Who Gave James Mitchell the Al-Qaeda Resistance Manual?

The SASC Report on Detainee Treatment reveals that some information collected from al Qaeda–and not DOD’s attempts to find methods to interrogate detainees–is one key to discovering how we got in the torture business. The SASC report reveals (as Valtin has been pointing out for some time) that DOD first contacted JPRA–the unit that oversees SERE–for "information about detainee ‘exploitation’" on December 17, 2001. But there’s another reference that suggests James Mitchell–one of the two retired SERE psychologists who reverse-engineered SERE and oversaw the first interrogations–was already on the job. In the section, "JPRA Collaboration with Other Government Agencies" (meaning, CIA), this reference appears:

[classification redaction] In December 2001 or January 2002, a retired Air Force SERE psychologist, Dr. James Mitchell, [redaction that I bet talks about a CIA contract] asked his former colleague, the senior SERE psychologist at JPRA, Dr. John "Bruce" Jessen, to review documents describing al Qaeda resistance training. The two psychologists reviewed the materials, [half line redacted], and generated a paper on al Qaeda resistance capabilities and countermeasures to defeat that resistance. 

Note, the "December 2001 or January 2002" date comes from an interview of Jessen, not directly from Mitchell. It’s not clear anyone has asked when Mitchell got the al Qaeda documents–but by the time Jessen was interviewed on July 11, 2007, DOD had already sent out notice to preserve all documents relating to Mitchell, so he was already under legal scrutiny at the time Jessen gave these dates.

In a section describing a DIA training session Jessen and Joseph Witsch did, it’s clear the al Qaeda documents form the basis for the training.

[classification redaction] Mr. Witsch stated that he worked with Dr. Jessen to develop a set of briefing slides for the [acronym redacted] training. The Department of Defense provided the Committee with slide presentations that appeared to have been produced by JPRA for the March 8, 2002 training. Mr. Witsch testified that the two slide presentations (1) [half line redacted–elsewhere this appears unredacted as Al Qaeda Resistance Contingency Training: Contingency Training for (redacted) Personnel] Based on Recently Obtained Al Qaeda Documents" and (2) "Exploitation" — appeared to be the same as those used by JPRA in the March 8, 2002 training. Dr. Jessen told the Committee that he did not recognize the slides as those that he presented [redacted] but that the vast majority of the slides were consistent with what he would have taught at the training session. 

While the discussion of the slides connected with the al Qaeda documents is heavily redacted, it appears that these slides already attached techniques or objectives to interrogating al Qaeda detainees.

[classification redacted] The "Al Qaeda Resistance Contingency Training" presentation described methods used by al Qaeda to resist interrogation and exploitation and [half line redacted]. The presentation also described countermeasures to defeat al Qaeda resistance, including [~five lines redacted]. Mr. Witsch testified to the Committee that the countermeasures identified in the slides were "just an interpretation of what we were doing at the time and what we constantly did when we trained SERE students."

So just to review. By "December 2001 or January 2002," Mitchell already had documents presumably captured from al Qaeda, and he and Jessen proceeded to use those documents to develop a training session on interrogation (one they offered to both DIA and CIA). And al Qaeda’s resistance training–as much as SERE’s program–drove what "countermeasures" Mitchell and Jessen were recommending to the CIA and DIA.

That’s relevant because there’s no obvious reason Mitchell should have had an al Qaeda training manual in hand. At the time he still had his executive consulting company, Knowledge Works, which presumably wasn’t dealing in al Qaeda training. And he had none of the specialized expertise–Arabic skills or familiarity with al Qaeda–that might have gotten him access to such materials. 

Of course, it’s not hard to come up with a plausible explanation for how James Mitchell came upon some al Qaeda intelligence in 2001, before DOD started pursuing JPRA techniques for interrogation. As I suggested, the half-line redaction following the introduction of Mitchell in the SASC almost certainly describes an affiliation with the CIA. Put that together with Jane Mayer’s report that Mitchell (and Jessen) had permanently assigned desks at the CounterTerrorism Center at the CIA by summer of 2002, and her explanation that some dweeb at CIA first suggested Mitchell for the job:

As some point, the source said, a CIA officer who could not be identified, whom a colleague at the Agency described as "a nobody–a pocket-protector-wearing Joe Molecule" who was "in charge of the shrinks on the science side," turned to the former SERE school psychologists. Having retired from the military and been sidelined from the war on terror, Mitchell and Jessen were eager to get involved. "Mike knew these guys," the source working with the intelligence community recounted," and when his colleagues were wimps, he said they would fit the bill."

And it seems likely that CTC–which would have been the central custodian of intelligence coming back from the Afghan war–gave Mitchell that intelligence.

Which then leads us to the unsurprising likelihood that CTC had already engaged Mitchell to reverse-engineer SERE before the time Jim Haynes’ office contacted JPRA for help on interrogation in December 2001. 

Like I said–all this is unsurprising.

But the apparent timing undermines the claim that DOD, in an effort to find expertise internally, turned to (among others) SERE. It seems to support Mayer’s source’s contention that Mitchell and Jessen were engaged by CIA because they weren’t "wimps" and not because of any respect for expertise.

93 replies
  1. behindthefall says:

    You seem to know this stuff so well by now that you can see through the redactions. Is it possible or impossible that Mitchell was working on this before 9/11/2001? Would it say anything if he had been working on it before then?

    picky: check spelling of ‘resistance’ in title

    • emptywheel says:

      This article says Knowledge Works–the executive consulting firm Mitchell closed the day after Abu Zubaydah was captured–was set up less than three months before 9/11:

      Mitchell’s entry into private contracting began less than three months before September 11 with a scientific consulting company called Knowledge Works, L.L.C.

      Now, I’m not sure how cover companies work for people and/or companies that contract to CIA, but we do know that Mitchell was working for CIA while (AFAIK) that was his primary company. So who knows if he was working for them before 9/11, or if he had a contract/relationship going back to June 2001.

      But Mayer, at least, seems to suggest this relationshp came after 9/11, after CIA got “stuck” with torture duty, and after CIA’s own people refused to take teh lead on it. My guess is the relationship post-dates Cheney’s post-9/11 “Iran-Contra lessons learned” meeting.

      • antibanana says:

        I read the article you linked to when it was provided by a poster a few days ago. I am not sure what the author meant when she said that Mitchell “closed” Knowledge Works, LLC. Does this mean that his place of business was closed, or that he sold the business to someone else?

        As of 2004, there was at least one other Knowledge Works LLC, but it operated out of DC.

        This information was published in the Greater Washington E-learning Directory in April 2004.

        KnowledgeWorks LLC

        1058 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW
        Washington, DC 20007
        T (202) 944-9740, x 8103
        F (202) 944-9807
        Gregg Levin CEO

        An ASP that provides “learning styles” assess-
        ment systems enabling corporations (GE), educa-
        tion (Washington, DC schools) and the military
        (USMC) to design learning experiences best suit-
        ed to the target population and individual.
        Partnered with the Krasnow Institute of Advanced
        Studies, one of the country’s leading brain
        research centers

        This may have nothing to do with anything.

      • bmaz says:

        But Mayer, at least, seems to suggest this relationshp came after 9/11, after CIA got “stuck” with torture duty, and after CIA’s own people refused to take teh lead on it. My guess is the relationship post-dates Cheney’s post-9/11 “Iran-Contra lessons learned” meeting.

        I leave the factual anthropology to you, but what strikes me is the continued crumbling of the legal foundation for the torture program. As I pointed out regarding the Zelikow FP article, the Bush folks have consistently and unequivocally shaped their defense based on kind of a collective justification, both legally and morally in response to 911 and the inability of standard interrogation to work. This collective justification is being just as collectively shot to hell. With every revelation we get a little closer to the truth which is that there was never a legal prong available (that we always knew) and now the necessity prong is crumbling before our eyes. There was not a need to “harsh up”, there was just the depraved knee jerk determination of our leaders to do so.

        The United States tortured people because the US was run at the time by depraved and inhuman beasts who were hard wired to do just that. The CIA professionals were no good, the leaders wanted tougher, whether the toughs were professional, legal and moral or not. We tortured because we were led by torturers. And it was an intentional and criminal set of decisions, from the start, and there should and must be accountability for it.

        • pdaly says:

          now if only someone would slip your words into a State of the Union Speech (or even a speech by Holder) then America would be off and running again!

  2. jackie says:

    Good Morning Marci
    Wow, I really don’t know how you stay so far ahead of all of us!!! Do you have a time machine lol.. I barely have time to read your posts, let alone ponder deeply and you are already 3 up..
    Thank-you! so, so much for everything you do and for making everything clear to us who don’t always understand what is happening…

  3. jackie says:

    Sorry OT already, but it is Darth related..
    This from a piece someone linked to earlier, re; Bush family/Saudi royal family..
    The bit below is regarding how/by whom Prince Banda was told about the go to war.

    ‘Just to make sure the prince knew he was for real, Bush got Cheney to tell the prince, that, for sure, “Saddam was toast. ” All in all, the Bush clan regards Prince Bandar and his wife are family, and vice versa.’


  4. phred says:

    This makes it pretty clear that whoever Mike aka “Joe Molecule” was, he was looking for pro-torture psychologists who would be onboard with implementing such a program from the get go. It would be very very interesting to find out not just who Mike is, but who asked Mike to find the guys needed to get the ball rolling on Cheney’s big game plan. Call me crazy, but a guy described as Joe Molecule does not appear to be the personality type to have been acting without direction.

      • phred says:

        Boy that would not surprise me one bit. You just know there is a direct line between Joe Molecule and Cheney. Maybe we should invent a new Torture version of the Kevin Bacon game. How many steps between Cheney and each participant in the torture regime? I’m guessing the average is way less than 6 ; )

        • emptywheel says:

          That’s what I originally thought when I started looking at this–that he had gotten the intel from Cheney. But given that redaction, it appears he was already at CIA. And since CTC would have owned that info, it makes sense that it comes from them.

          Though it does put Cofer Black solidly in the middle of the torture program.

          • phred says:

            The connection to Cheney might not be the intel hand-off directly, but rather Cheney putting the word out that he needed some people to get to work on coercive techniques. I think it is safe to assume Cheney knew about the Al-Qaeda training manual and he would have known where it would reside in the agency. Then all he has to do is to suggest to … Addington? … to find sympathetic people in the right spot.

      • rosalind says:

        when i read that yesterday i immediately flashed on Cheney’s actions at the Dept. of Interior in Oregon 2001:

        As reported in the Post, Cheney reached far down the chain of command at the Interior Department to twist the arms of low-ranking bureaucrats, who in turn prodded the National Academy of Sciences to reverse course.


  5. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m starting to wonder why they bother to redact EW’s copy at all.

    Actually, there IS a concern. EW and others are putting together the redacted parts using unredacted info from multiple memos. This HAS to be driving the government batshit crazy.

    I should remind EW of the concept of “born secret”. This means that even if you get all your information from public sources, if you deduce something that is classified you can be prevented from publishing it. It’s not been successful very often.

    But I’m starting to think that prior restraint is the only way the Government has to deal with Marcy.

    Boxturtle (Thinks Cheney has an asprin bottle with your name on it)

  6. ezdidit says:

    Is it paranoid to assume that plans were in place well before February 2001?

    PNAC’s manifesto was generated in 1997-98. It even prescribes the conditions under which their new militarism would be possible. (Was it coded with instructions for a false flag op to justify the invasion?)

    We have Clarke on the record that BushCo came in January 2001, with an imperative mission to “get back to Iraq.”

    Then we have the closed-door Cheney Energy taskforce convened in February 2001 (with maps!), then 9/11, and then…9/12.

    Their memos will hang them yet!

  7. behindthefall says:

    From the post, near the end:

    And it seems likely that CTC–which would have been the central custodian of intelligence coming back from the Afghan war–gave Mitchell that intelligence.

    I was wondering how long the CIA would have had an Al Qaeda Resistance Manual sitting in some drawer and where they might have gotten it from, but probably that sentence in the post gives our best guess: am I reading it correctly? Post 9/11 there’s an order to take off the gloves; CIA is tasked with breaking present and future detainees; someone at CIA’s CTC says, “Hey, we’ve got this Resistance Manual lying around”; someone (else?) says, “Yeah, and we’ve got this guy on retainer who wouldn’t mind figuring out how to get around its tactics, gloves or no gloves; might even like it”; messenger says, “Ooooh, neat, and the big guy’ll love to watch. Send us pictures when you have something.” Or summat like that?

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, they say “recently obtained” materials, even in the CIA context (that is, it can’t mean the materials were new to DOD). So I assume they got them in Afghanistan.

      • behindthefall says:

        Despite my other comment, it’s unlikely that the Manual was sitting in a drawer. Presumably it had been gone over by “real” interrogators, who had then tweaked their long-proven approaches to use the resistance techniques to their own advantage.

        (Don’t you wonder what information could have been obtained, had the jackbooted “real men” not hijacked the whole process?)

  8. GregB says:

    I think President Obama or Veep Biden should use their magical declassification powers and release those energy taskforce memos.

    That could be quite helpful.


  9. scribe says:

    Just curious: the CTC you reference above.

    Is that the same CTC where Obama’s Mr. Brennan (he of adamantly opposing release of the torture memos) was the MFIC?

  10. pdaly says:

    On Thursday 4/23/08 Blue Texan’s FDL post linked to the Rachel Maddow’s “disambiguation” piece in which Maddow reminded viewers that torture bloomed in two separate areas of government, seemingly simultaneously: Army (or DoD) with Gitmo and CIA (intelligence) with black sites. This simultaneity, she argues (consistent with what we’ve been saying here), implicates a top down process rather than a bottom up one.

    Helpful for me, too, was Maddow’s reminder that Senate committees are independently investigating the torture. So when we’re discussing:
    Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) findings we are discussing our military: GITMO, etc.
    Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) findings (are they talking to us?) then we are discussing our CIA and intelligence agencies.

    Wondering if Jensen/Mitchell represent the ones straddling both spheres (military and intelligence). They then lead us back to the requester for torture? We know who he is.

  11. eyesonthestreet says:

    The reason I originally linked to the Vanity Fair article in one of your previous posts was to highlight that Cheney’s deputy had called someone to see if they had evidence that tortured worked in the fall of 2005, around the time that McCain was calling for the end of torture. But now Cheney is asking for his personal files to be released from earlier in the year. If the personal files proove that the torture workedin June 2005, why would he be calling around for evidence in the fall of 2005? Some one needs to contact the reporter of the Vanity Fair article, Katherine Eban and ask her who the source was that was called.

    here is the quote again:
    “n late 2005, as Senator John McCain was pressing the Bush administration to ban torture techniques, one of the nation’s top researchers of stress in sere trainees claims to have received a call from Samantha Ravitch, the deputy assistant for national security in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. She wanted to know if the researcher had found any evidence that uncontrollable stress would make people more likely to talk.”-K.E., Vanity Fair
    McCain links:

    I haven’t see any evidence that James Elmore Mitchell and John Bruce Jesson are medical doctors, so do you know this for a fact? If you read through both of the Vanity Fair articles, there seems to be many fellow psychologists who think the two of them are part of the Mormon Mafia and are “voodoo science.”

    “The tactics were a “voodoo science,” says Michael Rolince, former section chief of the F.B.I.’s International Terrorism Operations. According to a person familiar with the methods, the basic approach was to “break down [the detainees] through isolation, white noise, completely take away their ability to predict the future, create dependence on interrogators.”

    We need more answers, where were these two trained- let me guess, at Brigham Young, just like the chief lawyer in this jobs-for-sale torture scheme, Jay Bybee. Once again, we have the “Brownie-syndrome,” amateurs running a critical goverment program making millions of dollars. When the private contracting would prove to be open to litigation, they close up their shop and work directly for the government to gain cover.


    Mitchell does not sign paper with MD title:

    We need answers.

    • JohnJ says:

      My understanding is that Psychologist is Bachelor Degree while Psychiatrist is an MD with full medical training including residency etc.. A Psychiatrist is the one who is qualified to prescribe medication and a Psychologist is a therapist that needs the Psychiatrist for any actual medical treatment.

      As a side note, my Psychiatrist treating my depression as a teen was talking about her group breaking with traditional Psychiatrists because they were embracing that nut Fraud while the real MD’s wanted to rename themselves Endocrinologists. She was a 50/50 practice/research Doctor out of Georgetown at the time and involved with (including me) the earliest antidepressants (tricyclic for those who know).

      I should note that this information is over 30 years old and the ability to prescribe may have been relaxed.

  12. CalGeorge says:

    Digging up info on people associated with Mitchell Jessen, per the Spokeman Review:

    “Mitchell Jessen’s business partners include Randall W. Spivey and Roger L. Aldrich, according to a 2005 city of Spokane business license. Other “governing people” include David M. Ayers, president of Tate Inc., a private contractor with training contracts at Fairchild and other military sites, and Joseph D. Matarazzo, an emeritus psychology professor at Oregon Health Services University in Portland and the former president of the American Psychological Association.”

    Roger Aldrich is Director, Training Division, Center for Personal Protection and Safety

    Mr. Aldrich is a well-known expert in travel safety and crisis survival. He served for 33 years with the Department of Defense (DoD) as an instructor, instructor trainer, curriculum developer, and director of the U.S. government’s only specialized, foreign governmental detention and hostage survival program for DoD’s and select other governmental agencies’ (OGA) highest risk operators. Mr. Aldrich was responsible for the successful training of over 60,000 military and civilian personnel during his unique career. He also conducted debriefings and interviews of several individuals who returned from captivity, ranging from Vietnam POWs and peacetime detainees, like the Navy EP-3 crew, held by the Peoples Republic of China in 2001, to terrorist victims such as Gracia Burnham, held by the Abu Sayef in the Philippines, and Roy Hallums, held by terrorists, in Iraq.

    Since retiring from U.S. governmental civil service in 2004, Mr. Aldrich has created, developed and managed specialized, tailored captivity survival programs for the highest risk operational personnel in the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and select OGAs.

    Joseph D. Matarazzo:

    The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychology has a scholarship named after Matarazzo, who attended Brown University before getting his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

    Matarazzo was an assistant professor of medical psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and was a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School before moving to Oregon.

    Randall W. Spivey:

    Randall W. Spivey has 20 years experience in the DoD. As the Chief of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency Policy and Oversight Division, he managed and provided oversight to all hostage survival-training programs in the DoD from 1997 to 2002 and authored multiple hostage-related policy and doctrine documents. Since forming the Spivey Group in November 2002, he has personally trained 8,000+ individuals in abduction prevention and hostage survival procedures.

    Tate Inc. does a lot of SERE training.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Jessen produced a “SERE-related” paper that was presented at a SERE conference at the HMS Daedalus in 1995 on “Resilience”. It discussed a number of situations regarding who survived extreme POW (N. Vietname/ N. Korea), hostage and other punishment conditions.

      The footnote refers to him as Dr. John Bruce Jessen. So he appears to have at least a PH.D. or M.D. and I suspect, being invited to present a paper at the HMS Daedalus would indicate he was then in the military, DoD, or a contractor.

      I’ve tried to find the original article, but no luck…here is the secondary reference.


    • SparklestheIguana says:

      Hmm, David Ayers. Different guy, but that name jumped out at me because another David Ayres (different spelling) has been Ashcroft’s right hand guy for years and is now CEO of the Ashcroft Group.

  13. lysias says:

    Can we date more precisely when in Dec. 2001 the Rumsfeld-authorized torture of John Walker Lindh began in Afghanistan? Was Bush’s still-classified Memorandum of Notification to the CIA of Sept. 17, 2001 what was considered to be the authorization for that torture?

    • pdaly says:

      I don’t have an answer to your question, but I finally found a reference that I have been searching for for weeks. It is a reference at historycommons.com to the 9/12/01 National Security Council meeting where then AG Ashcroft overrules FBI Director Mueller’s comment about collecting evidence properly so as to secure proper convictions of terrorists. History Commons states it is in Woodward’s book Bush At War, page 42-43

      During a National Security Council meeting, FBI Director Robert Mueller begins to describe the investigation under way to identify the 9/11 hijackers. According to journalist Bob Woodward, “He said it was essential not to taint any evidence so that if accomplices were arrested, they could be convicted.” But Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupts. Woodward will paraphrase Ashcroft saying, “The chief mission of US law enforcement… is to stop another attack and apprehend any accomplices or terrorists before they hit us again. If we can’t bring them to trial, so be it.” Woodward will comment, “Now, Ashcroft was saying, the focus of the FBI and the Justice Department should change from prosecution to prevention, a radical shift in priorities.” President Bush is at the meeting and apparently does not challenge Ashcroft’s suggestion.

      I don’t own this book, so I must have read it somewhere else. Maybe a different Woodward book?

      In any case, I wonder if there are any “whatever it takes” presidential findings or memoranda to deal with al Qaeda members already in custody? I keep coming back to the 9/12/01 unprecedented directive to FBI interrogator Soufan.

  14. lysias says:

    Are the moles Cheney had in place throughout the government the same as the CIA agents infiltrated throughout the government in the 1950’s and 1960’s that James Douglass discusses in his book JFK and the Unspeakable? Have we had a parallel government since the Cold War started, and what is the nature of its relationship with the CIA?

  15. eyesonthestreet says:

    more pieces of info on the psychologists in this tragedy:
    “In 2005, Banks helped draft ethical guidelines for the APA that say a psychologist supporting an interrogation is providing “a valuable and ethical role to assist in protecting our nation, other nations, and innocent civilians from harm.”


    Also, here a some articles I came across:
    “James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, who once claimed APA ties, are both former Department of Defense psychologists who taught and monitored SERE training – survival, evasion, resistance and escape – for military and other government personnel at Fairchild Air Force Base.”

    more on the McCain flip-flop on torture:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2008/…..ture-veto/ ( from Feb 2008)

    Jane Mayer uses the DR title for Jesson, here, but not in her book, THE DARK SIDE:

    “On April 16, 2002—a couple weeks after Zubaydah’s capture, and three and a half months before the Bybee memo—a military psychologist named Dr. Bruce Jessen was already circulating a blueprint for cruelly coercive interrogations based on torture methods used by Chinese Communist forces during the Korean War.”

    Why it matters: it is a matter whether or not Mitchell and Jesson had the qualifications to do the “work” they were hired/coontracted to do. Republicans rely on the ameteurs so they can claim false evidence and also that government is at fault, and private contracting is better. We need to lay that meme to rest.

    We need more info on John Chin, the third member of Knowlege Works LLC and apparantly a former SERE psychologist. -J. Mayer, “The Dark Side,” page 163, He is also mentioned int he VF articles.

    Please excuse the overly long post.

  16. antibanana says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but we need more information on what Knowledge Works was doing. Was the Knowledge Works that Mitchell was affiliated with doing work for the Krasnow Institute of Advanced Studies of George Mason University? Does that institute deal with the CIA, NSA, and/or DARPA? I would not exclude that possibility, based on who Krasnow was, and what the Institute studies.

    Lest anyone think that I am deliberatley going off on a tangent, I am afraid that I think less linearly than many of the attorneys, pyschologists and academics that frequent this blog. I, however, do appreciate Cheney’s interest in the mosaic theory of intelligence collection.

  17. eyesonthestreet says:

    Dr. John C. Chin:

    “But I think it has to do more with cognitive psychology and some of the proven techniques of Albert Bandura and his work in self-efficacy, and Martin Seligman and his research in learned helplessness that led to his work in learned optimism. We have certainly found that those techniques help people survive and overcome adversity.”

    “My good friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Mitchell, who is an Air Force psychologist and expert in survival, evasion, and resistance training has been involved in debriefing many POWs. We know that self-efficacy, learned optimism, and humor are critical in survival. “

    and finally:
    “What are the origins and history of Special Operations Psychology?

    Special Operations Psychology evolved out of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under General Donovan in World War II. It was the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). There are many well know psychologists who worked for the OSS including Kurt Lewin, R.Nevitt Sanford, Henry Murray, James Miller, and many more. They were primarily involved in the assessment and selection of OSS recruits. We worked closely with the Brits and Canadians. The OSS was involved in espionage, sabotage, and developing unconventional warfare operations. When World War II ended, the CIA was established and the military component of the OSS was generally placed in the army, and Special Forces were developed. Actually the Psychological Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, NC was the origin of Special Forces. “

    Why they turned this on its head, using a system to protect our military into interrogating human beings needs to be answered.

    • antibanana says:

      Actually the Psychological Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, NC was the origin of Special Forces. “

      Ft Bragg again. Hmmm.

  18. Mary says:

    Long, and not directly on point as to Mitchell getting the info, but some additional context to the Zubaydah interrogation, the SSCI narrative and other info on timing and use of techniques. A lot of this is a rehash from several things that EW has posted about or have been discussed here over time, but some of it has better or additional meaning IMO with the new releases.
    An upfront plug first. I went looking for info via google bc I never set up files like I probably should have, and I found that the UCDavis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas has this website
    and one of their projects is the “Guantanamo Testimonials”
    That heading is narrower than the information that they have accumulated and assembled, including information on Afghanistan, Iraq and black site detainee treatment. Hosted at that site is a lot of info – many of you may have already been familiar with this resource but I was not. It’s going to join FAS (and EW) as one of my resources .
    In any event, they were the site that hosted what I was trying to find on some of the FBi info that was released earlier, the OIG report (I couldn’t remember the name, but it is called Review of the FBI’s Involvement in and Observation of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq.) The full report is at DOJ here
    but the googling I did took me to parts of the report hosted at the USDavis human rights project site and I wanted to give it a plug after I saw it.
    OK – to the point – part of that OIG report, issued May of 08 (and which should be due for a review on redactions now that the OLC opinions are out) dealt with the Zubaydah interrogation. We now know that Soufan is the agent “Thomas” referred to in the report, but a section on Zubaydah is here
    To dig back, remember that the other agent, “Gibson” was the subject of anonymous complaints that he bragged about participating in torture and revealed classified info. [OPR cleared Gibson for lack of evidence on the classified info charges and … ignored the participation in “brutal” interrogations allegation.]
    Chapter 4 of the FBI report (much easier to download than the whole report) dealing with the FBI’s interrogation of Zubaydah is here
    The OIG “narrative” (to combine with the SSCI one) is that after Z was captured in March and taken to a CIA hospital, FBI asked to participate in his interrogation. Charles Frahm (acting dep assistant director for the section that later became the counterterrorism division) sends “Thomas”/Soufan and Gibson, telling them that CIA is in charge. Both Thomas and Gibson spoke Arabic and had worked on al-Qaeda. They arrive before CIA interrogators and so take the lead, using standard interrogation procedures. They are told not to give Miranda warnings and even at this early stage are told to call headquarters if the CIA starts using “techniques” that make them uncomfortable.

    When Z’s medical condition worsens and he is taken to a hospital, Z tells Gibson that KSM is “Muktar” the 911 mastermind. It looks like the CIA “interrogators” are still not there at that point but it’s not really clear and after that revelation, within a few days, the CIA assumes control of the interrogations, asking Gibson and Thomas to help (and Thomas says the CIA interrogators confide to him that they think Z is only giving “throwaway” info – although we now know that the Muktar info is some of what they are trying to claim was the best intel they got from him) . The CIA interrogators tell Gibson that they have to “diminish [Z’s] capacity to resist” p. 68
    Thomas sees some of the techniques, objects to them (unlike Nancy Pelosi he didn’t seem to feel that he couldn’t *do anything*) calls them borderline torture and also points out that Z has become uncooperative under them. Gibson (who is the subject of the anonymous letter complaint about bragging about participating in torture later) tells OIG he is not too concerned about the techniques but his descriptions of them are blacked out. But way back at this point in time

    Gibson said that the CIA personnel assured him that the procedures being used on Zubaydah had been approved “at the highest levels” and that Gibson would not get into any trouble.
    Thomas calls, talks to D’Amuro and is told that he and Gibson should come home and not participate. Thomas does that.

    However, Gibson says he was not immediately ordered to leave the facility. Gibson said that he did not leave the facility until some time in early June 2002, several weeks after Thomas left and that he continued to work with the CIA and participate in interviewing Zubaydah

    p. 69 emph added
    So it looks like the “borderline torture” was in May at the latest and that it all continued with an FBI presence thereafter, despite Soufan being called home. Gibson talks about staying in contact with Frahm after Soufan left, so there may have been some disagreements between D’Amuro and Frahm on how to proceed.
    Gibson comes home in June 2002 and is expressing a readiness to go back and participate in the CIA questioning “techniques” but Gibson says that after a meeting with CIA, D’Amuro informs Gibson that Gibson won’t be going back.
    Other chronology and contacts – D’Amuro says that he meets with Chertoff, Fisher, (David Kelly?), in Chertoff’s office at DOJ. D’Amuro learns during this meeting (with Crim Div folks) that CIA has requested and received a DOJ [from Ashcroft?- Is there also a copy of the memo that Ashcroft signs off on – there is also the reporting that Rice wanted Ashcroft himself and not just OLC to approve the program and that he did] an opinion authorizing techniques including [redacted](lots of the redactions in this report should be reconsidered now)
    From reconstructions, the report says the meeting took place in late July or early August. It would be nice to nail that down. Forgetful Alice can’t remember the meeting, says it might have happened and she might have talked to Wainstein when he came on as Gen Counsel in July 2002 – can’t remember much, must have been the koolaid. OTOH, she does remember very clearly that Chertoff did not “sign off” on the use of any techniques and was not giving any opinions on interrogations. Interesting memo process she has.
    To give Chertoff due that I’d just as soon not, I think that Ashcroft and OLC didn’t really get what they wanted from him, bc he tells OIG that while his memory is as sievelike as Fisher’s on specific techniques being used as well (interesting what an understanding of criminal statutes can do on that front) he was asked about the issue of letting “other agencies” wreak havoc on people and then send in a “clean” FBI interrogators to re-interrogate the tortured in the torture prisons but without also applying torture during their after the torture sessions, and he said

    … he did not think that this approach would successfully prevent the statement from being “tainted” by the prior enhanced interview techniques

    D’Amuro says that AFTER this meeting with Chertoff et al (which they think might have been in August already – but if not was in July) he goes to Mueller and says FBI should pull out. He makes a very interesting point – that people being picked up come from parts of the world where these and other, even more brutal, procedures are routinely used they would already be “prepared” in ways for them. He also mentions the problems with evidence and makes another important point – that the FBI isn’t going to be getting very good cooperation from sources or new sources if it is a torture proponent.
    Mueller agrees with D’Amuro (not much about Wainstein’s input at GC at this point, although he admits to involvement in numerous conversations) but we also get this info for chronology/context. During the summer of 02, Mueller’s then COS was Daniel Levin (which EW knew, I didn’t realize that) who left in Sept02. We know that the SSCI narrative says that Levin met with Rizzo, Bellinger, Yoo and Gonzales to discuss torture on July 13, 2002
    The FBI report also places Levin at a meeting of the NSC “at which CIA techniques were discussed” p.73

    Levin stated that a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney gave advice at the meeting about the legality of the CIA interrogation techniques. Levin sated that in connection with this meeting, or immediately after it, FBI Director Mueller decided that FBI agent would not participate in interrogations involving techniques the FBI did not normally use in the United States, even though OLC had determined such techniques were legal.

    [Some non-sequitor. Apparently the FBI tried to get involved in the interviews of Ramzi Binalshibh. There’s an odd redaction after Binalshibh’s name, in this “several agents, including Thomas, travelled to a CIA-controlled facility to conduct a joint interview of Binalshibh[redacted] with the CIA. Lots of redaction follows, the Caproni says that she was told that “FBI agents who went to the CIA blacksite saw Binalshibh [redacted].” P.74

    • Nell says:

      odd redaction after Binalshibh’s name

      Is there any possibility that refers to a family member? How long is the redaction? Could it be Bin alshibX’s XXXXXXX (brother/uncle/cousin…). (He wasn’t married, was he, so no possibility of son? {brrr} It’s not as if that was beyond them.)

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One irony is that SERE training, presumbaly like al Qaeda training, acquaints pilots and others with soft versions of the torture techniques they might be subjected to if downed behind enemy lines. (Their fingernails, their digits and their sex organs remain intact.) It prepares them for what might lie ahead, to survive it. Perhaps one reason it’s called “survival training”.

    What it doesn’t do is enable them to resist those techniques, just to survive them. As John McCain should be the first to admit, everyone breaks under suitable pressure. Under torture, as opposed to relationship-based interrogation techniques, information spills in a contradictory jumble. Applied again and again, whatever’s inside comes spilling out. Whether experts can interpret and make use of it is highly debatable.

    The point being that the claim that “resistance training” is highly effective seems illusory, an excuse both to keep the public, Congress and the courts in the dark, and to keep high the enemy’s “fear factor”. (As if that were necessary against those already willing to commit suicide or who already think of the West, and the US in particular, as the devil incarnate.)

    If the claim is largely illusory, then its utility is largely as a marketing gambit by these “psychologists” to enhance their business, as well as one designed to fool the public.

  20. R.H. Green says:

    Frankly, I’m sceptical about the existance of this “Resistance Manual”. Even if it’s called “documents”.

    When I was in the Air Force in the mid 60s, basic training was mostly concerned with learning to follow orders instead if thinking for oneself. There was a modicum of trining in simulated combat conditions to enhance rational composure and dedication to mission under stress. We were shown a film on what to do if captured, with an emphasis on the obligation to attempt to escape, and how to respond to questioning (name, rank, ser #). The emphasis on the combat stress inocculation would have been much greater for Army inductees.

    When foriegn jihadist arrived in Afganistan to fight the Russians, which was the origins of Al Qaeda, it seems reasonable to assume some thought was given to how to avoid exploitation under capture, in addition to how to aim a rifle. It seems disengenuous to think that this information would render American interrogation procedures useless, thus requiring a new set of “enhanced techniques” to override the “resistance training”.

    I recall that early in the invasion of Afganistan, after a military engagement, (it may have been in conjuction with the capture of Lindh,)a pile of documents written in Arabic, was “discovered” by an officer with no Arabic skills, who determined the the item on the top of the pile was important, and it later was determined to have some propaganda value against some detainee (or some other application). Then there was the “discovered document” that showed that Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from Africa.

    In concert with bmaz’ comment @17, it seems we are subjectd to and argument that says, “we had to do X becaused we were faced with some problem, brought about by someone doing Y. Then we find that they simply wanted to do Y, and made up X to get away with Y. Resistance Manual, show me.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yup. I agree that there’s always the possibility that they invented this document like, uh, some Niger uranium claims I know.

      But even if it is real, there’s a real irony here.

      SERE was invented to train against NK techniques, but also and significantly KGB techniques. I do think it possible that the “Encyclopedia” AQ had included a resistence technique. BUt then–that’s why reverse engineering SERE would be perfect!! The AQ manual would have been made to resist KGB tactics, SERE was made to resist KGB tactics, ergo (in James Mitchell’s disturbed little mind), re-re-engineering SERE provides the perfect way to break the AQ tactics.

      Or something like that. Maybe I’m not so good at thinking like a sadist.

      • R.H. Green says:

        No need to think that way, but a way that you’re better at: like a propagandist. Regardles of whether any such AQ resistance techniques exist or not, consider the sentence in my remark @ 37: “It seems disengenuous to think this information,[i.e., AQ resistance techniques], would render American interrogation techniqes useless, thus requiring a new set of ‘enhanced techniques’ to overide the ‘resistance training’.” Those NK and KGB techniques were developed to cope with all sorts of resistance techniques, and have proven reliable. Just how effective do you think any AQ “resistance training”(even SERE training) would be in overcomming the effectiveness of those established torture methods? But on paper they sound like just the excuse needed to “work more on the dark side, if you will”.

        • R.H. Green says:

          I see a flaw in my reasoning. The important point is about AQ resistance to American standard interrogation techniques being rendered inadequate by such resistance training, not the vulgar kind. Nevertheless, I stand by my assertion that AQ can’t innoculate its fighters sufficient to keep their secrets, thus giving rise to a need for new methods.

    • cinnamonape says:

      It seems that there are at least two sources for the al-Qaida Manual. One is some CD found in Afghanistan @2003 and linked in some way to Abu Zubaydah. The other is the Manual discovered in 2000 in a raid on al-Libyi’s Manchester home.

      As far as the old “name, rank, and serial number” training…that was eliminated as ineffective, if not downright demoralizing, under actual torture, and most psychological interrogation methods. If an internee “broke” by giving anything more than the above…it caused immense depression, and even fear of retribution by fellow internees. Instead a system of constrained resistance, false leads, disinformation, and using the opportunities of rewards to full benefit were encouraged. Even coerced confessions could be used to the advantage of the victim, by signaling in various ways degree of confinement, punishment, number of fellow captives, etc.

      The article cited above “Conduct After Capture and Terrorist Hostage Taking:A Case for New Doctrine By Cdr/capf Paul Grimshaw (16 April 2007- indicates the range of information available to SERE and how that may have been utilized to increase survivability of US and other captives in a variety of situations…while at the same time decreasing the ability to resist in others.

      “The aim of this paper is to propose those changes to the Code of Conduct After Capture (CCAC) doctrine needed to prepare CF members at risk of becoming terrorist hostages.”
      “During WWII…PWs in the European theatre received basic accommodations and rations in organized camp settings. In the Pacific theatre, they received starvation diets, inadequate group shelter, and regular physical abuse in exchange for back breaking labour. While detaining powers sought information of military value, PW exploitation played a limited role in the war effort. The group setting…reduced the sense of isolation, facilitated the restoration of military social structures, and provided the physical means to pool resources. Even in the most desperate situations, this provided PWs with a survival advantage…
      During the Korean Conflict. PWs became pawns in a broader ideological conflict. Communist forces…applied the full weight of their effort to extract statements of propaganda value from PWs…Upwards of several hundred prisoners…lived in lean-tos and huts, with the latter containing eight to 12 men…40% of U.S. PWs in Korea
      died in captivity….In violation of Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention…prisoners were beaten and subjected to mock executions…solitary confinement in “the hole”, a shallow covered pit filled with human waste…. In the end, a significant proportion of PWs signed documents critical of their country’s role in the conflict. Iinstead of soliciting truthful answers to their questions, the [Chinese] interrogators were satisfied only with answers that suited their purpose.” Thus, even incorrect answers made interrogators less prone to argue. U.S. DofD PW Policy Report indicated that neither cooperation nor active resistance improved prisoners’ ability to deal with the rigors of interrogation…Soldiers who possessed “worldly experience” were most able to deal with interrogation [providing] “whatever seemed necessary to assure survival” but little else.”

      ” Vietnam PWs…treatment was equally brutal. Overt resistance resulted in…solitary confinement, reduction of rations, and beatings to systematic torture and summary execution. With an unlimited range of measures to induce compliance, experienced interrogators could “coerce anyone”. The only question in Vietnam was the degree to which the coercion modified PW behaviour in a manner helpful to the enemy war effort. Overt acts of defiance rarely succeeded. PW victories during the Vietnam War were small and incremental…forced to participate in radio and television broadcasts organized by their Vietnamese captors, some American PWs portrayed a confused or mentally unsound state. This passive form of resistance undermined the credibility of the messages dictated to the PWs by their enemy handlers. [Furthermore] on-air events provided vital “proof of
      life” for PWs, thereby making the detaining power liable for breaches of international law.”

      “Militant Iranian nationals seized the U.S. Embassy and staff on 4 November 1979. After an initial period of interrogation, the militants separated detainees. CIA staff and key military members remained in solitary confinement for extended periods….The plan was to use interrogation to separate spies from the remaining group for a subsequent trial before the Revolutionary Courts. The interrogators were young militants. Their experience included prior detention and questioning by SAVAK, Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi’s national security and information organization. Radicals within the country’s student body became guards.. William J. Daugherty… arrived as the CIA Station Chief just before militants seized the embassy. His experience accrued as a former Naval Flight Officer in Vietnam was instrumental in his ability to endure “intensive interrogations and to survive captivity in general”…fellow Vietnam veteran Lt-Col Dave Roeder developed a rapport with his Iranian guards to acquire information on the outside world. This helped the detainees maintain awareness of efforts by the U.S. to secure their release. On the other hand, younger and less experienced soldiers encountered difficulty with their conditions of capture. In Daugherty’s estimation, the war-fighting ethos of the Corps increased the shock experienced by the young Marines who considered surrender antithetical to their code.28 Whether the interrogators exploited this is unclear. However, one young Marine deviated from the U.S. Code of Conduct when he made a public statement critical of U.S. policy in the region… Detainees who were mature, educated, and experienced endured captivity better than most. One must ask why this occurred.

      In his paper presented at the Survival 1995 Symposium, Dr. J.B. Jessen asserted that:

      “The individual who is properly prepared [for a survival challenge] enjoys a sense
      of control or composure. This realistic composure allows one to predict what will
      happen with a high degree of accuracy. The self-confidence which results yields
      an optimism which sustains the individual through disappointments and difficult
      times. This process produces resilience.”

      Those with combat experience managed well…having experienced, and survived, increasingly complex life-threatening situations…This increased optimism was the result of veterans’ expectation that, as in the past, they would survive. The term used [by Jessen] to describe this effect is “stress inoculation”. One must conclude that training and conditioning contributed to senior members’ ability to cope with the stress of capture and
      confinement. Younger …less-experienced Marine guards had trouble with…greater shock of capture…symptomatic of a condition called “paralyzed masculinity”…The inferior social status of these students within Iranian society made them exploitable – either by members of the Iranian regime or American detainees. The fact that the latter occurred supports the view that the Hostage Identification, or
      Stockholm, Syndrome works both ways. While guards may use the syndrome as a means
      of control, they remain equally vulnerable to its effects”

      Dr. John Bruce Jessen, “Resilience: Can the will to survive be learned?” (paper presented to the
      Survival 1995 Symposium, HMS Daedalus, UK, 1995), 4

    • emptywheel says:

      Whodathunkit? It might explain why the torturers kept saying “take the gloves off,” since it seems to have been one of his favorite sayings. I envision long 4-martini lunches were a bunch of old sadists talk about taking their gloves off.

      • bmaz says:

        Yep, exactly what I was getting at in @17 above. It wasn’t that the extreme torture regime was necessary or even expedient, it is that it is what they wanted; it is who they were and are. The “molecule boy” reference struck me. There really were so many Cheneys – guys that were not tough, in fact awfully fearful that, because of those personal shortcomings, had to lash out with faux toughness. Drugstore cowboys is a phrase used in the west. The type of little banty rooster men who buy Corvettes and pretend they are big swinging members.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The timeline makes that characterization very probable. Drugstore cowboys also buy faux ranches, and “clear brush” instead of ride the range because they’re afraid of horses, until their spouse tells them to put away their toys, and makes them sell up and move back to suburbia.

          What do community organizers do when they win the jackpot and have the power they dreamt of having when they didn’t have two Ben Franklins to rub together? Do they make theirs dreams a reality or dream away the reality they’d rather not devise a policy to deal with?

  21. pdaly says:

    Wasn’t Ali Mohamed (one time CIA asset, US military, al Qaeda member) accused of stealing the US military manuals and translating them into Arabic for al Qaeda training? In effect, is the al Qaeda manual possibly just the translated US military manual?

    • emptywheel says:


      What a good point.

      From Looming Tower, describing his career at (you guessed it) Fort Bragg:

      He managed to get stationed at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Even though he was only a supply sergeant, Mohammed made a remarkable impression, gaining a special condemnation from his commanding offier “for exceptional performance” and winning fitness awards in competition against some of the most highly trained soldiers in the world. His awed superiors found him “beyond reproach” and “consistently accomplished.”


      The American army was so respectful of his views that it asked him to help teach a class on Middle East politics and culture and to make a series of videotapes explaining Islam to his fellow soldiers. According to Mohammed’s service records, he “prepared and executed over 40 country orientations for teams deploying to the Middle East.” Meantime, he was slipping maps and training manuals off base to downsize and copy at Kinko’s. He used these to write the multivolume terrorist training guide that became al-Qaeda’s playbook. (205)

      • emptywheel says:

        But here’s something interesting.

        Here’s what the 9/11 Report says on the terrorist training manual–which it attributes to :

        In early 1999, Hijazi and Abu Hoshar contacted Khalil Deek, an American citizen and an associate of Abu Zubaydah who lived in Peshawar, Pakistan, and who, with Afghanistan-based extremists, had created an electronic version of a terrorist manual, the Encyclopedia of Jihad.They obtained a CD-ROM of this encyclopedia from Deek.8 In June,with help from Deek,Abu Hoshar arranged with Abu Zubaydah for Hijazi and three others to go to Afghanistan for added training in handling explosives.


        [in a footnote] The Encyclopedia is a multivolume instruction manual containing lessons on weapons handling, tactics, covert operations, bomb making, and other topics.The manual was originally created in the late 1980s by Afghanistan-based extremists, who considered it essential for waging terrorist operations and guerrilla warfare in the jihad against the Soviets. For more on the origins of the Encyclopedia, see Intelligence report, interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, June 24, 2003. Although Deek’s precise role within the extremist community is unknown, his name appears variously as a staff member, instructor, and technical guru for the Khaldan and Derunta terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Intelligence has revealed no extant links to the al Qaeda inner circle.For more on Deek, see FBI electronic communication,“Usama Bin Laden;Penttbomb; Taliban,” May 25, 2002.

        There is no mention of Ali Mohammed in the Report. He had been captured by then (April 29, 2003), but doesn’t even seem to appear as an anonymous “detainee,” which is how the Report referred to people who hadn’t been cleared for discussion at the time. Also note that no complaints from Ali Mohammed appear by name in the ICRC Report, which suggests it’s likely he was one of the detainees who refused to allow his name to be used in the report (particularly since he was captured in Pakistan, which is where some of the complaints by detainees who refused to give their name happened).

        • emptywheel says:

          Sorry. My first point being they attribute it to Deek, not Mohammed, even though they had Mohammed in hand at that time. Did CIA refuse to give over proof that they training manual was reverse engineered US stuff? The 9/11 Report makes it clear that Deek is a US citizen, though.

          And the ICRC stuff just makes me wonder if Mohammed got treated differently in captivity than the others? Miami Herald’s archive of the Gitmo files doesn’t have anything for Ali Mohammed. I’ll look later on Pacer, but this guy has been held more incommunicado than Abu ZUbaydah.

          • Nell says:

            Have you looked through Andy Worthington’s file of Guantanamo prisoners? It’s more detailed, even in its online version. andyworthington.co.uk

            Oops, never mind, if he’s a CIA asset.

            I’d check myself but am already late to go consult on a vegetable gardening project. (Very interested in hearing about the progress of those black chickpeas, btw!)

            • emptywheel says:

              Black chickpeas aren’t in yet. Even though it’s 80 today, I’m sure we’ve got one more real frost. I usually plant post-frost on memorial day, but I’ll probably do it a few weeks earlier this year.

          • JTMinIA says:

            Hey, EW, can you answer my earlier question? Did someone really “reverse engineer” SERE (as opposed to just ask the people who designed SERE what the purpose was and how it was supposed to achieve that goal) or is this term being used as a pompous way to say “copy the procedures of”?

            ps. pdaly – do not, under any circumstances, take my mention of that movie as even the suggestion that you ought to go rent it. To paraphrase Shep: “I am American. I do not f*&^ing torture. I would not wish that movie on my worst enemy.”

            • emptywheel says:

              I’m certainly open to disagreement on this, but I think reverse engineering is fair. We know, at least, that they liked SERE techniques because they could “break” people–and I suspect they liked it bc they could get intelligence, of whatever value, but maybe I’m that cynical. (The SASC redacts a discussion of the means of “exploit,” which presumably includes AT LEAST recruiting intell agents, and probably even propaganda purposes (which is one of the reasons the CIA to DOD narrative is so important, bc DOD isn’t supposed to be in tath business, though we know taht under Rummy it was).

              And hell, maybe it’s a quick way of saying “copying KGB techniques.”

              • JTMinIA says:

                I care about this for two reasons. The petty reason is that I hate it when people use technical terms just to make themselves look less ignorant. But that’s more my problem than their’s.

                The better reason goes to the heart of the decision to use methods that they were warned would not work. I think that this is often discussed in a way that is too simplistic. Yes, if you ASSUME that the goal of the interrogations was to learn what AQ was going to do next, then the fact that they knew (i.e., were told) that torture is more likely to produce false information is damning. But if you CONSIDER the possibility that they weren’t after real information – that they were after a taped confession that Iraq was involved in 9/11, instead – then they weren’t being stupid when they “switched” to torture; they were doing exactly what the needed to do.

                If you grant them the honor of saying that the torture was “reversed engineered” from SERE, then you are simultaneously making the case for the latter interpretation. If you know the purpose of SERE, then you know it’s very much focused on the issue of false confessions evoked by torture. (To be blunt, SERE isn’t about helping grunts not give up critical information [because the brass deals with this by not telling the grunts anything important]; SERE is about preventing a soldier from showing up on TV saying “my country has attacked the wonderful people of [insert country we’ve invaded here] without cause … blah blah blah.”

                In other words, the more you stress the goals of SERE, as opposed to the methods, you more you walk right into the interpretation that the goal of our torturing people like AZ and KSM was to get a taped confession that Iraq was involved. It had jack to do with a tower with three different names in LA.

                That’s why I want to know who started the use of the term. If the gov’t started it, I see this as a serious mistake on their part. I see it as an admission that they knew the torture wasn’t going to get “actionable intelligence”; it was designed to get a false confession.

                And as soon as you start wondering why we want a false confession, you’re back on the side of the light.

          • phred says:

            I should think that if Mohammed wrote the manual from docs lifted from Fort Bragg, then there would be a lot of people highly interested in keeping him out of the spotlight. I almost wonder if they had him cosseted somewhere comfy with silk sheets and his favorite food…

      • pdaly says:

        So Mitchell and Jesson would not need Arabic skills.
        Someone (at CIA or DOD) could hand them the US military manuals (which they probably already owned) and say this is what they know. Let’s do something with our gloves off.

    • JTMinIA says:

      I’ve searched and can’t find the reference, but I remember once reading that the AQ defense against interrogation was based on the movie G.I. Jane. What I read was actually quite amusing, since the biggest issue seemed to be whether it was “appropriate” to include the gratuitous shower scene in the “training.”

      • rosalind says:

        A.Q. pass out bootleg VHS copies of “G.I. Jane” while Cheney hands out monogrammed box sets of “24″.

        evidently the fate of the world is in the hands of h’wood development execs…

  22. pdaly says:

    in response to JohnJ @ 43
    psychologists can be doctors (PhD)
    psychiatrists can have a PhD, too, but would have an MD

  23. JTMinIA says:

    I have what might seem to be a silly question: when and why did everyone start calling what Mitchell & Jessen did (using their knowledge of SERE and what they got from the AQ manual) “reverse engineering”? From what I can tell, it wasn’t even close to that. Is this just a sloppy use of a technical term or am I missing something?

  24. pdaly says:

    from Ali Mohammed wikipedia entry:
    Mohamed’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson

    said he wrote detailed reports aimed at getting Army intelligence to investigate Mohamed — and have him court-martialed — but the reports were ignored. “I think you or I would have a better chance of winning Powerball (a lottery), than an Egyptian major in the unit that assassinated Sadat would have getting a visa, getting to California … getting into the Army and getting assigned to a Special Forces unit,” he said. “That just doesn’t happen.” It was equally unthinkable that an ordinary American GI would go unpunished after fighting in a foreign war, he said. Anderson said all this convinced him that Mohamed was “sponsored” by a U.S. intelligence service. “I assumed the CIA,” he said.

    For the above quote wikipedia references: Lance Williams and Erik McCormick, “Al Qaeda terrorist worked with FBI …”, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 4, 2001.

    Article at the SF Chronicle is still available.

      • pdaly says:

        Since Ali Moham(m)ed has American citizenship (married Ms.Sanchez from California), doesn’t that mean his capture under traditional US law would be treated differently than the other fighters?

        Since BushCo followed invented law, instead, he would have to be disappeared–except that we know he was captured. Why else can’t he be found in the record?

        • pdaly says:

          oops, I’m confusing myself. I should have read the article more closely.

          According to the article I linked to, Ali Moham(m)ed was already charged in ‘00, so presumably he was in custody pre-9/11 and is still in US custody.

          Still doesn’t answer why Mohamed’s complicity in the production of the al qaeda manual is not mentioned in the 9/11 report.

          • cinnamonape says:

            You aren’t necessarily far off.

            The raid that provided the 180-page Al Qaeda Manual in 2000 was that of Anas al-Libyi, in Manchester. Al-Libyi was contracted by MI-6 to attempt assassinations of Khadaffi in the mid-1990’s, and received over 150,000 pounds to that end. He actually did set bombs off in Libya, killing civilians. It was only after the US Embassy bombings that the UK authorities attempted to arrest al-Libyi, who escaped, but may have been tipped off.

            So, his principle operation was arranging a terrorist cell to kill Khaddafy. So presumably he would have been supplied tactical information to make that mission more of a success. However, at the same time much of the AQ Manual is definitely written, not for an Arab/Muslim environment…but a western one..or perhaps a Russian one. I suspect that much of the information was drawn from an MI-6-provided template. That would have allowed his cells to be able to not convey the UK link to Libyan Intelligence if they were captured.

            As well, many Mujahideen were given Western-style training in the Afghan-USSR war.



        • MadDog says:

          Since Ali Moham(m)ed has American citizenship (married Ms.Sanchez from California), doesn’t that mean his capture under traditional US law would be treated differently than the other fighters?

          You mean like US citizen Padilla? /snark

          Having US citizenship was of zero importance to Cheney & Co.

          If Jeb Bush had turned up to be Osama Bin Laden’s twin brother, even Junya couldn’t have stopped PapaDick from burying and “enhanced interrogating” Jebbie in a black site just like Padilla.

  25. JTMinIA says:

    One last point (and then I really need to work).

    It makes me scream when I read on C&L, HuffPo, and the “mothership” how Cheney is being a hypocrite by asking that certain memos be released. STOP UNDERESTIMATING CHENEY! I yell. He is making a false attempt to defend the idea that torture got us good information because he wants us to believe that that was the goal. He knows the full record won’t back up this claim, but he doesn’t care. He just wants it to look like that was the motive.

    It wasn’t. Going farther than what I wrote a few minutes ago, I will now say that I believe that they were after a false confession. They did it 186 times and taped them all because they were desperate for something they could show on TV saying “Iraq was behind 9/11.” It had zero to do with some tower in LA. It was not designed to get anything truly useful. It was an attempt, in a manner 100% consistent with all previous uses of waterboarding, to get a false confession to be used either against the victim or against some other victim(s).

  26. Jeff Kaye says:

    EW, you have asked the $64000 Question (and preempted some of my own thoughts on this, though wouldn’t want anyone but you to do so!). I’ve developed a lot of material on this, but haven’t written up yet. If you don’t mind, I’ll do a dump.

    I think the Al Qaeda “training manual” they are referring to is simply the the “Al Qaeda Training Manual” which the FBI/DoJ posted on their site. The Eighteenth Lesson refers to AQ members behavior once captured. The chapter on Espionage could only have been written with a lot of experience in these techniques.

    Of course, this manual has no section on what to do if you are waterboarded, or how to survive sensory overload. Interestingly, a popular film that demonstrates how to do the latter, the 1960s The Ipcress File, has been unavailable in the U.S. for a number of years, despite its popularity and the starring role of Michael Caine.

    The FBI site doesn’t list chapters 13 through 17, but the Smoking Gun does. The “Seventeenth Lesson” in the manual is “Interrogation and Investigation” (it took me awhile to find it).

    Digging deeper, I found an html version that can be copied and pasted.

    A DoJ page online says the following re the history of this “manual”:

    The attached manual was located by the Manchester (England) Metropolitan Police during a search of an Al Qaeda member’s home. The manual was found in a computer file described as “the military series” related to the “Declaration of Jihad.” The manual was translated into English and was introduced earlier this year at the embassy bombing trial in New York.

    That means the English translation pops up in the early part of 2001 (trial ended in May). Re the actual recovery the manual itself see “Declaration of Jihad Against the Country’s Tyrants, Military Series, Al Qaeda Training Manual”, recovered from Manchester, U.K. Government Exhibit 1677 T. Recovered by the Manchester Police from the home of Nazihal Wadih Raghie, May 10, 2000.

    Another source writes:

    It is not yet clear whether any of these manuals are authentic, or are fabrications for disinformation and propaganda, as described in The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict.

    A reader suggests comparing with manuals of the School of the Americas:

    http://www.soaw.org/soam.html [dead link; material available through Archive.org:]


    Before I give a peek at it, let me agree that Mitchell was CIA. In fact, I’d say he was CIA while still in SERE. CIA posts many officers within the military, so that’s not unusual.

    Back to the manual: it never says it’s an Al Qaeda manual, btw. The authors state their section on torture is drawn from

    Advice Taken from the book “Mothakkarat Fida’i Aire” [Memoirs of a Captured Commando]: Concerning interrogation and questioning, paraphrased….
    This book is the memoirs of an Iranian Communist. All brothers should read it.

    And what kinds of psychlogical torture is listed in the manual?

    B. Methods of Psychological Torture:

    1. Isolating the brother socially, cutting him off from public life, placing him in solitary confinement, and denying him news and information in order to make him feel lonely.

    2. Forbidding calling him by name, giving the brother a number, and calling him by that number in order to defeat his morale.

    3. Threatening to summon his sister, mother, wife, or daughter and rape her.

    4. Threatening to rape the brother himself.

    5. Threatening to confiscate his possessions and to have him fired from his employment.

    6. Threatening to cause a permanent physical disability or life imprisonment.

    7. Offer the brother certain enticements (apartment, car, passport, scholarship, etc.).

    8. Using harsh treatment, insults, and curses to defeat his morale.

    9. Controlling everything the brother does, even in private, whether he is awake or asleep, to convince him that they are in charge. They would force him to bow his head and look down while talking with the guards.

    Finally, I have my suspicions as to who “Mike” might be, but they are very speculative, and for now I’ll keep them to myself.

    • MadDog says:

      …Before I give a peek at it, let me agree that Mitchell was CIA. In fact, I’d say he was CIA while still in SERE. CIA posts many officers within the military, so that’s not unusual…

      Comports with this:

      But the tenor of the Abu Zubaydah interrogations changed a few days later, when a CIA contractor showed up. Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah

      (My Bold)

    • bmaz says:

      For what it’s worth, I believe The Icpress File and Agent Harry Palmer (Caine) appear every now and then on TCM – Turner Classic Movies.

  27. Jeff Kaye says:

    Re how to avoid KUBARK/SERE brainwashing… I can tell you this, I’m not going to walk around with a rusty nail in my pocket all of my life… just in case.

    I love the Harry Palmer movies, btw. I read the book, Iprcress File. Very good, different from a lot of spy books. Of course, it’s out of print. Len Deighton seems to have become passe.

  28. Jeff Kaye says:

    Re the Psyop report, “The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict,”, a product of Defense Science Board Task Force, linked at 73 above, look who turns up as one of the briefers for the report:

    Richard Shiffrin
    Dep Gen Counsel (Intelligence)
    DoD General Counsel

    • emptywheel says:

      Holy shit. Wow–I just reviewed his comment at the beginning of the SASC hearing where he said, “yeah, I know about JPRA from some stuff I have done in the past.” Or something like that.

      Ding ding ding ding.

  29. Mary says:

    This book is the memoirs of an Iranian Communist. All brothers should read it.

    Doesn’t that seem an odd statement from a bunch of Sunni Jihadis?

  30. Arishia says:

    First let me say I’m just a housewife and just getting into all this material. The first thought that came to mind regarding an AlQueda manuel for resistance to interrogation that I had was this. We(CIA) trained the Mujahideen, they became AlQueda, so perhaps we gave them the resistance techniques in the first place. That would make it easy to ‘discover’ a manual in Arabic describing these techniques. This whole thing seems so incestuous to me. That we trained them and now we are fighting them. Next time someone says we are fighting terrorists remember who made them terrorists. Maybe we are fighting ourselves, well, the dark side we have promoted through the CIA. Seems every time we go to the dark side, it gets away from us and comes back to bite us.

  31. timbo says:

    Getting there, EW. Has anyone actually verified that these Al Qaeda training manuals weren’t 1) derived from CIA works originally…and if so, originals at CIA written by whom for the Muhadejin fighting in the 1980s or 2) fakes generated by persons (unknown?) to ramp up USA torture? I remember when these documents were “found” in Afganistan in 2001 and announced publicly. Why were they announced publicly? And who helped the Muhadejin in the 1980s with their insurgency training from CIA?

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