The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence finally released its extensive report on torture methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The full report paints a damning picture of an out-of-control program that was much less effective and far more brutal than previously known.
There are many important corollary issues to deal with involving this report and the CIA’s torture program more broadly: why no prosecutions will be forthcoming, and why the report didn’t focus on policy decisions by the Bush administration.
But for today, the report offers a monumental accounting of just how bad things got at the CIA. The unassailable conclusion one reaches after 500 pages: the United States brutally tortured detainees in the years after September 11. The intelligence community didn’t get any actionable information from it, and they lied to nearly everyone about what was going on.
Here are the essential findings.
CIA torture was extremely brutal. We knew that CIA interrogators used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and some physical abuse against detainees, but the SSCI report details horrific methods that go far beyond that—describing techniques that at times troubled even the people charged with carrying out 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,” the report said.
The sleep deprivation and forced standing was the worst at a CIA site codenamed 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, a previously reported death the report sheds more light on:
Other abuses detailed by the report:
Placing detainees in ice-water baths.
Telling detainees they would never be allowed to leave secret prisons, and at times dragging coffins into the interrogation room to underline the threat.