Oct. 2, 2002: Top Secret memo specifies 3 torture categories

The memo was written by psychiatrist Major Paul Burney and psychologist Major John Leso, is still classified but was reviewed and cited in the Senate Armed Services Committee Report. The memo describes three interrogation technique categories intended to “develop rapport, promote cooperation, and counter resistance.” Some techniques were drawn from his SERE training while “other approaches were simply made up by the BSCT.” These approaches served as the basis for the infamous EITs. Category I techniques were the mildest and included incentives. When they failed, interrogators could then request permission to implement Category II techniques. Unlike Category I, Category II techniques were intended for “high priority” detainees; they included isolation for up to 30 days if authorized by the Chief Interrogator; food deprivation for up to 12 hours or as long as the interrogator goes without food; back-to-back 20 hour interrogations once a week; removal of comfort items, including religious items; forced grooming; handcuffs; and placing a hood over the detainee’s head during questioning or movement. (Guantanamo America’s Battle Lab. Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, 2015, p. 19)

The final category created by the BSCT Memo was Category III, intended “ONLY for detainees that have evidenced advanced resistance and are suspected of having significant information pertinent to national security.” Category III interrogation techniques were designed to break down a detainees psychological and physical stamina : daily use of 20 hour interrogations; strict isolation without medical visitation or access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ; food deprivation for up to 24 hours once a week; use of scenarios “designed to convince the detainee he might experience a painful or fatal outcome; ” and use of non-injurious physical consequences such as removal of clothing and exposure to cold weather or water. The memo became the BSCT standard operating procedures manual.

The day the BSCT Memo was circulated, a Counter-Resistance Strategy meeting was held at GTMO. The minutes indicate the BSCT Memo was discussed and the use of force was addressed. Maj. Burney and Maj. Leso indicated that physical stress techniques against detainees were unreliable. But they deemed “psychological stressors” including sleep deprivation and isolation “extremely effective.” They stated: “What’s more effective than fear based strategies are camp-wide environmental strategies designed to disrupt cohesion and communication among detainees…We need to create an environment of ‘Controlled Chaos.’” Additionally, the participants at the meeting discussed the implementation of possible new experimental techniques, including the use of truth serum.

The minutes of the meeting included comments such as: “Any of the techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present…If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.” CIA lawyer Jonathan Freedman described “wet towel treatment” that can make a person “feel like you’re drowning” and the use of phobias, including insects, snakes and claustrophobia were “very effective.” But an unidentified person stated, “talk of ‘wet towel treatment’ which results in the lymphatic gland reacting as if you are suffocating, would in my opinion; shock the conscience of any legal body looking at using the results of the interrogations or possibly even the interrogators. Someone needs to be considering how history will look back on this.” (S. Armed Services Report, p. 57; America’s Battle Lab, p.20) CIA attorney Freedman argued that the techniques described in the BSCT memo were legal and that the torture statute was written vaguely.

However, Burney and Leso told the Armed Services Committee investigators that they were uncomfortable with what they were asked to produce. And the memo they drafted in 2002 included clear warnings: “Physical and/or emotional harm from the above techniques may emerge months or even years after their use.” They stressed that the most effective interrogation strategy is based on building rapport. “Interrogation techniques that rely on physical or adverse consequences are likely to garner inaccurate information and create an increased level of resistance.” (Sheri Fink.Tortured Profession, 2009; America’s Battle Lab, 2015)