When Torture Becomes Science – The New York Times

To some degree, the documents suggest, the two psychologists resisted pressure within the C.I.A. for rigorous assessment of the program’s efficacy. They argued that interrogation strategies can’t be standardized and therefore can’t be compared, like medical treatments, in randomized, prospective fashion.

But backers of more systematic assessment seem to have won out. In an undated document, the C.I.A.’s chief of medical services chided Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen for treating the torture program as an “art form” that “could not be objectively analyzed,” then pressed the “need to look more objectively for the least intrusive way to gain cooperation.”

Is this the stuff of Josef Mengele, the doctor who conducted gruesome experiments on captives at Auschwitz? Or would it be more correct to conclude that the C.I.A. could lawfully collect and review evidence bearing on the interrogation program’s efficacy and safety?

Transnational law backs the agency. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bans “medical or scientific experimentation” without consent but doesn’t restrict human-subjects research more generally. The Geneva Conventions say something similar. No one, though, is claiming that C.I.A. review efforts involved experimental and control groups and so were “experimentation” as science defines it.

But should we treat the program as an “experiment” in a more colloquial sense, as Physicians for Human Rights and the A.C.L.U. seem to do? Here, the agency has common sense on its side. If assessing outcomes of public programs makes them “experiments,” then all government action that affects people (welfare programs, Medicaid, etc.) is human experimentation, triggering informed-consent and various other legal requirements.

This logic surely sweeps too far. Our real concern about what Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen did or didn’t do isn’t human…

Read the full article at the Original Source..

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