Marc Ambinder confirms that there is a secret facility at Bagram run by the Pentagon's Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center where detainees are subject to abusive interrogation techniques, under "secret authorization" from the Obama administration to ignore the executive order the President signed last year:
However, under secret authorization, the DIA interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out "restricted" interrogation techniques.
Under certain circumstances, interrogators can deprive prisoners of sleep (four hours at a time, for up to 30 days), to confuse their senses, and to keep them separate from the rest of the prison population. The Red Cross is now notified if the captives are kept at the facility for longer than two weeks.
When interrogators are using Appendix M measures, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Gen. James Clapper (Ret.) is the man on the hook. Detainees designated as prisoners of war cannot be subjected to Appendix M measures.
The administration says that the Red Cross is given access to detainees and that they are not abused, but this is false on its face, in two ways. The BBC has previously reported that as many as nine detainees have reported being subject to abuse at Bagram's "black jail."
The second is that the use of sleep deprivation is torture. As former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wrote of his time in the custody of the KGB:
In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.
Reducing people's minds to mush also has the downside of making it difficult for them to answer questions coherently.
Let's also not let "confuse the senses" slip by. This is possibly a euphemism for sensory deprivation, which can be among the most excruciating forms of torture imaginable. Here's an excerpt from an account on early experimentation with sensory deprivation that Hilzoy flagged last year:
Dr Donald O. Hebb at McGill University found that he could induce a state akin to psychosis in a subject within 48 hours. Now, what had the doctor done? Hypnosis, electroshock, LSD, drugs? No. None of the above. All Dr Hebb did was take student volunteers at McGill University where he was head of Psychology, put them in comfortable airconditioned cubicles and put goggles, gloves and ear muffs on them. In 24 hours the hallucinations started. In 48 hours they suffered a complete breakdown.
II don't know if this is what "confuse the senses" means in the context of Bagram, but it's worth more looking into.
Whatever credibility the Obama administration had remaining on the subject of breaking continuity with the Bush administration on issues of human rights is fast eroding. The irony is that the torture wing of the Republican Party will both feel vindicated and argue that the Obama administration represents a radical departure from the policies of the last administration.
-- A. Serwer