Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

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Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

Postby Joao » Thu Aug 27, 2015 2:48 pm

This is a working thread for my effort at digitizing and machine-translating the following:
The Operative Psychology of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR
[Original title: Die Operative Psychologie des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit der DDR]

by Holger Richter
First published 2001

Holger Richter has systematically studied the Operative Psychology of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR (MfS, aka the Stasi) and the scientific results of its Department of Operative Psychology. The book gives a brief outline of the story, the characters, and a content analysis of the most important documents of the Operative Psychology. It will answer the question of the extent to which Operative Psychology was actually a "scientific" psychology. Operative Psychology is compared to the official GDR psychology of the time. A chapter on the language of the Stasi characterizes the particular psychological functions and contributes to understanding of the texts discussed. Nearly 40,000 pages of Stasi files and documents from the Law Institute of the Stasi in Potsdam-Eiche found their way into this work.

It's a labor intensive and time consuming process to clean up the scanned text in preparation for feeding to translation software. And the output from computer translation will still be rough and sometimes flawed, but should be readily comprehensible to those with sufficient interest. (I can't find anything substantive on Operative Psychology in English already.) I do plan to do some editing/clean-up of the translation, as well, but probably only for selected sections.

I'll attempt to post the raw scan of the original German text here, but it's nearly 20MB and may not be accepted by the RI board software. [Edit: Looks like it ain't happening.] The translation will go on scribd or another suitable location when finished.

Next post will be the TOC in an effort to keep at least my own interest piqued. If there's interest from others, I may make periodic updates with other chapters/sections. And if anyone feels like helping, I'd be happy to figure out a way to work together.
Last edited by Joao on Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Stasi Operational Psychology (machine translation)

Postby Joao » Thu Aug 27, 2015 2:50 pm


1. Introduction

2. The present study

3. Operative Psychology in current affairs

3.1. State of research and literature
3.2. Language and Stasi
3.3. The tasks of Operative Psychology in self-understanding of the Stasi
3.4. History, development and structure of Operative Psychology within the Stasi
  • The Ministry for State Security
  • Development of the Law Institute Potsdam (JHS) to 1965
  • The professionalization of training at the JHS after 1965
  • The curriculum at the JHS
  • The financial statements at the JHS
  • Chair II: “Operative Psychology” -- development of the Chair and content
3.5. For staffing structure of the Department of Operative Psychology
3.6. Psychologists working elsewhere in the Stasi as full-time employees

4. The surviving documents of Operative Psychology
4.1. Descriptive statistical analysis
4.1.1. Dissertations with psychological content
4.1.2. Theses with psychological content
  • Psychological theses which made writing the Stasi at other universities
  • Psychological diploma theses at the University of Stasi (JHS)
4.1.3. Training booklets of JHS with psychological content
4.1.4. Comparison of different types of documents of Operative Psychology
  • Comparison of Objectives and main content of Operative Psychology of the various documents
  • Period comparisons of all documents
  • To assess the singularity of Operative Psychology
4.1.5. Literature Statistical comparison of documents of Operative Psychology with which the academic psychology of the GDR
4.1.6. Statistical analyzes language
4.2. Basic positions of Operative Psychology
4.2.1. Marxism / Leninism
4.2.2. Essence of psychological and underlying psychological theories in Operative Psychology
4.2.3. People picture

5. Reflection of the objectives of Operative Psychology in the documents of the JHS
5.1. Mediation of psychological foundations
  • Ratio of psychology and Stasi Fundamentals of General Psychology
  • Personality Psychological Basics
  • Social Psychological Basics
5.2. "Enemy processing"
  • Theoretical work on enemies and their "processing"
  • Decomposition methods: The practical side of Operative Psychology
  • Trust and relations with enemies
  • Custody
  • Legend
  • Kompromat
5.3. Professional staff - cadre work
  • Ideological demands
  • Personality requirements
  • Skills of cadres
  • The investigator
5.4. IM work
  • Requirements for IM
  • Advertising by IM
  • Designs from IM
  • Trust and relationships
  • IM in the "area of operations"
5.5. Bogeyman work and confrontation with enemy ideology

6. To assess the scientific nature of Operative Psychology

7. Summary

8. References

9. Figures and Tables
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Re: Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

Postby Grizzly » Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:05 pm

Important stuff, thank-you.

…the Stasi often used a method which was really diabolic. It was called
Zersetzung, and it's described in another guideline. The word is
difficult to translate because it means originally "biodegradation". But
actually, it's a quite accurate description. The goal was to destroy
secretly the self-confidence of people, for example by damaging their
reputation, by organizing failures in their work, and by destroying
their personal relationships. Considering this, East Germany was a very
modern dictatorship. The Stasi didn't try to arrest every dissident. It
preferred to paralyze them, and it could do so because it had access to
so much personal information and to so many institutions.
—Hubertus Knabe, German historian [28]

- here we are...
If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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Re: Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

Postby Joao » Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:22 pm

Thanks for the comment and addition, Grizzly.

I posted a 5 minute video with excerpts from the Stasi "Dictionary of Political-Operative Work" (Das Wörterbuch der Staatssicherheit: Definitionen zur politisch-operativen Arbeit) in the Organised Stalking thread. It includes some info on zersetzung.

Regarding my OP in this thread, the work is extremely tedious. Not making much progress at the moment...
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Re: Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

Postby American Dream » Tue Jul 31, 2018 5:49 pm

This is not a continuation of the machine translation project but I am posting it here- both to bump the thread and because this material fits here well: ... jhbs.21885

From Hohenschönhausen to Guantanamo Bay: Psychology's role in the secret services of the GDR and the United States
Moritz Michels Martin Wieser
First published: 15 December 2017

In the last four years of the GDR, about 20,000 to 25,000 people were targets of “operative procedures” by the Ministry of State Security (Eisenfeld, 1995). In total, the Ministry of State Security created about six million dossiers, varying considerably in size and detail. Not every critical word against the socialist party or its leaders provoked reactions by the Ministry of State Security. Minor expressions of dissatisfaction were usually hushed by working colleagues or superiors, friends, fellow students, and family members, who feared getting into trouble if they were associated with “enemies” of the system. What usually attracted the attention of the Stasi were actions aimed at gaining public attention (e.g., calling for protests, raising critical banners at political events or military parades, printing flyers, writing protest slogans at public places, contacting journalists from the West, etc.), attempts to form groups that were organized independent of governmental organizations (e.g., groups for “peace,” “women's rights,” “civil rights,” or “environment protection,” names that were usually chosen to appear to be in line with official ideals of the socialist party) or attempts to flee to the West. In the end, even the Stasi could not prevent the opposition from growing into a mass movement in the late 1980s. Hundreds of thousands joined the “Monday demonstrations” in late 1989 in all major cities of the GDR, gatherings that initiated the peaceful revolution and the withdrawal of Eric Honecker in October 1989. “We are the people!” became the most famous chant of the protesters, but another shout was also often heard: “Stasi out!” Citizens of the GDR knew very well who their biggest enemy was. What they did not know is that the weapons that were used against them were not just forged by politicians and Stasi officers, but also by trained psychologists. OP provided the Stasi with knowledge about three crucial levels of intelligence work, each discussed in the following: how to recruit and maintain a stable, “trust‐like” relation with civil informants, how to “disintegrate” dissidents and oppositional groups, and how to implement psychological techniques into interrogation.

Despite its enormous size, the Stasi could not have conducted the systematic observation of 16 million citizens by itself. An army of civil informants provided the secret service with inside information. The expression used by the Stasi—“inoffizieller Mitarbeiter” (“unofficial collaborator” or “IM”)—actually comes closer to the real purpose of their deployment: IM not only provided the Stasi with personal background information about suspects, in many cases they actively collaborated with them. IM often actively intervened under the secret guidance of a Stasi officer, for example, by instigating quarrels and rivalries between members of a “hostile” group to render their oppositional activities useless or by searching through private belongings of suspected dissidents.

Under the reign of Honecker, the number of IM almost doubled from 100,000 in 1967 to about 200,000 in 1975 and from then on stabilized at around 175,000 until the end of the GDR (Müller‐Enbergs, 2008, p. 36). However, it has to be emphasized that levels of collaboration varied widely, from a one‐time brief contact, up to a life‐long cooperation. Only 10–16 percent of these informants were women, and about six percent of IM were minors (Pingel‐Schliemann, 2004, p. 152). The Ministry of State Security distinguished between seven different categories of IM, such as “IM with enemy contact” (i.e., citizens who had a close relationship to dissidents or were members of an opposition group) or “IM for special tasks” (i.e., foremen or managers with influential positions at the working place of a suspect) and invested an enormous amount of time and resources to maintain a working collaboration with IM that appeared useful to them.

Cooperating with the Stasi, unsurprisingly, was frowned upon in the general public. Often, means of pressure or seduction had to be seized to urge persons to talk about the most intimate details of friends, family members, or working colleagues—and OP helped to analyze, systematize, and disseminate knowledge about these means: an estimated 600 diploma theses were concerned with the profiling and “winning” of IM (Förster, 1998). A dissertation thesis written at the Juridical Academy in 1973 became the standard manual on how to “win” an IM by proposing a series of steps that needed to be taken (Korth, Scharbert, & Jonak, 1973): At first, the manual proposed, a profile of the personality of the potential IM has to be prepared, analyzing the biography, education, relations within the family and the inner circle of friends (with a special focus on rivalries and/or close emotional bonding), as well as political attitudes and personal interests (like hobbies, literature preferences, etc.). In the second step, the motives and needs of the potential IM are analyzed, addressing the following questions: What are his or her interests, what is import to him or her? What does the person desire (e.g., going to the university, moving to a different city, getting a new job or car, etc.) or wants to get rid of (e.g., rivals, problems with the police, etc.)? Third, information had be searched for which could be used to compromise the person (e.g., a secret affair, debts, addiction, former crimes, a connection to the former Nazi regime, etc.). The fourth and last step consisted in working out a detailed plan on when, how, and where the person should be approached (including several instructions on what to wear and how to make a positive and friendly impression) and how to convince him or her of the advantages of cooperating with the Stasi.

IM were not chosen randomly: often, Stasi agents created a profile of an IM that was searched for (including age, gender, education, etc.) to infiltrate a dissident group. Recruitment phases for IM varied considerably in length: some were only approached once or twice, others were repeatedly contacted by the Stasi over many years. The most important personality traits, according to proponents of OP, for a good informant are his or her “adaptability” in different situations, “willingness to make sacrifices,” and a “clear image of the enemy” (i.e., an identification with socialist ideology and hatred toward capitalism, cf. Pingel‐Schliemann, 2004, pp. 166–179). Many citizens refused to collaborate with the Stasi even under severe pressure. Some, however, provided such useful information that they were highly rewarded by the secret service, by way of facilitating university admission, helping to secure a new home, job, or car, or simply money (Müller‐Enbergs, 2008). Some IM who proved to be extraordinarily useful even gave up their jobs and relationships to work full‐time as IM (“Hauptamtlicher inoffizieller Mitarbeiter” or “HIM”). Usually these HIM were working “under legend,” meaning that they operated under false flag during their investigation or even got a completely new identity by the Stasi. Some HIM were also operating in the West to gather inside information from influential circles (such as Günter Guillaume, who was an assistant of the West German chancellor Willy Brandt in the early 1970s). Most IM, however, lived inside the GDR, spying on their neighbors, coworkers, friends, or family members under the guidance of the Stasi.

As soon as information gathered by Stasi agents or IM confirmed the suspicion that a person or a group was planning oppositional activities, a plan for an “operative procedure” was elaborated. As the apparatus of the Stasi grew extensively from the 1970s on, party leaders did not control or oversee all the actions of the Stasi. Which measures were taken or how far these would go depended very much on the assessment of the agents working at the regional administration and their perception of whether a citizen's activities posed a threat to the political system. Although several “operative guidelines” existed on how to intervene, the actions that could be taken needed to be worked out in detail beforehand. Again, psychologists offered guidance on how to use psychological means in this context: “Disintegration” (Zersetzung) was the umbrella term for an extensive list of techniques that had one thing in common: stopping people from organizing oppositional activities by forcing them to turn toward their private problems (which, in many cases, were created, or at least intensified, by the Stasi). “Disintegration,” in the language of the Stasi, subsumed all methods of the Ministry of State Security by which

… hostile‐negative persons, especially their hostile‐negative attitudes and convictions, are influenced through various political‐operative acts in a way that they are corroded and gradually transformed over time… the main objective of disintegration is the fragmentation, paralysis, disorganization and isolation of hostile‐negative forces…acts of disintegration are mainly performed by the IM. (BStU, 1993, p. 464)

Note that physical punishment is not mentioned here: “disintegrating” weapons were supposed to be silent, invisible, and leave not traces on the bodies of the “hostile‐negative” victims. This is also why IM played such an important role as performers of “disintegration”: Even if the victims would find out who was responsible for the sudden accumulation of problems in their lives, they could not prove that it was the Stasi that was pulling the strings. So, what did the psychological practice of “disintegration” look like? In the following, we offer selected examples of the wide variety of these psychological techniques of repression.

One of the most frequently used techniques of disintegration was the “orchestration of failure” in school, at the university, or at the working place. A teenager who was publicly arguing against the armament of the Soviet Union was threatened to be kicked out of school and being excluded from matriculation to the university. The Stasi did not approach him directly, but acquired two IM from his school class to gather information. Subsequently, the Stasi pressured his father (via the school administration) to discipline his son, who would be kicked out of school if he did not change his behavior (Pingel‐Schliemman, 2004, pp. 215–216). Students who congregated to discuss political issues were often expelled from the university—one of the most famous examples was the writer Jürgen Fuchs, who was a student of psychology at the University of Jena during the 1970s and experienced massive pressure during interrogation after he was kicked out of the university (Fuchs, 1978). At the working place, IM in higher positions were often employed by the Stasi to observe and discipline their subordinates. Politically active citizens who owned small businesses were repeatedly bothered by unannounced inspections regarding hygiene, fire safety, or construction measures, threatening their economic survival. Since the Stasi had influential collaborators in many production facilities, its intervention could massively decrease the chances for getting a new job. Additionally, being unemployed for a longer period of time could result in criminal prosecution, so the pressure of losing one's job was immensely high in the GDR.

Another technique of “disintegration” that was frequently applied was the anonymous dissemination of false rumors. As churches were one of the few places where people could gather outside of governmental institutions, false rumors about priests and members of the church congregation who discussed political matters were often spread within the church. Anonymous letters and falsified images were sent to members of the community, accusing them of “immoral behavior” such as adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, or collaboration with the Stasi. This method also proved very effective for the “disintegration” of groups, since defamations and the instigation of rivalries often led to quarrels and mutual accusations (Pingel‐Schliemman, 2004, p. 227). This is exactly what the Stasi aimed to do: turn dissidents against one another instead of uniting against the political system. Marriages and love relationships of dissidents were attacked by spreading rumors of affairs, sending fake love letters, or using IM to seduce one of them (and use photographs of their meetings as compromising material later on).

Legal measures were also used to put pressure on targets of “operative procedures.” From the perspective of the victims, however, often there was no recognizable connection between personal problems and their political activities. Denial of emigration to other communist countries, revocation of their driving license or passport, or the calling up for military service were used as means by the Stasi to decrease the mobility of dissidents or remove them from their social network. In some cases, the Stasi even faked circumstantial evidence that led to accusations of theft, child predation, or tax evasion. In doing so, the Stasi collaborated with law enforcement members of the court, including lawyers and judges. This network of observation and punishment was described as “structural violence” (Sälter, 2011), because the decision of the court often directly followed the charges that were pressed against the defendants, who had very little chances to defend themselves.

Many other examples of disintegration could be named, such as anonymous telephone harassment at day and night, publication of false advertisements for used goods (so strangers would constantly ring at the door and ask for these), or a constant open surveillance of the dissident's house, including a forced confrontation and registration of everybody who goes in and out, to scare away friends and family of the victim (cf. Pingel‐Schlimann, 2004). All of these examples offer a glimpse into the vast network of psychological terror that was constructed—with devastating consequences and immense psychological suffering for citizens of the GDR who expressed their desire for change within their society. “It was,” as one psychotherapist who worked with victims of the persecution of the Stasi argued, “the orchestration of what appeared as random occurrences and unbelievable connections which made the victims doubt their own mind and destroy trust in their peers…so they became afraid of losing their mind” (Pross, 2002, p. 274). Psychologists supported the enhancement of these techniques—but they also helped to develop means for cases where mere “disintegration” was not enough.

A dissertation thesis from 1986, authored by four agents of the Ministry of State Security, analyzed the “utilization of results of the Marxist‐Leninist psychology” for the foundation of a “scientifically proven method of interrogation” (Zank, Lorenz, Donner, & Rauch, 1986) by summarizing the research that had been done at the Juridical Academy in the years before. Based on the concept of a “motivational process of psychical reflection,” which supposedly determined the outcome of an interrogation, the authors described different means to “motivate” the interrogated person to make a testimony. On the level of “recognition,” the suspect should be left in the dark about the reasons behind their arrest, which kind of information is really wanted from them, or where exactly they were held in prison. Analyzing the “striving” of the person also represented an important aspect, as it was supposed to uncover hidden ambivalences within the person and result in an understanding that only a true testimony could help them to get out again. The information given to the detainee should be selected and formulated strictly according to his or her “evaluation” of needs and ideals. Unpleasant accusations should be expressed by a third person (so that the interrogator appears as the “good cop”). Altogether, the interrogator should appear as a friendly, empathic, and open‐minded person, so that the victim feels relieved to speak to somebody who seems to “understand” him or her after a long period of solitary confinement. While the authors emphasize that the use of physical violence (or threatening to use it) is forbidden by law, they extensively analyze communicative strategies that would increase the chance of testimony (e.g., adjusting the complexity in language to the educational level of the detainee, avoiding direct confrontation, shouting, or arrogant behavior, etc.). The interrogated person should always have the impression that he or she still has some control of the conversation, that his or her counterpart can be trusted and that—under the given circumstances—it is wiser to talk than to remain silent.

Reports such as the “interrogation protocols” by Jürgen Fuchs (1978), who was imprisoned and interrogated by the Stasi in the high‐security prison in Berlin‐Hohenschönhausen for nine months, tell the staggering story of the psychological traumas that were inflicted to the victims of these methods. Not knowing where they are, what they were accused of, wearing uncomfortable jail uniforms, not being allowed to talk to friends, family, or other inmates, facing severe emotional, social, and sensory deprivation, not having access to anything to read or write for months—all of these circumstances often lead to a life‐long traumatization and suffering (Dümmel & Piepenschneider, 2014; Maercker, Gäbler & Schützwohl, 2012; Sälter, 2011). Many victims experienced a chronic “diffusion of reality” (Morawe, 2000–2001), suffering from sudden panic attacks, nightmares, psychosomatic symptoms (Priebe, Rudolf, Bauer, & Hering, 1993) and reoccurring doubts whether or not they were still being overheard or persecuted, even long after the GDR had ceased to exist. A psychoanalyst and victim of political persecution in the GDR described his experiences as follows:

Your pride is taken, and full of shame and guilt you're sitting in your dull cell. At the beginning, it is the worst. The persecuting objects can become so overpowering that a psychosis can develop… The importance of persecuting objects becomes so central and frightening that they lead to paranoia. (Bomberg, 2012, p. 182)

In some cases, even in the 1970s and 1980s, physical violence was used during interrogations. Stasi agents often did not follow the advices that were given to them by their psychological colleagues (Sälter, 2011). However, psychologists did not give their advice to make interrogation and imprisonment more humane by fighting against physical violence: they conducted their research on interrogation techniques to render them more effective. Psychological trauma and paranoia were not unwanted side effects of techniques of disintegration—they represented their most frightening inner core:

The smashing of the inner reality, the attempt to change all values and the transformation of perception were not a side effect and not an isolated phenomenon. They were intended and were part of a systematic plan of the security agencies of the GDR. (Morawe, 2000–2001, p. 395)

In the concluding section of this paper, we will come back to the issue of morality and effectiveness, as it also played a key role when psychologists tried to defend their actions after the fall of the GDR. From this point, we want to follow a hint that was given by one psychotherapist who worked with victims of torture in the GDR after its collapse:

We have reason to fear that the techniques of the Stasi might be a model for the future, because through the increasing attention of the public and the strengthening of the movement for human rights, perpetrators prefer to use methods which do not leave behind any visible traces… and are very hard to prove. (Pross, 2002, p. 272)

If this warning is to be taken seriously, then it might be worthwhile to take a look at the other side of the iron curtain and beyond to find out to what extent psychological knowledge has indeed become one major weapon against political enemies after the fall of the GDR, and how different historical and political contexts shaped these psychological weapons.

It is no secret that psychological torture did not end in 1989, as it was not just used in the GDR as means to increase the effectiveness of intelligence services. There is a long tradition of implementing psychological knowledge by U.S. intelligence services—specifically in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in 2001, the U.S. government started a highly controversial “interrogation” program in the course of the so‐called “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT). This program called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (EIT) included the use of stress positions, sensory and social deprivation, sleep deprivation, loud music, light slaps, mock executions, waterboarding, and many other procedures (International Committee of the Red Cross, 2007; Mausfeld, 2009; U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2014).

After the military invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the U.S. military and the CIA began to kidnap suspected terrorists and deport them to secret “black sites,” that is, secret prison facilities that were located outside of U.S. territory, many of them located in Europe or the Middle East. The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on Cuba became the most famous of these, as the EIT were initially designed specifically for that location. Later on, these techniques were also implemented at the Bagram Air base in Afghanistan and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The U.S. government needed some juridical support to legally support the EIT, since torture was forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. The United Nations Convention against Torture, which came into force in 1987 and was ratified by 161 states, including the United States (and the GDR), defines “torture” as follows:

…the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions. (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1987)

Since this definition includes “mental pain or suffering,” psychological torture is explicitly banned by international law. But the Bush administration bypassed this ban with a complex legal strategy. Immediately after the attacks of the 11th of September, Vice President Richard Cheney´s staff initiated a change of the juridical status of terrorists. Terrorism was not a matter of criminal law anymore; it was now interpreted as an “act of war.” Simultaneously, the GWOT was defined as a new kind of “war” in a memorandum by Alberto R. Gonzalez, a legal advisor to the administration, from January 25, 2002. Consequently, the Geneva Convention would not apply to acts connected to GWOT. In line with this argumentation, the Military Commissions Act from September 28, 2006 defined terrorists as “unlawful enemy combatants”—individuals who were not defined as “prisoners of war” according to the Geneva Conventions.

However, torture was still forbidden by law in the United States, so the government had to define the EIT as something else. Therefore, a different definition of “torture” than the one used by the United Nations was applied. According to a memorandum by Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice, torture is not

…the mere infliction of pain or suffering on another, but is instead a step well removed. The victim must experience intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result. If that pain or suffering is psychological, that suffering must […] cause long‐term mental harm.” (Bybee, 2002)

In comparison to the definition applied by the UN, Bybee's definition is much narrower: physical pain now has to be “intense,” “serious,” and “severe” on a life‐threating level, and psychological pain needs to result in “long‐term mental harm.” By this definition, the category of torture did not apply to EIT. Even if they might be interpreted as “inhumane” or “degrading” treatments—which were explicitly banned by the UN—this argument would have been irrelevant because of the detainees’ status as “unlawful enemy combatants.” Furthermore, the EIT were not utilized on U.S. soil but on foreign “black sites”—a legal vacuum.

The EIT did not start from scratch in the United States, as they had a long prehistory within the CIA. After World War II, U.S. intelligence services started working with psychologists and psychoanalysts to develop and enhance existing interrogation techniques, “brainwashing” methods and even looked into the application of LSD during interrogation as a “truth serum.” During the cold war, several psychologists, whether they considered themselves “humanist” or “behaviorist,” helped to advance interrogation techniques. A wide network of secret projects was financed by CIA front organizations or the Office of Naval Research, a research facility supported by the U.S. Navy. Eminent psychologists like Hans Jürgen Eysenck, Carl Rogers, Donald O. Hebb, and Burrhus Frederic Skinner received financial support by the CIA for various projects during the 1950s and 1960s (Demanchick & Kirschenbaum, 2007; Mausfeld, 2009; McCoy, 2007; Müller, 2016).

The main objective of these programs was the systematic analysis of sensory deprivation (Mausfeld, 2009), based on the assumption that a continuous absence of sensory impressions is harder to bear than physical pain if administered correctly. During the 1950s, test subjects were systematically blindfolded and put into water tanks under the guidance of Donald Hebb at McGill University (McCoy, 2007). For three hours, subjects could only hear water noises and their own breath. Soon, subjects started to crave for sensory impressions and hallucinated. After leaving the tank, many subjects showed high degrees of disorientation (Lilly & Shurley, 1961). Similar experiments on the psychological effects of solitary confinement were conducted during the 1970s at the University of Hamburg, where a soundproof room named “camera silens” (Pross, 1995) was constructed. The idea behind the interrogation setting was that after being subjected to sensory deprivation, the detainees would feel so relieved that they would talk to anybody, since sensory deprivation included social deprivation.

More than a decade of research on interrogation techniques and psychological torture conducted during the cold war culminated in the CIA´s KUBARK Manual (1963), which became the standard guideline on how to obtain information during interrogations. The manual comprised techniques of deception, disorientation, and stress induction, which were supposed to initiate a process of mental “regression” within the detainee (a strong reference to psychoanalytic concepts is apparent within the KUBARK manual) and clear the way to establish a “positive relationship” between the interrogator and the detainee. After being subjected to sensory deprivation, the manual states, the detainee would be thankful for any kind of social interaction and therefore would be more likely to cooperate. The KUBARK Manual was further elaborated and modified during the following years, resulting in the “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual” (CIA, 1983), a manual that was also forwarded to CIA‐friendly rebel groups in South America during the 1980s.

Many of these projects led to dead ends: The search for a “truth serum” or “brainwashing” methods ultimately failed (Müller, 2016). However, the use of interrogation techniques was revitalized in the GWOT decades later: Pictures of detainees in orange overalls, wearing gloves, masks, safety goggles, and headphones circulated in the international press from 2004 onward, proving the systematic use of psychological techniques to control and put pressure on detainees.

Two psychologists played a key role in the development of EIT: James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Both were former air force psychologist contracted by the CIA. Their company allegedly received 81 million U.S. Dollars for the development of their interrogation program (Mausfeld, 2009; Physicians for Human Rights, 2017). Their techniques were based on research from the 1950s and the SERE program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), a program invented to increase the resilience of U.S. soldiers when they were captured and interrogated by enemies. It is suspected that Mitchell and Jessen “reverse‐engineered” these methods to create a whole set of interrogation techniques that included, among others, stress positioning, wall slamming, sensory and sleep deprivation, cramped confinement, forced nudity, waterboarding (Bradbury,2005; Mausfeld, 2009). On May 17, 2002, Martin Seligman—former American Psychological Association (APA) president and leading figure of the movement of “Positive Psychology”—presented his theory of learned helplessness at the Navy SERE School in San Diego (Hoffman et al., 2015, p. 127) after he had repeatedly met with James Mitchell and Kirk Hubbard, chief of research and analysis of the CIA's Operational Division. One key component of Seligman's theory states that a chronic experience of being unable to avoid pain (e.g., by escaping or modifying the environment) can result in a generalized pattern of negative attribution that may result in depression (Seligman, 1975). Soon after talking to Seligman, Mitchell, and Jessen designed a “dog box”—a small box that forced detainees into the same “helpless” position that Seligman's dogs were in. Seligman denied having any knowledge about the use of his theory for torture (cf. Seligman & Shaw, 2016; Shaw, 2016), but an independent report requested by the APA came to the conclusion that “it would have been difficult not to suspect that one reason for the CIA's interest in learned helplessness was to consider how it could be used in the interrogation of others” (Hoffman et al., 2015, p. 49, cf. Physicians for Human Rights, 2017, p. 12).

The role of the APA during that time is remarkable. The APA ethics code explicitly prohibited its members to take part in interrogations that use torture or to take part in the development of such techniques. But when it became apparent that psychologists contributed to the development of EIT, the APA stated that while it condemned torture, sometimes psychologists needed to weigh their responsibilities for individual health and the dangers for society (APA, 2005). If the conflict cannot be solved, they were advised to follow the law. Additionally, the APA followed the U.S. Department of Justice in their narrow definition of torture (Hoffman et al., 2015; Mausfeld, 2009). Thereby, the APA indirectly supported the Bush administration by declaring that the EIT were not torture. Toward the end of the Bush administration, when its collaboration with the CIA had become public, the APA condemned the use of EIT (Kazdin, 2008) and commissioned an independent investigation on the collusion between the APA and the CIA (Hoffman et al., 2015; cf. Aalbers & Teo, 2017).

Another highly controversial topic is the question whether or not psychological torture represents effective means for gathering intelligence. Officials have repeatedly claimed that the information obtained by the EIT helped preventing terrorist attacks or catching terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden (McGreal, 2011), while critics argued that information gathered under torture is useless since victims are likely to say anything just to make the torturer stop. It is known that interrogation with high psychological pressure increases the likelihood of false testimonies (Volbert, 2013) and memory impairment (Moreno & Grodin, 2002). A recent report suggests that the CIA systematically gathered empirical data on the efficacy of various parts of the EIT and how their application could be generalized with support of psychologists, physicians of the CIA's Office of Medical Services, and other health professionals, which would represent a clear violation of the prohibition of experimenting on human subject without their consent, forbidden by the Common Rule of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulation (Physicians for Human Rights, 2017). Up to the present day, there is no proof that torture represents a reliable instrument to gather information. Unsurprisingly, there is very little publicly accessible research on this topic. One important exception is the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture (2014). As of today, this report represents the most extensive critical evaluation of the efficacy of a torture program. Two conclusions of this report are of special interest within this context: first, the CIA's use of the EIT was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees. Many of the detainees fabricated false information after being exposed to the EIT, which actually made the search for valid information even harder. Second, the CIA's justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was based on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness. The CIA claimed to have prevented several terrorist operations with the help of EIT information, while in fact almost all of the useful information was obtained from other sources (U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2014, p. 3–4).

It should be kept in mind that the report was not authored by an independent committee but by the U.S. Senate, a political institution that was strongly involved in the GWOT. Still all of the evidence presented in the report indicates that the use of psychological torture was not an effective means to gather information. Even from the standpoint of the Bush administration, the implementation of psychological torture did more harm than good. When we take a look at the images of U.S. soldiers, posturing and grinning besides naked and blindfolded prisoners in Abu Ghraib circulated widely through the press in 2004, it seems likely that the function of the EIT as a weapon within the GWOT went beyond efficacy. There might be another reason for the introduction of torture besides the gathering of information: while it might not be an effective instrument to obtain intelligence, psychological torture definitely represents an effective instrument to humiliate defenseless victims. ... jhbs.21885
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Re: Stasi Operative Psychology (machine translation)

Postby Grizzly » Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:44 pm

While this is up, I'll add, everyone should watch this chilling film/story:


The Lives of Others is a 2006 German drama film, marking the feature film debut of filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, about the monitoring of East Berlin residents by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret ...
If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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