If you think the Justice Department’s decision yesterday to limit torture investigations to two cases is the end of the torture story in the United States, think again. Wait around for a while. U.S.-style torture will be back.
According to the CIA’s 1963 KUBARK interrogation manual, when the CIA gets a new prisoner, he should be hooded, stripped naked and kept in isolation. The idea is to “enhance within each subject his feelings of being cut off from the known and the reassuring.” When he is given clothes it might be “useful to give him and outfit that is one or two sizes too large” so he continues to feel humiliated.
The agency’s 1983 manual says to do precisely the same thing, including the blindfold, being “completely stripped” naked and later given “ill-fitting clothing.”
The agency’s 2005 manual on combining interrogation techniques notes that nudity in the beginning is useful to create “psychological discomfort.” Humiliation and disorientation techniques “demonstrate to the detainee that he has no control over basic human needs.”
Then the interrogator slowly ratchets up the pressure. “The specific conditioning techniques are nudity, dietary manipulation, and sleep deprivation,” the agency’s 2005 manual says. It says the idea is to “place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress.”
Or, as the 1963 manual put it, “Control over the sensory environment permits the interrogator to determine (the detainee’s) diet, sleep pattern and other fundamentals. Manipulating these into irregularities, so that the subject becomes disoriented, is very likely to create feelings of fear and helplessness.”
Next, make the prisoner perform stress positions to inflict physical and mental pain. Adding in more sleep deprivation and complete isolation will eventually break a prisoner down into mental collapse, according to the CIA’s manuals dating back to the 1960s and up through 2005.
The United States has been using the same torture playbook since the early days of the Cold War, when U.S. intelligence agencies stole the techniques from the communists who used the same tactics to provoke false confessions — but not gather intelligence.
The Obama administration has stopped this stuff for now, just as it was halted in the 1970s and then again in the 1980s after similar scandals.
Old habits die hard. Torture will be back.