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Saturday, March 05, 2011

How to force a false confession

by digby

Establishing the baseline state is important to demonstrate to the HVD that he has no control over basic human needs. The baseline state also creates in the detainee a mindset in which he learns to perceive and value his personal welfare, comfort, and immediate needs more than the information he is protecting. The use of conditioning techniques do not generally bring immediate results; rather, it is the cumulative effect of these techniques, used over time and in combination with other interrogation techniques and intelligence exploitation methods, which achieve interrogation objectives. These conditioning techniques require little to no physical interaction between the detainee and the interrogator. The specific interrogation techniques are:

a. Nudity. The HVD’s clothes are taken and he remains nude until the interrogators provide clothes to him.

–CIA memo describing combined interrogation techniques, December 30, 2004

I have often thought that one of the problems with our obsessive focus on waterboarding was that we may have inadvertently legitimized all the other torture techniques they used. It's a common problem in advocacy --- you focus on the worst because it's the thing that will instantly convey the horror of the practice, but in the process you normalize lesser horrors that are just as wrong. It's a problem for which I have no solution. It happens all the time.

The case of Bradley Manning may be illustrative of that. He's been held, without charges, under punitive conditions that mirror in some respects the treatment of terrorist suspect detainees in the nation's foreign prison camps. However, he isn't being waterboarded, so there is resistance to the idea that this is torture. But it is:

“Removal of clothing was authorized by the Secretary of Defense [Rumsfeld] for use at GTMO [Guantánamo] on December 2, 2002,” acknowledges the recently released U.S. Senate Armed Service Committee report on the use of harsh interrogation techniques. It also reports that the use of prolonged nudity proved so effective that, in January 2003, it was approved for use in Afghanistan and, in the fall of 2003, was adopted for use in Iraq.“Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody”

The Senate report came out shortly after a secret International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on CIA torture techniques used as part of its detention program was leaked by Mark Danner of the “New York Review of Books.” These reports provoked a storm of media attention, much of it focused on the use of waterboarding (or what the ICRC more aptly calls “suffocation by water”) and, in particular, its use on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times.

The media paid less attention to the host of what the ICRC calls the other “methods of ill-treatment.” ... Failure to publicly acknowledge the full scope of sexual torture, along with all the other “harsh” interrogation techniques, creates a sanitized, “official,” history. Americans will never know what torture was committed in their name, nor be able to hold accountable those who ordered and executed these actions unless they go beyond “official” sources.

The ICRC conducted interviews with fourteen “enemy combatants” from eight countries. The detainees were arrested over a nearly three-year period, from March 2002 through May 2005. Eleven of the detainees were subject to prolonged nudity “during detention and interrogation, ranging from several weeks continuously up to several months intermittently.”...

The Senate report provides a far different assessment on what it calls “removal of clothing.” It makes clear that the use of prolonged nudity found strong support within the CIA and military as an interrogation technique. It reports that nudity was imported into Iraq, especially Abu Ghraib prison, from Afghanistan and GTMO.

It states that this technique served a number of critical interrogation purposes, including to “humiliate detainees,” to “renew ‘capture shock’ of detainees” and as an incentive for good behavior. It use was extensive, as indicated by two of the many officers interviewed. COL Jerry Philabaum, the Commander of the 320th MP, reports seeing “between 12-15 detainees naked in their own individual cells.” CPT Donald Reese, the Commander of the 372nd MP Company, acknowledged that prolonged nudity was “known to everyone” and it was “common practice to walk the tier and see detainees with clothing and bedding.” Other officers made similar statements.

I suppose we are supposed be grateful that they are only using this particular technique on an American soldier for seven hours a day instead of the weeks or days they routinely used on Al Qaeda members. Perhaps they learned through their long experience at Gitmo and Bagram that combined with the sleep deprivation and isolation, the intermittent period of being clothed and naked coerces false accusation and confessions more easily. That's the only proven result of such techniques, after all.

As Mark Kleiman eloquently put it: "This is a total disgrace. It shouldn’t be happening in this country. You can’t be unaware of this, Mr. President. Silence gives consent."