The Waterboarding Smoking Gun, Again

Since Mark Benjamin has decided to claim–some 300-plus days after I did the first of many posts focusing on the details of waterboarding (to say nothing of posts drational did looking at these descriptions medically)–that, “the agency’s “enhanced interrogation program” haven’t been mined for waterboarding details until now,” I thought I’d make another point about the significance of those details.

As Mark points out and I’ve been pointing out for 11 months, the torturers did far more during waterboarding than what members of the military underwent in SERE training. They dumped large amounts of water onto detainees, and made sure detainees inhaled water. This is far worse than either the Bybee Two Memo or SERE training describes.

Which is why it is so important that, six days before Yoo finalized the Bybee Two memo describing a relatively controlled waterboarding process, Jim Haynes went out of his way to get JPRA to send CIA a description of waterboarding that also didn’t resemble waterboarding as it was done in SERE training (Haynes appears to have given orders eliciting that description in a face-to-face meeting).

As the SASC reported, DOD General Counsel Jim Haynes got JPRA, the entity that administers SERE training, to put together two packets of information on July 25 and 26, ostensibly about SERE training, though JPRA personnel realized he wanted to use it to reverse-engineer the techniques. As we now know, those were crucial days of the Bybee Memo drafting process, when Yoo was looking for more data before he could approve waterboarding, and at about the time when CIA decided it wanted written approval of the torture techniques. But the description JPRA sent Haynes (and CIA)–a description that the OPR Report makes clear OLC received–didn’t describe waterboarding as the Navy used it. Rather, it described waterboarding as it would ultimately be practiced by the CIA.

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

Think about it. Why would Haynes make sure Yoo had this description, particularly if Yoo was going to use a more restrained description of the practice in his memo (just as he did with his description of sleep deprivation and small box confinement)? Why didn’t they just use a description of what the Navy actually did? And where would JPRA have gotten that description? How did it happen that OLC ended up getting a description of waterboarding as it would ultimately be practiced?

There are a  number of possibilities: maybe JPRA got a hold of Mitchell and Jessen’s description of waterboarding as proposed and used that instead. Maybe CIA knew they were going to exceed the limits Yoo described in the memo.

Or, maybe JPRA somehow described waterboarding as it had already been applied to Abu Zubaydah.

I can’t yet prove which of those things happened. But I’d suggest that, now that others have decided to look at descriptions I’ve been writing about for 11 months, they also might want to look at this particular description, which in theory, at least, preceded the waterboarding purportedly authorized by the Bybee Memo six days later.

75 replies
  1. barryeisler says:

    I’m glad this critical story you’ve been hammering is getting picked up elsewhere. But you’re right, hard to understand why Benjamin would ignore just how methodically you have been mining these documents.

    • emptywheel says:

      Particularly since he and I exchanged comments about this stuff when I did an article for Salon on it last year.

      I’m glad he did the story–it is focusing attention back on what was done at a crucial time. But he definitely overstated when he said these things haven’t been mined for details before.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        I had the same thought as Barry and other commenters: where’s the reference to all your work, and that of others? If he hadn’t presented it as some kind of original, ground-breaking research, it would have been one thing…

        In any case, a question for you, EW. Looking back on the complex material, I wonder what happened to Ogrisseg’s paper with warnings about waterboarding that he said he was going to write. It can’t be the same as the “Operational Issues” memo, can it? since the latter doesn’t specifically mention waterboarding, and Ogrisseg says he put that into the memo he wrote. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Ogrisseg’s memo. Am I right?

        From Ogrisseg’s statement to the SASC:

        I told Lt Col Baumgartner that waterboarding was completely inconsistent with the stress inoculation paradigm of training that we used, and was more indicative of a practice that produces learned helplessness – a training result we tried strenuously to avoid. The final area I recall Lt Col Baumgartner asking me about were my thoughts on using the waterboard against the enemy. I asked [sic] responded by asking, “wouldn’t that be illegal?” He replied that some people were asking from above about the utility of using this technique against the enemy for the same reasons I wouldn’t use it in training. I replied that I wouldn’t go down that path because, aside from being illegal, it was a completely different arena that we in the Survival School didn’t know anything about. When we concluded the talk, Lt Col Baumgartner asked if I would write him a memo reflecting what we’d just discussed regarding the psychological effects of training so he could include it with other materials he was sending up. He also asked if I would comment on both the physical and psychological effects of the waterboard. I replied that I would, and drafted the memo.

        I made a point awhile ago that we hadn’t ever seen the Ogrisseg memo, the one where he quotes all his statistics, the one OLC seemed to quote in the Bybee memo. — Any thoughts on this? Or did I miss some doc release somewhere along the line?

        See earlier story, 4/09

          • Jeff Kaye says:

            YES! That’s it. I had lost my reference to where it was, and thought it had never been released. I stupidly didn’t think to look at the hearings doc. I remember it now (and won’t lose it again), as I previously used it for my understanding that follow-up studies on SERE students hadn’t actually ever taken place.

            I’m sorry to use you as a reference librarian, as no doubt it is not a good use of your time, but I do appreciate it very much.

      • Phoenix Woman says:

        Particularly since he and I exchanged comments about this stuff when I did an article for Salon on it last year.

        If he’s going to play Spurn the Hippie in public, it’s not smart of him to consult with the hippies in private.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you and Jeff Kaye have pointed out for some time, and as Benjamin writes this morning, waterboarding as applied to “terrorist” suspects is nothing like the controlled waterboarding that used to be part of SERE training. (I think it was removed from the survival training revolution in 2005.)

    The difference is a bit like controlled sparring with a senior martial arts instructor at a clean, well-lighted dojo, and being in a street fight in a dark alley in a part of town where no one speaks the same language you do. A swift stick from Dan Inosanto that stops short doesn’t put one in the same peril or threat of loss of life as does being a Shark when the Jets are cruising the neighborhood bent on taking out their perceived enemy.

    I’m happy Mr. Benjamin wants to give greater publicity to the evils our government and its rogue lawyers do in our name. I’d be happier if he put his contribution in a more accurate context, and that he acknowledge the considerable prior work that’s already been done on this topic.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Your and Benjamin’s work also highlights something Jeff Kaye has long pointed out, and which Scott Horton recently did too [Doctors without Morals, March 2nd: That is, the intimate coordination of torture techniques by medical and psychological personnel. They helped apply those techniques with exquisite effect, which violates their professional responsibility as well as the law and the moral standards we claim to uphold and encourage other countries to aspire to.

    Medical and psychological staff weren’t present to make these techniques less brutal or to keep them within legal bounds. They were there to keep the patient alive – in some cases, to be available within seconds to administer a tracheotomy, if need be, after too strenuous a waterboarding – and to avoid leaving telltale signs that torture took place.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    A link to Benjamin’s article popped up in my RSS feeds (h/t Spencer writing at the Windy) and I read the first paragraph and (wondered, hmmm, how long till ew writes a post about how she’s been at this for about a year….)

    The answer: 1 hour and 11 minutes…

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Since the James Sikes episode yesterday in California stopped short of calamity, I can’t help wondering what a Charlton Heston promo for Toyota would look like. Something along the lines of, “You can have my Toyota when you can Prius it from my cold dead hands.”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Scott Horton cites to the Benjamin articled this morning, too, in order to build on his comment from last week about Doctors without Morals. But he doesn’t stop to put Benjamin’s self-proclaimed novel work in its proper place in the continuum of work that preceded it.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Good show. Marcy’s work on this topic went national (beyond FDL’s considerable reach) in the Times about a year ago. She’s talked to Benjamin personally, so he knows her work; and she has consistently written on the topic since, often with Izzy Stone-like familiarity with the source documents.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yep. We had a brief exchange about this on an earlier post. It took half a second to find the April 19, 2009 NYT article that cited Marcy’s work in reviewing the public documents that Benjamin this morning declared “haven’t been mined for waterboarding details until now [sic].”

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          It wouldn’t hurt Benjamin to make some kind of mention for the failure to make note of EW’s work on this. Everyone’s human, and it would make his article, which is not a bad summary of what we know about waterboarding effects as the CIA used it, more credible among those of use who have been following this issue. Something of this sort happened to me when I wrote an article on sleep deprivation some time back, and really Spencer had just earlier written something similar, and I went back and added that credit. We are all trying to do the same thing, and failing to add in earlier work, especially the volume and importance of EW’s work on this, is unhelpful, as it doesn’t direct the reader to many other aspects of this story that have already been worked out, or questions proposed, by the earlier work. So it is not just a failure to credit, it limits access to the reader of important data.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            That would be professional – in light of his direct statement that the materials hadn’t been mined before his article – and helpful from a group of writers usually so in synch with this site as those at Salon. The principal issue is the wrongful and possibly continuing conduct, not an attempt to suggest a font of information has just been looked at.

          • JasonLeopold says:

            agreed. At the very least, remove “haven’t been mined until now.” This is one of the things that outlets like Salon rag on the MSM about regarding their failure to provide credit for work that they have done first. But that line “haven’t been mined before” is pretty much the basis for his writing the entire story and presenting it as “news” and without it the story would simply come across as old news and rehash.

              • JasonLeopold says:

                Agreed. That’s what I meant when I used the word “news.” The info itself is not “new.” I think it’s important that this reaches a wider audience, no doubt. But you know the way these things work. Everyone will pick this up and present it as “new” and that’s the part that’s misleading.

              • rosalind says:

                Emptywheel’s slogan should be: today’s news yesterday!

                wading through comments over at Salon, i was struck by how many people were literally begging Benjamin for a link to the actual documents. (and h/t to MadDog for posting the OLC link).

                i’m reminded anew what an incredible resource this place is, and how crucial the collaborative nature of the work, with Fearless Leader paving the way.

                (for any new readers who like what they see, please consider hitting the donation button at the top right of the page. it’s free to read, but it does cost.)

                • MadDog says:


                  I was gobsmacked by the number of folks commenting who apparently had never known about the existence of these documents or ever read them.

                  They can’t be all relatives of Rip Van Winkle, can they?

                  • emptywheel says:

                    Didn’t read the comments, but the ethic is so radically different. I always feel naked when I don’t link and cite the text.

                    That said, at least NYT has gotten better of late.

                    I was told by someone in a govt agency recently leading up to a document dump that they were worried the docs in question wouldn’t get out, or would get out just to a journalist w/o this ethic, and they were saying they wanted to make sure someone like me would get them so they would be publicly accessible.

                    • MadDog says:

                      …the ethic is so radically different. I always feel naked when I don’t link and cite the text…

                      A foundational edge that this blog in particular, but also blogs in general, apparently have over traditional journalists.

                      Attention Journalism Schools: You might want to teach your students how to do that Internet “linking” thing. Internet? Oh yeah, you might want to get them online first.

                  • JasonLeopold says:

                    I’m amazed at how many people simply have no idea that there were other methods of torture beyond waterboarding. When they hear the word torture, they automatically think waterboarding and that’s it. I suppose that’s because what is often discussed in the media. I don’t know if it’s torture fatigue or what but it seems difficult to get a mass audience to grasp the details of this story–torture–and understand there are thousands of pages of documents that have been released over the years and are readily available on the ACLU’s website for instance. That’s just my experience when I talk to some folks.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Not only other forms in addition to waterboarding, but that they were used serially and in combination therewith. This and the isolation, mental degradation and fact that the torturers were blood thirsty enemies as opposed to your fellow soldiers makes the ballyhooed comparison to SERE patently laughable and criminally misplaced.

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      Odd, given how many Americans still attend schools and universities run by the Jesuits.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  That shows how quickly “news” goes in one ear and out the other, even for readers of Salon.

                  That Benjamin declined to adhere to standard journalistic practice and provide links to his main sources – the OPR report, for example, which is available in read-only or in searchable form – suggests that he knew he was providing a summary of important but old news. For some reason, he couldn’t resist claiming an exclusive. I guess that’s one way to get the reader’s attention, except that he buried his claim several paragraphs below the fold, which suggests even he didn’t believe it.

  5. MadDog says:

    …As Mark points out and I’ve been pointing out for 11 months, the torturers did far more during waterboarding than what members of the military underwent in SERE training. They dumped large amounts of water onto detainees, and made sure detainees inhaled water. This is far worse than either the Bybee Two Memo or SERE training describes…

    And let’s be perfectly clear here EW.

    Torture supporters of the Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury ilk, go on and on about how waterboarding merely gives the “sensation” of drowning.

    This is out and out bullshit!!!

    As Bradbury himself writes (page 13 of 46 page PDF):

    …the interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee’s nose and mouth to dam the runoff, in which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breath during the application of the water…

    This is a fookin’ description of drowning, not merely the “sensation” of drowning!

    Unless of course a detainee has the miraculous physical ability of breathing through his asshole.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s worth repeating. As Malcolm Nance and others have said, waterboarding is controlled drowning. It is not pretend. It doesn’t simulate damage to the throat, lungs and psyche, as the tradmed still insists on describing it. The exhaustion, exposure and fear it induces aren’t make believe. It fails to result in death only when the torturers stop short, which I gather takes considerable training and a watchful eye on each victim’s responses. It’s not a skill our military and intelligence services and their medical personnel should have honed so well.

  6. Rayne says:

    Jeebus, what a waste of my time reading that piece by Benjamin.

    I have other real stuff to mine for information, you know, instead of reading rehashed warmed-over year-old leftovers.

    The breathlessness is also annoying. “Oh, the horrors, they used sophisticated waterboarding techniques many, many times!!”

    Catch up already, huh, Benjamin? The clock is ticking; we don’t have time for repeats and do-overs.

  7. klynn says:

    I would invite all to email Benjamin links to EW’s torture document dump and torture timeline.

    I put in the subject head:


  8. bobschacht says:

    The variations in practice re: waterboarding—
    No wonder the tapes were destroyed. They would have provided direct evidence that practice went beyond what had been officially sanctioned, no?

    Obstruction of justice!!!

    Bob in AZ

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Presumably, one reason Haynes sought approval for a different description of waterboarding was that he knew that the existing Yoo/Bybee memos wouldn’t cover it as applied. He also knew that Yoo and Bybee’s tenures at OLC had limits and that one day, even David Addington wouldn’t be around to dictate the administration’s legal positions on this issue, an event that might predate the expiration of statutes of limitation.

      Haynes request performs several things. It puts the DoD, DoJ and the White House on notice that a gap needs to be filled, legally or politically.

      Haynes might actually get what he’d asked for. If not, the existing varying descriptions of waterboarding do not all enhance the prosecution’s case. Varying descriptions in time and place, varying advice given both orally and via formal memoranda, can portray confusion or at least inconsistency.

      Look how far Margolis stretched apparent inconsistency in the OPR’s “standards”, inconsistency he generated, to let Yoo and Bybee off the legal ethics hook the OPR would have hung them on.

      More credible inconsistency, perhaps even rising to the level of confusion, or a lack of communication in distributing revised standards of what was deemed “acceptable”, would undercut the prosecution’s case that certain actions were intentional or done with “malice aforethought”. The legal penalties for honest mistakes are much lower – Margolis seems to think they should be nil – than those for intentional wrongdoing.

      • klynn says:

        I thought so too. That Hillman award is pretty incredible.

        I also included links to some of Jeff’s work and the famous ACLU blog on the subject.

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          Thanks, Klynn. Btw, it was links to some of my work by EW and bmaz that helped bring me to FDL. For better or worse, imo, EW, bmaz and Jason hold some responsibility for inflicting me on a world larger than DKos.

          And klynn @47, I have not in my memory come across material mixing LSD, or drugs in general, and the use of hypothermia. Someone, btw, someday needs to go and collect the LSD material in a historical/clinical fashion to make a concerted effort to understand just where they were going with the LSD research. I know they mixed it with sensory deprivation research.

          • johnsawyer says:

            There has long been a fair amount of documentation on what the CIA was up to, with its experimentation with LSD, and other substances. It did these experiments primarily as part of MK-ULTRA, and one of its offshoots, Project Monarch. An Internet search of the relevant terms will turn up quite a bit of stuff, even though CIA Director Richard Helms had what he thought were all MK-ULTRA files destroyed in 1973–some documentation escaped this destruction, and Congressional inquiries at the time had a fair number of eyewitnesses giving testimony. Starting in the early 1950s, the CIA first wanted to see what LSD might be able to do for them–increase a soldier′s focus, or the opposite: whether LSD could be dispersed behind enemy lines, to disrupt the enemy, and also to use it on enemy leaders to make them appear foolish in public. After results on all these things proved unreliable, their research with LSD and other substances “blossomed” into other possible uses, in cooperation with many colleges, universities, pharmaceutical companies, research institutes, etc. in the US, Canada, and England. One of the other early research attempts was to determine if LSD could be used as a truth serum on captured enemies; that didn′t pan out either. The CIA also tried using LSD, along with various training and hypnotic techniques, to manipulate the memory of some of our own soldiers and spies so that they could successfully suppress or destroy memory of their instructions, secrets, actions, etc. if they were captured by the enemy, and thus not reveal secrets to the enemy–this was part of the CIA′s attempt to create “Manchurian Candidates”. Results with that also proved too unreliable, but the CIA kept experimenting along these lines, to see if LSD and other substances could be used as part of a larger process, along with electronic means, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, etc. to wipe and replace a person′s memories and personality with a custom-tailored one. The CIA say they also had unreliable and unusable results from these experiments, but some people disagree, citing evidence that many of these particular experiments were actually designed to develop new methods of torture during interrogation, updating the CIA′s earlier simpler experiments with trying to use LSD by itself as a “truth serum”.

  9. Chickenbone says:

    It sure would be nice to go back in time when waterboarding was looked upon as a group-bonding activity for our young men,as found in this photo:

  10. fatster says:

    Seems like you’ve been able to head this Benjamin fellow off at the pass, EW. Good!

    PS And what Jeff Kaye just said, too.

  11. JasonLeopold says:

    somewhat related. And in the event that you discussed it previously, apologies for rehasing. Last week, Yoo did an online chat with readers via Washington Post. This question and answer caught my eye:

    Ethics: If the U.S. and the world prosecuted, and actually hung, several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding prisoners during WWII; if R.Reagan’s DOJ successfully prosecuted a Texas sheriff and his deputies for waterboarding suspects in 1983, how could you possibly have come to the conclusion that it was now okay for the U.S. — our United States, the land of liberty and justice! — to use this tactic against anyone else?

    John Yoo: I think this is one of the many unfair and unjust criticisms of the CIA’s interrogation policies carried out in the months after September 11. I ask if you have actually read the decisions of the U.S. military commissions that tried Japanese soldiers at the end of World War II. If you do so, you will see that the pure abuse that our soldiers suffered bears no resemblance to the CIA’s interrogation methods. Moreover, these Japanese soldiers were convicted for abuse that included far more than simply forcing soldiers to drink massive amounts of water, but for also physical beatings, burnings, and so on. I think that comparisons of this to the CIA’s interrogation methods unfairly smear the men and women in the CIA who tried their best to do everything by the book and to observe the lines actually set out by Congress.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yoo hangs himself there, because much of the “collateral” behavior he describes actually took place in connection with the Gitmo prisoners, too. Yoo’s claim may be that he didn’t officially know it at the time he issued his memos. Even if true, which is open to doubt, he knows it now, which makes his unqualified distinction in that quote invalid. Moreover, his comment fails to deal with similar treatment and legal consequences for US soldiers’ mistreatment and torture of Filipino prisoners in our turn of the century war to pacify their country, after we inherited it from Spain.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking about the Japanese methods a lot of late. Because the practice AS DONE and AS DESCRIBED in the JPRA document does match the Japanese practice.

      Remember, OPR says Koester got info on stuff done to POWs.

  12. Jim White says:

    Heh. I just got around to taking a look at Benajamin’s story. I’m not going to read the whole thing. He mentions the saline angle in the second paragraph. I had that in April of 2009 (but the graphics on that post seem to be a bit borked today…) at the same time Marcy was making the points she describes above.

  13. JasonLeopold says:

    Again, going OT for a moment. From that same WaPo chat here’s Yoo again discussing the loss/purge, etc., of his emails:

    Richmond, Va.: Does it concern you that many of your OLC e-mails have disappeared despite federal laws that require the archiving of those documents? Do you have any theories as to why those e-mails were not retrievable?

    John Yoo: I am glad that you asked this so that I can be clear. This is again an example of the biased manner in which the Office of Professional Responsibility conducted its investigation. And, I cannot help but add again, the longtime civil servant in the Justice Department whose job it is to review the office’s work, someone who is respected by DOJ officials of both parties, rejected that report.

    I don’t know what happened, if anything, to any of my emails. I left the Justice Department in the summer of 2003, many years before the emails were sought. I don’t quite understand why OPR made this claim in a footnote in its report. During my hours of interviews with them many years ago, OPR investigators showed me several printouts of emails of mine from this period back in the spring and summer of 2002. I cannot guess why they had my emails five years ago and now claim they cannot find them. They should be easy to find anyway — if OPR has access to the email files of the other lawyers in DOJ, then all they have to do is see what emails they got from me. If anyone needs to be asked, it is OPR’s investigators, not me.

    Lastly, the claim that there would be emails about this shows a lack of understanding of the world of intelligence. The email system at the Justice Department is unsecured; it cannot be used to send classified emails. DOJ attorneys could not have emailed each other about interrogation methods or other CIA matters on this email system because those issues are classified at the highest level of secrecy.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yoo almost ignores the e-mail issue and claims bias on the part of OPR, shielding himself behind the views of a political appointee whose job was to “review” OPR’s work, with a view – almost certainly shared by those who appointed Margolis – to quashing a professional review for political reasons. Otherwise, neither Margolis nor anyone else would have taken on the role he did vis a vis that internal investigation.

      Yoo is trying hard to avoid making any admission against interest and to undermine the credibility of attacks against him. He is practicing criminal defense work here.

      There is no reason Yoo should know what happened to his e-mails any more than a former employee at IBM or HP would know why internal e-mails were no longer available several years after leaving their employment. Even if he deleted his own mail, which, if he did, he should acknowledge but hasn’t, he should never have had systems access to delete all records of it.

      As Marcy and Digby have said, let’s stop pretending the key voids in e-mail records are anything but intentional obstruction by the Bush administration. That the Obama administration claims itself unable to reconstruct those voids suggests connivance in that aim more than passive hear, see or speak no evil.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        As Marcy and Digby have said, let’s stop pretending the key voids in e-mail records are anything but intentional obstruction by the Bush administration. That the Obama administration claims itself unable to reconstruct those voids suggests connivance in that aim more than passive hear, see or speak no evil.

        Dead on. Agreed

  14. Jeff Kaye says:

    I’d also note, Benjamin’s article ends with his “discovery” of possible human experimentation done on prisoners. Though with a lower profile and contribution than EW, I wrote this up last September at Truthout, and addressed it in more than one article over this past year. I don’t claim originality on the story, though I think I added to it. To date, I am the only one I know to have pointed out how observations on a number of different techniques (not just waterboarding) appear to speak to the use of prisoners as “guinea pigs”.

    I noted the same use of oximeter readings during waterboarding as Benjamin (though really PHR gets the credit for first mentioning this). Then I went on to note:

    The CIA’s Office of Medical Services was supposed to be in charge of monitoring “detainee” health under interrogation. However, their instructions, described in an annex to the CIA Inspector General report, exemplifies the dual nature of the “monitoring,” as this example from the report shows:

    If there is any possibility that ambient temperatures are below the thermoneutral range, they should be monitored and the actual temperatures documented. [2 or 3 redacted lines]
    At ambient temperatures below 18 [degrees]C/64 [degrees]F, detainees should be monitored for the development of hypothermia. [Four redacted paragraphs]

    Rather than make changes to ambient temperatures, to prevent harm to prisoners, medical professionals are instructed to monitor and document the situation. The torture techniques used by SERE are known to cause endocrine and metabolic disorders (see section on CIA research below), prisoners tortured and subjected to cold are at higher risk of hypothermia, which, for a normal person, can set in at an ambient temperature of 60 degrees F. The monitoring in this case seems to be as much about experimentation as it is any concern for a prisoner’s health. (For what other possible reason could this section be mostly redacted?) Parallels to the experiments on hypothermia by Nazi scientists at Dachau are chilling, as is the fact that some of these scientists were later imported, along with their data, to the United States.

    • klynn says:


      I hope you come back here. I have been meaning to ask, have you done any research on the possible use of drugs, such as LSD, for induced hypothermia on detainees?

  15. drational says:

    And muchas gracias for the h/t. You, Jeff, Jason, Mary, bmaz and all your excellent thread commentators are awesome. I miss you guys, but certainly enjoy lurking!

    • bmaz says:

      You don’t have to miss us; just join in more.

      And Marcy is right, when I read Benjamin’s article, I immediately thought not only of her work, but that which you did and the discussions here (including, as I recall, pdaly too).

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Hopefully, you’ll do more than be lurking. Am glad to see how your good work continues to be recognized here. For instance I remember this excellent DKos diary you did after the CIA OIG report came out.

  16. fatster says:

    O/T Interesting contrast to, oh, KBR, Blackwater, etc.

    Navy says 3 dogs died after contractor neglect
    3 Navy dogs died after being neglected by contractors training them to detect explosives

    “A team of military handlers discovered the dogs last October at a facility run by Securitas Security Services USA after the Navy terminated its $7.5 million contract.”


  17. DeadLast says:

    One question I do have, is there a list anywhere of activities that are still considered torture?

  18. drational says:

    Thx all for remembering me and Jeff thx especially for that cite of work that was effortful and got (apparently not) lost at the orange. Have been focused on the family and day job for past yr but hoping to come back soon. Meanwhile y’all have been holding down the fort admirably.
    Much love and good wishes, dr

  19. bobschacht says:

    EOH @ 32,
    “There is no reason Yoo should know what happened to his e-mails…”

    …unless, of course, he participated in erasing them himself, before he left.

    Bob in AZ

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      There is no reason Yoo should know what happened to his e-mails any more than a former employee at IBM or HP would know why internal e-mails were no longer available several years after leaving their employment. Even if he deleted his own mail, which, if he did, he should acknowledge but hasn’t, he should never have had systems access to delete all records of it.

      One of the old saws is “Read the statute. Read the whole statute. Then read the cases.”

  20. bobschacht says:

    Jeff Kaye @ 56:
    “For better or worse, imo, EW, bmaz and Jason hold some responsibility for inflicting me on a world larger than DKos.”

    I have had the impression that the DKos audience is much larger than the FDL audience, primarily due to the number of comments on the top-rated diaries. Has that changed? Is there a better metric?

    I maintained a page on DKos before The Seminal was invented. My page is still there, and sometimes when I want to reach what I think is a larger audience, I post there. Or (formerly) over at MyDD. What metrics are available for a diarist who does not already have a large and devoted following? How do DKos and The Seminal compare for novices, in terms of audience potential?

    Bob in AZ

  21. rmwarnick says:

    Of course, even if the mechanics of torture are identical in both cases there is a HUGE difference between briefly experiencing torture for training purposes– and being a PRISONER who has to endure torture for very long periods of time.

    • tjbs says:

      Let’s bring out the guy that was waterboarded 183 times during training.
      !0% of the class was kid gloved waterboarded, the rest got their experience by watching. Otherwise the torture sadists should STFU.

      Why didn’t these courageous bastards repeal the laws against waterboarding, because they’re the dog shit of humanity stuck the bottom of our constitution.

  22. canadianbeaver says:

    It’s admirable that you are following through on this subject, but sadly you are wasting your time. Americans know their government tortured, and prob continues to do so, and they support it. Do a google on torture polls and a majority think it’s necessary and agree with it. Hell they wanted the underwear bomber tortured!!! You’re kinda p*ssing in the wind so to speak.

      • canadianbeaver says:

        If they did that, it would show the world that what American governments preach is nothing more than bullsh*t and that just wouldn’t do. Don’t you know they are jealous of our freedumbs?? Besides, they are all too busy right now pretending to reform health insurance and ignoring the devastated economy to really care.

  23. geoshmoe says:

    My only comment that I need to make is: ” Keep up the good work.”

    Above @ 68 was the prompt. which is bs and steers the wrong direction. What the moron society thinks or exibits be damned, what ever causes torture lust, must be countered.

    Your efforts and that of others that keep this evil from escalating. Hopefully there can come some prosecutions someday. But at least some of the perpetrators will be nervous in the mean time, and more will be dissuaded.
    That will be a good effect. Too slow down the wouldbees / wannabees.

    Too bad things have gotten so low, when the humans should be working on a higher level.
    Still plundering around in the… basement, ( dungeon,) while time runs out.

  24. ondelette says:

    Jeff, Marcy,

    I’m confused. I got the distinct impression that Mark Benjamin had access to CIA OMS documents and that it was new. Did he not, or did you have access to those before? I must have missed some things (not surprising) but I thought people were still trying to get those documents?

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