Scott Shane / New York Times – 2009-04-07 22:48:12
WASHINGTON (April 7, 2009) — Medical personnel were deeply involved in the abusive interrogation of terrorist suspects held overseas by the CIA, including torture, and their participation was a “gross breach of medical ethics,” a long-secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has concluded.
Based on statements by 14 prisoners who belonged to al Qaeda, who were moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in late 2006, Red Cross investigators concluded that medical professionals working for the CIA monitored prisoners undergoing waterboarding, apparently to make sure they did not drown.
Medical workers were also present when guards confined prisoners in small boxes, shackled their arms to the ceiling, kept them in frigid cells and slammed them repeatedly into walls, the report said.
Facilitating such practices, which the Red Cross described as torture, was a violation of medical ethics even if the workers’ intentions had been to prevent death or permanent injury, the report said. But it found that the medical professionals’ role was primarily to support the interrogators, not to protect the prisoners, and that the professionals had “condoned and participated in ill-treatment.”
At times, according to the detainees’ accounts, medical workers “gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop particular methods.”
The Red Cross report was completed in 2007, but it was obtained by Mark Danner, a UC Berkeley journalism professor who has written extensively about torture, and posted Monday night with an article by Danner on the Web site of the New York Review of Books. Much of its contents had been revealed in a March article by Danner and in a 2008 book, “The Dark Side,” by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, but the Red Cross investigators’ conclusion on medical ethics and other issues are new.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, told investigators that when he was waterboarded, his pulse and oxygen level were monitored, and that a medical attendant stopped the procedure on several occasions.
Another prisoner, Walid bin Attash, who had previously had a leg amputated, said that when he was forced for days to stand with his arms shackled above his head, a health worker periodically measured the swelling in his intact leg and eventually ordered that he be allowed to sit.
The report does not indicate whether the medical personnel at the CIA sites were physicians, other professionals or both. Other sources have said that psychologists helped design and run the CIA interrogation program, that physicians’ assistants and former military paramedics worked regularly in it, and that physicians were involved at times.
By policy, the Red Cross, the chief independent monitor of detention conditions around the world, keeps its reports to governments confidential to encourage officials to grant access to prisoners. Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization in Washington, declined on Monday to comment on the report, adding, “We deplore that confidential material attributed to the ICRC was made public.”
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said that because of the Red Cross’ confidentiality policy, he would not comment on the report. He noted that President Obama had prohibited all government interrogators from using any techniques apart from the noncoercive methods in the Army Field Manual, and that new CIA Director Leon Panetta “has taken decisive steps to ensure that the CIA abides by the president’s executive orders.”
The CIA’s interrogation methods were declared legal by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
In its 40-page report, the Red Cross roundly condemns the CIA program not only for using torture and other cruel treatment, but also for holding prisoners without notice to governments or families.
“The totality of the circumstances in which the 14 were held effectively amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearance, in contravention of international law,” said the report, which was provided to the CIA acting general counsel, John Rizzo, in February 2007.
Shortly after taking office, Obama ordered the CIA secret detention program closed and directed that the Red Cross be promptly informed of every person detained by the CIA or any other agency.
The report also provides new details of the Bush administration’s failure to cooperate with Red Cross’ inquiries and investigations of U.S. detention programs. Repeated inquiries and reports from the organization beginning in 2002 received no response from U.S. officials, the report said, though the United States sent a diplomatic message addressing some inquiries in 2005.
© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
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