CIA torture is brutal and ineffective - US senate

2014-12-10 15:47
Senate Intelligence Chairperson Dianne Feinstein speaks to reporters about the committee's report on CIA interrogations. (AFP)

Senate Intelligence Chairperson Dianne Feinstein speaks to reporters about the committee's report on CIA interrogations. (AFP)

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Washington - CIA torture of al-Qaeda suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged and failed to produce useful intelligence, the US Senate said in a report that drew international calls on Wednesday for criminal prosecution.

The United Nations said the programme violated international law and basic human rights. And British-based advocacy group Cage demanded criminal proceedings following the release of the report.

"This provides clear evidence for prosecution," said Amanda Thomas-Johnson, a spokesperson for Cage.

"This shows that the US and its allies are operating outside the bounds of the law."

The report said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also misled the White House and the US congress with inaccurate claims about the programme's usefulness in thwarting attacks, the senate intelligence committee said in its graphic report that revived the debate over interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

Russian roulette and power drills

The findings included examples of a CIA operative used "Russian Roulette" to intimidate a prisoner and another - untrained in interrogation techniques - threatened to use a power drill.

Detainees were humiliated through the painful use of medically unnecessary "rectal feeding" and "rectal rehydration." One died of hypothermia while shackled, while some suffered broken limbs.

In response to the report, US President Barack Obama said torture had been counterproductive and contrary to American values.

"The report documents a troubling programme involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States," Obama said.

"It reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."

CIA director John Brennan defended his agency's adoption of tough tactics under President George W Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks on US cities.

He insisted that, while mistakes were made, brutal techniques "did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives”.

US embassies were on alert for reprisals as committee chairperson Senator Dianne Feinstein pushed ahead with publication of the report, despite secretary of state John Kerry warning it could provoke anger around the world.

'Naked and shackled'

Feinstein told the Senate at least 119 detainees were held under the programme, with many subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture”.

The detainees were rounded up by US operatives beginning in 2001 after al-Qaeda destroyed New York's World Trade Centre and damaged the Pentagon, and through to 2009.

They were interrogated either at CIA-run secret prisons in allied nations or at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Feinstein said some around the world "will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence”.

"We can't prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law, and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say 'never again'".

While heavily redacted, the report is damning.

"The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others," it said.

Management of the programme deteriorated so poorly in one country “that the CIA remains unable to determine the number and identity of the individuals it detained”.

The review of 6.3 million pages of documents concluded that use of the techniques "was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation”.

Seven of 39 detainees known to have been subjected to so-called enhanced interrogations "produced no intelligence while in CIA custody," while others "provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques."

'Recruiting tool' for enemies

The report was a years-long project of the committee's Democratic members and staff. Republicans boycotted it, and on Tuesday they blasted it as a "political" assault on the CIA.

But Republican senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war who was tortured in Vietnam, praised the report's release and said harsh interrogations did little to make Americans safer.

There was also international consternation at the findings, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying: "Those of us who want to see a safer, more secure world want to see extremism defeated. We won't succeed if we lose our moral authority."

Rights groups and the UN's top rights defender said the report shows CIA's secret efforts to extract information from detainees after the 9/11 attacks repeatedly violated international law and basic human rights.

The report "confirms what the international community has long believed - that there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law," said Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights

‘Totally justified’

Since coming to office in 2009, Obama has sought to distance the US from past deeds and outlawed harsh interrogation.

Lawmakers spent months negotiating with the White House on redactions, an undertaking that caused deep friction between the intelligence community and senators and their staff.

Former Bush vice president Dick Cheney staunchly defended the programme, telling The New York Times the interrogations were "absolutely, totally justified”.

Rights advocates criticised the justice department announcement that it will not prosecute any US officials implicated.

Read more on:    cia  |  barak obama  |  us  |  human rights

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