The control tower of the airport in Szymany, Poland, near an alleged CIA black site. AP
Leaked details of the committee’s report have caused waves in countries like Poland, where the CIA is known to have operated a black site prison — which Polish officials continue to deny having known about.
The U.S. officials who spoke to Al Jazeera said that the Senate report reveals 20 prisoners were secretly detained in Poland from 2002 to 2005. They added that Polish officials recently sought assurances from diplomats and visiting U.S. officials that the Senate report would conceal details about Poland’s role in allowing the CIA black site to be operated on Polish soil. Al Jazeera’s sources said U.S. officials reassured their Polish counterparts last year that it was almost certain that the declassified version of the report would not identify the countries that cooperated with the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.
According to the Senate report, Al Jazeera’s sources said, a majority of the more than 100 detainees held in CIA custody were detained in secret prisons in Afghanistan and Morocco, where they were subject to torture methods not sanctioned by the Justice Department. Those methods are recalled by the report in vivid narratives lifted from daily logs of the detention and interrogation of about 34 high-value prisoners. The report allegedly notes that about 85 detainees deemed low-value passed through the black sites and were later dumped at Guantánamo or handed off to foreign intelligence services. More than 10 of those handed over to foreign intelligence agencies “to face terrorism charges” are now “unaccounted for” and presumed dead, the U.S. officials said.
The Senate report says more than two dozen of these men designated low-value had, in fact, been wrongfully detained and rendered to other countries on the basis of intelligence obtained from CIA captives under torture and from information shared with CIA officials by other governments, both of which turned out to be false. The report allegedly singles out a top CIA official for botching a handful of renditions and outlines agency efforts to cover up the mistakes.
The Senate report allegedly accuses “senior CIA officials” of lying during multiple closed-session briefings to members of Congress from 2003 to 2005 about the use of certain “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The report says an agency official lied to Congress in 2005 when he insisted the U.S. was adhering to international treaties barring cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, the U.S. officials told Al Jazeera.
The report not only accuses certain CIA officials of deliberately misleading Congress; Al Jazeera’s sources say it also suggests that the agency sanctioned leaks to selected journalists about phantom plots supposedly disrupted as a result of information gained through the program in order to craft a narrative of success.
The Senate report, like a 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee report (PDF), says Air Force psychologists under contract to the CIA reverse-engineered a decades-old resistance-training program taught to U.S. airmen known as survival evasion resistance escape (SERE).
According to a SERE training document obtained by Al Jazeera titled “Coercive Exploitation Techniques,” Air Force personnel were taught that communist regimes used “deprivations” of “food, water, sleep and medical care” as well as “the use of threats” in order to weaken a captive’s mental and physical ability to resist interrogation. “Isolation” would be used, according to the SERE program, to deprive the “recipient of all social support” so that he develops a “dependency” on his interrogator. And “physical duress, violence and torture” are used to weaken “mental and physical ability to resist exploitation.”
Ironically, perhaps, the SERE document (displayed below) notes that such techniques were used by the Soviet Union, China and North Korea to obtain false confessions.
Senate investigators allegedly obtained from the CIA a 2003 “business plan,” written by Air Force psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, that contained erroneous details about the positive aspects of the enhanced interrogation program and the veracity of the intelligence its extracted from detainees. The “business plan” states that Al-Qaeda captives were “resistant” to “standard” interrogation techniques, an argument the Senate report found lacked merit because torture techniques were used before they were even questioned.
Neither Jessen, who lives in Spokane, Wash., nor Mitchell, who resides in Land o’ Lakes, Fla., responded to phone calls or emails for comment. Both men are featured prominently in the Senate’s report, according to U.S. officials.