[Ppnews] Experiments on Detainees to Design Torture Techniques

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 7 10:51:21 EDT 2010

Indicates that the Bush Administration Conducted 
Experiments and Research on Detainees to Design 
Torture Techniques and Create Legal Cover

June 7, 2010


Illegal Activity Would Violate Nuremberg Code and 
Could Open Door to Prosecution

Media Contacts:

Ben Greenberg
bgreenberg at phrusa dot org
Mobile: +1-617-510-3417

Valerie Holford
Mobile: +1-301-926-1298

(Cambridge, MA) In the most comprehensive 
investigation to date of health professionals’ 
involvement in the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation 
program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has 
uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush 
administration apparently conducted illegal and 
unethical human experimentation and research on 
detainees in CIA custody. The apparent 
experimentation and research appear to have been 
performed to provide legal cover for torture, as 
well as to help justify and shape future 
procedures and policies governing the use of the 
“enhanced” interrogation techniques. The PHR 
report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject 
Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 
‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, is the first to 
provide evidence that CIA medical personnel 
engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation 
after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture.

This evidence indicating apparent research and 
experimentation on detainees opens the door to 
potential additional legal liability for the CIA 
and Bush-era officials. There is no publicly 
available evidence that the Department of 
Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that 
the alleged experimentation and research 
performed on detainees was lawful, as it did with 
the “enhanced” techniques themselves.

“The CIA appears to have broken all accepted 
legal and ethical standards put in place since 
the Second World War to protect prisoners from 
being the subjects of experimentation,” said 
Frank Donaghue, PHR’s Chief Executive Officer. 
“Not only are these alleged acts gross violations 
of human rights law, they are a grave affront to America’s core values.”

Physicians for Human Rights demands that 
President Obama direct the Attorney General to 
investigate these allegations, and if a crime is 
found to have been committed, prosecute those 
responsible. Additionally, Congress must 
immediately amend the War Crimes Act (WCA) to 
remove changes made to the WCA in 2006 by the 
Bush Administration that allow a more permissive 
definition of the crime of illegal 
experimentation on detainees in US custody. The 
more lenient 2006 language of the WCA was made 
retroactive to all acts committed by US personnel since 1997.

“In their attempt to justify the war crime of 
torture, the CIA appears to have committed 
another alleged war crime – illegal 
experimentation on prisoners,” said Nathaniel A. 
Raymond, Director of PHR’s Campaign Against 
Torture and lead report author. “Justice 
Department lawyers appear to never have assessed 
the lawfulness of the alleged research on 
detainees in CIA custody, despite how essential 
it appears to have been to their legal cover for torture.”

PHR’s report, Experiments in Torture, is relevant 
to present-day national security interrogations, 
as well as Bush-era detainee treatment policies. 
As recently as February, 2010, President Obama’s 
then director of national intelligence, Admiral 
Dennis Blair, disclosed that the US had 
established an elite interrogation unit that will 
conduct “scientific research” to improve the 
questioning of suspected terrorists. Admiral 
Blair declined to provide important details about this effort.

“If health professionals participated in 
unethical human subject research and 
experimentation they should be held to account,” 
stated Scott A. Allen, MD, a medical advisor to 
Physicians for Human Rights and lead medical 
author of the report. “Any health professional 
who violates their ethical codes by employing 
their professional expertise to calibrate and 
study the infliction of harm disgraces the health 
profession and makes a mockery of the practice of medicine.”

Several prominent individuals and organizations 
in addition to PHR will file a complaint this 
week with the US Department of Health and Human 
Services’ Office for Human Research Protections 
(OHRP) and call for an OHRP investigation of the 
CIA’s Office of Medical Services.

The PHR report indicates that there is evidence 
that health professionals engaged in research on 
detainees that violates the Geneva Conventions, 
The Common Rule, the Nuremberg Code and other 
international and domestic prohibitions against 
illegal human subject research and 
experimentation. Declassified government documents indicate that:
    * Research and medical experimentation on 
detainees was used to measure the effects of 
large- volume waterboarding and adjust the 
procedure according to the results. After medical 
monitoring and advice, the CIA experimentally 
added saline, in an attempt to prevent putting 
detainees in a coma or killing them through 
over-ingestion of large amounts of plain water. 
The report observes: “‘Waterboarding 2.0’ was the 
product of the CIA’s developing and field-testing 
an intentionally harmful practice, using 
systematic medical monitoring and the application 
of subsequent generalizable knowledge.”
    * Health professionals monitored sleep 
deprivation on more than a dozen detainees in 
48-, 96- and 180-hour increments. This research 
was apparently used to monitor and assess the 
effects of varying levels of sleep deprivation to 
support legal definitions of torture and to plan 
future sleep deprivation techniques.
    * Health professionals appear to have 
analyzed data, based on their observations of 25 
detainees who were subjected to individual and 
combined applications of “enhanced” interrogation 
techniques, to determine whether one type of 
application over another would increase the 
subject’s “susceptibility to severe pain.” The 
alleged research appears to have been undertaken 
only to assess the legality of the “enhanced” 
interrogation tactics and to guide future application of the techniques.

Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research 
and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ 
Interrogation Program is the most in-depth expert 
review to date of the legal and medical ethics 
issues concerning health professionals’ 
involvement in researching, designing and 
supervising the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation 
program. The Experiments in Torture report is the 
result of six months of investigation and the 
review of thousands of pages of government 
documents. It has been peer-reviewed by outside 
experts in the medical, biomedical and research 
ethics fields, legal experts, health 
professionals and experts in the treatment of torture survivors.

The lead author for this report was Nathaniel 
Raymond, Director of the Campaign Against 
Torture, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and 
the lead medical author was Scott Allen, MD, 
Co-Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and 
Human Rights at Brown University and Medical 
Advisor to PHR. They were joined in its writing 
by Vincent Iacopino, MD, PhD, PHR Senior Medical 
Advisor; Allen Keller, MD, Associate Professor of 
Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Director, 
Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; 
Stephen Soldz, PhD, President-elect of 
Psychologists for Social Responsibility and 
Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation 
and Program Development at the Boston Graduate 
School of Psychoanalysis; Steven Reisner, PhD, 
PHR Advisor on Ethics and Psychology; and John 
Bradshaw, JD, PHR Chief Policy Officer and Director of PHR’s Washington Office.

The report was extensively peer reviewed by 
leading experts in related medical, legal, 
ethical and governmental fields addressed in the document.



Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush 
administration initiated new human intelligence 
collection programs. To that end, it detained and 
questioned an unknown number of people suspected 
of having links to terrorist organizations. As 
part of these programs, the Bush administration 
redefined acts, such as waterboarding, forced 
nudity, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes, 
stress positions and prolonged isolation, that 
had previously been recognized as illegal, to be 
“safe, legal and effective” “enhanced” interrogation techniques (EITs).

Bush administration lawyers at the Department of 
Justice’s (DoJ’s) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) 
accomplished this redefinition by establishing 
legal thresholds for torture, which required 
medical monitoring of every application of 
“enhanced” interrogation. Medical personnel were 
ostensibly responsible for ensuring that the 
legal threshold for “severe physical and mental 
pain” was not crossed by interrogators, but their 
presence and complicity in intentionally harmful 
interrogation practices 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.

Investigation and analysis of US government 
documents by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) 
provides evidence indicating that the Bush 
administration, in the period after Sept. 11, 
conducted human research and experimentation on 
prisoners in US custody as part of this 
monitoring role. Health professionals working for 
and on behalf of the CIA monitored the 
interrogations of detainees, collected and 
analyzed the results of those interrogations, and 
sought to derive generalizable inferences to be 
applied to subsequent interrogations. Such acts 
may be seen as the conduct of research and 
experimentation by health professionals on 
prisoners, which could violate accepted standards 
of medical ethics, as well as domestic and 
international law. These practices could, in some 
cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The knowledge obtained through this process 
appears to have been motivated by a need to 
justify and to shape future interrogation policy 
and procedure, as well as to justify and to shape 
the legal environment in which the interrogation program operated.

PHR analyzes three instances of apparent illegal 
and unethical human subject research for this report:
    * Medical personnel were required to monitor 
all waterboarding practices and collect detailed 
medical information that was used to design, 
develop, and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures;
    * Information on the effects of simultaneous 
versus sequential application of the 
interrogation techniques on detainees was 
collected and used to establish the policy for 
using tactics in combination. These data were 
gathered through an assessment of the presumed 
“susceptibility” of the subjects to severe pain;
    * Information collected by health 
professionals on the effects of sleep deprivation 
on detainees was used to establish the “enhanced” 
interrogation program’s (EIP) sleep deprivation policy.

The human subject research apparently served 
several purposes. It increased information on the 
physical and psychological impact of the CIA’s 
application of the “enhanced” interrogation 
techniques, which previously had been limited 
mostly to data from experiments using US military 
volunteers under very limited, simulated 
conditions of torture. It served to calibrate the 
level of pain experienced by detainees during 
interrogation, ostensibly to keep it from 
crossing the administration’s legal threshold of 
what it claimed constituted torture. It also 
served as an attempt to provide a basis for a 
legal defense against possible torture charges 
against those who carried out the interrogations, 
since medical monitoring would demonstrate, 
according to the Office of Legal Counsel memos, a 
lack of intent to cause harm to the subjects of interrogations.

Yet the Bush administration’s legal framework to 
protect CIA interrogators from violating US 
statutory and treaty obligations prohibiting 
torture effectively contravened well-established 
legal and ethical codes, that, had they been 
enforced, should have protected prisoners against 
human experimentation, and should have prevented 
the “enhanced” interrogation program from being 
initiated in the first place. There is no 
evidence that the Office of Legal Counsel ever 
assessed the lawfulness of the medical monitoring 
of torture, as it did with the use of the “enhanced” techniques themselves.

The use of torture and cruel and inhuman 
treatment in interrogations of detainees in US 
custody has been well-documented by Physicians 
for Human Rights (PHR) and others. The role of 
health professionals in designing, monitoring and 
participating in torture also has been 
investigated and publicly documented. This 
current report provides evidence that in addition 
to medical complicity in torture, health 
professionals participated in research and 
experimentation on detainees in US custody.

The use of human beings as research subjects has 
a long and disturbing history filled with 
misguided and often willfully unethical 
experimentation. Ethical codes and federal 
regulations have been established to protect 
human subjects from harm and include clear 
standards for informed consent of participants in 
research, an absence of coercion, and a 
requirement for rigorous scientific procedures. 
The essence of the ethical and legal protections 
for human subjects is that the subjects, 
especially vulnerable populations such as 
prisoners, must be treated with the dignity 
befitting human beings and not simply as experimental guinea pigs.

The use of health professionals to monitor 
intentionally harmful interrogation techniques 
places them in the service of national security 
objectives which are in conflict with the 
interests of those who they are monitoring. The 
result has been a co-opting of health 
professionals by the national security apparatus 
and a violation of the highest medical admonition 
to “do no harm.” Until the questions examined in 
this paper are answered and, if ethical 
violations or crimes were committed, those 
responsible are held accountable, the misuse of 
medical and scientific expertise for expedient 
and non-therapeutic goals jeopardizes the ethical 
integrity of the profession, and the public trust 
in the healing professions risks being seriously compromised.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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