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Guantánamo’s SERE Standard Operating Procedures

One of the most important documents of the U.S. torture program has just become publicly available for the first time. This is the JTF GTMO “SERE” Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure, now posted on the website of the new documentary, Torturing Democracy. This document clearly specifies that the abusive interrogation techniques to be used at Guantamo [JTF GTMO] are based upon the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape [SERE] program. The document is notable for its documentation of the extent to which abuse was bureaucratically standardized for routine use.

Both Katherine Eban and Jane Mayer referred to and described the SERE SOP back in the summer of 2007. A bit of it was included in documents released by the Senate Armed Services Committee June 17, 2008. But the bulk of the text remained classified and unavailable until today. An FBI commentary on the SERE SOP has been available since February 2006 at least, in heavily redacted form which obscured the content, but not the existence of the SOP.

Here is the document. It is also available in pdf. [as this was a draft, the formatting was inconsistent. I have corrected some formatting. I have not corrected any typos. For example, there is likely a “NOT” missing after the “DO” in “IT IS CRITICAL THAT INIERROGATORS DO “CROSS THE LINE” WHEN UTILIZING THE TACTICS DESCRIBED BELOW.” Obviously, despite my best efforts at accuracy, this text should be checked against the pdf before citing.]

“FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”
JTF GTMO SERE SOP
10 DECEMBER 2002

JTF GTMO “SERE” INTERROGATION STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Subj: GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYING “SERE” TECHNIQUES DIRING DETAINEE INTERROGATIONS

Ref: (a) FASO DETACHMENT BRUNSWICK INSTRUCTION 3305.3D

1. Purpose. This SOP document promulgates procedures to be followed by I I P-GTMO personnel engaged in interrogation operations on detained persons. The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations. These tactics and techniques are used at SERE school to “break” SERE detainees. The same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation operations.

The basis for this document is the SOP used at the U.S. Navy SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school in Brunswick, Maine and is defined by reference (a).

Note that all tactics are strictly non-lethal.

STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH THE GUIDELINES LAID OUT IN THIS DOCUMENT IS MADATORY!

2. Training. All interrogators will undergo training by certified SERE instructors prior to being approved for use of any of the techniques described in this document.

3. Scope. Applicable to military and civilian interrogators assigned to JTF-GTMO, Cuba.

TED K. MOSS
LtCol, USAF

INTERROGATION TACTICS

1. GENERAL STATEMENT

a. This document describes in detail the interrogation tactics authorized for use in detainee interrogation operations at JTF_GTMO and the safety precautions that must be used to prevent injuries. The tactics are the same as those used in U.S. military SERE schools.

b. ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT NOT EXPRESSLY AUTHORIZED HEREIN IS
PROHIBIIED.

c. INTERROGATION TACTICS FOLLOWED BY: ******* MAY ONLY BE USED BY THOSE INITERROGATORS DESIGNATED IN WRITING BY THE ICE CHIEF.

2. INTERROGATION SAFETY

a. Approved interrogation tactics are found in Sections 3-6.

b. Additional safeguards are as follows:

1. Detainee behavior and reactions are continuously observed and evaluated by the interrogator.

2. Both the detainee’s and the interrogators behavior are monitored by the Watch Officer.

3. IT IS CRITICAL THAT INIERROGATORS DO “CROSS THE LINE” WHEN UTILIZING THE TACTICS DESCRIBED BELOW. Therefore, verbal coded messages or nonverbal signals will be used by the Watch Officer (or other interrogators) when giving instructions to adjust interrogation procedure. For example, two kicks on the door indicated the interrogator should discontinue the current approach and move on to another approach. The statement, “Stop wasting time with this pig,” means to discontinue the current training tactic and take a break.

3. DEGRADATION TACTICS

a. SHOULDER SLAP. The shoulder slap is a moderate to hard, glancing blow to the back of the shoulder with an open hand. It is used as an irritant.

b. INSULT SLAP. *****

(1) The insult slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The slap is aimed at the detainee’s cheek only. Contact will be made only with the fingers in the open hand position and the fingers will be slightly spread and relaxed. The slap will be initiated no more than 12-14 inches (or one shoulder width) from the detainee’s face.
To ensure this distance is not exceeded and to preclude any tendency to wind up or uppercut, the slap will be initiated with the slap hand contacting the detainee’s body on the top of the shoulder. The target area is slightly below the cheekbone, away from the eyes and ears. Extreme care must be taken not to strike the lower jaw. Slaps aimed at the ears, mouth, nose eyes or throat are prohibited.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited because the detainee will duck or dodge the slap, creating possibility for an injury. Experience has shown that after a second slap, the effectiveness of the slap tactic is significantly reduced. Interrogators will cease using the slap if detainee begins ducking. At this point, a threatened slap with the hand will achieve the same purpose as a slap. Blows with the back of the hand, fists, elbows, feet and knees are prohibited. Insult slaps are only to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

C. STOMACH SLAP. ******

(1) As with the insult slap, the stomach slap is used to shock and intimidate the detainee. The tactic is delivered with the back of the bare hand. The slap will be directed towards the center of the abdomen. The detainee will not be struck in the solar plexus, ribs, sides, and kidneys or below the navel. The slap will not be performed against the bare skin. Slaps will be initiated with the interrogator’s upper arm parallel to his/her body, extending the striking hand in a swinging motion to the target area. Detainees will be either facing or to the side of the interrogator when the slap is administered.

(2) Uninterrupted or consecutive slaps are prohibited. Blows to the stomach with the palm of the hand fist, knees or elbows are prohibited.

D. STRIPPING

(1) Stripping consists of forceful removal of detainees’ clothing. In addition to degradation of the detainee, shipping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee. Interrogator personnel tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.

4. PHYSICAL DEBILITATION TACTICS

a. STRESS POSITIONS. Stress positions are used to punish detainees. ALL STRESS POSITIONS ARE -RESTRICTED TO A MAXIMUM TIME OF TEN MINUTES AND A LOGBOOK ENTRY IS REQURED. An interrogator/guard will remain with detainees during use of stress positions. The authorized positions are:

(1) Head Rest/Index Finger position – Detainee is placed with forehead or fingers against the wall, then the detainee’s legs are backed out to the point that the detainee’s leaning weight is brought to bear on fingers or head.

(2) Kneeling position – Administered by placing detainee on knees and having him lean backward on heels and hold hands extended to the sides or front, palms upward. Light weights such as small rocks, may be placed in the detainee’ s upturned palms. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(3) Worship-the-Gods – The detainee is placed on knees with head and torso arched back, with arms either folded across the chest or extended to the side or front. The detainee will not be placed in a position facing the sun or floodlights.

(4) Sitting Position – the detainee is placed with his back against a wall, tree or post; thighs are horizontal, lower legs are vertical with feet flat on floor or ground as though sitting in a chair. Arms may be extended to sides horizontally, palms up and boots on.

(5) Standing position – While standing, the detainee is required to extend arms either to the sides or front with palms up. Light weights such as small rocks may be placed in upturned palms.

5. ISOLATION AND MONOPOLIZATION OF PERCEPTION TACTICS

a. HOODING

(1) Hoods are lightweight fabric sacks large enough to fit loosely over a detainee’s head and permit unrestricted breathing.

(2) Flooding us used to isolate detainees. Individually hooded detainees may be moved provided an interrogator/guard leads the detainee. Detainees may not be left standing alone with the hood on. They must be placed either on their stomachs, kneeling, or sitting. Detainee medical limitations must be considered.

6. DEMONSTRATED OMNIPOTENCE TACTICS

a. MANHANDLING. Manhandling consists of pulling or pushing a detainee. It is used as an irritant and to direct the detainee to specific locations. Detainees must be handcuffed and must grasp their trousers near mid-thigh with both hands. The interrogator firmly grasps detainee’s clothing and then moves the detainee at a walking pace. The interrogator must maintain positive control of the detainee The detainee is not released until the interrogator is positive the detainee has regained balance.

b. WALLING. ***** Walling consists of placing a detainee forcibly against a specially constructed wall. Walling will only be performed in designated areas where specially constructed walls have been built. Walling is used to physically intimidate a detainee. The interrogator must ensure the wall is smooth, firm, and free of any projections. If conducted outside, footing area must be solid and free of objects that could cause detainee or interrogator to lose their balance. A detainee can be taken to tfio wall a maximum of three,times per.shift. Walling is done by firmly grasping the front of the detainee’s clothing high on each side of the collar„ ensuring the top of the clothing is open. Care should be taken to ensure detainees with long hair do not get their hair tangled into the folds of clothes being grasped by the interrogator. To avoid bruising the detainee, roll hands under folds of clothing material and ensure only the backs of the hands contact detainee’s chest. Maintain this grip throughout, never allowing the detainee to be propelled uncontrollably. Ensure only the broad part of the shoulders contact the surface of the wall. Grip the detainee’s clothing firmly enough so the collar acts as a restrictive constraint to preclude the detainee’s head from contacting the wall does this. If the detainee’s head inadvertently touches the wall, walling will be ceased immediately.

Walling is to be used by those interrogators designated in writing by the ICE CHIEF.

STEPHEN SOLDZ is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice web site and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations leading the struggle to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations.

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STEPHEN SOLDZ is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations. He is President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility [PsySR].

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