Senate Torture Report Ignores CIA’s Most Brutal Crimes

According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a scathing report condemning some of the abuses and torture committed by the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program, but failed to expose the CIA’s most heinous human rights violations. According to the report, the CIA lied to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats to detainees’ family members, and the effectiveness of torture.

On November 9, 2005, CIA Director of National Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez, Jr. authorized the burning of 92 videotapes depicting the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and ’Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. In response to the destruction of those tapes, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to review the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program on March 5, 2009. With access to over six million pages of CIA documents, the Committee merely provided a superficial summary without bothering to interview any participants or victims of the RDI program.

Following the tragic events of 9/11, the Justice Department constructed a series of legal memos authorizing the Bush administration’s use of torture against enemy combatants. In 2002 and 2003, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo authored the torture memos, which were signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. The Authorization for Use of Military Force, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and Executive Order 13440 became legal justifications for the utilization of enhanced interrogation techniques and a total disregard for the Geneva Conventions.

Under pseudonyms within the heavily redacted report, two retired Air Force psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, received contracts to develop the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. They decided to reverse-engineer the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) counter-interrogation training by inflicting both physical and psychological torture upon detainees. According to the report, they personally participated in waterboarding and interrogating prisoners.

Shot and captured during a raid in Pakistan in 2002, one of the first detainees, Abu Zubaydah, had been recovering in a hospital when he provided information to FBI agents regarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM). Insisting that Zubaydah was withholding more information, CIA interrogators waterboarded him at least 83 times. Although Zubaydah had given up the information about KSM weeks before being tortured, the CIA credits this human rights violation as a success and his interrogation became a template for future atrocities.

Captured in Pakistan in 2003, KSM was transported to a CIA black site in Poland before being transferred to another black site in Romania. While enduring enhanced interrogation techniques, KSM provided false information leading to the detention of innocent people and divulged a fabricated plot to assassinate former President Jimmy Carter. KSM was waterboarded at least 183 times and provided no actionable intelligence or useful information to his interrogators.

According to the Committee, harsh interrogation techniques are not effective means of acquiring intelligence. Under duress, prisoners will say anything they believe the interrogator wants to hear in order to end the torment. Although the CIA claims information acquired through enhanced interrogation has saved lives and led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the Committee has discovered these claims are patently false.

Many of the CIA officers involved in the RDI program had histories of violence, abuse, and sexual assault. Besides waterboarding and beating detainees, CIA interrogators also threatened to rape and murder prisoners’ family members, denied medical treatment for detainees, and repeatedly performed rectal rehydration or feeding without medical necessity. Prisoners with broken feet and sprained ankles were forced to stand for extended periods of time to induce sleep deprivation.

In November 2002, CIA officers left black site detainee Gul Rahman beaten and half-naked from the waist down in an unheated cell overnight. Rahman ended up freezing to death in his cell. In a case of mistaken identity, German citizen Khalid El-Masri was abducted by the Macedonian police and handed over to the CIA. After months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories, El-Masri was released without charges.

Although the report mentions Binyam Mohamed, the Committee neglected to investigate his allegations of torture. Arrested in Pakistan on April 10, 2002, Mohamed was transported to a CIA black site where he was beaten, burned, and suffered cuts along his torso and penis with a scalpel. The US eventually dropped all charges against Mohamed and released him.

Omitted from the summary are the murder of Abdul Wali and the killing of Manadel al-Jamadi. Between June 19 and 20, 2003, CIA contractor David Passaro beat an Afghan suspect named Abdul Wali to death with a metal flashlight. At the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, Manadel al-Jamadi died in a shower room under CIA interrogation with his arms tied behind his back. Former Specialist Charles Graner, Jr. notoriously posed over al-Jamadi’s corpse for a photo before being charged with torturing his prisoners. Mark Swanner, the CIA interrogator, has not been charged with al-Jamadi’s death.

Also missing from the executive summary is the rendition and torture of an Egyptian cleric named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. Kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan on February 17, 2003, Nasr lost hearing in one ear after months of beatings and electric shocks. On November 4, 2009, an Italian judge convictedin absentia 22 suspected or known CIA agents, an Air Force colonel, and two Italian secret agents of kidnapping Nasr.

According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the questionable backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information obtained through torture.

Although the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released nearly 500 heavily redacted pages from their executive summary, the full report containing over 6,700 pages remains classified. After CIA agents hacked into computers belonging to members of the Committee and their staff last year, CIA Director John Brennan falsely accused the Committee of stealing classified files in an attempt to suppress the release of the report. As Senators called for his resignation, Brennan was forced to apologize to the Committee.

Instead of holding anyone accountable for devising or utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques, Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen received $81 million prior to their contract’s termination in 2009. Former CIA case officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison after revealing the torture program during an interview with ABC News. Kiriakou was charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 by giving Deuce Martinez’s business card to New York Times reporter Scott Shane. Martinez had been a CIA interrogator working for Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

While exposing the CIA’s lies about thwarting terrorist attacks, locating Osama bin Laden, and saving lives through the use of torture, the Committee failed to enumerate the worst atrocities committed in our names. Acting with impunity, the CIA bears a sordid history composed of decades of kidnapping, torture, and assassination with no end in sight.

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Senate CIA Torture Report Details ‘Ruthless’ Brutality of Bush Era


The executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture was released on Tuesday morning. As the document itself (pdf) was posted online, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairperson of the committee, took to the Senate floor and to lay out the case made within the 500+ page report. Watch video of Feinstein’s  remarks here.

What the report shows, according to its introduction, is that the abuse performed by the CIA and documented by the investigation was found to be in direct “violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

According to Feinstein, the four key findings of the report include:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

Common Dreams posted updates following the release of the report, focusing on reactions and critical analysis from informed voices.

3:11 PM: Amnesty International: Release of Torture Report “Must Not Be End of Story

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director for Amnesty International, said in a statement:

“This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorized by the highest authorities in the USA after 9/11. Despite much evidence having been in the public realm for years, no one has been brought to justice for authorizing or carrying out the acts in these CIA programmes.

“The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, is a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorized and used torture and other ill-treatment. This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”

3:03 PM: Statement by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): ‘Report Shows CIA Torture Did Not Work and America Should Never Torture Again

Senator Wyden said:

“While I understand this is a dangerous world and am grateful to the rank-and-file intelligence professionals that keep our country safe, the facts show that torture did nothing to protect America from foreign threats.

“The current CIA leadership has been alarmingly resistant to acknowledging the full scope of the mistakes and misrepresentations that surrounded this program for so many years. I hope this report is the catalyst CIA leaders need to acknowledge that torture did not work and close this disgraceful chapter in our country’s history.”

2:59 PM: The Guardian: ‘Rectal rehydration and waterboarding: how the CIA tortured its detainees

Reporter Oliver Laughland documents some of the most brutal torture tactics contained the report. Read his reporting here.

2:54 PM: ProPublica: ‘The Tortured History of the Senate’s Torture Report‘ 

The Senate began investigating the CIA’s detainee program nearly six years ago. It completed a draft of its report two years ago. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the report’s blistering executive summary. (The full report remains classified.) What took so long? It’s a tale of White House indecisiveness, Republican opposition, and CIA snooping. Check out the timeline here.

2:47 PM: As journalists and analysts pour over contents of report, examples of some of the shocking details of CIA torture were being shared via Twitter:

2:38 PM: Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights: Those who sanctioned torture “must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes

UN-appointed expert and investigator Ben Emmerson issued a statement today, which reads, in part:

“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

2:25 PM: Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: Torture ‘Can Never Be Justified’

Roth said:

“The Senate report summary should forever put to rest CIA denials that it engaged in torture, which is criminal and can never be justified. The report shows the repeated claims that harsh measures were needed to protect Americans are utter fiction.”

2:19 PM: Trevor Timm at The Guardian: “Stop believing the lies: America tortured more than ‘some folks’ – and covered it up”

The executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation writes:

The torture defenders from the CIA and the Bush administration probably won’t even make a serious attempt to say they didn’t torture anyone – just that it was effective, that there were “serious mistakes”, but that “countless lives have been saved and our Homeland is more secure” – with a capital H.

This highlights the mistake of the Senate committee, in a way. Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?

2:11 PM: Glenn Greenwald: The Establishment Media’s role in torture

The U.S. media […] played a central role in first obscuring, then justifying, the Bush torture regime to the public. One of the most extreme examples was this Joe Klein column in The Guardian viciously mocking those who claimed the U.S. was torturing detainees (“total rubbish, of course”), and he even wrote this about detainees:

They wear orange jump suits, which are probably an improvement over their Afghan cave-wear (I would actually prefer they be dressed in pink tutus, to give them an appreciation of the freedoms accorded western ballerinas).

Liberal journalist Jonathan Alter wrote a Newsweek column expressly demanding that the U.S. Government use torture, headlined “Time to Think About Torture.” It began: “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.”

Now we have new examples. Today’s Senate Committee report describes how Douglas Jehl, then a New York Times reporter, now The Washington Post‘s Foreign Editor, promised the CIA positive coverage of its torture program (a common practice among some DC national security reporters).

2:03 PM: Moyers & Company editors have highlighted the twenty key findings of the report on their website:

“Moyers & Company is preparing a detailed analysis of the report for later publication. A quick overview of what the report contains can be found in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 20 findings, reprinted here.”

1:28 PM: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s official statement (pdf) highlights four key findings of CIA torture report

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions, according to Feinstein’s statement, can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the Executive Summary:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

1:13 PM: Sen. Bernie Sanders: Report Details “Ugly Chapter in American History”

Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders said:

“A great nation must be prepared to acknowledge its errors. This report details an ugly chapter in American history during which our leaders and the intelligence community dishonored our nation’s proud traditions. Of course we must aggressively pursue international terrorists who would do us harm, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with the basic respect for human rights which makes us proud to be Americans.

“The United States must not engage in torture. If we do, in an increasingly brutal world we lose our moral standing to condemn other nations or groups that engage in uncivilized behavior.”

1:08 PM: Glenn Greenwald: Destruction of “Zero Dark Thirty” Scenario

The report utterly decimated the central claim of “Zero Dark Thirty” that torture played a key role in finding Osama bin Laden (h/t: Farhad Manjoo)

12:59 PM: Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) statement suggests he will not push for further, un-redacted disclosures

The statement released by Sen. Mark Udall following the Intelligence Committee’s report suggests he is satisfied with the report and will likely not follow through with threats, which followed urging from anti-torture and transparency activists, that he would read the full un-redacted report into the congressional record. In his official statement, Udall said:

“The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity.My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it.

“We can protect our national security without compromising who we are as Americans. This landmark study — and the millions of pages of agency documents and testimony it is based upon — shows that torture is not effective and does not make us safer.”

12:54 PM: Legal Director of Center for Constitutional Rights: “Criminal Prosecutions Must Follow Senate CIA Torture Report Findings”

CCR attorney Baher Azmy issued this statement:

The long-delayed Senate report proves what we have been saying since 2006: that the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of state-sanctioned torture, notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application. We have witnessed firsthand the devastating human consequences in meetings with our clients at Guantanamo. The report also exposes the CIA’s lies about how the program operated and the utility of the information obtained: False claims about the usefulness of that information were used to justify and cover up monstrous crimes. We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program. They should be prosecuted in U.S. courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.

12:49 PM: The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin says Report’s Footnotes “Will Make You Weep”

12:45 PM: Former CIA analyst and Common Dreams contributor Ray McGovern responds:

“It is bizarre; the Executive and Congress both live in fear of the thugs of the CIA, who have now been joined by Secretary of State John Kerry (probably after checking with the White House) issuing spurious warnings regarding the dangers of releasing the report — as if the ‘bad guys’ have not yet heard of CIA torture! No one — Democrat or Republican — wants the truth to get out about torture techniques authorized by the Bush/Cheney administration, techniques actually demonstrated multiple times in the White House itself to the administration’s most senior national security and justice officials, and then implemented by CIA thugs.

“Far too many ‘notables’ approved the torture or, at least, had guilty knowledge — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, for example. Likely, an eviscerated (‘redacted’ is the euphemism) Senate report on CIA torture is all we will be permitted to read. At that point, the ball will be squarely in lame-duck Sen. Mark Udall’s court. Will he feel bound by the Omerta-style oath of silence typical of Establishment Washington, or will he have the courage to get the truth out, using his Constitutionally protected right to do so without legal jeopardy?”

12:27 PM: The Guardian reports: CIA’s brutal and ineffective use of torture revealed in landmark report

Spencer Ackerman reports:

After examining 20 case studies, the report found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarizing the findings.

“During the brutal interrogations the CIA was often unaware the information was fabricated.”

The torture that the CIA carried out was even more extreme than what it portrayed to congressional overseers and the George W Bush administration, the committee found. It went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits, which had revealed that agency interrogators subjected detainees to quasi-drowning, staged mock executions, and revved power drills near their heads.

At least 39 detainees, the committee found, experienced techniques like “cold water dousing” – different from the quasi-drowning known as waterboarding – which the Justice Department never approved. The committee found at least five cases of “rectal rehydration”, and cases of death threats made to detainees. CIA interrogators, the committee charged, told detainees they would hurt their children and “sexually assault” or kill their wives.

12:14 PM: ACLU responds: Senate Torture Report Shows Need for Accountability

Responding to the report, the American Civil Liberties Union released a detailed plan for full accountability, and ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero had this reaction:

This is a shocking report, and it is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes. This report definitively drags into the light the horrific details of illegal torture, details that both the Bush and Obama administrations have worked hard to sweep under the rug. The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable. The administration’s current position – doing absolutely nothing – is tantamount to issuing tacit pardons. Tacit pardons are worse than formal ones because they undermine the rule of law. The CIA’s wrongful acts violated basic human rights, served as a huge recruiting tool for our enemies, and alienated allies world-wide. Our response to the damning evidence in this report will define us as a nation.

This should be the beginning of a process, not the end. The report should shock President Obama and Congress into action, to make sure that torture and cruelty are never used again. The Department of Justice needs to appoint a special prosecutor to hold the architects and perpetrators of the torture program accountable for its design, implementation, and cover-ups. Congress must assert its constitutional role in the system of checks and balances, and oversee the CIA, which in this report sounds more like a rogue paramilitary group than the intelligence gathering agency that it’s supposed to be. The president needs to use the moral authority of his office to formally recognize both the torture program’s victims and those in government who resisted this shameful and illegal policy.

11:47 AM: Senate Intelligence Committee Releases unclassified, redacted version of executive summary

The official unclassified version of the executive summary of the report is here (pdf).

9:17 AM: America can’t handle the truth – about Guantánamo, torture or a man now free from both

In an op-ed in the Guardian, Cori Crider, a lawyer with the UK-based human rights legal group Reprieve, describes why her client Abu Wa’el Dhiab, released from Guantanamo just days ago after more than 12 years without trial, is a prime example of how deep the U.S. government’s “indifference to human suffering” and obsession with keeping evidence of its abuses out of the public domain has run since 2001.

…if you think you’re going to get the truth about torture out of the so-called War on Terror’s wall of silence when the long-anticipated CIA torture report finally gets released on Tuesday, consider that we can’t even see that photo of my shackled client getting on a plane – that I am not even allowed to tell you about 10 hours of video of him getting force-fed by military service members.

Perhaps the American government can’t handle the truth about itself, from torture in secret CIA prisons to my client’s torture at the world’s most notorious prison, even after he is finally free. But I believe the American people can.

9:00 AM: Two must-read backgrounders on CIA torture program

On Monday, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, aka @Emptywheel, released this 13-part timeline via Twitter which explains the rise of the torture program under the Bush administration.

Also on Monday, Marcelene Hearn, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s national security project published this piece, titled “Required Reading: Prequels to the Torture Report” on the Blog of Rights.

7:59 AM: Ahead of Senate panel’s report, torture opponents challenge coordinated misinformation campaign

Ahead of the report’s release, opponents of the brutal practices authorized by the Bush administration are preparing to pour over the report to see just how far the six-year long probe goes in identifying the real perpetrators of the programs which saw individuals in the custody of the U.S. government beaten and mistreated in ways that other investigators of the program have identified as “war crimes” and members of the committee have said will make Americans “disgusted.”

In recent days, as previously reported, current and former CIA officials, lawmakers, and members of the Bush administration have come out in defense of the CIA’s brutal tactics while also attempting to discredit the Senate report.

In an interview with the German newspaper Deutsche Welle published Tuesday morning, (Ret.) Col. Morris Davis, who once led the government’s prosecution team at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, said the Senate report may not reveal things not already documented elsewhere, but that’s its publication is vital nonetheless. “I don’t anticipate that the report will reveal some additional practices that have not been discussed in some way already,” Morris said in the interview. “What it will do though is officially confirm what’s been talked about in the media for years. Having that official record is important.”

Staking out his position on the report prior to its release, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has covered the CIA torture program that took place under former President George W. Bush extensively, said that the American people should not succumb to the “worst myths official Washington and its establishment media have told” the public over the course of recent years. The program was not isolated to just a few cases, as if often suggested, writes Greenwald, but rather “was an officially sanctioned, worldwide regime of torture that had the acquiescence, if not explicit approval, of the top members of both political parties in Congress.”

This story was originally published on Common Dreams.

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