2002: Guantanamo: “America’s  Battle Laboratory”

The stated purpose of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center (GTMO), opened in Jan. 2002, was to house the most dangerous detainees, the “worst of the worst” captured in the course of the Global War on Terrorism. However, an analysis of the numerous declassified government documents including Executive Order, JTF-170, Senate Reports, Inspectors General Reports, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), emails between military service members and civilians, public statements by officials, and other government documents concerning operations at GTMO by the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, Guantanamo America’s Battle Lab (2015), sheds a disturbing, entirely new light on the  primary function of GTMO.

“Instead of being used primarily as a detention facility, GTMO was designed and operated predominately as America’s Battle Lab—a facility where U.S. intelligence personnel could coordinate worldwide interrogation efforts and have unfettered control over persons in U.S. custody.”

“GTMO existed as a place where “Intel” could push nearly all of the boundaries of torture without fear of liability.”

“History is being made with the Interrogations Operations taking place at Guantanamo Bay . . . . Operationally, it breaks new ground. The Command, [redacted], Analysts, Service and Support elements, and Military Police are daily being asked not just to do the jobs they were trained for, but to radically create new methods and methodologies that are needed to complete this mission in defense of our nation.” (JTF-GTMO Joint Intelligence Group SOP)

The Seton Hall report provides a chilling assessment of how America’s executive leadership had created a secret chain of command that operated beyond the scope of established military chain of command, providing the intelligence commander direct access to the President of the United States. The report shows that the Executive Leadership exerted intense pressure and propelled the descent down the slippery slope into the darkest realm of torture. It highlights the principal players and those who authorized the use of torture emerge in executive orders, memoranda, public statements, and Congressional testimony.

The Seton Hall report makes the compelling case that GTMO was rapidly transformed from a detention facility into a vast secret intelligence operation network that functioned as a “Battle Lab” – which is the term used by the GTMO JTF 170 intelligence commanders – Major General Michael Dunlavey and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller – when referring to the facility.

The JTF-170 GTMO interrogation program was created by an Executive Order (Feb. 2002) with responsibility “for the worldwide management of interrogation of suspected terrorists.” Maj. Gen. Dunlavey was given specific “marching orders from the President to meet on a weekly basis with Secretary Rumsfeld.”

In March 2002, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz issued a directive that waived the right to informed consent and lifted the prohibition against the use of prisoners of war as human guinea pigs; this military directive was a clear and explicit violation of the Nuremberg Code, the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law. The waiver was issued to provide legal cover for “Special Access” a top-secret experimental interrogations program at GTMO.

The Seton Hall report provides a window into the vast number of divisions and sub-divisions comprising an intricate network of military groups and civilian contractors operating on intelligence matters at GTMO. These included: Special Operations Forces, Interrogation Operations Teams, Psychological Operations who were SERE trained, Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), Tiger Teams, Synchronization Teams, Special Access Program, Combined Joint Task Force… The “JTF GTMO “SERE” Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure” was written by the Chief of Interrogation Control Element (ICE), Lieutenant Colonel Ted Moss and the Commander of the Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) Colonel Sanders and the Commander of GTMO, Major General Geoffrey Miller. (See, Appendix C, D & E which list the Federal agencies, military divisions and civilians involved with intelligence gathering from GTMO detainees)