US Government Classifies Term “America’s Battle Lab’ in War on Terror” in Pentagon Report

CJCS External Review of GTMO Intelligence Operations
CJCS External Review of GTMO Intelligence Operations, page 1

The Department of Defense, after consultation with the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency, has released via Mandatory Declassification Request an early Pentagon study of intelligence operations at Guantanamo (along with accompanying slide presentation). It is very heavily redacted, with whole pages blanked out.

But even more, DoD and its “consultants” have seen fit to classify material that was already made public during a much-reported Senate investigation, including the controversial assertion that interrogations at Guantanamo constituted an experimental “battle lab” for treatment of and interrogations on prisoners captured in the administration’s newly-minted “global war on terror.”

When the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) published their report, “Inquiry in the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,” in November 2008, Section III was titled, “Guantanamo Bay as a “Battle Lab” for New Interrogation Techniques.” The quote was taken from a 2002 report commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on intelligence operations at Guantanamo’s new prison for “war on terror” prisoners.

The SASC report referred to the JSC study as the “Custer report,” named after Colonel John P. Custer, then-assistant commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, who led the review team for the Joint Chiefs. The report stated, “In his report, COL Custer referred to GTMO as ‘America’s “Battle Lab”‘ in the global war on terror, observing that ‘our nation faces an entirely new threat framework,’ which must be met by an investment of both human capital and infrastructure.”

Despite the fact the portions of the Custer Report quoted above were not classified in the SASC report, there are no comparable quotations or remarks in the Custer Report or the slides released via MDR request. Because there are so many redactions in the report itself, it is impossible to know which agency did the classification, or what FOIA “exception” was used to justify this specific instance of censorship.

The Senate report also documented use of similar characteristic language from two Guantanamo commanders, Major General Mark Dunleavy and Major General Geoffrey Miller.

The Senate committee would conclude that psychologists at the military’s SERE schools, and possibly special forces, along with their commanding officers and some legal officials, had colluded in creating a new and untested form of interrogation that amounted to abuse and torture of prisoners. While they did not say so, this program ran concurrently with the CIA’s notorious “enhanced interrogation” program, and many of the techniques used overlapped between CIA and DoD, including use of isolation, sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical abuse, and sensory deprivation and overload.

The redactions in the Custer report are currently under appeal with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who told me in an October 23, 2014 letter it is “coordinating this appeal with the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Joint Staff.”

“Negative connotations”

The “Battle Lab” term was viewed with alarm by military investigators from the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), which DoD had assembled from investigators from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. The SASC quoted CITF chief, Colonel Britt Mallow, who provided written testimony to the Senate committee:

MG Dunlavey and later MG Miller referred to GTMO as a “Battle Lab” meaning that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DOD in other places. While this was logical in terms of learning lessons, I personally objected to the implied philosophy that interrogators should experiment with untested methods, particularly those in which they were not trained.

Mallow’s deputy, Mark Fallon, concurred, telling the SASC “CITF did not concur with the Battle Lab concept because the task force ‘did not advocate the application of unproven techniques on individuals who were awaiting trials…. there were many risks associated with this concept… and the perception that detainees were used for some ‘experimentation’ of new unproven techniques had negative connotations.”

Told that the FOIA release of the Custer report had censored use of the term “battle lab,” Fallon told this author he was “very disappointed” at the extent of the redactions in the FOIA version of the report.

“I was privy to the initial report when it was first published,” Fallon wrote in a March 6 email, “and in fact, one of the factors that contributed to the need for such a review were the complaints the CITF had made to the chain of command about the activities and actions associated with detainee operations and interrogations onboard Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Just as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) found when they were staffing the release of the Torture Report, redactions are often to avoid embarrassment and not based on legitimate national security purpose…. In fact, the 2008 SASC hearings and report contained specific information about Col Custer’s report about interrogations at Guantanamo…

“Having spent more than 30 years working national security issues, including investigating unauthorized disclosure of classified information and espionage related matters; there are two resounding themes that spanned across those decades. One was the over classification of information that is not based on legitimate national security interests and the other is the lack of accountability for the over classification of material.

“In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, we did some things that are contrary to our values and we can neither hide from them nor redact them from the record. Our Nation has always grown stronger when we have confronted our failings and learned from them. It’s time to illuminate the darkness on this dark chapter and to once again be the beacon for human rights and American values.”

Intelligence Contingency Funds

The Custer report as released is not without some interesting value. For one thing, it describes the recommendation for the founding of a “Terrorism University” at Guantanamo, meant to “provide a common orientation curriculum for personnel assigned to the GTMO operation.” Personnel who have contact with detainees would be trained prior to their deployment. “Interrogators and debriefers who have worked at [redacted] detention center should be sent to “TU” as advisors/instructors,” the document states.

CJCS External Review of Intelligence Operations at Guantanamo, p. 22
CJCS External Review of Intelligence Operations at Guantanamo, p. 22, with redactions

Even more interesting is the reports discussion of use of “Intelligence Contingency Funds.” Much of the section on this issue is, as is most of the document, censored. However, the intelligence officials who undertook the August 2002 review at Guantanamo were clearly unhappy about the facilities at the Cuba-based naval prison, citing them “too small for current and projected [nearly a line redacted] intelligence operations.”

Military intelligence officials recommended that the Joint Chiefs work with the House and Senate intelligence committees “for an emergency intelligence appropriation to fund construction…” of updated facilities.

It is not generally known that the Congressional intelligence committees, ostensibly formed to provide oversight on the actions of the CIA and other intelligence committees (while SASC is supposed to be responsible for military intelligence oversight), act dually to provide appropriations for intelligence operations. Indeed, I have never seen it reported on.

But on its web servers, the CIA has a history online, L. Britt Snider’s “The Agency and the Hill,” which discusses the development of this aspect of the intelligence committees. (See especially its Chapter 6, “Program and Budget.”)

The import of this information cannot be clearer. Whatever its oversight functions and actions, the House and Senate intelligence committees clearly were involved in funding “America’s ‘Battle lab'” of torture.

Intel Agencies’ Curiosity about “the limits of the human spirit”

In January 2015, the Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Policy and Research, put out a report, “Guantanamo: America’s Battle Lab,” which amplified the points made above. The report (PDF) documented how an experimental program of torture had been implemented via a secret, unacknowledged Special Access Program (SAP), with no congressional oversight. (Strangely, the report failed to mention how the Custer report also used the “battle lab” language.)

The Seton Hall investigators summarized their findings:

The Center for Policy and Research has discovered the disturbing truth behind the purpose of GTMO. Instead of being used primarily as a detention facility, GTMO was designed and operated by Intel predominately as America’s Battle Lab—a facility where U.S. intelligence personnel could coordinate worldwide interrogation efforts and have unfettered control over persons in U.S. custody….

America’s most notorious detention facility was covertly transformed into a secret interrogation base designed to foster intelligence’s curiosity on the effects of torture and the limits of the human spirit….

… GTMO truly served as the think tank and center for experimentation in exploring interrogation techniques and training other military officials in facilities across the globe. In this sense, America’s Battle Lab served as the heart of worldwide interrogation testing and training.

“Murder at Camp Delta”

The discovery of the Gitmo SAP (or SAPs) was narrated in the first person, in the form of an odyssey though the maze of Guantanamo prison blocks and secret black sites taken by former Guantanamo prison guard Joseph Hickman, as described in his new book, Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay. Hickman was also a senior researcher on the Seton Hall study.

In June 2006, Hickman was eyewitness to lies told by high military officials about what happened when three young men were supposedly discovered dead by suicide. While at first he found the idea that command authorities or the Naval Criminal Investigative Service could be covering up a crime too difficult to believe, when a fourth detainee allegedly was found hanged in his cell nearly a year later, he realized that the evidence of his eyes and of his heart could be ignored no longer. The remainder of his extraordinary book details Hickman’s own investigation into the deaths of the three 2006 “suicides.”

Hickman cites many of the details found in the Seton Hall study, but unlike the documentary approach of the latter, the former guard’s story puts you right in the middle of the investigation.

According to Hickman: “… by the time I’d gathered and sifted though all the relevant documents, I realized that all of us who arrived there, even Admiral Harris, had entered an intelligence operation in which no normal military rules or codes applied.

“Instead of order and discipline, the authorities behind it aimed to create ‘controlled chaos.’ The people we were guarding weren’t just suspected jihadists or enemy combatants, but men who’d been given drugs by our medical personnel intended to make them believe they were insane when they arrived.”

Mefloquine and beyond

Hickman, like his collaborators at Seton Hall, concentrate on the bizarre use of the antimalaria drug mefloquine at high treatment doses on all incoming detainees, as an example of the way drugs were used to disorient and disable incoming detainees. But evidence from this author shows that not only melfoquine, but the antimalaria drug chloroquine was used on at least some of the detainees at points well past their entry into Guantanamo.

Similarly, some detainees, including one who died in 2006 and another in 2007, were possibly given mefloquine at other points in their incarceration for reasons that could only be to disable and harm them.

There is much left to explore and discover about the US torture programs of the CIA and the Defense Department, and the mysterious Special Access Programs, unaccountable to no one, that have undertaken a lawless program of torture and mayhem and murder that no one can guarantee isn’t over yet. Indeed, a recent UN meeting of the Committee on Torture castigated the U.S. for the continued use of isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, as allowed in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual.

There are two things lacking in moving forward on this issue: political will, and the lassitude of the press. Of these, political will must come first, as the torture issue is tied to two political parties, one of which has members who are strong proponents of torture, and the other which has a leader in the Oval Office who refuses to prosecute former government officials for war crimes, and lectures others not to dwell on these past crimes because they are in the past. (This did not stop Obama’s DoJ for prosecuting Rasmea Odeh for crimes purportedly committed 40 years ago, or holding former American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier in prison for trumped up charges for 38 years.)

But political will also rests ultimately in the hands of the people themselves, and unless citizens of the United States start to take these issues with the seriousness they deserve, then the torturers will continue to go free. They are free now – from Guantanamo to Chicago, Illinois — and they are getting ever more aggressive. Failure of will to prosecute and punish the torturers will result in the total loss of democratic rights and the descent into the kind of hell usually reserved for U.S. torture-client states, like Egypt.

US Government Classifies Term “America’s Battle Lab’ in War on Terror” in Pentagon Report

CJCS External Review of GTMO Intelligence Operations
CJCS External Review of GTMO Intelligence Operations, page 1

The Department of Defense, after consultation with the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency, has released via Mandatory Declassification Request an early Pentagon study of intelligence operations at Guantanamo (along with accompanying slide presentation). It is very heavily redacted, with whole pages blanked out.

But even more, DoD and its “consultants” have seen fit to classify material that was already made public during a much-reported Senate investigation, including the controversial assertion that interrogations at Guantanamo constituted an experimental “battle lab” for treatment of and interrogations on prisoners captured in the administration’s newly-minted “global war on terror.”

When the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) published their report, “Inquiry in the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,” in November 2008, Section III was titled, “Guantanamo Bay as a “Battle Lab” for New Interrogation Techniques.” The quote was taken from a 2002 report commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on intelligence operations at Guantanamo’s new prison for “war on terror” prisoners.

The SASC report referred to the JSC study as the “Custer report,” named after Colonel John P. Custer, then-assistant commandant of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, who led the review team for the Joint Chiefs. The report stated, “In his report, COL Custer referred to GTMO as ‘America’s “Battle Lab”‘ in the global war on terror, observing that ‘our nation faces an entirely new threat framework,’ which must be met by an investment of both human capital and infrastructure.”

Despite the fact the portions of the Custer Report quoted above were not classified in the SASC report, there are no comparable quotations or remarks in the Custer Report or the slides released via MDR request. Because there are so many redactions in the report itself, it is impossible to know which agency did the classification, or what FOIA “exception” was used to justify this specific instance of censorship.

The Senate report also documented use of similar characteristic language from two Guantanamo commanders, Major General Mark Dunleavy and Major General Geoffrey Miller.

The Senate committee would conclude that psychologists at the military’s SERE schools, and possibly special forces, along with their commanding officers and some legal officials, had colluded in creating a new and untested form of interrogation that amounted to abuse and torture of prisoners. While they did not say so, this program ran concurrently with the CIA’s notorious “enhanced interrogation” program, and many of the techniques used overlapped between CIA and DoD, including use of isolation, sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical abuse, and sensory deprivation and overload.

The redactions in the Custer report are currently under appeal with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who told me in an October 23, 2014 letter it is “coordinating this appeal with the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Joint Staff.”

“Negative connotations”

The “Battle Lab” term was viewed with alarm by military investigators from the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), which DoD had assembled from investigators from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. The SASC quoted CITF chief, Colonel Britt Mallow, who provided written testimony to the Senate committee:

MG Dunlavey and later MG Miller referred to GTMO as a “Battle Lab” meaning that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DOD in other places. While this was logical in terms of learning lessons, I personally objected to the implied philosophy that interrogators should experiment with untested methods, particularly those in which they were not trained.

Mallow’s deputy, Mark Fallon, concurred, telling the SASC “CITF did not concur with the Battle Lab concept because the task force ‘did not advocate the application of unproven techniques on individuals who were awaiting trials…. there were many risks associated with this concept… and the perception that detainees were used for some ‘experimentation’ of new unproven techniques had negative connotations.”

Told that the FOIA release of the Custer report had censored use of the term “battle lab,” Fallon told this author he was “very disappointed” at the extent of the redactions in the FOIA version of the report.

“I was privy to the initial report when it was first published,” Fallon wrote in a March 6 email, “and in fact, one of the factors that contributed to the need for such a review were the complaints the CITF had made to the chain of command about the activities and actions associated with detainee operations and interrogations onboard Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Just as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) found when they were staffing the release of the Torture Report, redactions are often to avoid embarrassment and not based on legitimate national security purpose…. In fact, the 2008 SASC hearings and report contained specific information about Col Custer’s report about interrogations at Guantanamo…

“Having spent more than 30 years working national security issues, including investigating unauthorized disclosure of classified information and espionage related matters; there are two resounding themes that spanned across those decades. One was the over classification of information that is not based on legitimate national security interests and the other is the lack of accountability for the over classification of material.

“In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, we did some things that are contrary to our values and we can neither hide from them nor redact them from the record. Our Nation has always grown stronger when we have confronted our failings and learned from them. It’s time to illuminate the darkness on this dark chapter and to once again be the beacon for human rights and American values.”

Intelligence Contingency Funds

The Custer report as released is not without some interesting value. For one thing, it describes the recommendation for the founding of a “Terrorism University” at Guantanamo, meant to “provide a common orientation curriculum for personnel assigned to the GTMO operation.” Personnel who have contact with detainees would be trained prior to their deployment. “Interrogators and debriefers who have worked at [redacted] detention center should be sent to “TU” as advisors/instructors,” the document states.

CJCS External Review of Intelligence Operations at Guantanamo, p. 22
CJCS External Review of Intelligence Operations at Guantanamo, p. 22, with redactions

Even more interesting is the reports discussion of use of “Intelligence Contingency Funds.” Much of the section on this issue is, as is most of the document, censored. However, the intelligence officials who undertook the August 2002 review at Guantanamo were clearly unhappy about the facilities at the Cuba-based naval prison, citing them “too small for current and projected [nearly a line redacted] intelligence operations.”

Military intelligence officials recommended that the Joint Chiefs work with the House and Senate intelligence committees “for an emergency intelligence appropriation to fund construction…” of updated facilities.

It is not generally known that the Congressional intelligence committees, ostensibly formed to provide oversight on the actions of the CIA and other intelligence committees (while SASC is supposed to be responsible for military intelligence oversight), act dually to provide appropriations for intelligence operations. Indeed, I have never seen it reported on.

But on its web servers, the CIA has a history online, L. Britt Snider’s “The Agency and the Hill,” which discusses the development of this aspect of the intelligence committees. (See especially its Chapter 6, “Program and Budget.”) (more…)

What Role Did Chicago Police Detective Deployed to Guantanamo Play in Renditions?

Memo's evidence of EUCOM involvement in renditions
EUCOM involvement in renditions to Guantanamo

If one did not know who Richard Zuley was from reporter Jess Bravin’s account, or from my article linking Zuley, the interrogation leader in the torture of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, with a history of alleged Chicago police frame-up and coerced confessions (reported at The Dissenter last November), the splash of notoriety from a recent series of articles by Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian certainly made the former Chicago detective a near-household name.

While Ackerman himself, and others, have concentrated in follow-up stories on revelations of the existence of a so-called police “black site” at Homan Square, where cops reportedly lock-up suspects “off the books,” and torture them, or on the larger issue of police abuse in Chicago or other major American cities, Zuley’s links to military and other possible intelligence agencies have remained largely unexamined.

The lingering question remains: how did Zuley get from the Chicago precinct house to the interrogation booths at Guantnamo? Why was someone like him put in charge of the Special Projects Team responsible for the interrogation of an ostensible high-value detainee like Slahi, answering in the chain-of-command directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?

If we follow the story down that rabbit hole, we will see that Zuley’s background links to the role played by the Pentagon’s European Command (EUCOM) in renditioning prisoners to Guantanamo. While we don’t know if Zuley played any role in these renditions, it seems highly likely he knew of them, as he apparently worked for what Washington Post reporter Dana Priest once called the “super-secret” Joint Analysis Center (JAC) at EUCOM headquarters in England.

RAF Molesworth and EUCOM’s Joint Analysis Center

In Ackerman’s in-depth story on Zuley, he noted that the former Chicago policeman had links to “naval intelligence” going back to the 1980s. Ackerman found a court transcript that stated Zuley had been “mobilized for the war on terror in November of 2002.”

Ackerman continued, referencing Zuley’s testimony in the court transcript, “Initially assigned to a Royal Air Force base in Molesworth, his superiors ‘sent me to Cuba as the liaison officer for the European Command. And that job has evolved to what I’m doing now’ – that is, ‘assigned to the Joint Task Force Guantanamo as an officer in charge of one of the teams down there for the intelligence collection.’”

The tasking to Molesworth is key, especially when linked to Zuley’s own admission that he was a liaison officer for EUCOM (reported first in my November 2014 Dissenter article). Ackerman didn’t follow up the Molesworth link, but the RAF base at Molesworth is the headquarters for EUCOM’s Joint Analysis Center.

According to a “Studies in Intelligence” report (PDF) by Adam D.M. Svendsen (liberated by the late Aaron Swartz), “The US Military European Command (EUCOM) Joint Analysis Center (JAC) based at RAF Molesworth, the US Visiting Forces base in Cambridgeshire, UK, also features as an important location where UK–US military intelligence liaison takes place” (p. 18).

Robert L. Davis, who had been a Naval Analyst at JAC in the 1990s, described the agency: “JAC Molesworth is the European Theater’s multiservice, JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] sponsored all source intelligence production facility. It provides intelligence support for contingency operations, special exercises, and ongoing combined Joint Task Force missions…”, including special operations forces.

The Role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Release of the “Custer Report”

The role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is worth noting. In a September 2002 “external review” of Guantanamo Bay Intelligence Operations tasked by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under the guidance of the Director JCS and “a team of subject matter experts from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint staff, and the US Army Intelligence Center and School, Fort Huachuca AZ” — known as the “Custer Report” — stated formally that “Joint Task Forces [at Guantanamo] are subordinate to SOUTHCOM and report thorugh Commander US Southern Command to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Secretary of Defense.”

The Custer Report, which was prominently discussed in the 2008 Senate Armed Services Report on Detainee Abuse, was obtained by me via FOIA, and is released here for the first time (PDF). Unfortunately, it is way too heavily censored, and I’ve appealed the amount of censorship. Meanwhile, this is what we have.

The JAC is obviously an important if little-known intelligence center. According to one of its former leaders, even back in the 1990s, it consisted of numerous divisions and was a “1,000-personnel intelligence organization” with a $60 million budget.

According to a page at the Federation of American Scientists website, JAC is EUCOM’s version of a Joint Intelligence Center, which centers exist as “the principal element for ensuring effective intelligence support for combatant commanders in chiefs and theater forces.” The same site notes, “Men and women in the U.S. European Command’s Joint Analysis Center (JAC) process, analyze and consolidate data to produce fused intelligence information focusing on an area of responsibility consisting of more than 77 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.” (more…)

Did Richard Zuley Participate in Renditions to Guantanamo?

Memo's evidence of EUCOM involvement in renditions
EUCOM involvement in renditions to Guantanamo

If one did not know who Richard Zuley was from reporter Jess Bravin’s account, or from my article linking Zuley, the interrogation leader in the torture of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, with a history of alleged Chicago police frame-up and coerced confessions (reported at The Dissenter last November), the splash of notoriety from a recent series of articles by Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian certainly made the former Chicago detective a near-household name.

While Ackerman himself, and others, have concentrated in follow-up stories on revelations of the existence of a so-called police “black site” at Homan Square, where cops reportedly lock-up suspects “off the books,” and torture them, or on the larger issue of police abuse in Chicago or other major American cities, Zuley’s links to military and other possible intelligence agencies have remained largely unexamined.

The lingering question remains: how did Zuley get from the Chicago precinct house to the interrogation booths at Guantnamo? Why was someone like him put in charge of the Special Projects Team responsible for the interrogation of an ostensible high-value detainee like Slahi, answering in the chain-of-command directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?

If we follow the story down that rabbit hole, we will see that Zuley’s background links to the role played by the Pentagon’s European Command (EUCOM) in renditioning prisoners to Guantanamo. While we don’t know if Zuley played any role in these renditions, it seems highly likely he knew of them, as he apparently worked for what Washington Post reporter Dana Priest once called the “super-secret” Joint Analysis Center (JAC) at EUCOM headquarters in England.

RAF Molesworth and EUCOM’s Joint Analysis Center

In Ackerman’s in-depth story on Zuley, he noted that the former Chicago policeman had links to “naval intelligence” going back to the 1980s. Ackerman found a court transcript that stated Zuley had been “mobilized for the war on terror in November of 2002.”

Ackerman continued, referencing Zuley’s testimony in the court transcript, “Initially assigned to a Royal Air Force base in Molesworth, his superiors ‘sent me to Cuba as the liaison officer for the European Command. And that job has evolved to what I’m doing now’ – that is, ‘assigned to the Joint Task Force Guantanamo as an officer in charge of one of the teams down there for the intelligence collection.’”

The tasking to Molesworth is key, especially when linked to Zuley’s own admission that he was a liaison officer for EUCOM (reported first in my November 2014 Dissenter article). Ackerman didn’t follow up the Molesworth link, but the RAF base at Molesworth is the headquarters for EUCOM’s Joint Analysis Center.

According to a “Studies in Intelligence” report (PDF) by Adam D.M. Svendsen (liberated by the late Aaron Swartz), “The US Military European Command (EUCOM) Joint Analysis Center (JAC) based at RAF Molesworth, the US Visiting Forces base in Cambridgeshire, UK, also features as an important location where UK–US military intelligence liaison takes place” (p. 18).

Robert L. Davis, who had been a Naval Analyst at JAC in the 1990s, described the agency: “JAC Molesworth is the European Theater’s multiservice, JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] sponsored all source intelligence production facility. It provides intelligence support for contingency operations, special exercises, and ongoing combined Joint Task Force missions…”, including special operations forces.

The Role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Release of the “Custer Report”

The role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is worth noting. In a September 2002 “external review” of Guantanamo Bay Intelligence Operations tasked by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under the guidance of the Director JCS and “a team of subject matter experts from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint staff, and the US Army Intelligence Center and School, Fort Huachuca AZ” — known as the “Custer Report” — stated formally that “Joint Task Forces [at Guantanamo] are subordinate to SOUTHCOM and report thorugh Commander US Southern Command to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Secretary of Defense.”

The Custer Report, which was prominently discussed in the 2008 Senate Armed Services Report on Detainee Abuse, was obtained by me via FOIA, and is released here for the first time (PDF). Unfortunately, it is way too heavily censored, and I’ve appealed the amount of censorship. Meanwhile, this is what we have.

The JAC is obviously an important if little-known intelligence center. According to one of its former leaders, even back in the 1990s, it consisted of numerous divisions and was a “1,000-personnel intelligence organization” with a $60 million budget.

According to a page at the Federation of American Scientists website, JAC is EUCOM’s version of a Joint Intelligence Center, which centers exist as “the principal element for ensuring effective intelligence support for combatant commanders in chiefs and theater forces.” The same site notes, “Men and women in the U.S. European Command’s Joint Analysis Center (JAC) process, analyze and consolidate data to produce fused intelligence information focusing on an area of responsibility consisting of more than 77 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.”

We can presume that, given Zuley’s assignment to the head of a “special projects” team, that his posting at Molesworth was related to an intelligence function, most likely for JAC. According to Dana Priest’s account back in 1999, however, JAC was a place where “Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others collect and analyze information…communications intercepts and overhead imagery.”

Given recent revelations, such as those by former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman in his new book on the 2006 deaths of detainees at Camp Delta, that interrogations at Guantanamo were part of a highly-secret Special Access Program, it is not out of the question that Zuley worked closely with CIA, DIA, or other personnel that were read into to the secret, experimental torture program.

Zuley’s appearance at Guantanamo, then, was no fluke. His intelligence background can be presumed to be far greater than we otherwise currently know. Zuley himself has refused to speak thus far to the press. But his claim in a court document that he was a EUCOM liaison to Guantanamo is quite intriguing. The posting could have been a cover for a special access program position, or possibly he was involved in the processing of detainees sent via rendition though the EUCOM theater of operations, or both, or, we must acknowledge, in some other capacity yet to be discovered.

EUCOM and Guantanamo Renditions

The EUCOM-renditions link that could concern Zuley has to do with revelations of early renditions to Guantanamo of Bosnian and Algerian detainees that used EUCOM assets and US Air Force bases in Germany. These renditions took place in January 2002, a few months after Zuley went to work, presumably, for JAC at EUCOM.

The news about EUCOM and German government collusion with renditions of detainees to Guantanamo arose from reports in summer 2006 that EUCOM’s German headquarters Stuttgart was involved in arranging CIA renditions to Guantanamo. The charges were reported by Germany’s ARD television and by the newspaper Die Zeit.

Indeed, a January 2007 report by the European Parliament (EP) said it was “deeply concerned at information contained in an unclassified document made available to the Temporary Committee which shows that the illegal rendition of at least six Algerians from Tuzla via Incirlik to Guantánamo was planned at the US European Command (USEUCOM) military base near Stuttgart…”

The EP called on the German Bundestag to investigate without delay whether those alleged renditions involved breaches of the Forces Status Agreement or other agreements or treaties concluded with US military forces on German territory, whether further illegal renditions were planned by USEUCOM and whether German liaison officers were involved in any way.” (At least one report mentioned the presence of German officers at EUCOM headquarters.)

Unfortunately, the investigation went nowhere, stonewalled by recalcitrant German officials, even as EUCOM officials admitted the transportation of prisoners. German officials, meanwhile, denied any CIA renditions from German territory. The story, which never evidently made much headway in the U.S., dropped off the world press radar. In any case, it seems likely that EP officials were unaware in Jan. 2007 that German prosecutors had already a month earlier declined investigating EUCOM for alleged renditions.

“Kidnapping in the framework of fighting terrorism” is not criminal

According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks and dated December 29, 2006, from the US Embassy in Berlin to the Secretary of State’s office, with copies to various military sites, including EUCOM’s Washington DC Liaison Office, the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense, “German Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms has decided that she is not responsible for investigating six EUCOM officers in Stuttgart for allegedly planning the kidnapping and rendition of six Algerian nationals from Sarajevo to Guantanamo Bay via Germany in 2002, according to December 29 German news reports. According to her spokesman, ‘kidnapping in the framework of fighting terrorism does not fall under the criminal offense of abduction, for which political persecution is presumed.'”

Contacts from the office of the US Army in Europe and EUCOM told the Embassy officer that “this is ‘good news’ for the U.S. Forces in Europe. The EUCOM contact said the federal prosecutor’s decision not to pursue an investigation in this particular case clarifies a general principle that should be applied to similar cases in the future.”

In the name of clarifying the “general principle” of extraordinary rendition, the US had kidnapped Bensayah Belkacem, Hadj Boudellaa, Saber Lahmar, Mustafa Ait Idir, Boumediene Lakhdar and Mohamed Nechle, all of whom would be subsequently released from Guantanamo.

While CIA rendition has had most of the attention of human rights groups and press, U.S. military renditions swept up many prisoners itself.

According to a 2007 European Parliament report, at least two US military aircraft transported the six Bosnians/Algerians from the US base at Tuzla in Bosnia to the the Naval Base prison at Guantanamo Bay. “At least one of the aircraft originated at the U.S. Base at Ramstein, Germany, before departing for Tuzla,” the investigators stated. The report quoted a Situation Report that said as early as January 18, 2002, the military had transported 110 prisoners to Guantanamo.

The Algerians were taken first from Tuzla to a US base at Incirlik, Turkey — “a hub for the transportation of prisoners to Guantanamo” — where they were joined by 28 prisoners from Qandahar, Afghanistan, delivered by US Central Command, and then flown to Guantanamo. They were all shackled. “Their eyes were covered by opaque goggles, and their hands were covered by mittens.” In other words, they were subjected to profound sensory deprivation as part of their transport.

We know from other SOPs released via FOIA on Guantanamo procedures that scopolamine patches were put on the prisoners, ostensibly to prevent flight sickness, but possibly for the dizziness and nausea and disorientation often produced by the drug. When they arrived in Guantanamo, they were given a very large dose of the antimalarial drug mefloquine, also ostensibly for medical purposes, but most likely, as detailed in Hickman’s book, for purposes of chemical disorientation and “softening” for interrogation.

The entire rendition took 30 hours.

According to documents released via statewatch.org, the prisoners were accompanied by a medical team, which included a flight surgeon and an aeromedical technician.

The documents clearly state that a situation report on the rendition was to be disseminated “to deployed forces across USEUCOM AOR [area of operation].” Hence, if Zuley was working with EUCOM at Molesworth, as seems likely, then he at the very least was aware of the renditions that took place.

A secret memo states, “Based on a forthcoming message from JS and coord with EUCOM – plan to pick-up 6 Algerians in Incirlik moved by EUCOM assets.” The same memo notes the arrival of at least 17 detainees at Guantanamo via litters, and the need for an ambulance upon arrival.

“JS” refers to Joint Staff, i.e., the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the main Pentagon military authority.

Congressional oversight committees’ “emergency intelligence appropriation” for Guantanamo

Over 13 years since the rendition of the first prisoners to Guantanamo, there is much we still don’t know about the organization of that prison, the parameters of the secret programs that operated there, or why or who was put in charge of such programs.

The identification of Richard Zuley as the man in charge of the interrogation of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and the background to his military intelligence career, has opened a door into the wide-ranging operations of the entire military apparatus, with its various military commands and far-flung bases, that along with the CIA ran a worldwide renditions operation and to this day still holds in indefinite detention and a state of torture, over a hundred human beings at Guantanamo.

What we have learned from this is not that Guantanamo is an aberration, but that Guantanamo is itself a manifestation of US military power, from the NSC and the Oval Office, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, all the way down to subsidiary commands and “joint” task forces. We have seen before how the military works hand-in-hand with the CIA in this apparatus of control and torture, as described by Douglas Valentine in his extraordinary history of the U.S. government’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam.

The Congressional reports are have come and gone and little has changed. The full story is still not public. The Congressional oversight committees are too compromised to do more than arrange limited hang-outs of the full scandal.

Indeed, the Custer Report, released here for the first time, describes how the military worked with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to obtain “an emergency intelligence appropriation to fund construction” of new detention and intelligence operations facilities at Guantanamo. If the “oversight” committees are themselves involved in funding the torture, then who operates oversight on them? Certainly not the various human rights groups who have never reported on the intelligence funding role of these same Congressional oversight groups.

The “rabbit hole” has carried us very, very far down a dark abyss. Only radical social change holds any hope of affecting the regime of torture and worldwide imperial hubris and war-making that has descended upon us all.

Lost Document: International Scientific Commission Report on Bacterial Warfare During Korean War

This article covers the first substantive Internet posting and analysis of a unique Cold War document, the “Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China.”

The ISC was headed by one of Britain’s foremost scientists of his day, Sir Joseph Needham. The report was published by the Chinese government in 1952. The version linked here, printed by Hsinhua’s News Agency in Prague, Czechoslovakia does not include hundreds of pages of annexes published in the initial report. Hopefully these will be made available online in the near future.

The charges of U.S. use of biological warfare during the Korean War have long been the subject of intense controversy. The reliance, in part, on testimony from U.S. prisoners of war led to U.S. charges of “brainwashing.” These charges later became the basis of a cover story for covert CIA experimentation into use of use of drugs and other forms of coercive interrogation and torture that became the basis for its 1963 KUBARK manual on interrogation, and much later, a powerful influence on the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program.

While the document embedded below has been the subject of numerous essays and books, the document itself is generally not available to the public. Even those who might wish to study the subject it covers will likely find it quite difficult to obtain. I will explore some of those reasons below. But I will note that some Cold War scholars have been quick to debunk the ISC report, none have made even the slightest effort to make the original materials available for other scholars or the public to assess for themselves the truth or falsity of their analysis.

At the very end of this article is a bibliography for interested readers.

ISC Report Part 1
ISC Report Part 2

(Cryptome.org picked up my public posting of this document at Document Cloud. It combined the two parts I’ve embedded here into one 2.6MB posting. For those who wish to use or link to their version, the link is here.)

Why was this report effectively suppressed?

What follows a text transcription of an important section of the report concerning Japanese use of bacteriological weapons against China during World War Two, Allied knowledge about this, and possible use of such Japanese scientific knowledge or techniques, as well as personnel, by the U.S. military during the Korean War.

Back in 1952, such collaboration between the US and Japanese war criminals using biological weapons was top secret, and totally denied by the U.S. But today, even U.S. historians accept that a deal was made between the U.S. and members of Unit 731 and associated portions of the Japanese military that had in fact spent nearly 15 years experimenting on the use of biological weapons, experimentation that included use of human vivisection and barbaric torture of thousands of human beings, most of whom were disposed of in crematoria. In addition, there was collaboration between the Japanese and the Nazi regime on these issues, though that is beyond the matter of this posting today (though see bibliography).

The U.S. collaboration with Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 was formally admitted in 1999 by the U.S. government, though the documentation of that has never been published. I have those documents and will be publishing them very soon.

It is a matter of historical record now that the U.S. government granted amnesty to Japan’s chief at Unit 731, doctor/General Shiro Ishii and his accomplices. The amnesty was top secret for decades, until revealed by journalist John Powell in a landmark article for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in October 1981.

What came to be known as the Needham report, due to the fact the ISC was headed by the prestigious British scientist, Sir Joseph Needham, came under immediate fire upon release. The report still remains a flashpoint for scholars. A 2001 article by the UK’s Historical Association detailed how UN and UK government officials collaborated in attempts to debunk the ISC findings. The UK Foreign Office released memoranda saying that claims of Japanese bacteriological warfare, going back to 1941, were “officially ‘not proven.':

The sensitivity of the material uncovered by the ISC touched two areas of covert US government research. First was the US governments own plans to research and possibly implement germ warfare. The second issue concerned the confessions of U.S. flyers as to how they were briefed and implemented trial runs of biological warfare during the Korean War. The U.S. claimed that the flyers were tortured, and the CIA promoted the idea they were “brainwashed” by diabolical methods, causing a scare about “commie” mind control programs and “menticide,” which they used to justify the expenditure of millions of dollars for U.S. mind control programs during the 1950s-1970s.

The programs used experiments on unwitting civilians, as well as soldiers undergoing supposed anti-torture training at the military’s SERE schools. I have shown via public records that CIA scientists continued to use experiments on “stress” at SERE schools after 9/11, and believe such research included experiments on CIA and/or DoD held detainees. That such research did take place can be inferred from the release in November 2011 of a new set of guidelines concerning DoD research. This newest version of a standard instruction (DoD Directive 3216.02) contained for the first time a specific prohibition against research done on detainees. (See section 7 (c).)

I believe a strong case can be made that while coercive methods, primarily isolation, was used on the U.S. prisoners of war who later confessed, that their confessions were primarily true. The idea that only false confessions result from torture is in fact false itself. While false confessions can result from torture (as well as less onerous methods, such as the Reid Technique, used by police departments throughout the United States today), actual confessions can also sometimes occur. I have first-hand experience working with torture survivors to know that is true.

It is true that all the POWs who confessed use of germ warfare later recanted that upon return to the United States. But the terms of their recantations are suspect. The recantations were made under threat of courts-martial. The archival evidence of the flyers debriefings have been destroyed or lost due to fire (according to the government). Meanwhile at least one scientist working at Ft. Detrick at the time admitted to German documentary investigators before he died that the U.S. had indeed been involved in germ warfare in Korea. (See video.)

An “actual investigation… could do us psychological as well as military damage”

The charges of U.S. use of biological weapons during the Korean War are even more incendiary than the now-proven claims the U.S. amnestied Japanese military doctors and others working on biological weapons who experimented on human subjects, and ultimately killed thousands in operational uses of those weapons against China during the Sino-Japanese portion of World War Two. The amnesty was the price paid for U.S. military and intelligence researchers to get access to the trove of research, much of it via fatal human experiments, the Japanese had developed over years of studying and developing weapons for biological warfare. (more…)

A Lost Document from the Cold War: The International Scientific Commission Report on Bacterial Warfare during the Korean War

This article covers the first substantive Internet posting and analysis of a unique Cold War document, the “Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China.”

The ISC was headed by one of Britain’s foremost scientists of his day, Sir Joseph Needham. The report was published by the Chinese government in 1952. The version linked here, printed by Hsinhua’s News Agency in Prague, Czechoslovakia does not include hundreds of pages of annexes published in the initial report. Hopefully these will be made available online in the near future.

The charges of U.S. use of biological warfare during the Korean War have long been the subject of intense controversy. The reliance, in part, on testimony from U.S. prisoners of war led to U.S. claims of “brainwashing.” These charges later became the basis of a cover story for covert CIA experimentation into use of use of drugs and other forms of coercive interrogation and torture that became the basis for its 1963 KUBARK manual on interrogation, and much later, a powerful influence on the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program.

While the document embedded below has been the subject of numerous essays and books, the document itself is generally not available to the public. Even those who might wish to study the subject it covers will likely find it quite difficult to obtain. I will explore some of those reasons below. But I will note that some Cold War scholars have been quick to debunk the ISC report, none have made even the slightest effort to make the original materials available for other scholars or the public to assess for themselves the truth or falsity of their analysis.

At the very end of this article is a bibliography for interested readers.

ISC Report Part 1
ISC Report Part 2

(Cryptome.org picked up my public posting of this document at Document Cloud. It combined the two parts I’ve embedded here into one 2.6MB posting. For those who wish to use or link to their version, the link is here.)

Why was this report effectively suppressed?

What follows a text transcription of an important section of the report concerning Japanese use of bacteriological weapons against China during World War Two, Allied knowledge about this, and possible use of such Japanese scientific knowledge or techniques, as well as personnel, by the U.S. military during the Korean War.

Back in 1952, such collaboration between the US and Japanese war criminals using biological weapons was top secret, and totally denied by the U.S. But today, even U.S. historians accept that a deal was made between the U.S. and members of Unit 731 and associated portions of the Japanese military that had in fact spent nearly 15 years experimenting on the use of biological weapons, experimentation that included use of human vivisection and barbaric torture of thousands of human beings, most of whom were disposed of in crematoria. In addition, there was collaboration between the Japanese and the Nazi regime on these issues, though that is beyond the matter of this posting today (though see Martin essay in bibliography).

The U.S. collaboration with Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 was formally admitted in 1999 by the U.S. government, though the documentation of that has never been published. I have those documents and will be publishing them very soon.

It is a matter of historical record now that the U.S. government granted amnesty to Japan’s chief at Unit 731, doctor/General Shiro Ishii and his accomplices. The amnesty was top secret for decades, until revealed by journalist John Powell in a landmark article for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in October 1981.

What came to be known as the Needham report, due to the fact the ISC was headed by the prestigious British scientist, Sir Joseph Needham, came under immediate fire upon release. The report still remains a flashpoint for scholars. A 2001 article by the UK’s Historical Association detailed how UN and UK government officials collaborated in attempts to debunk the ISC findings. The UK Foreign Office released memoranda saying that claims of Japanese bacteriological warfare, going back to 1941, were “officially ‘not proven.'”

The sensitivity of the material uncovered by the ISC touched two areas of covert US government research. First was the US governments own plans to research and possibly implement germ warfare. The second issue concerned the confessions of U.S. flyers as to how they were briefed and implemented trial runs of biological warfare during the Korean War. The U.S. claimed that the flyers were tortured, and the CIA promoted the idea they were “brainwashed” by diabolical methods, causing a scare about “commie” mind control programs and “menticide,” which they used to justify the expenditure of millions of dollars for U.S. mind control programs during the 1950s-1970s.

The U.S. mind control and interrogation-torture programs used experiments on unwitting civilians, as well as soldiers undergoing supposed anti-torture training at the military’s SERE schools. I have shown via public records that CIA scientists continued to use experiments on “stress” at SERE schools after 9/11, and believe such research included experiments on CIA and/or DoD held detainees. That such research did take place can be inferred from the release in November 2011 of a new set of guidelines concerning DoD research. This newest version of a standard instruction (DoD Directive 3216.02) contained for the first time a specific prohibition against research done on detainees. (See section 7 (c).)

I believe a strong case can be made that while coercive methods, primarily isolation, was used on the U.S. prisoners of war who later confessed, that their confessions were primarily true. The idea that only false confessions result from torture is in fact false itself. While false confessions can result from torture (as well as less onerous methods, such as the Reid Technique, used by police departments throughout the United States today), actual confessions can also sometimes occur. I have first-hand experience working with torture survivors to know that is true.

It is true that all the POWs who confessed use of germ warfare later recanted that upon return to the United States. But the terms of their recantations are suspect. The recantations were made under threat of courts-martial. The archival evidence of the flyers debriefings have been destroyed or lost due to fire (according to the government). Meanwhile at least one scientist working at Ft. Detrick at the time admitted to German documentary investigators before he died that the U.S. had indeed been involved in germ warfare in Korea. (See video.)

An “actual investigation… could do us psychological as well as military damage”

The charges of U.S. use of biological weapons during the Korean War are even more incendiary than the now-proven claims the U.S. amnestied Japanese military doctors and others working on biological weapons who experimented on human subjects, and ultimately killed thousands in operational uses of those weapons against China during the Sino-Japanese portion of World War Two. The amnesty was the price paid for U.S. military and intelligence researchers to get access to the trove of research, much of it via fatal human experiments, the Japanese had developed over years of studying and developing weapons for biological warfare. (more…)

Before ‘Enhanced Interrogations,’ CIA Torture Architect Received Special Invite to FBI Academy Conference

Screen capture from VICE News interview with James Mitchell

The narrative is in place. James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen made millions of dollars having convinced the CIA to construct a torture program via reverse-engineering brutal methods of interrogation used in their previous employment in a military program meant to prepare U.S. military and intelligence personnel for torture by a foreign power or terrorist group.

According to numerous accounts, from Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair in July 2007 all the way to the release earlier this month of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Executive Summary (large PDF) of their report on the CIA interrogation/torture program, Mitchell and Jessen are described as “inexperienced.” Numerous “experienced” interrogators are often quoted to condemn the former Air Force psychologists for use of torture, which is not, we’re told, “effective” in eliciting information from prisoners or detainees. (These same people usually have nothing to say about the use of abusive techniques amounting to torture in the Army’s Field Manual on interrogations, recently condemned by a UN oversight committee.)

The SSCI Summary specifically stated, “Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise” (p. 21).

A December 17, 2014 editorial in the New York Times mirrored this language, without specifically quoting the SSCI report: “The two psychologists who were hired in an atmosphere of panic in the months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had no experience as interrogators, no specialized knowledge of Al Qaeda, no background in counterterrorism, and no relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.”

But contradicting this account, new evidence shows Mitchell was on a selective list of experts sent to a conference at the FBI’s Academy in Quantico, Virginia a full month before he was said to have proposed his “enhanced interrogation” techniques to the CIA. Mitchell was apparently chosen as one of 60 experts in counterterrorism, according to a list of participants for a conference, “Combatting Terrorism: Integration of Practice and Theory” (PDF), held on February 28, 2002.

“James Mitchell: CIA, Langley, VA” was one of only two CIA participants named at the event, which was supposed to bring together “highly qualified law enforcement officers with various terrorism experts and academics.”

“An Invitational Conference”

The conference report includes appendices on “Information Management and Evaluation,” “Psychology of Deception,” and “Data Mining,” among other topics. Its participants were said to be “at the forefront of counter-terrorism efforts.” The conference itself was written up in APA’s house organ, Monitor.

The conference was billed as “invitational,” and sponsored by the Behavioral Science Unit, FBI Academy; the Science Directorate of the American Psychological Association (APA); the School of Arts & Sciences and the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Decade of Behavior Initiative.

The Decade of Behavior Initiative was really a campaign run by the APA, not an organization. The Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict was, according to a U of Penn press release, “the brainchild of two men: Martin Seligman, a Penn psychology professor and former American Psychological Association president, and former Canadian Psychological Association President Peter Suedfeld.” Both Decade and the Solomon Asch Center were christened in 1998.

Seligman has been linked to James Mitchell on a number of occasions, while Suedfeld has a history of research in sensory deprivation, and has worked as a consultant to the Canadian Department of National Defence. In April 2006, APA published a letter from Suedfeld in Monitor, where he condemned those who connected the work of some psychologists with the use of torture as “groundless attacks” that “recur without any factual basis.” (more…)

Before the EITs: James Mitchell’s Special Invite to FBI/APA Conference at Quantico on “Combatting Terrorism”

The narrative is in place. James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen made millions of dollars having convinced the CIA to construct a torture program via reverse-engineering brutal methods of interrogation used in their previous employment in a military program meant to prepare U.S. military and intelligence personnel for torture by a foreign power or terrorist group.

According to numerous accounts, from Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair in July 2007 all the way to the release earlier this month of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Executive Summary (large PDF) of their report on the CIA interrogation/torture program, Mitchell and Jessen are described as “inexperienced.” Numerous “experienced” interrogators are often quoted to condemn the former Air Force psychologists for use of torture, which is not, we’re told, “effective” in eliciting information from prisoners or detainees. (These same people usually have nothing to say about the use of abusive techniques amounting to torture in the Army’s Field Manual on interrogations, recently condemned by a UN oversight committee.)

The SSCI Summary specifically stated, “Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise” (p. 21).

A December 17, 2014 editorial in the New York Times mirrored this language, without specifically quoting the SSCI report: “The two psychologists who were hired in an atmosphere of panic in the months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had no experience as interrogators, no specialized knowledge of Al Qaeda, no background in counterterrorism, and no relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.”

But contradicting this account, new evidence shows Mitchell was on a selective list of experts sent to a conference at the FBI’s Academy in Quantico, Virginia a full month before he was said to have proposed his “enhanced interrogation” techniques to the CIA. Mitchell was apparently chosen as one of 60 experts in counterterrorism, according to a list of participants for a conference, “Combatting Terrorism: Integration of Practice and Theory” (PDF), held on February 28, 2002.

“James Mitchell: CIA, Langley, VA” was one of only two CIA participants named at the event, which was supposed to bring together “highly qualified law enforcement officers with various terrorism experts and academics.”

“An Invitational Conference”

The conference report includes appendices on “Information Management and Evaluation,” “Psychology of Deception,” and “Data Mining,” among other topics. Its participants were said to be “at the forefront of counter-terrorism efforts.” The conference itself was written up in APA’s house organ, Monitor.

The conference was billed as “invitational,” and sponsored by the Behavioral Science Unit, FBI Academy; the Science Directorate of the American Psychological Association (APA); the School of Arts & Sciences and the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Decade of Behavior Initiative.

The Decade of Behavior Initiative was really a campaign run by the APA, not an organization. The Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict was, according to a U of Penn press release, “the brainchild of two men: Martin Seligman, a Penn psychology professor and former American Psychological Association president, and former Canadian Psychological Association President Peter Suedfeld.” Both Decade and the Solomon Asch Center were christened in 1998.

Seligman has been linked to James Mitchell on a number of occasions, while Suedfeld has a history of research in sensory deprivation, and has worked as a consultant to the Canadian Department of National Defence. In April 2006, APA published a letter from Suedfeld in Monitor, where he condemned those who connected the work of some psychologists with the use of torture as “groundless attacks” that “recur without any factual basis.” (more…)

Torture Report Shows Senate Staff Visited CIA’s Salt Pit Prison, Kept No Records at Agency’s Request

Salt Pit

There are many aspects to the exploding torture scandal that are being spun by interested parties. That’s not necessarily bad, and in fact to be expected. But it’s hard to get to the actual truth.

One problem is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee (SSCI) has only released the executive summary [PDF] of their full, 6,000-plus page report on the CIA’s torture program. On the other hand, the CIA censored a number of items in the document. While the summary has lots of new and very interesting information in it, it’s clear that we’re not getting the entire story.

One thing that has the SSCI report critics up in arms is the assertion from CIA and GOP critics that the SSCI did not interview actual CIA personnel. CIA claims that it did brief Congressional oversight committees, or at least their leading members, about the torture program.

The SSCI maintains the CIA has not been forthcoming with information, and has even misled investigators and government personnel about their interrogation program. For example, according to the report, “in late 2002, Chairman Graham sought to expand Committee oversight of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, including by having Committee staff visit CIA interrogation sites and interview CIA interrogators. The CIA rejected this request. An internal CIA email from [redacted] CTC Legal [redacted] indicated that the full Committee would not be told about ‘the nature and scope of the interrogation process,’ and that even the chairman and vice chairman would not be told in which country or ‘region’ the CIA had established its detention facilities.” (emphasis added, p. 438)

But what is most surprising, and no one has mentioned, much less emphasized, is that according to the CIA’s own June 2013 written response (PDF) to an earlier draft of the SSCI’s executive summary, SSCI “staff members” visited the Salt Pit CIA black site in Afghanistan (codenamed COBALT) in late 2003. According to the CIA, the SSCI staff found it compared “favorably” with detainee facilities at Bagram and Guantanamo.

At the time, the SSCI director was Republican Senator Pat Roberts, while Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller was the ranking minority member on the committee. The CIA does not name who the SSCI staff were. There is no reference to any such Committee visits to CIA black sites in the SSCI executive summary. I checked with some experts who have been following closely the CIA torture scandal, and they also believed this was new information.

A SSCI committee aide who would only speak on background told The Dissenter the committee doesn’t dispute CIA records. However, the aide noted, the 2003 visit was years in advance of the SSCI study that resulted in the recent report. Furthermore, at the request of the CIA, the committee retained no records of the 2003 visit. I’m told the committee stands by its description of detention facilities in the report, and the CIA’s refusal to allow the committee to conduct oversight over detention and interrogation activities prior to 2006, when the committee was finally informed of the program. (more…)

SSCI Confirms Staff Visited CIA’s Salt Pit Prison in 2003, No Records of Visit Kept at CIA Request

There are many aspects to the exploding torture scandal that are being spun by interested parties. That’s not necessarily bad, and in fact to be expected. But it’s hard to get to the actual truth.

One problem is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee (SSCI) has only released the Executive Summary (PDF) of their full, 6,000-plus page report on the CIA’s torture program. On the other hand, the CIA censored a number of items in the document. While the Summary has lots of new and very interesting information in it, it’s clear that we’re not getting the entire story.

One thing that has the SSCI report critics up in arms is the assertion from CIA and GOP critics that the SSCI did not interview actual CIA personnel. CIA claims that it did brief Congressional oversight committees, or at least their leading members, about the torture program.

The SSCI maintains the CIA has not been forthcoming with information, and has even misled investigators and government personnel about their interrogation program. For example, according to the report, “in late 2002, Chairman Graham sought to expand Committee oversight of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, including by having Committee staff visit CIA interrogation sites and interview CIA interrogators. The CIA rejected this request. An internal CIA email from [redacted] CTC Legal [redacted] indicated that the full Committee would not be told about ‘the nature and scope of the interrogation process,’ and that even the chairman and vice chairman would not be told in which country or ‘region’ the CIA had established its detention facilities.” (emphasis added, p. 438)

But what is most surprising, and no one has mentioned, much less emphasized, is that according to the CIA’s own June 2013 written response (PDF) to an earlier draft of the SSCI’s executive summary, SSCI “staff members” visited the Salt Pit CIA black site in Afghanistan (codenamed COBALT) in late 2003. According to the CIA, the SSCI staff found it compared “favorably” with detainee facilities at Bagram and Guantanamo.

At the time, the SSCI director was Republican Senator Pat Roberts, while Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller was the ranking minority member on the committee. The CIA does not name who the SSCI staff were. There is no reference to any such Committee visits to CIA black sites in the SSCI Executive Summary. I checked with some experts who have been following closely the CIA torture scandal, and they also believed this was new information.

A SSCI committee aide who would only speak on background told The Dissenter the committee doesn’t dispute CIA records. However, the aide noted, the 2003 visit was years in advance of the SSCI study that resulted in the recent report. Furthermore, at the request of the CIA, the committee retained no records of the 2003 visit. I’m told the committee stands by its description of detention facilities in the report, and the CIA’s refusal to allow the committee to conduct oversight over detention and interrogation activities prior to 2006, when the committee was finally informed of the program.

The entire episode raises many questions, however. For instance, in the SSCI report, the committee states, “At the July 2004 briefing, the minority staff director requested full Committee briefings and expanded Committee oversight, including visits to CIA detention sites and interviews with interrogators — efforts that had been sought by former Chairman Graham years earlier. This request was denied.”

That request was denied, but was an earlier one approved? We know now there was a visit to at least one CIA detention site. Why isn’t that mentioned in the report? If there were no records of the visit, there were still individuals who could be interviewed from that time, not least Sen. Rockefeller, who was ranking minority member on the SSCI at the time of the staff visit, and is still a member of the Senate intelligence committee. Even more, what kind of oversight committee would fail to keep records of an oversight action when requested by the agency upon which it is conducting oversight?

“… a markedly cleaner, healthier, more humane and better administered facility”

The story about the SSCI staff visit in the CIA Response is tied into CIA’s response to SSCI charges that both the interrogation of CIA detainees and the conditions of their confinement at the various CIA black sites were more brutal than CIA had indicated. The Senate report highlighted the death of one CIA detainee, Gul Rahman, who died of hypothermia while being tortured at the CIA’s notorious Salt Pit prison.

The CIA, whose response is self-serving at best, and can generally not be trusted, responded to these charges. They claimed that conditions at the black sites were “unacceptable” in the “early days,” but that conditions improved over time.

“Most importantly,” the CIA wrote, “we found no evidence to support the charge that the facts relating to confinement conditions or the application of enhanced techniques were previously unknown or undisclosed to NSC and DOJ officials or to oversight committees.”

The CIA did agree with Committee charges that the “confinement conditions” at the Salt Pit black site were “harsher than at other facilities and deficient in significant respects for a few months prior to the death of Gul Rahman in late 2002.” The actual identification of the Salt Pit prison does not occur in either the CIA Response or SSCI report, as such sites names are either redacted or given code names. The identification of the Salt Pit is inferred by information in the documents, especially the death of Rahman.

According to an account at the Daily Beast, the Salt Pit prison, called by some former detainees the “Dark Prison,” were abominable. “Nude prisoners were kept in a central area, and walked around as a form of humiliation. Detainees were hosed down while shackled naked, and placed in rooms with temperatures as low as 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Loud music was played constantly…. Detainees there were subject to sleep deprivation, shackled to bars with their hands above their heads.”

The CIA Response to SSCI stated the Agency “took steps to consolidate responsibility” for the facility and “moved quickly to improve conditions.” Then they reminded the SSCI about something:

Although conditions at the facility remained sub-optimal throughout its existence, significant improvements at the site prompted two SSCI staff members who visited the facility in late 2003 to compare it favorably with military facilities at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay. In fact, one remarked that [one word redaction] was “a markedly cleaner, healthier, more humane and better administered facility.” [One word redaction] was decommissioned in 2004 in favor of a newer facility…. [p. 56 (p. 80 of PDF)]

Only months after their visit, a CIA Office of Medical Services medical officer described the rectal rehydration procedure used on detainees in a February 27, 2004 email, as quoted in the SSCI Summary: “[r]egarding the rectal tube, if you place it and open up the IV tubing, the flow will self regulate, sloshing up the large intestines…. [w]hat I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag – let gravity do the work.”

The hideous use of such medical torture, amounting to sexual assault on prisoners, has sparked new calls for further investigation. See a full discussion of this aspect of the torture in a new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PDF).

Incestuous Goings-on

So what’s going on here?

I can’t know exactly. But the cozy relationship between the Congressional intelligence committees and the agencies they oversee is a major problem. I noted back in August that numerous leading staff members for SSCI over the years have had a tight relationship with the CIA. Indeed, the EIT torture program of the CIA was implemented under the leadership of the former Staff Director for the SSCI back in the early 1990s, George Tenet.

From my August article:

After leaving SSCI in January 1993], Tenet went straight to the White House, where he worked as “Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs.” In a relatively short time, he was appointed deputy director of the CIA in July 1995. By December 1996, Tenet replaced John Deutch as temporary director of the CIA. Bill Clinton would nominate him as full director the next year….

In four quick years, Tenet went from SSCI Staff Director to head of the CIA.

But Tenet was not the only instance of such incestuous goings on in the oversight world. Other individuals that either went from the intelligence world to SSCI staff, or from the latter to the CIA, included former Minority Staff Director John H. Moseman, who went from being Minortity Staff Director to CIA’s Director of Congressional Affairs in 1996, and then later Tenet’s Chief of Staff; former Charles Battaglia, who went from senior management at CIA to staff director at SSCI in the mid-1990s; and former SSCI Staff Director Bernard F. McMahon in the 1980s, who earlier had served as Executive Director to the Director of the CIA.

Another notable connection between Congressional oversight and the CIA involves the 2002 Joint Congressional investigation into 9/11. The House and Senate intelligence committees appointed former CIA Inspector General L. Britt Snider to head the unified staff for the joint inquiry.

To my knowledge, there is no connection between the CIA or other intelligence agency and the current Congressional intelligence oversight committees.

In general, I’m very pleased to have even the redacted version of the Executive Summary of the SSCI report, which had much more in it that I would have expected.

But the evidence in the Summary points to one overwhelming fact: if we are ever to get the full story on what went on behind the scenes in the torture program, we need the SSCI to release the full 6,000 page report, and all censorship removed to the extent possible.

Secondly, we need a non-partisan, non-government connected committee to investigate fully the entire affair, including the rendition program, the full extent of the military’s own torture program, and recent revelations of illegal human subject medical experimentation as part of the CIA program. Such an independent committee must have no ties to the intelligence community, and include strong presence of human rights and anti-torture organizations. It must also include representatives or the presence of some of the victims of the torture itself, the better to keep such an investigation honest.