Last week, new revelations about the CIA contracting the private security company "Xe Services", formerly known as Blackwater, in 2004 to assassinate "al-Qaida leaders" were confirmed by US Intelligence services1. Now, more details implicating the CIA in war crimes have been discovered with the long awaited release of the heavily redacted 2004 Inspector General's report (pdf file 159 pages). The release had been delayed by top Bush CIA officials who were concerned that if the report was released it would damage America's reputation and 'damage CIA morale'2.
The contents of this CIA horror story are troubling, and even more so because of the heavily redacted sections where one can only imagine what torturous and cruel actions are described. If implying to rape a person’s mother, shackling and racking a person in painful torture positions with a power drill naked, or carrying out mock executions are the parts that the Government would rather we see, then what do the un-redacted versions say?
The Horror Explained
The interrogations (called debriefing in the report) of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nishiri are described in detail (except the redacted sections). Mock executions included firing weapons and subsequently moving the person from one cell to another whilst placing a guard hooded and dressed as a detainee in a position that made him look like he was "shot to death"3. There are accounts of interrogators utilising pressure points to make the person feel like they will pass out, although the part of the body the pressure points were used on has been redacted. The report also mentions "manipulating fingers to restrict the carotid artery”, and blowing smoke from a cigarette or cigar in the persons face until they 'started to purge'4. Using temperature as a torture technique was also employed by depriving the men of blankets, giving them cold showers and then placing them in front of the air conditioner5. Water dousing was also described. This is where the detainee is placed on a plastic sheet and doused with cold water for 10-15 minutes6. Then the air conditioner is turned on cold whilst the detainee is being questioned. The paragraph entitled 'hard takedown' was very heavily redacted. However, it involves placing the person in a diaper, throwing them down hard on the concrete floor and moving them to a "sleep deprivation cell".7
The report notes that one of the interrogators says to KSM, if something else happens in the United States "we're going to kill your children."8 Numerous pages of KSM's torture sessions have been redacted. One can only imagine the horrors that he has lived through and the nightmares that continue to haunt him whilst he is still detained in Guantanamo Bay.
The interrogations of Al-Nashiri included blowing smoke in his face to cover up the "stench" in the room. Al-Nashiri was placed in a forced kneeling position and forced to lean back by CIA agents. Forced standing and kneeling is a painful ancient torture technique9. The report notes that someone (redacted) was concerned that his shoulders would dislocate after interrogators lifted him off the floor by his arms whilst they were "bound behind his back with a belt"10. Cruel accounts of interrogators using a "stiff brush" to "clean him" and stepping on his shackles were also given.
The Death the Nameless Detainee...
Sadly, the report describes the death of a Afghan man at Asadabad Base. The report describes the man being beaten with a "metal flashlight" and kicked for hours on end which is what inevitably caused his death. The body was returned to family without an autopsy taking place and no one has been held accountable11.
This report once again raises questions about the accuracy of the so called confessions obtained when using methods which violate not only moral decency, but also anti-torture legislation and international conventions against torture cruel inhuman and degrading treatment or abuse. We have heard the KSM is the "Self-confessed Mastermind of September 11th" for so long, and yet some find it hard to question the reliability of such statements when compared to the way those statements were obtained. A recent released report as well as this CIA report contained evidence that KSM was water boarded 183 times when he gave that so- called confession.
Effectiveness of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
The final chapter of the report examines the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques employed. It concludes that in regard to the detention of "terrorists"...'there is no doubt that the program has been effective. Measuring the effectiveness of [Enhanced Interrogation Technique's], however, is a more subjective process and not without concern."12 After pages of deliberation, the conclusion was that the CIA does not really know whether the enhanced interrogation techniques work or not.
The Need for Accountability
The need for an independent, transparent and fully comprehensive investigation into the crimes committed by these people must be made a reality. Those who have been tortured do not have the luxury of simply forgetting and moving forward; and as members of a global compassionate community, neither do we.
Ewen MacAskill, "CIA Hired Blackwater for Al-Qaida Assassination Programme, sources say", The Guardian, 20th August, 2009.
Peter Beaumont, "Bombshell report on CIA interrogations is leaked.", The Guardian, 22nd August, 2009.
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.70.
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.73.
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.78. And; Sarah Price, “CIA Detainee Abuses Report Released”, The Palestine Telegraph, 25th August, 2009.
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.43.
See Darius Rejali (2007) ‘Torture and Democracy’. Princeton University Press: New Jersey.
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.44
Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General, “Counterterrorism and Detention and Interrogation Activities: September 2001 to October 2003”, 7th May, 2004. P.85.