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Guantanamo Inmates Forcibly Given ‘Mind Altering Drugs’ Prior To Investigations

Detainees in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay were regularly interrogated under the influence of antipsychotics and other “mind altering drugs,” according to a declassified Department of Defense (DOD) report obtained by Truthout. The report alleges that prisoners were not only forcibly given mind altering drugs, but were also drugged immediately preceding interrogations.

The DoD probe began several months after a Washington Post report in 2008, in which several Guantanamo inmates claimed that they were forcibly drugged in order to facilitate confessions. Truthout obtained the full report — entitled “Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees” — under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Despite the DoD’s failure to substantiate claims that detainees with already deteriorating mental health had been drugged specifically in order to facilitate interrogation, the report confirms that detainees were under the influence of psychoactive medications during investigations.

Truthout explained the significance of the findings in the context of the Washington Post report:

Over the past decade, dozens of current and former detainees and their civilian and military attorneys have alleged in news reports and in court documents that prisoners held by the US government in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan were forcibly injected with unknown medications and pills during or immediately prior to marathon interrogation sessions in an attempt to compel them to confess to terrorist-related crimes of which they were accused.

The inspector general’s investigation was unable to substantiate any of the allegations by current and former detainees that, as a matter of government policy, they were given mind-altering drugs “to facilitate interrogation.”

But the watchdog’s report provides startling new details about the treatment of detainees by US military personnel. For example, the report concludes, “certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated.”

Brandon Neely, a former Guantanamo prison guard, says that “medics never informed the detainees what the medication was…The medics walked around with little white cups that had pills in it a couple of times a day,” and if the prisoners refused to voluntarily take the drugs, they were forcibly administered.

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The only drug explicitly named in the report is Haldol, an anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. According to Wired, Haldol has many side effects, which “include depression, muscle contractions and suicidal behavior. A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders…Haldol’s main effect, though, is that it makes you really groggy.” The report also confirms that “at least one detainee — convicted ‘dirty bomb’ plotter Jose Padilla — was the subject of a ‘deliberate ruse’ in which his interrogator led him to believe he was given an injection of ‘truth serum.’

The DOD report raises many concerns, including uncertainty regarding both the ethical standards of the treatment of prisoners and the validity of the prisoners’ interrogations. Leonard Rubenstein, a medical ethicist at Johns Hopkins Center for Public health and Human Rights, said that the doctors’ failure to tell their patients what drugs they were being given neglects basic principals of medical ethics, “especially those requiring a doctor to explain his or her recommendation and seek consent for it as an affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of the patient.”

The report also indicates that the testimonies of prisoners during interrogations were assumed to be accurate, despite the debilitating affects of the drugs. Combined with the use of manipulative practices like the truth-serum ruse, the prisoners’ ability to give accurate testimony is gravely called into question.

Nina Liss-Schultz