Doctors aid interrogations at Guantanamo, journal and newspaper say

Military psychiatrists tell how to exploit fear, stress

June 24, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators.

The accounts, in interviews with The New York Times, come as mental health professionals are debating whether the doctors - psychiatrists and psychologists at the prison camp - have violated professional ethics codes.

The Pentagon and mental health professionals have been examining the ethical issues involved.

The former interrogators said the military doctors' role was to advise them and their fellow interrogators on ways of increasing psychological duress on detainees, sometimes by exploiting their fears, in the hopes of making them more cooperative and willing to provide information.

In one example, interrogators were told that a detainee's medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.

In addition, the authors of an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine this week said their interviews with doctors who helped devise and supervise the interrogation regimen at Guantanamo showed the program was explicitly designed to increase fear and distress among detainees as a means to obtaining intelligence.

The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation's fight against terrorism.

The military refused to give The Times permission to interview medical personnel at the isolated Guantanamo camp about their practices, and the medical journal, in an article that criticized the program, did not name the officials interviewed by its authors.

Pentagon officials said in interviews that the practices at Guantanamo violated no ethics guidelines and disputed the conclusions of the medical journal's article, which was posted on the journal's Web site Wednesday.

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