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Published on July 8th, 2017 | by Sarah Lafen

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The C.I.A. Psychologists: Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

In “Suit Gives New Details of Brutal Interrogations” (“Lasting Scars” series, front page, June 22), the two psychologists who guided the C.I.A. in its post-9/11 interrogations claim that waterboarding and other techniques widely condemned as torture cause no long-term physical or psychological damage.

That claim is incompatible with the experience of several hundred survivors of torture from Syria, Sudan and Afghanistan whom I have treated over two decades as a critical-care physician. The C.I.A.’s psychologists, by contrast, have no medical training on which to base this claim.

The characterization of waterboarding — a technique in which prisoners are deliberately suffocated to induce the terror of impending death — by one psychologist as “distressing” is a chilling illustration of his clinical inability to discern the difference between a life-threatening event and non-life-threatening event, let alone acknowledge waterboarding as a form of mock execution.

Americans seek accountability for the use of torture by the United States government. Citizens in North Carolina created a public commission, of which I am a member, to investigate the state’s role in rendition through an in-state C.I.A. contractor.

ANNIE SPARROW, NEW YORK

The writer is an assistant professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


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