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Curious Discrepancies in Reports on Sleep Deprivation

On page 30 of the 2004 CIA inspector general report, the CIA’s interrogation guidelines provided for “standard techniques” of interrogation that include, among other things, “sleep deprivation not to exceed 72 hours.” Clearly the CIA must have told John Helgerson, the inspector general, that those were the limits.

Moreover, in Footnote 34, the IG reports that “According to the General Counsel, the period was reduced to 48 hours in December 2003.”

But the Dec. 30, 2004 memo, also released on Monday, this one from the CIA to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel concerning the treatment of high-value detainees at CIA “black sites” says on page 13 that “sleep deprivation may continue to the 70 to 120 hour range, or possibly beyond for the hardest resisters, but in no case exceed the 180-hour time limit.”

So it appears that at some point after the IG report was completed, the CIA increased the permissible number of hours of sleep deprivation from 48, in December 2003, to 180, in 2004. That’s 132 hours more of sleep deprivation than the CIA’s general counsel had allowed.

And we know that it stayed at that much higher level for years afterwards, because the May 10, 2005 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that we’ve previously reported on also approved 180 hours of sleep deprivation. (Remember, this can be accompanied by food deprivation, nakedness, diapering, extreme hot and cold and shackling into stress positions.)

So why the change? How was only 48 hours of sleep deprivation legal in December 2003, but more than three times as long was legal just a year later? Who was changing the rules, and why?

We know that at some point, Jack Goldsmith, hired to head the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in October 2003, withdrew some of the earlier memos authorizing extreme interrogation practices because he worried the memos were “legally flawed.” But then, Goldsmith resigned in June 2004.

Did his resignation open the way for the Justice Department to boost the permissible duration of the sleep deprivation technique back up to 180 hours?

I’ve put in a call to Goldsmith about this, and will report back if I hear anything.

*You can follow TWI on Twitter and Facebook. *

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