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What’s Up with Transparency? Government Hid Report on Drugging of Detainees for Months

A story by Jason Leopold and me, currently up at Truthout, reports that a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General investigation into allegations of drugging of detainees, completed almost exactly a year ago, was nevertheless hidden from public knowledge for months. Its results remain hidden, labeled classified. This is especially strange as this document was publicly requested by no less than now-Vice President (then Senator) Joe Biden, along with Senators Carl Levin and Chuck Hagel, after a couple of articles in 2008 — one by Jeff Stein and one by Joby Warrick at the Washington Post — blew the whistle on dozens of reports of alleged drugging of detainees.

The finished report, entitled "Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees," had been published on September 23, 2009. It was recently posted as finished at the OIG’s website (see 09-INTEL-13). I know that when I was looking for the progress of the report as recently as last February, for an article I was writing at the time, the investigation was still listed as "in progress." It also went under another title: "Possible Use of Mind Altering Substances by DoD Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror" (Project No. D2007-DINT01-0092.005). That listing has since expired.

Today I asked Vice President Biden’s office for comment, and am awaiting reply. But on the face of it, no one seems to want to talk about this report. Human rights workers and attorneys who were familiar with the fact of the investigation were quite surprised when I informed them the report had been finished twelve months ago! Multiple FOIA requests have now been made, but I don’t hold out much hope for getting answers to the basic questions around the many charges of drugging of detainees. This administration’s claims about greater transparency seem quite thin, especially when it means investigating their "war on terror" and detainee prison system.

As the Truthout article reports:

More recent accounts of drugging by detainees include charges by Abdul Aziz Naji, who was forcibly repatriated to Algeria from Guantanamo July 2010. Naji told an Algerian newspaper that detainees at Guantanamo were forced "to take some medicines for three months to drive them crazy, loosing [sic] memory and committing suicide." According to an important exposé by Scott Horton at Harpers last winter, at least one of the three Guantanamo prisoners that DoD claimed committed suicide in 2006 had needle marks on both of his arms. According to Horton, the Obama administration has refused to open an investigation into these mysterious deaths, which allegedly took place at a previously unreported black site at Guantanamo, known informally as Camp No.

What could drugs have been used for? It’s fairly well accepted and documented that the CIA (at least) used drugs for sedation of prisoners during rendition. Drugs could also be used to enforce compliance in prison, or to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation. Of course, the never-ending search for a "truth drug" may be in play here, as well as sinister kinds of experiments, akin to the MKULTRA or Edgewood Arsenal drug experiments of old. The U.S. veterans who were used as guinea pigs by the Army at Edgewood have been fighting a lawsuit for damages against the government for some time, with some recent successes in moving the case forward. See this website for more details and links to the filings.

And the drugs used? Jose Padilla’s chief federal defender asserted in a 2007 legal motion that Padilla was "was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations." Hank Albarelli suggested what some of them could be in an article (which I also co-authored) last June:

Recent reports concerning the CIA and Army have both organizations experimenting on a selected basis with a new mind altering drug whose effects are described as "incredibly mind altering yet at the same time allowing subjects to adhere to a sufficient sense of sanity thus allowing better opportunity for truth inducing techniques…" The drug, described by one former intelligence official as "ETX," is said to last for "about 48-hours."

We can’t really know what’s being given. Probably because doping up prisoners is supposed to be illegal, they are keeping whatever came up in the Inspector General’s investigation secret. Use of drugs on prisoners is a war crime — even though the Army Field Manual allows giving drugs for interrogations as long as they don’t cause "permanent" or "lasting" harm or damage. An older ban against "chemically induced psychosis" was dropped when the new AFM was adopted in September 2006. Given the AFM usage, it would appear that drugs could be used abusively, as torture, and still not meet the "legal" criteria of same. No wonder a Senate Armed Service Committee staff person told their press person "that the OIG investigation ‘did not substantiate allegations’ that mind altering drugs ‘were used for interrogation purposes’ on detainees." That would leave use of hallucinogenic drugs to disorient prisoners and produce compliance prior to interrogations to be considered legal.

So the Obama administration doesn’t want pot to be legalized, but they’re okay with giving mind-altering drugs to prisoners (on some level), and keep top-secret any information about government investigations into abuses. What a damaged and insane society we live in!

Only protests from an outraged citizenry will change such criminal actions — done in your name, by the way — to make the world safe for democracy U.S. corporate profits.

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Jeff Kaye

Jeff Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist who has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, previously wrote regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter, as well as at The Guardian, Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record. He is the author of Cover-Up at Guantanamo, a new book examining declassified files on treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp.