Brutal and Ineffective

Brutal and Ineffective

Torture report


On December 9, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its extensive report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The unassailable conclusion after 500 pages: the United States brutally tortured detainees in the years after 9/11. The intelligence agency didn’t get any actionable information from it, and it lied to nearly everyone about what was going on.

CIA torture was extremely sadistic. We knew that CIA interrogators used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and some physical abuse against detainees, but the Senate report details horrific techniques that go far beyond these—describing methods that at times troubled even the people charged with carrying out the interrogations.

CIA personnel would routinely keep detainees awake for inhuman amounts of time—“up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads,” according to the report.

These methods were the worst at a site code-named COBALT in the report, which analysts agree is the infamous “Salt Pit” prison in Afghanistan. At one point, the CIA’s chief of interrogations there described it as a literal dungeon. One detainee died at COBALT while shackled to a wall.

The torture wasn’t effective. If there’s one sentence to take away from the report, it’s this: “the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.” The report found not a single instance in which torture led to a piece of information that couldn’t have been otherwise obtained by routine interrogation. This undercuts virtually every defense made by Bush officials of the program.

The CIA was lying—to everybody. According to the report, “much of the information the CIA provided to the media on the operation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques was inaccurate and was similar to the inaccurate information provided by the CIA to the Congress, the Department of Justice, and the White House.”

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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