264 Hours of Sleep Deprivation

I just put two plus two together on how the CIA decided what "limits" to apply to sleep deprivation as part of its torture program.

The May 10 Techniques memo reveals that, when CIA’s IG reviewed the program in 2003 and 2004, the maximum allowable time which a detainee could be subject to sleep deprivation was 264 hours–an amazing 11 days straight.

The IG Report described the maximum allowable period of sleep deprivation at that time as 264 hours or 11 days. See IG Report at 15. You have informed us that you have since established a limit of 180 hours, that in fact no detainee has been subjected to more than 180 hours of sleep deprivation, and that sleep deprivation will rarely exceed 120 hours. To date, only three detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation for more than 96 hours. 

Elsewhere the same memo explains,

As discussed [in the book Why We Slept], the longest documented period of time for which any human has gone without sleep is 264 hours. … The longest study with more than one subject involved 205 hours of sleep deprivation.

So what they did, apparently, to set an "upper limit" to the amount of time they can shackle someone up so they can’t sleep was simply to look up the longest recorded incident of sleep deprivation and use that!

And then when someone–presumably the IG and the CIA’s own doctors–pointed out (1) that expecting detainees subject to incredible stress to be able to withstand what one single person once withstood under radically different conditions is just nuts, and (2) sleep deprivation had already been tied to deaths in US custody, they toned it down. And how they picked their new, eminently reasonable standard of 180 hours (7.5 days)? 

Well, from the looks of things, they just figured out the longest they had kept any one detainee awake, and made that their new standard. They had to, of course, to ensure that the new standard still considered everything that had been done to be legal. 

These psychopaths were trying to set a new world record with their little science experiment on detainees, it looks like. 

75 replies
  1. Mary says:

    Of course, the 20ish yo who was killed in Afghanistan apparently didn’t make it one full day. What with freezing to death and all.

  2. Aeon says:


    The longest study with more than one subject involved 205 sleep deprivation.

    Should read:

    The longest study with more than one subject involved 205 hours of sleep deprivation.

      • Aeon says:

        You’re welcome. I realize how much of a pain it is to transcribe excerpts by hand from those infernal OLC memos.

        I only point such things out because you are invariably creating with your daily efforts here a valuable resource for future researchers — the first rough draft of history (to borrow an expression).

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A well-rested, well-nourished, healthy, young student can exhibit psychotic behavior after much less than 11 days without sleep. (Animal House and other fictional accounts of collegiate sleep deprivation notwithstanding.)

    As with other torture techniques, this one breaks the mind and body, while leaving few scars for those looking only for the obvious physical signs of abuse. It’s a torturers’ delight.

    I imagine whatever the victim knows spills out, along with the rest of his/her personality, an episode that can have lasting emotional and psychological consequences even when the patient is properly treated. They were not properly observed or treated at Gitmo and other American secret prisons – except to the extent that they were not intended to die as a demonstrable consequence of this conduct. They were considered “threats to humanity”, unlike their torturers.

    Whether the hearer can understand and properly interpret what spills out or separate lies from fact is another question. But that goes to efficacy, a subsidiary issue.

    Nazi concentration camp research into the effects of hypothermia, for example, was novel and useful. It quantified the effects of various temperatures and conditions on undernourished and maltreated humans – to that extent, similar to soldiers long in battle. They were clothed and unclothed, dry, wet and submerged in water. The lengths of time it took for them to lose concentration, consciousness and finally die was carefully recorded and the experiments repeated to verify the results. Death was always the final consequence, since new patients were ready to hand and the needs of German troops on the Eastern Front were deemed more important than the ethical treatment of those already doomed to die in the gas chambers.

    But that work remains uncited in the literature because of its grossly unethical, indeed murderous, experimental method. Have we, like Cheney, lost all our moral and ethical bearings?

  4. Peterr says:

    And how they picked their new, eminently reasonable standard of 180 hours (7.5 days)?

    Well, from the looks of things, they just figured out the longest they had kept any one detainee awake, and made that their new standard.

    I think you left out a couple of words. That last sentence should probably read “Well, from the looks of things, they just figured out the longest they had kept any one detainee awake without him dying on them, and made that their new standard.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I suspect no one documented acute or chronic psychological impacts either, and that they hid any deaths. As Mary points out, they deny laboriously documenting the effects of combined techniques. To that extent, they seem much less meticulous than their peers among Nazi concentration camp research doctors.

      I doubt some of those claims and lean toward the existence of hidden files or the destruction of records (and the obstruction of justice). Cheney, the CIA and outsourced contractors would have wanted detailed notes so that they could claim interrogation “victories”, to reproduce the combinations of abuse that produced the effects they desired, and to document that they “worked” so that they could claim credit and future higher paying contracts based on it. I imagine they even thought of patenting or otherwise protecting their methods so that they could make them more lucrative.

      There’s no need to treat as human those deemed “enemies of the state” or “threats to humanity”, and great harm in doing so if the apocalypse is the consequence of restraining behavior to what is both legal and humane (two separate standards).

  5. Mary says:

    And without combining techniques, like the hypothermia and sleep deprivation that killed.

    OT – Apparently one part of the Obama Stimulus package is working and US exports are up. Exports of weapons, to the Mid-East, with the Pentagon subsidizing the buying spree.


    Scarey Iranians are blamed for the need to buy more bombs.

    • Nola Sue says:

      Yeah, this should make us all rest easier. Especially this revealing quote ….

      “This is about building a more secure world,” said Bruce Lemkin, a U.S. Air Force official who oversees many arms deals.

      Because of course, more weapons MUST mean more security. I’m so sick of the twisted so-called “logic.”

      • Mary says:

        u betcha

        Nothing says “safety” like the cluster bomb that hit in your neighbor’s front yard.

  6. Mary says:

    Geez freakin louise

    Along with the Democratic Congress blocking money to relocate US war crimes victims, they have also blocked the us of any money to give detainees Miranda rights? How did I miss that?


    Rogers, whose amendment to the intelligence authorization bill (HR 2701) prohibiting government funds from being used to Mirandize detainees, was adopted late on June 18 by the House Intelligence Committee


    Ok – maybe not passed completly yet, but adopted out of committee.


    • mediaskeptic says:

      How much does it cost to read someone their rights? Oh ya I forgot their 86ing all their interpreters for their gayness. Now that’s gay.

    • DLoerke says:

      Ummm…tell me again why you want to tell someone you NEED to talk that they have the “right” to remain silent…especially when as enemy combatants, they don’t??????

      • MrWhy says:

        From Wikipedia article on Code of the U.S. Fighting Force:

        6. Code of Conduct V.

        a. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
        b. When questioned, a prisoner of war is required by the Geneva Convention and this code to give name, rank, service number (Social Security number) and date of birth. The prisoner should make every effort to avoid giving the captor any additional information. The prisoner may communicate with captors on matters of health and welfare and additionally may write letters home and fill out a Geneva Convention “capture card.”
        c. It is a violation of the Geneva Convention to place a prisoner under physical or mental duress, torture or any other form of coercion in an effort to secure information. If under such intense coercion, a POW discloses unauthorized information, makes an unauthorized statement or performs an unauthorized act, that prisoner’s peace of mind and survival require a quick recovery of courage, dedication and motivation to resist anew each subsequent coercion.

        (don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll, don’t feed the troll)

        The question is, do prisoners have rights, and the answer is yes.

      • Mary says:

        Not only can I tell you that, I can offer up a lozenge to help you with that “umm” problem.

        If you have battlefield captures (something of which we have almost none) or captures of admitted al-Qaeda (again, almost none) then you have a) someone who is not entitled to a lawyer, but b) someone who is entitled to Geneva Conventions and UCMJ handling in connection with their questioning, which is required to be very circumscribed and for which they have no criminal liability.

        If you have the wide assortment of roundups, home invasions, and false intel “captures” (kidnaps, purchases etc.) of people not taken in battle, not in uniform and not admittedly members of al-Qaeda, then you have two routes. You can hold genuine status tribunals in accordance with the Geneva Conventions to determine if they are combatants under the laws of war and if so, you can detain them as pows and, again, the laws of war circumscribe how they can be handled and they have no criminal liability for commissions of acts of assault and attacks etc. undertaken in the prosectuion of war.

        However, if you have people who are not “combatants” under the laws of war (and since it is very difficult to have a war on an ideology, you have to just dig in and deal with that issue) like so many of the GITMO detainees have already been determined to be, then you have a couple of options. First option is you let them go. Second option is that you believe that they have non-combatant ties to combatants – they provide money laundering or other kinds of support that under the laws of war are not war crimes and also do not make someone a combatant (things like the Bush predecssors did) – and you want to go after them under US civil law for crimes we’ve made statutory in connection with provision of support to deemed terrorists.

        This is already a weird situation, since once we “declare war” we decriminalize a lot of what the “warriors” on the other side are doing (one reason the *war* construct was such a bad idea originally, as opposed to using the NOriega approach of a law enforcement construct with military support for assistance in capture) under the standards long maintained by the world and the laws of war. But trying to make it all work after its been screwed up, what you have is a situation, then, with these non-battlefield (or even battlefield round up) *captures* of non-combatants is that if you want a legal (and morally valid) grounds on which to hold them, you need to figure out if they really are involved in criminal support of al-Qaeda (although now the definition has been so broadened to cover all the war crimes mistakes committed that you might be talking about supporting ELF instead). That means you mirandize and plan on a trial.

        If any of this is too difficult for you to follow either the concepts that when you buy someone off a Pakistani warlord, or round up all the men in a village, or grab someone based on torture intel, you often get innocent people; or the concepts that war has international laws and things that are crimes if done in support of a criminal enterprise are allowed under the laws of war or that kinds of support that make someone a co-conspirator for criminal law purposes are also protected as not making someone either a combatant or a war criminal under the laws of war; then I probably can’t help. I’m not much good at drawing pictures.

        Hope that umm gets better soon.

  7. reader says:

    I keep thinking of one thing that Cheney said during one of his recent interviews, that was NOT noted by the MSM. He said, quite casually:

    ”They got what they had coming.”

    Simple as that. Wrong as that. Evil as that. Just because the King says you deserve it. Doesn’t have to be legal, doesn’t have to be right, it’s just what they deserved according to King Bruce the Dick.

    This, second to ”So?” is the quote that explains Cheney to me. And this attitude flows from the top to all this evil in our names. I am constantly disgusted at Cheney’s lack of any moral reservations about anything.

    Reading Greenwald recently he says the crimes won’t stay under wraps. I am hoping.

    Thanks for all your energy investigating this, ew.

  8. MrWhy says:

    According to Wikipedia, Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student, stayed awake for 264 hours in 1964. He was monitored by Lt. Cmdr. John J. Ross, who

    reported serious cognitive and behavioral changes. These included moodiness, problems with concentration and short term memory, paranoia, and hallucinations. On the fourth day [Gardner] had a delusion that he was Paul Lowe winning the Rose Bowl, and that a street sign was a person. On the eleventh day, when he was asked to subtract seven repeatedly, starting with 100, he stopped at 65. When asked why he had stopped, he replied that he had forgotten what he was doing.

    • MrWhy says:

      Posted by Alex @ Neatorama:

      What would happen if you stay awake, say, oh for 11 days straight? Would you suffer brain damage or even die? Here’s the story of a high school stunt that turned into a real scientific research into sleep deprivation from Alex Boese’s Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments.

    • Mary says:

      I’m going to go for the chick who took the fifth in the GITMO trials rather than discuss the contributions she made to a juvenile’s interrogation.

      Meteor Blades did a Kos post on, among other things, her taking the military version of the fifth. Diane Zierhoffer.

      In a hearing Thursday to dismiss charges in the second war crimes trial at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, a licensed psychologist who had ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee, refused to testify under Section 831, Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 31 prohibits compulsory self-incrimination as a right under the Fifth Amendment.

      BTW – I have to wonder, while the CIA is foot dragging on its war crimes revelations, if there wouldn’t be some benefit in trying to get some already released but with lots of redacts docs, like the FBI’s IG review here reviewed for reconsideration of the redactions now that the OLC memos are out?

      • Mary says:

        BTW, the reason Zierhoffer was called in was bc the interrogator was worried about the juvenile’s mental state and that he was deteriorating, talking to posters on a wall, etc. Zierhoffer, when called in, not only decided he was faking, but also that they should UP the pressure on him, including adding absolute isolation. Then he tried to kill himself.

        Oh, wait, I guess then he proved his credentials by committing an assymetrical act of warfare.

        I believe Rohde has said he almost did the same thing – who knew the NYT journos were trained in acts of assymetrical warfare.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          One of the things that is just breathtaking about all this is the fact that if you go into your general college bookstore and look at Psych 101 textbooks, there’s generally a chapter on Sleep and the Brain.

          This research goes back at least 20 years, and it’s not like it would have been hard to track down that existing studies already showed lack of sleep impedes memory, along with other cognitive tasks.

          I actually find it plausible these ‘contractors’ (or whoever) thought they were ‘going to extremes’ to get information. Even given that benefit of the doubt, there was plenty of evidence in intro-level college texts to raise red flags about whether depriving a person of sleep enhances memory – it doesn’t. As far as I’m aware, anything that I’ve ever encountered on that topic shows that sleep deprivation impedes learning and memory.

  9. fatster says:

    O/T, just another snapshot of the DOJ at work.

    US wants to drop drug charges against millionaire

    By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
    Monday, June 22, 2009

    . . .

    “U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan lambasted prosecutors at a hearing on the request to dismiss the indictment against Zhenli Ye Gon, saying, “I’m not pleased at all with anything I’ve heard from the United States government.”

    “When Ye Gon was arrested in 2007 in Wheaton, Md., authorities said they had seized more than $205 million in U.S. drug profits from his Mexico City mansion. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called it the largest drug-related cash seizure in history.

    . . .

    “The judge, who has ordered an investigation into prosecutorial missteps in the investigation of former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said there were apparently similar problems in handling evidence in the Ye Gon case.

    ‘”This is very serious. This man has essentially been in solitary confinement,” Sullivan said. “Someone in the Department of Justice better have a very good answer.”‘

    BTW, is this the same Judge Sullivan?

    • Mary says:

      Same Judge Sullivan.

      Man that case sounds like one huge disaster. They seize him and a boatload of money. Then, after keeping him in isolation for two years, they fess up to the judge that witnesses changed their info a long time back and they never bothered to let the defense know. So Gov now has no case against him. But they don’t want to release him and in particular they don’t want to give the millions they seized back, so they want to have the court dismiss the charges but let them keep holding him and not return money until they can get him extradited to Mexico, where supposedly there will be a prosecution. After he’s already spent two years in solitary and Gov here hid evidence and info from the defense.

      Nice. He’s probably one of the bad guys – maybe not quite as bad a guy as our Afghan pal Dostum, but still.

      • Peterr says:

        I think the US Attorney’s office for DC is going to run out of prosecutors to send into Sullivan’s court. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the next government lawyer to stand in front of him.

        What’s the appropriate answer to “Why should I believe what you’re saying, after what your colleagues have come in here and said?”

        • bmaz says:

          What’s the appropriate answer to “Why should I believe what you’re saying, after what your colleagues have come in here and said?”

          “You shouldn’t believe what I am telling you in this case; it is simply what my superiors at the DOJ told me to tell you. Quite frankly, your honor, I neither trust nor believe it myself. As an officer of the court, I heartily suggest you commence a full fledged investigation of the duplicity and perfidy that has been bandied about your courtroom and those of other fine judges in the Federal Courts of this nation.”

  10. runfastandwin says:

    Pleas god punish these evil sons of bitches. It’s getting to be hard to believe they will receive justice on earth.

  11. JMorgan says:

    This is no different than what was done by the Japanese on British and American prisoners of war in WWII:


    What was done to detainees by the Bush administration in our name was a WAR CRIME!

    Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress can’t continue to ignore this, IN OUR NAMES!

  12. perris says:

    well didn’t you know marcy, with a ticking time bomb about to go off any second, OF COURSE you can keep someone up for ELEVEN FRIGGING DAYS, because how ELSE can you get to that bomb before it goes off any frigging second?


    a man can go insane with out sleep, a man can die without sleep, A MAN BECOMES HALUCINATORY without sleep

    so, did they want a man who is FRIGGING HALUCINATING to tell them infromation?


    obama is not my president anymore and I will work to defeat this man next election

  13. drational says:

    EW, I had this same thought last week when I was doing the post on al-Nashiri, figuring they sleep deprived him for 11 days, then hit the limit and waterboarded him on the 12th day (as we know happened) leading to a combination catastrophe. But I couldn’t reconcile the below sentence in the OLC memo in a way that I felt comfortable with the 11 day conclusion:
    “that in fact no detainee has been subjected to more than 180 hours of sleep deprivation”

    Do you think the “no detainee” refers only to detainees after the OMS imposed 180d limit in 12/04?

    • drational says:

      Please scratch. I misread the post. Your point was not that they did it for 11 days, just that they set an 11 day limit based on the Guinness Book of World Records.
      Another idea to consider is that they actually went 11 days with someone (al-Nashiri?), but let him get 8 hours at 180 allowing them to retrospectively write what they did in “techniques”. Because of the 8 hours respite at 7.5 days, it doesn’t sound so bad, but as long as you do the single clock reset at 180, you could go forever.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Presumably, that was no more than 11 days at a time. As with waterboarding, the usual, wash-rinse-repeat cycle would have applied. Monsters, these deciderers are monsters, and their helpers are hiding it for the good of…what?

    • ondelette says:

      If you read the memos, the answer to this is that they had a 4 hour sleep break before starting a new round. Actually, they explained about the 11 days and the 180 hours. The 11 days is indeed the maximum, the back-off to 180 hours is to make sure they don’t cause hallucinations and psychosis, so that they can’t be accused of “profoundly disrupting the senses or personality”. The theory behind it all was that the lawyers believed that they were protected from prosecution if CIDT was done outside the United States or with “no significant U.S. presence” as per some cases involving the 5th amendment, having dismissed their own concerns about the 8th and 14th, and gotten a written directive from the President that Geneva didn’t apply.

      From personal experience, I will gladly state that 120 hours causes severe difficulties and some hallucinations, at least it did to me once.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Well, I’d say my longest experience was four days, which is only 96 hours. That was pretty uncomfortable and was not without coffee, etc. The meme that the effects of this were like pulling an all nighter is specious, as is the claim that long term enforced standing is no worse than Rumsfeld standing (and moving freely, in absolute command of his surroundings) all day at the office.

        It’s more like going from the kids pool into the open ocean, with swells and fins moving to and fro, a completely different, exhausting and more threatening proposition altogether.

      • MrWhy says:

        The story I link to @17 suggests that hallucinations are not uncommon after 4 days of sleep deprivation, that’s about 100 hours.

    • Dru says:

      If you aren’t satisfied with talking; here is something concrete you can do: donate some cash to the campaign to raise $150,000 to support Marcy Wheeler’s reporting.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Thank you.

        The schtick that “all governments” do this, that they did their genuine, rational, open best to protect us, or that bloggers can only identify and articulate problems, not help fix problems, is so tired even David Letterman wouldn’t touch it.

  15. tjbs says:

    Heard a goon ( Guard) that was on NPR say they keep them on a 16/4 cycle ( 16 hours blasting music awake 4 hours sleep). Think what that would do to your head after a week or two , whatever that time notation would mean.

  16. wigwam says:

    One of my friends did a reasearch project on sleep deprevation for an undergraduate psychology class. Around that time, various radio DJs were doing publicity stunts where they’d play music and make their announcements for days on end. IIRC, the record at that they reached was well less than 11 days. But, according to my friend, what was chilling was the percentage them that had subsequent mental breakdowns, including suicides.

  17. esseff44 says:

    As Ali Soufran and others have testified, there is a body of evidence about what works and what doesn’t as far as getting co-operation and information from captives. And those techniques were dismissed and replaced with abusive treatment and torture which were known NOT to be effective. That tells me that getting actionable intelligence was not the goal. It is not clear what the goal was other than getting false confessions and getting them to identify other captives or suspects or anyone that they wanted locked away indefinitely. In reading the case histories of many of the detainees, the only thing they had on them were identifications from other detainees that turned out to be false.

    I do not think we fully understand the motives behind the substitution of these techniques for those that were known to be effective.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Beyond, way beyond Soufan… there’s a giant body of work, peer-reviewed literature, that makes it quite clear what these “techniques” do to a person. But since America was educated by cable news and dimwit news anchors, and government flunky journalists (which is why we need EW and others — have you contributed to her fund yet?) the government can actually get by with ignoring this body of research, and no one will say “boo”. Of course, the CIA set up the entire thing. And their military buddies went along, or were so stupid, they never read the psych lit. Ogrisseg sent info to OLC (via his JRPA superiors) using his own personal research! The hubris of a grad student living in the body of a military SERE psychologist.

      It’s well known by some at JPRA that the SERE psychologists are not the smartest people to come down the pike. Maybe CIA counted on that, too (since they are oh so smart).

      • esseff44 says:

        Yes, I have no doubts about the damage that torture does to people. Many of my former students were tortured before coming here as asylees and refugees.

        My question was concerning the goals or motives for substituting these proven ineffective techniques for those known to be more effective. I am not convinced that this was more deliberately done for other reasons than to get actionable intelligence….or to make sure that we did not get it …or to produce reports shaped for other reasons.

        I keep thinking about the number of captives who were doing charitable work in the refugee camps and other places. I think there was a deliberate attempt to shut down charities all over. It wasn’t just the fighters they were trying to eliminate. They were also out to eliminate the charity workers and their projects.

  18. Jeff Kaye says:

    Psychopaths and liars.

    What would you say if I told you I could prove the CIA had researchers looking at this kind of info, that they knew what SERE torture techniques would do, then pretended they didn’t know, took bs info from books to cherry-pick Nazi-level kinds of torture? You won’t have long to wait.

    The OLC was fed garbage from CIA and then fed it back as relevant data to approve the CIA’s torture? And Obama says “move on”?

    To #51: I believe Mitchell is now living in Florida. I think, but am not sure, that Jessen (not Jeppesen) is still in the Spokane area.

    • emptywheel says:


      This also goes to a point you made right after the OLC memos came out. If they SET this limit from the start of the program, it means someone actually did research on sleep deprivation at that time. Now, I’m not convinced it was really set that early–I suspect someone invented a limit before Helgerson came around, or after the first detainees were killed because of sleep deprivation. But it’s an interesting question of when they actually started trolling the record sleep depriavtion studies.

      • ondelette says:

        Jeff, emptywheel,

        Everything in the memoes indicates that they saw their goal as establishing the line between CIDT and torture, and believed they were legal on CIDT. Everything, likewise, in Jack Goldsmith and Mark Levin’s memo shows the same “chalk on the cleats” approach to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention (disallowing deporting protected civilians).

        The interview with Dr. Miles on Saturday shows that he and Dr. Basoglu also believe in a bright line between CIDT and torture.

        In point of fact, the combination of techniques went over the line and always would, because torture isn’t containable. But some techniques are being lied about, like the sleep deprivation. My point in raising my own experience is that they cross the line into profound disruption long before they get to any 180 hours, and the 4 hour break allowed them to go again. They crossed the line with the nudity and religious tortures too, because of what they signify if someone believes they will die. They crossed the line with extreme isolation at 30 days (this line is in Geneva), but had people in isolation for years. They crossed the line on their slapping and hooding and stress positions, and their shackling as a technique for sleep deprivation amounts to strappado.

        Not to mention that they were wrong about how the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments were interpreted in the reservations, too, or whether or not U.S. law applied, or whether or not Geneva or CAT applied.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Darn, I wanted to ask Steve Miles about the experimentation angle during the Book Salon, but ran out of time. He’d indicated in an email that that was an upcoming important point. I know he’s been studying that angle. I think you’re right re the experimentation. There would be no other reason, except pure sadism. (I put aside the false confession angle for the moment, because its likely that they would have gotten somewhere in the first dozen waterboardings or so, if at all. rb at Daily Kos has documented pretty well how too many of these waterboardings (or too long) leaves the prisoner either dead or physiologically unable to recognize reality, and useless from a confessional standpoint. This aspect of torture has long been recognized by the torturers themselves (see KUBARK manual, or discussion in The Manipulation of Human Behavior, ed. Biderman).

        Perhaps the experiment was as simple as how many times do we have to do this until they break. But I suspect from past published research (which I will soon have reason to refer to in an upcoming article) that they were interested in things like catecholmine levels, cortisol levels, testosterone levels, relative hypoxia, CO2, etc., i.e., this would make it a Nazi-like experiment, where prisoners were subjected to outrageous physical and/or psychological conditions for the benefit of … study! The U.S. took in scientists like this from the fleeing Nazis (Hubert Strugold, who ended up at NASA), but is not averse to cooking up their own domestic variety, as with Tuskegee experiments, the Plutonium radiation experiments (which a Clinton investigatory commission helped expose), etc.

  19. orionATL says:

    earlofhuntingdon @ #5

    “As with other torture techniques, this one breaks the mind and body, while leaving few scars for those looking only for the obvious physical signs of abuse. It’s a torturers’ delight.”

    on a related note,

    after seeing and reading media descriptions of jose padilla’s experiences in a “navy brig” in charleston, it was and remains my belief that the sensory deprivation he was subjected to, including the blinding goggles he was forced to wear, was a torture borrowed from classic (american) social psychology experiments of the 50’s or ’60’s.

    and it was not accidental that he was subjected to these techniques. the method of torture used on padilla, sensory deprivation, has a well documented effect on humans – it turns them psychotic rather rapidly.

    a psychotic person would make a rather poor witness in a court, would he/she not?

    whatever his crimes, padilla was an american citizen tortured at the command of his society’s leaders and by his fellow (military) citizens – that this happened to any american citizen should serve as a warning to all of us.

    the torture of an american by his own government was precisely the situation that the folks who wrote the constitution, especially the bill of rights, worked to avoid.

    in the period 2002-2009 the founders efforts foundered on the rocks of a bush-cheney administration that considered themselves the law – rather like old-time movie cowboy bandits.

    should we, maybe, ask why?

    the founders efforts foundered due to an presidency with a view – fuck the rules, fuck the law, fuck precedent, fuck the common good – a view not so much deliberately unconstitutional as deliberately “what i want to have happen, will happen” – the view of kings.

  20. freepatriot says:

    what’s up with that fookin pop-up ad ???

    the damn thing wont close

    it’s really pissing me off at the Green energy movement, right now

    not what they intended, I presume …

  21. Jeff Kaye says:

    Also, don’t forget, when they say “sleep deprivation”, they mean “sleep deprivation” under certain conditions, e.g., stress positions, malnutrition, sensory overload or deprivation, etc.

    The OLC memos discussion of torture techniques is a total lie from beginning to end. Nothing in it is true. Nothing.

  22. cinnamonape says:

    The IG Report described the maximum allowable period of sleep deprivation at that time as 264 hours or 11 days. See IG Report at 15. You have informed us that you have since established a limit of 180 hours, that in fact no detainee has been subjected to more than 180 hours of sleep deprivation, and that sleep deprivation will rarely exceed 120 hours. To date, only three detainees have been subjected to sleep deprivation for more than 96 hours.

    Of course this could be read that

    a) no one SINCE the IG report was issued has been subjected to more than 180 days of constant uninterrupted sleep deprivation (Bets are off on whether they exceeded that prior to the IG Report).
    b) three detainees have been subjected to more than 96 hours but since it is “rare” that it exceeds 120 hours we can surmise that one of theses three stopped at just under that time period and the other two exceeded it.
    c) Two detainees were subjected to more than 120 hours of sleep deprivation…perhaps up to 180 hours.

    d) The fact that the term used is “rare” (in regards to instances) but is not enumerated suggests that these detainees may have, in fact, faced several rounds of sleep deprivation of long periods. The report does NOT say “one detainee was exposed to one round of sleep deprivation that exceeded 120 hours”. NOR does it state that only three instances of sleep deprivation of over 96 hours were applied. Thus it’s likely that these applications numbered more than 3 instances for these three detainees.

  23. billybugs says:

    If I go more than 2 days without sleep I feel like shit and can barely function.
    11 days ? That’s inhumane !!

  24. wavpeac says:

    There is a whole bunch of literature right now that ties most mental health illnesses to sleep disorders and that one of the most important features of effective mental health treatment is regulating sleep. They had psychologists signed on for a reason. They knew, it’s standard knowledge in the mental health fields.

    What is more chilling is the mantra that Cheney, Bush, and people like Pat Buchanon use and the number of Americans who buy in. Cheney’s quote above says it all. This is what Pat has said repeatedly. “these are murderers, these are evil people, these are terrorists who wanted to hurt us, US, for christ’s sake, they deserved it”.

    This is what makes me sick. There are a group of people in this country who are not mentally or intellectually savvy enough to make the valid distinction between “guilty as charged by a trial” and “innocent until proven guilty”. These are the very same folks who likely distinguish “our kind” from “their kind”. (it can’t happen to me because I am not like them). These “sub humans” deserve sub human treatment. And this unfortunately, is held as a moral belief within the evangelical belief system. Within the evangelical belief system is a very strong worship of power and control. (not a loving god, but a punishing god)

    And for me, far more disturbing is that a large segment of the American population, the ones that O is playing to, the ones who have been wounded, abused, mistreated the most, the ones with ancestors who were held in slavery and treated as “different” and “unhuman” are the most likely to have internalized this invalidation and the most likely to call for it in the treatment of “others” who have been deemed “different”. Some wounded people internalize the oppressors belief system of power and control.

    It’s the mechanism that causes the abused child to beat their own. The mechanism that causes the abused wife to start beating her children. The mechanism that allows us to spank our children instead of treating them with dignity as we discipline them. It’s the mechanism that causes african american to beat the hell out of their children in hopes of preventing them from becoming what the white man has implied them to be, but thereby creating the very dynamic that caused the problem in the first place. Abused people don’t need to continue to be abused because at some point, they start doing it for themselves to themselves. It is contagious and is passed down.

    It’s very scary…and in my opinion is part of a very large moral failure in the U.S. There is a reason why people worship the teaching of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mahatma Ghandi, Confuscious, Martin Luther King Jr. Regardless of whether or not they represent “god”, the writings attributed to them represented something that at least some humans at some point in time, deemed “important”. But we have a heck of a hard time making the case for peace today.

    My greatest fear is that Marcy, Mary and Bmaz could lay out all the brutal things our government did to innocent people (people who never faced a trial) and too many American citizens would agree that it’s okay to mistreat people this way as long as you “think” they “might” have done something wrong. I am in fear that too many people support the notion of torture. My brother doesn’t “believe” in torture, but when I had this discussion with him…a firm Obama supporter…his thought was that

    “America has aways tortured, look what we did to the American Indians, the African slaves, the Japanese…this is what America does”. He got me. I didn’t know how to respond.

  25. rdwdkw says:

    264 hours with no sleep or three hours of Morning Joe listening to ’…back when I was in congress..”, torture comes in all different forms doesn’t it, Marci?

  26. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Last year, 60 Minutes aired a segment ‘The Science of Sleep” that was very illuminating because it demonstrated how quickly subjects developed potential life threatening conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity after just three or four days of sleep depravation:

    “We don’t sleep just to rest our tired bodies?” [Leslie] Stahl asks Matthew Walker, the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

    “Well, that’s been one of the long-standing theories. But I think what we’re starting to understand is that sleep serves a whole constellation of functions, plural,” Walker explains.

    One thing that’s clear, says Walker, is that sleep is critical. In a series of studies done back in the 1980s, rats were kept awake indefinitely. After just five days, they started dying.

    Walker says they started dying from sleep deprivation. “In fact, sleep is as essential as food because they will die just about as quick from food deprivation as sleep deprivation. So, it’s that necessary,” he says.

    And it’s not just rats: every animal studied so far needs sleep, from the elephant right down to the fruit fly. But that’s as far as the similarities go. Some animals sleep 20 hours a day, others only two or three. And still others sleep with half their brains at a time, all making it hard to figure out what exactly it is about sleep that makes it so essential, and that, in terms of evolution, makes it worth the risks.

  27. Mary says:

    BTW – one reason we have so few real battlefield captures is that we have relied on bombing to flatten villages including civilians caught there.

  28. robspierre says:

    I tink it is important to remember that the “sleep deprivation” that you described in your earlier post–shackling by the arms from an overhead anchor–was actually crucifixion. One could just as well call breaking on the wheel and burning alive “sleep deprivation”.

    I’ve read that Roman executioners tied the crucified to the cross more often then not. Having your weight on your outstretched arms is horribly painful and leads to eventual paralysis of the chest muscles and consequent suffocation.

    The CIA used different tools to effect the same result as Roman torturers and executioners achieved in the service of Caligula and Nero. I’m not sure which is more appalling: that they either didn’t know what they were doing or that they did and chose to credit themselves with the godlike power to tell the difference between mostly dead and really dead.

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