The Silence Treatment
By James A. Lucas
26 July, 2004
recent revelations of torture by Americans in U.S. operated prisons
have appalled Americans and others around the world. Most of the attention
has been focused on the individuals who have committed these acts rather
than on those who gave the orders. Our leadership says this is a matter
of a few bad apples.
Many people refuse
to believe that the orders to use these torture techniques may have
come from high within the U.S. government. However, when one examines
the history of our government there are many cases that substantiate
this explanation. This report shows that for many years the U.S. government
has had a pattern of using torture against people in other nations.
The following list
of nations where the U.S. has promoted torture is based primarily on
information from three primary sources: the School of Americas Watch
Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org/)
and two books by William Blum (http://members.aol.com/bblum6/American_holocaust.htm).
My preference is
to not write in any details about this subject because of the horror
involved. But to merely to provide a list of nations where torture has
occurred will only help to sweep this problem under the rug. I believe
it is necessary to give some description of what torture involves. The
focus on the current revelations about prisons in other nations operated
by the U.S. happened only because pictures were made available to the
public I know of no pictures of the acts of torture referred to below.
I can only present a degree of graphic description.
The use of torture
is only one of a number of actions employed by our government that causes
resentment among people in other nations. The most prominent other actions
are those which involved massacres of thousands of people. Torture by
the U.S. is probably more prevalent now than in the past. But unless
we do all we can to eliminate it as a tool of our foreign policy we
can only expect to be a target of foreign terrorism. Resentment against
the U.S. will increase we unite to take more than just cosmetic action
to remedy it.
In La Paz, in the
late 1960s the CIA station informed Bolivian Interior Minister Arguedas
that it was sending several advisors whose presence was
required, since Bolivias intelligence service was ineffective.
A few days later, four Cuban exiles arrived and assumed their advisory
positions in his ministry which included two houses of interrogation
where Bolivians suspected of aiding the guerrillas were brought for
questioning. When Arguedas learned of this, and that in some cases the
Cuban were resorting to torture, he demanded that the CIA put a stop
to the operation. (1)
Dan Mitrione of
the U.S. office of Public Safety (OPS) began his career in Brazil in
the 1960s By 1969 OPS had trained over 100,000 policemen for Brazil
in police academies. (2)
referring to the training at these academies, reported in 1974 that
Tortures range from simple but brutal blows from a truncheon to
electric shocks. Often the torture is more refined: the end of a reed
is placed in the anus of a naked man hanging suspended downwards on
the pau de arara (parrots perch) and a piece of cotton soaked in petrol
is lit at the other end of the reed. Pregnant women have been forced
to watch their husbands being tortured. Other wives have been hung naked
besides their husbands and given electric shocks on the sexual parts
of their body, while subjected to the worst kind of obscenities. Children
have been tortured before their parents and vice versa. At least one
child, the three-month-old baby of Virgilio Gomes da Silva was reported
to have died under police torture. The length of sessions depended upon
the resistance of the victims and have sometimes continued for days
at a time. (3)
When Hector Mondragon
was in military custody in Colombia in the 1970s he was tortured on
the orders of a Colombian officer trained at the School of the Americas.
Hector was hung by his hands from a tree in the hot sun for two days.
The permanent nerve damage he suffered caused the tremor in his hands.
In 1982 The U.S.
State Department presented a young Nicaraguan at a press conference
in Washington and claimed that he had been trained in Cuba and Ethiopia
and then sent to El Salvador by the Nicaraguan government. At the press
conference he denied that he had ever been to Cuba or Ethiopia. He further
said that he had joined the guerrillas on his own and had made his previous
statements under torture by his Salvadoran captors. (5)
The CIA and the
U.S. military played an essential role in the conception and organization
of the security agencies from which the death squads were operating
in El Salvador in the 1980s. CIA surveillance programs routinely supplied
these agencies with information on and the whereabouts of various individuals
who wound up as death squad victims. (6)
In 1984, Amnesty
International reported that it had received regular, often daily
reports identifying El Salvadors regular security and military
units as responsible for the torture, disappearance and killing of non-combatant
civilians from all sectors of Salvadoran society
A number of patients
have allegedly been removed from their beds or operating theaters and
tortured and murdered
Types of torture reported by those who have
survived arrest and interrogation included beatings, sexual abuse, use
of chemicals to disorient, mock executions and the burning of the flesh
with sulphuric acid. (7)
The New York Times
published in 1982 an interview with a deserter from the Salvadorian
Army who described a class where several methods of torture were demonstrated
on teenage prisoners. He stated that eight U.S. military advisers, apparently
Green Berets, were present. Watching will make you feel more like
a man, a Salvadoran officer apprised the recruits, adding that
they should not feel pity of anyone; but only hate for those who
are enemies of our country (8)
Officers of the
El Salvadoran National Guard were also trained in the U.S. In August
1986, CBS Television reported that three senior Guard officers who had
been linked to right wing death squads, received training at a police
academy in Phoenix. (9)
A former member
of the El Salvadoran National Guard, stated in a 1986 Thames Television
documentary that I belonged to a squad of twelve. We devoted ourselves
to torture, and to finding people who we were told were guerillas. I
was trained in Panama for nine months by the (unintelligible) of the
U. S. for anti-guerrilla warfare. Part of the time we were instructed
about torture. (10)
In interviews with
the American press, Joya Martinez stated that advisers to his El Salvadoran
death squad unit had used the names Mauricio Torres and Raul Antonio
Lazo and that his unit had carried out 74 assassinations of Salvadoran
dissidents between April and July of 1989, and that he himself had been
personally involved in eight torture murders. He added that his unit
had received explosives training from US. Advisers. (11)
In July 1987, a
Salvadoran woman named Yanira Corea was kidnapped outside the Los Angeles
office of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
(CISPES). Two men, speaking with what she described as Salvadoran accents
forced her at knife point into a van, interrogated her about her political
activities and colleagues, cut her hands with a knife, burnt here fingers
with cigarettes, sexually assaulted her with stick, then raped her.
The CIA went so
far in the 1950s as to torture suspected defectors to the Soviet Union
in Munich - using such esoteric methods as applying turpentine to a
mans testicles or sealing someone in a room and playing Indonesian
music at deafening levels unto he cracked. (13)
Torture marked a
seven-year Greek nightmare in the 1960s. James Beckett, an American
attorney sent to Greece in 1969 by Amnesty International wrote in December
1969 that a conservative estimate would place at not less than
two thousand the number of people tortured
that some torturers had told prisoners that some of their equipment
had came as U.S. military aid: a special thick white double cable
whip was one item; another was the heads crew, known as an iron
wreath, which was progressively tightened around the head or ears.
In the period from
October 1966 to March 1968 Amnesty International estimated that somewhere
between 3,000 and 8,000 Guatemalans were killed by the police, the military,
right wing death squads (often the police or military in civilian, carrying
out atrocities too bloody for the government to claim credit for), and
assorted groups of civilian anti-community vigilantes. By 1976 the count
exceeded 20,000, murdered or disappeared without a trace. (16)
Thomas and Marjorie
Melville, American Catholic missionaries in Guatemala from the mid-1950s
until the end of 1967, have written that Col. Webber, head of the American
military mission in Guatemala, made no secret of the fact that
it was at his instigation that the technique of counter terror had been
implemented by the Guatemalan Army in the Zacapa and Izabal areas. (17)
The Green Berets taught their Guatemalan trainees various methods of
One method of torture consisted of
putting a hood filled with insecticides over the head of the victim;
there was also electric shock the genital area is most effective.
In March 1992 Guatemalan
guerilla leader, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, was captured and disappeared.
For the next three years, his American wife, attorney Jennifer Harbury,
waged an impassioned international campaign -including public fast in
Guatemala City and in Washington to pressure the Guatemalan and
American governments for information about her husbands fate.
Both governments insisted that they knew nothing. Finally, in March
1995 Rep. Robert Torricelli of the House Intelligence Committee revealed
that Bamaca had been tortured and executed the same year of his capture,
and that he, as well as Michael Devine, had been murdered on the orders
of Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, who had been on the CIA payroll for several
years. (Alpirez was a graduate of Fort Bennings School of the
The facts surrounding
these cases were known early on by the CIA, and by officials of the
State Department and National Security Council at least a few months
before the disclosure. Torricellis announcement. prompted several
other Americans to come forward with tales of murder, rape or torture
of themselves or a relative at the hands of the Guatemalan military.
Sister Dianna Ortiz, a nun, related how in 1989, she was kidnapped,
burned with cigarettes, raped repeatedly and lowered into a pit full
of corpses and rats. A fair skinned man who spoke with an American accent
seen to be in charge, she said. (19)
As a part of an
effort in 1986 to strengthen the Haitian military CIA money began flowing
to Haiti, which enabled the CIA to set up an antinarcotics service called
appropriately SIN (national intelligence service).
As one CIA man admitted, SIN used its millions in CIA subsidies mainly
to suppress popular movements by means of torture and assassination.
Far from combatting drugs, many SIN officers engaged in the drug trade
unit in Honduras known as Battalion 316, used shock and suffocation
devices in interrogations in the 1980s. Prisoners often were kept naked
and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves. Newly
declassified documents and other sources show that the CIA and the U.S.
Embassy knew of numerous crimes, including murder and torture, yet continued
to support Battalion 316 and collaborate with its leaders. (21)
At least nineteen of the ranking Honduran officers linked to death squad
Battalion 316 are SOA graduates, including battalion founder General
Luis Alonso Discua. (22)
The notorious Iranian
secret police, SAVAK, was created under the guidance of the CIA and
Israel. According to a former CIA analyst on Iran SAVAK was instructed
in torture techniques by the Agency. In 1976 Amnesty reported that Iran
had a system of torture beyond belief. (23)
According to the Veterans for Peace website (www.veternsforpeace.org/korea.htm),
under the heading U.S. Atrocities it is mentioned that thousands
of North Korean and Chinese POWs died due to deliberate shooting and
torture by prison guards, starvation and medical experiments. General
Crawford Sams so-called Bubonic plague ship, Landing Craft No.
1091, was stationed in the Koje Island where the majority of the POWs
were kept. The ship is suspected of having used the POWs to work out
certain aspects of germ warfare. (24)
At eleven oclock
on the night of January 23, 1983, according to Ahmed Rami, General Dlimi
was called to the palace in Marrakesh, Morocco where ten security men
escorted him to an underground interrogation room. At one a.m. two
American officers arrived with the king and went into the interrogation
room for several hours, Dlimi was tortured and, at five a.m. he was
shot. His body was later placed in his car, which was exploded in a
During the occupation
of Panama following the invasion of December 1989, some American soldier
engaged in torture of soldiers of the Panama Defense Forces. In one
case a metal cable was inserted in an open 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. (26)
Reed recalls that in 1974 Caxias, a prison near Lisbon was opened to
the public shortly after the fascist dictatorship was overthrown by
a coup. Reed talked to a psychiatrist, a former inmate of the prison,
who said that torture techniques such as sleep deprivation devised by
the CIA were used by PIDE (International Police for the Defense of the
State). This was confirmed by another psychiatrist who treated Caxias
victims. A 128 page secret manual produced by the CIA in July 1963 called
Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation was central to the procedure
for using sleep deprivation. He said he was told several times that
these methods came from the CIA. (27)
In an interview
given to Brazilian newspaper in 1970, the former Uruguayan Chief of
Police Intelligence, Alejandro Otrero, declared that U.S. advisers,
and in particular Dan Mitrione, (also see Brazil) 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 Uruguayan Senate,
after a five-month study, concluded unanimously that torture in Uruguay
had become a normal, frequent and habitual occurrence. (29)
In 1981, a former
Uruguayan intelligence officer declared that U.S. manuals were being
used to teach techniques of torture in his countrys military.
He said that most of the officers who trained him had attended classes
run by the U.S. and Panama. Among other niceties, the manuals listed
35 nerve pointed where electrodes could be applied. (30)
When Donald Duncan
was a member of the Green Berets in Vietnam he was trained in counter
measures to hostile interrogation received by Americans captured by
Communists who would torture them. Translations of an alleged Soviet
interrogation manual, which described various methods, were handed out
to the class. A student asked the teacher, Sergeant Lacey, whether he
was suggesting that they use such methods. He replied, We cant
tell you that, Sergeant Harrison. The mothers of American wouldnt
approve. The class bursts into laughter at the sarcastic cynicism.
Furthermore we will deny that any such thing is taught or intended.
Young of Ohio, in the mid 1960s, was reported to have said that while
he was in Vietnam he was told by the CIA that the Agency disguised people
as Vietcong to commit atrocities, including murder and rape, so as to
discredit the Communists. After the report caused a flurry in Washington,
Young said that he had been misquoted, that the CIA was not the source
of the story. Congressman Cornelius Gallagher, who had accompanied Young
on the trip, suggested that it may well be that he (Young) spoke
to Vietcong disguised as a CIA man. (32)
was the coordinated effort of the U.S. and South Vietnam to wipe out
the Vietcong infrastructure. Under this program, Vietnamese citizens
were rounded up and jailed. Often in tiger cages, often tortured, often
killed, either in the process of being arrested or subsequently. By
Colbys (former head of the CIA) records during the period between
early 1968 and May 1971, 20,587 alleged Vietcong cadres met their death
as a result of the Phoenix Program. A similar program under a different
name, had existed since 1965 and been run by the U.S. alone. (33)
A former U.S. military-intelligence
officer in Vietnam, K. Barton Osborn, testified before a House Committee
that suspects caught by Phoenix were interrogated in helicopters and
sometimes pushed out. He also spoke of the use of electric shock torture
and insertion into the ear of a six-inch dowel, which was tapped through
the brain until the victim died. (34)
With the CIAs help, Patrice Lumumba was captured in December 1960,
by the troops of General Joseph Mobutu, who had assumed control of the
government. Lumumba was held prisoner for over a month, interrogated,
tortured, then finally shot in the head. His body was dissolved in hydrochloric
(1) Washington Post,
August 29, 1971 in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press,
1995, p. 226.
(2) Agency for International
Development (AID Program and Project Data Presentation to the Congress
for Fiscal Year 1971, p. 26 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common
Courage Press, 1995, p.171.
(3) Amnesty International,
Report on Allegations of Torture in Brazil (London, 1974) p.40 cited
in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 171.
(4) Columbians Trained
to Torture Unionists by Sean Donahue, May 9, 2004, Corporatism and Militarism
Project of the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse. http://www.soaw.org/new/newswire_detail.php?id=425
(5) New York Times,
17 March 1982, p.1 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage
Press, 1995, p. 363.
(6) Allan Nairn,
Behind the Death Squads, The Progressive magazine (Madison, Wisconsin)
May 1984, pp. 1, 20-29 a detailed account of the CIAs long-standing
and close ties to the Death Squads and /or their parent organizations,
and to the organizations leaders who were on the CIA payroll.
New York Times, 22 October 1987, p. 11; 6 December 1987, IV, p.2 cited
in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 354.
(7) Amnesty International
Torture in the Eighties (London, 1984), pp 155-6 cited in William Blum,
Killing Hope Common
Courage Press, 1995,
(8) New York Times,
11 Jan., 1982, p.2 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage
Press, 1995, p. 359.
(9) The Guardian
(London 7 Aug., 1986 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage
Press, 1995, p. 360.
(10) The National
Guardsman, identified only as Manuel, was interviewed in
the television documentary Torture, produced and directed
by Rex Bloomstein for Thames Television Ltd (Great Britain) in 1986
with the cooperation of Amnesty International. Video copy in authors
possession cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press,
1995, p. 359.
(11) Los Angeles
Times, 11 July 1987, p.1. cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common
Courage Press, 1995, p. 361.
(12) Los Angeles
Times, 11 July 1987, p.1. cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common
Courage Press, 1995, p. 360.
(13) Thomas Powers,
The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York, 1979)
pp. 155, 157 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press,
1995, p. 116.
(14) Becket, p.
10 Amnesty International Report 27 January 1968 cited in William Blum,
Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 219
(15) Becket, p.
15 Amnesty International Report 27 January 1968 cited in William Blum,
Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 219.
(16) William Blum,
Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p.232.
and tortures compiled from the sources cited herein: also see A.J. Languet,
(New York, 1978) p. 139, 193 for U.S. involvement with the use of the
field Telephones for Torture in Brazil cited in William Blum, Killing
Hope Common Courage Press Blum, p. 232.
(18) Thomas and
Marjorie Melville, Guatemala-Another Vietnam! (Great Britain, 1971)
Published in the United States the same year in a slightly different
form as Guatemala: the Politics of Land ownership cited in William Blum,
Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 232.
(19) Devine and
Bamaca Cases New York Times, 23 March 1995, p.1: 24 March, p.3; 30 March,
p.1; Los Angeles Times 23 March 1995, p. 7; 24 March , p.4; 31 March,
p.4; 2 April, p. M2; Time Magazine, 10 April 1995, p. 43. cited in William
Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 239.
(20) Mark Zepezauer,
The CIAs Greatest Hits, Odonian Press, 1994 p. 86.
(21) Gary Cohn and
Ginger Thompson, Unearthed: Fatal Secrets, Baltimore Sun,
reprint of a series that appeared June 11-18, 1995 in Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer,
School of Assassins, p. 46 Orbis Books 2001.
(22) Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer,
School of Assassins, p. 46 Orbis Books 2001.
(23) Martin Ennals,
Secretary-General of Amnesty International, cited in an article by Reza
Baraheni in Matchbox (Amnesty Publication in New York) Fall, 1976 cited
in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 239.
(24) Hugh Deane,
the Korean War, 1945-1983 (1999 ) cited in A New Look at the Korean
War by John H. Kim which is included in the Report of the Korea
Peace Campaign of Veterans for Peace, Nov. 6, 2003, p. 6.
(25) Interview in
Africa Now (London), March, 1983 , pp. 14-15 cited in William Blum,
Killing Hope, Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 279.
(26) Philip Wheaton,
Panama Invaded (New Jersey, 1992), p. 14-15; this is from testimony
recorded by the staff of the Central American Human Rights Center of
San Jose, Costa Rica, taken in Panama on Jan. 29, 1990 from a Red Cross
contact cited in William Blum, Rogue State Common Courage Press, 1995.
Reed, My Journey to Caxias, How the CIA Taught the Portuguese to Torture
May 21, 2004 in Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/reed05212004.html.
(28) A.J. Langguth
, Hidden Terrors (New York, 1978 ) pp. 285-7 and passim. Langguth was
formerly with the New York Times and in 1965 served as Saigon Bureau
Chief of the newspaper; NewYork Times, 15 August, 1970 cited in
William Blum, Killing
Hope, Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 201.
(29) Extracts from
the report of the Senate Commission of Inquiry into Torture, a document
accompanying the film script in State of Siege (Ballantine Books , New
York, 1973) pp. 194-6; also see Death of a Policeman: Unanswered
Questions About a Tragedy Commonweal (Catholic biweekly magazine,
New York), 18 September 1970, p. 457; Langguth, p. 249. cited in William
Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, 201.
(30) San Francisco
Chronicle, 2 November, 1981 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common
Courage Press, 1995, p. 204.
(31) Donald Duncan,
The New Legions (London, 1967) pp. 28,31 cited in William Blum, Killing
Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 128.
(32) Chicago Daily
News, 20 October 1965; Washington Post, 21 October 1965 cited in William
Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 130.
(33) Victor Marchetti
and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (New York, 1975)
pp.236-7 cited in William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995,
(34) William Colby,
Honorable Men, My Life in the CIA (New York) pp. 273, 275-6 cited in
William Blum, Killing Hope Common Courage Press, 1995, p. 131.
(35) Mark Zepezauer,
The CIAs Greatest Hits, Odonian Press, 1994 p. 16.