[StopTorture] Food deprivation: another tactic requiring medical supervision

Deborah Popowski dpopowski at law.harvard.edu
Sun May 3 22:40:36 EDT 2009

Limiting Food Aided ‘Enhanced
Department Memo Describes Liquid Diets for Detainees
<http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php>By SPENCER
5:42 PM
 [image: Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's alleged driver, was held in Cuba at
Guantanamo Bay prison camp like these detainees. (Department of Defense
photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S.

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's alleged driver, was held in Cuba at
Guantanamo Bay prison camp like these detainees. (Department of Defense
photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

According to a recently declassified Justice Department document, the CIA
believed that so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques like sleep
deprivation worked better when a detainee’s resistance was weakened from
hunger. The agency, with the legal approval of the Justice Department,
employed a regimen that sharply restricted the caloric intake of detainees
in its custody — an intake distinctly below federal nutritional guidelines
for inmates in U.S. prisons.
[image: Illustration by: Matt

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Steven Bradbury, chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel
in during George W. Bush’s second term, provided an overview of an
authorized CIA technique to manipulate detainee’s diets in order to make
them receptive to interrogation. Using references to calories, Bradbury
wrote in a May 10, 2005 memo, “[T]he recommended minimum calorie intake is
1,500 kcal/day, and in no event is the detainee allowed to receive less than
1,000 kcal/day.” While having his diet restricted, a detainee would be fed
not solid food, but “commercial liquid diets (such as Ensure Plus).” The
restricted diet, according to Bradbury’s memo, would be subject to “frequent
medical monitoring,” and a detainee would be measured “weekly” to ensure
that he did not lose more than “10 percent of his body weight,” which would
trigger termination of the diet.

That caloric intake would be unacceptable for the Justice Department to
administer to an inmate in a federal prison. The department’s Bureau of
Prisons requires federal prisons to adhere to “the Daily Reference Intake
(DRI) for nutrients published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the
National Academy of the Sciences” in order to “ensure proper nutrition,”
according to the bureau’s 2006 policy handbook. The National Academy of the
Science’s Dietary Reference Intakes estimates nutritional requirements on a
sliding scale depending on Body Mass Index and level of activity. But for
adult men who stand just under five feet tall and who maintain a “sedentary”
level of physical activity with a low body mass index, the minimum caloric
requirement in the guideline is 1,848 calories. All other nutritional
elements of the guideline require greater caloric intakes for adult men,
ranging from 2,000 to 3,720 calories.

States maintain different standards but hover around that range. In 2003,
controversy resulted whenTexas cut the caloric requirement for its inmates
to 2,500 calories per day from
order to close a budget shortfall.

[image: calories]<http://washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/calories.jpg>“For
men, you’re going to need at least 2,100 [calories], for most men, and
probably 2,300 for weight maintenance,” said Katherine Tallmadge, a
dietician who runs Personalized Nutrition, a weight-management company in
Washington. “For most women, 1,500 is a weight loss level. And so for most
men, 1,800 is a weight loss level. A thousand or 1,500 is extremely low for
a man.” The weight-management formula used by the CIA and listed in the OLC
memo appeared to Tallmadge to be “a little low” compared to industry

Adult men “should be taking 2,000 to 3,000 [calories] a day, based off of
activity level,” said Angela Ginn-Meadow, a dietician with the Joslin
Diabetes Center in Baltimore. “Anything below 1,200 calories a day can put
you at risk of malnutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiency.” Both Tallmadge
and Ginn-Meadow are national spokeswomen for the American Dietetic

“It’s not starvation, but it’s problematic,” agreed Scott Allen, a Rhode
Island-based doctor and medical adviser to Physicians for Human Rights.
Allen said that his middle-aged male patients who exhibit an active
lifestyle are often placed on a 2,000-calorie daily intake “as a weight loss

Bradbury’s 2005 memo, declassified on April 17 by the Obama administration,
explained that the CIA believed manipulating a detainee’s diet “makes other
techniques, such as sleep deprivation, more effective.” Applied in
practice, the CIA induced sleep deprivation on detainees by restraining them
in “stress positions,”<http://washingtonindependent.com/40935/a-torture-mystery>
as shackling their ankles to a cell floor and their wrists from the ceiling.
The former OLC chief further wrote in a footnote that the fact that
commercial weight loss programs “employ diets of 1,000 kcal/day for
sustained periods” was “instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the
interrogation technique.” He allowed that “detainees subject to dietary
manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who
voluntarily enage in commercial weight-loss programs.” Bradbury is not a

The CIA would not discuss the genesis of its caloric guidelines. But an
official familiar with the former interrogation program pointed to the
memo’s footnote about commercial weight-loss programs in the U.S. containing
1,000 calories per day. “The 1,000 figure was for short-term use only,” the
official said. “While there are obvious differences between a dieter and a
detainee, any suggestion of starvation would be flat wrong.”

Emily Siegel, a Baltimore-based nutritional counselor who works with trauma
victims, said that while the detainees’ physical activity would not be high
during interrogation, “the stress their bodies are under is tremendous,”
requiring more calories than the CIA program allowed.

Orlando Ticon, a survivor of torture directed by former Philippine dictator
Ferdinand Marcos, described what dietary manipulation feels like. “The main
thing was you never knew when you were given food,” said Ticon, who now
works with a torture survivors’ support group known as TASSC International.
“For me, I was blindfolded and hogtied for about three months. For the first
weeks, I was not allowed to feed myself. Someone was feeding me, literally,”
but without any predictability of when he would receive food.

In the long term, Ticon said, torture survivors experience a lingering lack
of appetite, associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. “Some survivors
lose a taste for food because it’s identified for them with prison,” he
said. “Like certain types of food, like dried bread, tea, things like that.”
Torture survivors he has interviewed “don’t eat regularly and have no
appetite for food.”

Detainees who had been subjected to the CIA’s detention program described
being subjected to the regimen for weeks in a 2007 report by the
International Committee of the Red Cross. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the
architect of the 9/11 attacks, said he was not provided “with any solid food
apart from on two occasions as a reward for perceived cooperation,” and fed
only Ensure. “If he refused to drink then his mouth was forced open by a
guard and the Ensure was poured down his throat,” the report states.
Mohammed claimed to the Red Cross that his weight dropped from 78 kilograms,
or 171 pounds, to 60 kilograms, or 132 pounds, after the month-long regimen
of dietary restriction. If true, that would amount to a loss of about 23
percent of Mohammed’s body weight — more than twice the amount that,
according to Bradbury’s memo, should have stopped the dietary-restriction
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