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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New DoD Document Claims Implausible Suicide Pact in Deaths of Gitmo Detainees Adnan Latif & Mohammad Al Hanashi

On November 21, 2016, the U.S. military's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) released a "Force Protection Report" and two high priority emails sent to Guantanamo's guard force commander, Colonel John V. Bogdan, concerning the suicide threat of Adnan Farhan Abd Latif, who died in the early morning hours the day following the report and the emails.

Bogdan was in charge of JTF-GTMO's Joint Detention Group and was the Guantanamo official who recommended Latif be sent to a punishment cell in the island prison's Camp Delta, where he purportedly died of an overdose the next day. Latif also was suffering from pneumonia, according to the official Army Regulation 15-6 investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the September 8, 2012 death of Latif, a young brain-damaged detainee from Yemen, so it's strange that Bogdan got a medical release to send Latif to the punishment cell from the Behavioral Health Unit where he'd been held for severe mental illness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The small release of FOIA documents was in response to a request I made a little over three years ago. The full set of documents are posted at (or alternatively, here).

Intelligence Units Informed About Detainee's Suicidality

While still heavily redacted, the FOIA release shows that information about what was thought at the time as a possibly imminent suicide attempt by Latif was shared with Guantanamo's intelligence unit at the "WFC" (Warning and Fusion Cell) and the "HOC" (HUMINT Operations Cell), which provided technical support to intelligence operations at the camp.

Ever since the early days at Guantanamo, intelligence and guard units worked in close collaboration together, but what intelligence value Latif supposedly held is unknown. So far as I know, this new information is the first instance of Guantanamo's WFC and HOC units being reported as associated at all with Guantanamo's internal response to suicidal prisoners.

Even more intriguing, the Force Protection report included a "Collectors Comment" that claimed Latif "was tasked to commit suicide with YSM-078 in June 2009." YSM-078 was Mohammed Al Hanashi, who the "collector" dryly notes "did commit suicide." The supposed suicides of Al Hanashi and Latif, and also the 2007 death of Abdul Rahman Al Amri in a high-security cell, are examined in detail, based on the FOIA release of numerous NCIS and military documents in my book, Cover-up at Guantanamo.

Despite the claim Latif was "tasked" to kill himself, there is no indication in any other record released thus far, or anywhere in DoD's declassified AR 15-6 report on his death, that Latif was supposed to commit suicide with Al Hanashi in 2009, or told to die with the latter, who also was from Yemen. As the NCIS FOIA documents on Al Hanashi's death are quite extensive, it is clear that Al Hanashi did not die according to any plan on a particular date, but had been severely depressed and suicidal for months, if not years. In my reading of the documents, his final act of suicide was either facilitated by Guantanamo personnel, or he was killed and it was made to look like suicide, with the reason for such killing unknown.

A Suicide "Conspiracy"?

It is worth noting that Behavioral Health Unit personnel were evidently told "through various JTF meetings" that Al Hanashi himself was on a "directed suicide list." According to testimony from camp health personnel, Al Hanashi thought he was supposed to die with the three detainees who all supposedly committed suicide (or were killed) in 2006, but this was understood as something he felt guilty about.

Camp authorities back in 2006 characterized the three deaths at that time as a joint suicide, an act of "asymmetric warfare," or alternately as "a 'mystical' belief at Guantánamo that three detainees must die at the camp for all the detainees to be released." (On the latter theory, see also here.)

The testimony of one Guantanamo guard, Joseph Hickman, present in 2006 (who later went on to research what took place), and the work of a raft of researchers, including Scott Horton at Harper's magazine, and Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Denbeaux and a number of his students, have poked significant holes in the Pentagon's story.

A University of California at Davis professor, Almerindo Ojeda, found the deaths were suspiciously similar to the torture of another U.S. prisoner who had endured something called "dryboarding." Even more, an alternative narrative emerged wherein the detainees were subjected to experiments, probably on interrogation or torture, possibly on the use of mefloquine as a torture agent, and died with the deaths then staged to look as suicides.

The work of Horton, Denbeaux, Hickman, et al., was met by a firestorm of criticism calling the charges baseless "conspiracy." Hence, it is no small irony to consider that internally, camp officials told those responsible for the care of suicidal prisoners that there was a conspiracy about to have detainees kill themselves upon the "tasking" of someone or some entity.

Was there really a "directed suicide list"? Were the three "suicides" from 2006 and the deaths of Al Hanashi in 2009 and Latif in 2012 all linked? That appears to be what Guantanamo personnel were told inside the camp. But there's no backup documentation, and the existing evidence for the deaths of all of these prisoners shows no coordination or adherence to any suicide pact. So why would anyone be told otherwise? Also, while DoD officials said the 2006 suicides were part of some pact, they have not publicly said the same about Al Hanashi or Latif.

As could be expected, these new revelations leave us with plenty of questions. What was the role of intelligence in the deaths of these individuals? What was the purpose of contending internally there was a "directed suicide list" but not publicly refer to this in the deaths of two detainees?

All of this leads to the overarching question: what really happened inside Guantanamo? It is sad testimony that when it comes to deaths at that facility, we still don't know the full truth.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

CIA Withholds Key MKULTRA Document Because It Reveals WMD Concepts

Last summer I made a request for a mandatory declassification review, or MDR, of the CIA's 1957 Inspector General report on the "Operations of TSD." TSD is the acronym for the Technical Services Division of the CIA, which was a component of the Agency that fashioned and produced technological apparatus for the clandestine service -- sort of like "Q" in the James Bond movies. The CIA recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of this division.

A few weeks ago, I received the CIA's official rejection of my request. They would not release any portion of the decades old inspector general report -- even though pages from it had been previously declassified and long posted online -- because, in part, it purportedly contained information about "the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source; or... key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction"!

How we (and I use "we" as I am a member of the public, and my request was made on behalf of the public) got to this place, and the realization that CIA has been involved by their own account in the construction of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), is the subject of this posting.

I was motivated to pursue the declassification of this material due to revelations in government documents that the CIA's torture program under Bush and Cheney was in part created with the help of the Office of Technical Services (OTS), which is the modern incarnation of the old TSD. (For awhile, the name had also been the Technical Services Staff.) This chilled me, as I also knew that OTS/TSD was the component within CIA that fashioned its infamous MKULTRA mind-control research. MKULTRA was only one of the programs that was involved with such research, which also included the creation of assassination and disabling devices, behavioral studies of various sorts, research on the effects of drugs, hypnosis, and more. The program had various names over the years, including MKNAOMI, MKSEARCH, MKDELTA, MKOFTEN, MKCHICKWIT, and Project Artichoke, and had direct applications to interrogations.

There were a lot of dirty operations associated with MKULTRA operations, including experimentation upon unwitting subjects, and even the deaths of some victims. Operations were conducted overseas and domestically at home. The Wikipedia page on the subject is not a bad place to start, if you aren't familiar with this subject.

The mainstream and blogging press, as well as human rights circles, were uninterested in pursuing the OTS/TSD link to the CIA's torture program, content to follow the identification of two CIA contract psychologists from the military's SERE program who were linked to construction, promotion and operations of the post-9/11 CIA torture (or "enhanced interrogation") program. I, however, felt the link worth pursuing, and in an effort to better understand the role of TSD in MKULTRA, I asked for the declassification of CIA's own early inspector general report on the program.

Mandatory declassification requests are not the same as FOIA requests. They are subject to different deadlines and bureaucratic rules. The exemptions to departmental or agency declassifications are derived from Presidential Executive Order (EO). The current such EO governing such exemptions for MDRs is Executive Order 13526, "Classified National Security Information," released by President Obama on December 29, 2009. (No doubt a new President Trump will release his own EO on this in months to come, and that EO will supplant Obama's version, just as Obama's replaced that of earlier presidents.)

The CIA raised two objections to my declassification request. The first had to do with supposed threats to reveal human intelligence sources and/or "key design concepts" of WMD. The second objection was even more problematic, from the standpoint of making an appeal. It was based on EO language that states that even when governmental materials are more than 50 years old, they can be withheld by an agency head for whatever reason that person deems necessary! In other words, at least when it comes to requests for declassification based on EO laws, information can be denied for decades basically upon agency head say so.

The denial based on the presence of supposed "key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction" was startling to say the least. For one thing, it demonstrates how plastic the legal concepts of WMD are, and how they can be stretched to accommodate propaganda or in some cases legal or political actions. On the other hand, when it comes to MKULTRA, it reminds us that the CIA was for decades involved in the construction and deployment of some very dangerous materials and concepts. The fact that the parts of the agency involved in that are still involved in interrogation policy and research should give all of us pause. So should the fact that no persons were ever held accountable for the crimes committed under MKULTRA, nor for the admitted destruction of thousands of government documents related to that program. Despite the program's notoriety, there never were any indictments or, so far as we know, governmental accountability.

The mainstream press, the human rights community, and academia have done a disservice to the public (with some rare exceptions) in not reporting fully, nor evidently even pursuing, stories that would probe deeper into the U.S. torture scandal. I understand part of the problem: the U.S. government is still trying to hide material that is decades old, as this latest CIA declassification denial makes clear. But, especially when it comes to the press, it is their job to pursue such information for the greater good of the society. It was with such a principle in mind that I am still seeking exposure of government misdeeds in this area. See for instance how my MDR of the CIA's KUBARK interrogation manual produced new information about the government's historic use of rendition and torture.

Below is the full text of my appeal letter to CIA. It can also be found, with associated materials, at the Muckrock website.
November 27, 2016

Michael Lavergne
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC 20505

Re: Reference No. EOM-2016-01415

Dear Mr. Lavergne,

This is a formal request for appeal of the decision made in regards to my mandatory declassification review (MDR) request (number referenced above) for the 1957 CIA Inspector General Report on “Operations of TSD” (hereafter IG REPORT). In a letter dated November 1, 2016, you wrote, “We completed a thorough search of our records and located material responsive to your request. We have determined that the material must remain classified on the basis of sections 3.3(h)(1) and 3.3(h)(2) of the [Executive] Order [13526] and cannot be released in sanitized form.” I thank you for your prompt response.

In my initial request, filed on August 13, 2016, I asked for “the 1957 CIA Inspector General Report on ‘Operations of TSD,’ wherein ‘TSD’ stands for the CIA division, the Technical Services Division.” I believe the decision to withhold the report, concluding it “cannot be released in sanitized form,” to be incorrect for the reasons adumbrated below.

1) Previous declassification of sections of IG REPORT

I noted in my initial request that a portion of IG REPORT had been declassified previously. CIA released a section of this report, specifically 8 pages long (numbered pages 199-206) in Folder 0000146167 of CIA's MKULTRA FOIA release made a number of years ago. This section of IG REPORT was posted online by the website at URL: (accessed 13 August 2016). An alternate posting online is available online at (accessed November 25, 2016).

2) A History of Declassifications

Besides the portion of IG REPORT identified above, there have been other declassifications associated with similar material. From the 1970s onwards, many declassified documents associated with both TSD and the MKULTRA program were declassified by CIA. A later IG report on the MKULTRA program, involving TSD operations, and dated July 26, 1963, was subject to declassification review per E.O. 12065, which was conducted on 17 June 17, 1981. This 1963 report is also available online at numerous websites. One such URL is (accessed November 25, 2016).

In addition to IG reports, many other documents related to MKULTRA’s history and operations have been declassified over the years. This material has been the subject of numerous books, and, even going back some years, Congressional hearings. The website The Black Vault has posted a complete selection of these documents at the URL: (accessed November 25, 2016).

3) Applicable Law

According to EO 13526, Section 3.5(c): “Agencies conducting a mandatory review for declassification shall declassify information that no longer meets the standards for classification under this order. They shall release this information unless withholding is otherwise authorized and warranted under applicable law.”

It is my understanding of your decision that the applicable law precluding the release of IG REPORT, or any portion of that report, is that it “remain classified on the basis of sections 3.3(h)(1) and 3.3(h)(2)” of Executive Order 13526.

The 3.3(h)(1) exemption, which is for documents over 50 years old, states that such exemption is reserved for documents that can “clearly and demonstrably be expected to reveal…. (A) the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source; or (B) key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction.”

Exemption 3.3(h)(2) is reserved for documents that constitute “extraordinary cases.” In such cases, an agency head “may, within 5 years of the onset of automatic declassification, propose to exempt additional specific information from declassification at 50 years.” Such claim of exemption from automatic declassification must be made according to the provisions of section 3.3(j) of the Executive Order, i.e., “[a]t least 1 year before information is subject to automatic declassification under this section…”

The EO continues:
“… an agency head or senior agency official shall notify the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, serving as Executive Secretary of the [Interagency Security Classification Appeals] Panel, of any specific information that the agency proposes to exempt from automatic declassification under paragraphs (b) and (h) of this section.

“(1) The notification shall include:

“(A) a detailed description of the information, either by reference to information in specific records or in the form of a declassification guide;

“(B) an explanation of why the information should be exempt from automatic declassification and must remain classified for a longer period of time; and

“(C) a specific date or a specific and independently verifiable event for automatic declassification of specific records that contain the information proposed for exemption.”

The claim by CIA that IG REPORT cannot be released in toto, i.e., without sanitization, seems highly unlikely in regards to exemption 3.3(h)(1). Sections have already been released, as noted above, with no danger as to whether a “confidential human source or a human intelligence source” were in danger. A 1963 Inspector General report on the same general subject as IG REPORT also was released in more substantive form. Furthermore, it seems unlikely IG REPORT was substantively concerned with identification of human intelligence sources.

Hence, the exemption for released material according to section 3.3(h)(1) of EO 13526 appears to concern “key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction.” Such weapons are defined in U.S. law (18 U.S. Code § 2332a) as any “destructive device” (defined a weapon with a bore diameter of larger than one-half inch propelled by an explosive or propellant, or any “explosive, incendiary, or poison gas [see 18 U.S. Code § 921]); any weapon that “designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors”; “any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector”; or any weapon “designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.”

According to a July 26, 1963 memorandum to the then-director of the CIA from then-CIA Inspector General J.S. Earman, the MKULTRA program was concerned with, at least in part, “the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.” (See quote of the document at URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]). Hence, the apparent role of CIA in the development of weapons of mass destruction appears to be the basis of withholding material from declassification and release some 59 years after the fact.

But the EO language states that the exemption must be because the document would reveal “key design concepts” of such weapons of mass destruction. Given the arguments regarding prior declassifications made above, it seems that whatever exemption regarding “key design concepts” of WMD, or even identification of human intelligence sources, is segregable within IG REPORT, and there is no need to withhold that document in its totality.

Exemption 3.3(h)(2) presents a greater difficulty for this appeal, as it does not give any reason for the agency head to claim the exemption. But whatever those reasons are, they must presented to Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (hereafter ISCAP), along with a description of what information is exempted, and a projected date of declassification. I request that such information be released if IG REPORT is not to be released.

Further, I note that the language of Section 3.3(j) does not suggest the exemption of an entire document, and in fact argues against it. Section 3.3.(j)(1)(a) states the agency head must provide ISCAP “a detailed description of the information, either by reference to information in specific records or in the form of a declassification guide” to such information. This strongly suggests that only some portions of the document will be subject to exemption, not an entire document itself, especially one that is as long as an inspector general report, or one that has already had multiple pages previously declassified.

4) Public Interest

Finally, I argue that the material requested by MDR in this case is in the public interest. Much of the information in IG REPORT is already publicly available. Furthermore, it seems likely that the passage of time has reduced any potential harm from such release.

Nearly 40 years since the public revelations concerning the CIA’s MKULTRA and related programs, interest in this story remains high. Books published decades ago, such as John Marks’ “The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’: The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences” (W.W. Norton & Co.), and Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain’s “Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond” (Grove Press), remain in print and therefore in demand.

Newspaper and mainstream magazine articles continue to address the subject. As examples, see, for instance, “April 13, 1953: CIA OKs MK-ULTRA Mind-Control Tests,” by Kim Zetter, Wired Magazine, April 13, 2010 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); “The CIA Can Do Mind Control: MK Ultra / College campuses, for starters / 1953-1973,” by Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine, November 17, 2013 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); “Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD,” by Troy Hooper, SF Weekly, March 14, 2012 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]); and “What Do You Do When Your Family Was the Victim of CIA Mind-Control Experiments?” by Rea McNamara, VICE News, April 15, 2016 (URL: [accessed November 25, 2016]).

Finally, in regards to public interest, it cannot be denied that there are a great deal of bogus or wild conspiratorial claims made about the CIA’s MKULTRA and related programs. Release of such documents as IG REPORT helps mitigate wild speculations, and therefore is in the public interest.

It is the contention of this appeal that due to prior releases and government investigations that the material discussed in IG REPORT does not constitute one of an unknown number of “extraordinary cases” that would require exemption from declassification. Even if the appeals panel finds that some material should be in fact exempt from release, I believe that all portions of IG REPORT that do not meet such exemption be released.

Therefore, Mr. Lavergne, in mind of all the arguments made above, I am appealing to the Agency Release Panel, and sending such appeal to your care and attention. If you, or anyone at the Panel, have any questions, or believe discussion of this matter would be beneficial, please contact me directly at or at (415) xxx-xxxx.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

NYT Article on Psychiatric Care at Guantanamo Hides More Than It Reveals

I suppose that The New York Times' recent article, Where Even Nightmares Are Classified: Psychiatric Care at Guantanamo, will be welcomed by some as a reminder of the horror that is Guantanamo. While I cannot expect that others will find significant the same episodes in the wide-ranging torture scandal as I do, this article by Sheri Fink (assisted by others, including James Risen) does a disservice to the public by misrepresenting many facts about what actually happened. The article hides and misrepresents more than it claims to reveal. It is, in fact, a classic example of a "limited hangout," something that The New York Times excels in producing.

The article gives us glowing photos of former Guantanamo mental health providers. It offers testimony from supposedly conflicted former doctors, psychologists, nurses and psych techs, without ever noting that retrospective testimony could be self-serving. Fink herself can't seem to make up her mind if these so-called conscientious medical professionals showed "willful blindness" to "abuse," or whether in fact "psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health teams... were often unaware of what happened." (I don't think anyone at Guantanamo was unaware of the torture going on, but they may have deliberately or unconsciously numbed themselves to it. No doubt recent reports of high levels of PTSD among guards assigned to Guantanamo is related to the exposure to widespread torture of detainees.)

Actual contemporaneous documentation of the attitudes of health care workers, or the subordination of medical decision making to military command authorities, was amply available to The New York Times, but they chose to ignore it. This omission amounts to a misrepresentation of the material, as the article promises in its very title to be an examination of psychiatric care at Guantanamo. Is the failure to provide such material because it would reflect very badly on the medical professionals there? The article suggests at times serious deficiencies in the behavior of medical personnel, only to pull its punches or offer up mea culpas.

The signal importance of mental health problems actually leading to suicide was mostly ignored by Fink and her collaborators. Not one concrete example of an actual suicide was given, though there exists copious public documentation (and though you'd think an article on psychiatric care would say more about suicides of detainees held in Guantanamo's psychiatric unit). 

In a powerful example of such evidence, we have on public record the sworn statement of the Chief of Behavioral Health Services at the Guantanamo prison camp, given to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in June 2009 as part of the investigation into the purported suicide of Mohammed Al Hanashi. Al Hanashi had come to the Chief the very day he was to die and complained about being tortured. The Chief told NCIS what happened from his perspective, which is damning enough. They had been talking about pending changes to rules to take place in the Behavioral Health Unit:

“[Al Hanashi] then said he felt was [sic] being tortured. This is a normal response to a verbal disagreement between staff and a detainee. In this case, to avoid an argument with [Al Hanashi] I walked away from him without a response. This is what I usually do when a detainee accuses staff of torture." [Kaye, Jeffrey (2016-09-10). "Cover-up at Guantanamo"/  (Kindle Locations 150-152). Kindle Edition. - See also June 4, 2009 “Statement” of the Chief of Behavioral Health Services for JTF GTMO. See Al Hanashi documents, Part 8, pp. 16-18, URL:]

In what NCIS regarded as Al Hanashi's suicide note, Al Hanashi described his response, and his descent into suicidal despair: "... when the highest ranking officer in the camp came and talked to me while I was walking he informed me that this camp [the Behavioral Health Unit] will have the same rules as the others, and when I asked the help of the [Chief] psychologist who was present, he said the rules will apply on everybody then he left without saying anything more. Even the officer who was close to him was surprised by his inappropriate behavior as someone who is supposed to be in a humanitarian position. At that time I knew that the only solution is death before they transgress on our religion the way they do in the other camps.” In fact, Al Hanashi died only hours later, purportedly at his own hand. [Kindle Locations 145-148 in "Cover-up at Guantanamo"; also Al Hanashi documents, Part 2, pp. 2-3, URL:]

None of this is even hinted at in Sheri Fink's article.


But even if The Times had covered these issues, I'm not sure it would have balanced out the falsehoods in the article, including the assertion that medical records were not shared with interrogators after 2005, and that "abusive tactics" ended at Guantanamo in early 2009. Both assertions are false. Taking on the latter claim, whether one references the ongoing forced cell extractions at Guantanamo, the forced feedings, or the Appendix M interrogations (which the UN Committee on Torture recently condemned) -- not to mention the fact that indefinite detention is itself a form of torture (according to the International Committee of the Red Cross) -- it is irrefutable that "abusive tactics" continue at Guantanamo. Fink's article presents a fairy tale.

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association now has recognized that it is impossible to conduct ethical psychological services in a place like Guantanamo and has told the government to pull all psychologists serving detainees clinically out of that setting. This was not mentioned in the article either, though James Risen, who has written on that story before, was a contributor to the Sheri Fink article. You'd think such information would be relevant in a news article reviewing psychiatric care at Guantanamo, but The New York Times saw fit to censor their own reporting.

As for the sharing of medical information with interrogators, the article describes the mistrust of detainees who knew their sensitive communications with mental health providers was being shared with the interrogators and used in their torture. Fink et al. claim this stopped in 2005, but in fact serious problems on this score continued even into Obama's term. According to a DoD Inspector General Review of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, "Inclusion of Detainee Mental Health Information in Intelligence Information Reports," issued May 4, 2010, "Present regulatory guidance authorizes health-care providers to share detainee medical information with interrogators, but does not provide specific guidance on how to do so. As a result execution of these policies at Guantanamo has been inconsistent, resulting in confusion for both health-care providers and interrogation elements." (See this link, page G-5.)

In other words, sharing of mental health information with interrogators continued well into the Obama administration, and there's no reason to believe they ever changed, nor that detainees were ever wrong to be suspicious of such providers.


There are at least two detainees who appear to have had their suicides facilitated by Guantanamo personnel: Mohammed al Hanashi and Adnan Latif. Four others were likely murdered or killed as part of some experiment, the three detainees who died in 2006, and Abdul Rahman Al Amri, found in his cell dead hanging with his hands tied behind his back and his body tested afterwards for the presence of the psychiatrically disabling drug mefloquine.

According to my own research published in my book cited above, Guantanamo personnel are documented as interfering with the computer recording of events surrounding these suicides, entering false information these about events (according to DoD investigators), or even shutting down computer systems so no one would know what was going on (according to NCIS records). Fink's article obliquely refers to some "critics" questions about the "suicides," but pointedly leaves examination of these suicides out of her article about psychiatric conditions at Guantanamo. The Big Lie lives on.

An encyclopedic deconstruction of Fink's article would be something few readers probably would have the stamina to complete. Just consider the article's whitewashing of retired Navy Captain Albert Shimkus, who signed off on the abusive mefloquine protocol used at Guantanamo, which led to widespread "pharmacological waterboarding," according to one medical professional. Or consider the abusive use of "chemical restraints" on prisoners, part of the unrestrained use of drugs on prisoners at Guantanamo, the full story of which at Guantanamo or formerly at CIA black sites is still not fully known.

It is infuriating to see an article put forth something meaning to do good -- and the article is not without some good points, such as its critique of the rotation system among Gitmo health care providers, or its examination of the manipulation of diagnoses to minimize the perception of damage caused to detainees -- while in actuality perpetuating untruths and misrepresentations, or even altering history. This is not reporting, it is the exercise of the  "limited hangout," the offering of so-called new information such that the public believes it is really getting something important, while key information remains hidden or a different, less damaging story is put in its place.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Introducing my new ebook: "Cover-up at Guantanamo"

Guantanamo has forged a place in the world’s consciousness as synonymous with torture. The world’s largest military force exerted its power over hundreds of prisoners held for years without rights or hope. Deep within the prison’s secretive recesses, over the years some of its prisoners met with death, most supposedly via suicide. But the circumstances of these deaths were shrouded in mystery and government censorship. Based upon newly released Freedom of Information Act documents, psychologist Jeffrey Kaye’s new book shows that earlier reports of cover-up in the case of three so-called suicides in 2006 extends to subsequent deaths in the Cuba-based U.S. interrogation and detention camp.

“Cover-up at Guantanamo” is a riveting, in-depth examination of the deaths of two detainees, Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri, who died in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Using never-before-seen reports from government investigators, eyewitness testimony, and medical and autopsy records, including documents recently released by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the formal investigation into the deaths of these Guantanamo prisoners is revealed as rife with problems. Revealed also for the first time is the suicide note and “last testament” of Mohammed Al Hanashi, who tells us he wanted to end his life because of the treatment he received at Guantanamo, including in its special Behavioral Health Unit for mentally ill prisoners.

Among the explosive details revealed in this book is the fact government agents themselves, most likely from NCIS, the very agency charged with investigating the deaths, interfered with the gathering of evidence, ordering the shutdown of Guantanamo’s computer database of prison activities within minutes of one detainee’s death. Even worse, after the FOIA for this material was filed, the computer logs suddenly went missing! That is only the beginning of the story, as Kaye’s investigation shows material evidence was thrown out in the trash, prisoners who were intensely mentally ill were provided with material to kill themselves, and medical personnel turned their backs on detainee complaints of torture. The book also expands on the mysterious use of the antimalarial drug mefloquine for possible reasons of interrogation.

In addition, the book reviews details of the death of another detainee, Adnan Latif, and adds new revelations concerning the deaths of the three detainees who died in 2006. As we can see from other government documents, we likely do not know how many prisoners have even died at Guantanamo. What we learn from the stories in this book is that its contents are not about only one or two government cover-ups, but about the secretive way the Pentagon and intelligence agencies go about their business. Covering-up is not just a term describing an instance of government malfeasance or crime, but the main operational mode of a military and intelligence apparatus that is out of control.

This is a story that the mainstream press would not touch. Jeffrey Kaye spent over four years gathering the material for this book. It is a crucial document in the history of our times, a period when our country lost its way in the so-called “war on terror” and engaged in torture and the evils of indefinite detention. This is the story of how a few individuals were crushed under the coercive regime at Guantanamo, but the humanity of these individuals is rescued in the telling of the tragic but real stories of their deaths.

All FOIA documents referenced in "Cover-up at Guantanamo" can be accessed freely online at

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Psychologist Association Ethics Chief Paid $10,000s for Training Advisers to Guantanamo Interrogations

Back in May 2015, I broke the story that the American Psychological Association's "long-time Ethics Director Stephen Behnke worked directly with Department of Defense officials in creating a training curriculum for psychologists working with interrogators at Guantanamo and elsewhere." The issue was later taken up in the July 2015 "independent review" on APA collaboration with the Department of Defense, CIA, and FBI on national security interrogations released by David Hoffman and co-workers at the law firm Sidley Austin (see PDF for full report).

The Hoffman report did a decent job looking at Behnke's work with the Department of Defense on the establishment and training of psychologists and other behavioral health specialists, including sometimes psychiatrists, to work for DoD's Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or BSCTs. (For alternate view, see note below.) The BSCTs were formed to offer advice and guidance to interrogators at Guantanamo and other DoD interrogation sites, and to the guard and detention force at Guantanamo as well.

Today, BSCTs help facilitate Army Field Manual Appendix M interrogations, which use isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation, and environmental and dietary manipulations, as well as other AFM interrogation techniques, such as "Emotional-Futility," to purposely prolong the "shock of capture," and create a "sense of hopelessness and helplessness" and futility in prisoners being interrogated. (See PDF of AFM.)

Mentioned in passing in the Hoffman report was the amount of money Behnke received in what was a clear conflict of interest, as on one hand he presented himself to the public as an ethics expert working for a professional psychological association, offering his advice on the torture controversy to APA members and the public at large. On the other hand, he was paid a good deal of money to help train adjuncts to ethically problematic if not abusive interrogations.

Behnke has said he did not personally profit from the trainings. He told the Hoffman/Sidley investigators that any money he received was turned over to APA, minus any travel expenses, and that APA used the money for "educational purposes" or programs. Where exactly that money went within APA -- and Behnke said he handed it directly over to the Ethics Office -- has never been precisely enumerated. The issue in any case is not only the money (prior to 2011, Behnke said he was paid $1500 per workshop, and $5000 per workshop in later years), but the unethical method by which Behnke and others kept the association with the BSCTs hidden.

According to the Hoffman report (p. 360):
Shortly after Behnke’s first training in April 2006, he and [BSCT psychologist Col. Debra] Dunivin explicitly discussed not telling APA’s Board about his participation in the BSCT training program. And in fact, it appears that APA’s Board was never made aware of his participation, his status as a DoD contractor, or these payments from DoD to APA. On June 18, 2006, Dunivin emailed Behnke (copying [Special Forces psychologist, Morgan] Banks) and asked, “Did you report to APA Board about participating in training at Ft Huachuca? I know we talked about waiting to report it out... What do you think, Morgan?” Behnke replied that the Board did not know, and implied that keeping quiet about it might be the best strategy: “I’ve not mentioned it to the Board; after my last meeting with the Board, I expect that it would receive the Board’s full support. I have informed my APA supervisors, naturally, but given how hot things are at the moment discretion may be the better part of valor for the time being, at least in terms of the broader APA community.”

Behnke did in fact tell his supervisor, APA Deputy CEO Michael Honaker, that he was regularly giving a paid ethics lecture at an Army base as part of the interrogation training course for BSCT psychologists.1679 Honaker did not provide this information to CEO Norman Anderson or the Board. When Anderson learned from Sidley during the investigation that Behnke had been providing this training as a DoD contractor, he appeared stunned, and was visibly upset that the matter had not been discussed with the Board.

Guantanamo has been widely condemned as inhumane and a torture site, even under the Obama administration administration, where conditions of indefinite detention, violent forced cell extractions, drugging of prisoners for "chemical restraint," and multiple suicides have taken place. In addition, the Obama administration reliance on the current Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on interrogation is problematic, according to UN monitoring agencies, who said some of the techniques allowed in that manual's Appendix M amount to "ill treatment" and raise concerns of torture.

The UN issued a report criticizing the Army Field Manual's Appendix M in late 2014, but as we shall see below, both APA and Behnke continued to work teaching "ethics" to those who used or consulted on use of Appendix M as recently as last year.

Dr. Behnke and his APA associates certainly knew of the controversies over interrogation, including by Appendix M methods, but chose to offer their services to DoD, while hiding them from APA rank-and-file and the public at large. Behnke was later fired by the Board. His supervisor, former Deputy CEO at APA, Michael Honaker, "retired."

The Contracts Released by Hoffman/APA

Below is a list of known contracts Behnke was involved in. The earliest available for perusal is from December 2010. The most recent available is from February 2015. Prior to 2012, Behnke was listed as the contractor; afterwards, APA itself is listed as contractor. According to Hoffman's narrative of events (pages 358-361 in his report), Behnke said he worked as a contractor doing training for and designing curriculum for training the BSCTs since 2006. Hence the list below is by no means complete, only what has been made thus far publicly available.

In the contract for Behnke's 2010 work for DoD, he is described as having "been associated with the BSCT course since its inception several years ago. He is viewed as an expert in this field." (All quoted material and data on Behnke's contracts are from Binder #3 of the material released by APA to accompany the Hoffman report. See PDF of this portion of the material, and this link for all associated materials to the Hoffman report.)

2/17/15 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000
“Provide Behavioral Science Consultation course”

1/22/14 - Contractor: APA
Issuer: USA Medcom - HCAA
Amount: $10,000 - BSCT SME Instuctor DSB

1/25/2013 - Contractor: APA Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, USA Medcom -HCAA
Modify earlier contract, no $ amount specified - "CLIN 0001... Contractor will provide a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) Course"

12/19/12 - Contractor: APA Issuer: USA Medcom –HCAA (Health Care Acquisition Activity) - Amount: $14,999
BSCT instructor – 3 1-day classes

12/20/11 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: USA Medcom -HCAA - Amount: $15,000
BSCT Guest speaker providing course – 3 1-day classes

12/22/10 - Contractor: Stephen Behnke Issuer: Great Plains Regional Contracting Office, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston - Amount: $7,497
Guest Speaker, consultant to, BSCT training, 3 (1) day trainings

Terms of Contracts

The classes were of 12-16 students per training, and conducted at the Army's Ft. Huachuca Intelligence Center and School.
The training will be conducted at Ft. Huachuca at the Intelligence Center and School. The target audience is composed of military psychologists (psychiatrists occasionally) and enlisted behavioral health specialists assigned in support of interrogation/detainee operations....
The services required to meet the agency's needs are to provide behavioral health personnel training in support of interrogation/detainee operations. Topics to be addressed and therapeutic materials:
* Ethics involved in performing duties as a BSCT
* American Psychological Association's view on torture
* American Psychiatric Association's view on torture
* MEDCOM/OTSG Policy on utilizing BSCTs
* FM2-22.3 Human Intelligence Operations
* How to remain Safe, Legal, Ethical and Effective as a BSCT
It is worth noting that the contract language in the latter contracts stated, "OTSG [Office of the Surgeon General]/MEDCOM policy Memo 09-053 (Behavioral Science Consultation Policy) requires that all active duty Psychologist, Forensic Psychiatrist, and Behavioral Science Technicians, serving in a BSCT role be trained in the core principles of interrogation and the psychology of persuasion."

The 2012 contract stated: "This contract will consist of training conducted on 'Ethical Decision Making' under guidance and direction. The trainer and facilitator will provide guidance, eduction and knowledge in learning and application of ethical principles within Behavioral Science Consultants Teams. Once trained, BSTC [sic] will provide safe, legal, ethical and effective consultative services to Interrogators, Detention Guards, Intelligence Commanders and Detention Commanders using the sound ethical principles."

There's a lot to ponder in the full information on Behnke's contract. The reason to publish this particular post is to bring more of the full story of unethical behavior at APA into the open.

But it is not only APA's actions that are notable. One thing I found interesting is how long, even really to the present day, the training of the BSCTs to help interrogators remains something contracted through DoD's health services. What is that about? Perhaps it has something to do with drawing BSCT personnel often out of current medical military personnel. In any case, the blurring between medicine and the world of interrogation and torture remains a feature of DoD's ongoing interrogation concept. Additionally, the full story of the ongoing role of the Office of the Surgeon General, or the Army Medical Services in working with military intelligence and detention officials remains somewhat obscure.

There's plenty to still investigate on the torture scandal, but the appetite to do so remains vanishingly small, particularly in Congress. Indeed, there is nothing in the supposedly "progressive" platform of the Democratic Party about any kind of accountability for past torture, nor any indication that the abusive Army Field Manual should be changed or withdrawn. I don't expect to see any change in a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration either.

-- Added Note (8/7/16): After this posting was published, I had some feedback on Twitter to the effect that my conclusions were unfair to the military psychologists involved, that they were not involved in any torture or were ever found to be, and that in essence, I didn't know what I was talking about. In previous postings I've given links to a website where these psychologists, including Debra Dunivin and Morgan Banks, mentioned above, have posted letters, relevant documents, etc. I do recommend the interested reader peruse their site at www.hoffmanreportapa.

While I disagree with their point of view, the psychologists who put together have done a service in posting links to many valuable documents. See their "references" page.

The most recent statement by the group is dated August 2, 2016 and is signed by Colonel (Ret.) L. Morgan Banks, Colonel (Ret.) Debra L. Dunivin, Colonel (Ret.) Larry C. James, and Dr. Russ Newman. In the format of a reply to a recent posting by anti-torture activist, psychologist Stephen Soldz, the reply document states that the Hoffman report’s conclusions are incorrect, "especially the claim that APA and DoD officials colluded to ensure the PENS Guidelines would not constrain abusive interrogations."

Banks, et al. believe that DoD documents in place already made clear that torture was unacceptable. They say that Hoffman characterized the "normal organizational process of creating policy as 'collusion,'" and misread certain sections of the APA's PENS report on ethics and national security. Even more, they maintain that military psychologists in national security settings "can be a strong bulwark against abuses." They say that "DoD psychologists became a primary force for trying to end abusive interrogations." This is certainly a key argument by any who would feel Stephen Behnke was in fact trying to prevent torture by lecturing to BSCTs, and that there is nothing untoward about his contracting to do so.

I was particularly interested in Banks, et al. claim that a June 9, 2015 press release by "seven human rights and civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights, [which] supported the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act." Banks et al. note, "The release does not criticize Appendix M, which specifies the stringent restrictions placed on the use of separation (the military’s term) or isolation (the critics’ preferred term). It is worth noting that the APA likewise gave strong support to the McCain-Feinstein Amendment both before and following the release of the Hoffman report."

Banks, et al. are correct about this press release, and I was sharply critical of this press release by ACLU and others in a June 13, 2015 article I posted at this site.

But Banks, et al. must ignore the many writings by human rights organizations that have been very critical of Appendix M. Indeed, in a March 11, 2016 article by Deb Reichmann at Associated Press, Raha Wala, senior counsel for defense and intelligence at Human Rights First is quoted as saying, "We have been asking for changes to the Army Field Manual and Appendix M in particular for years now... There hasn't been momentum. I now sense that in the first time in years, there is a real interest in looking at it."

In the same article, Mark Fallon, who leads the research committee of the Obama administration's multiple agency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, said, "I don't think there's much validity to Appendix M... I think it can open the door to the types of abuses we have seen before."

Hence, there is a gulf of difference in opinion between myself and other APA and U.S. government critics and the people at Interested readers should pursue the relevant documents and decide for themselves who makes the stronger case.

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