On Dec. 9, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The report outlines and condemns the harsh tactics carried out on suspected terrorists in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Five years in the making, the “torture report” is based on more than 6 million documents. “Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and the committee chairman, declared.
When President Barack Obama took office, he signed an Executive Order restricting interrogations to the tactics outlined in the Army Field Manual, officially putting an end to the worst chapter in the history of the Bush administration. Still, despite the controversy surrounding waterboarding and several leaked photos of suspected terror detainees in diapers and collars, the methods presented in the Senate report are far more brutal and shocking than original thought. While the CIA countered by saying that the findings “only tell part of the story,” the use of techniques such as rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, and mock executions indicate that the story, whatever it may be, had gone too far. The extreme tactics waged by the CIA over a 12-year war are grisly and macabre, but whether or not the exhaustive and damning report puts an end to America’s torture legacy remains to be seen.
7. How Much Did President George W. Bush Know?
President George W. Bush approved the CIA’s detention and interrogation program in 2002. However, he wasn’t briefed on the details of the program until April 2006. The president and vice president were also unaware of the locations of all the secret detention facilities overseas. The Senate report states that in April 2006, when President Bush was finally briefed, he “expressed uneasiness with the image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go the bathroom on himself.”
However, it wasn’t just President Bush the CIA kept in the dark for four years. The agency also provided false and misleading information to members of Congress, the director of national intelligence, and journalists and media. The report notes that CIA officials asked officers to “compile information on the successes,” and that this classified information was then leaked to journalists in order gain support and shape public opinion.
6. Torture Techniques
In order to provide legal cover, CIA interrogators gave code names to their harsh interrogation techniques. Here is a list of the names outlined in the Senate report: attention grasp; walling; facial hold; insult slap; wall standing; cramped confinement; sleep deprivation; stress positions; insects placed in a confinement box; and the waterboard.
The CIA combined many of these techniques to maximize their ability to gather information. For example, the report states that some detainees were kept awake for 180 hours, typically in a standing or stressful position. The CIA also threatened families of the detainees, which included a threat to harm the children of one detainee and a threat to sexually abuse the mother of another. In addition to these brutal techniques, and perhaps more alarming, is the fact the CIA put people “with histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others” in senior detention and interrogation positions.
5. Twenty-Six People Wrongfully Held
According to the Senate report, of the 119 known detainees, the CIA wrongfully held at least 26 people (22 percent) due to bad intelligence. Throughout the program, the CIA repeatedly underreported the number of people it detained. It claimed it had detained “fewer than 100 people,” while records indicate the agency detained 119. One of the wrongfully held was an “intellectually challenged” man, Nazir Ali. His taped interrogation was used as leverage to get a family member to provide information.
4. The CIA Outsourced the Dirty Work
Psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell had prior experience at the U.S. Air Force “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School,” but the pair didn’t have any experience as interrogators or backgrounds in counterterrorism, let alone linguistic skills or specialized knowledge of Al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, the CIA hired Mitchell and Jessen to “develop enhanced interrogation techniques to be used on terror suspects and other detainees,” and the psychologists formed a company to specifically work with the CIA. According to the Senate report, by 2008, 85 percent of the CIA’s detention and interrogation operations were outsourced to this company –referred to in the report only as Company Y. The contractors were paid just a little over $80 million.
3. Zero Accountability
Few, if any, CIA officers or contractors were held accountable even after being caught with significant events of wrongdoing. One detainee, suffering from insomnia, paranoia, and severe hallucinations caused by the extreme interrogation methods, attempted to chew his arm off at the elbow. When a detainee died of hypothermia after being chained to a concrete floor partially nude, the CIA decided not to take any punitive action against the officer in charge. The report states, “The director strongly believes that mistakes should be expected in a business filled with uncertainty.”
2. Rectal Feeding/Rectal Hydration
According to the Senate report, five detainees were subjected to rectal feeding or rectal hydration “without documented medical necessity,” and several other detainees were threatened with the procedure. Interrogators used the technique to circumvent the attempts of terror suspects to resist the intake of food and water. However, these forced feedings, which are described as more efficient than traditional IV methods, were not only executed to combat hunger strikes and fill resisting suspects with fluid and sustenance, but as a means of gaining total control over the detainee. The report states that CIA medical officers discussed rectal hydration as a means of “behavior control” and that the technique was used to “clear a person’s head.” In one case, Majid Khan’s (detainee) “lunch tray of hummus, pasta with sauce, and nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused.”
1. Enhanced Interrogation Produces Minimal Results
The Senate Intelligence Committee Report not only revealed several inhumane and outlawed methods of torture, but it confirmed that those techniques produced little information or information that was fabricated. People will say anything not be trapped in a box with insects or to have a cordless drill operated near their genitals. The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques didn’t produce results. Throughout the 6,000-page report there are mountains of false leads and numerous examples of wasted time.
Still, former Vice President Dick Cheney made an appearance on Meet the Press and declared he would “do it again in a minute” and had no problem with enhanced interrogation “as long as we achieve our objective.” The Senate report noted the CIA’s efforts to reach out to the media and boast its successes. Did forcing a detainee to wear a diaper lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden? Cheney seems to thinks so. However, 20 different case studies based on the CIA’s internal records found that enhanced interrogations did not help to disrupt terror plots or capture terror leaders.