Nature Editorial ‘Responsible Interrogation’ Is A Torture Apologia

…and so the cancer spread.

Revered scientific journal Nature has an unsigned editorial that calls for psychologists to keep working with the interrogation torture regime of the US even after American Psychological Association members voted overwhelming (after fighting the elite leadership) to ban psychologists’ involvement in torture. The editorial pulls the old trick of making some good sounding statements on the wrongness of the Bush torture polices it then mumbles ‘there are no easy answers‘ before putting across its real point- supporting the elite and military psychologist’s view that they should be involved in interrogations, ostensibly (so they claim) to prevent abuse. As events have shown that is the fig leaf explanation for being very valuable members of medical teams who facilitate prolonged torture (care for a biscuit?). The pro-involvement position also looks to maintain a very lucrative relationship with the Pentagon, for those status loving psychologists with ethical deficiencies and a debilitating bout of egocentric nationalism (and perhaps a racist animus towards Muslims). So it is no surprise the pro-involvement leadership were involved in drafting the editorial.

Like a lot of the current emergence of potential war crimes defendants this feels a little like the establishing of a defence through the media to sway public opinion, to head off trouble for those involved. With fellow elites sharing -base tribal- interests in avoiding consequences for action, perpetuating the polite collegiate myth of professional ‘good faith’. Either that or the editorial board of Nature is pig shit stupid and hasn’t read a newspaper for the last 8 years, which do you think is the more likely explanation? An excellent analysis by Jeff Kaye @ Invictus is required reading (an excerpt)

What galls so many APA critics is to see ignorance and platitudes, not to mention cover-up of recent historical evidence on the role of psychologists and APA over the interrogations/torture scandal, paraded as anti-torture propaganda in the pages of a prestigious scientific journal. There is an abundance of evidence, most recently in a 200-plus page report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, that rather than protect prisoners, psychologists working for the CIA and the Department of Defense, and psychologists contracted for such purposes, such as former JPRA/SERE psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were instrumental in creating the conditions for torture and abuse.

…and then please feel free to write to Nature.


But in our country, there’s been a disheartening development: In 1975, U.S. officials still felt they had to deny condoning torture. Now many of them seem to be defending torture, even boasting about it.

A.J. Langguth author of “Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America.”

A.J. Langguth, LA Times:- Brazil’s political prisoners never doubted that Americans were involved in the torture that proliferated in their country. On their release, they reported that they frequently had heard English-speaking men around them, foreigners who left the room while the actual torture took place. As the years passed, those torture victims say, the men with American accents became less careful and sometimes stayed on during interrogations.

One student dissident, Angela Camargo Seixas, described to me how she was beaten and had electric wires inserted into her vagina after her arrest. During her interrogations, she found that her hatred was directed less toward her countrymen than toward the North Americans. She vowed never to forgive the United States for training and equipping the Brazilian police.

Flavio Tavares Freitas, a journalist and Christian nationalist, shared that sense of outrage. When he had wires jammed in his ears, between his teeth and into his anus, he saw that the small gray generator producing the shocks had on its side the red, white and blue shield of the USAID.

Victims often said that their one moment of hope came when a medical doctor appeared in their cell. Now surely the torment would end. Then they found that he was only there to guarantee that they could survive another round of shocks.

Posted in Human Rights, Imperialism, Neoliberalism. Tags: . Comments Off on Times…Change

Obama Protects The Empire’s Torturers

Might makes right. Funereal disappointment at what I had hoped would not happen (though reasoned it probably would) render me finding typing rather pointless right now. Invictus has the goods.

Honestly what is there to say? The lowest form of human behaviour excused, protected and (in parts) praised. No Change, No Hope, nothing I can see to Believe In.

It’s the Imperialism stupid.

This means the UK now has a precedent, pressure and encouragement to cover up its torture, the Atlanticist & Anglosphere numpties –call any moral rejection of pre-emptive war and torture ‘anti-Americanism’– will keep the faith.

ACLU has the OLC torture memos.

Also see Glenn Greenwald.

PS. and Chris Floyd.

‘A doctor was usually also present’

Uncle Sam is way kinky…and rapey-

I was taken to another room where I was made to stand on tiptoes for about two hours during questioning. Approximately thirteen persons were in the room. These included the head interrogator (a man) and two female interrogators, plus about ten muscle guys wearing masks. I think they were all Americans. From time to time one of the muscle guys would punch me in the chest and stomach. Here cold water from buckets was thrown onto me for about forty minutes. Not constantly as it took time to refill the buckets. After which I would be taken back to the interrogation room.

On one occasion during the interrogation I was offered water to drink, when I refused I was again taken to another room where I was made to lie [on] the floor with three persons holding me down. A tube was inserted into my anus and water poured inside. Afterwards I wanted to go to the toilet as I had a feeling as if I had diarrhoea. No toilet access was provided until four hours later when I was given a bucket to use. Whenever I was returned to my cell I was always kept in the standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head.

New York Review of Books- US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites
By Mark Danner
ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody by the International Committee of the Red Cross

Also see Invictus.

Torturer’s Conspiracy

“It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

John Fredman, then chief counsel to the CIA’s counter-terrorism center.

The Pentagon has exonerated itself over Gitmo, but try some minutes from 2002 to see the real deal @Invictus, excerpts-

LTC Beaver: We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques. We must have the support of the DOD.


Fredman: Yes, if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be extremely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.


Becker: We have had many reports from Bagram about sleep deprivation being used.

LTC Beaver: True, but officially it is not happening. It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention.


Becker: Videotapes are subject to too much scrutiny in court. We don’t want the LEA people in aggressive sessions anyway.


Fredman: If a well-trained individual is used to perform [sic] this technique it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function. It is very effective to identify phobias and use them (ie, insects, snakes, claustrophobia). The level of resistance is directly related to person’s experience.

Posted in War Criminals. Tags: . Comments Off on Torturer’s Conspiracy

If He’d Called Them Terrorists First

CIA Station Chief accused of multiple rapes

He’d get a medal & Obama would be equivocating over whether it was a crime or not. Oops, I think I just described his lawyer’s defence strategy.


Echoing what Glenn Greenwald wrote- Binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture–  there is no room for equivocation. Via Counterpunch

Harper’s Scott Horton:- In an interview on Tuesday evening with the German television program “Frontal 21,” on channel ZDF Professor Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Rapporteur responsible for torture, stated that with George W. Bush’s head of state immunity now terminated, the new government of Barack Obama was obligated by international law to commence a criminal investigation into Bush’s torture practices.

“The evidence is sitting on the table,” he stated. “There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.” He pointed to the U.S. undertakings under the Convention Against Torture in which the country committed that it would criminally prosecute anyone who tortured, or extradite the person to a state that would prosecute him. “The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court,” Nowak said.

Manfred Nowak, an internationally renowned law professor at the University of Vienna, currently serves as an independent expert for the United Nations looking at allegations of torture affecting member states. In 2006, he undertook a special investigation of conditions at the U.S. detention facilities at Guantánamo in which he concluded that practices approved by the Bush Administration violated human rights norms, including the prohibition against torture.

The ZDF piece also includes an interview with attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, who brought charges against Rumsfeld before German prosecutors. He states that the Obama administration is “off to a good beginning” with its explicit renunciation of torture, but it still has not shown how it will hold Bush, Rumsfeld, and others to account for their crimes, nor has it demonstrated its legally obligated duty to provide compensation to torture victims.

Law professor Dietmar Herz clarifies that under U.S. and international law, George W. Bush bears personal responsibility for the introduction of torture. From the point of his departure from office, head of state immunity terminates, and under clear principles of international law, the United States is obligated to commence a criminal investigation and then a prosecution.

(ht2 Mike in comments)

Pope is Catholic

How fucked do you have to be that it’s a headline-

Water Boarding is Torture

This is not a cause for celebration it is merely a statement of fact, celebration is when the sentences for war criminals are handed down (not holding my breath, not a water boarding joke). Gee, maybe the media won’t call it ‘interrogation’ anymore, whadya reckon?

7 Years of Gitmo

Andy Worthington marks seven years since Gitmo began operating as a concentration camp outside of the law, that is slowly coming to an end, perhaps… he also notes the more secret legal black holes-

Disturbingly, the three foreign prisoners seem to have spent time in secret CIA prisons before ending up at Bagram, but what is also disturbing about their cases is that there seems to be no distinction between these prisoners and others who were transferred to Guantánamo, except, of course, that the Bagram prisoners continue to have no rights whatsoever, and the government intends to make sure that they never do.

According to SCOTUSblog, which reports on significant court cases in the United States, Judge Bates appeared to recognize this discrepancy, as he “voic[ed] some concern over the government creating a ‘black hole’ for detainees in a ‘law-free zone’” at Bagram, and “hinted” that he may allow some of the prisoners to file court cases to challenge the basis of their imprisonment.

Everyone concerned with the exercise of justice must hope that Judge Bates will indeed grant habeas rights to prisoners like Haji Wazir, Redha al-Najar, Amin al-Bakri, Fadi al-Maqalah, and, in due course, to others — also held for years — whose identities are either completely unknown or only suspected. Anything less, and Bagram will indeed remain a law-free black hole, even as plans move ahead to close Guantánamo.

Just today though noises emerged from the Obama camp that indicate they will not be pursuing torturers and will in fact negate the principles established at the Nuremberg trials, they were only following orders-

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein told The Associated Press in an interview this week that there is a clear distinction between policymakers and those who execute the policy. “They (the CIA) carry out orders and the orders come from the (National Security Council) and the White House, so there’s not a lot of policy debate that goes on there,” said Feinstein, D-Calif. “We’re going to continue our looking into the situation and I think that is up to the administration and the director.”

“The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers,” he [Obama] said. “They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation.”

So just how far away are they from the Bybee excuse for crime-

All that is required to avoid prosecution is a CIA agent’s “good faith belief” that his actions will not cause torturous pain and suffering. Such a belief “need not be reasonable,” Bybee writes.

Change, Hope, blah blah blah.

Posted in Bush Crime Family, CIA, Human Rights. Tags: , . Comments Off on 7 Years of Gitmo

Phillipe Sands On 24’s Pro-Torture Role

This relates to Careerists about a Dutch singer who prospered under the Nazis, who believed he has done nothing wrong. It is what he did not do, he did not stand against it. People involved in 24 bear some moral culpability for the torture the US has engaged in… and those who enjoy watching it also need to reflect-

Redemption, the 24 prequel, hits British screens this evening, on Sky 1 — “the first new material from 24 producers in nearly two years”, according to the Sky preview.

But what Sky doesn’t tell you is this: during that period information has emerged to confirm the real, negative effects of the series, which spins the pernicious message that “torture works” and is a legitimate tool in the fight to protect national security. Nor does the preview tell us if the next series of 24 (Day 7) will stay on message or shift direction. The impacts of 24 on real events – for example on the abuse of detainees at Guantánamo and at Abu Ghraib – had long been a matter of speculation. It was explored in detail in an important article by Jane Mayer published in the New Yorker magazine in February 2007. Mayer described a conversation with Joel Surnow, the co-creator and executive producer of 24. “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done,” he told her, adding: “America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He’s a patriot.”

I accidentally stumbled across the connection between fiction and reality, and wrote about it in my book Torture Team and a related article for Vanity Fair magazine. In early 2007 I interviewed Diane Beaver, the lawyer who had been the staff judge advocate down at Guantánamo when, in the autumn of 2002, decisions were being taken on the authorisation of 18 new techniques of interrogation for a detainee who was thought to be the 20th hijacker. The second series of 24 went to air on October 29 2002, at the very time these decisions were being taken. Beaver described to me how the series was shown at Guantánamo. I noted what she described to me, writing on a pad “24 – Becker”. It didn’t ring any bells, I’d never seen the programme.

Later, I went back to my hotel and typed up my notes. Not recognising the words I’d written down, I put them into the Google search engine, which responded “Did you mean: 24 – Bauer”, and directed me to the Fox TV website. Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver told me the next time we met, and “gave people lots of ideas”. “We saw it on cable,” she explained. “People had already seen the first series, it was hugely popular.” Others who were at Guantánamo at the time confirmed her account. Some described to me how the series contributed directly to an environment encouraging those in the interrogation facility to see themselves as being on the front line, and to go further than they otherwise might have. 24 also made it more difficult for those who objected to the abuse to stop it.

My writings on this subject have generated a decent mailbag over the past few months. But the most interesting correspondence came just last week. “I’m a US actor, living in Los Angeles,” wrote the author. “In September of 2007, I was offered a role on 24.” The actor told his agent to reject the offer, because he objected to the programme’s message. His agent told him that Howard Gordon, the principal executive producer, wanted to speak. The actor sent Gordon an email, expressing his concerns about the positive depictions of torture on the programme. Apparently, a lengthy exchange followed, in which the two debated the morality of torture and the potential impact of 24 on the moral sentiments of its millions of viewers. The actor offered to make the dialogue public, and Gordon apparently responded with “some enthusiasm”, until Fox’s publicity department stepped in and warned him against any exposure of the exchanges.

The actor shared with me some extracts of Gordon’s views. He told the actor that “I lack the conviction that torture is, under any circumstances, an unacceptable option”. He lacked that conviction because “I lack the knowledge, I just don’t know enough about the efficacy of torture”. I’ve no reason to doubt that Gordon is a thoroughly decent man. He’s smart; he went to Princeton. Through his work he would have access to a great number of lawyers, any one of whom would have told him, if he had cared to enquire, that torture is illegal in all circumstances. His own convictions, or lack of knowledge, are a total irrelevance.

Gordon also told the actor about his belief that it was “essentially true that … 24 posits that torture is a necessary evil that works and is therefore acceptable”. There was also an indication of concern. “I would hate to think,” wrote Gordon, “that I’ve somehow been the midwife to some public acceptance of torture.”

Well, the reality for Gordon, on the account given to me by Diane Beaver as well as others, is that he seems to have become the very midwife he feared. And not just to the public acceptance of torture, but to its actual use on real, living human beings.

Perhaps this might give Gordon and his colleagues some pause for thought. Perhaps this might encourage a rethinking of the entire thrust of the programme. Perhaps Day 7 might do the right thing and embrace reality: that torture is not justified, that it can never be lawful, that it produces unreliable information, and that it serves as one of the best recruiting tools for those who seek to do us serious harm. In short, torture doesn’t work, and it’s not a legitimate tool in the fight to protect national security.

Posted in Bush Crime Family, Media, War Criminals. Tags: , . Comments Off on Phillipe Sands On 24’s Pro-Torture Role


Then we can move on to what lies behind Guantánamo: the unaccountable prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, which hold an estimated 39,000 prisoners, and the unknown number of prisoners still held in secret CIA custody, or rendered to torture in third countries, who constitute “America’s Disappeared.”

Andy Worthington

Posted in Bush Crime Family, Media. Tags: . Comments Off on Perspective

Torture Abides

Jane Meyer:– I agree that at the bottom of it all, the stumbling block to accountability is the complicity of the American public – AT THE MOMENT. But call me naïve, because I think that public opinion could shift if the next administration released certain explosive documents. The case of Abu Ghraib has hammered home the cliché about a picture being worth a hundred words. Humbling though it is for a writer, nothing written has matched the impact of those photographs. The international revulsion they stirred forced President Bush to publicly denounce them, and for the first time, call for some kind of investigation and punishment. As Eric Umansky and others have noted, it was only when President Bush acknowledged that a scandal had taken place, that the mainstream media – including network television news shows — reacted as if something was wrong.

The CIA clearly understood the potential power of incriminating pictures, which is why they destroyed them. I am told that if the CIA’s videotapes of Muslim detainees being waterboarded were seen by the public, the international political reaction would have been, as one former CIA office put it, “unmanageable.” It was bad enough watching Hitch sputtering away. So- this brings me to the question of other photographic evidence. What’s still in the federal cupboard?

Practically every detainee has described being photographed, often naked, with particular attention to their wounds. Presumably at least some of those photographs exist somewhere. In addition, there are numerous descriptions of videotapes other than those of the waterboarding, that were destroyed. The “High Value Detainees” held by the CIA describe constant closed-circuit surveillance. Presumably some was taped. Is it possible that none of these tapes were kept? There is also the interesting question of the frequent video-conferencing done by top administration officials. I am told by a presidential archivist that it is unclear at the moment whether those videotapes are required to be turned over, under the presidential records act. They include high-level conversations between the White House officials and top officials down in Guantanamo, about what to do with the detainees. They also include discussions with Cheney, speaking from his undisclosed remote locations. There were numerous discussions between Washington and Iraq and Afghanistan as well. In Watergate, the tapes were everything. In the Iran-Contra Affair, an early email system was how Oliver North got caught. It certainly would be worth knowing what is on those video-conference reels, and, where they are.

There are written documents too that might impact public opinion. One former Bush Administration official tells me that it is impossible for people to imagine the destructive power of the interrogation and detention program without actually reading the details. Among the documents believed to contain these details, in vivid color, are the report by the International Committee of the Red Cross spelling out what the CIA’s 14 high value detainees (now in Guantanamo) described having gone through. As far as I know, this report is NOT classified. It could conceivably be made public by future administration officials, if they choose to. Additionally, there are several internal investigative reports that were done by the CIA’s inspector general, which are said to be horrifying. They probably wouldn’t have the impact of photographs, but they certainly would make a lot clearer to the American public, what is meant by the euphemism, “enhanced” interrogation methods. There is also the still-secret specific list of authorized techniques, and numerous other Justice Department documents, not yet publicly available.

So, I agree that at the moment, there is not an overwhelming call for accountability inside America. But I also think that many Americans still don’t really understand what happened in this program. If they did, I think there would be a much stronger reaction. The question is whether the public will see the evidence before it goes the way of those videotapes…

APA Members Vote To Remove Psychologists From Torture Role

Against a leadership that spun, lied and collaborated with the Bush regime the membership voted 58.8% against being involved in the torture state. Full press release here @ Stephen Soldz’s blog. But as Valtin @ Invictus writes-

Insurgent Psychologists Win Key Anti-Torture Vote (excerpts)

One thing the resolution does not mean is an immediate pullout of psychologists from sites where human rights violations take place. Psychologists like U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, a former but now resigned APA member, still staff the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Lt. Col. Zierhoffer exercised her Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions about her participation in the interrogation of controversial “child soldier” Guantanamo prisoner Mohammad Jawad. Her refusal to answer questions about her actions — Zierhoffer is accused of signing off on keeping Jawad in solitary confinement, despite his mental deterioration — was widely noted and condemned…

It is now incumbent upon APA as an organization to implement the policy voted upon by a notable majority of their membership via free election. The APA must notify all relevant parties — the Pentagon, the President, the CIA — that it is now the position of the APA that psychologists not be utilized at settings where detainees are not allowed rights such as habeas corpus, and where abusive conditions of detention and coercive interrogation are well documented.

More, the APA should communicate the new policy statement broadly to media, legislators and the public. This APA has previously promised to do. They must not be allowed to bury the will of the APA membership. Members who have been withholding their dues in protest of APA policy should wait to see if APA has any real intention of implementing this new policy.

I suspect that APA will continue to procrastinate, as they have done with the so-called ethics casebook called for multiple times over the years (last at the 2007 APA convention). (The deadline for submissions of suggestions for such an ethics casebook was recently extended until the end of 2008.)

The reason for all the delays? The APA is deeply enmeshed in the governmental apparatus of military and intelligence organizations, while also serving varied private consultation and “scientific” organizations, and academia, all under the auspices of serving the national security state. Hence, APA belongs to a wide-ranging set of special interests, which forms an extremely formidable opposition to those who would fundamentally change the policies and personnel responsible for the institution of a world-wide network of secret prisons and institutionalized torture.

Prisoner 650- The Grey Lady of Bagram

Via Iran Affairs

Respect National Council member Yvonne Ridley flew to Pakistan on a whirlwind trip this week to highlight the plight of a woman who has been held in US custody in Afghanistan for more than four years. She referred to the woman, known only by her prisoner number 650, as The Grey Lady of Bagram.

Details of Prisoner 650 are being kept secret by the US Military. Ridley, also a Cage Prisoner Patron, revealed how she first read about the woman in a book written by ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg called Enemy Combatant.

“I remembered Moazzam telling me about the woman’s scream and how he first imagined they could be from his wife. In truth I thought may be he had just been listening to a tape recorder as part of a form of mental torture.

“However, we now know the screams came from a woman who has been held in Bagram for some years. And without compromising anyone, we can also reveal from impeccable sources that her prison number is 650.

“This information has been enough to scramble the Pakistan media into action by demanding the return of this woman to her homeland immediately,” added Ridley.

Joining her at the open air press conference in Islamabad at the HQ of Khan’s PTI party was Saghir Hussain, a lawyer and member of Cage. He handed over a dossier prepared by Cage which reveals the full extent of the Disappeared from Pakistan, individuals who have been literally kidnapped from the streets. “Prisoner 650 is just the tip of a very nasty iceberg of human rights abuses, illegal detentions and rendition flights. It is a shameful episode in Pakistan’s history which must be put right.”

Now Will Torture Be Called Torture?

“There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes,” [retired U.S. Major Gen.] Taguba says. “The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account.”

And read what Stephen Soldz has found

In many cases they patched up detainees to facilitate additional torture:

“[W]hen the doctor had finished treating him, “I heard the doctor say ‘continue’ (to the interrogators)”, p. 21.

The cases where medical personnel were “helpful” are just as disturbing:

““[The doctor] helped me … he told the soldiers, ‘If you go on torturing him in this way, he will die’,” p. 85.

Not surprisingly, detainees did not report psychologists consulting in interrogations (SOP called for these psychologists to not identify themselves, an interesting ethical issue in itself). But treatment psychologists were perceived to be collaborating with interrogators:

“Haydar indicated, however, that he suspected the psychologists shared information with the soldiers,” p. 48.

Posted in Imperialism, War Criminals. Tags: . Comments Off on Now Will Torture Be Called Torture?