Friday, September 08, 2006

RESTRICTED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUE: Detail lacking, sleep deprivation OK, duct tape no longer OK

"The Department of Defense, having concluded that its interests would be best served by public disclosure, released a new directive on policy towards enemy detainees and a new Army Field Manual on detainee interrogation," wrote Steven Aftergood in the Federation of American Scientist's Secrecy blog yesterday.

"The new detainee policy explicitly bars 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment of detainees who are in Defense Department custody and defines a minimum standard of humane care. The new Field Manual identifies 19 interrogation techniques that may be used, three of which are new, and prohibits others."

Aftergood posted the manual on FAS and it can be downloaded by following this link.

In many ways the manual goes into great detail on permitted modes of questioning -- including description of a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine which the Army calls "Mutt and Jeff."

The Army's transparency in much of this is to be applauded, as well as its willingness to leave the material unclassified.

However, the Army field manual on permissible interrogation is a large document. And while it is, for the most part, clear reading -- it is not easy or light. It is filled with jargon and procedural detail and that is proper for its purpose.

Except for one chapter/appendix at the very end.

The chapter in question purports to describe a "restricted" method of softening up detainees -- prisoners -- for questioning. The method is called "separation" and although there is a wealth of detail on the permissions and paperwork that must be filled out along the chain of command to get OK for the use of it, in stark contrast to the description of methods of questioning in the rest of the manual, there is little detail on what "separation" is.

This raises warning flags, for reasons which are clear in the following excerpts:

The above language appears to leave open the door for getting the United States into the same kind of trouble that has led to the outcry over secret prisons and squishy classification of those captured and subsequently claimed to be outside the protections from torture afforded by the Geneva Convention. Others, of course, may see it differently.

In the above graph, the Army frankly -- and in clear language -- recognizes the negative impact of torture and being perceived as torturers, even if the practice is no longer allegedly condoned. Note call for presence of medical personnel for action in emergencies. The chapter on "separation" in the manual includes multiple citations of the need for medical personnel.

This appears to be carefully and responsibly reasoned.

Here is the first -- in bold type -- of the red warning flags.

Remember, the Army --nowhere in the document -- describes in precise language the expanse of physical procedures allowable in "separation."

Here, the reader is given the outline of how long "separation" can be conducted on a prisoner without a break -- thirty days. Keep this in mind, it will be important.

From this, it can inferred that it used to be OK to duct tape the eyes of prisoners for long periods of time, perhaps as long as thirty days. Since it is now prohibited, it is left open to deduce for oneself what is now permissible, or not permissible, in shutting the eyes of prisoners for thirty days, in order to isolate them from their surroundings. Goggles and earmuffs are options.

The above sentence comes virtually at the very end of the Army's field manual.

And it obviously addresses sleep deprivation as part of "separation."

And it would seem logical to assume that many reasonable people, upon reading the chapter thoroughly, might come to the conclusion that allowing only four hours of continuous sleep for thirty days (with or without mandatory wear of goggles and earmuffs), among whatever other things are conducted in "separation," constitutes abuse, or inhumane treatment.


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