A newly released Pentagon report says there is no evidence that officials at Guantanamo Bay used mind-altering drugs to interrogate prisoners, but lawyers for men held at the US base in Cuba said on Thursday that the findings still raised troubling questions.
The report by US Department of Defense Inspector General found that some detainees were interrogated while they were also being treated by doctors at the prison for diagnosed mental conditions and receiving prescribed psychoactive medications.
Lawyers for prisoners say that raises the possibility that incriminating statements could have been made under the influence of medication, potentially raising questions about evidence that has been used to justify detaining or charging men held at the base.
“If the government relied on statements by doped up detainees, regardless of why they were doped up, the government has kept men locked up for more than a decade on the basis of evidence that can’t be trusted,” said David Remes, a human rights lawyer who represents 16 prisoners at Guantanamo.
The Inspector General report does not address the content of any interrogations or how prisoner statements may have been used.
Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale declined to comment on any potential legal implications and said there was no evidence of any deliberate attempt to use mind-altering drugs on men accused of terrorism or some connection to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
“The detainees were not given drugs as a means to facilitate interrogation, let me clear about that,” Breasseale said.
The investigation was conducted from 2008 to 2009 at the request of members of the US Congress. It was prompted by an April 2008 story in the Washington Post in which a prisoner said he had been drugged and questioned in apparent violation of US law and other detainees said they were forcibly medicated. The Inspector General’s report was not publicly available until this week, when it was published by the Web site Truthout, which obtained it through the Freedom of Information Act.
Names of detainees are redacted in the report, but it is clear from a quote cited in the report that investigators looked into the case of Adel al-Nusairi, a former Saudi police officer cited in the Post story who told his lawyer of being injected with an unknown drug while undergoing lengthy interrogations. The prisoner said he gave a made-up confession to get a break from one session.
The Inspector General found that the prisoner had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and psychotic with a borderline personality disorder and was treated at Guantanamo with Haldol, a drug that can make people lethargic. The report said there was no evidence that shots were administered during his interrogation.
Al-Nusairi was sent back to Saudi Arabia in 2006 and was not interviewed for the report, nor was his lawyer, Anant Raut. The lawyer said that he could not comment on the prisoner’s case, but said the report appears to validate complaints by a number of detainees that they were given mind-altering drugs at Guantanamo, calling into doubt the validity of their statements to authorities.