On September 11, 2001 the American people were confronted with a cataclysmic shock; terrorists were able to penetrate U.S. national defense barriers and murder 3,000 people. Within days, Vice President Dick Cheney stated on NBC’s Meet the Press: “We have to work the dark side, if you will. Spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion …” NBC’s Meet the Press, September 16, 2001
Most Americans had no idea what “the dark side” meant. From Sept. 14, 2001 through Jan. 15, 2009, 34 declassified government memoranda chart the secret decisions that led to the establishment of “America’s Battle Laboratory” at Guantanamo prison where torture techniques for use in prisoner interrogations were tested and developed under the supervision of collaborating healthcare professionals – primarily psychologists and a few psychiatrists – whose professional judgment was used to escalate the torture. Psychologists calibrated the level of pain caused by certain techniques; assessed the effects of sleep deprivation; and determined the advisability and effectiveness of using simultaneous combinations of torture techniques.
These experiments in torture led to the systematic application of torture (euphemistically termed “enhanced interrogation techniques”) during the interrogation of captives in U.S. custody who were suspected of terrorist activities. The former General Counsel of the U.S. Navy, Alberto Mora, described the interrogations as “at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture.” (Torturing Democracy. Key Documents archived at: National Security Archive and Washington Media Association)
Top secret classified internal government documents, memoranda, and investigative reports issued by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, CIA’s Inspector General, Department of Defense Inspector General, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, provided some of the details; but these documents remained hidden stamped “Top Secret” for years. Beginning in 2009, some of these official documents and reports were slowly released under the Freedom of Information Act – albeit in much redacted versions. These government reports, Congressional testimony, reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and an e-mail archive serve as the documentary evidence that abuse tantamount to torture was not merely an activity engaged in by “a few bad apples,” or lawless “cowboys,” or rogue freelance contractors; it was a carefully crafted national policy fully endorsed by the Department of Justice, Defense, and the White House.
“Guantanamo is going to haunt us for a long time. The Hippocratic Oath is the oldest ethical code we have. We might abandon our morality about other professions. But the medical profession is sort of the last gasp. If we give that up, we’ve given up our core values.'”
Jonathan Moreno, The New Yorker, 2005
“Medical ethicists say that the Bush era torture program architected and overseen by psychologists will go down as one of the greatest scandals in the history of medical ethics, on a par with the Tuskegee experiments of the mid twentieth century. This will happen because a small cabal of insiders in the American Psychological Association traded honesty and ethical conduct for the kudos of the powerful. In becoming a player on the national scene, an incalculably large stain has been left on the profession of psychology.”
Geoff Gray, Weaponizing Psychology, Dec 24, 2014
“If health professionals participated in unethical human subject research and experimentation they should be held to account. Any health professional who violates their ethical codes by employing their professional expertise to calibrate and study the infliction of harm disgraces the health profession and makes a mockery of the practice of medicine.”—Scott A. Allen, MD, medical advisor to Physicians for Human Rights, and the lead medical author of the report, Experiments in Torture, June, 2010