The Dungeon-Like ‘Salt Pit’
Opened in Sept. 2002, this “poorly managed” detention facility was the second site opened by the CIA after the 9/11 attacks. The Senate report refers to it by the pseudonym Cobalt, but details of what happened there indicate that it’s a notorious “black site” in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. Although the facility kept few formal records, the committee concluded that untrained CIA operatives conducted unauthorized, unsupervised interrogation there.
A Senate aide who briefed reporters on the condition that he not be identified said that the Cobalt site was run by a junior officer with no relevant experience, and that this person had “issues” in his background that should have disqualified him from working for the CIA at all. The aide didn’t specify what those issues were, but suggested that the CIA should have flagged them. The committee found that some employees at the site lacked proper training and had “histories of violence and mistreatment of others.”
Standing on Broken Legs
In November 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to the floor died, apparently from hypothermia. This case appears similar to the that of Gul Rahman, who died of similarly explained causes at an Afghan site known as the “Salt Pit,” also in November 2002. The site was also called “The Dark Prison” by former captives.
The aide said that the Cobalt site was was dark, like a dungeon, and that experts who visited the site said they’d never seen an American prison where people were kept in such conditions. The facility was so dark in some places that guard had to wear head lamps, while other rooms were flooded with bright lights and white noise to disorient detainees.
At the Cobalt facility, the CIA also forced some detainees who had broken feet or legs to stand in stress-inducing positions, despite having earlier pledged that they wouldn’t subject those wounded individuals to treatment that might exacerbate their injuries.
Starting with Abu Zubaydah, and following with other detainees, the CIA deployed the harshest techniques from the beginning without trying to first elicit information in an “open, non-threatening manner,” the committee found. The torture continued nearly non-stop, for days or weeks at a time.
The CIA instructed personnel at the site that the interrogation of Zubaydah, who’d been shot during his capture, should take “precedence over his medical care,” the committee found, leading to an infection in a bullet wound incurred during his capture. Zubaydah lost his left eye while in custody. The CIA’s instructions also ran contrary to how it told the Justice Department the prisoner would be treated.
Forced Rectal Feeding and Worse
At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration,” without any documented medical need. “While IV infusion is safe and effective,” one officer wrote, rectal hydration could be used as a form of behavior control.
Others were deprived of sleep, which could involve staying awake for as long as 180 hours—sometimes standing, sometimes with their hands shackled above their heads.
Some detainees were forced to walk around naked, or shackled with their hands above their heads. In other instances, naked detainees were hooded and dragged up and down corridors while subject to physical abuse.
At one facility, detainees were kept in total darkness and shackled in cells with loud noise or music, and only a bucket to use for waste.
While the CIA has said publicly that it held about 100 detainees, the committee found that at least 119 people were in the agency’s custody.
“The fact is they lost track and they didn’t really know who they were holding,” the Senate aide said, noting that investigators found emails in which CIA personnel were “surprised” to find some people in their custody. The CIA also determined that at least 26 of its detainees were wrongfully held. Due to the agency’s poor record-keeping, it may never be known precisely how many detainees were held, and how they were treated in custody, the committee found.
No Blockbuster Intelligence
The report will conclude that the CIA’s interrogation techniques never yielded any intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks. Investigators didn’t conclude that no information came from the program at all. Rather, the committee rejects the CIA’s contention that information came from the program that couldn’t have been obtained through other means.
“When you put detainees through these [torture sessions] they will say whatever they can say to get the interrogations to stop,” the Senate aide said.
The Senate Intelligence Committee reviewed 20 cited examples of intelligence “successes” that the CIA identified from the interrogation program and found that there was no relationship between a cited counterterrorism success and the techniques used. Furthermore, the information gleaned during torture sessions merely corroborated information already available to the intelligence community from other sources, including reports, communications intercepts, and information from law-enforcement agencies, the committee found. The CIA had told policymakers and the Department of Justice that the information from torture was unique or “otherwise unavailable.” Such information comes from the “kind of good national-security tradecraft that we rely on to stop terrorist plots at all times,” the Senate aide said.
In developing the enhanced interrogation techniques, the report said, the CIA failed to review the historical use of coercive interrogations. The resulting techniques were described as “discredited coercive interrogation techniques such as those used by torturous regimes during the Cold War to elicit false confessions,” according to the committee. The CIA acknowledged that it never properly reviewed the effectiveness of these techniques, despite the urging of the CIA inspector general, congressional leadership, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Contractors and Shrinks
The CIA relied on two outside contractors who were psychologists with experience at the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school to help develop, run, and assess the interrogation program. Neither had experience as an interrogator, nor any specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, counterterrorism, or relevant linguistic expertise, the committee found. In 2005, these two psychologists formed a company, and following this the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the interrogation program to them. The company was paid more than $80 million by the CIA.
Lies to the President
An internal report by the CIA, known as the Panetta Review, found that there were numerous inaccuracies in the way the agency represented the effectiveness of interrogation techniques—and that the CIA misled the president about this. The CIA’s records also contradict the evidence the agency provided of some “thwarted” terrorist attacks and the capture of suspects, which the CIA linked to the use of these enhanced techniques. The Senate’s report also concludes that there were cases in which White House questions were not answered truthfully or completely.
In the early days of the program, CIA officials briefed the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee. Few records of that session remain, but Senate investigators found a draft summary of the meeting, written by a CIA lawyers, that notes lawmakers “questioned the legality of these techniques.” But the lawyer deleted that line from the final version of the summary. The Senate investigators found that Jose Rodriguez, once the CIA’s top spy and a fierce defender of the interrogation program, made a note on the draft approving of the deletion: “Short and sweet,” Rodriguez wrote of the newly revised summary that failed to mention lawmakers’ concerns about the legality of the program.
Threats to Mothers
CIA officers threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.” In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.
Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.
Sexual Assault by Interrogators
Officers in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program included individuals who the committee said, “among other things, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
OFF THE GRID: NINE CIA ‘BLACK SITES’ WHERE DETAINEES WERE TORTURED
Source: The Intercept
Six days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, President George W. Bush issued a directive allowing the CIA to secretly detain and interrogate prisoners at clandestine sites located around the world, cut off from communication with legal counsel, family, and everyone else. The locations of eight of these sites, along with descriptions of some of the deeply disturbing practices there, were included in today’s release of the so-called “torture report” — the heavily redacted executive summary of a senate committee study of the CIA’s Bush-era interrogation program.
The report identifies the locations of the CIA black sites by color codes and redacts the country names, but previous reports by NGOs, European agencies, media reports and detainee statements can identify most of the locations. The sites are located in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Thailand, and a secret site on the Guantanamo Naval Base, known as Strawberry Fields, – “forever.”
Photo: Google Maps
Mr. Brennan, in a rare televised news conference from CIA headquarters, said it was “unknown and unknowable” whether crucial intelligence could have been gleaned any other way. He dubbed some techniques “abhorrent,” but the director praised agency employees for shouldering the heavy burden of keeping America safe during the years immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks.…
Mr. Brennan stopped short of using the word “torture” Thursday, saying he would “leave to others how they might want to label those activities.” He also declined to discuss the drone program when pressed by a reporter on whether he worries that it too may one day come under the kind of public scrutiny and debate that the coercive interrogation program has been subjected to this week.
On November 9, 2005, CIA Director of National Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez, Jr. authorized the burning of 92 videotapes depicting the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and ’Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. In response to the destruction of those tapes, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to review the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program on March 5, 2009. With access to over six million pages of CIA documents, the Committee merely provided a superficial summary without bothering to interview any participants or victims of the RDI program.
Shot and captured during a raid in Pakistan in 2002, one of the first detainees, Abu Zubaydah, had been recovering in a hospital when he provided information to FBI agents regarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM). Insisting that Zubaydah was withholding more information, CIA interrogators waterboarded him at least 83 times. Although Zubaydah had given up the information about KSM weeks before being tortured, the CIA credits this human rights violation as a success and his interrogation became a template for future atrocities.
In a case of mistaken identity, German citizen Khalid El-Masri was abducted by the Macedonian police and handed over to the CIA. After months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories, El-Masri was released without charges.
Although the report mentions Binyam Mohamed, the Committee neglected to investigate his allegations of torture. Arrested in Pakistan on April 10, 2002, Mohamed was transported to a CIA black site where he was beaten, burned, and suffered cuts along his torso and penis with a scalpel. The US eventually dropped all charges against Mohamed and released him.
Omitted from the summary are the murder of Abdul Wali and the killing of Manadel al-Jamadi. Between June 19 and 20, 2003, CIA contractor David Passaro beat an Afghan suspect named Abdul Wali to death with a metal flashlight. At the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, Manadel al-Jamadi died in a shower room under CIA interrogation with his arms tied behind his back. Former Specialist Charles Graner, Jr. notoriously posed over al-Jamadi’s corpse for a photo before being charged with torturing his prisoners. Mark Swanner, the CIA interrogator, has not been charged with al-Jamadi’s death.
Also missing from the executive summary is the rendition and torture of an Egyptian cleric named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. Kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan on February 17, 2003, Nasr lost hearing in one ear after months of beatings and electric shocks. On November 4, 2009, an Italian judge convictedin absentia 22 suspected or known CIA agents, an Air Force colonel, and two Italian secret agents of kidnapping Nasr.
According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the questionable backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information obtained through torture.
Although the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released nearly 500 heavily redacted pages from their executive summary, the full report containing over 6,700 pages remains classified. After CIA agents hacked into computers belonging to members of the Committee and their staff last year, CIA Director John Brennan falsely accused the Committee of stealing classified files in an attempt to suppress the release of the report. As Senators called for his resignation, Brennan was forced to apologize to the Committee.
Instead of holding anyone accountable for devising or utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques, Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen received $81 million prior to their contract’s termination in 2009. Former CIA case officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison after revealing the torture program during an interview with ABC News. Kiriakou was charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 by giving Deuce Martinez’s business card to New York Times reporter Scott Shane. Martinez had been a CIA interrogator working for Mitchell Jessen and Associates.
While exposing the CIA’s lies about thwarting terrorist attacks, locating Osama bin Laden, and saving lives through the use of torture, the Committee failed to enumerate the worst atrocities committed in our names. Acting with impunity, the CIA bears a sordid history composed of decades of kidnapping, torture, and assassination with no end in sight.
I thought I could not be shocked by the CIA torture report until I listened to NPR’s Audie Cornish interview with the former Deputy CIA director John McLaughlin:
CORNISH: What about the issue, then, of the brutality itself? Another charge here is that the program was just much more brutal than the CIA represented to law makers or to the public, and gets fairly graphic in terms of things like abuse of detainees rectally and things like that.I mean, what’s your response to the idea of the brutality being far worse than represented?MCLAUGHLIN: Well, people need to read the CIA rebuttal on this.
We live in a never-never world of Newspeak, where waterboarding of American prisoners by the Japanese soldiers in WWII was prosecutable torture but only “enhanced interrogation” when performed by the CIA.
Now it appears that CIA interrogators were raping suspects as well. “According to the Senate report: “At least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.”
This is emphatically clear–there was no sane medical reason to rectally insert anything into these prisoners. Do not let McLaughlin and others lie their way out of this. In a premeditated manner the interrogators planned the rape and humiliation of these prisoners. Their only justification was to break the victim emotionally, the same goal that all rapists have.
When feeding or rehydrating someone who cannot or will not be fed or rehydrated, every beginning medical student knows that you use a nasogastric tube to deliver fluids. The tube goes in the other end, down the mouth so that liquids are naturally processed by the digestive tract. It is common to see prisoners on hunger-strike being force fed with a naso-gastric tube, so the technology was not completely unknown to the interrogators. And they didn’t just accidentally get it wrong.
Except in very unusual circumstances, sticking this tube up someone’s rectum is medically contraindicated since you don’t get efficient large bowel absorption of water and nutrients and you end up giving the patient an enema. As any first year med student knows, you would have to be a moron to do this. Or a sick rapist bastard. And this was part of their interrogation tactics.
Place yourself in the detainee’s position for a moment. They strip you, beat you, threaten and humiliate you. And then they start forcing something up your ass. Regardless of the value of your information that could stop a crime, can you imagine this occurring in any police station in the United States? Fortunately, when the perpetrators are caught and convicted, they go to jail for a very long time.
Is it justifiable to rape someone to get actionable intelligence to stop terrorism? This takes the debate to another, more twisted plane than simply beating, threatening, waterboarding and sometimes killing detainees. Somehow, abusing and torturing a terrorist suspect seems less evil, more morally equivalent. But to rape with premeditation the prisoners? What demented soul thought that this was a good patriotic American thing to do?
How do these interrogators live with themselves? These CIA interrogators were Americans and were paid by taxpayers like you and me a living wage to rape individuals in the course of their work. Legally. Some of these folks may be your neighbors or coaches on your kids’ Little League teams. I wonder what kind of hell they live in if they have any kind of self-reflection. I only wish Cornish had used the word “rape” in her interview instead of her clinically-detached description, just as I wished reporters would have had the guts to use the word “torture” instead of “enhanced interrogation” eight years ago in their reporting.
The irony of this is too great–with the ongoing debate over college rape and Aaron Sorkin and the rest. Apparently, it can be, under some circumstances, reasonable for US officials to rape prisoners under United States policy. Sirs, do you have no shame?
YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO THE CIA USED TO JUSTIFY TORTURE
|CIA Used Israel to Justify TortureWritten by Linda Gradstein FOR|
Israeli Court Decisions Allow Torture for “Ticking Bombs”
The newly-released report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s use of torture says that CIA lawyers used Israel as a justification for building a legal case for torture of Al-Qa’ida suspects after the 9/11 attacks.
Most of the 6000 page-report remains classified. But according to the 528 pages that were released, in November 2001 CIA officers said they wanted legal justification for the interrogation methods they had begun using. The report cites the “Israeli example” that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”
Israeli government spokesmen chose not to comment on the report. But an official at the Public Committee against Torture in Israel explained the “necessity defense” which is used against Palestinian suspects.
In 1987, the Landau Commission recommended that interrogators be allowed to use “moderate physical pressure” in cases where psychological pressure was not effective. That ruling was overturned in 1999 by the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that torture is unacceptable in Israel and then went on to detail various things that fall under the purview of torture,” Rachel Stroumsa, project manager at the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel told The Media Line. “The ruling left a loophole in what it called the “ticking bomb” situation.”
A “ticking bomb” means that a suspect knows where a bomb has been planted that is set to explode. In those cases, torture can be used to discover the place of the bomb.
“It means that if an interrogator feels compelled to use torture by necessity, he will be covered legally,” Stroumsa said. “You can’t get approval in advance for these cases.”
She said her organization deals with 100 – 150 cases per year, although she believes there are many more instances. Many Palestinians are afraid to come forward, afraid they or their family members will be arrested and tortured again.
Israeli officials say that intelligence interrogators are given clear instructions not to use torture, and that it is only used in extreme cases. However, Palestinian rights groups have claimed that some elements of what they call torture such as sleep deprivation are routinely used. Much of the evidence against a Palestinian prisoner is sealed and not presented in open court for security reasons.
The report also quotes the CIA attorney who referred to the “ticking bomb” scenario and said that “enhanced techniques could not be pre-approved for such situations, but if worst comes to worst, an officer who engaged in such activities could assert a common-law necessity defense if he were every prosecuted.”
Israel is also mentioned in another context. According to the report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qa’ida official who planned the 9/11 attacks reportedly told his interrogators abut plans to carry out attacks on various targets including “an Israeli embassy in the Middle East.” Israel has peace treaties and embassies with two countries – Egypt and Jordan.