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.
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).
Throughout his campaign and in the weeks following his victory, President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that the question of whether America should torture suspected terrorists in its custody could – and should – be rekindled.
Upon taking the oath of office eight years ago, President Obama banned waterboarding as a form of torture. Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he would like to bring it back, along with techniques that are “much stronger” and “so much worse.”
“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work – torture works,” Trump told the Sun City retirement community in South Carolina last February. “Believe me, it works. OK, folks?”
A 2014 ABC NEWS/Washington Post poll found that 58 percent say that torture of suspected terrorists is sometimes or often justified, and 19 percent say that it can be justified, albeit rarely. One fifth rule it out entirely.
“There was so much false and fabricated information coming out of these interrogations – though I hesitate to call them interrogations because it discredits professional interrogators – that we wasted time and resources, and the threat level kept going up and up because of fabricated information,” says Mark Fallon, an interrogator and former deputy assistant director for counterterrorism at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“People died in CIA custody – we killed people. Atrocities were committed,” Fallon says. “We need to talk about that.”
Senior advisors to the FBI-led team that interrogates terrorist suspects has blasted an impending executive order from Donald Trump as a dangerous and ignorant potential return to torture.
Opposition was quickly coalescing to an executive order the US president was expected to issue that would create a pathway to restoring the detention of terrorism suspects at facilities known as “black sites”, formally ending Barack Obama’s thwarted order to close the Guantánamo Bay wartime prison. This would also remove limitations on coercive interrogation techniques set by a longstanding army field manual intended to ensure humane military interrogations, which is mostly compliant with the Geneva Conventions.
Senator John McCain, a torture survivor and co-author of a 2015 law barring the security agencies from using interrogation techniques that surpass the prohibitions in the army field manual, pledged defiance over a return to torture.
Fallon, the former Guantánamo investigative official, said the call for surpassing the torture prohibitions was not coming from interrogators. “It’s against what practitioners are calling for. What President Trump needs to recognize is that interrogations professionals are not looking for additional techniques, they’re looking for the science to aid existing techniques,” he said.
Hours after the supposed draft order leaked, representatives of the CIA and the Pentagon distanced themselves from the unfolding political fracas.
“At this time, the US army has not made any requests to review Army Field Manual 2-22.3,” a spokesman told the Guardian, using the formal designation for the interrogations field manual. Similarly, CIA sources leaked to Yahoo News that Pompeo was blindsided by the draft of the order.
Donald Trump has used his first TV interview as president to say he believes torture “absolutely” works and that the US should “fight fire with fire.”
Speaking to ABC News, Trump said he would defer to the defence secretary, James Mattis, and CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to determine what can and cannot be done legally to combat the spread of terrorism.
But asked about the efficacy of tactics such as waterboarding, Trump said: “absolutely I feel it works.”
Mark and Steven Kleinman, who succeeded Mark as the Chair of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) Research Committee warned against and weakening of the prohibitions against torture.
In this publication by Guantanamo Truth, Mark’s position against the term “Battle Lab” and the use of unproven techniques on detainees was highlighted.
Mark was interviewed about the origins of the CIA EIT program and discussed the origins of SERE tactics as an interrogation practice.
Wired Magazine did a story on how some of the government HIG sponsored research into lawful and effective interview and interrogation practices are being utilized by local police departments to improve practices. The article highlighted some of the successes within the Los Angles Police Department Detective Bureau. Mark told Wired “We haven’t operationalized enough of the research” and explained embracing the behavioral sciences could revolutionize law enforcement procedures that way DNA had.
Mark and HIG Director Frazier Thompson were interviewed about the importance of lawful, humane and scientifically informed interrogations. Mark emphasized the importance by referencing to statistics from the Innocence Project on false confessions.
The Associated Press and Yahoo News announced the release of a study of violent extremists that Mark was the program manager of at the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies. Mark noted that the interview of former detainees suggested that treatment behind bars was a factor in keeping them from rejoining extremist groups. Mark said: “The fact they were treated with dignity and humanely was a positive influence on them once they are in custody and continued to be a positive influence years later.” Mark recommended a more “holistic view” as countries evaluate their counterterrorism plans.