SASC Torture Report, Working Thread


The Senate Armed Services Committee just released its report on torture.

Spencer has a post on it here.

Remember, as you’re reading it, that not only did they re-purpose SERE. But we know they went far beyond SERE in its application.

I’ll be reading it as I fall asleep and should have more detailed comments tomorrow morning. Plus, I’m working on a post that should demonstrate, once and for all, just how futile all this torture was. 

One more thing. As you read this, remember that Kirk Lippold who has become one of the talking heads attacking Obama’s efforts to shut Gitmo, worked on crafting Gitmo detainee strategies. 

You can donate here

64 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    Oh, one more thing to remember as you read it.

    Since the ExecSummary of this came out, the Republicans have been claiming that Levin worked on this for 2 years and found nothing wrong.

  2. dcblogger says:

    Thank you to the 155 doggies who support independent quality journalism. And shame on all those foundations and non profits who don’t know a hit when they see one.

    • KiwiJackson says:

      We’re contributing Suzanne. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of the donate button. Can’t thank emptywheel enough for everything but money’s always a good start.

  3. emptywheel says:

    They had people who weren’t trained in waterboarding training on waterboarding:

    In addition to explaining and demonstrating the physical pressures used at SERE
    school, the JPRA personnel also provided instruction on waterboarding. 154
    (D) At the time, waterboarding was only used by the U.S. Navy SERE school and its use was prohibited at the JPRA, Anny, and Air Force SERE schools. 155 The U.S. Navy has since abandoned its waterboarding at its SERE schools. None ofthe JPRA personnel who provided the assistance had ever conducted waterboarding and would not have been qualified to do so at SERE school. 156

  4. emptywheel says:

    This one is going to really doom Jessen:

    (U) Dr. Jessen did tell the Committee that, in some circumstances, physically coercive techniques are appropriate for use in detainee interrogations. He said that the use ofphysically coercive techniques may be appropriate when (1) there is good reason to believe that the individual has perishable intelligence, (2) the techniques are lawful and authorized, (3) they are carefully controlled with medical and psychological oversight, (4) someone (who is not otherwise involved in the interrogation) can stop the use ofthe techniques, and (5) the techniques do not cause long-term physical or psychological harm. 170 Dr. Jessen acknowledged that empirically, it is not possible to know the effect ofa technique used on a detainee in the longterm, unless you study the effects in the long-term. However, he said that his conclusion about the long-term effects ofphysically coercive techniques was based on forty years oftheir use at SERE school.

    Suffice it to say there is a SCARY similarity between these comments and stuff that shows up in the Bybee Memo.

    Curiously, though, they didn’t always have someone there to intervene in the early days. He’s quoting the rules from 2007.

    • TheraP says:

      On the say-so of a psychologist, based on no research and obviously no ethical/legal thinking an entire war crimes program was launched.

      I have a SEERing pain in my brain! I am ashamed of what my profession has done.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I’m sure it’s been said, but I imagine Jessen should be wary of traveling abroad. His role appears critical in developing and applying, evaluating and “improving” our program of torture as applied to specific prisoners under our control.

  5. burqa says:

    What is frequently misunderstood is how the SEER program came about and the intent of the methods employed.
    During the Korean War, Americans were shocked when a number of American captives came out and “confessed” to war crimes such as using chemical or biological warfare weapons.
    They had been exposed to temperature extremes, diet manipulation, sleep deprivation and waterboarding, among other techniques to get them to make false confessions.
    SEER training was intended to prepare American military personnel to resist these methods.

    These techniques were not intended to elicit actionable battlefield intelligence, and the mistake has been to believe they do.

    We have fought many other enemies besides the Nokes who used coercion, abuse and torture on captured Americans, since before the founding of the republic.
    I read a pretty fair amount of history and I am unaware of any occasion where we were defeated on the battlefield due to the enemy obtaining actionable intelligence through these means and every time I challenge one of the pro-torture crowd to come up with such an example, it is met with silence or they hastily try to change the subject…

    • Jane Hamsher says:

      Yeah leave it to the geniuses in the Bush administration to try and get actionable intelligence using a technique designed to produce false confession.

      Reading now. “Paging Dr. Mengele…”

  6. behindthefall says:

    What’s that thermometer thingie? It doesn’t turn my cursor into a pointing-hand, so I don’t know what it’s trying to suggest that I do. (Contribute somewhere, presumably, but where and how and would the cash go to help Emptywheel?)

  7. emptywheel says:

    And of course, this rush was because they had Zubaydah waiting for his torture, and Bybee needed more “science” for his memo to make it look like this wasn’t barbarism.

    (U) According to Lt Col Baumgartner, prior to the July 25, 2002 memo being delivered to the General Counsel’s office, Mr. Shiffrin called him to ask for additional information, including a list oftechniques used by JPRA at SERE school. Mr. Shiffrin testified to the Committee that he was ”under pressure” from Mr. Haynes to get the material to his office as qUl.C k 1 Yas pOSSI’b l e.

    Bybee provided oral guidance on how to torture Zubaydah on the 24th and 26th.

  8. Curious says:

    See Jane’s post from earlier today:…..y-wheeler/

    “So we’re launching a campaign today. We want to raise $150,000 to support Marcy, another investigative blogger to work with her, and a researcher to help them. All the money donated on this page will go directly to those efforts:

    You can donate here” (sorry, I don’t know how to link the donate line)

  9. MadDog says:

    On the 3rd page (Table of Contents), there is this:

    F. JPRA ’s Special Program In Support of [redacted].(U) 35
    1. August 2002 Training Proposal (U) 35
    2. JPRA Creates Project 22B (U) 37

    My guess (note the August 2002 date for “training”) is that the redacted part is GST which was/is the Code Name at the CIA as reported by Dana Priest back in December 30, 2005 for the following:

    The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

    The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

    GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world…

  10. emptywheel says:

    Wow. THis is totally damning, bc the Bybee memo said they were followign SERE, but they weren’t.

    JPRA’s description ofthe waterboarding technique provided in that ftrst attachment was inconsistent in key respects from the U.S. Navy SERE school’s description of waterboarding. According to the Navy SERE school’s operating instructions, for example, while administering the technique, the Navy limited the amount of water poured on a student’s face to
    two pints. However, the JPRA attachment said that “up to 1.5 gallons ofwater” may be poured onto a “subject’s face.” While the Navy’s operating instructions dictated that “[n]o effort will be made to direct the stream of water into the student’s nostrils or mouth,” the description provided by JPRA contained no such limitation for subjects ofthe technique. While the Navy limited the use ofthe cloth on a student’s face to twenty seconds, the JPRA’s description said only that the cloth should remain in place for a “short period oftime.” And while the Navy restricted anyone from placing pressure on the chest or stomach during the administration ofthis technique, JPRA’s description included no such limitation for sQbjects ofthe technique.

    2 pints, 1.5 gallon. What’s the difference! 6 times as much water, that’s not so much.

  11. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for the running start!

    Just wondering– Does that last sentence make sense?

    I will look forward to your analysis– especially in view that your subconscious mind will be working on that report all night as you sleep!
    By the time I get up here in Hawaii, I’m sure that you and the commenters who like to hang out here will have some great reads on it!

    Sweet dreams! :-p

    Bob in HI

  12. eagleye says:

    The torture apologists are going to rely heavily on two talking points:

    # 1 – Torture indeed produces quality intelligence, which justifies the use of abusive techniques.

    # 2 – The parties involved in torture believed that they were acting in the best interest of the United States.

    Both of those rationales are bullshit, and need to be shot down pronto. The whole tenor of this debate will revolve around these two points.

    • MadDog says:

      What is going on here as I mentioned in EW’s previous post is this:

      The biggest thing that bothers me (and should bother us all) about this Cheney PR “ploy” is:

      It removes the focus from “torture is a crime” and instead tries to shift the public discourse to “ends justify means”.

      And The Villagers just continue to lap it up!

      I heard the very same talking points on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 tonite from Ari Fleischer, the former PR stooge for George Bush.

      The idea, again, is to remove the focus from “torture is a crime” and instead try to shift the public discourse to “ends justify means”.

      You will hear this from every single Repug that speaks on this issue.

      If there is anything that the Repugs do well (an oxymoron to be sure), is fookin’ message discipline.

      • Jane Hamsher says:

        Cheney’s trying to provide some “leadership” to stop the bleeding. You’ll see folks like…oh, I don’t know, but I’d lay money on George Tenet…popping up any day now to try and get out from under this shit by shoveling more on his head. It’s ugly, and you have to be a real dead-ender to want to defend this stuff.


        • Peterr says:

          Cheney’s not going to like this conclusion about the work of his pal Rumsfeld from the report (pdf p 30):

          Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2,2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

          • Jane Hamsher says:

            Yeah can we dispense with the business about how the Republicans just care so very much about our folks in uniform:

            President Bush expressed “deep disgust” yesterday over allegations that a group of U.S. troops – at least six of them in an Army Reserve unit from Maryland – abused and humiliated Iraqi prisoners, saying that those responsible would be punished.

            “I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated,” Bush told reporters.

            The president added: “Those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women we’ve sent overseas. And there will be an investigation. … They’ll be taken care of.”

            Unless by “care” you mean “hung out to dry by a bunch of cowards who didn’t want to take responsibility for their shit.”

            But as Bill Kristol reminds us, those were “dark days.”

        • MadDog says:

          Cornered Rats.

          Fixed it for ya’! *g*

          Seriously, they’ve run out of any other options to defend themselves. Their last stand is the equivalent of saying: “Torture is patriotic!”

        • MadDog says:

          I should also note that Paul Begala as counterpoint to Ari Fleischer on AC360, said (paraphrasing) that the White House just loves the fact that Cheney stuck his head up out of his bunker/hole on this issue, because the White House now has a totally discredited and thoroughly disliked Mole in the eyes of the public to whack away at.

          Whack-A-Mole, and Deadeye doesn’t realize he’s it!

          The Repug Congressional Leadership (again, an oxymoron (emphasis on moron)) is probably privately wailing and gnashing their teeth to find themselves saddled with a “born to lose” paranoid that they thought had been banished to Coventry after the 2008 election.

          Cheney is like a bad burrito; it just keeps coming back up over and over again.

        • GregB says:

          I am just dumbstruck at the moral degradation.

          I have listened to rightwing Republicans lecturing about morality and character for decades now.

          Now they are reduced to cheerleading the effectivness of forcing prisoners to commit sexual acts on each other.

          The one thing they have going for them is that they have helped to define deviancy down to the act of chopping off someones head. Anything above that is OK.


  13. Cozumel says:

    Hi Firepups, long time no see! ; )

    Stay on Cheneys ass and let’s get this miserable lying bastard.

    Heading off to make a contribution…

    – Coz

    PS. Nice shoes Jane! ; ) lol Love ya and keep up the good work.



  14. Jane Hamsher says:

    Glad to know this guy’s on the bench:

    In fact, Jay Bybee the Assistant Attorney General who signed the two OLC legal
    opinions said that he saw an assessment of the psychological effects ofmilitary resistance training in July 2002 in meetings in his office with John Yoo and two other OLC attorneys. Judge Bybee said that he used that assessment to inform the August 1, 2002 OLC legal opinion that has yet to be publicly released.

  15. foothillsmike says:

    According to EW #20 there were significant modifications to the SERE model. Was there some medical authorization for this? Did anyone actually drown?

    • TheraP says:

      According to Spencer’s article, people who taught waterboarding (at the detainee sites) weren’t even proficient in it themselves! And he has one quote that someone said, “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

      Seriously, I’m not making this up!

      • foothillsmike says:

        And the disappearance/destruction of the tapes may very well have been to cover up mistakes rather than identities. If resusitation was necessary they were more than simulating drowning.

  16. CalGeorge says:

    p. 125.

    Each of the 36 recommended techniques was included in a color-coded matrix or a “stoplight” chart and designated as either “green,” “yellow,” or “red” to signify the Working Group’s assessment of legal and policy considerations.

    The stoplight chart had all 36 techniques green under customary international law because the OLC opinion and thus the Working Group report maintained that customary international law did not impose any constraints on the


  17. TheraP says:

    The Irony of Torture:

    Camp Honesty Interrogation Plan – “based off of SEER Training Doctrine.”

    SEER folks admitted their techniques were illegal!

    They improvised “sensory over-stimulation” in black rooms “touching the detainee on the head, hands, and feet with string stimulating sensors.”

    (Hard to believe they refrained from touching other body parts – given the improvised plan at Camp Honesty.)


  18. TheraP says:

    The use of hoods bothered me from the get-go. And now I have proof:


    [p. 254]

  19. bigbrother says:

    My commenrts today at Board of Supervisors TV/Radio broadcast:
    1. 180 water boarding sessions in one month. Ineffective interrogation
    2. Violation of right
    3. Violation of international treatise
    4. Violation of our own laws
    5. Violation of Geneva convention
    6. Puts our own troops at risk of torture
    7. Creates a call to potential terrorist
    8. It is moral bankruptcy

    Protect the children
    1. 1,000 school age children homeless in SLO County
    2. County cuts social services instead of assisting these families.

    Los Osos Families and Businesses damaged by sewer cost.
    1. Marginal household budgets will be turned upside down. Checks bounce, bills go unpaid lose medical coverage.
    2. Unemployment is growing in recession more job losses predicted.
    3. Planned sewer is unaffordable for 40% of residents

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A complex regime of torture. Mr. Bush admitted to it, while delivering the line, “We don’t torture.”

    I guess the sotto voce part of that is George Bush saying to himself, “I don’t torture, or do anything else. I delegate everything to Dick and he does it.”

    We will need a team of Patrick Fitzgerald’s on this for half a dozen years.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As I understand the acronym, it follows the logical order of behavior expected/predicted for a downed pilot or soldier caught behind the lines:

    S urvival (first and foremost)
    E vasion (evade capture by the enemy)
    R esistance (to enemy interrogation once captured)
    E scape (the duty of every POW)

  22. TheraP says:

    Remember that photo of the Iraqi handcuffed to that bed, painfully leaning over it?

    Here’s the description as part of stress positions on p. 255:

    could also “be used in order to implement sleep management” and
    that “in the most exceptional circumstances, and on approval from [the SMU TF Commander],” interrogators could ”use handcuffs to enforce the detainee’s position.,,

    I bet they never bothered to get the special permission….

  23. RaphLevien says:

    Official documents are one thing, but of course quite a bit of detail on this stuff has been known for years. Jane Mayer’s The Experiment in particular filled in the details for me. TheraP, I hear you – the fact that professionals knew about this (or should have known – after all, The New Yorker is not exactly obscure) and did nothing to stop it is a huge black mark on the entire profession.

    In fact, I got really worked up and angry about this, and brought it in to my psychiatrist. He was defensive, and said, “you don’t know what I do about it.” My response was, “given how serious this is, if you were truly a decent professional, I would have read about it in the newspapers.”

    I left therapy not long after.

  24. bobschacht says:

    “Cheney is like a bad burrito; it just keeps coming back up over and over again.”
    (I tried to reply to MadDog @42, but the reply function is misbehaving, and the quote function wouldn’t work for me.)

    Erk. There’s a really pungent metaphor. Could we be a little less graphic, please?
    Next thing, you’ll be adding something about gaseous emanations.

    Bob in HI

  25. prostratedragon says:

    Re [email protected]:

    Lord, these guys are the lookup table believers! I’d forgot: they always project.

    Note in the passage on pp. 124[155 of pdf]–125[156] the use of the term “exceptional,” which is ambiguous in our idiom*, for the category of techniques which are to be recommended for availability despite their exceeding Army Field Manual sanctions.

    * “Exceptional” can mean simply “unusual”, but can also mean “unusually good.”

  26. timbo says:

    If anyone gets a chance, run the torture timeline with the lead up to war with Iraq timeline…my guess is there was a parallel with Fear-Up and the propaganda campaign in the U.S. to get into Iraq. The goal would also have been to get legal cover for torturing Iraqis that Bush personally didn’t like…for instance, Mr. Hussein and his family…who, strangely enough, ended up being tortured and killed…many/all in extra-legal circumstances arguably.

  27. klynn says:

    Son-of-klynn is studying Watergate. Son said, “What kind of person installs evasedropping equipment and then erases 18.5 minutes of conversation, even though his secretary says she did it…but it happens to be a critical conversation and content missing is from a critical point in the conversation? Then later, a ‘Smoking Gun’ transcript tells all?”

    A pause from son…

    “Oh yeah, the same kind of person that orders torture tapes to be destroyed but claims there was no torture but that the torture revealed critical intelligence.”

    “There is no disconnect here.” He concluded.

Comments are closed.