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Alfred W. McCoy: A Question of Torture


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A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0...1719876-2081414

1. It obviously takes a lot of energy and commitment to write a book. Why did you select this subject? I ask this because it is clearly a subject that most Americans will not wish to consider. It is hardly to help your academic career either. Would you accept that it takes a great deal of courage to publish books about these dark areas of history? Does this explain why so few academics are willing to get involved in researching CIA covert activities?

2. You point out (page 15) that after the war the United States appeared to be fully committed to human rights and signed up to the Geneva Convention on the way prisoners should be treated. You then go on to argue that “by the mid-1950s, a confluence of pressures, legislative and clandestine, led Washington to suspend its support for these humanitarian principles”. What do you think was the most important of these “pressures”?

3. I have recently been researching the CIA overthrow of the government in Guatemala. Harry S. Truman (after pressure from Dean Acheson) refused permission to overthrow a democratically elected government. However, this permission was granted when Dwight Eisenhower was elected to office. Do you think the election of Eisenhower was significant in determining the behaviour of the CIA?

4. It seems to me that the key point in this story is when the CIA decided it would have to use the same tactics as the “Communists”. To psychologically deal with this, they had to believe that the “Communists” were so evil that all tactics, including those banned under human rights legislation, were acceptable. Therefore, McCarthyism was an important part of this change in American consciousness. I suspect we are seeing something similar happening in the current crusade against “terrorism”. Have you any comments on this point of view?

5. On page 21 you mention that the American intelligence services recruited former Nazi scientists such as Kurt Plotner who had experience of dealing with prisoners during the war (Operation Paperclip). Why were the American intelligence services so keen to work with former Nazis?

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A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0...1719876-2081414

McCarthyism was an important part of this change in American consciousness.

Bear in mind that McCarthism was rampant in America long before McCarthy himself began exploiting it, just as it remained rampant for years after McCarthy had left the scene. Hystrical anti-communism had been a feature of the American scene virtually from the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, and J. Edgar Hoover's constant warnings helped to fuel the hysteria. It calmed down during WW11 when uncle Joe Stalin became America's (temporary) ally. The Smith Act, which made it a crime just to be a member of the Communist party (even if you never lifted so much as a finger to actually DO anything unlawful) was signed into law by FDR.

I look forward to Alfred's contributions. I understand that he is the real McCoy.

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Unfortunately, former Sen. Mark Hatfield was the real Hatfield, but he is now deceased.

By the way, does anyone know in that famous feud who was right?

You mean between the Hatfields and McCoys? While there are those who might say that whichever one was both the most "moral" and the "strongest on terror" was right, I'm quite sure they both were wrong.

Back to Alfred... While I have not yet read your book, I have a great interest in this topic. I'm wondering if your research led you to the IPA, the International Police Academy, in Washington. When one skims through hundreds of books on international politics, one will find an occasional reference to this place. It appears that, at least at one time, policeman from throughout Latin America were brought there and trained in anti-communist techiniques, including torture. Is it still there, and, if so, did Uncle Sam in fact use this facility to train our American brethren torture techniques?

Edited by Pat Speer
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I have just read the first two chapters of your new book.

It surprised me to learn that Richard Helmes was put in charge of MK-ULTRA in 1952. Though I have seen

many a Helms reference, this is the first time I learned of his connection to MK-ULTRA. Do we know of any more specific actions he took re: said program. What about his close associates, Ted Shackley and Felix Rodriguez? Do they have any MK-ULTRA connections that you know of?

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In your book you look at the the history of the CIA's use of torture. Could you give a brief overview of this story?

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.

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