September 18, 2007


There is hope for journalism yet

Back in July investigative reporter Katherine Eban had her article Rorshach and Awe, about C.I.A. torture tactics established in the early days of the Wawr on Turrr, posted on Vanity The crux of Eban’s report was the conflict created when the Bush administration shifted gears and authorized coercive techniques for the interrogation of detainees, aka "enemy combatants" for a convenient sidestepping of the Geneva Convention guidelines.

The FBI had obtained much credible information from one al-Qaeda lieutenant named Abu Zubaydah. Using time-tested methods of rapport building which assume that an interview will yield better information from a comfortable and secure-feeling subject, Zubaydah spilled the beans on a host of info regarding the planning of 9-11. All this went out the window when then-director of the C.I.A. (and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient) George Tenet blustered his interrogation teams in to institute practices established in a military training program known as SERE (for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) which trains U.S. soldiers to endure captivity at the hands of an enemy who does not follow the Geneva Conventions. Let's pause here to let the irony of that sink in.

As Eban reports, Steve Kleinman, an Air Force Reserve colonel and expert in human-intelligence operations, was astonished that the C.I.A. ended up choosing "two clinical psychologists who had no intelligence background whatsoever and who had never conducted an interrogation to do something that had never been proven in the real world."

The psychologists work, which was essentially reverse-engineering the SERE program for use by the C.I.A., was looked at askance by many of their colleagues as well as terrorism experts. Michael Rolince, former section chief of the F.B.I.'s International Terrorism Operations, told Eban the tactics were a "voodoo science."

So in this month’s print issue of VF a letter to the editor responding to the article is published. It comes from C.I.A. deputy director of public affairs Paul Gimigliano, who claims that Eban's article is "gravely flawed." He continued by maintaining that "A great deal of myth has grown up around the C.I.A.'s terrorist-detention program. That is the cost of denying al-Qaeda knowledge of the interrogation methods used so effectively against its operatives."

But with 10 months of investigation and interviews with more than 70 sources, Eban maintains the consensus is that the myth is of the effectiveness of the SERE tactics. SERE was developed during the Korean War based on Communist interrogation techniques which were never designed to get good information. Their goal, Kleinman told Eban, "was to generate propaganda by getting beaten-down American hostages to make statements against U.S. interests."

In a rebuttal to Gimigliano, Eban states, "Many experts and insiders I interviewed say that American interrogators could have stayed within the Geneva Convention guidelines and achieved equal intelligence gains, with far less stain on our reputation abroad."

In light of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's cavalier, arrogant and hypocritical attitude toward those guidelines, I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the article:
On December 2, 2002, [Rumsfeld] granted [a] request to apply coercive tactics in interrogations. The only techniques he rejected were waterboarding and death threats. Within a week, the task force had drafted a five-page, typo-ridden document entitled “JTF GTMO 'SERE' Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure.”

The document, which has never before been made public, states, “The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at US military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations” and “can be used to break real detainees.”

The document is divided into four categories: “Degradation,” “Physical Debilitation,” “Isolation and Monopoliztion [sic] of Perception,” and “Demonstrated Omnipotence.” The tactics include “slaps,” “forceful removal of detainees' clothing,” “stress positions,” “hooding,” “manhandling,” and “walling,” which entails grabbing the detainee by his shirt and hoisting him against a specially constructed wall.

“Note that all tactics are strictly non-lethal,” the memo states, adding, “it is critical that interrogators do 'cross the line' when utilizing the tactics.” The word “not” was presumably omitted by accident.

It is not clear whether the guidelines were ever formally adopted. But the instructions suggest that the military command wanted psychologists to be involved so they could lead interrogators up to the line, then stop them from crossing it.
In a bizarre mixture of solicitude and sadism, the memo details how to calibrate the infliction of harm. It dictates that the “[insult] slap will be initiated no more than 12–14 inches (or one shoulder width) from the detainee's face to preclude any tendency to wind up or uppercut.” And interrogators are advised that, when stripping off a prisoner's clothes, “tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” In short, the SERE-inspired interrogations would be violent. And therefore, psychologists were needed to help make these more dangerous interrogations safer.

Once again, Pogo's famous statement holds true.


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It's amazing that so many people are so filled with excuses that they cannot, or will not, see that acting like those we hate makes us just like them.
Exactly, Joe.

"Well, they do it too!!"

It's not good enough when our kids say it, but man, they eat it up when the gubbnit says it.
The justification I find the most infuriating is: "But those people behead their captives!"

The irrelevance of that is lost on them. Which makes me weep.

Ook ook
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