excerpted from the book

Rogue State

A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

by William Blum

Common Courage Press, 2000


"Physical abuse or other degrading treatment was rejected, not only because it is wrong, but because it has historically proven to be ineffective," said Richard Stolz, Deputy Director of Operations of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1988.

The CIA likes to say things like this because they think it sounds like good plausible denial. But who can believe that torture does not loosen up tongues, that for such purpose it is not exceedingly effective? ... Torture's effectiveness extends yet further, for its purpose is frequently not so much to elicit information as it is to punish, to coerce the victims from any further dissident activity by gouging out the idealism from their very being, and as a warning to their comrades.

For these ends, the CIA has co-existed with torture for decades. (Turkey, it must be remembered, is one of Washington's very closest strategic allies; for Honduras, see below.) Sleeping with friendly torturers has been a closely guarded secret at the Agency, and for that reason the actual painful details have been difficult to come by over the years. But here is some of the record that has made its way to the light of day:


During the late 1940s, the CIA was instrumental in the creation of a new internal security agency, KYP. Before long, KYP was carrying out all the endearing practices of secret police everywhere, including systematic torture. It was most active during the military junta, 1967-74, a period of routine horrific torture. Amnesty International later reported that "American policy on the torture question as expressed in official statements and official testimony has been to deny it where possible and minimize it where denial was not possible. This policy flowed naturally from general support for the military regime."

James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty, wrote in 1969 that some torturers told prisoners that some of their equipment had come as US military aid. One item was a special "thick white double cable" whip that was "scientific, making their work easier"; another was the head screw, known as an "iron wreath", which was progressively tightened around the head or ears. American support, reported Becket, was vital to the torturers:

Hundreds of prisoners have listened to the little speech given by Inspector Basil Lambrou, who sits behind his desk which displays the red, white, and blue clasped-hand symbol of American aid. He tries to show the prisoner the absolute futility of resistance "You make yourself ridiculous by thinking you can do anything. The world is divided in two. There are the communists on that side and on this side the free world. The Russians and the Americans, no one else. What are we Americans. Behind me there is the government, behind the government is NATO, behind NATO is the U.S. You can't fight us, we are Americans."


The notorious Iranian security service, SAVAK, which employed torture routinely, was created under the guidance of the CIA and Israel in the 1950s.9 According to a former CIA analyst on Iran, Jesse J. Leaf, SAVAK was instructed in torture techniques by the Agency. After the 1979 revolution, the Iranians found CIA film made for SAVAK on how to torture women.


In the 1950s, in Munich, the CIA tortured suspected infiltrators of Soviet emigre organizations in Western Europe, which the Agency was using in anti-Soviet operations. Amongst the techniques employed by the CIA were such esoteric torture methods as applying turpentine to a man's testicles or sealing someone in a room and playing Indonesian music at deafening levels until he cracked. This information probably surfaced because it's weird-sounding to the point of being amusing; there was likely more of regular torture methods not fit for conversation.


The Green Berets taught its members who were slated for duty in Vietnam in the 1960s how to use torture as part of an interrogation.


The notorious Operation Phoenix, set up by the CIA to wipe out the Vietcong infrastructure, subjected suspects to torture such as electric shock to the genitals of both men and women, and the insertion into the ear of a six-inch dowel, which was tapped through the brain until the victim died; suspects were also thrown out of airborne helicopters to persuade the more important suspects to talk, although this should probably be categorized as murder of the ones thrown out, and a form of torture for those not. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the US turned prisoners over to their South Vietnamese allies in full knowledge that they would be tortured, American military personnel often being present during the torture.

In 1967, anti-Castro Cubans, working with the CIA to find Che Guevara, set up houses of interrogation where Bolivians suspected of aiding Che's guerrilla army were brought for questioning and sometimes tortured. When the Bolivian interior minister leamed of the torture, he was furious and demanded that the CIA put a stop to it.~6


In the late 1960s, Dan Mitrione, an employee of the US Office of Public Safety (part of the Agency for Intemational Development), which trained and armed foreign police forces, was stationed in Montevideo, Uruguay. Torturing political prisoners in Uruguay had existed before Mitrione's arrival. However, in a surprising interview given to a leading Brazilian newspaper, Jo~nal do Brasil in 1970, the former Uruguayan Chief of Police Intelligence, Alejandro Otero, declared that US advisers, and Mitrione in particular, had instituted torture as a more routine measure; to the means of inflicting pain, they had added scientific refinement; and to that a psychology to create despair, such as playing a tape in the next room of women and children screaming and telling the prisoner that it was his family being tortured.

The newspaper interview greatly upset American officials in South America and Washington. The director of OPS in Washington tried to explain it all away by asserting: "The three Brazilian reporters in Montevideo all denied filing that story. We found out later that it was slipped into the paper by someone in the composing room at the Jornal do Brasil."

Mitrione built a soundproofed room in the cellar of his house in Montevideo, in which he assembled Uruguayan police officers to observe a demonstration of torture techniques. Four beggars were rounded up to be the subjects upon whom Mitrione demonstrated the effects of different voltages on different parts of the body. The four of them died.

"The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect," was Mitrione's motto.

"When you get what you want, and I always get it," he said, "it may be good to prolong the session a little to apply another softening-up Not to extract information now, but only as a political measure, to create a healthy fear of meddling in subversive activities."


Before the Office of Public Safety assigned Dan Mitrione to Uruguay, he had been stationed in Brazil. There, he and other Americans worked with OPS, AID and CIA in supplying Brazilian security forces with the equipment and training to facilitate the torture of prisoners. The Americans also advised on how much electric shock could be administered without killing the person, if his or her death might prove awkward.


From the 1960s through the 1980s, Guatemalan security forces, notably the Army unit called G-2, routinely tortured "subversives". One method was electric shock to the genital area, using military field telephones hooked up to small generators, equipment and instructions for use supplied by Uncle Sam. The US and its clients in various countries were becoming rather adept at this technique. The CIA advised, armed and equipped the G-2, which maintained a web of torture centers, whose methods reportedly included chopping off limbs and singeing flesh, in addition to electric shocks. The Army unit even had its own crematorium, presumably to dispose of any incriminating evidence. The CIA thoroughly infiltrated the G-2, with at least three G

- L'

2 chiefs of the 1980s and early 90s, as well as many lower-level officers, being on the Agency's payroll.

Also benefiting from the Agency's generosity was General Hector Gramajo Morales, who was Defense Minister during the armed forces' 1989 abduction of Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun. She was burned with cigarettes, raped repeatedly, and lowered into a pit full of corpses. Typically, torturers exult in demonstrating the power they hold over their victims-one of them put a large knife or machete into Ortiz's hand, put his own hands on top of hers, and forced her to stab another female prisoner. Ortiz thinks she may have killed the woman. A fair-skinned man, whom the others referred to as "Alejandro", and as their "boss", seemed to be in charge, she said. He spoke Spanish with an American accent and cursed in English. Later, Ortiz adds, when this man realized she was American, he ordered the torture stopped. Clearly, if his motivation had been humanitarian, and not simply trying to avoid a possible political flap, he would have stopped it regardless of her nationality.

In 1996, in the United States, Ortiz received a number of documents from the State Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Only one, dated 1990, contained a significant reference to Alejandro. It read as follows:

VERY IMPORTANT: We need to close the loop on the issue of the "North American" named by Ortiz as being involved in the case...The EMBASSY IS VERY SENSITIVE ON THIS ISSUE, but it is an issue we will have to respond to publicly...

The next two pages were completely redacted.

El Salvador

During the counter-insurgency period of the 1980s, there was wide' spread torture practiced by the various Salvadoran security forces, all of whom had close working relations with the CIA and/or the US military. In January 1982, the New York Times published an interview with a deserter from the Salvadoran Army who described a class where severe methods of torture were demonstrated on teenage prisoners. He stated that eight US military advisers, apparently Green Berets, were present. Watching "will make you feel more like a man,"

a Salvadoran officer apprised the army recruits, adding that they should "not feel pity of anyone" but only "hate for those who are enemies of our country."

Another Salvadoran, a former member of the National Guard, later testified in a 1986 British television documentary: "I belonged to a squad of twelve. We devoted ourselves to torture, and to finding people whom we were told were guerrillas. I was trained in Panama for nine months by the [unintelligible] of the United States for anti-guerrilla warfare. Part of the time we were instructed about torture."


During the 1980s, the CIA gave indispensable support to the infamous Battalion 316, which kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of citizens, using shock and suffocation devices for interrogation, amongst other techniques. The CIA supplied torture equipment, torture manuals, and in both Honduras and the US, taught battalion members methods of psychological and physical torture. On at least one occasion, a CIA officer took part in interrogating a torture victim. The Agency also funded Argentine counter-insurgency experts to provide further training for the Hondurans. At the time, Argentina was famous for its "Dirty War", an appalling record of torture, baby kidnappings and disappearances. Argentine and CIA instructors worked side by side training Battalion 316. US support for the battalion continued even after its director, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, told the US ambassador that he intended to use the Argentine methods of eliminating subversives. In 1983, the Reagan administration awarded Alvarez the Legion of Merit "for encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras". At the same time, the administration was misleading Congress and the American public by denying or minimizing the battalion's atrocities.


During the occupation of Panama following the invasion of December 1989, some American soldiers engaged in torture of soldiers of the Panama Defense Forces. In one case, a metal cable was inserted into an open wound, producing intense pain. In another reported case, a PDF soldier was hung up by one arm on which he already had an injury to the elbow, which had been stitched up.

At home

For those readers who have difficulty believing that American government civilian and military personnel could be closely involved in the torture of foreigners, it is suggested that they consider what these Americans have done to other Americans.

At the US Navy's schools in San Diego and Maine during the 1960s and 1970s, students were supposedly learning about methods of "survival, evasion, resistance and escape" which they could use if they were ever a prisoner of war. There was in the course something of survival in a desert, where students were forced to eat lizards, but the naval officers and cadets were also subjected to beatings, jarring judo flips, "tiger cages"-hooded and placed in a 16-cubic-foot box for 22 hours with a coffee can for their excrement-and a torture device called the "water board": the subject strapped to an inclined board, head downward, a towel placed over his face, and cold water poured over the towel; he would choke, gag, retch and gurgle as he experienced the sensation of drowning.

A former student, Navy pilot Lt. Wendell Richard Young, claimed that his back was broken during the course and that students were tortured into spitting, urinating and defecating on the American flag, masturbating before guards, and, on one occasion, engaging in sex with an instructor.

In 1992, a civilian oversight board revealed that over a 13-year period (1973-1986), Chicago police officers and commanders engaged in "systematic" torture and abuse of suspects, including electric shock to penises, testicles and other areas; beatings, suffocation (plastic bags secured over the heads, stopping the flow of oxygen; some subjects passed out, and when they recovered, the bag was placed over their head again); guns stuck in prisoners' mouths and triggers pulled; prisoners hung from hooks by handcuffs attached to their wrists and beaten on the bottoms of their feet and on their testicles; as well as much psychological torture. Some were released after being tortured and were never charged. More than 40 cases were collected. According to one of their attorneys, "All of the victims were black or Latino, so far as we've seen, and the people who were doing the torturing were white officers."

A Human Rights Watch investigation of more than 20 US prisons and jails in New York, California, Florida and Tennessee, and a close look at prison litigation for a ten-year period, showed "extensive abuses of the U.N.'s minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners...amounting to torture"...a handcuffed prisoner forced into a tub of 145-degree water...prisoners dying after receiving repeated jolts of electricity from stun guns or stun belts (50,000 volt shock for 8 seconds)...prisoners held in outdoor cages, rain or shine...prisoners held in total isolation from other human beings for long periods of time with sensory deprivation...30

Amnesty International has released reports such as "Torture, 111 Treatment and Excessive Force by Police in Los Angeles, California" (1992), and "Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department" (1996), as well as later reports dealing with Chicago and other cities. Amnesty states that US police forces have been guilty of "violating international human rights standards through a pattern of unchecked excessive force amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment".

Lest any of the above give the impression that the United States government is not disturbed by the practice of torture, it should be pointed out that Congress passed a bill in 1996 allowing, for the first time, an American citizen to sue a foreign government in a US court for having been tortured in the foreign country. There was one small limitation imposed, however. The only countries that can be sued under this law are Washington's officially-designated enemies (ODE), those categorized as "terrorist states".

For other states, the situation may be like the case in the early 1990s of Scott Nelson, an American who sued Saudi Arabia in a US court for torture. A Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he had a right to sue, but the State Department helped the Saudis to get the case reversed in the Supreme Court.

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