Secret CIA Document Shows Plan to Test Drugs on Prisoners

Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to “do no harm.”

One of the most important lessons of the CIA’s torture program is the way it corrupted virtually every individual and institution associated with it. Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners.

Now we’ve won the release of a 90-page account of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program — a secret history written by the top CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified.

The history reveals that CIA doctors were hunting for a “truth serum” to use on prisoners as part of a previously secret effort called Project Medication. The CIA studied records of old Soviet drug experiments as well as the CIA’s notorious and discredited MK-Ultra program, which involved human experimentation with LSD and other drugs on unwitting subjects. The CIA doctors involved in Project Medication wanted to use Versed, a psychoactive drug similar to some of those used in MK-Ultra, on prisoners.

Image of declassified document

The CIA ignored lessons from its own history. After MK-Ultra was shut down, the CIA director testified in 1977, “It is totally abhorrent to me to think of using humans as guinea pigs.” But decades later, the agency decided to experiment on humans again, testing pseudoscientific theories of “learned helplessness” on its prisoners.

While Project Medication never got off the ground, CIA medical professionals remained critical participants in experimenting with torture. Just like the government lawyers who tried to give unlawful torture a veneer of legality, the secret history reveals that CIA doctors were “indispensable” to the effort of “legitimizing the program.”

Image of declassified document

Perhaps the most striking element of the document is the CIA doctors’ willful blindness to the truth of what they were doing. CIA doctors decided that waterboarding actually “provided periodic relief” to a prisoner because it was a break from days of standing sleep deprivation. Similarly, CIA doctors decided that when a different prisoner was stuffed into a coffin-sized box, this provided a “relatively benign sanctuary” from other torture methods. CIA doctors described yet another prisoner — who cried, begged, pleaded, vomited, and required medical resuscitation after being waterboarded — as “amazingly resistant to the waterboard.” Incredibly, CIA doctors concluded that the torture program was “reassuringly free of enduring physical or psychological effects.”

The truth is that CIA torture left a legacy of broken bodies and traumatized minds. Today, with a president who has vocally supported torture and a new CIA director who was deeply complicit in torturing prisoners, it’s more important than ever to expose the crimes of the past. Recognizing the roles played by the lawyers, doctors, and psychologists who enabled torture is critical to making sure it never happens again.

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Anonymous

Most rank & file CIA officials probably are good people that joined for the right reasons. This may be a golden opportunity for the CIA to redeem itself. Every time the agency's leaders support policies contrary to the U.S. Constitution and their Oath of Office, it actually tarnishes the CIA and they lose support among the American people. What if the CIA were a constitutional watchdog instead? They could keep the same acronym and change the name to "Constitutional Integrity Agency". Former CIA official, Abigail Spanberger, just got elected to Congress running on this very point. Spanberger reminded everyone that the CIA's Oath of Office was to defend the U.S. Constitution. She won a district held by the other party continually since the 1960's. This is the CIA Americans want, not one that tortures and commits war crimes like a Cold War era Stasi (or secret police). It's a golden opportunity, if not now, when?

AnonymouS

I think the issue could be that, those bad actors who are willing to work-around constitutional safeguards/guarantees often first use good and patriotic CIA personnel as cover, and then when they can, they remove those people from the agency to prevent oversight and prosecution. I've been in that situation, where legal requirements and ethics are broken with the government procurement (OPM), and when I spoke to my superiors about it they ignored my concerns, putting me in legal jeopardy of participation by association. Made me wonder what to do, that if I stayed in my position and quiet about it, I would be an accessory to government graft and jeopardize my security clearance; but if I left there would be no one of responsibility to call them on it to cease those activities. So as a consequence, I figure my voice is necessarily useful in these comments sections; their loss and ACLU reader's gain.

Anonymous

How is this different from ICE using the same drugs on asylum seeker's children incarcerated in camps?

Anonymous

No different.

Anonymous

Where's the proof that's happened ? Give us facts. NOW!

Anonymous

Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to “do no harm.”
Was the very first paragraph. There is your proof!

Anonymous

Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to “do no harm.”
Was the very first paragraph. There is your proof!

Anonymous

This is how some terrorist are created.

Anonymous

THEY ARE terrorist!!

Anonymous

This is what I was told the Soviets did to prisoners an that's why we were against them but our allies do the same what's changed

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