[Marxism] Pentagon Unit Considered Setting Up a Secret Overseas Prison
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Thu Feb 9 07:17:36 MST 2017
NY Times, Feb. 9 2017
Pentagon Unit Considered Setting Up a Secret Overseas Prison
By JAMES RISEN and SHERI FINK
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
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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