Medical Professionals ‘Led the Way’: The Psychologists of Torture

The Cambridge, Mass.-based organization, which won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, says psychologists “led the way” in legitimizing the Pentagon’s approval and use of the tactics. It has joined the Senate committee in calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate who should be held accountable.

Frederick Clarkson
September 8, 2009

Medical professionals designed and helped to implement Bush administration interrogation practices.

One of the key, if underreported, findings in the recent bombshell Senate report on the Bush-era treatment of U.S. military detainees was the role of civilian and military psychologists in devising, directing and overseeing the torture of prisoners.

While the report highlights the role of senior Bush administration officials in approving “aggressive” interrogation techniques, it also exposes how medical professionals helped to transform the Pentagon’s torture resistance program into tactics used against prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA “black” sites.

Understanding the role of these professionals should be a “specific focus” of an investigation into the use of these tactics, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has condemned the tactics as illegal and medically unethical.

In a series of reports available on its Web site, PHR details the tactics, which it says include beating, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nakedness, exposure to extreme temperatures, exploitation of phobias, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

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