Senate Report Says Torture Program Was More Gruesome, Widespread Than CIA Claimed

Story by Huffington Post
Link to Report: http://www.scribd.com/doc/249652086/Senate-Torture-Report

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the highly anticipated 500-page summary of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, providing a sobering glimpse into one of the darkest chapters in the U.S. government's history.

In the report, a product of a 5-year investigation, Senate investigators reveal sordid details of the systemic and individual failures by the agency personnel who ran the "enhanced interrogation program" -- the government's euphemism for systematic torture -- during the George W. Bush administration. The program involved capturing terrorism suspects and shipping them to secret overseas prisons, where they were subjected to techniques such as waterboarding.

The CIA's program has long been criticized as un-American and a chilling departure from the nation’s values. Opponents allege that it resulted in gross abuses and inhumane treatment of detainees, some of whom were eventually revealed not to have been involved in terror organizations.

The 6,300-page report may be the most unsanitized official account to date of the agency’s program, which the Senate investigators say was mismanaged, poorly conducted and characterized by abuses far more widespread than the CIA previously conveyed to lawmakers.

The newly released document tears apart the CIA's past claims that only a small number of detainees were subjected to the harsh interrogation techniques. The agency has said it held fewer than 100 detainees and subjected fewer than one-third of those to controversial tactics such as waterboarding. But Senate investigators found that the CIA had actually kept 119 detainees in custody, 26 of whom were illegally held. And despite CIA insistence that the program was limited in scope, Senate investigators conclude that the use of torture was much more widespread than previously thought.

The study reveals several gruesome instances of torture by mid-level CIA officers who participated in the program, including threats of sexual violence using a broomstick and the use of "rectal hydration" in instances of harsh interrogations that lasted for days or weeks on end. And, contrary to the agency's prior insistence that only three detainees were subject to waterboarding, the Senate report suggests it was likely used on more detainees.

The report cites the presence of materials typically used for waterboarding being present at certain "blacksites," or secret prisons, where the agency had previously said waterboarding was not used.

Rather than wrestling with the morality of the agency’s torture program or the operation's damaging effect on the U.S.’ international credibility, Senate investigators instead weighed whether the agency's tactics were effective. Through narrative examinations of 20 separate detainee cases, the panel attempted to make the case that the use of harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding did not yield valuable intelligence.

"The committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism 'successes' that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the intelligence panel, said in a statement Tuesday. "Each of those examples was found to be wrong in fundamental respects."

In some instances, the study finds, the information acquired proved irrelevant to stopping terror threats. In others, the use of the techniques resulted in detainees providing fabricated or inaccurate information, and in still other cases, the information obtained through interrogating the detainees had already been acquired through other techniques.

Given that the techniques were ineffective, the study says, the agency routinely misled Congress and the White House when it claimed that the use of torture did in fact contribute to intelligence victories. For instance, the Senate report pushes back against the CIA's argument that torture provided the information about Osama bin Laden's courier that helped the U.S. kill the al Qaeda leader in 2011. In a 10-page discussion on the subject, Senate investigators say the information that led the U.S. to bin Laden was obtained from a detainee while he was in foreign custody, prior to being subjected to torture.

The CIA, however, refutes these conclusions. In a roughly 100-page official response released alongside the intelligence panel’s summary, the agency contends that harsh interrogation techniques were effective.

“The sum total of information provided from detainees in CIA custody substantially advanced the Agency’s strategic and tactical understanding of the enemy in ways that continue to inform counterterrorism efforts to this day," the agency said in its rebuttal.

The response argues that it's not clear whether the valuable information could have been acquired by means other than harsh interrogation techniques, although the agency concedes that it's possible.

“It is impossible to imagine how CIA could have achieved the same results in terms of disrupting plots, capturing other terrorists, and degrading al-Qa’ida without any information from detainees, but it is unknowable whether, without enhanced interrogation techniques, CIA or non-CIA interrogators could have acquired the same information from those detainees," the rebuttal said.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/09/senate-cia-report_n_6270138.html


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