New Evidence on CIA Medical Torture: Injection “to the Bone” on Former Black Site Prisoner Majid Khan

Countries that articipated in CIA torture & rendition program - via Wikimedia Commons
Countries involved in the CIA Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Program according to a 2013 Open Society Foundation – Image by opensocietyfoundations.org via transcend.org [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Quite recently, U.S. authorities allowed the declassification of notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Wells Dixon that described what his client, high-value detainee Majid Khan, told him about his torture at the hands of the CIA. Khan, a Pakistan citizen, is currently at Guantanamo, and awaits trial by military commission.

Dixon has described the hideous torture of his client, which comes on the heels of revelations in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of their report on the CIA’s torture program.

According to a June 2 Reuters report, Dixon described from interview notes with Khan, CIA use of solitary confinement; sexual abuse, including frequent touching of “private parts”; threats of physical harm; being hung naked from a pole for days; so-called “rectal feeding” (a form of anal rape); denial of food; water immersion and waterboarding, among other atrocities.

According to a CCR press release on Khan’s torture, CIA doctors onsite were among the “worst torturers.” Both Reuters and CCR have noted how doctors would check Khan’s condition, ignore his appeals for help, and send him back into extreme forms of torture.

In a June 10 phone interview with Wells Dixon, Khan’s attorney revealed there was more unreported material left out of the Reuters and CCR reports. In particular, Dixon revealed that Khan told him he was “also injected with a needle to the bone, and screamed in pain, then lost consciousness.”

According to my research, an injection that just happens to hit a bone does not usually cause great pain. But an injection that enters the bone can. The latter is called an intraosseous or IO injection, and is used to quickly infuse drugs, particularly in instances where a person’s life is at stake. It is usual medical procedure to insert lidocaine, a pain reliever, with or prior to injection because of the great pain associated with IO injections. Certain kinds of drugs can also cause great pain upon injection.

Did the CIA have medical need to make an IO injection, and withhold lidocaine or other pain reliever? Did CIA use the IO injection specifically to cause pain? Was a drug injected into Khan that specifically, or as side effect, caused great pain, in order to further torture him?

We don’t know exactly what the CIA did with this, or any other injection, but the evidence of such forms of medical torture cannot be denied, despite recent attempts by the CIA to minimize allegations of such medical torture, such as the use of drugs in interrogation. In fact, a recent FOIA release from CIA obtained by Jason Leopold at VICE News showed that the CIA used blood thinners to prolong certain forms of torture.

It has not been easy to obtain this information. As Dixon noted in a June 22 op-ed at Al Jazeera, “The CIA has long tried to bury evidence of its crimes. When we filed a legal case challenging Majid’s detention after his arrival at Guantanamo, the government prevented us from meeting with him for a year so that we would not learn about his torture.”

UN Special Rapporteurs’ “Letter of Allegation” to U.S. on Medical Torture and Experimentation

A new article by Adam Goldman at the Washington Post revealed that hundreds of photos from the CIA black sites exist. The fact they may be evidence at any future military commissions trial is currently being determined, as military prosecutors review the photos, which are said to include pictures of naked detainees, CIA personnel, and “photographs of confinement boxes where detainees such as Abu Zubaydah… were forced into for hours.”

But it seems highly unlikely the public will see these photos, and we will have to rely on detainee testimony, and other various attempts by journalists, domestic and international bodies and organizations to pry out the information from the U.S. government. Along those lines, CCR has called for the full Senate CIA torture report and the Panetta Review to be released. A letter initiated by ACLU and signed by approximately 100 national and international rights groups on the need to ensure accountability for the U.S. CIA Torture Program was delivered to the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council. (more…)

Guantanamo Prisoner, Who Weighs 75 Pounds and is Near Death, Mounts Legal Push for Release

Tariq Ba Odah
Tariq Ba Odah

A Guantanamo Bay prisoner, who has been on hunger strike for over eight years, has launched a legal push for his immediate release from the United States military prison because he now weighs around 75 pounds and is near death.

Tariq Ba Odah is a Yemeni prisoner and resident of Saudi Arabia, who has been confined in “solitary conditions” at Guantanamo for 13 years despite the fact that President Barack Obama’s own review task force—comprised of officials from the top US security agencies—cleared Odah for release in 2009. His body can no longer endure the effects of nasal tube feedings.

A motion [PDF] filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on Odah’s behalf argues under the “laws of war,” particularly the Third Geneva Convention, the US has an “obligation to release seriously wounded and sick prisoners.” It is part of US Army regulation and “binding domestic law.”

Odah meets the “standards of ill health” that should compel his release because he is at 56 percent of his normal body weight. He is suffering from “severe malnutrition.” He often complains to his lawyer, Omar Farah, that he cannot focus or concentrate during their meetings. He is losing his memory and forgot the current year when he was writing a letter to family.

Dr. Mohammed Rami Bailony, who wrote a brief [PDF] in support of Odah’s motion for release, describes Odah’s “diminished weight” as a “shocking medical fact that alone indicates the presence of a crisis-level medical condition presaging organ failure, neurological damage and, inevitably, death.”

Odah does not “wish to die,” the motion for relief declares. “He wishes to be reunited with his family in Saudi Arabia or to be freed to any other safe country where he can begin to recover. At the same time, he feels compelled by the injustice he is enduring at Guantanamo to continue his hunger strike, the only peaceful way for him to protest with self-control and with dignity.”

The motion describes how Odah believes the US military has subject him to abuse so he abandons his hunger strike. He has suffered “violent cell-extractions, force-feeding sessions that leave him wet with his own vomit, and unremitting confinement in solitary conditions in Guantánamo’s Camp 5, where now he says he does not see anyone and he does not see the sun.”

Dr. Sandra S. Crosby, the director and co-founder of the immigration and refugee health program at the Boston Medical Center, also wrote a brief [PDF] in support of Odah that highlights how Odah does not trust the medical staff. The mistrust only compounds the risk that he will die soon.

“Mr. Ba Odah believes—not unreasonably in my opinion—that physicians at Guantanamo have been utilized as instruments of the guard force to coerce prisoners to ‘break the strike,’” Crosby suggests. “When this loss of trust occurs, patients will often not accept appropriate medical recommendations.”

Crosby concludes Odah is at risk of “serious organ damage and/or death.” Odah’s injuries “may be permanent.”

Even if the government claims it could rehabilitate Odah with medical treatment, the motion argues that the circumstances of his detention will likely prevent him from ever recovering.

“Apparently unmoved by his crisis-level weight, the government steadfastly confines Mr. Ba Odah to Guantanamo’s Camp 5, the non-communal housing facility renowned for its punitive, isolative conditions,” the motion declares. “This is exactly the opposite of what Mr. Ba Odah needs. Solitary confinement compromises an individual’s mental and physical health and risks bringing about ‘multiple chronic medical illnesses, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and permanent neuropsychological damage.’ Moreover, solitary conditions are ‘a strong exacerbating factor to his already precarious condition.'”

Odah’s attorney visited Tariq on April 21, and he was “nearly unrecognizable” to him.

Farah shared, “He is now enduring more suffering at Guantánamo than he has ever known. All the bones in his midsection are visible through his skin, his jawline and teeth protrude, and he says he is losing sensation in his hands and feet and his memory is fading.”

It should not matter that there is war ongoing in Yemen that prevents him from being returned to the country where he was born. His family emigrated to Saudi Arabia when Odah was an infant. The government can pursue his transfer to Saudi Arabia. Plus, the government has recently transferred Yemeni prisoners to other countries and shown nationality does not have to be a barrier to release.

The US military’s treatment of Odah clearly amounts to torture, and it is unconscionable that he—as well as many others—remain in detention at Guantanamo.

Image from the Center for Constitutional Rights. Not a recent photo. 

Déjà vu on Interrogation “Reform”: McCain/Feinstein Amendment Won’t Stop Torture

From Appendix M

“There’s truth that lives and truth that dies…” – Leonard Cohen

In a bizarre mixture of the sincere and the insincere, an amendment proposed by a bipartisan group of senators to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is being touted as all but ending torture by the U.S. — if it passes.

According to an article in The Intercept, “Human rights and transparency organizations are applauding the effort.” But is there really anything here to celebrate?

If you read The Intercept article all the way to the end, there’s mention that a group of medical experts found the Army Field Manual “permits techniques that are ‘recognized under international law as forms of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.’” So why is there applause?

Mark Fallon, the former deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantanamo, and currently Chair of the Research Committee of President Obama’s inter-departmental High-value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), told Jason Leopold at Vice News the amendment “mandates and advocates the use of science and evidence-based research so we can be more effective during interrogations.” Furthermore, there would be “a review of the Army Field Manual [AFM] to ensure we are only using best and lawful techniques” during interrogation.

Constitutional scholar David Cole writes at the Just Security website that he supports the amendment, which is jointly sponsored by Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Jack Reed and Susan Collins. Cole adds that others support it, too, including “David Keene, former President of the National Rifle Association and editorial page editor of the Washington Times…”

Newsweek posted an article by Rupert Stone this week, titled “Beyond Torture: The New Science of Interrogating Terrorists,” which includes a long discussion of the importance of putting interrogation on a science-centered base.

Stone’s article goes into more detail than others about problems concerning “the current version of the Army Field Manual [which] still offers a back door to some of the brutal tactics authorized after 9/11.” Stone is of course talking about Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, which allows theoretically indefinitely extended amounts of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation upon so-called “unlawful enemy combatants.” The interrogation methods of Appendix M are so severe, they require at times physician and/or psychologist in attendance to implement (shades of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program!).

But problems with the Army Field Manual do not start or end with Appendix M. The main section of the manual includes coercive methods of interrogation, including psychological techniques to induce fear, to tear down the ego and self-esteem of prisoners, to tear down their resistance to interrogation by inducing “hopelessness and helplessness,” and allowing use of drugs on prisoners, so long as the drugs don’t cause “lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage.”

But Fallon and others, like veteran interrogator and Col. (ret.) Steven Kleinman, believe that the review mandated by the amendment will take care of the problems sometime in the future. Meanwhile, they urge passage of the amendment now. Kleinman told Newsweek, “Passing strongly worded legislation that would stand as a bulwark against torture… is the single most important step we must take.” (Both Fallon and Kleinman have impeccable anti-torture credentials.)

According to The Hill, this view is echoed by Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, who said of the senators’ amendment, “This is how a strong democracy deals with its mistakes — we examine what we did, and take the necessary steps to make it right.”

Meanwhile, in my email box, I have a plea from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The mailing promises the “introduced legislation… could permanently end CIA torture.” It asks I call my senators now, even as a group of seven human rights and civil liberties organizations, have released a statement, including ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights, supporting the amendment.

The entire campaign around the whole Feinstein-McCain amendment has an unreal quality. It arose all of a sudden. There’s no real period of public discussion about it. The interpretation of the amendment itself is via sanitized sources we are supposed to trust. It’s presented as a slam dunk issue for those who oppose torture. You’d have to be an ingrate to oppose such a good thing.

“Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday”

Where have I heard this all before? When the current Army Field Manual was released in September 2006, there was the same near-universal acclaim, the same pious intonations by human rights groups, the same spate of articles in the mainstream press. But nine years later — though many news outlets still downplay or simply eliminate reference to it — we know the 2006 version of the Army Field Manual contained forms of ill-treatment that the UN, reviewing torture policies by the United States, recently condemned.

I analyzed the PR campaign to sell the current version of the Army Field Manual in an article at Alternet in 2009. I pointed out how when the Army Field Manual was released in 2006, we had the same gushing praise and platitudes from the press.

The Washington Post bragged that the then-new Army Field Manual “repudiated the harsh interrogation tactics adopted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Human rights groups chimed in. As reported by the Post, Tom Malinowski, then Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (but previously a Senior Director of the Clinton White House National Security Council), stated, “This is the Pentagon coming full circle… This is very strong guidance.”

Recently, Malinowski was tapped by the Obama administration to answer the United Nations in their questions about ill-treatment in Appendix M. In 2007, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he praised the AFM for using using “professional, humane interrogation methods.”

Over and over I read how the Army Field Manual had “safeguards,” “oversight,” was a big “step-forward.” Amnesty International’s advocacy director called the AFM “an important return to the rule of law…. It is an important public statement.”

But it was no such thing.

Similar misrepresentations take place today. In Cole’s piece at Just Security, for instance, he claims that the Office of Legal Counsel memos authorizing torture memos, “written between 2002 and 2007, have all been rescinded and rejected.”

But that’s not true. One of them was not, and tellingly, it was the one dealing with the Army Field Manual and Appendix M.

“You know something is happening, but you don’t know what it is”

Let’s examine the text of the Feinstein-McCain amendment (download PDF) and see if the promises of its supporters holds any water.

“An individual… shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3″

Okay. We see that the existing Army Field Manual, including use of techniques and “approaches” such as “Fear Up,” “Futility,” “Ego Down”, “False Flag” and “Separation” will continue to be the law of the land. The “Separation” or Appendix M approach is really an omnibus set of abusive techniques that includes use of solitary confinement, sleep and sensory deprivation, and environmental or dietary manipulation.

Screenshot 2015-06-13 10.05.52
I asked via FOIA for DoD to produce examples of requests to use Appendix M, as is described by the Army Field Manual. DoD said it could not find any documents pertaining to that. So much for transparency and safeguards.

For 14 months I have had an outstanding FOIA requesting materials related to review of Appendix M by the Office of Secretary of Defense. I asked because the Army Field Manual itself states, “The Office of the Secretary of Defense will review these activities periodically in accordance with DOD Directive 3115.09.” That FOIA is still pending. But if the partisans of the Feinstein-McCain amendment believe that DoD or the government will do any better in producing oversight material upon request to the public or press, I have a fine bridge in Brooklyn to sell them.

The Feinstein-McCain amendment states that “a thorough review” of the AFM is to be conducted at least one year after the enactment of the Authorization Act, and then every subsequent three years “to ensure that Army Field Manual 2-22.3 complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use of threat of force.”

The “thorough review” is to be conducted by “the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of National Intelligence.” In other words, the Executive Branch is to have total control over assessments of compliance of Army Field Manual practice with so-called “evidence-based, best practices for interrogation.” What that really means is that there will be no “checks and balances” oversight here.

The model for such review would be DoD’s 2009 Review of Department Compliance with President’s Executive Order on Detainee Conditions of Confinement (PDF), which produced a wildly unrealistic picture of Guantanamo as consistent with Geneva norms of humane treatment. At the time there were continuing hunger strikes, as prisoners were savagely beaten by teams of guards. By June 2009, yet another detainee was found dead in a cell in the GTMO Behavioral Health Unit, where prisoners were observed every three minutes, supposedly dead by his own hand, having been driven insane by what the autopsy report called “conditions of confinement.”

The highly-regarded researcher of the Guantanamo camp, Andy Worthington, called the 2009 review “a bitter joke.” There’s no reason not to expect the same from the Feinstein-McCain Amendment’s proposed AFM reviews.

Interestingly, however, it’s worth noting that the the Central Intelligence Agency appears to be frozen out of the proposed review process.

“People writing songs that voices never share”

“Not less than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the interagency body established… shall submit to the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, and other appropriate officials [could this be the CIA?] a report on current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force…. The report required… may include recommendations for revisions to Army Field Manual 2-22.3 based on the body of research commissioned by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.”

While HIG experts like Fallon and Kleinman may take umbrage in such verbiage — indeed, it’s flattering to see your own research touted as something of governmental importance — there is nothing mandated in this language, at least as regards any updating or change in techniques or approaches in the Army Field Manual.

“The report… may include recommendations,” and nothing is said about any recommendations being enforced. Indeed, we already have public members of the HIG on record as being against some of the abuse in the Army Field Manual, and still nothing changes.

One of those associated, Col. Kleinman, was on record as recently as 2011 as stating in an article, “The Obama Administration has made a good-faith attempt to bring standards to American interrogation practices by issuing an Executive Order that extended the relevant U.S. Army Field Manual’s directives to all government-wide interrogation efforts.” That “good-faith attempt” included making via Executive Order Appendix M the law of the land.

Kleinman is on-record as criticizing the current AFM as being unscientific. He wrote a paper that supposedly elaborates on that with another current HIG official, psychologist Susan Brandon, and two other researchers. But according to Stone’s Newsweek article, the 2010 review of AFM techniques was not publicly released for fear it “could have jeopardized the HIG’s relationship with the military.” If releasing a critical article is too dicey for critics of DoD’s Army Field Manual, what can one expect from any future reviews led by the Secretary of Defense?

Meanwhile, Brandon is under a cloud of controversy recently for her participation in activities with the American Psychological Association in regards to allegedly facilitating torture.

Brandon helped organize a workshop with the APA, CIA and Rand Corporation back in 2003 that looked at, among other things, “what pharmacological agents are known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior,” and “sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors.” One of her workshop discussion questions asked, “How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?”

In 2005, Brandon was an “observer” at an APA meeting that met to consider ongoing use of psychologists in national security investigations. She reportedly helped write the part of the report from the meeting that spoke to issues bearing on national security research, just the sort of research, it seems, that the HIG is either doing or proposing when it comes to interrogations. One of those research projects on “false confessions,” as recently reported at Bloomberg, left some participants “angry,” and one woman who “dissolves into tears.”

Hence, there are ethical questions about the kinds of research being done, what can be accomplished in such research, and the fact that even if some kind of “evidence-based” interrogation protocols that don’t involve “force” are suggested by research and then DoD-led review, there’s no mandate or promise in the new legislation that it will ever be implemented.

Indeed, there is nothing in the new legislation that calls for the removal of Appendix M.

“Into the night, shadows fall”

A most interesting section of the amendment, unique in its hypocrisy and unstated cover for torture, concerns the FBI and other Federal law enforcement agencies:

“Nothing in this subsection shall preclude an officer, employee, or other agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or other Federal law enforcement agency from continuing to use authorized, non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force, threats, or promises.”

Anyone familiar with the work of the FBI, or other Federal agencies will find this presentation of “non-coercive” agents never threatening suspects something of a fairy tale.

A few years ago, I reported the case of Petty Officer Daniel King, who the Naval Criminal Investigative Service coerced into a false confession of treason, and with the assistance of a Navy psychologist, drove to such a degree of desperation he tried to kill himself. (See here and here.)

But the FBI probably has a lot more charges of abuse than most other Federal law enforcement agencies. None of these charges have been bigger than those surrounding the massive FBI investigation into the July 2010 World Cup bombings in Kampala, Uganda.

The FBI interrogated a number of prisoners from Kenya and other East African countries who were renditioned to Uganda. It was the largest foreign FBI investigation since the USS Cole attack in 2000. A 2011 report by Ian Cobain at The Guardian detailed accusations of abuse by FBI agents involved in the investigation.

A more recent case of FBI malfeasance and complicity in torture is the case of Yonas Fikre, a 36-year-old Eritrean-born American who charges the FBI had pressured him to collaborate with them, and when placing him on a no-fly list failed, had him “arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates,” according to a report in The Guardian.

The issue of FBI torture deserves a lot more public examination, and in a subsequent article I plan to go into much more detail on the World Cup bombing case.

“Always something happening and nothing going on”

The issue of torture by proxy or liaison-country cover is also important, and was a major factor in the scandal surrounding extraordinary rendition, where CIA and DoD prisoners were turned over to U.S.-friendly intelligence agencies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and other nations, where they were terribly tortured.

More recently, there are similar charges surrounding the World Cup bombing case, but better reported in the U.S. was Jeremy Scahill’s 2011 report at The Nation concerning CIA-run black sites in Somalia. Ostensibly under the control of Somalia’s National Security Agency, the sites were used to train Somali intelligence agents, while CIA interrogators are given direct access to prisoners held in the Somali secret detention sites.

In fact, as a recent FOIA release of a 1963 CIA interrogation manual shows, use of “liaison” or “host’ countries as cover for torture is very old practice, honed during the Cold War.

It is a fact that the CIA chief of interrogations in the early years of its post-9/11 rendition and torture program was previously known (and supposedly chastised) for using a 1983 torture instruction manual — “Human Resource Exploitation” — the U.S. had distributed to Latin American police and intelligence forces for the purposes of instruction in torture. Nothing could better illustrate how the use of proxy or “host” countries for torture is on a continuum with the worst of the CIA’s torture program.

But it is not the CIA or FBI alone who act this way. During the U.S.-instigated Iraq War, the Department of Defense notoriously issued a “Fragmentary Order” (FRAGO 242) that had U.S. armed forces turn prisoners over to Iraq security forces, even though they knew they would be tortured. In many cases, the Iraq security forces themselves had been trained by the U.S.

Nothing in the Feinstein-McCain amendment speaks to this long-practiced method of torture by proxy used by U.S. intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies.

“Everybody knows the deal is rotten”

It is highly unlikely that most Americans will hear anything negative about the Feinstein-McCain Amendment, except perhaps from right-wing types who lust for the good old days of CIA’s “enhanced” torture brutality. But for the record, this amendment does nothing to stop torture.

Despite all the caveats and evidence I’ve gathered here, the truth is almost none of it will reach the ears or eyes of American citizens. But then, only the simulacrum of a reasonable debate on this policy is expected. The Establishment of respectable citizens, who make up human rights organizations and government-academic merry-go-round that employs them, has already spoken. The consensus has already been drawn.

But that doesn’t mean the amendment is worth a damn. While no one is held accountable for disgusting and barbaric forms of torture, from driving people insane with music and bright lights, to holding them in solitary for years, to waterboarding or water immersion, to injecting blood thinner drugs into them so they can be forced to maintain body positions for hours on end, and much more worse (“rectal feedings”? no, anal rape)… while no one is held accountable for this, an anemic and mostly window-dressing reform is dressed up as something significant and sold by hucksters. Backing them are those sincerely anti-torture individuals and groups who still trust the usual authorities to do the right thing.

But none of that can hide what this amendment is: fraud, trickery, deception, the most meretricious sort of sham. The fact that some of those supporting the amendment are sincere and good individuals doesn’t change a thing.

Uruguay Creates Commission to Investigate Crimes of Dictatorship

Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez signed a decree to create a commission—called the Truth and Justice Working Group—to investigate not only the dictatorship from 1973 to 1985 but also the state of emergency in the late 1960s.

The decree, issued on May 19, occurred on the same day of the annual demonstration in honor of the disappeared during the military dictatorship.

Vazquez, recently elected as part of the left-wing Broad Front coalition, held intentions to investigate the crimes of the dictatorship in his address to the Uruguayan public on March 1, the first day of his second term. He told Uruguayans the group would be created immediately once he assumed office.

“This group will analyze the existing archives and will search information relevant to the material, organize the registry of testimonies by victims or families about crimes against humanity, monitor the compliance of judgments against the state both nationally and internationally and address other actions leading to the objective raised,” Vazquez said.

The state of emergency and military dictatorship were created in response to the Tupamaros, a revolutionary group created to oppose injustices. Jose Mujica, the previous president who left office earlier this year, was a part of the organization.

Eventually, in what the group cited was due to the pressure of the government, their actions became more violent. This led to the government to curtail more freedoms to the point where Juan Maria Bordeberry, then-president and part of the center-right Colorado Party, dissolved parliament through a decree.

Although, The New York Times reported military officials appointed by Bordeberry held “[the] real power behind the scenes.” This, also noted by the Times, was no different from other countries already under military rule.

Eventually, Bordeberry was overthrown by military officials and series of other presidents took rule without major power.

U.S. lawmakers decided, in 1976, to cut off military aid to the Uruguay military junta, which angered military leaders. In fact, they felt, as noted by The New York Times in a piece published on September 29, the U.S. should provide funds after the “success in smashing the Tupamaros and restoring public security and economic order.”

In 1984, the dictatorship fell in a peaceful transition. Although, a law was passed in 1986 by lawmakers exempting all military officials involved in the dictatorship from prosecution. The fear was, as research associate Francesca Lassa pointed out, “the likelihood of another military coup” due to unrest among the armed forces. So far, there have been no changes to the law.

Interestingly, the shadow of the dictatorship can still be felt in Uruguayan politics. For example, Raul Sendic Rodriguez, the current vice president, is the son of Raul Sendic Antonaccio, who was a founder of the Tupamaros.

Moreover, in the most recent election, Pedro Bordaberry ran on behalf the Colorado Party. Bordaberry is the son of Juan Maria Bordaberry, who initiated the dictatorship in 1973 after dissolving parliament.

Former Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle, of the Colorado Party, criticized the decision to open a “deep wound” in Uruguayan history:

[This] decree re-opens a deep wound that does not bring understanding or harmony in the life of a society that will, and harshly, will pay the terrible economic errors made by [Jose] Mujica’s government, known by Astori and Vazquez and not known to the public.

While president, Batlle previously created a commission, known as Commission for Peace, to investigate the military dictatorship and what happened to the 200 people who disappeared.

In a report dated April 10, 2003, the commission found the government committed torture, illegitimate detention and even executions during military rule. Despite the commission’s limited power, Batlle signed a decree featuring the conclusions of the report.* The army, on the other hand, denied what was found.

*The government site is experiencing a 404 error with respect to the “Decrees” page so a link cannot be provided at this time.

Photo is a Creative Commons-Licensed Photo from Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency.

New Questions About Conflict-of-Interest Throw Doubt on APA’s “Independent Review” of CIA Links

CIA denies records responsive to request on APA-CIA-RAND meeting

A report by psychologists and human rights workers released at the end of April charged officials of the American Psychological Association with collaborating with Bush administration officials, including members of the CIA, in furthering the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” torture program. The report, titled “All the President’s Psychologists,” drew upon emails from a deceased RAND Corporation researcher, Scott Gerwehr, who evidently worked in some capacity with the CIA.

“The APA’s complicity in the CIA torture program, by allowing psychologists to administer and calibrate permitted harm, undermines the fundamental ethical standards of the profession,” the report, which was published by The New York Times, said.

APA countered these charges, which also were raised by New York Times journalist James Risen last year, by engaging “David Hoffman of the law firm Sidley Austin to conduct an independent review of whether there is any factual support for the assertion that APA engaged in activity that would constitute collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate the use of ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques by the United States in the war on terror,” according to a statement by the psychologist organization last November.

But this “independent review” into links between APA and the CIA torture program was compromised, according to my own research, by links between its leader, David H. Hoffman, and former members of the CIA, including former director George Tenet, who headed the Agency at the time it constructed and implemented its post-9/11 torture program.

This article will demonstrate that Hoffman and his law firm also have professional links to a former chairman of the think-tank RAND Corporation, Newton Minow. RAND played a key role in the controversies surrounding APA and torture, as discussed below. It is the contention of this article that together with the revelations concerning Hoffman’s ties to former CIA figures, including Tenet, and now links to a key RAND figure, that the potential for conflicts-of-interest can not be ignored.

RAND’s History

According to RAND’s website, its organization is nonprofit and “nonpartisan…. independent of political and commercial pressures.” The Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch website reports that “one-half of RAND’s research involves national security issues.” RAND reports that roughly five percent of its work is classified. Besides national security issues, RAND has long produced analyses concerning health care, education, and other topics.

RAND was active in the counter-terror/counterinsurgency prosecution of the Vietnam War. They offered expertise to CIA advisers working on the interrogation-torture-assassination program known as Project Phoenix. Such collaboration is mentioned in a 2009 RAND history of Phoenix. This study has nothing to say of Phoenix’s history of torture, and barely even mentions the use of interrogation, while trying to refute charges of assassination by Phoenix teams. According to RAND’s analysis, “decisionmakers would be wise to consider how Phoenix-style approaches might serve to pry open Taliban and Al-Qaeda black boxes.” [pg. 24])

Douglas Valentine in his book, The Phoenix Project, describes how top CIA Phoenix official, Robert “Blowtorch” Komer, left the Agency to work for RAND in 1970.

Perhaps most famously, RAND Corporation was the source of the famous Pentagon Papers, as RAND analysts, including Daniel Ellsberg, had been involved in collecting the papers that made up the famous secret history of U.S. policy in Vietnam. Interestingly, it was Minow, as then-appointed chair of RAND’s Board of Trustees who led the damage control effort there after the Ellsberg leak.

Most recently, RAND has been active in consulting on counterinsurgency tactics in the post-9/11 “war on terror.”

The Role of RAND Corporation in CIA’s Torture Scandal

While charges of APA collaboration with both CIA and the Department of Defense on interrogation policies, including use of torture, go back some years now, the issue took on greater urgency after New York Times journalist James Risen revealed details of such collaboration in his book Pay Any Price.

Risen’s new information was based on a collection of emails he obtained that belonged to a deceased RAND Corporation researcher, Scott Gerwehr. The emails proved Gerwehr worked closely with CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard. Hubbard was the head of CIA’s Operational Assessment Division, and from 2005-09 was a contractor with Mitchell-Jessen and Associates, a company linked by Senate investigators to use of torture.

A key instance of the alleged collaboration between APA and CIA was the joint sponsorship of a group of workshops on “The Science of Deception,” held at RAND’s Arlington, Virginia offices on July 17-18, 2003. As I reported back in May 2007, one of the workshops included “scenarios” for discussion that included “pharmacological agents… known to affect apparent truth-telling behavior, and the use of “sensory overloads” to “overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors.”

Journalist Katherine Eban reported much the same about the workshop later that year in a seminal article for Vanity Fair, which exposed the fact CIA psychologists James Bruce Mitchell and Jessen had been present at the event.

The APA-CIA-RAND joint workshops were organized by RAND’s Gerwehr, CIA’s Hubbard, and APA’s then “senior scientist” Susan Brandon, and APA’s Director of Science Policy, Geoff Mumford. In 2010, I reported that APA’s online linkage to the offensive “scenarios” had been scrubbed from APA’s website.

Someone doesn’t want the full story on this event to be known. As recently as November 2011, in a FOIA response to this author, the CIA claimed it could find no records pertaining to the 2003 APA-CIA-RAND meeting or workshops. (See PDF of response.) Risen and his collaborators on the Gerwehr-APA story also have failed to release all the information they have in their possession regarding the same event.

Similarly, in response to a FOIA I filed, the FBI could find no responsive documents regarding documents supposedly turned over to it by one of the authors of the “President’s Psychologists” report,  Nathaniel Raymond. Raymond told me via email, “I directed the FBI and Durham in fall of 2010 during an in person meeting at DoJ HQ to where and how to obtain the [Gerwehr] emails. Durham and the FBI independently obtained the emails in the spring of 2011 based on the information I provided in 2010…. Any requests for access to the additional 600+ emails used in our analysis should be directed to [James Risen].” At the FBI’s request, on May 6, 2015 I provided more information to assist the FBI in their records search. The FOIA request is still active.

Campaign Contributions

The critics who have opposed APA, or at least those who wrote the “President’s Psychologists” report, which highlighted charges of APA complicity with intelligence agencies in the furtherance of the CIA’s torture program, have publicly ignored charges that the APA-initiated “independent investigation” had serious conflict-of-interest problems due to Hoffman’s relationships with Tenet and also Tenet’s CIA Special Counsel from 1998-2000, Kenneth J. Levit.

(The use of “investigation” rather than “review” is a preference of APA’s critics, and has been taken up by most of the press. It is my contention that the “review” barely, if at all, deserves the nomenclature of an “investigation.” The word “investigate” or “investigation” never appears in the APA’s “Board of Directors Resolution Regarding Independent Review.” Hoffman himself, however, has used the term, as will be seen below.)

The “President’s Psychologists” report never mentions or raises any questions about the obscure association between Hoffman and Tenet and Levit, nor do they seem to have investigated any such associations on their own.

The mainstream press fares no better. Articles that mention the Hoffman “investigation,” including by James Risen at the New York Times and Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, fail to mention Hoffman’s link to CIA figures. One exception to this coverage was James Bradshaw at the National Psychologist who noted Hoffman’s uncovered links to key CIA personnel.

In an email exchange with this author last December, David Hoffman refused to elaborate on the nature or his relationship with both Tenet and Levit in recent years. His known professional relationship goes back to Hoffmann’s work in Sen. David Boren’s office in the early 1990s, when Boren was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Tenet was the SSCI’s Staff Director. Levit also worked in Boren’s office at that time.

Recently I discovered that Levit gave over $1,700 to Hoffman’s abortive Senate campaign in 2010, a fact Hoffman had not revealed. I’ve asked Hoffman whether he knew about Levit’s contributions, but as of press time he has not responded on that issue. I will update this post with Hoffman’s response if or when I receive it. Meanwhile, Hoffman’s response to other issues raised here is discussed below.

Meanwhile, discussion of the role of RAND Corporation in the whole scandal is either muted or totally ignored. In The Intercept’s October 2014 story about the APA controversy, Gerwehr’s employment by RAND is never mentioned. He is only referred to as a “behavioral science researcher.” Gerwehr’s work on counterterrorism and urban combat is never mentioned. The author of the story, Cora Currier, also never mentions the 2003 joint APA-CIA-RAND workshop described above, even though it is a key part of the narrative of the entire scandal, as reported by Risen, Eban, and others.

Minow’s Links to RAND, Donald Rumsfeld, and David Hoffman

The most intriguing new information regarding the APA-CIA scandal concerns the fact that one of a handful of senior counsels in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin where David Hoffman works is Newton Minow. According to Sidley Austin’s website, Minow was “a partner with the firm from 1965-1991.” For much of that time, and beyond, he was also a member of the Board of Trustees for RAND Corporation, and was Chair of the Board in the early 1970s.

Minow is not only the former chairman of RAND Corporation, he is an incredibly well-linked member of the political establishment, going back to the Kennedy Administration. In more recent years, he has been a political consultant to President Barack Obama. (Obama had been an intern for Sidley Austin in Chicago, recruited by Minow’s daughter, Martha, who is currently dean of Harvard Law School.)

Minow’s resume is by Establishment standards quite distinguished. He is a former chairman of the FCC and of the Carnegie Foundation. He is a former Vice Chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, and is still listed as a member of its Board of Directors.

Minow’s plea for more U.S. funding for international broadcasting efforts like those of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Radio Marti, and his vilification of Al Jazeera as Osama bin Laden’s “favored news outlet” made it into the pages of Congressional Record.

Perhaps most telling in Minow’s resume is the sponsorship of a scholarship in his name at the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California, which RAND bills as “the largest public policy analysis Ph.D. program in the United States.” The Newton M. Minow Scholarship was initially funded with a $150,000 grant from Donald Rumsfeld, a noted torture figure himself.

Minow’s linkage to RAND does not end there. As recently as 2003, he was on the Board of Advisors for RAND’s Public Safety and Justice division. He is one of a small number of individuals in RAND’s “Legacy Circle,” having contributed an estate gift to RAND. According to RAND’s 2006 Annual Report, Minow has donated something between $100,000 and $249,999 to RAND over the years.

Hoffman’s known public linkage to Minow is sparse, but worth noting. He serves with Minow on the advisory board for the Chicago chapter of the American Constitutional Society. (To be fair, H. Candace Gorman, a noted attorney for Guantanamo detainees, is also on the ACS advisory board.)

Hoffman also served as a co-author for an amicus brief for which he represented Minow, and others, as Amici Curiae. The brief was published in January 2015.

According to an article in The New York Times, in 2002, Minow was one of a number of “outside experts” the Bush Administration consulted with on its implementation of military commissions. The Times described Minow as a “longtime friend of Mr. Rumsfeld.”

Rumsfeld led the Department of Defense at a time it was implementing torture at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. He personally approved “use of ‘stress positions,’ the removal of clothing, the use of dogs, and isolation and sensory deprivation” on detainees. Many forms of torture were countenanced under Rumsfeld, including water torture. Numerous lawsuits have been filed to hold the former Bush administration figure accountable.

In a request for comment from APA, Public Communications Executive Director Rhea Farberman did not respond to a direct question about foreknowledge regarding any link between Hoffman and Minow. In an email, she said only, “APA has complete confidence that Mr. Hoffman is conducting his review in a thorough and fully independent manner.”

But as we shall see, soon after accepting APA’s charge as “independent” reviewer, Hoffman was discussing the project with Newton Minow.

Hoffman Responds

I asked David Hoffman to further explain his contacts with Minow. He replied via email.

As you may know, Newt Minow was FCC Chairman under JFK and gave the famous “TV as a vast wasteland” speech in 1961. At 89 years old, he remains a prominent civic and community figure in Chicago. I had heard of Newt Minow but had not met him before I joined Sidley in 2011. I speak with him from time to time, but not frequently, and do not socialize with him.

As regards possible contact with Minow on the amicus brief noted above, Hoffman explained that Minow “was one of the former governments [sic] officials and public interest groups who were the listed amici in the matter,” and Minow did not work on the brief.

Even more specifically, Hoffman explained, “Mr. Minow is not working on the APA matter, and I have never worked on a matter with him.”

Still, soon after Hoffman took the job to head the APA-initiated review into the charges of collusion with the CIA, raised by James Risen and others, Hoffman did discuss the matter with his firm’s senior counsel:

Shortly after the public announcement by APA in November 2014 that I had been engaged to conduct an independent investigation in this matter, I saw Mr. Minow and told him about this new engagement. At the time, I did not know that he had been affiliated with the Rand Corp. I have not had any contact with Mr. Minow about the matter since then.

Hoffman added, “In response to your inquiry, I looked up when Mr. Minow was chairman of Rand, and I see that it was 44 years ago (1970-71). I do not believe that Mr. Minow’s past affiliation with Rand creates a conflict of interest for us in this matter.”

Indeed, Minow was Chair of the Board of Trustees at RAND at the time the Pentagon Papers were released by former RAND researcher Daniel Ellsberg. A RAND history of the period describes the Pentagon Papers leak as sending RAND management into “a tailspin.” The government took away RAND’s security clearance, and it was Minow who led the campaign to get it back, and make the necessary changes to policy and personnel to restore the think-tank back to the government’s good graces.

But Minow’s contribution to RAND did not end there. As noted above, he served on RAND advisory boards until the 2000s. While he was Chair of RAND’s Board of Trustees as far back as the early 1970s, Minow was a member of the Board almost continuously from 1965-1997. As recently as 2007, he was an “advisory trustee” to the organization.

I also asked Hoffman that, given Minow’s close relationship with Donald Rumsfeld, Hoffman had any contact with George W. Bush’s former Secretary of Defense. Hoffman stated flatly, “I have never met or spoken with Donald Rumsfeld.”

In a follow-up email, I asked Hoffman to elaborate more on the substance of his conversation with Minow about the APA review. Hoffman has not replied.

Minow is not the only person with links to RAND working in the Chicago Sidley Austin office. Another partner in the firm, Anne E. Rea, serves on the RAND Institute for Civil Justice Board of Overseers. In 2014, Rea gifted RAND with something between $25,000 and $49,999. (The same year Minow is listed as donating between $1,000 and $4,999.)

Hoffman said this about Rea, “I know Anne Rea, as she is a partner in Sidley’s Chicago office. We have never worked on a matter together; we have not spoken about the APA matter; and I did not know about any work she has done for the Rand Corp.”

Authors of “President’s Psychologists” report respond

I asked the authors of the report “All the President’s Psychologists” — who told me they did not know about Hoffman’s links to Minow until I told them — to respond to this revelation. Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond sent me an email on May 27:

“We and others have pressed for ‘internal review,’ an independent investigation of APA since our Open Letter in Response to the American Psychological Association Board in 2009 signed by 13 organizations,” Soldz and his colleagues wrote. “Our call was always for the investigatory organization to be selected by independent human rights organizations precisely to avoid the types of potential conflicts of interest you raise. Thus, we were initially concerned when the APA Board itself selected Mr. Hoffman to investigate potential complicity by key staff and elected officials including possible complicity by past and current Board members.”

The email noted that “questions have only escalated” about the investigation when APA Board of Representatives revealed their plan to delay the report’s public release for months of alleged “internal review.” Soldz et al. have alleged such delay violates “the clear precedent that investigations of unethical or criminal behavior by organizations are immediately made public.”

The authors of the critical report told me, “once Mr. Hoffman was selected, we chose to work with his team and have shared whatever information, documents, and opinions they requested…. Our experience with Mr. Hoffman and his team has given us every reason to believe that they are pursuing leads without limitation or constraint…. The proof of their independence will be in the honesty and comprehensiveness of their report.”

Soldz and his co-authors state, “We intend to assess the true independence of the Hoffman team’s work through observing how he accounts for the evidence already in the public domain, including the data we released in our April 30, 2015 report.”

But accounting for “evidence already in the public domain” seems a weak demonstration of investigatory zeal and honesty, much less comprehensiveness. Such accounting has little to do with an investigation qua investigation, but seems to be more about validating previously held beliefs or findings. Such an investigation isn’t expected to dig deeper or make new findings.

Indeed, it seems tendentious to call it an investigation at all, if that is all that is expected from it. The APA has termed only an “internal review of whether there is any factual support” for charges of collusion on torture during the Bush years. Such a “review,” for instance, would not touch on current APA support for psychologists at U.S. detention sites like Guantanamo where Appendix M interrogations take place. Last November, the United Nations stated that some Appendix M techniques created psychosis in prisoners and others amounted to “ill-treatment.”

The APA has been silent about this, even though there is an APA-member initiated referendum that passed some years ago stating APA should tell psychologists not to work at sites that have human rights violations, as determined by organizations such as the United Nations.

Meanwhile, supporters of the “President’s Psychologists” report have launched a petition campaign after news leaked out that the APA was going to take its time in making any release of Hoffman’s findings public.

Such supporters would do as much or more good by asking the authors of “President’s Psychologists” to release the full list of attendees at the 2003 APA-RAND-CIA workshops, which I am under the impression they hold.

[Correction: Stephen Soldz has written to remind me that a list of those attendees was given by him and the co-authors of the President’s Psychologists report to The Intercept. It was disclosed in a link published within an April 2015 article by Cora Currier. The full list and accompanying documentation has been posted online at DocumentCloud. Sadly, Currier never analyzed the document in depth. But most immediately what springs up as important is the presence at these meetings (which included Mitchell, Jessen, and other CIA personnel) of the chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, Stephen Band, among other FBI personnel. What that means is that the collaboration on interrogation matters was much wider among governmental agencies than previously disclosed.]

In the spirit of complete transparency, the full text of the responses to my inquiries, sent via email by Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Nathaniel Raymond, and David Hoffman, are available at this link.

For a Fair, Just Inquiry

Those who are repelled by the actions of APA and other professional organizations and institutions in regards to the U.S. torture scandal likely will have to look beyond this “independent review” by APA’s contractor. The entire affair is reminiscent of the controversy over the UK torture inquiry that was headed by Sir Peter Gibson.

That inquiry, following on revelations about UK collaboration with the U.S. rendition program and the torture of prisoners like Binyam Mohamed, was announced by the British government. But British human rights groups refused to support this blatant attempt at a whitewash or limited hangout of UK involvement in torture, not least because the man picked to lead the investigation, Peter Gibson, had deep ties himself to the intelligence world. The lack of transparency over procedures was another problem. In 2012, the British government scrapped the investigation, citing conflicts with other investigations.

British human rights groups at the time made clear just what is needed in an inquiry of this sort. They noted that “to comply with basic human rights standards, it is essential that an inquiry, among other things” should be both “independent” and “subject to public scrutiny.”

Amnesty International and eight other UK NGOs wrote: “The persons responsible for and carrying out the inquiry must be fully independent of any institution, agency or person who may be the subject of, or are otherwise involved in, the inquiry.”

As far as I know, Hoffman’s links to the intelligence world are much less dramatic than Gibson’s, and reasonable people may disagree about the degree of conflict of interest involved in his “review” or “investigation.”

Yet, while in the case of the Gibson inquiry, Amnesty and the others were writing about a governmental investigation, the same need for independence and transparency is true for any inquiry, including into the relationships of APA with intelligence or military-linked agencies. It is not any claim upon Mr. Hoffman’s own integrity to say that his links, and that of the firm where he works, to former CIA and RAND officials, not to mention the fact APA chose its own “investigator,” in this instance present conflicts of interest that place into doubt the integrity of his “review,” no matter what results it may claim, or when it is released.

Some of Former CIA Detainee Majid Khan’s Memories of Torture Are Declassified

majidkhanThe Center for Constitutional Rights has released new details about the torture of Majid Khan, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who was captured by the United States in March 2003. Khan was held in secret detention at CIA black sites until 2006 when he was transferred to Guantanamo.

According to declassified notes, his doctors were some of his “worst torturers.” Khan pleaded for a physician to help him. The physician responded by sending Khan back to an interrogation room to be hung from a metal bar, where he remained for 24 hours.

Khan had already experienced this torture. He was interrogated afterward and emasculated by guards as they “forced” him “to write his own ‘confession’ while being filmed naked if he wanted some rest.” Afterward, he was “numb” and unable to move for several days.

In May and July 2003, Khan was waterboarded.

“Guards and interrogators brought him into a bathroom with a tub,” according to CCR. “The tub was filled with water and ice.”

“Shackled and hooded, they placed Khan feet-first into the freezing water and ice. They lowered his entire body into the water and held him down, face-up in the water. An interrogator forced Khan’s head under the water until he thought he would drown.”

An interrogator then pulled Khan’s head out of the water and demanded he answer his questions. He forced his head back into the ice bath. Khan also had water and ice poured on his mouth and nose when his head was not being held under water.

Guards repeatedly beat and threatened to beat Khan with tools. In one instance, a hammer was pulled out and shown to Khan. The guard threatened to bash Khan’s head in with the hammer. Sometimes the men who threatened him smelled of alcohol.

Khan was sexually assaulted and had his “private parts” touched while he was hanging naked from the ceiling. He was subject to rectal feeding, which was included in the Senate intelligence committee’s report on CIA torture.

While at a black site, Khan was hung by his hands “from a wooden beam for three days.” He was “naked and shackled” and given water but not food. This torture also sought to destroy his masculinity. (more…)

Over Easy: Texas War Veteran Dies in Custody Saying “I Can’t Breathe” 20 Times

On July 13, 2012, Sgt. James Brown, an active duty Fort Bliss soldier, self-reported to the El Paso County jail to serve a 48-hour sentence for a DUI. Brown, who had served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, wrote on a jail form that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. According to a news report, Brown contacted his mother after he checked in to the jail, and explained that the jail now wanted him to stay for a week, and that he had decided that he “just wanted to pay the court fine and get out of here.” His mother sent the money for the fine, but James Brown never returned home. He was 26 years old.

The autopsy report said that Brown died of natural causes related to “sickle cell crisis.” Local news station KFOX14 fought “all the way to the attorney general” to obtain the video showing what happened in the jail in the moments before Brown’s death.

At some point, Brown experiences an episode of bleeding, although it is unclear where on his body he is bleeding. A staff team wearing riot gear storm the cell, restrain and shackle Brown, and perform a forced cell extraction- but Brown is not fighting. He pleads repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.” The staff carries Brown to the ‘infirmary,’ and even though Brown is audibly short of breath and his condition is obviously deteriorating, no ambulance is called. Instead of summoning help, the guards place a spit hood over his head. James Brown’s family attorney B.J. Crow described to KFOX:

B.J. Crow: “When a 26-year-old active military person checks into jail for a court-imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday, you know, in a casket, something went horribly wrong there. … He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth. His kidneys shut down. His blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level. And his liver shut down.”

In the end, James Brown dies naked in a cell, not blinking or responding.

The family is suing for wrongful death.

James Brown, who survived two tours of duty as a combat soldier, was murdered. The autopsy report may also be suspect- because he would likely be alive today but for the torture at the hands of jail guards, his death was more accurately a homicide. The jail fought hard to keep the video secret. There are various versions of ‘sickle cell crisis,’ a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Brown needed to be in an ICU, not a torture chamber. I believe that the staff should be indicted, because they are dangerous.

Government Seeks ‘Emergency Stay’ of Decision Ordering Release of Thousands of Torture Photos

The United States government requested an “emergency stay” of a federal court decision, which ordered thousands of photographs of detainee abuse and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan to be released.

In March, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York was no longer willing to tolerate the government’s secrecy arguments or the government’s refusal to individually review each photo and explain why each photo would pose a national security risk if made public.

The judge immediately issued a temporary stay and gave the government 60 days to file an appeal.

With that 60-day period about to elapse, the government abruptly announced it would appeal on May 15 and filed a motion requesting a stay.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has pursued the release of records related to detainee treatment and “the death of prisoners in United States custody and abroad after September 11, 2001,” since October 2003, objected in a letter to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals [PDF].

“The government simply does not explain why it could not have made its decision long before the eve of the expiration of the stay granted by the district court,” the ACLU declares. “Its last minute decision to do so is abusive of both the court and counsel and should not be rewarded by the routine grant of this kind of motion which the government expressly seeks.”

Back in August, when Hellerstein ruled that the Secretary of Defense’s certification for keeping the photos secret was “inadequate,” the government was instructed to individually review the photographs and inform the court of why each photograph could not be released. Government attorneys rebuffed his request.

In October and February, the court reminded the government that the Secretary of Defense had to certify each picture “in terms of its likelihood or not to endanger American lives.” It explained again afterward that the government could not certify a mass of photographs as a risk to national security. The government never complied, which led to the judge’s decision in March.

The Protected National Security Documents Act (PNSDA) was passed in October 2009 to amend the Freedom of Information Act. It was the prime measure supported by President Barack Obama to ensure torture photographs remained secret.

The law established that “photographs could be made exempt from disclosure for a three-year certification by the Secretary of Defense to the effect that publication would endanger American lives.” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked President Barack Obama not to release photographs of detainees abuse, for “fear of the consequences.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates filed a certification to prevent the release of photographs and the court upheld that certification.

Three years later, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta renewed the certification, even though US troops had withdrawn and the war in Iraq had been declared over. (Military operations against ISIS were not ongoing at the time.)

The ACLU points out in the letter to the judge, “PNSDA did not strip courts of the power to review the basis for the secretary’s suppression of otherwise public documents.” The Secretary of Defense “must provided some basis to believe that he reviewed each photograph and evaluated its individual risk in advance of certification.”

Only a “sample of photographs” were ever reviewed by the government for this lawsuit, and the ACLU argues an “emergency stay” should not be granted because the government is not likely to succeed in its appeal.

The government maintains in its motion that an “emergency stay” will cause minimal harm to the ACLU. On the other hand, no stay will mean the photographs are released and the “status quo” is destroyed. It will harm the ability of the government to appeal.

“The absence of a stay will cause the disclosure of records that the Secretary of Defense has certified to be exempt from disclosure under the PNSDA, a statute that was enacted by Congress in order to protect U.S. citizens, members of the US Armed Services, and US government employees from harm while overseas,” the government argues. (more…)

CIA Investigation Minimizes Use of Drugs on Rendition & Black Site Detainees

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The CIA has released documents regarding a 2008 Inspector General (IG) investigation into the use of “mind-altering” drugs to enhance or facilitate interrogations undertaken as part of their rendition, “black site” detention, and interrogation-torture (RDI) program. Not surprisingly, a brief investigation found, according to a January 29, 2009 newly declassified letter sent from the CIA IG to Senator Dianne Feinstein, then-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), that CIA had not used any drugs on detainees for the purpose of interrogations.

The documents were released to Jason Leopold at VICE News, who posted a comprehensive article examining them earlier today. Leopold and I have previously written on the subject of drugging prisoners, and examined an earlier Department of Defense IG report on the subject a few years ago, as well as the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo, about which more below.

The CIA Inspector General, John L. Helgerson, referred Feinstein to a statement by the Director of CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS), to the effect that “no ‘mind-altering’ drugs were administered to facilitate interrogations and debriefings because no medications of any kind were used for that purpose.”

But as we shall see, there were many claims by prisoners of drugging during CIA renditions, and later by affiliated “liaison” government officials. Other prisoners claimed they were drugged during the time they were held by CIA itself at their black site prisons. None of those charges were addressed by Helgerson in his investigation, unless they were part of a 5-page section of the new CIA document release that was totally whited out by the CIA FOIA officials.

No CIA detainees were evidently ever interviewed as part of the IG investigation.

Helgerson said that he queried IG investigators working on another investigation of abuse claims by 16 high-value detainees then held at Guantanamo. The alleged abuse concerned treatment by CIA before the detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. Helgerson said the investigators had no knowledge of “the use of ‘mind-altering’ drugs as a part of the interrogation regimen.” Nothing is known about this IG investigation on detainee complaints.

Helgerson, who is now retired, did refer in his letter to Feinstein to the May 2004 CIA IG report that examined “isolated allegations of mistreatment or abuse of detainees, though he never specifically states that there were no claims of drugging in that “comprehensive review.”

Helgerson said that the CIA IG had investigated “a variety of specific unrelated detainee abuse allegations” since the 2004 report.

MKULTRA, KUBARK, and Phoenix

The issue of CIA drugging of prisoners has historical resonance since CIA engaged in a decades-long program of experimentation on the use of “truth serums” and other drugs, including LSD, for use in interrogations. Known under various acronyms, including Bluebird, MKDELTA and MKSEARCH, the program was best known in popular accounts as MKULTRA. The CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual from the early 1960s drew specifically upon MKULTRA research when it advocated use of “narcosis” or the use of drugs for interrogations.

The latest version of the KUBARK manual (PDF), released to me last year after a Mandatory Declassification Request, showed a much heavier emphasis on the use of foreign “liaison” agencies for detention of CIA prisoners than had been previously revealed.

The CIA’s 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual also describes such liaison relationships in some depth, in addition to a discussion of using drugs during interrogation. According to National Security Archive, “The manual was used in numerous Latin American countries as an instructional tool by CIA and Green Beret trainers between 1983 and 1987 and became the subject of executive session Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights abuses committed by CIA-trained Honduran military units.”

This aspect of the CIA’s program both before and after 9/11 has probably had the least amount of emphasis in the press, for partly understandable reasons, as the actions of police or intelligence agencies in foreign countries is least penetrable or open to examination by government or human rights agency, not to mention journalists. (more…)

US Establishment Press Dismiss, Shrug Off Seymour Hersh’s Story on Killing of bin Laden

(update below)

Most distressing about investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s story on the lies President Barack Obama’s administration reportedly told about the killing of Osama bin Laden is the general reaction of the United States establishment press.

Hersh is an award-winning journalist best known for exposing the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War. It earned him a Pulitzer Prize. He also did stellar reporting on the abuse and torture of detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Yet, most establishment press seem to be shrugging at Hersh’s latest 10,000-word feature story published by the London Review of Books or they are snidely dismissing it altogether.

Is it because most in the US press wholly accept the narrative put forward by the Obama administration around the raid that killed bin Laden? Is it because they have moved on and no longer find it worthy to investigate what really happened? Is it because they do not want to believe what Hersh is alleging because it amounts to a major international espionage conspiracy if it all happens to be true?

Christopher Frizzelle of The Stranger already went to the trouble to list off each allegation against the Obama administration that is made in Hersh’s story. So, courtesy of Frizzelle:

• Pakistani officials knew about the raid and even helped the US pull it off.

• There never was a firefight, neither in the yard outside the house nor once the Seals got inside.

• The story of the courier whom the reportedly CIA traced, leading them to bin Laden, was a fabrication.

• The story of the courier dying in the firefight was a cover-up “because he didn’t exist and we couldn’t produce him,” a retired senior intelligence official told Hersh.

• The way the CIA actually found out where bin Laden was is that a “Pakistani walk-in” who wanted the $25 million reward came in and told the CIA about it.

• Osama bin Laden was not armed, contrary to reports that he had a machine gun and was killed in a firefight, and he was not killed with just one or two bullets but “obliterated.”

• “Seals cannot live with the fact that they killed bin Laden totally unopposed, and so there has to be an account of their courage in the face of danger. The guys are going to sit around the bar and say it was an easy day? That’s not going to happen,” that same retired senior intelligence official said.

• “Despite all the talk” about what the Seals collected on site, the retired official said there were “no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks.”

• The story about bin Laden’s sea burial may be a fabrication.

• The retired official told Hersh that bin Laden’s “remains, including his head… were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains—or so the Seals claimed.”

• Obama was going to wait a week until after bin Laden’s death to announce it, and he was going to tell the American people that bin Laden had been killed by a drone, but after the Seals had to blow up their malfunctioning helicopter onsite, attracting attention locally, everything changed.

• The story about the vaccination program carried out locally in an attempt to get bin Laden’s DNA—a story that “led to the cancellation of other international vaccination programmes that were now seen as cover for American spying”—wasn’t true.

• Retired official again: “It’s a great hoax.”

What are Hersh’s sources for these claims against the Obama administration?

Hersh relies on a “major US source” who is not named in the story. The person is described as a “retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.” He also sources his claims to two additional unnamed US sources, “who had access to corroborating information” and have been “longtime consults to the Special Operations Command.”

He writes that he received information from “inside Pakistan” that indicates “senior ISI and military leadership” were upset with Obama’s decision to immediately go public with the news that bin Laden was killed. He also quotes Asad Durrani, who was the head of Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, in the 1990s.

One of the key criticisms of Hersh’s story is that it relies on anonymous sources. However, should this criticism be allowed to invalidate the claims put forward by Hersh? (more…)