For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.


August 1, 2006
The folks who brought us Brainwashing and ECT try to clean up
Psychologists, Guantanamo and Torture
For years, the varied mental health professions in the United States have been fighting turf wars.   Psychiatrists tried to keep psychologists from being able to conduct therapy or, more recently, from prescribing psychotropic medications.   Psychologists fought for rights to conduct these treatments.   Psychologists, in turn, fought the attempts of their Masters-level colleagues for professional recognition.   Social workers, mental health counselors, and psychoanalysts each fight for recognition against opposition from others.

These battles are fought out through traditional legislative lobbying and pressure.   They are, however, also fought through showing one group's value in furthering the interests of the powerful and through organized representatives of each profession maintaining access to non-legislative corridors of power.   Thus, keeping in favor with the powerful and not alienating them can be a central aspect of a profession's strategy of advancement.

In this decades-long struggle, the profession of psychology has tried to distinguish itself in various ways.   One of these ways is through emphasizing its scientific character.   Thus, representatives of organized psychology have been at pains to demonstrate the value of the "science of psychology" to the powerful in industry and in government, including the military and the national security establishment.   In addition, psychology's value to the education establishment has been emphasized, as has its value in industrial relations and marketing.   World War II provided many opportunities for psychology to demonstrate its value to the war effort including through the screening of soldiers, the development of propaganda techniques to motivate the home front and to undermine enemy morale, the use of human factors engineering to improve airplanes, and the treatment of psychological casualties from the war.

The post-World War II development of a militarized national security state provided many further opportunities for psychology to garner attention to its contributions to the art of propaganda and the development of useable high-tech weapons through human factors engineering, among numerous others.

Unwilling captives

One particularly disturbing area where psychologists were attempting to demonstrate their value was in the development of sophisticated techniques of interrogation that could obtain information from unwilling captives through the application of behavior modification techniques based on psychological science.   Historian Alfred W. McCoy has shed light in this area in his recent book A Question of Torture and in numerous articles and interviews.   He documents the decades-long CIA effort to utilize psychological expertise to develop forms of torture that could break down the personality of detainees, rendering them, it was hoped, incapable of withholding desired information.   Many of these technique were utilized during the Vietnam conflict and in the various brutal U.S.-supported counterinsurgency campaigns in Latin American in the 1970s and 1980s.

Such applications of psychological knowledge posed thorny issues for organized psychology, always on the lookout for new ways of demonstrating psychology's value to the powerful.   While their morally objectionable quality made direct endorsement impossible, to straightforwardly condemn these applications would run the risk of alienating precisely those decision-makers who might be impressed with the potential contributions of psychology as a science and as a profession.   Thus, silence about such abuses of psychology is what one would expect from the American Psychological Association, the country's largest representative of organized psychology and silence is what was observed.

The Global War on Terror, launched after 9-11, provided yet another opportunity to experiment with these behavioral science-based torture techniques.   The establishment of a detention center at Guantánamo for those detained during the Afghanistan war and other battles in the "Global War on Terrorism" provided a particularly favorable environment.   A total institution was created whose inmates, the detainees, have, at least in the administration's opinion, absolutely no rights and where all aspects of their daily life can be monitored and controlled.   The administration's legal doctrine emphasized that essentially anything short of direct murder was legally acceptable.

Complete destruction of personality

Various "behavioral scientists" from psychology and psychiatry were brought in to help the development of this total institution devoted to complete destruction of the personality.   In 2005 it was revealed by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the New York Times that mental health professionals were serving as consultants on Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT (colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams) at Guantánamo, designed to advise interrogators.   These teams consult in every aspect of interrogation.   As the New Yorker's Jane Mayer told Democracy Now! — Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, one psychiatrist determined that a particular inmate would be allowed seven toilet paper squares a day, while another inmate who was afraid of the dark was deliberately kept almost totally in the dark.   Another consultant behavioral scientist, psychologist James Mitchell, recommended that interrogators treat a detainee in such a way as to generate a form of helplessness known as "learned helplessness."

Authors M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks noted in their 2005 NEJM article that interrogations at Guantánamo are often designed to increase stress by means verging on, or even constituting torture:
"Military interrogators at Guantánamo Bay have used aggressive counter-resistance measures in systematic fashion to pressure detainees to cooperate.   These measures have reportedly included sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation, painful body positions, feigned suffocation, and beatings.   Other stress-inducing tactics have allegedly included sexual provocation and displays of contempt for Islamic symbols."
They go on to note that
"Since late 2002, psychiatrists and psychologists have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives."
Recently, the United Nations Committee against Torture went further and stated that "detaining persons indefinitely without charge, constitutes per se a violation of the Convention" Against Torture.   Thus, according to this official body, the existence of Guantánamo in its present form is itself illegal.   They went on to join the many organizations and institutions, including most recently, the European Parliament, to call for Guantánamo's closing.

[More information on the interrogation techniques used by American forces at Guantánamo and elsewhere, as well as on their effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to them, can be found in the Physicians for Human Rights report: Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces.]

Psychologists and psychiatrists aiding the torturous interrogations

Even leaving aside the general issue of whether interrogations of the kind conducted at Guantánamo are ever morally acceptable, the participation of mental health professionals in them is potentially in conflict with the ethics codes governing the psychiatric and psychological professions, those of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.   The Abu Ghraib scandal with its graphic photographic evidence shone a bright spotlight on the abuses that occurred in American detention facilities in this Global War, and after the horrors occurring at Guantánamo and the role of mental health professionals in them were widely reported on, silence by the psychological Association became more difficult to maintain.   Pressure mounted for both the Psychological and Psychiatric Associations to do something about psychologists and psychiatrists aiding the torturous interrogations occurring at Guantánamo.

After an extended period of discussion and debate, on May 22, 2006, the American Psychiatric Association endorsed a policy statement that unambiguously stated that under no circumstances should psychiatrists take part in interrogations, at Guantánamo or elsewhere.   The crucial section states:
"No psychiatrist should participate directly in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere.   Direct participation includes being present in the interrogation room, asking or suggesting questions, or advising authorities on the use of specific techniques of interrogation with particular detainees."

The American Psychological Association, in contrast, has adamantly refused to endorse any such statement, saying only that psychologists should behave ethically.   Initially, the organization did what organizations often do when embroiled in unwanted controversy: they appointed a Task Force.   The Task Force was given a broad mandate to look into what position the Association should take regarding psychologist involvement in national security interrogations in general.   This mandate may have had the effect of diluting the Task Force's focus on the abuse at Guantánamo and psychologists' involvement in them.

This Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security included members of the Peace Psychology division of the Association, but it also included psychologists engaged in national security and military activities.   (One source claims that four members, out of about eight, were connected to the military.   Another source believe a smaller number of members had military or national security connections.   A third source, a published article by an Association Division President, states that 6 of 10 members "had ties to the Department of Defense."

Oddly, the membership of the Task Force was kept private, "because of concerns expressed about their personal safety," as it was explained by a former member who refused to elaborate further.   However, it has been established that the Task Force included Colonel Louie (Morgan) Banks, identified by Jane Mayer in the July 7, 2005 New Yorker [Article reproduced at bottom of page -] as a psychologist involved the Pentagon's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program which trains military personnel considered likely to be captured in resisting extreme abuse by their captors.   Strangely, for one serving on a policy-recommending body, Col. Banks is not even a member of the Association.   Frank Summers, an activist in attempts to change Association policy, succinctly stated the problem with Banks being on the Task Force when he recently wrote in an email "Isn't putting him on the TF equivalent to Cheney being in charge of energy policy?   " In addition to Banks, some accounts state that at least one other Task Force member had connections to Guantánamo, but I have been unable to get unambiguous confirmation of this.

Like the membership and its process of appointment, information about the deliberations of the Task Force was also kept private; members agreed to let the Task Force's report stand on its own and not to discuss its deliberations.   The report does indicate that agreement was not reached on several issues.   Other accounts indicate that a weak initial draft was strengthened by pressure from unhappy Association members.


In June, 2005 this Task Force issued its final report.   In a highly unusual procedure, the Association's Board of Directors immediately formally adopted the report without the usual discussion and approval by the broader-based Council of Representatives.   This report explicitly stated that it is ethical for psychologists to engage in national security interrogations:
"It is consistent with the APA Ethics Code for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation and information-gathering processes for national security-related purposes."
While the report reiterated that psychologists should not be involved in any way in "torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," the Task Force stated that it was not charged to conduct any type of investigation, and thus formed no opinion as to whether any unethical behaviors had occurred.

The Task Force further concluded that no modifications to the Association's Ethics Code were required to deal with the issues of psychologists serving in the various national security roles.   Strangely, given the origins of the task force in the controversy about abuse (aka torture) at Guantánamo, the report makes no mention of that or any other specific facility.

'The United States would never engage in torture'

It appears that the non-military well-meaning members of the Task Force were outmaneuvered by APA officials who gave it such a wide charge involving all types of national security roles that members did not dare say that psychologists should abstain completely from involvement in national security related activities.   Once put in this position, the members ended up stating platitudes akin to the reassurances from the U.S. government that the United States would never engage in torture.   Like the Bush administration, the APA leadership has refused to define "torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," giving the Task Force's edicts no force to actually shape policy.

At a late stage in the Task Force's existence, after their report was issued, as they were to turn to clarifying some details in an Ethics Casebook entry, one of the non-military members, Mike Wessells resigned, stating :
"...continuing work with the Task Force tacitly legitimates the wider silence and inaction of the APA on the crucial issues at hand.   At the highest levels, the APA has not made a strong, concerted, comprehensive, public and internal response of the kind warranted by the severe human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay."
Wessells explained that he was not complaining directly about the Task Force, which:
"...had a very limited mandate and was not structured in a manner that would provide the kind of comprehensive response or representative process needed."
Needed, rather, was:
"...a strong, proactive, comprehensive response affirming our professional commitment to human well-being and sounding a ringing condemnation of psychologists' participation not only in torture but in all forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, including the use or support of tactics such as sleep deprivation."
Of course, such a "strong, proactive, comprehensive response" has never come from the Association.

How far the American Psychological Association willing to go to support Guantánamo

As a further indication that the Task Force report did not mean that the Association was actually interested in doing anything real about psychologists' participation in torture, and as a sign of support for George Bush's National Security State, then APA President Ronald F. Levant traveled to Guantánamo in October, 2005.   The Press Release announcing the trip indicated how far the Association was willing to go to support the camp that Amnesty International calls "the gulag of our time."   It made clear that the Association leadership never intended to put a stop to psychologists' involvement in Guantánamo.   To the contrary, President Levant was quoted as saying:
"'I accepted this offer to visit Guantánamo because I saw the invitation as an important opportunity to continue to provide our expertise and guidance for how psychologists can play an appropriate and ethical role in national security investigations.   Our goals are to ensure that psychologists add value and safeguards to such investigations and that they are done in an ethical and effective manner that protects the safety of all involved.'"
Eighteen months after the Abu Ghraib scandal brought the horrors occurring in American detention facilities to the world's attention, after even the mainstream press had numerous articles about how Gen. Miller of Guantánamo brought his special breed of brutality to Iraq with recommendations to "Gitmoize" Abu Ghraib, the Association Press Release contained no acknowledgement that anything out of the ordinary was going on at Guantánamo.   As President Levant gushed:
"'This trip gave me an opportunity to ask questions and observe a brief snapshot of the Guantánamo facility first hand,' Levant stated.   'As APA's work in studying the issues presented by our country's national security needs continues, this trip was another opportunity for the Association to inform and advise the process.'"
The Association's campaign to defend Guantánamo and psychologists' participation there continued under the next Association President, Gerald Koocher.   One month after assuming office, President Koocher devoted his monthly Presidential column in the Association's APA Monitor to defending the organization and its refusal to do anything in response to the horrors well-documented as occurring at Guantánamo.   In Orwellian fashion, he entitled his defense of inaction in the face of barbarity: "Speaking against torture."   In this column he attacked Association critics while trying to change the subject:
"A number of opportunistic commentators masquerading as scholars have continued to report on alleged abuses by mental health professionals.   However, when solicited in person to provide APA with names and circumstances in support of such claims, no data have been forthcoming from these same critics and no APA members have been linked to unprofessional behaviors.   The traditional journalistic dictum of reporting who, what, where and when seems notably absent."
Thus, the ethical policy issue of participation of psychologists in the illegal activities at Guantánamo was changed to one of personal culpability.   Could it be proven that a given named psychologist engaged in a particular proscribed behavior.   Through this ruse the Association tried to negate all press, United Nations, and NGO criticism.   In the absence of an explicit ethics complaint against an individual, the Association would do nothing.   As the Association officials knew well, the names of most psychologists offering their "services" at Guantánamo, as well as details on what those services are is a closely guarded secret.

In this same article President Koocher then used a common technique of embattled leaders as he implicitly attempted to rally the psychologist community against the hated other, the psychiatrists:
"Many of our psychiatric colleagues have offered interpretive criticism, although their professional association has yet to agree on an official position.   One proposed draft before the psychiatric association includes an itemization of specific prohibited tactics they deem as torture.   When carefully scrutinized, their draft bears a remarkable resemblance to our position, although no journalist has yet commented on this point.   Likewise, no journalist ­including those critical of the PENS report ­has commented upon an interesting irony: Despite psychiatrists' opposition to prescription privileges for psychologists, the psychiatric association's list of forbidden coercive techniques omits any mention of the use of drugs, implicitly allowing such practices."
Consultants free to aid interrogation

In a recent debate with critics, Koocher utilized yet another defense that seems destined for greater use now that pressure is growing on the Association to act.   He made a distinction between those psychologists providing health services to detainees, who, he claimed, were forbidden from using information thus gained to aid interrogators, and those behavioral scientist consultants who are not there to tend to detainees and are therefore free to aid interrogation.   However, even Koocher had to admit that all psychologists are bound by the principle of "do no harm."   He, of course, failed to explain how participation in the workings of an institution designed to destroy the personalities of those incarcerated there could ever meet the "do no harm" principle."

The campaign of the American Psychological Association to deflect criticism of psychologists' involvement at Guantánamo has been unrelenting.   Concerned members pressed for an independent investigation to clarify what psychologists actually did at Guantánamo, but the Association refused.   Members pushed for a change to the ethics code stating that psychologists did not follow laws or orders when to do so would violate basic human rights, but were met with the argument that such a statement could be used against psychologist practitioners in lawsuits.   Critics attempted to have the Association explicitly state that international law should be consulted in addition to United States law on such issues as the definitions of human rights and their violation or the definition of torture and inhuman behavior; they failed.   The Association leadership announced that they would develop an ethics casebook entry clarifying acceptable and unacceptable behavior in psychologist-assisted interrogations, but have so far not followed through.

There matters stood when the June 7, 2006, New York Times brought word that the Association's position was carefully noted by the Pentagon, and that, from now on, the military would prefer psychologists over psychiatrists:
"Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told reporters that the new policy favoring the use of psychologists over psychiatrists was a recognition of differing positions taken by their respective professional groups.
The military had been using psychiatrists and psychologists alike on behavioral science consultation teams, called 'biscuit' teams because of the acronym, to advise interrogators on how best to obtain information from prisoners.

But Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, recent past president of the American Psychiatric Association, noted in an interview that the group adopted a policy in May unequivocally stating that its members should not be part of the teams.

The counterpart group for psychologists, the American Psychological Association, has endorsed a different policy.   It said last July that its members serving as consultants to interrogations involving national security should be 'mindful of factors unique to these roles and contexts that require special ethical consideration.'"

Duty to aid the National Security State

For many activist psychologists in the Association who had patiently played the organization's game of Task Force, Board discussion, input here, input there, while no substantive change in Association policy occurred, this news was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.   Members who had been urging caution and a one-step-at-a-time approach for months suddenly found themselves urging withholding dues.   Within days, an email campaign to the Association's President Koocher was launched and 300 emails were sent in 48 hours.   Koocher responded with derision and condescension, while explicitly endorsing psychologists' duty to aid the National Security State.   One version of the letter he sent:
"You are dead wrong.

The APA has not been silent.

The APA Board of Directors understands and appreciates that its members have strong opinions about psychologists' involvement in interrogations, and that their opinions are not uniform.   Please recognize that interrogation does not equate to torture and that many civilian and military contexts exist in which psychologists ethically participate in information gathering in the public interest without harming anyone or violating our ethical code.   Please also examine press reports with healthy skepticism and seek facts, rather than reflexively engaging in letter-writing campaigns predicated on inadequate access to the data.

The Board has adopted as APA policy a Task Force Report, which unequivocally prohibits psychologists from engaging in, participating, or countenancing torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.   As the basis for its position, the Task Force looked first to Principle A in the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, "Do No Harm," and then to Principle B, which addresses psychologists' responsibilities to society.   Both ethical responsibilities are central to the profession of psychology.   By virtue of Principle A, psychologists do no harm.   By virtue of Principle B, psychologists use their expertise in, and understanding of, human behavior to aid in the prevention of harm.

In both domestic and national security-related contexts, these ethical principles converge as psychologists are mandated to take affirmative steps to prevent harm to individuals being questioned and, at the same time, to assist in eliciting reliable information that may prevent harm to others.

It is critical to note that in addressing these issues through a Task Force report, the American Psychological Association was responding to psychologists in national security settings who had approached APA seeking guidance in the most ethical course of action.   The Board views as its responsibility supporting our colleagues and members who are striving to do the right thing.   The Board encourages its members who have different points of view on this or any issue to make their positions known, and welcomes the opportunity for further discussion of this issue at the August Council meeting."
Moral challenge of our time

Ignoring the "you are dead wrong," an introduction that was even more tasteless when used just a few days after the suicide of three hopeless inmates in the Guantánamo hell-hole, the note made clear to wavering members that the Association leadership intends to continue business as usual, that no action on the moral challenge of our time will come unless the members force it.

At this moment leadership in opposition was taken by the Social Justice section (Section 9) of the Division of Psychoanalysis (Division 9; truth in packaging warning: I'm a member of this Section).   Within hours of Section members receiving the Koocher email, members who had been willing to work within the Association structure decided that as one member put it in an email on the Section's listserv, "It's time for us to accept [the] view that the APA leadership is fully participatory in the problem of using obfuscation and propaganda to justify current military aims and methods."

Quickly Section 9 members decided to launch a petition drive demanding a change in Association policy.   A Petition was quickly written and launched on June 15th [at] and attempts began to spread the word to members throughout the diverse Association.   [Another truth in packaging warning: I am one of the authors of the petition and am listed as its sponsor.]

In the weeks since then a range of organizations, including the Divisions of Social Justice of various Association divisions and others outside the Association, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund have initiated discussions on a coordinated strategy to change Association policy.   Initial agreement was obtained on supporting attempts to have the Association, at its August convention, reiterate its statements that members should not participate in torture or abusive interrogations.   There seems to be nothing in this statement that would be opposed by the Association leadership, who likely will claim this is already Association policy.   The question remains open whether this group will go further and try and get the Association to state that members may not participate in interrogations of detainees from the Global War on Terrorism in any capacity and under any circumstances.   It seems unlikely that this group will take the additional step of demanding the Association call for the closing of Guantánamo and similar institutions.

Bend moral reasoning

I suspect that changing Association policy will require modification of the tactics thus far used by critics.   To date, most objections from within the Association have been framed fairly narrowly in terms of the details of the ethics code and what it says, or should say, about psychologist's participation in coercive interrogations.   This approach gets one into the realm of legal reasoning and detailed interpretation of texts.   As hundreds of years of legal argument demonstrated, such reasoning can lead to many different conclusions, depending on where the reasoner is trying to go.   And Association officials have demonstrated their ability, even their genius, to bend moral reasoning to support their position that psychologists' have a right, perhaps even a duty, to serve at Guantánamo and similar facilities.   [See, for example, the decidedly different, but both well-presented arguments by President Koocher in a Democracy Now! interview on June 16: , and by Association Director of Ethics Stephen Behnke, posted at around the same time: ] While critics need to rebut these detailed arguments, the battle will not be won at that level, just as major social changes are seldom decisively won in court without accompanying social changes occurring outside the courtroom.

Indeed moral human beings

Association members critical of current policy have been highly resistant to openly denouncing Guantánamo for the concentration camp that it is.   They have by and large so far not joined in any organized fashion those, such as the U.N. Committee Against Torture, who state clearly that a total institution imprisoning people "indefinitely without charge", where the inmates have no rights, no protections, virtually no ability to control any aspect of their environment, is itself torture.   Psychologists, indeed moral human beings, simply have no role in such an institution.   To be there in any capacity is to do harm.   The arguments so far have been akin to a Nazi-era medical society objecting solely to doctors serving in the death camps, and not to the existence of the death camps themselves.   I believe that this is a mistake.

The participation of psychologists at Guantánamo is not simply a professional issue.   It is a major moral challenge for the very concept of using knowledge for good and not for evil.   If this participation continues, psychology will have lost its soul, just as our entire country is in danger of loosing its soul as we turn away from these evils being committed in our name.

As Association members, and non-members, develop a more aggressive approach to changing Association policy, they should keep in mind this history.   It makes clear that the commitment of Association leaders to demonstrating the value of psychology through furthering some of the most sordid aspects of the national security state is deep and long-standing.  

The last couple of days have brought further evidence of the close ties between the Association and the military; critics have learned that only one only one person was invited to address the August Association convention on the Guantánamo issue, General Kiley, the Surgeon General of the army who drafted the report that recommends using only psychologists for interrogations.

General Kiley will only respond to questions submitted in advance.

Given the close ties between the psychological Association and the military, it clear that the Association will not be changed easily.

Change will require extended pressure, using a wide range of tools, in order to impact such a deep seated policy.

It remains to be seen if the activist members will be able to maintain the energy and passion aroused by recent news and events, or whether they will again lapse into that state of "learned helplessness" that Association behavior appears designed to induce.

Stephen Soldz a researcher and psychoanalyst, is Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.   He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice.   He maintains the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page.

"Now I will tell you the answer to my question.  It is this.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.

We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.

Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.

What pure power means you will understand presently.

We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing.

All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites.

The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives.

They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal.

We are not like that.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.

Power is not a means, it is an end.

One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

The object of persecution is persecution.

The object of torture is torture.

The object of power is power.

Now do you begin to understand me?"

      George Orwell 1984      

February 13, 2006
Report: U.S. Is Abusing Captives
  • A U.N. inquiry says the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay at times amounts to torture and violates international law.
  • NEW YORK — A draft United Nations report on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay concludes that the U.S. treatment of them violates their rights to physical and mental health and, in some cases, constitutes torture.

    It also urges the United States to close the military prison in Cuba and bring the captives to trial on U.S. territory, charging that Washington's justification for the continued detention is a distortion of international law.

    The report, compiled by five U.N. envoys who interviewed former prisoners, detainees' lawyers and families, and U.S. officials, is the product of an 18-month investigation ordered by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.   The team did not have access to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

    Nonetheless, its findings — notably a conclusion that the violent force-feeding of hunger strikers, incidents of excessive violence used in transporting prisoners and combinations of interrogation techniques "must be assessed as amounting to torture" — are likely to stoke U.S. and international criticism of the prison.

    Nearly 500 people captured abroad since 2002 in Afghanistan and elsewhere and described by the U.S. as "enemy combatants" are being held at Guantanamo Bay.

    Violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture

    "We very, very carefully considered all of the arguments posed by the U.S. government," said Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and one of the envoys.   "There are no conclusions that are easily drawn.   But we concluded that the situation in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture."

    The draft report, reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, has not been officially released.   U.N. officials are in the process of incorporating comments and clarifications from the U.S. government.

    In November, the Bush administration offered the U.N. team the same tour of the prison given to journalists and members of Congress, but refused the envoys access to prisoners.   Because of that, the U.N. group declined the visit.

    Nowak said he did not expect major changes to the report's conclusions and recommendations as a result of the U.S. government's response, though there would be amendments on minor issues.

    Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said the Defense Department did not comment about U.N. matters.

    The report is not legally binding.   But human rights and legal advocates hope the U.N.'s conclusions will add weight to similar findings by rights groups and the European Parliament.

    Detention is not an act of punishment.

    "I think the effect of this will be to revive concern about the government's mistreatment of detainees, and to get people to take another look at the legal basis," said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch.   "There are lots of lingering questions about how do you justify holding these people."

    The report focuses on the U.S. government's legal basis for the detentions as described in its formal response to the U.N. inquiry: "The law of war allows the United States — and any other country engaged in combat — to hold enemy combatants without charges or access to counsel for the duration of hostilities.   Detention is not an act of punishment, but of security and military necessity.   It serves the purpose of preventing combatants from continuing to take up arms against the United States."

    But the U.N. team concluded that there had been insufficient due process to determine whether the more than 750 people who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002 were "enemy combatants," and determined that the primary purpose of their confinement was for interrogation, not to prevent them from taking up arms.   The U.S. has released or transferred more than 260 detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

    Torture committed by government officials

    It also rejected the premise that "the war on terrorism" exempted the U.S. from international conventions on torture and civil and political rights.

    The report said some of the treatment of detainees met the definition of torture under the U.N. Convention Against Torture:   The acts were committed by government officials, with a clear purpose, inflicting severe pain or suffering against victims in a position of powerlessness.

    The findings also concluded that the simultaneous use of several interrogation techniques — prolonged solitary confinement, exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light; forced shaving and other techniques that exploit religious beliefs or cause intimidation and humiliation — constituted inhumane treatment and, in some cases, reached the threshold of torture.

    Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding

    Nowak said that the U.N. team was "particularly concerned" about the force-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes that detainees said were brutally inserted and removed, causing intense pain, bleeding and vomiting.

    "It remains a current phenomenon," Nowak said.

    International Red Cross guidelines state:  "Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding.   Such actions can be considered a form of torture and under no circumstances should doctors participate in them on the pretext of saving the hunger striker's life."

    One detainee, a Kuwaiti named Fawzi Al Odah, told his lawyer this month that he stopped his five-month hunger strike under threats of physical abuse.

    Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington who has represented 12 Kuwaitis held at Guantanamo Bay, said that Odah told him that in December guards began taking away clothes, shoes and blankets from about 85 hunger strikers.

    Wilner said Odah described guards mixing laxatives into the liquid formula they gave to about 40 prisoners through the nose tubes, causing them to defecate on themselves.

    After hearing a neighboring prisoner scream in pain

    Wilner said Odah told him that on Jan. 9, an officer read what he said was an order from Guantanamo Bay's commander, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, stating that hunger strikers would be strapped into a restraint chair and force-fed with thick nasal tubes that would be inserted and removed twice a day.   After hearing a neighboring prisoner scream in pain and tell him not to go through it, Odah reluctantly ceased his hunger strike, Wilner said.

    "I stopped it because they forced me to stop," Wilner quoted Odah as telling him.   "They stopped it through torture."

    Pentagon officials said the number of hunger strikers had dropped to four.

    Officials have been forcefeeding detainees since August, but they started leaving the long nasal tubes in place in September after detainees complained that having them jammed down their noses to their stomachs and removed twice a day caused intense pain, bleeding, vomiting and fainting, Wilner said.

    In January, he said, after harsh treatment resumed and hunger strikers were left strapped in the restraint chair in their own excretions, most gave up their protest.

    Brutality purposely applied

    "It is clear that the government used force to end the hunger strike," Wilner said.   "It was brutality purposely applied to them to make them stop."

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed Odah's allegations Thursday.

    "Well, yes, we know that Al Qaeda is trained in trying to make wild accusations and so forth," McClellan said in response to a question about Odah.   "But the president has made it very clear what the policy is, and we expect the policy to be followed.   And he's made it very clear that we do not condone torture, and we do not engage in torture."

    Wilner said Odah had not been accused of being part of Al Qaeda.

    The International Red Cross is the only party allowed by the U.S. government to have access to prisoners and monitor their physical and mental health, but the organization is forbidden from making its findings public.

    The five U.N. envoys are independent experts appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to examine arbitrary detention, torture, the independence of judges and lawyers, freedom of religion, and the right to physical and mental health.

    The five had each been following the situation at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in January 2002.

    They decided in June 2004 to do a joint report and asked the U.S. government for access to all detention centers.

    "This report is not aimed at criticizing," Nowak said.   "It is looking at what international human rights law says about Guantanamo.   We are hoping that this report will actually strengthen the dialogue."

    Staff writer Richard Serrano in Washington contributed to this report.

    Doing Unto Others

    By M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks
    The New York Times

    Washington — How did American interrogation tactics after 9/11 come to include abuse rising to the level of torture?

    Much has been said about the illegality of these tactics, but the strategic error that led to their adoption has been overlooked.

    The Pentagon effectively signed off on a strategy that mimics Red Army methods.   But those tactics were not only inhumane, they were ineffective.   For Communist interrogators, truth was beside the point: their aim was to force compliance to the point of false confession.

    Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture.

    That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, NC, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

    The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods.

    At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantánamo went "up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques" for "high-profile, high-value" detainees.

    General Hill had sent this list — which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees' phobias — to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.

    Some within the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, but a top adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to their use in SERE training, a senior Pentagon official told us last month.

    When internal FBI e-mail messages critical of these methods were made public earlier this year, references to SERE were redacted.

    Less-redacted version

    But we've obtained a less-redacted version of an e-mail exchange among FBI officials, who refer to the methods as "SERE techniques."

    We also learned from a Pentagon official that the SERE program's chief psychologist, Col. Morgan Banks, issued guidance in early 2003 for the "behavioral science consultants" who helped to devise Guantánamo's interrogation strategy (we've been unable to learn the content of that guidance).

    SERE methods are classified, but the program's principles are known.

    It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning.

    Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life's most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners.

    Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem.

    Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued.

    Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the "confessions" they sought.

    SERE, as originally envisioned, inoculates American soldiers against these techniques.   Its psychologists create mock prison regimens to study the effects of various tactics and identify the coping styles most likely to withstand them.

    At Guantánamo, SERE-trained mental health professionals applied this knowledge to detainees, working with guards and medical personnel to uncover resistant prisoners' vulnerabilities.

    "We know if you've been despondent; we know if you've been homesick," General Hill said.   "That is given to interrogators and that helps the interrogators make their plans."

    Within the SERE program, abuse is carefully controlled, with the goal of teaching trainees to cope.

    But under combat conditions, brutal tactics can't be dispassionately "dosed."

    Fear, fury and loyalty to fellow soldiers facing mortal danger make limits almost impossible to sustain.

    By bringing SERE tactics and the Guantánamo model onto the battlefield, the Pentagon opened a Pandora's box of potential abuse.

    On Nov. 26, 2003, for example, an Iraqi major general, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, was forced into a sleeping bag, then asphyxiated by his American interrogators.

    Sleeping bag technique

    We've obtained a memorandum from one of these interrogators — a former SERE trainer — who cites command authorization of "stress positions" as justification for using what he called "the sleeping bag technique."

    "A cord," he explained, "was used to limit movement within the bag and help bring on claustrophobic conditions."

    In SERE, he said, this was called close confinement and could be "very effective."

    Those who squirmed or screamed in the sleeping bag, he said, were "allowed out as soon as they start to provide information."

    Three soldiers have been ordered to stand trial on murder charges in General Mowhoush's death.

    Yet the Pentagon cannot point to any intelligence gains resulting from the techniques that have so tarnished America's image.

    That's because the techniques designed by communist interrogators were created to control a prisoner's will rather than to extract useful intelligence.

    A full account of how our leaders reacted to terrorism by re-engineering Red Army methods must await an independent inquiry.

    But the SERE model's embrace by the Pentagon's civilian leaders is further evidence that abuse tantamount to torture was national policy, not merely the product of rogue freelancers.

    After the shock of 9/11 — when Americans desperately wanted mastery over a world that suddenly seemed terrifying — this policy had visceral appeal.

    But it's the task of command authority to connect means and ends rationally.

    The Bush administration has too frequently failed to do this.

    And so it is urgent that Congress step in to tie our detainee policy to our national interest.

    M. Gregg Bloche is a law professor at Georgetown University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Jonathan H. Marks, a barrister in London, is a bioethics fellow at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.

          The New York Times       Monday 14 November 2005      

    "We are the priests of power ", he said. "God is power.  But at present power is only a word so far as you are concerned.

    It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means.

    The first thing you must realize is that power is collective.

    The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual.

    You know the Party slogan: "Freedom is Slavery".  Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible?  Slavery is freedom.

    Alone — free — the human being is always defeated.

    It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures.

    But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal.

    The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings.

    Over the body but, above all, over the mind.

    Power over matter — external reality, as you would call it — is not important.

    Already our control over matter is absolute."

          George Orwell 1984      

    The military trains people to withstand interrogation.
    Are those methods being misused at Guantánamo?
    Issue of 2005-07-11 and 18
    Posted 2005-07-04

    On a steamy morning last month, as Congress was debating the treatment of the approximately five hundred terrorist suspects being held inside the United States-run military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a small delegation of American officials led a tour through one of the prison camp’s empty cellblocks.   The International Committee of the Red Cross has made inspections of the site, the results of which it keeps confidential, and a few dozen American lawyers have had limited visits with detainees.   Yet most of the prisoners, who come from some forty countries, have been held virtually incommunicado, without legal charges, for three and a half years.

    The cellblock, which had been fashioned from steel shipping crates, resembled a horse barn.   Six-foot-by-eight-foot cells, with walls and doors of metal mesh, stood in two facing rows.   The cells were protected by a low metal roof but were open to the tropical air.   Each door featured a narrow slot, at waist height, through which meals and other items could be handed to detainees, and handcuffs and belly chains could be secured.   The first cell on the right was laid out like a display model, with neatly folded prison garb and an array of what the officials called “comfort items”—awarded to detainees for good behavior, or confiscated as punishment.   Among these luxuries was a roll of toilet paper.   The cell was furnished with a thin plastic-covered mattress on a metal slab; a metal sink; a metal toilet; and a surgical mask, which could be hung from the wall, allowing a detainee to store a small Koran inside it.

    “I’d be proud to let the media see anything in this camp,” Colonel Mike Bumgarner, the commander of the Joint Detention Operations Group, the military unit that oversees the daily handling of detainees, said.   “I’d gladly invite the world in to see our guards in action.   I’m very proud of what they do.   They treat the detainees humanely.”   Meals, he said, were excellent.   “They get honey-glazed chicken and rice pilaf.   They get lemon-baked fish.”   He noted that some detainees don’t like to have their vegetables touching their meat: “So we serve them separately, in little Styrofoam clamshells, like the ones you get at a fast-food restaurant.”   He went on, “We have to be like the parents here.   In loco parentis.   That’s how we look at it.   It’s like a big family.”

    As we reached the end of the cellblock, hysterical shouts, in broken English, erupted from a caged exercise area nearby.   “Come here!” a man screamed.   “See here! They are liars!” He was middle-aged, with a full beard and skinny bow legs, and wore an orange shirt and shorts.   (“Privileged”—that is, coöperative—detainees wear white or beige uniforms.)   “No sleep!” he yelled.   “No food! No medicine! No doctor! Everybody sick here!” A soldier near the detainee began ferociously signalling to the officials leading the tour to usher me out.   As I was leaving, the detainee pointed to his own cellblock, which was off limits to journalists, and screamed, “They are liars! Liars! Liars!”

    “His English is pretty good,” one official joked wanly.

    The military officials who run the Guantánamo prison maintain that almost all of the detainees’ charges are untrue.   A training manual written by Al Qaeda leaders, which is known as the Manchester Manual, because a copy of it was confiscated during a 2000 raid in England, counsels Islamists to “complain of mistreatment while in prison” and say that “torture was inflicted on them.”   Bumgarner said, “They are trained to make false accusations.   It’s part of their P.R.”

    Brigadier General Jay W. Hood, the top commander of the camp, has worked to improve administrative control since taking over, in March, 2004.   He has implemented random inspections of the cellblocks, to insure that “standard operating procedures” are being followed, and he has banished regular “cavity searches” for detainees.   Lawyers and human-rights workers say that detainees are being treated less harshly, although their mental state continues to deteriorate.   In an interview, Hood said that there have been “no demonstrated or consistent trends of abuse” inside Guantánamo, and “certainly nothing rising to the level of torture.”   From the beginning, however, the Guantánamo Bay prison camp was conceived by the Bush Administration as a place that could operate outside the system of national and international laws that normally govern the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody.   Soon after September 11th, the Administration argued that the Guantánamo site, which America had been leasing from the Cuban government since 1903, was not bound by the Geneva Conventions.   Moreover, the Administration claimed that terrorist suspects detained at the site were not ordinary criminals or prisoners of war; rather, they would be classified under a new rubric, “unlawful combatants.”   This new class of suspects would be tried not in U.S. courts but in military tribunals, the Administration announced.   In February, 2002, President Bush issued a broad directive that required American troops to treat detainees “humanely,” in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions, within the limits of “military necessity.”   A year later, he explicitly denounced the use of torture.

    Urinated through a ventilation shaft

    A series of internal Department of Defense investigations found what General Hood described as “isolated cases where individuals hadn’t followed standard operating procedures.”   Many of the incidents addressed by the Pentagon had been widely reported in the media, making the camp a focus of international outrage.   In one case, a female interrogator, attempting to unsettle a Muslim detainee, smeared fake menstrual blood on him.   And on five separate occasions Korans were defiled; one soldier urinated through a ventilation shaft, splashing the text—accidentally, according to the Pentagon.   (This spring, Newsweek reported that military investigators had evidence that guards at Guantánamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet.   The Bush Administration adamantly denied the charge, and, ultimately, the magazine admitted that it did not have sufficient sourcing to stand by the story.)   In each acknowledged case of impropriety at Guantánamo, Hood stressed, the transgressors had been reprimanded, but he doubted that their actions could be said to “rise to the level of abuse.”  

    Last year, Vice-Admiral Albert T. Church III was appointed by the Pentagon to investigate the problem of detainee abuse.   This spring, he released a three-hundred-and-sixty-eight-page report, most of which remains classified.   In an unclassified section, Church concluded that there was “no link between approved interrogation techniques and detainee abuse.”   When cruelties did occur, the report claimed, they were rare mishaps, the result of combat stress, insufficient oversight, or a “breakdown of good order and discipline.”

    Systematic effort — medical and scientific personnel playing role

    Yet a number of critics, including human-rights officials, detainees’ lawyers, and others with knowledge of the inner workings of the detention center, believe that the problems at Guantánamo are the result of a more systematic effort.   The strange accounts of torment that have steadily emerged, these critics say, are connected to decades of research by American scientists into the psychological nature of warfare and captivity.   The research, which began during the Cold War, developed new currency after September 11th, when the Bush Administration declared a global war on terror and began trying to extract intelligence from radical Islamists, many of whom have been trained not to reveal anything about their activities.   Since 2001, the critics say, medical and scientific personnel have played a role, largely hidden, in helping to design and monitor interrogations that are intended to exploit the physical and mental vulnerabilities of detainees.   According to a former interrogator at Guantánamo who was interviewed at length by a lawyer, behavioral scientists control the most minute details of interrogations, to the point of decreeing, in the case of one detainee, that he would be given seven squares of toilet paper per day.

    Profoundly, deeply unethical — human experiment, measured and charted

    “It is both illegal and deeply unethical to use techniques that profoundly disrupt someone’s personality,” Leonard S. Rubenstein, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, an advocacy group that has been critical of the Bush Administration, says.   “But that’s precisely what interrogators are doing, in order to try to get people to talk.”

    Baher Azmy, a professor at Seton Hall Law School, in Newark, New Jersey, represents a Guantánamo detainee named Murat Kurnaz, a twenty-three-year-old Turkish citizen who was born in Germany.   Kurnaz, who was apprehended while on a trip to Pakistan, has been detained in Guantánamo since 2002.   Azmy told me that Kurnaz has complained of being sexually taunted by female interrogators who, he said, offered to have sex with him in exchange for giving information.   When one woman began embracing him from behind, Kurnaz said, he turned and head-butted her.   According to Kurnaz, he was then beaten by members of the Initial Reaction Forces, a military-police squad that patrols the cellblocks.   Kurnaz claimed that he was made to lie on the floor, with his hands cuffed behind his back, for nearly a day.   He also told Azmy that he was threatened with starvation and forcibly injected with unknown and debilitating drugs.   (All of Kurnaz’s charges have been denied by U.S. authorities.)   Azmy told me, “These psychological gambits are obviously not isolated events.   They’re prevalent and systematic.   They’re tried, measured, and charted.   These are ways to humiliate and disorient the detainees.   The whole place appears to be one giant human experiment.”

    Blocked detainees’ medical records — contravention of all national and international norms and laws

    Concrete evidence of the medical and psychological mistreatment of detainees is all but impossible to obtain, in part because the Justice Department, in contravention of all national and international norms, has repeatedly blocked attempts by lawyers to get copies of detainees’ medical records.   “Prisoners, even terrorists, have the right to their medical records, according to federal laws, common laws, the American Medical Association, and court trials,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, says.   In an interview at Guantánamo Bay, Dr. John S. Edmondson, a Navy captain who oversees the facility’s medical command, denied that he had refused to turn over medical records.   “I believe we’ve complied with the requests that have reached me,” he said.   A respect for confidentiality, he said, prevented him from specifying the names of detainees whose medical records he had released.   Yet Rob Kirsch, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Hale, who represents six Guantánamo detainees, provided me with a file of letters from the Justice Department denying him access to his clients’ medical records, even though he had obtained waivers from the clients authorizing their records to be released to him.   “They still wouldn’t let us see the records,” he said.   Kirsch contends that at Guantánamo medical care is sometimes withheld or dispensed depending on a detainee’s willingness to talk to interrogators.

    Hand now severely misshapen

    All his clients, he said, have made this complaint, despite having had no opportunity to talk to one another.   One of his clients, Mustafa Ait Idir, was deemed resistant by guards, and they allegedly broke two of his fingers; Idir was not allowed to see a doctor after the incident, Kirsch said, and his hand is now severely misshapen.   (Kirsch visited Idir at Guantánamo several times after the hand was damaged.)   All six of Kirsch’s clients have requested dental care to no avail.   One client’s teeth were so damaged that he was unable to eat regular food; after dental treatment was withheld, the prisoner requested a soft-food diet, which tasted so bad that he lost forty pounds.   Edmondson denied that care had been deliberately withheld from any detainee.   He also denied that medical professionals under his command had colluded with interrogators.

    Medics under Edmondson’s command routinely violated codes of medical ethics

    “Hit him around the eye, not in the eye”

    Scott Sullivan, a lawyer at Allen & Overy, a firm that represents eleven detainees from Yemen, alleged that medics under Edmondson’s command routinely violated codes of medical ethics.   For example, medics supervised the beating of one of his clients, Saeed Abdullah Sarim, he said.   After Sarim was hit repeatedly in the face, an English-speaking detainee nearby allegedly told him that a medic had tried to calibrate the abuse, saying, “Hit him around the eye, not in the eye.”   After the beating, according to a report compiled by Sullivan’s firm, Sarim asked a nurse for stitches.   The nurse, Sarim said in the report, “did not answer me and did not treat the wound.”

    No records or reports of this allegation

    Another client of Sullivan’s, Abdul Aziz al-Swidi, claimed to have been interrogated by a psychiatrist, who allegedly showed him a picture of a telephone and asked him what it was.   When Swidi answered that it was a telephone, the psychiatrist angrily responded, “It’s not a telephone—it’s a bomb!” Swidi was shown other images and asked to identify them, and each time he was told that his answer was wrong.   The goal of the exercise, Sullivan believes, was to make Swidi think that he was going crazy.   (“We have no records or reports of this allegation,” a Guantánamo spokesman said.)

    National-security concerns justify breaching of detainee’s medical confidentiality

    Last month, a report in the Times said that doctors at Guantánamo had provided interrogators with information from some detainees’ medical records.   In one case, interrogators were told that a detainee had a profound fear of the dark, and ways were suggested to exploit this phobia, in order to break down the detainee’s resistance to questioning.   Also last month, an article in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that a military policy statement instructed caregivers at Guantánamo to offer clinical information to interrogation teams on request.   And last year a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, parts of which were leaked to the Washington Post, charged that doctors consulted detainee medical records to help interrogators, in a “flagrant violation of medical ethics.”   Edmondson said that the Red Cross’s charges were wrong, but he added that national-security concerns might sometimes justify the breaching of a detainee’s medical confidentiality.

    The role of physicians, who take the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm,” is ethically complicated in wartime.   Doctors are often described as having “dual loyalties,” to patients and to country.   But at the Nuremberg trials, after the Second World War, revulsion at Nazi atrocities led to the establishment of rules barring medical mistreatment, even for reasons of national security.   A section of the 1950 Geneva Convention, for example, states that “no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned.”   In 1962, the U.S. passed the first law requiring doctors to obtain “informed consent” from patients.   And in 1975 the World Medical Association, or W.M.A., issued the Declaration of Tokyo, which barred medical personnel from participation in either torture or abuse, even as monitors.   The American Medical Association is a member of the W.M.A., which means that U.S. doctors must follow its ethical standards.

    Scientific and medical personnel not directly responsible for patient’s care may take part in interrogations

    In June, the Pentagon released a new set of formal ethical guidelines, titled “Medical Program Principles and Procedures for the Protection and Treatment of Detainees in the Custody of the Armed Forces of the United States.”   The document, which was issued by Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, stresses the importance of upholding “the humane treatment of detainees.”   It states that “health-care personnel charged with the medical care of detainees” cannot participate in interrogations.   In this phrase is embedded a troubling loophole, however: scientific and medical personnel who are not directly responsible for a patient’s care may take part in interrogations.   Leonard Rubenstein, of Physicians for Human Rights, argues that “the Administration has basically given a green light for medical personnel to participate in abuse.”

    State-of-the-art hospital

    Winkenwerder, who formerly worked in the insurance industry, argues that most of the detainees have never received better care than they have been getting at Guantánamo.   The Pentagon, he told me, took extraordinary pains to insure that detainees were treated in compliance with medical ethics and American values, and he presented statistics showing that last year Guantánamo detainees got more frequent medical treatment than most Americans.   A state-of-the-art field hospital had been set up on the periphery of the prison camp, he said, and trained Navy medical corpsmen checked on the detainees’ health and welfare three times a week.   “A lot of good people are being besmirched by these stories,” he said, referring to media reports that have described abuses of detainees at Guantánamo.

    Winkenwerder did acknowledge, however, that a number of medical and scientific personnel working at Guantánamo—including psychologists and psychiatrists—are not providing care for detainees.   Rather, these “non-treating” professionals have been using their skills to “assist the interrogators,” as he put it.


    People working in this advisory capacity are members of what are called Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or bscts.   (In military jargon, the teams are known as “Biscuits.”)   In past wars, the U.S. military has used health-care consultants for therapeutic purposes, to evaluate the combat readiness of soldiers with psychological or physiological problems, and to provide soldiers with counselling and psychotropic drugs.   But Major General Geoffrey D. Miller—who commanded the Guantánamo Bay detention center between November, 2002, and March, 2004, and who was then sent by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to manage Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq—established a new role for health-care advisers.   “These teams, comprised of operational behavioral psychologists and psychiatrists, are essential in developing integrated interrogation strategies and assessing interrogation intelligence production,” Miller explained in an internal report in September, 2003.

    Winkenwerder told me that bsct members are not under his command; rather, they fall under military intelligence.   He said that he knew little about the program’s daily operations but had heard that a number of bsct psychologists and psychiatrists had received specialized training.   “It’s connected to some military acronym,” he said.   “Something to do with Survival and Evasion.”


    Winkenwerder was referring to a Pentagon-funded program known as sere, which stands for “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape.”   SERE was created by the Air Force, at the end of the Korean War, to teach pilots and other personnel considered at high risk of being captured by enemy forces how to withstand and resist extreme forms of abuse.   After the Vietnam War, the program was expanded to the Army and the Navy.   Most details of the program’s curriculum are classified.

    Each branch of the military now has its own version of sere training.   The flagship program is conducted by the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Green Berets train.   There are several levels of sere courses; one, Level C, includes a gruelling exercise in which trainees endure days of physical and psychological hardship inside a mock prisoner-of-war camp.

    This spring, I spoke at length with several people familiar with the sere programs, including a longtime affiliate.   According to these sources, a small number of psychologists and other clinicians oversee the sere program at Fort Bragg.   The supervisors discreetly check on trainees’ progress at frequent intervals, keeping extensive charts and records of their behavior and medical status.   Numerous experiments aimed at documenting trainees’ stress levels have been conducted by sere-affiliated scientists.   By analyzing blood and saliva, they have charted fluctuations in trainees’ level of cortisol, a stress hormone, and these data have been used to understand what inspires maximum anxiety in the trainees.

    Storehouse of knowledge for coercive methods of interrogation

    The theory behind the sere program is that soldiers who are exposed to nightmarish treatment during training will be better equipped to deal with such terrors should they face them in the real world.   Accordingly, the program is a storehouse of knowledge about coercive methods of interrogation.   One way to stimulate acute anxiety, sere scientists have learned, is to create an environment of radical uncertainty: trainees are hooded; their sleep patterns are disrupted; they are starved for extended periods; they are stripped of their clothes; they are exposed to extreme temperatures; and they are subjected to harsh interrogations by officials impersonating enemy captors.   (Colonel Hans Bush, a spokesman at Fort Bragg, declined to “disclose the details of the specific challenges our students face.”)   Research in social psychology has shown that a person’s capacity for “self-regulation”—the ability to moderate or control his own behavior—can be substantially undermined in situations of high anxiety.   If, for instance, a prisoner of war is trying to avoid revealing secrets to enemy interrogators, he is much less likely to succeed if he has been deprived of sleep or is struggling to ignore intense pain.

    U.S. psychologists began advising interrogators at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere

    According to the sere affiliate and two other sources familiar with the program, after September 11th several psychologists versed in sere techniques began advising interrogators at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere.   Some of these psychologists essentially “tried to reverse-engineer” the sere program, as the affiliate put it.   “They took good knowledge and used it in a bad way,” another of the sources said.   Interrogators and bsct members at Guantánamo adopted coercive techniques similar to those employed in the sere program.   Ideas intended to help Americans resist abuse spread to Americans who used them to perpetrate abuse.   Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia, is a scholar of state-sponsored experiments on humans.   He says, “If you know how to help people who are stressed, then you also know how to stress people, in order to get them to talk.”

    Carol Darby, a spokeswoman at Fort Bragg, said that the sere program has not deviated from its original purpose.   In an e-mail, she wrote, “sere training is not designed and it does not teach anyone how to interrogate individuals.   Students who go through sere are taught methods to resist interrogation techniques that may be used against them; they are taught how to respond when they are on the receiving end of interrogation.”

    Yet many of the interrogation methods used in sere training seem to have been applied at Guantánamo.   One component of the training program, called the “religious dilemma,” parallels Guantánamo detainees’ chronic complaints about Koran abuse.   At sere, trainees in the Level C course are given the choice of seeing a Bible desecrated or revealing secrets to interrogators.   “They are challenging your faith,” the sere affiliate explained.   “The Holy Book is torn up.   They say they’ll stop if you talk.   Sometimes they rip the Bible and throw it in the air.”   The goal is to make detainees react emotionally to the desecration.   Some trainees who are devout Christians become profoundly disturbed during the exercise.

    Reminded of his experiences during sere training simulations

    In May, an e-mail written by a graduate of the sere program was posted on Informed Comment, the blog of Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, who is critical of the Bush Administration.   The e-mail, which was anonymous, asserted, “Gitmo must be being used as a ‘laboratory’ for all these psychological manipulation techniques.”   Cole provided me with contact information for the sere graduate, and I spoke on the phone with him.   He confirmed his identity, but said that he wished to remain anonymous, fearing that his comments about the program might have legal repercussions.

    The sere graduate explained that he had attended Army Ranger school, and had served on active duty in the Marines for eleven years, part of the time as an intelligence officer.   In 1999, he attended the Navy’s sere training program in Coronado, California.   He told me that the program had been “very professionally run.”   But, he said, when he read about the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo he was reminded of his experiences during sere training simulations.

    On the blog, the graduate offered a detailed account of a sere training exercise.   (He confirmed the account’s details with me.)   He wrote, “One of the most memorable parts of the camp experience was when one of the camp leaders trashed a Bible on the ground, kicking it around, etc.   It was a crushing blow, even though this was just a school.”

    The graduate wrote that his experience with the “Bible trashing” took place “towards the end of the camp experience, which was 2-3 days of captivity.”   He continued:

    We were penned in concrete cell blocks about 4' x 4' x 4'—told to kneel, but allowed to squat or sit.   There was no door, just a flap that could be let down if it was too cold outside (which it was).   Each trainee was interrogated to some extent, all experienced some physical interrogation such as pushing, shoving, getting slammed against a wall (usually a large metal sheet set up so that it would not seriously injure trainees), with some actually water-boarded (not me).

    The Bible trashing was done by one of the top-ranked leaders of the camp, who was always giving us speeches—sort of “making it real” so to speak, because it is a pretty contrived environment.   But by the end it almost seemed real.   Guards spoke English with a Russian accent, wore Russian-looking uniforms.   So the Bible trashing happened when this guy had us all in the courtyard sitting for one of his speeches.   They were tempting us with a big pot of soup that was boiling—we were all starving from a few days of chow deprivation.   He brought out the Bible and started going off on it verbally—how it was worthless, we were forsaken by this God, etc.   Then he threw it on the ground and kicked it around.   It was definitely the climax of his speech.   Then he kicked over the soup pot, and threw us back in the cells.   Big climax.   And psychologically it was crushing and heartbreaking, and then we were left isolated to contemplate this.
    The sere graduate, who is religious, said that the repeated mistreatment of the Koran at Guantánamo was “sickening” and “immoral.”   Referring to the interrogators there, he said, “They have turned the whole world against us.”

    The graduate’s claim that waterboarding took place at the Navy’s sere school was confirmed by the sere affiliate.   Waterboarding is intended to simulate drowning and asphyxiation.   Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top Al Qaeda operative who was apprehended in Pakistan in 2003, has reportedly been subjected to it.   (It is unknown if the technique yielded useful intelligence.)   In the version used in the Navy’s sere training program, the affiliate said, the student is bound to an inclined board, his feet higher than his head.   A stream of water is then slowly poured up his nose.   In sere training, the technique is highly controlled to prevent serious physical harm (although the trainees don’t sense this).   There is a strict limit of only a few cups of water per student.   As an extra precaution, the trainees do jumping jacks first, to elevate their heart rate, which enables them to hold their breath for long periods during the ordeal.

    Taped loops

    Another sere technique that has apparently surfaced at Guantánamo is the use of “noise stress.”   The sere affiliate told me that trainees often think that the interrogation portion of the program will be the most gruelling, but in fact for many trainees the worst moment is when they are made to listen to taped loops of cacophonous sounds.   One of the most stress-inducing tapes is a recording of babies crying inconsolably.   Another is a Yoko Ono album.   Detainees at Guantánamo have reportedly been subjected to blaring audiotapes of loud music, cats meowing, and human infants wailing.

    Critics also allege that the sere program has become a testing ground for interrogation techniques involving sexual embarrassment and humiliation.   (Detainees at Guantánamo have complained of such methods, and the scandal at Abu Ghraib last year revealed that guards there photographed prisoners naked and in sexually humiliating poses.)   A former military-intelligence officer who was familiar with practices at Guantánamo told me that a friend who had gone through Level C sere training, which lasts three weeks, said that he had been sexually ridiculed by females during the program.   “They strip you naked and make you do work while women laugh at the size of your ‘junk,’ ” the intelligence officer told me.   “Apparently, it’s very humiliating.”   The sere affiliate described another disturbing training technique: the “mock rape.”   In this exercise, a female officer stands behind a screen and screams as if she were being violated.   A trainee is told that he can stop the rape if he coöperates with his captors.

    Bscts — these psychiatrists and psychologists from Fort Bragg

    Erik Saar is a former Army intelligence analyst at Guantánamo and the author of “Inside the Wire,” published in May, which first disclosed the interrogation incident involving fake menstrual blood.   He told me that the perpetrator of this particular form of abuse might have come up with the idea herself.   But he said that the notion of using sexual gambits to unnerve detainees was promoted by “the bscts, who were these psychiatrists and psychologists from Fort Bragg.”   He went on, “The bscts would help interrogators strategize about what techniques to use, and where someone would be vulnerable, and what the best ways to manipulate them would be.   Sex, I believe, came from the bscts.   I have a hard time thinking it was a couple of rogue interrogators, if that’s what the Army says, because it was very systematic.   It wasn’t hidden.”

    Israeli flag draped around him

    The manipulation of national flags for psychological effect is another element of sere training.   The mock captors create psychological stress in trainees by mutilating and burning the American flag, in a procedure known as the “flag dilemma.”   This technique also has echoes in the experience of detainees at Guantánamo.   The American Civil Liberties Union recently revealed the contents of a confidential e-mail written by an F.B.I. agent stationed in Guantánamo to his superiors.   It describes a detainee “sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing.”   Marc Falkoff, a lawyer defending several Guantánamo detainees, informed me of another flag incident.   According to Falkoff’s clients, a mass suicide attempt at Guantánamo, in August, 2003, in which two dozen or so detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves, was provoked by instances of Koran mistreatment—including one in which the text was allegedly wrapped inside an Israeli flag and stomped on.

    Enjoy using manipulative techniques

    Although the sere affiliate said that many of the program’s officials were careful and dedicated people, he said that “some of the folks” associated with the program seemed to enjoy using manipulative techniques.   “They’d play these very aggressive roles, week after week,” he said.   “It can be very seductive.”   Although there is no scientific basis for believing that coercive interrogation methods work better than less aggressive ones, the affiliate said that some of the sere psychologists he knew believed that to get someone to talk “you have to hurt that person.”

    Most people like power

    Retired Army Colonel Patrick Lang, who was both a Special Forces officer and a Defense Intelligence Agency expert on the Middle East, told me that he had attended a sere school as part of Special Forces training, and had found the experience disconcerting:  “Once, I was on the other side of the exercise, acting as captor and interrogator,” he said.   “If you did too much of that stuff, you could really get to like it.   You can manipulate people.   And most people like power.   I’ve seen some of these doctors and psychologists and psychiatrists who really think they know how to do this.   But it’s very easy to go too far.”

    It is not yet possible to pinpoint when ideas from the sere program began to influence interrogations of terrorist suspects.   But, as early as March, 2002, James Mitchell, a psychologist formerly affiliated with sere, appeared inside an interrogation room where the C.I.A. was holding a “high-value” Al Qaeda suspect.   (The interrogation took place at an undisclosed location.)   Mitchell worked for years as a sere administrator.   In an interview, he said that he is now a private contractor and does not currently work with the Department of Defense.   Asked if he has worked with the C.I.A., conducting interrogations, he said, “If that was true, I couldn’t say anything about it.”   (A press officer at the C.I.A. also declined to comment on Mitchell.)

    Treated like dogs in classic behavioral-psychology experiment — “learned helplessness”

    According to a counter-terrorism expert familiar with the interrogation of the Al Qaeda suspect, Mitchell announced that the suspect needed to be subjected to rougher methods.   The man should be treated like the dogs in a classic behavioral-psychology experiment, he said, referring to studies performed in the nineteen-sixties by Martin Seligman and other graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.   The dogs were placed in harnesses and given electric shocks that they could not avoid; they were then released into pens and shocked again, but this time they were given a chance to escape the punishment.   Most of them, Seligman observed, passively accepted the shocks.   They had lapsed into a condition that he called “learned helplessness.”   The suspect’s resistance, Mitchell was apparently saying, could be overcome by inducing a similar sense of futility.   (Seligman, now a psychology professor at Penn, has spoken at a sere school about his dog research.)

    Like using torture

    Mitchell’s position was opposed by the counter-terrorism expert, who had not spent time at a sere school.   He reminded Mitchell that he was dealing with human beings, not dogs.   According to the expert, Mitchell replied that the experiments were good science.   The expert recalled making the argument that the U.S. should not “do things that our enemies do, like using torture.”   When asked about this incident, Mitchell confirmed that he admired Seligman’s research.   He declined to comment on any interrogations that he might have taken part in, though he added, “I don’t have anything to hide.”

    Sere backgrounds

    Another scientist connected to sere, Colonel Louie (Morgan) Banks, a senior Army psychologist who is an administrator of the program, has played a significant advisory role in interrogations at Guantánamo Bay.   He has recommended that the psychologists working with the bscts in Guantánamo have sere backgrounds.   In an interview, Banks said, “I do go down to Guantánamo occasionally.   I have provided assistance.”   He said that he saw no problem with psychologists helping in interrogations, “as long as they don’t break the law.”   Asked to provide details of his consulting work, he said, “I just don’t remember any particular cases.   I just consulted generally on what approaches to take.   It was about what human behavior in captivity is like.”

    People flipping it

    Banks emphatically denied that he had advocated the use of sere counter-resistance techniques to break down detainees.   When asked about the similarities that have emerged between sere training methods and interrogation practices at Guantánamo, he replied, “I’m not saying people don’t do some stupid things sometimes.   Some people who received sere training may have sometimes done things they shouldn’t because they misunderstood what the training was about.   I’m not going to tell you it didn’t happen.   I can’t say that someone didn’t say, ‘Hey, let’s try waterboarding’ because they’d seen it at sere.”   In fact, the problem was pervasive enough so that, last year, Banks introduced a new requirement at sere: graduates must sign a statement promising not to apply the program’s counter-resistance methods to U.S.-held detainees.   “We did this when we learned people were flipping it,” he said.

    Spent four months at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

    Banks has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi.   A biographical statement for an American Psychological Association task force on psychological ethics and national security, which Banks serves on, mentions that he “provides technical support and consultation to all Army psychologists providing interrogation support.”   It also notes that, starting in November, 2001, Banks was detailed to Afghanistan, where he spent four months at Bagram Airfield, “supporting combat operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.”   In an interview at Guantánamo Bay, General Hood spoke warmly of Banks.   “He is a very bright guy,” the General said.   “He’s very qualified.   He has assisted in offering assessments on several of our detainees.”

    Esteban Rodriguez, a Cuban-American civilian who has overseen the interrogation program at Guantánamo since July, 2003, as director of the Joint Intelligence Group, told me that Banks had been a valuable adviser, particularly on the subject of “resistance” to interrogation.   “I talk to him all the time,” Rodriguez told me in his office at Guantánamo.   “He’s a very good man.”

    One detainee vowed, if he got out, to slit Rodriguez’s throat

    Rodriguez has had twenty-six years of experience in the field of interrogation.   In the nineteen-eighties, he worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and was stationed in Berlin, where he debriefed émigrés from East Germany.   In comparison with the Cold War, he said, the war against terrorism seems confusing and uncivilized.   “You don’t know who the enemy is,” he said.   Speaking of Guantánamo, he said, “There are some very dangerous people here.”   One detainee vowed, if he ever got out, to slit Rodriguez’s throat.   Rodriguez told me that a number of sere psychologists had been helpful to the bscts at Guantánamo.   “The sere people have learned the psychology of what prisoners of war go through,” he said.   As a result, he said, “they may have advice, and be able to see certain things going on, such as if this person has been trained in how to avoid interrogation.”   In such cases, he said, sere officials can offer valuable advice on “how to use different tactics.”

    Rodriguez declined to say what kinds of “different tactics” were used on detainees.   He emphasized that with most prisoners his interrogators simply tried to use what he called “the direct approach,” in order to “build rapport.”   He said that during his tenure waterboarding had never been used “on this island.”

    We do use additional tactics

    Sex, Rodriguez said, was never offered as an enticement to detainees, but he sometimes used women interrogators, who acted as surrogates for wives and mothers.   “It’s about finding ways to build rapport,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t rule out coercion.   It just has to be the individual cases.”   He estimated that there had been twenty-eight thousand interrogations since Guantánamo opened.   Of these, he guessed that “ten to twenty per cent” involved tactics other than just talking.   “We do use additional tactics,” he acknowledged.   “I have a few tools left in my arsenal.   I hate to discuss them.”   He winked.   “Nothing to do with coercion or fear.”

    Rodriguez told me that only a quarter of the detainees hold any intelligence interest for him at this point.   The rest, he said, are no longer being interrogated.   Even these detainees, however, could remain incarcerated indefinitely.   The Pentagon considers many of them to be security threats.

    List of techniques our lawyers looked at, [and] said were O.K.

    Rodriguez would not reveal which cases sere psychologists had been directly involved in.   However, one clue has emerged.   On June 3, 2004, General James T. Hill, of the U.S. Southern Command, held a press conference at which he mentioned how interrogators at Guantánamo had tried to break an especially resistant, and presumably important, detainee.   (The detainee’s name was not made public.)   The detainee, he explained, “had been trained in resistance techniques and was using them.”   To get him to talk, Hill said, officials at Guantánamo looked for expert help in counter-resistance.   He said, “The staff at Guantánamo, working with behavioral scientists, having gone up to our sere school, developed a list of techniques which our lawyers decided and looked at, [and] said were O.K.   I sent that list of techniques up to the Secretary”—Rumsfeld—“and said, in order for us to get at some of these very high-profile, high-value targets who are resistant to techniques, I may need greater flexibility.”

    Frustrated by inability to elicit useful information from him

    Hill, who retired in January, could not be reached for comment.   A source familiar with the episode that Hill was describing says that the detainee in question was No. 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was captured in Afghanistan and is reputedly the missing “twentieth hijacker” in the September 11th conspiracy—the plotter who failed to board the United Airlines plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.   But by the summer of 2002 military interrogators were reportedly frustrated by their inability to elicit useful information from him.

    Documents related to interrogation practices that were released by the Administration last year show that in October, 2002, Guantánamo officials asked the Pentagon for permission to use several harsh interrogation techniques on highly resistant detainees, including isolation, sensory deprivation, removal of clothing, hooding, exploitation of the detainee’s phobias (such as a fear of dogs) to induce stress, and “scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family.”   The officials also requested permission to use waterboarding.

    Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits U.S. forces from engaging in “cruelty,” “maltreatment,” or “oppression” of prisoners

    In a memo to General Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hill wrote that he was “uncertain whether all the techniques” were “legal.”   He expressed concern that some of them might violate the federal statute against torture.   Another obvious obstacle was the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits U.S. forces from engaging in “cruelty,” “maltreatment,” or “oppression” of prisoners, and bars both physical assault and threats of injury.

    “Immunity” from command authorities in advance

    Pentagon lawyers, however, tried to find ways around this, documents released by the Administration show.   In October, 2002, Diane Beaver, a lawyer at the Pentagon, wrote a memo to superiors, arguing that waterboarding might “be permissible if not done with the specific intent to cause prolonged mental harm, and absent medical evidence that it would.”   She added, “Caution should be exercised with this method, as foreign courts have already advised about the potential mental harm that this method may cause.”   She noted that physical contact with the detainee “will technically constitute an assault under . . . UCMJ.”   But Beaver’s memo implied that if an interrogator were to obtain “immunity” from command authorities in advance, the laws criminalizing waterboarding and other rough techniques could be circumvented.   There is no evidence that anyone in the chain of command, apart from Hill, objected to the content of Beaver’s memo.

    Signed off on sixteen other techniques

    As it turned out, Rumsfeld did not authorize waterboarding or threats to harm family members.   Nevertheless, the documents released by the Administration show that in December, 2002, he signed off on sixteen other aggressive counter-resistance techniques for use on Qahtani and others, beyond those authorized in the Army Field Manual.   This June, Time published a report containing excerpts of the interrogation logs, which revealed that Qahtani was forced to strip naked, told to bark like a dog, deprived of the opportunity to use a toilet after having been force-fed liquids intravenously, ordered to dance with a mask on his face, sat on by a female interrogator, exposed to loud noise, allowed limited sleep, and forced to pick up piles of trash with his hands cuffed while he was called “a pig.”   According to the Times, Qahtani also underwent a phony kidnapping, during which he was injected with tranquillizers and taken up in a plane wearing blackened goggles.

    Required by virtually every code of medical ethics

    The logs show clearly that a bsct psychologist participated in the interrogation and they reveal that, after three days of sleep deprivation, Qahtani became ill.   A doctor was summoned, and the coercion stopped, but even then Qahtani was subjected to noise levels that kept him from sleeping.   His heart rate dropped.   A brain scan was performed.   He was given an ultrasound, to check for blood clots; none were found.   Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and former brigadier general in the Army medical corps, questioned whether the doctors involved notified authorities about how ill the treatment was making Qahtani, as is required by virtually every code of medical ethics.   In an e-mail, Xenakis told me, “The clinical picture indicates that the combined effects of the interrogation over December 4-7 contributed to significant physical and metabolic symptoms such that he required close cardiac monitoring.   He is evaluated for ‘blood clots’ . . . which can be fatal.”   Xenakis asked whether this carefully monitored interrogation, authorized at the top levels of the Pentagon, put “this patient in danger of dying.”

    Doctors and torture — “The Breaking of Bodies and Minds”

    According to Elena Nightingale, a pediatrician and the co-editor of a 1985 anthology of essays about doctors and torture, “The Breaking of Bodies and Minds,” medical experts are often called on to assist with torture, because “people trust and confide in them, which is useful to torturers, and because they have the know-how to keep a person under torture alive, so that more information can be extracted.”   Dr. Darryl Matthews, a psychiatrist whom the Army brought in as a consultant after many suicide attempts at Guantánamo, and who has since become a critic of conditions at the prison camp, told me, “As psychiatrists, we know how to hurt people better than others.   We can figure out what buttons to push.   Like a surgeon with a scalpel, we have techniques and we know what the pressure points are.”

    Conduct considered forbidden for thirty years

    Leonard Rubenstein, of Physicians for Human Rights, described the role of psychologists and medical personnel in the Qahtani interrogation as “conduct that’s been considered forbidden for thirty years.”   Psychologists, he said, are subject to the same standards as medical doctors.   “Of course they can’t participate in coercive interrogations!” he said.   “It’s clear as day.   You can’t advise, you can’t develop plans, you can’t review interrogations, you can’t sign off on them, and you can’t even be present in the room.”

    The Pentagon has argued that Qahtani’s treatment was rough but always “humane.”   However, documents released by the A.C.L.U. reveal that F.B.I. officials were disturbed when they learned of it.   In May, 2004, for instance, an F.B.I. memo entitled “Detainee Interviews (Abusive Interrogation Issues)” noted the Bureau’s “concerns” and “objections” to “sere techniques to interrogate prisoners.”

    Chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor

    In August of that year, an F.B.I. agent who visited Guantánamo sent an e-mail to his superiors.   “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,” he wrote.   “Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.”   The agent related that he had also visited an “almost unconscious” prisoner in a room where the temperature was “probably well above 100 degrees.”   There was a “pile of hair next to him.”   (He seemed to have pulled out his own hair.)

    Behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma

    In a subsequent letter, other F.B.I. agents claimed to have observed, in November, 2002, a Guantánamo detainee “after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months.”   The letter continues, “During that time period, [the detainee] was totally isolated (with the exception of occasional interrogations) in a cell that was always flooded with light.   By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).”

    Insisted that harsher methods be used

    Soon after the establishment of the Guantánamo camp, the F.B.I. sent several of its top counter-terrorism agents to the prison to interview detainees.   By the fall of 2002, these agents believed that they were making progress with detainees, including Qahtani, by slowly establishing a dynamic of friendly rapport.   According to several sources at the F.B.I., when General Miller assumed his administrative role at Guantánamo he became impatient with the F.B.I. interrogations, and insisted that harsher methods be used.   The agents said that even if other interrogators managed to break the detainees through force the intelligence would be unreliable, and it would be impossible to prosecute the cases in any U.S. court. These clashes are now under investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, who is trying to determine if laws were broken during interrogations at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

    You can know “evil”

    A former F.B.I. official who has extensive experience interviewing terrorist suspects spoke to me at length about his battles with Department of Defense officials.   The former official said that he had used only noncoercive, “rapport-based” techniques in his interviews with terrorist suspects.   “You can know how evil suspects are, and still make them think you’re their friend,” he said.

    Be able to get lawyers and due process

    The former official said that he and other F.B.I. agents didn’t want to interview detainees without first reading them their Miranda rights.   But the military officers argued that if detainees were read their rights “they’d be able to get lawyers and due process, which would clog the whole system.”   The former official said that he told a Pentagon official, “Some of these techniques, I don’t want to see, or be part of.   I took an oath to the Constitution to uphold the laws against enemies both inside the U.S. and out.”   He recalled, “The D.O.D. guy got really upset.   He said he took the oath, too.   I told him that we must have different interpretations, then.”   (A Pentagon spokesman said, “Miranda rights are not applicable to enemy combatants detained in the war on terrorism. . . . They are treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions subject to military necessity.”)

    They’re going to become heroes

    The former F.B.I. official said that he opposed coercion on practical grounds, as much as anything else.   “I don’t believe these things make successful strategies—sensory deprivation and such,” he said.   “There’s a big lack of knowledge about the mind-set of extremists.   Doing these things just makes them more determined to hate us.   And eventually they are going to be released.   When they are, they’re going to talk and exaggerate what happened to them.   They’re going to become heroes.   So then we’ll have more extremist networks and more suicide bombers.”   He also felt that there was a moral imperative to avoid coercive interrogations.   “We can’t go down to the level of our enemies,” he said.   “If we do, it’s going to come back at us later on.”

    Computerized versions of interrogation logs

    Officials at the Washington headquarters of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were also incensed by the use of coercive techniques at Guantánamo.   Some N.C.I.S. officials are participating in a combined task force preparing detainee cases for eventual prosecution, and they had access to computerized versions of the interrogation logs at Guantánamo.   When the officials read the details of Qahtani’s interrogation, they had an extraordinary internal dispute.

    “Force drift”

    According to a passage in Vice-Admiral Church’s report that is unclassified but has not been released to the public, in December, 2002, Dr. Michael Gelles, the chief psychologist at the N.C.I.S., spoke with Alberto J. Mora, the Navy’s general counsel, saying that, in his professional opinion, “abusive techniques” and “coercive psychological procedures” were being used on Qahtani at Guantánamo.   Gelles warned of a phenomenon known as “force drift,” in which interrogators encountering resistance begin to lose the ability to restrain themselves.

    Unlawful and unworthy of the military services

    In July, 2004, Mora wrote a memo to Church’s investigative team, in which he recounted his discussion with Gelles.   He said that he had found the tactics he had read about in the Qahtani interrogation logs to be “unlawful and unworthy of the military services.”   Mora argued that these practices “threaten the entire military commission process.”   According to the Church report, an N.C.I.S. official subsequently said that if the abusive practices continued “N.C.I.S. would have to consider whether to remain co-located” in Guantánamo.   According to a recent ABC News report, in January, 2003, Mora also told William J. Haynes, the Pentagon’s general counsel, that “the use of coercive techniques” could expose both interrogators and their administrators to criminal prosecution.

    That same month, Rumsfeld suspended his earlier authorization of harsh interrogation methods at Guantánamo.   He put together a working group on the subject of interrogation, which, on March 6, 2003, drafted a memo stating that to continue using such aggressive techniques would require Presidential authorization.   There is no evidence to date that such an authorization was granted.

    “Virtually identical” to an August, 2002, memo

    Eight days after the release of the draft memo, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel released a classified legal opinion clarifying the Administration’s policy on interrogation.   Vice-Admiral Church was allowed to read the document, but he was not given a copy.   According to Church, the memo’s language was “virtually identical” to an August, 2002, memo approved by Jay S. Bybee, then the assistant attorney general, in which torture was defined as anything causing pain comparable to “physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

    “Get me results!”

    The pressure on interrogators, meanwhile, particularly during 2002 and 2003, remained intense.   The military-intelligence officer who was familiar with practices at Guantánamo told me that the order from above was “Get me results!” He said, “There was huge frustration.   General Miller really unleashed a lot of aggressive tactics.”   He added, “At the time, we didn’t even understand what Al Qaeda was.   We thought the detainees were all masterminds.   It wasn’t the case.   Most of them were just dirt farmers in Afghanistan.”

    Bsct psychologists heavily involved

    Earlier this year, a former interrogator at Guantánamo, whose statement to a lawyer was obtained by The New Yorker, said that he had refused to use more “assertive” methods on the detainees, and had incurred the anger of his superiors.   Extensive records of interrogations were meticulously kept, he said, in what were called “knowledgeability briefs,” copies of which were sent to officials at the Pentagon.   The former interrogator said that bsct psychologists were heavily involved in drawing up and monitoring interrogation plans, which were designed individually for each detainee.   At least one of the bsct scientists he worked with, he said, was a medical doctor.   Sleep deprivation was such a common technique, he said, that the interrogators called the process of moving detainees every hour or two from one cell to another “the frequent-flier program.”   He said that interrogators also used pornography to manipulate detainees, giving pictures as a reward to compliant prisoners who were not religious, and forcing “noncompliant” Muslims to look at them.   Detainees were routinely shackled in painful “stress positions.”   The interrogator said that he overheard colleagues talking about the possibility of waterboarding detainees, but he never saw waterboarding used himself.

    “Fuck him”

    Until the spring of 2003, the former interrogator said, he had open access to detainees’ medical histories.   But after that he had to go to the medical staff whenever he had a health-related question, and a staff person would retrieve the records.   As an example, the interrogator provided details of a medical problem involving a detainee who claimed that his eyesight was deteriorating.   The interrogator said he knew that the detainee had a genuine problem with his eyes, because “I read it in his medical files.”   When he mentioned the detainee’s medical complaints to authorities, he said, they refused to do anything, saying, “Fuck him.   He should have gotten the medical help before he went on his jihad.”

    Rhuhel Ahmed

    A Guantánamo detainee who appears to fit this description is Rhuhel Ahmed.   In 2004, Ahmed, a British citizen, was released without charges.   A statement put out by his lawyer says, in part, “Rhuhel in particular has suffered irreversible damage to his eyes.   He suffers from a condition where the cornea of his eye is misshapen (into a shape like a rugby ball).   The condition is controllable by a gas-permeable contact lens. . . . Throughout the time he was at Guantánamo, he was urgently asking for lenses. . . . No lenses were ever provided. . . . His eyesight has drastically deteriorated as a result.”

    “If you don’t have a terrorist now, you will by the time he leaves”

    In the former interrogator’s view, fewer than a quarter of the detainees had any intelligence value.   More important, he said that most of the coercive methods used on the detainees at Guantánamo were counterproductive.   As he explained to the lawyer, “If you don’t have a terrorist now, you will by the time he leaves.”

    Still uses bsct members in interviews

    Esteban Rodriguez, the chief of interrogations, said that the interrogations at Guantánamo have provided invaluable information that may have saved American lives.   He said that he still uses bsct members in interviews with detainees.   He also said that he doesn’t use techniques such as sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, or isolation.   “I have no place to isolate people!” he said.   This argument seemed dubious after I toured Camp Five, a new maximum-security facility in Guantánamo Bay, in which high-value detainees are confined in sealed white climate-controlled cells.   (Officials later explained that they call this “segregation,” not “isolation.”)

    Kept for over a year in cells by themselves

    Lawyers for the detainees also dispute Rodriguez’s claim.   Although they acknowledge that the situation at Guantánamo has improved, they say that some of the aggressive techniques are still practiced.   Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, an associate at Dorsey & Whitney, a law firm that represents six detainees from Bahrain, recently told me, “I have clients who have been kept for over a year in cells by themselves.   Other than for interrogations or occasional showers, they are allowed out of their cells for no more than an hour of exercise a week, during which they are alone in small exercise pens.   That those who run Guantánamo choose not to describe these arrangements as isolation or solitary confinement does not change reality.   My clients have been utterly deprived of human contact—other than with interrogators and guards—for over a year and, according to the government, could be deprived of human contact for the rest of their lives.”

    Dr. P.—who military police told him was a psychiatrist

    During Colangelo-Bryan’s last two visits to Guantánamo, in October, 2004, and March, 2005, one of his clients, Jumah al-Dossari, a Bahraini whom U.S. authorities caught in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, described his experience.   Dossari said that a man who called himself Dr. P.—and who military police told him was a psychiatrist—had ordered him placed in isolation and deprived of both toilet paper and water for washing himself.   Another psychiatrist quizzed him in detail about his childhood.   On a separate occasion, he said, an interrogator wrapped him in Israeli and American flags.   The interrogator told him that there was a war going on between the Star of David and the Cross, on one side, and the Red Crescent, on the other.   Then, Dossari said, the interrogator stepped on a Koran.   Dossari told Colangelo-Bryan that he found the whole experience “bizarre.”

    Head bashed hard against the metal floor

    Dossari also claimed that he was beaten by riot police after he complained about personal items having been moved in his cell.   During the beating, which was corroborated by Human Rights Watch, his head was bashed so hard against the metal floor that he fainted.   He was taken to the naval hospital, where he was given a brain scan.   According to Dr. Edmondson, the Navy captain, no doctor raised any questions with him about abusive treatment of Dossari.

    Dossari also told Colangelo-Bryan that one time he was taken into an interrogation room whose door was open to an adjacent room filled with computers.   Military police shackled him to the floor, he said.   In the computer room, a naked man and woman were having sex on a table.   Afterward, he said, the man put on his clothes and started to question him, telling him that if he coöperated he, too, could have sex with his “girlfriend.”   Dossari said that he did not respond.   (Esteban Rodriguez said that he had never heard of such an incident.)

    “What can I do to keep myself from going crazy?”

    Dossari claims to have spent the past eighteen months in solitary confinement.   Colangelo-Bryan said that he had concerns about his client’s mental state.   He told me, “On the last day of one visit, as I was about to leave, he looked me directly in the eye and in a very quiet voice asked, ‘What can I do to keep myself from going crazy?’ ”

    Abandon our morality

    Exerting psychic stress is, of course, the goal of the sere program.   To the extent that scientists and doctors are implicated in this process, Jonathan Moreno, the bioethicist, worries that “Guantánamo is going to haunt us for a long time.”   He said, “The Hippocratic oath is the oldest ethical code we have.   We might abandon our morality about other professions.   But the medical profession is sort of the last gasp.   If we give that up, we’ve given up our core values.”

    Copyright © CondéNet 2005.   All rights reserved.

    Scandal of force-fed prisoners

    Hunger strikers are tied down and fed through nasal tubes, admits Guantánamo Bay doctor

    New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.

    They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.

    The London solicitors Allen and Overy, who represent some of the hunger strikers, have lodged a court action to be heard next week in California, where Edmondson [John S Edmondson, commander of Guantánamo's hospital] is registered to practise.

    They are asking for an order that the state medical ethics board investigate him for 'unprofessional conduct' for agreeing to the force-feeding.

    Edmonson's affidavit, in response to a lawsuit on behalf of detainees on hunger strike since last August, was obtained last week by The Observer, as a Guantánamo spokesman confirmed that the number of hunger strikers has almost doubled since Christmas, to 81 of the 550 detainees.

    Many have been held since the camp opened four years ago this month, although they not been charged with any crime, nor been allowed to see any evidence justifying their detention.

    Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe through their membership of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances.

    Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth's hospital in Birmingham, is co-ordinating opposition to the Guantánamo doctors' actions from the international medical community.

    'If I were to do what Edmondson describes in his statement, I would be referred to the General Medical Council and charged with assault,' he said.

          George Orwell 1984      
          The Observer      Sunday January 8, 2006      

           Afghanistan — Western Terror States: Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Italy       
           Photos of Afghanistan people being killed and injured by NATO     


    For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
    The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
    human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.