[Marxism] Pentagon Unit Considered Setting Up a Secret Overseas Prison

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 9 07:17:36 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 9 2017
Pentagon Unit Considered Setting Up a Secret Overseas Prison

WASHINGTON — As the Central Intelligence Agency was setting up its 
secret prisons overseas 15 years ago to interrogate terrorism suspects, 
a Defense Department unit was considering a proposal to establish a 
secret military prison abroad, according to previously undisclosed 
government documents.

The proposal was presented in a 2002 memo written in part by Bruce 
Jessen, one of two psychologists who eventually helped create the 
C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation” program. The memo, obtained by The New 
York Times, recommended opening at least one secret overseas site where 
prisoners would be subjected to “constant sensory deprivation” and 
develop “ a profound sense of despair.”

The military, though, did not act on the proposal for an “undisclosed 
non-U.S., unsuspected, secure location” to “hold, manage and exploit 
detainees.” The Department of Defense, through a spokeswoman, declined 
to comment on the extent to which the plan, which originated in the 
military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, was considered.

Aside from sensory deprivation, the memo suggested that additional 
pressure tactics be permitted against prisoners, including those that 
“maximize cultural undesirability,” but it did not mention the brutal 
physical coercion techniques, such as waterboarding, later approved for 
use in the C.I.A. prisons.

The memo is included among several government documents provided during 
the discovery process in a lawsuit brought in federal court in Spokane, 
Wash., against Dr. Jessen and the other psychologist, James E. Mitchell, 
by two former C.I.A. prisoners and the representative of a third man, 
who died in custody.

The documents, along with others previously released, are helping to 
fill in gaps in the historical record about the interrogation program of 
the George W. Bush era. Their disclosure comes soon after the Trump 
administration drafted an executive order calling for reviving the 
C.I.A. “black site” prisons, though the White House has since appeared 
to back off from the idea after lawmakers and cabinet officials objected.

Also disclosed in the lawsuit were a series of PowerPoint training 
slides for American personnel apparently headed to the military 
detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, discussing how they could 
defeat efforts by terrorism suspects to resist questioning.

Those slides — or a similar set — were used in a training course by Dr. 
Jessen and a colleague in March 2002, and excerpted in a 2008 Senate 
Armed Services Committee report. Among the potential methods listed are 
“psychological torture” through “isolation, threats against self or 
family” and “the use of drugs.”

When Dr. Jessen’s memo was written in April 2002, he was the chief 
psychologist at the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, a Defense 
Department unit overseeing training programs in which military personnel 
are subjected to simulated torture tactics and mock interrogation to 
prepare them for possible capture by regimes violating the laws of war.

Dr. Jessen and most of his colleagues had no experience in conducting 
actual interrogations, but the Department of Defense legal counsel 
sought information from the agency on detainee “exploitation” beginning 
in late 2001.

Dr. Jessen soon left his military position to help set up the C.I.A. 
interrogation program, along with Dr. Mitchell. The two men eventually 
created their own company, Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, which 
received $81 million from the C.I.A. to manage the program.

The existence of the 2002 memo was mentioned in the Senate report on 
detainee abuse published in 2008, but the document itself had not 
previously been made public.

The memo recommended practices similar to those later used at C.I.A. 
sites, such as holding only one or two “subjects” at a time and having 
an “operational team” that included a psychologist, interrogators, 
interpreters, guards, a physician, an intelligence officer and other 
support personnel, including video technicians.

The plan called for “video/sound feed between interrogation rooms, 
confinement cells and control room.”

It also described ethically conflicting roles for the physician — both 
advising interrogators and treating the subject.

The memo was written at a time when Pentagon officials were deeply 
divided over the military’s role in detention and interrogation in the 
new war on terrorists.

Many officials were already uneasy about interrogation procedures being 
used at the military detention center in Guantánamo Bay. The memo’s 
solution to the mounting internal criticism was to have a small team led 
by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency run a smaller, more efficient prison.

The memo also insisted that secrecy be paramount and that the 
International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors prisoners of 
war to ensure they are treated humanely, be kept out of the proposed 
prison. “No press, IRC, US or foreign observers,” the memo states.

“These documents reveal some of the earliest planning for the systematic 
torture and abuse that Jessen and others would inflict on U.S. 
prisoners,” said Dror Ladin, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties 
Union, which is representing the former detainees.

The emphasis on keeping the prisons hidden showed, Mr. Ladin said, that 
those involved in the plans “knew that what they were doing was wrong.”

Asked about the documents, a lawyer for Dr. Jessen distanced him from 
them. “While Dr. Jessen was the original author of the JPRA report, the 
document that the government produced in discovery is the final version 
that was modified by other government officials for specific purposes,” 
said the lawyer, James Smith, who also represents Dr. Mitchell.

“Dr. Jessen had no role in creating that final version,” he wrote.

Mr. Smith also asserted that “every action taken by Drs. Mitchell and 
Jessen was approved and directed by the C.I.A. after the Department of 
Justice and the Office of the President advised that the contemplated 
action was legal.” He said the two men had no involvement in activities 
alleged in the plaintiffs’ complaint, which claimed the psychologists 
had designed and administered the C.I.A.’s brutal interrogation program.

According to the Senate report, Dr. Jessen drafted his memo and sent it 
to the senior civilian leadership and commander of the Joint Personnel 
Recovery Agency, Col. John R. Moulton, who is known as Randy. He 
requested that Dr. Jessen prepare a briefing to “take up for approval.”

When interviewed by the Senate committee, Colonel Moulton testified that 
he did not recall any subsequent briefings for United States Joint 
Forces Command on the proposal.

Lawyers for Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen have sought to depose several 
former C.I.A. officials in an effort to buttress the defense’s argument 
that the psychologists’ actions were approved by the C.I.A.

Lawyers for the A.C.L.U., working with the Gibbons law firm of Newark, 
have said that they were trying to avoid asking the government to 
release classified information in the case, and instead were relying 
heavily on public records. Their strategy is to avoid demanding any 
information that might lead to the imposition of the state secrets 
privilege, which allows the government to prevent information from being 
made public in court cases by claiming it could damage national 
security. That could shut down the case.

If it goes forward, a trial is expected to take place in June.

In a filing in the case last week, Chad A. Readler, the acting United 
States assistant attorney general, and other government lawyers 
indicated that the government would seek to invoke the privilege to 
block testimony by James Cotsana, a former C.I.A. operations officer who 
Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen have said supervised them at one time.

The Justice Department requested additional time to invoke the state 
secrets privilege, it said, because the new C.I.A. director will need to 
assess whether to do so, and the attorney general will have to approve 
the plan. The multiple levels of review, the government added, “present 
unique challenges in this case given the recent change of administration.”

Subpoenas to depose John A. Rizzo, a former acting general counsel of 
the C.I.A., and Jose A. Rodriguez, a former deputy director of 
operations, were recently canceled by the defendants, who received 
statements from the two men instead.

The A.C.L.U. is now seeking to depose them.

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