The Senate Intelligence Committee’s $50 million investigation into Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics on detainees after the September 11 terrorist attacks was released today.
The report, which was long-delayed, finds that “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the U.S. government did not lead to “actionable intelligence,” according to Sen. Angus King, a member of the committee.
However, this is not the final report, but a redacted 480-page executive summary. The complete report totals more than 6,000 pages. The Senate Republicans also released a counter-assessment. While some critics say that there is the possibility of retaliation from terrorist groups, others are saying that the fallout over the report will be mostly political.
“Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.,” Sen. King, the Maine independent told CNN.
“The greatness of this country is that we can examine mistakes and remedy them and that is the hallmark of a great and just society” Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said to CNN moments before the report’s release. Here are the most shocking findings from the report:
1. Some detainees died as a result of interrogation.
In November 2002, an otherwise healthy detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor died from suspected hypothermia at the facility. The CIA’s leadership acknowledged little knowledge of advanced interrogation techniques at the detention site where he was held.
2. The techniques were far more brutal than previously known.
Multiple CIA detainees subjected to the techniques suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and tried to mutilate themselves, the report says. On one occasion, a high-value al Qaeda suspect named Abu Zubaydah became completely unresponsive after a period of intense waterboarding. He had “bubbles rising through his open full mouth,” the report says.
Additionally, detainees were subjected to forced “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” even if they did not have medical need for them.
3. Other techniques used in addition to waterboarding.
These interrogation practices included extended exposure to cold temperatures, slapping and sleep deprivation. Waterboarding was especially harsh. “In many cases, the most aggressive techniques were used immediately, in combination and non-stop,” the report says. “Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”
4. The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
The Committee found that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information.
For example, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant, accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been, subjected to these torture.
5. The CIA’s Lied About Effectiveness.
The CIA lied to the White House and Congress that its enhanced interrogation techniques thwarted specific terrorist plots and falsely claimed terrorists were captured as a result of the use of the techniques. The CIA used these examples to claim that its methods were not only effective, but also necessary to acquire “otherwise unavailable” actionable intelligence that “saved lives.”
6. Inexperienced contract pscyhologists devised the techniques.
The report shows that contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the detention and interrogation program.
The psychologists’ prior experience was at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school. Neither had any experience as an interrogator. They did not have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.
Accordng to the report, “By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.”
7. Those who were not suspects were interrogated.
Of the 119 known detainees, at least 26 were wrongfully held and did not meet the detention standard. These included an “intellectually challenged” man whose CIA 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 CIA sources, and two individuals whom the CIA assessed to be connected to al-Qa’ida based solely on information fabricated by a CIA detainee subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. These detainees, however, often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined that they did not meet the MON standard. CIA records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees.
U.S. armed forces are currently on a heightened state of alert overseas because of a concern of violent backlashes at key areas on foreign soil such as military bases and embassies. The U.S. embassy in Cairo, a site of particular concern, has not commented on its security concerns to the media.
Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, Raw Story and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.