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Cruel Science: CIA Torture and U.S. Foreign Policy

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Abstract

The roots of the recent Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal lie in CIA torture techniques that have metastasized inside the U.S. intelligence community for the past fifty years. A contradictory U.S. foreign policy marked by both public opposition to torture and secret propagation of its practice has influenced American response to UN treaties, shaped federal anti-torture statutes, and produced a succession of domestic political scandals. After a crash research effort in the 1950s, the CIA developed a revolutionary new paradigm of psychological torture and then, for the next thirty years, disseminated it to allies worldwide. After September 11, the U.S. media created a public consensus for torture while the Bush administration launched a covert hunt for Al Qaeda -- a campaign that included the CIA's distinctive method of psychological torture developed over forty years before. Though seemingly less brutal, psychological torture is more problematic because it has potentially devastating domestic and international consequences.
New England Journal of Public Policy
Volume 19
Issue 2 Special Issue: WAR, Volume 2 Article 15
12-21-2005
Cruel Science: CIA Torture and U.S. Foreign Policy
Alfred W. McCoy
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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Recommended Citation
McCoy, Alfred W. (2005) "Cruel Science: CIA Torture and U.S. Foreign Policy," New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 19: Iss. 2,
Article 15.
Available at: hp://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol19/iss2/15
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... Within mainstream politics distrust of the government and willingness to question mounted as well, especially in the realm of foreign relations. By the mid-1970s Senatorial inquiries and CIA reviews were following up fragmentary evidence that the US used torture, perfected with the assistance of university-based medical researchers and in contravention of the country's avowed adherence to the UN Convention (McCoy, 2004). Burgess's book and Kubrick's fi lm were products of that same moment, when left-leaning critics asked how torture could ever be justifi ed, least of all by the self-appointed leader of the free world. ...
... But the fi lm tapped a growing current of concern that brainwashing, conditioning and chemical and surgical alterations were not just the weapons of Soviet agents or Viet Cong insurgents: they were tools used by liberal democracies searching for new scientifi c means to impose order within and to fi ght foreign agents without. Even the Senate began to follow up allegations that CIA operations and experiments had involved the use of torture, and mainstream media, including the New York Times, published the little information the agency was prepared to divulge in the early 1970s (Marks, 1979;McCoy, 2004). In this sense ACO's notoriety accomplished at least as much or more than Congress to encourage vigilance over the collusion between science and the security-seeking state (Farber, 1972). ...
... US Government Sponsored Research. The CIA directly or indirectly sponsored much of the research on offensive interrogation techniques until the 1970s (Kleinman 2006;McCoy 2005McCoy , 2006Otterman 2007). Offensive interrogations are those designed to elicit information from a subject (in contrast to defensive interrogation techniques, which are designed to help military personnel withstand interrogation). ...
Chapter
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