Sunday, September 11, 2016

Introducing my new ebook: "Cover-up at Guantanamo"

Guantanamo has forged a place in the world’s consciousness as synonymous with torture. The world’s largest military force exerted its power over hundreds of prisoners held for years without rights or hope. Deep within the prison’s secretive recesses, over the years some of its prisoners met with death, most supposedly via suicide. But the circumstances of these deaths were shrouded in mystery and government censorship. Based upon newly released Freedom of Information Act documents, psychologist Jeffrey Kaye’s new book shows that earlier reports of cover-up in the case of three so-called suicides in 2006 extends to subsequent deaths in the Cuba-based U.S. interrogation and detention camp.

“Cover-up at Guantanamo” is a riveting, in-depth examination of the deaths of two detainees, Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri, who died in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Using never-before-seen reports from government investigators, eyewitness testimony, and medical and autopsy records, including documents recently released by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the formal investigation into the deaths of these Guantanamo prisoners is revealed as rife with problems. Revealed also for the first time is the suicide note and “last testament” of Mohammed Al Hanashi, who tells us he wanted to end his life because of the treatment he received at Guantanamo, including in its special Behavioral Health Unit for mentally ill prisoners.

Among the explosive details revealed in this book is the fact government agents themselves, most likely from NCIS, the very agency charged with investigating the deaths, interfered with the gathering of evidence, ordering the shutdown of Guantanamo’s computer database of prison activities within minutes of one detainee’s death. Even worse, after the FOIA for this material was filed, the computer logs suddenly went missing! That is only the beginning of the story, as Kaye’s investigation shows material evidence was thrown out in the trash, prisoners who were intensely mentally ill were provided with material to kill themselves, and medical personnel turned their backs on detainee complaints of torture. The book also expands on the mysterious use of the antimalarial drug mefloquine for possible reasons of interrogation.

In addition, the book reviews details of the death of another detainee, Adnan Latif, and adds new revelations concerning the deaths of the three detainees who died in 2006. As we can see from other government documents, we likely do not know how many prisoners have even died at Guantanamo. What we learn from the stories in this book is that its contents are not about only one or two government cover-ups, but about the secretive way the Pentagon and intelligence agencies go about their business. Covering-up is not just a term describing an instance of government malfeasance or crime, but the main operational mode of a military and intelligence apparatus that is out of control.

This is a story that the mainstream press would not touch. Jeffrey Kaye spent over four years gathering the material for this book. It is a crucial document in the history of our times, a period when our country lost its way in the so-called “war on terror” and engaged in torture and the evils of indefinite detention. This is the story of how a few individuals were crushed under the coercive regime at Guantanamo, but the humanity of these individuals is rescued in the telling of the tragic but real stories of their deaths.

All FOIA documents referenced in "Cover-up at Guantanamo" can be accessed freely online at

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Psychologist Association Ethics Chief Paid $10,000s for Training Advisers to Guantanamo Interrogations

Back in May 2015, I broke the story that the American Psychological Association's "long-time Ethics Director Stephen Behnke worked directly with Department of Defense officials in creating a training curriculum for psychologists working with interrogators at Guantanamo and elsewhere." The issue was later taken up in the July 2015 "independent review" on APA collaboration with the Department of Defense, CIA, and FBI on national security interrogations released by David Hoffman and co-workers at the law firm Sidley Austin (see PDF for full report).

The Hoffman report did a decent job looking at Behnke's work with the Department of Defense on the establishment and training of psychologists and other behavioral health specialists, including sometimes psychiatrists, to work for DoD's Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or BSCTs. (For alternate view, see note below.) The BSCTs were formed to offer advice and guidance to interrogators at Guantanamo and other DoD interrogation sites, and to the guard and detention force at Guantanamo as well.

Today, BSCTs help facilitate Army Field Manual Appendix M interrogations, which use isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, and environmental and dietary manipulations, as well as other AFM interrogation techniques, such as "Emotional-Futility," to purposely prolong the "shock of capture," and create a "sense of hopelessness and helplessness" and futility in prisoners being interrogated. (See PDF of AFM.)

Mentioned in passing in the Hoffman report was the amount of money Behnke received in what was a clear conflict of interest, as on one hand he presented himself to the public as an ethics expert working for a professional psychological association, offering his advice on the torture controversy to APA members and the public at large. On the other hand, he was paid a good deal of money to help train adjuncts to ethically problematic if not abusive interrogations.

Behnke has said he did not personally profit from the trainings. He told the Hoffman/Sidley investigators that any money he received was turned over to APA, minus any travel expenses, and that APA used the money for "educational purposes" or programs. Where exactly that money went within APA -- and Behnke said he handed it directly over to the Ethics Office -- has never been precisely enumerated. The issue in any case is not only the money (prior to 2011, Behnke said he was paid $1500 per workshop, and $5000 per workshop in later years), but the unethical method by which Behnke and others kept the association with the BSCTs hidden.

According to the Hoffman report (p. 360):
Shortly after Behnke’s first training in April 2006, he and [BSCT psychologist Col. Debra] Dunivin explicitly discussed not telling APA’s Board about his participation in the BSCT training program. And in fact, it appears that APA’s Board was never made aware of his participation, his status as a DoD contractor, or these payments from DoD to APA. On June 18, 2006, Dunivin emailed Behnke (copying [Special Forces psychologist, Morgan] Banks) and asked, “Did you report to APA Board about participating in training at Ft Huachuca? I know we talked about waiting to report it out... What do you think, Morgan?” Behnke replied that the Board did not know, and implied that keeping quiet about it might be the best strategy: “I’ve not mentioned it to the Board; after my last meeting with the Board, I expect that it would receive the Board’s full support. I have informed my APA supervisors, naturally, but given how hot things are at the moment discretion may be the better part of valor for the time being, at least in terms of the broader APA community.”

Behnke did in fact tell his supervisor, APA Deputy CEO Michael Honaker, that he was regularly giving a paid ethics lecture at an Army base as part of the interrogation training course for BSCT psychologists.1679 Honaker did not provide this information to CEO Norman Anderson or the Board. When Anderson learned from Sidley during the investigation that Behnke had been providing this training as a DoD contractor, he appeared stunned, and was visibly upset that the matter had not been discussed with the Board.

Guantanamo has been widely condemned as inhumane and a torture site, even under the Obama administration administration, where conditions of indefinite detention, violent forced cell extractions, drugging of prisoners for "chemical restraint," and multiple suicides have taken place. In addition, the Obama administration reliance on the current Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on interrogation is problematic, according to UN monitoring agencies, who said some of the techniques allowed in that manual's Appendix M amount to "ill treatment" and raise concerns of torture.

The UN issued a report criticizing the Army Field Manual's Appendix M in late 2014, but as we shall see below, both APA and Behnke continued to work teaching "ethics" to those who used or consulted on use of Appendix M as recently as last year.

Dr. Behnke and his APA associates certainly knew of the controversies over interrogation, including by Appendix M methods, but chose to offer their services to DoD, while hiding them from APA rank-and-file and the public at large. Behnke was later fired by the Board. His supervisor, former Deputy CEO at APA, Michael Honaker, "retired."

The Contracts Released by Hoffman/APA

Below is a list of known contracts Behnke was involved in. The earliest available for perusal is from December 2010. The most recent available is from February 2015. Prior to 2012, Behnke was listed as the contractor; afterwards, APA itself is listed as contractor. According to Hoffman's narrative of events (pages 358-361 in his report), Behnke said he worked as a contractor doing training for and designing curriculum for training the BSCTs since 2006. Hence the list below is by no means complete, only what has been made thus far publicly available.

In the contract for Behnke's 2010 work for DoD, he is described as having "been associated with the BSCT course since its inception several years ago. He is viewed as an expert in this field." (All quoted material and data on Behnke's contracts are from Binder #3 of the material released by APA to accompany the Hoffman report. See PDF of this portion of the material, and this link for all associated materials to the Hoffman report.)

2/17/15 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000
“Provide Behavioral Science Consultation course”

1/22/14 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000 - BSCT SME Instuctor DSB

1/25/2013 - Contractor: APA Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, USA Medcom -HCAA
Modify earlier contract, no $ amount specified - "CLIN 0001... Contractor will provide a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) Course"

12/19/12 - Contractor: APA Issuer: USA Medcom –HCAA (Health Care Acquisition Activity) - Amount: $14,999
BSCT instructor – 3 1-day classes

12/20/11 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: USA Medcom -HCAA - Amount: $15,000
BSCT Guest speaker providing course – 3 1-day classes

12/22/10 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston - Amount: $7,497
Guest Speaker, consultant to, BSCT training, 3 (1) day trainings

Terms of Contracts

The classes were of 12-16 students per training, and conducted at the Army's Ft. Huachuca Intelligence Center and School.
The training will be conducted at Ft. Huachuca at the Intelligence Center and School. The target audience is composed of military psychologists (psychiatrists occasionally) and enlisted behavioral health specialists assigned in support of interrogation/detainee operations....
The services required to meet the agency's needs are to provide behavioral health personnel training in support of interrogation/detainee operations. Topics to be addressed and therapeutic materials:
* Ethics involved in performing duties as a BSCT
* American Psychological Association's view on torture
* American Psychiatric Association's view on torture
* MEDCOM/OTSG Policy on utilizing BSCTs
* FM2-22.3 Human Intelligence Operations
* How to remain Safe, Legal, Ethical and Effective as a BSCT
It is worth noting that the contract language in the latter contracts stated, "OTSG [Office of the Surgeon General]/MEDCOM policy Memo 09-053 (Behavioral Science Consultation Policy) requires that all active duty Psychologist, Forensic Psychiatrist, and Behavioral Science Technicians, serving in a BSCT role be trained in the core principles of interrogation and the psychology of persuasion."

The 2012 contract stated: "This contract will consist of training conducted on 'Ethical Decision Making' under guidance and direction. The trainer and facilitator will provide guidance, eduction and knowledge in learning and application of ethical principles within Behavioral Science Consultants Teams. Once trained, BSTC [sic] will provide safe, legal, ethical and effective consultative services to Interrogators, Detention Guards, Intelligence Commanders and Detention Commanders using the sound ethical principles."

There's a lot to ponder in the full information on Behnke's contract. The reason to publish this particular post is to bring more of the full story of unethical behavior at APA into the open.

But it is not only APA's actions that are notable. One thing I found interesting is how long, even really to the present day, the training of the BSCTs to help interrogators remains something contracted through DoD's health services. What is that about? Perhaps it has something to do with drawing BSCT personnel often out of current medical military personnel. In any case, the blurring between medicine and the world of interrogation and torture remains a feature of DoD's ongoing interrogation concept. Additionally, the full story of the ongoing role of the Office of the Surgeon General, or the Army Medical Services in working with military intelligence and detention officials remains somewhat obscure.

There's plenty to still investigate on the torture scandal, but the appetite to do so remains vanishingly small, particularly in Congress. Indeed, there is nothing in the supposedly "progressive" platform of the Democratic Party about any kind of accountability for past torture, nor any indication that the abusive Army Field Manual should be changed or withdrawn. I don't expect to see any change in a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration either.

-- Added Note (8/7/16): After this posting was published, I had some feedback on Twitter to the effect that my conclusions were unfair to the military psychologists involved, that they were not involved in any torture or were ever found to be, and that in essence, I didn't know what I was talking about. In previous postings I've given links to a website where these psychologists, including Debra Dunivin and Morgan Banks, mentioned above, have posted letters, relevant documents, etc. I do recommend the interested reader peruse their site at www.hoffmanreportapa.

While I disagree with their point of view, the psychologists who put together have done a service in posting links to many valuable documents. See their "references" page.

The most recent statement by the group is dated August 2, 2016 and is signed by Colonel (Ret.) L. Morgan Banks, Colonel (Ret.) Debra L. Dunivin, Colonel (Ret.) Larry C. James, and Dr. Russ Newman. In the format of a reply to a recent posting by anti-torture activist, psychologist Stephen Soldz, the reply document states that the Hoffman report’s conclusions are incorrect, "especially the claim that APA and DoD officials colluded to ensure the PENS Guidelines would not constrain abusive interrogations."

Banks, et al. believe that DoD documents in place already made clear that torture was unacceptable. They say that Hoffman characterized the "normal organizational process of creating policy as 'collusion,'" and misread certain sections of the APA's PENS report on ethics and national security. Even more, they maintain that military psychologists in national security settings "can be a strong bulwark against abuses." They say that "DoD psychologists became a primary force for trying to end abusive interrogations." This is certainly a key argument by any who would feel Stephen Behnke was in fact trying to prevent torture by lecturing to BSCTs, and that there is nothing untoward about his contracting to do so.

I was particularly interested in Banks, et al. claim that a June 9, 2015 press release by "seven human rights and civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights, [which] supported the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act." Banks et al. note, "The release does not criticize Appendix M, which specifies the stringent restrictions placed on the use of separation (the military’s term) or isolation (the critics’ preferred term). It is worth noting that the APA likewise gave strong support to the McCain-Feinstein Amendment both before and following the release of the Hoffman report."

Banks, et al. are correct about this press release, and I was sharply critical of this press release by ACLU and others in a June 13, 2015 article I posted at this site.

But Banks, et al. must ignore the many writings by human rights organizations that have been very critical of Appendix M. Indeed, in a March 11, 2016 article by Deb Reichmann at Associated Press, Raha Wala, senior counsel for defense and intelligence at Human Rights First is quoted as saying, "We have been asking for changes to the Army Field Manual and Appendix M in particular for years now... There hasn't been momentum. I now sense that in the first time in years, there is a real interest in looking at it."

In the same article, Mark Fallon, who leads the research committee of the Obama administration's multiple agency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, said, "I don't think there's much validity to Appendix M... I think it can open the door to the types of abuses we have seen before."

Hence, there is a gulf of difference in opinion between myself and other APA and U.S. government critics and the people at Interested readers should pursue the relevant documents and decide for themselves who makes the stronger case.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Detainee Testimonies on Psychologists' Complicity in Guantanamo Torture: "They were not there to help, but to harm"


It has been brought to my attention that a group of psychologists at the American Psychological Association are attempting to overturn a ban on work by psychologists at Guantanamo. The ban, in effect only a year, was the result of controversy engendered after the release of the Hoffman Report (PDF), which claimed complicity by high officials at APA in facilitating abusive interrogations at Guantanamo and other military sites.

According to a statement just released by Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a professional group separate from APA, "Participants in this delegitimization campaign include key individuals directly involved in the documented collusion; several past presidents of the APA and past chairs of the APA’s Ethics Committee, most of whom served during the period of collusion; and the leadership of the APA’s military psychology division, which has long advocated for psychologist participation in specific operational roles that raise challenges for the profession’s do-no-harm standard."

The effort to overturn the ban is based on a contention that psychologist work at Guantanamo is humane and ethical. Below I will show by testimony from detainees themselves that the presence of psychologists has been anything but humane.

The Hoffman Report, which gave powerful impetus to those seeking to end APA support of psychologists working with national security interrogators (a member-initiated referendum to end such support was passed years earlier, but had little effect) was not without its flaws.

The report, whose chief investigator-author was a former associate of ex-CIA chief George Tenet, actually understated, if anything, the amount of complicity and ethical misdeeds by APA officials. Even worse, it downplayed collaboration by APA officials, including a number of past presidents, with the CIA's own interrogation program.

But the Hoffman Report did stimulate powerful reform efforts at APA. As a result, last summer a resolution was passed by APA's Council of Representatives that essentially called for removal of psychologists from Guantanamo or other sites of abusive national security interrogations. (Psychologists were pointedly allowed to continue working in any domestic prison sites where abuse might be taking place, such as a SuperMax prison, such policy being a concession, or sell-out, if you prefer, to certain internal APA critics.) And while no one knows exactly how many psychologists might still be left at Guantanamo, or how DoD could still find ways to use psychological knowledge and technique in nefarious ways at the Cuba-based prison and elsewhere, the new APA policy certainly put an obstacle in the way of government-sanctioned abusive interrogations and torture.

The new APA rule read:
It is a violation of APA policy for psychologists to conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any individual national security interrogation, nor may a psychologist advise on conditions of confinement insofar as those might facilitate such an interrogation. Furthermore, based on current reports of the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, it is also a violation of APA policy for psychologists to work at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, “black sites,” vessels in international waters, or sites where detainees are interrogated under foreign jurisdiction “unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” or providing treatment to military personnel.
The backers of the change in rules on psychologists at Guantanamo, which is being voted on as Resolution 23A at an APA Council meeting during the upcoming APA convention in early August, claim that there are no interrogations at Guantanamo any more. Indeed, in a December 31, 2015 James Risen article at The New York Times, a spokeswoman for U.S. Southern Command indicated "only voluntary interviews are conducted when a detainee asks to speak with American personnel."

As I noted in an article last January, "No one questions how, at a facility under total control by the military, with detainees kept under conditions of indefinite detention (which themselves constitute torture), such 'voluntary interviews' can be offered."

Recent U.S. Interrogation Abuse Involving Psychologists

Resolution 23A relies heavily on the supposed fact that torture was banned via Executive Order by President Obama, and that Congress has added the force of law to that ban with the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. The authors of the resolution didn't state HOW this U.S. policy assured torture was banned. But it has been amply documented that the method of interrogation was to be safeguarded by reliance on U.S. Army Field Manual (AFM) 2-22.3 on interrogation, or, in Pentagon bureaucratese, "Human Intelligence Collector Operations."

But the report of the United Nations Committee on Torture panel, reviewing U.S. interrogation practices in late 2014, found the AFM's Appendix M, and in particular its sleep limitations or deprivation, amounted to use of "a form of ill-treatment." Moreover, a procedure known as "field expedient separation" could “create a state of psychosis with the detainee,” and raised UN concerns over use of torture via the Army Field Manual. UN officials who monitor the torture treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory called for the U.S. “to review Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (AFM) in light of its obligations under the Convention.”

But U.S. officials have defended the AFM, and reviews of Appendix M were put off for another three years by Congressional fiat. This is how things stand, even though the UN official review was if anything too soft on U.S. interrogation practice in the Army Field Manual. See here for a fuller critique. For examples of how Appendix M works in practice, see a recent article by Ali Watkins and Aram Roston at Buzzfeed, which includes links to numerous released documents on Appendix M usage. These documents show that the Obama administration was using Appendix M interrogations into at least 2012. These interrogations directly rely upon presence of medical and mental health personnel, like psychologists, because they are so dangerous.

One could go on and on with this subject. For instance, last summer it was reported that psychologists continued to be part of the forced feeding procedures used by Guantanamo officials. The testimonies reproduced later in this article also reveal the little-noted fact that psychologists also participated in the violent forced cell extractions at Guantanamo. Why could they have been there? Were they recording detainee responses as some perverted kind of research?

Deceased Guantanamo detainee, Adnan Latif, described to his attorney the forced cell extractions he endured at Guantanamo: "I was hurt badly by the IRF teams. Imagine that one night, from sunset until six in the morning, they entered my cell fifteen times. During those times, they tied me to a stretcher and carried me to the clinic in camp five then returned me back to my cell. They repeated that fifteen times until I lost my mind; they broke my bones and made me bleed. This also happened on the second day when they entered my cell ten times hitting my head against the wall and dragging me on the floor and leaving me there in the middle of the cell which was full of water, urine and feces. I was left in this dirty mixture all day with my hands tied firmly behind my back."

Fostering "Anxiety and Dislocation"

The opponents to a psychologist ban at Guantanamo ask in Resolution 23A that APA resolve (bold italics added for emphasis) "in keeping with Principles A and D of the [APA] Ethics Code, [that] military and national security psychologists will be recognized as providers of psychological treatment to military personnel at detention settings, as well as to any other individual or group in need of psychological care, including detainees. Current APA policies (i.e., the first paragraph of Statement 1 of the 2013 policy and the “be it resolved” clause of the 2008 Petition Resolution policy, Psychologists and Unlawful Detention Settings with a Focus on National Security) will be changed accordingly...."

It has always been the contention of the so-called national security psychologists and their supporters that psychologists at Guantanamo and other like detention sites are humane and tend to the needs of detainees when the are under their care. But, as an internally circulated document of defense of current APA policy notes, "Therapy at these sites is inevitably compromised. Recently released policy documents make it clear that the therapists at the [CIA] black sites were not allowed to offer therapy that could 'undermine the anxiety and dislocation that the various interrogation techniques are designed to foster.' In other words, the therapists were prohibited from alleviating the distress caused by interrogators."

Crucially, there exist multiple detainee testimonies which strongly support the contention that psychologist actions at Guantanamo have been anything but therapeutic. Oddly, it seems no one in the press or academia has made a compendium of detainee charges of abuse by psychologists, so I offer the following list as an initial attempt to document in one place such charges. Of course, I do not claim this list is exhaustive. Indeed, I hope others add to it. In the meantime, I hope this list makes it into the hands of APA Council members and other interested parties who may be considering sending APA backwards on the torture issue, rather than forwards.

Detainee Testimonies of Torture by Psychologists at Guantanamo

Testimony 1 - In this first testimony, we see that psychologists are accused of foisting medications on detainees. Normally, psychologists, who are not medical doctors, cannot prescribe medications. But the Pentagon some years ago began a program to train psychologists to prescribe medications, and hence the allegations here that psychologists are giving medicine to detainees is not a matter of confusion by a detainee between a psychologist and a doctor-psychiatrist. The APA had long been supportive of programs to train psychologists to prescribe medications. See this Feb. 2003 article by APA, "Psychology's first prescribers: DoD-trained psychologists have been paving the way so that others might one day prescribe."

Testimony to Witness to Guantanamo (Khaled Ben Mustafa):
"Ultimately, there is no use in seeing a psychologist because he is just going to listen to you and then he will prescribe some medicine. We all know what the problem is; it isn't going to be fixed with medicine. The psychologist knows the problem; he knows what's wrong with you. So, there is some hypocrisy behind all this, because everyone knows what the problem is; it isn't hard to figure out. When you see the living conditions in Guantanamo, you know what the problem is. So, he is going to listen to you; he is going to give you medicine. But he too is an accomplice in the system. You know what I mean? In Guantanamo, everyone you met, they were all part of the system. One cannot trust anyone in Guantanamo; not anyone, because they are all on the same side. They are all fine with the system."
Testimony 2

Summary of a medical examination of former Guantánamo prisoner Youssef (not his real name).54 This examination was carried out under the auspices of Physicians for Human Rights by a team consisting of a physician and apsychologist/psychiatrist. The summary is taken from pages 56-61 of the Physicians for Human Rights' report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and its Impact, published in June 2008.

While in Camp Delta, Youssef asked to speak with a psychologist because he was distressed, and the two spoke about him missing his family and his feelings of sadness. Although Youssef believed the meeting was confidential, he stated that shortly after the psychologist left, he was brought to an interrogator who immediately brought up information connected to his disclosures, such as telling him that he was going to stay at Guantánamo for the rest of his life and discussing his family (“Don’t you want to leave this place and get back together with your family?”...If you do as we tell you, you can get back to your family.”). He stated, “I figured out the reason they had called me for the interrogation was because the psychologist had told them about the meeting.” He stated, “They were stressing these fears very much.” Following this interrogation, Youssef reported that he was moved to the “worst” section in Camp Delta, where he was not allowed to have a blanket or a mattress.
Testimony 3

Testimony to Witness to Guantanamo (Haji Mohammed Ayub)
And then they called probably 20 or 30 guards to come and forcefully get him out. So he said, “I’m not coming out.” He was stubborn. He went on his bed and laid down there. He just laid on his bed. And the person who is not resisting the fight, or he’s lying quietly on the bed…They came in and they sprayed him. They sprayed the block with a gas. And then sprayed him and all that. And he was getting nauseated with that. And they sprayed some chemical on the dishtowel and then put it on his face, rubbing it on his face, putting it on his mouth. Actually the 20 or 30 guards, there was a psychologist, and then the person in charge and translator—everybody was there. They beat him up and they dragged him out of his cellblock. They got him all undressed, took all of his clothes off. He was only wearing underwear. And then he was trying to spit on the guards and he was trying to fight but he was all shackled up. They tied him up. And there were so many people around him, and he was just fighting. He says, “I tried to spit, it’s not going to reach them, but I was just fighting and spitting on people.” And the psychiatrist said, “He is going crazy. He is mentally…he is not stable. So we need to put him in the mental block.” The place where they keep all the people who have mental problems.
Testimony 4

Witnessing Guantanamo: Transcription of Salim Mahmoud Adem's Interview
Interviewer: Amy Goodman
Interviewee: Salim Mahmoud Adem
Interpreter: Isma'il Kushkush
Date of interview: 31 May 2008
Place of Interview: UC Davis (via videoconference with Sudan)
AG: Did you know any, did you meet any psychologists there?

SMA: I did not meet any because we had certain situations. Some accepted to take medicine from psychologists that they were told was medicine, but they gave them drugs, and one would be passed out and in a state of addiction for a long period of time. Many of the prisoners--the psychologists were the ones that tortured them with medicine because they don’t speak during interrogation.

AG: What kind of medicine?

SMA: But I saw my neighbor, who was from Uzbekistan, they would inject into him, and he would sleep for three or four days on the metal in the cell, and then after that he became addicted. His name is Abu Bak [phonetic spelling]. And then Abdurahman from Afghanistan and Sultan al-Joufi from Saudi Arabia, and Yaghoub [phonetic] and Koleidad [phonetic] from Kazakhstan, Koleidad [phonetic] from Afghanistan, and others from Pakistan, and Dr. Eymen [phonetic] from Yemen who was a surgeon...

AG: What about all of them?

SMA: All of them became addicted to the injections. Yaghoub, from Kazakhstan, left Guantanamo, and he became insane.

AG: Where were they injected?

SMA: In their arms or thighs, most in their arms. Once he was injected, he would sleep for days. He would eat and then sleep. He would eat and sleep. This injection might be monthly or semi-monthly. What I saw, one who left before me – Guantanamo before me – was in the chamber who became completely insane, and despite that they would punish him harshly. And because of all of this, we all became afraid of dealing with psychologists. Recently, when I was transferred to the sixth prison [Camp 6?], isolation, it was very cold and [there] were bright lights. We were cut off from the world, a great wall like the Wall of China, and we could not see the sun. Even if they took us to walk out, this room that we are in right now is much bigger than it. Two could barely walk in it.

During this period they would bring psychologists to look at us monthly, and one would come in and say, ‘Do you want to speak to a psychologist?’ And he would come with a translator. People were on guard from psychologists because they lost their specialty as doctors.
Testimony 5 - this example is interesting because it provides multiple testimony to something I didn't know: that psychologists would be present at Forced Cell Extractions (see also Testimony 3 above) - also if you read the entire KSM interview linked below, one will see that psychiatrists were also engaged in some pretty strange abusive stuff;\.

Testimony from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as part of Military Commissions

Q. Now, as a result of your experience with her, have you met with any other psychologist or psychiatrists?

A. The two after her that they -- I met with them because they forced -- they came to my cell and forced cell extractions and take me medical room. They met with me and talked with me, but I didn't request to talk with them at all because I didn't have issue.
Testimony 6

Witnessing Guantanamo: Transcription of Adel Hamad's Interview

Interviewer: Amy Goodman
Interviewee: Adel Hamad
Interpreter: Isma’il Kushkush
Date of interview: 31 May 2008

AG: Did you ever meet a doctor or a psychologist at Guantanamo?

AH: There were many psychologists, and they are the ones that caused mental illness for us because they don't use them as psychologists, but to destroy our spirits.

AG: Can you give an example, and did you ever learn anyone's name?

AH: An example -- a colleague was suffering from a headache, so we told the authorities that, "This person has a severe headache." So the psychologists came and told him that, "Are you suffering from sleep deprivation? Are you seeing things?" So the psychologists were the first doctors to come to the prisoners. But the normal doctor would not come that easily. So they would say things like, "You were possessed," but we would say that these guys are not possessed, but the doctors are the ones that are possessed.

AG: Did you remember any doctor's name?

AH: They have no names. Not the doctors or the interrogators, they have borrowed names. They have numbers.

AG: Did they have any name on their uniform?

AH: They had a military uniform. It would say "Doctor" and, with a number. And the military rank.
Testimony 7

An Interview With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks
By Jason Leopold

February 16, 2011
TO: Did you ever meet separately with a psychologist or psychiatrist when at Guantanamo, for ostensibly psychological reasons, either a psychological test or assessment, or for supposed treatment of any sort?

DH: No, but they did approach me occasionally during the last year or so I spent in GTMO to see if I would talk and cooperate. Apart from their contributions in interrogations they were always lurking in the background, waiting to "help a detainee," but to really act as another prong to interrogation. If a detainee even whispered for such medical intervention a "mental health expert," would appear with a pocket of unknown medication and a long list of probing questions. They were not there to help, but to harm. We knew this and so I always refused to speak with them when they offered. If I did speak with them, such as the period when I eventually, after two years, had limited access to a lawyer for example, the questions would have been centered on how I intended to defend myself and any court actions I was considering. All they wanted was information, or to find a new way to defeat you.

TO: Were psychologists and/or medical professionals present at all interrogations? Were the interrogations ever stopped to check your heart rate and/or pulse?

DH: The major physical beatings I endured occurred in Afghanistan, during transportation and en-route to GTMO. During those sessions, one was around 10 hours, my vital signs were checked often. In GTMO medical personnel were not in the same room as me during actual interrogations but from my understanding they were monitoring my interrogations from behind the one way glass in Camp Delta. For other detainees, such as those being shocked or water boarded, medical personnel were present, or if drugs were being administrated during interrogation as I describe in my book when they extracted false confessions from one of the UK detainees. They were present when I was injected in the spine, but that experience is one that I don't like to talk about.
I credit the great resource of The Guantanamo Testimonials Project at Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, headed by Prof. Alermindo Ojeda, for my ability to quickly find relevant information on the detainee testimonies.

Please feel free to reproduce and post this article. I only ask that a link be provided back to this original post. - Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gitmo board refuses to release 'mistaken identity' prisoner after 9 years without lawyer

Reproduced below is a press release from the international human rights organization, Reprieve. It concerns the latest decision of President Obama's instituted Periodic Review Board (PRB) at Guantanamo. The unjust PRB has existed for years, the policies supported by the new Democratic Party presidential presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. Obama, who promised to close Guantanamo at the beginning of his term and has reneged on that promise, has after nearly 8 years stepped up the pace of release of prisoners from the torture camp at the U.S. naval base seized from land in Cuba decades ago.

After nine years held at Guantanamo without charges, Haroon Gul, aka Haroon Al-Afghani, who was one of the five last prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo, was finally allowed to meet with an attorney for the first time three days before his PRB hearing! His attorney, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis told what little he could about his client:
Very little is known to the world about Haroon, and secrecy laws currently ban me from filling in the blanks. What I can say is that he is every bit as heartbroken by the senseless violence in Orlando as I am, and presented for his Monday meeting with tears in his eyes.
According to the Reprieve website:
Haroon Gul is an 33 year-old Afghan citizen who has been held without charge or trial by the US government at Guantanamo Bay since June 2007.

For nine years, Haroon did not have legal representation....

Haroon was raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan, after violence in Afghanistan forced his family to flee their home there. Despite the disadvantages of his upbringing, Haroon was able to educate himself through the college level. He provided for his family by working as a trader in the local marketplace, selling household goods to other refugees.

With an economics degree and fluency in four languages, Haroon had just managed to rise above his difficult circumstances when he was captured by Afghan forces during a business trip to Afghanistan, and passed to the U.S.. He was rendered to Guantanamo Bay in 2007.
According to a January 2016 investigation at Al Jazeera, the U.S. claims "was a senior member of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, (HIG), an Afghan insurgent group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who helped end the Soviet occupation in the country." He was "also said to have been a courier for alleged senior Al-Qaeda operations planner Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was also transferred to Guantánamo from CIA custody in 2007."

But Al Jazeera investigators Sami Yousafzai and Jenifer Fenton dug deeper and found that the U.S. claim came "from just one source, identified in JTF-GTMO report footnotes as TD-314/08910-07, a CIA report serial number. The information comes from an unidentified human source. The -07 denotes the year 2007."

With a single informant or claim, Haroon was held essentially incommunicado at Guantanamo! Yousafzai and Fenton's reporting makes a strong case that the Afghan detainee was a victim or mistaken identity, or even a victim of some local jealousy. When he was finally allowed after many months to communicate with his family, who had no idea where he was, he wrote to them, "I am in Gitmo. Pray for me... I am OK." Family members had to wait six months before the next communication.

We don't know what was done to Haroon inside Guantanamo, but we do know that the regime inside Guantanamo was tortuous, and that indefinite detention itself is a form of torture. According to the organization Physicians for Human Rights, indefinite detention in prison places individuals at unreasonable risk of serious and long-lasting psychological and physical harm. (See full report here.)

Recently, I've shown, via documents released by The Washington Post, how when the CIA contracted with James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen for their "enhanced interrogation" program, the torture was inflicted on prisoners in part in order to get them to agree to become double agents for the Americans. We do know that when one family member was allowed to see Haroon, according to Yousafzai and Fenton, the Afghan prisoner "looked older than his age, he was complaining of headaches, and he had dark circles around his eyes."

What follows below is the Reprieve press release:
A little-known Afghan prisoner has been refused clearance to leave Guantánamo Bay, despite an apparent case of mistaken identity by the U.S. government.

Guantánamo's Periodic Review Board (PRB) ruled this week that Haroon Gul, 33, must continue to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial because his plan for what he would do post-release was insufficient. The Board also seemed unimpressed by Mr. Gul's insistence that the government's allegations against him are false.

The Board's hearing was the first time in nine years that Mr. Gul has been given the opportunity to defend himself. Yet the process was inadequate and unfair. Neither Mr Gul's attorney nor his military representative were allowed to discuss the allegations with him under attorney-client privilege, nor was he given the chance to rebut the classified allegations against him before the Board.

Mr Gul, who has never been charged nor received a trial since arriving at Guantánamo Bay in 2007, was originally passed to the US military by local Afghan forces, according to a report by Al Jazeera. His wife and young daughter now live in a refugee camp, the report says, but little more is known to the world about him.

Mr. Gul has previously had no defense attorney during his nine years at Guantanamo, despite his desperate and persistent attempts to find one. He was represented at his Periodic Review Board hearing by Reprieve U.S. attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who met him for the first time only four days before the hearing.

His file will become eligible for review in six months time.

Commenting, Reprieve U.S. attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said:

"We have reason to believe that Haroon is one of the many proven cases of mistaken identity, but without a lawyer, he had no capacity to challenge his detention in federal court, as others did. He was given less than three hours out of the last nine years to prepare with an attorney for this hearing that determined his fate. This is status-quo justice in Guantánamo.

"When I met this bright-eyed, chatty young man I was blown away by his attitude. He was smiling and laughing and making American cultural references that even I didn't get.

"This denial is slap in the face to Haroon's persistent efforts to toe the line the government has drawn for its prisoners. Haroon has learned English from scratch; he learned math and science and computers; he has played soccer with fellow detainees and been kind to the guards that lock his cage at night. To this day, he says he does not understand why he's in there. 'Why me?' But day after day he makes the very best of his situation and treats those who have wronged him charitably.

"Haroon is not a bad man, Haroon is not even an irritable or ill-tempered man. He is a man who was tortured into speaking against himself and held captive by my government for nine years without an attorney.

"The allegations against our clients in Guantánamo, to this day, include information that the government admits is wrong. We are still relying on this torture-evidence to keep men hundreds of miles from their families for years on end.

"I went to law school to be a part of the American justice system, but in Guantánamo, I cannot find it."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bandura, Mitchell and CIA's research on torture to produce double agents

Greg Miller's new article at The Washington Post, How a modest contract for ‘applied research’ morphed into the CIA’s brutal interrogation program, and its associated documentation (see end of this post below), reveal aspects of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen and the CIA's torture program that I and others have long insisted rested on an illegal program of human experimentation.

Indeed, the contracts for Mitchell, who seems to have been first hired as a contractor for the CIA on August 8, 2001 to "identify reliable and valid methods for conducting cross-cultural psychological assessments," quickly became, as Miller describes, more and more highly paid assignments in conducting research for the benefit of the CIA's Counterintelligence Center (CTC) "debriefing" program. Such "debriefing" was more than simple interviews, as we all know now, and consisted of multiple forms of torture, including profound isolation and use of the waterboard.

I'm sure I and others will have more to say about the research aspects of the CIA program over the next days and weeks, but I want to concentrate on a portion of Miller's article where he notes the contracts' "cryptic reference" to the fact that one of Mitchell’s objectives would be to “adapt and modify the Bandura social cognitive theory for application in operational settings.” By operational, the CIA means in national security or military settings.

Albert Bandura is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. He has been considered for decades a seminal modern theorist of psychological thought. His social learning or social cognitive theory involves a complex view of how people act and learn. When I first read about Bandura's theory as somehow associated with the CIA program, I was confused how about its relevancy. I wondered, as well, if it had anything to do with the fact that both Mitchell and Jessen had hired Bandura, along with some other top psychologists, including CIA-linked psychologist Joseph Matarazzo (who would later be part of their company Mitchell, Jessen & Associates) for a review of SERE's training program in 1996. It was the elements of SERE training at a mock-torture camp for Special Operations forces that was used to construct the techniques of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program under the auspices of CIA's Office of Technical Services (the same part of the CIA that ran its MKULTRA program).

Miller, himself, in his Washington Post article merely refers to the idea that Bandura's theory is "that learning is largely driven by rewards and punishments." But it is much more than that.

In fact, as we shall see, the reference to Bandura -- who we have no evidence was associated with the CIA program in any way -- is a veiled reference to the goal of "exploitation" of "war on terror" prisoners, especially those in the CIA's rendition and interrogation torture program. The "exploitation" envisioned by use of Bandura's concepts are likely those associated with recruiting double agents from among the CIA's prisoners. Indeed, many prisoners released from Guantanamo or from CIA custody have said they were asked to work as double agents by their U.S. captors.

According to experts on "operational psychology," Bandura's theory helps "security agencies better understand the complex interplay of motivations and personality when individuals commit espionage."

How does it do that? Military and national security experts writing in a book chapter on "Operational Psychology," as part of The Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012), cite Bandura's concepts of "moral disengagement" and "cognitive reconstrual." The authors of this essay -- Thomas J. Williams, James J. Picano, Robert R. Roland, and Paul Bartone -- describe a process whereby the normal ways a person regulates their moral conduct, their sense of right and wrong, is changed.

The authors of the book chapter have some relevant connections and experiences. Bartone, for instance, is a former president of the APA's Division 19, Society for Military Psychology, and today is Senior Research Fellow at National Defense University. Col. Thomas J. Williams is another former Div. 19 president, and is currently Senior Scientist, Behavioral Health and Performance, Behavioral Health Program, NASA. During the Iraq War, Col. Williams was part of Joint Special Operations Task Force, North, Iraq. Roland states he was a clinical-operational psychologist for the Army and Special Forces for over 30 years, while Picano is Senior Operational Psychologist for NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Both Col. Williams and Col. Bartone were "top 10" choices from American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics chief, Stephen Behnke, to serve on the controversial PENS committee, which attempted to subordinate the demands of psychological ethics to the needs of national security and military psychology, according to the Hoffman-Sidley Austin "independent review" of APA collusion with government agencies on torture.

According to the book chapter by Williams, et al., "effective counterintelligence operations focus on building a relationship that allows an individual to disengage from their moral standards (e.g. in a manner equivalent to a married partner engaged in an extra-marital affair, they may have to lie about their motivations) through a process of "cognitive reconstrual," which can occur through unconscious cognitive processes and/or through intentional training." (bold emphasis added) What types of "intentional training" remain unsaid, but it must include attempts to assess subjects for relevant vulnerabilities, and a behavioral-based program to change a person's allegiances. [Author note: the link above seems broken. Those interested can reference the book at Amazon, and search inside for "moral disengagement" to find the relevant passages.]

Williams, et. al. give as an example how the Soviet double agent Aldrich Ames was broken from his own personal loyalties, and estranged or disengaged and alienated from the CIA and U.S. society as a whole, switched loyalties to his KGB handlers, who, he said, "stuck with me, and protected me and I think... developed a genuine warmth and friendship with me."

In Bandura's terms, Ames underwent a process of moral disengagement from his CIA and national loyalties, and via a process of cognitive reconstrual changed his sense of moral conduct and right and wrong. (It is no small irony that the theories of moral disengagement and cognitive reconstual have also been used by Bandura and others to describe the processes that make terrorism acceptable to the would-be terrorist. Or that one example of using intentional training to remold ethical decision making processes is via military training.)

When the CIA emphasized they want to "Adapt and modify the Bandura social cognitive theory for application in operational settings" and "Refine variables of interest to assess in order to apply [this] model to specific individuals", I believe they are talking about interrogating and torturing "war on terror" prisoners -- whether they are actual terrorists or not -- to become double agents working for the CIA, Department of Defense, or other U.S. intelligence agencies.

In a sense, this is exactly the kind of "brainwashing" the U.S. used to accuse the Soviets, Chinese, and North Koreans of during the Cold War, i.e., using psychological techniques to change men's loyalties and make them secret agents or "Manchurian candidates." (Whether the Soviets, et al. actually did this is another story.) In addition, we can better understand how the emphasis on "research" in the terms of Mitchell and Jessen's CIA contract language was about studying ways to understand an individual's degree of "moral disengagement" or alienation, as well as assess the degree to which an individual's "cognitive reconstrual" or new alignment with U.S. government aims has taken place.

How successful the CIA was in doing this is unknown. My educated guess, as a psychologist, is that they had some successes (remember Morten Storm), and some failures (Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi).

The use of torture to "exploit" prisoners, including to "flip" them and make them work for the incarcerating power, is not unknown at all. In the case of the United States, former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks told journalist Jason Leopold about it in an February 2011 interview:
There was one time in 2003 when we were all asked if we would work for the US government performing secret operations off the island, somewhere abroad. Nearly every detainee laughed at this question and word quickly spread so we knew we weren’t alone. Apparently the proposition was a part of their profiling system. Interrogators worked around the clock to break us. Once broken, detainees were asked to agree to anything by interrogators, to repeat after them, to sign confessions, to be false witnesses, or to sow discord amongst detainees.
Michael Kearns, a former SERE official who knew CIA torture "consultant" Bruce Jessen, and worked with him training soldiers and U.S. agents to withstand torture years before Jessen worked for the CIA, explained in a March 2011 interview at Truthout the various ways torture seeks to "exploit" captured prisoners (bold added for emphasis):
The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.
What is important is that we now have direct evidence that the CIA's torture program, and likely that of DoD as well, was not largely about gathering workable intelligence for the safety and operations of U.S. personnel or the U.S. population as a whole, but to recruit double agents for counterintelligence and operations purposes, i.e., for sabotage, assassination, and general espionage. These latter may have had the aim of protecting the "homeland," but at the cost of a "moral disengagement" and level of illegality (kidnapping, torture) that is startling.

Read the CIA contracts for James E. Mitchell

Read the CIA contracts for John B. Jessen

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

DHS Behavioral Research Group proposed "use of Guantanamo Bay subjects as data"

Overlooked in a report released last year that documented collusion with top members of the American Psychological Association with U.S. government agencies in activities that involved torture or abuse of detainees was a section that documented interest in using Guantanamo Bay detainees for experimental purposes or objects of study by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

According to the minutes of a May 7, 2003 "unclassified advisory group" for the DHS Science and Technology Behavioral Research Program, which documented the inaugural meeting of the group, topics that might be included in DHS "social and behavioral research" included "autonomic specificity in reactions to stress; use of electro-encephalograms for determination of intent and for detection of deception; and use of Guantanamo Bay subjects as data."

Involved in such discussions, led by National Science Foundation, were Geoffrey Mumford; the Director of Science Policy at the American Psychological Association (APA), and Susan Brandon, then-Program Chief, Affect & Biobehavioral Regulation in Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, NIMH, and also a Senior Scientist at APA.

Currently Brandon is Chief of Research for the Obama Administration's High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG.

Others present at the 2003 meeting were Norman Bradburn, Assistant Director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF); Phil Rubin, Division Director of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, NSF; Ken Whang, Program Manager for Collaborative Research on Computational Neurosciences, NSF; and Gary Strong, the Director of Behavioral Research, DHS. Strong kept the minutes for the event, which was held at NSF offices.

"Effectiveness Research" or "Program Evaluation"?

The report released last year (PDF) by Sidley Austin, "Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture," authored by Chicago-based attorney David Hoffman and other Sidley associates, indicated that both Mumford and Brandon were queried about the interest in research on Guantanamo detainees.

Mumford, who Hoffman's report indicated was a central leader in getting APA involved with Department of Defense and CIA collaborative efforts, told Sidley investigators he couldn't recall any such discussion about detainees. Brandon's reply was more revealing. From Hoffman's report, p. 171-172:
Brandon likewise stated that she did not know what this comment referred to, and assumed that any discussions on this topic would have related to attempts to discover what people were doing with research subjects when there was very little oversight. However, she stated that she recalled people wanting to observe detainees to understand the effectiveness of the interrogation program. Brandon said she would characterize this kind of observation as program evaluation rather than research.
"Program evaluation" is precisely the term Dr. Jerald Ogrisseg, a psychologist with Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, United States Joint Forces Command, used before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on June 17, 2008, when the committee was investigating detainee abuse and torture at Guantanamo (bold added for emphasis):
Mr. Chairman, with regards to my July 2002 communications with then Lt Col Dan Baumgartner, the then Chief of Staff of JPRA, my recollection is that Lt Col Baumgartner called me directly, probably on the same day that I generated my 24 July 2002 memorandum that I referenced earlier. He indicated that he was getting asked “from above” about the psychological effects of resistance training. I had no idea who was asking Lt Col Baumgartner “from above” and did not ask him to clarify who was asking. I recall reminding Lt Col Baumgartner in general terms about program evaluation data I’d presented in May of 2002 at the SERE Psychology Conference. These data, which were collected on Air Force survival students at different points of time during training, indicated that training significantly improves students confidence in their ability to adhere to the Code of Conduct.
The "training" Ogrisseg referred to consisted of mock prison camps and use of graduated forms of torture as a form of "stress inoculation" on troops or other U.S. agents to make them more resistant to torture, or so goes their rationale. Is it possible that similar forms of "program evaluation" -- though it's hard to see this as anything but illegal research -- was also used on real torture victims, such as at Guantanamo? It is noteworthy that the DHS behavioral group referred to using Guantanamo detainees for research in nearly the same breath as studying "autonomic specificity in reactions to stress."

"Autonomic specificity in reactions to stress" is precisely a form of research previously conducted on SERE mock torture "detainees." Research by CIA psychiatrist Charles Morgan III showed powerful changes in endrocrine and nervous system functioning in mock-torture SERE students studied. Is it really so far-fetched to think such experiments were extended by CIA or the Department of Defense, or other government agency (such as DHS) to the detainees captured in the "war on terror"?

Apparently not. A National Research Council (NRC) 2008 report on a conference on Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies examined briefly what it characterized as a “contemporary problem,” the possibility of doing research on “war on terror” detainees, removed by the U.S. government from Geneva protections against experiments done on prisoners of war. (This report was earlier examined in an article I wrote back in February 2011.)

In a section of the report that looked at the “Cultural and Ethical Underpinnings of Social Neuroscience,” the report’s authors examined the “Ethical Implications” of these new technologies. The section explored the birth of the new field of bioethics, in response to the scandalous revelations of the Tuskegee experiments. The report noted that “On the whole, however, the system of protections for human research subjects is not well designed to capture instances of intentional wrongdoing,” providing “rather… guidance for well-motivated investigators who wish to be in compliance with regulatory requirements and practice standards.”

Another interesting, and even more ominous issue was discussed the NSC panel (emphasis added):
A contemporary problem is the status of detainees at military installations who are suspects in the war on terrorism. Presumably, the ethical standards that apply to all human research subjects should apply to them as well. But if they are not protected by the provisions of the Geneva protocols for prisoners of war, the question would be whether as potential research subjects they are nonetheless protected by other international conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948). Those technical questions of international law are beyond the scope of this report.
Why should the question of research on detainees arise in this discussion at all?

Christian Meissner, currently a lead researcher for the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, back in 2010 spoke to National Academy of Science participants attending a workshop, "Field Evaluation in the Intelligence and Counterintelligence Context," on the putative difference between research and "program evaluation." According to the report of the meeting, "Christian Meissner commented that, from his experience as chair of an institutional review board, he knows that there is a significant gray area between program evaluation and research. Indeed, he said, it is quite possible to field test things under the guise of program evaluation. But once one begins manipulating factors and having control groups, the studies clearly amount to research." (pg. 68-69)

Commenting on the same issue at the workshop, Jonathan Moreno, well-known science ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, said, "It’s not an easy line to draw,” he said, “but I think you can intuit those lines."

"Beyond the scope"

So for the NSC panelists, the issue of whether or not detainees, removed from normal Geneva protections (as at Guantanamo), are protected by international covenants, like the Nuremberg protocols, are "beyond the scope" of their inquiries. Not for the last time was the issue of research on detainees at Guantanamo deemed "beyond the scope" of investigators. In the Sidley report quoted above, Hoffman (and his co-authors) explained why they never followed up the trail of evidence on possible research abuse. "... we considered it beyond the scope of this investigation to draw conclusions regarding whether the CIA, DoD, or any other executive agency was conducting research on detainees because we found no evidence that APA had coordinated with the government to facilitate such research," they wrote (p. 172).

Maybe not APA as an institution, but certainly top APA officials collaborated with the government based on their standing as leaders of the field of psychology, as demonstrated by their leadership at APA. This aspect of the Sidley investigation has been ignored by the press, by APA critics, and by critics of the Hoffman report (who mostly are DoD apologists). Hoffman and his allies carefully determined who the scapegoats would be for their report, while letting a number of others -- and not only psychologists -- off the hook. Still, I am grateful for their work in documenting a good deal we didn't know about this collaboration.

The issue of studies on detainees also surfaced as part of a September 2003 "after-action" report by a SERE consultant, Terrence Russell, sent to Iraq to assist special forces Task Force 20 in interrogation of detainees. (This TF was later named Task Force 121.) But the report, and another by Russell's putative superior, Col. Steven Kleinman, showed that abuse of detainees was taking place. When Kleinman intervened to stop such actions, his life was threatened by TF personnel. Russell was a civilian manager for the Research and Development division of Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which was then the parent command for SERE.

“In regards to the recent study on effectiveness at GTMO, of which there is plenty of room to debate whether or not that have had [sic] much success..." Russell wrote in passing, trying to counter criticisms by Kleinman in the latter's own version of events written in his own after-action report. Kleinman later told me he thought Russell was referring to many different kinds of studies on interrogation going back to the Cold War years. He didn’t believe Russell had any “study on effectiveness at GTMO” that he could actually refer to. But perhaps such "effectiveness" research was hidden as "program evaluation."

The minutes for the DHS meeting where conducting research on Guantanamo detainees was released by the APA itself, as one of a number of "binders" of documentary material gathered by Sidley for its research. The minutes were on page 1355 of Binder 2 in the APA release (see PDF), but I am reproducing them here for the benefit of the public. Click on image to see larger, more readable version.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

CIA Claims "No Responsive Documents" Regarding Ethics Panel Linked to Torture Scandal

The following is a letter from CIA in regards to a FOIA I requested on the workings of their Professional Standards Advisory Committee, or PSAC. The existence of the PSAC was a by-product of the release of the Hoffman report (PDF) on the alleged collaboration between the CIA and the Department of Defense with the American Psychological Association (APA). The original FOIA request, made through the website, can be accessed here.

The CIA letter states that there are no responsive documents relating to my request for more information on PSAC. What's newsworthy about this particular FOIA episode concerns the individuals involved with PSAC and the role of PSAC itself in relation to the construction of the CIA's torture program and the involvement of top APA figures and others with that program.

The Hoffman report, released in July 2015, indicted the APA for collaboration with Defense Department officials to enable psychologists to work on interrogation matters, though no specific link was made to torture. But since it was known that DoD was involved in torture, the nature of the collaboration was murky, and certainly seemed to facilitate psychologists involvement in torture.

But the Hoffman report also alibied known links to CIA officials, including those directly associated with James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two DoD, and later CIA-linked psychologists who have been widely credited with helping construct (if indeed they were not the leading forces, which I actually doubt) the CIA "enhanced interrogation" torture program. I was not entirely suprised about this "limited hangout" aspect of the report, as I earlier had linked Hoffman to working, and possibly friendly, relations with former CIA chief George Tenet. The interested reader can peruse my analysis of these issues here.

From my standpoint, the Hoffman inquiry and supporting documentation provided those seeking the full truth about the government's torture program with some new "dots," even if Hoffman himself either ignored linking such "dots," or even engaged in some misdirection.

One of the more interesting pieces of information about the CIA's torture program that surfaced in the Hoffman report concerned the PSAC. The PSAC was described in the report as consisting of three leading outside psychologists—former APA Presidents Ron Fox
and Joe Matarazzo, and former APA Division 30 (Hypnosis) President and security-cleared CIA contractor Mel Gravitz. The Committee itself was allegedly formed by CIA official Kirk Hubbard, who was closely linked with James Mitchell, and who has described himself as the "Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division, Special Activities Group, CIA," and occasionally as "Chief of the Behavioral Sciences Staff at the Central Intelligence Agency."

According to the Hoffman report, "Hubbard says when he returned to CIA headquarters in 2000 from a covert assignment in London to lead a new behavioral science research unit, he believed the CIA needed to be less insular and he therefore formed the PSAC with Matarazzo, Gravitz, and Fox to enhance the access of Hubbard’s unit to experts in the area of psychological assessment and related issues. Contemporaneous emails from [Susan] Brandon confirm that this was his approach. Matarazzo, Gravitz, and Fox were apparently paid a small amount. Hubbard, Matarazzo, and Fox told us the meetings focused almost exclusively on understanding and applying psychological assessment models in various contexts, but that none of the contexts related to interrogations."

Joe Matarazzo, a former President of the APA, was also Mitchell and Jessen linked, as he was a governing, that is, corporate member of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, the entity M&J used to contract their services to the CIA's covert rendition, detention and torture program. Though Hoffman said he found some indications Matarazzo was helping the CIA on its torture program, he pointedly did not pursue further the Matarazzo connection.

But he did release a copy of the minutes to a PSAC meeting for January 25, 2002, a period of time when the torture programs at both DoD and the CIA were ramping up. The first detainees at Guantanamo had arrived there only two weeks before.

Present at this meeting were APA "senior scientist" Susan Brandon, and CIA contract psychologist James Mitchell. Brandon is today a top interrogation research official in the Obama administration, being in charge of research for the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Earlier, Brandon was instrumental in the formulation of the APA's ethics policy explicitly endorsing the participation of psychologist in torture. She was formerly Chief of Research for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) Behavioral Sciences Program. Prior to that, Brandon served in the Bush, Jr. White House as assistant director of Social, Behavioral, and Educational Sciences for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Mitchell is famous as the presumed architect, or at least leading proponent and practitioner, of the CIA's torture program. The fact a major Obama administration official is linked to Mitchell and the CIA has gone practically unnoted by the U.S. press, or indeed by even the various critics of the CIA and the APA.

In a January 15, 2002 letter to Kurt Salzinger, the Executive Director of the APA's Science Directorate, Brandon and Geoff Mumford, Associate Executive Director of Science Policy for the Science Directorate, detailed some of their recent interactions with CIA's Hubbard. They warned that while "interactions between APA members and the CIA can be general knowledge (we put a note about Bob Sternberg's visit there in SPIN and PSA), the specifics of the people working there --their interests and roles -- might best be kept among those of us mentioned in and addressed by this note." (See "Binder 3" to the Hoffman report, which also has the copy of the PSAC minutes discussed in this article.)

Ten days later, Brandon attended the PSAC meeting (pg. 165 of the report). This is the Hoffman Report's narrative of that event, drawing heavily on Brandon's account:
In January 2002, the CIA’s Professional Standards Advisory Committee invited Susan Brandon and James Mitchell to attend a Committee meeting.660 Brandon said that Mel Gravitz and Ron Fox were her contacts in the CIA, and they asked her to come and brief the Advisory Committee. At the meeting, held on January 25, the minutes reflect that Brandon was introduced to the other members and asked to sign a “secrecy agreement,” before being briefed on the function of the CIA’s Operational Assessment Division and the purpose of the Advisory Committee. Brandon then discussed her role at APA, including her involvement in planning the upcoming conference at an FBI Academy to remedy the FBI’s traditional disengagement from academics and scholars.661 Following Brandon’s presentation, the group discussed “collaborative efforts between OAD, PSAC, and APA,” and Mitchell presented “research findings in cross-cultural assessment of personality.”662 Brandon said she could not recall Mitchell’s presentation, but her general impression was that Hubbard was more interested in obtaining information from spies around the world than from detainees. She said that nobody at the meeting asked her about interviewing or interrogations, and it did not strike her that the others at the meeting were interested in that topic.663 After the meeting, Brandon and Hubbard communicated regarding ways that Brandon and APA could be useful to Hubbard’s group.
I don't think there's much reason to take Brandon's account purely on face value. However,I think I've demonstrated that the PSAC both exists, and that knowledge of what other business was transacted by that group could be of importance to our understanding of both the CIA torture program and the collaboration of leading psychologists associated with the American Psychological Association with the CIA in that program.

But the CIA said, in a letter to me dated May 5, 2016 they could not find any records responsive to my request. Certainly this is obfuscation of some sort, and I have appealed their finding. Both the full CIA letter and my appeal letter are appended below.

June 7, 2016

Agency Release Panel, CIA
c/o Michael Lavergne
Information and Privacy Coordinator

Dear Sir or Madam,

This letter constitutes an administrative appeal under the Freedom of Information Act, 5. U.S.C. Sec.

I am writing to appeal the determination by the CIA with regard to my FOIA request filed on July 16, 2015, #F-2015-02180, for records concerning meetings of the CIA's Professional Standards Advisory Committee, hereafter "PSAC." By letter of May 5, 2016, I was informed that the CIA FOIA department "did not locate any records responsive to [my] request."

The lack of any responsive records seems untenable, as at least one copy of the minutes of a meeting of the Professionals Standards Advisory Committee is in the public domain, having been released as documentary material by the American Psychological Association (APA) as part of the release of a report by Mr. David H. Hoffman of Sidley Austin LLC (hereafter, "Hoffman Report").

The Hoffman Report, dated July 2, 2015, was posted online by the American Psychological Association, which had tasked the report from Mr. Hoffman as an "independent review" of APA's activities regarding national security interrogations. The URL for the full report is The full title of the report is "Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association - Independent Review relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture." The PSAC is the subject of a subsection of this report, which can be found on pages 156-157 of the report.

The minutes of the one PSAC meeting noted above are dated January 25, 2002. They were published as part of a general distribution of documentary materials related to the Hoffman Report by APA, and can be found at page 353 of a PDF downloadable at APA’s website. The specific URL for that collection of material, known as “Binder 3”, which holds the PSAC minutes, is The document can be found on page 353 of that PDF.

I would like to add, in order to assist any further search, that in the same PDF file, "Binder 3," on page 349, is a letter dated January 15, 2003, signed by Susan Brandon and Geoff Mumford, both then from APA (although Ms. Brandon also worked for the government), referenced the PSAC. They wrote that the unit had been created by Mr. Kirk Hubbard, then Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch in the CIA's Operational Assessment Division. They wrote: "They currently retain a 3-member paid advisory group consisting of 3 APA members: Joe Matarazzo, Ron Fox, and Mel Gravitz meeting on average once a month, now in their second year of service."

In the Hoffman Report (p. 185), it states, "Sidley spoke with several members of the Advisory Committee, including Kirk Hubbard, Joseph Matarazzo, Ronald Fox, and James Mitchell, and more than one member of the Committee explained that its purpose was to advise the CIA on the methodology for conducting operational assessments of
personnel." Hubbard and Mitchell both worked in the early 2000s for the CIA. None of these individuals stated there was no PSAC. Hence, I add this information to show that it is not tenable that no responsive documents exist for this entity.

I suggest that another search be done, including a search of CIA databases ARCINS and/or AIRRS, or whatever record system is used to reference activities of the CIA's " Operational Assessment Division."

To make matters simpler, in my original request I asked for all PSAC records "between the dates January 1, 1999 and the date of this FOIA request [7/16/2015]." I would like to reduce that time frame to all PSAC records between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2005. At the same time, I reiterate from my original request that by "records" I am referring to "all written agendas, correspondence regarding its work or meetings, emails regarding its work of meetings, memoranda, meeting minutes, membership lists, dates of meetings, written reports that reference its work or are the product of its work, and presentation materials."

Thank you very much for your consideration of this appeal.

Jeffrey Kaye

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Government Hid Fact Tortured GITMO Detainee Mohammed al Qahtani Had Lifelong History of Severe Mental Illness

The Periodic Review Board (PRB) hearing for Mohammed al Qahtani on June 16, 2016 has more significance than another instance of the woefully inadequate and unjust form of adjudication for Guantanamo detainees. (For example, the PRB can consider evidence the prisoner, his lawyer, and his personal representatives cannot even see.)

No, this PRB hearing is significant for two reasons. Mohammed al Qahtani - Gitmo detainee 063 - was the first of the detainees to be subjected to an "enhanced interrogation" style torture at Guantanamo, using SERE-derived forms of torture that were approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Al Qahtani's torture was famously recorded in log form (most likely to assess him psychologically, not for intelligence reasons), and released by Time Magazine in 2006. Download and read its 83 pages here.

But as a press release today by Center for Constitutional Rights, posted below, indicates, filings made in the PRB case show that the government knew that al Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia, depression, and possibly a traumatic brain injury from a young age, but they tortured him anyway. As CCR notes, government interrogators, which included both DoD and FBI in al Qahtani's case, must have known that with severe mental illness al Qahtani was, one, not up to the stressors of rigorous interrogation (such as the isolation that the FBI and CITF interrogators wanted for him) much less the torture DoD implemented. They also had to know that he was not going to give reliable information as a result.

According to the statement by CCR attorneys Ramzi Kassem and Shayana Kadidal, an expert report by Dr. Emily Keram discovered that al Qahtani had been involuntarily psychiatrically hospitalized in Mecca a year before 9/11 for an "acute psychotic state." According to telephonic interviews with al Qahtani, his relatives, and a review of records from the hospitalization show that his history of psychosis went back to a head injury during an auto accident when he was 8 years old.

The attorneys wrote: "His family recalled 'episodes of extreme behavioral dyscontrol' over the years, including one when the Riyadh police contacted the family because they had found Mr. al-Qahtani naked in a garbage dumpster, spells of 'auditory hallucinations,' and an incident where Mr. al-Qahtani threw a new cellular phone out of a moving car because he believed it was affecting his emotional state."

Far from being a diabolical terrorist, in the months before 9/11, al Qahtani couldn't even hold down his job as a civilian driver for the Armed Forces Hospital in the Saudi city of Kharj. Dr. Keram came to a shattering conclusion - shattering because the U.S. had staked much of its "terror" interrogation/torture program on prisoners like al Qahtani:
...Dr. Keram concluded that Mr. al-Qahtani's pre-existing mental illnesses likely impaired his capacity for independent and voluntary decision-making well before the United States took him into custody, and left him "profoundly susceptible to manipulation by others." These findings call into serious question the extent to which it would be fair to hold Mr. al-Qahtani responsible for any alleged actions during that period of his life. They also cast doubt on any claims that Mr. al-Qahtani would have been entrusted with sensitive information about secret plots.

Moreover, Dr. Keram found that "Mr. al-Qahtani's pre-existing psychotic, mood, and cognitive disorders made him particularly vulnerable to [ ... ] the conditions of confinement and interrogation" his U.S. captors inflicted on him at Guantanamo under the guise of the "First Special Interrogation Plan." In fact, according to Dr. Keram, the combination of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, extreme temperature and noise exposure, stress positions, forced nudity, body cavity searches, sexual assault and humiliation, beatings, strangling, threats of rendition, and water-boarding, amounting to "severely cruel, degrading, humiliating, and inhumane treatment" that Mr. al-Qahtani endured would have profoundly disrupted and left long-lasting effects on a person's sense of self and cognitive functioning "even in the absence of pre-existing psychiatric illness."

Applied to Mr. al-Qahtani, the torture and conditions of his confinement at Guantanamo were nothing short of devastating, exacerbating his pre-existing psychological ailments.
It is amazing that in 2016, the criminality of the U.S. government when it comes to torture only looks more inhumane and more ominous with every new revelation.

What follows is the CCR press release:
Tortured GITMO Detainee Had History of Severe Mental Illness

Attorneys Provide Records to Review Board, Urge al Qahtani’s Release to Care

June 15, 2016 – Tomorrow morning Guantánamo detainee Mohammed al Qahtani will have a hearing before a Periodic Review Board to determine whether he can safely be transferred to the custody of Saudi Arabia.

Al Qahtani was systematically tortured under a “Special Interrogation Plan”, designed to disorient, sexually humiliate, and psychologically destroy him, based on the suspicion that he might have been the “20th hijacker.” He is the only prisoner whose abuse has been formally described as “torture” by a senior U.S. government official, when the head of the Military Commissions explained that she had refused to authorize charges seeking the death penalty against him because “we tortured Qahtani.”

Filings made before the Periodic Review Board disclose, for the first time, that from an early age al Qahtani suffered from schizophrenia, major depression, and possible traumatic brain injury. He was mentally ill not only prior to his imprisonment and torture at Guantánamo, but also long before the government claims he was invited into the secretive, closely-guarded 9/11 conspiracy. Records independently located by the Center for Constitutional Rights show that al Qahtani was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Mecca in May 2000 because he suffered an acute psychotic break and attempted to throw himself into moving traffic. Saudi police once found him naked in a garbage dumpster, and he heard voices and suffered other classic symptoms of psychosis throughout his adolescence. A psychiatric expert’s report, based on the hospitalization records, other investigative work, and many hours of examination of al Qahtani, was filed with the Review Board as well.

“Mohammed was already mentally ill long before the time when the government alleges that he first met anyone involved in plotting anything. It would be passing cruel to put a person like that on trial or to continue to imprison him,” said Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York whose legal clinic represents al Qahtani with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“The obvious manifestations of Mohammed's illness – hearing voices, speaking to nonexistent people – were plain to see even before the worst of his abuse began. The people who designed and carried out his torture-and-interrogation plan must have known in advance that it could not possibly produce reliable information,” said Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Guantánamo project at CCR, which has represented al Qahtani since 2005. “Between his torture and his psychosis, he can never be tried. Rather than warehouse him forever at Guantánamo, Mohammed should be committed to a mental hospital in Saudi Arabia that can care for someone with his conditions.”

Read the attorneys’ statement to the Periodic Review Board.

Read more about Mohammed al Qahtani on his case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 14 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit Follow @theCCR.
What can one say in conclusion? That the U.S. government waited years to reveal this information? That they never bothered to check on the actual life of someone they claimed was a "terrrorist"? That the moral standing of this country is next to nil?

We are still waiting for the kinds of accountability that the massive program of CIA and DoD torture demands. Moreover, the collaboration with torture also included, as revelations over the years have shown, include other state actors, most notably the FBI, but also NCIS, the Bureau of Prisons, and perhaps, though it seems incredible, even the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee (circa 2003).

I wish the best for Mr. al Qahtani, and demand that the PRB find him releasable, and send him on his way back to try and construct some kind of life for himself after the nightmare of Guantanamo.

I do want to add this thought: it turns out that both the CIA test case for their torture program, Abu Zubaydah, and the DoD test case for their torture program, Mohammed al Qahtani, suffered from severe brain trauma. That is too strange to be a coincidence. What was really going on here?

Search for Info/News on Torture

Google Custom Search
Add to Google ">View blog reactions

This site can contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my effort to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.