Consult: David Frakt

 

Consultation with an Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps Attorney


David Frakt, Major, U.S. Air Force Reserve

March 16, 2009

77-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo

Edited by Ray Bennett

Reviewed by David Frakt on April 10, 2009


Teleconference Participants:  Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, David Frakt, Jancis Long, and Stephen Soldz


Note:  The transcript has been streamlined a bit.



Teleconference Consultation with Maj. David Frakt on

“Psychologists and U.S. Coercive Interrogations” by Stephen Soldz


ARRIGO:  Let’s go in this order:  Ray, Maj. Frakt — Actually, everybody who’s on the line knows Stephen, so I think we can pass Stephen — and then I’ll say something, and then we’ll hear from Jancis [when she calls in]. 


BENNETT:  Okay.  This is Ray Bennett.  I’m a retired army interrogator.  I retired after 22 years of service as an interrogator, in 2006.  I had deployment environments throughout the years in Bosnia and Iraq and —


FRAKT:  Were you CID [Criminal Investigation Division] or intel[ligence]?


BENNETT:  Intel.  Intel interrogations.  So of course I’m interested in what you have to say, Major.  I retired a W-4.  I was a senior interrogator, and I’m interested to hear what impact the poor interrogation policy had on your job.


FRAKT:  Sure.  Well, I’ll address that as it comes up.

     This is David Frakt.  I guess Stephen knows who I am.  But I represent a couple of detainees at Guantanamo [Bay] whose fate is currently up in the air.  When I’m not being a reserve JAG [Judge Advocate General] officer, I’m a law professor at Western State College of Law in Fullerton.


SOLDZ:  But you’re on the East Coast for a year?


FRAKT:  Yes, it’s a one-year deployment.  Actually, I just extended until the first of June because we’re supposed to get some kind of resolution on this by May 20.


ARRIGO:  I’m Jean Maria Arrigo.  I’m a social psychologist, working closely with Stephen Soldz and other colleagues on the whole problem of APA [American Psychological Association] and interrogations.  I got into this because I was on the 2005 APA president’s task force to work out guidelines for psychologists in interrogations.  I was a dissenting member of that meeting.  My work before that, and continuing, has been in the area of ethics of political and military intelligence.  I’ve done a lot of oral histories, and my main effort has been to give moral voice to people in the intelligence community.


FRAKT:  Are you an academic, or are you practicing?


ARRIGO:  I am teaching as an adjunct right now, but I would say that my human rights work — I used to be a math teacher — About 15 years ago I converted to human rights work, and I would have to say that mainly my husband supports that.  But, yes, I definitely have a scholarly orientation.


SOLDZ:  Would you say a little bit about the casebook?  I’ve only said a couple of sentences in the e-mail [invitation to Maj. Frakt].


ARRIGO:   Okay.  Although the policy that came out of the 2005 APA task force was very flawed, one of our major recommendations, which we thought was going to go into effect right away, was to develop a casebook to be more specific about how psychologists should proceed in intelligence settings.  And the APA took the casebook out of our hands and into the hands of the APA Ethics Committee, where it just died over the intervening four years.  Through Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) I decided to try to go ahead with this.  So Stephen and Ray and a few other people are working to try to develop such a casebook.  Our understanding is that the kinds of problems that led to psychologists facilitating coercive interrogations were more systemic, so we’re looking at a broad array of cases that bear on institutional factors that would seem to facilitate those kinds of interrogations.


FRAKT:  And this casebook is intended for use in what setting?


ARRIGO:  I think we’re not entirely clear about that.  But at least a couple of the settings we hope it would be used for are psychologists who are in training to work with the military and, hopefully, military people who are working with psychologists.  I think other people intend other uses.  But we haven’t gotten to the point of putting it together yet. 


SOLDZ:  I think some of us see it more as a document on, what are the complex set of issues involved here?  We’ve have some questions as to whether it’s exactly a classic casebook or not.  We suspect it’s not going to match traditional models because of the systems issues that we’re dealing with.  We had a consult with an ethicist who constructs casebooks, who wanted us to do hypothetical cases, where you could vary one dimension at a time.  And we felt that that wouldn’t work because we’re dealing with something where we have to present the detailed facts or no one would believe it.  The whole issue is the complexities of what’s actually happened and why it’s happened.  Who would believe that some of these things had happened if we just made them as hypotheticals?  So we’re creating something new in the process.


ARRIGO:  I think that what Stephen said really gets to the heart of it, that we want to show the complexities and interconnectedness of things that one doesn’t think of ordinarily as interconnected.  And some of those will be how the APA actually relates to the defense system.

     But let’s pause here for Jancis to introduce herself.


LONG:  Hello.  I’m Jancis Long, clinical psychologist.  I’m president of PsySR, and I’m working on the casebook with Jean Maria and everyone else. 


FRAKT:  Well, nice meeting you.  This is Major Dave Frakt.


LONG:  Well, hello.  Can I say a special word of appreciation to you.  I’ve very honored to be in the same conference call as you are.


FRAKT:  [laughing]  Well, you’re too kind. 


ARRIGO:  [Continued instructions for conference call timing.]  With that, I think, Stephen, you might lead off.


SOLDZ:  Thanks so much for agreeing to do this.  After actually saying yes, you immediately sent an e-mail saying, “But I don’t know very much about it.”  That may be, but you know more than almost anyone we’re consulting with because the people who do know aren’t talking.  Not one military psychologist has been involved.  In fact, not one military psychologist, period, is cooperating with us, or has ever spoken out, as far as we know, about what has happened there.  So we’re forced to try to piece together from indirect sources.  Certainly you have some of the most direct knowledge of —  Have we talked about confidentiality, by the way?


ARRIGO:  I wrote to Maj. Frakt about that, but let’s repeat it again here that this conversation is confidential.  It is being recorded.  I will transcribe it.  But before it goes anywhere, Maj. Frakt will have looked at it.  And Ray, who is a professional “anonymizer” [laughing] will anonymize the transcript —


FRAKT:  Well, my intent here is not to be anonymous.  I will only tell you things that are not classified.  My goal is for all of this to get as much daylight as possible shown upon it. 


SOLDZ:  Okay.  Let’s just say that’s your call.


FRAKT:  Yes, I understand that it’s my option, and I’m participating voluntarily.  I’m supportive of your goals of airing this as much as possible.


SOLDZ:  We did have one military person who felt that she told us too much and then —


FRAKT:  Well, you guys are experts at extracting information.  [Laughter all around.]


SOLDZ:  She was a mental health person, so that one will never go out.  It’s just on background.  So it’s your call.  I wasn’t expecting you to say anything classified.  I just want to make sure that’s understood.

     I know you’ve had more contact than almost anyone, in the sense of having this one case of a BSCT [Behavioral Science Consultation Team member].  I don’t know whether there’s any other information about that, or you have any sense from the military perspective of how this fits in.  Part of what we’re trying to figure out is how does it fit into the whole military system.  To what extent is it corrupting aspects of it?  Just to get a broader context for these issues that we have.  As you can see in the chapter, I’m trying to pull out the information in the literature.


FRAKT:  Let me just talk for a little while about my perceptions about — This gets involvement in my case and how that came about and why.

     I think that you have to go back to the early post-9/11 environment.  Guantanamo was really set up, and the whole premise of Guantanamo, was an intelligence-gathering location.  That’s why it existed.  They did not want it to be considered a POW [prisoner of war] camp.  They intended all along for the detainees at Guantanamo to be beyond the reach of the law.  So it was set up as a legal black hole, with no access to lawyers, not access to courts, no Geneva Convention rights.  You know, they were optional.  It was into this setting — And I think there was a genuine belief, or at least a fear that another terrorist attack was pending and that having really missed the boat and missed an opportunity to prevent 9/11, when they had been given intelligence in a pretty strongly worded warning that “al Qaeda plans a major attack in the United States” and had largely been ignored, then they were just desperate not to miss the next attack.  I think they really believed that people knew something.

     So there was a number of, I think, false assumptions that went into that.  One was that there was another major attack planned.  As we now know, al Qaeda as an organization, really only plans one major attack every two or three years.  This was their biggest and boldest attack yet, and they really did not have anything else planned.  But people didn’t really have any way of knowing that and certainly felt obligated to try to prevent another attack.  There had been a catastrophic intelligence failure.  Of course, there were also huge intelligence failures in Iraq, so the intelligence community as a whole felt like they had to produce something. They seemed to feel constrained by traditional Army Field Manual interrogation methods, and they weren’t getting information using those.  There’s two possibilities when you’re not getting information.  One is that people don’t have information.  Two is that they’re withholding it; they are somehow deceiving you and trying to divert you [pause] —


BENNETT:  It’s called “resistance to interrogation.”


FRAKT:  Resistance, yes.  They have resistance techniques.

     That seemed to be the mindset.  There really was a belief that people knew something.  It just didn’t occur to them, or they couldn’t accept, “Well, actually, a lot of these people that we’ve picked up don’t know anything.”  In fact, many of them were innocent.  Many of them were turned over for ransom.  The way that they were gathering people in Afghanistan, particularly in Pakistan, people were just being turned over for ransom.  Someone would say, “Oh, that person’s a terrorist,” or “That person’s al Qaeda,” or “That person’s Taliban,” and we would shoot first and ask questions later.  So there was frustration that we weren’t getting intelligence using these traditional methods:  rapport building and what have you.


ARRIGO:  Could you pause there?  It doesn’t take much sophistication to realize enemies will sell off enemies.  Even during World War II, the Japanese were put in internment camps but a lot of Germans were [erroneously] collected [as Nazi loyalists] on the basis of their neighbors or employers or employees saying bad things about them.  This is pretty rudimentary, right?


FRAKT:  But it was more than that.  It was that we were dropping leaflets all over Afghanistan offering untold wealth to these villagers if they turned somebody in.  It wasn’t just that this was the natural outgrowth of a suspicious people.  This was something that was very actively encouraged.


SOLDZ:  Why were they so stupid?


FRAKT:  This brings up another branch of the military, which is Psychological Operations.  I don’t know if psychologists are really involved in Psychological Operations.  I assume that they are.


SOLDZ:  A psychologist there is someone who is especially in our sights because he was also in charge of the BSCTs, and he was the head SERE psychologist.


FRAKT:  Leafletting operations are part of Psychological Operations.  And they have proven effective as strategies to get people to surrender, for example, in the first Desert Storm.  Anyway that’s something I’d be speculating as to who did what and why.  But we know now, in hindsight, that that was a major incentive for people to turn people in that might have been their enemies or they may just have been a foreigner.  And we know that just a lot of innocent people got caught up in the roundups.  They were definitely erring on the side of caution.


ARRIGO:  Wouldn’t an interrogator normally know the means of capture?  Maybe Ray can answer that.


BENNETT:  Yes, they would normally know that that person was captured as a result of being turned in by someone else.


ARRIGO:  What would that make you think of if you were the interrogator?


BENNETT:  Well, the more sophisticated and experienced interrogator will not let that influence him at all.  But the more junior ones and inexperienced ones will fall victim to the notion that, “Well, he wouldn’t have been turned in if he wasn’t guilty of something.”


FRAKT:  It’s not like the legal system, where there’s a presumption of innocence.  A lot of people were pressed into service as interrogators, and they were training people as fast as they could possibly churn them out.  So you had a lot of people without a lot of experience out there.  I don’t think they were given a lot of warnings or disclaimers about, “Hey, a lot of these people really might not know something.”  You get paid by — We talk about it in the criminal justice context that the cop doesn’t get any benefit for letting people go.  They get credit for making arrests, for getting convictions.  So I’m sure there’s some of that competitive mindset in intelligence.  You want to be the one that cracks the code and gets the clue that saves American lives.  But I think the absence of restraint encouraged interrogators to go beyond where they would normally have gone.  As the pressure mounted, the administration was looking for ways to give more flexibility to interrogators


.BENNETT:  One of the major problems that we had with Guantanamo was that you had an inverse situation going on there.  On the one hand, you had people being shipped half way around the world, literally, and billed as —


FRAKT:  “the worst of the worst” —


BENNETT:  the worst of the worst, etc., and on the other side of the table, the interrogation side of the table, we put a reserve unit there.  You being a reservist, I don’t want to —


FRAKT:  Oh, sure, no, I understand, you had a lot of people sent out without a lot of experience, without a lot of training.


BENNETT:  A lot of junior people who, at that time, the reservist optempo [operational tempo or pace of operations] in 2001 was not the same as it is now.  A lot of those people went through interrogation training, the ten-week course, and that was it.  That’s all they had under their belt.  They had no Bosnia, they had no Desert Storm, they had no nothing.


FRAKT:  You can see that in the [Mohammed] Jawad case.  He was arrested on December 17, 2002.  He was interrogated for several hours by the Afghan police, who claimed to have extracted a confession out of him, and then turned over to the U.S.  He was interrogated by two interrogators.  One was a Marine interrogator, and Marines traditionally have not even had interrogators.  There’s no interrogation career field in the Marines, but they decided—


BENNETT:  I’ve got to stop you there.  They have had an interrogation career field for many years.


FRAKT:  All right.  This particular person that interrogated Mohammed Jawad said that it was something new.  In any event, it was his first interrogation, and that’s why he remembered it so vividly because it was the first one he had ever done.  He got called late at night, “Hey, we need you to come over here and do this.”  So I think someone who was a little bit more sophisticated would have realized that Mohammed Jawad was basically telling them what they wanted to hear rather than — There was no verifiable information.  They also would have had their antennas up and some alarm bells going off because the story that he was telling them was completely different than the story that he had supposedly told the Afghan police, just hours before.  Then the next day he was taken to Bagram Air Base and interrogated again and again gave a completely different story.  So no one was putting these pieces of the puzzle together and saying, “Wait a second, something is not adding up.”  But that’s not what this is really all about.  I’m just trying to paint a picture of what the pressures were like.  The Administration was really putting pressure on the leadership at Guantanamo to produce actionable intelligence, and the pressure would be exerted downward on the interrogators to —


SOLDZ:  And on the BSCTs, presumably.


FRAKT:  Yes.

     So in Jawad’s case, first of all, he was interrogated a number of times at Bagram Air Base.  Conditions were very harsh there.  He reports being beaten, being threatened with beatings, being pushed down the stairs with a hood on his head while shackled, being chained to the door, shackled in stress positions.  This was at a time when the — I think it’s the 336 Military Police Company — the military police company that had beaten two Afghans to death just a week or two before Jawad got there.  Dilawar [a young Afghan taxi driver] was one of them.  That’s in the movie Taxi to the Dark Side; it’s all about that.  But this was a reserve military police company or guard unit from Indiana, ill-trained and very brutal.

     Interestingly, Jawad did not confess to these people and kept denying what he was accused of.  What he was accused of was throwing a hand grenade.  Nevertheless, a decision was made to transport him to Guantanamo, where he arrived February 6, 2003.  Immediately upon arrival, there was an interrogation or initial debriefing.  That was conducted by the FBI.  And then he was put in 30 days isolation, which was the standard procedure at the time.  His only contact would be with interrogators.  The guards would come by and slide the meal through the meal tray, but that was it.

     He was a teenage kid, very small.  I think the records show that he was 5’3” and 120 pounds, when he arrived.  And now he’s about 5’8”, 160 pounds.  So he’s grown up considerably in the last six years.  But no accommodation was made for the fact that he was a juvenile.  He was placed with the adult population.

     Amazingly, he kept denying — I think that once he realized that he wasn’t going to be killed, which is what they had threatened him with initially, he felt more confident in denying throwing the hand grenade.  Over the course of the next several months he was interrogated quite a few times.  And each time he would just say:  “Why am I here?  I’m innocent.  Send me home.  I miss my mother.  I miss my little brothers and sister.  You’ve made a mistake.”  The interrogators said:  “Well, he’s being deceptive.”  Or, “He’s resisting.  He’s holding out.”

     One of the interrogators observed him crying and talking to what he thought was a poster on the wall.  And he concluded that he should consult with the BSCT psychologist.  Now what I don’t know, because I don’t know who this interrogator was —the government’s never told me, so I’m not able to ask him or her this question— did he or she want the BSCT psychologist because they were concerned about the mental well- being of Jawad or did they just want some advice on how to break him?.  Because that’s what they got.  They got the latter.


SOLDZ:  Do we know if there was a written request for a consult?


FRAKT:  Well, the way it was done, a summary of the intelligence report says, “Need to consult with BSCT,” or words to that effect, “before next interrogation,” or “Need to ask BSCT to observe,” something like that.  And then, the very next time, that’s what happened.  Somehow it was communicated to the BSCT.  And this is the first mention of a BSCT.  So the BSCT observed the next session.  They took him to an interrogation room, gave him some breakfast and started the interrogation.

     At the conclusion of it, the investigator prepared an assessment and a recommendation based on her observations. This particular document is classified.  Some portions of it have been leaked to the press from one source or another, so there’s some public information about the contents of it.  The gist of it was also in a brief that I filed with the court, the court being the military commission, because I wanted the judge to see this really appalling document and the treatment that Jawad was getting and that his mistreatment was intentional.  Not only was it intentional, it was recommended by a licensed professional.  Clearly the goal was to break him.  That was the advice.  It was how to exploit his weaknesses, his vulnerabilities, in order to extract information from him and to increase his dependence on the interrogator.

     When I read it, I was just struck by what I saw as an inherent contradiction between the role of a psychologist as a healer and someone who was using her knowledge — although I question how much knowledge she really has, quite frankly — using her training and her position to order, or at least recommend — and those recommendations were followed — very harmful treatment of a juvenile.  It really was very shocking.


ARRIGO:  Do you have any means of direct communication with this psychologist?


FRAKT:  Ahhhh, well, not exactly.  I did try to speak with the person.  I got her e-mail, and I e-mailed her, and I requested a meeting, an interview, which was declined.  I felt I really had no choice other than to simply put her on my witness list and try to force her to testify.  You know, either testify or take the Article 31, which is the military equivalent of pleading the Fifth [Amendment].


ARRIGO:  Do you have any way of bringing any other military psychologists to comment on this?


FRAKT:  There are some people who have seen this recommendation that might be willing to comment on it, the people that are cleared.  One of them is a retired brigadier general who we know.


SOLDZ:  Unfortunately — Well, we can try.  He’s hoping for a job with the Administration, so —


FRAKT:  I know. 

     Another one is a forensic psychologist, who has all the clearances and has long military affiliation.   I can give you his contact information.  He has seen the document, and he was also appalled by it and could perhaps comment on it in some way.

     Another person that looked at it, when I asked the Military Commission to order a mental competency evaluation on Mohammed Jawad, because he clearly was suffering, from a lay person’s perspective, from some mental health issues.  I observed what I thought were signs of depression, paranoia, anger.  Based on what he experienced, I thought it likely that he would have post-traumatic stress disorder.  He had mood swings.  He had tried to commit suicide, so that obviously was a red flag. Two military psychiatrists were appointed to evaluate him, a Navy captain and an Army colonel.  For the moment I’m blanking on their names, but I can look those up.  I did show them this document, as well.  Although they were trying to remain professionally detached, they were obviously bothered by it.  The Army colonel happened to be in the same branch of service as this BSCT psychologist.  I asked the colonel if there was an obligation to report this person for professional misconduct.  The colonel thought that, given the assigned role from the court and the way that the information came across, that was not something the colonel was required to do, but the colonel did facilitate my passing that information on to this individual’s chain of command.  


ARRIGO:  This is a psychologist or psychiatrist?


FRAKT:  Psychiatrist, I believe.  But she was bothered by it.

     I can look up the name of the Navy captain.


LONG:  And he was a psychiatrist?


FRAKT:  Yes.  [If the fellow above, he was a psychologist.— Corrected copy by David Frakt]


SOLDZ:  You did file a complaint with her chain of command?


FRAKT:  I tried, yes.


SOLDZ:  What does “tried” mean?


FRAKT:  Well, it means that I did.  I notified the legal office that I was told was in her chain of command and forwarded the document in question and asked them to look into it.  But I never got any kind of a response.


SOLDZ:  So you have no idea if anything was done.


FRAKT:  That’s why I say I tried.


SOLDZ:  No acknowledgment that you did it, that you sent it?


FRAKT:  Uhhhh, I think I did get an acknowledgment of receipt.  But, you know, from the army perspective, I believe they think she was doing exactly what she was ordered to do and had been approved at the highest levels and all that.  So I never really anticipated that they would do anything about it.


SOLDZ:  The important thing is to document that an attempt was made, for our purposes, because what we’re told repeatedly is:  “Oh, a psychologist would never do such a thing.  But if they did, it’s illegal.  It wouldn’t be tolerated, essentially.”  So for us to be able to document that complaints were filed and there’s no evidence of action being taken is —


FRAKT:  Well, part of the problem is, because the document is secret, the complaint has to be secret, so it’s not something I can just make public.  I can say, “Well, I alerted them to the existence of this and my view that it was unprofessional, and I told them it seems that Col. Ritchie had a problem and would back me up on that.  But I don’t know what happened with it.  It wasn’t —  My role —


SOLDZ:  But that you tried to file a complaint can be public.


FRAKT:  Yes, sure.  But my role is defense counsel on the Commissions.  It’s not as a prosecutor of that psychologist.


SOLDZ:  But they can’t say they didn’t know.


FRAKT:  No.  But we’re talking, at this point, five years after the fact.  What really could they do about it?  Even if they wanted to do something, which they clearly didn’t, there’s a five-year statute of limitation for crimes in the military.  It seemed unrealistic that they were going to do anything.  They would chalk it up to:  “Well, you know, this was post-9/11 environment, and all that.”


ARRIGO:  When did you file the complaint?


FRAKT:  It would have been August 2008.


BENNETT:  Let’s back up to where you said you tried to get the psychologist who wrote that document onto your witness list so that she could either testify or plead the Article 31.  What happened?


FRAKT:  Well, first thing I did is —  We have to ask the prosecutors if we want a witness brought to Guantanamo we have to ask the government to bring that person.  The defense has no power to compel anyone or subpoena.  She wasn’t answering my e-mail. They wouldn’t even tell me where she was.  So I had to ask the government, basically the prosecutor, to locate her and bring her to Guantanamo.  They declined to do that.  But they did — I can’t remember whether the judge ordered them or they agreed to do this — they agreed that she would be made available for telephone testimony.  They were saying that she didn’t really have anything relevant to offer, so it wasn’t worth bringing her all the way down there.  But every time they said that, the judge agreed with me that my witness did have something relevant to offer.  So they apparently tracked her down, told her to be available at a certain time and date.  Then, the way it was told to me, because I was anticipating calling her and seeing what she had to say, and then I was going to call Dr. Soldz as a sort of rebuttal if she defended her actions as being proper within the bounds of professional ethics.  I was going to ask Dr. Soldz to comment on this once she said whatever she had to say.  It was going to be on the record in an unclassified setting.  Or so I hoped.

     The plan fell through because she notified the government, or at least this is what I was told, because she never contacted me directly.  She contacted the government and said she had consulted with an attorney and, if called, she would be invoking her Article 31 rights.  And the prosecutor — I think the judge said, “Have you made any headway in tracking down this witness?”  And they said, “We did, but here’s what she said.”  So I didn’t see any point in calling her just so that she would invoke her rights.  From my standpoint I had won that battle just by getting her to invoke her Article 31 rights.  It was essentially, although it’s not supposed to be, it’s essentially an admission of criminal wrongdoing.  That’s really the only reason that you would refuse to testify is on the grounds that it would incriminate you.  From a defense counsel standpoint, in trying to make a legal point, I had succeeded.  I would have liked to hear her explanation and get more facts, but I never did.  Subsequently, after the first thing was leaked to the press and it said that she invoked her Article 31 rights, she called the prosecutor and complained and said it was a misunderstanding, it wasn’t really what she intended, or something like that.  But I really don’t know.  I wasn’t there for the telephone call.


SOLDZ:  Is she then claiming that she would have testified?


FRAKT:  I don’t know.  I don’t know what she’s claiming.  I think she was more complaining that her name had gotten out and that —


SOLDZ:  Did you think of recalling her at that point?


FRAKT:  Well, that issue was kind of resolved.  There was no going back at that point. A lot of things were happening in the case.  [Chief Prosecutor Lt.] Col. [Darrel] Vandeveldt, who had been kind of cooperating with me, resigned and I was stuck with two other prosecutors who were not helpful at all.


SOLDZ:  Do you think [Lt.] Col. Vandeveldt has anything that would be useful to us and would talk to us?


FRAKT:  I don’t know if he has anything useful.  I don’t know if he ever spoke to this person.  I can ask him.  I’m in regular contact with him, so I’ll ask if he thinks that he might have something useful.  But he’s already sacrificed a lot for speaking out.  If he did have something, he would probably want to do it on a confidential basis.


SOLDZ:  As you know, we’re very sensitive to that.  We’ve talked to a number of people who are not in a position to speak publicly.


FRAKT:  Right.  I don’t think he ever interviewed her about “Why did you do this?” or “What does this mean?”  I don’t think he has any in-depth insight from this individual.

     What else can I tell you?


ARRIGO:  Well, something that has so deeply puzzled us is how the psychologists seem to have barricaded themselves away.  You told us about psychiatrists who gave an opinion, and so on, but the psychologists seem to be behind a wall of very thick and successful armor.

     From talking to one person, we at least generated the hypothesis, which I want to run by you, that only a very few psychologists were needed for this whole BSCT operation and whatever Psychological Operations were involved, that only maybe a dozen, or maybe half a dozen, or some small number of psychologists were needed and that the sympathetic ones were selected in, which could be a different scenario from the attorneys, such as yourself, who seem not to have been selected in for previous sympathies with the Administration’s point of view.  But this would mean that there were just a few psychologists.  Does that seem like a possible scenario to you?


FRAKT:  Frequently. on something like they would take volunteers, for deployment to Guantanamo.  So it wouldn’t surprise me if people who developed a special interest in interrogations and wanted to be part of the action were volunteering for it.  I don’t know if — Obviously, as a psychologist, you’re familiar with these studies about how you put people in positions of power and you make people prison guards and so forth and they start acting very sadistically.  I think that is  part of what was going on.  People had a lot of power, and these psychologists could essentially experiment with people.


ARRIGO:  But that scenario notwithstanding, there have been a number of attorneys, a number of interrogators, who are even more intimately involved, and guards, and so on, people from other areas of work had come out and spoken against these things.  But not one single psychologist has.


FRAKT:  I think they are probably very concerned about losing their license.  Wouldn’t you be?  I’m sure they’re not proud of what they did.  Well, it’s hard to know.  If they’ve stepped back and they have some distance from it — It’s the same justification you’ll hear over and over again as an apology for the things that went on, was this intensity of the fear of the next terrorist attack and the need for this intelligence and the pressure.  I think they may have gotten swept up in it.  Certainly —


ARRIGO:  But that reasoning would apply to the interrogators and the attorneys and everybody else.  So the question is, why the psychologists, why we’re not hearing from any psychologists now.  Could you guess how many psychologists might be involved in all this?


LONG:  You mean in Guantanamo?


ARRIGO:  No, I don’t mean just Guantanamo, the whole interrogation issue.


FRAKT:  No, I really don’t know.  But it had to me more than a handful because just the scope, the number of interrogations that were going on around the clock with hundreds of detainees.  Now did they focus the BSCTs only on the high-value people?  I really don’t know.  But when they come up with detailed standard operating procedures, that’s a sign that there’s more than a handful of people involved.  If it’s just three or four of them doing it, they’re not going to bother with a detailed manual.


SOLDZ:  I’ve been having a concern that there are a lot more than we think, because of the 2006 instructions that they say refers to Behavioral Science Consultants, some of whom may be part of a BSCT team and others of whom are not, and also says that the instructions apply to uniformed people, civilian employees of DoD [Department of Defense] and consultants.  Since we don’t know of any civilian employees or consultants, I can’t believe that there weren’t some if they were writing instructions that applied to them.  So I think that there’s a lot —


FRAKT:  These are people that — Another thing is that they would have signed confidentiality agreements.  All of this was classified.  There was very little that they could lawfully talk about without fear of violating nondisclosure agreements and so forth.  So that may be another reason, aside from self-preservation that people aren’t speaking out.


SOLDZ:  That raises an interesting question.  Col. Larry James, who was head of the BSCTs, January until May of 2003, we think he was brought in to clean up the mess after the [Mohammed Al] Qahtani torture and to develop the standard operating procedures to go on from there.  He’s written a book.  I don’t know if you’ve seen his book, called Fixing Hell.


FRAKT:  Yes, you sent me the —


SOLDZ:  Because how would he be able to write that book, given confidentiality agreements, etc?


FRAKT: He would have had to run it through the DoD censors.  But, given the story that he is telling, I think that they would perceive that to have positive value.


BENNETT:  I’m not sure that works of fiction have to be blessed.  [Laughter]


SOLDZ:  You’ve read it, Ray?


BENNETT:  No, I haven’t, but from what I’ve read about it —


FRAKT:  Well, it’s definitely what we would call, in the legal world, a self-serving —


BENNETT:  Yes, it’s a whitewash.


FRAKT:  And he also wants to portray himself as the hero and the savior.  But by saying “fixing hell” he’s acknowledging that there were problems before he got there.


SOLDZ:  The hell, officially, is Abu Ghraib, which he claims to have single-handedly reformed.  He admits that there were problems at Guantanamo, but they were all due to the CIA, to [James] Mitchell [Ph.D.] and [Bruce] Jessen [Ph.D.]


ARRIGO:  I think we’re entering the period here of final questions and comments.  Maybe we could take them, since we haven’t heard much from you, Jancis, in the order:  Jancis, Ray, Stephen, and me.


LONG:  All right.  May I have two if they’re quick?

     One is whether Mohammed Jawad had any psychologist or any kind of clinical person seeing him as a person for his mental health?


FRAKT:  He developed a very deep distrust of any medical professionals, mental health or otherwise, at Guantanamo, so we asked the court to appoint a psychologist as an expert consultant for the defense team.  We got one, who’s an expert on survivors of torture, Dr. Kate Porterfield — you might have heard of her – from Bellevue Hospital.  So she has been seeing him recently, and he’s really started to open up.  She did diagnose him with PTSD and some other things.  She’s said that she was not impressed with the evaluation that the psychiatrists had done.  The main thing — He’s improving.  His mood has improved considerably lately because, one, he’s started to have some hope that he’s going to get out, but, two, they have relaxed the rules so that he’s now getting four hours of outside time every time.  For the first six years he was there, it was at most one hour per day.


SOLDZ:  Is he allowed to socialize during that four hours?


FRAKT:  Yes.  That’s just a huge improvement for him just to talk to people and not through a meal tray slot, face-to-face and be outside.


SOLDZ:  When did that happen?


FRAKT:  It happened when Obama took over.


SOLDZ:  So before the [Adm. Patrick M.] Walsh report [of February 2009] —


FRAKT:  Right.  Actually, Mohammed told — my co-counsel was down to see him last week — and he said that they talking a good four hours per day now and this was basically right when President Obama ordered the start of treating people more humanely and ordered the Walsh Report.  One day they had just be outside for four hours, and the guards said, “You guys have been so good we’re going to give you two more hours,” and they sent them back out.  And then the VIP tour came through a few minutes later [laughter], and they said, “Oh, look, they’re all out exercising, having a good time.”  It’s the kind of dog-and-pony show that they put on there.  But things have improved a little bit, so we’re grateful for that. 


SOLDZ:  Some defense attorneys have been saying that conditions have gotten more brutal since the inauguration.


FRAKT:  It’s a mixed bag.  It’s not all good, but for Jawad the two things that he really needed were more socializing and to not be stuck in the cell all the time.  And of course they’re still not providing him with the counseling, rehabilitation, education, recreation, things that they should have been doing all along.


LONG:  My second question would be whether the military legal people have had any of this kind of soul-searching or had any pressure from lawyers outside about the effects of their roles during any of this, just like we’re doing with the psychologists and the medical people.


FRAKT:  Of course there have been a number of lawyers involved with the Military Commissions who have resigned because they decided that they just couldn’t ethically participate in the prosecution, whether because someone was tortured or some other reason, or because they were withholding exculpatory evidence.  In terms of the lawyers who were approving these programs, those were mostly political appointees within the Bush Administration.  And they have been completely unrepentant:  John Yoo, William Haines, they’ve continued to try to justify what they were doing.  The lawyers, the JAGs, the military attorneys, at the highest levels, the Judge Advocate Generals that knew that these things were going on, were fighting very hard to stick with the Geneva Conventions, to stay with the approved interrogation techniques, to treat people as prisoners of war.  They were just being overruled or cut out by the political appointees.  So I think overall I would say that the JAGs acted fairly honorably.  There may have been some exceptions that I don’t know about.

     That being said, there are some true believers in the prosecution office who are willing to overlook some of these things as part of their broader effort to convict people that they are convinced really are terrorists who did bad things.

     In terms of the professionals who contributed to torture, it’s clear that lawyers had a much greater role than psychologists.


LONG:  We have been thinking about some of the similarities.  Okay, thank you very much.  Indeed I appreciate it.  I’ll think more about this.


BENNETT:  Let me say that I interpreted Jancis’s question — I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, Jancis — I interpreted it to mean, did you, Maj. Frakt, personally receive any hate mail or flame mail for defending terrorists or for what people would just characterize as such?


FRAKT:  No, not at all.  I haven’t had any kind of negative backlash.  In fact, I’ve only received positive e-mails.  It’s been very supportive.  It’s funny.  I will sometime Google myself to see what’s out there.  You do find on some message boards: “Oh, these guys are coddling terrorists,” or “So this guy got a little bit of sleep deprivation.”  But no one has approached me directly with any kind of invective.


BENNETT:  May I add to the positive feedback that you’ve been getting, I think what you’re doing is great work and needs to be done, should be done, and I’m grateful that you’re doing it. 


FRAKT:  Oh, thanks a lot.


BENNETT:  I’ll extend that to, I don’t know whether I can ever be of any use to you as a retired senior interrogation technician.  If I can —


FRAKT:  Well, I’ll think of a use for you.  [laughter]  I know there are some people I’d like you to put the thumb screws to.


SOLDZ:  Ray doesn’t do that.


BENNETT:  I don’t do the thumb screws.


FRAKT:  Well, there are some people I’d like you to do some rapport building with.


BENNETT:  Fair enough.  Fair enough.  [laughter]

     As far as this discussion here, with the interface of psychologists and interrogation and what some insight you could shed on that process, you’ve been helpful to us.  Thank you very much.


FRAKT:  Let me add one thing.  I had this other client, Ali Hamza al Bahlul.  He was tried.  There have only been two trials in the Military Commissions, and he was one of them.  We didn’t put on any defense because he didn’t feel like it.  But the witnesses at the trial were primarily the FBI interrogators and some DoD interrogators.  They described interrogating him and basically they told him this was voluntary, that he was free to go, cut it off at any time, didn’t have to be there.   They offered him tea.  They offered him cookies.  They sat on the floor.  They spoke and it was very respectful and restrained.  And he gave up everything.  And he was a real al Qaeda terrorist, part of the inside, upper echelon of al Qaeda.  So it just shows that it was not necessary to use these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.  This was a guy that actually had some information and shared it willingly, was proud of what he’d done.  So it was an interesting contrast with Jawad.

     The other thing about Jawad was that every denial — No one every seemed to step back and think, “Well, maybe he didn’t do it.”  The denial was always taken as resistance, as deception.  I shouldn’t say “never” because there was this unsigned, one-line interrogation report that says, “It’s possible that he didn’t throw the hand grenade.”  And that’s it.  It wasn’t signed.  I could never find out who said it.  But somebody thought that maybe he didn’t really do it.  He was interrogated 36 times at Guantanamo and denied it every single time.

     There was one interrogator who was very kind to him, who brought him books, showed him pictures — he didn’t read — showed him some picture books.  He wanted to help him learn to read.  He was going to recommend that he get to a better camp and get schooling.  And so, at one point, Jawad said to him,  “Well, if you want me to confess to this, I will.”  And he said to him, “ Well, I just want you to tell the truth.”  And he said, “Well, okay, I didn’t do it.”  But he was so willing to please that interrogator that I think he would have.


BENNETT:  Thank you for your time.


LONG:  Yes indeed.


FRAKT:  Okay.  Is there anything else?


SOLDZ:  Do you think [the forensic psychologist] would talk to us?  I know he approached me in August, and then he had a big indiscretion later that day.  He then has been refusing—


FRAKT:  Well, if you’re promising him anonymity, if you can say an experienced psychologist who reviewed this has a few things to say, maybe he would.  I don’t know.


SOLDZ:  You’ve been in contact with him more recently than that?


FRAKT:  Yes.  He wanted to help.


LONG:  Is he the forensic psychologist who was attacked by a patient at some point and had a lot of back injuries?


FRAKT:  I don’t know about that.


ARRIGO:  I’ll go on then with my last question.  Since before the invasion of Iraq I’ve been in correspondence with a military liaison officer who’s in the Middle East, a fairly cynical person.  I wanted to read to you a couple of sentences he sent me and ask your opinion about this.  He wrote in response to all the uproar about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  What he’s suggesting is that these were not the only two facilities.  He said:


It’s nice to be secret, so secret that most of the military and the government have no idea where you are.  No rights, human or otherwise have to be dealt with.  Let a few inaccessible places be released through controlled media informants.  And then Amnesty International and all the rest will be concentrating on those places while we continue to work in the real centers.

So my question to you is whether you have any sense that there are a lot of other places besides Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and that these are just the ones of public controversy.


FRAKT:  Well, I’m sure you read Mark Danner’s article in the Times and the longer one in the New York Review of Books.  Obviously there were several secret ghost prisons.  So, yes, I’m convinced that the worst things were going on there, although there was some pretty horrific stuff going on at Guantanamo, if you’ve read about al Qahtani, particularly.  But I think that things were also quite bad at Bagram.  And at a certain point they decided to stop sending people to Guantanamo and build a larger facility, a more permanent facility at Bagram.  So there may be stuff going on there.  I don’t have any personal knowledge of it.  Other than those things that have been widely reported, I haven’t heard of anything else.


ARRIGO:  I wonder how far wrong we would be going if we were just focusing on psychologists at these prominent facilities.


FRAKT:  It’s really hard to know.  That’s why they need some kind of thorough investigation, whether it be a truth commission or other, because there is so much that we don’t know.   I think there will be some psychologists who come forward — when they retire though. 


LONG:  Are they conducting any of these same kind of trials, like Mohammed Jawad had, in Iraq?


FRAKT:  No, no, they haven’t been.  In Iraq the insurgents and others that they capture are turned over for prosecutions to the something called the Iraqi Central Criminal Court.  It’s basically a U.S.-run operation.  We provide prosecutors to train, and we have also defense.  We provide a lot of resources, but it’s being done ostensibly under Iraqi law and Iraqi courts.  No, there’s no commissions going on elsewhere.


ARRIGO:  I think we have officially run out of time.


FRAKT:  Okay.  I hope that I was somewhat helpful to you.


ARRIGO:  Yes, very refreshing to talk with you.  Thank you so much.


LONG:  Thank you very much indeed.


FRAKT:  All right.  Good luck with the project, and I’ll look forward to reviewing the transcript.


[Farewells all around.]