Newly released CIA documents raise questions about torture’s effectiveness

The new 50 documents making up around 900 pages were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

June 15, 2016 23:40
2 minute read.
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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CIA documents that were declassified late Tuesday raise more questions – including in an internal memorandum at the earliest stages – about whether the Bush administration’s post 9/11 enhanced interrogation or torture techniques were effective.

One CIA agent, whose name is blacked out, writes in a January 22, 2003, memo that “I will no longer be associated in any way with the interrogation program[,] due to serious reservation[ s].... Instead, I will be retiring shortly. This is a train wreck waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train.”

In another document, a CIA medical expert disagreed with interrogation agents’ assessments that the techniques had been effective in getting information out of arch terrorist Abu Zubaydah. Instead, he said that Zubaydah’s “cooperation did not correlate that well with his waterboard sessions.”

Taking apart supporters of the interrogation, the medical expert said: “A psychologist/ interrogator later said that waterboard use had established that AZ had no further information on imminent threats – a creative but circular justification.

In retrospect... AZ probably reached the point of cooperation even prior to the August institution of ‘enhanced’ measures...

there was no evidence that the waterboard produced time-perishable information” which was not obtainable otherwise.

Further, CIA lawyers seemed very concerned that the new techniques were illegal, seeking in July 2002 explicit guarantees from the US Justice Department that interrogators and their supervisors would never be prosecuted for torturing suspects.

Finally, the documents reveal new graphic details about interrogators negligence in the 2002 death of Gul Rahman, who froze to death while left nude in his cell in a CIA black site in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit.”

Giving context to why Rahman was nude, a CIA report notes, “Prisoners who possess significant or imminent threat information are stripped to their diapers during interrogation and placed back into their cells wearing only diapers.

“This is done solely to humiliate the prisoner for interrogation purposes. When the prisoner soils a diaper, they are changed by the guards.... If the guards don’t have any available diapers, the prisoners are rendered to their cell nude,” said the report.

The new 50 documents making up around 900 pages, which detail the internal workings and often doubts about the program in the early days of the Bush administration, were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The CIA continues to argue that it obtained vital intelligence using the techniques, but the 2014 report by Sen.

Diane Feinstein (D-California) found the methods were ineffective.

The techniques went out of use before US President Barack Obama was elected, and then he formally banned them in January 2009 upon taking office.

But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to bring back torture techniques worse than waterboarding if elected.

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