2001: U.S. DOJ “legalizes” non-consensual human experiments; DOD waives informed consent

Nov. 2001: U.S. Department of Justice “legalizes” nonconsensual experiments
Experimenting on prisoners of war is explicitly prohibited by the Nuremberg Code, the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law (18 USC section 1430). The Pentagon sought to lift these prohibitions on research involving prisoners.

Lawyers in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) accommodated, crafting a memo that declared the use of detainees in biological experimentation was a “non-grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions.

Dec. 2001: Defense Authorization Act authorizes the Secretary of Defense to waive “informed consent” for human subject experimentation. This was a direct contradiction of presidential and DoD policy memos issued in the 1990s prohibiting waivers of informed consent related to classified research.

In the same month, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee Report (2009), the Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes and other agency officials solicited information from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) the agency that oversees military SERE training to help U.S. pilots and special forces to withstand harsh interrogation techniques prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.

The DoD General Counsel requested information about detainee “exploitation,” the use of SERE methods offensively, and a list of interrogation techniques that could be used on suspected terrorist detainees. These techniques were widely discussed as “experimental” in nature. (Leopold and Kaye. Wolfowitz Directive…TruthOut, 2010)