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Bush’s torture psychologists wanted to use ‘mock burials’: report

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Thursday, February 25, 2010 13:57 EDT
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Two psychologists working on the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques pushed for the use of “mock burials” on terror suspects, according to documents released by the Department of Justice.

Blogger Marcy Wheeler reports that the Department of Justice rejected a request from psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell to give the CIA the power to pretend to bury terror suspects during interrogations in the years after the 9/11 attacks.

A report (PDF, 289 pages) from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, released last Friday, documents ten interrogation techniques approved by Bush administration lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

But Wheeler notes that the psychologists had requested twelve techniques. One of those two techniques has already been revealed to be prolonged diapering. Wheeler uncovers evidence that the other one was mock burial.

“There must have been significant discussion about the decision to exclude mock burial from the [list of approved enhanced interrogation techniques], because the reference to its exclusion in the report itself (PDF page 60 in the Final Report) includes a page and a half of redactions following the discussion of leaving it out,” Wheeler reports.

Wheeler also suggests that the revelations about mock burial could be potentially incriminating for the CIA.

“Any legal discussion of why mock burial would be a problem would focus on how torture statutes prohibit the threat of imminent death,” Wheeler writes.

“Yet after mock burial was specifically excluded as a torture technique, CIA torturers went on to threaten detainees with a power drill and a gun. In other words, someone at that CIA had already been told, specifically, that they could not use the threat of imminent death on detainees. But on at least two occasions, they did so anyway.”

A CIA inspector general’s report, released last summer, documented cases of CIA interrogators using “mock executions” to intimidate suspects, including one instance in which a gun was fired in an adjoining room to make a suspect think another prisoner had been shot.

Jessen and Mitchell, the two psychologists reportedly behind the idea to carry out mock burials, came from SERE, or “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape,” a military program designed to teach soldiers how to resist torture when captured. They were contracted to work for the CIA after 9/11, and were tasked with teaching CIA interrogators some of the harsh methods they learned to defend against at SERE. The techniques covered by SERE appear to be the basis for the enhanced interrogation program run under the Bush administration.

In 2008, the Pentagon banned the use of SERE techniques in interrogations.

 
 
 
 
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