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Doctors group says Bush Administration conducted medical experiments on detainees

By John Byrne
Monday, June 7, 2010 8:47 EDT
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A new report by the watchdog group Physicians for Human Rights alleges Monday that the Bush Administration experimented on terrorism suspects during their enhanced interrogation program put in force starting in 2002.

The group’s review, which examined Bush-era documentation, asserts that the administration violated laws set up in the wake of the Holocaust to prevent medical testing on prisoners of war. (Nazi doctors sometimes experimented on their prisoners.)

The report states that, “Medical personnel were required to monitor all waterboarding practices and collect detailed medical information that was used to design, develop and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures.” Notes the Associated Press:

For example, the report said, doctors recommended adding salt to the water used for waterboarding, so the patient wouldn’t experience hyponatremia, “a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication.”

The report interpreted that doctor-recommended practice of using saline solution as “Waterboarding 2.0.”

It also said information was gathered on the pain inflicted when various techniques were used in combination. Raymond said the purpose was to see if the pain caused violated Bush administration definitions of torture, rather than as a safeguard of the detainees’ health.

Medical personnel, the report said, also monitored sleep deprivation, with sleepless stints from 48 hours to 180 hours — again to make sure it did not cause prolonged physical and mental suffering, as per those Bush administration definitions, rather than to watch out for harm to the detainee.

“We’re not writing the indictment here,” author Nathaniel Raymond told the Associated Pres. “We’re seeing there needs to be a search warrant. If the White House does not act on this, it’s turning its back on something that could be perceived as a war crime.”

The CIA vehemently denied the allegations in the report.

“The CIA did not, as part of its past detention program, conduct human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano told a reporter.

Mother Jones, the investigative liberal magazine, says that the Bush Administration may have — ironically — engaged in “experimentation” in an effort to shield it from accusations of torture.

In the documents review by the watchdog group, a Bush Administration lawyer wrote, “Human experimentation without the consent of the subject is a violation of international human rights law to which the United States is subject; federal statutes; the Common Rule, which comprises the federal regulations for research on human subjects and applies to 17 federal agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense; and universally accepted health professional ethics, including the Nuremberg Code… Human experimentation on detainees also can constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity in certain circumstances.”

“Ironically, one goal of the ‘experimentation’ seems to have been to immunize Bush administration officials and CIA interrogators from potential prosecution for torture,” writes Mother Jones‘ Nick Baumann. “In the series of legal papers that are now popularly known as the ‘torture memos,’ Justice Department lawyers argued that medical monitoring would demonstrate that interrogators didn’t intend to harm detainees; that ‘lack of intent to cause harm’ could then serve as the cornerstone of a legal defense should an interrogator be targeted for prosecution. In 2003, in an internal CIA memo cited in the PHR report, the CIA’s general counsel, Scott Muller, argued that medical monitoring of interrogations and ‘reviewing evidence gained from past experience where available (including experience gained in the course of U.S. interrogations of detainees)’ would allow interrogators to inoculate themselves against claims of torture because it ‘established’ they didn’t intend to cause harm to the detainees.”

 
 
 
 
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