The chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has stipulated in a filing yet to be made public that the executive summary of a scathing Senate report on the CIA’s former interrogation program is accurate.
The prosecutor’s statement puts him at odds with CIA Director John Brennan, former senior agency officials and congressional Republicans who have said the Senate Intelligence Committee document, released in December 2014, is strewn with errors and flawed in its conclusions.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins made the declaration in a lengthy motion filed Friday in the military commission case against five suspects accused of carrying out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including self-declared mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The declaration, a portion of which was seen by The Washington Post, states, “While the opinions and conclusions of the [Senate report] are irrelevant to these proceedings, the factual recitations of what occurred to the accused are gleaned from the very same Executive Branch documents the Prosecution has reviewed, or is in the process of reviewing, in its own holdings.”
“As such, the Prosecution will stipulate that the facts contained within the Executive Summary occurred,” Martins stated.
The report, based on a years-long Senate investigation, described brutal treatment of prisoners held at CIA “black sites” around the world, including high-value detainees such as Mohammed.
Three CIA prisoners, including Mohammed, were waterboarded in what agency medical personnel described as “a series of near drownings,” according to the Senate report. Detainees were also beaten, forced into confinement boxes, deprived of sleep for long stretches and subjected to rectal rehydration. Unapproved techniques included mock executions, and one detainee died after being left in the freezing cold at a facility in Afghanistan.
The 528-page summary released to the public is drawn from a classified study that exceeds 6,000 pages.
Defense lawyers want access to all documents about the treatment of their clients and ultimately plan to use the issue of torture as a mitigating factor to argue against the death penalty if the defendants are found guilty.
Martins’s stipulation appears to be an effort to limit the amount of classified material that will be used in the trial and speed up proceedings. By acknowledging that the defendants were treated as described in the report, he hopes to avoid a protracted discovery process in a case that is already taking many years to prosecute.
He wrote in the filing that the executive summary “contains a wealth of information for the defense to use in its preparation.”
Martins, through a spokesman for the military commissions, declined to comment.
Mohammed and the other defendants were taken to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006 after being held at secret CIA prisons. They were first charged in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration. Those proceedings were suspended by the Obama administration, which had hoped to put the men on trial in federal court in New York. When that effort failed because of congressional and local opposition, military charges were reinstated in 2011.
James Connell, the civilian attorney for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the 9/11 defendants, said defense lawyers will continue to fight to see the entire Senate report as well as any other relevant documents.
“The government is taking a bare-bones approach to discovery, trying to provide as little information as possible about CIA torture,” he said.
A CIA spokesman pointed to the agency’s response to the report at the time of its release.
“To be clear, although we did mount a serious effort to respond, we were not able to perform a comprehensive fact check,” according to the CIA’s 2013 response to the Senate report before it had been released.
The agency said it “found that accuracy was encumbered as much by the authors’ interpretation, selection, and contextualization of the facts as it was by errors in their recitation of the facts, making it difficult to address its flaws with specific technical corrections.”
Brennan has said the committee’s findings “provided an incomplete and selective picture of what occurred”-- a conclusion echoed in a minority report issued by Senate Republicans. Former senior CIA officials also criticized the report, releasing a book that defended the interrogation program.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who presided over the investigation as then-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement last year, “The new book doesn’t lay a glove on the factual accuracy of the Committee’s report.”