The CIA Inspector General's Report

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The secret 2004 report by the agency's internal watchdog raised concerns about the use of coercive techniques while also attempting to assess whether the methods worked. Here are some highlights:

Unauthorized or Excessive Practices

-- Mock executions: An interrogator in 2002 tried to frighten detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri into thinking he was going to be executed. The interrogator flashed an unloaded handgun at the detainee and later revved a power drill while Nashiri stood naked and hooded. At one point, the interrogators faked the shooting of another detainee in a neighboring cell. After a shot was fired, a guard dressed as a detainee pretended to be dead.

-- Threats: Interrogators threatened to kill or harm relatives of two detainees. Nashiri was told: "We could get your mother in here." Officers warned Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that his children would be killed if there was another attack on the United States.

-- Stress positions: While Bush administration lawyers had approved forcing detainees to stand or sit in painful positions, the report suggests that some interrogators were overly aggressive. In one instance, Nashiri was forced to kneel leaning backward with his arms bound behind him. One interrogator pushed the detainee backward, causing others in the room to worry that his arms would become dislocated. In another instance al-Nashiri was lifted by the arms while bound in this fashion.

-- Excessive waterboarding: Noting that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding 183 times, the report questioned the intensity and frequency of the CIA's use of the technique. The CIA's version of waterboarding used large quantities of water and was repeated so often that the agency's medical advisers objected.

-- Stiff brush: When bathing Nashiri, an interrogator scrubbed the detainee with a stiff brush until he developed abrasions on his legs.

-- Pressure points: A shackled detainee was grabbed by the neck and his carotid artery pressed until the detainee began to lose consciousness.

-- Other incidents: The report reviewed alleged abuses that occurred outside the agency's secret prisons. In one previously unknown incident that occurred in an unidentified foreign country, a CIA officer struck a teacher with a rifle butt in front of 200 students after the teacher "smiled and laughed inappropriately" when asked for help in identifying culprits behind the detonation of a bomb a few days earlier. The officer was returned to Washington, counseled and given a new assignment.


-- The report said that "there is no doubt" the CIA's detention and interrogation program helped U.S. officials identify and apprehend al-Qaeda terrorists. But assessing whether harsh techniques such as waterboarding played a decisive role "is a more subjective process and not without concern," it said.

-- Detainees provided details of specific plots, ranging from plans to hijack aircraft and fly them into tall buildings in California to a scheme to loosen railroad spikes to cause a derailment. Top CIA officials were convinced that lives had been saved, though the inspector general's review "did not uncover any evidence that these attacks were imminent."

Internal Questions

-- Bush administration legal experts said coercive techniques did not constitute torture, but the report said government lawyers failed to adequately address an equally important legal question: whether the CIA's methods violated an international ban on "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees.

-- The CIA's harsh interrogation methods were inconsistent with human rights policy positions taken by the United States over the years. Multiple U.S. administrations have condemned other governments for using such measures.

-- Some CIA employees who participated in the program worried about human-rights abuses, and some even feared that they might "wind up on some 'wanted list' to appear before the World Court for war crimes."

Declassified Memos

The CIA also partially declassified two documents that then-Vice President Richard B. Cheney had asked to be made public on the grounds that they would prove that harsh measures were effective. Some highlights from those documents:

-- Under questioning, al-Qaeda planner Mohammed supplied details about the terrorist group's structure and global operations. Reports based on Mohammed's disclosures "shed light on the plots, capabilities [and] the identity and location of Al-Qaeda operatives."

-- Mohammed gave the CIA crucial leads that led to the capture of four members of Jemaah Islamiah, an Asian terrorist group with ties to al-Qaeda.

-- Mohammed supplied information about a Malaysian terrorist named Yazid Sufaat, a biologist who had been involved in al-Qaeda's rudimentary effort to produce an anthrax weapon. Sufaat was eventually arrested and admitted his role in the anthrax program. U.S. officials say al-Qaeda never succeeded in developing weaponized anthrax.

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