CIA ‘misled’ Congress on torture techniques

Leaked findings of Senate report reveal new details on secret ‘black site’ prisons

Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, accused the CIA last month of breaking the law by searching computers used by committee staff working on the report on CIA interrogations. Photograph:  Win McNamee/Getty Images

Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, accused the CIA last month of breaking the law by searching computers used by committee staff working on the report on CIA interrogations. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 01:00


The Central Intelligence Agency misled Congress and the US public about the scope and effectiveness of its controversial programme of interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects during George W Bush’s presidency, a study by an influential US Senate committee has reportedly concluded.

The long-anticipated report by the Senate intelligence committee into the CIA interrogations, some of the findings of which were leaked to the Washington Post , says that the agency concealed details about the severity of methods used and exaggerated the significance of plots and prisoners.

The newspaper reported that the CIA took credit for yielding crucial pieces of intelligence from the agency’s brutal interrogations when in fact the detainees had offered the information before their captors carried out acts of torture, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.


‘Black sites’
The report by the Senate panel, which is responsible for overseeing the CIA, includes what officials described as damning new disclosures about an extensive network of CIA-controlled secret prisons, known as “black sites”, closed by US president Barack Obama when he succeeded Mr Bush in 2009.

The millions of records viewed during the committee’s investigation show that the CIA’s capacity to obtain the most significant intelligence against al-Qaeda and other anti-US militants, including clues that led to the US’s targeted killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, had little or nothing to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques”, the Post said.

Citing information obtained from US officials, the newspaper said the most damaging findings in the report related not to the abuse of prisoners but discrepancies between high-ranking CIA officials in Washington and the written communications between lower-level staff involved in the interrogations.

The 6,300-page, $50 million (€36 million) report from the Senate investigation, which has been dogged by claims and counterclaims about computer hacking by the congressional panel and the CIA, is likely to reheat the controversy over the Bush administration’s use of interrogation methods.

The new interrogation methods were introduced in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th, 2001, when there were fears of further imminent plots against the US.


Declassification
The fresh revelations about the controversial response of the administration to the worst terror attacks on US soil emerge as the Senate committee votes tomorrow to send an executive summary of the report to Mr Obama to decide whether it should be declassified and released for publication.

New methods of abusive interrogation are reportedly contained in the Senate study, including the repeated dunking of a suspect in tanks of ice water at a CIA “black site” near Kabul in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit”. The method, which is reported to be similar to waterboarding, did not appear on any list of interrogation techniques approved by the US department of justice.

CIA officials and former employees of the agency privately told the Post that the Senate report was undermined by factual errors and misguided conclusions.

The report is likely to reveal tensions between the CIA and the FBI. Veteran CIA agents have described the report as being biased towards the law enforcement agency, as one of the authors is former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who has denounced the CIA’s interrogation techniques.

Mr Soufan, who has publicly criticised the CIA’s methods, condemned the agency for the waterboarding of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, the al-Qaeda suspect better known as Abu Zubaida. Mr Soufan found him to be co-operative after he interrogated him without using force following his capture in 2002.

Last month US senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate committee, made public a long-running dispute between the congressional panel and the CIA when she accused the agency of breaking the law by searching computers used by committee staff members working on the report.