The CIA and Department of Defense asked doctors and psychologists to ignore their Hippocratic oaths during the interrogation of detainees in their care and use their medical knowledge to torture those being held, a new report by a panel of medical and military experts charges.
A copy of the report, which took the 19-member Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers two years to put together, was given to the Pentagon more than a week ago but just made public Monday.
Pentagon officials say there is nothing new to the report and called the allegations patently false.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told TheBlaze the Defense Department has “been subject to numerous investigations over the years, and those investigations — which had access to more information than the authors of this report — have never substantiated these claims.”
The U.S. military’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo routinely provides comprehensive and humane medical care to the detainees held in the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and are “consummate professionals working under incredibly stressful conditions,” Breasseale said.
The Defense Department said Guantanamo medical staff continuously monitor and provide exemplary medical care to detainees at the facility and that the “health and well-being of detainees is their primary mission, and they take this duty as seriously as they take their duty to provide medical treatment to U.S. service members or any other patient in their care.”
But the report, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’” alleges that both the Defense Department and CIA demanded health professionals “collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in U.S. custody,” according to a release. The practices included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees.
The report states that both the CIA and Defense Department “facilitated that involvement in similar ways, including undermining health professionals’ allegiances to established principles of professional ethics and conduct through reinterpretation of those principles.”
The Defense Department put together “Behavioral Science Consultation Teams,” or BSCTs, consisting of a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a mental health technician when extracting information from high-value detainees, the report said. These teams, which started working at the military prison in 2002, used sleep and sensory deprivation, exposure to extreme noise and temperature variations, and the use of stress positions.
“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” task force member Dr. Gerald Thomson, an emeritus professor of medicine at Columbia University said in a statement. “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”
According to a release, the study “details how (Defense Department) and CIA policies institutionalized a variety of interventions by military and intelligence agency doctors and psychologists that breach ethical standards to promote well-being and avoid harm.”
The report says interrogation techniques included involvement in abusive interrogation; consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees; using medical information for interrogation purposes; and force-feeding of hunger strikers.
Breasseale, the Defense Department spokesman, said “the policy on treatment of those not eating is focused solely on preserving the life and health of detainees in DoD custody, and is line with well-established U.S. law. The enteral feeding procedure is medically sound, and is based on procedures performed not only in U.S. prisons, but in hospitals and nursing homes worldwide.”
He noted that as of Nov. 4, 2013, there were 14 detainees refusing to eat on a regular basis and each is approved for enteral feeding, or tube feeding, at the military prison in Cuba.
“While detainees may be on the enteral feed list they do not always require the tube feeding – frequently they will drink the supplement or eat a meal out of sight of their peers,” Breasseale said. “We remain committed to President Obama’s goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is wildly expensive, it is inefficient, and it operates outside America’s best interests. However, until Congress changes the law, we will continue to humanely safeguard those held in our charge there.”