Senate Report Condemns CIA Torture Methods

December 9, 2014 Updated: December 10, 2014

After years of intense controversy, and over the objections of Senate Republicans and the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday made public a 500 page summary of its report on CIA interrogation and intelligence gathering methods that were authorized after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The methods were banned in 2009. The summary gives new details about brutal treatment of prisoners. Senate Republicans investigated the matter and wrote a separate report.

Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D. Calif.) explained her reasoning in a statement for producing the report:

“There are those who will seize upon the report and say ‘see what Americans did,’ and they will try to use it to justify evil actions or to incite more violence. We cannot 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.'”

Senate investigators accused the CIA of torturing prisoners and lying about the actions and their effectiveness to Congress, the White House, and the public. The summary drew evidence from CIA files, and stated that the interrogation methods employed by the agency were harsher than what had been previously known.

“This document examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques—in some cases amounting to torture,” Feinstein said.

Rebuts

The Senate Republicans’ report rebuts each of the claims made by the majority report and criticizes as flawed the way in which the majority report was written: “Absent the support of the documentary record, and on the basis of a flawed analytical methodology, these problematic claims and conclusions create the false impression that the CIA was actively misleading policymakers and impeding the counterterrorism efforts of other federal government agencies during the Program’s operation.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arrives to release a report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arrives to release a report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The report describes in graphic detail the interrogation methods employed on prisoners suspected of terrorist ties since the program was authorized in 2002.

Redha al-Najar, a former Osama bin Laden bodyguard, was the first prisoner in a CIA facility in Afghanistan. In September 2002, he was hooded and subjected to round-the-clock music or interrogations to prevent him from sleeping—though there was no indication he was resisting interrogators.

Broken

A month later, CIA questioners found al-Najar a “broken man” and on the verge of a “complete breakdown.” But the treatment got worse, with officials lowering his food ration, keeping him shackled in the cold and giving him a diaper instead of toilet access, the report states.

The report also describes individual cases of mistreatment of prisoners, which it said were never authorized, such as ice-baths and forced rehydration.

It stated that some 20 prominent successful counterterrorism operations did not rely on those coercive techniques as had been previously asserted.

The declassified summary is based on a 6,700-page document that was the culmination of a five-year investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Thwarted Attacks

The current director of the C.I.A., John Brennan, released a statement criticizing the Senate report. In the statement, he disputes the Senate report’s claim that the enhanced interrogations were not effective: “Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”

Feinstein has drawn criticism from some of her colleagues, who disagree with the conclusions and think it is wrong and dangerous to reveal the CIA’s secrets.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said in a joint statement that the report could “endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies.”

Feinstein has acknowledged the drawbacks of releasing the report but defended its release.

“There may never be the right time to release this report,” Feinstein said on the Senate floor. “This report is too important to shelve indefinitely.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.