Senate report puts CIA in the dock

December 9, 2014

cia-logoThe interrogation methods used by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on detainees were ineffective, much harsher than previously revealed and often produced wrong information, according to the executive summary of a report de-classified by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released on Tuesday.

Only the 528-page summary has been de-classified. The full report of about 6,700 pages remains classified.

The very first point under the “findings and conclusions” in the summary is that, “The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.”

Reacting to the report, the CIA acknowledged that its detention and interrogation program might have had shortcomings and that the agency might have made mistakes. It, however, strongly defended its program saying it was “effective” in the sense that it helped the agency’s understanding of al-Qaeda’s tactical operations and goals. “Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” CIA director John Brennan said in a statement.

According to the Committee’s report, harsh interrogation methods were not only useless but those also threw investigations out of gear because detainees would give fabricated intelligence leads to escape torture.

The Committee had begun investigations in 2009 into the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected al-Qaeda terrorists detained at secret locations outside the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Six days after 9/11, Brennan explains in his statement, the CIA was directed by then-president George W. Bush to carry out a program to detain terrorist suspects around the world.

When he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama had halted the CIA interrogation program. He also conceded that some of the interrogation methods amounted to torture.

“President Obama signed Executive Order… in January 2009 to prohibit the CIA from holding detainees other than on a short-term, transitory basis’ and to limit interrogation techniques to those included in the Army Field Manual. However, these limitations are not part of U.S. law and could be overturned by a future president with the stroke of a pen. They should be enshrined in legislation,” Dianne Feinstein, chairman of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, writes in her Foreword in the summary.

According to her, 119 detainees went through the CIA interrogation program, out of which 26 were held wrongfully.

In a statement, Obama said the torturous program does not conform to American values. “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 counter-terrorism 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.”

Echoing similar sentiments, John Kerry, Secretary of State, said,“It was right to end these practices for a simple but powerful reason: they were at odds with our values. They are not who we are, and they’re not who or what we had to become, because the most powerful country on Earth doesn’t have to choose between protecting our security and promoting our values.”

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