[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.
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
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
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 its 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,
DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION," Jessen
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.
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."
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