Tag Archives: confinement boxes as CIA torture technique

Scientific Torture

Comment from Donald Rumsfeld: "I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing [by prisoners] limited to four hours?" Image from wikipedia

Was the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program an instance of human experimentation?

Recently declassified documents raise this explosive question. The documents were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in connection with a federal lawsuit scheduled for trial on September 2017. The case was brought on behalf of three former detainees against two psychologists who developed the C.I.A.’s program..[T]he C.I.A. paid the psychologists to develop a research methodology and instructed physicians and other medical staff members at clandestine detention sites to monitor and chart the health conditions of detainees.

In response, the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights has charged that the program was an unlawful experiment on human beings. It calls the program “one of the gravest breaches of medical ethics by United States health professionals since the Nuremberg Code,” the ethical principles written to protect people from human experimentation after World War II. In its lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. is pressing a similar claim….

To some degree, the documents suggest, the two psychologists resisted pressure within the C.I.A. for rigorous assessment of the program’s efficacy. They argued that interrogation strategies can’t be standardized and therefore can’t be compared, like medical treatments, in randomized, prospective fashion. But backers of more systematic assessment seem to have won out. In an undated document, the C.I.A.’s chief of medical services chided Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen for treating the torture program as an “art form” that “could not be objectively analyzed,” then pressed the “need to look more objectively for the least intrusive way to gain cooperation.”…

Given that, in the words of President Barack Obama, “we tortured some folks,” isn’t it better to have learned something about the toll on bodies and minds?… Here’s why it may be….Prohibiting data collection as an adjunct to torture makes it harder for perpetrators to hone their technique. It stands in the way of efforts to make torture, like some medical procedure, “safe and effective.” And it keeps apologists from rationalizing that abuse is acceptable since researchers are making improvements.  Observational studies of the torturer’s craft victimize people by legitimizing it. And they put future captives at greater risk for becoming victims.

Excerpts from  M. GREGG BLOCHE , When Torture Becomes Science, New York Times, Aug. 12, 2017 full article

Cargo Boxes as Torture Mechanisms: CIA

1-cubic-meter-box

A warehouse in a tiny Lithuanian village.. not far from the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius, is thought to be where the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohamed was held, as well as other prisoners who were subjected to secret confinement by the CIA. It was established in 2004 at the height of the US-led “rendition, detention, interrogation” programme, which saw terror suspects clandestinely captured and transported around the world.

The documents obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (pdf)  disclose inside details of assistance provided by the Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD) to the CIA.

They take the form of dozens of pages of interview summaries gathered during a 2010 investigation by the Lithuanian state prosecutor which looked at allegations state officials had helped US agents set up a secret prison. The cache, which has been secret up until now, forms part of several hundred pages of material disclosed by the Lithuanian government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2015…

On several occasions, SSD officers describe helping the CIA transfer boxes – which they described as “cargo” – in and out of the facility. The dates of these transfers match those on which lawyers believe that al Qaeda suspects were brought in and out of Lithuania. The boxes were each more than a metre long and needed two people to carry them, the documents say.  Lithuanian officials told prosecutors they did not know what was in the boxes they helped transport, and that although they had access to the building, they did not see all of it.

In shutting down their investigation, Lithuanian prosecutors stated that they had “no data” concerning the “precise purpose of the cargo”. It “could have been communications equipment,” the office concluded.  The country has long denied that CIA prisoners were held on its territory,…But details in the interview summaries correspond closely with findings in a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA secret prisons, which describes how two facilities were set up in the same country. One of them, known as “site Violet”, was used to hold prisoners in 2005 and 2006…

Abu Zubaydah is believed to have been held in Lithuania during 2005-6, and is suing the country for its alleged role in his detention at the ECHR.

Documents declassified by the CIA in June this year suggeLithuania cooperated with the CIA to secretly transfer prisoners and detain them on Lithuanian territory…

Excerpts from Crofton Black, “Site Violet”: How Lithuania helped run a secret CIA prison, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Oct. 10, 2016

The Torture Sites

This box (length 40 inches, width 30 inches and height 30 inches) is bigger than one of  the confinement  boxes  used for CIA torture which had length 30 inches, width 21 inches and height 30 inches based on the released by the US Senate CIA torture report.

The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand all of the images be turned over to them and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.  Defence attorneys said they have not yet been informed about the photographs and said it is unacceptable that they should come to light only now, more than three years after the arraignment of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other defendants accused of planing the September 11 attacks.

The electronic images depict external and internal shots of facilities where the CIA held al-Qaeda suspects after 9/11…They do include images of naked detainees during transport, …The pictures also show CIA personnel and members of foreign intelligence services, as well as psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, among the architects of the interrogation program. …Among the images are those of cells and bathrooms at the detention sites, including a facility in Afghanistan known as “Salt Pit“, where the waterboard was photographed.

A US official described the photographs of the Salt Pit as looking like a dungeon. The official added that many of the pictures appear to have been taken for budgetary reasons to document how money was being spent.  The bulk of the photographs depict black sites in Thailand, Afghanistan and Poland. There are fewer shots of prisons in Romania and Lithuania, which were among the last to be used before they were closed in 2006.  A US official said there are also photographs of confinement boxes where detainees such as Abu Zubaydah, who is now at Guantanamo, were forced into for hours.

Also among the photographs are images of Zubaydah shortly after he was captured in 2002; he was wounded in the leg during a shootout with Pakistani security forces. The pictures show his injury. Later shots show him wearing an eye patch. A former CIA official said Zubaydah had a pre-existing eye injury that was infected when the agency captured him. The eye was later removed.

Excerpts from Adam Goldman ,Photos of CIA ‘black sites’ come to light, Washington Post, June 28, 2015