Senate Democrats have delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogation practices after the 9/11 attacks, accusing the agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners with tactics that went well beyond legal limits. The 6,000-plus-page report compiled by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee is the first public accounting of the CIA’s use of what critics call torture on al-Qaida detainees held at “black” sites in Europe and Asia. The 500-page executive summary of the classified report is here.
The damning report of the Central Intelligence Agency included findings that the organization “routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public,” the New York Times reported.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday the brutal CIA interrogation practices used after the Sept. 11 terror attacks stands as a record of “a stain on our values and on our history.”
Her conclusions were unequivocal: The harsh interrogation methods didn’t work, she said, and the tactics were “far more brutal than people were led to believe.”
Perhaps to help explain why Americans in government felt at the time a heightened use of tactic was justified is a 2002 joint House and Senate report. Cofer Black, former Counter Terrorism Center Chief said: “All I want to say is that there was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came
off.” In an October 2001 poll by the American Enterprise Institute — just one month after the 9/11 attacks — 88 percent of respondents thought the U.S. government was doing “very/fairly well in reducing the threat of terrorism.”
In response, the GOP released a “minority views” report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. This is the conclusion:
The Study concludes that the CIA was unprepared to initiate a program of indefinite, clandestine detention using coercive interrogation techniques, something we found obvious, as no element of our government was immediately prepared to deal with the aftermath of what had happened on September 11, 2001. In reviewing the information the CIA provided for the Study, however, we were in awe of what the men and women of the CIA accomplished in their efforts to prevent another attack.
The rendition, detention, and interrogation program they created, of which enhanced interrogation was only a small part, enabled a stream of collection and intelligence validation that was unprecedented. The most important capability this program provided had nothing to do with enhanced interrogation—it was the ability to hold and question terrorists, who, if released, would certainly return to the fight, but whose guilt would be difficult to establish in a criminal proceeding without compromising sensitive sources and methods.
The CIA called the detention program a “crucial pillar of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, aiding intelligence and law enforcement operations to capture additional terrorists, helping to thwart terrorist plots, and advancing our analysis of the al-Qaida target.” We agree.
We have no doubt that the CIA’s detention program saved lives and played a vital role in weakening al Qaida while the Program was in operation. When asked about the value of detainee information and whether he missed the intelligence from it, one senior CIA operator told members, “I miss it every day.” We understand why.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, in a press release outlined four key findings of the report (you can read the full 20 further below):
1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.
The report’s full 20 main points:
- The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
- The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
- The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
- The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
- The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
- The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
- The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
- The CIA’s operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
- The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General.
- The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
- The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
- The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
- Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
- CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
- The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced Interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
- The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
- The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious and significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systemic and individual management failures.
- The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
- The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
- The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.
Statement by President Barack Obama on the report:
Throughout our history, the United States of America has done more than any other nation to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the inherent dignity and human rights of people around the world. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, these public servants have worked tirelessly to devastate core al Qaeda, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupt terrorist operations and thwart terrorist attacks. Solemn rows of stars on the Memorial Wall at the CIA honor those who have given their lives to protect ours. Our intelligence professionals are patriots, and we are safer because of their heroic service and sacrifices.
In the years after 9/11, with legitimate fears of further attacks and with the responsibility to prevent more catastrophic loss of life, the previous administration faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against our country. As I have said before, our nation did many things right in those difficult years. At the same time, some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values. That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.
Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.
As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. We will therefore continue to be relentless in our fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates and other violent extremists. We will rely on all elements of our national power, including the power and example of our founding ideals. That is why I have consistently supported the declassification of today’s report. No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past. Today is also a reminder that upholding the values we profess doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger and that the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.
The CIA also released a statement about the report, part of which is included below.
[W]e acknowledge that the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the Agency made mistakes. The most serious problems occurred early on and stemmed from the fact that the Agency was unprepared and lacked the core competencies required to carry out an unprecedented, worldwide program of detaining and interrogating suspected al-Qaida and affiliated terrorists. In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us. As an Agency, we have learned from these mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies.
Story includes information compiled from wire reports