'Deprogramming' Iraqi Detainees

Washington Post/December 24, 2007

By Walter Pincus

Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commanding general in charge of detainee operations in Iraq, is seeking reinforcements from a contractor as he continues to maneuver on what he has called "the battlefield of the mind" and win over the roughly 25,000 Iraqi prisoners under his control.

In a proposal put out for bid Dec. 15, the Joint Contracting Command is seeking a team of professionals, including "teachers, religious and behavioral science counselors," who will "execute a program that effectively reintegrates [into Iraqi society] detainees, particularly those disposed to violent, radical ideology through education and counseling," according to the statement of work.

Part of the program will involve small detainee groups, possibly led by an Iraqi cleric and a behavioral scientist, "undergoing enlightenment, deprogramming and de-radicalization sessions" for six weeks.

At a news conference this month, Stone said he was segregating extremists from more moderate Iraqis being brought in by U.S. troops as potential security threats. Stone has already started voluntary educational and vocational classes for prisoners, plus one on religion with the help of 43 imams. He also instituted a release program for those no longer deemed security risks; it involves signing an oath not to take up arms against coalition forces.

Now, the general is seeking a contractor that will pull together a private group, made up of Americans, third-country nationals and Iraqis, "to provide the management, professional skills, curriculum and evaluation necessary" to take over this operational model.

The team, according to the proposal, must be led by an American with 10 years of experience in leadership and management, and with a security clearance at the "secret" level. It is strongly desirable for this person to have worked with Iraqis or third-country nationals and have five years of experience analyzing Middle Eastern religions, politics and culture. A master's degree in psychology or behavioral science is also desired.

The No. 2 in the group is to be a "lead analyst" who must also be a U.S. citizen, have a secret-level clearance and have management experience. This person must also have five years of background in intelligence gathering and interrogation.

The third person in the leadership team, who could be an Iraqi cleric or a third-country national, must have formal religious education in Islamic jurisprudence and the Koran. This person should be fluent in Iraqi Arabic dialect and have a working knowledge of English.

This person will be the lead trainer/counselor for the deprogramming and de-radicalization efforts. Assisting will be a "psychological enlightenment" specialist who must have a master's degree in behavioral science, speak and read Iraqi Arabic, and have five years of experience related to Middle Eastern radical ideologies. This person must alsointerview "radicalized detainees to collect information about their motivations and pathways to radicalization" in order to "identify openings for change."

Other team members will include a "juvenile psychological enlightenment" specialist with at least a master's in behavioral science who has knowledge of Iraqi Arabic. Also included will be an Iraqi social worker, an Iraqi cleric counselor and six teaching experts -- one to be a supervisor, another to be a "bilingual bicultural advisor" and others to be experienced in art, music and computers.

The team is to provide reports and advice to Stone's aides about "relevant ideological, religious, cultural and education conditions of adult and juvenile detainees," along with "comprehensive individual assessments" that would "enable prudent decision-making on release or continued detention of detainees." One stated goal for the program is creating "a refined program of instruction" that would be something the Iraqi government could "adopt and implement within its detention facilities."

Bids for the three-year program must be submitted by Jan. 8. The contracting agency has capped the cost at $210 million, with a minimum offer of $5 million.

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