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Yale University to Train U.S. Special Forces in Interrogation Techniques by Practicing on Immigrants

by Rania Khalek on February 18, 2013

The Department of Defense and Yale University have partnered up to train U.S. soldiers in the art of interrogation techniques with the local immigrant community acting as test subjects, reports the Yale Daily News.

As early as this April, Yale plans to welcome a training center for interrogators to its campus.

The center’s primary goal would be to coach U.S. Special Forces on interviewing tactics designed to detect lies. Charles Morgan III, a professor of psychiatry who will head the project, calls these tactics “people skills.” These techniques would be honed using New Haven’s immigrant community as subjects. Morgan hopes that by having soldiers practice their newly acquired techniques on “someone they can’t necessarily identify with” (read: someone who is not white), they’ll be better prepared to do ‘the real thing’ abroad.

The authors of the article, Nathalie Batraville and Alex Law, provide many reasons for why this training center is a terrible idea, one of which includes a lack of transparency. Apparently, students didn’t learn about the new program until now, just two months before the center opens. As Batraville and Law point out:

There was no conversation with the city about how this might impact its immigrant community. There was no conversation with students and faculty about how it might impact campus culture. And there was no conversation at all about the ethics of a project like this. It’s hard to understand where this project came from; the university’s motivations are wholly opaque.

They also argue that Yale could be indirectly involving itself in immoral practices by training soldiers whose skills could be used to, for example, determine whose name is added to President Obama’s kill list.

Most importantly, the authors offer some insight into the racist aspect of this program:

Morgan’s research and, by extension, this proposed center target people of color — brown people exclusively. According to a Yale Herald article, Morgan listed “Moroccans, Columbians, Nepalese, Ecuadorians and others.” Is there an assumption in Morgan’s desire to use more ‘authentic,’ brown interviewees as test subjects, that brown people lie differently from whites — and even more insidiously, that all brown people must belong to the same “category” of liar?

How might training on lie detection be perceived if it targeted blacks, or if it aimed to answer the question, “How do Jews lie?” That Morgan’s test subjects are compensated does not resolve the ethical questions his project raises. In fact, their participation highlights the structural inequality that this research capitalizes on and that the center would ultimately exploit.

As Nathalie was working on this piece, her phone rang. At the other end of the line was her 7-year-old nephew Rocco, who wanted to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day and send her many loud kisses. He now lives in Montreal, where Nathalie is from, but until about a year ago, he lived in Haiti.

The U.S.’ involvement in Haiti, from its occupation between 1915 and 1934 to its support — financial, logistical (and “moral”) — of François and later Jean-Claude Duvalier’s brutal dictatorships in the 60s and 70s, informs much of her outrage surrounding the establishment of this center, and her understanding that people often lie to protect their lives, their families, their country and the very freedom that Americans so dearly cherish.

Well said! But even without the the sickening immigrants-as-test-subjects aspect, the training center is still unsettling because it further solidifies the unholy alliance between physicians and the US war machine given that a professor of psychiatry is running the project. This should come as no surprise since we mostly ignored revelations that psychologists and medical doctors helped run the torture program at Guantanamo Bay (look forward, not backward!).

So congratulations Yale! You officially suck! Fortunately not all of your students do and they’re making noise about this program. Anybody interested following in their lead in halting the development of “Ivy League Interrogation Techniques Inc.” should add their name to this petition.

UPDATE: Investigative journalist and friend Steve Horn tells me he’s not at all surprised about Yale’s latest project given the university’s involvement in the Grand Strategy Programs (GSP), which Horn and Allen Ruff reported on in 2011 for Truthout.

A matrix of closely tied university-based strategic studies ventures, the so-called Grand Strategy Programs (GSP), have cropped up on a number of elite campuses around the country, where they function to serve the national security warfare state.

In tandem with allied institutes and think tanks across the country, these programs, centered at Yale University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, Temple University and, until recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, illustrate the increasingly influential role of a new breed of warrior academics in the post-9/11 United States. The network marks the ascent and influence of what might be called the “Long War University.”

Ostensibly created to train an up-and-coming elite to see a global “big picture,” this grand strategy network has brought together scores of foreign policy wonks heavily invested – literally and figuratively – in an unending quest to maintain US global supremacy, a campaign which they increasingly refer to as the Long War.

This is the first I’ve heard of this program and I’m appalled (and super creeped out). I highly recommend reading the entire piece as well as a follow-up report here.

Editor’s Note. Thanks to various comrades for the heads-up.

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The Guantánamo Files

Craig Murray, “The Orchestration of Propaganda”

I have just witnessed the most remarkable operation in orchestration of propaganda in the UK in my lifetime. As I posted yesterday, the leaked Guantanamo files revealed a remarkable amount – that most detainees were completely innocent, that many were plainly fitted up by informants for cash, that people will say anything under torture, that ludicrous assertions were made by the US military, eg the possession of a watch was a clear indicator of bomb-making, and above all that nothing whatsoever could be proved against the vast majority of those held.

Today, with a quite amazing unanimity the mainstream British broadcast media have decided that none of the above analyses exist and the only thing worth reporting in the files is the assertion that 35 suspects received terror training in the UK. Both the BBC and Sky News were leading their broadcasts with the assertion of this highly dubious fact: here it is in Rupert Murdoch’s super soaraway Sun.

Given that the much more obvious lesson from the files is that this kind of information is untrue and from torture, informants, ridiculous deductions and prejudice, it really is an extraordinary thing that the entire British mainstream media today decided on this absolutely uniform presentation of the information. Nor has any of the outlets gone on to point out that not a single one of these 35 has actually been convicted of anything, and that many of them, like Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three are demosntrably innocent, and that the British government is going to be paying quite a few of them compensation.

In fact the British media has today decided to report in precisely the same terms the least plausible imaginable interpretation of the large amount of material released. The only possible explanation is that somebody has issued a central guidance as to how the catalogue of shame which is the Guantanamo files should be twisted instead to support the narrative of the War on Terror.

Of all the bad things I have lived through, to me this is the most chilling Orwellian development I have experienced in my country; it feels like a crucial tipping point in our movement away from meaningful democracy.

_________

The Guardian, “The Guantánamo Files”

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Sting and the Dictator’s Daughter

Sting’s bollocks
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1551 (12), Friday, February 26, 2010
Chernov’s choice

Sting made the news on Sunday, when information about him accepting between $1.5 million and $3 million to play in Tashkent for Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s glamorous daughter and heir was picked up by the press.

The former Police singer and bass player is known as a human rights campaigner and Amnesty International supporter.

Karimov, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, is known as one of the world’s harshest dictators, who has used torture, media censorship and false elections to remain the country’s president-for-life since 1990.

Gordon Sumner & Gulnara Karimova

Uzbekistan is a country in which children are employed to work on state cotton fields, and protest rallies are shot at (several hundred protesters were reported to have been shot and killed in Andijon in 2005).

Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who wrote about sweeping corruption and appalling human rights abuses in his 2007 memoirs, “Murder in Samarkand,” even reported cases of Karimov’s political opponents being boiled to death.

Tactfully, Sting’s official web site did not report the event — neither when it took place in October nor when the controversy arose on Sunday — but the singer reacted to media criticism with some remarks in his defense.

“I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that,” Sting was quoted as saying by The Daily Mail on Sunday.

“I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.”

Former ambassador Murray disagreed. “This really is transparent bollocks,” he wrote on his blog.

“He did not take a guitar and jam around the parks of Tashkent. He got paid over a million pounds to play an event specifically designed to glorify a barbarous regime. Is the man completely mad?”

Sting chose the wrong line of defense.

The Scorpions, after performing at the Federal Security Service’s 90th anniversary concert in the Kremlin (yes, the FSB sees itself as the heir to Lenin’s murderous Cheka) in 2008, said they did not know what the concert was about.

Anti-capitalist Roger Waters, whose 2008 concert on Palace Square was promoted as a “gift” from the Economic Forum and was attended by oligarch Roman Abramovich — who traveled to St. Petersburg on his state-of-the art, missile-proof yacht — said that the promoters hadn’t told him that his show was part of the forum.

“What Uzbekistan? What Karimov? I wasn’t told what it was about,” would be the right answer. Or does Sting still have some conscience left?

— By Sergey Chernov

Editor’s Note: You have one day left to listen to Dave Hare’s brilliant radio dramatization of Craig Murray’s Murder in Samarkand, starring David Tenant as Ambassador Murray.

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Craig Murray and John Pilger on the “War on Terror”

Last July, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this, and I quote: “It’s important for us all to remember here in Australia that Afghanistan has been a training ground for terrorists worldwide, a training ground also for terrorists in South-East-Asia, reminding us of the reasons that we are in the field of combat and reaffirming our resolve to remain committed to that cause.”

There is no truth in this statement. It is the equivalent of his predecessor John Howard’s lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Shortly before Kevin Rudd made that statement, American planes bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan. At least sixty people were blown to bits, including the bride and groom and many children. That’s the fifth wedding party attacked, in our name.

The prime minister was standing outside a church on a Sunday morning when he made his statement. No reporter challenged him. No one said the war was a fraud: that it began as an American vendetta following 9/11, in which not a single Afghan was involved. No one put it to Kevin Rudd that our perceived enemy in Afghanistan were introverted tribesmen who had no quarrel with Australia and didn’t give a damn about south-east Asia and just wanted the foreign soldiers out of their country. Above all, no one said: “Prime Minister, There is no war on terror. It’s a hoax. But there is a war of terror waged by governments, including the Australian government, in our name.” That wedding party, Prime Minister, was blown to bits by one of the latest smart weapons, such as the Hellfire bomb that sucks the air out of the lungs. In our name.

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