Document a Day: Old Torture Made New

The torture techniques CIA and Defense Department interrogators used have a specific pedigree: they were developed and promoted by two psychologists who had worked for the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) programs, where U.S. soldiers are subjected to torture techniques perfected by such countries as China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union.

In this January 15, 2003 memo, two SERE trainers report on their trip to instruct Guantánamo interrogators on “the theory and application of the physical pressures utilized during our training evolutions.” Their instruction began, they report, with “an in-depth class on Biderman's Principles,” and the memo reproduces this chart of “Coercive Management Techniques” entitled “Biderman's Chart of Coercion.”

Biderman is Albert D. Biderman, whose September 1957 paper “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” contains the original chart in a more legible form. Biderman showed how Chinese and Korean interrogators used techniques including sleep deprivation, darkness or bright light, insults, threats, and exposure far more than physical force to break prisoners.

 

 

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