The Psychological and Physical Impact of CIA’s ‘Prolonged Diapering’

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm

The CIA’s Office of Medical Services was very clear in its September 2003 guidelines about the objective of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques were. “In all instances,” reads the Sept. 4, 2003 memorandum, “the general goal of these techniques is a psychological impact, and not some physical effect, with a specific goal of ‘dislocat[ing] his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive…’” The apparent 11th enhanced interrogation technique, prolonged diapering, was well-geared to serve that purpose, according to doctors who find the technique an appalling breach of medical ethics.

“Speaking as a psychoanalyst, the creation of a new torture technique reveals something about the mind of the torturer,” said Steven Reisner, Physicians for Human Rights’ adviser on psychological ethics.

Perhaps the most striking portion of the the OMS guidelines is that they make no evident attempt, despite the redactions, to argue the psychological case for diapering, despite listing it as an enhanced interrogation technique and providing explicit guidelines for the other techniques. In a strange way, that might be intellectually honest. “We have no idea whether diapering is as humiliating in the culture of the detainee as it seems to be for the torturer,” Reisner said. “Fortunately, anthropologists are prohibited by their ethics from researching such things. I wish psychologists were, but they are not.” Despite that lack of knowledge about the psychological impacts of leaving someone in his own waste, the CIA’s medical professionals embraced the technique.

Then there’s the medical impact and the physical pain — which exist even if they weren’t the point of the technique. “Leaving someone in their own wastes can be associated with urinary tract infections, skin breakdown and ulceration,” said Scott Allen, a physician at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School also affiliated with Physicians Against Human Rights. “Access to a toilet is a widely recognized minimum requirement for prisoners and detainees.”

Indeed, there’s an added element of pain added by the technique: the discomfort of avoiding soiling oneself. “A healthy subject with bowel and bladder control would likely try to resist” the humiliation of using the diaper, Allen added, “causing distress.”

But the physical pain is, as the OMS judgment says, incidental to the purpose of the technique: inducing a psychological state of learned helplessness in a detainee. Reisner’s bottom line: “There’s no question that psychologists who use psychological knowledge for the purposes of debilitation and abuse, even in the service of getting information, violate professional ethics, not to mention human rights law.”

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The Psychological and Physical Impact of CIA’s ‘Prolonged Diapering’
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Comment posted August 26, 2009 @ 5:05 am

I find this as appalling as waterboarding.

Man's inhumanity to man is one of the things I will never understand.

What good does it do us to pat ourselves on the back for our advances if we cannot stop using our intelligence to such malevolent ends? Who came up with the idea of putting detainees in diapers as a psychological tool?

It's the same sort of mind that decided to pile naked prisoners in a heap and have a grinning young female soldier mug for the camera in the foreground.

I love my country, and that means I care about acknowledging its faults. Otherwise they never get corrected. If you say nothing, or actually excuse something you know to be wrong, it's like when you carry around a terrible secret that someone needed to know. Except everyone else knows the secret, and they know that you didn't have the guts to tell the person who needed the information.

I hope all of this mess leads to a top-to-bottom overhaul of the way we gather information from prisoners AND the way we treat prisoners, in all facilities in this country, whether state or federal, and whatever the prisoners are accused or convicted of.

If we can send a man to the moon, we can rise above using torture in any form to collect information.

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