Translation: TORTURE IS STUPID!
posted on 02/13/2007 7:18:15 AM PST
posted on 02/13/2007 7:19:19 AM PST
(History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
I'm sort of curious as to the reaction this article gets on FR.
SH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Basically, when a guy is captured, hes stressed, he is frightened, and hes probably expecting to be mistreated, because in most societies in the world, thats the way it works. Disarming him psychologically, by treating him in a manner the opposite of what he expects, extending decent, humane treatment to him, showing concern for himself, his needs, being nimble in assessing and evaluating the person, and recognizing that getting information from someone is developmental, i.e. you wont get information from someone, generally speaking, just by saying okay, Im the captor, youre the prisoner, tell me what you know. You earn it. I like to say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed probably didnt give up a lot of the information that he gave up because somebody started water boarding him and beating him up. Instead, they used a very clever approach, and played to his ego and his psychological need to be recognized as the architect of 9/11, and the guy talked. In all of the successful interrogation projects that Ive ever had anything to do with, extending fundamentally decent treatment to the detainees, we even used to call them guests. And you know, the guards would salute a prisoner if he was an officer, and we give them good food, and we would tell them it was unconditional, regardless of whether they chose to talk with us or not. And that type of an approach has a very high batting average.
Hummm.... Why not take the 'guests' to Dinseyland, maybe they will share and like us more?
I have a good friend who debriefed captured Iraqis during the Gulf war, and I can tell you he would never even consider torturing anyone. In fact, it was common practice to announce over loudspeakers that the Iraqis should surrender to avoid getting killed in the attack we were about to launch. That was not only smart of us but an awfully humanitarian approach. He would then debrief the soldiers who surrendered.
posted on 02/13/2007 7:29:58 AM PST
No no no. You see, under the new liberal, "do anything to ensure we can't fight a war," definition of torture, interrogation and torture are one and the same. For example, asking a captured terrorist what he had for lunch without his lawyer present is torture,pure unadulterated torment of the highest kind. Hell, according to the left, you might as well stick him in the Iron Maiden, what is the difference?
The Man in the Snow White Cell No Respite
As Tai must have anticipated, his confession did not end his ordeal. After giving him a short rest as a reward, his South Vietnamese interrogators came back with a request that he provide details about his personal background and history. Tai refused, and the torture resumed. He was kept sitting on a chair for weeks at a time with no rest; he was beaten; he was starved; he was given no water for days; and he was hung from the rafters for hours by his arms, almost ripping them from their sockets. After more than six months of interrogation and torture, Tai felt his physical and psychological strength ebbing away; he knew his resistance was beginning to crack. During a short respite between torture sessions, to avoid giving away the secrets he held in his head during the physical and psycho-logical breakdown he could feel coming, Tai tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists. The South Vietnamese caught him before he managed to inflict serious injury, and then backed off to let him recuperate.
Tai says he sustained himself during this period by constantly remembering his obligations to his friends and his family. At one point, when he was shown a photograph of his father, he swore to himself "that I will never do anything to harm the Party or my family's honor."22
Exactly what motivated him is difficult to say, but the key appears to be the reference to "my family's honor." As the educated son of an intellectual rather than a member of the favored "worker-peasant" class, it is likely that Tai's loyalties to the Party had been questioned many times. Tai does not disclose, nor does any outsider really know, what happened between Tai and his family when his father was criticized and fell out of favor with the Party shortly after the communist takeover of North Vietnam in 1954. He may have felt a need to prove his loyalty at that time. If, as Snepp wrote and Tai's interrogators believed, Tai helped prosecute his father during this period, his memoir suggests that he subsequently reconciled with his father and appears to have resolved never to cause such pain to his family again. Human psychology is a tricky business, of course, but in this case what appeared on the outside to be an exploitable weakness--Tai's apparent betrayal of his father--had been turned into a strength.
Lest anyone be too quick to condemn Tai's South Vietnamese interrogators, we should remember that the prisoner had just spent five years directing vicious attacks against these same men, their friends, their colleagues, and their families. They knew that if Tai escaped or was released, he would come after them again. During 1970, the last year of Tai's freedom, in spite of the losses his organization had suffered during the Tet offensive, communist accounts boast of at least three bombings and several assassinations conducted by Tai's personnel against South Vietnamese police and intelligence officers in Saigon.23 It was as if members of the New York Police Department were suddenly handed Osama bin Laden and asked to extract a confession. If things got "a little rough," that certainly should not have come as a surprise to anyone. In addition, accounts by US prisoners of war of their torture by North Vietnamese interrogators at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" reveal that the methods of physical torture used on them were identical to methods Tai says were used on him. The war was vicious on all sides; no one's hands were clean.
The White Cell
What might have happened if the torture had continued can only be guessed. In the fall of 1971, Tai's superiors made a move that ensured his survival. On 9 October, US Army Sgt. John Sexton was released by his communist captors and walked into American lines west of Saigon carrying a note written by Tran Bach Dang, the secretary of the Saigon-Gia Dinh Party Committee. The letter contained an offer to exchange Tai and another communist prisoner, Le Van Hoai, for Douglas Ramsey, a Vietnamese-speaking State Department officer who had been held by the communists since 1966 and whom the communists believed was a US intelligence officer.24 Tai's torture and interrogation immediately ended. Even though the negotiations for an exchange quickly broke down, Tai had suddenly become, as his communist superiors intended, too valuable for his life to be placed in jeopardy.25 He was now a pawn in a high-level political game.
In early 1972, Tai was informed he was being taken to another location to be interrogated by the Americans. After being blindfolded, he was transported by car to an unknown location and placed in a completely sealed cell that was painted all in white, lit by bright lights 24 hours a day, and cooled by a powerful air-conditioner (Tai hated air conditioning, believing, like many Vietnamese, that cool breezes could be poisonous). Kept in total isolation, Tai lived in this cell, designed to keep him confused and disoriented, for three years without learning where he was.26
Tai's interrogation began anew. This time the interrogator was a middle-aged American whom Tai knew as "Paul." Paul was actually Peter Kapusta, a veteran CIA Soviet/Eastern Europe counterintelligence specialist with close ties to the famed and mysterious chief of CIA counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton.27 Even by Tai's account, Kapusta and the other Americans who interrogated him ("Fair," "John," and Frank Snepp) never mistreated him in any way, although Tai was always suspicious of American attempts to trick him into doing something that might cause his suspicious bosses back in the jungle to believe he was cooperating with the "enemy." Kapusta and the other American officers tried to win Tai's trust by giving him medical care, extra rations, and new clothing (most of which Tai claims to have refused or destroyed for fear of compromising his own strict standards of "revolutionary morality"). They also played subtly on his human weaknesses--his aversion to cold, his need for companionship, and his love for his family.28
According to his memoirs, Tai decided he would shift tactics after learning that he was being returned to American control. Rather than refusing to respond with any answers other than "No" or "I don't know," as he had with the South Vietnamese, he now resolved: "I will answer questions and try to stretch out the questioning to wait for the war to end. I will answer questions but I won't volunteer anything. The answers I give may be totally incorrect, but I will stubbornly insist that I am right."
In other words, Tai would engage in a dialogue, something he could not trust himself to do when being tortured by the South Vietnamese out of fear that his weakened condition and confused mental state might cause him to slip and inadvertently reveal some vital secret. He would play for time, trying to remain in American custody as long as possible in order to keep himself out of the hands of the South Vietnamese, whom he believed would either break him or kill him. This meant he would have to engage in a game of wits with the Americans, selectively discussing with them things they already knew, or that were not sensitive, while staying vigilant to protect Public Security's deepest secrets: the identities of its spies, agents, and assassins. This was, however, a tricky strategy, and even Tai admits that it led him into some sensitive areas. Interestingly, Tai blames the communist radio and press for broadcasting public reports on some sensitive subjects, thereby making it impossible for him to deny knowledge of such areas. Sounding not unlike many American military and intelligence officers during the Vietnam War, Tai writes:
I had always been firmly opposed to the desires of our propaganda agencies to discuss secret matters in the public media....Now, because the "Security of the Fatherland" radio program had openly talked about the [Ministry's] "Review of Public Security Service Operations," I was forced to give them [the Americans] some kind of answer.30
Peter Kapusta worked on Tai for several months and believed he was making progress. Then he was reassigned. Washington sent Frank Snepp to take over the case.
Snepp decided to try a new ploy to crack Tai's facade. Like other American officers who had interrogated Tai, Snepp did not speak Vietnamese. Interrogations were always conducted using a South Vietnamese interpreter, usually a young woman. Snepp decided to cut the South Vietnamese completely out of the interrogation to see if this might lead Tai to speak more freely. One day he brought in a Vietnamese-speaking American interpreter to take over the duty.
Tai, ever suspicious, believed that as long as Vietnamese were directly involved in his interrogation, there was a chance that word about him might leak out to his "comrades" on the outside. If the Americans took over completely, Tai's superiors would have no chance of locating him, or of verifying his performance during the interrogation. Tai was always desperately concerned with leaving a clear record for his superiors to find that would prove he had not cooperated with his interrogators. He believed this was essential for his own future and that of his family. As a professional security officer, Tai was well aware of the Vietnamese communist practice of punishing succeeding generations for the sins of their fathers. He decided to force the Americans to bring back the South Vietnamese interpreter by pretending not to be able to understand the American, whom he admits spoke Vietnamese perfectly well.
The ploy worked in the end. Meanwhile, however, it led to the author's only involvement in this case. As Tai had planned, Snepp became angry and frustrated, blaming the American interpreter for the lack of results. After the session, Snepp came to see me (we had become friends during his first tour in Vietnam), told me of his unhappiness with the "performance" of the interpreter (who was a close colleague of mine), and asked if I would be free to interpret for him in future sessions with Tai. As it happened, I was not available, and Snepp was forced to return to the use of an ethnic Vietnamese interpreter. I always wondered what could possibly have caused the problem that Frank described to me that afternoon. Thirty years later, when I read Tai's memoir, I finally understood.
posted on 02/13/2007 8:07:53 AM PST
(What one man can do another can do -- "The Edge")
They didn't mention Colonel Herrington's memoir of his Vietnam service, Silence Was A Weapon. This book is a classic, and deserves a place in any counterinsurgency/CT library.
posted on 02/13/2007 12:12:38 PM PST
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