Training Interrogators to Produce False Confessions

When the Bush administration decided to get into the torture business, it adopted methods used by Chinese interrogators during the Korean War -- despite evidence that the techniques lead to false confessions.

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

In Bushworld, a false confession is better than no confession. [more ...]

If trainers really didn't know that coercion and torture lead to false confessions, they were seriously negligent in their duty to educate themselves before trying to educate others.

In what critics describe as a remarkable case of historical amnesia, officials who drew on the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] program appear to have been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false confessions by American prisoners.

Unaware? Nobody thought to ask where the chart originated?

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003.

Somebody surely knew the chart's origin:

The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its original title: “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance.”

You'd think the person who dropped the title would have paused to ask how effective the Communist techniques were for arriving at the truth. Senator Carl Levin:

“What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions,” Mr. Levin said. “People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.”

False intelligence, maybe not, but false confessions come in handy to justify the seizure and detention of innocent people.

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    I have to be honest here: (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jim J on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 11:33:32 AM EST
    I'm prone to tinfoil headwear, and I've always believed there was something seriously Trojan Horse-ish about both Bush presidents. Simply put, I have never believed they have their country's best interests at heart, but rather a small group of extraordinarily well-connected industrialists with no national allegiance.

    So, using Communist methods would be a no-brainer for them, I guess is what I'm saying.

    (Delving deeper into tinfoil territory: I still want to know when and why the U.S. Army reversed the flag shoulder patch. On current uniforms it's displayed incorrectly, with the star field on the wrong side facing the viewer. The Pentagon being the Pentagon, someone had to have signed off on that change. Why?)

    Obtaining false confessions (none / 0) (#2)
    by rbtalk on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 11:44:01 AM EST
    wasn't accidental or the result of negligent training, supervision, etc.  They were purposive:  the wanted false intelligence to justify future acts.  Connection of Iraq to Al qaeda, for instance.

    The objective always was (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:27:50 PM EST
    to create false confessions.  Let's not kid ourselves about that.

    The secondary objective was, as I've said many times in the past, to sieve out from among the many military and intelligence interrogators, those who are both willing to and capable of torturing captives.  Not to eliminate them from the military or intelligence services, but rather to promote them into positions of responsibility in those services and thereby remake them from professional services into instruments of government-operated terrorism.  Against the governed.  To create a Torture Corps, as it were, such Corps to be responsive only to the Permanent Republican Majority Party.

    Otherwise, people like the General (whose name escapes me now) in charge first at Gitmo and later Abu Ghraib, and under whose command torture metastatized there and elsewhere, would not have been kept in the military but would have long since been in prison.  He was a political tool (in all the many senses of that word) and a willing one at that.

    Ironic, isn't it, how the Republicans took on verbatim from their old adversaries the Communists not only the mannerisms and insistence on unitary power, but the methods - including torture - they once decried.

    Will Congress roll over on this yet again? (none / 0) (#4)
    by rise hillary rise on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:43:24 PM EST
    Let's call this what it is-war crimes. If there is any shred of humanity left in this nation, it's time to bring these people to account. I used to wonder how Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot and others managed to inflict the terrible things that they did. Not any more. Not in a country where the price of gas matters more than the revelation of these atrocities.

    God bless... (none / 0) (#5)
    by desertswine on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 02:30:44 PM EST
    "...copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

    Is it possible to sink any lower than this?

    Christopher Hitchens sez... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 02:37:52 PM EST
    Believe Me, It's Torture
    What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist--not inflict--it.
    by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, August 2008

    It goes without saying that I knew I could stop the process at any time, and that when it was all over I would be released into happy daylight rather than returned to a darkened cell. But it's been well said that cowards die many times before their deaths, and it was difficult for me to completely forget the clause in the contract of indemnification that I had signed. This document (written by one who knew) stated revealingly:

    "Water boarding" is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.


    "...I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."  Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture..."

    Something is obviously very very wrong with this planet.... ;-)

    Yes (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 07:10:34 PM EST
    And the Chinese got it from someone at SOA. Full circle, no doubt.