Beatings, Attempted Suicides and Deliberate Starvation: The Dystopic Hell of Guantanamo Bay April 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: alex kane, detainees, forced feeding, Guantanamo, human rights, hunger strike, indifinite detention, John Bogdan, roger hollander, torture
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The mass hunger strike at the notorious prison camp is shining a light on the festering issue of indefinite detention.
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Photo Credit: Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
Bogdan, who served in Iraq and took over operations at the prison camp in June 2012, embarked on a campaign of harassment directed at the prisoners, according to published accounts by attorneys for Guantanamo prisoners.
He had members of the Joint Detention Group, the military unit that runs the prison, storm Camp 6, the name given for the prison area where most of the detainees live. (In response to the hunger strike, some detainees have reportedly been moved to Camp 5, an area of the camp for “non-compliant” detainees that has been criticized for small cells, bright lights and foul smells. Camp 6 is the most permissive area of the camps, where prisoners live communally.) Temperatures in the prison cells were lowered to 62 degrees.
“Bogdan brought a tough-guy approach to detention operations and has ruled the camps with an iron fist,” one attorney who works with Guantanamo prisoners said in a statement published by the Huffington Post. “Marked by displays of power for power’s sake, his approach has led to mayhem in the camps.” One Yemeni detainee recently stated that “we are in danger. One of the soldiers fired on one of the brothers a month ago.”
On February 6, Bogdan ordered a search that led directly to the ongoing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay that’s making headlines around the world.
Military guards searched prison cells and confiscated personal letters, photos and mail prisoners had received from their lawyers. But the biggest indignity for the prisoners was a search of their Qu’rans, the Muslim holy book. The U.S. military says that they suspected contraband or weapons might be hidden in the Qu’rans, a claim that has not been substantiated and that lawyers for Guantanamo detainees strongly deny. The government says its interpreters–many of whom are Muslim and don’t make up the prison guard force–carried out the Qu’ran searches, but the prisoners don’t care; they say the searches constitute religious desecration.
The Qu’ran searches were the last straw for the 166 detainees, and most of them have now joined the hunger strike, according to their attorneys. The U.S. military admits that there are 42 participants under what they define as a hunger strike. Their definition states that a prisoner is hunger-striking when he deliberately misses nine consecutive meals. The military has taken to force-feeding the prisoners in response to their deliberate act of starvation.
The protest, which seeks to end the Qu’ran searches, started in February and has also morphed beyond just focusing on the perceived desecration of their holy books. Some detainees have now taken to protesting against their indefinite detention. Lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners state that Bogdan’s punitive policies hearken back to the dark days of Gitmo, when those at the camp were routinely tortured.
“The hunger strike has escalated to a broader crisis that is, at this point, all but irreversible,” said Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents five detainees. “The men are not starving themselves so they can become martyrs…They’re doing this because they’re desperate. They’re desperate to be free from Guantanamo. They don’t see any alternative to leaving in a coffin. That’s the bottom line.”
The U.S. government has tried to downplay the growing hunger strike and denigrated the act as a media stunt. The hunger strike was “specifically designed” to “attract media attention,” a Guantanamo prison spokesman told Truthout.
But while this is no “stunt,” the fact that the media is finally paying attention is a victory for the prisoners, though the camp still receives relatively little attention in general from the public at large.
Human rights groups are also now mobilizing as a result of the hunger strike. April 11 was a day of action against Guantanamo, with protests taking place in a handful of cities, all with a unified demand: shut down the prison camp now.
And it comes at a moment when it appears that the Obama administration has given up on shuttering the prison. While the administration likely hopes that Guantanamo as an issue goes away, the hunger strike has shown just how awful the situation has become. Detainees are bitterly disappointed in Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo. “They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” General John Kelly said in congressional testimony last month. “They were devastated, apparently, when the president backed off.” Indeed, in January, the State Department office tasked with closing the prison was itself closed.
Lawyers for the Guantanamo detainees have sounded the alarm on their clients’ deteriorating condition. On March 14, a group of attorneys representing men at Guantanamo sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We have…received alarming reports of detainees’ deteriorating health, including that men have lost over 20 and 30 pounds, and that at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels, which have dropped to life-threatening levels among some,” they wrote. They went on to urge the Defense Secretary to “address the immediate situation at hand as well as the long-term fate of all the remaining men at Guantánamo.”
One of the most detailed accounts of the ongoing hunger strike comes from Shaker Aamer, a resident of Britain originally from Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration admitted it had no evidence to hold Aamer, who has been at Guantanamo since February 2002 after being sold inAfghanistan by bounty hunters. He gave his account of current conditions at the camp to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, a prominent British human rights lawyer, who wrote an affidavit.
The Qu’ran searches are not the only indignities the prisoners are livid about, as Aamer details. On February 15, they entered Aamer’s cell and brutalized him, as well as two others, during prayer time. One of the men beaten by what’s called the Emergency Reaction Force (ERF) was unconscious for four days. The ERF, as investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill detailed for AlterNet in 2009, is known for being particularly abusive. Shaker Aamer has been abused by guards a number of times since then, according to Smith’s affidavit.
Aamer says that the use of sleep deprivation has intensified since the hunger strike began and that a Tunisian prisoner has attempted suicide. A “new practice…has been brought in which involves using a dog leash on the detainees,” Aamer related to Smith. And Aamer has “been badly punished for joining the strike”–the military has withheld medical treatment for Aamer’s health problems.
The American response has fallen far short of what detainees are demanding. Truthout reporter Jason Leopold wrote earlier this month that “prisoners said they would immediately end their hunger strike if they were allowed to ‘surrender’ their Korans…instead of having them searched by translators. That demand was shot down because it could be interpreted that Guantanamo officials are denying prisoners their right to religious materials.” Guantanamo spokesman Robert Durand told Truthout that the prisoners “have presented no demands that we can meet.”
Instead of addressing the root causes of the hunger strike, the U.S. has taken to force-feeding the detainees to keep them alive. The Associated Press reports that lawyers are being informed when their detainees are being force-fed. While officials at the prison camp say that force-feeding is not painful, the detainees tell a different story. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has said that force-feeding at Guantanamo amounts to torture. Asked about the process, the Center for Constitutional Right’s Dixon said: “The process of death, death by starvation, is not easy. It’s not painless. In the case of men who are force-fed, it’s an even more excruciating experience. The military may keep these individuals alive by pumping food up their noses into their stomach. But eventually they’re going to die. You can only force-feed someone for so long before their body gives out.”
The ongoing hunger-strike is the latest example of how bizarre, cruel and dystopic the situation at Guantanamo has become. Eighty-six men have been cleared for release from Guantanamo by the U.S., but they still remain at the camp. Fifty-six of those cleared are from Yemen, a country and close ally of the U.S. that has expressed willingness to take them back—though human rights groups have also criticized the Yemeni government’s abusive treatment of returned prisoners. One of the Yemeni prisoners was Adnan Latif, who was cleared for release by one court in a decision that was later overturned after the Obama administration appealed it. In September 2012, Latif died at Guantanamo due to what the U.S. government says was a suicide, though questions have been raised about the U.S. government explanation.
The Obama administration has halted repatriation to Yemen since the disruption of a 2009 terrorist plot originating from the country. Congress has meddled in the president’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo. Legislation signed by President Obama has imposed limits on releasing prisoners. But one mechanism that does exist is a national security waiver that the Secretary of Defense could sign off on the release of prisoners. There are also prisoners the Obama administration says are too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because evidence related to their case comes from torture.
Lawyers for the select group of detainees who are being subjected to military prosecution have had to deal with their own problems. For one, the Guantanamo detainees are prohibited from detailing in court how they were brutally tortured. That information is considered classified by the U.S. government. Other problems include the fact that outside censors cut off a public feed to the courtroom, though a judge barred that practice early this year, and that U.S. officials have installed listening devices to eavesdrop on prisoner-attorney communications.
Attorneys for detainees emphasize that if current conditions at Guantanamo persist, the situation could become even more disastrous than it already is.
“If this crisis isn’t resolved soon, there will be more deaths. That is certain,” Dixon told AlterNet. “The administration is going to need to explain why these individuals were detained, particularly individuals who have been cleared for release for years, and allowed to die. They’ll be forced to answer the question: why in the world was this person detained to the point where he felt so utterly hopeless, that he starved himself to death in order to be free?”
When Obama Whitewashed Rape September 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, Women.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, detainees, feminism, general antonio taguba, Obama, rape, riley waggman, sexual assault, torture, women, women's rights
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Hello friends! Have you heard the terrific news? President Obama stands up for women, and speaks out against rape! “Rape is rape!” Except when the U.S. Military is doing the raping, of course, in which case political expediency requires Barack Obama to whitewash and completely ignore rape, forever.
In May 2009, Barack Obama announced he would not comply with a court order that would have brought hundreds of meticulously documented cases of rape and sexual assault from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan to the forefront of public debate and scrutiny.
The court order stipulated the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs taken from Abu Ghraib and six other prisons across Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the formal inquiry into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the photographs in question depict “torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”
Explaining his decision to ignore the order, President Obama argued, “The most direct consequence of releasing [the photographs], I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”
I think I found the perfect keynote speaker for your college’s next Take Back the Night rally!
President Obama went on to add, apparently with no sense of shame whatsoever, “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational.”
And as a precautionary measure against the possibility that rape is actually “sensational” — especially when perpetrated (and gleefully documented) by the U.S military — the Pentagon’s official position on this matter is that the photographs in question do not even exist. Indeed, it’s unlikely that any of this “rape” stuff even happened. There’s certainly no evidence to support such wild claims.
But what about the video Major General Taguba obtained during his investigation, which shows “a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee“? Don’t worry, that’s not “particularly sensational.” No need to fret! Move along! Also: that video doesn’t exist, and that never happened.
How about the photograph that depicts “an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner”? Or the photograph that shows “a male translator raping a male detainee”? Or the countless photographs which are said to document “sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube”? How about the photo that shows “a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts”?
That’s just a long list of “not particularly sensational”, misinformed speculation. Please try to remember: these photographs don’t even exist, according to the Obama Administration.
Also, this never happened:
Among the graphic statements, which were later released under US freedom of information laws, is that of Kasim Mehaddi Hilas in which he says: “I saw [name of a translator] ******* a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [name] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid’s ***…. and the female soldier was taking pictures.”
By now we are all well acquainted with Rep. Todd Akin’s ridiculous comments about “legitimate” rape, as well as President Obama’s widely-praised and publicized rebuttal, in which he called Akin’s remarks “offensive.” Obama went on to state, “rape is rape” and that Akin’s comments were “way out there.” As the November election looms, Obama supporters have jumped at the opportunity to contrast the president with the out-of-touch, anti-woman Rep. Akin, the latest poster boy for the Republican War On Women.
Yes, Barack Obama knows that “rape is rape.” Except when the U.S. military rapes women and children. Then rape is “not particularly sensational” or worthy of public disclosure, dialog or debate; then rape never even occurred, probably. And we don’t need to talk about rape that never happened. That’s just common sense, folks.
The President, according to BUST Magazine, has become “the new feminist in town,” and his mighty takedown of Rep. Akin has been enshrined forever in the Annals of Brave Lip Service (“as if you needed another reason to swoon over our amazing president”; “We think feminism looks good on him“).
But Obama’s “rape is rape” lip service to America isn’t for everyone; it doesn’t really “resonate” if you’re a female detainee who was videotaped being raped by a U.S. soldier in uniform and then told that there’s nothing “particularly sensational” about that, no need to cause a commotion, think about the Troops that will be put in harm’s way! This is all silly goose talk anyway, since there is no evidence that such a rape even occurred. (Even though there is.)
But don’t be fooled: Todd Akin’s uninformed, hypothetical conjecturing about rape is the real war crime that needs to be exposed. That’s the real war being fought, in Jezebel Land, which apparently now suffers from “rape fatigue.”
And women will continue to praise Barack Obama for his bravery and feminism. And why shouldn’t they? The alternative is simply too gross to think about; whether a drone strike wiped out an entire village, whether President Obama covered up hundreds of rapes, or whether a phone call was placed by a high official in a forgotten, endless war…The point is, we need to bring Todd Akin to justice, before Jezebel explodes!
Riley Waggaman was the former co-editor of Wonkette.com.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, afaghnaistan, cia, detainees, eric holder, Gul Rahman, human rights, Iraq, justice department, Manadel al-Jamadi, roger hollander, torture
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Published on Friday, August 31, 2012 by Common Dreams
Years-long Justice Dept. investigation ends without accountability
The CIA will face no charges over the torture and death of detainees while in custody, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday as it ended a criminal investigation begun by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham in 2008. Rights groups have called the decision “nothing short of a scandal.”
Gul Rahman, who died in 2002 while being held at a secret CIA facility known as the ‘Salt Pit’ in Afghanistan (photo: AP)
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Democracy Now! summarizes the part of the investigation begun in June of 2011 into the deaths of two detainees: “The Justice Department had been probing the deaths of two men: one in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan. Gul Rahman died in 2002 while being held at a secret CIA facility known as the ‘Salt Pit’ in Afghanistan. He had been shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures. Manadel al-Jamadi died in 2003 while in CIA custody at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. His corpse was photographed packed in ice and wrapped in plastic.”
The ACLU slammed the decision.
“That the Justice Department will hold no one accountable for the killing of prisoners in CIA custody is nothing short of a scandal,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “The Justice Department has declined to bring charges against the officials who authorized torture, the lawyers who sought to legitimate it, and the interrogators who used it. It has successfully shut down every legal suit meant to hold officials civilly liable.
“Continuing impunity threatens to undermine the universally recognized prohibition on torture and other abusive treatment and sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty. Today’s decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights also criticized the decision and noted the importance of independent investigations.
“Once again, the United States has shown it is committed to absolving itself of any responsibility for its crimes over the past decade. Today’s announcement belies U.S. claims that it can be trusted to hold accountable Americans who have perpetrated torture and other human rights abuses, and underscores the need for independent investigations elsewhere, such as the investigation underway in Spain, to continue. Impunity does not always cross borders,” the group stated.
Psychologists’ Collusion in Ongoing Illegal Detentions January 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: apa, bagram, brad olson, detainees, ethics, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, human rights, International law, medical ethics, parwan, psychological association, psychological ethics, psychologists, roger hollander, roy eidelson, stephen soldz, torture, trudy bond
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As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantánamo Detention Center, several thousand miles away sits another United States detention facility, less well-known but with a history perhaps even more gruesome. Obscured throughout the decade-long “global war on terror,” the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan is where two detainees died in December 2002. Initial autopsies at the time ruled both deaths homicides, according to a 2,000-page confidential Army file obtained by the New York Times. Autopsies of the two dead detainees found severe trauma to both prisoners’ legs. The coroner for one of the dead noted, “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”
Detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire inside Camp 4 detention facility at the Guantanamo (Photo: Cryptome)
In January 2009, to much fanfare, newly-elected President Barack Obama signed a directive authorizing the closing of Guantánamo Detention Center. But a month later the new administration discreetly told a federal judge that military detainees at Bagram had no habeas corpus rights to challenge their imprisonment. At the same time, the Pentagon was moving forward on plans to build a new prison in Bagram, renamed the “Detention Facility in Parwan” (DFIP). This facility was designed to accommodate 600 prisoners under normal conditions and as many as 1,100 during a “surge.”
Today, President Obama has abandoned his inaugural pledge to close Guantánamo and there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram — five times the number of prisoners when the president took office — with a scheduled expansion of the facility by the end of 2012 to house up to 5,500 detainees. One troubling constant across the developments at Bagram is the presence and involvement of psychologists at these facilities, which clearly violate international legal standards for the treatment of detainees. Among the military psychologists present during the early years of the Bagram prison were Colonel Morgan Banks, Captain Bryce Lefever, and Colonel Larry James, notable for their key roles in formulating the American Psychological Association’s (APA) much criticized ethics policy on psychologist-assisted interrogations.
According to Banks’ biographical statement, he “spent four months over the winter of 2001/2002 at Bagram Airfield.” More broadly, Banks provided technical, consultation, and interrogation support to all Army psychologists. He also assisted in establishing the Army’s first permanent SERE training program. As for Lefever’s biosketch, it notes that he also served at the detention center at Bagram Air Base. He “was deployed as the Joint Special Forces Task Force psychologist to Afghanistan in 2002, where he lectured to interrogators and was consulted on various interrogation techniques.”
The third military psychologist, James, was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo when, according to his book, Fixing Hell, he flew to Afghanistan to transfer three juveniles who had been forcibly and arbitrarily detained at Bagram. James described these boys as “the most fragile . . . children [he] had ever met,” yet he oversaw their being loaded onto a cargo plane at Bagram Air Force Base, “bound [and] blindfolded,” for a flight that typically lasted over 20 hours. Others who appear to have been transferred from Bagram to Guantánamo that same day reported being chained around the waist, wrists, back and ankles and the intense pain of being unable to speak, see, hear, move, or even stretch or breathe properly.The boys were essentially kidnapped, and were returned home a year later, having never had access to legal counsel and having never been charged with a crime.
Public information about exactly what transpires at Bagram today is scarce. The BBC was allowed a rare, one-hour visit to the new Parwan/Bagram prison in 2010. The report noted that “Prisoners are kept in 56 cells, which the prisoners refer to as ‘cages’. The front of the cells are made of mesh, the ceiling is clear, and the other three walls are solid. Guards can see down into the cells from above.” These detainees were moved around in wheelchairs, wearing goggles and headphones to block sight and sound.
In 2011, Daphne Eviatar, an attorney for Human Rights First, interviewed 18 former detainees from the main facility in Parwan and was permitted to observe seven detainee hearings there. In her detailed report she noted:
After many years of completely denying detainees in Afghanistan the opportunity to defend themselves against arbitrary detention, the United States government has finally implemented a hearing process that allows detainees to hear the charges against them and to make a statement in their own defense. Although a significant improvement, these new hearings fall short of minimum standards of due process required by international law.” [Emphasis added.]
In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Eviatar stated:
[Parwan] is worse than Guantánamo because there are fewer rights…There was no evidence presented, there was no questioning of the government’s evidence, whether this person had done anything wrong, whether he deserved to be in prison. So that’s a real problem — you have a complete lack of due process.
And in 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the existence of a separate, second detention facility at Parwan. Many former prisoners have referred to it as the Tor Jail, translated as “Black Jail.” Nine former prisoners interviewed separately by the BBC spoke of almost identical treatment there: distressingly cold cells, perpetual loud noise, constant light, and, violating any sense of privacy, camera surveillance. One former prisoner said American soldiers made him dance to music to obtain permission to use the toilet.
Today, there are clear indications that psychologists continue to be involved in the detention and interrogation of detainees at Parwan/Bagram. Such activities stand in direct contravention of APA policy based on a 2008 petition resolution. Approved through a member-led referendum, this resolution prohibits psychologists from working in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” (or if they are providing treatment for military personnel).
Significant evidence that psychologists are working at Bagram/Parwan in violation of APA policy comes in part from a symposium on “Operational Problems in Behavioral Sciences” sponsored by the United States Air Force Medical Service in August 2011. The first slide of the partially redacted powerpoint presentation on the “BSCT Mission” describes the role of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) as providing: “…psychological expertise and consultation in order to assist the command in conducting safe, legal, ethical, and effective detention facility operations, intelligence interrogations, and detainee debriefing operations” (OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 09-053).
A later slide reveals that the current BSCTs at the Parwan Detention Facility are composed of a psychologist or forensic psychiatrist, who must be licensed for independent practice, and a “behavioral science technician.” Further confirming the presence of psychologists, a June 2010 newspaper article about Parwan by the military editor of the Fayettville Observer notes: “Air Force Maj. Colin Burchfield, 34, a clinical psychologist, observes the behavior of both detainees and guards on TV monitors.”
Disturbingly, and contrary to the APA’s 2008 referendum policy, one of the key documents still used to support the ongoing involvement of psychologists at the Parwan facility is an earlier 2005 report from the APA’s “Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security” (the PENS Report). The PENS Report, cited in the Operational Problems powerpoint presentation described above, endorsed psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations — despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations and practices that violate international law.
Six of the nine voting members of the PENS Task Force were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies. Five of these six served in chains of command that had been accused of the kinds of abuses that led to the creation of the Task Force, including the three psychologists linked to the early Bagram prison: Dr. Morgan Banks, Dr. Bryce Lefever, and Dr. Larry James. The PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists have an important role to play in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective,” and the APA Board approved the PENS Report in a highly unusual emergency vote.
The APA’s claims that it stands strongly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are belied by the organization’s repeated failure to take assertive and meaningful action. There is no clearer example than the continuing participation of psychologists in detention and interrogation activities at the Parwan/Bagram prison — a site where international law itself is seemingly confined indefinitely to a small, dark cell.
But health professionals, human rights advocates, and intelligence professionals of conscience worldwide have refused to accept this status quo. One noteworthy and promising effort is an online petition campaign calling for the annulment of APA’s PENS Report. The initiative has been supported by many distinguished members of APA, as well as non-psychologists such as psychiatrists Robert Jay Lifton and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles; scholar-activists such as Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky; attorneys who have represented Guantanamo detainees; eminent veterans of the intelligence community; and many other psychologists and human rights advocates. Please consider joining this call and signing the petition at www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens.
Trudy Bond is an independent psychologist, steering committe member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. For questions, responses or media contact, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Roy can be reached at email@example.com.
Brad Olson is an assistant professor and co-director of the Community Psychology Ph.D. Program in downtown Chicago. He is President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.
Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. Soldz is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and served as a psychological consultant on several Guantánamo trials. Currently Soldz is Past-President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justice Dept. Gives Torture a Pass July 21, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, cia prisons, CIA torture, Criminal Justice, detainees, eric holder, International law, jay bybee, john yoo, lynndie england, nuremberg, olc, peter weiss, roger hollander, torture, torture memos, waterborading
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What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers?
The Romans had an expression for it: “Nulla poena sine lege,” no punishment without a law. But people sometimes forget that the opposite is also true: Without punishment for offenders, a law itself can die.
The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated.
The decision to drop virtually all these cases is based on a policy promulgated by Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he took office. Reiterating this policy on June 30, Holder wrote that the Justice Department “would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”
This refers to the infamous “torture memos” provided in 2002 to Alberto Gonzales while he was White House counsel by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. These memos, which sanctioned virtually all forms of “enhanced interrogation” (or torture, in common parlance), were withdrawn as legally deficient by Jack Goldsmith, President George W. Bush’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically disavowed later by President Barack Obama himself.holder
Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.
It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.
And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.
Why should it now work for CIA agents and others who relied “in good faith” on the torture memos? The journalist Christopher Hitchens was himself waterboarded by Special Forces soldiers to help him decide whether it was torture. His conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Indeed, since the Spanish inquisition, waterboarding has never been considered anything other than torture, and in this century torture is absolutely forbidden under both domestic and international law.
And waterboarding is only one of several torture techniques used by U.S. personnel in the years following 9/11, including prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold and heat. All of these have been largely or completely abandoned under the Obama administration. But what lesson are we to draw from the fact that no prosecutions have been started, nor are likely to start, against those who authorized and practiced them? What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers on the basis of phony, made-to-order legal memos?
June 30, 2011 will go down as a dark day in the annals of the struggle against torture.
America’s Disappeared July 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, Argentina, barry mccaffrey, bush adminsitration, cheney, chris hedges, cia prisons, Condoleezza Rice, david addington, detainees, dirty war, disappeared, drone missiles, george tenet, habeas corpus, human rights, Human Rights Watch, jay bybee, John Ashcroft, john rizzo, john yoo, pakistan, predator missiles, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, william j. haynes
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Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)
A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.
Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.
We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.
We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”
Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.
Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror” of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.
Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”
But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.
The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, cheney, cia prisons, convention against torture, detainees, doj, eric holder, george busy, george tenet, Guantanamo, hrw, human rights, International law, justice department, naseema noor, olc, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, torture memos, waterboarding
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Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Inter Press Service
WASHINGTON – Senior officials under the former George W. Bush administration knowingly authorized the torture of terrorism suspects held under United States custody, a Human Right Watch (HRW) report released here Tuesday revealed.
Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others. (photo: pantagrapher)
Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others.
Newly de-classified memos, transcriptions of congressional hearings, and other sources indicate that Bush officials authorized the use of interrogation techniques almost universally considered torture – such as waterboarding – as well as the operation of covert CIA prisons abroad and the rendition of detainees to other countries where they were subsequently tortured.
HRW also criticized the United States under the current Barack Obama administration for failing to meets it obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other inhumane treatment.
“President Obama has defended the decision not to prosecute officials in his predecessor’s administration by arguing that the country needs ‘to look forward, not backward,’” said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. “[He] has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime.”
To date, both the Bush and Obama administrations have successfully prevented courts from reviewing the merits of torture allegations in civil lawsuits by arguing that the cases involve sensitive information, which, if revealed, might endanger national security.
Last year, Bush defended the use of waterboarding on the grounds that the Justice Department deemed it legal. In 2002, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel had drafted memos approving the legality of a list of abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. However, HRW documents evidence that shows senior administration officials pressured the politically-appointed lawyers to write these legal justifications.
“Senior Bush officials shouldn’t be allowed to shape and hand-pick legal advice and then hide behind it as if were autonomously delivered,” Roth said.
HRW further recommends that Congress establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and compensate victims of torture, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
“Without [a commission], torture very much remains within the toolbox of accepted policies. People are not going to back away from it until there is accountability,” Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and author of “The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days”, told IPS.
In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate detainee abuse, but limited the mandate to only “unauthorized” acts, which effectively excluded violations like waterboarding and forcing prisoners to maintain stress positions that were approved by the Bush administration.
But on Jun. 30 of this year, the Justice Department announced that it would continue probing only two of nearly 100 allegations of torture. The open cases involve the deaths of two men – Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi, and Gul Rahman, an Afghan – in CIA custody.
Human and civil rights group criticized the narrow scope of the torture investigations, while HRW said they failed to address the systematic character of the abuses.
“The U.S. government’s pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from acts of individuals who broke the rules,” Roth said. “It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast aside the rules.” If the U.S. does not pursue criminal investigations, HRW is urging other countries to exercise universal jurisdiction under international law and prosecute the aforementioned officials.
A number of former detainees have already taken this step by filing criminal complaints in courts outside of the U.S.
In February 2011, alleged victims of torture living in Switzerland planned to file a suit against Bush, causing him to cancel his trip there.
Another investigation is underway in Spain, where the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights requested a subpoena for a former commander of the Abu Ghraib prison to explain his role in the alleged torture of four detainees.
Washington’s failure to investigate its own citizens for abuses like torture ultimately undercuts its efforts to hold other governments accountable for human rights violations, according to HRW.
“The U.S. is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards,” Roth said.
“When the U.S. government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice,” he added.
Failing to prosecute ultimately sends the message that “if you are powerful, you can get away with even torture,” Greenberg said.
Tags: al-Qaeda, bin Laden, cia, Colin Powell, dan froomkin, detainees, Dick Cheney, donald rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Glenn Carle, Guantanamo, interrogation, john yoo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, ksm, larry wilkerson, Liz Cheney, matthew alexander, Politics News, roger hollander, Steven Kleinman, torture, Torture Debate, torture memos, war on terror, waterboarding
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Dan Froomkin, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 6, 2011
Torture apologists are reaching precisely the wrong conclusion from the back-story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, say experienced interrogators and intelligence professionals.
Defenders of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies have claimed vindication from reports that bin Laden was tracked down in small part due to information received from brutalized detainees some six to eight years ago.
But that sequence of events — even if true — doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of torture, these experts say. Rather, it indicates bin Laden could have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly.
“I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden,” said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.
It now appears likely that several detainees had information about a key al Qaeda courier — information that might have led authorities directly to bin Laden years ago. But subjected to physical and psychological brutality, “they gave us the bare minimum amount of information they could get away with to get the pain to stop, or to mislead us,” Alexander told The Huffington Post.
“We know that they didn’t give us everything, because they didn’t provide the real name, or the location, or somebody else who would know that information,” he said.
In a 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College, trained interrogators found that traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches are extremely effective with even the most hardened detainees, whereas coercion consistently builds resistance and resentment.
“Had we handled some of these sources from the beginning, I would like to think that there’s a good chance that we would have gotten this information or other information,” said Steven Kleinman, a longtime military intelligence officerwho has extensively researched, practiced and taught interrogation techniques.
“By making a detainee less likely to provide information, and making the information he does provide harder to evaluate, they hindered what we needed to accomplish,” said Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002.
But the discovery and killing of bin Laden was enough for defenders of the Bush administration to declare that their policies had been vindicated.
Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, quickly issued a statement declaring that she was “grateful to the men and women of America’s intelligence services who, through their interrogation of high-value detainees, developed the information that apparently led us to bin Laden.”
John Yoo, the lead author of the “Torture Memos,” wrote in the Wall Street Journal that bin Laden’s death “vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door.”
Former Bush secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that “the information that came from those individuals was critically important.”
The Obama White House pushed back against that conclusion this week.
“The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, told The New York Times.
Chronological detailsof the hunt for bin Laden remain murky, but piecing together various statements from administration and intelligence officials, it appears the first step may have been the CIA learning the nickname of an al Qaeda courier — Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — from several detainees picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Then, in 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, was captured, beaten, slammed into walls, shackled in stress positions and made to feel like he was drowning 183 times in a month. When asked about al-Kuwaiti, however, KSM denied that the he had anything to do with al Qaeda.
In 2004, officials detained a man named Hassan Ghul and brought him to one of the CIA’s black sites, where he identified al-Kuwaiti as a key courier.
A third detainee, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was arrested in 2005 and under CIA interrogation apparently denied knowing al-Kuwaiti at all.
Once the courier’s real name was established — about four years ago, and by other means — intelligence analysts stayed on the lookout for him. After he was picked up on a monitored phone call last year, he ultimately led authorities to bin Laden.
The link between the Bush-era interrogation regime and bin Laden’s killing, then, appears tenuous — especially since two of the three detainees in question apparently provided deceptive information about the courier even after being interrogated under durress.
“It simply strains credulity to suggest that a piece of information that may or may not have been gathered eight years ago somehow directly led to a successful mission on Sunday. That’s just not the case,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
But for Alexander, Kleinman and others, the key takeaway is not just that the torture didn’t work, but that it was actually counterproductive.
“The question is: What else did KSM have?” Alexander asked. And he’s pretty sure he knows the answer: KSM knew the courier’s real name, “or he knew who else knew his real name, or he knew how to find him — and he didn’t give any of that information,” Alexander said.
Alexander’s book, “Kill or Capture,” chronicles how the non-coercive interrogation of a dedicated al Qaeda member led to Zarqawi’s capture.
“I’m 100 percent confident that a good interrogator would have gotten additional leads” from KSM, Alexander said.
“Interrogation is all about getting access to someone’s uncorrupted memory,” explained Kleinman, who as an Air Force reserve colonel in Iraq in 2003 famously tried, but failed, to stop the rampant, systemic abuse of detainees there. “And you can’t get access to someone’s uncorrupted memory by applying psychological, physical or emotional force.”
Quite to the contrary, coercion is known to harden resistance. “It makes an individual hate you and find any way in their mind to fight back,” and it inhibits their recall, Kleinman said. Far preferable, he said, is a “more thoughtful, culturally-enlightened, science-based approach.”
“I never saw enhanced interrogation techniques work in Iraq; I never saw even harsh techniques work in Iraq,” Alexander said. “In every case I saw them slow us down, and they were always counterproductive to trying to get people to cooperate.”
Carle, who was not a trained interrogator, said he came to recognize that interrogation was a lot like something he did know how to do: manage intelligence assets in the field.
“Perverse and imbalanced as the relationship is between interrogator and detainee, it’s nonetheless a human relationship, and building upon that, manipulating the person, dealing straight with the person, simply coming to understand the person and vice versa, one can move forward,” he told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
Carle’s upcoming book, “The Interrogator,” chronicles his growing doubts about his orders from his superiors.
“The methods that I was urged to embrace, I found first-hand — putting aside the moral and legal issues, which we really cannot put aside — from a practical and a tactical and a strategic sense and a moral and legal one, the methods are counterproductive,” he said.
“They do not work,” he added. “They cause retrograde motion from what you’re seeking to accomplish. They increase resentment, not cooperation. They increase the difficulty in assessing what information you do hear is valid. They increase the likelihood that you will be given disinformation and have opposition from the person that you’re interrogating, across the board.”
Carle said the detainee he worked with regressed when coerced. “All it did was increase resentment and misery,” he said.
Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff under former secretary of state Colin Powell, said, “I’d be naive if I said it never worked,” referring to enhanced interrogation techniques.
“Of course, occasionally it works, Wilkerson said. “But most of the time, what torture is useful for is confessions. It’s not good for getting actionable intelligence.”
Experts agree that torture is particularly good at one thing: eliciting false confessions.
Bush-era interrogation techniques, were modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.
“Somehow our government decided that … these were effective means of obtaining information,” Carle said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
At a hearing in Guantanamo, several years after being waterboarded, KSM described how he would lie — specifically about bin Laden’s whereabouts — just to make the torture stop. “I make up stories,” Mohammed said. “Where is he? I don’t know. Then, he torture me,” KSM said of an interrogator. “Then I said, ‘Yes, he is in this area.’”
There are many other reasons to be skeptical of the argument that torture can lead to actionable intelligence, and specifically that enhanced interrogation led investigators to bin Laden.
And though its defenders are now trying to talk up the significance of the earlier intelligence, around the time of al-Libi’s interrogation, the CIA was not stepping up the hunt for bin Laden. Instead, it was closing down the unit that had been dedicated to hunting bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
This new scenario hardly supports a defense of torture on the grounds that it’s appropriate in “ticking time bomb” scenarios, Alexander said. “Show me an interrogator who says that eight years is a good result.”
The interrogation experts also noted the significant role Yoo, Rumsfeld and former Vice President Cheney each played in opening the door to controversial interrogation practices.
Wilkerson has long argued that there is ample evidence showing that “the Office of the Vice President bears responsibility for creating an environment conducive to the acts of torture and murder committed by U.S. forces in the war on terror.”
Yoo wrote several memos that explicitly sanctioned measures that many have deemed constitute torture, and the memo from Rumsfeld authorizing the use of stress positions, hooding and dogs was widely seen as a sign to the troops that the “gloves could come off.”
“These guys are trying to save their reputations, for one thing,” Alexander said. “They have, from the beginning, been trying to prevent an investigation into war crimes.”
“They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans,” Alexander added. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers,” Alexander said. “And who want to live with that on their conscience?”
From Bush himself on down, the defenders of his interrogation regime have long insisted that it never amounted to torture. But waterboarding, the single most controversial aspect of Bush’s interrogation regime, has been an archetypal form of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. It involves strapping someone to a board and simulating drowning them. The U.S. government has historically considered it a war crime.
One can quibble over the proper term for some of the other tactics employed with official sanction, including forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of food, forced standing, repeated beatings, applications of cold water, the use of dogs, slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in stress positions and keeping them awake for as long as 180 hours. But they comprise violations of human dignity, as codified by the United Nations — and championed by the U.S. government — ever since World War II.
Many have argued that whether torture works or not is irrelevant — that it is flatly illegal, immoral, and contrary to core American principles — and that even if it were effective, it would still be anathema.
But that torture is unparalleled in its ability to obtain intelligence is the central argument of its defenders. To concede that torture doesn’t work — as Alexander, Kleinman and Carle, among others, say — would be to forfeit the whole game. It would be admitting that cruelty was both the means and the end.
And so the debate goes on.
This article has been updated to include more information on waterboarding and historical background on other interrogation techniques.
* * * * * *Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. You can send him an email, bookmark his page, subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get email alerts when he writes.
EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees Akin to “Pharmacologic Waterboarding” December 4, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: detainees, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, jason leopold, jeffrey kaye, malaria, mefloquine, nuremberg, roger hollander, torture
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Wednesday 01 December 2010
The Defense Department forced all “war on terror” detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison to take a high dosage of a controversial antimalarial drug, mefloquine, an act that an Army public health physician called “pharmacologic waterboarding.”
The US military administered the drug despite Pentagon knowledge that mefloquine caused severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including suicidal thoughts, hallucinations and anxiety. The drug was used on the prisoners whether they had malaria or not.
Interviews conducted over the past two months with tropical disease experts and a review of Defense Department documents and peer-reviewed journals show there were no preexisting cases where mefloquine was ever prescribed for mass presumptive treatment of malaria.
The revelation, which has not been previously reported, was buried in documents publicly released by the Defense Department (DoD) two years ago as part of the government’s investigation into the June 2006 deaths of three Guantanamo detainees.
Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, who was stationed at Guantanamo at the time of the suicides in 2006, and has presented evidence that demonstrates the three detainees could not have died by hanging themselves, noticed in the detainees’ medical files that they were given mefloquine. Hickman has been investigating the circumstances behind the detainees’ deaths for nearly four years.
All detainees arriving at Guantanamo in January 2002 were first given a treatment dosage of 1,250 mg of mefloquine, before laboratory tests were conducted to determine if they actually had the disease, according to a section of the DoD documents entitled “Standard Inprocessing Orders For Detainees.” The 1,250 mg dosage is what would be given if the detainees actually had malaria. That dosage is five times higher than the prophylactic dose given to individauls to prevent the disease.
Maj. Remington Nevin, an Army public health physician, who formerly worked at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center and has written extensively about mefloquine, said in an interview the use of mefloquine “in this manner … is, at best, an egregious malpractice.”
The government has exposed detainees “to unacceptably high risks of potentially severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including seizures, intense vertigo, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, aggression, panic, anxiety, severe insomnia, and thoughts of suicide,” said Nevin, who was not speaking in an official capacity, but offering opinions as a board-certified, preventive medicine physician. “These side effects could be as severe as those intended through the application of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”
Mefloquine is also known by its brand name Lariam. It was researched by the US Army in the 1970s and licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989. Since its introduction, it has been directly linked to serious adverse effects, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams, nausea, vomiting, sores and homicidal and suicidal thoughts. It belongs to a class of drugs known as quinolines, which were part of a 1956 human experiment study to investigate “toxic cerebral states,” as part of the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program.
The Army tapped the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) to develop mefloquine and it was later licensed to the Swiss pharmaceutical company F. Hoffman-La Roche. The first human trials of mefloquine were conducted in the mid-1970s on prisoners, who were deliberately inoculated with malaria at Stateville Correctional prison near Joliet, Illinois, the site of controversial antimalarial experimentation in the early 1940s.
The drug was administered to Guantanamo detainees without regard for their medical or psychological history, despite its considerable risk of exacerbating pre-existing conditions. Mefloquine is also known to have serious side effects among individuals under treatment for depression or other serious mental health disorders, which numerous detainees were said to have been treated for, according to their attorneys and published reports.
Dr. G. Richard Olds, a tropical disease specialist and the founding dean of the Medical School at the University of California at Riverside, said, in his “professional opinion there is no medical justification for giving a massive dose of mefloquine to an asymptomatic individual.”
“I also do not see the medical benefit of treating a person in Cuba with a prophylactic dose of mefloquine,” Olds said. Mefloquine is “a fat soluble, and as a result, it does build up in the body and has a very long half-life.This is important since a massive dose of this drug is not easily corrected and the ‘side effects’ of the medication could last for weeks or months.”
In 2002, when the prison was established and mefloquine first administered, there were dozens of suicide attempts at Guantanamo. That same year, the DoD stopped reporting attempted suicides.
By February 2002, there were at least 459 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo. In March of that year, according to the book “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” by Montgomery Granger, “the situation” at the prison began “deteriorating rapidly.”
“There is more and more psychosis becoming evident in detainees …,” wrote Granger, an Army Reserve major and medic who was stationed at Guantanamo in 2002. “We already have probably a dozen or so detainees who are psychiatric cases. The number is growing.”
“Presumptively Treating” Malaria
Though malaria is nonexistent in Cuba, DoD spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher told Truthout that the US government was concerned that the disease would be reintroduced into the country as detainees were transferred to the prison facility in January 2002.
A “decision was made,” Bradsher said in an email, to “presumptively treat each arriving Guantanamo detainee for malaria to prevent the possibility of having mosquito-borne [sic] spread from an infected individual to uninfected individuals in the Guantanamo population, the guard force, the population at the Naval base or the broader Cuban population.”
But Granger wrote in his book that a Navy entomologist was present at Guantanamo in January and February 2002 and during that time only identified insects that were nuisances and did not identify any insects that were carriers of a disease, such as malaria.
Nevertheless, Bradsher said the “mefloquine dosage [given to detainees] was entirely for public health purposes … and not for any other purpose” and “is completely appropriate.”
“The risks and benefits to the health of the detainees were central considerations,” she added.
A September 13, 2002, DoD memo governing the operational use of mefloquine said, “Malaria is not a threat in Guantanamo Bay.” Indeed, there have only been two to three reported cases of malaria at Guantanamo.
The DoD memo, signed by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder, was sent to then-Rep. John McHugh, the Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Military Personnel. McHugh is now Secretary of the Army.
A Senate staff member told Truthout the Senate Armed Services Committee was never briefed about malaria concerns at Guantanamo nor was the committee made aware of “any issue related to the use of mefloquine or any other anti-malarial drug” related to “the treatment of detainees.”
When questions were raised at a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) about what measures the military was taking to address malaria concerns at Guantanamo, Navy Capt. Alan J. Yund, the liaison officer to the AFEB, did not disclose that mefloquine was being administered to detainees as a form of presumptive treatment and indicated that infected detainees who may have had the disease would be treated on a case-by-case basis.
Yund also said detainees were given a different anti-malarial drug known as primaquine and noted that “informed consent” was “absolutely practiced” prior to administering drugs, an assertion that contradicts claims made by numerous detainees who said they were forced to take drugs even if they protested. Yund did not return calls for comment.
Bradsher declined to respond to a follow-up question about who made the decision to presumptively treat detainees with mefloquine.
An April 16, 2002, meeting of the Interagency Working Group for Antimalarial Chemotherapy, which DoD, along with other federal government agencies, is a part of, was specifically dedicated to investigating mefloquine’s use and the drug’s side effects. The group concluded that study designs on mefloquine up to that point were flawed or biased and criticized DoD medical policy for disregarding scientific fact and basing itself more on “sensational or best marketed information.”
The Working Group called for additional research, and warned, “other treatment regimes should be carefully considered before mefloquine is used at the doses required for treatment.”
Still, despite the red flags that pointed to mefloquine as a high-risk drug, the DoD’s mefloquine program proceeded.
In fact, a June 2004 set of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says mefloquine should only be used when other standard drugs were not available, as it “is associated with a higher rate of severe neuropsychiatric reactions when used at treatment doses.”
According to the CDC, “‘presumptive treatment’ without the benefit of laboratory confirmation should be reserved for extreme circumstances (strong clinical suspicion, severe disease, impossibility of obtaining prompt laboratory confirmation).”
A CDC spokesman refused to comment about the “presumptive treatment” of malaria at Guantanamo and referred questions to the DoD.
Nevin said, if “mass presumptive treatment has been given consistently, many dozens of detainees, possibly hundreds, would almost certainly have suffered such disabling adverse events.”
“It appears that for years, senior Defense health leaders have condoned the medically indefensible practice of using high doses of mefloquine ostensibly for mass presumptive treatment of malaria among detainees from the Middle East and Asia lacking any evidence of disease,” Nevin said. “This is a use for which there is no precedent in the medical literature and which is specifically discouraged among refugees by malaria experts at the Centers for Disease Control.”
Even proponents of limited mefloquine usage are seriously questioning the logic behind the DoD’s actions. Professor James McCarthy, chair of the Infectious Diseases Division of the Queensland Institute of Medicine in Australia, who is an advocate of the safe use of mefloquine under proper safeguards, and takes it himself when traveling, told Truthout he was unaware of the use of mefloquine for mass presumptive treatment as described by the DoD, but could imagine it under certain circumstances.
However, when informed that lab tests were available and the detainees were screened for the blood product G6PD, used to determine the suitability of certain antimalarial drugs, McCarthy found the DoD’s use of mefloquine at Guantanamo difficult to understand and “hard to support on pure clinical grounds as an antimalarial.”
Treatment, Torture or an Experiment?
Another striking point about the DoD’s decision to presumptively treat mostly Muslim detainees with mefloquine beginning in 2002 is that it is the exact opposite of how the DoD responded to malaria concerns among the Haitian refugees who were held at Guantanamo a decade earlier.
Between 1991 and 1992, more than 14,000 Haitian refugees were held in temporary camps set up at Guantanamo. A large number of Haitian refugees – 235 during a four-month period – were diagnosed with malaria. But instead of presumptively treating the refugee population at Guantanamo, the DoD conducted laboratory tests first and only the individuals who were found to be malaria carriers were administered chloroquine.
Another example of how the DoD approached malaria treatment differently for other subjects is in the case of Army Rangers who returned from malarial areas of Afghanistan between June and September 2002 and were infected with the disease at an attack rate of 52.4 cases per 1,000 soldiers.
However, the Rangers did not receive mass presumptive treatment of mefloquine. They were given other standard drugs after laboratory tests, according to documents obtained by Truthout.
Nevin said the DoD’s treatment of Haitian refugees represented “a situation that arguably presented a much higher risk of disease and secondary transmission, but one which US medical experts stated at the time could be safely managed through more conservative and focused measures.”
Why did the government use the “conservative and focused” approach in treating Haitian refugees and the Army rangers, but then revert to presumptive mefloquine treatment in the case of the Guantanamo detainees, who – a month after the prison facility opened in January 2002 – were stripped of their protections under the Geneva Conventions?
According to Sean Camoni, a Seton Hall University law school research fellow, “there is no legitimate medical purpose for treating malaria in this way” and the drug’s severe side effects may actually have been the DoD’s intended impact in calling for the drug’s usage.
Camoni and several other Seton Hall law school students have been working on a report about mefloquine use on Guantanamo detainees. Their work was conducted independently of Truthout’s investigation.
A copy of the Seton Hall report, “Drug Abuse? An Exploration of the Government’s Use of Mefloquine at Guantanamo,” says mefloquine’s extreme side effects may have violated a provision in the antitorture statute related to the use of “mind altering substances or other procedures” that “profoundly disrupts the senses or the personality.”
Legal memos prepared in August 2002 by former DoD attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo for the CIA’s torture program permitted the use of drugs for interrogations. The authority was also contained in a legal memo Yoo prepared for the DoD less than a year later after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld convened a working group to address “policy considerations with respect to the choice of interrogation techniques.”
In September, Truthout reported that the DoD’s inspector general (IG) conducted an investigation into allegations that detainees in custody of the US military were drugged. The IG’s report, which remains classified, was completed a year ago and was shared with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the Armed Services Committee, told Truthout at the time that the IG report did not substantiate allegations of drugging of prisoners for the “purposes of interrogation.”
The medical files for detainee 693 released in 2008 shows that, two weeks after he first started taking mefloquine in June 2002, he was interviewed by Guantanamo medical personnel and reported he was suffering from nightmares, hallucinations, anxiety auditory and visual hallucinations, anxiety, sleep loss and suicidal thoughts.
The detainee said he had previously been treated for anxiety and had a family history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, according to the DoD documents. Guantanamo medical staff who interviewed the detainee did not state that he may have been experiencing mefloquine-related side effects in an evaluation of his condition.
Mark Denbeaux, the director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, who looked into the 2006 deaths of the three Guantanamo detainees, said in an interview “almost every remaining question here would be solved if the [detainees'] full medical records were released.”
The government has refused to release Guantanamo detainees’ medical records, citing privacy concerns in some cases, and assertions that they are “protected” or “classified” in other instances. The few medical records that have been released have been heavily redacted.
“A crucial issue is dosage” Denbeaux said. “Giving detainees toxic doses of mefloquine has mind-altering consequences that may be permanent. Without access to medical records, which the government refuses to release, the use of mefloquine in this manner appears to be grotesque malpractice at best, if not human experimentation or ‘enhanced interrogation.’ The question is where are the doctors who approved this practice and where are the medical records?”
Bradsher did not respond to questions about whether the government kept data about the adverse effects mefloquine had on detainees.
An absolute prohibition against experiments on prisoners of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions, but President George W. Bush stripped war on terror detainees of those protections. Some of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” also had an experimental quality.
At the same time detainees were given high doses of mefloquine, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a directive changing the rules on human subject protections for DoD experiments, allowing for a waiver of informed consent when necessary for developing a “medical product” for the armed services. Bush also granted unprecedented authority to the secretary of Health and Human Services to classify information as secret.
Briefings on Side Effects
As the DoD was administering mefloquine to Guantanamo prisoners, senior Pentagon officials were being briefed about the drug’s dangerous side effects. During one such briefing, questions arose about what steps the military was taking to address malaria concerns among detainees sent to Guantanamo.
Internal documents from Roche, obtained by UPI in 2002, indicated that the pharmaceutical company had been tracking suicidal reactions to Lariam going back to the early 1990s.
In September 2002, Roche sent a letter to physicians and pharmacists stating that the company changed its warning labels for mefloquine.
Roche further said in one of two new warning paragraphs that some of the symptoms associated with mefloquine use included suicidal thoughts and suicide and also “may cause psychiatric symptoms in a number of patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression to hallucination and psychotic behavior,” which “have been reported to continue long after mefloquine has been stopped.”
Cmdr. William Manofsky, who is retired from the US Navy and currently on disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder and side effects from mefloquine, said those are some of the symptoms he initially suffered from after taking the drug for several months beginning in November 2002 after he was deployed to the Middle East to work on two Naval projects.
In March 2003, “I became violently ill during a night live-fire exercise with the [Navy] SEALS,” Manofsky said. “I felt like I was air sick. All the flashing lights from the tracers and rockets … targeting device made me really sick. I threw up for an hour straight before being medevac’d back to the Special Forces compound where I had my first ever panic attack.”
For three years, Manofsky said he had to walk with a cane due to a loss of equilibrium. Numerous other accounts like Manofsky’s can be found on the web site lariaminfo.org.
In 2008, Dr. Nevin published a study detailing a high prevalence of mental health contraindications to the safe use of mefloquine in soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Responding in part to concerns raised by the mefloquine-associated suicide of Army Spc. Juan Torres, internal Army presentations confirmed that the drug had been widely misprescribed to soldiers with contraindications, including to many on antidepressants.
A formal policy memo in February 2009 from Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker removed mefloquine as a “first-line” agent, and changed the policy so that mefloquine would not be prescribed to Army personnel unless they had contraindications to the preferred drug, the antibiotic doxycycline. Nor could mefloquine be prescribed to any personnel with a history of traumatic brain injury or mental illness.
By September 2009, the policy was extended throughout the DoD.
New prisoners are no longer arriving at Guantanamo and the prison population has been in decline in recent years as detainees are released or transferred to other countries. Currently, the detainee population at Guantanamo is a reported 174.
But Nevin said the justification the Pentagon offered for using mefloquine to presumptively treat detainees transferred to the prison beginning in 2002 “betrays a profound ignorance of basic principals of tropical medicine and suggests extremely poor, and arguably incompetent, medical oversight that demands further investigation.”
Tags: al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, bush administration, cia, detainees, dod, ethical standards, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human experimentation, human rights, interrogations, jason leopold, jay bybee, jeffrey kaye, john yoo, Mohammed al-Qahtani, nazi atrocities, nuremberg, prisoners of war, psychological warfare, research, roger hollander, rumsfeld, sere, Taliban, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, wolfowitz
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(Roger’s Note: many people, including so-called liberals and progressives, balk at the use of the word “fascist” to describe the US government. They should read this article. Add Paul Wolfowitz, who already has major claim to infamy, to the list of torture enablers that includes Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, et. al. The use of the term “breed” by Wolfowitz is particularly chilling [“We are dealing with a special breed of person here.”]. Since holding onto power [at the moment, the task of maintaining majorities in Congress] is the major objective of President Obama and the Democratic Party, don’t expect much attention to be paid to the Nazi-like human research described in this article, any more than the Obama Administration has paid attention to the massive human rights violations characterized by illegal detentions, rendition, and torture. History will judge.)
Thursday 14 October 2010
(Illustration: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)
In 2002, as the Bush administration was turning to torture and other brutal techniques for interrogating “war on terror” detainees, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz loosened rules against human experimentation, an apparent recognition of legal problems regarding the novel strategies for extracting and evaluating information from the prisoners.
Wolfowitz issued his directive on March 25, 2002, about a month after President George W. Bush stripped the detainees of traditional prisoner-of-war protections under the Geneva Conventions. Bush labeled them “unlawful enemy combatants” and authorized the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake brutal interrogations.
Despite its title – “Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards in DoD-Supported Research” – the Wolfowitz directive weakened protections that had been in place for decades by limiting the safeguards to “prisoners of war.”
“We’re dealing with a special breed of person here,” Wolfowitz said about the war on terror detainees only four days before signing the new directive.
One former Pentagon official, who worked closely with the agency’s ex-general counsel William Haynes, said the Wolfowitz directive provided legal cover for a top-secret Special Access Program at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which experimented on ways to glean information from unwilling subjects and to achieve “deception detection.”
“A dozen [high-value detainees] were subjected to interrogation methods in order to evaluate their reaction to those methods and the subsequent levels of stress that would result,” said the official.
A July 16, 2004 Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) report obtained by Truthout shows that between April and July 2003, a “physiological warfare specialist” atached to the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program was present at Guantanamo. The CID report says the instructor was assigned to a top-secret Special Access Program.
It has been known since 2009, when President Barack Obama declassified some of the Bush administration’s legal memoranda regarding the interrogation program, that there were experimental elements to the brutal treatment of detainees, including the sequencing and duration of the torture and other harsh tactics.
However, the Wolfowitz directive also suggests that the Bush administration was concerned about whether its actions might violate Geneva Conventions rules that were put in place after World War II when grisly Nazi human experimentation was discovered. Those legal restrictions were expanded in the 1970s after revelations about the CIA testing drugs on unsuspecting human subjects and conducting other mind-control experiments.
For its part, the DoD insists that it “has never condoned nor authorized the use of human research testing on any detainee in our custody,” according to spokeswoman Wendy Snyder.
However, from the start of the war on terror, the Bush administration employed nontraditional methods for designing interrogation protocols, including the reverse engineering of training given to American troops trapped behind enemy lines, called the SERE techniques. For instance, the near-drowning technique of waterboarding was lifted from SERE manuals.
Retired US Air Force Capt. Michael Shawn Kearns, a former SERE intelligence officer, said the Wolfowitz directive appears to be a clear attempt to shield then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from the legal consequences of “any dubious research practices associated with the interrogation program.”
Scott Horton, a human rights attorney and constitutional expert, noted Wolfowitz’s specific reference to “prisoners of war” as protected under the directive, as opposed to referring more generally to detainees or people under the government’s control.
“At the time that Wolfowitz was issuing this directive, the Bush administration was taking the adamant position that prisoners taken in the’ war on terror’ were not ‘prisoners of war’ under the Geneva Conventions and were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
“Indeed, it called those protections ‘privileges’ that were available only to ‘lawful combatants.’ So the statement [in the directive] that ‘prisoners of war’ cannot be subjects of human experimentation … raises some concerns – why was the more restrictive term ‘prisoners of war’ used instead of ‘prisoners’ for instance.”
The Wolfowitz directive also changed other rules regarding waivers of informed consent. After the scandals over the CIA’s MKULTRA program and the Tuskegee experiments on African-Americans suffering from syphilis, Congress passed legislation known as the Common Rule to provide protections to human research subjects.
The Common Rule “requires a review of proposed research by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), the informed consent of research subjects, and institutional assurances of compliance with the regulations.”
Individuals who lack the capacity to provide “informed consent” must have an IRB determine if they would benefit from the proposed research. In certain cases, that decision could also be made by the subject’s “legal representative.”
However, according to the Wolfowitz directive, waivers of informed consent could be granted by the heads of DoD divisions.
Professor Alexander M. Capron, who oversees human rights and health law at the World Health Organization, said the delegation of the power to waive informed consent procedures to Pentagon officials is “controversial both because it involves a waiver of the normal requirements and because the grounds for that waiver are so open-ended.”
The Wolfowitz directive also changes language that had required DoD researchers to strictly adhere to the Nuremberg Directives for Human Experimentation and other precedents when conducting human subject research.
The Nuremberg Code, which was a response to the Nazi atrocities, made “the voluntary consent of the human subject … absolutely essential.” However, the Wolfowitz directive softened a requirement of strict compliance to this code, instructing researchers simply to be “familiar” with its contents.
“Why are DoD-funded investigators just required to be ‘familiar’ with the Nuremberg Code rather than required to comply with them?” asked Stephen Soldz, director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development at Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.
Soldz also wondered why “enforcement was moved from the Army Surgeon General or someone else in the medical chain of command to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering” and why “this directive changed at this time, as the ‘war on terror’ was getting going.”
The original impetus for the changes seems to have related more to the use of experimental therapies on US soldiers facing potential biological and other dangers in war zones.
The House Armed Services Committee proposed amending the law on human experimentation prior to the 9/11 attacks. But the Bush administration pressed for the changes after 9/11 as the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan and new medical products might be needed for soldiers on the battlefield without their consent, said two former officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Yet, there were concerns about the changes even among Bush administration officials. In a September 24, 2001, memo to lawmakers, Bush’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the “administration is concerned with the provision allowing research to be conducted on human subjects without their informed consent in order to advance the development of a medical product necessary to the armed forces.”
The OMB memo said the Bush administration understood that the DoD had a “legitimate need” for “waiver authority for emergency research,” but “the provision as drafted may jeopardize existing protections for human subjects in research, and must be significantly narrowed.”
However, the broader language moved forward, as did planning for the new war on terror interrogation procedures.
In December 2001, Pentagon general counsel Haynes and other agency officials contacted the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which runs SERE schools for teaching US soldiers to resist interrogation and torture if captured by an outlaw regime. The officials wanted a list of interrogation techniques that could be used for detainee “exploitation,” according to a report released last year by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
These techniques, as they were later implemented by the CIA and the Pentagon, were widely discussed as “experimental” in nature.
Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, declined to comment on the Wolfowitz directive.
Back in Congress, the concerns from the OMB about loose terminology were brushed aside and the law governing how the DoD spends federal funds on human expirementation and research, was amended to give the DoD greater leeway regarding experimentation on human subjects.
A paragraph to that law, 10 USC 980, which had not been changed since it was first enacted in 1972, was added authorizing the defense secretary to waive “informed consent” for human subject research and experimentation. It was included in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in December 2001. The Wolfowitz directive implemented the legislative changes Congress made to the law when it was issued three months later.
The changes to the “informed consent” section of the law were in direct contradiction to presidential and DoD memoranda issued in the 1990s that prohibited such waivers related to classified research. A memo signed in 1999 by Secretary of Defense William Cohen called for the prohibitions on “informed consent” waivers to be added to the Common Rule regulations covering DoD research, but it was never implemented.
As planning for the highly classified Special Access Program began to take shape, most officials in Congress appear to have averted their eyes, with some even lending a hand.
The ex-DIA officials said the Pentagon briefed top lawmakers on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee in November and December 2001, including the panel’s chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and his chief of staff Patrick DeLeon, about experimentation and research involving detainee interrogations that centered on “deception detection.”
To get a Special Access Program like this off the ground, the Pentagon needed DeLeon’s help, given his long-standing ties to the American Psychological Association (APA), where he served as president in 2000, the sources said.
According to former APA official Bryant Welch, DeLeon’s role proved crucial.
“For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the APA governance on political matters,” Welch wrote. “For over twenty-five years, relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon….
“When the military needed a mental health professional to help implement its interrogation procedures, and the other professions subsequently refused to comply, the military had a friend in Senator Inouye’s office, one that could reap the political dividends of seeds sown by DeLeon over many years.”
John Bray, a spokesman for Inuoye, said in late August he would look into questions posed by Truthout about the Wolfowitz directive and the meetings involving DeLeon and Inuoye. But Bray never responded nor did he return follow-up phone calls and emails. DeLeon did not return messages left with his assistant.
Legal Word Games
Meanwhile, in January 2002, President Bush was receiving memos from then-Justice Department attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo as well as from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, advising Bush to deny members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions.
Also, about a month before the Wolfowitz directive was issued, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) asked Joint Forces Command if they could get a “crash course” on interrogation for the next interrogation team headed out to Guantanamo, according to the Armed Services Committee’s report. That request was sent to Brig. Gen. Thomas Moore and was approved.
Bruce Jessen, the chief psychologist of the SERE program, and Joseph Witsch, a JPRA instructor, led the instructional seminar held in early March 2002.
The seminar included a discussion of al-Qaeda’s presumed methods of resisting interrogation and recommended specific methods interrogators should use to defeat al-Qaeda’s resistance. According to the Armed Services Committee report, the presentation provided instructions on how interrogations should be conducted and on how to manage the “long term exploitation” of detainees.
There was a slide show, focusing on four primary methods of treatment: “isolation and degradation,” “sensory deprivation,” “physiological pressures” and “psychological pressures.”
According to Jessen and Witsch’s instructor’s guide, isolation was the “main building block of the exploitation process,” giving the captor “total control” over the prisoner’s “inputs.” Examples were provided on how to implement “degradation,” by taking away a prisoner’s personal dignity. Methods of sensory deprivation were also discussed as part of the training.
Jessen and Witsch denied that “physical pressures,” which later found their way into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, were taught at the March meeting.
However, Jessen, along with Christopher Wirts, chief of JPRA’s Operational Support Office, wrote a memo for Southern Command’s Directorate of Operations (J3), entitled “Prisoner Handling Recommendations,” which urged Guantanamo authorities to take punishment beyond “base line rules.”
So, by late March 2002, the pieces were in place for a strategy of behavior modification designed to break down the will of the detainees and extract information from them. Still, to make the procedures “legal,” some reinterpretations of existing laws and regulation were needed.
For instance, attorneys Bybee and Yoo would narrow the definition of “torture” to circumvent laws prohibiting the brutal interrogation of detainees.
In his directive, Wolfowitz also made subtle, but significant, word changes. While retaining the blanket prohibition against experimenting on prisoners of war, Wolfowitz softened the language for other types of prisoners, using a version of rules about “vulnerable” classes of individuals taken from regulations meant for civilian research by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
This research and experimentation examined physiological markers of stress, such as cortisol, and involved psychologists under contract to the CIA and the military who were experts in the field, the ex-DIA officials said.
One study, called “The War Fighter’s Stress Response,” was conducted between 2002 and 2003 and examined physiological measurements of mock torture subjects drawn from the SERE program and other high-stress military personnel, such as Special Forces Combat Divers.
Researchers measured cortisol and other hormone levels via salivary swabbing and blood samples, a process that also was reportedly done to war on terror detainees.
Three weeks after the Wolfowitz directive was signed, SERE psychologist Jessen produced a Draft Exploitation Plan for use at Guantanamo. According to the Armed Services Committee’s report, JPRA was offering its services for “oversight, training, analysis, research, and [tactics, techniques, and procedures] development” to Joint Forces Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner. (Emphasis added.)
There were other indications that research was an important component of JPRA services to the DoD and CIA interrogation programs. When three JPRA personnel were sent to a Special Mission Unit associated with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in August 2003 for what was believed to be special training in interrogation, one of the three was JPRA’s manager for research and development.
Three former top military officials interviewed by the Armed Services Committee have described Guantanamo as a “battle lab.”
According to Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), he was uncomfortable when Guantanamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term “battle lab,” meaning “that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DoD in other places.”
CITF’s deputy commander told the Senate investigators, “there were many risks associated with this concept … and the perception that detainees were used for some ‘experimentation’ of new unproven techniques had negative connotations.”
In May 2005, a former military officer who attended a SERE training facility sent an email to Middle East scholar Juan Cole stating that “Gitmo must be being used as a ‘laboratory’ for all these psychological techniques by the [counter-intelligence] guys.”
The Al-Qahtani Experiment
One of the high-value detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo who appears to have been a victim of human experimentation was Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was captured in January 2002.
A sworn statement filed by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, al-Qahtani’s attorney, said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Major General Miller, commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.
The treatment of al-Qahtani was cataloged in an 84-page “torture log“ that was leaked in 2006. The torture log shows that, beginning in November 2002 and continuing well into January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated in 20-hour stretches, poked with IVs and left to urinate on himself.
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents al-Qahtani, had said in a sworn declaration that his client, was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.
“At Guantánamo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’” Gutierrez said. “These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”
In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee report said al-Qahtani’s treatment was viewed as a potential model for other interrogations.
In his book, “Oath Betrayed,” Dr. Steven Miles wrote that the meticulously recorded logs of al-Qahtani’s interrogation and torture focus “on the emotions and interactions of the prisoner, rather than on the questions that were asked and the information that was obtained.”
The uncertainty surrounding these experimental techniques resulted in the presence of medical personnel on site, and frequent and consistent medical checks of the detainee. The results of the monitoring, which likely included vital signs and other stress markers, would also become data that could be analyzed to understand how the new interrogation techniques worked.
In January 2004, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) initiated a DoD-wide review of human subjects protection policies. A Navy slide presentation at DoD Training Day on November 14, 2006, hinted strongly at the serious issues behind the entire review.
The Navy presentation framed the problem in the light of the history of US governmental “non-compliance” with human subjects research protections, including “US Government Mind Control Experiments – LSD, MKULTRA, MKDELTA (1950-1970s)”; a 90-day national “stand down” in 2003 for all human subject research and development activities “ordered in response to the death of subjects”; as well as use of “unqualified researchers.”
The Training Day presentation said the review found the Navy “not in full compliance with Federal policies on human subjects protection.” Furthermore, DDR&E found the Navy had “no single point of accountability for human subject protections.”
DoD refused to respond to questions regarding the 2004 review. Moreover, Maj. Gen. Ronald Sega, who at the time was the DDR&E, did not return calls for comment.
Meanwhile, the end of the Bush administration has not resulted in a total abandonment of the research regarding interrogation program.
Last March, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who recently resigned, disclosed that the Obama administration’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), planned on conducting “scientific research” to determine “if there are better ways to get information from people that are consistent with our values.”
“It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area,” Blair said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He did not provide additional details as to what the “scientific research” entailed.
As for the Wolfowitz directive, Pentagon spokeswoman Snyder said it did not open the door to human experimentation on war on terror detainees.
“There is no detainee policy, directive or instruction – or exceptions to such – that would permit performing human research testing on DoD detainees,” Snyder said. “Moreover, none of the numerous investigations into allegations of misconduct by interrogators or the guard force found any evidence of such activities.”
Snyder added that DoD is in the process of updating the Wolfowitz directive and it will be “completed for review next year.”
Jason Leopold is the Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, “News Junkie,” a memoir. Visit newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.
Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist living in Northern California, writes regularly on torture and other subjects for Firedoglake. He also maintains