[Marxism] Senate Torture Report Condemns C.I.A. Interrogation Program
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Tue Dec 9 09:38:03 MST 2014
NY Times, Dec. 9 2014
Senate Torture Report Condemns C.I.A. Interrogation Program
By MARK MAZZETTI
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
As one 2003 cable put it, “Think big.”
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