Sunday, April 2, 2017

Proof US Agencies Destroyed Evidence of Japan's WWII Medical War Crimes

The letter published below came from the November 19, 1999 Congressional Record (pp. S14542-S14543). Sheldon Harris, a historian at California State University, Northridge, wrote the letter, which alleged the destruction by various U.S. military agencies of records concerning Japanese war crimes during World War II. Harris had been investigating these crimes, as well as actions by the U.S. government to cover-up them up. In one instance, Harris claimed "sensitive" documents were destroyed at Dugway Proving Ground as "a direct result" of research he had initiated there.

Harris' letter was entered into the record by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was speaking about the controversies at the time about the ongoing classification even 50 or more years after the fact of documents pertaining to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan war crimes. In particular, the 1990s had seen a growing campaign to expose the activities of Japan's World War II biological warfare experiments and subsequent operational bacteriological and chemical warfare campaigns, which have collectively come to be known under the rubric of the campaign's most notorious brigade, Unit 731, led by Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii.

The kick-off for the controversy was the publication in the Oct. 1981 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of "Japan's Biological Weapons: 1930-1945 - A Hidden Chapter in History," written by Robert Gomer, John W. Powell, and Bert V.A. Roling. Feinstein entered the entire article into the Congressional Record, along with another letter from historian Sheldon Harris, who had written a book on Unit 731 and the U.S. cover-up of their activities. According to Harris and Gomer/Powell/Roling, the U.S. had amnestied the Unit 731 scientists in order to get at the unethical data from human experiments on prisoners, data derived from intentional infliction of disease followed often enough by vivisection. The 731 survivors were incinerated or buried in mass graves.

Historians have documented the massive amount of destruction of records by the Japanese military, including many if not most of the records for Unit 731 and associated units. Professor Harris's letter references the U.S. destruction of records, and not the larger, and even more problematic destruction of records by the Japanese authorities.

The Japanese government denied any biological/chemical war crimes, while the U.S. slowly declassified some incriminating documents, but would not come out and say what the U.S. had done in relation to the Japanese doctors and scientists. Some of the Unit 731 personnel were tried in 1949 in a special war crimes trial by the Soviet Union. Much of what we know about Unit 731 and associated biological and chemical warfare divisions comes from this trial, which for years was derided in the West. (Google Books has republished a free ebook of the Soviet transcripts from the trial.)

In January 1999, President Bill Clinton, "in accordance with the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (PL 105-246)... established the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG)." But it wasn't until May 2000 that Congress, "as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2001... extended the IWG's life to December 2004 through passage of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act, P. L. 106-567." The IWG's name was accordingly changed to the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group. According to the IWG website, declassification of U. S. Government records related to imperial Japan's war crimes then became an official part of the IWG's mission.

The IWG ended its declassification mission in March 2007 (extended from an original 2004 ending date). It subsequently published a final report to Congress in September 2007. Some resources have been placed online for researchers, primarily Select Documents on Japanese War Crimes and Japanese Biological Warfare, 1934-2006.

While over 100,000 previously unclassified documents related to Imperial Japan's biological warfare program were reportedly released via IWG's efforts, no further discussion or elaboration took place regarding Professor Harris's documentation of the destruction of records held by different U.S. military agencies.

The following is the text of Professor Harris's letter, which can be found online as part of the Congressional Record, or also here. It can also be accessed here.
October 7, 1999
Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC. 
DEAR SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Several Asian American activists organizations in California, and organizations representing former Prisoners of War and Internees of the Japanese Imperial Army, have indicated to me that you are proposing to introduce legislation into the United States Senate that calls for full disclosure by the United States Government of records it possesses concerning war crimes committed by members of the Japanese Imperial Army. I endorse such legislation enthusiastically. 
My support for the full disclosure of American held records relating to the Japanese Imperial Army’s wartime crimes against humanity is both personal and professional. I am aware of the terrible suffering members of the Imperial Japanese Army imposed upon innocent Asians, prisoners of war of various nationalists and civilian internees of Allied nations. These inhumane acts were condoned, if not ordered, by the highest authorities in both the civilian and military branches of the Japanese government. As a consequence, millions of persons were killed, maimed, tortured, or experienced acts of violence that included human experiments relating to biological and chemical warfare research. Many of these actions meet the definition of "war crimes" under both the Potsdam Declaration and the various Nuremberg War Crimes trials held in the post-war period. 
I am the author of "Factories of Death, Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932–45, and the American Cover-up" (Routlege: London and New York; hard cover edition 1994; paperback printings, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999). [Note: a revised edition was published in 2002 - ed.] I discovered in the course of my research for this book, and scholarly articles that I published on the subject of Japanese biological and chemical warfare preparations, that members of the Japanese Imperial Army Medical Corps committed heinous war crimes. These included involuntary laboratory tests of various pathogens on humans—Chinese, Korean, other Asian nationalities, and Allied prisoners of war, including Americans. Barbarous acts encompassed live vivisections, amputations of body parts (frequently without the use of anesthesia), frost bite exposure to temperatures of 40–50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, injection of horse blood and other animal blood into humans, as well as other horrific experiments. When a test was completed, the human experimented was "sacrificed", the euphemism used by Japanese scientists as a substitute term for "killed." 
In my capacity as an academic Historian, I can testify to the difficulty researchers have in unearthing documents and personal testimony concerning these war crimes. I, and other researchers, have been denied access to military archives in Japan. These archives cover activities by the Imperial Japanese Army that occurred more than 50 years ago. The documents in question cannot conceivably contain information that would be considered of importance to "National Security" today. The various governments in Japan for the past half century have kept these archives firmly closed. The fear is that the information contained in the archives will embarrass previous governments. 
Here in the United States, despite the Freedom of Information Act, some archives remain closed to investigators. At best, the archivists in charge, or the Freedom of Information Officer at the archive in question, select what documents they will allow to become public. This is an unconscionable act of arrogance and a betrayal of the trust they have been given by the Congress and the President of the United States. Moreover, ‘‘sensitive’’ documents—as defined by archivists and FOIA officers—are at the moment being destroyed. Thus, historians and concerned citizens are being denied factual evidence that can shed some light on the terrible atrocities committed by Japanese militarists in the past. 
Three examples of this wanton destruction should be sufficiently illustrative of the dangers that exist, and should reinforce the obvious necessity for prompt passage of legislation you propose to introduce into the Congress: 
1. In 1991, the Librarian at Dugway Proving Grounds, Dugway, Utah, denied me access to the archives at the facility. It was only through the intervention of then U.S. Representative Wayne Owens, Dem., Utah, that I was given permission to visit the facility. I was not shown all the holdings relating to Japanese medical experiments, but the little I was permitted to examine revealed a great deal of information about medical war crimes. Sometimes after my visit, a person with intimate knowledge of Dugway’s operations, informed me that "sensitive" documents were destroyed there as a direct result of my research in their library. 
2. I conducted much of my American research at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The Public Information Officer there was extremely helpful to me. Two weeks ago I telephoned Detrick, was informed that the PIO had retired last May. I spoke with the new PIO, who told me that Detrick no longer would discuss past research activities, but would disclose information only on current projects. Later that day I telephoned the retired PIO at his home. He informed me that upon retiring he was told to ‘‘get rid of that stuff’’, meaning incriminating documents relating to Japanese medical war crimes. Detrick no longer is a viable research center for historians. 
3. Within the past 2 weeks, I was informed that the Pentagon, for ‘‘space reasons’’, decided to rid itself of all biological warfare documents in its holdings prior to 1949. The date is important, because all war crimes trials against accused Japanese war criminals were terminated by 1949. Thus, current Pentagon materials could not implicate alleged Japanese war criminals. Fortunately, a private research facility in Washington volunteered to retrieve the documents in question. This research facility now holds the documents, is currently cataloguing them (estimated completion time, at least twelve months), and is guarding the documents under ‘‘tight security.’’ 
Your proposed legislation must be acted upon promptly. Many of the victims of Japanese war crimes are elderly. Some of the victims pass away daily. Their suffering should receive recognition and some compensation. Moreover, History is being cheated. As documents disappear, the story of war crimes committed in the War In The Pacific becomes increasingly difficult to describe. The end result will be a distorted picture of reality. As an Historian, I cannot accept this inevitability without vigorous protest. 
Please excuse the length of this letter. However, I do hope that some of the arguments I made in comments above will be of some assistance to you as you press for passage of the proposed legislation. I will be happy to be of any additional assistance to you, should you wish to call upon me for further information or documentation. 
Sincerely yours,
Professor of History emeritus,
California State University, Northridge
In a March 30, 2007 Memorandum for the "Director, US Army Records Management and Declassification Agency" on the matter of "Japanese War Crimes - Record Search at Fort Detrick, Maryland", William H. Thresher, Chief of Staff at US Army Medical Command, referenced the Harris charges of destruction of records at Fort Detrick. Thresher was responding to a request from the Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) "for information concerning records of interest to the Nazi/Japanese War Crimes Interagency Working Group (IWG)."

It is worth noting that this memorandum was written even as the IWG had just finished its declassification project.

Thresher wrote, "In early 2007, the USAMRIID [US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] performed a thorough search for any remaining responsive records, including records regarding Unit 731, and found no records." The search included "the Commander and other senior personnel."

Thresher then turned to allegations by Professor Sheldon Harris concerning possible destruction of records at Fort Detrick. He reviewed the controversy:
Professor Harris, in his letter, dated 7 October 1999, stated that the recently-retired Public Information Officer at Fort Detrick (Mr. Norman Covert) told Professor Harris that upon retiring he was told to get rid of documents relating to Japanese war crimes. 
The USAMRMC [US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command] is unaware of any authority at Fort Detrick or the USAMRMC requesting destruction of any responsive original records, or of copies of Fort Detrick or USAMRMC documents not previously provided to Dugway or NARA.
Professor Harris died on August 31, 2002. To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has written about his 1999 letter to Senator Feinstein detailing his charges about the destruction of records by US military officials. If it were up to the powers that be, this would be an example of government censorship lost in the whirlwind of moving events. But it seems an episode worth reviving, if nothing else as a documentation of an important episode in the history of exposing U.S. and Japanese biological warfare history.

A few years back, Norman Covert confirmed to this author his contention that his commanding officer at Ft. Detrick was the superior officer who told him to destroy the weapons.

And there the controversy stands to this day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Talking Dog interviews author of "Cover-up at Guantanamo"

[The following was graciously allowed for reprint by The Talking Dog, who has interviewed many key figures who have been fighting the U.S. use of torture for years. His website is a special go-to place for those who want to know what this fight really looks like. His many interviews can be accessed here. Key interviews include those with Gitmo attorneys Brent Mickum, Candace Gorman, Michael Ratner, and Joshua Denbeaux, as well as physicians Dr. David Nicholl and Dr. Steven Miles, and former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, among many other worthy individuals. His interviews are informed and always of interest.]
Jeffrey S. Kaye is a native Californian is a practicing psychologist in San Francisco, Calif. Dr. Kaye has a bachelors degree from the University of California, Berkeley and he received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley. After working as a cab driver, an assistant casting director, a proofreader, a typographer, and assorted odd jobs, he settled down and became a clinical psychologist in his middle age. He still has a full-time psychotherapy practice in San Francisco, California. Dr. Kaye also taught Adult Development and History and Systems of Psychology to Bay Area graduate students in psychology. For 10 years he worked part time with Survivors International, conducting both assessment and psychotherapy of torture victims. After 9/11, he became involved with other psychologists in protesting the use of psychological expertise in the CIA and Department of Defense interrogation programs, which have widely been exposed as including torture and other forms of cruel treatment of prisoners. "Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri" is his first eBook. He has published articles on torture and other subjects at Truthout, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Alternet, and other online websites, and he maintains the blog "Invictus" and the website Guantanamo Truth (where he posts the results of his Guantanamo related Freedom of Information requests and key source documents.)

On March 25, 2017, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Kaye by email exchange.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on 9/11?

Jeffrey Kaye: I was living in San Rafael, California at the time. I’m not a very religious or superstitious person, but on the morning of 9/11 I was awoken around 6pm with a nightmare. People and cars and cows (!) and other items were falling down out of the sky. It was bizarre, and scary enough it work me up. I felt creepy, but shook it off as I had to start the day: get my daughter ready for school and myself ready for the commute to work in San Francisco. I never watch TV in the morning, nor did I listen to the news in those days. But after I dropped my daughter off, I got on the freeway and quickly was in the typical commute crawl. Out of the corner of my eye I could see people making strange faces. One woman had her mouth agape in shock. I turned on the news and heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and Pentagon. This was before the buildings had collapsed. I rushed home to watch some on TV, and then headed into work late. I figured my daughter was safe at school, and my wife would pick her up later. I remember thinking, this is so strange, so bizarre. I thought about my dream. I imagined that thousands were dead (after the buildings collapsed). It all felt unreal. Amazingly, in my psychotherapy practice that day, not one person mentioned the terror attack. That added to the surreal atmosphere of the day.

The Talking Dog: Your book, "Cover-Up at Guantanamo," is a detailed takedown of the official story surrounding three prisoners suicides-while-in- detention-at-Guantanamo, in three separate incidents spanning a five year period (or, if you like two suicides and a "bonus" chapter on a third), noting, among other things. deliberate decisions to turn off the detainee data management system moments after the discovery of a suicide, documents (and forensic physical evidence, such as fabric that may have been implicated in the death) missing, or apparently deliberately suppressed, from investigative records, along with the usual overarching redactions and secrecy that define Guantanamo as the default. Before we take them on, I have a couple of pet theories I'd love to hear your take on. As you know, the first alleged suicides at Guantanamo, three simultaneous, took place on the night of 9 June 2006 (reported on 10 June 2006), four and a half years into the operation of the prison. By then, the Supreme Court opened up the possibility of habeas and lawyers were running around Guantanamo. It was also obvious that so called actionable intelligence from non-high value prisoners was a fantasy, and that the bulk of GTMO prisoners were, as feared, taxi drivers and farmers and missionaries and otherwise people of no "intel" value, actionable or otherwise. Oh-- Dubya got reelected as well. That said, I wonder if, to be brutally blunt about it, the compelling need to keep prisoners alive kind of dissipated. Further, I wonder if, by 2006, the staff that rotated into GTMO, particularly in the medical and psychological areas, was, well, just less top-notch (if that term ever applied) than staff earlier, and this was a factor in the "suicides". While Joe Hickman believes that those first three deaths were homicides, and he's likely right, I posit whether it could be gross negligence homicide rather than intentional murder... In other words, let's hypothesize that some sick game of dry-boarding for example which earlier would have been stopped well before the edge of death, by '06 could be pushed just a few seconds or inches further...just a little less quality control... It was less of a "catastrophe" as it were, if GTMO prisoners died on site. Can you comment on any of that? I'd also like to toss out an "Occam's Razor" explanation: after years and years of extreme boredom (even boredom at having to inflict the sort of abuse they were ordered to do), prison and medical staff just suffered periodic breakdowns in doing their jobs-- they just fell asleep at the wheel, whether of keeping contraband out or watching prisoners on schedule and so forth or taking steps to prevent suicides. Can you comment on any of this?

Jeffrey Kaye: It’s worth remembering at every stage that so much has been shrouded in secrecy, that we really don’t know. I think Joe Hickman is right and the three prisoners in 2006 were murdered. It may have been “accidental,” but I don’t think so in their case. After the first died, there should have been some concern by interrogators, or whoever was torturing these prisoners, about what they were doing. But three died, and there was more than one trip in and out to Camp No. Why were these detainees given disorienting drugs (at least one was tested for mefloquine)? Were they dryboarded, or was it even worse than that. The same goes for one of the prisoners whose death I examined, Abdul Rahman Al Amri. He was likely murdered himself. In fact, it seems he was executed (hands tied behind his back, a former compliant prisoner, perhaps even an informant, turned hunger striker, his file was very heavily redacted, with hundreds of pages withheld).

Now, we know (or believe we know) that there were many suicide attempts in the first few years at Guantanamo, or at least there were actions attributable to self-harm. Did the strenuous efforts to prevent suicide wane as the years wore on? Perhaps. There is the possibility that those who were difficult mental health cases (Al Hanashi, Al Latif, and Inayatullah) were killed or allowed to die by withdrawal of care or allowance of self-harm as a result of counter-transference hatred among guards and/or clinical staff. I remember I volunteered at San Francisco Suicide Prevention in the early 1990s. I read about a case where two suicide prevention workers in Sacramento were so incensed and fed up with a “chronic” suicide caller that they drove to his house and tried to strangle him. When I brought up the subject in my own agency, no one wanted to discuss it. I thought that strange. But then later I learned that hostility towards difficult patients is real problem in hospitals. The way Guantanamo was staffed, possibly with poorly trained and less talented staff, but more importantly, with heavy turn-over and therefore poor institutional memory and lousy esprit de corps. I also believe, due to the fact medical decisions were subordinated to military or intelligence officials’ needs, there was a deterioration in the culture of caring that took place. I saw some nurses from the Behavioral Health Unit at Guantanamo speak at the 2007 American Psychological Convention. They seemed like automatons to me, as they lied about the pronounced evidence of personality disorders and the lack of PTSD at Guantanamo.

The Talking Dog: I'd like to acknowledge the nine prisoners who died in custody at Guantanamo. I haven't been able to find the descriptions of all nine men in the same place, so I'll try to put it together in this question. Let's do a quick overview of the ultimate "forever prisoners"- the nine men whose life ended as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Ali Abdullah Ahmed (Salah Ahmed al-Salami) (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Yasser Talal al Zahrani (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]

Abdul Rahman Ma'ath Thafir al Amri (May 30, 2007) suicide [by hanging- hands tied behind]
Abdul Razak or Abdul Razzak Hekmati (December 30, 2007) [cancer]

Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi (June 1, 2009) suicide [self-strangulation]

Awal Gul (February 2, 2011) [cardiac arrest]
Inayatullah, born Hajji Nassim (May 18, 2011) suicide [details not disclosed, but found "hanging by bedsheet"]

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (September 8, 2012) suicide [apparent drug overdose]

I'm going to defer to Joe Hickman on Ahmed, al-Utaybi and al-Zahrani (my interview with Joe is here) and I think it's fair to say that your book is the definitive work on the controversial deaths of al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif. I'm wondering if you have done any research or have any particular take on the other three deaths-- Inayatullah, so mysterious that we're usually not even given a cause of death besides "suicide" (I suppose "hanging by a bed sheet" is an explanation), or the cardiac arrest of a man my age [I was born in 1962] on an elliptical machine of Awal Gul, something that his family believes is a cover-up of something more insidious, and of course, the death of a 68 year old prisoner Abdul Razzak Hekmati by cancer while undergoing treatment? Whether or not you have specifically researched the other deaths, can you comment on overall media reaction to them, including international media, and can you comment on what I'll call the extraordinarily helpful irony that, but for their deaths, we might be looking at 50 prisoners still at GTMO rather than 41 (even though a couple of the "suicides" were "cleared for transfer")? Also, with respect to the other deaths by suicide, including those you profile, in an inordinate number of cases, the prisoners somehow managed to tie their own hands before hanging themselves... is that common in suicides, and does that not dramatically make one question whether, at minimum, these were "assisted" suicides [if not, as Joe Hickman suggests, murders]? Also, please comment on "the suicide note" of al-Hanashi.

Jeffrey Kaye: I have indeed looked briefly at the deaths of Awal Gul and Inayatullah/Nassim. Both raise questions even upon a superficial look. I have not had the time to really dig into their deaths. The timeline around Gul’s death seems suspicious. And how did Inayatullah/Nassim ever get past guards to carry a blanket into the recreation yard, which he supposedly used then to hang himself? It’s not like you can hide a blanket!

The media reaction to the deaths has for the most part been awful. Harpers did open up their pages to Hickman and Scott Horton. But when in 2010 the story got an National Magazine Award there was significant growling from the rest of the media. Most amazing, to me, was the tirade of abuse coming from the pages of Adweek, an advertising industry stalwart. That must have thrown editors into a frenzy, with what I believe was practically explicit warning to stay away from these kinds of story, derogated as irresponsible conspiracy-mongering. From that time forward, you did not see stories about the deaths at Guantanamo. A year earlier, Al Hanashi’s death had garnered a good deal of attention. But there was, except for myself, no follow-up. It was as if marching orders had been given. Major journalists who had worked on the torture story – Mark Benjamin at Salon, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker – were either condemnatory of the Harpers piece, or silent.

In general, the press does not attempt to look beyond the official story at Guantanamo, and this is especially true when it comes to the deaths at Guantanamo. I’ve never seen the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, for instance, question the government narrative around any of these deaths, or at least I’ve seen nothing in print. I tried to get people interested in the fact I discovered a government meeting in February 2002 where the deaths of early arrivals at Guantanamo, from “battlefield wounds,” was casually discussed, even after I verified with the government official that he had in fact been told of such deaths. It was as if such evidence fell like sterile seeds onto a hard, barren rocky and soilless field. I write about that in my book, too.

You ask about the tying of hands in the case of four of the suicides. Uniquely, Al Amri’s hands were tied behind his back. The three 2006 prisoners found dead had hands bound in front, and some sort of masks on their faces, not to mention rags stuffed down their throats. None of this seems natural. The government alleges that the 2006 deaths were really a form of Al Qaeda mass suicide, conducted in a ritualistic manner as a form of “asymmetric warfare.” They are totally silent about Al Amri, even seemed to try and hide the circumstances of his death. I did some research on whether hands tied behind the back was a typical finding in suicide cases. No, it is rare. Apparently it can be done. But the authorities I consulted said that you would have to take seriously the possibility also of foul play. I see no indication that government investigators ever considered such a possibility. Indeed, in Al Amri’s case, actual evidence was thrown away or destroyed.

Al Hanashi’s so-called suicide note written on the last day of his life indicated that he was tired of living because of the prospect of abuse of the Koran and Islam in general, and the threat to turn the psychiatric unit at Gitmo over to harsher forms of discipline. He also that very day been pointedly rejected by a leading medical provider when he complained of being tortured. All of this could have led to a decision to kill himself. But as I show in my book, the means by which he killed himself, if he did so by himself, came from unauthorized access to materials he should not have had. Meanwhile, an earlier document, written about a month before, suggested he had consulted with Islam authorities inside Guantanamo and they had said suicide was acceptable to God under the conditions they were in. Internally, Guantanamo officials told medical personnel that Al Hanashi was on some sort of directed suicide list. Certainly Al Hanashi had indicated a wish to die and made multiple suicide attempts in the weeks and months leading up to his death. The “suicide note” never indicates that he was going to kill himself that very day, so I don’t think we can call it a suicide note strictly speaking.

The Talking Dog: One subject I found of interest was the crazy weight fluctuations you have described from the available unredacted records-- how a prisoner might go from, say, a thin 130 lbs. to Auschwitz survivor level of 80, sometimes even, 70 lbs. in a matter of weeks, and then back. You have noted a few possible explanations for this, including deliberate withholding of food in an effort to break the men or otherwise psychologically control them as part of broader psychological experimentation and torture, force-feeding, including pumping detainees up with fluids,hunger striking, or of course, mis-recording, whether as a result of outright negligence or incompetence in weighing or recording or for some more deliberate purpose, You hinted at it in your book, but do you have your own working theory on what the hell was going on with these wildly disparate weight readings?

Jeffrey Kaye: I know there have been some in the medical and legal community who have examined this issue. I’m not at liberty to discuss their research. Thus far it has not been published, and I’m not certain it ever will be. I’ve shown that some of the weight fluctuations seem almost impossible to believe. I’m not sure it’s even physically possible to gain 30 or 40 pounds in a matter of days. The forced-feeding is abusive, it goes without saying. They certainly didn’t want a Gitmo version of Bobby Sands on their hands.

The primary misunderstood fact about Guantanamo was that it was a facility for experimentation. Top Pentagon brass referred to it themselves as a “Battle Lab in the War on Terror.” Later this embarrassed them and they tried to suppress that fact, even redacting the term in a FOIA document I received. But I was able to cross-check that document with a quote from it in the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, and successfully appeal that redaction.

The reference in the book is to a decades-old meeting of CIA and military-linked health scientists, one of whom, Josef Brozek, who conducted something called the Minnesota Starvation Study in 1944-45, considered then and even now as the definitive study on human starvation and semi-starvation. At a psychiatry symposium on “forceful indoctrination’ in 1956, Brozek told those present, who included the former Chief Medical Officer at Alcatraz, that differential offerings and withdrawals of food, combined with “other forms of deprivation and insults” can induce a “breakdown” in most people. I truly believe the U.S. government analyzed everything that happened at Guantanamo, and that food, even the forced feedings and the prisoners’ own hunger strikes, were used to collect data in their insatiable effort to gain knowledge about human beings so they can be controlled. It is a fantasy that they will ever achieve total control, but that doesn’t keep them from trying.

The Talking Dog: Let's talk about record-keeping, such as the mysterious disappearance of the seemingly omniscient "DIMS" (Detainee Information Management System) that invariably failed right around the time of any prisoner deaths. In particular in the case of al-Hanashi, it seems an order (from NCIS? Or was it Langley, VA?) came down to stop making recordings in a DIMS system whose instructions included " "Relevant observations" of detainee behavior to be recorded include requests for copies of the Koran; refusals to let their cell be searched; refusal of a meal; visits by non-block personnel; and anything deemed a "significant activity."" And something near and dear to both of us professionally, I suppose, forensic records- in this case, criminal, psychological, medical and so forth... even in the redacted form you received some of them, there was left a great deal to be desired. You also noted, that even with "DIMS' in place, there was an apparent false entry concerning a headcount concerning the three simultaneous 2006 "suicides." Please comment on this, and if you have had a chance to observe other military records, or in the civilian context, can you compare and contrast with what is clearly endemic -- somewhere between "lapses of protocol" and outright deliberate cover-up, quite probably criminal in nature?

Jeffrey Kaye: The DIMS system did not fail. It was deliberately sabotaged in the case of al Hanashi, as you note– ordered turned off – and manipulated with false information in other cases. In the case of Al Latif, evidently the failure was to enter necessary data, in other words, a human failure, if indeed it was a failure and not a deliberate obfuscation of evidence.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you an opinion as to the legality of such shenanigans, as I am not legally trained. The only contemporary documents I have experience with are medical records and reports, as well as psychotherapy notes. I also have experience looking at government documents of various sorts, but I don’t believe I have seen anything to match the situation with the DIMS. It would be as if a bank had its security monitoring systems turned off just as a major hack was taking place and money stolen. In this case, men’s lives were stolen from them.

I think your readers and the common man would hear about all this and think, where there’s smoke there’s fire. This kind of obvious destruction of or tampering with records, or the creation of records, is sadly nothing new. We have the example of the destruction by the CIA of the torture videotapes. Over 40 years ago, just as the revelations around the CIA’s notorious MKULTRA program was taking place, the CIA destroyed massive amounts of documents related to that program. No one was prosecuted or indicted for that. Back in 1999, a U.S. academic told Congress that documents he was seeking about the U.S. biowarfare program and its collaboration with the World War II Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 and similar operations were being destroyed upon his inquiry. The charge was entered in the Congressional Record, and helped lead to the passing of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act a few years later, and the declassification of the documents. But no one was held to account for what was destroyed.

Of course, I believe the destruction of records in a criminal case, especially a case of possible murder, would, you’d think, carry even greater penalties and merit greater attention from authorities. But it didn’t, although my book does document an internal investigation by NCIS into the turning off of DIMS in the al Hanashi case. That investigation, however, went nowhere, or its findings were covered-up.

The Talking Dog: You are, of course, a practicing psychologist. In that light, can you describe some of the stresses (or stressors) these men were under-- we can talk about the three men [al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif] you have profiled, and then talk about the more general "treatment" that men at Guantanamo have been, and as far as we know, still are subjected to. Americans, being on the whole, not very imaginative (or perhaps this is just what the media tells them) generally assume that "torture" has to mean "waterboarding" or some overt act that, say, Torquemada might have employed during the Inquisition, rather than, oh, sleep deprivation, or "stress positions," or constant cell moving, or denial of dignity or indefinite detention itself or any of the other "degrading treatment" that, along with torture, is barred by international and domestic law (including treaty). So... bottom line it, please for the three guys your book discusses, and then, as a practicing psychologist, describe the likelihood that such treatment might result in suicide attempts.

Jeffrey Kaye: The autopsy report for Mohammad al Hanashi stated that he suffered from “adjustment disorder, anti-social personality disorder and stressors of confinement." What did the military mean by “stressors of confinement”? They do not say, but it can only mean the stressors of an imprisonment that was precisely calculated to break down men psychologically. This was done by applying the formula of DDD – Debility, Dependency, and Dread. This form of torture was codified in a 1950s article by famous U.S. psychologist Harry Harlow, CIA-linked psychiatrist Louis Joylon West, and another researcher. By debility, they meant the physical weakening of the prisoner.

We’ve already discussed starvation and differential food intake. Other major factors inducing physical weakness included solitary confinement, forms of sensory deprivation and sensory overload (loud music, strobe lights), constant lighting or deprivation of light, exposure to cold, use of drugs, beatings, sleep deprivation, forced exercise, and stress positions. This is likely not a definitive list. By dread, of course they mean induction of fear. This was done by threats to life, to the life and safety of family members, threats of physical harm, use of the sanctioned Army Field Manual technique, used even today, of “Fear Up,” manipulation of phobias (as determined by psychologists), and again, likely more. The whole idea, you see, is to break the prisoner’s sense of self by an attack on the body, its autonomic nervous system, and its sense of personal self and connection to the world in order to produce total dependency, the third D, in the prisoner for purposes of “exploitation.”

By “exploitation,” the CIA and Pentagon mean not only the gathering of information, but the use of prisoners for other purposes as well: as experimental subjects, as informants, as propaganda tools in show trials.

But the government had one problem. Individuals exposed to these “stressors of confinement” experienced intolerable pain via the induction of such breakdown. Some, many turned to self-harm to reduce that pain, even at the expense of their own lives. Government documents speak to a rash of suicide attempts in the early years at Guantanamo. Government psychiatrist Elspeth Ritchie, who later gave talks on the neurological effects of mefloquine, and also did government assessments of detainees at Guantanamo, was supposedly sent to Guantanamo in late 2002 to deal with a spate of suicide attempts or “gestures” there. Ritchie later was involved in the training of psychologists and other mental health professionals in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams used to assist interrogators and Guantanamo camp officials. Even later yet, she became chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health. I believe she is now retired.

In clinical work, each person’s situation is unique and their response to environmental stressors, even torture, is also individual to them. Not everyone tortured gets PTSD or tries to commit suicide. People also try to commit suicide, or succeed in doing so, who have never been tortured or experienced extreme environmental insult or trauma.

In the case of the Guantanamo detainees who died by purported suicide, all we can do is look at the evidence we have. In the case of the three detainees who died in 2006, there is no evidence that they were suicidal prior to their deaths. Even the so-called suicide notes were not really suicide notes.

In the case of the 2007 death of Al Amri, the government has chosen to withhold hundreds of pages of documents from the NCIS investigation into his death. What little information we have is contradictory. There’s a possibility that he was in poor health, and that might have inclined him, along with torture and “conditions of confinement,” to have considered suicide. Additionally, we know there’s a good likelihood that he, along with 2006 “suicide,” Ali Abdullah Ahmed, were administered mefloquine for reasons having nothing to do with malaria or prevention of malaria. Mefloquine is a controversial antimalarial drug that has been documented to cause extreme neurological and psychological side effects, including suicidal behavior. Both Al Amri and Ahmed were tested for the presence of mefloquine in their systems. This was not a routine lab test.

I think my book adequately documents the persistent suicidal behaviors and thoughts of both Al Hanashi and Al Latif. They suffered greatly and were certainly depressed. It is also certain that their conditions were caused by or exacerbated by mistreatment at Guantanamo. We don’t know the full extent of the harm caused, and we don’t know if their suicides were truly spontaneous. I make a case that they were allowed to happen. In that case, we have murder by medical negligence, or by clever design. I think one would need to see the full panoply of evidence as presented in my book and the documents I published to judge for oneself if that conclusion is merited.

I’d like to add some convergent evidence to my own findings. In a recently released 2012 psychiatric assessment of the purported USS Cole bomber, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, held at Guantanamo since 2006, after years of torture in CIA black site prisons, Dr. Sandra Crosby stated lacked “appropriate mental health treatment at Guantanamo.” Dr. Crosby said that Al Nashiri’s medical and psychiatric care was “woefully inadequate to his medical needs.” She found that Guantanamo medical professionals, including those in mental health care, were instructed not to inquire into the basis of his mental distress, and to ignore protestations of torture. They misdiagnosed Al Nashiri to cover-up the real nature of his condition and provide stigmatizing diagnoses, like Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (See PDF page 129)

The Talking Dog: Your book observes that, certainly with the three suicides you profile, that there was "contraband" in the cells (be it in general population camps, or in the "Behavioral Health Unit", a euphemism if not oxymoron), including sheets or underwear one could hang himself with, razors to cut said sheets (or self) or drugs, and then let's juxtapose that with monitoring of cells, supposedly by camera and direct visual observation. Both from the documents you have obtained, people you've talked to, and your own surmise, what do you think was going on? In particular, I'm wondering if we're looking at "gross negligence," "failure to follow standard operating procedures," intentional-assisted-suicide (i.e. homicide) or something else?

Jeffrey Kaye: I believe that certain detainees were singled out for harm. The reasons are murky. I’d guess that the guards were responsible, if not at least complicit. Al Hanashi and Al Latif were in particular considered troublesome and problematic. It was also believed Al Hanashi was some kind of leader or spokesperson for the other detainees. I think they were hated by medical and guard personnel, if not command officials, and their deaths were therefore facilitated. In other words, it was known they were suicidal, or that they could be driven to suicidal desperation, and the means were provided to them. Can I prove it? No, although there is plenty of circumstantial evidence. There is also testimony that such contraband material was provided to detainees, as well as testimony that in the case of Al Hanashi, Al Amri and Al Latif that they had materials or drugs that could be used to harm themselves, materials that were heavily monitored and controlled by prison authorities. Speaking of monitoring, there is also the fact these detainees were under constant surveillance and searched repeatedly. How they found time to render complex modes of killing themselves without being observed is a mystery to all who have looked at these cases.

The Talking Dog: Let's talk about Col. John Bogdan, whose command pretty much precipitated the most widespread (in terms of percentage of participation) of the many hunger strikes that broke out at GTMO-- a hunger strike so widespread that it captured the public imagination and made Barack Obama start to pick up the pace of periodic reviews and prisoner transfers out. In particular, we're talking about the context of Latif, as it seems that Bogdan wanted him punished for his behavior issues, and so, notwithstanding that he should have been on suicide watch and probably had pneumonia, was transferred back to a camp 5 solitary cell, rather than held in a medical facility. Bogdan seemed unusually martinet-like, even for an unpleasant place like Guantanamo. We should note that, interestingly, no prisoner actually died during the tenure of the notorious Gen. Geoffrey Miller. But Bogdan in particular seemed hellbent on making life hell for his prisoners, and while he may have been at an extreme, I think other commanders-- and you note at least one psychologist who evidently walked away from a prisoner/patient in the middle of a consult-- had their role in the prisoner suicides. Can you comment on this (what I call "personnel = destiny")?

Jeffrey Kaye: If I read your question correctly, you are asking about the personal culpability of individuals at Guantanamo for the abuse and the deaths. Bogdan is a convenient, if not an apt, scapegoat. He made the decision to move Latif to a cell as punishment, even as he was warned by others that Latif was going to commit suicide. Oddly, Bogdan says he didn’t get the high priority email warning him, but says even if he did, it wouldn’t have changed his mind. Bogdan ran the prison with a heavy hand, and his insensitivity to the distress of the prisoners is clear in what we have of the documentation. But I say Bogdan is a scapegoat, because while he is certainly responsible at least in part for Latif’s death, I’d lay the responsibility more at the hands of the doctors and medical personnel who cleared Latif for transfer out of the detainee hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. And Bogdan needed that clearance to transfer Latif. These doctors should have seen the signs, for instance, of pneumonia. They also know how distressed Latif was, and how mentally ill he was. They were in charge of watching that medications were actually taken and not hoarded or disposed of. It was even known that Latif was being sent back to a cell where he had previous bad experience causing significant mental distress. Apparently there was some kind of generator hum or something causing constant noise that set him on edge. Interestingly, the high-value prisoner, former CIA prisoner Ramsi bin al Shibh has also protested the use of vibrations and noise in his cell at Camp 7 at Guantanamo. A recent article at the Miami Herald described his accusation of the use of noise and vibrations as a form of sleep deprivation, as it makes it very hard to concentrate or sleep. Did something similar happen to Latif? It seems very possible. Other detainees as well have complained about such sensory disturbance.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on the quality of care-- both medical care in general and mental health care in particular-- as you have observed it at Guantanamo, whether from the records you have seen, anecdotal evidence, or otherwise? I note that I have some familiarity with the case of Candace Gorman's client al-Ghizzawi, who, at various times, was told he might have tuberculosis, AIDS, assorted liver problems and other ailments, but who, thankfully, was released before GTMO killed him.

Jeffrey Kaye: I think I have touched on this point already. I will only add that the quality of care at Guantanamo was fatally compromised by the secret nature of the prison, and the subordination of medical care to command and intelligence decision-making. Medical records at Guantanamo, despite many complaints and exposure over the years, remain available to investigators. There is no privacy for the “patients” there. Moreover, the diagnoses of patients was also used to stigmatize prisoners, not to accurately assess condition and thereby treatment. How can you have humane care for prisoners in a torture prison? The answer is you can’t. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments of caring by individual providers. Some detainees have testified to that. But these were the exceptions, moments of respite in an inexorable regime of cruelty. The providers involved, by giving themselves over to care, legitimized such cruelty, in my mind. They compromised their ethics and became parties to torture and war crimes, such as illegal experimentation. The academic medical ethics professionals call the problem one of dual loyalty, split loyalty, that is, to the military or CIA and to the canon of medical care. They would like to believe that this divided loyalty could be worked out somehow. But in practice, the individual almost always bows to the coercive authority. In all the years at Guantanamo, we only know of one medical protest, the nurse who a few years ago decided he would not participate in the inhumane forced feedings there. He was threatened with court martial, and while that didn’t happen, his military career was certainly destroyed or fatally compromised.

The Talking Dog: Your book ends on an interesting note that might strike some as discordant, noting a "holdback" by progressives to criticize the handling of GTMO issues by a Democratic Administration, for short-term electoral benefit. I note that [my college classmate!] Barack Obama actually had charge of Guantanamo for about a year longer than George W. Bush did, and unlike Dubya, Obama promised- consistently-- that he would close the prison at Guantanamo (in practice, he really meant move it, but he didn't even manage to do that). In any event, the point, I suppose, is that once Guantanamo ceased to be a partisan issue associated solely with Dubya, overall public interest waned dramatically, as (you noted) no one it seems wanted to risk undermining Democratic electoral chances by criticizing the policy of a sitting Democrat, notwithstanding, of course, that this is exactly how you end up with Donald Trump, and of course, we did. All that said, we're over 15 years into this, and there are 41 poor bastards still there, of whom three are "convicted" of something by the dubious military commissions, another seven charged in the commissions system (including the alleged 9-11 plotters) will probably die before their commission trials are ever completed, five are "cleared for transfer" (good luck, guys) and 26 are "forever prisoners"-- too dangerous, bla bla bla. Its fairly obvious that, at least for the foreseeable future, Trump is such a target rich environment that getting the public imagination focusing on Guantanamo again seems a long-shot. You and I have been interested in this subject a long time, and neither us nor anyone else seems to have come up with a narrative that Americans care about, even though we believe this will be a blemish of historical proportions, like the Japanese internment, for example. And yet... Obviously, your work, and the work of others interested in running down the horrifying truth about prisoner deaths at Guantanamo is essential to establishing "the story." Do you see anything else on the horizon that can alter the present moribund (I swear, Obama said he would close GTMO so many times, most people believe he already did) narrative?

Jeffrey Kaye: Unfortunately I do not. I cannot, however, limit the question of indifference to Guantanamo. What about the pervasive ill treatment of prisoners in U.S.-sited prisons? What about the pervasive racism? The neglect of the homeless? The lack of remorse or moral quandary over the literally millions killed by the U.S. military in my own lifetime?

The record, to be sure, is ambiguous and not one-sided. There is plenty of mistrust and scandal around the record of CIA torture. But it only goes as far as official Washington or the mainstream press of record shapes the boundaries of acceptable scandal. So while the anal rape of prisoners has finally broken through to public consciousness and has been written about, the drugging of prisoners remains something barely mentioned, and even, at this point, pointedly suppressed.

I do believe, as I’ve written, that the entire subject of torture has been subordinated to political concerns: first, the need to present the United States as some kind of beacon of human rights in the world, especially in contrast to its “enemies.” And second, as a club to wield over one’s domestic political opponents. In the latter matter, the Democrats, including most of their so-called progressive supporters, have buried protest over torture and crimes committed by Democratic administrations, and tried to present the issue has one of purely GOP perfidy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Torture is bipartisan. Nowhere is this greater represented than by the total failure of the press and, well, nearly everyone, to ignore the recent UN Committee Against Torture report on the use of torture and “ill-treatment” in the Army Field Manual on interrogation. If such a report was made about Bush or Trump, we’d not hear the end of it. But because it was about activities of the Obama administration, nothing is said or reported. This is criminal and immoral.

The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I should have asked you about but didn't, or anything else the public needs to know on these critically important issues, particularly as we seem to be heading into even darker times of an ignorant, feckless President who wants to fill Guantanamo with "bad dudes" and facilitate torture?

Jeffrey Kaye: I want to mention before I go that I don’t believe all is dark. I don’t want to ignore the many, many people who are incensed by and have acted to stop torture. That includes former detainees, certain members of the armed forces and even the CIA. It especially includes the attorneys for the detainees and the organizations that employ them, including law firms and human rights organizations. Most prominent of the latter include the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve. The attorneys have gone over and over into the heart of the beast in an effort to represent their clients and try to win their trust. Some have come back and been outspoken in their outrage, even as the government puts legal shackles on what they are allowed to say: attorneys such as Candace Gorman, David Remes, David Frakt, Nancy Hollander, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, Shayana Kadidal and many, many others, too long a list to name. There are also the journalists who have kept the issue alive, and the publications that support their work. While I am critical of some of these journalists, and have said so in this interview, I am also grateful to them for attending to the exposure of these crimes. Journalists such as Jason Leopold, Carol Rosenberg, Michael Otterman, Sheri Fink, Bill Morlan, Mark Benjamin, James Risen, Doug Valentine, Greg Miller, Jane Mayer, Charlie Savage and others. The criticism is that some of these journalists have been too quick to accept the government’s limited hangout of events. By limited hangout, I mean that governmental admissions are often too easily accepted as the full narrative, whereas often further crimes are ignored, and the real criminals left off the hook.

The government’s criminal justice system is the worst villain in this tale, as it has failed to do what it is supposed to do, hold government officials responsible for crimes, and the investigation of those crimes. That is one reason I concentrated on the failures of one of those investigatory agencies, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in my book on Guantanamo. If we are going to get to the heart of the suppression of the truth, it should start with a close look at those officially responsible for the search for truth. That includes the need for a full declassification of the reports and associated documents of the Congressional investigating committees that have looked into this issue, none of which have recommended any kind of punishment for anyone involved in crimes they themselves documented.

I finally have to thank you as well, as an excellent example of someone who for years has pursued the truth, and tried to bring what evidence you could to bear before the public to expose these crimes. The interviews you have conducted have been invaluable. It is up to the American people to act. It is part of our historical dilemma that the need for action is acute, while the road to effect such action is unclear or even blocked.

The Talking Dog: I join my readers in thanking Dr. Jeffrey Kaye for that thorough and thought-provoking interview. Interested readers should check out Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri .

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mystery Surrounds Guantánamo Detainee's "Suicide"

[This article was written by Jeffrey S. Kaye and first published on February 18, 2017 at It is reposted here with permission from Truthout. Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.]

In January 2002 the US government started incarcerating "war on terror" prisoners at specially built facilities at the Naval base at Guantánamo Bay. On January 25, 2017, a draft executive order by Trump proposed reversing President Obama's January 2009 executive order to close the Guantánamo detention site.

The Cuba-sited camp was chosen precisely to keep operations there as secret and unaccountable as possible. What happens inside the facility is carefully hidden from public view, and this is especially true when prisoners have died.

Officially, the fifth person to die at Guantánamo was a Yemeni prisoner, Mohammad Saleh Al Hanashi. Authorities ruled his death a suicide, but government documents from the investigation into his June 2009 death, released in May 2015, reveal serious tampering with documentary evidence at the scene, calling into question the legitimacy of the investigation into how he died.

Furthermore, similar tampering seems to have occurred in relation to other detainee deaths. This article will, for the most part, concentrate on the investigation into Al Hanashi's death, following earlier reporting on his case at Truthout.

Files "Missing and Unrecoverable"

According to a partial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, into their investigation into the June 1, 2009, death of Al Hanashi at Guantánamo, key evidence from a computer detainee tracking and database system was ordered suppressed in the very first minutes after his body was discovered.

Numerous documents in the FOIA release relate how in the first minutes after Al Hanashi's body was discovered, an unidentified NCIS agent told Guantánamo staff to turn off the computer database, known as the Detainee Information Management System (DIMS), which monitors all interactions with detainees by camp staff. The question of who ordered this became the object of an internal NCIS investigation that has never been revealed in the press until now.

As NCIS agents discovered that the order came from someone within NCIS itself, an internal investigation was begun to discover why this violation of standard operating procedure took place. No final conclusion concerning this investigation was part of the FOIA release, and while NCIS's FOIA office told this author all materials were in fact released, the NCIS Public Affairs office failed to return multiple requests for further comment about the shutdown of DIMS.

Further irregularities, amounting to evidence of a possible cover-up surrounding Al Hanashi's death, appear to have taken place later in relation to the computer database files from Guantánamo's Behavioral Health Unit, where Al Hanashi was incarcerated at the time of his death. Nearly eight months after a FOIA request was filed on the investigation into his death, a July 23, 2012, NCIS memo titled "Missing Material from Dossier" found, "[a]fter an exhaustive search of all sources," that all the DIMS logs from the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) for the day of and the day after Al Hanashi's death were "missing and unrecoverable." (See Part One, page 5, in documents on this linked page.)
Some idea of what was deleted surfaced in another NCIS investigation report from January 2010 -- written before all the DIMS records for the day of Al Hanashi's death and the day after went missing. In this report, the investigating agent noted that the final entry from the DIMS record on the evening Al Hanashi died was "Received medication" (apparently for sleep). The time was 2118, or 9:18 pm. After that, the DIMS record went silent.

The fact that official notification of the missing computer database logs at Guantánamo came only after a FOIA request was filed with NCIS into its investigation of Al Hanashi's death seems, at least on the surface, suspicious. It suggests that evidence was possibly destroyed after the fact, once deeper journalistic interest in the case was shown.

The missing logs may have included the identity of the person who ordered the DIMS entries turned off, but short of a full-scale investigation with subpoena powers, we will likely never know who that was now.

The NCIS FOIA materials, which are at times heavily censored, discuss other irregularities with the investigation, including the failure to properly maintain the security of evidence central to a verdict of suicide, which was sent by US mail for laboratory analysis.

A Pattern of Suppressing Evidence?

A failure to document key entries into the DIMS computer database during the crucial period surrounding a detainee's death also occurred during the hours surrounding the September 2012 death of another detainee, Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif, who, like Al Hanashi, also died in the BHU at Guantánamo. A special Army investigation, called an AR 15-6 report, cited the failure to make entries into the DIMS record at the time of Latif's death as a violation of camp standard operating procedures.

The Army report said, " ... the lack of entries did make it difficult after the fact to re-create the immediate events leading up to the point that the guards found [Latif] unresponsive."

Was there a pattern to suppress information from Guantánamo's computer surveillance and database system in instances of detainees' deaths?

DIMS is a facility-wide computer logging system used by guards and other Guantánamo personnel to keep copious and detailed notes on every prisoner at the Cuba-based facility. Turning off DIMS entries was a serious violation of Guantánamo procedures. The 2004 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual, released by Wikileaks, has detailed instructions for what should be recorded on DIMS.

Guantánamo authorities watched over detainee behavior very closely. Literally anything of interest was supposed to be recorded in DIMS. The SOP states, "There is always significant activity occurring on a block. There should be no DIMS SIGACT [significant activities] sheet filled out with 'Nothing to report.'"

The manual notes, "How the detainee reacted, observation by other detainees, and other potentially relevant observations will be annotated in DIMS."

"Relevant observations" of detainee behavior to be recorded include requests for copies of the Koran; refusals to let their cell be searched; refusal of a meal; visits by non-block personnel; and anything deemed a "significant activity."

A list of "significant activities" include banging on the cell, "showing reverence to another detainee," displays of "extreme emotion," requesting an interpreter, and harming oneself, among others. The SOP notes, "All data entries via DIMS must be specific and complete."

The system goes back to the early years of the Guantánamo prison. According to a February 17, 2005, statement by then-commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the DIMS system "allows us to keep track of nearly every aspect of a detainee's daily life."

The Army report on Latif's death explained, "DIMS is the primary tool used to track day-to-day information about detainees, and is made up of electronic entries regarding each detainee." Army investigators looking into the Latif case relied on the veracity of DIMS entries as more reliable than eyewitness memories.

Army investigators had much the same to say regarding the DIMS system in an AR 15-6 report on possible Camp Delta SOP violations in the wake of the three Guantánamo "suicides" in 2006.

In late August 2006, the Army's AR 15-6 report was completed. Its section on DIMS was as follows:
The Detainee Information Management System (DIMS) is the primary system for Camp Delta guards to record everything related to detainee and events that occur in the blocks, as well as the primary system employed by the JDG staff in performance of staff duties....

At the cell block level, guards enter log entries into DIMS at the beginning of each shift, and throughout the shift. These entries are reviewed by Platoon Leaders, Sergeants of the Guard, Block NCOs, and sometimes the FGIW officer, before and during the watch. Because DIMS entries are mandatory, continually updated, and thorough, they provide a significant source of information to the events that occurred on 9 June 2006. (See pages SJA 37-39, and SJA 83 in the Army report.)
In a June 22, 2006, NCIS Investigative Action report on the detainee deaths earlier that month -- a "Review of Standard Operation Procedures for Camp Delta, JTF-GTMO" -- the NCIS reporting agent explained that DIMS was "used to annotate everything related to a Detainee.... Items to be recorded in DIMS are 'Meal refusals, conversations, behavioral problems, leadership, prayer leadership, teaching, preaching, rule breaking, coordination with other detainees, movements, requests, everything.'" (See page SJA 237 of Army report.)

The computer database also contained important documents by the guard force (the Joint Detention Group), including a "Daily Block NCO checklist, Random Headcount reports, and Significant Activity Sheets."

Falsified Computer Data in Earlier "Suicide" Cases

The old computer-related adage -- "garbage in, garbage out" -- is worth considering as well when it comes to DIMS entries. So, for instance, and crucially, according to the Army AR 15-6 report on the 2006 "suicides," investigators found that the 2350 (or 11:50 pm) random headcount of detainees the night of the 2006 "suicides" had been "falsely reported" by "an unknown member of the Alpha Block guard team." Such headcounts, recorded in DIMS, "required immediate visual confirmation of detainee [two or three words redacted] in each cell."

According to the Army's investigation, "no guard remembers performing the 2350 headcount." Yet, the report was there in DIMS.

This is a crucial finding of falsification of evidence contemporaneous to events in the 2006 detainee deaths. It should have been a red flag. But Army investigators minimized the fact that someone was lying about the headcount of cellblock prisoners, three of whom would soon be found dead. Instead, they found the falsification of the cellblock census (which is what a random headcount is) to be "insignificant." Their reasoning? Medical teams had concluded the bodies were already dead an hour before the 2350 headcount was made.

Army authorities never asked why the headcount was falsified, or explained how they knew it was.

In fact, the falsified headcount is not "insignificant" at all if one concludes the detainees did not die the way the government said they did. That was the conclusion of former Guantánamo guard Joseph Hickman, who maintains in public press accounts and in his own book, that the detainees were brought back dead or nearly dead from a black site from within Guantánamo.

The problems with DIMS that surfaced in the 2006 "suicides" are worth remembering as we turn back to the situation surrounding the death of Al Hanashi.

The Investigation Into Who Shut Down DIMS

The DIMS database documented the "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How" of what went on in Guantánamo's cell blocks and detainee hospital, and could have provided a contemporaneous timeline of events immediately following the discovery of Al Hanashi's body, free from the vagaries of memory or dissembling.

The shutdown of the detainee database was no small event. The situation surrounding DIMS was so sensitive that no one I approached would speak to me on the record about it.

An NCIS interim report, dated as early as two days after Al Hanashi died, described the shutdown of DIMS at the time of Hanashi's death: "The chronology of events surrounding the death of V/Al Hanashi were not logged into the DIMS system allegedly due to an NCIS agent requesting no additional logging take place." ("V/Al Hanashi," a term used throughout NCIS reports, stands for Victim Al Hanashi.) Without the DIMS records, there is no way to test the timeline or the veracity of the observations of guards or medical personnel.

The order to halt all logging on the Guantánamo computer database apparently came once Al Hanashi was found unresponsive in his cell and before he was pronounced dead. The individual who made the request was "undetermined."

By November 2, 2009, five months after his death, Al Hanashi's case had progressed to initial review by a "Death Review Panel" convened at NCIS's Southeast Field Office in Mayport, Florida. The panel determined "additional investigative leads should be conducted." Besides further documentation from the autopsy and the death scene, the panel tasked investigators to "contact NCIS Special Agent [redacted] and clarify her actions during her initial response to V/Al Hanashi's death and the utilization of the detainee's Information Management System Database (DIMS)."

On January 8, 2010, another "Investigative Action" memo reported on two telephonic interviews with a female NCIS agent at the scene of Al Hanashi's death, presumably the same Special Agent mentioned by the Death Review Panel.

This agent told the investigating NCIS agent "she did not instruct any JTF GTMO personnel to cease making entries into the DIMS pertaining to V/Al Hanashi." Furthermore, investigators said the agent told them "she would not have issued such an order even if she had the authority to do so citing her efforts to encourage documentation."

This same agent added she didn't know of any other NCIS agent who would have given such an order.

Interestingly, there were members of other agencies present at the time. According to the female NCIS agent, when she arrived at the death scene along with another NCIS agent, there were two agents of the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and an FBI Special Agent "already present at the BHU."

The female agent making the telephonic statement to NCIS added that she "doubted that any of the aforementioned personnel would have issues [sic] such a directive."

Who Made the Last DIMS Entry?

Despite all the missing information, in the first weeks of the investigation, NCIS determined via witness interviews of guard and medical staff, as well as "death scene processing," that the investigation had "failed to identify any suspicious circumstances surrounding V/Al Hanashi's death."

Despite the claims of no suspicious circumstances, the mystery over who turned off DIMS entries was never cleared up, even after months, and even years of further investigation.

NCIS investigation reports stated, "None of the aforementioned NCIS Special Agents that processed the death scene and/or initiated investigative actions pertaining to captioned investigation claimed that they instructed any JTF GTMO personnel to cease making entries into DIMS of V/Al Hanashi on 01/02 JUN09. In addition, all the aforementioned NCIS Special Agents advised that they would not have given such an instruction."

And yet, someone gave the instruction.

One person at Guantánamo, whose name was redacted in the FOIA release, was asked to provide the name of the person who made the last DIMS entry for Al Hanashi. This person told the NCIS investigator "he would have to send the request through his chain of command."

Why NCIS thought this individual might know who the last person was to make a DIMS entry for Al Hanashi has not been explained, but the NCIS Agent investigating the matter did tell this person to contact NCIS "if he had difficulty obtaining the requested information."

The FOIA record does not show that any name was ever obtained or reported back to NCIS. There is no record of this request up the chain of command ever being further discussed or acted upon.

Author's Note: All NCIS investigation documents into the death of Al Hanashi, and other government documents referenced in this article are available online at Guantá The material in this article was adapted from the book, Cover-up at Guantánamo: The NCIS Investigation into the "Suicides" of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump Reveals Details of His CIA Torture Program: Isolation, Sleep Deprivation, Shackling, and Slow Starvation

According to the leaked draft version of President Trump's Executive Order, "Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants," Trump's interrogation policy will resurrect a version of the CIA's torture program, such as it existed in July 2007. [See Update at end of posting.] That was when Steven Bradbury wrote an Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] memo to John Rizzo, who was then Acting General Counsel at the CIA.

Trump's draft order rescinds two Executive Orders former President Obama issued in the first weeks of his first term. Section 1 of Trump's order reads:
Revocation of Executive Orders. Executive Orders 13491 and 13492 of January 22, 2009, are revoked, and Executive Order 13440 is reinstated to the extent permitted by law.
Besides formally shutting down the CIA's torture and detention program, and (supposedly) close Guantanamo, Obama's action also withdrew all the OLC memos on interrogation/torture drawn up during the Bush administration.

Bush's Executive Order 13440, "Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency," was issued the same day as a new OLC memo that clarified the legalities as the Bush Administration wanted them to be to prosecute the CIA's interrogation and detention program, which had been under attack from various quarters at that time. EO 13440, where Bush signed off on the supposed compliance of the CIA's program with Common Article 3 protections in the Geneva Conventions, was meant to go with Bradbury's memo. It was a two-fer.

Trump's order would withdraw Obama's own rescissions of the Bush-era CIA torture memos and replace them with Bradley's July 2007 memo. But none of the press accounts have explained what that means concretely. That's a shame, because the 2007 version of the CIA's torture program is very likely what we are going to see under a Trump-era CIA and national security interrogations in general.

The 2007 Bradbury memo gives approval to six "techniques" for the CIA to use in its interrogation of "enemy combatants" who have been denied protections as "prisoners of war" under the Geneva Conventions.

Similarly, even today, prisoners interrogated under the current Army Field Manual, approved by Obama and the US Congress, must adhere to Prisoner of War protections except those the administration deems unprotected or unprivileged. Those detainees are subject to further measures under the Field Manual's Appendix M.

The Appendix M techniques rely on sleep deprivation and solitary confinement or isolation, among other techniques, including the use sensory deprivation by means of goggles that obscure vision. As we shall see, these techniques are drawn from the more intense versions in the 2007 memo.

"Conditions of Confinement"

Both Trump's resurrection of the old OLC-CIA memo and today's Appendix M depend upon the use of isolation and sleep deprivation. For Bradbury, isolation and solitary confinement were relegated to "conditions of confinement." These conditions were promulgated in the CIA's black site prisons, under the advice and consult of the US Bureau of Prisons, and -- incredibly -- with the knowledge of Congressional leadership, at least that of the Senate Intelligence committee.

Bradbury noted in his 2007 memo that he had no need to justify the issues raised in an OLC memo on the subject, "Application of the Detainee Treatment Act to Conditions of Confinement at Central Intelligence Agency Detention Facilities," which he authored in August 2006. The use of isolation and other "conditions of confinement" noted below were taken for granted in the 2007 memo, and we too need to shoehorn them into our understanding of the burgeoning Trump torture program.

The other CIA "conditions of confinement" included blocking the vision of prisoners with some type of opaque material; forced shaving; the use of constant white noise and constant day-night illumination, as well as the practice of leg shackling in the cell.

Given these cruel and inhuman, if not tortuous conditions in and of themselves, the 2007 memo approved six special "techniques," among them slow starvation and "extended sleep deprivation," which amounted to keeping prisoners awake in forced standing positions for up to 4 days straight.

Slow Starvation and Extended Sleep Deprivation

The six "techniques" were as follows: 1) "Dietary manipulation," which means limiting caloric intake to "at least" 1000 calories per day, an amount that would result in slow starvation and malnutrition; and 2) "Extended sleep deprivation," which means up to 96 hours of enforced sleep deprivation, with up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation per month (maybe more if the CIA Director were to ask), and effected via use of shackles, extended standing (despite risk of dangerous edema), and the wearing of "under-garments" (really diapers), to shame the prisoner who cannot hold in urine or feces for up to four days straight.

The other four "techniques" were drawn from the military's torture survival course (known as SERE), and included 3) "Facial hold"; 4) "Attention grasp"; 5) "Abdominal slap"; and 6) "Insult or Facial slap." All of these SERE techniques are meant to demonstrate power over the person interrogated, and to enhance the humiliation and terror of the prisoner.

Taken together, there's no question that this 2007 version of the "enhanced interrogation" program, even though lacking use of the waterboard and confinement boxes, amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the least, and more likely torture as a normative description.

The use of "dietary manipulation" deserves some further consideration. "Semi-starvation" was listed as a variable of "induced debilitation" in Albert Biderman's "chart of coercion", also known as "Biderman's Principles", which was taught to interrogators at Guantanamo by instructors from the Navy SERE program Dec. 2002, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee 2008 report on Detainee Abuse (p. 22 - link is a large PDF).

"Semi-starvation" is a form of inducing debility in a prisoner. According to Dr. Josef Brozek, of "the famous Minnesota Starvation Study," who gave a talk on the subject to CIA-linked scientists back in a 1950s symposium, explained:
"A situation in which food would be offered on certain occasions and would be withdrawn on other occasions would constitute a more intensive psychological stress than food restriction alone. It would result in severe frustration, and would more readily break a man's moral fiber. By combining such a treatment with other forms of deprivation and insult, one could expect eventually to induce a "breakdown" in the majority of human beings."
I have campaigned long and hard against the use of Appendix M and other techniques within the Army Field Manual's main section, especially the techniques "Fear Up," "Futility," "Ego Down," and "Mutt and Jeff." But the proposed Trump interrogation program -- incorporating a more intense and inhumane form of sleep deprivation, forms of sensory deprivation, physical abuse inherent in the "slaps," and the use of shackling and starvation -- is a giant step in the wrong direction.

Nothing describes the reactionary nature of a society more than its use of torture. The US has not rid itself of this evil, and even worse, it has collaborated with allies around the world to perpetuate it, even while formally, it has signed treaties that eschew the crime.

According to news accounts, the Trump administration claims current members of the White House staff did not produce the new draft Executive Order, nor has Trump signed it... yet. Given the strident right-wing course of this administration, I don't think this draft EO is a trial balloon.

The 2007 Bradbury memo derived its authorities, as it explained, from President Bush's September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification (MON), which gave the CIA authorization to run a detention program. That 2001 MON has never been rescinded, and no doubt Trump's attorneys will lean on it, and any new OLC memos considered necessary to firm up the implementation of the new torture program.

I believe the 2007 version of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program will be what the new Trump torture program will look like. What is described above is a first peek. I'm sure we'll hear and know more as time goes on.

Update: Wait! Trump pulls back

A February 4 New York Times article by Charlie Savage reports that the Trump Administration has pulled back on portions of the draft interrogation memo discussed above. In particular, Trump appears to have pulled back on the full revocation of the Bush-era OLC memos, has dismissed a study of reopening the CIA black sites, and withdrawn any reliance on the 2007 Bradbury memo, which would allow for the "extensive sleep deprivation," solitary confinement, and other forms of abuse detailed above. Even so, the revised draft is supposed to contain language that would keep Guantanamo open.

The revised draft itself has not been released, so we'll have to wait to see what Trump actually intends. At the least, it sounds like he wishes to keep Guantanamo open, and accelerate interrogations, which would of course include Appendix M interrogations.

The Savage article says nothing about a provision to review the Army Field Manual. I wouldn't be surprised if an earlier suggestion from the Bush years -- to add a secret portion to the manual -- is recycled.

But even as is, as the UN committee that monitors the international treaty on torture made clear, the US interrogation program under the Army Field Manual provisions still contains cruel, inhumane, and degrading techniques, some of which rise to the level of torture (the UN singled out sensory deprivation actions that can cause psychosis). This remains true even if the press and the "liberal" bloggers don't care to report or comment on it!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

U.S. Court Rules Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners Have No Right to Be Released

I'm very worried this story will be swamped by other news.

Below is a press release put out today by the international human rights organization, Reprieve. It concerns an outrageous ruling by Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia. The ruling stated that long-time Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser cannot be released from Guantanamo, even though a government board said he could, and even though the only reason give is bureaucratic red tape.

The situation for 56-year-old Moroccan Abdul Latif is dire, because while President Obama has been able to release dozens of detainees from Guantanamo in his final weeks in office, the incoming president, Donald Trump, whose inauguration is imminent, has said he wants to keep Guantanamo open, and has criticized Obama for the recent prisoner releases.

According to Reprieve's website, Abdul Latif was "sold for a bounty to the US military in 2002." His original habeas petition for release from detention dates back to April 2005. Can the wheels of justice grind any slower?

According to Kollar-Kotelly's court ruling, last July the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board (PRB), established by President Obama to assess whether or not prisoners at Guantanamo merited ongoing incarceration, “determined that continued law of war detention of [Petitioner] is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

But Abdul Latif's home country, Morocco, was slow in giving the security assurances the U.S. wanted prior to release. Those assurances were made, however, via diplomatic note on December 28, 2016. But Congress requires a 30-day notice prior to release, and that 30-day notice will not be up by the time Trump becomes President. Tough luck for Abdul Latif, says the judge.
Because Morocco’s response came "less than 30 days before the Secretary of Defense would leave office, the Secretary of Defense did not make a final decision regarding the transfer, including whether the requirements of § 1034 of the 2016 NDAA were satisfied and the transfer was in the national security and policy interests of the United States, as he elected to leave that decision to his successor. Resp’ts’ Resp. at 6–7."
That "successor" is likely to be Marine Gen. James Mattis, who is on record as opposing any further Guantanamo releases. Because of red tape, Abdul Latif, who the PRB, a board composed of six agencies — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — cleared for release, may be sealed up as in a tomb in what will now be Trump's Guantanamo.

Even worse, it seems, is what Reprieve calls the "advisory" only aspect of the PRB ruling: "The Executive authority enacting the PRB review process unequivocally states that the PRB’s findings '[do] not address the legality of any detainee’s law of war detention.' Exec. Order No. 13,567 § 8 (2011)" To Judge Kollar-Kotelly, Abdul Latif cannot demonstrate any "invasion of a legally protected interest" in his continued indefinite detention. Maybe this makes some legal sense, but damn if anyone else will find reason in it.

Yesterday, January 18, Reprieve attorneys "filed emergency litigation on Abdul Latif’s behalf, asking the court to relieve the Obama Administration of the burden of the 30-day Congressional notice requirement. This would allow the Administration to release him to Morocco, his home, before President-elect Trump took office."

Emergency Plea to President Obama

But the court said today that the PRB ruling was only "advisory. Reprieve has written an emergency letter today to President Obama asking him to release Abdul Latif immediately.
We have just learned that Abdul Latif's freedom will be denied by government red tape — a result that is as pointless as it is cruel. He was due to be released before you left office, but as the final days of your administration rushed by, we learned he would be left behind....

We learned yesterday that the transfer process has simply been too slow. The Moroccan government just took too long to respond to the United States' resettlement request....

We implore you now to use your enormous power to help a man whose fate is entirely in your hands. A man who your State Department promised to return to his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews in Morocco. We implore you to withdraw opposition to our motion today, and instruct your Defense Department to transfer Abdullatif home to Morocco immediately — a home that affirmatively requests his return. This is a result that all parties seek — Abdul Latif, the United States Government, and the Moroccan Government. Bureaucracy will steal yet more years of our client’s life unless you act now.

Abdul Latif has a stable, loving family eagerly awaiting his return, as noted by the Periodic Review Board, and he will have the ongoing support of Reprieve's Life After Guantánamo program. There is no sense in the United States holding him even a day longer. We beg that you do not leave him stranded in Guantánamo Bay.
Imagine being one week shy of liberty, and then being trapped in a torture hell for life!

Reprieve Press Release
An American court has today ruled that men cleared for release in Guantánamo Bay have no legal right to leave the prison - despite winning in the only viable release mechanism they have.

In declining to enable the emergency release of cleared prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, the DC federal court insisted that Abdul Latif had no right to be released because a win at the Periodic Review Board is merely 'advisory'. This leaves prisoners at Guantánamo stranded: with no charge, no trial and no viable, enforceable path to release.

Abdul Latif, a 51 year-old Moroccan, was unanimously cleared by the Periodic Review Board for transfer home to Morocco on July 11. He remains imprisoned simply because the government's transfer process has been too slow. There is no evidence that the Obama Administration did anything to hurry the process along.

With no release in sight and fearing the worst, Abdul Latif filed emergency litigation last Friday. As part of this litigation, the US government admitted that bureaucratic slowness was the only reason he had not been returned home.

Abdul Latif now faces indefinite detention at the mercy of the Trump Administration.

Reprieve attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said: "It is distressing that we cannot rely on our courts to enforce basic justice and common sense. Everyone wants Abdul Latif to go home—the US government, the Moroccan government, and his family. The government admits that his detention is “no longer necessary,” but will keep him simply because the change in administration has halted their plans—a devastating conclusion for Abdul Latif."

The court's ruling is here. More information about Abdul Latif‘s case and emergency litigation is available on the Reprieve US website, here.

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