[Ppnews] True Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Mar 26 16:44:30 EDT 2011

Published on Truthout (<http://www.truth-out.org>http://www.truth-out.org)


EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True 
Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program

Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye | Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dr. Bruce Jessen's handwritten notes describe 
some of the torture techniques that were used to 
"exploit" "war on terror" detainees in custody of 
the CIA and Department of Defense.

Bush administration officials have long asserted 
that the torture techniques used on "war on 
terror" detainees were utilized as a last resort 
in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to 
thwart pending terrorist attacks against the 
United States and its interests abroad.

Jason Leopold interviews Jessen's former SERE 
colleague, retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns.

But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by 
Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John 
Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under 
contract to the CIA and credited as being one of 
the architects of the government's top-secret 
torture program, tell a dramatically different 
story about the reasons detainees were brutalized 
and it was not just about obtaining intelligence. 
Rather, as Jessen's notes explain, torture was 
used to "exploit" detainees, that is, to break 
them down physically and mentally, in order to 
get them to "collaborate" with government 
authorities. Jessen's notes emphasize how a 
"detainer" uses the stresses of detention to 
produce the appearance of compliance in a prisoner.

Indeed, a 
released in 2009 by the Senate Armed Services 
Committee about the treatment of detainees in US 
custody said Jessen was the author of a "Draft 
Exploitation Plan" presented to the Pentagon in 
April 2002 that was implemetned  at Guantanamo 
and at prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
But to what degree is unknown because the 
document remains classified. Jessen also 
co-authored a memo in February 2002 on "Prisoner 
Handling Recommendations" at Guantanamo, which is also classified.

Moreover, the Armed Services Committee's report 
noted that torture techniques approved by the 
Bush administration were based on survival 
training exercises US military personnel were 
taught by individuals like Jessen if they were 
captured by an enemy regime and subjected to 
"illegal exploitation" in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jessen's notes, prepared for an Air Force 
survival training course that he later "reverse 
engineered" when he helped design the Bush 
administration's torture program, however, go 
into far greater detail than the Armed Services 
Committee's report in explaining how prisoners 
would be broken down physically and 
psychologically by their captors. The notes say 
survival training students could "combat 
interrogation and torture" if they are captured 
by an enemy regime by undergoing intense training 
exercises, using "cognitive" and "exposure 
techniques" to develop "stress inoculation." 
to download a PDF file of Jessen's handwritten 
notes. Click 
to download a zip file of Jessen's notes in typewritten form.]

The documents stand as the first piece of hard 
evidence to surface in nine years that further 
explains the psychological aspects of the Bush 
administration's torture program and the 
rationale for subjecting detainees to so-called 
"enhanced interrogation techniques."

Jessen's notes were provided to Truthout by 
retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a 
"master" SERE instructor and 
veteran who has previously held high-ranking 
positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff 
and Department of Defense (DoD).

Kearns and his boss, Roger Aldrich, the head of 
the Air Force Intelligence's Special Survial 
Training Program (SSTP), based out of Fairchild 
Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, hired 
Jessen in May 1989. Kearns, who was head of 
operations at SSTP and trained thousands of 
service members, said Jessen was brought into the 
program due to an increase in the number of new 
survival training courses being taught and "the 
fact that it required psychological expertise on hand in a full-time basis."

"Special Mission Units"

Jessen, then the chief of Psychology Service at 
the US Air Force Survival School, immediately 
started to work directly with Kearns on "a new 
course for special mission units (SMUs), which 
had as its goal individual resistance to terrorist exploitation."

The course, known as SV-91, was developed for the 
Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) branch 
of the US Air Force Intelligence Agency, which 
acted as the Executive Agent Action Office for 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jessen's notes formed 
the basis for one part of SV-91, "Psychological Aspects of Detention."

Special mission units fall under the guise of the 
DoD's clandestine Joint Special Operations 
Command (JSOC) and engage in a wide-range of 
highly classified counterterrorist and covert 
operations, or "special missions," around the 
world, hundreds of who were personally trained by 
Kearns. The SV-91 course Jessen and Kearns were 
developing back in 1989 would later become known 
as "Special Survival for Special Mission Units."

Before the inception of SV-91, the primary SERE 
course was SV-80, or Basic Combat Survival School 
for Resistance to Interrogation, which is where 
Jessen formerly worked. When Jessen was hired to 
work on SV-91, the vacancy at SV-80 was filled by 
psychologist Dr. James Mitchell, who was also 
contracted by the CIA to work at the agency's 
top-secret black site prisons in Europe employing 
SERE torture techniques, such as the controlled 
drowning technique know as waterboarding, against detainees.

here to listen to Jason Leopold discuss this 
report on The Peter B. Collins show.

While they were still under contract to the CIA, 
the two men formed the "consulting" firm 
Jessen & Associates in March 2005. The "governing 
persons" of the company included Kearns' former 
boss, Aldrich, SERE contractor David Tate, Joseph 
Matarazzo, a former president of the American 
Psychological Association and Randall Spivey, the 
ex-chief of Operations, Policy and Oversight Division of JPRA.

Mitchell, Jessen & Associates' articles of 
incorporation have been "inactive" since October 
22, 2009 and the business is now listed as 
according to Washington state's Secretary of 
State <http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/search_detail.aspx?ubi=602495307>website.

Lifting the "Veil of Secrecy"

Kearns was one of only two officers within DoD 
qualified to teach all three SERE-related courses 
within SSTP on a worldwide basis, according to a 
copy of a 1989 letter written by Aldrich, who 
Kearns officer of the year.

He said he decided to come forward because he is 
outraged that Jessen used their work to help 
design the Bush administration's torture program.

"I think it’s about time for SERE to come out 
from behind the veil of secrecy if we are to 
progress as a moral nation of laws," Kearns said 
during a wide-ranging interview with Truthout. 
"To take this survival training program and turn 
it into some form of nationally sanctioned, 
purposeful program for the extraction of 
information, or to apply exploitation, is in 
total contradiction to human morality, and defies 
basic logic. When I first learned about 
interrogation, at basic intelligence training 
school, I read about Hans Scharff, a Nazi 
interrogator who later wrote an article for 
Argosy Magazine titled 'Without Torture.' That's 
what I was taught - torture doesn't work."

What stands out in Jessen's notes is that he 
believed torture was often used to produce false 
confessions. That was the end result after one 
high-value detainee who was tortured in early 
2002 confessed to having information proving a 
link between the late Iraqi dictator Saddam 
Hussein and al-Qaeda, 
to one former Bush administration official.

It was later revealed, however, that the 
prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, had simply 
provided his captors a false confession so they 
would stop torturing him. Jessen appeared to be 
concerned with protecting the US military against 
falling victim to this exact kind of physical and 
psychological pressure in a hostile detention 
environment, recognizing that it would lead to, 
among other things, false confessions.

In a paper Jessen wrote accompanying his notes, 
"Psychological Advances in Training to Survive 
Captivity, Interrogation and Torture," which was 
prepared for the symposium: "Advances in Clinical 
Psychological Support of National Security 
Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral 
Sciences Course," he suggested that additional 
"research" should be undertaken to determine "the 
measurability of optimum stress levels in 
training students to resist captivity."

"The avenues appear inexhaustible" for further 
research in human exploitation, Jessen wrote.

Such "research" appears to have been the main 
underpinning of the Bush administration's torture 
program. The experimental nature of these 
interrogation methods used on detainees held at 
Guantanamo and at CIA black site prisons have 
been noted by military and intelligence 
officials. The Armed Services Committee report 
cited a statement from Col. Britt Mallow, the 
commander of the Criminal Investigative Task 
Force (CITF), who noted that Guantanamo officials 
Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey 
Miller used the term "battle lab" to describe the 
facility, meaning "that interrogations and other 
procedures there were to some degree 
experimental, and their lessons would benefit 
[the Department of Defense] in other places."

What remains a mystery is why Jessen took a 
defensive survival training course and helped 
turn it into an offensive torture program.

Truthout attempted to reach Jessen over the past 
two months for comment, but we were unable to 
track him down. Messages left for him at a 
security firm in Alexandria, Virginia he has been 
affiliated with were not returned and phone 
numbers listed for him in Spokane were disconnected.

A New Emphasis on Terrorism

SV-91 was developed to place a new emphasis on 
terrorism as SERE-related courses pertaining to 
the cold war, such as SV-83, Special Survival for 
Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations (SRO), whose 
students flew secret missions over the Soviet 
Union, Eastern Bloc, and other communist countries, were being scaled back.

SSTP evolved into the Joint Personnel Recovery 
Agency (JPRA), the DoD's executive agency for 
SERE training, and was 
by DoD General Counsel William "Jim" Haynes in 
2002 to provide the agency with a list of 
interrogation techniques and the psychological 
impact those methods had on SERE trainees, with 
the aim of utilizing the same methods for use on 
detainees. Aldrich was working in a senior 
capacity at JPRA when Haynes contacted the agency to inquire about SERE.

The Army also runs a SERE school as does the 
Navy, which had utilized waterboarding as a 
training exercise on Navy SERE students that JPRA 
recommended to DoD as one of the torture 
techniques to use on high-value detainees.

Kearns said the value of Jessen's notes, 
particularly as they relate to the psychological 
aspects of the Bush administration's torture program, cannot be overstated.

"The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of 
what was being reverse-engineered - not just 
'enhanced interrogation techniques,' but an 
entire program of exploitation of prisoners using 
torture as a central pillar," he said. "What I 
think is important to note, as an ex-SERE 
Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the 
focus of Jessen's instruction. It is 
exploitation, not specifically interrogation.

"And this is not a picayune issue, because if one 
were to 'reverse-engineer' a course on resistance 
to exploitation then what one would get is a plan 
to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The 
CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same 
goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy 
governments for which SV-91 and other SERE 
courses were created to defend against: the full 
exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, 
propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining 
power, such as the recruitment of informers and 
double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee 
program have not generally been discussed as part 
of the torture story in the American press."

Ironically, in late 2001, while the DoD started 
to make inquiries about adapting SERE methods for 
the government's interrogation program, Kearns 
received special permission from the US 
government to work as an intelligence officer for 
the Australian Department of Defence to teach the 
Australian Special Air Service (SAS) how to use 
SERE techniques to resist interrogation and 
torture if they were captured by terrorists. 
Australia had been a staunch supporter of the 
invasion of Afghanistan and sent troops there in late 2001.

Kearns, who recently waged an unsuccessful 
Congressional campaign in Colorado, was working 
on a spy novel two years ago and dug through 
boxes of "unclassified historical materials on 
intelligence" as part of his research when he 
happened to stumble upon Jessen's notes for 
SV-91. He said he was "deeply shocked and 
surprised to see I'd kept a copy of these 
handwritten notes as certainly the originals 
would have been destroyed (shredded)" once they 
were typed up and made into proper course materials.

"I hadn't seen these notes for over twenty 
years," he said. "However, I'll never forget that 
day in September 2009 when I discovered them. I 
instantly felt sick, and eventually vomited 
because I felt so badly physically and 
emotionally that day knowing that I worked with 
this person and this was the material that I 
believe was 'reverse-engineered' and used in part 
to design the torture program. When I found the 
Jessen papers, I made several copies and sent 
them to my friends as I thought this could be the 
smoking gun, which proves who knew what and when 
and possibly who sold a bag of rotten apples to the Bush administration."

Kearns was, however, aware of the role SERE 
played in the torture program before he found 
Jessen's notes, and in July 2008, he sent an 
email to the chairman of the Armed Services 
Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, who was investigating 
the issue and offered to share information with 
Levin about Jessen and the SERE program in 
general. The Michigan Democrat responded to 
Kearns saying he was "concerned about this issue" 
and that he "needed more information on the 
subject," but Levin never followed up when Kearns offered to help.

"I don't know how it went off the tracks, but the 
names of the people who testified at the Senate 
Armed Services, Senate Judiciary, and Select 
Intelligence committees were people I worked 
with, and several I supervised," Kearns said. "It 
makes me sick to know people who knew better allowed this to happen."

Levin's office did not return phone calls or 
emails for comment. However, the 
he released in April 2009, "Inquiry Into the 
Treatment of Detainees in US Custody," refers to 
SV-91. The report includes a list of acronyms 
used throughout the report, one of which is 
"S-V91," identified as "the Department of Defense 
High Risk Survival Training" course. But there is 
no other mention throughout the report of SV-91 
or the term "High Risk Survival Training," 
possibly due to the fact that sections of the 
report where it is discussed remain classified. 
Still, the failure by Levin and his staff to 
follow up with Kearns--the key military official 
who had retained Jessen's notes and helped 
develop the very course those notes were based 
upon that was cited in the report--suggests 
Levin's investigation is somewhat incomplete.

Control and Dependence

A copy of the syllabus for SV-91, obtained by 
Truthout from another source who requested 
anonymity, states that the class was created "to 
provide special training for selected individuals 
that will enable them to withstand exploitation 
methods in the event of capture during peacetime 
operations.... to cope with such exploitation and 
deny their detainers useable information or propaganda."

Although the syllabus focuses on propaganda and 
interrogation for information as the primary 
means of exploiting prisoners, Jessen's notes 
amplify what was taught to SERE students and 
later used against detainees captured after 9/11 
. He wrote that a prisoner's captors seek to 
"exploit" the prisoner through control and dependence.

"From the moment you are detained (if some kind 
of exploitation is your Detainer's goal) 
everything your Detainer does will be contrived 
to bring about these factors: CONTROL, 
wrote. "Your detainer will work to take away your 
sense of control. This will be done mostly by 
removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, 
communication, personal routines etc. )
detainer wants you to feel 'EVERYTHING' is 
dependent on him, from the smallest detail, 
(food, sleep, human interaction), to your release 
or your very life 
 Your detainer wants you to 
comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt 
to make everything from personal comfort to your 
release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind."

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the "end goal" 
of the detainer, who wants the detainee "to see 
that [the detainer] has 'total' control of you 
because you are completely dependent on him, and 
thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, 
it is absolutely inevitable that you must 
cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.)."

Jessen described the kinds of pressures that 
would be exerted on the prisoner to achieve this 
goal, including "fear of the unknown, loss of 
control, dehumanization, isolation," and use of 
sensory deprivation and sensory "flooding." He 
also included "physical" deprivations in his list of detainer "pressures."

"Unlike everyday experiences, however, as a 
detainee we could be subjected to 
stressors/coercive pressures which we cannot 
completely control," he wrote. "If these 
stressors are manipulated and increased against 
us, the cumulative effect can push us out of the 
optimum range of functioning. This is what the 
detainer wants, to get us 'off balance.'"

"The Detainer wants us to experience a loss of 
composure in hopes we can be manipulated into 
some kind of collaboration..." Jessen wrote. 
"This is where you are most vulnerable to 
exploitation. This is where you are most likely 
to make mistakes, show emotions, act impulsively, 
become discouraged, etc. You are still close 
enough to being intact that you would appear 
convincing and your behavior would appear 'uncoerced.'"

Kearns said, based on what he has read in 
declassified government documents and news 
reports about the role SERE played in the  Bush 
administration's torture program, Jessen clearly 
"reverse-engieered" his lesson plan and used 
resistance methods to abuse "war on terror" detainees.

The SSTP course was "specifically and 
intentionally designed to assist American 
personnel held in hostile detention," Kearns 
said. It was "not designed for interrogation, and 
certainly not torture. We were not interrogators 
we were 'role-players' who introduced enemy 
exploitation techniques into survival scenarios 
as student learning objectives in what could be 
called Socratic-style dilemma settings. More 
specifically, resistance techniques were learned 
via significant emotional experiences, which were 
intended to inculcate long-term valid and 
reliable survival routines in the student's 
memory. The one rule we had was 'hands off.' No 
(human intelligence) operator could lay hands on 
a student in a 'role play scenario' because we 
knew they could never 'go there' in the real world."

But after Jessen was hired, Kearns contends, 
Aldrich immediately trained him to become a mock 
interrogator using "SERE harsh resistance to 
interrogation methods even though medical 
services officers were explicitly excluded from 
the 'laying on' of hands in [resistance] 'role-play' scenarios."

Aldrich, who now works with the 
<http://www.cppssite.com/>Center for Personal 
Protection & Safety in Spokane, did not return calls for comment.

"Torture Paper"

The companion paper Jessen wrote included with 
his notes, which was also provided to Truthout by 
Kearns, eerily describes the same torturous 
interrogation methods US military personnel would 
face during detention that Jessen and Mitchell 
"reverse engineered" a little more than a decade 
later and that the CIA and DoD used against detainees.

Indeed, in a subsection of the paper, 
"Understanding the Prisoner of War Environment," 
Jessen notes how a prisoner will be broken down 
in an attempt to get him to "collaborate" with his "detainer."

"This issue of collaboration is 'the most 
prominent deliberately controlled force against 
the (prisoner of war)," Jessen wrote. "The 
ability of the (prisoner of war) to successfully 
resist collaboration and cope with the obviously 
severe approach-avoidance conflict is complicated 
in a systematic and calculated way by his captors.

"These complications include: Threats of death, 
physical pressures including torture which result 
in psychological disturbances or deterioration, 
inadequate diet and sanitary facilities with 
constant debilitation and illness, attacks on the 
mental health via isolation, reinforcement of 
anxieties, sleeplessness, stimulus deprivation or 
flooding, disorientation, loss of control both 
internal and external locus, direct and indirect 
attack on the (prisoner of war's) standards of 
honor, faith in himself, his organization, 
family, country, religion, or political beliefs 
... Few seem to be able to hold themselves 
completely immune to such rigorous behavior 
throughout all the vicissitudes of long 
captivity. Confronted with these conditions, the 
unprepared prisoner of war experiences 
unmanageable levels of fear and despair."

"Specific (torture resistance) techniques," 
Jessen wrote, "taught to and implemented by the 
military member in the prisoner of war setting 
are classified" and were not discussed in the 
paper he wrote. He added, "Resistance Training 
students must leave training with useful 
resistance skills and a clear understanding that 
they can successfully resist captivity, interrogation or torture."

Kearns also declined to cite the specific 
interrogation techniques used during SERE 
training exercises because that information is 
still classified. Nor would he comment as to 
whether the interrogations used methods that 
matched or were similar to those identified in 
the August 2002 
memo prepared by former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

However, according to the Senate Armed Services 
Committee report "SERE resistance training ... 
was used to inform" Yoo and Bybee's torture memo, 
specifically, nearly a dozen of the brutal 
techniques detainees were subjected to, which 
included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, 
painful stress positions, wall slamming and 
placing detainees in a confined space, such as a 
container, where his movement is restricted. The 
CIA's Office of Technical Services told Yoo and 
Bybee the SERE techniques used to inform the 
torture memo were not harmful, according to declassified government documents.

Many of the "complications," or torture 
techniques, Jessen wrote about, declassified 
government documents show, became a standard 
method of interrogation and torture used against 
all of the high-value detainees in custody of the 
CIA in early 2002, including Abu Zubaydah and 
self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh 
Mohammed, as well as detainees held at Guantanamo 
and prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The issue of "collaborating" with one's detainer, 
which Jessen noted was the most important in 
terms of controlling a prisoner, is a common 
theme among the stories of detainees who were 
tortured and later released from Guantanamo.

For example, Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen 
who was rendered to Egypt and other countries 
where he was tortured before being sent to 
Guantanamo, wrote in his memoir, "My Story: the 
Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn't," after he was 
released without charge, that interrogators at 
Guantanamo "tried to make detainees mistrust one 
another so that they would inform on each other during interrogation."

Binyam Mohamed, am Ethiopian-born British 
citizen, who the US rendered to a black site 
prison in Morocco, said that a British 
intelligence informant, a person he knew and who 
was recurited, came to him in his Moroccan cell 
and told him that if he became an intelligence 
asset for the British, his torture, which 
included scalpel cuts to his penis, would end. In 
December 2009, British government officials 
released documents that show Mohamed was 
subjected to SERE torture techniques during his 
captivity in the spring of 2002.

Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian prisoner at 
Guantanamo until he was forcibly repatriated 
against his wishes to Algeria in July 2010, told 
an Algerian newspaper that "some detainees had 
been promised to be granted political asylum 
opportunity in exchange of [sic] a spying role within the detention camp."

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, whose surname is sometimes 
spelled "Slahi," is a Mauritanian who was 
tortured in Jordan and Guantanamo. Investigative 
journalist Andy Worthington 
that Salahi was subjected to "prolonged 
isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, beatings, 
death threats, and threats that his mother would 
be brought to Guantanamo and gang-raped" unless 
he collaborated with his interrogators. Salahi 
finally decided to become an informant for the US 
in 2003. As a result, Salahi was allowed to live 
in a special fenced-in compound, with television 
and refrigerator, allowed to garden, write and 
paint, "separated from other detainees in a 
cocoon designed to reward and protect."

Still, despite collaborating with his detainers, 
the US government mounted a vigorous defense 
against Salahi's petition for habeas corpus. His 
case continues to hang in legal limbo. Salahi's 
fate speaks to the lesson Habib said he learned 
at Guantanamo: "you could never satisfy your 
interrogator." Habib felt informants were never 
released "because the Americans used them against the other detainees."

Jessen's and Mitchell's mutimillion dollar 
government contract was 
by CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009. According 
to an Associated Press 
the CIA agreed to pay - to the tune of $5 million 
- the legal bills incurred by their consulting firm.

Recently a complaint filed against Mitchell with 
the Texas State Board of Examiners of 
Psychologists by a San Antonio-based 
psychologist, an attorney who defended three 
suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo and 
by Zubaydah's attorney Joseph Margulies. Their 
complaint sought to strip Mitchell of his license 
to practice psychology for violating the board's 
rules as a result of the hands-on role he played 
in torturing detainees, was 
due to what the board said was a lack of 
evidence. Mitchell, who lives in Florida, is 
licensed in Texas. A similar complaint against 
Jessen may soon be filed in Idaho, where he is licensed to practice psychology.

Kearns, who took a graduate course in cognitive 
psychotherapy in 1988 taught by Jessen, still 
can't comprehend what motivated his former 
colleague to turn to the "dark side."

"Bruce Jessen knew better," Kearns said, who 
retired in 1991 and is now working on his Ph.D in 
educational psychology. "His duplicitous act is 
appalling to me and shall haunt me for the rest of my life."
Source URL: 

All republished content that appears on Truthout 
has been obtained by permission or license.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20110326/65166c5c/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list