For the last five years, the U.S. Senate has been conducting a rigorous investigation of the interrogation techniques employed by the CIA in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Specifically, they’ve been looking at the reportedly egregious examples of prisoner mistreatment, and the ways information from those detainees may have (poorly) influenced the War on Terror.
Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered their findings in a 528 page report, and it is every bit as horrifying as many expected. Its central conclusion is that the CIA’s torture program—which has long had its critics, President Obama among them—did not work.
Among the most damning revelations:
- CIA medical personnel raised concerns that waterboarding techniques had devolved into nothing more than “a series of near drownings,” and that CIA employees were performing “rectal rehydration” on detainees.
- An internal CIA memo said to keep the program secret from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, because he would “blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s going on.”
- At least 26 of 119 detainees held by the CIA were there because of either mistaken identity or bad intelligence.
- Suggestions that “enhanced” torture methods helped in the hunt for and assassination of Osama Bin Laden are grossly exaggerated, if not outright false.
- In the introduction, Senator Dianne Feinstein (the committee chair) wrote that the “brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations and our values” should be “a warning for the future. We cannot again allow history to be forgotten and grievous past mistakes to be repeated.”
President Obama has issued the following statement, wherein he affirms his position against torture and says that the program “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners”:
The CIA has offered their own rebuttal, where they complain about “the authors’ flawed analysis” and say that “we still must question a report that impugns the integrity of so many CIA officers when it implies — as it does clearly through the conclusions — that the Agency’s assessments were willfully misrepresented in a calculated effort to manipulate.”
Unsurprisingly, the Bush Administration (who spearheaded the program) came out late last week in strong defense of the CIA and their methods during that time period. Former Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed any notions that the CIA was at all deceitful, telling The New York Times “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program…They deserve a lot of praise. As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
President George Bush added, “These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.”
The implications of the report are significant both in the U.S. and overseas. With three American hostages recently beheaded in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, this report of prisoner mistreatment may spark even more violence in the Middle East and put American lives in significant danger. It also affirms what many nations have long suspected about the CIA’s role in the United States' foreign policy, and will put a further strain on the U.S.’s relationships abroad.
[via Washington Post]