MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And I'm Michele Norris. A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross alleges that medical professionals who were supposed to monitor CIA interrogations committed gross ethical violations. The report contains new and explicit details about the alleged use of torture in CIA interrogation. And it alleges that medical officers, in some cases, essentially participated in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The ICRC document was given to the CIA in February of 2007. It was posted in full for the first time on The New York Review of Books last night by author and journalism professor Mark Danner. Mr. Danner joins me now. Welcome to the program.
MARK DANNER: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: What are the principle findings in this report about the treatment of the so-called high value detainees in CIA custody?
DANNER: The principle finding is that the Red Cross, which is the guardian of the Geneva Convention, finds and declares bluntly that the interrogation procedures used constitute torture and constitute cruel, inhuman integrating treatment. It contains rather precise descriptions of sleep deprivation, extensive beatings, beatings with the use of a collar, immersion in cold water and suffocation by water, otherwise known as waterboarding. So, it's the first-person account of the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency at their so-called black sites, a network of secret prisons around the world.
NORRIS: Now, we should say that the allegations in this report are based on interviews with these 14 detainees. Has the information been confirmed or corroborated by the people who allegedly participated in these sessions?
DANNER: Well, one should say that these accounts are based on lengthy interviews going on for several days, conducted by Red Cross professionals. And they were compared extensively with one another. The 14 detainees had no contact with one another, they were kept in strict isolation at the black sites and subsequently at Guantanamo. So their accounts, in effect, were given in complete isolation and corroborate one another. It would be almost inconceivable to imagine that all 14 made up the same set of procedures, did so independently and then had then come out matching perfectly.
NORRIS: But because they have not actually interviewed or do not include in this report information from either the health professionals or others that participated in the CIA interrogations, is that potentially problematic in terms of the credibility of the report?
DANNER: I don't think so. The interrogators are CIA professionals who will not be interviewed. I include in my first New York review piece an account from a man named John Kiriakou, who is a CIA interrogator, and what he has to say confirms, in large part, what is in the report. I mean, these techniques were acknowledged in 2005. Waterboarding has been acknowledged by not only former Vice President Dick Cheney, but the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. So, you know, we can go on and on and talk about how, well, these are alleged and this is not confirmed, I mean, it is confirmed.
NORRIS: Mark, let me ask you about the role of medical personnel. What was their role in these sessions, according to the report? And where did they allegedly overstep ethical boundaries?
DANNER: The reports talks about the appearance of doctors on numerous occasions. During the interrogation, for example, of a man named Walid bin Attash, he was subjected to a procedure called long-term standing, in which his hands were cuffed to the ceiling, his feet were cuffed to the floor and he was left in that position for days at a time. As it happened, Mr. bin Attash had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan. So he had one artificial limb. And the doctor was brought in to monitor the condition of the remaining limb to - actually use a tape measure and decide how much it had swollen from this long- term standing and to see whether the procedure should be stopped - whether he was about to faint and so on.
I'm not qualified to pronounce on the ethical limits that were breached, but I think it's generally a part of most professional codes of ethics that they don't participate in the torture of detainees.
NORRIS: The findings in the report point to a very thorny question and that is what happens to the people who participated in these interrogations, or who helped develop a policy that led to the conditions that have now been described as inhumane? The question of whether they should be subject to justice, or judication or some sort of punishment. The ICRC is unhappy that this report that was supposed to be confidential was made public.
I'm wondering if you decided to post it online because you were trying to apply a little bit of pressure to the Obama administration and their decision about how to handle this question.
DANNER: I certainly wasn't trying to apply pressure. I simply believed that Americans should know what was done. The question of what should be done is a very complicated one, you raised at the beginning of the question. Senator Leahy has called for a Truth Commission. You have an investigation being mounted by the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. There are calls from the ACLU and others for prosecutions. It's very complicated because the responsibility for this is very widespread in the former administration.
My personal opinion is that the society somehow having an authoritative account of what was done and what was gained, if anything. A lot of evidence suggested that the yield from this stuff was very, very meager. And I think the society has to be brought to recognize that and then somehow brought beyond it. I think that's what's most important.
NORRIS: Mark Danner, thank you very much for speaking with us.
DANNER: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: Mark Danner is an author and journalism professor at the University of California Berkeley and Bard College. You can find a link to the ICRC report at our Web site npr.org.
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