A 525-page unclassified portion of a 6,000-page report compiled by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s Detention and Interrogation Program using enhanced interrogation techniques (a euphemism for torture) on detainees following the September 11 attacks in 2001 was released on December 9, 2014, after a presentation on the floor of the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. The full report has not been published, but the committee voted in April 2014 to release the recommendations, executive summary, and findings of the report which can be downloaded here.
The report, which took four years and $40 million to compile, focused on events that transpired over the years 2001-06. It detailed actions by CIA officials and shortcomings of the detention project. One key finding was that enhanced interrogation techniques did not help acquire actionable intelligence or gain cooperation from detainees.
Enhanced interrogation techniques or alternative set of procedures refers to the U.S. Government program of systematic torture of detainees by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and various components of the U.S. Armed Forces at different black sites around the world, including Bagram, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib, authorized by officials of the administration of US President George W. Bush. While there has never been an accurate tally of the number of detainees subjected to these methods, the CIA has admitted to waterboarding individuals implicated in the September 11 attacks, notably Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mohammed al-Qahtani. In addition the CIA is known to have waterboarded Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water was photographed at a CIA prison where the CIA claimed never to have used the technique.
The following 20 key findings and conclusions were published verbatim in the report.
1.The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
2.The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
3.The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
4.The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
5.The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
6.The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
7.The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
8.The CIA’s operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
9.The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General.
10.The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.:11
11.The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
12.The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
13.Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
14.CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
15.The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
16.The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
17.The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious or significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systematic and individual management failures.
18.The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
19.The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
20.The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.
The fallout following the release of the report is, as expected, heavy. Much of the debate surrounds whether the CIA’s heavy-handed methods yielded any useful intelligence information. Many of the torture practices applied by the CIA on its detainees were aimed to exact “total control” of torture subjects and included oral and anal force feeding of prisoners.
The CIA has defended its position on the matter and has called the Senate Committee report “unfair”…
“CIA is frequently asked to do difficult, sensitive and sometimes risky things on behalf of the country,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “Congress doesn’t do massive studies of CIA’s successful efforts such as preventing another massive casualty attack on the United States.”
“The intellectual dishonesty of the (Senate) report will eventually be revealed and in the end CIA’s position about the value of the detention and interrogation program will stand as the historical fact,” the intelligence official said.
The 2010 film Unthinkable which starred Samuel L Jackson, Michael Sheen, and Carrie-Anne Moss drammatised some of the contentious aspects of enhanced interrogation techniques applied in a time of extreme national emergency.
The film begins with an American Muslim man and former Delta Force operator named Yusuf (Sheen), formerly named Younger, making a videotape. When FBI Special Agent Helen Brody (Moss) and her team see news bulletins looking for Yusuf, they launch an investigation, which is curtailed when they are summoned to a high school, which has been converted into a black site under military command. They are shown Yusuf’s complete tape, where he threatens to detonate three nuclear bombs in separate U.S. cities if his demands are not met.
A special interrogator, “H” (Samuel L. Jackson), is brought in to force Yusuf to reveal the locations of the nuclear bombs. H quickly shows his capability and cruelty by chopping off one of Yusuf’s fingers with a small hatchet. Horrified, Special Agent Brody attempts to put a stop to the measures. Her superiors make it clear that the potentially disastrous consequences necessitate these extreme measures. Policy adviser Charles V. Peña opines that “Ultimately, [Unthinkable] is about the age-old question, ‘Do the ends justify the means?’… In the end, the film doesn’t answer the question… but does provide plenty of food for thought”.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture” and various Wikipedia.org articles related (linked) to it in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
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