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Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned
"Our policy is, and always has been, to treat detainees humanely," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. "The use of medication to manipulate a detainee has never been an approved DOD interrogation technique." While declining to comment on specific claims, Gordon said medical care was provided "based solely upon a detainee's need," adding that the interrogations did not affect or influence medical treatment.
Former U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged using sedatives to subdue some terrorism suspects as they were being transported from one facility to another, but likewise insist that drugs were never used as interrogation tools. "Any suggestion that the agency's enhanced interrogation techniques included the administration of drugs is simply wrong," said a senior intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing secrecy concerns.
Several former military and intelligence officials familiar with the detention program said they were unaware of any systematic use of drugs to manipulate behavior. Alberto J. Mora, a former Navy general counsel who opposed the Bush administration's decision to use aggressive interrogation tactics, said he recalled no discussions about the use of drugs.
But Mora said he understood why some detainees are concerned. "They knew they were being injected with something, and it is clear from all accounts that some suffered severe psychological damage," Mora said.
The injections left a searing impression among some former detainees, said Emi MacLean, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents dozens of current and former detainees. She said the stories merit investigation in light of the Yoo memo and the record of previous CIA experiments with truth serums as well psychotropic drugs.
"Many speak about forced medication at Guantanamo without knowledge about what medication they were being forced to take," MacLean said. "For some released [military] detainees, the forced medication they experienced was the most traumatic part" of their captivity.
Nusairi is among a handful of former detainees who directly allege the use of drugs in interrogations at the military prison in Guantanamo. Others described being forcibly given sedatives that knocked them out or made them groggy before being transferred, or being forced to take pills or receive shots for unclear reasons and suffering unusual symptoms afterward. At least one detainee has alleged in a written statement through his attorney that he was drugged after being "renditioned" or transferred by U.S. officials to a prison in Morocco.
Nusairi, in prison interviews in 2005 with Anant Raut, his attorney, described a six-month period in which he says his captors subjected him to drugs and temperature extremes to extract information about al-Qaeda connections they believed he had.
"They thought he was hiding something," said Raut, who represented Nusairi and other Saudi detainees in 2005 and 2006 while working for the Washington office of the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. "He was injected in the arm with something that made him tired -- that made his brain cloudy. When he would try to read the Koran, his brain would not focus. He had unusual lethargy and would drool on himself."
It was during one such episode, in an interrogation room Nusairi remembers as ice-cold, that he became so desperate for sleep that he signed a confession professing to involvement in al-Qaeda, according to his attorney's notes. The interrogator watched him sign his name, and "then he smiled and turned off the air conditioner. And I went to sleep," Nusairi said, according to the notes.
After the confession-- which Nusairi later said was a lie -- the Saudi remained at Guantanamo Bay for another three years before being turned over to his home country, which released him. "He signed the statement, and they declared him an enemy combatant," Raut said, "yet they released him anyway with no explanation." The Saudi Embassy declined to comment.
Medical ethicists and experts in international law say such accounts raise serious questions. While the Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war, said Barbara Olshansky, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of a book on military tribunals. "If you're talking about interrogations, you're talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone," Olshansky said. "The law is beyond clear."