Just Security publishes a piece citing a letter Mark, and other national security professionals signed opposing the nomination of Stephen Bradbury as general counsel for the Department of Transportation. Bradbury served in the Bush administration and helped provide the legal cover for torture.
As acting director of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under President George W. Bush, Bradbury was the primary author of four now-infamous memos that provided legal authorization for a range of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” that are widely considered methods of torture or cruel treatment. (His memos have since been discredited, and in 2009, were formally withdrawn.) Even if one believes his legal justifications were defensible at the time, the Senate should not approve a nominee who authorized some of the most damaging and embarrassing national security policies in recent U.S. history. The senators on the committee should reject his nomination.
Bradbury’s memos concluded that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and forced nudity of detainees, among other things, either alone or in combination, did not violate the international Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), or the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 passed to similarly prohibit “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” of anyone in U.S. custody.
Awarding one of the key figures who approved that torture with a plum legal job implicitly undermines that consensus, and taints not only the Trump administration, but everyone who votes to affirm him. There are plenty of other qualified, ethical and independent legal professionals who can assume the important role of providing legal advice to ensure the safety and security of our nation’s transportation systems.
Roger’s guest this week, Mark Fallon, has been involved in some of the most significant terrorism investigations and operations in recent history, including the prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (known at “the Blind Sheik”) and the attack on the USS Cole. They discuss counterterrorism tactics vs. strategies and the unintended effects of Western intervention and torture policies on extremist recruiting.
The Norway Permanent Mission to the United Nations announced a Roundtable Meeting on Developing a Model for Investigative Interviewing by Law Enforcement Officials and Attendant Procedural Safeguards, where Mark Fallon was one of the presenters.
Zubaydah is the first post-9/11 detainee to be waterboarded, and this is his first session. He coughs and vomits. The waterboarding lasts for over two hours, but he still insists he does not have any additional information beyond that which he already provided to the FBI. He is then put into the larger confinement box, where he spends the rest of the evening. The interrogation process resumes in the morning: more slapping, zero new information, and more time in the smaller box.
The records also highlight the methods of psychologist James Mitchell, a top architect of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.” Though Mitchell had previously worked as an Air Force psychologist, the Senate “Torture Report” noted that he had no prior experience as an interrogator. Mitchell’s private contracting company had received over $80 million from the CIA by the time their contract was terminated in 2009. The contract was terminated because, as the CIA Inspector General put it, there was no reason to believe Mitchell’s interrogation techniques were effective or even safe.
AlterNet contacted interrogation expert Mark Fallon, an international security consultant who spent over 30 years as a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and author of a new book detailing how the intelligence community enacted the torture program under the Bush administration. Fallon said prolonged sleep deprivation constitutes torture under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Regarding its efficacy, Fallen stated that sleep deprivation “is counterproductive, if the aim is obtaining accurate and reliable information. The effects on a person’s cognitive capabilities is diminished and memory is corrupted.”
While Trump touted an altruistic response, career national security professional Mark Fallon said the president’s motivation may extend beyond humanitarianism, and end up creating more harm than good.
“I am fearful, based on a pattern of behavior that I’ve seen out of President Trump in the past, that this appears to be an emotional reaction…he wanted to feel good that he did something that got him applause,” said Fallon, a former senior executive in the Department of Homeland Security.
In addition, the U.S. decision to bomb Syria failed to take into account the potential aftermath of such an action. Fallon said rather than firing missiles, the U.S. should continue “trying to figure out what to do with refugees.”
He also questioned how many refugees we can expect other countries to accept.
“If we are supposed to be the global leader, [if] we are supposed to represent the mythical shining city on the hill, that we are expecting other nations to absorb some responsibility and some risk by accepting refugees…if we ourselves are deciding that we are not” is of concern, Fallon said.
“Thousands have been killed, children have been displaced,” Fallon said. “We are creating a global refugee crisis, what do you do with those people, 10 years from now, 20 years from now? Are you creating the very adversary you’re fearing, based on your actions?”
The media has frequently reported that the so called enhanced interrogation techniques were developed in the wake of 9/11. More specifically that they were reverse- engineered by psychological consultants Mitchell and Jes- sen1 (contracted by the CIA) from the SERE program—a training program to enable captured military personnel to survive, evade, resist (interrogations), and escape if cap- tured (see United States Army & Marine Corps, n.d.). Mitchell’s logic (McCoy, 2014) for the use of such strate- gies appears to have been the theory of learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975). However, the origin of specific strategies is complex and varied and such methods can be found further back in history (see Rejali’s, 2007, comprehensive review, Torture and Democracy). Rejali gives a historically exhaustive account of the various methods used to degrade and dehumanize detainees, highlighting the evolution of so-called white torture—torture that leaves no marks. In his nonpareil account of torture, he demonstrates how ineffec- tive it has been throughout history as a means of securing information, and that “strategic talk about torture in the face of terrorism turns out to have a deep undercurrent of blood- lust” (p. 535) as well as longer term negative social, polit- ical, and cultural influences.
There were a number of individuals who attempted to hold the high ground in response to the push toward torture. Mark Fallon (2015)—former Naval Criminal Investigative Service deputy assistant director and DOD al Qaeda task force commander—has been particularly vocal: “Torture is illegal, immoral, ineffective, and inconsistent with Ameri- can values” (p. 1, paragraph 2). However, knowing that torture does not work is not enough to stop the notion that it is better than doing nothing. To do that, you must present an alternative option that does work. David Petraeus, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, hinted at a solution when he stated after his experience of overseeing some of the world’s largest detention centers that the best way for an interrogator to extract information from a de- tainee is “to become his best friend” (Clark, 2014).