New Report Accuses CIA Doctors of Experimenting on Detainees
Physicians for Human Rights, an anti-torture non-governmental association, synthesizes a bunch of publicly available information to draw a gruesome conclusion: Medical personnel who participated in the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogations” for terrorism detainees are guilty of “complicity in intentionally harmful interrogation practices [that] were not only apparently intended to enable the routine practice of torture, but also to serve as a potential legal defense against criminal liability for torture.” That’s according to a brand-new report (PDF) the organization released this morning. The report essentially says medical personnel involved in the CIA’s 2002-2009 interrogations of presumed high-value al-Qaeda detainees weaponized their knowledge of the human body and mind.
Through the collection of ”detailed medical information” from detainee interrogations that physicians and mental-health experts used to shape subsequent interrogation regimens, Physicians for Human Rights charges that medical personnel involved in the torture violated their professional ethics and long-standing legal restrictions on human experimentation. Those violations “could rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the group writes in its report. It calls for an “immediate criminal investigation” into its charges, as well as a host of oversight mechanisms to determine that no such biological experimentation continues.
Just months after 9/11, the CIA hired two psychologists with experience in a training program to help U.S. servicemembers survive enemy torture, known as SERE, to help design an interrogation program for hard-to-crack al-Qaeda detainees. Those psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, set to work on a detainee in CIA custody, Abu Zubaydah, and under their guidance in the summer of 2002, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. Their work contributed to the establishment of several other interrogation methods not permitted under decades-long understandings of the Geneva Conventions, like keeping a detainee’s body so painfully contorted as to prevent him from falling asleep.
Jim Risen of The New York Times has the CIA’s rebuttal:
“The report is just wrong,” said Paul Gimigliano, an agency spokesman. “The C.I.A. did not, as part of its past detention program, conduct human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees. The entire detention effort has been the subject of multiple, comprehensive reviews within our government, including by the Department of Justice.”
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture emailed reporters a statement on the report: ”These revelations are profoundly disturbing and raise for us the question of what more remains hidden. The spiritual health of our nation will continue to suffer until the full truth opens a path to the justice and healing that our nation so desperately needs.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights calls on the Obama administration to certify that its new interrogation team, known as the HIG, does not engage in any similar human experimentation:
CCR also demands that the new intra-agency interrogation unit that was disclosed in February 2010 explain the nature of the “scientific research” it is conducting to improve the questioning of suspects. The current government may attempt to take advantage of ambiguity in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, added by the Bush administration and left in place by the Obama administration, to justify the ongoing use of some “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation in the new interrogation guidelines. Any ongoing unlawful human experimentation to “perfect” such techniques must immediately cease.
For more, see Jeff Kaye, who first disclosed the existence of Appendix M.
Update: Check out this video about the report: