CIA 'Torture' Practices Started Long before 9/11 Attacks; "The CIA," the Senate Intelligence Committee Said Yesterday, Had "Historical Experience Using Coercive Forms of Interrogation."

By Stein, Jeff | Newsweek, December 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

CIA 'Torture' Practices Started Long before 9/11 Attacks; "The CIA," the Senate Intelligence Committee Said Yesterday, Had "Historical Experience Using Coercive Forms of Interrogation."


Stein, Jeff, Newsweek


Byline: Jeff Stein

"The CIA," according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, had "historical experience using coercive forms of interrogation." Indeed, it had plenty, said the committee's report released Tuesday: about 50 years' worth. Deep in the committee's 500-page summary of a still-classified 6,700-page report on the agency's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" after 9/11 there is a brief reference to KUBARK, the code name for a 1963 instruction manual on interrogation, which was used on subjects ranging from suspected Soviet double agents to Latin American dissidents and guerrillas.

The techniques will sound familiar to anybody who has followed the raging debate over interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA to break Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons around the world. When the going got tough, the CIA got rough.

The 1963 KUBARK manual included the "principal coercive techniques of interrogation: arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis and induced regression," the committee wrote.

Many such methods were used on a Cold War-era Soviet defector whom a few CIA officials suspected of being a double agent. They came to light in a congressional investigation over 25 years ago. "In 1978, [CIA Director] Stansfield Turner asked former CIA officer John Limond Hart to investigate the CIA interrogation of Soviet KGB officer Yuri Nosenko using the KUBARK methods--to include sensory deprivation techniques and forced standing," the committee reported.

Hart found the methods repugnant, he told a congressional committee investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. "It has never fallen to my lot to be involved with any experience as unpleasant, in every possible way as...the investigation of this [Nosenko] case and...the necessity of lecturing upon it and testifying," Hart told the committee. "To me, it is an abomination, and I am happy to say that it is not in my memory typical of what my colleagues and I did in the agency during the time I was connected with it."

But the CIA reached for KUBARK when U.S.-backed Latin American military regimes were faced with human rights protests, left-wing subversion and armed insurgencies. "Just five years" after Hart expressed his dismay about torture on Capitol Hill, "in 1983 a CIA officer incorporated significant portions of the KUBARK manual into the Human Resource Exploitation (HRE) Training Manual, which the same officer used to provide interrogation training in Latin America in the early 1980s," the Intelligence Committee report said. The new HRE manual was also "used to provide interrogation training to" a party whose name was censored in the committee's report but was almost certainly the Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel group the CIA created to overthrow the Marxist revolutionary government in Managua.

"A CIA officer was involved in the HRE training and conducted interrogations" that may have gone overboard, the committee's report said. "The CIA inspector general later recommended that he be orally admonished for inappropriate use of interrogation techniques." While it's not clear whether the officer was disciplined, he was sufficiently rehabilitated so that two decades later, "in the fall of 2002, [he] became the CIA's chief of interrogations in the CIA's Renditions Group, the officer in charge of CIA interrogations."

According to the report, an unnamed head of the interrogation program--possibly the same man--threatened to quit over ethical concerns about CIA methods. "This is a train [wreck] waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens," the CIA officer wrote in an email to colleagues obtained by the committee. He said he had notified the CIA's Counterterrorism Center of his impending resignation and cited a "serious reservation" about "the current state of affairs. …

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