March 28

Published scientific reports show SERE training caused U.S. soldiers harm

SERE is the acronym for “survival, evasion, resistance escape”, a military training program.(Read more above )
Published reports indicate that the acute stressful SERE techniques have produced physiological and psychological harm. Investigative reporter and psychologist Jeffrey Kaye has written numerous articles reporting physiological and psychological harm produced by stressful SERE techniques. In his article, The Torture Memos Aren’t Not Just Scik, They’re Full of Lies: A Closer Look at the Bybee Memo in AlterNet (2009), Kaye cites three published scientific reports –two of which reported dramatic changes in students’ hormone levels, the third reported psychological dissociative symptoms: “Assessment of Humans Experiencing Uncontrollable Stress: The SERE Course,” in Special Warfare (2000):

“Recorded changes in cortisol levels were some of the greatest ever documented in humans. In some cases, the changes noted among the trainees were greater than the changes noted in patients undergoing heart surgery….Changes in testosterone levels were similarly remarkable: In some cases, testosterone dropped from normal levels to castration levels within eight hours.”

A report in Biological Psychiatry (2000) found “dramatic alterations in cortisol… testosterone, and thyroid indices.  The degree of neuroendocrine changes observed may have significant implications for subsequent responses to stress.” And a report in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2001) looked at dissociative symptoms, such as depersonalization, derealization, psychic or emotional numbing, and general cognitive confusion, produced in military subjects exposed to SERE torture techniques:

“The current study was designed to assess the nature and prevalence of dissociative symptoms in healthy humans experiencing acute, uncontrollable stress during U.S. Army survival training. METHOD: In study 1, 94 subjects completed the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale after exposure to the stress of survival training. In study 2, 59 subjects completed the Brief Trauma Questionnaire before acute stress and the dissociative states scale before and after acute stress. A randomly selected group of subjects in study 2 completed a health problems questionnaire after acute stress.

RESULTS: In study 1, 96% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms in response to acute stress. Total scores, as well as individual item scores, on the dissociation scale were significantly lower in Special Forces soldiers compared to general infantry troops. In study 2, 42% of subjects reported dissociative symptoms before stress and 96% reported them after acute stress.”

Jeffrey Kaye reports that one of the lead researchers in a number of these studies is Yale psychiatrist Charles A. Morgan, III who (according to the Yale Herald) is described as having “pioneered” with his colleague Gary Hazlett, “a positive rapport interviewing method called Modified Cognitive Interviewing.” In his article, CIA Experiments on U.S. Soldiers Linked to Torture, in The Public Record (2009), Jeffrey Kaye describes Dr. Morgan’s career as somewhat less benign:

“Over the past 10 years, Dr. Morgan has served as a Subject Matter Expert to the US Special Operations Command.” But at a June 2004 symposium on “The Nature and Influence of Intuition in Law Enforcement,” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, and the American Psychological Association, Dr. Morgan is listed as affiliated with “Behavioral Science, CIA.”

“Dr. Morgan’s online profile states that between 1998 and 2002 he received over $400,000 in research grants from the Army and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for studies on “Psychobiological Assessment of High Intensity Military Training” and “Neuro endocrine assessment of Survival School Training.”

Of note, at the contentious convention of the American Psychological Association in 2007, Dr. Morgan indicated that he was against removing psychologists from national security interrogations – as had every other professional medical association, including his own American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Kaye notes that the CIA and the Pentagon had a good deal of experimental evidence from the peer-reviewed, published research of Dr. Morgan and his associates (and possibly others), both before and after 9/11, showing that SERE techniques had serious, debilitating effects on individuals subjected to them.  He notes that “this research is never cited in any of the Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying CIA’s torture program;

“it appears such research was deliberately withheld from government attorneys as the CIA sought approval for the use of SERE-style torture.”

He further notes that this research was not obscure: it “had been funded by the government at a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and promoted by some of the Pentagon’s highest generals.”

“The frenzied search for data on waterboarding, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement in a small box, etc., to submit to OLC attorneys making legal determinations on whether proposed interrogation techniques constituted torture, was a kabuki organized by the CIA. The OLC attorneys involved — John Yoo, Stephen Bradbury, Jay Bybee, and others — were witting or unwitting partners in suppression of CIA research on torture.”

“As a result, the memos produced authorizing the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were composed as the result of fraud and bad faith, the result of a criminal conspiracy to implement illegal torture techniques.”

What is one to make of the fact that while he defended the participation of psychologists in CIA’s torture of prisoners, Dr. Morgan is quoted in a New York Times article in 2007 stating:

“Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade. “How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee Report, “Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” (2009) documents the close involvement of the administration’s senior lawyers who supported the disingenuous legal arguments in support of torture.

OLC attorney, John Yoo had met with Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the opinions. And Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, recalled discussing detainee interrogations at a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo in late July 2002, prior to signing the OLC opinions. Indeed, senior government lawyers visited Guantanamo Detention Center.

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