THIS SPRING a 12-year dream will be realised when my debut feature documentary, Eminent Monsters: A Manual for Modern Torture, will be shown on BBC Scotland. It charts six decades of Government endorsed psychological torture that began in Montreal in the 1950s, led by Scottish psychiatrist Dr Ewen Cameron.

His CIA and Canadian Government funded experiments into sensory deprivation and sensory overload have since become the gold standard in psychological torture.

Britain would later trial them on its citizens during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, labelling them the Five Techniques. After 9/11 the US Government began using them in Guantanamo and all the black sites under the pseudonym of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Cameron’s tentacles have spread so much that we now can see a direct line from these early experiments in 27 countries – and that isn’t including countries such as Russia and China who most certainly are using them.

My entry into this murky world of torture happened by accident. Back in 2007 Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine had just landed. Like a picture of suburbia, both my wife and I were reading in bed at night. It must have been about 10.30pm when I began Naomi’s chapter on Dr Cameron.

Immediately I had this visceral feeling. Here was this son of a Presbyterian Minister from Bridge of Allan who’d had this truly awful legacy, and who was born not far from Glasgow, where I live.

I was immediately hooked and for the rest of the night I was buried in Google. I think it was about 6am when my wife woke up that I realised that I’d spent the full night buried in the dark corners of the web, high on caffeine, trying to separate fact from fiction.

Flushed with that feeling I tried to get a film about Cameron made in 2007 and again in 2012 with the release of the Senate Torture Report, but to no avail. It wasn’t until 2017 when it finally took off. I was working with an amazingly tenacious producer, John Archer of Hopscotch Films, who unbeknownst to me had got some interest in the idea from BBC. Like many people over the years I had told John about this passion project, but quietly he began getting interest.

John then managed to get some development money from Creative Scotland which gave us the lifeline we so badly needed. Suddenly I was making calls trying to get contributors on board and explaining what I hoped to achieve.

I still remember the day when BBC Scotland and Creative Scotland commissioned it. It was my 44th birthday so it became a double celebration. At home I showed my two boys our (quite scary) trailer who got the story instantly. My wife, Caroline, was far further ahead: she was worried about the ‘‘alphabet soup’’ –my name for the various intelligence services. As we went out for a celebratory dinner I had no idea of the adventure that was about to begin.

In the making of Eminent Monsters I have tried to understand what is at stake when we use torture, psychological and physical. One phrase stuck out in a conversation I had with General Stephen Xenakis in the US, whom we would end up flying over to Toronto to interview. Xenakis has met more 9/11 detainees than any other. In January this year he was back in Guantanamo at the military trials when the two CIA ‘‘architects’’ of the torture programme were giving evidence.

Xenakis told me: ‘War is a strategic business and it needs to be. Our planning and our execution needs to be really well thought out and it has consequences for years’.

‘‘Consequence’’. What a fab word. And ‘‘war as a business’’ is interesting too. So is torture just an unfortunate but necessary, business strategy?

If we are to understand the ethical and political implications of using psychological torture I think we need to factor in how the Government rely on public fear, apathy and confusion. They present the ticking clock: if we don’t break this person then other lives will be at stake. Yet the moral and ethical considerations are massive. The effects on the individual on both sides of the fence are deep and profound and last a lifetime.

For their loved ones it can last far longer, sas I saw with another contributor, Dr Harvey Weinstein, senior research fellow at the Human Rights Center, Berkeley Law. His father, Louis, had been part of Dr Cameron’s experiments in Montreal in the 1950s. But Harvey’s son Josh still feels the rupture of his dad’s trauma. So in one family we see three generations affected.

Yet leaders such as the former director of the CIA Counterterrorist Centre, Coffer Black, make statements like ‘‘After 9/11 the gloves come off’’ to huge fanfare. Why?

Perhaps it is because it appeals to what the character of Shylock in Merchant of Venice stated so boldly: ‘He hath done, so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for eye’?

THIS is what that philosphy it leads to: After 9/11 President Bush signed a still secret directive giving the CIA authority to kill, or capture, terrorists anywhere Thousands of flights criss crossed the globe. People were snatched off streets from Milan to Malaysia and put into a transnational gulag of ‘black’ sites in Uzbekistan to Morocco. Often those holding these prisoners acted as proxy interrogators

The US then played game of hide and seek of suspected terrorists to keep them away from the International Red Cross – a game in which the Britain Government was a willing and knowing participant. Here in Scotland we can see a seven-year investigation into some 75 CIA rendition flights landing in Prestwick and John O’Groats has been kicked into the long grass by the British and American Governments.

Yet the real rub was when a USG legal memorandum known as the torture memos was signed . It cited a case that happened here – in the UK – during The Troubles. In 1971 after a massive bombing spree, internment was introduced. More than 340 men were rounded up, arrested and interred without trial, suspected of being involved in the IRA. Fourteen of these were singled out and taken to Ballykelly in County Derry, a purpose built special interrogation centre. After being thrown out of low flying helicopters (believing themselves to be above the North Sea, and thus about to drown) they were subjected to hooding, white noise, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and stress positioning.

They would become known as the Hooded Men. Their captors were the Royal Ulster Constabulary, trained by our Special Branch and given advance immunity from later prosecution.

But the Hooded Men’s story didn’t end there. In 1978 Ireland took the UK to the European Court of Human Rights. Unfathomably, that court decreed what the men had endured was not torture but inhuman and degrading treatment. This judgment would have worldwide consequences as it legally allowed Governments to use these techniques without fear. From where I stand, I think it means that our Governments have willingly crossed that moral Rubicon and using techniques that we should not use. We often hear the phrase that terror begets terror. One of my other contributors, Mark Fallon – former Naval Criminal Investigative Sservice chief investigator into al Qaeda has a better comment: our tactics have directly led to the development of al Qaeda and Isis and we will live with the consequences for generations to come.

Fallon called them war crimes. More tellingly he states that the US knew it was war crimes. And this is exactly what I believe the political implications of state endorsed psychological torture are

IN 1951 Britain, America and Canada held a secret meeting in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal . Of those attending, one was Canadian Scientist Donald O’ Hebb who believed that sensory overload and deprivation just might be of interest to the military.

Soon scientists began similar experiments in the UK . In the US, the CIA had over 160 secret projects in 80 institutions. Forty-four colleges and universities were involved and $25m – over $200m today – was allocated to ‘human experimentation’ .

Shortly after that Dr Ewen Cameron began working for the CIA and Canadian Government in a secret wing in a hospital in Montreal. In a medical paper he wrote:

‘‘Life for many is appallingly confusing. More people are more scared than you think . At no other time have we had a better opportunity to see what does happen when great numbers of people become confused.’’

Did you spot it? The key is opportunity. Cameron believed that with world churn came opportunity to position psychiatrists and psychologists as the new leaders.

Now in fairness we should remember the world was in flux back then. This was not long after the Korean War when many American troops were returning home suspected of having been brainwashed Yet that flux was seen as a cash cow for ambitious psychiatrists like Dr Cameron. By this point the American Government were spending a billion dollars a year on psychological warfare.

Hundreds of thousands of people were used as test subjects. I’ll quote again from Dr Harvey Weinstein, whose father was recognised as the most tortured patient in Cameron’s programme:

‘‘He wasn’t human any more he was a pitiable creature and he’d gone from a man to this almost non-human creature.’’

Now it’s tempting to think this is just the sad story of a few individuals. Nope. This is about the collusion of health professionals: psychologists and psychiatrists working with intelligence agencies and military since early 1950s to develop techniques in interrogation and mind control to break people down

As you begin to look down the rabbit hole, you see ethics being actively warped.

So this is a far larger story. It’s about how early experimentation in the 1950s has become enshrined in how Governments extract intelligence. Whether it’s called coercive or ehanced interrogation – from where I sit, this is torture.

How does a medical professional square the ethics of their profession – Do No Harm – with the demands of the military or the State?

Let’s look at the two psychiatrists behind the enhanced interrogation techniques, Dr Bruce Jessen and Dr Jim Mitchell who were back in Guantanamo giving evidence in January. The US Government paid them $181m to develop and carry out these techniques.

Now let me read a direct quote from Dr Jim Mitchell in his 2017 deposition:

‘I had been told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the captured detainees by the attorneys at the CIA. And so I don’t think I thought about Geneva Conventions’

Now to help you visualise the programme it included putting people in mock coffins. With insects. They wanted to create such inhumane conditions that you would be under their power. They called it demonstrated omnipotence

None of this could have been done without the collusion of many psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians. After 9/11 the American Psychological Association publicly decried doctors working in torture and yet secretly the APA permitted psychologists working in the torture programme to override their ethical code.

Now let’s be clear and consider what these doctors were actually doing. They are not merely bystanders. They evaluated the prisoners’ capacity, they supervised the torture, they offered their expertise in the human mind and then they evaluated how effective the torture has been. The whole shebang. Some even did the actual torture.

So why do they do this? Social ethics professor Herbert Kelman and associate professor or sociology Lee Hamilton discussed how the ethics of the individual can be changed in their book Crimes of Obedience came up with three key factors:

1: Authorisation – put simply, the state authorises people to do it - so they do it

2: Routinisation: it just becomes something you do so you stop challenging it. More critical is the heavy use of terminology and jargon of techniques – all which are designed to create the air of professionalism.

3: Dehumanisation – and this for me is the key. This is the route of all these issues and something very much within the Government’s playbook. The people held are enemies of the state. In fact they are so dehumanised that they are no longer people. They are numbers. It is surely easier to harm number 459 than it is a John, Jane or Mohammed.

In one of Kelman and Hamilton’s papers they ask the intriguing question: it’s less about who is responsible and more about who is responsible for what? Under the pressure of the state and public outcry it’s perhaps easy to see how people can begin to act in ways that works against their basic values.

I believe that this fault line in people is being knowingly exploited by the state.

George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, General Dunlavey and his predecessor, General Miller, who ran Guantanamo, referred to the base as America’s Battle Lab. Think of the Nuremburg Trials. Now if that doesn’t send a shudder down you let’s see if this does.

At Guantanamo the US government “sought information on the most effective ways to torture a human physically; information on the most damaging ways to break a man psychologically, and insight as to just how far the human body could be pushed in pain and terror before organ failure or death”

When did the doctors desert their ethical code? Day 1? Day 20 And would you do it? How far would you go if your career depended on it?

Coercive techniques are based on ideology. It’s where a perceived threat becomes front-page news. Where society either by itself or stoked up by my industry, the media industry, inflames a situation.

I hope you will tune in to watch our Eminent Monsters. It has been a labour of love and one that I am so very proud to have made.

Throughout it all it has been supported by so many people, including the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, professor Nils Melzer. That it might be used by Melzer to drive home real, substantial change is truly wonderful and a deep honour.

I will leave you with a comment from my amazing 13-year-old son, who has grown up with me talking about my work. When he found what I was making said: ‘‘Countries that use these techniques think it makes them look like a dominating country. It doesn’t.’’

Emminent Monsters will be screened on BBC Scotland this spring.