Detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Image: Shane T. McCoy, Wikimedia
When the CIA 'torture report'
The CIA, it turns out, had administered rectal feedings and hydration both to counteract prisoner hunger strikes and to exercise "behavioral control" over the detainees.
The new documents reveal, often in disturbing detail, how the procedure was employed to humiliate and injure inmates at Guantanamo and other detention sites. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was one high-profile recipient of the treatment; it was used on four others, and threatened on even more.
The Murphy Drip. Image Wikimedia
Over the course of the century, as physicians became more skilled at administering intravenous therapy, the Murphy Drip fell out of regular use. In a 2010 article in the journal Emergency Nurse, the author notes that while rectal rehydration is still occasionally used in Chinese medicine to administer herbal remedies, "
"CIA medical officers discussed rectal rehydration as a means of behavior control," the document notes. "As one officer wrote, '[w]hile IV infusion is safe and effective, we were impressed with the ancillary effectiveness of rectal infusion on ending the water refusal in a similar case.'"
Translation: Administering water and saline through an IV drip worked perfectly well to keep detainees hydrated and fed, but rectal rehydrations had a penchant for degrading prisoners until they ended their hunger strikes.
For those curious about how the procedure was carried out, allow the CIA to explain:
"The same officer provided a description of the procedure, writing that '[r]egarding the rectal tube, if you place it and open up the IV tubing, the flow will self regulate, sloshing up the large intestines ...
And a few other revealing details:
"The same email exchange included a description of a previous application of the technique, in which 'we used the largest Ewal [sic] tube we had'...
Beyond the drips, the documents show that the CIA had a predilection for violating detainees' rectums. Previously leaked documents showed that agents "sodomized, tortured" a German-born terror suspect back in 2003, and the new report reveals violent behavior during cavity searches:
"CIA leadership, including General Counsel Scott Muller and DDO James Pavitt, was also alerted to allegations that rectal exams were conducted with 'excessive force' on two detainees at DETENTION SITE COBALT... CIA records indicate that one of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse."
It goes without saying, but all of these detainees who are being routinely rectally violated, have never stood trial. That goes too for the most famous of them, who apparently was administered rectal feedings on more than one occasion.
"Chief of Interrogations [redacted] also ordered the rectal rehydration of KSM without a determination of medical need, a procedure that the chief of interrogations would later characterize as illustrative of the interrogator's 'total control over the detainee.'" Furthermore, "On March 5, 2003, KSM was also subjected to additional rectal rehydration," which [redacted] described as helping to "clear a person's head" and effective in getting KSM to talk.
The CIA, for its part, does not deny the rectal feedings, but claims it was all above board. "
The CIA chose not just to force-feed detainees, which could be cruel enough—agents also pushed nutrients through their nasal cavities with nasogastric tubes—but apparently to augment the aggression with a pointedly humiliating tactic. In light of these new documents, it seems painfully clear that the agency turned to an antiquated medical procedure as an excuse to inflict suffering.