The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience


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How APA’s Interrogation Policy Was Adopted and Announced

Footnote 58 Footnote Weak and ineffectual leadership There were serious lapses of leadership in both units from junior non-commissioned officers to battalion and brigade levels. The commanders of both brigades either knew, or should have known, abuses were taking place and taken measures to prevent them. For example, Taguba's report highlighted that numerous individuals throughout the chain of command failed to ensure soldiers knew and understood the protections afforded to detainees in the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; they failed to establish and enforce basic soldier standards, proficiency and accountability; they failed to establish basic proficiency in assigned tasks; they failed to ensure soldiers were properly trained; they failed to properly supervise soldiers under their direct authority; they failed to properly ensure investigation reports on escapes and shootings were disseminated and understood; and they failed to implement recommendations from various investigations -- among other noted deficiencies.

In fact, even though some early warning signs of abuse were brought to the attention of the chain of command, these were never acted upon appropriately. There was a failure to respond to recommendations of corrective actions Leaders were unwilling to accept responsibility. Discipline, when taken, was lenient, leading to the realization that the Brigade or Battalion chains of command would essentially do nothing, thus contributing to the mentality that 'I can get away with this. To add more fuel to the fire, the dynamics of detainee operations carry inherent risks for human mistreatment, as established in the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Footnote 65 Footnote Detainee and interrogation operations consist of a special subset of human interactions Without proper oversight and monitoring, such interactions carry a higher risk of moral disengagement on the part of those in power and, in turn, are likely to lead to abusive behaviors. As per Philip Zimbardo, co-publisher of the Stanford study, "The situational forces that were going on in [Abu Ghraib] -- the dehumanization, the lack of personal accountability, the lack of surveillance, the permission to get away with anti-social actions -- it was like the Stanford prison study, but in spades.

And with an unsupervised workplace in which no threat of appropriate punishment would be forthcoming, there was opportunity.


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As such, the absence of adequate monitoring, inspecting, correcting and evaluating supervisory oversight - an absolute necessity in a highly stressful environment further burdened by the general psychological conditions pervasive in detention and interrogation operations -- is considered the key contributing factor to the unfortunate events of late at Abu Ghraib. Leaders also failed to ensure "individuals and teams [were trained] under demanding and realistic conditions.

Footnote 74 Footnote 75 Footnote 76 Footnote 77 Footnote Soldiers were woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead as they were not equipped with the knowledge or skills to deal with their roles and responsibilities, particularly in the context that existed in Iraq at the time. The lack of mission and ethics-related training, although extremely relevant, is nonetheless considered secondary.

Despite soldiers' lack of training, many abuses could have been prevented if superiors had been properly monitoring, inspecting and correcting their subordinates. Poor leadership and lack of oversight set the stage for abuses to occur. As defined in Conceptual Foundations , effective leadership is "directing, motivating and enabling others to accomplish the mission professionally and ethically, while developing or improving capabilities that contribute to mission success.

Numerous investigations into this sad chapter of American Army history have corroborated the significant leadership failures at various levels of the chain of command which failed to "direct" or "enable" -- with dire consequences at Abu Ghraib. The failure to provide coherent policy caused extreme confusion over interrogation techniques to the doctrinally-deficient dysfunctional command structure, thereby indirectly instigating abusive behaviour.

This was compounded a world away in Iraq, where leaders across the spectrum failed to adequately monitor activities, inspect facilities, assess the performance of tasks relating to detention and interrogation, or take appropriate corrective action through various measures -- ranging from remedial training, to seeking and providing direction and guidance, to outright disciplinary charges.

The convergence of errors that caused such disastrous results was not only regrettable, but also preventable. It is worth noting, however, that these events occurred at a time in US history when emotions were at a peak, a strong and swift national response was demanded, and the nation was engaged in multiple conflicts simultaneously. Some may view the associated "sense of urgency," the absolute national resolve to win the war on terror, and the overwhelming operational demands as extenuating circumstances.

Nonetheless, it is clear from the multiple reports and investigations that the US Army has taken these events extremely seriously, having put in place solutions to ensure such mayhem is never repeated. Some of the links below lead to a site belonging to an entity not subject to the Official Languages Act.

Information on this site is available in the language of the site. Department of National Defence. Canadian Defence Academy, Church, Vice Admiral Albert T. Executive Summary. Fay, Major-General George R. Greenberg, Karen J. New York: Cambridge University Press, Jones, Lieutenant-General Anthony R. Nelson, Colonel Dr. Copy on-line; available in Karen Greenberg and Joshua L. Book excerpt on-line ; Internet; accessed 11 November Schogol, Jeff.

Taguba, Major-General Antonio M.

Refworld | The Road to Abu Ghraib

Article Investigation of the th Military Police Brigade. United States. Department of the Army Inspector General. Detainee Operations Inspection. The White House. Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees. Zetter, Kim. Footnote 3 From the standpoint of "Leading People," it will be argued that the absence of effective supervision was the key contributing factor to the events at Abu Ghraib, whereby leaders failed to "monitor, inspect, correct, and evaluate.

Footnote 6 Leading the Institution Leading the Institution is Footnote 9 As such, it was felt that some of the "old rules" relating to the laws of war needed to be re-evaluated in light of their applicability to the changing nature of war, as well as to the enemy actors involved in these asymmetric conflicts. This memorandum stated unequivocally that from a legal standpoint, these prisoners were different from those of more traditional conflicts, in that: None of the conventions of Geneva applied to the US conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world; Common Article 3 of Geneva relating to the treatment of Prisoners of War did not apply to either al Qaeda or to Taliban detainees; Taliban detainees were unlawful combatants and did not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva; and Al Qaeda detainees also did not qualify as prisoners of war since Geneva did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda writ large.

Footnote 11 Despite the fact that some critics claim the Bush Administration was systematically preparing the way for torture techniques and coercive interrogation practices, Footnote 12 this Presidential memorandum made reference to the United States' values as a nation that "call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. Footnote 15 The somewhat ambiguous nature of the Presidential memorandum would only be exacerbated by several policy iterations that followed related to interrogation procedures.

Interrogation Policy. Footnote 16 In a quest for stronger interrogation techniques than those available via the previously accepted standards in Army Field Manual , the Secretary of Defense changed interrogation doctrine and policies in December to include 16 new techniques -- most of which were rescinded six weeks later as a result of concerns raised by the Navy General Counsel. Footnote 17 Despite the fact that some of these policies were theatre-specific, they ended up migrating to other theatres of operation Footnote 18 as "interrogators and lists of techniques circulated from Guantanamo and Afghanistan to Iraq.

Footnote 20 In September , policies that had been approved for use on al Qaeda and Taliban detainees who were not afforded protection under Geneva's Prisoner of War status now applied to detainees who did fall under Geneva Convention protections - using reasoning from the President's February memorandum and thereby creating an "unacceptably aggressive" policy. Footnote 31 One of the practical functions of policy and doctrinal guidance is "the prevention of errors of omission, especially in regard to such things as shared or overlapping responsibilities, coordination and hand-off, information exchange, and reporting requirements.

Secondary Leadership Factor: "Clarify Responsibilities, Enforce Accountabilities" "Clear divisions of responsibility, plans and schedules Leading People "Failure in leadership, Sir, from the brigade commander on down. Footnote 46 Key Leadership Factor: "Monitor, Inspect, Correct, Evaluate" Proper supervision is a key facet of leadership that allows leaders to assess the situation and the performance of tasks and, as per the "Direct Influence Principle", take corrective action if required.

Footnote 49 In the monitor role, leaders continually assess the operating status of the unit or sub-unit, by generally ensuring compliance with rules and standards, conducting evaluations and inspections, reviewing reports and holding subordinates accountable for their actions.

Military report released on investigation of Abu Ghraib prison abuses

Footnote 50 Of course, with skilled subordinates under controlled and routine conditions, the lack of continual and direct supervision is not in and of itself a causal factor for abuse. Footnote 51 However, under the explosive, dangerous and stressful conditions existing at Abu Ghraib, Footnote 52 Footnote 53 close supervision was not only desirable or warranted - it was an absolute necessity. Footnote 57 Instead, soldiers were generally left to their own devices, morale was very low, leaders were rarely seen, and soldiers perceived that their leaders didn't care.

Footnote 60 For example, Taguba's report highlighted that numerous individuals throughout the chain of command failed to ensure soldiers knew and understood the protections afforded to detainees in the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; they failed to establish and enforce basic soldier standards, proficiency and accountability; they failed to establish basic proficiency in assigned tasks; they failed to ensure soldiers were properly trained; they failed to properly supervise soldiers under their direct authority; they failed to properly ensure investigation reports on escapes and shootings were disseminated and understood; and they failed to implement recommendations from various investigations -- among other noted deficiencies.


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  • Footnote 61 In fact, even though some early warning signs of abuse were brought to the attention of the chain of command, these were never acted upon appropriately. Pentagon officials said. The new policy follows by little more than two weeks an overwhelming vote by the American Psychiatric Association discouraging its members from participating in those efforts Lewis, APA promoted support for its interrogation policies in its press releases, its journals, its web site, its Internet lists, its conventions, the APA Monitor on Psychology , and other venues.

    This article assumes that the public interest, the profession, and psychological science are best served when we meet the vigorous promotion of policies, claims, and conclusion with equally vigorous critical examination. Critical thinking about policies, claims, and conclusions is essential no matter how prestigious, authoritative, trusted, or respected the source, or how widely-accepted, strongly held, and seemingly self-evident the policies, claims, and conclusions.

    Its purpose is to highlight key APA policies, procedures, and public statements that seem in urgent need of rethinking and to suggest some questions that may be useful in a serious assessment. Some rhetoric on both sides may seem intense, confrontational, or divisive. It is important to not let the rhetoric itself become a focus or distraction but to understand and consider carefully the substance of each statement. Here are a few APA policies, procedures, and assertions that could benefit from a fresh look, careful consideration, and critical thinking, along with some suggested questions that might be useful.

    Typically the APA Council of Representatives, which met a few weeks after the PENS Task Force issued its report, carefully reviews and discusses task force reports prior to voting on whether to approve them. Concerns from APA members who are not a part of governance can be voiced through their Council representatives. Why were various key announcements of the actual adoption process inaccurate? Here are four examples:. In some instances, the incorrect announcements that it was the Council that had approved the report as APA policy were followed by some form of an erratum.

    Nor was the Council ever asked to do so. Unfortunately, even in those instances in which a correction was attempted, an erratum appearing months after the original incorrect statement may not be seen by all or even most of the readers of the original article or be reflected in the secondary literature.

    How APA adopted and announced its interrogation policy is one area that could benefit from a fresh look, careful consideration, and critical thinking. Widely-held incorrect beliefs and misleading historical records can show remarkable resilience, persistence, and resistance to correction. Accuracy in announcements gains added importance when the official record is incomplete. The organization assured the public that psychologists would not be involved in harming detainees. These claims deserve a fresh look, serious consideration, and a critical analysis.

    What evidence did APA rely on in making these confident assurances about all interrogations? Were the claims subjected to critical scrutiny before placing the authority, prestige, trust, and influence of the organization behind them? Does the subsequent historical record support these blanket assurances?

    When thinking through these questions, it may be useful to consider some of the following material. The psychologists were both treating the detainees clinically and advising interrogators on how to manipulate them and exploit their phobias. Sleep deprivation was such a common technique…pornography [was used] to manipulate detainees….

    Based on this inquiry, you believe that the use of the procedures, including the waterboard, and as a course of conduct would not result in prolonged mental harm. Some of the greatest roles in bringing that [i. The resulting Nuremberg Ethic was clear: People who chose to violate fundamental ethical responsibilities could not avoid responsibility by blaming laws, orders, or regulations. This enforceable Standard 1.

    Not only had the doctrine been included in various ethics code drafts over the years, but the controversy over conflicts between ethical and legal responsibilities has a long history in psychology. However, it was only after 9—11 that APA took a step unprecedented in its over year history: The APA Council of Representatives voted to let psychologists set aside basic ethical responsibilities if they conflicted irreconcilably with laws, regulations, and other forms of governing legal authority, which included military orders. The editor of the British Medical Journal placed a photograph from Abu Ghraib prison on the cover of one issue and wrote:.

    Just obeying the rules has long been insufficient for doctors. Otherwise they can invoke the Nuremberg defence p. After 9—11, the US Congress adopted anti-terrorist legislation affecting search warrants, wiretaps, FBI access to information, surveillance orders, and other governmental activities. For example, Senator Orin Hatch wrote:. The tragic events of Sept. Soon after this tragic attack, Congress in bipartisan fashion enacted the Patriot Act, a long-overdue set of measures that provided law enforcement and intelligence agencies with basic tools needed to fight and win the war against terrorism.

    In , I proposed many of these same measures in an anti-terrorism bill. After adopting this enforceable standard in , APA continued to support, teach, and promote it as official ethical policy for eight years, including the period that some of the most controversial state policies regarding interrogations were in still in place. Other groups spoke out against the notion that state authority can serve as an acceptable reason to abandon basic ethical responsibilities.

    APA did not reverse its opposition to the Nuremberg Ethic until , when it amended enforceable Standard 1. Similarly APA refused to add to the enforceable sections of the Ethics Code protections that explicitly addressed detainees. But APA decided that its code should not recognize detainees as a group that might be vulnerable or at risk during interrogations in settings like Abu Ghraib, Bagram, or Guantanamo.

    APA took the same stance on its various statements, clarifications, and modifications of its stance on torture. In each case, APA decided against adding the resolution on torture, the reaffirmation, the amendment to the reaffirmation, or any other statements about torture to the 89 enforceable standards in the Ethics Code. Similarly the ballot that APA sent to members for a vote on this policy was accompanied by a statement that the policy would not be enforceable. How is this statement interpreted? He explained that. You know, the idea that they would be involved in producing some pain just seems to be, you know, at first blush, something that would be wrong because we do no harm.

    According to this analysis, the ethical focus shifts to what is good for American citizens. The ethical consideration is always to do the most good for the most people. And America happens to be my client. Americans are who I care about. As with all of the material cited in this article, readers are strongly encouraged to read the original works in their entirety rather than rely on the brief quotes excerpted here.

    Criticisms or even just disagreements with the PENS report can be considered unreasonable per se. What decent, moral psychologist could disagree? Critics are sometimes suspect because of their alleged political leanings and tendencies to invent facts.

    A third PENS member emphasized the tendency of critics who have not been in these situations detainee interrogations to lack the necessary knowledge to speak on the topic:. Anyone who wants to throw stones in this situation really needs to step back and figure out what they would do themselves in these situations, and not just kind of be ivory tower critics, but get down and either get in a situation or really keep their mouths shut.

    Like most other soldiers, I saw the ICRC representatives as a bunch of radical do-gooders, mostly from Europe, who were as interested in giving America a black eye as they were in truly helping the innocent…. The ICRC claimed, very wrongly and without any evidence, that psychologists were stealing detainee medical information and helping investigators craft torture James, , pp.


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    • Although the PENS Task Force originally included 10 members, one member sent a message to the chair and other members after the report was written. The message included this passage:. APA is the largest organization of psychologists in the world, with over , members and a distinguished history reaching back over years. The topics covered here are, of course, not comprehensive. A few of the key questions, whose themes shape this article, include:. Are they valid, realistic, and able to achieve their purpose? Did APA subject them to adequate critical scrutiny from sufficiently diverse perspectives to identify fallacies, unfounded conclusions, significant weaknesses, overlooked information, unexamined alternatives, and possible unintended consequences prior to adopting the policies and making public claims and assurances?

      Should APA continue to endorse and to put its authority, influence, and the weight of its large membership behind the PENS policies, which were never revoked, as its formal ethical policies?

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      Pope and Melba J. Vasquez, published by John Wiley and Sons in It is reprinted with permission of John Wiley and Sons, Inc. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Zeitschrift Fur Psychologie. Z Psychol. Kenneth S. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

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      The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience
      The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience
      The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience
      The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience The Road to Abu Ghraib: US Army Detainee Doctrine and Experience

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