Back in 2002, Gitmo’s Standard Operating Procedures advocated stripping detainees of clothing as a way of demonstrating the omnipotence of the captors.
In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.
With Abu Zubaydah–as Jane Mayer has written–they explicitly tied this to becoming his “God.”
… the CIA interrogators also announced they planned to become Zubaydah’s “God.” They reportedly took his clothing as punishment, and reduced his human interaction to a single daily visit in which they would say simply, “You know what I want,” and then leave.
That’s striking given that–according to Bradley Manning’s Article 138 complaint, written in his own voice–Commander James Averhart put Manning on suicide watch on January 18 to demonstrate that he was, for all practical purposes, God.
After being returned to my cell, I started to read a book. About 30 minutes later, the PCF Commander, CWO4 James Averhart, came to my cell. He asked me what had happened during my recreation call. As I tried to explain to him what had occurred, CWO4 Averhart stopped me and said “I am the commander” and that “no one could tell him what to do.” He also said that he was, for all practical purposes, “God.” I responded by saying “you still have to follow Brig procedures.” I also said “everyone has a boss that they have to answer to.” As soon as I said this, CWO4 Averhart ordered that I be placed in Suicide Risk Status.
Following Averhart’s order that Manning be labeled a suicide risk, he ordered guards to take his clothing.
He instructed the guards to enter my cell and take all my clothing. At first I tried to reason with CWO4 Averhart by telling him that I had been a model detainee and by asking him to just tell me what he wanted me to do and that I would do it. However, I gave up trying to reason with him once the guards entered my cell and ordered me to strip. Instead, I lowered my head and starting taking off my clothes.
Manning’s Article 138 complaint shows far more. It shows how the Brig Psychiatrist recommended at least 16 times between August 27 and January 21 that Manning be removed from Prevention of Injury watch. It shows that the day Manning was placed on suicide watch, there was a protest in support of him outside of Quantico. According to Manning, the guards harassed him, demanding he respond to every order with “Aye” rather than “Yes.” And except for that day (when he said “Yes” instead of “Aye” and then asked Averhart why that was happening to him), Manning was never deemed to present disciplinary problem.
Manning also describes the whole reason he is now being stripped every night: because he again asked why he is being treated this way.
On March 2, I was informed of your decision regarding my Article 138 complaint. Understandably frustrated by this decision after enduring over seven months of unduly harsh confinement conditions, I asked the Brig Operations Officer, MSG Papakie, what I needed to do in order to be downgraded from Maximum Custody and POI Status. MSG Papakie responded by telling me that there was nothing I could do to downgrade my detainee status and that the Brig simply considered me a risk of self-harm. Out of frustration, I responded that the POI restrictions were absurd and sarcastically told him if I really wanted to harm myself, that I could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of my underwear or with my flip-flops.
The government torture canon makes it clear: their plan to break prisoners requires prisoners learn helplessness. A key part of that is–as Averhart himself explicitly described it–playing God.
It is clear the government’s program of abuse remains the same. This is the procedure they used on Abu Zubaydah. It is the procedure they used in Gitmo. They are now using it on an American citizen detained on American soil.
And surprisingly, they’re still describing their abuse in the very same term: God.
There’s something hysterical about the promise a Quantico spokesperson made that DOD would take any threats to its IT networks–in this case, threats made by Anonymous–seriously.
A Quantico spokesman, Lieutenant Agustin Solivan, said officials had referred the matter to law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies. “We are aware of the threat and any threats to defence department information systems and networks are taken seriously,” he said. “The intent or stating that you are going to commit a crime is a crime in itself,” he added.
You see, back in 2008, DOD got badly hit by malware introduced via a thumb drive or some other removable media. And in response, DOD instituted measures that–it said–would clear up the problem.
The Defense Department’s geeks are spooked by a rapidly spreading worm crawling across their networks. So they’ve suspended the use of so-called thumb drives, CDs, flash media cards, and all other removable data storage devices from their nets, to try to keep the worm from multiplying any further.
The ban comes from the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, according to an internal Army e-mail. It applies to both the secret SIPR and unclassified NIPR nets. The suspension, which includes everything from external hard drives to “floppy disks,” is supposed to take effect “immediately.”
Servicemembers are supposed to “cease usage of all USB storage media until the USB devices are properly scanned and determined to be free of malware,” one e-mail notes.
Eventually, some government-approved drives will be allowed back under certain “mission-critical,” but unclassified, circumstances. “Personally owned or non-authorized devices” are “prohibited” from here on out.
In other words, back in 2008, an enemy force attacked DOD’s IT system using an embarrassing security vulnerability. In response DOD immediately banned all removable media. That ban was supposed to be permanent on classified networks like SIPRNet.
Just over one year later, a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Iraq brought in a Lady Gaga CD, inserted it into his computer attached to SPIRNet, and allegedly downloaded three huge databases of classified information.
Throughout the WikiLeaks scandal, DOD has been the functional equivalent of someone who, just weeks after getting cured of syphilis, went right back to his old ways and–surprise surprise!–got the clap, all the while denying he bore any responsibility for fucking around.
According to Bradley Manning’s description, there was a virtual orgy of IT security problems at his base in Iraq.
(01:52:30 PM) Manning: funny thing is… we transffered so much data on unmarked CDs…
(01:52:42 PM) Manning: everyone did… videos… movies… music
(01:53:05 PM) Manning: all out in the open
(01:53:53 PM) Manning: bringing CDs too and from the networks was/is a common phenomeon
(01:54:14 PM) Lamo: is that how you got the cables out?
(01:54:28 PM) Manning: perhaps
(01:54:42 PM) Manning: i would come in with music on a CD-RW
(01:55:21 PM) Manning: labelled with something like “Lady Gaga”… erase the music… then write a compressed split file
(01:55:46 PM) Manning: no-one suspected a thing
(01:55:48 PM) Manning: =L kind of sad
(01:56:04 PM) Lamo: and odds are, they never will
(01:56:07 PM) Manning: i didnt even have to hide anything
(01:56:36 PM) Lamo: from a professional perspective, i’m curious how the server they were on was insecure
(01:57:19 PM) Manning: you had people working 14 hours a day… every single day… no weekends… no recreation…
(01:57:27 PM) Manning: people stopped caring after 3 weeks
(01:57:44 PM) Lamo: i mean, technically speaking
(01:57:51 PM) Lamo: or was it physical
(01:57:52 PM) Manning: >nod<
(01:58:16 PM) Manning: there was no physical security
(01:58:18 PM) Lamo: it was physical access, wasn’t it
(01:58:20 PM) Lamo: hah
(01:58:33 PM) Manning: it was there, but not really
(01:58:51 PM) Manning: 5 digit cipher lock… but you could knock and the door…
(01:58:55 PM) Manning: *on
(01:59:15 PM) Manning: weapons, but everyone has weapons
(02:00:12 PM) Manning: everyone just sat at their workstations… watching music videos / car chases / buildings exploding… and writing more stuff to CD/DVD… the culture fed opportunities
Incidentally, note that no one has been fired for having left SIPRNet open to the same vulnerability that had already been targeted in a hostile attack? It’s all Bradley Manning’s fault. Sure, DOD was fucking around. But it can’t be held responsible!
So now, weeks after HBGary emails made it clear that DOD and DOJ and CIA were already investigating Anonymous, they’re telling us they’re investigating. For real now.
And don’t you worry! Ain’t no way Anonymous can hurt them. Because they know how to defend against such threats.
Charlie Savage just tweeted that the Abu Ghraib tactics will continue for Bradley Manning.
Quantico tells me Bradley Manning will now be stripped every night as a “precautionary measure” to prevent self-injury
Remember, Manning was already being forced to sleep in his underwear.
When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.
So this new enforced nudity policy purports that Manning’s underwear are a danger to him.
DOD, protecting us from terrorists … and boxer shorts.
I’m imagining Osama bin Laden sitting in his cave laughing his ass off at the Marines that run Quantico, frightened over one pair of underwear. And imagining a new version of the Marine Hymn:
From the Halls of Montezuma, to cells of Quantico. We will fight our country’s battles against truth and underroos.
Now, frankly, humor may be the best way to cope with learning about this. But it’s not fair to the Marines that run Quantico to ask them to do something as absurd as this, to trump up some stupid excuse about the threat one man’s boxer shorts pose so they can justify stupid persecution.
Our Marines deserve better than this. Our country deserves better than this.
CNN elaborates on something MSNBC reported last night. Not only did Quantico Brig Commander James Averhart improperly put Bradley Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, but the military is now investigating why he did so.
The U.S. military is investigating why the commander of the military jail put Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of leaking documents to WikiLeaks, on suicide watch for a few days last week, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.
An investigation has been launched into whether Brig Commander James Averhart had the authority to place Manning on suicide watch, which is usually ordered by the medical staff.
Now, as MSNBC explained last night, the suicide watch came because Manning allegedly disobeyed the order of two guards, so it’s not entirely clear what CNN means by “why.”
But this is a really welcome development. I hope the investigation is as transparent as the reports to MSNBC and CNN have been in the last day.
Update: Now CNN has retracted this story, with the following notice.
The CNN Wire has killed the story slugged US-WikiLeaks-Manning-1 that moved at 2:47 p.m. due to new information. The military spokesman identified in the story says there is no investigation into the decision to put Bradley Manning on suicide watch.
I’ve put a screen cap of the original story up top.
The government has admitted to MSNBC that the Brig Commander at Quantico improperly put Bradley Manning on suicide watch last week.
The officials told NBC News, however, that a U.S. Marine commander did violate procedure when he placed Manning on “suicide watch” last week.
Military officials said Brig Commander James Averhart did not have the authority to place Manning on suicide watch for two days last week, and that only medical personnel are allowed to make that call.
The official said that after Manning had allegedly failed to follow orders from his Marine guards. Averhart declared Manning a “suicide risk.” Manning was then placed on suicide watch, which meant he was confined to his cell, stripped of most of his clothing and deprived of his reading glasses — anything that Manning could use to harm himself. At the urging of U.S. Army lawyers, Averhart lifted the suicide watch.
So Manning allegedly fails to follow an order and the Brig Commander decides he loses his glasses and is stripped of his clothing?
Remember, Manning has not been convicted of anything yet.
The rest of the article describes that the government has been unable to link Manning to Julian Assange. Maybe that’s why they took his glasses away.
Update: This certainly puts the events from Quantico yesterday in a different light. According to MSNBC, government lawyers realized last week Manning had been improperly treated. By preventing David House from visiting Manning yesterday, they made sure that he wouldn’t have confirmation of that from Manning directly. But since Jane and David’s comments said they’d be back next week, DOD realized they’d need to ‘fess up themselves.