CIA lied over interrogations that amounted to torture

Interrogations did not lead to information that foiled attacks, Senate report finds

U.S. President Barack Obama in an interview with Univision acknowledges a Senate report on "enhanced interrogation" and says anybody who engaged in such act would “be breaking the law.” Video: Reuters


The Central Intelligence Agency lied about “brutal” interrogations that amounted to torture in the years after the September 2001 attacks on the United States, a long-awaited Senate report has concluded.

A summary of a five-year study - the most comprehensive of the treatment of al-Qaeda suspects during the George W Bush era - found the interrogations did not lead to information that foiled attacks and that the CIA misled the American public about their effectiveness.

Compiled by Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee, the scathing 500-page summary, part of a 6,700-page report that has yet to be published in full, said detainees were treated far more brutally than previously disclosed.

Stress positions

They were subjected to simulated drowning or “waterboarding” to the point of “a series of near drownings” in the case of one detainee. Another was “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth”.

Some detainees were kept awake for more than a week and subjected to “rectal feeding”. One prisoner died of suspected hypothermia after being chained partially naked to a concrete floor at one of the CIA-run secret prisons or “black sites” outside the US.

From 2005, the CIA virtually outsourced all aspects of the programme to an outside company set up by psychologists which was paid $81 million for its work, the report found.

Senior CIA officials were accused of repeatedly exaggerating the value of the programme in private briefings at the White House and to Congress, and in public speeches.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who led the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation, described the CIA’s activities during the 2002-07 period as “a stain on our values and our history”.

Rebuffing warnings from Republicans and former Bush aides that the report could incite violence against Americans overseas, she said its release was essential to show the world that the US is “big enough to admit when it is wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes”.

President Obama said the report brought to light a “troubling” programme involving practices that were “contrary to our values”.

Republican response

CIA director John Brennan maintained the interrogation programme did help to save American lives.

“The intelligence gained from the programme was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” he said.

The report contained no references to the use of Shannon Airport, which served as a refuelling stopover for CIA-leased aircraft travelling from the US to “render” suspects to secret prisons in Europe and Asia.

The Irish Department of Justice said it recognised a small number of commercially leased aircraft that may have been involved in US “rendition” operations passed through Irish airports, but that there was no evidence to suggest they were carrying prisoners.