Truth Serums

In this column:, “Cecil” says, “Nothing so far suggests American authorities tried it (truth serums or other drugs), although it’s possible we turned suspects over to intelligence services in other countries with fewer scruples.”

The US has officially allowed methods of torture, such as water boarding, to attempt to extract information from terrorism suspects. And unofficially, we know that grotesque forms of torture have been used by our military in recent times. Which higher scruples is “Cecil” referring to that makes the US avoid the use of drugs to extract confessions?"

Feeling a little cranky, are we? Nonetheless I take your point: there’s no reason to think U.S. authorities didn’t use drugs to extract information from suspected terrorists due to an excess of scruples. I’ll have the column amended.


The reference to a person who jumped out a window while on LSD may not be correct, although there’s quite some controversy surrounding that. Jumping out the window is the official government story…but then, the official government stories on a lot of things are demonstrably false.

The person in question is Frank Olson. From Wikipedia:

The book “The Men Who Stare At Goats” suggests that Olson was in the employ of the CIA and administered the drugs at the heart of MK-ULTRA and Artichoke, but had a crisis of conscience at one point. Before he could go public, he was offed. Author Ron Jonson offers up a convincing argument. There’s enough to go on that the NY Times also ran a 2001 article on Olson’s mysterious death.

I know, I know, sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory. But based on what little we know about what the CIA has done in the past, the possibility that they murdered an American citizen to keep him quiet should not be dismissed out of hand. Olson’s son manages a website dedicated to finding out what happened.

But the US under Bush did send some suspects away to other countries with this in mind. The official position of the Bush administration seems to have been, “First of all, if it’s not liable to produce permanent harm, it’s not torture, and even if it is torture, if it’s out of our sight, it’s still not our fault.” Highly exceptionable thinking, I grant you, but still scruples of a sort, however far from the original Jesuit meaning of the word.

GTMO is US territory, and if some of the things that happened there aren’t torture, then the word has lost its meaning.

No, it is not US territory. But it is US jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court has quite sensibly ruled that the latter is the decisive factor.

OK, how about we say that a discussion about the ethics (or lack thereof) of US officials be taken up in Great Debates. Let’s keep discussion in this forum focused on truth serums and such. I know, it’s tough when Cecil throws a line like that into his column, but he’s trying to sell newspapers.

My oral surgeons have been piss-poor administers of sodium pentothal. The first gave more than enough enough so my “count backward from 100” stopped at 94, but I woke up intensely depressed. The second’s dose wore off before the procedure was done, but I played along because I wanted it to be done.

I doubt I spilled any secrets. Unless we are paid for them guys try to avoid secrets.

Knew a guy who was supposed to be a victim of MKULTRA. He was schizo and a doper and what they fed him did not improve his prospects in life. If that was true he was a poor prospect for any experiment that was not “we take a crazy guy and feed him drugs and experiences that will reinforce his delusions.”