More on coercing confessions at Gitmo

The NYT’s Scott Shane has an excellent piece of reporting today, on how,

    The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
    What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
    … Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.
    But committee investigators were not aware of the chart’s source in the half-century-old journal article… The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

So let’s spool back what happened here. Someone in the military (or the CIA?), wanting to use a quick and handy chart on coercive techniques that can generate “confessions”, finds one in the Biderman article and copies it verbatim. Do we assume that whoever copied the chart from the article, read the rest of the article and thereby became fully informed that the “confessions” generated by these techniques were, for the most part, quite false?
False ‘confessions’ have consequences, and not just in a courtroom (where they can rapidly lead to the collapse of the whole case against the individual who was tortured.) If the ‘confessions’ obtained in Gitmo through these coercive techniques were taken at face value and believed by members of the relevant US government agencies, then that would have led to actions that, being based on false information, would place in extreme jeopardy not only the US campaign against the terrorists but also the lives of many US service-members.
Therefore, whoever advocated and went along with the use of these coercive techniques should be investigated and perhaps even tried on charges of placing the lives of U.S. service-members at risk.
The FBI, for its part, has long known the risks and dangers– both inside the courtroom and outside it– of any reliance on coerced ‘confessions’. Some of their agents expressed their deep professional concern at the coercion they saw being applied in Gitmo and other US detention centers.
These coercive techniques– torture, as we should call them– are not only deeply, deeply, anti-humane and anti-humanitarian.
Not only has their revelation been deeply harmful to the US’s reputation around the world.
But in addition, their use– and any reliance the US and its allies might have had on the “information” obtained from them– have spread false “information” throughout the whole US intelligence system and put American lives at additional risk.
End it. Now. Close Guantanamo and all the US’s extraterritorial prisons. Return our country to the rule of law.

13 thoughts on “More on coercing confessions at Gitmo”

  1. Helena,
    To complicate your (and the NYT) article which asserts that these techniques were copied from Chinese and Vietnamese interrogation techniques, I reccomend reading Noami Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, where she outlines experimentation done by Donald Hebb and Ewen Cameron at McGill Univeristy in the 50’s, including but not limited to sleep deprivation. The book examines the collusion of sceintists, psychologists and others in the development of sophisticated and inhumane interrogation (torture) practices, as well as their eventual exportation to Latin American right-wing counterinsurgency and military personnel. Anyhow, these techniques weren’t simply lifted from China and Vietname, a good deal of research and cultivation went into their development.

  2. Extraordinary rendition goes back way before Clinton – it’s a drug-war tactic from the 1970s, and hardly the only such tactic that has been resurrected for the GWOT.

  3. You are right on both counts, azazel. Clinton used rendition, but did not originate it.
    It’s hard to say even whether the Bush regime has tortured more than others have, or whether they are merely more brazen about it.

  4. This is an interview about the subject, from Democracy Now, February 17, 2006. The introduction of the interview:
    “We now take a look at what lies behind the shocking images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison by turning to the history of the CIA and torture techniques. Professor Alfred McCoy talks about his book “A Question of Torture”, a startling expose of the CIA development of psychological torture from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib. CIA mercenaries attempted to assassinate McCoy more than 30 years ago.”
    The interview itself: torture studies

  5. If US had only 400 or so people in Gumo, let not forgot 33 criminal countries that rush to help the big brother with such crimes with read this of 25 Millions Iraq from eye witness telling day by day what 21 Days That Shook The World, with 25 Millions innocent people not 4oo and for five years now any better?
    آخر حروب الرئيس

  6. Actually the book to read is Darius Rejali’s _Torture and Democracy_ which carefully traces the source of many different forms of torture far beyond the borders of the US. And the inventor of many of the torture methods that don’t leave marks seem to be the French colonial regime in Indochina (c. 1930s), including electric shock.
    As for rendition, that is what returning captured runaway slaves in the US in the 19th century was called. But actually detaining political dissidents (without trial, and under Emergency regulation) and shipping them to an island somewhere inaccessible is something the UK was very good at. They did it loads in Palestine with both Palestinian Arabs and with the Zionist terrorist of Irgun and Lehi.

  7. The Israelis also have specialized in torture methods that do not leave visible marks.

  8. Does anyone have an idea (or could you point me in the direction of one) for how to dismantle Guantanamo Bay? I worry that simply calling for it be closed down could result in the disappearances of many still being held there, and furthermore what impact would it’s closure have upon the black sites around the world of which we know even less than what is known about GB?

  9. And the inventor of many of the torture methods that don’t leave marks
    What about the photos on top of all media around the world? Did they care?
    In Iraq after Abu Graib brook in media, there are heavy wave of extreme photos and media coverage showing acts of horrors and crimes and killing from Iraqi dead bodies lay on street beheadings, heroic seen, bloody killing, theist acts use to make Western public reach to conclusions and believe these people they don’t deserve the life. In other world they are evils what US or other colony or Israelis doing is justifying even it’s against international law or humanity.
    Take a deep breath and laugh while reading this:
    CACI Denies Use of Torture in Iraq
    If Abu Ghraib saga turned down and denial, so did US use torture procedures in Gintamo?
    There is doubt here.
    Take adeep breath and laugh while read this:
    CACI Denies Use of Torture in Iraq

  10. Perhaps one of the reasons for GITMO’s existence is to elicit false confessions–for exactly the same reasons the Chinese wanted false confessions. For political purposes.
    Well should all have learned long, long ago not to misunderestimate the President and the lengths that he will go to mislead the American people.

  11. The filmed confessions of US PoWs in Korea may or may not have been extracted by torture. But there is quite a lot of other evidence that germ warfare was part of the US repertoire in that war, and there are recent accounts from US veterans of mass killings of civilians.

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