Experimentation on captive prisoners? Conducted by doctors? On orders from the US government?
Some of this evidence has already emerged. A report leaked in April from the International Committee of the Red Cross suggested that health professionals had been involved in some way with interrogations of detainees held at a variety of black sites throughout the world. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act had revealed that lawyers in the Bush administration Department of Justice used information collected by health professionals during interrogations. But neither Congress nor Obama’s Department of Justice cared to investigate.
Now Physicians for Human Rights’ new report "Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program," puts the evidence together in a way that raises profound questions about possible US government involvement in this most heinous of crimes. It documents that doctors, psychologists and other health professionals were not only observing interrogations but gathering information from them, analyzing it and providing it to government lawyers.
This report reveals that these practices may have created criminal liability for the interrogators under national and international law. It establishes that government lawyers used the results of these studies to design legal defenses against possible criminal charges against interrogators—and against those who gave them their orders. And it explains why the Bush administration promoted certain previously inexplicable amendments to the wording of the War Crimes Act.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration decided it wanted to engage in what had up till that time been recognized as torture. It issued a "finding" that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners, and began authorizing what it redefined from "torture" to "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs).
But it still had a problem. Torture of anybody under any name was illegal under US and international law, and was condemned as an ethical violation by medical and other professional codes. Further, since torture had been illegal, there was little knowledge of how to do it effectively. The solution? Call medical science to the rescue.
Take waterboarding as a case in point. The CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS) issued guidelines for waterboarding, but it noted, "A rigid guide to the medically approved use of the water board in essentially healthy individuals is not possible….The following general guidelines are based on very limited knowledge."
CIA officials ordered their Office of Medical Services to collect information on waterboarding to "best inform future medical judgments" about it. Medical personnel were required to monitor and document all EIT practice.
In the case of waterboarding, OMS health professionals were directed to record: