Health professionals working for the U.S. military were “improperly demanded” by the CIA and the Department of Defense to be involved in the design and administration of “harsh treatment and torture” of suspected terrorists since 9/11 at U.S. detention centers, a new report says.
A 19-strong panel of experts, convened by the Columbia University-based think tank Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the non-profit organization Open Society Foundations, spent over two years reviewing public records into the medical professions’ alleged complicity in the abuse of prisoners suspected of terrorism who were held in U.S. custody during the years after 9/11.
Both the CIA’s and Department of Defense’s interrogation methods at U.S. military prisons, including at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, have been the subject of much controversy since 9/11. Officials in President George W. Bush’s Administration referred to the techniques used - which included subjecting detainees to hypothermia, stress positions and waterboarding - as “enhanced interrogation techniques” that they believe did not legally amount to torture. The U.S. faced much criticism from international organisations, including the UN and human rights groups, for its position on what constitutes torture. President Obama broke with the previous administration’s stance and signed an executive order banning unlawful interrogation techniques, including those that amounted to torture.
The Constitution Project, an American bipartisan think-tank focused on legal questions, issued a report in April 2013 on what they called the most “comprehensive record of detainee treatment” published to date. It found that some interrogation techniques U.S. forces have used did in fact constitute torture.
Both the CIA and the Pentagon have rejected the latest report’s findings. CIA public affairs chief Dean Boyd said, “It’s important to underscore that the CIA does not have any detainees in its custody and President Obama terminated the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program by executive order in 2009,” reports the BBC.
Leonard Rubenstein, a co-author of the report and scholar on human rights and medical ethics at the John Hopkins University , told the BBC that the Department of Defense and CIA “actually changed core ethical standards” of the medical profession to “facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees.”