Physicians for Human Rights report CIA doctors, psychologists participated in torture of prisoners

Physicians for Human Rights report
CIA doctors, psychologists participated in torture of prisoners

Tom Eley

4 September 2009 – WSWS

A new report by the medical ethics group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) charges that medical professionals attached to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assisted in the torture of terror detainees.  (aiding-torture)

CIA doctors also provided a pseudo-medical rationale for torture and used prisoners as human research subjects to determine the effects and efficacy of various methods of torture, the report states. These acts constitute war crimes according to the Geneva Conventions and are clear violations of medical ethics.

PHR called for an independent investigation of medical personnel in the CIA interrogation program. It is seeking to determine how many doctors participated in torture, and on what scientific and medical basis they conducted their work.

The study, “Aiding Torture,” analyzes the role of doctors, psychologists, and nurses in known instances of torture at prisons where terror suspects were held, including Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, and Bagram in Afghanistan. It is based on the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report on torture, which the Obama administration released two weeks ago, in heavily redacted form and in compliance with a court order.

In a press release accompanying the report, PHR asserted that “the extent to which American physicians and psychologists violated human rights and betrayed the ethical standards of their professions by designing, implementing, and legitimizing a worldwide torture program is greater than previously known.”

“The CIA relied on medical expertise to rationalize and carry out abusive and unlawful interrogations,” the group said. Furthermore, medical personnel experimented on inmates through the “aggregate collection of data on detainees’ reaction to interrogation methods.”

“They were experimenting and keeping records of the results,” said Steven Reisner, co-author of the report. “That in itself is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Doctors are certainly guilty of war crimes for permitting torture to go forward and overseeing it while they had the authority to stop it.”

“The required presence of health professionals did not make interrogation methods safer, but sanitized their use, escalated abuse, and placed doctors and psychologists in the untenable position of calibrating harm rather than serving as protectors and healers,” Reisner added. “The fact that psychologists went beyond monitoring, and actually designed and implemented these abuses—while simultaneously serving as ‘safety monitors’—reveals the ethical bankruptcy of the entire program.”

It is all but certain that sections of the CIA Inspector General’s report—completely redacted by the Obama administration—deal with instances in which detainees were killed as a result of abuse they suffered in their interrogations. This raises the possibility that medical personnel not only collaborated in CIA torture, but in murder.

The new report substantiates a lengthy section of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, leaked earlier this year, on the role of medical personnel in torture. The ICRC concluded that doctors were present during waterboarding sessions to observe the results of the near-drowning technique on the oxygen levels in prisoners’ blood.

Likewise, the PHR report asserts that “medical professionals were directed to meticulously monitor the waterboarding of detainees to try to improve the technique’s effectiveness, essentially using the detainees as human subjects, a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation.”

PHR singles out the role of psychologists in waterboarding, who reportedly gathered data on the amount of water used and the length of time prisoners were exposed. “That is experimentation and as such is a war crime,” Reisner said.

“Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding,” said PHR Medical Advisor and lead report author Scott Allen, MD. Citing one example, Allen pointed to instances of interrogators placing “a cloth over a detainee’s face to block breathing and induce feelings of fear, helplessness, and a loss of control. A doctor would stand by to monitor and calibrate this physically and psychologically harmful act, which amounts to torture.”

Allen’s reference to doctors observing the fear and helplessness in tortured prisoners is significant. “Learned helplessness” was a central aim of the CIA torture methods.

Medical personnel were involved in the interrogation process from the moment detainees arrived in the prison. The report notes “the role of health professionals in participating in initial psychological and physical assessments of detainees in an intake process closely linked to the process of interrogation [whereby] all interrogations were monitored in real-time by health professionals.”

Medical or scientific experimentation on prisoners of war violates the laws of war and and basic precepts of human rights. It is also a major breach of long-established medical ethics, including the Hippocratic oath, which stipulate that medical personnel must provide care to the sick and wounded and do no harm.

“That health professionals who swear to oaths of healing so abused the sacred trust society places in us by instigating, legitimizing and participating in torture, is an abomination,” states co-author Allen Keller, MD, director of the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture. “Health professionals who aided torture must be held accountable by professional associations, by state licensing boards, and by society. Accountability is essential to maintain trust in our professions and to end torture, which scars bodies and minds, leaving survivors to endure debilitating injuries, humiliating memories and haunting nightmares.”

The experimentation and study of the physical and psychological effects of torture on inmates simultaneously at a number of different CIA prisons could only have occurred if it were organized and ordered by high-ranking Bush administration officials. Taken together with other evidence of torture during the Bush administration, the PHR report leaves no doubt that this was the case.

Bush administration Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) memos released through court order earlier this year connect the dots. These memos provide detailed descriptions of the physical and psychological impact of various forms of torture on inmates, including waterboarding, exposure to cold water, beatings, extreme isolation, and forced nudity.

The memos noted CIA guidelines that require the presence of doctors and psychologists for some of these methods. But it is clear that the central role of medical personnel at the interrogations was to analyze the “success” of various forms of torture in breaking the resistance of prisoners to interrogators.

“Not only were health professionals involved in designing and monitoring the CIA interrogation program, they also played an indirect but essential role in the legal justifications for the program prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC),” the report notes. “The OLC was asked by the CIA whether certain techniques constituted torture under [US law] by causing ‘severe physical or mental pain or suffering.’ Since the OLC lawyers had no direct experience of the techniques, they necessarily relied instead on the judgment of health professionals. Yet, in a striking example of bootstrapping, they turned for advice about the pain caused by the techniques to the very health professionals who were implementing them.”

It continues, “In essence, the lawyers were asked if the techniques constituted torture and they replied to the CIA that they only did so if the CIA Office of Medical Services (OMS) informed them that the techniques reached the defined standard of pain. The OMS health professionals obligingly passed on through CIA channels their opinion that the pain was not in fact severe.”

The report notes one OLC memo which concluded that waterboarding is not torture because “however frightening the experience may be, OMS personnel have informed us that the waterboard technique is not physically painful.”

The role of US medical personnel in torturing prisoners and experimenting on their bodies recalls the infamous practices of Nazi doctors on concentration camp inmates in WWII. A number of these doctors were tried and convicted at the Nuremberg war crimes trials in the war’s aftermath.

The Nuremberg Code emerged from the trial of Nazi doctors, who claimed that their experiments were not fundamentally different than those carried out before the war. The first of the 10 principles in the code states that in cases of experimentation on human subjects, the consent of the individual is absolutely necessary. The Nuremberg Code of ethics provided the basis for the US Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45 Volume 46, which regulates all federally funded experiments.

No.10 turns on Obama and Clinton for criticising decision to release Lockerbie bomber

No.10 turns on Obama and Clinton for criticising decision to release Lockerbie bomber

By Simon Walters

obamaWhitehall said US President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s reaction to Abdelbaset Al Megrahi’s release was ‘disingenuous’

Downing Street has hit back at  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for attacking the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber.

President Obama and the US Secretary of State fuelled a fierce American backlash against Britain, claiming Abdelbaset Al Megrahi should have been forced to serve out his jail sentence in Scotland – but a senior Whitehall aide said their reaction was ‘disingenuous’.

British officials claim Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton were kept informed at all stages of discussions concerning Megrahi’s return.

The officials say the Americans spoke out because they were taken aback by the row over Megrahi’s release, not because they did not know it was about to happen.

‘The US was kept fully in touch about everything that was going on with regard to Britain’s discussions with Libya in recent years and about Megrahi,’ said the Whitehall aide.

‘We would never do anything about Lockerbie without discussing it with the US. It is disingenuous of them to act as though Megrahi’s return was out of the blue.

‘They knew about our prisoner transfer agreement with Libya and they knew that the Scots were considering Megrahi’s case.’

Mr Obama said Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds was a ‘mistake’ while Mrs Clinton phoned the Scottish administration to complain in person.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband are said to have been ‘disappointed’ by the force of Washington’s response.

American politicians claimed the Anglo-US ‘special relationship’ had been damaged ‘for years to come’ because the UK had gone back on a joint pledge that Megrahi would stay behind bars in Scotland.

Former US Justice Department official David Rivkin said it was ‘duplicitous behaviour’.

lockerbie bomberControversy: Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi (left) arrives in Libya

Sole Informant Guided Decision On Afghan Strike

Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 6, 2009

HAJI SAKHI DEDBY, Afghanistan, Sept. 5 — To the German commander, it seemed to be a fortuitous target: More than 100 Taliban insurgents were gathering around two hijacked fuel tankers that had become stuck in the mud near this small farming village.

The grainy live video transmitted from an American F-15E fighter jet circling overhead, which was projected on a screen in a German tactical operations center four miles north of here, showed numerous black dots around the trucks — each of them a thermal

image of a human but without enough detail to confirm whether they were carrying weapons. An Afghan informant was on the phone with an intelligence officer at the center, however, insisting that everybody at the site was an insurgent, according to an account that German officers here provided to NATO officials.

Based largely on that informant’s assessment, the commander ordered a 500-pound, satellite-guided bomb to be dropped on each truck early Friday. The vehicles exploded in a fireball that lit up the night sky for miles, incinerating many of those standing nearby.

A NATO fact-finding team estimated Saturday that about 125 people were killed in the bombing, at least two dozen of whom — but perhaps many more — were not insurgents. To the team, which is trying to sort out this complicated incident, mindful that the fallout could further sap public support in Afghanistan for NATO’s security mission here, the target appeared to be far less clear-cut than it had to the Germans.

One survivor, convalescing from abdominal wounds at a hospital in the nearby city of Kunduz, said he went to the site because he thought he could get free fuel. Another patient, a 10-year-old boy with shrapnel in his left leg, said he went to gawk, against his father’s advice. In Kabul, the Afghan capital, relatives of two severely burned survivors being treated at an intensive-care unit said Taliban fighters forced dozens of villagers to assist in moving the bogged-down tankers.

“They came to everyone’s house asking for help,” said Mirajuddin, a shopkeeper who lost six of his cousins in the bombing — none of whom, he said, was an insurgent. “They started beating people and pointing guns. They said, ‘Bring your tractors and help us.’ What could we do?”

None of the survivors and the relatives dispute that some Taliban fighters were at the scene. But just how many remains unclear, as does the number of civilians. And because many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, and others were buried in the hours after the explosion, it may be impossible to ascertain.

The decision to bomb the tankers based largely on a single human intelligence source appears to violate the

spirit of a tactical directive aimed at reducing civilian casualties that was recently issued by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The directive states that NATO forces cannot bomb residential buildings based on a sole source of information and that troops must establish a “pattern of life” to ensure that no civilians are in the target area. Although the directive does not apply to airstrikes in the open, NATO officials said it is McChrystal’s intent for those standards to apply to all uses of air power, except when troops are in imminent danger.

McChrystal’s advisers allowed a Washington Post reporter to travel with a NATO fact-finding team and attend its otherwise closed-door meetings with German troops and Afghan officials. Portions of this account are based on those discussions.

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The incident has generated intense disquiet among Afghans, many of whom say military operations since the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001 have resulted in an unacceptably high number of civilian casualties. Local media reports have been filled with people alleging — some with little proof — that scores of civilians were killed in the airstrike.

Aware that another mass civilian casualty incident could further diminish public support for the multinational mission to combat the Taliban, McChrystal sought to handle

this case differently from his predecessors. The morning after the bombing, as Afghan television and radio stations began airing reports about it, he dispatched the team of senior officers to the area.

His headquarters had only a six-line situation report from the Germans. The team’s assignment was to figure out what had occurred and to help him communicate a forthright message to the Afghan public with the hope that owning up to a potential mistake quickly could help defuse tensions.

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US experts group opposes sending troops to Afghanistan

US experts group opposes sending troops to Afghanistan

A group of former intelligence officials and security experts have warned against sending additional U.S. troops to insurgency-wracked Afghanistan, according to an American writer, who Sunday urged a multifarious strategy to calm down the Taliban insurgency and improve the regional situation. “Our policy makers do not understand that the very presence of our forces in the Pashtun areas is the problem,” a group of expert said in a statement to Nicholas D Kicholas, who Sunday wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times. “The more troops we put in, the greater the opposition. We do not mitigate the opposition by increasing troop levels, but rather we increase the opposition and prove to the Pashtuns that the Taliban are correct,” the group said. “The basic ignorance by our leadership is going to cause the deaths of many fine American troops with no positive outcome,” the statement added, according to the writer. Examining the declining security situation and expanding Taliban insurgency in several parts of Afghanistan, the writer notes that President Obama has already dispatched an additional 21,000 American troops to Afghanistan and soon will decide whether to send thousands more. “That would be a fateful decision for his presidency, and a group of former intelligence officials and other experts is now reluctantly going public to warn that more troops would be a historic mistake. “The group’s concern “ dead right, in my view “ is that sending more American troops into ethnic Pashtun areas in the Afghan south may only galvanize local people to back the Taliban in repelling the infidels,” he fears. The group cited by Kicholas includes Howard Hart, a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan; David Miller, a former ambassador and National Security Council official; William J. Olson, a counterinsurgency scholar at the National Defense University; and another C.I.A. veteran who does not want his name published but who spent 12 years in the region, was station chief in Kabul at the time the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and later headed the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center. “We share a concern that the country is driving over a cliff,” Mr. Miller said. Mr. Hart, who helped organize the anti-Soviet insurgency in the 1980s, cautions that Americans just don’t understand the toughness, determination and fighting skills of the Pashtun tribes. He adds that if the U.S. escalates the war, the result will be radicalization of Pashtuns in Pakistan and further instability there, the writer says. The solution, the writer advocates, is neither to pull out of Afghanistan nor to double down. “Rather, we need to continue our presence with a lighter military footprint, limited to training the Afghan forces and helping them hold major cities, and ensuring that Al Qaeda does not regroup. We must also invest more in education and agriculture development, for that is a way over time to peel Pashtuns away from the Taliban. “This would be a muddled, imperfect strategy with frustratingly modest goals, but it would be sustainable politically and militarily. And it does not require heavy investments of American and Afghan blood.”

US, internal powers behind Zia plane crash: Brig Imtiaz

US, internal powers behind Zia plane crash: Brig Imtiaz

ISLAMABAD: Former chief of the Intelligence Bureau Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed has claimed that the US and the “internal powers” were behind the 1988 plane crash, which killed General Zia-ul-Haq.

Talking to a private TV channel, he said the US collaborated with the internal powers in assassinating Zia. “Former Army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg also says that Zia’s plane crash was not an accident, but sabotage,” he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to Brig (retd) Imtiaz’s claim, Zia’s son Ejaz-ul-Haq demanded that a thorough criminal investigation should be conducted into the plane crash. Ejaz said former pilot Akram Awan, who was arrested in connection with another case, told a commission that the Israeli intelligence agency — Mossad — “delivered material to destroy the plane”.

Ejaz also claimed that the US prevented a proper investigation into the plane crash. He said the medical personnel, who performed an autopsy on his father’s body, were sent off to far-off areas.

He said he had met former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger with a request to probe into the incident, but received no response from him. Ejaz said a thorough investigation was needed to uncover the truth behind the plane crash.

The U.S. Health Care System – Values and Priorities

The U.S. Health Care System – Values and Priorities

by Brian McAfee

The current battles over the American health-care system are indicative of a wider philosophical and social divide. What is at stake and what is the desired outcome of each side? To answer such an enquiry, we must first look at the current health-care system as it exists in the United States.
The World Health Organization ranks U.S. healthcare well below most of Europe, Canada and Japan. France and Italy rank at number one and two while the U.S. is in the thirty-seventh slot. Most of the countries that rank above the U.S. have some form of socialized medicine. Japan, which ranks tenth on the WHO list, is at number one in life expectancy with 74.5 years being the average while the U.S. is twenty-fourth in life expectancy, again well below much of Europe, Canada and Australia as well.
An oft repeated declaration is that the U.S. has the best healthcare in the world. It is, also, stated that people across the globe come to the U.S. for medical treatments, such as the King of Jordan, who recently went to the Mayo Clinic for surgery. This outcomes happens when people can afford the high costs for travel and care. Likewise, U.S. citizens do the same, but in a reverse sort of fashion.
For example, Richard DeVos, co-founder of AMWAY and a staunch Republican, went to Great Britain for a heart transplant and talk show host Charlie Rose went to France for heart surgery. These sorts of options, of course, do not exist for most Americans and, certainly, very few choices exist at all for the U.S. citizens who cannot afford healthcare coverage altogether.
This in mind, the disturbances and displays of “righteous indignation” at town hall meetings need a closer look. News reports indicate that many of the people disrupting the gatherings of specific Democratic Congressional representatives were largely staged by combinations of HMO employees bussed to the town halls for the purpose of creating distortion of the truth and troubled “FOX NEWS” zealots who believe capitalism and business interests should come before people’s health.
On account, this entire bunch delivered much misinformation and lies about Obama’s health-care plans, swayed lots of opinion polls, as well as showed a lack of knowledge about the benefits of universal health care delivery. Indeed, the right-wingers repeatedly compared Obama’s proposed changes to Nazism, which was especially ridiculous.
The Nazi comparisons are generally a bad idea for public discourse. However, there is an area that somewhat fits. During the Nazi era, particular businesses were given greater privilege and leeway over the well being of people and their rights with the most well known of these being I. G. Farben and Krupp. It was a clear cut idea and system where profit (and, of course, power) took precedence over people’s needs. Like a boomerang, the Nazi comparison notion comes home to roost, but not quite in the way intended by the neocon crowd… Well, you get the idea.
In a recent interview with Dr. James Jackson, a well known Muskegon physician and community activist, he stated that the problem in America’s healthcare is that “it is based on capitalism, it puts people second and money fist”. When asked if HMOs had a legitimate place in American healthcare he said “absolutely not”.
About Obama’s potential health care plans, Dr Jackson, further, said that it has some problems. Specifically he mentioned that “if it does not include single payer, it will continue the same problems that we currently have”.
In the ongoing battle for truth, justice and values, people should always be valued BEFORE and ABOVE lavish profits. If this orientation cannot be the foundation for human care, regardless of the form that the care takes, there is certainly much more that is wrong in the U.S.A. than just healthcare.

At the following links are located data concerning the World Health Organization’s assessment of many nations’ health care systems and life expectancies: The World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health … ( and Healthy Life Expectancy By Country ( When the U.S. is compared with and contrasted to other countries, its relative greatness in the broader scheme certainly comes into question. For this reason, American priorities must be carefully evaluated and, without screaming matches at town meetings, reset.

Charity: US troops stormed through Afghan hospital

Afghan men walk in a covered market in Kabul September 7, 2009. ...

Afghan men walk in a covered market in Kabul September 7, 2009.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
By KAY JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer Kay Johnson, Associated Press Writer 1 hr 38 mins ago

KABUL – A Swedish charity accused American troops Monday of storming through a hospital in central Afghanistan, breaking down doors and tying up staff in a search for militants. The U.S. military said it was investigating.

The allegation that soldiers violated the neutrality of a medical facility follows the reported deaths of Afghan civilians in a U.S. airstrike in the country’s north last week.

Nearly eight years after the U.S.-led coalition invaded to oust the Taliban, foreign forces are working to persuade the population to support the Afghan government. But civilian deaths and intrusive searches of homes have bred resentment.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said the U.S. Army‘s 10th Mountain Division entered the charity’s hospital without permission to look for insurgents in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, according to the charity’s country director, Anders Fange.

“This is simply not acceptable,” he said.

The U.S. troops came to the hospital looking for Taliban insurgents late at night last Wednesday, Fange said. He said they kicked in doors,

tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients, and forced patients out of beds during their search.

When they left two hours later, the unit ordered hospital staff to inform coalition forces if any wounded militants were admitted, and the military would decide if they could be treated, Fange said.

The staff refused, he said. “That would put our staff at risk and make the hospital a target.”

The charity said on its Web site that the troops actions were not only a violation of humanitarian principles but also went against an agreement between NATO forces and charities working in the area.

“We demand guarantees … that such violations will not be repeated and that this is made clear to commanders in the field,” a statement said.

Navy public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker confirmed that the hospital was searched last week but had no other details. She said the military was looking into the incident.

“We are investigating and we take allegations like this seriously,” she said. “Complaints like this are rare.”

Violence has surged across much of Afghanistan since President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 more U.S. troops to the country this year. Two foreign troops were killed Sunday when their patrol hit a roadside bomb in the country’s south, NATO said without giving their nationalities. Three civilians also died in a militant rocket attack on the capital.

NATO was also investigating reported civilian deaths in a U.S. airstrike last week. Afghan officials said up to 70 people were killed in the early morning airstrike Friday in the northern province of Kunduz after the Taliban hijacked two fuel tanker. After the trucks became stuck in the mud on the banks of a river, villagers came to siphon off gas and some were reported killed when an American jet dropped two bombs on the stolen tankers.

The increasingly violent Taliban have killed more Afghan civilians in bombings and other attacks. On Monday, the government said three insurgent rockets landed in the capital, Kabul, killing three people when one of them hit a house.

A United Nations report in July said the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 percent this year, with bombings by insurgent and airstrikes by international forces the biggest single killers. The report said that 1,013 civilians were killed in the first half of 2009, 59 percent in insurgent attacks and 30.5 percent by foreign and Afghan government forces. The rest were undetermined.