The CIA’s interrogation and detention programmes launched in the wake of the September 11 terror attack was exposed in a report by the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday 09 December, that concluded the agency’s use of torture was brutal and ineffective.
The report represented the most scathing congressional indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency in nearly four decades. It found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,”
The report reveals that use of torture in secret prisons run by the CIA across the world was even more extreme than previously exposed, and included “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding”, regular beatings, slamming detainees against walls, soaking them in cold water, ice baths, extended periods of sleep deprivation – lasting for one month in one case – confining them to small spaces and even threatening them repeatedly with death while in custody, were among the methods used to try to make detainees talk. At least three detainees were told their families would be killed if they did not co-operate.sleep deprivation lasting almost a week and threats to the families of the detainees. Among the most chilling passages are those detailing the treatment of the first prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, a Pakistani who was severely injured in his capture and transferred to a black site in Thailand. (Other countries that hosted the secret prisons are known to have included Poland, Lithuania and Romania).
The “lunch tray” for one detainee, which contained humus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins, “was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused”, the report says. One detainee whose rectal examination was conducted with “excessive force” was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, anal fissures and rectal prolapse. Investigators also documented death threats made to detainees. And CIA interrogators, the committee charged, told detainees they would hurt detainees’ children and “sexually assault” or “cut the detainee’s mother’s throat.”
Some CIA officers were said to have been reduced “to the point of tears” by witnessing the treatment meted out to one detainee. The findings prompted a call from a UN special human rights rapporteur for prosecutions of those in the CIA and the Bush administration responsible for the torture programme.
Responding to the report, President Barack Obama said the US owed a “profound debt” to the CIA but accepted that some of its techniques were “contrary to our values. 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. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again.” The CIA, now led by John Brennan, struck back, admitting that some errors had been made but insisting that techniques “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”
The names of other countries – including Britain – who cooperated with the US programme by assisting the rendition of suspects were redacted from the published report.
The Senate committee published the 525 page executive summary of its 6,000-page report on investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme during the Bush administration’s “war on terror”. The full report is over 10 times longer, but the declassified section is dense with detail and declassified communications between the officials involved.The report took five years to compile and was the subject of repeated wrangling between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee.
Senator Feinstein the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee faced warnings that to do so would again inflame public opinion against the US around the world and possibly trigger violence. She is a staunch critic of US intelligence methods and criticised the National Security Agency’s surveillance of leaders of US allies. Her main achievement in the Senate has been banning the manufacture, sale and possession of military-style assault weapons. The committee’s findings, which the CIA largely rejects, are the result of a $40m investigation that plunged relations between the spy agency and the Senate committee charged with overseeing it to a historic low.