Monday, June 07, 2010

Experiments on Detainees to Design Torture Techniques

Physicians for Human Rights June 7, 2010

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


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.

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