CIA Inspector General Report (May, 2004) redacted versions released 2008 & 2009

The highly critical CIA Inspector General’s Report about the CIA’s interrogation tactics was withheld from the public. In 2008, a highly redacted version was released only after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. A slightly less redacted version was released (Aug., 2009). The IG report is highly critical of the agency’s detention and interrogation activities. It questions the efficacy, ethics and legality of CIA’s harsh methods which were expressly forbidden and banned by federal law. These include physical torture such as the application of pressure to the arteries on the sides of a detainee’s neck resulting in near loss of consciousness; mock executions brandishing a handgun and power drill; waterboarding methods that diverged radically from SERE training, methods that had not been approved by the DoJ.

The IG report called into question the legality of the waterboarding technique and DoJ’s basis for approval, and revealed that CIA interrogators and contractors implemented several forms of abuse that from a medical and legal perspective constituted torture:

  1. U.S. Government officials misled the public about the nature of CIA’s “Enhanced Interrogation Program” explicitly stating that: “Although the current detention and interrogation Program has been subject to DOJ legal review and Administration political approval, it diverges sharply from previous Agency policy and practice, rules that govern interrogations by U.S. military and law enforcement officers, statements of U.S. policy by the Department of State, and public statements by very senior U.S. officials, including the President.”
  2. The CIA used waterboarding in a way that had not been approved by DoJ, calling into question the legality of the technique inasmuch as DoJ’s basis for approval was pulled out from under. The waterboarding of detainees was NOT similar to how it was used in SERE military training; differences included duration, frequency, the amount of water used, and the obstruction of detainees’ air passages.
  3. Several forms of abuse that CIA interrogators and contractors implemented, from a medical and legal perspective, constitute torture. The IG’s report clearly questions the efficacy, ethics and legality of these as well as the previously mentioned “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The report also confirms the theory of a “slippery slope” in interrogation settings, namely that torture by its very nature escalates in the severity and frequency of its use beyond the approved techniques. These include:
  • Mock executions and threatening detainees by brandishing handguns and power drills;
  • Threatening the detainee with harm to his family members including sexual assault of female family members, and murder of detainee’s children; and
  • Physical abuse including the application of pressure to the arteries on the sides of a detainee’s neck resulting in near loss of consciousness, and tackling or hard take downs
  1. The IG repeatedly brought abuses and violations to the attention of Attorney General John Ashcroft who saw nothing wrong with waterboarding a detainee 119 times. Whereas federal law bans the use of torture and expressly forbids threatening a detainee with “imminent death,” the IG report makes clear that the gross abuse of prisoners – i.e., the use of torture – had the full backing of AG Ashcroft and the Justice Department.
  2. The harsh interrogation program, begun in 2002, was poorly managed; some interrogators were poorly trained, poorly informed, and used unauthorized techniques. An example cited: “During the four days the individual was detained, an Agency independent contractor, who was a paramilitary officer, is alleged to have severely beaten the detainee with a large metal flashlight and kicked him during interrogation sessions.” The detainee died in custody.
    (Michael Scherer. Five Important Revelations From The CIA Inspector General Report, TIME, Aug. 2009)

The CIA IG report confirms the theory of a “slippery slope” in “enhanced interrogation” settings, namely that torture by its very nature escalates in the severity and frequency of its use beyond the approved techniques.   The report notes that some CIA agents expressed concern about

“the possibility of recrimination or legal action resulting from their participation in the CTC Program. A number of officers expressed concern that a human rights group might pursue them for [  ] activities…One officer expressed concern that one day, Agency officers will wind up on some ‘wanted list’ to appear before the World Court for war crimes stemming from activities [redacted]. Another stating “Ten years from now, we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this…” (p. 94

The IG report makes clear that the gross abuse of prisoners had the full backing of AG Ashcroft and the Justice Department. The report paints a portrait of overwhelming control exercised managers, doctors and lawyer from CIA’s headquarters and the Department of Justice who not only set the parameters of torture, but dictated every facet of a detainee’s daily routine, monitoring interrogations on an hour-by-hour basis. From their Washington offices, they obsessed over the smallest details. According to one document, “the procedures [a detainee] is subjected to are precise, quiet and almost clinical.”

The CIA Office of Medical Services 2004 guidelines for near drowning waterboarding state:

“A rigid guide to the medically approved use of the waterboard is not possible, as safety will depend on how the water is applied and the specific response each time it is used. The following general guidelines are based on very limited knowledge, drawn from very few subjects whose experience and response was quite varied.”

“In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”

“In 2004, when Daniel B. Levin, then the acting assistant attorney general in the counsel’s office, sent a letter to the CIA reauthorizing waterboarding, he dictated the terms: “no more than two sessions of two hours each, per day, with both a doctor and a psychologist in attendance.” (Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane. Report Shows Tight CIA Control on Interrogations, New York Times, August 26, 2009)

Furthermore, the CIA IG report refutes the claim that harsh interrogation techniques produced valuable intelligence information. The lack of objective evidence of its effectiveness remains classified and was redacted from the released IG report. (Mark Hosenball. Report Reveals CIA Conducted Mock Executions, Newsweek, Aug. 2009)