It's not that U.S. interrogators were winging it with detainees at Guantánamo Bay, without any guidelines or suggested tactics; it's that the interrogators were given the wrong model to follow. Trainers ended up using, "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War."
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
As Matt Yglesias responded, "I've seen lots of commentary on the revelation that Bush administration torture techniques have been modeled on the work of the ChiComs but not much specific focus on the fact that the main purpose of these Chinese torture techniques was to elicit false confessions ... To literally rip your techniques off from a study called 'Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War' requires some level of obliviousness I wasn't aware of."
Indeed, it makes it that much more difficult to deny the use of torture when you're relying on a guide of abusive tactics used by the Chinese during the Korean War -- the very tactics the U.S. has always labeled "torture."
And in the broader context, let's not forget that Bush administration policy relied on Soviet-style secret prisons, and then employed Chinese torture techniques, used to elicit false confessions.