More fallout from the release of the torture memos.
The Los Angeles Times reports that sleep deprivation was “one of the most important elements in the CIA’s interrogation program, used to help break dozens of suspected terrorists, far more than the most violent approaches.” It was also “among the methods the agency fought hardest to keep.”
In fact, former CIA director Michael Hayden reportedly (and unsuccessfully) lobbied the White House not to expose its use by releasing the memos that described it, asking: “Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of a detainee?”
(It’s not clear why exposing the use of sleep deprivation would prevent it being used in the future — it’s hard to train for 11 days without sleep).
President Obama banned the use of sleep deprivation soon after taking office, though a task force is reviewing its use, as well as that of other methods.
A CIA inspector general’s report from 2004 is said by the LAT to have been more critical of the use of sleep deprivation than any other method aside from waterboarding.
Here’s how the recently released memos described the technique:
Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains.
When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs “anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort,” a May 10, 2005, memo said.
“The position is sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of standing,” it said.
And James Horne, the sleep expert whose work was cited in one memo to justify keeping detainees awake for up to 11 days, reiterated to the paper his claim that the memo’s authors badly distorted his work.
Reports the LAT:
“My response was shocked concern,” Horne said in an e-mail interview. Just because the pain of sleep deprivation “can’t be measured in terms of physical injury or appearance … does not mean that the mental anguish is not as bad.”
Horne first expressed that view to TPMmuckraker after we alerted him to the use of his work in the memos.