Senate report: CIA torture techniques ‘ineffective’

The so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" employed during the Bush administration were "ineffective," according to a long-awaited report (PDF) released Dec. 9 by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. According to the report, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deliberately misled Congress and the White House about information obtained using "enhanced interrogation techniques" between 2002 and 2007, which were more brutal than the public was led to believe. The more than 600 pages of materials that were released to the public are based on millions of internal CIA documents and took over five years to produce. The full report, totaling more than 6,700 pages, remains classified but has been shared with the White House.

Last month the UN Committee Against Torture found (PDF) that the US has fallen short of full compliance with the Convention Against Torture international treaty.

From Jurist, Dec. 9. Used with permission.

  1. ‘Ineffective’ CIA torture was also illegal

    Note the preversity of calling torture "ineffective"—implying it might be OK if it worked, and allowing the CIA to respond that in fact it did (does?). The agency's statement admits the program was "flawed," but asserts: "The Program Produced Valuable and Unique Intelligence." The precepts of "American exceptionalism" will not permit the focus to be where it belongs: on whether the program was illegal under international law.

    Some news accounts mention that the report found at least two private contractors were used in the  "enhanced interrogation techniques" (sic) program. The names of contractors appear to be redacted from the public version of the report, but Rebecca Best, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, told KMBC: ""The role of the private contractors, people from places like Lockheed Martin taking on huge roles in the interrogations." The Telegraph reports the finding that one firm, contracted to the tune of $80 million, provided psychologists to help devise torture techniques.

    The report found that the simulated drowning technique of "waterboarding" was "physically harmful," with effects that included vomiting and convulsions. At least one terror detainee died of exposure while shackled to the concrete floor in an overseas prison (presumably in Afghanistan). (AP) See this extremely graphic Bloomberg report for harrowing details on what interrogators did to Abu Zubaydah and Majid Khan before the CIA finally decided they really didn't know about pending attacks. Such perversions of the imagination make clear that seeking information was a mere justification, and that (as Orwell put it) the object of torture is torture.

    And the justification is in any case rejected by Amnesty International, which reminds us: "Under international law, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are never legal. Even in a time of war or threat of war, even in a state of emergency which threatens the life of the nation, there can be no exemption from this obligation. The same is true of enforced disappearance. It is not that understanding why torture or enforced disappearances happen is not important in ensuring that they do not happen again. But in the USA, 'understanding' has become part of an official narrative that is interwoven with impunity. As such, it effectively becomes justification." Amnesty is calling for the full unredacted version of the report to be released.

    The most significant laspe in the commentary on the report is ubiquitous use of the past tense—implying that this nasty affair is over. Not so. For the past year, the military has been force-feeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantánamo Bay—and this constitutes torture under international law, even if the supposed aim is not to wrest information.

    In a New York Times op-ed, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), urges: "Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured." Romero argues: "Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware." Beware of what? Being pardoned? There is one good reason to support this idea, which Romero doesn't mention: It would prove that no justice is possible through the US judicial system, thus allowing the International Criminal Court to open a case against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Of course the fact that the US is not a party to the ICC statute is an obstacle to that, but the ICC is already grappling with that dilemma in the case of Israel

  2. UN rights expert: prosecute US officials for torture

    The UN Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson on Dec. 9 called for the prosecution of US Central Intelligence Agency and other government officials for the torture of detainees. In response to the Senate findings, Emmerson said, "The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability." The Special Rapporteur also noted that under international law, the US must bring justice to those responsible for the alleged inhumane acts. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances both require that all states to prosecute crimes of torture and enforced disappearance when evidence is brought forth that could possibly sustain a conviction.

    From Jurist, Dec. 10. Used with permission.