April 23, 2008

Drugs, Detainees, John Yoo

Were Drugs Used to Interrogate Detainees?

Yet another possible legacy of former Justice Department official John Yoo's legal advice: the use of drugs on detainees as an interrogation technique.

The charge that drugs were used on detainees by the CIA and military interrogators is not a new one, The Washington Post reports, but it's given new credence by the fact that Yoo specifically authorized the use of drugs on detainees "as long as they did not inflict permanent or 'profound' psychological damage" in his recently released 2003 legal opinion.

The Department of Defense denies ever using drugs on detainees for interrogations, and the CIA, through a "senior official" speaking anonymously, did the same. But the Post reports that a number of former detainees say that they were forcibly injected with something that made them drowsy and lethargic. Others describe getting injections that made them "crazy." One Saudi says he signed a confession just to make the interrogators leave him alone, and so they did -- and he was ultimately freed years later regardless.

It all adds up to what is arguably among the greater human rights abuses in Gitmo:

Medical ethicists and experts in international law say such accounts raise serious questions. While the Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war, said Barbara Olshansky, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of a book on military tribunals. "If you're talking about interrogations, you're talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone," Olshansky said.
"The law is beyond clear."

Update: See also CQ's Jeff Stein on this earlier this month.

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