Senate Report Finds CIA Interrogation Tactics Were Ineffective

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By Andrea Mitchell, Robert Windrem and Erin McClam,

from MSNBC,

he harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA in the years after Sept. 11 were essentially useless, and far more brutal than the spy agency told Congress and the public, according to a long-awaited Senate report released Tuesday.

It found that CIA interrogation tactics, employed for days or weeks at a time, never led to “imminent threat” intelligence — the figurative ticking time bomb often cited as justification. In some cases, the means were counterproductive, the report found.

Among the techniques described were waterboarding so severe it produced convulsions, sleep deprivation so prolonged it induced hallucinations, the slamming of detainees into walls, the denial of medical care, and unnecessary rectal feeding.

One prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times in what was described as “a series of near-drownings.”

“It is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an introduction to the report.

On the Senate floor, she acknowledged concerns that releasing the report could provoke blowback overseas and endanger American military and diplomatic installations. And she stressed that she was not condemning the CIA as a whole.

But she said: “History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law, and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say: Never again.”

The report examined the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 people during the administration of President George W. Bush. It criticized the CIA for “inadequate and deeply flawed” management of the interrogation program, including improper screening and poor training of interrogators.

According to a summary provided to reporters, the most aggressive techniques were used “in combination and nonstop,” including keeping detainees awake for as long as 180 hours, standing or in stress positions.

In just one example, the report quoted internal CIA documents describing the prolonged interrogation of one detainee, Abu Zubaydah, as so intense that several members of the CIA’s own team were affected “to the point of tears and choking up.”

Side by side, the report showed congressional testimony by Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, in which he denied that CIA personnel expressed any reservations about interrogation techniques.

During at least one waterboarding session, the report said, Zubaydah “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” After medical help, he regained consciousness and expelled “copious amounts of liquid.”

At one secret CIA site, detainees were subjected to what was known as a rough takedown: CIA officers would scream at a detainee, drag him out of his cell, cut off his clothes, bind him with tape, put a hood over his face and drag him down a corridor while slapping and punching him.

Another detainee was threatened with the sexual abuse of his own mother, the report said.

According to the Senate report, the CIA’s own records found that seven of 39 detainees subjected to especially aggressive interrogation yielded no intelligence, and that others provided useful information without being subjected to the harsh techniques.

Other detainees who were harshly interrogated made up information, including about “the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities,” the report found.

The Senate committee said that it had reviewed 20 of the most commonly cited examples of successes attributed by the CIA to enhanced interrogation. It found each of those examples wrong.

Of 119 known detainees in CIA custody during its program of harsh interrogation, at least 26 were wrongly held, the committee found.

The CIA hired two psychologists to help devise and carry out the interrogation techniques, the report found. Neither had experience as an interrogator, expertise in counterterrorism or specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, the report said. They were paid $80 million.

In justifying the tactics, the spy agency provided “inaccurate information” to the White House, Congress, the Justice Department, internal CIA investigators, the press and the public, the report found.

The CIA was faulted for giving bad information to the Justice Department from 2002 to 2007 about how interrogations were conducted and how effective they were.

Justice Department lawyers, working off the faulty information, concluded in 2002 that “necessity or self-defense” might justify torture.

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