Doctors and psychologists the CIA employed to monitor its “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects came close to, and may even have committed, unlawful human experimentation, a medical ethics watchdog has alleged.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a not-for-profit group that has investigated the role of medical personnel in alleged incidents of torture at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other US detention sites, accuses doctors of being far more involved than hitherto understood.
PHR says health professionals participated at every stage in the development, implementation and legal justification of what it calls the CIA’s secret “torture programme”. [continued…]
The mind-numbing bureaucratic details displayed in the documents released last week on the Bush Administration’s abusive detention program sent wise commentators, such as The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin, to Hannah Arendt, the mother of all war-crime writers. Her observations, first published in this magazine, on what she eventually dubbed the “banality of evil,” exhibited by the Nazis’ tidy, carefully monitored control of the Final Solution, are, sadly, timeless.
This is not to suggest that there is any moral equivalence between the Nazis and the Bush Administration. That would be absurd. Nevertheless, as C.I.A. bureaucrats debated the appropriate temperature of the water with which they planned to fill the lungs of captives or the number of times prisoners could be propelled head-first into a plywood wall (“twenty to thirty times consecutively”), it’s hard not to have renewed appreciation for Arendt.
There is also a less famous observation by Arendt, made in The New York Review of Books in the wake of the protests of 1968 and shared with me by Georgetown Law professor David Luban, that captures the problem faced by the Obama Administration in its attempt to hold the right officials accountable. She calls it the “rule by Nobody.” Attorney General Eric Holder is stuck trying to investigate an entire bureaucracy. Those on the top can claim to have clean hands, while those on the bottom can claim they were following ostensibly legal orders. What’s left, Arendt suggests, is an all-powerful government that is beyond accountability. [continued…]