Under Auspices of the Army Field Manual, Ongoing Torture Interrogations Continue at Guantanamo

With all the debate and controversy over the Obama administration’s policies on torture, no one had asked the military, and in particular those running America’s “terror” prisons, if they had been using the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M. But recently the Guantanamo’s Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Commander Brook DeWalt, confirmed Appendix M interrogations were taking place at Guantanamo.

This issue has more than intrinsic interest, as the administration has now announced that it is pursuing moving over a hundred Guantanamo “detainees” to a prison in Illinois. (The actions of Umar Abdulmutallab on a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day has thrown a monkey-wrench into the “closing” of Guantanamo, but the plans are ultimately to move the remaining Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S.) Will that include the transfer of Appendix M interrogations, and other abusive elements of the AFM protocol?

In an telephone interview on Dec. 11, Lt. Commander DeWalt explained that while “not routine,” Appendix M interrogations are conducted at Guantanamo “as authorized,” “in accordance with DOD directives and U.S. law.” He would not go into operational specifics. Officer-In-Charge of the 4th Public Affairs Detachment (Guantanamo Forward), Lt. Col. James Crabtree, who was also contacted, declined to be declined to elaborate when asked about more specific dates of operational usage. Appendix M is the portion of the 2006 revised Army Field Manual that covers “unlawful enemy combatants” who don’t meet the U.S. government’s criteria for Geneva treatment as prisoners of war.

Obama doesn’t want to call them illegal combatants anymore, so the government doesn’t call them anything, except people with lesser rights. Famously, President Obama has proclaimed, as did his predecessor, that he was against torture, and was banning it in his administration. As a result, the Obama administration closed down the CIA secret black site prisons, though not, as it turns out, all secret black site prisons. Obama also rescinded the torture memos drafted by, with the help of Dick Cheney’s legal counsel David Addington, Justice Department attorneys Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury.

Levin, and replaced them with an interrogation policy oriented around the Bush-era Army Field Manual (AFM), whose latest incarnation was the brainchild of Donald Rumsfeld’s assistant, Stephen Cambone. At first, the new AFM was supposed to have a secret annex, so the “worst of the worst” could be grilled in U.S. military prisons, and not have any bleeding hearts or Al Qaeda types getting wind of what was going on. Instead, the government decided to publish the Appendix M annex openly, and when there was no subsequent protest, and the politicians dutifully saluted, the new torture policy was ready to go.

Appendix M was certainly not the old “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but it wasn’t exactly not them either. The new AFM was supposed to be better than the old one, like any new product, but in fact, old prohibitions against abusive interrogation techniques were removed, and in some cases, the techniques formally reintroduced. An example of the latter is sleep deprivation, which used to be explicitly proscribed, but is now part of Appendix M procedure. “Fear Up” procedures are strengthened, and exploitation of phobias allowed. Modes of sensory deprivation are introduced. The ban against drugs that cause serious derangement of the senses or temporary psychosis is replaced by a ban against drugs that cause “permanent damage.” Stress positions are, notably, not explicitly banned.

A behavioral science consultant (most likely a psychologist) and other medical personnel are part of a “multidisciplinary team” that monitors the Appendix M interrogation. The use of such medical and psychological personnel has been heavily criticized by ethicists from those professions, and by professional organizations, such as Psychologists for Social Responsibility, as the need for medical-behavioral monitoring is linked to the presence of abuse. In addition, psychologists in particular have been implicated in helping plan the interrogation themselves, particularly in ferreting out the prisoner’s psychological weaknesses and fears.

Battling for the Public’s Impression of the Army Field Manual

From time to time, the implications of actually using the AFM has theatened to break through the right-wing monopoly of discussion about government interrogation policy. Consider this exchange, last May, between NBC’s Chuck Todd and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

Q What is he going to say to those who make the argument, which has been made, he’s actually just changing rhetoric, he’s not changing policy that much? With Guantanamo, you’re essentially calling for a way of moving Guantanamo. You’re just changing the name.

MR. GIBBS: Well, ask that question of some of our severe detractors on this and see if you get agreement on that. I actually don’t think that’s the case. I think what the — the decision that the President made on military commissions is something that’s envisioned that’s much different than what was passed in Congress and signed by the President in late September and early October in 2006.

I think, as we’ve talked about here, enhanced interrogation techniques are something that this President has outlawed as part of the actions of this administration. I don’t think those are —

Q Yet the fine print, there’s open to interpretation about what different techniques could be used.

MR. GIBBS: How so?

Q In the argument that there’s definitely some words in there that one could interpret that it’s —

MR. GIBBS: Chuck, I don’t think you’re — let me understand — I don’t think you’re intimating that the Army Field Manual would allow one to do —

Q There have been some interpretations that there are —

MR. GIBBS: I can assure you that’s not how the Army interprets the Army Field Manual, and I assume that generals in the Army and the military that are in charge of ensuring that the procedures of the military are in line with the laws of this country — I don’t think you’re intimating that people in the Army are inferring different things about their own field manual, because I know that’s not the case.

Gibbs appears to think that the military can be trusted to ensure “the procedures of the military are in line with the laws of this country,” eviscerating the idea of Congressional oversight. What Todd calls “fine print” in the Army Field Manual — “open to interpretation” — others have called torture or abuse.

The President of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn has stated that portions of the AFM protocol, especially the use of isolation and prolonged sleep deprivation, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is illegal under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, has stated that portions of the AFM are “deeply problematic” and “would likely violate the War Crimes Act and Geneva,” and at the very least “leave the door open for legal liability.” Physicians for Human Rights and the Constitution Project have publicly called for the removal of problematic and abusive techniques from the AFM.

The Center for Constitutional Rights wrote last year:

Appendix M of the Army Field Manual… allows the use of techniques such as prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and inducing fear and humiliation of prisoners. These techniques, especially when used in combination as permitted by the AFM, constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and in some cases, torture. These techniques have caused documented, long-lasting psychological and physical harm and were condemned by a bipartisan congressional report released last month, as well as by the Bush-appointed head of the military commissions at Guantanamo.

“In some cases, torture.” As bmaz pointed out almost exactly one year ago, when Guantanamo Convening Authority judge Susan Crawford dismissed charges against Guantanamo prisoner Mohamed al-Qahtani, telling Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that the U.S. tortured al-Qahtani:

Crawford has exposed to bright sunlight the lie that is Barack Obama’s, and other politicians’, simple minded reliance on the Army Field Manual as cover for their torture reform credentials. Interrogators can stay completely within the Army manual and still be engaging in clear, unequivocal torture under national and international norms, laws and conventions.

President Obama’s Interrogation Policy and Appendix M

For quite some time, some have strongly suggested that the progressive community take up the centrality of abusive interrogations, as enumerated in the Army Field Manual, most particularly, in the latter’s “Appendix M.” The failure to do so, goes the argument, would have serious repercussions for civil liberties, not to mention the struggle for accountability over past use of torture.

As torture proper moves from offshore U.S. military and CIA/Special Operations prisons to the territory of the U.S. “homeland,” civil liberties activists and commentators must make their protest against the use of torture techniques in the Army Field Manual heard in the White House. The truth about the use of cruel, inhumane, and degrading interrogation techniques must drown out the obfuscatory fear-mongering from the Cheneyesque right-wing, who babble about how the AFM is inadequate for use by intelligence agencies in the “Terrorist War.”

Some progress has been made in the past year on this issue, and as evidenced by Stephen Rickard’s article at Huffington Post late last August. Rickard is Director at the Washington Office of the Open Society Institute. He noted that the new AFM never explicitly banned the use of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques of the old Bush administration.

It strains credulity to think this was an accident. Language in the old [1992 Army Field] Manual clearly banned wall standing and other stress positions. It was deleted [in the 2006 Manual]. The old Manual called sleep deprivation “torture.” That was deleted. Rather than banning the use of cold, the 2006 Manual only prohibits causing “hypothermia” consistent with OLC limits on using cold. The 2006 Manual prohibits “beatings … or other forms of physical pain.” But it doesn’t flatly ban assaults, which is critical because the OLC memos argue at great length that the authorized physical assaults — slapping, grabbing, walling and others — were intended to cause shock and not “pain.” The 2006 Manual does not ban using water or cramped confinement.

It is hard to understand why the use of torture techniques in the current Army Field Manual has not become a bigger issue than it has. But there has been a plethora of issues and leftover crises from the Bush years, such that it’s not surprising that some important causes have not yet broken through into public consciousness.

Last August, the Obama administration unveiled its new studied policy on interrogations, proclaiming that “the Army Field Manual provides appropriate guidance on interrogation for military interrogators and that no additional or different guidance was necessary for other agencies.”

But the Washington Post story by Anne Kornblut that reported on the new policy continued the media’s practice of misrepresenting what’s in the AFM:

Using the Army Field Manual means certain techniques in the gray zone between torture and legal questioning — such as playing loud music or depriving prisoners of sleep — will not be allowed. Which tactics are acceptable was an issue “looked at thoroughly,” one senior official said. Obama had already banned certain severe measures that the Bush administration had permitted, such as waterboarding.

Kornblut did reveal one telling piece of information about where all this interrogation business is headed:

Still, the Obama task force advised that the group develop a “scientific research program for interrogation” to develop new techniques and study existing ones to see whether they work.

How would such a “scientific research program” operate? Who would run it? How would such a program ethically study such questions as the efficacy of interrogations? Up until now, no one is discussing these matters, as societal disinterest or disinclination to take up these vital questions — questions made more salient because of the violent history of torture over the past nine years — prevents the issue from gaining traction in the competition for public evaluation. In addition, the inclusion of a “scientific research program for interrogation” conjures up memories of the decades-long U.S. military/CIA research program into mind control, hypnotism, use of LSD and other drugs in interrogation, and other dire practices associated with programs such as the CIA’s Artichoke and MK-ULTRA.

The fight to remove Appendix M and other offending policies from the Army Field Manual goes right to the heart of the struggle against militarism. Making the problems with the AFM known is part of the campaign to secure accountability for torture; that is, we can start by stopping torture from taking place now. Progressives should demand a rescission of Appendix M and other offending portions of the Army Field Manual, as well as a complete moratorium on the use of renditions for interrogation, another policy Obama has carried over from the Bush years.

Another version of this report was originally published at

Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist living in Northern California and a regular contributor The Public Record, has been blogging at Daily Kos since May 2005, and maintains a personal blog, Invictus. E-mail Mr. Kaye at sfpsych at gmail dot com.

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6 Responses for “Under Auspices of the Army Field Manual, Ongoing Torture Interrogations Continue at Guantanamo”

  1. Pete Jackson says:

    Give it up, Jeffrey. Your whacko left wingers will never be happy unless we let the terrorists populate our jails at tax payers expense. Stop being such a pussy, man up and stop whining like the wimpy milquetoast you are.

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  3. Ken K says:

    I just happened to stumble across this article when I was doing some research and wow! I can’t believe you can publish such nonsense. This is when I think the Government should be able to step in and silence deceitful journalism like this. This is freedom of the press at its absolute worst!

    One of two things must have occurred here: You either haven’t read FM 2-22.3 yourself Mr. Kaye and wrote this article off the information you received from your trusted sources, or you actually read it and decided to print a bunch of lies anyway just to further your own selfish ideologies. Which one is it Jeff? If it was the first one then let me be the first to tell you that your sources are bad and don’t have a clue what they are talking about. If it’s the latter, then what makes you any different in your deceit to the public than your conspiracy theories of our government’s deceit?

    Let me set the record straight as a 21-year Army veteran Interrogator who has served our nation proudly all the way back to cold war days. No where in any FM that the Army has ever had on Interrogation operations has torture been advocated. No where in the current FM is there a technique that is built to be able to infer to torture. Here is a dissection of the false comments that you make in order to sway public opinion your way.

    (1) You keep mentioning Appendix M interrogations and their torturous nature. What is an Appendix M interrogation? Well, for your information, it doesn’t exist. There is only one Restricted Interrogation Technique in Appendix M and it is called Separation. All that Separation means is taking a detainee and putting them in a cell alone. The only two justifications for this is to prevent the detainee from building cover stories with the other detainees that they were caught with and to prevent the detainee from gathering/learning resistance techniques from other detainees in general population before being interrogated. No where in the FM does it state any other purpose is authorized. Some may argue that the removal from social interaction inherent to Separation carries with it psychological risks which can be construed as torture, but that could only be said by conspiracy theorists such as you since you are so blinded by your own hate/paranoia that you couldn’t see the truth if it were standing right in front of you. All I can say to you and your “followers” is that if you want to keep defining Separation as torture even though Separation can only be authorized for a maximum of 30 days at a time, then you should first be challenging our own penal system that locks up U.S. persons in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives. And by the way, each detainee in Separation actually gets daily social interaction, just not with their own kind for obvious reasons mentioned earlier. As for Appendix M interrogations, the Separation is a condition that occurs on the custodial side of the house where as all interrogations occur on the intelligence side. The interrogation itself is completely separate from the Separation, hence there is no such thing as an Appendix M interrogation.

    (2) You mentioned that “Fear up” approaches have been strengthened and the exploitation of phobias allowed in the new FM. Another deceitful statement. First of all, the Fear up approach was downgraded since we used to have two levels of Fear Up, a “fear-up harsh” which utilized yelling at times, and a “fear-up mild”. In FM 2-22.3 there is only one now that is referred to as an Emotional Fear-up and it specifically states that the use of a calm controlled demeanor should be used. You use the phrase “exploitation of phobias” and that is just not true. Here is what the FM says:

    “Fear is another dominant emotion that can be exploited by the HUMINT collector. In the fear-up approach, the HUMINT collector identifies a preexisting fear or creates a fear within the source. He then links the elimination or reduction of the fear to cooperation on the part of the source. The HUMINT collector must be extremely careful that he does not threaten or coerce a source.”

    People like you will read the statement above and think of things like exploitation of phobias and other coercive minded usages even after reading the last statement about not threatening or coercing the source. Any attempt to capitalize on a phobia would probably evolve to coercion such as when guard dogs were used at Abu Ghrayib. This was and still is a stupid action as coercion is most importantly against our interrogation policies, but also diminishes the probability of accurate information which in a tactical environment we cannot afford to have occur. Might the use of this Approach technique make a detainee cry? Of course it can. Are you saying that making a detainee release their emotions by saying something to them and making them cry is torture? Then you better look in the mirror and figure out how many times you have “tortured” others in your life by making them cry before you judge us when we might make an enemy of the United States of America shed a few tears. I know I shed a few tears the last time I deployed to Iraq when I saw the pictures of my only daughter walking down the ailse and I wasn’t there to give her away. Was I tortured then by my wife who sent me the pictures? No, of course I wasn’t and neither are the detainees if they happen to cry. It’s war and if you haven’t experienced it then I don’t recommend it as it can be quite overwhelming at times.

    (3) You make the statement “The ban against drugs that cause serious derangement of the senses or temporary psychosis is replaced by a ban against drugs that cause “permanent damage.” Stress positions are, notably, not explicitly banned.” Here is what the FM really says:

    “The psychological techniques and principles in this manual should neither be confused with, nor construed to be synonymous with, unauthorized techniques such as brainwashing, physical or mental torture, including drugs that may induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage. Physical or mental torture and coercion revolve around eliminating the source’s free will, and are expressly prohibited by GWS, Article 13; GPW, Articles 13 and 17; and GC, Articles 31 and 32.”

    Your conspiracy is that since the word “temporary” was replaced with the word “permanent” that this must mean a change in super secret drug interrogation protocol. As the guys on ESPN Game Day say, “Come on man!” Are you serious? Are you really this short sided and paranoid? The Army doesn’t use any kind of drugs for interrogation. Don’t get the U. S. Army and the CIA mixed up because we are two different entities. But I can only infer that is who you are referring two though I personally have never witnessed an interrogation by them so I can’t accurately comment. You just want to throw us all together as the big bad Government in the sky that is all about doing evil things in order to suppress our society and take control of others. You need help my fellow American.

    As for Stress Positions, they are not in the new FM because of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Read on and I will answer this one later.

    (4) You state “A behavioral science consultant (most likely a psychologist) and other medical personnel are part of a “multidisciplinary team” that monitors the Appendix M interrogation. The use of such medical and psychological personnel has been heavily criticized by ethicists from those professions, and by professional organizations, such as Psychologists for Social Responsibility, as the need for medical-behavioral monitoring is linked to the presence of abuse. In addition, psychologists in particular have been implicated in helping plan the interrogation themselves, particularly in ferreting out the prisoner’s psychological weaknesses and fears.

    This team’s actual job is the safety of the detainee. It has nothing to do with the interrogation side of the house. Since the detainee is alone in a cell, the Behavioral Science Consultant monitors the detainee to make sure that they are not having psychological ill effects from the Separation. The medical staff ensures the detainees health because once we capture an enemy combatant, they become our responsibility. No matter where the detainee is, there is always a medical staff that is close by in case the detainee needs medical attention. This oversight far outweighs anything we provide to prisoners in solitary confinement in our own U.S. prisons. Again the paranoia that there must be link to the presence of abuse is made by you Mr. Kaye and people like you that do not want to know the real truth, only what fits your agenda. Their entire existence revolves around the care and safety of the detainee and you defame their service by making accusations to the contrary.

    I can finally give you credit for one thing you mention, although I won’t put it in the same warped light as you. Of course you know about this and by your writing it is quite obvious which side you are on. As for the psychologists such as yourself , yes there has been and still is a big conflict of interest between professionals in your Psychology circles about the ethics code and whether their involvement is justified or not. Some such as yourself believe that your involvement is in direction conflict with your ethics, while others feel that their ethical duty is to support our nation in the Global War on Terrorism. I’m not a psychologist so I cannot and will not debate your ethics but I can thank every Behavioral Science Consultant I have had the pleasure to meet for stepping up to the plate and helping the cause. Since it’s obvious that your sources of information are tainted and you know nothing of true U.S. Army interrogation operations, what we teach, how we operate, I wish I could ask you to afford me the same professional courtesy and not provide your opinions as warped fact on matters you know nothing about such as my profession. But I know that won’t happen.

    Final thoughts on your rhetoric. You continually attempt to use statements from other articles written by other journalists who are too busy hugging the tree in front of them to see past the bark into the rings of the tree where the real story lies. Their words hold just as little of merit as yours because they were just as ill informed as you were when they wrote their articles as you were when you wrote yours. There is no conspiracy that lies within FM 2-22.3 to mitigate or eradicate specific verbiage in order to commit acts of torture behind everyone’s back. The fact is that Public Law 109-163 title XIV, better known as the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, specifically states that “No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.”

    Since it seems that you have a hard time understanding the way some things are written I’ll simplify what this means. If it ain’t in the manual then it can’t be used. Got it? Since the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 came out before the final version of FM 2-22.3, there was no need to add a bunch of superfluous language into the new FM about what is not authorized since Title XIV dictated into law that nothing outside the Army interrogation FM is authorized to use anymore. That includes Stress Positions.

    And for the record, the U.S. Army does not advocate physical contact period! That is abuse and they do not stand for it! Did it happen in OIF 1. Yes it did. But it shouldn’t have happened. This is where the evil in some influenced the evils in others to come out. We all have evil in us; you, me, everyone. We have all thought of doing something to someone who has emotionally scarred us in our past. The vast majorities of us have the moral turpitude to recognize that those thoughts are wrong, not act on the temptation to commit the evil, and allow the temptation to subside. Some just don’t have that ability or temporarily lose that ability due to a traumatic situation. War is traumatic and at Abu Ghrayib it brought out the worst in them. No excuses though. What they did was sick and downright wrong. But check your statistics if you even have any Mr. Kaye and see how many of the abuse cases actually involved interrogators. You won’t find too many because the majority of the cases involved the detention guards. So why all the rhetoric about interrogation? A detainee spends maybe a few hours in any given day in an interrogation, meaning that they spend the remaining 22 hours of the day on the detention side of the house with the guards that were responsible for over 90% of all abuse in Iraq. See past the bark my friend. The rings of the tree will show you the way.

    People of this great nation, if by chance you are reading this crap like I did, you can Google FM 2-22.3 and read it for yourselves. Stop allowing wannabe journalists such as Mr. Kaye here influence your perception of reality through their own selfish agenda. Read the FM for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Specifically read Chapter 8 and Appendix M which is the bulk of what Mr. Kaye attempts to discredit with this article. There are no hidden agendas in the FM. I may be retired now but I am proud of the service I provided to my country. I have interrogated hundreds of prisoners in my career and not once did I treat them outside the lines of the Geneva Conventions even when others said that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply. There will be a book being published soon called “The fight for the high ground” which covers the exploits of interrogation operations in OIF 1 before Abu Ghrayib happened. Finally a book that talks about how the majority of us did what was right. Find it. Read it. See what really happened. And for you paranoid conspiracy theorists, no, it’s not written by me so stop right there.

    And to you Mr Kaye, if you were just ill informed and this wakes you up to reality on this subject then I apologize for any ill pitches towards you and I welcome you to the other side with open arms. If you really are as paranoid as you write and truly hate our government that much that you hallucinate between every line then I can only ask you to please find another country to live in (maybe France. Paris though, not Normandy. They still remember) and make room for another immigrant to come and try and find their American dream. God bless America and our military that protects her!

  4. JOHN Q CITIZEN says:

    Kent K!
    I salute your articulate and direct feedback to Mr. Kaye’s interpretation of the AFM Article. I am humbled by your “army-man” approach and no BS “been there/done that” rebuttal, to almost the entire “conspiracy theory” culture.

    I will do my homework for now on…


  5. Why doesn’t this surprise me? Everybody in Guantanamo has been tortured or abused,

  6. karen says:

    No it is NOT up to Obama which it may be the case here; it is really UP TO THE AMERICAN people who support, passively allow or just ignore what is being done in their name by whosoever happens to be President of the USA at the time.

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