A CIA memo regarding the spy agency’s guidelines of conduct was released to the public for the first time on Monday, after being obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.
The previously confidential document was first published in 1987 in order to clarify an executive order issued by President Ronald Reagan which instructed all federal intelligence agencies on appropriate procedural methods.
In light of the 2013 U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Report, which revealed the brutal nature of the CIA’s interrogation practices of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and in the Middle East, the recently declassified document suggests that the independent intelligence service may have violated its own torture policy.
The CIA officially classifies the practice of obtaining information through mental and physical abuse as “human experimentation”.
Specifically, the memo instructs CIA personnel that, “research on human subjects”, must be “in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.” It also deems that the director of Central Intelligence has the power to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”, and the “subject’s informed consent” is also “required”.
After the September 11th attacks, the Bush Administration decided to treat the destruction of downtown New York and the Pentagon as an act of war. That designation gave federal authorities the legal justification to go after terrorist suspects as enemy combatants of the state, instead of domestic criminals.
It wasn’t until early 2003 that then CIA director George Tenet formally approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” in an agency memo, where “appropriate medical or psychological personnel must be on site”.
While the 1987 guidelines on the “Conduct of Intelligence Activities” is still in affect today, President Obama signed an executive order on his third day in office subtitled “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”. That memo explicitly revoked a 2007 executive order by George W. Bush that gave the CIA the legal authority to skirt Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which set international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war.