Describing interrogation techniques and approaches used during the Cold War, an old 1960s CIA counterintelligence interrogation manual advised covertly photographing the interrogation subject and also audio taping his interrogations.
A tape player could free an interrogator from note taking, the CIA’s experts wrote, while also providing a live record of an interrogation that could replayed later. The manual’s author noted that for some of those interrogated, “the shock of hearing their own voices unexpectedly is unnerving.”
Portions of the manual, originally declassified over 16 years ago, have remained censored until now. In March 2014, the CIA released an updated version [PDF] of the manual, which contains new revelations that extend our knowledge of CIA interrogation activities.
For example, in the case of audio taping interrogations, the newly declassified version of the manual adds that the CIA believed the doctoring of such tapes to be “effective.”
“Tapes can also be edited and spliced, with effective results, if the tampering can be hidden,” the CIA manual explained in a section previously redacted. The CIA further elaborated on the effects of having a tape “edited to make it sound like a confession.”
While controversy remains pitched over the release of a portion of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” torture program, the CIA’s release of material – including portions that speak to the agency’s years-long use of foreign intelligence services for detention and interrogation – was quietly released with little fanfare. Meanwhile, leaks to news media and analysis by commentators demonstrate that the CIA lied to Congress about aspects of its post-9/11 rendition, detention and interrogation (torture) program.
What has not been emphasized much until now is that the post-9/11 program in regards to torture, rendition and detention, both at “black sites” and by foreign intelligence services working with the CIA, is the continuation of a CIA practice going back decades.
KUBARK as a Model for Interrogation and Torture
The CIA’s 1963 set of instructions on counterintelligence interrogation, known as the KUBARK manual, was first declassified in 1997. (KUBARK was the CIA’s own code name for itself.) Recently, since that initial declassification, I obtained an update of the CIA’s infamous document, obtained on March 12, 2013 via Mandatory Declassification Request. The document was obtained by using the FOIA-activist website Muckrock.com, and the document and all materials regarding its production, including my initial request, is posted at their site. Click here to download the document (or on the thumbnail below).
The updated version of the KUBARK manual still contains numerous redactions, even 51 years after the document’s origination. But it also includes brand-new information about the CIA’s use of torture, including never before revealed discussions of the CIA’s early use of foreign intelligence services for both interrogation and detention, including the use of such foreign services as cover for CIA interrogations. The new unredacted material includes the finding that KUBARK techniques were used at “defector reception” or interrogation centers during the Cold War.
The Baltimore Sun, which originally had gained the manual via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it first made in May 1994, linked the KUBARK manual to later torture and interrogation techniques utilized in a 1983 set of manuals used in Central America to train Honduran and other Central American interrogators.
The product of years of experimentation and field experience, the KUBARK manual written in 1963 utilized a set of torture and other interrogation techniques that included use of solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, fear, stress positions, electric shock, sleep deprivation, drugs, and other methods to induce compliance and the “exploitation” of the prisoner or subject interrogated.
After the Abu Ghraib scandal, when the kinds of abusive interrogation and detention techniques used on U.S. “war on terror” detainees were vividly visualized for U.S. and world audiences, the similarities between what the U.S. was doing and the early instructions in the KUBARK manual became front-page news in the mainstream U.S. press.
The similarity of the KUBARK techniques to certain abusive techniques used by other government agencies, such as the FBI, has been noted. But it is the connection with the CIA’s own Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program that resonates the most in the context of a major government dispute over the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA program.
The Intelligence Committee has voted to release the Executive Summary of the report, but most of the 6,000 page report will not be released. Meanwhile, the CIA itself has been asked (or demanded, perhaps) to be centrally involved in classification decisions made in the release of the Executive Summary. The chance we’ll see much of that full report is slim. As we can see, it’s taken 51 years and we still don’t have all the information in the CIA’s 1963 interrogation manual.
A recent article by Jason Leopold at Al Jazeera America suggested that the Senate report will show that CIA “enhanced interrogation” techniques “either went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or were applied before they had been authorized.” Those techniques included, among other forms of torture, physical slapping, sleep deprivation, isolation, confinement of a prisoner in small box, stress positions, and waterboarding.
Early Evidence of Black Sites and Rendition
Among the most prominent portions of the KUBARK manual that were not originally declassified and held secret until now — labeled KUBARK II here to forego confusion with the 1997 declassified version — concern CIA’s interrogations conducted “with or through liaison.” Such liaison included “foreign” or “host” services, including those interrogations that “involved illegality.”
While there is no portion of the document that specifically uses the term “rendition,” there is a lot of discussion about having to use foreign intelligence services as liaison on interrogation, and on the limited amount of detention time the CIA had when holding prisoners in other countries. (It is widely known that post-9/11, the CIA held prisoners at secret prisons in Thailand, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania, while rendition to torture sent kidnapped detainees to foreign intelligence prisons in Syria, Morocco, Egypt and other countries.)
CIA ex-Deputy Counsel John Rizzo recently admitted that the CIA rendition program was a practice of long standing. “Renditions were not a product of the post-9/11 era…” Rizzo recently told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, “… renditions, in and of themselves, are actually a fairly well-established fact in American and world, actually, intelligence organizations.”
Until now, most discussions of the U.S. post-9/11 CIA interrogation program have presumed that renditions to foreign interrogation services were something that originated after the Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or perhaps earlier, during the Clinton administration. But the newly restored sections in KUBARK II suggest that such activities by the CIA were common practice during the Cold War.
One example of this, not referenced in the KUBARK document, but known from other CIA documents, was known in intelligence circles as the “Kelly Case,” and described by H.P. Albarelli and this author in a 2010 article. Kelly, a code name for a Bulgarian operative named Dimitrov, was kidnapped by the CIA in the early 1950s and sent to a secret interrogation center run by the CIA at Fort Clayton, Panama (then Panama Canal Zone) where he was tortured using drugs and hypnosis, part of the Agency’s Operation Artichoke.
In another example of early rendition practice, the CIA and the Army Intelligence Corps (CIC) allegedly ran a kidnapping program called “Snatch/Countersnatch” in Europe after World War II. There were notable early examples of CIA kidnapping as well. One of these was the case of Peter Moroz, an employee of the CIA’s Institute for the Study of the USSR, who “was seized by CIA operatives posing as German police,” and taken to a “safe house” near Munich. Munoz was subjected to loud music and bright lights for almost three months in isolation, all because the CIA wanted to question him after his son purportedly had defected to the East Germans. (See Maris Cakars & Barton Osborn, “Operation Ohio: Mass Murder by US Intelligence Agencies,” Win Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 30, 9/18/1975*)
According to KUBARK II, “Interrogations conducted under compulsion or duress are especially likely to involve illegality and to entail damaging consequences for KUBARK.” The newly declassified material shows approval for such actions, including interrogations involving “physical harm” and “medical, chemical or electrical methods or materials… used to induce acquiescence,” derived from a CIA official labeled “KUDOVE,” a cryptonym which according to a National Archives document describes the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations (DDO).
Such approval by the DDO was also necessary “[i]f the detention is locally illegal and traceable to KUBARK….”
James Pavitt was Deputy Director of Operations from 1999 to June 4, 2004. He was succeeded by Stephen Kappes, whose tenure only lasted until August 2004. Kappes was followed by Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr. Rodriquez famously ordered the destruction of video tapes used in the interrogation and torture of Abu Zubaydah and other “high-value detainees” held by the CIA at their Thailand “black site.” During Rodriquez’s tenure, the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which was once known as the Directorate of Plans, changed its name once again to the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Whether Directorate of Plans, Directorate of Operations, or NCS, this section of CIA is responsible for covert operations.
While it seems likely Rodriquez’s destruction of the tapes was meant to destroy evidence of torture, the revelation about doctoring tapes in the new version of the KUBARK document raises the question whether or not the evidence had to be destroyed so that no one would know the tapes had been altered in an effort to produce or manufacture the appearance of confessions.
The Detention Problem
Most of the discussion of working with foreign intelligence agencies is in the manual’s section on “Legal and Policy Considerations.” In 1997, much of that material was redacted, so that it was difficult to know that there was any coordination between the CIA and foreign services. But the newly unredacted material shows that the CIA turned to foreign “liaison” services because the legislation that formed the Agency “denied it any law-enforcement or police powers.”
As “the necessary powers are vested in the competent liaison service or services, not in KUBARK, it is frequently necessary to conduct such interrogations with or through liaison,” the CIA wrote. The legality of such an interrogation – whether conducted “unilaterally” by either CIA or the host service – was “”determined by the laws of the country in which the act occurs.”
According to the CIA document, detention of prisoners was the primary legal problem, as the CIA had no legal power to hold prisoners. “Even if the local authorities have exercised powers of detention in our behalf,” the CIA wrote, “the legal time-limit may be narrow.” Hence, the manual suggests that the determination has to how long a prisoner can be held in detention be determined as quickly as possible. As the reference to “locally illegal” detention cited earlier suggests, sometimes that determination included a decision to hold prisoners unlawfully. A full paragraph on how to determine how much time could be available to CIA for interrogation in such circumstances remains censored in KUBARK II.
The issue of control over a prisoner’s detention is raised more than once in the document. “As a general rule, it is difficult to succeed in the CI [counterintelligence] interrogation of a resistant source unless the interrogating service can control the subject and his environment for as long as proves necessary,” the manual states. While most of the ensuing discussion remains classified in the latest manual release, a portion of this section was unredacted.
The CIA expresses concern over what is done to prisoners or detainees held by foreign liaison services. Some “sources may demand immediate release,” the CIA document states, or “later bring suit for illegal detention.” There does not appear to be any easy solution to this dilemma, from the CIA’s standpoint, though the manual warns against either pressing “too hard” on a detainee or releasing him too early, before the information desired has been obtained. “Transfer to an interrogation center should not be used as an automatic solution,” the CIA manual noted.
It was not clear what type of “interrogation center” the manual was referring to at this point.
The newly declassified material shows the CIA as very concerned with possible security leaks. A released prisoner, subjected to KUBARK-style interrogation and torture, is such a possible security leak, according to the manual.
If a “subject is to be turned over to a host service,” KUBARK II states, “it becomes more than usually important to hold to a minimum the amount of information about KUBARK and its methods that he can communicate.” It is possible that these are some of the same types of concerns that, unspoken, keep dozens of detainees cleared for transfer or release held indefinitely at Guantanamo.
That the CIA wished to keep its collaboration with “foreign services” secret can be discerned from the numerous times even small references to such services, even in passing, were deleted from the original declassification release.
In an “Interrogator’s Checklist” towards the end of the manual, the CIA asks the interrogator to consider whether an arrest is “contemplated.” “By whom?” the manual asks. “Is the arrest fully legal? If difficulties develop, will the arresting liaison service reveal KUBARK’s role or interest?” Furthermore, “If the interrogatee is to be confined, can KUBARK control his environment fully?”
In a tantalizing revelation of even further considerations around sharing detention and interrogation with foreign services, one of the newly declassified “checklist” items asks, “If the interrogation is to be conducted jointly with a liaison service, has due regard been paid to the opportunity thus afforded to acquire additional information about that service while minimizing KUBARK’s exposure to it?”
To date, none of the discussions about the post-9/11 RDI program have dwelled upon the intelligence activities the CIA and its allies may have conducted upon each other, or the intelligence vulnerabilities or risks the RDI program may have entailed in that regard.
“Defector Reception Center”
One of the topics the KUBARK manual touches upon is the existence of “defector reception centers.” In the original declassification, all references to such centers were censored, even though such centers concerned possible defectors from the Soviet Union or its allies, and the 1997 FOIA release of KUBARK came six years after the fall of the USSR and its East European satellite states.
Very little has been written about these centers. According to declassified CIA and State Department documents and some memoirs by former CIA personnel, we know that the CIA maintained a “defector reception center” near Frankfurt, West Germany. It was housed at the primary Allied post-World War II interrogation center, Camp King, at Oberursel.
According to a memoir by former CIA Deputy Director of Covert Operations, Ted Shackley, “all people defecting in Europe from countries of the Soviet bloc were brought here” (to Camp King). They were held in villas scattered around Frankfurt. CIA documents released a few years ago show the housing and resettlement aspect of this defector program was code-named HARVARD.
In Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks’s classic 1975 exposé, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, detainees at the Defector Reception Center at Camp King were “subjected to extensive debriefing and interrogation by agency officers who are experts at draining from them their full informational potential. Some defectors are subjected to questioning that lasts for months; a few are interrogated for a year or more.”
According to KUBARK II, all defectors, escapees, and refugees were “customarily sent to a defector center for detailed exploitation.” “Detection reception centers and some large stations are able to conduct preliminary psychological screening before interrogation starts,” the manual states.
While there is no direct evidence of torture of any defectors or East Bloc escapees held at any defector reception center, the fact the KUBARK manual itself describes procedures that amount to “coercion,” even by CIA standards, strongly suggests that some torture was conducted on Soviet and East European detainees held at one or more such reception centers.
Further exploration of the Defector Reception Center and activities at Camp King are a fruitful source of possible future research. Other authors have determined that the former Nazi doctor Kurt Blome, tried but released at Nuremberg, and former head of the Nazi’s biological warfare program, worked as a doctor at Camp King in the early 1950s. In addition, Camp King was known for using drugs and other experimental torture methods on Soviet bloc prisoners.
The CIA, explaining they could neither confirm nor deny any records on Blome, rejected a FOIA I filed with the CIA on Blome’s activities.
Blome was also a top member of Nazi Germany’s biological warfare program. On February 28, 2014, the CIA’s Agency turned down my appeal of their non-confirmation/non-denial, or “Glomar” response, for records on the Camp King physician.
There is a small amount of other newly unredacted material. Much of it consists of quotations from Albert Biderman’s secret 1959 report, “A Study for Development of Improved Interrogation Techniques.” It is not clear why these sections were originally withheld. The new declassification still contains a number of redactions of material referenced in the KUBARK manual.
One of the restored Biderman quotes notes, “skilled and determined interrogations are almost invariably successful in eliciting some information from their sources.” Biderman continued, describing those “who abandon the ‘name, rank, [serial] number only’ rule or other injunctions of silence, are between 95 and 100 percent.”
Another new section concerns the interrogation of “penetration agents.” The discussion included the pros and cons of coercive interrogation.
“All good interrogators avoid coercive techniques whenever the necessary information can be gained without them,” the CIA manual stated. “In other words, physical or psychological duress is counter-productive when employed against a source whose voluntary cooperation can be enlisted without pressure.”
But if such “coercion must be used and is successful,” the interrogator is cautioned that such action is likely to leave a victim “drained and apathetic.” “A resistant source who has been ‘broken’ should not be disregarded as a person when squeezed dry,” the manual warns. Left to his own devices after “the use of pressure exceeding his resistance (for example, narcosis or hypnosis)… he is likely to revert to the role of antagonist and try to cause us trouble by any means available to him.”
Addendum: Click here to see the final response letter from the CIA to me granting the request for new declassified material, and giving their explanation why some of the material was censored.
*Use of materials from Win Magazine comes via Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.
Article adapted from original posting at Firedoglake/The Dissenter