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Almerindo Ojeda: GuantĂ¡namo healthcare providers serve interrogators

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Recent revelations raise questions about the role of health providers at US detention facilities. Thus, the Washington Post reported that detainees are being involuntarily drugged. Almerindo Ojeda provides additional evidence that health providers at GuantĂ¡namo aided interrogators to the detriment of detainees.


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Last week the Washington Post reported that Guanta'namo and CIA detainees alleged that they were given strange psychoactive drugs by force. Jeff Stein of CQ had reported a similar things a few weeks ago. I wrote about this in my piece Involuntary Drugging of US Detainees. In response to the Post article, Almerindo Ojeda wrote a letter to the Post detailing additional evidence that the provision of health services and interrogations at Guanta'namo have been intimately linked, with health providers serving the abusive interrogation regime.

Almerindo is the Director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas at the University of California at Davis, where they have a wonderful archive, the Guanta'namo Testimonials Project with testimony from many sources on the conditions at the prison. The Project -- by typing out many handwritten documents, transforming them into searchable text ,and carefully organizing them-- is one of the premier sources for such materials as detaneee or FBI accounts of abuses there. My colleagues and I use it all the time.

In any case, the Post did not print Almerindo's letter. He has thus revised it slightly and given me permission to post it here:

A recent article in the Washington Post (Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned, 04/22/08), quotes Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. J.D. Gordon as saying that interrogations at Guantanamo do not affect or influence medical treatment of the detainees held there. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Attached to a recent motion on behalf of Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan are medical records stating that, on 8/28/02, an ointment was applied to Mr. Hamdan's lower back and then covered with moleskin--a treatment which the attending medic described as a "special request for medical attention per FBI". In addition, a medical record for the same detainee dated 2/19/04 carries the annotation "no rec time per Intel"--or "no recreation time per Intelligence" (I understand that exercise is an important component treatment of sciatica, which Mr. Hamdan suffered from then).
Moreover, one of the "counterresistance techniques" a pproved on December 2, 2002 by then Secretary Rumsfeld against Guantanamo detainees was the use of isolation facilities for up to thirty days. Here, and for selected detainees, "the OIC [or Officer in Charge], Interrogation Section, will approve all contacts with the detainee, to include medical visits of a non-emergent nature." Although blanket permission to use this and other techniques was rescinded by then Secretary Rumsfeld a month later, their use was still allowed on a case-by-case basis and with approval of the Secretary of Defense (see memos 16-23 in The Torture Papers, by Greenberg and Dratel).

Similarly, section 30-6-d of the 2004 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures posted recently by Wikileaks reads as follows:

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Detainees who are on self-harm precautions [i.e. those at high risk for suicide or other self-injury] that are scheduled for interrogation will have their clinical status and risk assessment verified by the licensed Behavioral Health staff prior to leaving the block. Detainees on self-harm precautions are generally not clinically stable enough to leave the block.

So the needs of interrogation may trump the reasons for placing a GTMO prisoner in a mental health ward. And this as a matter of standard operating procedure.

Almerindo Ojeda, Director
Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
University of California at Davis

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Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and is President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He was a psychological consultant on two of (more...)
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