WASHINGTON — A prominent physicians group is charging that medical
personnel were used to test and refine the effectiveness of
waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques for terror
detainees in U.S. custody under the guise of safeguarding their health.
for Human Rights outlined the allegations stemming from a Bush-era
interrogation program and called on the White House to investigate. Its
report was based on a re-examination and new interpretation of records
that had been previously released.
U.S. government officials
denounced the report, saying the government did not conduct human
research on detainees. The officials said that such charges and
documents have already been made public and were examined by multiple
The author of the report, Nathaniel
Raymond, said the declassified documents had never been examined with
an eye on laws including the Nuremberg Code, established to ban Nazi
Germany medical experimentation.
"We're not writing the
indictment here," Raymond said before the report's release at midnight
Sunday. "We're saying there needs to be a search warrant. If the White
House does not act on this, it's turning its back on something that
could be perceived as a war crime."
According to the report,
"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."
example, the report said, doctors recommended adding salt to the water
used for waterboarding, so the patient wouldn't experience
hyponatremia, "a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by
free water intoxication."
The report interpreted that doctor-recommended practice of using saline solution as "Waterboarding 2.0."
also said information was gathered on the pain inflicted when various
techniques were used in combination. Raymond said the purpose was to
see if the pain caused violated Bush administration definitions of
torture, rather than as a safeguard of the detainees' health.
personnel, the report said, also monitored sleep deprivation, with
sleepless stints from 48 hours to 180 hours — again to make sure it did
not cause prolonged physical and mental suffering, as per those Bush
administration definitions, rather than to watch out for harm to the
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano flatly rejected the
claims. "The CIA did not, as part of its past detention program,
conduct human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees,"
The report also raised questions about the Obama
administration's new high-value detainee investigation group, known as
the HIG. Part of its role is to research new methods of interrogation.
The physicians group demanded clarification, asking whether this meant
learning by doing.
Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for the national
intelligence director, said this part of the HIG would look at
"scientific research that would allow for a refinement of current best
practices" and was "in no way was suggesting research on the detainees
Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge,
Mass.-based nonprofit organization, says its mission is, in part, to
investigate human rights abuses.