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In response to sharp public criticism, the Department of Defense modified its Field Manual on intelligence interrogation, (PDF) taking pains to note that many practices associated with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo were illegal. Observers have, however, continued to criticize the manual’s Appendix M—a series of harsh measures that may be authorized under special circumstances for limited periods of time by senior commanders. Now fourteen prominent figures from the intelligence community, each well known for his expertise in interrogations, have written to Defense Secretary Gates raising objections to Appendix M. The authors argue that the Appendix conflates a legitimate and useful technique called “separation” with a number of abusive practices that were recently used in association with it. As a result, “separation” itself has been placed on the list of techniques that can only be employed with special authorization. The writers argue that Appendix M should be “deleted in its entirety” but that the use of “separation” should be given a green light.
Stuart Herrington, a retired Army colonel, notes that “separation” appears to have been confused with “isolation”:
In all the interrogation centers that I have worked in or run, we separated the “guests” from one another. Most welcomed this. A prisoner might cooperate if decently and cleverly treated, but only if we could provide a discreet environment where he could feel comfortable spending long hours talking with us. That meant each “guest” had to have a private room, and could not be exposed to any other detainee (encounters in the hallways, for example). This was Rule #1 in our centers. Iraqi general officers housed in our “guest center” did not want to be seen by other Iraqi officers and were grateful for the comfortable, compartmented environment that we provided.
By contrast, Appendix M appears to contemplate that severely abusive techniques may be associated with “separation,” including the use of earmuffs and pitch-black goggles for periods of up to 12 hours, as well as a sleep-deprivation regime under which a prisoner is allotted no more than 4 hours of sleep a day for up to 30 days. The interrogators call these techniques “ineffective” and “counterproductive.” “The use of sensory deprivation techniques, extreme isolation and stress positions is likely to lead to false information, facilitate enemy recruitment, and further erode the reputation of the United States,” they write. The group includes, in addition to Herrington, retired Generals Harry Soyster, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and David Irvine, former FBI interrogators Ali Soufan and Jack Cloonan, former CIA agents Frank Anderson, Bob Baer, Vincent Cannistraro, Joe Navarro, and Haviland Smith, and military intelligence officers Pat Lang, Steve Kleinman, and Malcolm Nance.
Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator who developed the information that led to the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, told me that he had not signed the letter, but said, “I’m in complete agreement with the letter–separation is not solitary confinement, it rests on the prisoner’s consent, and it can be an extremely effective technique.” Alexander also called for the elimination of Appendix M, which he said placed undue restrictions on the senior interrogator and contemplated the use of techniques that were ineffective and counterproductive.
The letter is also drawing support from human-rights advocates. Calling Appendix M a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Human Rights First has issued a report (PDF) backing up the interrogators. “In addition to opening the door to abuse, Appendix M also takes a valuable interrogation approach, ‘separation,’ and puts it out of reach in situations where it could be employed effectively (and humanely),” the human-rights organization states.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”