Investigation and Documentation | Papers and Reports on U.S. Torture

PHR has published a series of groundbreaking reports and papers documenting investigations carried out since 2001 about the U.S. government’s authorization and use of extreme and abusive interrogation methods on detainees.

Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces

As evidence of U.S. national security interrogation practices emerged, it became clear that psychologically abusive methods of interrogation were at the core of U.S. intelligence gathering. “Break Them Down,” published by PHR in May 2005, was the first comprehensive review of the use of psychological torture by U.S. forces, examining the devastating health consequences of psychological coercion and explaining how a regime of psychological torture was put into place in the U.S. “war on terror”.

Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality

This landmark report for the first time revealed and documented medical evidence confirming the first-hand accounts of the excruciating pain and continued suffering of men who, never charged with any crime, endured torture at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay. PHR-mobilized health professionals conducted intensive clinical evaluations of the men, documenting practices used to bring about long-lasting pain, terror, humiliation, and shame. The report demonstrated that the authorization of these techniques, whether practiced alone or in combination, may constitute torture and/or cruel and inhuman treatment, and may place interrogators at serious legal risk of prosecution for war crimes and other violations.

Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Revealed in the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report

This white paper, published in August 2009, examines specifics of the May 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report, which demonstrated that health professionals played a leading role in establishing an unethical medical premise upon which attorneys rationalized an illegal program of torture.

Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program

PHR’s 2010 publication, “Experiments in Torture,” is the first report to reveal evidence indicating that U.S. military and intelligence medical personnel allegedly engaged in illegal experimentation on prisoners captured after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture. Those experiments observed and analyzed the physical and psychological impact on detainees of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in the US Detention System

Solitary confinement is a generic term used to describe a form of segregation or isolation in which people are held in total or near-total isolation. Solitary confinement has historically been used to control and discipline detainees in a variety of settings, including federal and state prisons, local jails, and immigration and national security detention facilities. Unlike incarcerated prisoners, immigration and national security detainees are held not as punishment for a crime but as a preventive measure. Indeed, it is unlikely that these detainees will ever be charged with a crime.

Punishment Before Justice: Indefinite Detention in the US

This  2011 report shows how the United States government’s reliance on indefinite detention in both national security and immigration contexts reflects an abdication of its legal and moral responsibility to treat those in its custody humanely, as well as an abdication of its responsibility to protect its military and civilians from retaliation on account of its continued refusal to honor the rule of law.

Doing Harm: Health Professionals’ Central Role in the CIA Torture Program

On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of its 6,700-page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. This detailed review of the 500-page executive summary analyzes evidence of medical complicity in torture and shows how health professionals who participated in the CIA torture program violated core ethical principles common to all healing professions.

Truth Matters: Accountability for CIA Psychological Torture

The Senate torture report documents the abuses that followed the development of a comprehensive program of detainee torture by CIA personnel with the help of psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. This briefing paper, based on the Senate torture report, analyzes the operational goal of Mitchell and Jessen and its effect in destroying human beings using methods and practices long recognized as torture.

Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program

Based on an analysis of thousands of pages of documents and years of research, PHR shows that the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program constituted an illegal, unethical regime of experimental research on unwilling human subjects. In this report, PHR researchers show that CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen created a research program in which health professionals designed and applied torture techniques and collected data on torture’s effects. This constitutes one of the gravest breaches of medical ethics by U.S. health personnel since the Nuremberg Code was developed in the wake of Nazi medical atrocities committed during World War Two.

Select Testimony

PHR advisor Dr. Allen Keller, director of the Bellevue/NYU Center for Survivors of Torture, testified on behalf of PHR and the Center in October 2007 that inadequate health care and harmful detention conditions for asylum seekers and other immigrants – as documented in PHR’s 2003 report “From Persecution to Prison”– appeared to have worsened over the previous four years.

PHR’s 2012 testimony by Medical Advisor Dr. Scott Allen, based on important findings from the groundbreaking report “Punishment Before Justice: Indefinite Detention in the US,” was submitted by Senator Dianne Feinstein at a crucial Senate hearing on indefinite detention.

Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, PHR’s anti-torture expert, testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications, on July 24, 2013. Dr. Xenakis asked for an immediate end to the force feeding of Guantánamo detainees. He stated that force feeding is painful and degrading and violates medical guidelines by undermining the doctor-patient relationship and by engaging health professionals in the use of force against detainees.