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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-09-07 08:36 AM
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Salon: The CIA's favorite form of torture
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http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/06/07/sensory_de... /

The CIA's favorite form of torture

If the Bush administration forces the CIA to drop "tough" interrogation techniques like waterboarding, the agency will probably fall back on a brutal method that leaves no physical marks.

By Mark Benjamin
Pages 1 2

June 7, 2007 | WASHINGTON -- According to news reports, the White House is preparing to issue an executive order that will set new ground rules for the CIA's secret program for interrogating captured al-Qaida types. Constrained by the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which contains a strict ban on abuse, it is anticipated that the order will jettison waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques.

But President Bush has insisted publicly that "tough" techniques work, and has signaled that the CIA's secret program can somehow continue under the rubric of the Military Commissions Act. The executive order will reportedly hand the CIA greater latitude than the military to conduct coercive interrogations. If waterboarding goes the way of the Iron Maiden, what "tough" techniques will the CIA use on its high-value detainees?

The answer is most likely a measure long favored by the CIA -- sensory deprivation. The benign-sounding form of psychological coercion has been considered effective for most of the life of the agency, and its slippery definition might allow it to squeeze through loopholes in a law that seeks to ban prisoner abuse. Interviews with former CIA officials and experts on interrogation suggest that it is an obvious choice for interrogators newly constrained by law. The technique has already been employed during the "war on terror," and, Salon has learned, was apparently used on 14 high-value detainees now held at Guantnamo Bay.

A former top CIA official predicted to Salon that sensory deprivation would remain available to the agency as an interrogation tool in the future. "I'd be surprised if came out of the toolbox," said A.B. Krongard, who was the No. 3 official at the CIA until late 2004. Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has written extensively about the history of CIA interrogation, agrees with Krongard that the CIA will continue to employ sensory deprivation. "Of course they will," predicted McCoy. "It is embedded in the doctrine." For the CIA to stop using sensory deprivation, McCoy says, "The leopard would have to change his spots." And he warned that a practice that may sound innocuous to some was sharpened by the agency over the years into a horrifying torture technique.

Sensory deprivation, as CIA research and other agency interrogation materials demonstrate, is a remarkably simple concept. It can be inflicted by immobilizing individuals in small, soundproof rooms and fitting them with blacked-out goggles and earmuffs. "The first thing that happens is extraordinary hallucinations akin to mescaline," explained McCoy. "I mean extreme hallucinations" of sight and sound. It is followed, in some cases within just two days, by what McCoy called a "breakdown akin to psychosis."

It is therefore as insidious as some forms of obviously abusive coercion that are likely to be forbidden under the new CIA rules, like waterboarding, the technique of strapping a subject to a board with his feet raised and pouring water on his face to produce a sensation of imminent death. Legally, however, sensory deprivation is more nebulous than physical abuse, and that is what worries human rights advocates.

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