In 1999, Serco paid $53 million to acquire Elekluft, a company that specialized in military and aerospace customers, and was originally formed in 1961 to install and support German air defense radar systems. Currently, Serco holds several international defense contracts, including the British government’s first modern outsourced contract for the operation and maintenance of the UK Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
Legal Word Games
Meanwhile, in January 2002, President Bush was receiving memos
from then-Justice Department attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo as well as from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Bush’s White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, advising Bush to deny members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban “prisoner of war” status under the Geneva Conventions.
Also, about a month before the Wolfowitz directive was issued, the DIA asked Joint Forces Command if they could get a “crash course” on interrogation for the next interrogation team headed out to Guantanamo, according to the Armed Services Committee’s report. That request was sent to Brigadier General Thomas Moore and was approved.
Bruce Jessen, the chief psychologist of the SERE program, and Joseph Witsch, a JPRA instructor, led the instructional seminar held in early March 2002.
The seminar included a discussion of al-Qaeda’s presumed methods of resisting interrogation and recommended specific methods interrogators should use to defeat al-Qaeda’s resistance. According to the Armed Services Committee report, the presentation provided instructions on how interrogations should be conducted and on how to manage the “long term exploitation” of detainees.
There was a slide show, focusing on four primary methods of treatment: “isolation and degradation,” “sensory deprivation,” “physiological pressures,” and “psychological pressures.”
According to Jessen and Witsch’s instructor’s guide, isolation was the “main building block of the exploitation process,” giving the captor “total control” over the prisoner’s “inputs.” Examples were provided on how to implement “degradation,” by taking away a prisoner’s personal dignity. Methods of sensory deprivation were also discussed as part of the training.
Jessen and Witsch denied that “physical pressures,” which later found their way into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, were taught at the March meeting.
However, Jessen, along with Christopher Wirts, chief of JPRA’s Operational Support Office, wrote a memo for Southern Command’s Directorate of Operations (J3), entitled “Prisoner Handling Recommendations,” which urged Guantanamo authorities to take punishment beyond “base line rules.”
So, by late March 2002, the pieces were in place for a strategy of behavior modification designed to break down the will of the detainees and extract information from them. Still, to make the procedures “legal,” some reinterpretations of existing laws and regulation were needed.
For instance, attorneys Bybee and Yoo would narrow the definition of “torture” to circumvent laws prohibiting the brutal interrogation of detainees.