Over the years, a handful of efforts to hold caregivers accountable for complicity in detainee abuse have come up empty. But human rights advocates are hoping this track record will soon change. On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic filed separate complaints against two former Gitmo shrinks with their state licensing boards.
Human rights groups target two military psychologists with ethics complaints for complicity in torture.
If their aim was to break him, his interrogators apparently succeeded. By late November 2002, Mohammed al-Qahtani—a suspected Al Qaeda operative sometimes described as the 20th hijacker—was hearing voices, talking to imaginary people, and spending hours on end cowering in a corner of his Guantanamo cell with a sheet draped over him.
Qahtani had been subjected to months of extreme isolation in a cell that was floodlit 24-7. And that was before military officials approved an interrogation plan designed to wear down his resistance. The blueprint for his interrogation program—which included 20-hour daily sessions, sensory deprivation tactics, and a campaign of sexual humiliation—was drawn up by a pair of military mental health professionals who first arrived at Gitmo thinking they were going to counsel troubled US soldiers. Instead, the two men were corralled into service as members of a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), developing strategies that pushed detainees to the psychological brink—and sometimes beyond.
The role of doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists in interrogations has been a source of considerable controversy, since it seemingly violates the medical professions’ central tenet: “Do no harm.”