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USA and UK: Theory and Practice of Interrogation Techniques

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Dinosaur Barney, from the popular children’s series Barney and friends, as a Weapon of Mass Torture

USA and UK: Theory and Practice of Interrogation Techniques

Written by Vladimir Gazetov and Vadim Khomenko; Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Theo N. Kaufman exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana

The abusers of the Iraqi prisoners at the infamous “Abu Ghraib” prison in the country were inspired by specialists in the field of psychological operations (PSYOPS), as reported by BBC. The core objective for the abuses was to spread fear and to demoralize the prisoners before their interrogations.

As you may know, several US soldiers were charged for overstepping their powers and some have even been convicted. But the true masters in extracting evidence from convicts are considered to be the British.

Indirectly, the true mastermind for the subtle humiliation of the Iraqi prisoners by the prison guards was ordered by Brigadier General of the US Armed Forces Janis Karpinski, who was the head of the prison of “Abu Ghraib”.

According to his words, the decision for treating the prisoners like dogs was taken at a high level after the transfer of the prison from under the control of the military intelligence officers who conducted the interrogations on the ground. The Americans did not hide the fact that during the war in Iraq, they were the pioneers of using psychological methods of influence over the recalcitrant and uncooperative prisoners, including the use of continued loud music of the rock band Metallica and children’s television programs.

The popular Welsh journalist and documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson, who studied the psychological methods for the interrogation of prisoners in the war on terror, gives the example of using tunes from children’s TV shows against Iraqi POW’s. “It sounds crazy – says Ronson – but someone in the PSYOPS Department discovered that dinosaur Barney is an effective instrument of torture”.

Impossible to resist

The activities of the 15th PsyOps Division ( i.e. the division of “mind control”) created a fuzz in the UK public. After the MoD of the UK received an avalanche of requests from journalists, MP’s and average UK citizens concerning the activities of the Division, it responded with a deafening silence.

Thus, the officials of the UK MoD, can evade the sensitive questions from the public.

Moreover, the official storyline- response begins with mentioning the constitutionally guaranteed rights of its citizens to freely acces information concerning the public. Finally, the officials give a verbatim explanation of the reasons why they are not allowed to disclose the information.

More and more gruesome details are revealed to the British public, on the pages of electronic and printed media, and social networks, from the daily lives of this elite unit of the British Army. The Guardian first published an article by David Leygha with a chilling “usual” headline: “ the British Armed Forces are studying methods of torture”. The article quoted details from the operation handbook of the 15th group of the UK PSYOPS, that is located at the RAF airbase at Chicksands, and which is an essential part of the security and military intelligence apparatus. It mentions their use of interrogation techniques that are prohibited by international law and the Geneva Convention. The military authorities responded immediately with the following answer: “the British and American Spec Ops soldiers, at Chicksands airbase, are being trained to develop skills that are necessary for their survival and for counter balancing the psychological brainwashing that the enemy will conduct on them, in order to break their morale”.

Students learn to resist interrogation techniques such as torture and humiliation. The training lasts for 48 hours. There are a set of interrogation methods of resistance, called R2i (Resistance to interrogation), which include deprivation of human contact, but also depravation of basic needs such as food, water, sleep, and warm clothes. The training is being conducted under the supervision of a commander and a psychologist. A British officer admitted that two of his colleagues were unable to cope with this training. One of them left the class with the words: “I’ve had enough!”. Without special support, he added, the test can carve deep into the psychosis of the soldiers.

The questions concerning the court case, nr. 14-02-2011-101446-002, are still left unanswered by the UK MoD. This was a court case initiated by private Amy Carson, who was trained for resistance against interrogation (program name: R2i). Among other things, she demanded information about the presence of an exhaustive list of each type or method of training, a trainee may be subjected during the program R2i. The use of special methods of combat were confirmed by the Minister of Defense of Great Britain, Gino Marc Francois, in a reply to a written question by UK MP Shannon Jimma.

Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the military prisons in Iraq, made also an important statement on this subject, the essence of which is the following : to prepare the trainees for psychological brainwashing, it is impossible to refrain from using the special enforcement methods for brainwashing against POW’s. The general was right. The tactic named, “prolongation of the shock of captivity”, was not only used in Iraq, by the coalition forces (UK and US). According to a report from Emily Buchanan, that was filmed for the BBC’s program called “Newsnight”, it provided evidence that the United Kingdom had actively cooperated with the dictatorial regime in Brazil to train its minions in cruel interrogation methods. Alvaro Caldas, who was subjected to said torture in the barracks of the military police of Rio de Janeiro, remises that this new kind of interrogation became known as the English system. Professor Glaus Soares, interviewed more than a dozen Brazilian generals, who were sending their officers for training in England, and the majority of them had a positive opinion of the UK’s methods, who were hailed as “the best method of interrogation”. In a recent interview with the former Brazilian minister of the national service, General Ivan de Souza Mendes, named the British ‘masters of interrogations’. He acknowledged that they owned the key for confessions under “psychological” pressure. Colonel Paulo Malhanes, received the appropriate training in the UK, and he also repeated the mantra that Britain was the best place to study the diverse methods for obtaining crucial confessions and information from individuals, without having to resort to the use of brute force.

The roots of the system

It is important to not forget, that many officials, in the report of Buchanan, believe that the foundation for this dubious “honor” of primacy, in the development of interrogation techniques, that the UK exclusively possesses, was thanks to the systematic use of torture during the insurgency in Northern Ireland. Even the South American press drew attention to the fact that the Armed Forces of Great Britain used PsyOps methods of interrogation against its own population. According to Cory Doctorow, from Montevideo news agency (MERCO Press South Atlantic News Agency), this method did not leave any traces of torture on the body, and therefore it received acknowledgment as the English method, which was perfected during the uprising of the Northern Irish Republicans. The British press has repeatedly credited the exact branch(es), and name(s) of the military structure, which was/were responsible for carrying out the systematic training of “to be” torturers. The Biggleswade Today newspaper (the Biggleswade Chronicle), has repeatedly drawn the attention of its readers to the fact that the training of servicemen for illegal torture methods, which was applied to Iraqi prisoners of war, was conducted in Chicksands, which is the headquarters of the security and military intelligence.

Its guidelines, for the psychological treatment of the prisoner before the interrogation, was even presented to the public. As it turns out, the Guardian had obtained training manuals, which were in PPT- format, of the British Armed Forces. The authors, of these secret methodic interrogation manual, advise future professionals to set the stage, so that the prisoner has a constant feeling of insecurity, freight and anxiety. A team of lawyers and human rights activists, led by the famous solicitor from Birmingham, Phil Scheiner, gathered documents showing British soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees. The data included a list of specific incidents where detainees had to wear bags on their heads, where they were denied the opportunity to hear “sounds” by being forced to wear sound blocking headphones, who were denied the right to see- by forcing them to wear glasses which blocked their view, the report also notes the occurrence of forcible stripping the prisoners of their clothes, and robbing them of their Circadian rhythm (which was distorted). The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, in “Abu Ghraib” was not invented by the guards themselves. More so, according to British military sources, the systematic abuse of prisoners is currently gaining momentum in the UK and is traveling with a faster rate throughout the ordinary military units of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom.

Vladimir Gazetov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, and Professor at the Military University of the Russian Defense Ministry

Vadim Khomenko, Ph.D., and Professor at the Military University of the Russian Defense Ministry

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