The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence majority report released today shows the CIA used coercive interrogation techniques amounting to torture. The blistering report released Tuesday morning indict the intelligence-gathering practices used by the United States after Sept. 11. Long in the making and politically charged, the report reveals previously undisclosed techniques used by the CIA on terrorism suspects.
The report found that “the interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.” It accuses the CIA of using interrogation techniques such as:
- Violent threats to prisoners’ families, including a threat to “cut a detainee’s mother’s throat”
- Unnecessary rectal rehydration of at least five detainees
- Waterboarding more severe than previously known and used on a wider group of suspects
The report also claims the CIA left lawmakers, including then-President George W. Bush, in the dark as to its tactics.
The nearly 7,000 page report took the Senate Intelligence Committee almost six years to compile. A critical point in the debate over the report is the effectiveness of physical abuse in extracting valuable information from suspects — a point debated even today.
Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee said the report concludes that the CIA ’s “brutal tactics … did not provide actionable intelligence.”
But CIA Director John Brennan said today in a statement, “Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom enhanced interrogation techniques were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”
The committee's Republican members released a minority report today saying the majority’s study was politicized, used a flawed process, employed problematic analysis and reached erroneous conclusions.
As Al-Qaeda suspects were rounded up, the Bush administration used legal interpretation to say they were not like prisoners of war. By doing so, the Bush team created a legal justification for harsh interrogations.
“The officers who participated in the program believed with certainty that they were engaged in a program devised by our government on behalf of the president that was necessary to protect the nation, that had appropriate legal authorization and that was sanctioned by at least some in the Congress,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
The Senate report also says that “at least 26 detainees were wrongfully held and did not meet the government’s standard for detention.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement after the report was released. It read, “These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again."
In 2005 Bush defended his administration’s interrogation tactics, saying, “There’s an enemy that lurks, that plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so you bet we’ll aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law. We do not torture.”
With the release of the committee’s report, the torture question appears answered: The U.S. did torture. The report says these methods did no good in intelligence gathering, and now the debate moves to what harm may follow coming clean about it.
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.