1983: CIA “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual”

This CIA interrogation manual, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual” (1983) is an updated version of KUBARK manual (1963) incorporating sections of KUBARK. The 1983 CIA training manual allocates considerable space to the subject of “coercive questioning” and psychological and physical techniques and recommends: “manipulate the subject’s environment to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception.” It sought to teach foreign agents ways to extract information from people without extracting fingernails, advising against physical torture as counterproductive. Instead, it discussed using intense fear, deep exhaustion, solitary confinement, unbearable anxiety, and other forms of psychological duress against a subject as ways of ”destroying his capacity to resist” his interrogator. [A highly redacted version of KUBARK was released in 1997 in response to a FOIA request by The Baltimore Sun; a less redacted version was released in Feb. 2014 in response to a FOIA request by investigative reporter, Jeffrey Kaye]

The threat of violence and deprivation are among the prisoner interrogation techniques recommended:
“The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources
Under the subheading, “Threats and Fears,” the CIA authors note that “the threat of coercion usually weakens or destroys resistance more effectively than coercion itself. The threat to inflict pain, for example, can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain.” In subheading “Pain,” the guidelines discuss the theories behind various thresholds of pain, and recommend “pain which is being inflicted upon him from outside himself may actually intensify his will to resist. On the other hand, pain which he feels he is inflicting upon himself is more likely to sap his resistance… if a subject is ”required to maintain rigid positions such as standing at attention or sitting on a stool for long periods of time, the immediate source of pain is not the ‘questioner’ but the subject himself.”

A section on sensory deprivations suggests imprisoning detainees in rooms without sensory stimuli of any kind, “in a cell which has no light,” combined with “persistent manipulation of time” for example, “ ‘questioning’ of a resistant subject should be done on a varying schedule so as to disrupt his sense of chronological order.” The KUBARK manual concludes: “An environment still more subject to control, such as water-tank or iron lung, is even more effective.” (National Security Archive)

In 1989, the CIA sent a report to Congress stating “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.” (Scott Shane. A Broken CIA Devoted to a Failed Approach, The New York Times, 2014