Ten best

by Jordan Green

Ten best



New documents released by the Obama administration last week about interrogation techniques used against so-called “high-value detainees” by the CIA confirm what virtually every American who has been paying attention for the past seven years already knew. But taken as a whole, the methods present a chilling picture. Operatives would start with “conditioning interrogation techniques,” designed “to demonstrate to the HVD that he has no control over basic human needs.” One such conditioning technique, described in a December 2004 CIA memo for the benefit of the US Department of Justice, is nudity: “The HVD’s clothes are taken and he remains nude until the interrogators provide clothes to him.”


Another conditioning technique, described in the same CIA memo, is extended sleep deprivation, which the CIA used to keep detainees awake for up to 96 hours. “The CIA uses physical restraints to prevent the detainee from falling asleep,” wrote Steven G. Bradbury, Justice Department lawyer in a July 2007 memo to the CIA’s acting general counsel. “The detainee is shackled in a standing position with his hands in front of his body, which prevents him from falling asleep but allows him to move around within a two-to-three foot diameter area.” (The CIA itself sets the threshold much higher, at more than 120 hours for the “hardest resisters,” but never more than 180 hours.)


Though the phenomenon is presented as incidental rather than purposeful, Bradbury alludes to the likelihood that detainees will defecate on themselves while undergoing extensive sleep deprivation. “Because releasing a detainee from the shackles to utilize toilet facilities would present a significant security risk and would interfere with the effectiveness of the technique, a detainee undergoing extended sleep deprivation frequently wears a disposable undergarment designed for adults with incontinence or enuresis,” he wrote. “The undergarments are checked and changed regularly, and the detainee’s skin condition is monitored. You have informed us that undergarments are used solely for sanitary and health reasons and not to humiliate the detainee.”


Other conditioning techniques described in the 2004 CIA memo are constant lighting and loud noise used in combination. The detainee “will be exposed to white noise/loud sounds (not to exceed 79 decibels)” — the equivalent, according to a recent Washington Post report of “a passing freight train” — “and constant light during portions of the interrogation process,” the memo reads. “These conditions provide additional operational security: white noise/loud sounds mask conversations of staff members and deny the HVD any auditory clues about his surroundings and deter and disrupt the HVD’s potential efforts to communicate with other detainees.”


Add to the assorted menu of conditioning techniques designed to disorient the detainee, break his will and create a sense of helplessness, dietary manipulation, which involves “substituting a bland, commercial liquid meal for a detainee’s normal diet.”


Walling is described by the Washington Post as basically slamming a detainee’s head into a plywood barrier. “Walling is one of the most effective interrogation techniques because it wears down the HVD physically, heightens uncertainty in the detainee about what the interrogator may do to him, and creates a sense of dread when the HVD knows he is about to be walled again,” the 2004 CIA memo avers. “An HVD may be walled one time (one impact with the wall) to make a point or twenty to thirty times consecutively when the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.”


The advantage of water dousing, according to the memo, is that it can be used in combination with other “corrective or coercive techniques”: A detainee “in stress positions or wall standing can be water doused. Likewise, it is possible to insult slap or abdominal slap with an HVD during water dousing.”


In August 2004, an unidentified CIA lawyer wrote to Dan Levin in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that approvals for the use of the waterboard last for only 30 days, that the technique could only be used on 20 of those days and interrogators could administer up to four sessions per day. “A waterboard ‘session’ is the period of time in which a subject is strapped to the waterboard before being removed,” the lawyer noted helpfully. “It may involve multiple applications of water…. An ‘application’ during a waterboard session is the time period in which water is poured on the cloth being held on the subject’s face.”


“With the ‘insult (or facial) slap,’ the interrogator slaps the individual’s face with fingers slightly spread,” Bradbury writes. “The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individual’s chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe. The interrogator thus ‘invades’ the individual’s ‘personal space.’ We understand that the purpose of the facial slap is to induce shock or surprise.”


CIA memo: “If the HVD is still maintaining a resistance posture, interrogators will continue to use walling and water dousing. All of the corrective techniques (insult slap, abdominal slap, facial hold, attention grasp) may be used several times during this session based on the responses and actions of the HVD. Stress positions and wall standing will be integrated into interrogations. Intense questioning and walling would be repeated multiple times.”