of government officials (in this case, Department of Defense officials) destroying government records on U.S. collaboration with Unit 731 Japanese war criminals after he and other historians and journalists had expressed interest in such documents. See his letter republished in the November 19, 1999 issue of Congressional Record (pp. S14542-S14543).

I've had my own experience with disappearing records. In 2012, I filed a FOIA on investigative files from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on a Guantanamo detainee who died in custody in June 2009. I subsequently received notice that crucial computer records from the day the detainee had died (and the day after) had gone "missing" and were irretrievable as a result. While I cannot say with assurance they were deliberately destroyed, it was a very suspicious disappearance.

In this brief review, I'd note that the CIA itself has a history of destroying important documentation, from the bulk of the files pertaining to the MKULTRA program of the 1950s and 1960s, to the November 2005 destruction of videotapes of the interrogation and torture of detainees, which a court had ordered preserved.

This is an urgent matter, and the proposal to destroy historical records is contrary to the functioning of a democratic government and a strong civil society. I strongly request that NARA reconsider its pending approval of the CIA’s proposed schedule, N1- 263-13-1, until NARA can better assure the public that records of permanent historic value will not be allowed to be destroyed by the CIA.

In this matter, I am in accord with The National Security Archive, OpenTheGovernment, and other organizations, who ask that NARA pause the approval of CIA N1-263-13-1 until NARA is able to verify beyond a reasonable doubt to the public that: 1) the records set for destruction are in fact not historically valuable, as the CIA’s claims, and 2) The records and information that the CIA claims are captured elsewhere are in fact preserved. I also request that "Item 30-3a: Declassification Referral Files" be re-designated for preservation. We strongly believe that these files do have significant research value, as they provide an invaluable tool and a roadmap for researchers to identify documents that were once designated as too secret to disclose to the public, but will be subject to release at some point in the future. Executive Order 13526 states, “No information may remain classified indefinitely;” NARA must ensure safeguards so that no previously secret, historically valuable, information is improperly destroyed.


Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

10 Yr. Anniversary of Gitmo Detainee's Death, New Documents Show Suicide Improbable

Ten years ago today, Abdul Rahman Al Amri was found dead in Cell 211, B Block, upper tier, at Guantanamo's Camp Delta's Camp 5. The Saudi detainee was found hanging from an improvised rope attached to the air vent just under the ceiling, about nine feet up. Al Amri was 5'5" tall.

Al Amri was found with his hands tied "snugly" behind his back. He had no history of suicide attempts, and was considered a "detainee of interest." He weighed only 125 pounds.

The autopsy tested for the presence of antimalarial drugs, even though there was no malaria at Guantanamo. Al Amri had been a prisoner there for five years. He had never seen an attorney, but new documents I've received show he had papers that supposedly contained attorney-client communications. Those papers have not been released.

But NCIS has released a new trove of documents to me via a years-long FOIA request. I will be soon posting those publicly, as well as updating my analysis of those documents in my book, Cover-up at Guantanamo.

The new documents confirm what I already suspected, that Al Amri did not die a suicide. In fact, the prisoner, subject to checks every three minutes, and with his room bugged, if not under video surveillance, would have taken a long time to create and set-up his suicide apparatus, according to the NCIS investigator who examined the death scene.

As this investigator wrote, noting the complex fashion in which the rope was attached to the air vent:
The attachment of the cloth to this grate would have been time consuming as the cloth appeared to have been weaved through ten holes to assure that it would support a weighted object. It was difficult to ascertain how the cloth attachment was facilitated through gross scene examination. A request was made of this facility to have the grate removed for further inspection and study. The height of the grate on the wall was at a location in which the weaving necessary to attach the cloth to the grate would have been challenging for a shorter detainee. (Note: the detainee had been measured at a height of 66" at the time of the autopsy examination [5' 5" tall].) Standing on the nearby toilet or sink would allow this access but it would put the person at an angle in which further support would have been required through balancing with a hand or upper body.... There was no indication of recent use of the sink or toilet to climb as dust was found on the top surface of both the sink and toilet....
There will be much more to say about this and other new facts about Al Amri's death in the coming weeks. But it is not too late to remember his death, and the fact that his death and others at Guantanamo have never been independently investigated. I believe that when I explain all that is to be revealed about Al Amri's death, calls for a new investigation should be made.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Department of Justice Official Releases Letter Admitting U.S. Amnesty of Japan’s Unit 731 War Criminals

[The following is a portion of an article published initially at The length of the article (over 7000 words) precludes my reposting the full essay here. But approximately half is posted below. Please follow this link to read the entire work.]

Upon my request, both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have released copies of a December 1998 letter from DOJ official Eli Rosenbaum to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In the letter, Rosenbaum admitted to Cooper that after World War II the United States government had classified records pertaining to a Japanese military unit that engaged in biological warfare experimentation and field trials on humans.

The letter, one of two released to this author, confirmed the U.S. "essentially assisted Japan in covering up the atrocities perpetrated by the unit.”

In 1998, Rosenbaum was director of DOJ’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), while Rabbi Cooper was associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. The occasion for the correspondence was the Wiesenthal Center’s sponsorship of a “Trans-Pacific Video-Conference on Japanese Wartime Atrocities,” held at the Center’s own Museum of Tolerance on August 16, 1998.[1]

Reported briefly in the press at the time [2], Rosenbaum’s letter of December 17, 1998 ended any doubts that the U.S. government had given scientists and military personnel associated with the notorious Japanese biological warfare program of the 1930s-1940s “immunity [from prosecution at the International Military Tribunal, Far East] in return for their human experimentation research data.”[3]

This appears to have been the first time that any U.S. government official admitted publicly and officially that the U.S. had proposed an amnesty for the members of Japan’s Unit 731 and assorted components, known to have murdered thousands of prisoners in illegal biological experiments, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians in biological warfare operations predominantly in China, but also the Soviet Union, from 1939 until nearly the end of World War II.

While Rosenbaum’s letter was quoted in the press, and in a 2002 Congressional Research Service report, the letter itself, and a November 1998 letter to Cooper also on the subject of Japan’s war crimes, were never released publicly. These letters are now available with the publication of this article, along with supporting documentation that until now was also not available.

This article looks at some of the salient issues in regards to aspects of these new documents, including the motivation for the U.S. amnesty action, the question of experimentation on U.S. and allied prisoners of war (and its possible cover-up), and the question of assigning culpability to those involved. The article concludes with remarks on these matters by both Rosenbaum and Cooper, who were interviewed for this article in Spring 2013. (The delay in publishing this information was occasioned by personal matters.)

Unit 731

Beginning with John Powell’s 1980 article, “Japan’s Germ Warfare: The US Coverup of a War Crime,” and a subsequent article in the October 1981 Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “A Hidden Chapter in History”, revelations concerning long-hidden or suppressed aspects of Japanese war crimes began to surface in the U.S. and Western press. Powell shocked the American public by writing about and producing documentary evidence of a cover-up of “Japan’s use of biological warfare against China and the Soviet Union.”[4]

The primary Japanese military unit associated with the biological warfare research and production of weaponry was known as Unit 731, although there were a number of other military units also involved. Powell (1981) wrote, “The American government’s participation in the cover-up, it is now disclosed, stemmed from Washington’s desire to secure exclusive possession of Japan’s expertise in using germs as lethal weapons.”

The original promise of amnesty for information was made after a discussion some months after the end of World War II between the Ft. Detrick’s Colonel Murray Sanders and General Douglas MacArthur, according to numerous accounts of Unit 731’s history. The finalization of such a deal, however, took a few years, and was not without controversy within government circles.

Powell (1980) quoted a July 1, 1947 memo from two U.S. doctors associated with bacteriological research that Japanese researchers had thousands of slides of human tissues taken from their experiments on prisoners. The slides and reports from the Unit 731 researchers were available if the U.S. could provide assurances the Japanese doctors and scientists would be saved from war crimes prosecution. The two doctors, Edward Wetter and H. I. Stubblefield argued that since "any 'war crimes' trial would completely reveal such data to all nations, it is felt that such publicity must be avoided in the interests of defense and national security of the U.S."

The vagueness of the language – “it is felt” – appears to indicate their message was something discussed comprehensively in their circle, in particular by scientists from the Army’s Ft. Detrick, which was the center of a major crash program in biological warfare research begun during the war, and intelligence officers.[5]  Ft. Detrick personnel had been in charge of the debriefing of the Unit 731 doctors and scientists, while various documents speak to the sharing of such information with intelligence agencies.

According to Powell, Wetter and Stubblefield furthermore indicated “the knowledge gained by the Japanese from their experiments ‘will be of great value to the U.S. BW research program’ and added: ‘The value to the U.S. of Japanese BW data is of such importance to national security as to far outweigh the value accruing from war crimes prosecution.’”

The furor over Powell’s revelations peaked in the mid-1980s with public controversies over Japanese biological warfare (BW) experiments on U.S. and allied prisoners of wars. Congressional investigators ignored evidence of such experiments on U.S. POWs. It wasn’t until the publication of Linda Goetz Holmes’s book, Guests of the Emperor: The Secret History of Japan's Mukden POW Camp (Naval Institute Press, June 2010) that any mainstream historian accepted such experiments even took place. The entire episode is still ignored in the press accounts of World War II history.

Subsequently, the scandal around Unit 731 appeared to die down publicly, until it was revived approximately a decade later. In 1995, there were two major narratives published on Unit 731 and the U.S. immunity deal. One was an article by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times. The other was historian Sheldon Harris’s book, Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45, and the American Cover-up.[6]  The publication and controversy surrounding the publication of Iris Chang’s book, The Rape of Nanking, in November 1997, also brought greater attention to the issue of Japanese atrocities during World War II.

Amnesty to Protect Collaboration and to Protect U.S. Biowar “Expertise”

The supporting documentation for this article includes two memoranda for the record from the early 1980s by Norman Covert, then Chief of Public Affairs and historian for the U.S. Army at Ft. Detrick, Maryland. Rosenbaum’s December 17 letter had quoted liberally from the latter of these two memoranda.[7]  While it is worth considering the portions Rosenbaum did not quote, the selection revealed to Rabbi Cooper, taken from Covert’s May 5, 1982 Memorandum for the Record, explained the U.S. rationale for the Unit 731 amnesty:
The Joint Chiefs of Staff decided to keep Top Secret any information about the Japanese Biological Warfare Program. The Joint State, War, Navy Coordinating Committee expressed its desire that the information be retained in US hands exclusively and certainly it should be kept from the Soviet Union....

In the [June 26, 1947] memorandum written by Dr. Edward Wetter and Mr. H. I. Stubblefield[8] for the State, War, Navy Coordinating Committee for the Far East, the decision not to prosecute LTG [Lieutenant General Shiro] Ishii [founder and leader of Unit 731 and the biological warfare program] was discussed. “An agreement with Ishii and his associates that information given by them on the Japanese BW program will be retained in intelligence channels is equivalent to an agreement that this government will not prosecute any of those involved in BW activities in which war crimes were committed.”

.... Scientists in the US program said the information was not of significant value, but it was the first data in which human subjects were described. It indicated the Japanese program reached a level of expertise in 1939 that was never advanced because of lack of resources. Any prosecution of LTG Ishii and his associates would have exposed the Japanese capability in addition to US expertise. It would have been difficult to retain such information in US-only hands in such a case. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and SCAP [Supreme Command Allied Powers] agreed there would be little gained by such prosecution and deferred, offering LTG Ishii immunity in exchange for detailed information. [bold added for emphasis]
The Covert memorandum was certainly a kind of spin, although Mr. Covert himself may not have been aware of the full extent of U.S. crimes. Even so, he admitted to this author in an interview for this article that at the time he wrote the memos he was concerned mainly with “protecting Ft. Detrick[‘s]” reputation. The May 5 memo, and an earlier one Covert wrote on November 17, 1981, were a response to media attention following the Powell disclosures. The November 17 memo was undertaken as a rewrite of the May 5 memo for the purpose of submission to the Secretary of the Army.

“News media was beating me to death on that,” Covert said, referring to the strong response to the Powell articles. “The Memorandum for the Record was to cover your ass, a record of what I had done.”

Covert added there had also been “several legislative requests” for more information on the Unit 731 material as well. He also recalled that the Department of Justice had also contacted him on one occasion during this period, although he did not remember the details. Rosenbaum indicated in his interview that DOJ had likely been involved in some capacity in the postwar discussions surrounding the granting of amnesty to Ishii and associates.

The question of the value of the Japanese data and biological samples is a matter of conjecture, while the controversy over the use of such data (and similar data from the Nazi concentration camp experiments), including use of operational knowledge in purported U.S. germ warfare attacks on North Korea and China during the Korean War, is a separate, though related issue.[9]  At one point, Covert said U.S. scientists found the Japanese research “not of significant value.” He appeared to have gotten this information from speaking to Ft. Detrick scientists still resident in the Frederick, Virginia area. In addition, Covert appeared to give little credence to evidence that came from Soviet sources.

But elsewhere, writing about Ft. Detrick representative Dr. Norbert Fell's interrogation of Shiro Ishii, Covert wrote in his November 17, 1981 memo, "The data on human testing appeared to have significant value to the U.S. BW Research programs at Camp Detrick." Some months later, in his May 5, 1982 memo, Covert concluded, “It is certain the Japanese had a full-scale BW effort and achieved a level of expertise working with many traditional BW agents.”

A later report by Doctors Edwin Hill and Joseph Victor, also from Ft. Detrick, was quite direct when considering the value of getting the Unit 731 data. “Such information could not be obtained in our own laboratories because of scruples attached to human experimentation,” they wrote.[10]

To conclude the discussion on the value of Unit 731’s data, it is worth noting a May 1947 memo from MacArthur’s office to the War Department and Major General Alden Wiatt of the Chemical Warfare Service on the BW human experiments, “confirmed tacitly by Ishii” to interrogators. The memo was obtained by author William Triplett, and also describes the intersection of the amnesty agreement with unnamed intelligence agencies:

"Data already obtained from Ishii and his colleagues have proven to be of great value in confirming, supplementing and completing several phases of U.S. research in BW, and may suggest new fields for future research.... For all practical purposes an agreement with Ishii and his associates that information given by them on the Japanese BW program will be retained in intelligence channels is equivalent to an agreement that this Government will not prosecute any of those involved in BW activities in which war crimes were committed."[11]

MacArthur’s command told the War Department, “valuable technical BW information as to results of human experiments and research in BW for crop destruction probably can be obtained….”

Ft. Detrick’s Norbert Fell resumed interrogations of Shiro Ishii two days after this memo was sent....

[To see the rest of this article, click through to read at - Relevant footnotes for portion published here are posted below - JK]

[1] China News Daily, Aug. 14, 1998, CNET reported on the conference at the time: URL See also the original announcement of the event by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, archived online at (all accessed May 14, 2017).

[2] See Stars and Stripes, week of March 15 – 28, 1999, vol. 122, no. 6, reposted online at (accessed May 14, 2017).

Reference was also made in a Congressional Research Service report by Gary K. Reynolds in December 2002, “U.S. Prisoners of War and Civilian American Citizens Captured and Interned by Japan in World War II: the Issue of Compensation by Japan,” online at (accessed May 14, 2017).

[3] Letter, Eli Rosenbaum to Abraham Cooper, December 17, 1998.

[4] Powell’s 1980 article was published in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, “Japan’s Germ Warfare: The US Coverup of a War Crime” (Oct.-Dec. 1980, vol. 12, no. 4.) See URL: (accessed May 14, 2017).

Powell’s 1981 article is available online, reproduced as part of the Congressional Record on November 10, 1999, (accessed May 14, 2017) Powell died in Dec. 2008.

In the middle 1970s, John Saar at the Washington Post wrote a story, “Japan Accused of WW II Germ Deaths” (Nov. 19, 1976), that described a Japanese documentary by Haruko Yoshinaga, aired by the Tokyo Broadcasting System on Unit 731. “Japanese scientists killed at least 3,000 Chinese prisoners in World War II in bacteriological warfare experiments and escaped prosecution by sharing the findings with US occupation forces…. Press officers at the US Defense and Justice Departments said they had no information on the charges but would investigate,” Saar wrote. (See URL:,6138361 - accessed May 14, 2017) But no one in the Western press pursued the story further until Powell published his first article four years later.

The impact of Powell’s expose can be gauged by the fact that 60 Minutes interviewed Powell for an on-air segment, “War Crime,” on April 4, 1982. The transcript for this episode is available beginning on pg. 352 in this large PDF file online: URL

Morley Safer narrated: "During World War II, the Japanese military experimented with germ warfare. Their guinea pigs were Chinese, Russian and American prisoners of war. For a variety of reasons, the American government kept it all a secret."

[5] The U.S. World War II program in both chemical and biological warfare is discussed in Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman, A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Random House, 2002.

[6] Nicolas D. Kristof, “Unmasking Horror -- A special report. Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity,” New York Times, March 17, 1995, URL: (accessed May 14, 2017).

Routledge published an expanded, revised version of Factories of Death in 2002. Harris died a few months later.

[7] My thanks to Mr. Norman Covert for sharing certain documents. The attempt to obtain the documents through official channels is a story in itself. A DoD spokesman had referred my query to Fort Detrick. Ft. Detrick’s FOIA office referred me to the National Archives. But the documents did not apparently exist there either. They may or may not constitute documents that Mr. Covert claims were destroyed by order of Ft. Detrick’s commanding officer in 1998.

[8] “Mr. H. I. Stubblefield” was in fact Dr. Henry I. Stubblefield, a bacteriologist who we know, at least in 1954, was on the Chemical Corps Advisory Council, according to an in-house history of Ft. Detrick written by Norman Covert. See URL: Coincidentally, along with two other researchers, he had co-authored with Andrew C. Ivy an article in 1934, “Protective Action of Sodium Thiocyanate against Dysentery Toxin (Shiga): An Experimental Study in Dogs and Rabbits.” Ivy was later to be a major figure testifying on medical ethics at the Nuremberg trials.

According to Powell (1980), Dr. Wetter was at the time of the SWNCC memo “Panel Director” of the “Committee on Biological Warfare.” Powell does not say, but it appears likely this was the secret “DEF” committee, the third of three secret committees formed during the World War II years by the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council. See URL: (accessed May 14, 2017). Wetter later went to work as a civilian employee for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development ( According to the 1955 Official Register of the United States, p. 114, Wetter worked in this office as “Executive Secretary, Committee and Panel on Special Operations.”

[9] See Till Bärnighausen, “Data generated in Japan’s biowarfare experiments on human victims in China, 1932–1945, and the ethics of using them,” Japan's Wartime Medical Atrocities: Comparative Inquiries in Science, History, and Ethics, Taylor and Francis, 2010.

On the Korean War allegations, see Stephen Endicott & Edward Hagerman, The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea, Indiana University Press, 1998.

[10] Op. cit., Bärnighausen, p. 97.

[11] See William Triplett, Flowering of the Bamboo, Woodbine House, 1985, pp. 241-250.

[To see the rest of this article, click through to read at]

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Proof US Agencies Destroyed Evidence of Japan's WWII Medical War Crimes

The letter published below came from the November 19, 1999 Congressional Record (pp. S14542-S14543). Sheldon Harris, a historian at California State University, Northridge, wrote the letter, which alleged the destruction by various U.S. military agencies of records concerning Japanese war crimes during World War II. Harris had been investigating these crimes, as well as actions by the U.S. government to cover-up them up. In one instance, Harris claimed "sensitive" documents were destroyed at Dugway Proving Ground as "a direct result" of research he had initiated there.

Harris' letter was entered into the record by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was speaking about the controversies at the time about the ongoing classification even 50 or more years after the fact of documents pertaining to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan war crimes. In particular, the 1990s had seen a growing campaign to expose the activities of Japan's World War II biological warfare experiments and subsequent operational bacteriological and chemical warfare campaigns, which have collectively come to be known under the rubric of the campaign's most notorious brigade, Unit 731, led by Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii.

The kick-off for the controversy was the publication in the Oct. 1981 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of "Japan's Biological Weapons: 1930-1945 - A Hidden Chapter in History," written by Robert Gomer, John W. Powell, and Bert V.A. Roling. Feinstein entered the entire article into the Congressional Record, along with another letter from historian Sheldon Harris, who had written a book on Unit 731 and the U.S. cover-up of their activities. According to Harris and Gomer/Powell/Roling, the U.S. had amnestied the Unit 731 scientists in order to get at the unethical data from human experiments on prisoners, data derived from intentional infliction of disease followed often enough by vivisection. The 731 survivors were incinerated or buried in mass graves.

Historians have documented the massive amount of destruction of records by the Japanese military, including many if not most of the records for Unit 731 and associated units. Professor Harris's letter references the U.S. destruction of records, and not the larger, and even more problematic destruction of records by the Japanese authorities.

The Japanese government denied any biological/chemical war crimes, while the U.S. slowly declassified some incriminating documents, but would not come out and say what the U.S. had done in relation to the Japanese doctors and scientists. Some of the Unit 731 personnel were tried in 1949 in a special war crimes trial by the Soviet Union. Much of what we know about Unit 731 and associated biological and chemical warfare divisions comes from this trial, which for years was derided in the West. (Google Books has republished a free ebook of the Soviet transcripts from the trial.)

In January 1999, President Bill Clinton, "in accordance with the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (PL 105-246)... established the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG)." But it wasn't until May 2000 that Congress, "as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2001... extended the IWG's life to December 2004 through passage of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act, P. L. 106-567." The IWG's name was accordingly changed to the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group. According to the IWG website, declassification of U. S. Government records related to imperial Japan's war crimes then became an official part of the IWG's mission.

The IWG ended its declassification mission in March 2007 (extended from an original 2004 ending date). It subsequently published a final report to Congress in September 2007. Some resources have been placed online for researchers, primarily Select Documents on Japanese War Crimes and Japanese Biological Warfare, 1934-2006.

While over 100,000 previously unclassified documents related to Imperial Japan's biological warfare program were reportedly released via IWG's efforts, no further discussion or elaboration took place regarding Professor Harris's documentation of the destruction of records held by different U.S. military agencies.

The following is the text of Professor Harris's letter, which can be found online as part of the Congressional Record, or also here. It can also be accessed here.
October 7, 1999
Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. 
DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Several Asian American activists organizations in California, and organizations representing former Prisoners of War and Internees of the Japanese Imperial Army, have indicated to me that you are proposing to introduce legislation into the United States Senate that calls for full disclosure by the United States Government of records it possesses concerning war crimes committed by members of the Japanese Imperial Army. I endorse such legislation enthusiastically. 
My support for the full disclosure of American held records relating to the Japanese Imperial Army’s wartime crimes against humanity is both personal and professional. I am aware of the terrible suffering members of the Imperial Japanese Army imposed upon innocent Asians, prisoners of war of various nationalists and civilian internees of Allied nations. These inhumane acts were condoned, if not ordered, by the highest authorities in both the civilian and military branches of the Japanese government. As a consequence, millions of persons were killed, maimed, tortured, or experienced acts of violence that included human experiments relating to biological and chemical warfare research. Many of these actions meet the definition of "war crimes" under both the Potsdam Declaration and the various Nuremberg War Crimes trials held in the post-war period. 
I am the author of "Factories of Death, Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932–45, and the American Cover-up" (Routlege: London and New York; hard cover edition 1994; paperback printings, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999). [Note: a revised edition was published in 2002 - ed.] I discovered in the course of my research for this book, and scholarly articles that I published on the subject of Japanese biological and chemical warfare preparations, that members of the Japanese Imperial Army Medical Corps committed heinous war crimes. These included involuntary laboratory tests of various pathogens on humans—Chinese, Korean, other Asian nationalities, and Allied prisoners of war, including Americans. Barbarous acts encompassed live vivisections, amputations of body parts (frequently without the use of anesthesia), frost bite exposure to temperatures of 40–50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, injection of horse blood and other animal blood into humans, as well as other horrific experiments. When a test was completed, the human experimented was "sacrificed", the euphemism used by Japanese scientists as a substitute term for "killed." 
In my capacity as an academic Historian, I can testify to the difficulty researchers have in unearthing documents and personal testimony concerning these war crimes. I, and other researchers, have been denied access to military archives in Japan. These archives cover activities by the Imperial Japanese Army that occurred more than 50 years ago. The documents in question cannot conceivably contain information that would be considered of importance to "National Security" today. The various governments in Japan for the past half century have kept these archives firmly closed. The fear is that the information contained in the archives will embarrass previous governments. 
Here in the United States, despite the Freedom of Information Act, some archives remain closed to investigators. At best, the archivists in charge, or the Freedom of Information Officer at the archive in question, select what documents they will allow to become public. This is an unconscionable act of arrogance and a betrayal of the trust they have been given by the Congress and the President of the United States. Moreover, ‘‘sensitive’’ documents—as defined by archivists and FOIA officers—are at the moment being destroyed. Thus, historians and concerned citizens are being denied factual evidence that can shed some light on the terrible atrocities committed by Japanese militarists in the past. 
Three examples of this wanton destruction should be sufficiently illustrative of the dangers that exist, and should reinforce the obvious necessity for prompt passage of legislation you propose to introduce into the Congress: 
1. In 1991, the Librarian at Dugway Proving Grounds, Dugway, Utah, denied me access to the archives at the facility. It was only through the intervention of then U.S. Representative Wayne Owens, Dem., Utah, that I was given permission to visit the facility. I was not shown all the holdings relating to Japanese medical experiments, but the little I was permitted to examine revealed a great deal of information about medical war crimes. Sometimes after my visit, a person with intimate knowledge of Dugway’s operations, informed me that "sensitive" documents were destroyed there as a direct result of my research in their library. 
2. I conducted much of my American research at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The Public Information Officer there was extremely helpful to me. Two weeks ago I telephoned Detrick, was informed that the PIO had retired last May. I spoke with the new PIO, who told me that Detrick no longer would discuss past research activities, but would disclose information only on current projects. Later that day I telephoned the retired PIO at his home. He informed me that upon retiring he was told to ‘‘get rid of that stuff’’, meaning incriminating documents relating to Japanese medical war crimes. Detrick no longer is a viable research center for historians. 
3. Within the past 2 weeks, I was informed that the Pentagon, for ‘‘space reasons’’, decided to rid itself of all biological warfare documents in its holdings prior to 1949. The date is important, because all war crimes trials against accused Japanese war criminals were terminated by 1949. Thus, current Pentagon materials could not implicate alleged Japanese war criminals. Fortunately, a private research facility in Washington volunteered to retrieve the documents in question. This research facility now holds the documents, is currently cataloguing them (estimated completion time, at least twelve months), and is guarding the documents under ‘‘tight security.’’ 
Your proposed legislation must be acted upon promptly. Many of the victims of Japanese war crimes are elderly. Some of the victims pass away daily. Their suffering should receive recognition and some compensation. Moreover, History is being cheated. As documents disappear, the story of war crimes committed in the War In The Pacific becomes increasingly difficult to describe. The end result will be a distorted picture of reality. As an Historian, I cannot accept this inevitability without vigorous protest. 
Please excuse the length of this letter. However, I do hope that some of the arguments I made in comments above will be of some assistance to you as you press for passage of the proposed legislation. I will be happy to be of any additional assistance to you, should you wish to call upon me for further information or documentation. 
Sincerely yours,
Professor of History emeritus,
California State University, Northridge
In a March 30, 2007 Memorandum for the "Director, US Army Records Management and Declassification Agency" on the matter of "Japanese War Crimes - Record Search at Fort Detrick, Maryland", William H. Thresher, Chief of Staff at US Army Medical Command, referenced the Harris charges of destruction of records at Fort Detrick. Thresher was responding to a request from the Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) "for information concerning records of interest to the Nazi/Japanese War Crimes Interagency Working Group (IWG)."

It is worth noting that this memorandum was written even as the IWG had just finished its declassification project.

Thresher wrote, "In early 2007, the USAMRIID [US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] performed a thorough search for any remaining responsive records, including records regarding Unit 731, and found no records." The search included "the Commander and other senior personnel."

Thresher then turned to allegations by Professor Sheldon Harris concerning possible destruction of records at Fort Detrick. He reviewed the controversy:
Professor Harris, in his letter, dated 7 October 1999, stated that the recently-retired Public Information Officer at Fort Detrick (Mr. Norman Covert) told Professor Harris that upon retiring he was told to get rid of documents relating to Japanese war crimes. 
The USAMRMC [US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command] is unaware of any authority at Fort Detrick or the USAMRMC requesting destruction of any responsive original records, or of copies of Fort Detrick or USAMRMC documents not previously provided to Dugway or NARA.
Professor Harris died on August 31, 2002. To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has written about his 1999 letter to Senator Feinstein detailing his charges about the destruction of records by US military officials. If it were up to the powers that be, this would be an example of government censorship lost in the whirlwind of moving events. But it seems an episode worth reviving, if nothing else as a documentation of an important episode in the history of exposing U.S. and Japanese biological warfare history.

A few years back, Norman Covert confirmed to this author his contention that his commanding officer at Ft. Detrick was the superior officer who told him to destroy the weapons.

And there the controversy stands to this day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Talking Dog interviews author of "Cover-up at Guantanamo"

[The following was graciously allowed for reprint by The Talking Dog, who has interviewed many key figures who have been fighting the U.S. use of torture for years. His website is a special go-to place for those who want to know what this fight really looks like. His many interviews can be accessed here. Key interviews include those with Gitmo attorneys Brent Mickum, Candace Gorman, Michael Ratner, and Joshua Denbeaux, as well as physicians Dr. David Nicholl and Dr. Steven Miles, and former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, among many other worthy individuals. His interviews are informed and always of interest.]
Jeffrey S. Kaye is a native Californian is a practicing psychologist in San Francisco, Calif. Dr. Kaye has a bachelors degree from the University of California, Berkeley and he received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley. After working as a cab driver, an assistant casting director, a proofreader, a typographer, and assorted odd jobs, he settled down and became a clinical psychologist in his middle age. He still has a full-time psychotherapy practice in San Francisco, California. Dr. Kaye also taught Adult Development and History and Systems of Psychology to Bay Area graduate students in psychology. For 10 years he worked part time with Survivors International, conducting both assessment and psychotherapy of torture victims. After 9/11, he became involved with other psychologists in protesting the use of psychological expertise in the CIA and Department of Defense interrogation programs, which have widely been exposed as including torture and other forms of cruel treatment of prisoners. "Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri" is his first eBook. He has published articles on torture and other subjects at Truthout, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Alternet, and other online websites, and he maintains the blog "Invictus" and the website Guantanamo Truth (where he posts the results of his Guantanamo related Freedom of Information requests and key source documents.)

On March 25, 2017, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Kaye by email exchange.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on 9/11?

Jeffrey Kaye: I was living in San Rafael, California at the time. I’m not a very religious or superstitious person, but on the morning of 9/11 I was awoken around 6pm with a nightmare. People and cars and cows (!) and other items were falling down out of the sky. It was bizarre, and scary enough it work me up. I felt creepy, but shook it off as I had to start the day: get my daughter ready for school and myself ready for the commute to work in San Francisco. I never watch TV in the morning, nor did I listen to the news in those days. But after I dropped my daughter off, I got on the freeway and quickly was in the typical commute crawl. Out of the corner of my eye I could see people making strange faces. One woman had her mouth agape in shock. I turned on the news and heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and Pentagon. This was before the buildings had collapsed. I rushed home to watch some on TV, and then headed into work late. I figured my daughter was safe at school, and my wife would pick her up later. I remember thinking, this is so strange, so bizarre. I thought about my dream. I imagined that thousands were dead (after the buildings collapsed). It all felt unreal. Amazingly, in my psychotherapy practice that day, not one person mentioned the terror attack. That added to the surreal atmosphere of the day.

The Talking Dog: Your book, "Cover-Up at Guantanamo," is a detailed takedown of the official story surrounding three prisoners suicides-while-in- detention-at-Guantanamo, in three separate incidents spanning a five year period (or, if you like two suicides and a "bonus" chapter on a third), noting, among other things. deliberate decisions to turn off the detainee data management system moments after the discovery of a suicide, documents (and forensic physical evidence, such as fabric that may have been implicated in the death) missing, or apparently deliberately suppressed, from investigative records, along with the usual overarching redactions and secrecy that define Guantanamo as the default. Before we take them on, I have a couple of pet theories I'd love to hear your take on. As you know, the first alleged suicides at Guantanamo, three simultaneous, took place on the night of 9 June 2006 (reported on 10 June 2006), four and a half years into the operation of the prison. By then, the Supreme Court opened up the possibility of habeas and lawyers were running around Guantanamo. It was also obvious that so called actionable intelligence from non-high value prisoners was a fantasy, and that the bulk of GTMO prisoners were, as feared, taxi drivers and farmers and missionaries and otherwise people of no "intel" value, actionable or otherwise. Oh-- Dubya got reelected as well. That said, I wonder if, to be brutally blunt about it, the compelling need to keep prisoners alive kind of dissipated. Further, I wonder if, by 2006, the staff that rotated into GTMO, particularly in the medical and psychological areas, was, well, just less top-notch (if that term ever applied) than staff earlier, and this was a factor in the "suicides". While Joe Hickman believes that those first three deaths were homicides, and he's likely right, I posit whether it could be gross negligence homicide rather than intentional murder... In other words, let's hypothesize that some sick game of dry-boarding for example which earlier would have been stopped well before the edge of death, by '06 could be pushed just a few seconds or inches further...just a little less quality control... It was less of a "catastrophe" as it were, if GTMO prisoners died on site. Can you comment on any of that? I'd also like to toss out an "Occam's Razor" explanation: after years and years of extreme boredom (even boredom at having to inflict the sort of abuse they were ordered to do), prison and medical staff just suffered periodic breakdowns in doing their jobs-- they just fell asleep at the wheel, whether of keeping contraband out or watching prisoners on schedule and so forth or taking steps to prevent suicides. Can you comment on any of this?

Jeffrey Kaye: It’s worth remembering at every stage that so much has been shrouded in secrecy, that we really don’t know. I think Joe Hickman is right and the three prisoners in 2006 were murdered. It may have been “accidental,” but I don’t think so in their case. After the first died, there should have been some concern by interrogators, or whoever was torturing these prisoners, about what they were doing. But three died, and there was more than one trip in and out to Camp No. Why were these detainees given disorienting drugs (at least one was tested for mefloquine)? Were they dryboarded, or was it even worse than that. The same goes for one of the prisoners whose death I examined, Abdul Rahman Al Amri. He was likely murdered himself. In fact, it seems he was executed (hands tied behind his back, a former compliant prisoner, perhaps even an informant, turned hunger striker, his file was very heavily redacted, with hundreds of pages withheld).

Now, we know (or believe we know) that there were many suicide attempts in the first few years at Guantanamo, or at least there were actions attributable to self-harm. Did the strenuous efforts to prevent suicide wane as the years wore on? Perhaps. There is the possibility that those who were difficult mental health cases (Al Hanashi, Al Latif, and Inayatullah) were killed or allowed to die by withdrawal of care or allowance of self-harm as a result of counter-transference hatred among guards and/or clinical staff. I remember I volunteered at San Francisco Suicide Prevention in the early 1990s. I read about a case where two suicide prevention workers in Sacramento were so incensed and fed up with a “chronic” suicide caller that they drove to his house and tried to strangle him. When I brought up the subject in my own agency, no one wanted to discuss it. I thought that strange. But then later I learned that hostility towards difficult patients is real problem in hospitals. The way Guantanamo was staffed, possibly with poorly trained and less talented staff, but more importantly, with heavy turn-over and therefore poor institutional memory and lousy esprit de corps. I also believe, due to the fact medical decisions were subordinated to military or intelligence officials’ needs, there was a deterioration in the culture of caring that took place. I saw some nurses from the Behavioral Health Unit at Guantanamo speak at the 2007 American Psychological Convention. They seemed like automatons to me, as they lied about the pronounced evidence of personality disorders and the lack of PTSD at Guantanamo.

The Talking Dog: I'd like to acknowledge the nine prisoners who died in custody at Guantanamo. I haven't been able to find the descriptions of all nine men in the same place, so I'll try to put it together in this question. Let's do a quick overview of the ultimate "forever prisoners"- the nine men whose life ended as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Ali Abdullah Ahmed (Salah Ahmed al-Salami) (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Yasser Talal al Zahrani (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]

Abdul Rahman Ma'ath Thafir al Amri (May 30, 2007) suicide [by hanging- hands tied behind]
Abdul Razak or Abdul Razzak Hekmati (December 30, 2007) [cancer]

Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi (June 1, 2009) suicide [self-strangulation]

Awal Gul (February 2, 2011) [cardiac arrest]
Inayatullah, born Hajji Nassim (May 18, 2011) suicide [details not disclosed, but found "hanging by bedsheet"]

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (September 8, 2012) suicide [apparent drug overdose]

I'm going to defer to Joe Hickman on Ahmed, al-Utaybi and al-Zahrani (my interview with Joe is here) and I think it's fair to say that your book is the definitive work on the controversial deaths of al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif. I'm wondering if you have done any research or have any particular take on the other three deaths-- Inayatullah, so mysterious that we're usually not even given a cause of death besides "suicide" (I suppose "hanging by a bed sheet" is an explanation), or the cardiac arrest of a man my age [I was born in 1962] on an elliptical machine of Awal Gul, something that his family believes is a cover-up of something more insidious, and of course, the death of a 68 year old prisoner Abdul Razzak Hekmati by cancer while undergoing treatment? Whether or not you have specifically researched the other deaths, can you comment on overall media reaction to them, including international media, and can you comment on what I'll call the extraordinarily helpful irony that, but for their deaths, we might be looking at 50 prisoners still at GTMO rather than 41 (even though a couple of the "suicides" were "cleared for transfer")? Also, with respect to the other deaths by suicide, including those you profile, in an inordinate number of cases, the prisoners somehow managed to tie their own hands before hanging themselves... is that common in suicides, and does that not dramatically make one question whether, at minimum, these were "assisted" suicides [if not, as Joe Hickman suggests, murders]? Also, please comment on "the suicide note" of al-Hanashi.

Jeffrey Kaye: I have indeed looked briefly at the deaths of Awal Gul and Inayatullah/Nassim. Both raise questions even upon a superficial look. I have not had the time to really dig into their deaths. The timeline around Gul’s death seems suspicious. And how did Inayatullah/Nassim ever get past guards to carry a blanket into the recreation yard, which he supposedly used then to hang himself? It’s not like you can hide a blanket!

The media reaction to the deaths has for the most part been awful. Harpers did open up their pages to Hickman and Scott Horton. But when in 2010 the story got an National Magazine Award there was significant growling from the rest of the media. Most amazing, to me, was the tirade of abuse coming from the pages of Adweek, an advertising industry stalwart. That must have thrown editors into a frenzy, with what I believe was practically explicit warning to stay away from these kinds of story, derogated as irresponsible conspiracy-mongering. From that time forward, you did not see stories about the deaths at Guantanamo. A year earlier, Al Hanashi’s death had garnered a good deal of attention. But there was, except for myself, no follow-up. It was as if marching orders had been given. Major journalists who had worked on the torture story – Mark Benjamin at Salon, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker – were either condemnatory of the Harpers piece, or silent.

In general, the press does not attempt to look beyond the official story at Guantanamo, and this is especially true when it comes to the deaths at Guantanamo. I’ve never seen the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, for instance, question the government narrative around any of these deaths, or at least I’ve seen nothing in print. I tried to get people interested in the fact I discovered a government meeting in February 2002 where the deaths of early arrivals at Guantanamo, from “battlefield wounds,” was casually discussed, even after I verified with the government official that he had in fact been told of such deaths. It was as if such evidence fell like sterile seeds onto a hard, barren rocky and soilless field. I write about that in my book, too.

You ask about the tying of hands in the case of four of the suicides. Uniquely, Al Amri’s hands were tied behind his back. The three 2006 prisoners found dead had hands bound in front, and some sort of masks on their faces, not to mention rags stuffed down their throats. None of this seems natural. The government alleges that the 2006 deaths were really a form of Al Qaeda mass suicide, conducted in a ritualistic manner as a form of “asymmetric warfare.” They are totally silent about Al Amri, even seemed to try and hide the circumstances of his death. I did some research on whether hands tied behind the back was a typical finding in suicide cases. No, it is rare. Apparently it can be done. But the authorities I consulted said that you would have to take seriously the possibility also of foul play. I see no indication that government investigators ever considered such a possibility. Indeed, in Al Amri’s case, actual evidence was thrown away or destroyed.

Al Hanashi’s so-called suicide note written on the last day of his life indicated that he was tired of living because of the prospect of abuse of the Koran and Islam in general, and the threat to turn the psychiatric unit at Gitmo over to harsher forms of discipline. He also that very day been pointedly rejected by a leading medical provider when he complained of being tortured. All of this could have led to a decision to kill himself. But as I show in my book, the means by which he killed himself, if he did so by himself, came from unauthorized access to materials he should not have had. Meanwhile, an earlier document, written about a month before, suggested he had consulted with Islam authorities inside Guantanamo and they had said suicide was acceptable to God under the conditions they were in. Internally, Guantanamo officials told medical personnel that Al Hanashi was on some sort of directed suicide list. Certainly Al Hanashi had indicated a wish to die and made multiple suicide attempts in the weeks and months leading up to his death. The “suicide note” never indicates that he was going to kill himself that very day, so I don’t think we can call it a suicide note strictly speaking.

The Talking Dog: One subject I found of interest was the crazy weight fluctuations you have described from the available unredacted records-- how a prisoner might go from, say, a thin 130 lbs. to Auschwitz survivor level of 80, sometimes even, 70 lbs. in a matter of weeks, and then back. You have noted a few possible explanations for this, including deliberate withholding of food in an effort to break the men or otherwise psychologically control them as part of broader psychological experimentation and torture, force-feeding, including pumping detainees up with fluids,hunger striking, or of course, mis-recording, whether as a result of outright negligence or incompetence in weighing or recording or for some more deliberate purpose, You hinted at it in your book, but do you have your own working theory on what the hell was going on with these wildly disparate weight readings?

Jeffrey Kaye: I know there have been some in the medical and legal community who have examined this issue. I’m not at liberty to discuss their research. Thus far it has not been published, and I’m not certain it ever will be. I’ve shown that some of the weight fluctuations seem almost impossible to believe. I’m not sure it’s even physically possible to gain 30 or 40 pounds in a matter of days. The forced-feeding is abusive, it goes without saying. They certainly didn’t want a Gitmo version of Bobby Sands on their hands.

The primary misunderstood fact about Guantanamo was that it was a facility for experimentation. Top Pentagon brass referred to it themselves as a “Battle Lab in the War on Terror.” Later this embarrassed them and they tried to suppress that fact, even redacting the term in a FOIA document I received. But I was able to cross-check that document with a quote from it in the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, and successfully appeal that redaction.

The reference in the book is to a decades-old meeting of CIA and military-linked health scientists, one of whom, Josef Brozek, who conducted something called the Minnesota Starvation Study in 1944-45, considered then and even now as the definitive study on human starvation and semi-starvation. At a psychiatry symposium on “forceful indoctrination’ in 1956, Brozek told those present, who included the former Chief Medical Officer at Alcatraz, that differential offerings and withdrawals of food, combined with “other forms of deprivation and insults” can induce a “breakdown” in most people. I truly believe the U.S. government analyzed everything that happened at Guantanamo, and that food, even the forced feedings and the prisoners’ own hunger strikes, were used to collect data in their insatiable effort to gain knowledge about human beings so they can be controlled. It is a fantasy that they will ever achieve total control, but that doesn’t keep them from trying.

The Talking Dog: Let's talk about record-keeping, such as the mysterious disappearance of the seemingly omniscient "DIMS" (Detainee Information Management System) that invariably failed right around the time of any prisoner deaths. In particular in the case of al-Hanashi, it seems an order (from NCIS? Or was it Langley, VA?) came down to stop making recordings in a DIMS system whose instructions included " "Relevant observations" of detainee behavior to be recorded include requests for copies of the Koran; refusals to let their cell be searched; refusal of a meal; visits by non-block personnel; and anything deemed a "significant activity."" And something near and dear to both of us professionally, I suppose, forensic records- in this case, criminal, psychological, medical and so forth... even in the redacted form you received some of them, there was left a great deal to be desired. You also noted, that even with "DIMS' in place, there was an apparent false entry concerning a headcount concerning the three simultaneous 2006 "suicides." Please comment on this, and if you have had a chance to observe other military records, or in the civilian context, can you compare and contrast with what is clearly endemic -- somewhere between "lapses of protocol" and outright deliberate cover-up, quite probably criminal in nature?

Jeffrey Kaye: The DIMS system did not fail. It was deliberately sabotaged in the case of al Hanashi, as you note– ordered turned off – and manipulated with false information in other cases. In the case of Al Latif, evidently the failure was to enter necessary data, in other words, a human failure, if indeed it was a failure and not a deliberate obfuscation of evidence.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you an opinion as to the legality of such shenanigans, as I am not legally trained. The only contemporary documents I have experience with are medical records and reports, as well as psychotherapy notes. I also have experience looking at government documents of various sorts, but I don’t believe I have seen anything to match the situation with the DIMS. It would be as if a bank had its security monitoring systems turned off just as a major hack was taking place and money stolen. In this case, men’s lives were stolen from them.

I think your readers and the common man would hear about all this and think, where there’s smoke there’s fire. This kind of obvious destruction of or tampering with records, or the creation of records, is sadly nothing new. We have the example of the destruction by the CIA of the torture videotapes. Over 40 years ago, just as the revelations around the CIA’s notorious MKULTRA program was taking place, the CIA destroyed massive amounts of documents related to that program. No one was prosecuted or indicted for that. Back in 1999, a U.S. academic told Congress that documents he was seeking about the U.S. biowarfare program and its collaboration with the World War II Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 and similar operations were being destroyed upon his inquiry. The charge was entered in the Congressional Record, and helped lead to the passing of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act a few years later, and the declassification of the documents. But no one was held to account for what was destroyed.

Of course, I believe the destruction of records in a criminal case, especially a case of possible murder, would, you’d think, carry even greater penalties and merit greater attention from authorities. But it didn’t, although my book does document an internal investigation by NCIS into the turning off of DIMS in the al Hanashi case. That investigation, however, went nowhere, or its findings were covered-up.

The Talking Dog: You are, of course, a practicing psychologist. In that light, can you describe some of the stresses (or stressors) these men were under-- we can talk about the three men [al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif] you have profiled, and then talk about the more general "treatment" that men at Guantanamo have been, and as far as we know, still are subjected to. Americans, being on the whole, not very imaginative (or perhaps this is just what the media tells them) generally assume that "torture" has to mean "waterboarding" or some overt act that, say, Torquemada might have employed during the Inquisition, rather than, oh, sleep deprivation, or "stress positions," or constant cell moving, or denial of dignity or indefinite detention itself or any of the other "degrading treatment" that, along with torture, is barred by international and domestic law (including treaty). So... bottom line it, please for the three guys your book discusses, and then, as a practicing psychologist, describe the likelihood that such treatment might result in suicide attempts.

Jeffrey Kaye: The autopsy report for Mohammad al Hanashi stated that he suffered from “adjustment disorder, anti-social personality disorder and stressors of confinement." What did the military mean by “stressors of confinement”? They do not say, but it can only mean the stressors of an imprisonment that was precisely calculated to break down men psychologically. This was done by applying the formula of DDD – Debility, Dependency, and Dread. This form of torture was codified in a 1950s article by famous U.S. psychologist Harry Harlow, CIA-linked psychiatrist Louis Joylon West, and another researcher. By debility, they meant the physical weakening of the prisoner.

We’ve already discussed starvation and differential food intake. Other major factors inducing physical weakness included solitary confinement, forms of sensory deprivation and sensory overload (loud music, strobe lights), constant lighting or deprivation of light, exposure to cold, use of drugs, beatings, sleep deprivation, forced exercise, and stress positions. This is likely not a definitive list. By dread, of course they mean induction of fear. This was done by threats to life, to the life and safety of family members, threats of physical harm, use of the sanctioned Army Field Manual technique, used even today, of “Fear Up,” manipulation of phobias (as determined by psychologists), and again, likely more. The whole idea, you see, is to break the prisoner’s sense of self by an attack on the body, its autonomic nervous system, and its sense of personal self and connection to the world in order to produce total dependency, the third D, in the prisoner for purposes of “exploitation.”

By “exploitation,” the CIA and Pentagon mean not only the gathering of information, but the use of prisoners for other purposes as well: as experimental subjects, as informants, as propaganda tools in show trials.

But the government had one problem. Individuals exposed to these “stressors of confinement” experienced intolerable pain via the induction of such breakdown. Some, many turned to self-harm to reduce that pain, even at the expense of their own lives. Government documents speak to a rash of suicide attempts in the early years at Guantanamo. Government psychiatrist Elspeth Ritchie, who later gave talks on the neurological effects of mefloquine, and also did government assessments of detainees at Guantanamo, was supposedly sent to Guantanamo in late 2002 to deal with a spate of suicide attempts or “gestures” there. Ritchie later was involved in the training of psychologists and other mental health professionals in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams used to assist interrogators and Guantanamo camp officials. Even later yet, she became chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health. I believe she is now retired.

In clinical work, each person’s situation is unique and their response to environmental stressors, even torture, is also individual to them. Not everyone tortured gets PTSD or tries to commit suicide. People also try to commit suicide, or succeed in doing so, who have never been tortured or experienced extreme environmental insult or trauma.

In the case of the Guantanamo detainees who died by purported suicide, all we can do is look at the evidence we have. In the case of the three detainees who died in 2006, there is no evidence that they were suicidal prior to their deaths. Even the so-called suicide notes were not really suicide notes.

In the case of the 2007 death of Al Amri, the government has chosen to withhold hundreds of pages of documents from the NCIS investigation into his death. What little information we have is contradictory. There’s a possibility that he was in poor health, and that might have inclined him, along with torture and “conditions of confinement,” to have considered suicide. Additionally, we know there’s a good likelihood that he, along with 2006 “suicide,” Ali Abdullah Ahmed, were administered mefloquine for reasons having nothing to do with malaria or prevention of malaria. Mefloquine is a controversial antimalarial drug that has been documented to cause extreme neurological and psychological side effects, including suicidal behavior. Both Al Amri and Ahmed were tested for the presence of mefloquine in their systems. This was not a routine lab test.

I think my book adequately documents the persistent suicidal behaviors and thoughts of both Al Hanashi and Al Latif. They suffered greatly and were certainly depressed. It is also certain that their conditions were caused by or exacerbated by mistreatment at Guantanamo. We don’t know the full extent of the harm caused, and we don’t know if their suicides were truly spontaneous. I make a case that they were allowed to happen. In that case, we have murder by medical negligence, or by clever design. I think one would need to see the full panoply of evidence as presented in my book and the documents I published to judge for oneself if that conclusion is merited.

I’d like to add some convergent evidence to my own findings. In a recently released 2012 psychiatric assessment of the purported USS Cole bomber, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, held at Guantanamo since 2006, after years of torture in CIA black site prisons, Dr. Sandra Crosby stated lacked “appropriate mental health treatment at Guantanamo.” Dr. Crosby said that Al Nashiri’s medical and psychiatric care was “woefully inadequate to his medical needs.” She found that Guantanamo medical professionals, including those in mental health care, were instructed not to inquire into the basis of his mental distress, and to ignore protestations of torture. They misdiagnosed Al Nashiri to cover-up the real nature of his condition and provide stigmatizing diagnoses, like Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (See PDF page 129)

The Talking Dog: Your book observes that, certainly with the three suicides you profile, that there was "contraband" in the cells (be it in general population camps, or in the "Behavioral Health Unit", a euphemism if not oxymoron), including sheets or underwear one could hang himself with, razors to cut said sheets (or self) or drugs, and then let's juxtapose that with monitoring of cells, supposedly by camera and direct visual observation. Both from the documents you have obtained, people you've talked to, and your own surmise, what do you think was going on? In particular, I'm wondering if we're looking at "gross negligence," "failure to follow standard operating procedures," intentional-assisted-suicide (i.e. homicide) or something else?

Jeffrey Kaye: I believe that certain detainees were singled out for harm. The reasons are murky. I’d guess that the guards were responsible, if not at least complicit. Al Hanashi and Al Latif were in particular considered troublesome and problematic. It was also believed Al Hanashi was some kind of leader or spokesperson for the other detainees. I think they were hated by medical and guard personnel, if not command officials, and their deaths were therefore facilitated. In other words, it was known they were suicidal, or that they could be driven to suicidal desperation, and the means were provided to them. Can I prove it? No, although there is plenty of circumstantial evidence. There is also testimony that such contraband material was provided to detainees, as well as testimony that in the case of Al Hanashi, Al Amri and Al Latif that they had materials or drugs that could be used to harm themselves, materials that were heavily monitored and controlled by prison authorities. Speaking of monitoring, there is also the fact these detainees were under constant surveillance and searched repeatedly. How they found time to render complex modes of killing themselves without being observed is a mystery to all who have looked at these cases.

The Talking Dog: Let's talk about Col. John Bogdan, whose command pretty much precipitated the most widespread (in terms of percentage of participation) of the many hunger strikes that broke out at GTMO-- a hunger strike so widespread that it captured the public imagination and made Barack Obama start to pick up the pace of periodic reviews and prisoner transfers out. In particular, we're talking about the context of Latif, as it seems that Bogdan wanted him punished for his behavior issues, and so, notwithstanding that he should have been on suicide watch and probably had pneumonia, was transferred back to a camp 5 solitary cell, rather than held in a medical facility. Bogdan seemed unusually martinet-like, even for an unpleasant place like Guantanamo. We should note that, interestingly, no prisoner actually died during the tenure of the notorious Gen. Geoffrey Miller. But Bogdan in particular seemed hellbent on making life hell for his prisoners, and while he may have been at an extreme, I think other commanders-- and you note at least one psychologist who evidently walked away from a prisoner/patient in the middle of a consult-- had their role in the prisoner suicides. Can you comment on this (what I call "personnel = destiny")?

Jeffrey Kaye: If I read your question correctly, you are asking about the personal culpability of individuals at Guantanamo for the abuse and the deaths. Bogdan is a convenient, if not an apt, scapegoat. He made the decision to move Latif to a cell as punishment, even as he was warned by others that Latif was going to commit suicide. Oddly, Bogdan says he didn’t get the high priority email warning him, but says even if he did, it wouldn’t have changed his mind. Bogdan ran the prison with a heavy hand, and his insensitivity to the distress of the prisoners is clear in what we have of the documentation. But I say Bogdan is a scapegoat, because while he is certainly responsible at least in part for Latif’s death, I’d lay the responsibility more at the hands of the doctors and medical personnel who cleared Latif for transfer out of the detainee hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. And Bogdan needed that clearance to transfer Latif. These doctors should have seen the signs, for instance, of pneumonia. They also know how distressed Latif was, and how mentally ill he was. They were in charge of watching that medications were actually taken and not hoarded or disposed of. It was even known that Latif was being sent back to a cell where he had previous bad experience causing significant mental distress. Apparently there was some kind of generator hum or something causing constant noise that set him on edge. Interestingly, the high-value prisoner, former CIA prisoner Ramsi bin al Shibh has also protested the use of vibrations and noise in his cell at Camp 7 at Guantanamo. A recent article at the Miami Herald described his accusation of the use of noise and vibrations as a form of sleep deprivation, as it makes it very hard to concentrate or sleep. Did something similar happen to Latif? It seems very possible. Other detainees as well have complained about such sensory disturbance.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on the quality of care-- both medical care in general and mental health care in particular-- as you have observed it at Guantanamo, whether from the records you have seen, anecdotal evidence, or otherwise? I note that I have some familiarity with the case of Candace Gorman's client al-Ghizzawi, who, at various times, was told he might have tuberculosis, AIDS, assorted liver problems and other ailments, but who, thankfully, was released before GTMO killed him.

Jeffrey Kaye: I think I have touched on this point already. I will only add that the quality of care at Guantanamo was fatally compromised by the secret nature of the prison, and the subordination of medical care to command and intelligence decision-making. Medical records at Guantanamo, despite many complaints and exposure over the years, remain available to investigators. There is no privacy for the “patients” there. Moreover, the diagnoses of patients was also used to stigmatize prisoners, not to accurately assess condition and thereby treatment. How can you have humane care for prisoners in a torture prison? The answer is you can’t. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments of caring by individual providers. Some detainees have testified to that. But these were the exceptions, moments of respite in an inexorable regime of cruelty. The providers involved, by giving themselves over to care, legitimized such cruelty, in my mind. They compromised their ethics and became parties to torture and war crimes, such as illegal experimentation. The academic medical ethics professionals call the problem one of dual loyalty, split loyalty, that is, to the military or CIA and to the canon of medical care. They would like to believe that this divided loyalty could be worked out somehow. But in practice, the individual almost always bows to the coercive authority. In all the years at Guantanamo, we only know of one medical protest, the nurse who a few years ago decided he would not participate in the inhumane forced feedings there. He was threatened with court martial, and while that didn’t happen, his military career was certainly destroyed or fatally compromised.

The Talking Dog: Your book ends on an interesting note that might strike some as discordant, noting a "holdback" by progressives to criticize the handling of GTMO issues by a Democratic Administration, for short-term electoral benefit. I note that [my college classmate!] Barack Obama actually had charge of Guantanamo for about a year longer than George W. Bush did, and unlike Dubya, Obama promised- consistently-- that he would close the prison at Guantanamo (in practice, he really meant move it, but he didn't even manage to do that). In any event, the point, I suppose, is that once Guantanamo ceased to be a partisan issue associated solely with Dubya, overall public interest waned dramatically, as (you noted) no one it seems wanted to risk undermining Democratic electoral chances by criticizing the policy of a sitting Democrat, notwithstanding, of course, that this is exactly how you end up with Donald Trump, and of course, we did. All that said, we're over 15 years into this, and there are 41 poor bastards still there, of whom three are "convicted" of something by the dubious military commissions, another seven charged in the commissions system (including the alleged 9-11 plotters) will probably die before their commission trials are ever completed, five are "cleared for transfer" (good luck, guys) and 26 are "forever prisoners"-- too dangerous, bla bla bla. Its fairly obvious that, at least for the foreseeable future, Trump is such a target rich environment that getting the public imagination focusing on Guantanamo again seems a long-shot. You and I have been interested in this subject a long time, and neither us nor anyone else seems to have come up with a narrative that Americans care about, even though we believe this will be a blemish of historical proportions, like the Japanese internment, for example. And yet... Obviously, your work, and the work of others interested in running down the horrifying truth about prisoner deaths at Guantanamo is essential to establishing "the story." Do you see anything else on the horizon that can alter the present moribund (I swear, Obama said he would close GTMO so many times, most people believe he already did) narrative?

Jeffrey Kaye: Unfortunately I do not. I cannot, however, limit the question of indifference to Guantanamo. What about the pervasive ill treatment of prisoners in U.S.-sited prisons? What about the pervasive racism? The neglect of the homeless? The lack of remorse or moral quandary over the literally millions killed by the U.S. military in my own lifetime?

The record, to be sure, is ambiguous and not one-sided. There is plenty of mistrust and scandal around the record of CIA torture. But it only goes as far as official Washington or the mainstream press of record shapes the boundaries of acceptable scandal. So while the anal rape of prisoners has finally broken through to public consciousness and has been written about, the drugging of prisoners remains something barely mentioned, and even, at this point, pointedly suppressed.

I do believe, as I’ve written, that the entire subject of torture has been subordinated to political concerns: first, the need to present the United States as some kind of beacon of human rights in the world, especially in contrast to its “enemies.” And second, as a club to wield over one’s domestic political opponents. In the latter matter, the Democrats, including most of their so-called progressive supporters, have buried protest over torture and crimes committed by Democratic administrations, and tried to present the issue has one of purely GOP perfidy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Torture is bipartisan. Nowhere is this greater represented than by the total failure of the press and, well, nearly everyone, to ignore the recent UN Committee Against Torture report on the use of torture and “ill-treatment” in the Army Field Manual on interrogation. If such a report was made about Bush or Trump, we’d not hear the end of it. But because it was about activities of the Obama administration, nothing is said or reported. This is criminal and immoral.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I should have asked you about but didn't, or anything else the public needs to know on these critically important issues, particularly as we seem to be heading into even darker times of an ignorant, feckless President who wants to fill Guantanamo with "bad dudes" and facilitate torture?

Jeffrey Kaye: I want to mention before I go that I don’t believe all is dark. I don’t want to ignore the many, many people who are incensed by and have acted to stop torture. That includes former detainees, certain members of the armed forces and even the CIA. It especially includes the attorneys for the detainees and the organizations that employ them, including law firms and human rights organizations. Most prominent of the latter include the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve. The attorneys have gone over and over into the heart of the beast in an effort to represent their clients and try to win their trust. Some have come back and been outspoken in their outrage, even as the government puts legal shackles on what they are allowed to say: attorneys such as Candace Gorman, David Remes, David Frakt, Nancy Hollander, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, Shayana Kadidal and many, many others, too long a list to name. There are also the journalists who have kept the issue alive, and the publications that support their work. While I am critical of some of these journalists, and have said so in this interview, I am also grateful to them for attending to the exposure of these crimes. Journalists such as Jason Leopold, Carol Rosenberg, Michael Otterman, Sheri Fink, Bill Morlan, Mark Benjamin, James Risen, Doug Valentine, Greg Miller, Jane Mayer, Charlie Savage and others. The criticism is that some of these journalists have been too quick to accept the government’s limited hangout of events. By limited hangout, I mean that governmental admissions are often too easily accepted as the full narrative, whereas often further crimes are ignored, and the real criminals left off the hook.

The government’s criminal justice system is the worst villain in this tale, as it has failed to do what it is supposed to do, hold government officials responsible for crimes, and the investigation of those crimes. That is one reason I concentrated on the failures of one of those investigatory agencies, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in my book on Guantanamo. If we are going to get to the heart of the suppression of the truth, it should start with a close look at those officially responsible for the search for truth. That includes the need for a full declassification of the reports and associated documents of the Congressional investigating committees that have looked into this issue, none of which have recommended any kind of punishment for anyone involved in crimes they themselves documented.

I finally have to thank you as well, as an excellent example of someone who for years has pursued the truth, and tried to bring what evidence you could to bear before the public to expose these crimes. The interviews you have conducted have been invaluable. It is up to the American people to act. It is part of our historical dilemma that the need for action is acute, while the road to effect such action is unclear or even blocked.

The Talking Dog: I join my readers in thanking Dr. Jeffrey Kaye for that thorough and thought-provoking interview. Interested readers should check out Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri .

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