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Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned
The Bush administration's legal advisers arrived at a different conclusion after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In legal opinions, Yoo and other administration lawyers contended that harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and slapping did not constitute torture and were legal if authorized by the president in a time of war.
Other detainees, in interviews or in statements provided by their attorneys, described pills and injections being forcibly administered for reasons that were not always clear to them. Mourad Benchellali, a French national who was held for three years at Guantanamo Bay, said that prison workers sometimes described the medications as antibiotics or vitamins, yet they frequently left him in a mental fog.
"These medicines gave us headaches, nausea, drowsiness," Benchellali, who is now living in France, said in an e-mail. "But the effects were different for different detainees. Some fainted or threw up. Some had reactions such as pimples." He also described periodic injections, often administered by force, that left him feeling nauseated and light-headed, and noted, "We were always tired and always felt groggy."
A different type of injection seemed to be reserved for detainees who were particularly uncooperative, Benchellali said, describing episodes that four other former detainees also cited in interviews or legal documents. "The injection would make them crazy," he said. "They would have a crisis or dementia -- yelling, no longer sleeping, soiling themselves. Some of us suspected they were given LSD."
J. Wells Dixon, another Center for Constitutional Rights attorney who represents detainees, said the government appears to have administered drugs to detainees whose extended captivity made them distraught or rebellious. "Many of these men have become desperately suicidal," Dixon said. "And the government's response has been to administer more medication, often without the consent of the prisoners."
As a matter of routine, the medical officials administering the shots were accompanied by specially equipped guards, known as the "Immediate Reaction Force" team, to subdue anyone who resisted, several detainees said. Ruhel Ahmed, a British citizen who has since been released to his home country and freed, the guards wore padded gear and "forced us to have injections."
"You are not allowed to refuse it and you don't know what it is for," said Ahmed, who added that he was given about a dozen injections, which "had the effect of making me feel very drowsy."
Not all detainees viewed the shots with suspicion. Moazzam Begg, a British citizen captured in Afghanistan, said in an interview he believes that poorly trained prison workers gave him legitimate medications but at incorrect doses. Once, while being treated with pills for a panic attack, he began to hallucinate. "I saw things moving when they were not," he said. "I talked to myself. I cried, laughed and sat immobile in a corner for hours. All of this was noted by the MPs and recorded."
Even the existence of an involuntary medication program, including the involuntary sedation of detainees during transfers, raises troubling ethical issues, said Allen, of the prisoner rights center. "The involvement of physicians and other health professionals in such a program would be a profound betrayal of medical trust and needs to be investigated further."
Relatively little is known publicly about the treatment of CIA detainees, who until recently had no access to outside lawyers. However, the use of drugs by the CIA was discussed during a 2004 internal investigation conducted by the inspector general for coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In February of that year, the inspector interviewed the commanding officer of a facility in eastern Afghanistan shared by military and intelligence teams. Using standard Army acronyms, the inspector asked whether the "OGA"-- the Army acronym for "other government agency," as it calls the CIA -- had been able to "practice their TTP [tactics, techniques and procedures] at your facility."
The commander's reply: "No, they can't use drugs or prolonged sensory deprivation in our facility."
It was unclear from the context whether the reference involved interrogations. The Pentagon and CIA declined formal comment, but a senior U.S. official familiar with detainee programs, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the commander's mention of drugs must have been a mistake or a reference to a different agency than the CIA.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.