Torture is against the law. It is always wrong. It shocks the conscience. It shames the nation. It now turns out it was shaped by psychologists. Even before it was "legally authorized." Let's look at the facts.
Abu Zubaida was captured in March of 2002. And for the first two weeks, during which time his wounds (from being captured) were treated, he was questioned in a non-threatening manner by the FBI. He was cooperative and gave valuable information, the most important of which was the name of Kalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.
Two weeks after the initial interrogations, the treatment was changed:
A C.I.A. interrogation team that arrived a week or two later, which included former military psychologists, did not change the approach to questioning, but began to keep him awake night and day with blasting rock music, have his clothes removed and keep his cell cold.By the summer it was changed drastically:
When the CIA began what it called an "increased pressure phase" with captured terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida in the summer of 2002, its first step was to limit the detainee's human contact to just two people. One was the CIA interrogator, the other a psychologist.Psychologists would have known about the experiments where volunteers were willing to follow orders given by a psychologist, to administer increasing levels of electric shocks to persons who failed to "learn" a task. Who better, then, to utilize that information so as to enforce compliance with the torture program they designed?
During the extraordinary weeks that followed, it was the psychologist who apparently played the more critical role. According to newly released Justice Department documents, the psychologist provided ideas, practical advice and even legal justification for interrogation methods that would break Abu Zubaida, physically and mentally. Extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding, the use of insects to provoke fear -- all were deemed acceptable, in part because the psychologist said so.
Psychologists would have known that the first rule of our profession, as in medicine is: Do no harm.
So why did they torture?
Like everyone else in this despicable torture "program" the psychologists and physicians were carefully selected. Nothing was left to chance. Lawyers were willing participants, ready to bend the law to achieve the aims of extracting information via torture. Psychologists were willing participants, ready to use their skills and knowledge against human persons to achieve the aims of personality breakdown as enablers of the interrogation process.
How was this accomplished? Via psychological assessment. Of both a prisoner and his torture designers and monitors:
The CIA dispatched personnel from its office of medical services to each secret prison and evaluated medical professionals involved in interrogations "to make sure they could stand up, psychologically handle it," according to a former CIA official.If you were able to stomach the so-called DoJ "authorization" to torture Zubaida, you saw the description of his personality. And rather than "weak points" they describe him as resilient, they seem to have built a case for why it is necessary to break down his personality:
The agency then used a psychological assessment of Abu Zubaida to find his vulnerable points.
He is confident, self- assured and possesses an air of authority. ... He is intelligent and intellectually curious. He displays "excellent self-discipline." The assessment describes him as a perfectionist, persistent, private, and highly capable in his social interactions. He is very guarded about opening up to others... tends not to trust others easily. He is also "quick to recognize the moods and motivations of others." Furthermore he is proud of his ability to lie and deceive others successfully.So they built a "case" - using psychological assessment - of a person they describe as so strong and so resilient that nothing but torture will break him down. So I am asking:
Where is that report? Where is the raw data upon which that assessment was made? Where are the tapes that would prove how uncooperative they say he was? Where are the tapes that would prove how narcissistic and unbreakable he was deemed to be? Does the psychological report really "fit" the raw data?Let's subject that report to the same careful scrutiny as these torture memos.
Because that report was used to "justify" stepping up the interrogation in ways that broke the law.
Mind you, all of this was done well before any secret legal memos purported to "legalize" torture! And mind you, torture is always 100% wrong, unethical, illegal.
A detainee, held in secret, without recourse to the Red Cross, without recourse to any legal protection, was systematically probed by psychologists for his weak points, while described by these same psychologists as so strong and resilient that only torture would break him down. The point of the torture was personality breakdown. And its willing designers were psychologists.
Personality breakdown is not temporary. Personality breakdown is, in effect, a state of permanent mental torture, where nightmares and flashbacks and every other sort of PTSD symptom becomes one's daily life. All of that happening while the person remains jailed in secret, subjected to isolation, humiliation, degradation and deprivations of every sort. Induced mental illness of the worst possible sort - and left to languish in solitary confinement with no legal recourse.
This is what we've done to a human person. (Even animal research would never allow such treatment.)
We have legal memos supposedly justifying torture. Where were the ethicists?
Personality breakdown of Abu Zubaida was the aim. Some say he was crazy to start with. Some claim he was mentally strong as a rock. The latter claim was used to justify torture. But either way, torture is wrong.
But there was another effect. His captors were also traumatized by what they witnessed. They were traumatized watching a man systematically degraded and dehumanized, stripped of clothing, deprived of sleep and adequate nutrition, forced to listen to deafening sounds, to endure cold, to endure painful forced positions, to endure physical abuse of the worst sort. The captors had to watch this. This too is a kind of torture. Imagine yourself - forced to watch, day by day, as a human being is deliberately MADE to break down physically and mentally. Even an animal would get better treatment than they gave this human person. And others.
Permanent personality breakdown. A lifetime of PTSD symptoms. Of nightmares. Flashbacks. Depression. Anxiety. A living hell - deliberately induced - after they knew he really had nothing more to tell.
Where are these other poor souls that we now know are also suffering, likely from PTSD symptoms, simply from having been forced to witness someone break down right in front of their eyes? We know the health care personnel were carefully selected (sadists?). What about the regular CIA interrogators? Where are they? How many folks are now on disability? With possibly a lifetime of PTSD symptoms - due to watching the dehumanization of a human person? Oh, they're out there. We now have proof:
Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.I'm beginning to think that the reason why there will be no prosecutions of lower level folks is because the government knows they too have broken down mentally, they too are emotional wrecks, and if they were brought to trial, then we would have the public acknowledgment, based on psychological assessments - that torture destroys normal human personalities on both sides of the torture chamber. Unless, of course, they have been carefully screened to make certain they won't break down.
Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, "seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect."
What type of personality does not break down watching torture - day after day? You be the judge. Among them, likely, the health care professionals, carefully screened - to not break down.
How did they know to carefully screen them to not break down?