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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Diapering, as Observed by the Red Cross

In order to learn more about the mysterious prolonged diapering technique formerly employed by the CIA -- possibly the technique nebulously referred to in the

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Aug 25, 2009

In order to learn more about the mysterious “prolonged diapering” technique formerly employed by the CIA — possibly the technique nebulously referred to in the 2004 inspector general report as an eleventh and previously unacknowledged interrogation method — I turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross’s February 2007 report on the treatment of 14 “high-value detainees” once held in secret CIA prisons. There are numerous references to diapering in the report.

On how detainees were transfered from one secret detention facility to another:

The detainee would be made to wear a diaper and dressed in a tracksuit. … The journey times obviously varied considerably and ranged from one hour to over twenty-four to thirty hours. The detainee was not allowed to go to the toilet and if necessary was obliged to urinate or defecate into the diaper.

That would count as a “standard” technique, according to former CIA Director George Tenet’s January 2003 guidance, as “prolonged diapering” lasted longer than three days.

In a section of the report dealing with so-called “stress positions” — forced bodily contortion used not just for inflicting pain but as a sleep deprivation technique — there’s a section about how some detainees were allowed to defecate in a bucket. Not all were that fortunate.

None of them, however, were allowed to clean themselves afterwards. Others were made to wear a garment that resembled a diaper. This was the case for Mr [Walid] Bin Attash in his fourth place of detention. However, he commented that on several occasions the diaper was not replaced so he had to urinate and defecate on himself while shackled in the prolonged stress standing position. Indeed, in addition to Mr Bin Attash, three other detaineesspecified that they had to defecate and urinate on themselves and remain standing in their own bodily fluids. Of these, only Mr [Mohammed Nazir] Bin Lep agreed that his name be transmitted to the authorities.

That would seem the point of the technique: to compel the psychological stress and physical discomfort caused from forcing a person to wallow in his own human waste for extended periods of time. “[T]he general goal of these techniques is a psychological impact, and not some physical effect, with a specific goal of ‘dislocat[ing] his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive…’,” read the CIA medical office’s Sept. 4, 2003 guidelines on “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Now that I think about it, there’s an element of religious coercion to the diapering as well, as observant Muslims cleanse themselves before they pray.

Then again, it appears that while the diapering may have been continuous, the wallowing-in-filth wasn’t. From Bin Attash’s verbatim account as transcribed by the ICRC:

During the standing I was made to wear a diaper. However, on some occasions the diaper was not replaced and so I had to urinate and defecate over myself. I was washed down with cold water everyday.

How long would this go on for? According to the ICRC:

Prolonged stress standing position, naked, held with the arms extended and chained above the head, as alleged by ten of the fourteen, for periods from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from four detainees that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves.

My emphasis. The account of the diapering being used in conjunction with standing stress positions is corroborated by the nebulous account of the “hard takedown” procedure in the CIA 2004 inspector general’s report:

According to [REDACTED] the hard takedown was used often in interrogations at [REDACTED] as “part of the atmospherics.” For a time it was the standard procedure for moving a detainee to the sleep deprivation cell. It was done for shock and psychological impact and signaled the transition to another phase of the interrogation. The act of putting a detainee into a diaper can cause abrasions if the detainee struggles because the floor of the facility is concrete.

The diapering appears from the ICRC report not to have been frequent enough to merit its own discussion as a separate technique, but that could be fragmentary information.

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Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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