The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is often associated with clandestine operations and covert activities, but one of its most controversial legacies is its use of torture in interrogating prisoners of war. At the heart of this brutal practice lies the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, a top secret document that codified extensively tested psychological torture methods which served as the foundation for the CIA’s sinister counter-insurrectional tactics. This article delves into the history of the KUBARK Manual, its authors and the torture techniques that it espouses.
The KUBARK Manual: Origins and Authors
The KUBARK Manual is a cryptonym for the CIA itself, and it was compiled in the early 1960s as a response to the agency's growing involvement in counter-insurgency operations in countries like Vietnam and Cuba. The manual was designed to provide a comprehensive guide to interrogation techniques that could be used to extract information from detainees who were believed to have valuable intelligence.
The authors of the KUBARK Manual are anonymous, but their work remains a testament to the sinister nature of CIA's intelligence-gathering practices. The manual emphasizes the debt to psychological research and suggests that “one could not mention interrogation techniques without reference to the psychological research conducted in the past decade.” The anonymous authors explicitly referred to Dr. Hebb’s (McGill) and Dr. Wexler’s (Harvard) experiments to suggest that “deprivation of sensory stimuli induces regression” and that “calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation [strengthens] the subject’s tendencies toward compliance.” Several of Albert Biderman’s writings were also cited in the Manual’s bibliography.
The Techniques of Torture
The KUBARK Manual provides a detailed description of the techniques that can be used to break down detainees' will and make them more susceptible to interrogation. These techniques range from the use of sensory deprivation and sensory overload to the manipulation of prisoners' emotions and sense of identity.
One of the most notorious techniques mentioned in the KUBARK Manual is the use of prolonged sensory deprivation, which involves placing the detainee in a cell with no windows, clocks or other sensory stimuli. This technique is designed to induce a state of extreme disorientation and anxiety, making the prisoner more likely to comply with the interrogator's demands.
Another technique that the KUBARK Manual recommends is the use of sensory overload, which involves subjecting the detainee to a barrage of intense sensory stimuli, including bright lights, loud noises and extreme temperatures. This technique is designed to overwhelm the prisoner's senses, making it difficult for them to focus and think clearly.
The KUBARK Manual also recommends the use of emotional manipulation, such as playing on the prisoner's fears and insecurities or offering them rewards for cooperation. Additionally, the manual advises interrogators to use techniques that can disrupt the detainee's sense of identity, such as calling them by a different name or withholding food and water.
The Global Reach of KUBARK Manual
The KUBARK Manual was not meant to remain a secret document within the confines of the CIA. Instead, it was disseminated globally by the Public Safety program of the U.S. Agency for Internal Development over the next three decades. The program trained foreign security forces and police officers in counter-insurgency tactics, including interrogation techniques based on the KUBARK Manual.
By 1967, just four years after compiling the KUBARK torture manual, the CIA was operating forty interrogation centers in South Vietnam as part of its Phoenix Program that killed over 20,000 Viet Cong suspects. The Phoenix Program has been widely criticized for its brutal tactics, including the use of torture, assassination and mass killings.
The Legacy of the KUBARK Manual
The use of torture in interrogating prisoners of war has long been a controversial issue, and the KUBARK Manual remains a testament to the lengths that intelligence agencies will go to extract information from detainees. The use of these techniques has been widely condemned by human rights groups and international organizations, including the United Nations.
In 1975, Congress abolished the Public Safety program, whereupon the CIA worked through the U.S. Army Mobile Training Teams instructing military interrogators. However, the legacy of the KUBARK Manual continued to influence the agency's interrogation practices for decades.
A highly redacted version of KUBARK was released in 1997; a less redacted version was released in 2014, which provided more insight into the CIA's use of torture techniques. The release of these documents sparked widespread outrage and led to calls for greater accountability and transparency in the agency's activities.
The KUBARK Manual represents a dark chapter in the history of the CIA's interrogation practices. The manual codified extensively tested psychological torture methods that were used to extract information from detainees during counter-insurgency operations. The legacy of the KUBARK Manual continues to shape the agency's activities, even decades after its publication.
The use of torture in interrogating prisoners of war remains a deeply controversial issue, and the release of the KUBARK Manual has shed new light on the extent to which intelligence agencies will go to extract information. The need for greater accountability and transparency in the CIA's activities remains a pressing issue, and the release of documents like the KUBARK Manual underscores the importance of continued vigilance in safeguarding human rights.
1. Was the KUBARK Manual the only guide to CIA interrogation techniques?
No, the CIA has used a variety of interrogation techniques throughout its history, and the KUBARK Manual was just one of many documents that influenced the agency's practices.
2. Did the CIA use the techniques outlined in the KUBARK Manual during the War on Terror?
Yes, the CIA has been accused of using a range of interrogation techniques, including those outlined in the KUBARK Manual, during the War on Terror.
3. Have the authors of the KUBARK Manual ever been identified?
No, the authors of the KUBARK Manual remain anonymous to this day.
4. What is the Phoenix Program, and why is it controversial?
The Phoenix Program was a counter-insurgency program implemented by the CIA during the Vietnam War. It has been criticized for its brutal tactics, including the use of torture and assassination.
5. What is the Public Safety program, and how did it disseminate the KUBARK Manual?
The Public Safety program was a U.S. government program that provided training and support to foreign security forces and police officers. It disseminated the KUBARK Manual as part of its counter-insurgency training.