[Marxism] Senate Torture Report Condemns C.I.A. Interrogation Program

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 9 09:38:03 MST 2014

NY Times, Dec. 9 2014
Senate Torture Report Condemns C.I.A. Interrogation Program

WASHINGTON — A scathing report released by the Senate Intelligence 
Committee on Tuesday found that the Central Intelligence Agency 
routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it 
obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and 
that its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to 
Bush administration officials or to the public.

The long-delayed report, which took five years to produce and is based 
on more than six million internal agency documents, is a sweeping 
indictment of the C.I.A.'s operation and oversight of a program carried 
out by agency officials and contractors in secret prisons around the 
world in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also 
provides a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that 
the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects.

Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were 
sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With 
the approval of the C.I.A.'s medical staff, some C.I.A. prisoners were 
subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal 
hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.'s chief of interrogations 
described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. 
medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh 
Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of 
near drownings.”

The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to 
waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. 
The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by 
buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt 
Pit — a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was 
never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” 
and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog 
that had been kenneled.”

During his administration, President George W. Bush repeatedly said that 
the detention and interrogation program, which President Obama 
dismantled when he succeeded him, was humane and legal. The intelligence 
gleaned during interrogations, he said, was instrumental both in 
thwarting terrorism plots and in capturing senior figures of Al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and a number of former 
C.I.A. officials have said more recently that the program was essential 
for ultimately finding Osama bin Laden, who was killed by members of the 
Navy SEALs in May 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Intelligence Committee’s report tries to refute each of these 
claims, using the C.I.A.'s internal records to present 20 case studies 
that bolster its conclusion that the most extreme interrogation methods 
played no role in disrupting terrorism plots, capturing terrorist 
leaders — even finding Bin Laden.

The report said that senior officials — including the former C.I.A. 
directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — 
repeatedly inflated the value of the program in secret briefings both at 
the White House and on Capitol Hill, and in public speeches.

In the report’s foreword, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the 
chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said that she “could 
understand the C.I.A.'s impulse to consider the use of every possible 
tool to gather intelligence and remove terrorists from the battlefield, 
and C.I.A. was encouraged by political leaders and the public to do 
whatever it could to prevent another attack.”

“Nevertheless,” she continued, “such pressure, fear and expectation of 
further terrorist plots do not justify, temper or excuse improper 
actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national 
security. The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the 
pressures and the need to act, the intelligence community’s actions must 
always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and 

Ms. Feinstein is expected to speak about the report in the Senate on 

The C.I.A. issued an angry response to the report, saying in a statement 
that it “tells part of the story,” but that “there are too many flaws 
for it to stand as the official record of the program.”

The response acknowledged mistakes in the detention and interrogation 
program and in the agency’s analysis of the information gathered in 
interrogations. But, the agency said, “we still must question a report 
that impugns the integrity of so many C.I.A. officers when it implies — 
as it does clearly through the conclusions — that the agency’s 
assessments were willfully misrepresented in a calculated effort to 

The entire report is more than 6,000 pages long, but the committee voted 
in April to declassify only its 524-page executive summary and a 
rebuttal by Republican members of the committee. The investigation was 
conducted by staff members working for Democratic senators on the committee.

The New York Times and other news organizations received an advance copy 
of the report and agreed not to publish any of its findings until the 
Senate Intelligence Committee made them public. The Times did not 
receive an advance copy of the Republican rebuttal.

Many of the most extreme interrogation methods — including waterboarding 
— were authorized by Justice Department lawyers during the Bush 
administration. But the report also found evidence that a number of 
detainees had been subjected to other, unapproved methods while in 
C.I.A. custody.

The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some C.I.A. 
personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior 
agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions.

The Central Intelligence Agency used contentious interrogation 
techniques, including waterboarding and sleep deprivation, on dozens of 
the 119 men it detained in secret prisons between 2002 and 2008. A newly 
released report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the 
agency routinely misled the White House and Congress about the program.

Within days of the Justice Department’s approval to begin waterboarding 
the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, the sessions became so extreme that some 
C.I.A. officers were “to the point of tears and choking up,” and several 
said they would elect to be transferred out of the facility if the 
brutal interrogations continued.

During one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah became “completely 
unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” The 
interrogations lasted for weeks, and some C.I.A. officers began sending 
messages to the agency’s headquarters in Virginia questioning the 
utility — and the legality — of what they were doing. But such questions 
were rejected.

“Strongly urge that any speculative language as to the legality of given 
activities or, more precisely, judgment calls as to their legality 
vis-à-vis operational guidelines for this activity agreed upon and 
vetted at the most senior levels of the agency, be refrained from in 
written traffic (email or cable traffic),” wrote Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., 
then the head of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center.

“Such language is not helpful.”

The Senate report found that the detention and interrogation of Mr. 
Zubaydah and dozens of other prisoners were ineffective in giving the 
government “unique” intelligence information that the C.I.A. or other 
intelligence agencies could not get from other means.

The report also said that the C.I.A.'s leadership for years gave false 
information about the total number of prisoners held by the C.I.A., 
saying there had been 98 prisoners when C.I.A. records showed that 119 
men had been held. In late 2008, according to one internal email, a 
C.I.A. official giving a briefing expressed concern about the 
discrepancy and was told by Mr. Hayden, then the agency’s director, “to 
keep the number at 98” and not to count any additional detainees.

The committee’s report concluded that of the 119 detainees, “at least 26 
were wrongfully held.”

“These included an ‘intellectually challenged’ man whose C.I.A. 
detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide 
information, two individuals who were intelligence sources for foreign 
liaison services and were former C.I.A. sources, and two individuals 
whom the C.I.A. assessed to be connected to Al Qaeda based solely on 
information fabricated by a C.I.A. detainee subjected to the C.I.A.'s 
enhanced interrogation techniques,” the report said.

Many Republicans have said that the report is an attempt to smear both 
the C.I.A. and the Bush White House, and that the report cherry-picked 
information to support a claim that the C.I.A.'s detention program 
yielded no valuable information. Former C.I.A. officials have already 
begun a vigorous public campaign to dispute the report’s findings.

In its response to the Senate report, the C.I.A. said that to accept the 
Intelligence Committee’s conclusions, “there would have had to have been 
a yearslong conspiracy among C.I.A. leaders at all levels, supported by 
a large number of analysts and other line officers.

“This conspiracy would have had to include three former C.I.A. 
directors, including one who led the agency after the program had 
largely wound down,” it added.

“We cannot vouch for every individual statement that was made over the 
years of the program, and we acknowledge that some of those statements 
were wrong. But the image portrayed in the study of an organization that 
— on an institutional scale — intentionally misled and routinely 
resisted oversight from the White House, the Congress, the Department of 
Justice and its own O.I.G. simply does not comport with the record,” the 
statement said. O.I.G. stands for Office of Inspector General.

The battle over the report’s conclusions has been waged behind closed 
doors for years, and provided the backdrop to the more recent fight over 
the C.I.A.'s penetration of a computer network used by committee staff 
members working on the investigation. C.I.A. officers came to suspect 
that the staff members had improperly obtained an internal agency review 
of the detention program over the course of their investigation, and 
that they broke into the network that had been designated for the 
committee’s use.

Most of the detention program’s architects have left the C.I.A., but 
their legacy endures inside the agency. The chief of the agency’s 
Counterterrorism Center said during a meeting with John O. Brennan, the 
current C.I.A. director, in April that more than 200 people working for 
him had at one point participated in the program.

According to the Senate report, even before the agency captured its 
first prisoner, C.I.A. lawyers began thinking about how to get approval 
for interrogation methods that might normally be considered torture. 
Such methods might gain wider approval, the lawyers figured, if they 
were proved to have saved lives.

“A policy decision must be made with regard to U.S. use of torture,” 
C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001, in a previously undisclosed memo 
titled “Hostile Interrogations: Legal Considerations for C.I.A. Officers.”

The lawyers argued that “states may be very unwilling to call the U.S. 
to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

The Intelligence Committee report describes repeated efforts by the 
C.I.A. to make that case, even when the facts did not support it. For 
example, the C.I.A. helped edit a speech by Mr. Bush in 2006 to make it 
seem as if key intelligence was obtained through the most brutal 
interrogation tactics, even when C.I.A. records suggested otherwise.

In 2002, the C.I.A. took custody of Abu Zubaydah, who was brought to 
Thailand. There, two C.I.A. contractors named James E. Mitchell and 
Bruce Jessen were in charge of the interrogation sessions, using methods 
that had been authorized by Justice Department lawyers. The two 
contractors, both psychologists, are identified in the Senate report 
under the pseudonyms Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar.

The program expanded, with dozens of detainees taken to secret prisons 
in Poland, Romania, Lithuania and other countries. In September 2006, 
Mr. Bush ordered all of the detainees in C.I.A. custody to be 
transferred to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and after that the 
C.I.A. held a small number of detainees in secret at a different 
facility for several months at a time — before they were also moved to 
Guantánamo Bay.

Mr. Obama spoke expansively about the Senate report in August, saying 
that any “fair minded” person would believe that some of the methods 
that the C.I.A. used against prisoners amounted to torture. He said he 
hoped that the report reminded people that the “character of our country 
has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy but 
what we do when things are hard.”

At the same time, Mr. Obama said that he understood the pressure that 
the C.I.A. was under after the Sept. 11 attacks, and that “it is 
important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the 
tough job that those folks had.”

Taken in its entirety, the report is a portrait of a spy agency that was 
wholly unprepared for its new mission as jailers and interrogators — but 
that embraced its assignment with vigor. The report chronicles millions 
of dollars in secret payments between 2002 and 2004 from the C.I.A. to 
foreign officials, aimed at getting other governments to agree to host 
secret prisons.

Cables from C.I.A. headquarters to field offices said that overseas 
officers should put together “wish lists” speculating about what foreign 
governments might want in exchange for bringing C.I.A. prisoners onto 
their soil.

As one 2003 cable put it, “Think big.”

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