A 2010 FBI interrogation “primer” (PDF), apparently a fifth version of earlier FBI manuals dealing with “Cross-cultural, Rapport-based” “intelligence-oriented interrogations in overseas environments,” repeatedly draws upon advice from two CIA torture manuals, the 1963 KUBARK Counter-intelligence Manual and the 1983 Human Exploitation Resource Manual.
According to the National Security Archive, the KUBARK manual “includes a detailed section on ‘The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources,’ with concrete assessments on employing ‘Threats and Fear,’ ‘Pain,’ and ‘Debility.’ “ Even so, the manual is on the FBI’s “Recommended Reading” list for agents conducting overseas interrogations.
The 1983 Human Exploitation manual, which has been connected with atrocities by Latin American governments, drew upon both KUBARK and U.S. Army Intelligence manuals, describing the interrogator as someone “‘able to manipulate the subject’s environment… to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception.’”
The FBI document quotes the 1983 manual twice. While not referenced by name in the body of the document, the source is noted in the footnotes. One such quote from the 1983 torture document describes “the principle of generating pressure inside the source without the application of outside force.”
“This is accomplished by manipulating [the prisoner] psychologically until his resistance is sapped and his urge to yield is fortified,” the Human Exploitation Resource manual states, and FBI agents are so advised. The quote is in bold in the FBI instructions and reproduced as such here.
Meanwhile, the KUBARK manual is repeatedly mentioned in the body of the FBI work. “There are two purposes of screening according to the KUBARK Manual,” the “primer” states. According to the FBI, the “wise Interrogator” will follow “KUBARK Manual guidance.”
According to an ACLU blog posting, the FBI document was “written by an FBI Section Chief within the counterterrorism division.”
The rehabilitation of the KUBARK document began with an essay by U.S. interrogation consultant Colonel (ret.) Steven Kleinman. The essay was published in an Intelligence Science Board (ISB) December 2006 monograph, Educing Information. Kleinman noted KUBARK’s “disturbing legacy,” but added he felt the manual contained “the potential for lessons learned that could be derived from a highly controversial document.”
The FBI “rapport-based” manual repeatedly references another ISB document. Written in 2009, Intelligence Interviewing: Teaching Papers and Case Studies, includes in its two case studies a long discussion of a case of years-long isolation of a very senior North Vietnamese military official. While the interrogator in charge, Frank Snepp, said the treatment of this official ultimately disillusioned him about what the U.S. was trying to achieve in Vietnam, the ISB authors found Snepp had been successful in establishing “some operational accord” with the prisoner.
In his essay, Kleinman seriously played down the nature of the CIA’s manual, which had drawn upon years of MKULTRA research into use of drugs, sensory deprivation and the induction of fear and debility in interrogation subjects.
“Although criticized for its discussion of coercion, the KUBARK manual does not portray coercive methods as a necessary — or even viable — means of effectively educing information,” Kleinman wrote.
But in fact the CIA manual devotes fully a fifth of its instructions to coercive interrogation techniques, or torture, including isolation, “deprivation of sensory stimuli,” induction of physical weakness, use of “fear and threats,” hypnosis, and “narcosis”, i.e., use of drugs (including use of drugs as a placebo to fool prisoners).
Kleinman is the Director for Strategic Research for The Soufan Group, an organization named after ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan, and includes ex-FBI interrogators on its list of experts. It would seem that unwittingly Kleinman’s focus on what was of use to the legal interrogator in the KUBARK manual did not stop some FBI officials from allowing certain forms of coercive interrogation, i.e., reliance on use of isolation and manipulation of human emotional needs to get information and confessions. At times this is taken to extremes that amount to torture.
Kleinman himself is on the record as opposing all coercive interrogation methods. The 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into detainee abuse described then-Col. Kleinman’s efforts to stop torture occurring at a JSOC interrogation facility in Iraq. The criticism of his KUBARK essay is not meant to imply that he supports in any way the kinds of coercive techniques described therein.
[Update, 8/6/12: Furthermore, it is worth noting, and after hearing critique regarding the first version of this article from Mr. Kleinman himself, that in his essay on the CIA manual, Kleinman specifically says "long-term isolation" causes "profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort, and that such abuse would therefore fail to measure up to the standards for the treatment of prisoners as set forth in international accords and U.S. Federal statutes" (p. 138)]
FBI Uses Isolation to Achieve “Rapport”
The FBI manual also argues for the use of isolation to achieve rapport by leveraging the isolation or solitary confinement of a detainee. Kevin Gosztola highlighted this aspect of the FBI “primer” in an August 2 article at Firedoglake’s The Dissenter blog.
What both Gosztola and the ACLU miss in their otherwise important commentary about the coercive isolation technique (even the CIA’s KUBARK manual recognizes isolation is a coercive technique, i.e., torture) is how the FBI intends to leverage the effects of isolation to achieve effects under their “rapport” paradigm. This psychological aspect of the use of isolation has not been generally publicized.
“The need for affiliation is one of the advantages the Interrogator has if a subject has been isolated from fellow detainees, “ the FBI “primer” states.
In this matter, the FBI is following in the footsteps of the CITF doctrine it followed in DoD interrogations under an October 2003 directive that stated, “The use of isolation facilities will not be employed as an interrogation tactic; however, on a case-by-case basis it can be used as an incentive.” Perversely, the use of isolation under this directive was supposed to be “approved” by the detainee.
The KUBARK manual describes the anxieties, emotional discomfort and psychological regression that follow from enforced isolation, and how the interrogator exploits this situation (italics added for emphasis):
“As the interrogator becomes linked in the subject’s mind with the reward of lessened anxiety, human contact, and meaningful activity, and thus with providing relief for growing discomfort, the questioner assumes a benevolent role….
“At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject’s tendencies toward compliance.”
The Appendix M Torture Virus Spreads to FBI Doctrine
Writing in an August 2 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, ACLU Director Laura Murphy and Legislative Counsel Devon Chaffee make the important connection between FBI policy on using isolation and current Department of Defense interrogation policy.
As official interrogation doctrine of the Obama administration, Army Field Manual FM 2-22.3 (AFM), Human Intelligence Collector Operations made use of isolation part of their “Separation” technique, as described in its Appendix M.
Murphy and Chaffee write:
“By recommending that FBI agents ask the U.S. military to isolate detainees in its custody, the FBI primer appears to be encouraging the application of Appendix M of the Army’s interrogation manual—a controversial, restricted appendix that allows detainee isolation only in certain circumstances not involving prisoners of war. The FBI primer states that in a Department of Defense facility ‘a formal request from the FBI must be made to isolate the detainee’ and that this request ‘must be approved by the first O-6 in the chain of command.’ Appendix M of the military’s interrogation manual (which requires O-7 level approval) permits the use of isolation—as well as the placement of goggles, blindfolds, and earmuffs on the detainee—to ‘foster a feeling of futility.’ Experienced interrogators and human rights groups, however, have called for Appendix M to be revoked, questioning the technique’s effectiveness and highlighting the risk that its use will lead to serious human rights abuses.”
The abusive techniques of Appendix M, which also includes sleep deprivation and allowed environmental manipulations, along with the AFM’s allowance for use of fear techniques and even use of drugs, were approved in a 2006 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum for the files (PDF) by torture memo author Steven Bradbury.
Although President Obama, with the advice of Attorney General Eric Holder, revoked the 2002, 2005 and a few other OLC Bush-era torture memos, the administration never revoked the memo on Appendix M.
Use of isolation was something the FBI adopted early on, and its use was in evidence even in the early days at Guantanamo, where FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan was in charge of the interrogation of Mohamed Al Qahtani. While Al Qahtani’s interrogation was later the subject of an escalation of use of torture techniques by the military, which was itself a matter of some protest within DoD and FBI circles, while the FBI was in charge, Soufan had Al Qahtani placed in harsh isolation.
Soufan went so far as to remove Al Qahtani from the usual cellblock and built a special cell for him alone, meant to duplicate the hard isolation conditions Jose Padilla had been placed into in a Charleston, South Carolina Navy brig. When Soufan, NCIS Chief Psychologist Mark Gelles, and others protested use of other techniques of physical and psychological torture on Al Qahtani, their alternate proposal was to put the already near-psychotic and ailing prisoner in months more intense isolation.
The use of isolation to break prisoners has a long history. When two former prisoners in the USSR gulags, writing under the pen names F. Beck and W. Godin, published their account of Soviet torture in 1951 in a book entitled Russian Purge and the Extraction of Confession, they described the use of isolation at the start of their detention by the Stalin secret police:
“When a man was arrested he was completely isolated from the outside world….
“Each prisoner was carefully isolated from fellow prisoners who knew him. Consultation with defense counsel was unheard of, and in the overwhelming majority of cases no defense of any kind was permitted.” (pp. 40-41)
American sociologist Albert Biderman studied the effects of coercive interrogation on prisoners. His famous “chart of coercion” was taught to interrogators at Guantanamo. With its emphasis on isolation to deprive the prisoner of all social report and the will to resist, it could be a blueprint for modern FBI interrogation, minus Biderman’s emphasis on induction of debility.
For instance, Biderman’s chart describes demonstrating interrogator “omnipotence” and the use of threats and degradation of the prisoner. The FBI manual explicitly allows AFM “techniques” that play exactly on this, including “Emotional Fear Up,” “Emotional Pride and Ego Down,” “Emotional Futility,” and “The All Seeing Eye or We Know All.”
Changes in Procedures for Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas
Unremarked by the ACLU or other commentators is the FBI manual’s Annex B, “Conducting Custodial Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas.” The first FBI concern is evidence tainted by torture (though they don’t use the word “torture” anywhere in the document, at least in its redacted form).
The FBI counterterrorism Section Chief notes, drily, “Given the extensive media coverage of interrogation activities at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram and other facilities the threshold is particularly high for establishing that any statement you obtained overseas was not coerced in some way.”
Three sentences in the document are then redacted, and the text continues, “The assumption of the court may be that you used prior knowledge of the subject’s statements to obtain a statement which you are asserting is admissible even if you did not confront the subject with information he previously provided. Always keep in mind that you may one day be on the stand swearing that you had no knowledge of the subjects previous statements during intelligence interviews.” [Bold emphasis in original]
A second concern is the videotaping of interrogations. Recognizing that DoD routinely videotapes all interrogations, the FBI manual infers that the government may destroy or has destroyed such interrogation recordings.
“This creates a tremendous suppression hearing issue,” the FBI notes, “because the defense will become aware that the U.S Government (USG) taped the interview but the tape cannot be provided to the defense if a copy was not retained. The obvious accusation will be that the tape was destroyed to hide the fact that the confession was coerced. Seek out information on the videotaping policy for any facility you work in and document it.”
A third concern is the reading of rights to a subject held by a DoD or a foreign power, while emphasizing that the FBI agent has “no control” over such detainees and how they are held. While it requires the agents to document the subject’s condition, the manual does not forbid agents from interrogating subjects held in tortuous or cruel, degrading or inhuman conditions. In fact, the FBI manual’s section about “Recommended practices” regarding agents in such situations is entirely redacted.
A further distortion of normal FBI functioning concerns the advice of rights given to interrogation subjects held by DoD or another state. The FBI uses a “modified advice of rights” form in such cases, which begins with standard wording regarding the right to remain silent, to have an attorney present.
The “modified” rights form continues:
“If you cannot afford lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
“Our ability to provide you with counsel at this time, however, may be limited by the decisions of local authorities or the availability of an American or qualified attorney.”
The “modified” form concludes the same as the FBI standard form, informing the individual that even if they talk without an attorney present, they “have the right to stop answering at any time.”
The modification of procedure is necessary because, as the FBI manual states, “there is no way that a detainee in DOD or foreign custody will be allowed access to an American defense attorney…”
The FBI is often contrasted with the military and the CIA in regards to its use of abusive procedures during interrogation. While eschewing “enhanced interrogation” techniques that amount to torture, such as waterboarding, close confinement, and stress positions, the FBI relies instead on psychological manipulations of “rapport” building procedures, while using the harsh pressure of isolation and sensory deprivation to break down the prisoner psychologically.
Isolation itself is a form of sensory deprivation, and is described as such in the KUBARK manual.
This form of psychological torture is added to standard police techniques, and in particular a form of interrogation procedure known as the Reid Technique. The FBI manual references several times the 1963 work on this technique, Criminal interrogation and confessions.
A 2009 study of this kind of interrogation technique in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology found “innocent people are sometimes induced to confess to crimes they did not commit as a function of certain dispositional vulnerabilities or the use of overly persuasive interrogation tactics.”
These are exactly the tactics the FBI uses, though they are then supercharged via use of isolation of a prisoner, which, as the FBI itself notes, “advantages” the interrogator by playing off the human need for “affiliation” or communication with others. Modern psychological and neuroscience investigators understand that this “need” is hard-wired in the brain, and deprivation of such social stimulation is a direct attack on the nervous system of the individual.
The failure to hold anyone accountable for the use of torture by U.S. officials, including accountability for those who planned and sanctioned such torture, meant that forms of torture were institutionalized in U.S. policy documents, such as the Army Field Manual.
The declassification of this FBI interrogation manual has allowed us to understand that such institutionalization has extended as well to the Department of Justice and the FBI.
[This article has been altered to reflect feedback from Col. Steven Kleinman received after the story was first published.]