10 appalling findings in the Senate's torture report

Senate Intel Committee releases report on use of torture against detainees. Here are some of the worst findings

Published December 9, 2014 5:55PM (EST)

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney                        (Reuters/Jason Reed)
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney (Reuters/Jason Reed)

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unveiled the much-anticipated summary of its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture against terrorism suspects, providing often-harrowing insight into U.S. interrogation practices in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and offering a damning look at the CIA's pattern of giving false information in its defense of the practices and stonewalling lawmakers and executive branch officials responsible for overseeing the agency's actions.

The 524-page summary released today is less than a tenth of the length of the committee's full, 6,700-page report. This spring, committee members voted to release only the summary and a Republican rebuttal.

While the summary doesn't tell the complete story, it nonetheless presents a wide-ranging survey of the CIA's use of torture, or "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the euphemistic parlance of Bush administration officials and, at times, the committee report itself. Even before reading the report, Bush veterans -- including the former president himself, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney -- dinged it ahead of its impending release. Reading the committee's findings -- which depict what Cheney infamously referred to as "the dark side" of the U.S. war on terror -- it's easy to see why the former officials weren't happy about its unveiling. Here are 10 of the most revolting findings in the committee's summary.

1. The CIA misled executive branch officials, members of Congress, and the public about torture's effectiveness.

While Bush and Cheney steadfastly defended the CIA as the release of the report approached, the committee found that agency officials -- including former directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden -- misled the White House and lawmakers about the effectiveness of U.S. torture techniques like waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

The committee examined 20 reported "counterterrorism successes" cited by agency officials who claimed that the use of torture was essential to thwarting terror plots. In some of the cases, the report states, there was "no relationship" between the counterterrorism success and the use of torture. Meanwhile, in the remaining cases, the information CIA interrogators obtained from detainees either simply corroborated information the CIA already had or was extracted from detainees prior to the use of torture.

2.  Interrogators would deprive some detainees of sleep for more than a week.

According to the report, detainees at CIA facilities would be deprived of sleep for days on end -- in some cases for up to 180 hours. During sleep deprivation, the report says, detainees were usually kept "standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads."

The CIA Arsala Khan, an Afghan detainee, to 56 hours of sleep deprivation, the report finds. Khan could barely enunciate words by the end of his deprivation, while he was "visibly shaken by his hallucinations depicting dogs mauling and killing his sons and family."

3. Detainees underwent waterboarding until they were unresponsive.

Among the most notorious torture techniques employed by the CIA was waterboarding, which simulates drowning. The committee report states that 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and that the waterboardings eventually turned into "a series of near drownings."

Abu Zubaydah, the CIA's first detainee, also underwent waterboarding, once to the point that he became "completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth."

Other detainees experienced "convulsions and vomiting" when waterboarded. According to the report, the CIA used the technique on more than the three prisoners the CIA previously copped to waterboarding.

4. The CIA force-fed detainees through their rectums.

Agency interrogators forced at least five detainees to undergo "rectal rehydration" or "rectal feeding" even in the absence of any "documented medical necessity," the report finds. Among the most prominent prisoners subjected to rectal feeding was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

5. Interrogators threatened to harm the families and children of detainees.

In at least three cases, CIA interrogators threatened to harm detainees' families -- including threats to harm a detainee's children, to commit sexual violence against a detainee's mother, and to slit a detainee's mother's throat.

6. An interrogator threatened to sodomize a detainee with a broomstick.

In at least one instance, the CIA chief of interrogation placed a broomstick between the knees of detainee while the detainee was in a stress position -- suggesting that the detainee was at risk of being sodomized.

7. The chief of interrogations described one facility as a "dungeon."

The CIA's Cobalt facility, one senior officer quoted in the report says, was a so-called enhanced interrogation technique by itself. With detainees often kept in "complete darkness," loud music blaring, and detainees allowed to use only a bucket to relieve themselves, the chief of interrogations said that Cobalt was a "dungeon."

8. Agency interrogators forced detainees to stand on broken legs and feet.

At the same facility, some detainees who had sustained either broken legs or feet were made to stand in stress positions, the committee found.

9. Detainees experienced severe psychological problems.

While "[m]ultiple psychologists" warned that by shutting detainees off from human contact, interrogators risked fostering a wide range of mental health problems, the agency often ignored such warnings. Multiple detainees demonstrated severe mental health issues, the report finds, including "hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation."

10.  The CIA lied about how many detainees were in its custody.

Even though the agency publicly maintained that it held 98 prisoners, CIA records indicated that 119 detainees were in its custody. A CIA official flagged this inconsistency in a 2008 email, only to be rebuffed by CIA director Michael Hayden.

"[K]eep the number at 98," Hayden instructed.

By Luke Brinker

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