A Georgetown law professor who has been working to end the use of physicians in Army interrogations said he recently received information from the U.S. Army defending its interrogation techniques.

Georgetown Law Professor M. Gregg Bloche and his colleague Jonathan Marks, associate professor of bioethics, humanities and law, have been working since 2005 to inform the American public of the Army’s interrogation practices.

When Bloche and Marks first began their inquiry three years ago, they found evidence that Army physicians had been engaged in acts of torture which violated both international law and the current medical professional guidelines.

Recently, they received documents from the U.S. Army, under the Freedom of Information Act, stating that the Department of Defense plans to continue to use physicians in interrogations, despite criticism from several medical organizations.

“Not only did caregivers pass health information to military intelligence personnel; physicians assisted in the design of interrogation strategies, including sleep deprivation and other coercive methods tailored to detainees’ medical conditions,” Bloche and Marks said in a 2005 New York Times Op-Ed entitled “Doing Unto Others as They Did Unto Us.”

Since then, Bloche and Marks have gone on to present this information to the American Psychological Association, but said they were met with resistance before they even began their presentation.

“We were uninvited hours before the meeting,” Bloche said, but added that he and Marks were ultimately able to present to the APA.

The APA was initially hesitant to investigate the Army’s use of psychiatrists in interrogations, according to Bloche, but eventually denounced the Army’s use of physicians in any interrogation.

Today, both the APA and the American Medical Association oppose the use of physicians and psychiatrists in interrogations.

Bloche said that the use of physicians had been approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as part of a classified program, called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. This program used psychologists and other behavioral science experts to commit acts that could be defined as torture to extract information from detainees, according to Bloche.

Bloche and Marks described the interrogation techniques in their Op-Ed:

“Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life’s most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem.

Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the `confessions’ they sought,” they said.

Bloche argued that many of the SERE techniques can easily be considered “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment,” in clear violation of human rights law.

“It is an off-the-wall interpretation that the U.S. does not need to comply with international standards,” he said.

Bloche is currently in the process of litigating to gain access to additional government documents that might disclose information on the practices and the nature of the government’s use of physicians.

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