NY Times Report: Bush’s Torture Methods and Rationalizations Identical to Soviet Communist KGB

Brian Zick

Scott Shane for the NY Times has a report titled Soviet-Style ‘Torture’ Becomes ‘Interrogation’: HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and other cold war adversaries?Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war, became the basis for American interrogations.In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program called Survival, Evasion, Reconnaissance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to create a feeling of suffocation.Some of those techniques have been used on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret overseas jails for high-level operatives of Al Qaeda.Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.His question is only underscored by a 1956 article, “Communist Interrogation,” in The Annals of Neurology and Psychology, recently turned up by the Intelligence Science Board, which advises the spy agencies. Written by doctors working as Defense Department consultants, Lawrence E. Hinkle Jr. and Harold G. Wolff, the article shows that methods embraced after 2001 were once considered torture that would produce false information. Shane provides some examples of the 1956 article's text, which reveal some noteworthy parallels: The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture. (…) Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain. (…) In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

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