Experiments in Torture
June 6, 2010 11:09 PM   Subscribe

The Torture Papers. "In the most comprehensive investigation to date of health professionals' involvement in the CIA's 'enhanced' interrogation program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody. The apparent experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the 'enhanced' interrogation techniques. The PHR report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program, is the first to provide evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture."

Interview with Dr. Scott Allen, the lead medical author of the report.

Related post.
posted by homunculus (42 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Mengele was not supposed to be a role model.

What sort of thinking had to be going on in the chain of command? "I guess we've tried everything else. Why not human experimentation?"

Now all we need is news of secret super-weapons, and we will have turned the Third Reich into a checklist.
Previously: Secret Spaceplanes
... We're doomed.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:24 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Christ. I'm actually sick to my stomach. Are we ever going to convince the current administration that only "looking forward" is ultimately detrimental to the standards which we purport to uphold? The long list of recommendations on page 4 of the PDF feels so empty in light of the lack of willingness of Obama to direct the executive branch to even investigate wrongdoings of his predecessor.

This isn't even about Bush at this point. It's about our collective national morality and our need to take measures to reclaim standing on the world stage. I don't necessarily support the unofficial-yet-still-existing US empirical claim on the planet, but I don't see how we have any claim to say things about what anyone else does which might be morally reprehensible at this point.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 PM on June 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

One of my earliest posts here was titled "We are all Good Germans now". I am not happy to have been proven correct.
posted by orthogonality at 11:40 PM on June 6, 2010

We are so awful to every living thing around us, from our own citizens to those in foreign lands to the earth's fauna and flora and beyond. Our leaders are mendacious and greedy and seemingly act with no moral compass as they throw atrocity after atrocity in our faces. How can people still trust their owners when faced with the realities of the system they live in and support? Why do we accept all of this with nothing more than disgust? We compare ourselves sincerely and frequently to the third Reich, but aren't bothered enough to do anything? I guess there is no longer a question of why the Germans allowed it to happen. It is simply our eagerness to comply and believe.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 11:51 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hm. I'm not sure that I agree that there's a crime here more heinous than the torture itself. I mean, we aren't actually talking the return of Mengele here. Once you start keeping track of how well your interrogations work— whether your interrogation technique involves torture, or just imprisonment and questioning, or giving someone a second helping of pie if they tell you where the secret base is— then you are performing experiments on human subjects. As Dr. Allen says in the BoingBoing interview, the interrogators basically had the choice of either winging it, or taking notes. Taking notes is a (n additional) war crime.

(I'm sure someone will respond to this post by asserting that I obviously think torture is hunky-dory and peachy-keen. That person is an idiot.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:55 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

CIA doctors take the the hypocritical oath.
posted by Artw at 12:12 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Was this thread Godwinned on the first comment?
posted by parhamr at 12:13 AM on June 7, 2010

Well, they did more than take notes. They made recommendations based on those notes. In fact, the whole reason for the note-taking was so they could make recommendations. The intent to 'improve' the 'quality' of the torture necessitated taking notes. That was their goal.

Specifically, they started to replace the water with potable saline, they devised a special gurney so the prisoner could be flipped upright if he started drowning, and they suggested keeping an tracheotomy kit in the room in case the prisoner started choking. They also made a bunch of observations to make it easier for people to tap-dance past the guidelines of the Geneva Convention. And they did all these things in contravention of the Nuremberg Code.

And there was a third choice open to these doctors: to refuse to be involved. After Nuremberg, no-one gets to say they were just acting as instructed where crimes of this nature are involved. It's a discredited argument.
posted by Ritchie at 12:24 AM on June 7, 2010 [13 favorites]

There's a difference between interrogations and torture. Taking notes while interrogating someone is fine. Taking notes presumably so to better torture someone in the future is fucked up and does seem to make it a fair bit worse. There's the sense that notes and such would probably propagate a system of torture that is probably best clamped down upon harshly, no?
posted by dazed_one at 12:26 AM on June 7, 2010

I've read about this in several places and honestly, my stomach is churning at just reading the descriptions of the documents, not what was actually there.

This is not meant as a rhetorical question: what can I, as an average US citizen do to see that these guys are brought to justice? And not just the "bad apples" (all 90% of them) but the ones who gave the orders in the first place?
posted by Hactar at 12:57 AM on June 7, 2010

Was this thread Godwinned on the first comment?

Comparisons to the Nazis are no longer examples of argumentative overkill. We live in an era when they truly are role models to aspire to. Starting with The Big Lie.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Christ. I get the whole argument about wanting to avoid investigations being or even appearing to be politically-motivated, and the fear that we end up in a perpetual tit-for-tat of new administrations going after their predecessors. I get the importance of the peaceful transfer of power and the damage that type of retributive action could have on the nation. These points will undoubtedly be raised by well-meaning folks in this very thread.
But for fuck's sake:
1 - Politically-motivated investigations, both apparent and real, are just about standard operating procedure coming from the Right. Does anyone seriously argue that Whitewater was anything else? Does anyone doubt that the Obama administration is and will be the target of such action? See also: the AG firings during Bush II. Now just because "they" do it doesn't make it right for "us" to do it, obviously. But the problem is not going away just because "we" take the high road.* So...
2 - ...don't start going after Cheney and John Yoo. Go ahead and start looking at all these oh-so-independent and certainly rogue "bad apples". Amass enough evidence, get enough people to turn, that the trail up is unmistakable and compelling to follow, even for inarguably independent observers. This scenario or any other leading to anyone with real responsibility being prosecuted won't come about because...
3 - ...the nation, the democracy - all that great stuff we need to avoid damaging - is already so damaged, so fucked beyond sense, that many many people are not just indifferent to torture, but will happily, publicly explain why it's a valuable, necessary tool against our big bad scary enemies. The fact that it doesn't work is immaterial. The fact that it is immoral is laughable.
4 - It almost seems like one of these destroying the village to save it deals. If we don't just keep looking forward, if we turn around and follow up and this stuff and actually try to hold people accountable, we could shake up our already hurting country and its institutions. But if we don't, then who are we, who have we allowed ourselves to become?
5 - So for once will someone with an actual ability to do something do it already? "Surely this..." isn't even funny as a fatalistic joke any more. (Though surely someone will have made it by the time I preview this incoherent rant.)
6 - Fuck it.
*I put "them", "us", and "we" in quotes because I haven't considered myself a Democrat for several years now. Also, my apologies for abuse of the language and its punctuation.
On preview: Nobody made that damn joke yet. It is 4:46 in the morning though. Cheers.

posted by zoinks at 1:47 AM on June 7, 2010

OK, if Obama ignores this then I'm going to have to vote for Sarah Palin, just so I don't have to be consistently disappointed when morality gets shit on by someone who promised us he wouldn't.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:33 AM on June 7, 2010

Apparently, Godwin's Law needs its own law - something like, "As any discussion of the Bush Administration grows longer, the probability that someone will bring up Godwin's Law approaches 1."

The subject of this post is horrendous, inhuman cruelty, perpetrated by the supposed beacon of Democracy and individuals who took an oath to "do no harm." Let's make sure we trivialize it with our favorite worn-out pseudo-profundity.

It's not too late to put our money where our mouths are, and prosecute these criminals.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:29 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'll be waiting for this to hit top story on CNN, not because is isn't true, but because fuck all will happen unless it does. Justice comes these days only to the loud.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:31 AM on June 7, 2010

Straight to hell.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:55 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Who's the Nazi now?
posted by caddis at 3:57 AM on June 7, 2010

Straight to fucking hell.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:43 AM on June 7, 2010

Bush says he'd do it again! Clearly this "look forward, not back" thing is working, in that now everyone knows there are zero consequences and no one gives a crap. At least no one serious.
posted by delmoi at 5:15 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is a truly disturbing but important reminder of the systemic abuses of power and slippery shirking of justice that we have all (those who ever cared) come to take for granted. I know that I, since the advent of the Obama administration, have lost the momentum and outrage I felt at the rampant human rights abuses and foucaldian rot of the Bush era. This PHR report is just the slap to the face I needed to remember that this pattern of quiet law flouting and even quieter cover up flourishes today.

This may be an moot comparison, but is it just me, or is the idea of CIA doctors greasing the wheels for this kind of torture-improving research evidence of more systemic rot than the Abu Ghraib scandal and cover up? To a certain extent, I expect a degree of moral realignment (if not decay) as a result from military training, months of years of deployment and violence on the job. That human rights abuses are perpetrated by American troops is less shocking to me than what this story reveals- trained doctors throwing their ethical obligations away rendering them superhuman CIA tools handy with scalpels. Deliberate undermining of the Geneva Conventions. Political obfuscation right to the upper reaches:

From the Dr. Scott Allen interview:

"We have provided credible evidence of a crime."

"When that threshhold is crossed, it then becomes the responsibility of the responsible authorities to thoroughly investigate the allegations."

"This Associated Press story includes an administration response saying that this has been looked into multiple times. It has not."

"Abuses have been looked into multiple times. The role of health professionals has been looked into in a broad way. But there has never been any investigation into the question of human experimentation."

posted by Lisitasan at 5:16 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

People are vile.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:29 AM on June 7, 2010

The USA is now, officially, a lawless nation. Former president George Walker Bush admitted on national television to committing a serious crime, he has not been arrested nor are there any plans to even investigate much less prosecute his crimes.

Rule of law is a thing of the past.
posted by sotonohito at 6:26 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Why don't we just un-sign the Geneva Convention? I mean, it's one thing to torture, it's another to then try to make it look justified. Think of all the time, money and energy wasted on lawyers, consultants, investigators, doctors, shrinks, writers, etc that could go to something else if we just said 'we no longer recognize ourselves as signatories to the Geneva Convention'.
posted by spicynuts at 6:42 AM on June 7, 2010

This is why I'm skeptical of patriotism - it's what keeps people in line and prevents them from stopping the evils committed by the government
posted by rcraniac at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good thing the adults were in charge.
posted by Aquaman at 11:40 AM on June 7, 2010

The only surprising thing about this is that it's taken this long to come to light.
posted by elizardbits at 12:51 PM on June 7, 2010

Clearly this "look forward, not back" thing is working, in that now everyone knows there are zero consequences and no one gives a crap.

Ah, but there are consequences for some people: U.S. To “Look Back” And Prosecute Leaker

The USA is now, officially, a lawless nation. Former president George Walker Bush admitted on national television to committing a serious crime, he has not been arrested nor are there any plans to even investigate much less prosecute his crimes.

Banana Republic.
posted by homunculus at 4:48 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm still hoping that Obama is secretly putting together an airtight case against Bush's minions and will spring it during the Republican national convention.
posted by notreally at 5:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

The doctors who participated in torture research need to have their licenses yanked. That's a clear violation of professional ethics.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:53 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll be waiting for this to hit top story on CNN

They seem to be preoccupied with more important matters.
posted by homunculus at 10:07 AM on June 8, 2010

Glenn Greenwald: A growing part of the Obama legacy
posted by homunculus at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2010

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