The Truth About Torture: A Rebuttal

With regards to:

Weekly Standard, “The Truth About Interrogation: The enhanced techniques work,” Stehpen F. Hayes, 14 November 2014:

First, let me say that I agree wholeheartedly that oversight and officials who ordered, were briefed, and approved are both duplicitous and partially responsible. As I’ve noted before, I hate defending them, the CIA asked the Bush White House three times for clarification on legal points with regards to enhanced interrogation techniques. This is missing from the discussion.

However, as it was when, for example, the Nixon White House asked CIA to spy on American war protestors, there is some evidence that they were already torturing people, or having it done by foreign ISes, before the request was even made. There are layers to this entire scandal, and that is one of them.

The problem with the piece, and I am not impugning the “John Beale” here, rather that it serves as a limited hangout hinging upon a strawman argument because it does not take into account the totality of the situation. I don’t doubt that Mr. Beale’s experience lead him to the conclusions that he drew, rather that his experiences are limited to his experiences.

One indicator that CIA may be using it for this purpose:

Writing under the pseudonym Jason Beale, he has produced a provocative 39-page document in an effort to counter the narrative pushed by Democrats and amplified by journalists eager to discredit the program. The document—which Beale says was reviewed, redacted, and cleared by a U.S. government agency—does not reveal Beale’s precise role in the program. A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency would not confirm that the CIA was the agency that reviewed Beale’s document.

And, by the way, Mr. Beale, whoever he is, is saying something very close to what John Kiriakou said initially before recanting: that the EITs worked and they weren’t trying to throw him in prison back then.

There are several problems what the article as whole is saying. I detail some of them beyond the fold.

First, we are not only talking about waterboarding–which is torture, stress positions, and sleep deprivation. We are talking about:

Potential human experimentation:

Takeaway, “Torture & The War on Terror: James Risen Exposes the Whistle-Blower That Wasn’t,” Various, 11 November 2014:

Risen tells the troubling story of a man named Scott Gerwehr.

Gerwehr, a RAND corporation researcher, was essentially given permission to experiment on Iraq and Afghan detainees with behavioral science techniques—techniques that were designed to elicit information.

Risen says that Gerwehr had intricate knowledge of American detention and torture systems, and the close collaboration between American psychologists and the national security establishment. Gerwehr wanted to come forward as a whistle-blower, but died before he had a chance.

Though I take issue with the “elicit information” phrase. See below.

Dosing of detainees at Guantanamo Bay with antimalarial drug mefloquine, also known as Lariam, at five times the normal dosage by both CIA and the US Navy:

Truth-Out, “A Guantanamo Connection? Documents Show CIA Stockpiled Antimalaria Drugs as ‘Incapacitating Agents’,” Jeffrey Kaye, 6 June 2012:

The revelation concerning cinchonine came from hearings the Senate’s Church Committee held in September 1975 on CIA “Unauthorized Storage of Toxic Agents.” The agency’s illegal stockpile of chemicals and drugs, which included the antimalarial drug cinchonine, was supposed to have been destroyed by order of President Nixon in December 1969.

Truth-Out, “EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees Akin to ‘Pharmacologic Waterboarding’,” Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, 1 December 2010:

The government has exposed detainees “to unacceptably high risks of potentially severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including seizures, intense vertigo, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, aggression, panic, anxiety, severe insomnia, and thoughts of suicide,” said Nevin, who was not speaking in an official capacity, but offering opinions as a board-certified, preventive medicine physician. “These side effects could be as severe as those intended through the application of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”

Seton Hall, “SETON HALL LAW REPORT SHOWS U.S. MILITARY ROUTINELY ADMINISTERED CONTROVERSIAL DRUGS TO DETAINEES IN GUANTÁNAMO BAY: Findings suggest detainees were unnecessarily dosed with a medication known to induce hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis”:

Dr. G. Richard Olds, tropical disease specialist and founding Dean of the Medical School of the University of California at Riverside, commented on the long-lasting effects of the drug: “Mefloquine is fat soluble, and as a result, it does build up in the body and has a very long half-life. This is important since a massive dose of this drug is not easily corrected and the ‘side effects’ of the medication could last for weeks or months.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, and the U.S. military concedes, that malaria is not a threat in Guantánamo. For that reason, U.S. military personnel and contractors are not prescribed any prophylactic anti-malarial medication.

“Mefloquine was administered to detainees contrary to medical protocol or purpose,” commented Professor Mark P. Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research. “The record reveals no medical justification for mefloquine in this manner or at these doses. On this record there appears to be only three possible reasons for drugging these men: gross malpractice, human experimentation or ‘enhanced interrogation.’ At best it represents monumental incompetence. At worst, it’s torture.”

By the way, though I’ve not historically been one to buy into herbal medicines, apparently Sweet Annie herb is a better cure than mefloquine and other alkaloids:

Though that’s a cure, not a “preventive vaccine”…at five times the recommended dose.

Actual torture, not just of the captives themselves, but in some cases their wives and children, including being raped with broken bottles usually performed by foreign ISes but under the watch and supervision of CIA personnel:

Independent, “Craig Murray: The reality of Britain’s reliance on torture,” Craig Murray, 27 October 2005:

The CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” programme has become notorious. Under it, detainees have been sent around the world to key torture destinations. There is evidence of British complicity – not only do these CIA flights regularly operate from UK airbases, but detainees have spoken of British intelligence personnel working with their tormentors.

It means the woman who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus, and who died after ten days of agony. It means the old man suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes. It means the man whose fingernails were pulled before his face was beaten and he was immersed to his armpits in boiling liquid.

It means the 18-year-old whose knees and elbows were smashed, his hand immersed in boiling liquid until the skin came away and the flesh started to peel from the bone, before the back of his skull was stove in.

The great majority of those who suffer torture at the hands of these regimes are not terrorists, but political opponents. And the scale of this torture is vast. In Uzbekistan alone thousands, not hundreds, of innocent men, women and children suffer torture every year.

Now, if you think you can obtain useful information from someone under these conditions, you are wrong. Just plain wrong. These conditions instead create a situation where the captive will say whatever he thinks that the torturer wants to hear in order to make these conditions end. This has been known for centuries…

..and is nothing new.

Why then do it? The usual perfect storm: manufacture false intel that internally justifies further action and expenditures, ensuring that CIA’s budget is not significantly reduced; break down the personality of the captive so that they may provide this false information that interrogators are expected to provide to please their superiors and perhaps to become double agents who may infiltrate terror groups after being released.

Of course I think it is a no-brainer that it is instead, like we are seeing with drone usage in Yemen, more likely to further inflame hatred of the US resulting in more terror, more covert operations, less freedom worldwide, and of course the real goal, stealing natural resources. I’ve always thought capitalism was supposed to be about buy low, sell high. Apparently it is about murder and pillage instead. I also think that this is considered a feature, not a bug, for the bloated public/private NATSEC/defense sectors. This may be purpose of Penny Lane, a special locale at Gitmo.

How do I know that what I am saying is true beyond common sense, investigative reporting, whistleblowers, and the word of many experts on the subject? Because at times, and I wasn’t even technically in captivity–so far along are the newer methods of covert harassment and control–I did, said, or failed to say and do things, just to make the harassment stop. This is key: human beings generally seek pleasure, avoid pain. It is a simple truth that even 9/11 didn’t change, not really.

So, believe whatever you like, but I know what I’m talking about from experience as well as research and investigative reporting.


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