Last Updated 27 May 2020

A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror

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The book written by Alfred McCoy (2006) entitled ‘A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror’ speaks of CIA’s process of developing different forms of torture through practice of sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain.

These are done by means of isolation, hooding, manipulation of time, or by means of hours of standing, which was practiced by the U.S. CIA in Vietnam, in Iran, in Central America, and in Southeast Asia.  This, according to McCoy (2006), is not so much a physical torture but a psychological one that, if not improved or reassessed scrupulously, could affect and damage America’s good reputation and respectable global standing.

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Main Body

McCoy (2006) opened his book with the scene by CBS Television of the Abu Ghraib prison that showed “Iraqis naked, hooded, and contorted in humiliating positions while U.S. soldiers stood over them, smiling” (p.5).  According to McCoy (2006),

[T]hese photos are not, in fact, snapshots of simple sadism or a breakdown in military discipline… [but] CIA torture methods that have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half century. (p.5)

With its origin dating back to more than 50 years ago during the Cold War, this type of scenes and incidents promoted political scandals and controversies that reached even to the Bush’s administration of the interrogation policy.

From the 1950 to 1962, CIA’s experiments on the best type of torture landed on psychological torture, or what was also called as the ‘no-touch’ type of torture.  The two new methods that were formulated was the use of ‘sensory disorientation’ and ‘self-inflicted pain’ that made the victim “feel responsible for their suffering and thus capitulate more readily to their torturers” (McCoy, 2006, p.8).

As also indicated, “The fusion of these two techniques, sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain, creates a synergy of physical and psychological trauma whose sum is a hammer-blow to the fundamentals of personal identity” (p.8).  After the year 1963, the no-touch method of torture included methods of ‘unimaginable cruelties’ in the form of physical as well as sexual harassments, such as the scenes at Abu Ghraib.

The use of mind control by the CIA propagates evil torture, which leads to political scandal and ruin.  CIA’s basic purpose, of course, is for defense against foreign threats.  However, for the past 50 years, this type of torture of the America’s CIA reflected political and administrative wreck that tended to worsen as each decade passed.

From the Phoenix program in Vietnam in the early ‘60s, immorality appears to be the basic framework of the American agenda of foreign defense and protection.  There were already incidents like these back in the 1960s; and to witness it alive and kicking until the 21st century is a huge sign that something wrong has been going on with America’s method of extricating criminals.

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A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. (2016, Jun 26). Retrieved from

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