The CIA recommended using drugs on prisoners from the “war on terror,” saying it was “worth a try.” They claim to have dropped the plan after the agency decided not to ask for a legal ruling to do it. The department had previously provided legal justification for the use of waterboarding and confinement in small boxes.
The release reveals CIA doctors were trying to find a “truth serum” to use on prisoners as part of a previously secret program, Project Medication. The CIA studied old Soviet drug experiments and the CIA’s own horrific MK-Ultra program, when they conducted human experimentation with LSD and other drugs on unwitting subjects. The doctors involved wanted to use Versed, a psychoactive drug similar to some used on prisoners during the MK-Ultra program.
The ACLU won the release of 90 pages of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program, written by the head CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified.
While they say they never started experimenting on people with drugs this time, other experiments went forward and CIA medical professionals remained participants in experimenting with torture. Just like the government lawyers who tried to give the torture the veneer of legality, the release reveals that the CIA doctors were “indispensable” for “legitimizing the program.”
The doctors claimed that waterboarding “provided periodic relief” because it was a break from the usual standing sleep deprivation. The CIA doctors also decided that a prisoner stuffed into a coffin-sized box, was actually provided a “benign sanctuary.” They described another prisoner who cried, begged, vomited, and who stopped breathing after being tortured as “amazingly resistant to the waterboard.” Ultimately, the CIA doctors reached the conclusion that the torture program was “free of enduring physical or psychological effects.”