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The Rules of Interrogation

The Rules of Interrogation

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Published by: oblivionboyj on Aug 12, 2009
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Posted Sunday, May 9, 2004Ask veteran interrogators about torture, and they will tell you that real professionals don't needto use it. They get better information without resorting to extremes, they say. That's the officialline. But the more desperate the war and the more elusive the enemy, the faster that line meltsaway.Since 9/11, America has let its interrogation standards slide because it's hard to getinformation from religious extremists and insurgents. Yet information is the thing mostnecessary to prevent guerrilla attacks on the battlefield and terrorist attacks at home. And nomatter what anyone says, there is just no attractive way to extract information from people whodon't want to give it. "This is tough, tough business," as Major General Geoffrey Miller, the newcommanding officer at Abu Ghraib, told reporters last week.Here is what the business looks like, separate and apart from the brutality documented at AbuGhraib prison: since 9/11, according to U.S. officials and former prisoners, detainees underU.S. supervision in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at undisclosed otherlocations have been stripped naked, covered with hoods, deprived of sleep and light, andmade to stand or sit in painful positions for extended periods. Some have been drugged.YURI KOZYREV FOR TIME
Sgt. Buxton, a U.S. Soldier with the 2nd Battalion of the U.S. Army's 3rd ArtilleryRegiment, escorts a detainee with a bag over his head on December 13, 2003 in Baghdad,Iraq.The Rules of InterrogationIt's a murky business, but some methods workbetter than others
Sexual humiliation is not unheard of. Even the Federal Bureau of Prisons has lent a hand inthis enterprise. According to a Justice Department inspector-general's report, Muslimdetainees at the Brooklyn, N.Y., Metropolitan Detention Center after 9/11 were physically andverbally abused by some staff members. Meanwhile, there have been at least 32 suicideattempts by Guantanamo detainees, and one of those who tried to commit suicide ended up ina coma. In three cases in Iraq and Afghanistan currently under investigation by the JusticeDepartment, detainees died during or after questioning by the CIA.None of those techniques are legal under strict readings of international law. The ConventionAgainst Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is perhapsthe most relevant legal baseline, and it was interpreted by the first Bush Administration tomean that detainees should be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. The GenevaConventions are also quite clear: "Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not bethreatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."Then again, the Geneva Conventions also require that prisoners be paid a daily wage. Much ofthe language is too utopian to be taken literally by most nations at war, and since 9/11 the U.S.has ignored the conventions when convenient.If such interrogation tactics are legally questionable, are they at least useful? Is there anyreason to believe that discomfort, nudity and sexual humiliation actually persuade men toshare secrets? The answer is yes—sometimes—but not without great risk. Over the years, theU.S. government has spent a lot of time searching for a "truth serum," experimenting withelectroshock and lsd without success. "Drugs in particular held out the highest hope," saysMark Bowden, who wrote a landmark story about interrogation in the October 2003 AtlanticMonthly. "But the human mind is more complex than that. There's no magic bullet." Over time,most intelligence professionals have settled on tools in the torture lite category. The FBI'smethods fall on the genteel end of the spectrum. "Convicted felons have explained that theymore likely would confess to an investigator who treated them with respect," according to aNovember 2002 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. The interview should be aseduction, not a showdown. Suspects should be encouraged to explain their crimes assomehow rational. As any cop or reporter will tell you, most people want to tell their story,given the right incentive. Extremists and guerrilla warriors tend to be less malleable thancriminals, however. And since the military and government agencies operating abroad functionwith fewer legal constraints, they take more risks. Last spring the Department of Defensefinalized a secret "stress matrix" detailing dozens of tactics that could and could not be used atGuantanamo. The document, described to Time by a lawyer close to the process, permitssleep and sensory deprivation, among other things, under certain conditions. Depending onthe personality of suspects, these strategies can be effective, experts say. The idea is todisorient prisoners to the point at which they lose all sense of time, normality and control—tobreak them, that is. The CIA isolates key al-Qaeda operatives so that the interrogator becomesthe only human they see each day.The Shin Bet, Israel's domestic-security service, plays loud rock music and ties prisoners inuncomfortable positions for long periods, according to former and current agents. Interrogatorstell prisoners their comrades have ratted them out, then leave them together in a cell and tapetheir conversations. All of this is downright charitable compared with other countries' practices.Many Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, beat and mutilate suspects on afairly regular basis. Interrogators in other parts of the world aren't even coy about their work.Says a Philippine government interrogator: "Just the very act of stretching your arms will sendshivers among suspected terrorists. Then you can also ask [them], 'Which do you prefer that I
use—this wooden stick or this hanger?'" If that doesn't work, wires carrying low-voltage surgesof electricity can be attached to the genitals, he says. How do the images out of Abu Ghraibprison fit into the canon of torture tactics? Soldiers claim they were told by military intelligenceofficers to "soften up" the detainees for questioning. Certainly, putting hoods over prisoners'heads and stripping them naked would conform to common, if primitive, interrogation-preptactics. Ilan Kutz, an Israeli psychiatrist who has witnessed military training for interrogations,confirms that sexual humiliation is also a well-known tool. "The idea of interrogation is to breakdown the person so all his resistance is shot, and then he'll tell you anything," he says. "In theprocess, sexual humiliation is certainly not excluded, sadly. You are leading people to aprecipice where suddenly they glimpse their powerlessness. Especially if it's against theirreligious rules—if you force a Jew to eat a pig or force a person to engage in sexual actsagainst his will, it is pretty effective in terms of grinding the person's resistance to the ground."But the trick is knowing when to stop. The behavior of the military police at Abu Ghraib seemsto blur into hazing, sadism and mockery. Whatever the motives, says Kutz, the soldiersvirtually guaranteed that the inmates would be susceptible to post-traumatic stress—anduseless to interrogators. "This is stupidity. It's not useful. In fact, it's harmful," says a formerIsraeli military intelligence interrogator. "After a man's humiliated like this, if there was achance he'd open up, now there's no way. If there was a chance to recruit him and send himback to the field as your source, now there's no chance." Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a visitingprofessor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has studied torture victims who came out ofcommunist China in the 1950s. Under severe treatment, he found, people said what theirinterrogators wanted to hear. "They come up with so-called wild confessions," he says. In the1980s the Israeli Supreme Court restricted interrogators to using "moderate physical pressure"in order to reduce the number of false confessions obtained under torture. But in 1999, after aprisoner died under "moderate pressure," the court banned the practice. The Shin Bet stillustifies its use for "ticking bombs," suspects who may know something about an imminentattack.The pictures streaming out of Iraq suggest to some that the U.S. has adopted a culture ofcommonplace coercion. "If the Army is doing this and all evidence suggests it has becomewidespread, then there is a very serious problem with the U.S. military and its methods," saysBowden, who advocates coercion in rare cases only. "They can lay out a 50-point or 2,000-point matrix to try to draw a line, and they will never succeed because there is no way to drawa line between coercion and torture."Still, in an interview with Time, one U.S. Army official defended the use of sexual humiliation.The key, he says, is finding the enemy's psychological vulnerability. In Vietnam, it was coldtemperatures. Army special-forces soldiers put prisoners of war in lockers for four or five days,and they lived at borderline hypothermia, he says. In Iraq, cold has been replaced by sexualinsecurity. While the official agrees that the Abu Ghraib soldiers were undertrained andundersupervised, he insists that similar tactics—used more carefully—are effective. "Whenwomen have power and control over you, that sets the male psyche out of its equilibrium. He'snot dominant anymore. It's not for the squeamish. But the typical Arab male will do anything toavoid it," he says. "The overall process is one of humiliating these people. And that is beingused to find the people who are planting roadside bombs."Today the U.S. military says hoods are no longer used at Abu Ghraib. Sleep deprivation isallowed only with the permission of commanding officers. Prisoners are no longer put in stresspositions, says Miller, the current commander of U.S. prisons in Iraq. But Miller also says that

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