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

"Not offensive" comment with a name like that? Yeah right. Go away.

Anonymous

It’s probably your name that’s tripping the word filter or whatever.

Anonymous

Making America Great Again. Hundreds of willing American service people and civilians working on these torture programs. Keep voting for such Conservative Christians.

AnonymouS

It's always been odd to me that, W. Bush hasn't ever really fessed up to his abuse of authority in these torture programs. But then again, he made Powell lie to the UN on finding nuclear weapons in Iraq, plus W. Bush lied about the Nigeria yellow-cake CIA outing. He could say, it was his administration that took those actions -- refuting his leadership role in the decisions. Remember how we used to say then, 'bushwhacked' on the the truth of the matter? Yeah, the spiritually defunct Conservative Christian, and America's spent $6 trillion dollars on wars since his inauguration in 2000.

Carol Grayson

Delighted to read this, firstly well done! Secondly there is a long history of US prisoners in mainstream prisons being experimented on with deadly viruses (even killed in the process) tortured and overbled in plasmapheresis programmes such as Arkansas State Penitentiary. This is a serious abuse of human rights for prisoners ... but what few seemed to have picked up is that thousands of haemophiliacs globally received prisoners blood over decades and no-one wanted to investigated what they were exposed to through experimentation. It was largely swept under the carpet. My husband and died after receiving US prison blood in the UK traced back through treatment batch numbers to Arkansas State Penitentiary. His brother also a haemophiliac was killed too. After decades of cover-up the Infected Blood Inquiry has begun in the UK so it is in the public interest to know more about experiments and torture in US prisons. I ask ACLU to support us in our call for transpatency. The British government must also be accountable along with the plasma companies sourcing from the prisons. I have always argued that had more notice been taken earlier of medical experiments, torture of inmates and prisoners rights and the impact on those receiving contaminated prison blood which violated both safety rules and the Nuremberg Code then the US govt might not have got away with establiishing Guantanamo and carrying on abuses there and in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its a long hard fight for justice and accountability but I refuse to give up.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

Are you any relation to Dick Grayson?

Anonymous

Thank you for sharing your story so we can all learn. I will learn more about the Arkansas State Pen and it’s blood project now because of what you told here and I will talk to people about it to help raise the collective consciousness. I am sure I speak for so many here and at the ACLU when I say I am so sorry to hear of your husband. I hope you find peace and fortitude. Your effort and sacrifice are not going unnoticed so keep up the fight.

Anonymous American

Is there now going to be a judicial inquiry into Gina Haspel? Didn't she deny being involved in this nefarious and abhorrent treatment?

chris

In answer to your question, the criminal Gina Haspell will go scott free.

Carol Grayson

Delighted to read this, firstly well done! Secondly there is a long history of US prisoners in mainstream prisons being experimented on with deadly viruses (even killed in the process) tortured and overbled in plasmapheresis programmes such as Arkansas State Penitentiary. This is a serious abuse of human rights for prisoners ... but what few seemed to have picked up is that thousands of haemophiliacs globally received prisoners blood over decades and no-one wanted to investigated what they were exposed to through experimentation. It was largely swept under the carpet. My husband and died after receiving US prison blood in the UK traced back through treatment batch numbers to Arkansas State Penitentiary. His brother also a haemophiliac was killed too. After decades of cover-up the Infected Blood Inquiry has begun in the UK so it is in the public interest to know more about experiments and torture in US prisons. I ask ACLU to support us in our call for transpatency. The British government must also be accountable along with the plasma companies sourcing from the prisons. I have always argued that had more notice been taken earlier of medical experiments, torture of inmates and prisoners rights and the impact on those receiving contaminated prison blood which violated both safety rules and the Nuremberg Code then the US govt might not have got away with establiishing Guantanamo and carrying on abuses there and in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its a long hard fight for justice and accountability but I refuse to give up.

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