Scott Shane of the New York Times writes about how the C.I.A. and the Pentagon, after 9/11, turned to a Cold War-era military program that trained Americans in how to resist common Soviet torture techniques in order to develop the so-called “enhanced interrogation methods” used against detainees in Guantanamo, in C.I.A.-run secret detention centers, and in other U.S.-controlled interrogation facilities worldwide:
HOW did the United States, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, come to adopt interrogation techniques copied from the Soviet Union and other cold war adversaries?
Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee are examining how the methods, long used to train Americans for what they may face as prisoners of war, became the basis for American interrogations.
In 2002, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon became concerned that standard questioning was inadequate for suspected terrorists and turned to a military training program called Survival, Evasion, Reconnaissance and Escape, or SERE. For decades, SERE trainers had exposed aviators and others at high risk for capture to Soviet-style tactics, including disrupted sleep, exposure to extreme heat and cold, and hours in uncomfortable stress positions. Sometimes the ordeal included waterboarding, in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and water is poured from above to create a feeling of suffocation.
Some of those techniques have been used on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret overseas jails for high-level operatives of Al Qaeda.
Many SERE veterans were appalled at the “reverse engineering” of their methods, said Charles A. Morgan III, a Yale psychiatrist who has worked closely with SERE trainers for a decade.
“How did something used as an example of what an unethical government would do become something we do?” he asked.