Doctors Aided CIA Interrogators, Human Experimentation

 by Kevin Gosztola 

Recently an ethics group known as Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) produced a report titled, “Aiding Torture,” that has been, for the most part, ignored by American news media. The report concludes that “health professionals participated at every stage in the development, implementation, and legal justification” of the CIA’s torture program.
While news in America disregards the PHR report that was compiled by the ethics group after reading the 2004 CIA Inspector General report released just over a week and a half ago, the Guardian in the UK details one particularly appalling portion of the report.
The Guardian reports that “doctors actively monitored the CIA's interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent.”
The PHR report ultimately concludes that such a practice approached “unlawful experimentation.”
This practice was primarily used when detainees were being waterboarded so health professionals could help interrogators’ improve the technique’s effectiveness.
The Guardian newspaper goes on to provide a brief history of human experimentation and how it is clearly defined as an act that is prohibited by law:
Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.
The Geneva conventions also ban medical experiments on prisoners and prisoners of war, which they describe as "grave breaches". Under CIA guidelines, doctors and psychologists were required to be present during the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on detainees.
In April, a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross found that medical staff employed by the CIA had been present during waterboarding, and had even used what appeared to be a pulse oxymeter, placed on the prisoner's finger to monitor his oxygen saturation during the procedure. The Red Cross condemned such activities as a "gross breach of medical ethics". PHR has based its accusation of possible experimentation on the 2004 report of the CIA's own inspector general into the agency's interrogation methods, which was finally published two weeks ago after pressure from the courts.
The report states that health professionals were required by CIA to be present “to sanitize” the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and “enable the abuse to escalate, thereby placing health professionals in the untenable position of calibrating harm rather than serving as protectors and healers as required by their ethical oath.”
Furthermore, a portion of the report details how health professionals played an “essential role” in developing legal justifications for the program designed by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, and Douglas Feith helped out too].
Newly approved techniques detailed in the CIA IG report are analyzed by PHR. These techniques include: forced shaving, hooding, restricted diet, prolonged diapering, “walling”, and confinement boxes.
PHR explains that confinement in a box has been associated with joint and ligamentious injury, and both acute and prolonged musculoskeletal pain. Following blunt trauma there is an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (clotting) and associated and potentially fatal pulmonary emboli (which two detainees have died from in Afghanistan while in U.S. custody).
The report details how this technique was adopted by CIA interrogators:
“Confinement in a box was devised as a direct appropriation of Martin Seligman’s research on “learned helplessness.” In fact, on at least two occasions, Seligman presented his learned helplessness research to CIA contract interrogators referred to in the Inspector General report. In Seligman’s experiment, dogs were confined to boxes in which they discovered that familiar mechanisms of control would no longer have an effect in avoiding pain.”
Equally appalling is a technique known as prolonged diapering that was also approved. This can result in skin infection, skin breakdown and ulceration and urinary tract infections, according to the PHR report. Also, “the placement of a normally continent adult in a diaper will likely lead to efforts by the adult to resist urination or defecation, which in turn will likely result in bowel cramping and bladder spasm.”
Use of prolonged diapering leads a human being to regress to an infantile state.  
This technique, when used, has, according to the Red Cross, led detainees to urinate and defecate on themselves while shackled in prolonged stress standing positions. Detainees have been forced to stand in their own bodily fluids.
It’s not difficult to understand why detainees would have to stand in a diaper filled with their bodily fluids either. How many military personnel or private contractors do you think want the job of having to change a “terrorist’s” diaper? Most likely, when this technique is used, they derive some sick joy from seeing people they are at war with standing in their own piss and shit.
The PHR report shows that health professionals are just as much to blame for the institutionalized lawlessness in the “war on terror” as lawyers, policymakers, and members of the military, CIA, and White House are.
One cannot dismiss the significance of what health professionals did for lawyers in the OLC. The OLC declared that acts must be of an “extreme nature” and “certain acts may be cruel, inhumane, or degrading” but still not produce pain and suffering.
The OLC decided that infliction of pain and suffering must be the defendant’s “precise objective” in order for someone to be guilty of torture.
Health professionals made it possible for interrogators or torturers to maintain this defense while they were in the act of torturing or abusing a detainee.
Data and reports compiled by health professionals don’t just give those responsible for prisoner abuse and torture a “get out of jail free” card. They give those responsible a “no need to be prosecuted” card as well.


Main Projects Organizers Kevin Gosztola Doctors Aided CIA Interrogators, Human Experimentation


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.