Was Bush Torture Really About Interrogation?

Newly released notes from one of the architects of the Bush-Cheney torture program have shown that the scale and ambition of the torture camps at Gitmo and elsewhere might have been greater than we once imagined. A key figure was Dr Bruce Jessen, who reverse-engineered program to resist exploitation and torture into programs to enforce exploitation and torture. A former colleague of Jessen, retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a "master" SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense, provided the Jessen notes. Money quote:

"The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered - not just 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar," Kearns said. "What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen's instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation.

And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to 'reverse-engineer' a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press."

The goal was, in other words, to brainwash these prisoners into becoming double agents, by breaking them down psychologically and reconstructing them. This looks like torture as a form of warfare, not torture as a last-ditch attempt to gain critical information in a ticking time bomb case.

The full report - and out-takes from Jessen's notes are here.