The CIA’s harsh interrogations are likely to have damaged the brains of terrorist suspects, diminishing their ability to recall and provide the detailed information the spy agency sought, according to a new scientific paper.
The paper by an Irish academic scrutinizes the techniques used by the CIA under the Bush administration through the lens of neurobiology and determines the methods to be counterproductive, no matter how much the suspects might have eventually talked.
“Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory...” according to the paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
In the paper, Shane O’Mara, a professor at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, wrote that the severe interrogation techniques appear based on “folk psychology” — a layman’s idea of how the brain works as opposed to science-based understanding of memory and cognitive function.
O’Mara said he reviewed the scientific literature about the effect of stress on memory and brain function after reading descriptions of the CIA’s Bush-era interrogation methods. The methods were detailed in previously classified legal memos released in April.
“The assumption is that the (methods) are without effect on memory, or indeed facilitate the retrieval of information from memory,” O’Mara said.