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CIA Report Calls Oversight Of Early Interrogations Poor

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The Obama administration released newly declassified 2004 CIA documents detailing the Bush administration's policy of capturing suspected terrorists and interrogating them in overseas prisons. Video by AP

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By Peter Finn, Joby Warrick and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A partially declassified CIA report released Monday by the Obama administration describes the early implementation of the agency's interrogation program in 2002 and 2003 as ad hoc and poorly supervised, leading to the use of "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented" techniques.

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Interrogators lifted one detainee off the floor by his arms while they were bound behind his back with a belt. Another interrogator used a stiff brush to clean a detainee, scrubbing so roughly that his legs were raw with abrasions. And another squeezed a detainee's neck at his carotid artery until he began to pass out.

Authorized techniques such as waterboarding were applied in a manner that exceeded the language of Justice Department memos that authorized their use. Interrogators "continuously applied large volumes of water," explaining afterward that they needed to make the experience "more poignant and convincing," the report said.

In releasing the 2004 report and other documents, President Obama continued to confront the legacy of his predecessor's counterterrorism policies while attempting to move beyond them.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed a prosecutor, John H. Durham, to investigate allegations of detainee abuse by the CIA. The administration also unveiled an elite interagency interrogation team designed to break high-value suspects without coercion.

Cumulatively, the newly released documents provide a forensic accounting of some of the Bush administration's most closely held secrets and deepen public knowledge of a program whose scope and details have emerged piecemeal ever since the first suspected high-level al-Qaeda detainee was questioned in 2002 at a hastily assembled "black site" in Thailand.

The Obama administration was forced to release the CIA documents because of a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed in 2003. "The report underscores the need for a comprehensive criminal investigation that reaches not just the interrogators who exceeded authority but the senior officials who authorized torture and the Justice Department lawyers who facilitated it," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the organization's national security program.

The releases Monday follow the earlier dissemination of Justice Department memos sanctioning the use of harsh interrogation techniques, as well as the Obama administration's decisions to end the CIA program and close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where high-value detainees are now held.

'Inadequate' Guidance

The inspector general's report said that the CIA's efforts to provide "systematic, clear and timely guidance" to interrogators were "inadequate at first" and that that failure largely coincided with the most significant incidents involving the unauthorized coercion of detainees. Significant portions of the report were not made public, including the inspector general's recommendations.

Interrogators menaced a detainee with a handgun and a power drill, staged mock executions to convince suspects that they too could be killed, and threatened to punish the family of another detainee.

"We're going to kill your children," one interrogator told Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, if there was another attack.

As carried out by CIA interrogators, waterboarding was far more aggressive than anything used in military survival schools, whose training programs formed the basis of the harsh techniques. The CIA's use of waterboarding eventually drew a rebuke from the agency's Office of Medical Services, which said the "frequency and intensity" with which the technique was used could not be certified as "efficacious or medically safe."


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