I'm feeling sleepy... verrrrry sleeeepyyy...


Actual Brain Surgeon, alleged medical doctor, and reputed presidential candidate -- or ready and willing vice presidential candidate, at least -- Ben Carson has a surefire solution to the War On Terror: rather than resort to torture, why not use the tools of Modern Science, like truth serum, to interrogate terror suspects? On "CNN Newsroom" Tuesday, Carson was asked by anchor Poppy Harlow to respond to foaming protofascist Donald Trump's calls for more torture and war crimes. This prompted Carson to suggest tossing the Hippocratic Oath out the window in the interest of intelligence-gathering:

I believe there are a number of ways to extract information. Including, you know, some medical ways of, you know, putting people into a less-than-conscious state which allows information to be extracted much more humanely.

If anyone knows about less-than-conscious states, it's Ben Carson. Asked to elaborate, Carson explained:

Well, the average person might understand it as "truth serum." But, you know, there are ways where you decrease a person's conscious defenses and they might be much more willing to give up information.

When Harlow asked what this "truth serum" was, Carson explained, "Sodium amytal. But there are a variety of different things we can use now. We've made some advances in that kind of science."

[contextly_sidebar id="HVXqLOpC4NxoTafenrT3zIKSfFL7ukDw"]Carson demurred on whether torture was a terrific idea, but refused to rule it out, either: "We use what we need to use to protect the American people, and I don't think we necessarily need to be broadcasting what we do." So maybe we'll torture, maybe we'll use truth serum, or maybe we'll just force terror suspects to sit and listen to the audio of Ben Carson's collected campaign speeches until they crack. Maybe there are some herbal truth serums Carson could endorse, too.

If you want to get into the boring reality of "truth serum," a 1993 CIA retrospective on the use of "'Truth' Drugs in Interrogation" contradicts Carson's confident assertion that drug-assisted interrogations are particularly effective:

The notion of drugs capable of illuminating hidden recesses of the mind ... has provided an exceedingly durable theme for the press and popular literature. While acknowledging that "truth serum" is a misnomer twice over -- the drugs are not sera and they do not necessarily bring forth probative truth -- journalistic accounts continue to exploit the appeal of the term. The formula is to play up a few spectacular "truth" drug successes and to imply that the drugs are more maligned than need be and more widely employed in criminal investigation than can officially be admitted.

So yay, let's add Ben Carson to the list of people overselling the capabilities of drugs to pry secrets out of bad guys. On the upside, that CIA document makes for pretty interesting nerd reading, so we can thank Dr. Sleepyface for that.

The specific drug Carson mentioned, sodium amytal, can make subjects briefly more willing to talk, but what they talk about may or may not actually be true -- the clinical trials have been spotty, and subjects regularly talked about pure fantasies as often as they revealed real secrets. Some subjects confessed to crimes that never existed, while others were able to maintain lies even while under the sedatives. The CIA's conclusion is about as definitive as you can get: "No such magic brew as the popular notion of truth serum exists."

Ah, but that's exactly what they want you to believe, now isn't it? Besides, the CIA document is from 1993, and as Carson says, we've made lots of advances in that kind of science. Plus, we have top men working on it. Top. Men.

[contextly_sidebar id="HRpfqfcbIZ9dlqsyFFlvHAehV61ZnchZ"]Sodium amytal was more recently used in the pretrial examination of Aurora Massacre suspect James Holmes, as part of the court's effort to determine Holmes's mental fitness for trial -- but not for the purpose of extracting information from him. In fact, Psychology Today's Travis Langley objected to the entire exercise, citing a 2009 study that concluded the disinhibiting effects of sodium amytal "merely lower the threshold for reporting virtually all information, both true and false." You know, just like torture.

Yr Wonkette looks forward to Dr. Carson's next bright idea. Maybe he can resolve a hostage situation by flooding a room with knock-out gas, defeat a Chinese hacker network by recruiting the help of a brilliant but moody teen computer genius, or infiltrate an enemy military base by dressing up like the bad guys and crawling through their air-conditioning ducts to the secret control center.

Also, how about dolphins with lasers? We could totally do that, too.

[CNN / TPM / CIA / Salon / Psychology Today]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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