Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Open Letter from Scholars & Experts on Ukraine Re So-Called "Anti-Communist Law"

The following is a repost of an Open Letter published at the website, KRYTYKA. It was posted by David R. Marples, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta, Canada.
To the President of Ukraine, Petro O. Poroshenko, and to the Chairman of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr B. Hroysman:

We, the undersigned, appeal to you not to sign into law the draft laws (no. 2538-1 and 2558)1 adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on April 9, 2015. As scholars and experts long committed to Ukraine’s regeneration and freedom, we regard these laws with the deepest foreboding. Their content and spirit contradicts one of the most fundamental political rights: the right to freedom of speech. Their adoption would raise serious questions about Ukraine’s commitment to the principles of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, along with a number of treaties and solemn declarations adopted since Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. Their impact on Ukraine’s image and reputation in Europe and North America would be profound. Not least of all, the laws would provide comfort and support to those who seek to enfeeble and divide Ukraine.

We also are troubled by the fact that the laws passed without serious debate, without dissenting votes and with large numbers of deputies declining to take part.

In particular we are concerned about the following: 
  • Concerning the inclusion of groups such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as “fighters for Ukrainian independence”: Article 6 of this law makes it a criminal offense to deny the legitimacy of “the struggle for the independence of Ukraine in the 20th century” and public denial of the same is to be regarded as an insult to the memory of the fighters. Thus questioning this claim, and implicitly questioning anything such groups did, is being made a criminal offense. 
  • Law 2558, the ban on propaganda of “Communist and National Socialist Regimes” makes it a criminal offense to deny, “including in the media, the criminal character of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine.”
The potential consequences of both these laws are disturbing. Not only would it be a crime to question the legitimacy of an organization (UPA) that slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles in one of the most heinous acts of ethnic cleansing in the history of Ukraine, but also it would exempt from criticism the OUN, one of the most extreme political groups in Western Ukraine between the wars, and one which collaborated with Nazi Germany at the outset of the Soviet invasion in 1941. It also took part in anti-Jewish pogroms in Ukraine and, in the case of the Melnyk faction, remained allied with the occupation regime throughout the war.

However noble the intent, the wholesale condemnation of the entire Soviet period as one of occupation of Ukraine will have unjust and incongruous consequences. Anyone calling attention to the development of Ukrainian culture and language in the 1920s could find himself or herself condemned. The same applies to those who regard the Gorbachev period as a progressive period of change to the benefit of Ukrainian civil society, informal groups, and political parties, including the Movement for Perestroika (Rukh).

Over the past 15 years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has invested enormous resources in the politicization of history. It would be ruinous if Ukraine went down the same road, however partially or tentatively. Any legal or ‘administrative’ distortion of history is an assault on the most basic purpose of scholarly inquiry: pursuit of truth. Any official attack on historical memory is unjust. Difficult and contentious issues must remain matters of debate. The 1.5 million Ukrainians who died fighting the Nazis in the Red Army are entitled to respect, as are those who fought the Red Army and NKVD. Those who regard victory over Nazi Germany as a pivotal historical event should neither feel intimidated nor excluded from the nation.

Since 1991, Ukraine has been a tolerant and inclusive state, a state (in the words of the Constitution) for ‘citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities’. If signed, the laws of April 9 will be a gift to those who wish to turn Ukraine against itself. They will alienate many Ukrainians who now find themselves under de facto occupation. They will divide and dishearten Ukraine’s friends. In short, they will damage Ukraine’s national security, and for this reason above all, we urge you to reject them.

Signatories (in alphabetical order):

David Albanese, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Soviet and Russian History, Northeastern University, USA

Tarik Cyril Amar, Assistant Professor of History, Columbia University, USA

Dominique Arel, Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

Martin Aust, Visiting Professor of History, University of Basel, Switzerland

Mark R. Baker, Assistant Professor, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

Omer Bartov, John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of German Studies, Brown University, USA

Harald Binder, Ph.D., Founding President, Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, Lviv, Ukraine

Marko Bojcun, Director of the Ukraine Centre, London Metropolitan University, UK

Uilleam Blacker, Lecturer in Comparative East European Culture, University College London, UK

Jeffrey Burds, Associate Professor of Russian and Soviet History, Northeastern University, USA

Marco Carynnyk, Independent Scholar, Toronto, Canada

Heather J. Coleman, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta, Canada

Markian Dobczansky, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Stanford University, USA

Sofia Dyak, Director, Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe, Lviv, Ukraine

Evgeny Finkel, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University, USA

Rory Finnin, University Senior Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

Christopher Ford, Lecturer in Trade Union Education, WEA London, UK

J. Arch Getty, Distinguished Professor of History University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA

Christopher Gilley, Research Fellow, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Frank Golczewski, Professor in the Program in History, University of Hamburg, Germany

Mark von Hagen, Professor of History, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, USA

André Härtel, Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Political Science, University of Jena, Germany

Guido Hausmann, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

John-Paul Himka, Professor Emeritus, Department of History & Classics, University of Alberta, Canada

Adrian Ivakhiv, Professor of Environmental Thought and Culture, University of Vermont, USA

Kerstin S. Jobst, Professor of East European History, University of Vienna, Austria

Tom Junes, PhD (historian) - Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena, Germany

Andreas Kappeler, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Vienna, Austria

Ivan Katchanovski, Adjunct Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada

Padraic Kenney, Professor of History, Indiana University, USA

Olesya Khromeychuk, Teaching Fellow, University College London, UK

Oleh Kotsyuba, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, USA

Matthew Kott, Researcher at Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden

Mark Kramer, Program Director for Cold War Studies, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, USA

Nadiya Kravets, Postdoctoral Fellow, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, USA

Olga Kucherenko, Independent Scholar, Cambridge, UK

John J. Kulczycki, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

Victor Hugo Lane, York College, City University of New York, USA

Yurii Latysh, Taras Shevchenko National University, Kyiv, Ukraine

David R. Marples, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History &; Classics, University of Alberta, Canada

Jared McBride, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Columbia University, USA

Brendan McGeever, Early Career Research Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London

Javier Morales, Lecturer in International Relations, European University of Madrid, Spain

Tanja Penter, Professor of Eastern European History, Heidelberg University, Germany

Olena Petrenko, Ph.D. Student, Department of East European History, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany

Simon Pirani, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and Lecturer on Russian and Soviet History, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK

Yuri Radchenko, Senior Lecturer, Kharkiv Collegium Institute of Oriental Studies and International Relations, and Director of Center for Inter-ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe, Kharkiv, Ukraine

William Risch, Associate Professor of History, Georgia College, USA

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, Research Fellow, Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany

Blair Ruble, Political Scientist, Washington, DC, USA

Per Anders Rudling, Associate Professor of History, Lund University, Sweden

Martin Schulze Wessel, Chair of Eastern European History, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Steven Seegel, Associate Professor of History, University of Northern Colorado, USA

Anton Shekhovtsov, Visiting Senior Fellow, Legatum Institute, London, UK

James Sherr, Associate Fellow, Chatham House, London, UK

Volodymyr Sklokin, Researcher, Center for Urban History of East-Central Europe, Lviv, Ukraine

Iryna Sklokina, Researcher, Center for Urban History of East-Central Europe, Lviv, Ukraine

Yegor Stadny, Ph.D. Student, Department of History, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine

Andreas Umland, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kyiv, Ukraine

Ricarda Vulpius, Research Fellow, Department for the History of East- and Southeastern Europe, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Lucan Way, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada

Zenon Wasyliw, Professor of History, Ithaca College, USA

Anna Veronika Wendland, Research Coordinator, The Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg, Germany

Frank Wolff, Assistant Professor of History and Migration Studies, Osnabrück University, Germany

Christine Worobec, Professor Emerita, Northern Illinois University, USA

Serhy Yekelchyk, Professor of Slavic Studies and History, University of Victoria, Canada

Tanya Zaharchenko, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Historical Research, Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Sergei Zhuk, Associate Professor of History, Ball State University, Indiana, USA

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fifty Years of Secrecy: Investigating CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermont

[The following is a submission from Karen Wetmore, a survivor of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA research experiments. She is the author of Surviving Evil: CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermont. Interested readers might wish to also see my review of Karen's book, written last year.]


by Karen Wetmore

After I wrote the book, Surviving Evil: CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermont, I was left with disturbing questions regarding the research I had been subjected to while a teenage patient in Vermont hospitals. My medical records provided me with many details of different drugs that were used, including evidence of the use of hallucinogens, massive electric shock treatments, chemical shock treatments, hypnosis and prolonged isolation. But I continued to ask myself what else did they do to me and why.

My medical records were incomplete – very clearly cherry picked. During the years after I discovered the CIA presence at the University of Vermont College of Medicine (UVM), UVM Medical Center Hospital and the Vermont State Hospital (VSH), I was repeatedly harassed. The phone company told me my phone was tapped, the Post Master confirmed that my mail was being stolen and strangers followed me. Finally I phoned the FBI in Albany, New York and complained that I believed the CIA was behind the harassment and I told the FBI why. All forms of harassment stopped after that phone call.

I asked myself again and again, why would CIA harass me all these years after the 1977 Senate Hearings exposed the CIA MKULTRA programs? It simply made no sense to me. I strongly suspected that my discovery of Dr. Robert W. Hyde in my medical records, noted in court documents during my lawsuit against the State of Vermont, and my discovery of the twenty-year long active presence of the CIA in Vermont had made CIA nervous. It was clear that neither CIA nor the State of Vermont ever expected anyone to discover the CIA mind control experiments.

Robert Hyde was a CIA Technical Services Division researcher who conducted extensive LSD and other hallucinogenic drug experiments at Boston Psychopathic Hospital, Butler Hospital, Harvard and the Worcester Foundation For Experimental Biology – all research affiliates of UVM, UVM Medical Center Hospital and VSH. McGill University was also a research affiliate of UVM-VSH.

Personality Assessment System and MKULTRA

Hyde conducted extensive personality assessment research for CIA psychologist John Gittinger, utilizing Gittinger’s Personality Assessment System (PAS). Hyde’s declassified CIA subprojects, 8, 10, 63 and 66 show that Gittinger’s Washington D.C. CIA office, Psychological Assessment Associates, funded Hyde’s research, and as I wrote in my book, also funded research at UVM, UVM Medical Center Hospital and VSH.

Robert Hyde was Director of Research at the Vermont State Hospital during the time I was a patient in 1965, 1970, 1971 and 1972. He held that position until his death in 1976. Hyde, as I have discovered, is the CIA researcher almost completely overlooked by investigators. He continues to be very well protected by CIA. His research from 1965 on is almost impossible to find, except for benign articles, and in sharp contrast to the other MKULTRA researchers, no photograph of Hyde has been located, despite years of searching by me and others. Using Hyde as a starting point enabled me to unravel and expose Vermont’s role in the CIA mind control experiments. I was only able to begin my search using his name because I found it in my medical records.

Why after all of these years does CIA still find it necessary to protect Robert Hyde’s CIA research? I’ve concluded that Hyde wasn’t overlooked – he and his Vermont research remain very carefully guarded by CIA.

There were other disturbing questions as well. Why would no Senator or Congressman or Senate Committee help me? They wouldn’t even acknowledge letters from me much less reply. Senator Bernie Sanders tried to help me for years but for the most part was unable to do much.

It is interesting to note that after I wrote a letter in January 2015 to Senator John McCain asking for his help, mentioning Senator Sanders attempts to help me over the years, I learned that shortly after I wrote McCain, Senator Sanders had closed the file on my case. For the first time in over a decade, Sanders’ staff was cool and distant on the phone, in sharp contrast to all the many other phone conversations I had with his staff over the years. Sanders’ office clearly did not want to hear from me again about the CIA research in Vermont.

In mid-December 2014, I wrote a letter to the CIA Inspector General, informing him of the original source documents I located. I also described the experimentation detailed in my medical records that I had been subjected to and I offered proof, not speculation, as to the CIA research conducted in Vermont institutions. I also pressed CIA for compensation for the damage done to me physically and psychologically. I requested an internal CIA investigation by his department, since investigating CIA wrongdoing is what the IG does. Several weeks after I sent the letter I learned that the CIA IG had resigned.

The Vermont press and the national press remain silent on the information I documented in my book, despite having been informed. A foreign journalist told me that he couldn’t understand why American journalists were not, as he put it, “All over this story.” Again I ask the question: What did CIA do in Vermont institutions that require such measures to ensure secrecy fifty years later? Beginning in September 2013, I decided to try to find out.

Using FOIA to Investigate

Between 2000 and 2009 I wrote dozens of FOIA requests to CIA seeking documents about Vermont’s role in MKULTRA. During those years I could not be specific as to procedures in particular and each FOIA response came back noting “No Documents Located”. After I wrote my book, Surviving Evil, I felt I had enough information to craft my FOIA requests very specifically. I based my requests on information documented in my medical records and information gleaned from UVM-VSH research documents.

I began my search with a Vermont Records Act request dated October 7, 2013 seeking financial records that existed between UVM-VSH and Psychological Assessment Associates and the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. Both the latter two were CIA fronts and both were verified in UVM-VSH research documents. I had a PAS assessment in my medical records, dated December 21 and 22, 1965. I was then thirteen years old. CIA has described the use of the PAS as, “... anti-ethical rather than therapeutic...”, “... a way to get at people...” “... to compromise people...”

The State of Vermont responded on October 16, 2013: “The records you requested in your letter dated October 7, 2013 are not available because they were discarded pursuant to public records retention schedule effective March 3, 2010, on file with the State Archives and Records Administration.”

On October 24, 2013, I filed a FOIA with the CIA requesting: “Research documents including subprojects for research conducted and or funded by CIA at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Vermont State Hospital during the years 1959, 1962, 1965 and 1966... I filed a Vermont Records Act request on October 7, 2013 for research contracts that existed between UVM-VSH and the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology and Psychological Assessment Associates during the years noted. The response from the State was that the records I requested had been destroyed. Therefore a contractual relationship existed between CIA and UVM-VSH.

“I obtained UVM-VSH research documents (MH-01076) that show the psychological tests (PAS) created by CIA psychologist John Gittinger were given to VSH patients and, according to the documents, sent directly to Gittinger at Psychological Assessment Associates, 1834 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Also noted in the documents are plans to expand and continue research with Gittinger.”

CIA response dated November 21, 2013 was that the records I requested are Classified. Based on the information in my medical records I had a strong suspicion about the true nature of the experiments I was involved in and I decided to craft several FOIA’s, one at a time, over the next 17 months in order to be able to put them all together when completed and lay out a clearer picture of the CIA research I was thrust into as a child.

Special Interrogations Research From 40+ Years Ago: “Classified”

On March 24, 2014, I filed a FOIA with CIA requesting “documents involving the use of Special Interrogations at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, UVM Medical Center Hospital and the Vermont State Hospital during the years 1970, 1971 and 1972.”

Special Interrogations (SI) involves the use of LSD (or other hallucinogens), Mescaline, electric shock, chemical shock agents like Metrazol, hypnosis and prolonged isolation. These methods are part of my medical records and SI was the forerunner of what is now termed Enhanced Interrogations.

CIA’s response, dated April 16, 2014, was that the documents I requested were “Classified.” More specifically, they said CIA could “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive” to my request. This is known as a “Glomar” response.

I filed an appeal on May 5, 2014. CIA’s reply, dated August 28, 2014, was that my appeal had been denied because the documents are Classified. The denial letter stated, “The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and relates to intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure….”

On September 16, 2014 I filed a FOIA with the CIA requesting “research documents including budget office receipts and confidential funds posting vouchers, involving the use of biological, chemical and psychological procedures to produce altered states of consciousness, with or without amnesia at the Worcester Foundation For Experimental Biology during the years 1970, 1971 and 1972.”

CIA response dated October 17, 2014 was that the documents I requested are Classified. I filed the identical request naming UVM, UVM Medical Center Hospital and VSH on November 5, 2014. CIA’s response, dated November 21, 2014, was that the documents I requested are Classified.

On December 2, 2014, I filed a FOIA with CIA requesting “research conducted by, funded by or in the interest of CIA involving the use of hypnosis to create amnesia with posthypnotic suggestion at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, UVM Medical Center Hospital and Vermont State Hospital during the years 1970, 1971 and 1972.”

CIA response, dated January 21, 2015, was that the documents I requested are “Classified.”

On January 28, 2015 I filed a FOIA with CIA requesting, “research conducted by, funded by or in the interest of CIA involving the use of the drugs LSD, LAE, Scopolamine, Metrazol, Sernyl, (PCP) and Quinuclidinyl Benzilate, (BZ) at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, UVM Medical Center Hospital and Vermont State Hospital during the years 1970, 1971 and 1972.”

CIA’s response, dated February 25, 2015, was that the documents are “Classified.”

I’ve been researching CIA experiments in Vermont for eighteen years now but I have to say that this FOIA response shocked me, even though I expected CIA to respond this way. It’s one thing to suspect what the response will be and a whole other thing to have the response in hand. The idea that Vermont institutions were using these drugs on unwitting patients, including me is hard to process. Medical ethics were clearly abandoned by doctors and professors who publicly tout themselves and the institutions they work for as being caring, compassionate health care professionals.

These drugs were used on vulnerable, helpless mental patients who were in the care of the State of Vermont. Sernyl, also known as PCP and Angel Dust, causes acute, sometimes permanent psychosis and was intended for use as an animal anesthetic. BZ, one of the most powerful hallucinogens ever created, causes violent reactions, hallucinations, dissociation and a complete detachment from reality. It is classified as a chemical warfare agent. The idea that these drugs were used on unwitting mental patients is astonishing and as far as I am concerned, it is an unforgivable betrayal.

The UVM-State of Vermont doctors who used these drugs did not do so for any therapeutic reason whatsoever. CIA already knew the effects of these powerful hallucinogens and the effects were that people were driven completely out of their minds.

I crafted the FOIA requests to try to determine what CIA program was used in UVM-VSH. Each response from the CIA cited the same protections from disclosure: Section 3.6 (a) of Executive Order13526, Section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, Section 102A(i) (l) of the National Security Act of 1947 and FOIA exemptions (b) (1) and (b) (3). The responses to my requests, when put together demonstrate evidence that the CIA program generally known as the Manchurian Candidate research was conducted in Vermont institutions. These methods would have been the building blocks for the creation of a Manchurian Candidate.

A Manchurian Candidate?

CIA has long denied they ever conducted Manchurian Candidate research. I’m certain that the actual name of the program is different than the public name of Manchurian Candidate and I have no idea if the program is still operational. I am now convinced that CIA honed their techniques in Vermont institutions, using unwitting severely mentally ill subjects.

I’m certain CIA calculated that these were people that no one would care enough about to endanger their research. No one would know, no one would complain and there would be no consequences for CIA’s behavior. Tragically, CIA calculated correctly.

CIA began mapping each subject’s psychological profile, looking for soft spots and ways to compromise people using the PAS. When an appropriate subject was selected, Special Interrogations were conducted using hallucinogens, electric shock, chemical shock, hypnosis and prolonged isolation. These methods broke down the subject’s defenses and made the mind far more pliable to suggestion. SI in some cases causes dissociation, which would have been the desired effect for Manchurian Candidate experimentation. By adding drugs like LSD, PCP and BZ a complete mental break with resulting dissociation could almost be guaranteed.

The production of altered states of consciousness, with or without amnesia can be understood as breaking down the mind- a psychological response to unbearable physical and emotional trauma. It’s as if the trauma is happening to someone else-an extreme detachment from the self. It is dissociation.

The use of hypnosis to create amnesia also figures into the Manchurian Candidate research. A person under hypnosis, especially under circumstances described here could have easily been conditioned to behave in specifically suggested ways and then the subject would have been instructed to not remember the suggestion or the behavior.

Much has been written about the Manchurian Candidate program, despite CIA’s claims that the research never happened. The program is thought to have been important to CIA in order to enable them to program their agents in the field in this manner. The theory being that if an agent was captured and tortured, sensitive information would be stored in another previously created personality. The boundaries between the personalities and the amnesia would assure that even under torture, the agent would not be able to reveal the information.

Is this the program that was conducted by CIA in Vermont hospitals during the 60’s and 70’s? Evidence suggests that it was. One thing is very clear: the research conducted in Vermont remains classified. I now realize that I was involved in Classified CIA research.

Vermonters have the right to know the details of the CIA experiments in Vermont hospitals. As an American citizen, I have rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but apparently because I was unwittingly involved in Classified CIA research beginning as a 13-year-old child, my government has chosen to deny me these rights. I find this especially difficult to live with.

In December 2014 when the Senate released the report on CIA Enhanced Interrogations conducted on foreign detainees during the war, I watched and listened as Senators and Congressmen, newsmen and others denounced the treatment of these detainees. Special Interrogations techniques were begun during the 60’s and 70’s and SI techniques were conducted on me and other Vermonters at the University Of Vermont College Of Medicine, UVM Medical Center Hospital and the Vermont State Hospital. Special Interrogations became Enhanced Interrogations and were used during the Iraq war.

Every American should be concerned that CIA and Vermont are able to keep the information about these experiments covered up. I have always believed that the American press was independent and free from pressure by the government. I no longer believe this is true.

The stated primary goal by CIA for conducting MKULTRA was “…to learn how to manipulate and control men’s minds”. Unfortunately, for all of us, it appears as if the CIA has achieved its goal.

Originally posted at

Sunday, April 5, 2015

New Book: Antimalaria Drugs Part of Secret Program to Torture Detainees at Guantanamo

It isn't often that a book that sets out a case that drugs were used to disorient and disable Guantanamo detainees for interrogation makes the front pages, or gets the news coverage one new book did. What's even more remarkable is that the revelations in that book are just the tip of the iceberg, as new evidence shows the drug use was even greater and more varied than previously reported.

Earlier this year, Simon and Shuster published to great acclaim former Guantanamo guard Joe Hickman's book, Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay. The book described Hickman's investigation of the 2006 purported suicides by three Guantanamo inmates, deaths the Guantanamo commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., called at the time, "asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

But rather than a planned terrorist event of exquisitely-timed suicidal protest -- an implausible tale in the high-security Guantanamo setting to begin with -- Hickman, whose story was first told in an award-winning Harper's magazine article in 2010, discovered the deaths were likely linked to a secret, most likely CIA, black site on the Guantanamo base. As a tower guard, the night of the "suicides" he had witnessed three detainees secretly taken out of camp earlier that evening and driven in the direction of the black site.

Later, he was witness when the warden at the Guantanamo prison facility, Army Colonel Michael Bumgarner, told prison personnel that despite the fact it was known in the camp that the prisoners had died with rags stuffed down their throats, they were to say nothing to the press when the story was released the detainees supposedly had hanged themselves. A year after the Harper's article, Almerindo Ojeda, a researcher at University of California, Davis, made a strong case that the three detainees had been killed by a torture technique known as "dryboarding."

Hickman knew the official story did not hold together, and while he tried to put the nightmare of Guantanamo out of his mind, when a year later another detainee died of supposed suicide, Hickman knew he could not let the story rest. He began a private investigation into what occurred, later linking up with researchers led by attorney Mark Denbeaux at Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. Together, they released a number of reports deconstructing and refuting the official story.

The most recent Seton Hall report, published last year, included claims Hickman would make in Murder at Camp Delta, including charges that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) had suppressed evidence from their report, removed witness statements, failed to interview other crucial witnesses, and in general had produced, at best, a shoddy work. At worst, it was circumstantial evidence of a major government cover-up.

But one of the strangest links in the tale of government crimes concerned the use of a drug meant to prevent or help cure malaria. As Hickman was looking over a deceased detainee's medical record, he discovered that the detainee had been give a large dose of mefloquine upon admission to Guantanamo. (Mefloquine is often known by its former brand name, Lariam.) He later found that mefloquine had been administered to all the Guantanamo detainees on medical intake. But what was mefloquine?

Why mefloquine?

Mefloquine administration was standard operating procedure upon admission. The official story, first reported to Jason Leopold and me and published at Truthout, was that Cuban officials told Guantanamo camp officials that they were worried that detainees would bring malaria to the otherwise malaria-free Cuban isle. Perhaps never in the annals of U.S. history were Department of Defense officials so sensitive to Cuban fears and needs.

According to Navy nurse, and then chief surgeon for Guantanamo's Task Force 160, Capt. Albert Shimkus, at the behest of the Cubans he gathered experts, and a determination was made that mefloquine would be the primary drug used to control possible malaria. But when queried more closely on the issue, including the fact Cuba had no malaria, Shimkus admitted he and others had been told there were "certain issues we were advised not to talk about.”

But to date, Shimkus's story, which supposedly included consultation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC) and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland, has not panned out, as FOIA requests for documents from the above agencies have all received a response of "no responsive documents."

Even more, as another article I wrote in 2011 with Leopold explained, foreign workers brought in to build Camp Delta itself were drawn heavily from malarial-endemic parts of the globe, including India and the Philippines, but DoD showed no interest in ensuring these workers did not carry malaria.

What DoD did was administer 1250mg of mefloquine in divided doses in the first 12 hours. Hickman is correct that this is five times the usual prophylactic weekly dose of the drug. But it is not, as Hickman portrays it in the book, a "massive overdose" of the drug. It is the amount administered when you are seeking to eliminate a certain stage of the malaria parasite from the bloodstream. It is a "treatment dose."

But that does not change the fact, which Hickman discovered, that there was no reason to administer such a large dose, and that large doses of the drug -- even the lower 250 mg level prophylactic dose -- carried intolerable neurological and psychological side effects.

Indeed, by 2013, DoD had requested that all service personnel, including special forces, forego use of the drug because of rare but documented neurological toxicity. That same year, the prestigious Institute on Medicine as a Profession called for an investigation on the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo.

An Army doctor-researcher, Remington Nevin, later confirmed in a 2012 published report in the medical journal Tropical Medicine and International Health that DoD's "presumptive treatment" of possible mefloquine in the detainees was both unprecedented and "inappropriate." He added that his "analysis suggests the troubling possibility that the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo may have been motivated in part by knowledge of the drug’s adverse effects...."

Hickman would conclude that the mefloquine was used at the highest known dosage precisely because of its propensity to cause side effects, including dizziness, nightmares, nausea, and suicidal feelings.

"... [T]he entire purpose of Gitmo," Hickman wrote, "was to practice new interrogation techniques on detainees, regardless of any information they may or may not have possessed. From this research, it became clear that not only was mefloquine administered as part of this program, the deaths of the three detainees likely occurred under the shadowy operations of something called a special access program (SAP)— and it had to be kept secret at all costs."

Presence of Mefloquine Examined in Autopsies

But there was more to the drug story than even Hickman knew. According to autopsy records for one of the three 2006 "suicides," Yemeni prisoner Ali Abdullah Ahmed, and the May 2007 death that had galvanized Hickman's investigation, the purported suicide of Abdul Rahman Al Amri, both had autopsy reports that specifically called for toxicology results on the presence of possible mefloquine in their bodies. See here and here.

But this made no sense. Why would Armed Forces epidemiology workers look for mefloquine in some of the deceased detainees and not others? Why would they look for mefloquine at all, as it was supposedly only administered as a malaria precaution upon entrance to the facility? Both Ahmed and Al Amri had been at Guantanamo four years or more when they died. Neither of their medical records such as we have extant point to the presumed presence or fear of infection by malaria.

The evidence points to use of the drug for other than malaria prophylaxis or treatment, in other words, exactly for the use that Hickman and Nevin and the Seton Hall researchers feared. The drug was being used to torture people.

Other drugs used: Chloroquine

But there was even more.

Al Amri, like the three 2006 detainees, was discovered with his hands bound. But unlike the 2006 victims, Al Amri had his hands tied behind his back.

As for Yasir al Zahrani, Mari Al-Utaybi, and Ahmed, the three 2006 "suicides," all had been tested for the presence of yet another antimalaria drug, chloroquine. (Of the three, only Ahmed was tested for presence of mefloquine.)

Chloroquine has long been used in the prophylaxis and cures of certain forms of malaria. Over the years mosquitos in various parts of the world have become immune to chloroquine. Nevertheless, it remains a drug in common usage, though it has its own problematic side effect profile. While not as neurotoxic as mefloquine, chloroquine can cause a large range of side effects, including dizziness, blurred vision and "extrapyramidal disorders (eg, dystonia, dyskinesia, tongue protrusion, torticollis)."

Chronic or long-term use of the drug can cause even worse side effects, including muscle weakness. There are a host of other "rare" side effects.

While other drugs involved in the toxicology tests on the three detainees, including for the presence of "cannabinoids" and cocaine, could be chalked up to the use of a standard protocol, there's no reason to assume that chloroquine, a drug used almost exclusively for malaria, should have been on the standard drug testing test panel. Indeed, the fact that mefloquine was included for testing on one of the three detainees demonstrates that the drug test could be manipulated selectively.

Was chloroquine also used as a drug of disorientation and abuse on detainees? We don't know for sure. In his book, Hickman pointed to a 1977 Senate investigation that disclosed past CIA research on the class of drugs from which mefloquine was derived. (Hickman wrongly attributes the entire investigation to use of that class of drugs, but it was a much larger investigation than that.)

Hickman's nod in that direction got me looking a few years ago, and I discovered that not only had the CIA investigated that class of drugs, but they used at least one of these drugs, a cousin of mefloquine called Cinchonine, as an "incapacitating drug" in its MKULTRA program. The revelations were part of the famous 1975 Church investigations in the U.S. Senate.

Not only were there indications that the antimalaria drugs mefloquine and chloroquine were used to chemically degrade the physical and mental condition of prisoners, but now there was a CIA precedent!

Other drugs used: Scopolamine

If the malaria drugs were used to incapacitate and disable, I asked myself, were there any other drugs used for the same purpose? We knew from a DoD Inspector General report that antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs were administered to detainees before interrogations (though DoD maintains not supposedly to affect the interrogation), even forcibly to restrain prisoners. But was there anything else like the antimalaria drugs?

Yes, there was. I discovered that the Standard Operating Protocol for nurses dated October 2003 refers to the presence of a scopolamine patch behind the ear on incoming detainees, themselves flown via extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo. (We now know some of those renditions were funneled via DoD's European command out of Germany.)

Scopolamine has a long history as a supposed "truth drug." While it is sometimes prescribed to prevent air sickness -- and that's the official reason DoD used the drug on detainees -- it is also known to cause a number of disorienting side effects. In fact, as far back as 1956, the military advised using meclizine instead of scopolamine to deal with motion sickness in pilots because of the latter's "distressing side effects."

The side effects, according to a CIA document that detailed use of the drug for possible interrogation, include "hallucinations, disturbed perception, somnolence, and physiological phenomena such as headache, rapid heart, and blurred vision."

Scopolamine has long-lasting effects. We can see now that prisoners arrived in Guantanamo frightened and disoriented. They had often been hooded. All were retrained. Many must have been suffering side effects from the scopolamine. Upon arrival they were given mefloquine, another long-lasting drug with possible horrific side effects. And these are only the drugs we know about. None of these drugs were either first-rank drugs, and in the case of mefloquine and chloroquine, there was no known reason to presumptively give the drug upon arrival. And even if there were, there was even less reason to administer the drug again years after a prisoner's initial medical intake at the island prison.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joe Hickman for digging out much of this information, and having the courage to publish it and talk publicly about it. But as Hickman writes at the end of his book, "I wrote this account to provoke further research and informed debate, so that hopefully we may do a better job with our detention program."

I think that detention program is an abomination. It was and likely remains an experimental program in interrogation and torture. It should be closed down, and a full independent investigation with subpoena powers undertaken to finally bring the criminals who implemented the torture to justice.

While Hickman's book has gotten great coverage in the press, no one has really picked up the author's challenge to further the research the book began. This review is offered as a challenge itself to extend the investigative reporting on Guantanamo and the U.S. torture detention program in general.

The recent publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA torture program was a limited hangout, and questions about the origin of the program, or how exactly it was approved and implemented still remain unknown. The Senate will not release the vast bulk of their own study for public consumption. Indeed, they will not even explain inconsistencies in their own account, such as the presence of SSCI staff members at the CIA's Dark Prison black site in Afghanistan in late 2003.

The truth is that only a public outcry will bring significant attention to move the torture story beyond the partial boundaries set by human rights organization attorneys, vote-sensitive politicians, and career-fearing journalists. Hickman has shown that the examination of drugs in the U.S. torture program can be mainstream. Who will pick up the baton now?

Cross-posted at FDL/The Dissenter

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