Boston-based surgeon and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande took to Twitter Wednesday to highlight how the medical community aided the CIA in its torture and interrogation techniques, which were outlined in a recent U.S. Senate report.
Gawande expressed his discomfort at how "deeply embedded" doctors, psychologists, and others were in "this inhumanity."
He used excerpts from the Senate report to detail instances of medical officers supervising and approving the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" techniques on detainees.
CIA medical officers discussed rectal hydration as a means of behavior control, the report said.
One officer wrote that they were impressed with the "effectiveness of rectal infusion on ending the water refusal" in one case.
The officer, referencing the experience of a medical officer who subjected a terror suspect to rectal rehydration, provided instructions for the procedure: "What I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag — let gravity do the work."
Medical officers advised interrogators to use saline in "future waterboarding sessions."
The report states that 9/11 terror suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's (KSM) gastric contents were so diluted by water that a medical officer was "not concerned about regurgitated gastric acid damaging KSM's esophagus."
Medical officers also advised the CIA on the water temperatures for waterboarding detainees after sleep deprivation.
Doctors did not intervene when detainees were in brutal stress positions unless they were concerned about bone dislocations.
Psychologists and medical officers also acted as interrogators instead of preventing physical and psychological harm to detainees.
Medical officers wrote guidelines stating that three waterboard sessions in a 24-hour period was "acceptable."
According to the report, the on-site medical officer raised concerns that a fourth waterboarding session in 14 hours for suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would exceed the limits in the Office of Medical Services' guidelines.
The report detailed how Mohammed was subjected to three waterboarding sessions in a day and his fifth in 25 hours:
During the first of three waterboarding sessions that day, interrogators
responded to KSM's efforts to breathe during the sessions by holding KSM's lips and directing the water at his mouth.
According to a cable from the detention site, KSM "would begin signaling by pointing upward with his two index fingers as the water pouring approached the
established time limit." The cable noted that "[t]his behavior indicates that the subject remains alert and has become familiar with key aspects of the process.CIA records state that KSM "yelled and twisted" when he was secured to the waterboard for the second session of the day, but "appeared resigned to tolerating the board and stated he had nothing new to say" about terrorist plots inside the United States.
On the afternoon of March 13, 2003, KSM was subjected to his third waterboard
session of that calendar day and fifth in 25 hours. CIA records note that KSM vomited during and after the procedure.
Medical officers requested a test for a detainee's torture-subjected eyes because there was a "lot riding upon his ability to see, read and write."
A CIA physician also approved standing sleep deprivation positions for two detainees with broken feet.
Gawande said that government medical leaders have failed in their roles as the "medical conscience of the military."
The Senate report noted that detainees' medical complaints were underreported in the CIA's medical records.
When detainee Ramzi bin al-Shibh complained of his ailments to CIA personnel, he was told by interrogators that his medical condition was of no concern to the agency and he was subjected to further "enhanced interrogation techniques."
In 2007, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded that the association of CIA medical officers within the interrogation program is "contrary to international standards of medical ethics."
However, according to the Senate report, CIA Director Michael Hayden testified that the ICRC's conclusion was "just wrong" and that the role of CIA medical officers in the detainee program "is and always has been to ensure the safety and well-being of the detainee."
(H/T: Anil Dash)
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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