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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 15:30:01 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: News Reports on CIA Torture Manuals (1997)
Organization: PACH
Article: 72360
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.13954.19990812091539@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

C.I.A. Taught, Then Dropped, Mental Torture in Latin America

By Tim Weiner, The New York Times, Wednesday 29 January 1997, Section A; pg. 11

The Central Intelligence Agency taught techniques of mental torture and coercion to at least five Latin American security forces in the early 1980's, but repudiated the interrogation methods in 1985, according to documents and statements the agency made public today.

A 1983 C.I.A. manual sought to teach foreign agents ways to extract information from people without extracting fingernails. It advised against physical torture as counterproductive. Instead, it discussed using intense fear, deep exhaustion, solitary confinement, unbearable anxiety, and other forms of psychological duress against a subject as ways of "destroying his capacity to resist" his interrogator.

"While we do not stress the use of coercive techniques," it said, "we do want to make you aware of them and the proper way to use them."

Those techniques were taught in at least five Latin American countries during President Ronald Reagan's first term. Exactly which five is not clear, although the Reagan Administration's anti-Communist covert actions in Central America directly involved security forces in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and indirectly the armies of Panama and Argentina.

The security forces of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala worked in concert with the C.I.A. against Communist guerrillas and suspected leftists during the 1980s's. Those forces killed, imprisoned and tortured thousands of suspected enemies during the last decade of the cold war.

The agency's role in training those security forces was discussed in the press and in closed-door Congressional hearings in the mid-1980's. Those discussions helped persuade the C.I.A. to privately rewrite the manual and renounce coercive interrogation techniques in late 1984 and early 1985.

At about the same time, in October 1984, the agency was embarrassed by public disclosure of another C.I.A. training manual that advised the Nicaraguan contras on how to kidnap and kill leftist officials, blackmail citizens and destroy villages. The agency said the manual was the work of an "overzealous freelancer" on its payroll.

The 1983 manual on interrogation and the 1985 prohibition against coercive methods were made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Baltimore Sun for a series on the C.I.A.'s relationship with a Honduran military battalion. The C.I.A.'s office of public affairs acknowledged for the first time today the agency's prior teaching and subsequent repudiation of psychological torture.

The 1983 manual, under the heading "Coercive Techniques," advised against "direct physical brutality," which it said "creates only resentment, hostility and further defiance" in a prisoner. But, it said, "if a subject refuses to comply once a threat has been made, it must be carried out."

"The torture situation is an external conflict, a contest between the subject and his tormentor," the manual said. "The pain which is being inflicted upon him from outside himself may actually intensify his will to resist. On the other hand, pain which he feels he is inflicting upon himself is more likely to sap his resistance."

So if a subject is "required to maintain rigid positions such as standing at attention or sitting on a stool for long periods of time," the manual said, "the immediate source of pain is not the 'questioner' but the subject himself."

This kind of physical and psychological harassment could be combined with "persistent manipulation of time" like "retarding and advancing clocks, disrupting sleep schedules, disorientation regarding night and day" -- all to the end of breaking the subject's will to resist, to "drive him deeper and deeper into himself, until he no longer is able to control his responses in an adult fashion," the manual said.

Some of the passages in the 1983 manual paralleled some of the milder language from a 1963 C.I.A. guidebook on interrogating suspected spies or Soviet agents. The 1963 text, which was written at a time when the C.I.A. was not subjected to Congressional oversight or outside scrutiny, said approval from headquarters was necessary before a interrogator used physical torture, electric shocks, mind-altering drugs or "bodily harm" on a subject.

In 1985, the C.I.A. adopted a formal policy against inhumane treatment during interrogation. It rewrote the manual, deleting or editing its harshest passages. And, in a written statement to its officers and foreign agents, it warned against "the use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation."

"Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain cooperation of sources," the 1985 policy statement said. "Use of force is a poor technique." Force "yields unreliable results," it said, and "will probably result in adverse publicity and/or legal action against the interrogator."

"However," it continued, "the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and non-coercive ruses employed by the interrogators in the successful interrogation of reticent or uncooperative sources."


LOAD-DATE: January 29, 1997