On February 7th 2002, President Bush signed off on a memorandum that rendered Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees in U.S. custody bereft of protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention . In the months and years that followed, abuse and torture became widespread, eventually culminating in the now universally recognized and abhorred imagery of Abu Ghraib. This backgrounder seeks to explore the origins and breadth of American torture during the Bush presidency by compiling all relevant information from recently de-classified memos and reports.
Development of American Torture Techniques
Most of the abusive techniques used by American interrogators can be linked back to training and advice from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA). The JPRA is a Department of Defense (DoD) agency that oversees Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), a training regimen that uses physical and mental abuse to simulate the kind of treatment American soldiers might receive once they are captured and subjected to torture. Most of the SERE techniques, such as nudity, stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation, temperature exposure, face slapping, and exposure to flashing lights and loud music have been adapted from Chinese Communist techniques that were used to elicit false confessions from American POWs during the Korean War . In December of 2001, the DoD General Counsel’s Office contacted the JPRA requesting information on detainee ‘exploitation’ techniques, thus beginning an extended period of relying on SERE resistance training as an operational basis for offensive interrogations.