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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.13

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.14 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.15


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 learned of the
torture, he was furious and demanded that the CIA put a stop to it.16


In the late 1960s, Dan Mitrione, an employee of the US Office of Public Safety (part of
the Agency for International 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, Jornal 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.17

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

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


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.20


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-2 chiefs of the 1980s and early 1990s,
as well as many lower-level officers, being on the Agency's payroll.21

Also benefiting from the Agency's generosity was General Hector Gramajo Morales (see
"Haven" chapter), 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 motiva-tion had
been humanitarian, and not simply trying to avoid a possible political flap, he would have
stopped it regardless of her nationality.22

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...23

The next two pages were completely redacted.

El Salvador

During the counter-insurgency period of the 1980s, there was widespread 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

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."25

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.26


During the US occupation of Panama following its 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,27

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

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.28
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."29

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, I11 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".31

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".32

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.33

CHAPTER 6 : The Unsavories
During the 1980s, there were a number of disclosures of past and present CIA
involvement with torturers, death-squaders, drug traffickers and other types not fit for
American schoolbooks. At some unrecorded moment, a government spinhead came up
with the term "unsavory persons", implying that the government was as much repulsed by
these types as any decent American citizen ought to be.

The media obediently picked up on it. With each new revelation of the CIAs connection
to human rights violations in the company of some despicable people abroad, who were
on the Agency payroll, we were told”and told officially”that the CIA had no choice
but to associate with "unsavory" persons if it wished to obtain certain important
information in foreign countries; information, of course, vital to our "national security".
A new whitewash cliche had been born, which is still very much alive.

Even when the media is critical of the CIA for working with unsavories, there's no
indication that the relationship was ever anything more than paying for information while
holding one's nose.

But it should be clearly understood that these unsavories have not been simply

To the CIA and the US military these men are America's allies on the same side of a civil

US propaganda insists that the side these men are fighting on is the side of freedom and

We champion their cause, for it is our cause as well.

We select certain of them to attend American military schools and we bestow graduation
certificates upon them.

We wine and dine them in the US, we give them gifts, we set them up with prostitutes.

We train them and give them their weapons and uniforms.

We teach them methods of bomb-making, methods of assassina-tion and methods of
interrogation (read torture).

We provide them with information about individuals from the CIA's mammoth
international databases. Some of these individuals then wind up tortured and/or

We cover up their atrocities.

We facilitate and cover up their drug trafficking.
We socialize with them. They are our friends. They have often betrayed their own
country for us.

The money paid to unsavories is of course available to them to finance their vile
purposes. When someone like Qaddafi of Libya does this, it's called "supporting

CIA payments and other support to these unsavories necessarily bring more than
information”they bring influence and control. When one looks at the anti-democratic
and cruelty levels of the recipients, one has to wonder what the CIA's influence was. And
at the same time one has to ask the following question: If the United States must take
sides in a foreign civil war, why must it repeatedly be on the same side as the unsavories?

Other unsavory skeletons in Washington's closet

In the post-World War II period, US foreign policy embraced many other unsavories”
"former" Nazis (including war criminals like Klaus Barbie), Italian fascists, Japanese
enemy armed forces, Japanese scientists who had carried out terrible experiments on
prisoners, including Americans, and many thousands of others who had collaborated with
these individuals during the war. In many parts of Europe and Asia, collaborators with
the enemy were publicly disgraced, imprisoned, and/or executed by the post-war
governments or citizens' groups. But in China, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, Korea,


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