CIA's 'Inhumane' Torturers? Doctors

New report finds disturbing ethical violations

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 4, 2013 7:41 AM CST

(Newser) – The doctor's ethical directive, "first do no harm," would seem to not-so-subtly indicate that medical professionals not engage in torture ... but an independent taskforce finds that the CIA and the Pentagon asked doctors and psychologists working at US detention facilities (including Guantanamo Bay) to do just that. The two-year investigation by the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers found that after the September 11 attacks, medical professionals working for the US military and intelligence services were basically told the ethical mandate did not apply since they weren't actually treating sick patients. The Defense Department went so far as to refer to them as "safety officers," not doctors, the Guardian reports.

The health professionals "designed and participated in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and torture of detainees," the taskforce report says. That includes:

  • helping to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike, which the World Medical Association and American Medical Association rules prohibit.
  • breaching confidentiality to give interrogators information about a prisoner's physical or psychological state.
  • acting as interrogators.
  • advising that "enhanced interrogation" techniques, including sleep deprivation and waterboarding were medically acceptable, and sometimes being present while a prisoner was waterboarded.
The "safety officers" also did not comply with the army surgeon general's recommendations for reporting detainee abuse, the report states. It also says these unethical practices continue, despite the fact that the CIA and the Defense Department say they have taken steps to address prisoner treatment. The panel looked at public information including Defense Department and CIA documents, congressional reports, and other investigations to come up with its findings, but members now want the White House to launch its own investigation in order to get access to classified documents, the National Journal reports.

This June 20, 2013 file photo shows a view inside of open air pen used to confine detainees at Camp X-Ray, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
This June 20, 2013 file photo shows a view inside of open air pen used to confine detainees at Camp X-Ray, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Bill Gorman, File)
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