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Alfred W. McCoy

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About Alfred W. McCoy

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  1. From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led massive, secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak. After experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, electric shocks, and sensory deprivation, this CIA research produced a new method of torture that was psychological, not physical--best described as "no touch torture."The CIA's discovery of psychological torture was a counter-intuitive break-through - indeed, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the 17th century. In its modern application, the physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA's new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential methods, disorientation and self-inflicted pain, to make victims feel responsible for their own suffering. In the CIA's first stage, interrogators employ simple, non-violent techniques to disorient the subject. To induce temporal confusion, interrogators use hooding or sleep deprivation. To intensify disorientation, interrogators often escalate to attacks on personal identity by sexual humiliation. Once the subject is disoriented, interrogators move on to a second stage with simple, self-inflicted discomfort such as standing for hours with arms extended. In this phase, the idea is to make victims feel responsible for their own pain and thus induce them to alleviate it by capitulating to the interrogator's power. Although seemingly less brutal, "no touch" torture leaves deep psychological scars on both victims and interrogators. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating cruelty and lasting emotional problems. After codification in the CIA's "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual in 1963, the new method was disseminated globally to police in Asia and Latin America through USAID's Office of Public Safety (OPS). Following allegations of torture by USAID's police trainees in Brazil, the US Senate closed down OPS in 1975. After OPS was abolished, the Agency continued to disseminate its torture methods through the US Army's Mobile Training Teams, which were active in Central America during the 1980s. In 1997, the Baltimore Sun published chilling extracts of the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual" that these Army teams had distributed to allied militaries for 20 years. In the ten years between the last known use of these manuals in the early 1990s and arrest of Al Queda suspects since September 2001, torture continued as a US intelligence practice by delivering suspects to allied agencies, including Philippine National Police who broke the trans-Pacific bomb plot in 1995. Once the War on Terror started, however, the US use of "no touch" torture resumed, first surfacing at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in early 2002 where Pentagon investigators found two Afghans had died during interrogation. In reports from Iraq, the methods are strikingly similar to those detailed over 40 years ago in the CIA's Kubark manual and later used by US-trained security forces worldwide.
  2. In 1971 I was a graduate student doing Southeast Asian History at Yale University. An editor at Harper & Row, Elisabeth Jakab, read some articles in a volume I had edited about Laos, which made some general references to the opium trade in Laos. She decided this would be a great idea for a book and asked me to do a background book on the heroin plague that was sweeping the forces then fighting in South Vietnam. We later learned that about one third of the United States combat forces in Vietnam, conservatively estimated, were heroin addicts. I went to Paris and interviewed retired general Maurice Belleux, the former head of the French equivalent of the CIA, an organization called SDECE [service de Documentation Exterieure et du Contre-Espionage]. In an amazing interview he told me that French military intelligence had financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade. [The French protected opium trafficking in Laos and northern Vietnam during the colonial war that raged from 1946 to the French defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.] The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, was all controlled by French military intelligence. He concluded the interview by telling me that it was his information that the CIA had taken over the French assets and were pursuing something of the same policy. So I went to Southeast Asia to follow up on that lead and that's what took me into doing this whole book. It was basically pulling a thread and keep tucking at it and a veil masking the reality began to unravel. During the 40 years of the cold war, from the late 1940's to this year, the CIA pursued a policy that I call radical pragmatism. Their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism. Since the 1920's the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, and the United States have prohibited opium and cocaine products from legal sale. These products had already emerged as vast global commodities with very substantial production zones and large markets, large demand for those commodities both in the third world and the first. The historic Asia opium zone stretches across 5,000 miles of Asian mainland from Turkey to Laos along the southern borders of the Soviet Union and the southern border of communist China. It just so happened that one of the key war zones in the cold war happened to lay astride the Asian opium zone. During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 (during the Vietnam war) their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980's, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States. While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. As long as they were allied with the CIA, the local police and then the DEA stayed away from the drug lords. Finally, if there were any allegations about the involvement of their allies in the drug trade, the CIA would use their good offices to quash those allegations. This meant that these drug lords, connected with the CIA, and protected by the CIA, were able to release periodic heroin surges, and [in Latin America] periodic cocaine surges. You can trace very precisely during the 40 years of the cold war, the upsurge in narcotics supply in the United States with covert operations.
  3. An interview with Alfred W. McCoy

    In 1971 I was a graduate student doing Southeast Asian History at Yale University. An editor at Harper & Row, Elisabeth Jakab, read some articles in a volume I had edited about Laos, which made some general references to the opium trade in Laos. She decided this would be a great idea for a book and asked me to do a background book on the heroin plague that was sweeping the forces then fighting in South Vietnam. We later learned that about one third of the United States combat forces in Vietnam, conservatively estimated, were heroin addicts. I went to Paris and interviewed retired general Maurice Belleux, the former head of the French equivalent of the CIA, an organization called SDECE [service de Documentation Exterieure et du Contre-Espionage]. In an amazing interview he told me that French military intelligence had financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade. [The French protected opium trafficking in Laos and northern Vietnam during the colonial war that raged from 1946 to the French defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.] The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, was all controlled by French military intelligence. He concluded the interview by telling me that it was his information that the CIA had taken over the French assets and were pursuing something of the same policy. So I went to Southeast Asia to follow up on that lead and that's what took me into doing this whole book. It was basically pulling a thread and keep tucking at it and a veil masking the reality began to unravel. During the 40 years of the cold war, from the late 1940's to this year, the CIA pursued a policy that I call radical pragmatism. Their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism. Since the 1920's the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, and the United States have prohibited opium and cocaine products from legal sale. These products had already emerged as vast global commodities with very substantial production zones and large markets, large demand for those commodities both in the third world and the first. The historic Asia opium zone stretches across 5,000 miles of Asian mainland from Turkey to Laos along the southern borders of the Soviet Union and the southern border of communist China. It just so happened that one of the key war zones in the cold war happened to lay astride the Asian opium zone. During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 (during the Vietnam war) their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980's, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States. While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. As long as they were allied with the CIA, the local police and then the DEA stayed away from the drug lords. Finally, if there were any allegations about the involvement of their allies in the drug trade, the CIA would use their good offices to quash those allegations. This meant that these drug lords, connected with the CIA, and protected by the CIA, were able to release periodic heroin surges, and [in Latin America] periodic cocaine surges. You can trace very precisely during the 40 years of the cold war, the upsurge in narcotics supply in the United States with covert operations. From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led massive, secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak. After experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, electric shocks, and sensory deprivation, this CIA research produced a new method of torture that was psychological, not physical--best described as "no touch torture."The CIA's discovery of psychological torture was a counter-intuitive break-through - indeed, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the 17th century. In its modern application, the physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA's new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential methods, disorientation and self-inflicted pain, to make victims feel responsible for their own suffering. In the CIA's first stage, interrogators employ simple, non-violent techniques to disorient the subject. To induce temporal confusion, interrogators use hooding or sleep deprivation. To intensify disorientation, interrogators often escalate to attacks on personal identity by sexual humiliation. Once the subject is disoriented, interrogators move on to a second stage with simple, self-inflicted discomfort such as standing for hours with arms extended. In this phase, the idea is to make victims feel responsible for their own pain and thus induce them to alleviate it by capitulating to the interrogator's power. Although seemingly less brutal, "no touch" torture leaves deep psychological scars on both victims and interrogators. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating cruelty and lasting emotional problems. After codification in the CIA's "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual in 1963, the new method was disseminated globally to police in Asia and Latin America through USAID's Office of Public Safety (OPS). Following allegations of torture by USAID's police trainees in Brazil, the US Senate closed down OPS in 1975. After OPS was abolished, the Agency continued to disseminate its torture methods through the US Army's Mobile Training Teams, which were active in Central America during the 1980s. In 1997, the Baltimore Sun published chilling extracts of the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual" that these Army teams had distributed to allied militaries for 20 years. In the ten years between the last known use of these manuals in the early 1990s and arrest of Al Queda suspects since September 2001, torture continued as a US intelligence practice by delivering suspects to allied agencies, including Philippine National Police who broke the trans-Pacific bomb plot in 1995. Once the War on Terror started, however, the US use of "no touch" torture resumed, first surfacing at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in early 2002 where Pentagon investigators found two Afghans had died during interrogation. In reports from Iraq, the methods are strikingly similar to those detailed over 40 years ago in the CIA's Kubark manual and later used by US-trained security forces worldwide.
  4. An interview with Alfred W. McCoy

    This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered. This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years. Since the courts have ruled, this is not a subject that I wish to comment on.
  5. Operation Mockingbird

    This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered. This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years.
  6. The CIA and the Politics of Heroin

    This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered. This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years. Since the courts have ruled, this is not a subject that I wish to comment on.
  7. Cord Meyer and the Assassination of JFK

    This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered. This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years.
  8. This entire story of the CIA's attempted suppression of the book was documented in an article that I did for the "New York Review of Books" in late 1972 and recounted, in brief, in a biography of Cord Meyer, Jr. by Merle Miller in "The New York Sunday Times Magazine." In brief, Meyer, then head of covert operations for the CIA, somehow learned of the book's contents while it was in press at Harper & Row in New York. He called on the company's publisher, a friend from New York social circles, to persuade him to suppress the book. Though the publisher refused that request, the company did agree, over my strenuous objections, to grant the Agency prior review, a dangerous transgression of constitutional protections. The US media reacted in rage and the Agency back off, producing a weak 14 page critique of the ms. and the book was published unaltered. This did not happen to the book. While I was in Laos doing the research, CIA mercenaries made an assassination attempt on my research team. Even though I was a lowly graduate student at Yale University, I had an FBI phone tap, an IRS audit, an investigation of my federal fellowship by the US Department of Education, and, I believe, pressure my university to dismiss me from the graduate program. Once the book was published, the Agency threatened my sources in Laos to repudiate information they had given me. In sum, the Agency tugged at every thread in the threadbare life of an American graduate student. After the book was published and I finished my Ph.D., I found no academic employment in the US and migrated to Australia where I taught for 12 years. Since the courts have ruled, this is not a subject that I wish to comment on.
  9. Biography: Alfred W. McCoy

    Alfred W. McCoy studied Southeast Asian history at Yale University. In 1971 he was commissioned to write a book on the opium trade in Laos. During his research he discovered that the French equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency (SDECE), financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade. McCoy also found evidence that after the United States replaced the French in Southeast Asia, the CIA also became involved in this trade. As he later pointed out: "Their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism." Cord Meyer, a senior official in the CIA and a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, became aware of Alfred McCoy's manuscript and made efforts to have the book withheld from publication. The publisher, leaked the story to the media and the book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, was published in 1972. Now in its third revised edition, this book has been translated into nine languages. Alfred W. McCoy, who is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has spent the past thirty years writing about Southeast Asian history and politics. His publications include Philippine Cartoons (1985), Anarchy of Families (1994), Closer Than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy (2000) and Lives at the Margin (2001). His latest book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror, will be published in January, 2006.
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