Drugging or Torture of 9-11 Suspects Breaks Constitution, Law, and Treaties

by ccle

Amidst reports that the FBI is considering the use of forced drugging and even torture to make suspects in the September 11 attacks divulge information, the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is calling on the FBI and other government agencies involved in the investigation to respect US and International law, which strictly forbids such invasive and brutal police tactics.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that in an effort to extract information from the detainees, FBI and Justice Department investigators are considering “using drugs or pressure tactics, such as those employed occasionally by Israeli interrogators, to extract information. Another idea is extraditing the suspects to allied countries where security services sometimes employ threats to family members or resort to torture.“ (Walter Pincus, “Silence of 4 Terror Probe Suspects Poses Dilemma,“ Washington Post, Sunday, October 21, 2001; Page A06)

“The use of torture or physical intimidation to force a suspect to reveal information is a clear violation of US and International law,“ says Attorney Richard Glen Boire, Executive Director of the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,“ and protects all people on US soil, whether citizens or not. Torturing a person in order to extract a confession is inherently coercive and renders any subsequent statements “compelled,“ involuntary, unreliable, and wholly unconstitutional.

Invoking the Fifth Amendment, some of the 9-11 detainees have asserted their constitutional right to remain silent, refusing to speak with investigators. “It's deeply disturbing,“ says Boire, “that the act of asserting the constitutional right to remain silent is what is provoking the authorities to consider resorting to torture and drugging.“

Numerous international conventions prohibit the use of torture as an intelligence gathering technique. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Likewise the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention Against Torture), prohibits “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession....“ The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics is particularly disturbed by reports that FBI agents may try and skirt US and international prohibitions on physical torture by instead interrogating the suspects after forcefully administering them mind-altering drugs. The Washington Post article quoted a former senior FBI official with a background in counter terrorism who distinguished the forced use of “truth serum“ from “beating a guy till he is senseless.“ When the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture on October 21, 1994, it expressly acknowledged that “torture“ includes “the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.“

“The bar on torture and forced drugging under the Convention Against Torture does not have a 'war time' or 'suspected terrorist' exemption,“ comments Boire, adding that Article 2 of the Convention states “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.“

“The prospect of US law enforcement agents interrogating a person after injecting that person with a mind-altering drug is terrifying and grossly unconstitutional,“ says Boire. Under the Fifth Amendment there is no distinction between the use of physical force to obtain a statement and the compelled administration of a mind-altering drug to obtain a statement. “Both techniques,“ notes Boire “violate the firmly embedded constitutional guarantee against coerced confessions in which a suspect's 'will is overborne' or the confession was not 'the product of a rational intellect and a free will.'“

Condemning the use of drug-induced confessions, the US Supreme Court has stated, “It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a confession would be less the product of a free intellect, less voluntary, than when brought about by a drug having the effect of a “truth serum.“ (Townsend v. Sain (1963) 372 U.S. 293.) In another case, the Supreme Court cautioned, “the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition.“ (Blackburn v. Alabama (1960) 361 U.S. 199, quoted in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436.)

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics calls upon federal authorities to respect the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the US Constitution and in the international conventions protecting human rights and prohibiting government-endorsed torture and mind manipulation. Under no circumstances are US government agents permitted to coerce statements through the use of physical intimidation or the forceful administration of mind-altering drugs. “Use of such barbaric interrogation techniques is unlawful,“ says Boire “violates the basic human right to physical and mental autonomy, vitiates the presumption of innocence, and runs counter to the most fundamental and cherished of American freedoms and constitutional guarantees.“

For More Information: Ms. Zara Gelsey CCLE, Director of Communications Telephone & Fax: 530-750-7912 E-mail:

Resources: This press release can be accessed on the Internet at:
Washington Post Article
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention Against Torture
US ratification of Convention Against Torture

About the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3), law and policy center working in the public interest to protect fundamental civil liberties. The Center seeks to foster cognitive liberty - the basic human right to unrestrained independent thinking, including the right to control one's own mental processes and to experience the full spectrum of possible thought.

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