9th December 2014: after over five years of investigation, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has released a redacted executive summary of its 6,000-page report on the CIA’s rendition, secret detention and torture programme. The summary is available at http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf. In her foreword to the report, Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said:
“I have attempted throughout to remember the impact on the nation and to the CIA workforce from the attacks of September 11, 2001. I can understand the CIA’s impulse to consider the use of every possible tool to gather intelligence and remove terrorists from the battlefield, and CIA was encouraged by political leaders and the public to do whatever it could to prevent another attack.”
“Nevertheless, such pressure, fear, and expectation of further terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security. The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the Intelligence Community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards. It is precisely at these times of national crisis that our government must be guided by the lessons of our history and subject decisions to internal and external review.
Instead, CIA personnel, aided by two outside contractors, decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the use of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”
“It is my sincere and deep hope that through the release of these Findings and Conclusions and Executive Summary that U.S. policy will never again allow for secret indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations. As the Study describes, prior to the attacks of September 2001, the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations, that such techniques “do not produce intelligence,” “will probably result in false answers,” and had historically proven to be ineffective. Yet these conclusions were ignored. We cannot again allow history to be forgotten and grievous past mistakes to be repeated.”
“President Obama signed Executive Order 13491 in January 2009 to prohibit the CIA from holding detainees other than on a ‘short-term, transitory basis’ and to limit interrogation techniques to those included in the Army Field Manual. However, these limitations are not part of U.S. law and could be overturned by a future president with the stroke of a pen. They should be enshrined in legislation.
Even so, existing U.S. law and treaty obligations should have prevented many of the abuses and mistakes made during this program. While the Office of Legal Counsel found otherwise between 2002 and 2007, it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.
While the Committee did not make specific recommendations, several emerge from the Committee’s review. The CIA, in its June 2013 response to the Committee’s Study from December 2012, has also already made and begun to implement its own recommendations. I intend to work with Senate colleagues to produce recommendations and to solicit views from the readers of the Committee Study.”
“The Committee Study, including the now-declassified Executive Summary and Findings and Conclusions, as updated is now final and represents the official views of the Committee. This and future Administrations should use this Study to guide future programs, correct past mistakes, increase oversight of CIA representations to policymakers, and ensure coercive interrogation practices are not used by our government again.”
The report confirms that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA amounted to torture:
“At least five CIA detainees were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water ‘baths’. The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.” CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’” [Report Findings and Conclusions, page 11]
The report further establishes that the use of such techniques did little to provide effective intelligence or strengthen national security:
“The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees […] For example, according to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody.* CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques. While being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.” [Report Findings and Conclusions, page 2]
The work of a number of the Sigrid Rausing Trust’s grantees has contributed to the findings of the Committee, including ACLU, whose litigation under the Freedom of Information Act about the CIA’s torture programme, and the subsequent destruction of evidence, was one of the catalysts for the investigation. Links to our grantees’ coverage of the case are below:
Association for the Prevention of Torture: http://www.apt.ch/en/blog/so-now-we-know-what-comes-after-the-torture-report/#.VIrFP2cYS70
Center for Justice and Accountability: http://www.cja.org/downloads/Senate%20Intelligence%20Committee%20Executive%20Summary%20Final.pdf
Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/10/us-senate-report-slams-cia-torture-lies
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