After 9/11, the CIA adopts reverse-engineered “SERE” interrogation protocol

After September 11, 2001, the C.I.A. ignored its own 1989 conclusions that torture is not an effective way to elicit intelligence information, and embarked on widespread use of torture globally, employing the euphemistic term, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT). America’s post-9/11 torture techniques are an expansion of the mind control arsenal and were tested and developed by psychologists on suspected terrorists.

The Senate Armed Services Committee Report (2008; released in 2009) documents that soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon and the CIA began to tap the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) school for use in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. As early as Dec. 2001, and subsequently, officials from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Office of Legal Counsel, approached officials at the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) which oversaw the military SERE training programs, sought information about possibly incorporating SERE methods for use in prisoner interrogations.

The U.S. military’s SERE training is designed to inoculate elite soldiers, sailors and airmen to torture, in the event of their capture, by an enemy that would violate the Geneva Conventions. Those service members are subjected to forced nudity, stress positions, hooding, slapping, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and, in some cases, waterboarding. But these harsh measures are carried out within strict controlled parameters to reduce the threat of soldiers developing a sense of helplessness.

In sharp contrast, “the express goal of the CIA interrogation program was to induce a state of ‘learned helplessness.’” (DoJ Office of Professional Responsibility, Report, 2009, p 235-36)

Furthermore, SERE training has nothing to do with effective interrogation and trained interrogators are not involved in the SERE program. Yet, many of these techniques were adapted “reverse-engineered” in harsher forms and used by the CIA in its so-called “enhanced interrogation program” (the euphemism for torture). (Mark Benjamin. A Timeline to Bush Government Torture, Salon, June 18, 2008; Muriel Kane. Military agency called harsh interrogation methods ‘torture’ and ‘unreliable, The RawStory, April 24, 2009)

CIA’s Office of Technical Services (OTS) contracted psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, both former trainers in the Air Force SERE School [“survival, evasion, resistance, escape] to prepare an analysis of an Al-Qaeda training manual and to devise “harsh interrogation methods” for use in obtaining intelligence information from suspected terrorists.

As noted in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Executive Summary (2014): “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have any specialized knowledge of al-Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.” Yet, they were hired by the CIA and initially paid $1,000 to $2,000 per diem. Bryant Welch, a psychologist and lawyer explains the diabolical end-result of “reverse-engineering:”

“They used the very therapeutic interventions psychologists use to ameliorate psychological suffering, but ‘reversed’ their direction to create psychological distress and instability… In reverse engineering, the environment is deliberately made more confusing and the victim’s trust in his own perceptions is intentionally undermined. In extreme form, this can ultimately drive a person to insanity from which some never come back.” (Welch. Psychology’s Role in Torture, Huffington Post, 2009)

The assumption was that when reduced to a state of helplessness, detainees would “spill the beans” and provide intelligence secrets that posed (“ticking bomb”) threats. But that assumption was false and unsupported by evidence. SERE techniques were not designed to elicit truthful information and the effectiveness of reverse-engineered SERE interrogations was belied by the poor results shown in the documented record and noted by numerous government and independent professional reviewers.

A JPRA document dated July 2002, referred to the application of extreme duress as “torture” and warned that it would produce “unreliable information.” The document stated that the key deficiency of physical or psychological duress is the unreliability and inaccuracy of the information gained: “A subject in pain may provide an answer, any answer, or many answers in order to get the pain to stop.”

“The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible — in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life — has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture,” the document said. “In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate information. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption.” (Peter Finn and Joby Warrick. Document Referred to Extreme Duress as ‘Torture,’ Warned of Techniques’ Unreliability, The Washington Post, April 25, 2002)

Indeed, skilled, experienced interrogators have said  that only a fool would think that the SERE training could somehow be reverse-engineered into effective interrogation techniques.
Jeffrey Kaye, an investigative reporter and psychologist points out that the link to CIA’s earlier despicable experiments “was not just ideational, but organizational.” He notes the involvement of the CIA Office of Technical Services (OTS) in the development of the Guantanamo prison (GTMO) torture manual. This CIA division has a long and dubious history under slightly variant names (Technical Support Staff, TSS; Technical Support Division, TSD). The infamous expansive mind control operations under MK-ULTRA – including surreptitious LSD and brainwashing experiments – were sponsored and directed by CIA’s Technical Support Staff. This CIA division provided technological innovations used in CIA’s covert operations including, concealment devices, audio and optical surveillance, and novel methods of assassinations. (Torture program linked to illegal CIA techniques, 2014) *<Read Pt. 8>