Regarding Psychological Torture and Physicians Who Facilitate It

Mary Pipher is a courageous whistleblower – heard her on CBC radio last week. My article “A Psychiatric Holocaust” includes information regarding psychologist Donald Hebb’s unethical sensory deprivation, government-funded experiments on students at Montreal’s McGill University in the 1950s. Psychiatrist Ewen Cameron modified Hebb’s experiments to torture many patients (mostly women) with electroshock, psychiatric drugs & psychic driving in his brutal brainwashing experiments (see Phoenix Rising, vol.6 no.1, June 1986)
The interview with Mary Pipher–which I listened to on the radio and seems to be available online–in which she discusses the role being played by the American Psychological Association, of which she is a
member, in legitimizing torture is worth listening to. The interview was played on The Current, CBC Radio One, September 25, 2007,  which is also the source of the following:

Guantanamo Bay – Black Sites

As both American and Canadian forces continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, both nations have felt the heat of the debate over what to do with captured terror suspects.

In America, the quarrel over extending basic legal rights to detainees peaked once more last week. The U.S. Senate voted in favour of granting habeas corpus to detainees in U.S. custody. It was supposed to be a
landmark victory for human rights activists, but practically it was a hollow one although a majority, it still came 4 votes short of the 60 needed to pass.

Meanwhile, a less-public debate among psychologists on exactly how to interrogate detainees and what role psychologists should play in those interrogations hit a peak of its own in late August.

Dr. Mary Pipher, author of the book Reviving Ophelia (also see the video here), has returned a presidential citation she had received from the American Psychological Association. It was a protest against the association’s continued involvement with interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and the Central Intelligence Agency’s so-called black sites around the world. Dr. Mary Pipher joined us from Lincoln, Nebraska.

APA Response

For some perspective from the American Psychological Association, we were joined by Rhea Farberman. She is the director of communications with the association, and she joined us this morning from Crofton, Maryland.

Canadian Update

Here in Canada, the Code of Ethics governing psychologists does not deal specifically with torture or enhanced interrogations. But it does state that psychologists are not to engage in any activity contravening international humanitarian law. It also instructs them to speak out when they witness clearly unethical behaviour.

Dr. Peter Bradley, is a member of the Canadian Psychological Association and teaches at the Royal Military College. He says psychologists do work with the Canadian military, but only in areas of recruitment and counselling.

But there have been more troubling links in the past. In fact, some of the tactics the CIA uses in interrogations today were developed at McGill University in Montreal.

In December, 2005, we brought you an interview with Alfred McCoy, author of A Question of Torture. He described how McGill was a hotbed of psychological research for the CIA in the 1950s and 60s. And we now know it included the abuse of unsuspecting patients at the Allen Memorial Institute, under one-time American Psychological Association president, Ewan Cameron.

In our interview Alfred McCoy told us about some of the research, including sensory deprivation techniques, under another man named Donald Hebb. We aired a clip from our December 2005 interview with Alfred McCoy, author of A Question of Torture.

The questions surrounding the detention of Binyam Mohammed in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay are now beginning to darken Canada’s doorstep. He’s the British resident being held as a terrorist suspect. He alleges that over the course of his detention, he was interrogated by Canadians.Binyam Mohammed is charged with being part of the “dirty bomb plot” that involved US citizen Jose Padilla. He’s also one of five detainees, including Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who have been selected from the hundreds at Guantanamo for a military trial. He’s currently waiting for the US Supreme Court to decide on the legality of those tribunals.

To discuss his case, we were joined by his lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith. We reached him in Dorset, southern England.

Binyam Mohammed’s allegations are not the only time Canadian identities have been caught up in international controversy. In September, 1997, two Israeli secret agents were caught traveling with Canadian passports in Jordan, allegedly on their way to assassinate a leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. That case was never fully resolved.And it may never be entirely clear what sort of involvement – if any – Canada had in the case of Binyam Mohammed. However according to our next guest there is little doubt that Canada has historic connections to the use of torture by Americans.

In the early 1950’s at Montreal’s McGill University, Canadian psychologist Donald O’Hebb pioneered the study of sensory deprivation. And his controversial work led directly to the CIA and the invention of something they called “No Touch Torture”.

To talk about torture, its development and Canada’s historic role we were joined by Alfred McCoy. He’s written a book called A Question of Torture and we reached him in Madison, Wisconsin.

We continued our conversation with Alfred McCoy, the author of the book, A Question of Torture. Before the break we were talking about the development of the American policy of “no touch torture”.

In this segment we moved the discussion to more recent developments in the American torture debate. Just last week, President Bush appeared to bend to the concerns of Senator John McCain by agreeing to a sweeping torture ban.

Also here is an excerpt from “Sedated Into Submission,” from Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2007, in which by Steve Wright writes about research being conducted at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague by Dr. Jitka Schreiberova, chief anaesthetist, Department of Neurosurgery, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, and her colleagues.

Dr Schreiberova discussed her work on transforming anaesthetics into sub-lethal weapons, and her experience of primate and human testing of immobilising drugs, at the European Symposia on Non-lethal Weapons in Ettlingen, Germany, in 2005 and 2007, and at the Jane‚s Non-Lethal Weapons conference in Leeds, United Kingdom, in 2005. She is working with a range of anaesthetics (such as the club drug ketamine and more traditional anaesthetics: remifentanil, alfentanil and etorphine – an ultra-potent thebain derivative) mixed with a range of fast-acting antidotes. Her presentations include images of paintball guns to distribute these drugs, as well as children with happy faces who have been successfully resuscitated.

“When I met Dr Schreiberova in Leeds, I asked whether anyone could be an anaesthetist in the Czech Republic, or did they need qualifications? She was clearly nonplussed by my question, so I asked if it was a skilled job or whether non-trained police officers could quickly learn the techniques of safe human immobilisation. She could not grasp what I was driving at in terms of the ethics of medical professionals handing over the power to administer a toxic drug to enforcement officers in a street or battlefield context. So I asked her if they had ethics committees in Prague and she said “yes, of course”. But I can’t imagine any medical ethics committee in France or Britain permitting experiments with immobilising weapons on children.”

Finally, Democracy Now! has an article revealing that More Health Care Professionals Involved In Design, Structuring of Torture Than in Providing Care for Survivors.


1 comment so far

  1. Peter on

    You can read more about Dr. Ewen Cameron’s CIA-funded experiments and all the MKULTRA subprojects in the MKULTRA Briefing Book, which was prepared by the CIA in 1976. The CIA Inspector General wrote in 1958 of MKULTRA: “Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from exposure to enemy forces but also to conceal these activities from the American public in general. The knowledge that the agency is engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles.”

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