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CIA considered using ‘truth serum’ on terror suspects after 9/11

A new report outlines how the CIA considered using a drug called Versed on detainees in the years following 9/11.

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Key Takeaways
  • The 90-page report was released to the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.
  • It describes how the CIA researched past attempts by governments to find an effective 'truth serum', including the agency's infamous MK-Ultra program.
  • Ultimately, the agency decided not to ask the Justice Department to approve drug-assisted interrogations.

The CIA considered administering a ‘truth serum’ drug to terror suspects in the years following 9/11, according to a new report obtained by the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the 90-page report was released to the American Civil Liberties Union under a judge’s order.

“This document tells an essential part of the story of how it was that the CIA came to torture prisoners against the law and helps prevent it from happening again,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

The report describes how CIA doctors, psychologists and other medical professionals considered using Versed, a sedative and hypnotic, to get suspects detained in secret facilities abroad to share information.

“Versed was considered possibly worth a trial if unequivocal legal sanction first were obtained,” the report said. “There were at least two legal obstacles: a prohibition against medical experimentation on prisoners and a ban on interrogational use of ‘mind-altering drugs’ or those which ‘profoundly altered the senses.'”

The CIA didn’t think the drugs would act as an unfailing truth serum, but thought suspects might be more willing to open up under altered states of mind.

CIA considered truth serum for terror suspects

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“Such drugs, although widely regarded as unreliable sources of “truth”, were believed potentially useful as an “excuse” that would allow the subject to be more forthcoming while still saving face,” the report states.

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But in the wake of a months-long effort to get the Justice Department to approve harsh interrogation tactics like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, the CIA didn’t want to “raise another issue” with the department, the report said. That decision spared CIA medical professionals from “some significant ethical concerns.”

In considering the use of Versed on terror suspects, the CIA researched past attempts by governments to use truth serums in interrogations, including Soviet-era drug experiments and the agency’s own MK-Ultra program, which infamously involved giving LSD and other drugs to unwitting participants.

Lawyers for the ACLU said it’s important to demand the release of reports like the one issued Tuesday, especially considering President Donald Trump promised during his campaign that he’d approve tactics a “hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding if elected.

“This document tells an essential part of the story of how it was that the CIA came to torture prisoners against the law and helps prevent it from happening again,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

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