Do no harm — unless you’re a “behavioral scientist”

The New York Times today reports that military doctors at Guantánamo have been schooling interrogators in how to best to mess with detainees’ bodies and minds, including “providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears.” Now, call me a stickler, but this seems just a bit at odds with the old Hippocratic Oath, no? Retorts the Pentagon: Only if you pedantically insist on viewing the doctors as, you know, doctors.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, declined to address the specifics in the accounts. But he suggested that the doctors advising interrogators were not covered by ethics strictures because they were not treating patients but rather were acting as behavioral scientists.

He said that while some health care personnel are responsible for “humane treatment of detainees,” some medical professionals “may have other roles,” like serving as behavioral scientists assessing the character of interrogation subjects.

Behavioral scientist, heal thyself.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.