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That was no experiment; it was torture

June 8, 2010 |  1:01 pm

It's a startling and stomach-turning allegation: that CIA doctors subjected suspected terrorists to "Human Subject Research and Experimentation." But a new report from Physicians for Human Rights doesn't deliver on that assertion, which conjures up images of Nazi concentration-camp laboratories.

The "white paper" does, however, document the role medical professionals played in enabling waterboarding and other acts of what any reasonable person would call torture. Their role is shocking even if one accepts the explanation that the CIA's Office of Medical Services collected data on these "enhanced interrogation techniques" in order to ensure that interrogators didn't go too far.

Consider these findings by Physicians for Human Rights:

"1. 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.

"2. Information on the effects of simultaneous versus sequential application of the interrogation techniques on detainees was collected and used to establish the policy for using tactics in combination. These data were gathered through an assessment of the presumed "susceptibility" of the subjects to severe pain.

"3. Information collected by health professionals on the effects of sleep deprivation was used to establish the 'enhanced' interrogation program's (EIP's) sleep deprivation policy."

What shocks the conscience about these techniques, and the role of health professionals in enabling them, is not Nazi-like "medical experimentation" designed to amass academic information, but the acts themselves. By overreaching and alleging "human experimentation," the report distracts attention from its really damning findings.

-- Michael McGough
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