A graphic Senate report containing an examination of CIA torture techniques that was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA were not effective in obtaining information from detainees or getting them to cooperate with the agency. The report goes on to describe the harsh treatment of prisoners that, in at least one case, resulted in death.
The Senate report itself does not call the interrogation procedures torture. However, in the foreword of the report, Dianne Feinstein, who is the chairwoman of the committee, said that, “… it is my personal conclusion that, under any meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured.”
The document released by the committee was a summary of the full study that is reported to contain more than 6,700 pages. While the full report is classified, the summary contains much detailed information about both the extreme treatment of prisoners and whether the CIA misled Congress and the White House.
The Senate CIA torture report details various harsh methods used to interrogate detainees, often combined, that were more brutal and prolonged than the agency had previously told policymakers. Interrogation methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours while placing prisoners in stress positions for long periods that eventually caused hallucinations. Detainees were slammed against walls, “rectal rehydration” (or enemas) were administered, and prisoners were placed in ice baths. The repeated use of waterboarding figured prominently in the report. The sessions were described as a series of near drownings requiring resuscitation on at least one occasion. Detainees were often stripped naked or kept shackled in cold darkness with loud noise or deafening music.
Other claims cite the CIA for providing inaccurate information to the White House, Department of Justice, and others on the effectiveness of these methods in thwarting terrorist plots and capturing terrorists that resulted in the saving of lives. The Committee examined many instances in which these claims were made and disagreed with the CIA that the information came from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. The information, said the report, came from other sources or was already known.
Throughout, the study found that the CIA also hampered oversight of these activities by the White House, Congress, and its own Office of Inspector General.
In response to the Senate report, CIA Director John Brennan said that the Agency disagreed with the study’s conclusions that the interrogation program was not useful in producing intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives. However, he said that the CIA was not prepared to conduct the type and level of detainment and interrogation that was necessary after 9/11. Most shortcomings, he said, were corrected by 2003. He also disagreed that the Agency avoided oversight or purposely misrepresented its activities.
On the subject of the interrogation of detainees, Director Brennen admitted on December 11 that some of the treatment was “abhorrent,” however. “It was unknown and unknowable whether the harsh treatment yielded crucial intelligence that could have been gained in any other way,” he said.
A major concern with the release of the inflammatory conclusions is the potential for violence around the world. The Washington Post reports that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said U.S. military forces were on “high alert everywhere in the world.” Much of the same kind of information has been released previously, though not in the graphic detail provided by the committee, and the degree to which the report would instigate violence is unknown. Additionally, the recent brutality committed by extremists may lessen sympathy for detainees who were considered a grave threat during the post-9/11 era.