Senate torture report slams CIA’s dishonesty, practices

Enhanced interrogation techniques during Bush administration included waterboarding, nudity and sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours, which places Americans abroad at risk, says expert

Enhanced interrogation techniques during Bush administration included waterboarding, nudity and sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours, which places Americans abroad at risk, says expert

WASHINGTON – A scathing Senate report issued Tuesday said that the use of torture by the CIA following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was more brutal and extensive than initially thought.

The 500-page document by the Senate Intelligence Committee is an unclassified executive summary of a 6,700-page report that remains classified. It is the result of a more than five-year investigation into the CIA’s interrogation practices.

Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said in the report that the CIA alongside two contractors “decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the use of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

The investigation examined CIA practices from late 2001 to early 2009. It found that the techniques were not effective in obtaining accurate information or detainee cooperation, and that lawmakers and the White House were misled by the agency about the effectiveness and the extent of the brutality of the techniques.

In fact, it says that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to detainees producing fabricated information, and at least seven of the 39 detainees known to have been subjected to the measures did not produce any intelligence while in CIA custody.

Among the more cruel techniques, the report noted that the CIA employed the use of nudity, waterboarding – which it said induces convulsions and vomiting, sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours, and unnecessary “rectal hydration” and feeding.

The report offers a grisly CIA account of one prisoner who was chained to a wall for 17 days in a standing position. Some of the detainees at that site, codenamed Detention Site Cobalt to preserve secrecy, “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled,” and “cowered” when their cells were opened, according to a senior CIA interrogator.

Another case study shows that a meal "of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was pureed and rectally infused" into a prisoner listed as Majid Khan.  

The use of the seemingly confounding measures were described by CIA medical officers as a form of "behavioral control."

“It is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” Feinstein said.

And of the 119 prisoners in CIA custody during the time of the program, at least 26 were wrongfully held.

CIA Director John Brennan acknowledged that the "program had shortcomings," and that the agency "made mistakes.” But in a statement to the press he said that the agency's own review of the interrogations tactics "did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives."

"The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day," he said.

President Barack Obama, who banned the agency’s detention and interrogation program shortly after he assumed office in 2009, said the report “reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.” 

“These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners,” he added in a statement.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. David Irvine, who taught prisoner-of-war interrogation and military law at the Army’s Intelligence School, said that he never felt “more proud” of the Senate than when the report was released.

“The allegations of inappropriate operations are so voluminous and so detailed, and so compelling that it will be very, very difficult for any agency of the federal government going forward to pretend that none of this ever happened,” he said. “It’s important for the nation to get back to the rule of law, and to the observation of treaties that we have ratified.”

Indeed, David Schanzer, an associate professor of law at Duke University, said that the CIA went “well beyond” Justice Department limitations on how interrogations should be conducted, and that the agency will now have an uphill battle in rectifying its public standing.

“You can’t erase the past,” he said. “It will have a dampening effect on the aggressiveness of the CIA as an effective national security tool, and that is unfortunate.”

Still, he added that ultimately responsibility for this program lies with former President George W. Bush and his administration.

“The key fault was to approve the program in the first place. That was then compounded by the CIA’s deception of the White House, the Justice Department and the Congress as to precisely what was occurring,” he said.

Moreover, Gen. Irvine said that opposed to its claims that it will make America and Americans safer, the program has further imperiled Americans abroad, including those in uniform.

“It allows those who would cause death and destruction to Americans, and America, an opportunity to say ‘we’re only doing what you have done,’” he said.

But he maintained that just as the Army rectified its mistakes following the "sad and tragic lesson" of Abu Gharib, the agency too might find an opportunity to ensure its mistakes are not repeated.

“There have always been people in the agency who have been enormously opposed to what they saw as violations of law and morality, and this will help that agency ultimately heal itself and become more effective in doing the things it is lawfully chartered to do, and ought to do well.”

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