After the September 11 terrorist attack, the special services planned to use the same means in investigations as for the execution of convicts.
After two years of legal proceedings, the American Civil Liberties Union has declassified CIA documents on the Drug Project to find a truth serum. A 90-page report tells how, after the explosion of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the CIA thought about using a drug that forces a person to tell only the truth.
The tool was planned to be used during the interrogation of suspected terrorists who could give out important information about the plans for the next attacks. “This document contains a significant part of the story of how the CIA illegally tortured prisoners, and helps prevent similar things in the future,” Dor Laden, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union , told The Associated Press.
What experiments is the project based on?
The idea of searching for the “serum of truth” was formed by the CIA after unsuccessful interrogations of the prisoner’s secret institution in Thailand, Abu Zubaydah. He was suspected in connection with the al-Qaida top and was brutally interrogated, including being tortured 83 times (water is poured onto a person’s face, causing suffocation). Despite this, the man did not provide any useful information, and the agents thought about creating a drug, under the influence of which the person speaks only the truth.
CIA medical specialists doubted the prospects of such a substance, but considered the possibility of using drugs that would cloud the mind of a person, making him more vulnerable during interrogations. In the framework of the project “Medicament”, researchers took into account the Soviet experience of experiments with the “truth serum”, as well as the results of the secret program “MK Ultra”.
This project was launched under the leadership of the CIA in 1953 – at the beginning of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR, and its goal was to find means of manipulating consciousness. The details of the program were kept secret until 1977, because in many ways the project was associated with illegal activities.
Experimental were American and Canadian citizens who did not suspect that they were participating in illegal experiments. The agents forced the subjects to use drugs, mainly LSD, deprived of sleep, isolated in special rooms and physically and morally humiliated. Since “MK Ultra” was held unofficially, and some of the CIA documents were destroyed in an attempt to hide the scale of human rights violations, it was not possible to establish the exact number of victims.
Why the project “Medicament” was closed
In the early 2000s, in search of a “serum of truth”, the CIA began the study of the drug midazolam, synthesized in the 1970s. It is used to treat seizures, severe insomnia, and to prepare patients for medical operations, but since 2013 in the USA it has also been used for the death penalty. After the introduction, the sentenced person loses consciousness, and then two more substances are administered to him: vecuronium bromide to stop breathing and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
The authors of Medicament considered midazolam as a way to force terrorists to disclose secret information, but the CIA refused the project for several reasons. Firstly, medical experiments on prisoners are prohibited in the United States, including the use of “mind-altering drugs”. Secondly, and this condition played no less serious importance, the agency was afraid to engage in a new confrontation with the Ministry of Justice.
After the terrorist attack in 2001 and the start of a full-scale US war on terrorism, the reputation of the CIA had already suffered because of numerous media reports about the cruel torture of suspects. The method involved beating detainees, depriving them of sleep, water and food, as well as being held in isolation and morally humiliated. Against this background, the CIA counterterrorism department did not dare to appeal to the Ministry of Justice for permission to test midazolam, not wanting to aggravate its position, the report says.
In 2003, the project “Medicament” officially closed. Names of management and project participants are unknown. The CIA did not comment on the publication of documents on the program, but at the trial one of the representatives of the special services explained that the project report was only a working draft, which was not used.
Communication project with the current leadership of the CIA
Officially, the CIA refused the brutal interrogation method in 2007, and at that time President Barack Obama repeatedly condemned the actions of the special services and promised to close the American prison at Guantanamo. Despite this, none of the intelligence agents were tried for the torture of detainees. Since May 2018, Gina Haspel has been working as a director of the CIA since 1985.
In 2002, Haspel managed a secret prison in Thailand, where intelligence agents tortured Abu Zubaydah and for the first time thought about searching for a “truth serum”. Officially, Haspel did not participate in the torture and led the secret point at a time when Zubaida was no longer tortured. Since then, he was taken to Guantanamo prison, where he is still being held. The US authorities have not charged him.