Mary Shaw / Alternet & Scott Shane & Mark Mazzetti / The New York Time – 2007-06-02 23:01:52
Bush Copies Hitler’s Torture Techniques
Mary Shaw / Smirking Chimp / AlterNet
(June 2, 2007) — It’s bad enough that the US has been torturing terror suspects. It’s wrong on so many levels: It’s illegal; it doesn’t work; it puts our own soldiers at greater risk of the same treatment if they are captured; and it’s morally reprehensible. (My favorite bumper sticker: “Who would Jesus torture?”)
But now the White House is taking it a step further.
According to an article in the New York Times [See below], the Bushies are putting the finishing touches on some secret new rules governing interrogations. And critics are calling these new rules “immoral” and drawing comparisons to Nazi war crimes.
Some people are too quick to draw comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany whenever they want to dramatically condemn immoral acts. But, in this case, pundits are pointing out alarming similarities in the use of torture between the Bush regime and Hitler’s.
So this is what America has become.
For a good (albeit disturbing) overview of the issue from the Christian Science Monitor, click here.
• Take action to oppose torture by clicking here.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She currently serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute
Interrogation Methods Are Criticized
Scott Shane & Mark Mazzetti / The New York Times
WASHINGTON, May 29 — As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.
The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.
While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.
Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.
The science board critique comes as ethical concerns about harsh interrogations are being voiced by current and former government officials. The top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, sent a letter to troops this month warning that “expedient methods” using force violated American values.
In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.
But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.
“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department.
The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.
President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series “24” to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.
But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.
“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.
Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.
The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.
“We have a whole social science literature on persuasion,” Mr. Borum said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”
Robert F. Coulam, a research professor and attorney at Simmons College and a study participant, said that the government’s most vigorous work on interrogation to date has been in seeking legal justifications for harsh tactics. Even today, he said, “there’s nothing like the mobilization of effort and political energy that was put into relaxing the rules” governing interrogation.
The director of the science board project, Robert A. Fein, a forensic psychologist at Harvard, declined to speak on the record.
In a prologue to the December report, the first of a planned series, Mr. Fein said the shortage of research meant that many American interrogators were “forced to ‘make it up’ on the fly,” resulting in “unfortunate cases of abuse.”
But associates say Mr. Fein does not want to antagonize intelligence officials, whom he hopes to persuade to bring the reality check of research to bear on interrogation practices.
Defenders of the harshest interrogations, particularly as practiced by the C.I.A. at secret overseas sites, say they were carefully devised and have produced valuable intelligence. An agency spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said the program “has generated a rich volume of intelligence that has helped the United States and other countries disrupt terrorist activities and save innocent lives.”
He said the agency’s interrogators were “seasoned, well trained, and have the linguistic resources they need,” and added, “The agency learned terrorist interrogation after 9/11, but — based on the effectiveness of this fully legal program — it learned it well.”
A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A., the No. 3 post at the agency, from 2001 to 2004, agreed with that assessment but acknowledged that the agency had to create an interrogation program from scratch in 2002.
He said officers quickly consulted counterparts in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries to compile a “catalog” of techniques said to be effective against Arab and Muslim prisoners. They added other methods drawn from those that American troops were trained to withstand in case of capture.
Mr. Krongard even recalls receiving a proposal for help with questioning Qaeda suspects from an American dentist who said he “could create pain no human being could withstand.”
The agency rejected such ideas as ludicrous. But administration lawyers approved a list of harsh methods that have drawn widespread condemnation.
In an April lecture, Philip D. Zelikow, the former adviser to Ms. Rice, said it was a grave mistake to delegate to attorneys decisions on the moral question of how prisoners should be treated.
Mr. Zelikow, who reviewed the C.I.A. detention program as the executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, said the “cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”
Many of the techniques that have come in for such criticism were based on those used in the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training, or SERE, in which for decades American service members were given a sample of the brutal treatment they might face if captured.
Because the training was developed during the cold war, the techniques later adopted by the C.I.A. and Special Operations officers in Iraq were based, at least in part, on how the Soviet Union and its allies were believed to treat prisoners. Such techniques included prolonged use of stress positions, exposure to heat and cold, sleep deprivation and even waterboarding.
A report on detainee abuse by the Defense Department’s inspector general, completed in August but declassified and released May 18, gives new details of how the military training was “reverse engineered” for use by American interrogators. It says that as early as 2002, some SERE trainers and some military intelligence officers vehemently objected to the use of the techniques, but their protests were ignored.
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he found the report “very troubling” and intended to hold hearings on how the SERE training methods became the basis for interrogation. “They were put to a purpose that was never intended,” Mr. Levin said.
Mr. Kleinman, the former Air Force interrogator who took part in the “Educing Information” study, said the mistakes of the past five years “have made interrogation synonymous in many people’s minds with torture.” But he said the group wanted to redirect the debate toward the future of interrogation.
“Our intention is not to point fingers at anyone,” he said. “We’re just saying we have to bring interrogation up to the level of professionalism in other intelligence disciplines.”
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