Physicians for Human Rights said Tuesday, in a press release and a 27-page peer-reviewed report, that it had turned up "evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture." -- The report states: "[W]ell prior to Sept. 11, 2001, there was widespread international consensus that the Nuremberg Code prohibiting human subject experimentation without consent had become customary international law binding upon all countries. In 2003, however, a CIA legal interpretation indicated that the US government's position was that 'customary international law imposes no obligations regarding the treatment of al-Qaida detainees beyond that which the Convention [Against Torture], as interpreted and understood by the United States in its reservations, understandings, and declarations, imposes.' It is not clear whether those conducting the US experimentation program believed that they were not bound by the Nuremberg Code, or simply ignored its requirements. In any case, the experimental regime clearly violated the code as well as applicable US laws and regulations that remained in place" (p. 14). -- The report says that the U.S. had three purposes for experimentation: 1) "to determined how EITs ['enhanced' interrogation techniques] should be deployed; 2) "to calibrate the level of pain caused by the techniques in an effort to keep the pain from crossing the threshold they had defined as constituting torture"; and 3) "to create a basis for legal defenses for individuals engaging in acts that arguable constituted torture" (pp. 10-11). -- Ironically, it was this effort that clearly constitutes a crime under U.S. law. -- "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." -- The New York Times devoted its lead editorial, entitled "Doctors Who Torture," to the allegations, concluding: "The report from the physicians’ group does not prove its case beyond doubt -- how could it when so much is still hidden? -- but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished." ...
For immediate release
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 **
Physicians for Human Rights
June 7, 2010
bgreenberg [at] phrusa [dot] org
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts -- 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 U.S. custody. The more lenient 2006 language of the WCA was made retroactive to all acts committed by U.S. 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 U.S. had established an élite 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, M.D., 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 U.S. 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, M.D., 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, M.D., Ph.D., PHR Senior Medical Advisor; Allen Keller, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Director, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., 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, Ph.D., PHR Advisor on Ethics and Psychology; and John Bradshaw, J.D., 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.
DOCTORS WHO TORTURE
New York Times
June 8, 2010 (posted Jun. 7)
Disturbing new questions have been raised about the role of doctors and other medical professionals in helping the Central Intelligence Agency subject terrorism suspects to harsh treatment, abuse and torture.
The Red Cross previously documented, from interviews with “high-value” prisoners, that medical personnel helped facilitate abuses in the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation program” during the Bush administration. Now Physicians for Human Rights has suggested that the medical professionals may also have violated national and international laws setting limits on what research can be performed on humans.
The physicians’ group, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., analyzed a wide range of previously released government documents and reports, many of them heavily censored. It found that the Bush administration used medical personnel -- including doctors, psychologists, and physician’s assistants -- to help justify acts that had long been classified by law and treaty as illegal or unethical and to redefine them as safe, legal, and effective when used on terrorism suspects.
The group’s report focused particularly on a few issues where medical personnel played an important role -- determining how far a harsh interrogation could go, providing legal cover against prosecution and designing future interrogation procedures. The actual monitoring data are not publicly available, but the group was able to deduce from the guidelines governing the program what role the health professionals played, assuming they followed the rules.
In the case of waterboarding, a technique in which prisoners are brought to the edge of drowning, health professionals were required to monitor the practice and keep detailed medical records. Their findings led to several changes, including a switch to saline solution as the near-drowning agent instead of water, ostensibly to protect the health of detainees who ingest large volumes of liquid but also, the group says, to allow repeated use of waterboarding on the same subject.
Another government memorandum concluded from medical observations on 25 detainees that combining several techniques -- say a face slap with water dousing or a stress kneeling position -- caused no more pain than when the techniques were used individually. That was used to justify the application of multiple techniques at the same time.
The group concludes that health professionals who facilitated these practices were in essence conducting research and experimentation on human subjects. The main purposes of such research, the group says, were to determine how to use various techniques, to calibrate the levels of pain and to create a legal basis for defending interrogators from potential prosecution under antitorture laws. The interrogators could claim that they had acted in good faith in accord with medical judgments of safety and had not intended to inflict extreme suffering.
The report from the physicians’ group does not prove its case beyond doubt -- how could it when so much is still hidden? -- but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.