WASHINGTON (CN) – In its efforts to gain enemy intelligence from terror suspects, the CIA spent a few months after 9/11 experimenting on its prisoners by testing a drug it hoped would work like truth serum.
Though the CIA’s harsh interrogation program folded amid public scandal in 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union has spent the last two years pursuing access to top-secret government reports from the time. On Tuesday, the organization released a 90-page report which sheds light on how the agency’s doctors, psychologists, and nurses, contributed to the interrogation of terror suspects.
The report details the program known as Project Medication. Spearheaded by the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, the program tasked doctors with conducting tests on humans to determine if a sedative medication called Versed – commercially prescribed for anxiety issues – would make suspects talk during interrogations. The report identifies Versed as “one of the safest and most easily reversed” drugs, and notes that it sometimes causes amnesia as well.
Prior to Project Medication’s kickoff, the report says, CIA researchers studied records of Soviet drug experiments as well as the highly controversial and discredited MK-Ultra program, also known as the CIA mind control program in the 1950s and 1960s, which researched drugs to weaken prisoners and force confessions.
After conducting the research in Versed, however, the CIA chose not to ask the Justice Department to adopt drug-fueled interrogations as an official method. The CIA “did not want to raise another issue with the Department of Justice,” the report said, after gaining its approval to use sleep deprivation, small-space confinement and waterboarding techniques.
Project Medication was shelved in 2003, the report states.
“There were at least two legal obstacles: a prohibition against medical experimentation on prisoners and a ban on interrogational use of ‘mind-altering drugs’ or those which ‘profoundly altered the senses,’” the report says.
ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin said in a blog post Tuesday that CIA torture left a legacy of broken bodies and traumatized minds. He wrote that learning about post-9/11 interrogation techniques has become particularly important since President Donald Trump has expressed interest making waterboard interrogations for terror suspects legal once again.
“Today, with a president who has vocally supported torture and a new CIA director who was deeply complicit in torturing prisoners, it’s more important than ever to expose the crimes of the past,” Ladin said. “Recognizing the roles played by the lawyers, doctors, and psychologists who enabled torture is critical to making sure it never happens again.”
The CIA did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.