The CIA’s torture of Al-Qaeda suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged and did not produce useful intelligence, a damning and long-delayed US Senate report said.
The Central Intelligence Agency also misled the White House and Congress with inaccurate claims about the program’s usefulness in thwarting attacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee said.
As the 500-page declassified summary of the committee’s report was released, President Barack Obama admitted the CIA’s actions had been counterproductive and “contrary to our values.”
Among the explosive summary’s findings: a CIA operative used “Russian Roulette” to intimidate a prisoner and another — untrained in interrogation techniques — threatened to use a power drill.
Detainees were also humiliated through the painful use of medically-unnecessary “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration.” One died of hypothermia while shackled, some suffered broken limbs.
CIA director John Brennan defended his agency’s adoption of tough tactics under President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on US cities.
He insisted that, while mistakes were made, brutal techniques like waterboarding “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”
US embassies were on alert as committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein pushed ahead with publication, despite Secretary of State John Kerry warning it could provoke anger around the world.
The summary is the most extensive detailing of the CIA’s brutal interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects yet, although Obama admitted in August that: “We tortured some folks.”
Feinstein told the Senate that at least 119 detainees were held under the program and many were subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture.”
The detainees were rounded up by US operatives beginning in 2001 after Al-Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon and through to 2009.
They were interrogated either at CIA-run secret prisons in allied nations or at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Feinstein said some around the world “will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence.”
“We can’t prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law, and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again’.”
While heavily redacted, the report is damning.
“The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” it said.
The review of 6.3 million pages of documents concluded that use of the techniques “was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
Seven of 39 detainees known to have been subjected to so-called enhanced interrogations “produced no intelligence while in CIA custody,” while others “provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques.”