I. Jane Mayer: SERE Program’s ‘Curriculum for Torture’
II. SERE training (Survival. MAR 30 2015
Neuropsychological & Electronic No-Touch Torture Report by Dr. Robert Duncan (used on targeted citizens here in the U.S.)
The Executive Summary: Neuropsychological and Electronic No-Touch Torture Report
Based on “The Torture Memos” and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Declassified “Torture Report”
Perspectives on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Project Proposals for Google Summer of Code 2015
By Robert Duncan, A.B., S.M., M.B.A., Ph.D.
Torture is a horrific topic and most minds will turn away from it because it can’t be comprehended that humans can be motivated, or computer programs can be run to do this to other sentient beings. Just when we believed we were becoming more civilized as a culture, the technology for torture has advanced more than a hundred fold in recent decades.
This summary will get into ‘the minds of the dishonorable monsters’ of the psychology of torture. Those like Dick Cheney who helped authorize it under certain administrations and regimes of the U.S. government which have been proven to be criminal under U.S. law, treaties, and the International Criminal Court. There are many people involved in the conspiracy and cover-up including General Hayden.
The full report discloses the spectrum of techniques of interrogation and torture used by the U.S. and its allies. The United States government will officially deny the claims of this “no-touch torture report” but in time it will stand firm.
The technologies used are still classified as state secrets and will not be discussed in this summary. The torture methods have been leaked through thousands of American citizens who have survived the no-touch torture programs. The research and testimony has been accumulated since 2002 and merely used as examples but the names of the victims are withheld.
This report will not use skewed, misleading language such as “enhanced interrogation” to describe the torture techniques.
Why torture? The CIA claims it works. The assumption is that it works to gain actionable intelligence. Torture is often used for revenge, punishment, interrogation, and behavior modification. In other terms torture is used to remove the continuity of thought to confuse the target to reveal information, erase brain patterns such as values and beliefs, or to break down the human spirit to make them submit and obey their handlers.
The downside of torture is that the countries that do it lose “moral soft power” in world politics. Without due process, over 25% of those reported in the Senate Torture Report were declared innocent. Blowback is always a repercussion of torture. Torture often takes a long time to affect the target from months to years. Torture has shown to be unreliable except for getting false confessions and bad information but the U.S. and its allies are improving on their tactics and techniques.
The purpose of this report is to draw the parallels between physical torture techniques and no-touch torture methods used in secret by governments who possess the technologies that still go on today. This is a brief summary of offensive psychological and information warfare methods using traditional methods and modern cybernetic techniques while exploring hyper-game theory to walk the target to the desired path: leak intelligence, commit assassinations, or change beliefs.
Numerated Torture Methods for Interrogation and Behavior Modification
(A comparison between physical and no-touch torture tactics)
1. Induction of Depressive/Manic states
The idea is to shake up the emotional states of the target because different information can be accessed at each state. Making the target feel despair and helplessness is the objective. This cycle of hope building and then breaking is done in many ways. The techniques between the physical methods and the no-touch technological methods are similar. Speech is very important during this process of emotional manipulation. Such examples are, “We have imprisoned you without due processes or hope of it. You are indefinitely detained.” Hope building examples include, “Sorry. We have mistaken you for someone else. You will be compensated for false imprisonment and torture.” The main difference between the cybernetic technology and physical is that emotional state clusters can be entrained into the target mind which speeds up the process. The communication is done differently but perceived as human speech. In the no-touch torture methods it is helpful if the target is labeled with mental illness that is being created for discrediting purposes so as not to draw human rights groups’ attention.
2. Memory Erasure
The military and CIA have been researching memory erasing drugs for half a century. The focus of this summary report is on interrogation. Memory erasure is an important technique during interrogation. It is used in combination with sleep deprivation. There are many drugs that have been developed for physical memory erasure. One such interrogation method requires acquiring information from the target while on these drugs and recording the subject. After a sleeping cycle, the interrogator claims that the target has confessed. Of course the target remembers nothing of their conversation. The interrogator will play samples of the subject’s conversation back to them making the subject believe that the interrogator knows more than they do. Similar techniques are used in the wireless, no-touch torture and interrogation programs. The cybernetic methods of memory erasure have additional purposes. The memory erasure can be used on the cybernetic target to make the target believe people have broken in and moved their belongings. While physical black bag jobs do occur, it is a way to make the target more paranoid.
3. Electricity and Shocks
Pain and fear of death are common tactics during interrogation. Shocking by electricity is a traditional method of torture and exposed in the CIA’s secret prisons. Shocking the testicles and nipples are the most common due to their sensitivity. Interestingly, the thousand of interviews of no-touch torture involves “stings” and “shocks” to various parts of their bodies over long durations.
4. Fear and Terror
There are many techniques to induce extreme fear in the target. In physical renditions dogs, power drills, guns, insects, mutilation, blow torches, water boarding, suffocation, mock burials, and mock executions are just a few the United States government have used. Remember that many targets of torture die from the physical effects. It is torture to death.
Let us compare the no-touch torture methods used to inflict the same terror and mental anguish. In several of these techniques the target needs to hear their handler’s voice. This report does not describe the technologies used to broadcast voices to the target at a distance. While the subject can be broadcast mental images to their mind using hypnosis and other suggestions as well as visual entrainments, the more invasive controls of the brain manipulation technologies can be used to entrained the brain’s autonomic nervous systems such as not breathing causing the target to not be able to sleep from fear of suffocation equivalent to water boarding. The neural linguistic programming can add fears such as heart attack, stroke, and cancer threats. Even motor cortex mapping can cause twitches in any part of the body. One example used a swift neck movement with a voice transmission, “We are trying to break your neck.” Directed energy effects such as Active Denial System can make the target feel that they are on fire indefinitely without the target dying from burns. Maximum pain and torture weapons have been evolving. Every drug effect can be artificially induced into the target mind including those of poisons.
5. Imprisonment and Isolation
Isolation is commonly used as punishment in prisons. Many whistleblowers like Bradley Manning suffer this condition. In soft interrogation it is used to get the target to talk to their interrogator since humans have the need for companionship. In no-touch torture the target is driven from their friends and family using different techniques in order to isolate them so that the electronic mind control has more effect on their psyche. Like in Guantanamo, the target becomes isolated losing their job and medical care. Part of the method involves slander in their community. They end up on the most part in poverty and paranoid about doctors and other people from false correlations that are purposefully induced into their lives. Isolation is also a form of sensory deprivation which will be discussed later. Days and weeks lose their meaning.
6. Sexually Disturbing Tailored Pornography
The Summary of the Senate Torture Report disclosed the disgusting revelations that in the secret torture prisons the targets were forced to perform homosexual acts on each other against their will and religion in order not to be beaten or killed. This is a common break down tactic of belief systems and the human will. In no-touch torture the techniques are more psychologically specialized for each target. Most common examples include homosexual targets that are forced with voices that are derogatory to their lifestyle and similar mental images. Almost all targets are forced to view child pornography in their minds. And vice versa is true, that heterosexual targets are forced to view homosexual sexual acts like in the secret U.S. torture prisons.
Also mentioned in the declassified report on torture was mutilation of the human. Cutting the naked target’s penis and scrotum, pulling nails or teeth is common. In no-touch torture mutilation is done by trickery. Let us look at a couple examples. There have been several targets who believed that the microwave hearing effect and other voice induction methods were done by microchips implanted in their teeth or ears. They had all their teeth pulled because they believed it was a technology called bone conductance. Others have poked out their ear drums in the belief they had micro implants in their ears. There are many more examples of trickery used to make the targets mutilate themselves.
8. Personal and Spiritual Defamation
In physical torture the CIA and other groups use propaganda and defamation of character for those they oppose. For detainees they try to disenfranchise the target from their religion. They will defecate on their Bible or Koran for example. They might say, “Why is your God not saving you?” In no touch torture and behavior modification they might try to make an atheist believe in god. It is just a mechanism to alter belief systems for control and experimentation. Perhaps the target may wish to confess their secrets to a “voice of god weapon”. Information warfare covers the gamut of electronic communication as well. The government training exercise uses language like “befriend”, “infiltrate”, “mask/mimic”, “ruse”, “set-up”, “disrupt”, “create cognitive stress”, “use deception”, “ruin business relationships”, and “post negative information on appropriate forums” – in a malicious effort to target bloggers, activists, journalists, social event organizers and anyone else deemed to be a ‘emerging leader’ or voice in the public sphere.
9. Psychological Intimidation
This is a topic for a target at the beginning of the trials and programs. Physical break-ins are common even if the target has an alarm system. The NSA has used stalking of foreign officials in the past for economic gain. The FBI does black bag jobs to invade a home without a warrant. The point is to let the target know they are being watched and to increase their paranoia. The NSA easily hacks all computer systems and causes harm to the victim’s intellectual property and their relationships from that endpoint. In the no touch torture false correlations between pain and a neighbor coming home can be induced.
Rape is a common practice in torture. It causes much psychological trauma. In the United States methods of rape in their military and CIA secret prisons it is often relabeled. It is commonly done by prods but “rectal rehydration” is the more common misnomer. Often they call it forced feeding through the rectum but it is meant to induce psychological scaring and trauma. Several have died from the technique due to rectal bleeding. In no-touch torture the psychological trauma of simulated rape takes on different forms. Using technique often called EEG-heterodyning the targets will receive molestation effects of their genitals. In men this can be the anus and genitals. Similarly women can be wirelessly raped by the analogous function of perception.
11. Dietary Manipulation, Forced Weakness and Sickness
The idea behind dietary manipulation is to weaken the target. This is easily done in a physical setting but in no-touch the hunger trigger needs to be suppressed. Sometimes a false correlation between eating food and sickness is induced to make the target believe they are being poisoned. However, poisoning is common in physical renditions too.
Verbal breakdown is most important during interrogations and torture. Obviously speaking the language of the target is necessary. This is why there are interrogators in all languages. Repetition is an important neural linguistic programming interrogation tactic to influence the target mind. During the breakdown process, threats to kill and to torture the target’s family or friends are common. Repetitious questioning and breakdown phrases are automated in both the physical and no-touch versions of torture. An interesting technology that is used for no-touch torture is called chatter bots. Chatter bots, an artificial intelligence program, automate much of the repetition so that the interrogators don’t drive themselves crazy during the neural linguistic torture and programming phases. Let us not forget the Chinese Water Torture, a single drop of water on the forehead of the detainee for months. Repetition is a form of torture.
13. Sensitization of Pain Impulses
While the reverse can be obtained, optimizing perceived pain and misery is the objective in torture. Each trauma adds to the overall misery throughout life. Optimization of pain has been studied by the military and intelligence agencies. In the past the CIA has used drugs such as LSD to enhance fear and terror in the subject. Other methods such as hypnosis can increase perceived pain and the power of suggestion such as telling the subject his pinky finger is going to be cut off before it is done. In no-touch torture the same psychological manipulations are exerted. Subliminal and overt suggested are often told to the subject before the directed energy or EEG heterodyning pain inductions in order to maximize their effectiveness.
14. Sensory Overload and Deprivation
Again, this technique of overloading or depriving the human of sensory stimulus is ubiquitous in torture around the world not just in U.S. secret prisons. Torture subjects in the United States have reported the use of repetitive bad music and noise campaigns. An unusual torture technique used in the U.S. secret prisons was of a use of a plastic suit filled with ice while they beat the target. Ultra bright lights for days on end in the prison and hot/cold temperature changes in the environment are frequent. In no-touch torture, the target’s brain is forced to release dopamine which causes pupil dilatation. This acts as a sensory overload. For example the non-lethal microwave weapons research done by a professor in University of Nevada has shown this capability. Body metabolism can be altered with these weapons causing cold and hot flashes. Targets of no-touch torture often hear endless tinnitus.
15. Sexual Humiliation and Lack of Privacy
Often used in common prisons is a lack of privacy. It is both necessity for security and a form of sexual humiliation. Also in prison many people are raped. No-touch torture offers the same sexual humiliation and lack of privacy by using through wall radar, cameras, and EEG visual cloning to let the target know they are being watched. Degrading comments are often used on the no-touch torture subjects while they are naked or in the bathroom.
16. Maximum Sensory Pain Techniques
Basic torture involves brutalization, i.e. physical strikes, kicks in the groin, pepper spray or tear gas, etc. Anything that involves maximum pain is the objective. Amazingly, these same basic tortures can be done wirelessly into the human mind. All forms of sickness have been reported without any real illness behind the suffering. All suffering can be entrained into the minds of no-touch torture subjects.
17. Sleep Deprivation
This is the number one torture method along with the popularity in the press of water boarding. This is done in every country that uses torture. The United States is number one in torture since they are currently the world’s only superpower. A repetitive sleep deprivation cycle is generally done 180 hrs/7.5 days at a time in the physical renditions, or in no-touch torture five days awake and two days of sleep. Sleep deprivation accomplishes the objective of memory loss during interrogation and induces hallucinations which help with the interrogation process. In behavior modification and programming it is necessary too.
18. Stress Positions
Keeping detainees handcuffed above their head and to walls so that they must stand for days is a common ploy in torture. These types of poses are called stress positions. They can be mimicked in no-touch torture. An example of one such trick requires the target to believe they can deflect radar energy using pots or pans and that it is directional. The target is being given an ample amount of pain until their hands and arms are spread apart holding the pans trying to block the signals. They must maintain that position in order to get any relief from the torture signals. However the stress position itself is physical torture. Often accompanying this technique are voices saying to the target, “You are doing it to yourself.”
We will finish off this summary of U.S. and its allies’ torture, interrogation, and behavior modification experimentation with ideas of why they are done to the general public and falsely accused detainees. Anyone can be put into these programs. Justice and rule of law does not exist at the highest levels of government. Treaties are worthless because the #1 agreement in the rules of war, a ban against torture, is not obeyed. This creates a more brutal and barbaric society lead by example.
No-touch torture uses the same interrogation tactics as physical interrogations but with some new twists. Techniques such as “Jeff and Mutt” a.k.a. “Good Cop Bad Cop” are used. The bad cop tortures the target and the good cop tries to gain their trust. In mind control, trust games are commonly employed to manipulate the beliefs of the target. Creating hatred of groups through false correlations and deception is a common CIA method of trickery.
In the CIA programs, the target is put through these phases as written in the documentation, “Disorient and confuse the target. Use them for our purposes, and then dispose of them in any way possible.” We can only surmise by our sample set of a thousand people what “dispose” means: prison, suicide, or perhaps a mental hospital. Coercing and torturing people to suicide is very common. Both tactics in physical or no-touch torture involves plausible deniability.
The no-touch interrogations are better than physical rendition techniques for exposing support networks. Traditional NSA tracking of email and phones calls are useful but if the targets are taken into a secret prison they can’t contact their networks. In no-touch torture, the target will contact everyone who might help them. Then those relationships can be destroyed to isolate the target. All these techniques rely on the target having a fear of death and pain.
Deception is very important during interrogation. In physical interrogations the targets are often drugged. This creates the confusion necessary to pull off certain trickery. In terrorist interrogations, for example, the CIA uses fake newspapers to make the target believe whatever event they were suspected of plotting had already happened, obviously looking for a confession. Sometimes the government in charge of the torture is looking for a political gain through a false confession. None-the-less false flag operations are commonly used in both forms of torture and interrogation. The trick is to make the target believe another foreign country is doing it to them. In no-touch torture the trick is to make them believe someone related to them is behind their suffering.
Voice transformation and morphing is an interesting technology also used in both physical and wireless interrogations. It is a form of deception used against a target to trick them into believing that they are speaking to real people that they know. It has been used in war to trick generals. Obviously spoofing email and other identities on internet forums can be used in this manner too.
Finally, the topic of human experimentation for improving weapons, torture, interrogation, and social disruption methods will be breached. Most of the techniques mentioned above work most effectively if the target has no SERE training (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) or psychological understanding of the methods to influence the human mind. Unfortunately, every sample point in the world’s society needs to be studied to improve the weapons systems. This is why many random people are put into the torture and mind control experiments. There are some devious uses of a secret army of remote controlled assassins in every country in the world. The samples must include different education, language, culture, and economic factors. Obviously, silencing dissidents, oppositions of political parties, and whistleblowers are included in the lists of applications. The most disturbing of the trends in torture is testing and improving it. No-touch torture is much more complex than physical torture. Testing design flaws and weaknesses of the signal intelligence is one reason why it is necessary to test on innocent targets. Often the subject will be taunted by the statement, “Try to stop us.” This statement forces the torture subject to try to figure out shielding and jamming techniques to stop the wireless torture and helps the weapons designers to improve on the system.
However, the psychological and perceived physical pain is only half the story with no-touch torture. It also involves a set of scripts, mind games if you will, to walk the target to murder and/or suicide. This is called “Hyper Game Theory”. It is used in war games to determine how to control your enemies and targets. Game Theory can be used on governments, individuals, or for determining propaganda to alter cultures. The experiments on the public provide a means to test the efficacy of these scripts and determine under what circumstances to use them.
One last comment on why “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” as President Eisenhower warned. During these torture programs run by the United States and its allies, accurate “truth” data points need to be used to judge the efficiency of the interrogation methods. This is why there is a dispute between the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee reports about the usefulness of torture. Subterfuge by the CIA hacking into the senate oversight committee’s computers is a big deal; a rogue agency has been formed. Data fusion centers, Homeland Security Data Fusion Centers, NSA, and FBI collect data on Americans. This data in turn is used during torture and interrogation of Americans in no-touch torture.
Partial Project Summary History
Technologies and Skills
Signal/Image Processing and Pattern Recognition
Tank image recognition from satellites 3-D stereoscopic extraction algorithms
Submarine signature recognition from acoustic underwater phased arrays Expert Bayesian system, parameter tuning, phased array signal processing correlogram
Stock market statistical arbitrage Creating models based on financial fluid flow dynamics and correlations of stock prices. Forecasting (Tuck).
Credit card fraud pattern recognition. Spending pattern irregularities alerts
Sound triangulation/sniper system Asymmetric phased arrays and reflection calibration algorithms
Biometric Recognition Systems
Face, finger print, retinal, voice and infra-red vascular recognition Feature extraction, registration algorithms, noise removal, large dataset management. Eigenvectors, wavelets, 3-D convolutions, cluster analysis.
Eye gaze tracker Real time image processing. Head rotation modeling.
Truth detection systems Automating polygraph parameter sensors and voice stress. Emotional context modeling through vocabulary templates.
Gesture recognition Hand gestures conversion to computer commands.
Brain Print Recognition Utilizing many samples, human brains have a unique MEG/EEG brain “hum” and cluster analysis can be done to recognize mental illnesses and uniqueness of individuals. (Lockheed Martin is doing research on recognition of precognitive signals of objects. Berkley also just released a paper showing how to discriminate between 1024 visual objects.)
Various projects including FFT optimization Vector Pipeline, BBN Butterfly, Hypercube, Viking Boards
Artificial life simulations, gas lattices Specialized Hardware, genetic and evolutionary algorithms.
Grid computing BEA and Oracle distributed grid computing
Computer generated holography 3-D spatial FFT on BBN’s connection machine. C-paris parallel programming language. Fortran 77.
Voice recognition/identification BBN Hark’s system.Markov modeling, n-grams, context probability models, speaker independent models
Models of discourse and planning Studied under world renown Barbara Grosz, graduate school adviser Harvard
Natural Language parsing and AI knowledge networks CIA project. Focused on pronoun reference algorithms.
Soldier 2000 project Connecting vital sensors to a wireless bodyLan, DARPA.
Robotic Surgery in Medicine for the Army Hepatic feedback, latency time compensation, tremor filtering, object touch recognition
Virtual Reality in Medicine Overlays of fMRI scans onto patient for real time surgical applications
Virtual Reality 3-D Reconstruction Teleconferencing Carnegie Mellon University. 3-D reconstruction of objects in the teleconference room.
EEG controlled robots Relatively simplistic mental state recognition to control direction of robot. Discriminant function analysis.
Neural network controller for “INFANT” robot Designing robot controllers to learn to grasp objects that mimic human babies. Mentor: Dr. Kuperstein (MIT)
Retraining the brain to interpret tactile feedback as visual information Braille interfacing also used by Navy for Sonar feedback on tongue tactile vision systems.
Research / simulations in cybernetic hive mind work groups (BBN) Increasing the hypothetical efficiency of integrated rapid communication technologies.
Neural network control system for leg muscle stimulation to make paralyzed people walk again Engineering of exoskeleton. Control systems for non-linear biological models due to muscle fatigue.
Digital Circuit/Systems Design
Cascadable digital neural network chip VLSI design, production, testing
Wearable ubiquitous computing systems Enhanced reality, enhanced cognition. Heads up display borrowed from NASA for entrepreneurial venture.
III. Cancel Water-Boarding 101
The military should close its torture school. I know because I graduated from it.
By DAVID J. MORRIS
JAN 29, 200912:53 PM
On his first day in office, President Obama kept his most important campaign promise and began the process of closing Guantanamo. But this eliminates only the most visible part of the U.S. torture bureaucracy. In order to ensure that the atrocities of Guantanamo aren’t visited upon the world by future administrations, Obama must also eviscerate the structures that enabled and supported torture. At the top of a long list is the U.S. military’s secretive torture school, known as SERE, which stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.
Founded in the aftermath of the Korean War to train U.S. servicemen to withstand enemy interrogation, the school was central to the development of the notorious “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo. It was the SERE program that sent instructors and staff psychologists to Guantanamo shortly after 9/11 and provided the technical expertise on tactics like water-boarding. As Jane Mayer put it in her study of U.S. torture policy, The Dark Side, “SERE is a repository of the world’s knowledge about torture, the military equivalent, in a sense, of the lethal specimens of obsolete plagues kept in the deep-freeze laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control.”
I served in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, and I attended SERE as a young lieutenant in November 1995. I have since been to Iraq three times (as a reporter), and I can attest that the school isn’t relevant to the threats American soldiers face abroad. It resembles more of an elaborate hazing ritual than actual training.
While I was in the school, I lived like an animal. I was hooded, beaten, starved, stripped naked, and hosed down in the December air until I became hypothermic. At one point, I couldn’t speak because I was shivering so hard. Thrown into a 3-by-3-foot cage with only a rusted coffee can to piss into, I was told that the worst had yet to come. I was violently interrogated three times. When I forgot my prisoner number, I was strapped to a gurney and made to watch as a fellow prisoner was water-boarded a foot away from me. I will never forget the sound of that young sailor choking, seemingly near death, paying for my mistake. I remember only the sound because, try as I might, I couldn’t force myself to look at his face. I was next. But for some reason, the guards just dropped the hose on my chest, the water soaking my uniform.
I was incarcerated at SERE for only a few days, but my mind quickly disintegrated. I became convinced that I was being held in an actual prisoner of war camp. Training had stopped, from my point of view. We had crossed over into some murky shadow land where the regulations no longer applied. I was sure that my captors, who wore Warsaw Pact-style uniforms and spoke with thick Slavic accents, would go all the way if the need arose.
Based on my conversations with recent graduates of SERE, it’s clear that the school continues to inflict on trainees the techniques I experienced, such as sensory deprivation, extreme confinement, and exposure to loud music and recordings of wailing babies. According to congressional testimony given in November 2007 by Malcolm Nance, a former SERE instructor, they still water-board at SERE. If water-boarding is torture, then why are we still doing it to U.S. servicemen? Yes, enlistment in the units that attend SERE is a voluntary act, but must it entail the signing away of basic human rights?
The question is especially pertinent because America’s enemies haven’t used SERE’s techniques of “mind control” since the Korean War. No doubt some military officials will argue that SERE has never been more necessary than it is today, given that there is no front line in the war on terrorism. Our troops are in constant danger of being captured, as in the kidnapping of two soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division near Yousifiyah, Iraq, in May 2007.
But a review of the experiences of American servicemen captured in Iraq and Somalia shows that our enemies don’t water-board their captives. Nor do they have the resources to mount a program of systematic sensory deprivation and humiliation, as we did in Guantanamo and in the American prison at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base. In fact, our soldiers need training from SERE based on an entirely different premise, as illustrated by the experience of Michael Durant, the helicopter pilot who spent several weeks in captivity when he was captured by Somali fighters during the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” raid. Durant survived by befriending his captors and forcing them to see him as a fellow human being. SERE conditions servicemen to expect nothing but the worst from their captors; Durant’s life depended on his ability to understand his captors and find ways to manipulate them psychologically.
At the same time, the problem with SERE extends far beyond its questionable relevance to the threats that the war on terrorism pose to American soldiers. The school, which all pilots and special-forces soldiers attend, unintentionally serves to legitimize the use of torture by U.S. personnel in the field. In at least one documented case, special-forces soldiers in Afghanistan modeled their interrogations on the SERE training they received. The unit, the “20th Special Force Group,” forced prisoners to kneel outside in wet clothing and repeatedly kicked and punched prisoners in the kidneys, knees, and nose if they moved, resulting in the death of one detainee, according to Mayer’s book.
The experience of torture at SERE surely plays a role in the minds of the graduates who go on to be interrogators, and it must on some level help them rationalize their actions. It’s not hard to imagine them thinking, Well, if I survived this, then it’s OK to do it to this guy. This acceptance of abuse from up high down to the lowest levels is the root of our military’s torture problem. Unlike other Western militaries (Britain’s, for example), ours thrives on sometimes-cartoonish authoritarianism and contrived rites of passage (like those hazing scandals that continually plague all the service academies). To young, impressionable soldiers, it is a too-short mental leap to the depredations of Abu Ghraib, as evidenced by a 2007 Army Times poll showing that 44 percent of enlisted Marines thought torturing a detainee was OK under certain circumstances. As John McCain said of torture in 2005, “It’s not about them—it’s about us.”
Because the operation of SERE is entirely a military matter, its role hasn’t received anything like the attention of the legal machinations that licensed the Bush administration’s abuses at Guantanamo. But unless we stop torturing our own servicemen and training them how to torture others, unless we close SERE and retrain its instructors, Guantanamo could happen again.