Human Rights, Health, and Religious Groups File Federal Complaint Against CIA Based on New Evidence Indicating Human Experimentation on Detainees

June 9, 2010


Ben Greenberg
bgreenberg at phrusa dot org
617-510-3417 (mobile)
Contacts for partner organizations appear below.

A broad coalition of human rights, health, and religious groups filed a formal complaint today with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) against the Central Intelligence Agency. This action is in response to new revelations by Physicians for Human Rights that the CIA allegedly engaged in illegal human subject research and experimentation on detainees as part of Bush-era interrogation practices. The CIA has denied the allegations and has refused to investigate evidence of experimentation presented by Physicians for Human Rights in a report entitled Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program. The report is available at http://phrtorturepapers.org

The following groups have joined the OHRP complaint so far:

  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Amnesty International USA
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Center for Victims of Torture
  • Human Rights Watch
  • National Religious Campaign Against Torture
  • Network of Concerned Anthropologists
  • Psychologists for Social Responsibility

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Human Rights, Medical and Religious Groups to File Federal Complaint Seeking Investigation of CIA Experiments on Detainees

UPDATE 6/9: Human Rights Watch has joined the coalition of groups submitting the OHRP complaint today.

Media Advisory for: 11 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 9, 2010


  • Benjamin Greenberg, Physicians for Human Rights, 617-510-3417, bgreenberg at phrusa dot org
  • Margot Friedman, 202-332-5550, mfriedman at dupontcirclecommunications dot com

Telephone Press Briefing at 11 AM EDT on Wednesday

Evidence Indicates Experiments Were Conducted to Provide Legal Cover for Torture

Washington, D.C. – A coalition of human rights, medical and religious organizations will hold a telephone press conference at 11 a.m. EDT on Wednesday to announce the filing of a complaint with the federal Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) seeking an investigation into human experimentation on detainees by the CIA.

The action follows the release Monday of a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that provides new evidence that health professionals on the CIA payroll performed experiments on detainees in U.S. custody following Sept. 11, 2001 to apparently provide legal cover for torture. That report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program is available at http://phrtorturepapers.org/

The press conference will include representatives from Physicians for Human Rights and the following organizations, as well as other national human rights, medical and religious groups joining PHR in filing the complaint, including:

  • Amnesty International
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Center for Victims of Torture
  • National Religious Campaign Against Torture and
  • Psychologists for Social Responsibility

The OHRP, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, is responsible for ensuring that federally funded research by federal agencies including the CIA involving human subjects complies with regulations collectively known as the Common Rule. The CIA can not obstruct an OHRP investigation on the basis that evidence may be classified. OHRP has previously taken actions to suspend research activities at major research universities for violation of the Common Rule. Since the Obama administration has not responded to the request to investigate possible incidents of human experimentation on detainees, the groups are seeking an official investigation by the OHRP.

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National Religious Leaders Denounce Health Professionals’ Involvement in Experiments on Detainees

Monday, June 7, 2010


Alanna Sobel NRCAT
asobel at fenton dot com
(202) 789-7751
Ben Greenberg
Physicians for Human Rights
bgreenberg at phrusa dot org
(617) 301-4237

People from all faiths demand a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the use of torture including its use in medical experiments

In light of today’s release of Physicians for Human Rights’ new report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, Rev. Richard L. Killmer, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has responded with the following statement and announced the release of a new video “Accounting for Torture” (www.nrcat.org/act) that describes the PHR repor:

“As religious leaders we commend Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) for their groundbreaking work uncovering and documenting evidence of the involvement of United States military and intelligence health professionals in performing experiments, without consent, on detainees in the custody of the US following September 2001.

Such experimentation would violate the legal and ethical protections afforded by the Nuremberg Code, the Geneva Conventions, federal regulations governing human subject research – known as “The Common Rule” – and the federal War Crimes Act.

We have adamantly opposed and consistently spoken out against US-sponsored torture. Torture is immoral and abhorrent, violating the teachings of all our religious traditions.

Just as adamantly, we now condemn these alleged acts of illegal and immoral experimentation. Separate and distinct from the torture, such medical experiments could themselves constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

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Evidence Indicates that the Bush Administration Conducted Experiments and Research on Detainees to Design Torture Techniques and Create Legal Cover

June 7, 2010


Illegal Activity Would Violate Nuremberg Code and Could Open Door to Prosecution

Media Contacts:

Ben Greenberg
bgreenberg at phrusa dot org
Mobile: +1-617-510-3417

Valerie Holford
Mobile: +1-301-926-1298

(Cambridge, MA) In the most comprehensive investigation to date of health professionals’ involvement in the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody. The apparent experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The PHR report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, is the first to provide evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture.

This evidence indicating apparent research and experimentation on detainees opens the door to potential additional legal liability for the CIA and Bush-era officials. There is no publicly available evidence that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that the alleged experimentation and research performed on detainees was lawful, as it did with the “enhanced” techniques themselves.

“The CIA appears to have broken all accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War to protect prisoners from being the subjects of experimentation,” said Frank Donaghue, PHR’s Chief Executive Officer. “Not only are these alleged acts gross violations of human rights law, they are a grave affront to America’s core values.”

Physicians for Human Rights demands that President Obama direct the Attorney General to investigate these allegations, and if a crime is found to have been committed, prosecute those responsible. Additionally, Congress must immediately amend the War Crimes Act (WCA) to remove changes made to the WCA in 2006 by the Bush Administration that allow a more permissive definition of the crime of illegal experimentation on detainees in US custody. The more lenient 2006 language of the WCA was made retroactive to all acts committed by US personnel since 1997.

“In their attempt to justify the war crime of torture, the CIA appears to have committed another alleged war crime – illegal experimentation on prisoners,” said Nathaniel A. Raymond, Director of PHR’s Campaign Against Torture and lead report author. “Justice Department lawyers appear to never have assessed the lawfulness of the alleged research on detainees in CIA custody, despite how essential it appears to have been to their legal cover for torture.”

PHR’s report, Experiments in Torture, is relevant to present-day national security interrogations, as well as Bush-era detainee treatment policies. As recently as February, 2010, President Obama’s then director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, disclosed that the US had established an elite interrogation unit that will conduct “scientific research” to improve the questioning of suspected terrorists. Admiral Blair declined to provide important details about this effort.

“If health professionals participated in unethical human subject research and experimentation they should be held to account,” stated Scott A. Allen, MD, a medical advisor to Physicians for Human Rights and lead medical author of the report. “Any health professional who violates their ethical codes by employing their professional expertise to calibrate and study the infliction of harm disgraces the health profession and makes a mockery of the practice of medicine.”

Several prominent individuals and organizations in addition to PHR will file a complaint this week with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) and call for an OHRP investigation of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services.

The PHR report indicates that there is evidence that health professionals engaged in research on detainees that violates the Geneva Conventions, The Common Rule, the Nuremberg Code and other international and domestic prohibitions against illegal human subject research and experimentation. Declassified government documents indicate that:

  • Research and medical experimentation on detainees was used to measure the effects of large- volume waterboarding and adjust the procedure according to the results. After medical monitoring and advice, the CIA experimentally added saline, in an attempt to prevent putting detainees in a coma or killing them through over-ingestion of large amounts of plain water. The report observes: “‘Waterboarding 2.0’ was the product of the CIA’s developing and field-testing an intentionally harmful practice, using systematic medical monitoring and the application of subsequent generalizable knowledge.”
  • Health professionals monitored sleep deprivation on more than a dozen detainees in 48-, 96- and 180-hour increments. This research was apparently used to monitor and assess the effects of varying levels of sleep deprivation to support legal definitions of torture and to plan future sleep deprivation techniques.
  • Health professionals appear to have analyzed data, based on their observations of 25 detainees who were subjected to individual and combined applications of “enhanced” interrogation techniques, to determine whether one type of application over another would increase the subject’s “susceptibility to severe pain.” The alleged research appears to have been undertaken only to assess the legality of the “enhanced” interrogation tactics and to guide future application of the techniques.

Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program is the most in-depth expert review to date of the legal and medical ethics issues concerning health professionals’ involvement in researching, designing and supervising the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program. The Experiments in Torture report is the result of six months of investigation and the review of thousands of pages of government documents. It has been peer-reviewed by outside experts in the medical, biomedical and research ethics fields, legal experts, health professionals and experts in the treatment of torture survivors.

The lead author for this report was Nathaniel Raymond, Director of the Campaign Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the lead medical author was Scott Allen, MD, Co-Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University and Medical Advisor to PHR. They were joined in its writing by Vincent Iacopino, MD, PhD, PHR Senior Medical Advisor; Allen Keller, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, Director, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; Stephen Soldz, PhD, President-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis; Steven Reisner, PhD, PHR Advisor on Ethics and Psychology; and John Bradshaw, JD, PHR Chief Policy Officer and Director of PHR’s Washington Office.

The report was extensively peer reviewed by leading experts in related medical, legal, ethical and governmental fields addressed in the document.

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