NEW YORK – The result of a five-year Senate investigation into the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects following the 9/11 attacks has revealed a staggering level of brutality and violence carried out by members of the US intelligence community.
The scathing summary reveals details of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program" instituted during the George W. Bush administration, which involved shipping terrorism suspects to secret overseas prisons, where they were subjected to torture including waterboarding, which resulted in “a series of near drownings”.
Contrary to previous CIA disclosures, the study reveals that waterboarding was likely used on more than three detainees, with materials such as buckets and water found at blacksites the agency had previously stated were not used for waterboarding.
Detainees were also subjected to threats of sexual violence using a broomstick and the use of "rectal hydration", with interrogations lasting days or even weeks. Food was also delivered rectally to break hunger strikes. Mock executions, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and other forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were also commonplace.
The report also alleges that CIA officials deceived the White House and members of Congress into the details of the interrogation programme, while disclosing all 119 prisoners held by the CIA as terror suspects, including 26 who were held due to bad intelligence or mistaken identity.
The investigation concludes that the torture programme did not yield results, and that “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced no breakthroughs in intelligence.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the intelligence panel, said in a statement on Tuesday: "The committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism 'successes' that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques. Each of those examples was found to be wrong in fundamental respects."
The study adds that as the techniques were ineffective, the CIA routinely lied to Congress and the White House in presentations that claimed that torture had contributed to intelligence victories. The study also refutes the CIA assertion that torture provided the key information for bringing about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Following publication of the summary, the CIA moved to refute Feinstein's conclusions, publishing a 100-page rebuttal that argued for the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation.
“The sum total of information provided from detainees in CIA custody substantially advanced the Agency’s strategic and tactical understanding of the enemy in ways that continue to inform counterterrorism efforts to this day," said the agency.
“It is impossible to imagine how CIA could have achieved the same results in terms of disrupting plots, capturing other terrorists, and degrading al Qaida without any information from detainees, but it is unknowable whether, without enhanced interrogation techniques, CIA or non-CIA interrogators could have acquired the same information from those detainees."
In his official response, CIA Director John Brennan said on Tuesday: "In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us. As an agency, we have learned from these mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies."
The report also revealed how the CIA falsely claimed it had thwarted a terror plot in the UK. The summary said the capture of al Qaida's UK operational manager Dhiren Barot is one of the CIA's eight most frequently cited examples of how using interrogation methods can "save lives".
However, a review of CIA operational cables and other documents found that the Agency's interrogation techniques did not lead to the intelligence that it claimed led to the arrest of Barot or the thwarting of his plotting. Instead, the report said, the disruption of the plot and the identification and arrest of Barot was "attributable to the efforts of UK law enforcement".
Barot was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court in 2006 to life, with a minimum term of 30 years, for planning to plant radioactive, chemical or toxic gas bombs and pack limousines with nails and explosives in the UK and America.
Responding to the summary, President Barack Obama released a statement calling the report "troubling" and "inconsistent with our values as nation".
He said: "The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."
"That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again," Obama added.
Speaking after talks with the Turkish prime minister in Ankara, the Prime Minister said: "Let's be clear: torture is wrong; torture is always wrong." He added: "In Britain we have had the Gibson Inquiry and that inquiry has now produced a series of questions that the Intelligence and Security Committee will look at.
"But I am satisfied that our system is dealing with all these issues and I, as Prime Minister, have issued guidance to all of our agents and others working around the world about how they have to handle these issues in future."
Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti said: "The breadth and brutality of CIA torture is laid bare - can our own authorities keep averting their eyes? Still no sign of a judge-led inquiry into UK involvement in this shameful scandal - instead the Government's new Bill furnishes the agencies with more powers to leave Britons vulnerable to torture abroad."
Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas said: "This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorised by the highest authorities in the USA after 9/11.
"The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, are a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorised and used torture and other ill-treatment.
"This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”
The summary was released on Tuesday, despite appeals from within the Obama administration and from members of the Republicans Party to delay the publication over fears it would incite violence around the world.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed in a briefing on Monday that the report would be released, adding: "The timing of the release is something that has always been up to the committee. This is a decision that they have made."
The spokesman said that US embassies around the globe had been put on high alert in anticipation of the report’s publication, with “some indications” that there would be blowback, particularly in countries where CIA torture was carried out.
The committee voted in April to make details of the report public, sparking an eight-month political battle between the CIA, the White house and members of the Senate panel as to how much information should be declassified. An agreement was finally reached last week.
The CIA said that it had made preparations for the reports publication by issuing warnings to personnel overseas, as well as aiding current and former staff should they be identified in the report.
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Senator Feinstein asking for a delay the summary’s publication, a plea that the intelligence panel ignored.