(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)Detainees in custody of the US military were interrogated while drugged with powerful antipsychotic and other medications that "could impair an individual's ability to provide accurate information," according to a declassified Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general's report that probed the alleged use of "mind altering drugs" during interrogations.
In addition, detainees were subjected to "chemical restraints," hydrated with intravenous (IV) fluids while they were being interrogated and, in what appears to be a form of psychological manipulation, the inspector general's probe confirmed at least one detainee - convicted "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla - was the subject of a "deliberate ruse" in which his interrogator led him to believe he was given an injection of "truth serum."
Over the past decade, dozens of current and former detainees and their civilian and military attorneys have alleged in news reports and in court documents that prisoners held by the US government in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan were forcibly injected with unknown medications and pills during or immediately prior to marathon interrogation sessions in an attempt to compel them to confess to terrorist-related crimes of which they were accused.
The inspector general's investigation was unable to substantiate any of the allegations by current and former detainees that, as a matter of government policy, they were given mind-altering drugs "to facilitate interrogation."
But the watchdog's report provides startling new details about the treatment of detainees by US military personnel. For example, the report concludes, "certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated."
Leonard Rubenstein, a medical ethicist at Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the former president of Physicians for Human Rights, said, "this practice adds another layer of cruelty to the operations at Guantanamo."
"The inspector general's report confirms that detainees whose mental deterioration and suffering was so great as to lead to psychosis and attempts at self-harm were given anti-psychotic medication and subjected to further interrogation," said Rubenstein, who reviewed a copy of the report for Truthout. "The problem is not simply what the report implies, that good information is unlikely to be obtained when someone shows psychotic symptoms, but the continued use of highly abusive interrogation methods against men who are suffering from grave mental deterioration that may have been caused by those very same methods."
Shayana Kadidal, the senior managing atty of the Guantanamo Project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the report, which he also reviewed, "reinforces that the interrogation system at Guantanamo was a brutal system."
"One of the things that struck me after reading this," Kadidal said, "is under the system set up by the [US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia], any statements detainees made during these interrogations would be presumed accurate even if detainees took medication that could produce unreliable information."
"The burden ends up falling upon the detainee to prove what was said wasn't accurate if they were challenging their detention" in habeas corpus proceedings, Kadidal added.
Explaining the rationale behind forcibly drugging detainees, the former commander of the Joint Medical Group at Guantanamo said, "some detainees were involuntarily medicated to help control serious mental illnesses," according to the report, which added that an ethics committee approved of such plans.
"For example, one detainee had a piece of shrapnel in his brain which resulted in control problems and a limited ability to provide effective consent," the report said.
The detainee with the shrapnel injury may be Abu Zubaydah. In 1992, Zubaydah had suffered a shrapnel wound to the head while fighting on the front lines of a civil war in Afghanistan. Brent Mickum, Zubaydah's habeas attorney, said the high-value detainee has been routinely overdosed with Haldol, the only drug the inspector general identified that was used on certain detainees.
But the report suggests detainees were often not told what types of drugs they were given when they asked or for what purpose it was administered.
Brandon Neely, a former Guantanamo guard who was at the prison facility the day it opened in January 2002, told Truthout, "medics never informed the detainees what the medication was."
"The medics walked around with little white cups that had pills in it a couple of times a day," said Neely, who sometimes accompanied the medics when they distributed the medication. He added that if detainees refused to take it an "Immediate Reaction Force" team, who guards would call to deal with resistant or combative detainees, would administer the medication to prisoners by force.
Rubenstein said the failure to inform prisoners what drugs they were given means "some basic principles of medical ethics were cast aside, especially those requiring a doctor to explain his or her recommendation and seek consent for it as an affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of the patient."'