Psychologists Aiding CIA Torture

(Photo: Shrieking Tree / Flickr)

by Stephen Lendman

(RINF) – Doctors were accused earlier of involvement in torture by:

  • monitoring and participating directly in torture procedures;
  • instructing interrogators to continue, adjust, or stop certain ones;
  • informing detainees that medical treatment depended on their cooperation;
  • performing medical checks before and after each transfer; and
  • treating the effects of torture as well as ailments and injuries during incarceration.

Condoning or participating in torture grievously breaches core medical ethics and the 1975 World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Tokyo “Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment.” It states:

  • in all cases at all times, “physician(s) shall not countenance, condone or participate in” torture or other forms of abuse;
  • they “shall not use nor allow to be used (their) medical knowledge or skills, or health information” to aid interrogation in any way;
  • they “shall not be present during any procedure during which torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened;”
  • they “must have complete clinical independence” in treating persons in their care; and
  • WMA encourages the international community and fellow physicians to support medical professionals who face “threats or reprisals resulting from a refusal to condone” all forms of torture and abuse.

Protocol I of the 1949 Geneva Conventions states:

“Persons engaged in medical activities shall neither be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to, nor be compelled to refrain from acts required by, the rules of medical ethics or other rules designed for the benefit of the wounded and sick, or this Protocol.”

On July 7, 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan Marks published an article titled, “Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.”

They cited evidence showing when “(h)ealth information (was) routinely available to behavioral science consultants and others” engaged in interrogations, they acted in violation of strict medical ethics.

Since late 2002, psychiatrists and psychologists were involved in crafting extreme stress techniques “combined with behavior-shaping rewards to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives,” the writers said.

“Wholesale disregard for clinical confidentiality” seriously breaches medical ethics “since it makes every caregiver into an accessory to intelligence gathering. (It) puts prisoners at greater risk for serious abuse.”

In July 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) “Report(ed) on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” It included evidence of medical personnel involvement.

Detainees were told medical treatment depended on their cooperation. Prisoner medical records showed physicians were present during brutal interrogations constituting torture. They “authorized (them) to proceed.”

Prisoners described doctors performing unnecessary and abusive procedures, including forced amputations, after which they were denied proper treatment.

Psychiatrists and psychologists designed extreme interrogation techniques as part of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT). It was tasked “to torment detainees.”

A new lengthy document titled “Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture” revealed top APA officials and its ethics director involved with justifying enhanced CIA interrogations known to involve torture.

Psychologists involved profited from torture-related contracts. Evidence shows APA officials collaborated with DoD to assure organization ethics policies effectively condoned what should have been condemned.

Collaboration is complicity with high crimes against humanity. APA officials and psychologists involved share guilt.

CIA torturers sought APA approval to counter concerns among its own medical professionals. Following the report’s release, former organization head Nadine Kaslow issued a statement, saying:

“The actions, policies and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values.”

“We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the consequences that ensued.”

On July 8, APA ethics chief Stephen Behnke resigned once knowledge of his involvement was revealed, as well as getting a lucrative interrogator training contract – without notifying APA’s board.

Other resignations are expected to follow – not prosecutions of everyone involved to the highest levels in government, the military, CIA and private sector as a way to show impunity no longer protects torturers or others complicit with them.

The practice continues under Obama in dozens of US global black sites.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at

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