Behind the front lines of every war in the world, prisoners are forced to sit for interrogation: manipulated, coerced, and sometimes tortured – often without ever being touched. Brainwash is a history of the methods intended to destroy and reconstruct the minds of captives, to extract information, convert dissidents, and lead peaceful men to kill and be killed.
With access to formerly classified documentation and interviews from the CIA, U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and British Intelligence Corps, Dominic Streatfeild traces the evolution of mind control from its origins in the Cold War to the height of today”s war on terror. Vivid and disturbing, Brainwash is essential insight into the modern practice of interrogation and torture.
Short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize, 2007.
The moment I read John Marks’ The Search for the Manchurian Candidate in the mid-1990s I was hooked. Originally I read the book with a view to making a documentary series about the CIA and brainwashing techniques. Nobody in the UK wanted it, so a pile of research notes sat in a folder for a decade.
When, after Cocaine came out, I was asked what I wanted to write about next, brainwashing popped up. I rang Marks and asked him what he thought about the idea of another book: I didn’t want to rewrite The Search for the Manchurian Candidate if there wasn’t anything new to say. He kindly suggested that there was likely to be a wealth of new material – then pointed me in the direction of Northern Ireland and sensory deprivation. I did a little research. Sure enough, new material poured out.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the research was indeed the Northern Ireland issue. I contacted various sources in the British intelligence community who – forty years down the line – were willing to share their recollections of what had happened, and why, during Internment in 1971. I interviewed as many as I could find and wrote the chapter on the origins of the ‘5 techniques’ (wall standing, hooding, sleep deprivation, food/water deprivation and white noise), convinced that I was onto a real scoop.
Then news of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay broke – and the story was all over the front pages. The book was still years away from publication.
I suppose I was lucky, in a way: if I’d tried to look into the issues after the headlines, I would have got nowhere. Virtually all of the sources I’d spoken to shut up, or vanished, or both.
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton (2007)
An extraordinary book. Andrew Marr, Start the Week, BBC Radio 4
Gripping – 5 stars. Time Out
Streatfeild does an important service by bringing this curious phase to our attention again. Vivid descriptions of key moments in the story are interspersed with analysis. Christopher Sylvesters, Financial Times
Marvellously engrossing . . . Streatfield’s narrative control cannot be faulted. You know where every story is going, but how it gets there is always a thrill. His research is formidable. Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times
A valuable treatment of a historical and contemporary topic. Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency
An expansive and mutifaceted exploration of brainwashing in its multitude of forms. Booklist.