Moral Low Ground


Panel: CIA Forced Doctors to Torture Detainees

Operating room at the detainee hospital, at Camp Delta Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Stephen Lewald)

Operating room at the detainee hospital, at Camp Delta Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Stephen Lewald)

An investigation conducted by an independent task force has concluded that the Central Intelligence Agency has been forcing doctors, psychologists and other health care professionals to torture individuals detained during the ‘War on Terror.’

The Guardian reports the CIA and Defense Department ordered doctors and psychologists to violate medical and professional ethics by participating in detainee torture after 9/11, the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers found. The study panel, which was comprised of 19 military, medical, ethics and legal experts, was sponsored by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP), a nonprofit health care policy think tank based at Columbia University in New York, and the Open Society Foundations, a grantmaking group founded by billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros dedicated to promoting democratic governance, human rights and social justice.

report issued by the task force states that health care professionals working with US military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees.” They were informed that the Hippocratic Oath, which compels physicians to protect patients from “harm and injustice,” did not apply to terrorism suspects, because such individuals were not ill.

The report cites numerous methods used to torture detainees, including the interrupted drowning technique known as waterboarding, being slammed against walls, sleep deprivation and force-feeding. It also notes that between 2002 and 2005, “more than 100 detainees died while in US custody, including 43 reported homicides.”

The report also details how the Pentagon reclassified doctors as ‘safety officers’ and forced them to participate in the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees at Guantánamo Bay, where the majority of remaining detainees have been cleared for release— some since 2004– but are still being imprisoned by the United States. Force-feeding prisoners is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, as well as of World Medical Association and American Medical Association guidelines. “Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable,” the WMA declared in 1975, and British authorities have allowed hunger striking Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners to starve to death in compliance with international ethics standards. Force-feeding is considered a form of torture by the United Nations, as well as by various civil liberties and human rights groups.

According to the task force report, doctors and psychologists employed by the Defense Department were also forced to violate patients’ confidentiality and inform interrogators about intelligence and health issues. Interrogators often used this information to more effectively torture detainees. Health care professionals also took part in actual interrogations.

Additionally, CIA health care professionals were instrumental in advising the Justice Department that torture, euphemistically called ‘enhanced interrogation,’ was medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present during torture sessions, the report states.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said that while the Defense Department does not believe that “our doctors are acting in any way that is unethical and unprofessional,” he does acknowledge that there are “some very reasonable allegations” made against “other agencies.” Breasseale did not identify which “other agencies” he meant.

CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz insisted his organization’s health care personnel adhere to professional standards, and accused the task force report of containing “serious inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions.”

The newly-released report is not the first of its kind. In 2011, a study found that US military doctors and psychologists tasked with caring for Guantánamo prisoners ignored and concealed evidence of detainee torture and other horrific abuse, including rape.

Among the verified torture techniques and other abuse US military and CIA detainees have been subjected to during the ongoing US-led war against terrorism: murder, rape of men and womenimprisonment of innocent family members as bargaining chips, brutal beatingsdenial of medical treatment, interrupted drowning (waterboarding)solitary confinementsensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, food and water deprivationforce-feeding, exposure to (sometimes lethal) temperature extremes, exposure to insects, blasting with deafeningly loud music, sexual humiliation, menacing and attacking with dogs, shackling in painful ‘stress positions,’ being repeatedly slammed into walls, death and rape threats against detainees and family members, and ‘Palestinian crucifixion.’

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  1. wildNovember 5, 2013 at 5:45 amReply

    What if our good doctors knowingly & willingly signed onto the CIA/military units, knowingly & willingly continued participation, and knowingly & willingly continued in concealment of various actions? I believe that to be true of everyone of them. I also believe there is a learning curve for everyone.

    I didn’t need the IMAP to finally realize it for me, but thanks to them just the same for making an opinion & taking George Soros’ money. And NO thanks to the AMA and their psychiatric counterpart, that continued concealment, further endorsing reported atrocities all the while probably believing such practices are justified in the name of ‘The war on terror’.

    I generally recognize Andy Worthington’s detailed work as a solid reference with regard to Guantanamo, even tho much of this doctor collusion occurs in vast & unknown other locations :


    • Brett WilkinsNovember 5, 2013 at 8:26 amReplyAuthor

      Yes, Mr. Worthington is the world’s foremost GITMO expert, as far as I have seen in my years observing the subject.

    • Brett WilkinsNovember 6, 2013 at 4:08 pmReplyAuthor

      In 2006 the American Medical Association declared that doctors were prohibited from any and all participation in interrogations. Even so, many military doctors who were AMA members fought the ruling, asserting that the goal of obtaining useful information from the detainees outweighed the annoying ethical barriers that they admitted they were guilty of breaching.

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