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Copper Green is reported by American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh to be one of several code names for a U.S. black ops program, according to an article in the May 24, 2004, issue of The New Yorker. According to Hersh, the task force was formed with the direct approval of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and run by Deputy Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. Hersh claims the special access program members were told “Grab whom you must. Do what you want.” The program allegedly designed physical coercion and sexual humiliation techniques for use against Muslim Arab men specifically, to retrieve information from suspects, and to blackmail them into becoming informants.
According to the article, the sexual humiliation techniques were based on the book, The Arab Mind, written by cultural anthropologist Raphael Patai in 1973. The book claimed to be a “study of Arab culture and psychology”. According to Hersh’s anonymous intelligence source, the Patai book was “the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior”, which gave life to two themes: “One, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation”.
Hersh claims to have spoken to a senior CIA official who said the program was designed by Rumsfeld to wrest control of information from the CIA, and place it in the hands of the Pentagon. According to Hersh’s sources, the program was so successful in Afghanistan, that Cambone decided to introduce the SAP program to operations during 2003 invasion of Iraq, eventually leading to the use of common soldiers instead of using special ops forces exclusively. In Hersh’s view, the program was used on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, leading directly to the prisoner abuse by US soldiers there.
Department of Defense spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita immediately issued a statement about the accusations, referring to them as “outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture”. Senators on Capitol Hill, most notably the former POW John McCain, promised to investigate the reported claims, “regardless of where it leads”.
Copper Green was mentioned in Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer‘s memoir, Operation Dark Heart on page 257: “The interrogation program, called Copper Green, was authorized, but a lot of us felt it wasn’t appropriate and just wasn’t right.” The Pentagon blacked out the words “Copper Green” in the second printing.
- Hersh, Seymour M. (17 May 2004). “The Gray Zone”. The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
- “Pentagon: Hersh report ‘journalist malpractice‘“. edition.cnn.com. May 17, 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
- Di Rita, Lawrence (May 15, 2004). “Statement from DoD Spokesperson Mr. Lawrence Di Rita”. Defense.gov. Archived from the original on May 2, 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
- “Dark Contrast”, September 29, 2010, Federation of American Scientists