By Joby Warrick and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Medical officers who oversaw interrogations of terrorism suspects in CIA secret prisons committed gross violations of medical ethics and in some cases essentially participated in torture, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a confidential report that labeled the CIA program "inhuman."
Health personnel offered supervision and even assistance as suspected al-Qaeda operatives were beaten, deprived of food, exposed to temperature extremes and subjected to waterboarding, the relief agency said in the 2007 report, a copy of which was posted on a magazine Web site yesterday. The report quoted one medical official as telling a detainee: "I look after your body only because we need you for information."
New details about alleged CIA interrogation practices were contained in the 43-page volume written by ICRC officials who were given unprecedented access to the CIA's "high-value detainees" in late 2006. While excerpts of the report were leaked previously, the entire document was made public for the first time by author Mark Danner, a journalism professor, on the Web site of the New York Review of Books.
The confidential report sheds additional light on the CIA's handling of the detainees, who were held in secret overseas prisons for up to four years and subjected to what the agency describes as "enhanced interrogation techniques." In addition to widely reported methods such as waterboarding, the report alleges that several of the detainees were forced to stand for days in painful positions with their arms shackled overhead. One prisoner reported being shackled in this manner for "two to three months, seven days of prolonged stress standing followed by two days of being able to sit or lie down."
In addition to the coercive methods -- which the ICRC said "amounted to torture" and a violation of U.S. and international treaty obligations -- the report said detainees were routinely threatened with further violence against themselves and their families. Nine of the 14 prisoners said they were threatened with "electric shocks, infection with HIV, sodomy of the detainee and . . . being brought close to death," it said.
The ICRC report was based on accounts made separately to agency investigators by individual detainees, all of whom had been kept in isolation before the interviews, the document states. CIA officials have confirmed that three of the prisoners were subjected to waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
An ICRC spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the document and said the organization "deplores that what was to be a confidential report has been made public."
The CIA declined yesterday to comment on the report, citing the Red Cross's own policy of maintaining the confidentiality of its reports. But spokesman Mark Mansfield noted that the agency had long since ended the controversial interrogation program.
"Director [Leon] Panetta has taken decisive steps to ensure that the CIA abides by the president's executive orders. That means CIA will not use interrogation techniques outside the Army Field Manual," he said. He noted that Panetta also has stated repeatedly that "no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished."
Previously, top Bush administration officials defended the interrogation methods, saying they were legal and necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.
The report's release puts added pressure on the Obama administration, which has banned the use of waterboarding and similar techniques but has resisted calls to conduct legal inquiries to determine whether Bush administration officials broke laws.
The presence of medical personnel at CIA interrogation sites has been reported previously, but ICRC investigators found that their participation in some of the more harsh episodes to be a severe breach of medical ethics. The report said the officials were enlisted to ensure that the detainees did not die or suffer irreparable damage.
The report can be accessed at http://www.nybooks.com/icrc-report.pdf.