CIA Report States Truth Serum Explored for Interrogations

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


The CIA has explored the idea of finding and using a “truth serum” on terrorist detainees since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to a declassified report that was released as part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

The report was written by a chief CIA medical official. The identity of the author has not been disclosed. The report detailed that Project Medication was stopped in 2003.

The project was not shelved before agency doctors were able to explore whether “drug-based interviews” would make for a less harsh alternative to brutal interrogation practices, such as sleep deprivation, small-space confinement, and waterboarding, which was employed by the CIA after 9/11. These tactics have become widely known as torture.

The report noted that the agency had previous discussions concerning the field of truth serums. There was a 1961 report that concluded individuals who could withstand interrogations would probably still be able to hide information in an altered mental state. Additionally, the report cited the use of LSD and other drugs during the notorious MK-ULTRA project in the 1950s and 60s. Then, the agency conducted 149 experiments on mind control, including using 25 unwitting subjects.

A drug called Versed, or midazolam, was identified as the preferred drug to induce the truth according to the report. It is a benzodiazepine, a class of drugs used to treat anxiety. However, the drug had a drawback for interrogation purposes: It had to be intravenously administered by a physician, compared to LSD, which could be administered without a subject’s knowledge.

The report noted, “Ambivalently, Versed was considered possibly worth a trial if unequivocal legal sanction first were obtained.”

Additionally, the report pointed out that the use of such a drug could come up against some legal issues, such as those that banned conducting medical experiments on prisoners, and the use of mind-altering drugs during interrogations. The CIA did not ask the Justice Department to review the issue, effectively shutting it down.

The Washington Post reported: “Ordered released by a judge as part of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the report sheds more light on a contentious aspect of President George W. Bush’s legacy: the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation techniques after 9/11. It details the tactics used against suspects, including slapping, being thrown against a wall, waterboarding, and being confined in a cramped box.”

Additionally, the report shows the “complicated and moral arguments employed by agency officials, including those in the medical world, to justify such ethically challenging decisions.”

Those harsh interrogation methods have been widely condemned. A public Senate report was released that stated the techniques were “in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values. No CIA agents have been prosecuted for their roles in violent interrogations.

According to ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin, the most striking part of the document is the willful blindness of the CIA doctors. They were completely blinded to the truth of what they were doing.

“CIA doctors decided that waterboarding actually ‘provided periodic relief’ to a prisoner because it was a break from days of standing sleep deprivation. Similarly, CIA doctors decided that when a different prisoner was stuffed into a coffin-sized box, this provided a ‘relatively benign sanctuary’ from other torture methods.”

“The involvement of doctors and psychologists in the CIA’s interrogation programs has drawn wide outcry from the medical community,” according to The Washington Post.

The CIA opted to not comment, however, pointed to statements made by one of the legal officers in a court case that stated the report was a working draft that was not finalized.

The report, “Summary and Reflections of Chief of Medical Services,” was on the participation in the CIA’s rendition program.

The ACLU has been pushing for over two year to have the report released. The government, however, fought the disclosure as reported by the Associated Press. A federal judge in New York ordered the report released in September 2017, and it was given to the ACLU in August.

By Jeanette Smith


The Washington Post: The CIA explored using a ‘truth-serum’ on terrorism detainees after 9/11, newly released report shows

Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


Send Us A Message