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CIA ‘Torture’ Practices Started Long Before 9/11 Attacks — Torture Was Used Decades Before 9/11

The idea that U.S. torture began in response to the 9/11 attacks is just another super myth perpetuated by American politicians and America's mainstream media. In fact, torture by the CIA and U.S. soldiers was in widespread use in Vietnam, and American "specialists" trained the armies of Latin America's dictatorships in methods of torture during the notorious "Dirty Wars" in the Reagan Era.—Ronald David Jackson

U.S. soldiers "water boarding" a prisoner in Vietnam.
U.S. soldiers "water boarding" a prisoner in Vietnam.

By Jeff Stein
“The CIA,” according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, had “historical experience using coercive forms of interrogation.” Indeed, it had plenty, said the committee’s report released Tuesday: about 50 years’ worth. Deep in the committee’s 500-page summary of a still-classified 6,700-page report on the agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11 there is a brief reference to KUBARK, the code name for a 1963 instruction manual on interrogation, which was used on subjects ranging from suspected Soviet double agents to Latin American dissidents and guerrillas.

The techniques will sound familiar to anybody who has followed the raging debate over interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA to break Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons around the world. When the going got tough, the CIA got rough.

The 1963 KUBARK manual included the “principal coercive techniques of interrogation: arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis and induced regression,” the committee wrote.

Many such methods were used on a Cold War-era Soviet defector whom a few CIA officials suspected of being a double agent. They came to light in a congressional investigation over 25 years ago. “In 1978, [CIA Director] Stansfield Turner asked former CIA officer John Limond Hart to investigate the CIA interrogation of Soviet KGB officer Yuri Nosenko using the KUBARK methods—to include sensory deprivation techniques and forced standing,” the committee reported.

Hart found the methods repugnant, he told a congressional committee investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “It has never fallen to my lot to be involved with any experience as unpleasant, in every possible way as...the investigation of this [Nosenko] case and...the necessity of lecturing upon it and testifying,” Hart told the committee. “To me, it is an abomination, and I am happy to say that it is not in my memory typical of what my colleagues and I did in the agency during the time I was connected with it.”

But the CIA reached for KUBARK when U.S.-backed Latin American military regimes were faced with human rights protests, left-wing subversion and armed insurgencies. “Just five years” after Hart expressed his dismay about torture on Capitol Hill, “in 1983 a CIA officer incorporated significant portions of the KUBARK manual into the Human Resource Exploitation (HRE) Training Manual, which the same officer used to provide interrogation training in Latin America in the early 1980s,” the Intelligence Committee report said. The new HRE manual was also “used to provide interrogation training to” a party whose name was censored in the committee’s report but was almost certainly the Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel group the CIA created to overthrow the Marxist revolutionary government in Managua.


The CIA’s Vietnam interrogation centers, jointly run in most cases with its South Vietnamese counterparts, were chiefly designed to extract information from captured Communist guerrillas, spies and suspected underground political agents, in order to launch attacks. Sometimes, however, a confession was used to then parade an apostate through South Vietnamese-controlled neighborhoods, like a trophy.

And prisoner abuse, including torture in so-called “tiger cages,” was common, according to many witnesses and other sources over the years. In 1969, the Army filed murder charges against the commander of the Green Berets in Vietnam and seven of his men after they used hallucinogenic drugs on a suspected double agent and killed him after he failed to confess. The charges were eventually dropped after a fierce lobbying campaign by then-CIA director Richard Helms, who feared a trial would expose abuses under the agency’s secret Phoenix assassination program.

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