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PHR Calls on Attorney General to Conduct Investigation into Destruction of CIA Tapes, Legality of 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called on Attorney General Mukasey to open an investigation into whether the CIA's admitted destruction of video recordings, allegedly showing interrogations of suspected terrorists, violated the law. The tapes reportedly show the use of "enhanced" interrogation tactics, including waterboarding. Congress must also investigate this potential destruction of evidence of torture, the group said. PHR also called upon Attorney General to investigate the use of methods of torture by the CIA and bring charges against those who are found to have broken the law.

The CIA's "enhanced" tactics, according to a joint report, Leave No Marks, by PHR and Human Rights First (HRF), violate US and international law, including the Geneva Conventions, and can constitute war crimes, according to the groups' analysis of legal and medical literature.

"The alleged destruction of potential evidence of torture demands immediate investigation by both the Attorney General and Congress," stated Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "Any remaining video and audio recordings, tactics logs, and other evidence of torture and mistreatment of detainees should be promptly handed over to the Department of Justice and Congressional oversight committees."

Additionally, Attorney General Mukasey should quickly fulfill the promise he made in a letter to Judiciary Committee Senators prior to confirmation to "review any coercive interrogation techniques currently used by the United States Government and the legal analysis authorizing their use to assess whether such techniques comply with the law." Those who are found to have violated the law through the authorization, design, supervision or implementation of the "enhanced" tactics should be prosecuted.

"Official Congressional and Department of Justice investigations are required to determine not only if the law was broken when the CIA destroyed potential evidence of torture, but to also examine what laws may be violated by the CIA's 'enhanced' interrogation program itself," stated Donaghue. "Any individual, regardless of their position, found to have committed a crime must be prosecuted by the Attorney General to the fullest extent of the law. The time for full accountability for this regime of psychological and physical torture is long overdue."

Any inquiry into the destruction of the tapes and the conduct of the interrogations they reportedly showed must include close examination of the role of psychologists and other health professionals in implementing the "enhanced" tactics and in monitoring the interrogation, PHR stated. An article published in July by Vanity Fair revealed the essential role played in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the reported subject of one of the video tapes, by psychologists James Mitchell and E. Bruce Jessen, who were serving as contractors to the CIA.

"Government documents and press reports have clearly shown that psychologists played a crucial role in implementing abusive and illegal interrogations for both the CIA and the Pentagon as part of the Administration's policy of using torture," said Donaghue. "The US Government must ensure that health professionals are no longer employed in this illegal and unethical role."

PHR praised the House and Senate Intelligence Committees for advancing legislation yesterday that makes the Army Field Manual the unified standard for detainee treatment and interrogation across all branches of the military and intelligence services. While PHR has expressed concern over some crucial aspects of the Army Field Manual, the group believes that the compromise measure approved by the committees represents significant progress, despite the likelihood that President Bush will veto any bill containing such a provision.

"Congress must continue to work toward ensuring one standard for detainee treatment and interrogations for all US personnel," said Donaghue. "Our soldiers, law enforcement and intelligence agents are in desperate need of clear guidance about what is legal and illegal under the law. We urge President Bush to reconsider his threatened veto."

PHR has repeatedly called on the Bush Administration and Congress to explicitly prohibit the "enhanced" interrogation tactics. These tactics include, though are not limited to, the following:

  • Mock executions
  • Waterboarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation
  • Threats of harm or death to the detainee or a member of his or her family
  • Isolation used for the purpose of interrogation
  • Sensory deprivation (particularly of light and auditory stimuli)
  • Sensory bombardment (particularly with loud noise or music, bright lights, or flashing strobe lights)
  • Hooding
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Forced nakedness
  • Sexual humiliation
  • Cultural or religious humiliation
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Stress positions (including "short shackling" and prolonged standing)
  • Use of animals, including dogs, to instill fear
  • Physical assault, including slapping and shaking
  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold
  • Induced hypothermia
  • The threatened use of any of these techniques
  • Use of psychotropic drugs or any other mind-altering substances in support of interrogations

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

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