The U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture after Sept. 11, 2001, released on Tuesday, details brutal techniques that yielded little or no useful information.
The report includes descriptions of the treatment of many of the 39 detainees known to have been tortured in what the agency called its “enhanced interrogation” program.
1. Sensory deprivation, constant darkness, loud noise and music
CIA interrogators used many of these techniques on Abu Zubaydah, who fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and, the agency says, worked with Al Qaeda before being captured by Pakistani authorities.
On the same day he was captured in Pakistan, emails obtained by the committee show that CIA attorneys discussed the legality of torture.
Speaking with FBI agents before he was tortured in a CIA detention site, Zubaydah voluntarily identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the “mastermind” of the Sept. 11 attacks.
CIA officers then told the FBI that they would take over the interrogation.
In a message to bureau headquarters, an FBI agent involved in the interrogation complained that the agent had developed a rapport with Zubaydah and believed he would provide useful information.
Soon after, according to the report, Zubaydah was sedated and transferred to CIA custody.
There, he was kept naked in a white cell lit constantly with fluorescent lights.
Guards dressed from head-to-toe in black, including gloves, goggles and balaclavas — a measure intended to prevent Zubaydah from identifying the guards or seeing them as people.
The guards did not speak when they were in Zubaydah’s cell, which was filled constantly with white noise or “loud rock music.”
After a week, the same FBI agent interviewed Zubaydah, who described a plan to explode a dirty bomb somewhere in the U.S.
The CIA has said that information helped to apprehend José Padilla, but the head of the CIA Zubaydah task force said in an email obtained by the committee that the agency had already been aware of Padilla.
2. Stress positions
During a 20-day stretch of interrogation, CIA officers confined Zubaydah in two small boxes. For 11 days, he was locked in a box the size of a coffin.
He spent a further 29 hours in a smaller box, about 1 metre high and 1 metre deep by half a metre long — about the size of a small dog crate.
He was later forced to stand in a stress position, with his hands above his head, for about 60 hours.
Zubaydah maintained that he did not have any more information to give.
On the sixth day of that 20-day interrogation, the CIA officers torturing Zubaydah told CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., they did not think he had any information they needed — then continued to torture him for two weeks.
According to the report, Zubaydah was waterboarded at least twice a day, sometimes four times, for 20 days.
He became prone to spasms, “hysterical,” so distressed that he could not communicate with interrogators and at one point was “completely unresponsive,” with bubbles coming from his open, water-filled mouth.
According to the report, Zubaydah became so accustomed to the treatment that he would respond to the interrogator’s raised eyebrow by sitting down on the waterboarding table, and would lie down when the interrogator snapped his fingers.
Several CIA officers were apparently deeply disturbed by what they were doing to Zubaydah, with some in tears and “choking up.”
Several suggested that they would seek a transfer away from the detention site if the torture continued.
That torture produced no useful or new information, the CIA concluded.
4. Force feeding
Force feeding through tubes inserted into a detainee’s nose or throat was used often, the report says.
CIA officers also used tubes and IV bags filled with Ensure, a liquid meal substitute, for “rectal feeding.”
At least five detainees were subjected to that treatment, or what the report describes as “rectal rehydration.” In no case were the procedures considered to be medically necessary, the report concludes.
In at least three documented cases, CIA officers threatened to kill or hurt detainees’ families.
The report also describes one CIA officer telling a detainee that he would never see a court because the agency “can never let the world know what I have done to you.”
During the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who the CIA believed was involved in the bombing of the USS Cole and the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, an untrained CIA officer held a handgun near his head and later turned on an electric drill while al-Nashiri was blindfolded.
Al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded and subjected to a wide range of other torture, did not provide any useful information as a result of those interrogations, the report concludes.