Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Major call for Congress to investigate CIA/Pentagon Torture

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has been in the forefront of mobilizing medical professionals and citizens in general against torture, has released a major new call for full Congressional investigations into U.S. interrogation policies and their implementation by the CIA and the Department of Defense. Calling for "No More Abu Ghraibs" (the third anniversary of the Abu Ghraib revelations is on April 28), PHR states in its press release:

Over the last three years there has been a continuous outcry against the Administration's interrogation policies, including among the military and intelligence communities. The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed clearer guidelines prohibiting most abusive practices but it still continues to involve mental health professionals in the interrogation of detainees, making them active members of the "Behavioral Science Consultation Teams" (BSCTs). Ambiguities in the DoD guidelines and weaker standards for the CIA leave room for continued abuse and not enough accountability.

PHR has done stellar work in battling the inhumane and illegal coercive interrogation policies implemented by Bush and his unlamented former Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld.

Though Rumsfeld is gone, the torture continues. Amnesty International released a report on April 5, 2007, "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA -- Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of isolation for detainees at Guantánamo Bay", which describes the ongoing torture regime the U.S. conducts at the Gitmo Naval Base.

As of 1 April 2007, approximately 385 men of around 30 nationalities were detained without trial in the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Designated by the US authorities as “"unlawful enemy combatants”", many have been held for more than five years without knowing if or when they will be released or brought to any form of judicial process. None of those currently held has had the lawfulness of his detention reviewed by a court. A few face the prospect of trials by military commission under procedures that violate international fair trial standards....

Built to accommodate around 178 detainees, the compound known as Camp 6 is surrounded by high concrete walls with no windows visible on the façade. Inside, detainees are confined for a minimum of 22 hours a day in individual steel cells with no windows to the outside.... There are no opening windows and detainees are completely cut-off from human contact while inside their cells....

Contrary to international standards, the cells have no access to natural light or air, and are lit by fluorescent lighting which is on 24 hours a day and controlled by guards....

As of March 2007, dozens of detainees are reported to have continued or resumed a hunger strike in protest at their conditions as well as indefinite detention.... A number of them were being force-fed through nasal tubes, some while strapped into restraint chairs. In recently declassified accounts, detainees have described being subjected to considerable pain as the tubes are inserted into their nostrils. One detainee reported how, three times, the tube had been inserted the wrong way so that it went into his lungs; he said he frequently vomited after being force-fed and was not given clean clothes. Guards have allegedly subjected hunger-striking detainees in one block to further punitive treatment, such as pepper spraying them or turning the air-conditioning up high.

The PHR call for action explains how psychologists at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) military training program at Fort Bragg, North Carolina were "instrumental in creating the techniques that have been used at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere." In addition, military psychologists have been instrumental, through their organization, the Society for Military Psychology (itself a recognized division within the American Psychological Association (APA)) in maintaining APA support for psychologist participation in coercive interrogations. I discussed this recently in my diary, Military Psychologists Oppose Torture Moratorium.

The word is that Senate committees already have gathered information preparatory to making a full-scale investigation of Bush's torture policies, including the use of medical and psychological personnel. But it may take a public outcry to make such investigations a reality.

Please join PHR in their call for a Congressional investigation. Go their action website, which automates the sending of your letter to the appropriate representatives. Or copy the letter below and send it to your Congressperson and to your Senators.

Congress Must Fully Investigate CIA and DoD Interrogation Methods

I am writing to request that you push for a full Congressional investigation into CIA and Department of Defense interrogations. Specifically, I would like Congress to investigate:

* the role of Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) military training program techniques in CIA and DoD interrogations

* the involvement of psychologists and other health professionals in CIA and DoD interrogations

I have been deeply disturbed by the evidence brought forward by writers, such as Steven Miles, MD, Jane Mayer and Mark Benjamin, that harmful interrogation techniques, such as the use of dogs, prolonged sleep deprivation, humiliation, forcible restraint, hypothermia and compulsory intravenous infusions, may have been adapted from the SERE military training program. I am likewise alarmed that health professionals have played pivotal roles in interrogations by treating patients to prolong harsh interrogations and by using their training as behavioral scientists to break prisoners down psychologically.

Physicians for Human Rights has documented the severe physical and psychological harm caused by the current interrogation practices. Please help launch a full Congressional investigation as soon as possible, so we can learn the extent of the abuses in interrogations, how and why they occurred and put an end to these travesties.

Edit this letter as you wish. But do it today.

Please join PHR’s Campaign Against Torture in urging Congress to fully investigate the techniques used in CIA and Department of Defense interrogations, those who authorized them, and the involvement of health professional in these abusive practices.


Steven Miles, MD, “Medical Ethics and the Interrogation of Guantanamo 063”

Mark Benjamin, “Psychological warfare”

Jane Mayer, “The Experiment”

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