Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Mr. Rumsfeld, I AM a reasonable person.

     From Last Night

“None of the authorized interrogation methods – either those approved in December 2002 and used on one detainee until I rescinded them, or those that I later approved in April 2003 – involved physical or mental pain. None were inhumane. None met any reasonable person’s definition of torture.”

       Donald Rumsfeld,

    “Known and Unknown”, page, 582

Mr. Rumsfeld, as you arrive in Boston for an event promoting your book this evening, I wish I could be there with all my heart. Unfortunately, circumstances mean I am not able to be there. Had I been there, and had I all the time I wished to address you, this is what I would have said:

Mr. Rumsfeld, my name is Heather and my husband, Dan, was a Vietnam vet who survived torture. Dan suffered from his injuries for over thirty years. When he got back to the US, all of Dan’s toenails had to be removed three times, to try to get rid of the bamboo poisoning from where they had inflicted pain to try to get him to tell them what they wanted to know. There was never enough food in the house to fill the psychological hole from the food deprivation he had suffered. Dan never got a full night’s sleep. He was still waking up screaming the week before he died, six years ago. I know something about torture.

It was with great interest that I have been reading your book, Known and Unknown, wanting to know what you would say about the torture regime of the US government during the last ten years.

There are many words which stick out from the pages of your book, but the words that scream in my head are these:


“None of the authorized interrogation methods – either those approved in December 2002 and used on one detainee until I rescinded them, or those that I later approved in April 2003 – involved physical or mental pain. None were inhumane. None met any reasonable person’s definition of torture.”

Mr. Rumsfeld: Let’s go through some of those methods which you authorized in December of 2002:

      (This is as they are described in your memo, all of these are Category II Techniques, although numbered differently.)

1) The use of stress-positions (like standing) for a maximum of fours hours.

The OMS (Office of Medical Services) sent a memo to the CIA on medical guidelines for the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In it, under “Shackling in upright position”, they say, “Prolonged standing likely to induce dependent edema, increased risk for DVT [which is Deep Vein Thrombosis] and cellulitis”, all of which can kill.

2) Use of the isolation facility for up to 30 days. Request must be made to through the OIC, Interrogation Section, to the Director, Joint Interrogation Group (JIG). Extensions beyond the initial 30 days must be approved by the Commanding General. For selected detainees, the OIC, Interrogation Section, will approve all contacts with the detainee, to include medical visits of a non-emergent nature.

“The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.” Terry Anderson, one month into his incarceration by Hezbollah in Lebanon, as written in his memoir of his time in captivity, and quoted by Dr. Atul Gawande in his New Yorker article on solitary confinement, “Hellhole”.…              

I will next quote Dr. Stuart Grassian, Board Certified Psychiatrist, who has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School since 1974, in his statement, “Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement” :

Summary of Opinions:

In my opinion, solitary confinement – that is confinement of a prisoner alone in a cell for all or nearly all of the day, with minimal environmental stimulation and minimal opportunity for social interaction –  can can [sec] cause severe psychiatric harm.


          Moreover, although many of the acute symptoms suffered by these inmates are likely to subside_ upon termination of solitary confinement, many – including some who did not become overtly psychiatrically ill during their confinement in solitary – will likely suffer permanent harm as a result of such confinement.

           The Specific Psychiatric Syndrome Associated With Solitary Confinement

           a. Hypersensitivity to External Stimuli

More that half the prisoners reported a progressive inability to tolerate ordinary stimuli. For example, “You get sensitive to noise – the plumbing system. Someone in the tier above me pushes the button on the faucet. … It’s too loud, gets on your nerves. I can’t stand it. I start to holler.”

           b. Perceptual Distortions, Illusions and Hallucinations

Almost a third of the prisoners described hearing voices, often in whispers, often saying frightening things to them. There was also reports of noises taking on increasing meaning and frightening significance. For example: “I hear noises, can’t identify them – starts to sound like sticks beating men, but I’m pretty sure no one is being beaten . . . I’m not sure.” These perceptual changes at times become more personalized : “They come by me with four trays; the first has big pancakes. I think I am going to get them. Then someone comes and gives me tiny ones –  they get really small, like silver dollars. I seem to see movements – real fast motions in front of me. Then seems like they are doing things behind your back – can’t quite see them. Did someone just hit me ? I dwell on it for hours.”

           c. Panic Attacks

Well over half of the inmates interviewed described severe panic attacks while in SHU.

           d. Difficulties With Thinking, Concentration and Memory

Many reported symptoms of difficulty in concentration and memory; for example, “I can’t concentrate, can’t read . . . Your mind is narcotized. Sometimes can’t grasp words in my mind that I know. Get stuck, have to think of another word. Memory’s going. You feel like you are losing something you might not get back.” In some cases this problem was more severe, leading to acute psychotic, confusional states. One prisoner had slashed his wrists during such a state and his confusion and disorientation had actually been noted in his medical record.

           e. Intrusive Obsessional Thoughts: Emergence of Primitive Aggressive Ruminations

Almost half the prisoners reported the emergence of primitive aggressive fantasies of revenge, torture, and mutilation of the prison guards. In each case, the fantasies were described as entirely unwelcome, frightening and uncontrollable. For example: “I try to sleep 16 hours a day, block out my thoughts – muscles tense – thinking of torturing and killing the guards – last a couple of hours. I can’t stop it. Bothers me. Have to keep control. This makes me think I’m flipping my mind . . . I get panicky – thoughts come back – pictured throwing a guard in lime – eats away at his skin, his flesh – torture him – try to block it out but I can’t.”

            f. Overt Paranoia

Almost half the prisoners interviewed reported paranoid and persecutory fears. Some of these persecutory fears were short of overt psychotic disorganization. For example: Sometime get paranoid – think they mean something else. Like a remark about Italians. Dwell on it for hours. Get frantic. Like when they push the buttons on the sink. Think they did it just to annoy me” In other cases this paranoia deteriorated into overt psychosis: “Spaced out. Hear si
nging, people’s voices, “Cut your wrists and go to Bridgewater and the Celtics are playing tonight.” I doubt myself. Is it real ? . . . I suspect they are putting drugs in my call . . . The Reverend, the priest – even you – you are all in cahoots in the Scared Straight Program.”

           g. Problems with Impulse Control

Slightly less than half of the prisoners reported episodes of loss of impulse control with random violence: “I snap off the handle over absolutely nothing. Have torn up mail and pictures, throw things around. Try to control it. Know it only hurts myself.” Several of these prisoners reported impulsive self-mutilation: ” I cut my wrists many times in isolation. Now it seems crazy. But every time I did it, I wasn’t thinking – lost control – cut myself without knowing what I was doing.”


3) Deprivation of light and auditory stimuli

Again, I will quote Dr. Stuart Grassian, in his statement, Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement in which he cites a study conducted primarily at Harvard and McGill Medical Centers during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Experimental Research on Sensory Deprivation

In these studies (Brownfield, 1965; Solomon, et al. 1961), subjects were placed in a situation designed to maximally reduce perceptually informative external stimuli (e.g., light-proof, soundproof rooms, cardboard tubes surrounding the arms and legs to reduce proprioceptive and tactile sensation, so on). The research revealed that characteristic symptoms generally developed in such settings. These symptoms included perceptual distortions and illusions in multiple spheres, derealization experiences, and hyperresponsitivity to external stimuli. What was also clear, however, was that while some subjects tolerated such experiences well, many did not, and a characteristic syndrome was observed, including not only the above symptoms, but also included cognitive impairment, massive free-floating anxiety, extreme motor restlessness, emergence of primitive aggressive fantasies which were often accompanied by fearful hallucinations, and with a decreasing capacity to maintain an observing, reality-testing ego function. In some cases, a marked dissociative, catatonic like stupor (delirium) with mutism developed. EEG recordings confirmed the presence of abnormalities typical of stupor and delirium.

These findings clearly demonstrated that this experimental model did reproduce the findings in the non-experimental situations, including the findings among prisoners of War, held in solitary confinement.

5) The use of the 20 hour interrogation.

Which means sleep deprivation.

This is the response, obtained by and published by Obsidian Wings, from Professor James Horne on learning his book, Why We Sleep , had been used as a justification for the use of sleep deprivation. :

My book ‘Why We Sleep’ was written without any thought of ‘coercive techniques’ in mind. Nevertheless I made it very clear that pure sleep deprivation in otherwise happy healthy volunteers, as in laboratory settings without additional stresses, is not very eventful for the body, while it is much more so for our brain and behaviour. Whereas sleep helps people withstand stress, sleep loss makes us more vulnerable to other stresses, especially as the inherent sleepiness and other adverse effects on the brain confuse the mind’s ability to figure out how to deal with and avoid these stresses.  Thus I emphasise that my book’s conclusions were based on ‘pure sleep deprivation’ without additional stresses. Such findings were derived from otherwise undemanding and benign laboratory studies that do not typify the real world, whereas people are usually sleep deprived because of other stresses such as long and arduous working hours, family crises, etc. Healthy people who have volunteered for sleep deprivation experiments are usually well cosseted by their experimenters, perhaps too much so, and might have been inadvertently protected from the full effects of sleep loss.  Apart from the sleep deprivation, volunteers typically lead a tranquil existence, are fed very well and, except for having periodically to undergo various harmless tests, have plenty of time for relaxation, reading and watching TV. There have been many of these experiments with human volunteers, with the longest lasting 8-11 days.  Volunteers can pull out any time and there is full medical cover. The purpose of these studies has been to explore what sleep does for the body and brain, by removing sleep and see what happens. Under these circumstances, the ‘body’ copes well, whereas the brain and behaviour are obviously affected – not only by sleepiness but by more subtle changes whereby individuals can no longer think for themselves and become more like automatons.  

With additional stresses as in ‘coercive techniques’, the situation for the sleep deprived victim becomes deplorable, as the mind and brain under these circumstances trigger the body’s defences to create a physiological ‘alarm reaction’ whereby, for example, various stress coping hormones are mobilised and prepare the body for possible trauma, even blood loss. I emphasise that this alarm reaction is not present under ‘pure sleep loss’ as I have just described.  Prolonged stress with sleep deprivation will lead to a physiological exhaustion of the body’s defence mechanisms, physical collapse, and with the potential for various ensuing illnesses.  We don’t know at what point this latter phase would be reached with ‘coercive techniques’, but to claim that 180 hours is safe in these respects, is nonsense.  Moreover, whereas physical pain may not be particularly apparent even at this stage, the mental pain would be all too evident, and arguably worse than physical pain.

Even if one was to be pragmatic and claim that this form of sleep deprivation produced ‘desired results’, I would doubt whether the state of mind would be able to produce credible information, unaffected by delusion, fantasy or suggestibility.

Whilst Bradbury’s memo acknowledges (p36) that, “We note that there are important differences between interrogation technique used by the CIA and the controlled experiments documented in the literature” – i.e. what I wrote might not be wholly applicable to ‘coercive techniques’, this key point was understated. I had no knowledge of this memo or its contents until a few days ago, and am both saddened and appalled that my book has been used in this way.  

Jim Horne

Sleep Research Centre, Loughborough University, UK

20th April 2009…

Also quoted in the memo justifying sleep deprivation (among other techniques) was a study by Dr. Bernd Kundermann, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Marlburg, Dr. Julia Spurnal, Dr. Martin Tobias Huber, Dr. Jurgen-Christian Grieg and Dr. Stefan Lautenbacher, “Sleep Deprivation Affects Thermal Pain Thresholds but Not Somatosensory Thresholds in Healthy Volunteers.” Dr. Kundermann decried the use of his study. “We were working with healthy volunteers and didn’t deprive them of sleep for more than one day without allowing them to recover, ” he said to TIME magazine. “Even under those circumstances, certain changes can occur, such as hallucinations, depending on the individual’s condition.”…    

6) Removal of clothing.

You say in the book,

“I was deeply uncomfortable with nudity and any techniques that had a tinge of sexual humiliation. As I remarked in meetings when the treatment of detainees were discussed, I believed the American people would not approve of anything of that sort. When SOUTHCOM interrogators suggested removal of comfort items or clothing, I read that not as referring to nudity but as part of a set of measures to make a recalcitrant interrogation subject feel disconnected from familia
r items that gave him comfort and stability, such as particular books or favored items of apparel.”

              Known and Unknown, page 579


That is disingenuous. You knew that the prisoners were stripped of all of their previous clothing and dressed in new US issued clothing for transfer to the prison where they would be held. You knew there were no “favoured items of apparel”. It is also disingenuous because you took the time to comment on and ask a question about the length of time the prisoners would be forced to stand, but you didn’t take the time to write a clarification on the orders about nudity.

7) Using detainees individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.

Inducing stress is mental pain. Triggering a phobia is mental pain. At least one of the prisoners was bitten by a dog. A dog bite, which is a forseeable result of using military dogs to trigger prisoner phobias, is physically painful.

The main point, however, that I want to make is that the reason you authorized the techniques you did is because you believed that they would cause the prisoner to tell the interrogators the information you wanted the prisoners to tell them. Why would they cause the prisoners to do this? Because they would cause the prisoners mental or physical pain. There really isn’t another logical or reasonable reason.

The UN Convention Against Torture defines torture:

“For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”…

Since several of the techniques you authorized in the first memo authorize techniques which cause mental and physical pain, and techniques which can have permanent effects all the way up to death, I submit that it is ENTIRELY reasonable to state that your memo authorizes techniques which “met any reasonable person’s definition of torture.”

Mr. Rumsfeld, Dan left me a mission, to stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and to push to ensure that those responsible are held legally accountable. I will not stop that mission until I no longer have breath in my body. One day, it will be my pleasure to see you in handcuffs.

Standing for justice and accountability,

                                                For Dan,


Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is inflicting it on whom.


  1. That Rumsfeld, and Cheney, and all the torture cohort, could be subjected to each and every method of interrogation they so blithely dismiss as “not torture”, seriatim, and then asked if they still held to their comfortable conviction that everything was just all peachy-keen.

  2. Noor B

    will have a long, long stay in Den Haag, courtesy of the ICC.  It cannot happen soon enough.  

    I fail to understand why they cannot be tried for their crimes.

    I fail to understand why we cannot accept the disapprobation we deservedly earned and do everything possible to hold our government to account.

    Mr. Rumsfeld ordered and approved crimes against humanity when he set up the torture guidelines.  He can rationalize it to himself all he wants, but the truth cannot be denied.  He is culpable.  As a nation-state, we need to do the right thing and bind him over for trial, along with Mr. Cheney, Mr. Yoo, and Mr. Addington.  There are others, of course, but they would be a good start.  

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