Blowing Smoke

In one of her excellent annotations to Chapter 3, Marcy Wheeler called my attention to this document, which is simply a list that the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) prepared of "physical pressures" commonly used in the services' various "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape" (SERE) training programs. Like the JPRA memo quoted in the chapter that explicitly warned of the dangers and ineffectiveness of torture, the list was attached to a JPRA memorandum Office of Legal Counsel lawyers used to support the infamous August 1, 2002 torture memo.

As Marcy notes, one of the "pressures" on the list is blowing smoke in a detainee's face—a technique that we saw used in Chapter 2, in a January 2002 incident reported by a military interpreter in Afghanistan in 2002, and in Chapter 3, during the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in Thailand. Another is "Immersion in Water/Wetting Down," which we also saw in Chapter 3 and which obviously led to the death of the anonymous detainee at the Salt Pit site in October 2002.

And then there's this item:

Manipulation of diet: Purposeful manipulation of diet, nutrients, and vitamins can have a negative impact on the subject's general health and emotional state. Medical personnel in the POW camps in North Korea believe that a B vitamin compound was responsible, in large part, to the phenomena called "give-up-itis." Recent studies suggest the removal of certain amino acids from a diet can induce heightened levels of emotional agitation.

I now have this document pinned to the wall beside my desk -- as an easy reference to the many SERE techniques "reverse-engineered" for use in real interrogations, and as a reminder of their truly sinister origins.
 

© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York NY 10004

This is the website of the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. Learn more about these two components of the ACLU.