On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released an unclassified summary of its classified report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program. In a forward, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee chair, writes, “it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement, and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.”
Those abuses, often inflicted without first trying non-threatening approaches, included:
Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. (The Daily Beast)
The abuses were so extreme that some CIA personnel became emotional and tried to halt the sessions.
Many of the most haunting sections of the Senate document are passages taken from internal CIA memos and e-mails as agency employees described their visceral reactions to searing interrogation scenes. At one point in 2002, CIA employees at a secret site in Thailand broke down emotionally after witnessing the harrowing treatment of Abu Zubaida, a high-profile facilitator for al-Qaeda. (Washington Post)
In Forbes, Dan Diamond examines the involvement of doctors in aiding torture of suspects, and quotes surgeon Atul Gawande. “The Senate CIA Torture Report reveals savage, immoral, utterly despicable practices…but the worst for me is to see the details of how doctors, psychologists and others sworn to aid human beings made the torture possible,” said Gawande in a tweet.
The report paints the CIA as a rogue agency keeping the President and other top officials in the dark and lying to them about the status of interrogations.
President George W. Bush was not briefed on “the specific CIA enhanced interrogation techniques before April 2006,” according to CIA records cited in the Senate report. That means it took four years from the time the program began until the President of the United States had a full accounting of CIA interrogations. (CNN)
Law professor Jonathan Turley observes, “Perhaps the most chilling truth is that the CIA and key American leaders continue to deny the very premise of both international and domestic laws.”
The key response of the CIA was to insist that the program was “effective” – the very rationale that is expressly rejected in the Convention Against Torture and other laws. It does not matter if torture was useful or productive. It is a war crime. We should know. We wrote that language saying that no nation can justify torture due to “exceptional circumstances” or effectiveness. Yet, the very agency that committed these crimes has continued to argue that those crimes were productive exercises. (USAToday)
Indeed, Article 2 of the UN Convention Against Torture clearly states that, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Nevertheless, the Senate report addresses CIA and Bush administration claims that cruel interrogation methods led to useful intelligence about terrorists.
“The report debunks the top 20 examples CIA has used to defend the now-shuttered enhanced interrogation program” writes Jeremy Diamond (CNN), and found that “bin Laden could have been captured without the torture of any detainees.”
The only person associated with the CIA interrogation program who has been prosecuted and imprisoned, to date, is whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed the interrogations as “torture” and implicated the White House in authorizing the abuses.
Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights for the Government Accountability Project, writes that the report exposes a double standard in which the CIA “systematically leaked classified information about the torture program to journalists who published the agency’s version of events” but “filed six crimes reports against whistleblower Kiriakou “for alleged ‘unauthorized disclosures’ of information.
The newly released Executive Summary of Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report lays bare that the CIA makes propaganda its business, and the propagandists and perpetrators of torture are enjoying their freedom. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has made truth-telling a crime, and truth-tellers are in jail. (Salon)
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report, “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” released Tuesday, December 10, 2014. (528 pages)
Related information available on the website of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
CIA Interrogation Timeline (Washington Post)
SSCI Minority views of Vice Chairman Chambliss joined by Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rvbio, and Coburn (PDF).
CIA response fo the SSCI report.
White House press release regarding the SSCI report.