Washington: From the early stages of the CIA's coercive interrogations of terror detainees, the agency's health professionals were intimately involved.
Front-line medics and psychologists monitored and advised on abusive tactics, even as they sometimes complained about the ethical dilemmas gnawing at them, according to this week's Senate intelligence committee report. Senior CIA medical officials helped the agency and the White House under President George W Bush.
The report describes rare moments when CIA health professionals openly balked and objected. But for four years, until Bush shuttered the CIA prison program in 2006, medical teams at each "black site" observed almost every step of procedures that President Barack Obama now calls torture.
They oversaw water dousing to ensure detainees suffered but did not drown. They inserted feeding tubes and improvised enemas. They took notes when detainees were body-slammed and forced to stand for hours intervening only to ensure that the brutal measures were not crippling enough to prevent the next round of interrogations.
Medical ethicists, already familiar with debate on the issue, say that both the Senate report and a CIA response fail to comprehensively tackle questions of medical morality and offer reforms.
"The Senate report is quite an indictment, but it leaves the American people, whatever their political views, uncertain about how medical ethics should be upheld," said Dr Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.
"The behavior we're reading about is flat-out unethical for any health professional."
The Senate committee's report, a summary of a much larger 6,700-page document that remains classified, includes an entire section about how two former Air Force psychologists devised the harsh techniques under a CIA contract and played conflicting roles as interrogators and health professionals.
Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, says in a forward that the larger report "is far more extensive."