Senate accuses CIA of torturing prisoners, overstepping legal boundaries

Anti-torture demonstrators performed a mock waterboarding outside the White House during the Bush years to protest CIA use of the technique. (Photo: flickr)

The intelligence committee of the United States Senate has released its long-awaited congressional report detailing the CIA’s use of torture on prisoners in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

On Tuesday, the executive summary of the roughly 6,000-page report was finally published by the Senate Intelligence Committee, for the first time exposing the panel’s findings following a four-year-long investigation conducted at a cost of more than $40 million.

“There may never be the right time to release this report,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the committee’s chair, said on the Senate floor early Tuesday concurrent with the release of the executive summary. “The instability we see today will not be resolved in months or years. But this report is too important to shelf indefinitely.”

A fraction of the full report, the 480-page executive summary contains the committee’s conclusions concerning the post-9/11 tactics deployed by the CIA under the administration of US President George W Bush in an attempt to gain intelligence from suspected terrorists. Those techniques, including sleep deprivation and the simulated-drowning practice known as waterboarding, have since been reined in by Pres. Barack Obama; with respect to their impact, Sen. Feinstein said previously that her panel’s probe lent to “critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight” and showed that the CIA undermined “societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of.”

Among the report’s findings is that: the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence; the CIA’s justification for the use of such tactics rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness; the interrogations and conditions of confinement of detainees was “far brutal and far worse” than the CIA claimed; and that the CIA “actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.”

One portion of the report reveals that the committee analyzed 20 of “the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed” to its interrogation techniques, “and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects.”

“In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” the committee determined.

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