Report: Interrogation Instructors at Gitmo Taught Communist Tactics from 1950s

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Really? When the military was copying old communist torture tactics verbatim, no one thought, Hey, this doesn’t seem like a very American way of doing things?

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency….

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

So this is what happened: In the 1950s, the Air Force took note of Chinese torture tactics used on Americans during the Korean War. A few years back, in search of torture tactics, which were missing from military manuals because until the Bush era the United States did not torture, the military found the Air Force’s (presumably disapproving) study of communist tactics and copied those tactics down, and started teaching them to interrogators at Gitmo. According to the NYT, “The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its original title.”

Other than the fact this should have obviously given someone pause, I think the relevant point is made by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) in the Times piece: “What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions. People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.”

We didn’t just copy communist tactics. We copied communist tactics specifically intended to elicit fabulous tales.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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