By Mark Hosenball
“Enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found.
The report released on Tuesday said the CIA misled the public and government policymakers about the effectiveness of the program, which ran from 2002 to 2006 and involved questioning al Qaeda and other captives around the world.
The report prepared by the Intelligence Committee after a five-year investigation said the techniques used were “far more brutal” than the CIA told the public or the ever told policymakers or the public.
“This document examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques – in some cases amounting to torture,” committee chair Dianne Feinstein said.
Specific examples of brutality by CIA interrogators cited in the report include the November 2002 death from hypothermia of a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor at a secret CIA prison.
Some were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads, and “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” without any documented medical need.
The report describes one secret CIA prison, whose location is not identified, as a “dungeon” where detainees were kept in total darkness, constantly shackled in isolated cells, bombarded with loud noise or music, and given only a bucket in which to relieve themselves.
It says that during one of the 83 occasions on which he was subjected to a simulated drowning technique the CIA called “waterboarding,” an al Qaeda detainee known as Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth,” though he later was revived.
President Barack Obama said the report reinforces his opinion that the interrogation methods did not serve broader counterterrorism efforts and significantly damaged the United States’ global standing.
CIA director John Brennan acknowledged that the CIA detention and interrogation program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes” but the agency pushed back against the panel’s criticism.
The agency insists that information gleaned from detainees held and questioned in the CIA program “advanced the strategic and tactical understanding of the enemy in ways that continue to inform counter-terrorism efforts to this day.”
It was unclear whether the report would lead to further attempts to hold those involved accountable. The legal statute of limitations has passed for many of the actions.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, said in an opinion piece in The New York Times that Obama should issue formal pardons to senior officials and others to make clear that these actions were crimes and help ensure that “the American government never tortures again.”
Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of the graphic details, the White House and US intelligence officials said on Monday they had beefed up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.
The report charts the history of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” programme, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.
Two Republican lawmakers issued a statement calling the release of the report “reckless and irresponsible.”
“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardise US relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch said.
Senator Angus King, an independent, told CNN releasing the report was important because it could persuade a future president not to use these techniques.
“We did things that we tried Japanese soldiers for war crimes for after World War Two. This is not America. This is not who we are. What was done has diminished our stature and inflamed terrorists around the world.”
“Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work. No,” King said.
The 500-plus page report that the Intelligence Committee has prepared for release, a summary of a much more detailed, 6,000-page narrative which will remain secret, includes a 200-page narrative of the interrogation program’s history and 20 case studies of the interrogations of specific detainees.