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Yale University to Train U.S. Special Forces in Interrogation Techniques by Practicing on Immigrants

The Department of Defense and Yale University have partnered up to train U.S. soldiers in the art of interrogation techniques with the local immigrant community acting as test subjects, reports the Yale Daily News.

As early as this April, Yale plans to welcome a training center for interrogators to its campus.

The center’s primary goal would be to coach U.S. Special Forces on interviewing tactics designed to detect lies. Charles Morgan III, a professor of psychiatry who will head the project, calls these tactics “people skills.” These techniques would be honed using New Haven’s immigrant community as subjects. Morgan hopes that by having soldiers practice their newly acquired techniques on “someone they can’t necessarily identify with” (read: someone who is not white), they’ll be better prepared to do ‘the real thing’ abroad.

The authors of the article, Nathalie Batraville and Alex Law, provide many reasons for why this training center is a terrible idea, one of which includes a lack of transparency. Apparently, students didn’t learn about the new program until now, just two months before the center opens. As Batraville and Law point out:

There was no conversation with the city about how this might impact its immigrant community. There was no conversation with students and faculty about how it might impact campus culture. And there was no conversation at all about the ethics of a project like this. It’s hard to understand where this project came from; the university’s motivations are wholly opaque.

They also argue that Yale could be indirectly involving itself in immoral practices by training soldiers whose skills could be used to, for example, determine whose name is added to President Obama’s kill list.

Most importantly, the authors offer some insight into the racist aspect of this program:

Morgan’s research and, by extension, this proposed center target people of color — brown people exclusively. According to a Yale Herald article, Morgan listed “Moroccans, Columbians, Nepalese, Ecuadorians and others.” Is there an assumption in Morgan’s desire to use more ‘authentic,’ brown interviewees as test subjects, that brown people lie differently from whites — and even more insidiously, that all brown people must belong to the same “category” of liar?

How might training on lie detection be perceived if it targeted blacks, or if it aimed to answer the question, “How do Jews lie?” That Morgan’s test subjects are compensated does not resolve the ethical questions his project raises. In fact, their participation highlights the structural inequality that this research capitalizes on and that the center would ultimately exploit.

As Nathalie was working on this piece, her phone rang. At the other end of the line was her 7-year-old nephew Rocco, who wanted to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day and send her many loud kisses. He now lives in Montreal, where Nathalie is from, but until about a year ago, he lived in Haiti.

The U.S.’ involvement in Haiti, from its occupation between 1915 and 1934 to its support — financial, logistical (and “moral”) — of François and later Jean-Claude Duvalier’s brutal dictatorships in the 60s and 70s, informs much of her outrage surrounding the establishment of this center, and her understanding that people often lie to protect their lives, their families, their country and the very freedom that Americans so dearly cherish.

Well said! But even without the the sickening immigrants-as-test-subjects aspect, the training center is still unsettling because it further solidifies the unholy alliance between physicians and the US war machine given that a professor of psychiatry is running the project. This should come as no surprise since we mostly ignored revelations that psychologists and medical doctors helped run the torture program at Guantanamo Bay (look forward, not backward!).

So congratulations Yale! You officially suck! Fortunately not all of your students do and they’re making noise about this program. Anybody interested following their lead should add their name to this petition.

UPDATE: Investigate journalist and friend Steve Horn tells me he’s not at all surprised about Yale’s latest project given the university’s involvement in the Grand Strategy Programs (GSP), which Horn and Allen Ruff reported on in 2011 for Truthout.

A matrix of closely tied university-based strategic studies ventures, the so-called Grand Strategy Programs (GSP), have cropped up on a number of elite campuses around the country, where they function to serve the national security warfare state.

In tandem with allied institutes and think tanks across the country, these programs, centered at Yale University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, Temple University and, until recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, illustrate the increasingly influential role of a new breed of warrior academics in the post-9/11 United States. The network marks the ascent and influence of what might be called the “Long War University.”

Ostensibly created to train an up-and-coming elite to see a global “big picture,” this grand strategy network has brought together scores of foreign policy wonks heavily invested – literally and figuratively – in an unending quest to maintain US global supremacy, a campaign which they increasingly refer to as the Long War.

This is the first I’ve heard of this program and I’m appalled (and super creeped out). I highly recommend reading the entire piece as well as the follow-up report here.

  1. Red Slider #

    boy, doesn’t this have deja vu echoes of the ‘Chicago School’-APA-Torture training connections that Naomi Klein reported out in “Shock Doctrine”? I wonder how deep the APA has its hand in this little pile of noodles? btw: does anyone know if the APA ever came out and clearly condemned the practice of any of their members being involved in anything that even smelled like coercive mental or physical interrogation. I know the American Psychiatric Assn. did (And I wonder about this “professor of psychiatry” and whether he’s crossed a few lines of his own association memberships?) — do we never learn?

    February 18, 2013
  2. Red Slider #

    ps: it also indicates to me that the phoney right-wing, private university structure (Liberty U., etc.) feels they have put enough of their graduates (infiltrators) into university positions across the country, that they are emboldened to begin chipping away at the integrity of our universities, making associations with “national security” systems, etc. Follow the dollar on this one folks. Taking over the broad liberal education programs of American Universities (public and private) has been a long-time agenda of the right-wing. We may be witnessing the next generation of that agenda.

    February 18, 2013
  3. charles morgan #

    If only you had contacted me to ask if there was any truth to what you have reported. I found it highly inaccurate, irresponsible and unprofessional. there are no plans for a center for training interrogation skills, there is no center that will train interrogators; there is no center that will have anything at all to do with what you imply. if you actually have an interest in truthful and honest reporting you are welcome to come and speak to me; I have spent the last 23 years working in the field of trauma and stress studies and working with combat veterans and with active duty soldiers. I am opposed to the terrible interrogation methods we have all learned about in the news from the previous and current administrations. I have no interest nor involvement with any activities that would support or aid interrogation efforts and you are very close to libel by implying this. Your reporting methods and analytical abilities that are demonstrated in this article represent the type of sloppy thinking that we would hope a higher education might help you overcome. I hope you do better in the future, show more integrity as an individual and check your facts before writing. I look forward to hearing from you to make an appointment if facts are what you are interested in obtaining. my email is; Alternatively you might come visit us at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, located at the VA hospital in West Haven.
    CA Morgan III

    February 18, 2013
    • Hello Professor Morgan. Can you please point out what facts about the above post are wrong? Was the Yale Daily News incorrect to report that Yale is opening a training center for interrogators in April headed by you? Was it wrong to suggest that interviewees will be drawn from the nonwhite immigrant community?

      February 18, 2013
      • Why would Professor Morgan choose to comment/criticize your article and not the original story that appeared in the Yale Daily News three days earlier? Welcome to the world of social media Professor Morgan; this is how news gets disseminated.

        February 18, 2013
  4. suspect #

    So is this all false, as well, Dr?

    February 18, 2013
  5. suspect #

    February 18, 2013
  6. Reblogged this on The Nonconformist.

    February 18, 2013
  7. So training military interrogators is a bad thing?

    February 19, 2013
  8. nododatyale #

    Please read this! The post and the blog!!!

    February 20, 2013
  9. Mick #

    You neglect to mention that there is a HUGE population of “non-whites” in the military.

    February 24, 2013
  10. finally i found someone who knows how to provide relevant information on the topic i have been searching for? thanks, at last i can study with pleasure..

    March 5, 2013
  11. Kevin Schmidt #

    Why so surprised?
    Yale churns out more immoral blue bloods than any other school, including Harvard, who runs a close second.

    March 23, 2013
  12. Kevin Schmidt #

    Ha! Ha! Ha! You are soooooooo sarcastic!

    March 23, 2013
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