US Government Torture Manuals


The first manual is the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation,” dated July 1963. This is the oldest and most abusive manual and  is the source of much of the material in the second manual. (KUBARK was a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency cryptonym for the CIA itself.)

The second manual, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983,” was used in at least seven U.S. training courses conducted in Latin American countries, including Honduras, between 1982 and 1987. According to a declassified 1989 report prepared for the Senate intelligence committee, the 1983 manual was developed from notes of a CIA interrogation course in Honduras.

Both manuals deal exclusively with interrogation.  Both manuals have an entire chapter devoted to “coercive techniques.” These manuals recommend arresting suspects early in the morning by surprise, blindfolding them, and stripping them naked. Suspects should be held incommunicado and should be deprived of any kind of normal routine in eating and sleeping. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, soundproof, dark and without toilets.

The manuals advise that torture techniques can backfire and that the threat of pain is often more effective than pain itself. The manuals describe coercive techniques to be used “to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist.” These techniques include prolonged constraint, prolonged exertion, extremes of heat, cold, or moisture, deprivation of food or sleep, disrupting routines, solitary confinement, threats of pain, deprivation of sensory stimuli, hypnosis, and use of drugs or placebos.

Between 1984 and 1985, after congressional committees began questioning training techniques being used by the CIA in Latin America, the 1983 manual went through substantial revision. In 1985 a page advising against using coercive techniques was inserted at the front of Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual. Handwritten changes were also introduced haphazardly into the text. For example, “While we do not stress the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them and the proper way to use them,” has been altered to, “While we deplore the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them so that you may avoid them.”  But the entire chapter on coercive techniques is still provided with some items crossed out.

The same manual states the importance of knowing local laws regarding detention but then notes, “Illegal detention always requires prior HQS [headquarters] approval.”

The Human Resource Exploitation Manual and Battalion 316

In 1983, the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983 methods were used by the U.S.-trained Honduran Battalion 316.[7]

On January 24, 1997, KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation and Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983 were declassified in response to a FOIA request filed by the Baltimore Sun in 1994. The Baltimore Sun was investigating the “kidnapping, torture and murder” of the Honduran Battalion 316 death squad. The documents were released only after the Baltimore Sun had threatened to sue the CIA.

In the June 11 to 18, 1995 four-part series, the Baltimore Sun printed excerpts of an interview with Florencio Caballero, a former member of Battalion 316. Caballero said CIA instructors taught him to discover what his prisoners loved and what they hated, “If a person did not like cockroaches, then that person might be more cooperative if there were cockroaches running around the room” The methods taught in the 1983 manual and those used by Battalion 316 in the early 1980s show unmistakable similarities. In 1983, Caballero attended a CIA “human resources exploitation or interrogation course,” according to declassified testimony by Richard Stolz, who was the deputy director for operations at the time, before the June 1988 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The manual advises an interrogator to “manipulate the subject’s environment, to create unpleasant or intolerable situations.”

The manual gives the suggestion that prisoners be deprived of sleep and food, and made to maintain rigid positions, such as standing at attention for long periods. Ines Consuelo Murillo, who spent 78 days in Battalion 316’s secret jails in 1983, said she was given no food or water for days, and one of her captors entered her room every 10 minutes and poured water over her head to keep her from sleeping.

The “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual — 1983” gives the suggestion that interrogators show the prisoner letters from home to give the prisoner the impression that the prisoner’s relatives are in danger or suffering.

The Baltimore Sun reported that, former Battalion 316 member Jose Barrera, who said he was taught interrogation methods by U.S. instructors in 1983, used this technique: “The first thing we would say is that we know your mother, your younger brother. And better you cooperate, because if you don’t, we’re going to bring them in and rape them and torture them and kill them.”

The two manuals were completely declassified and released to the public in May 2004.

KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963 [PDF file]

Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983 [PDF file]


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