The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a controversial report that said the CIA employed brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law and U.S. values, and misled other government agencies about the program. It also found these techniques weren't effective in gathering intelligence about possible terrorist attacks against the United States.
The huge, 500-plus page report is just a summary of the 6,700 pages the committee has, which will remain classified.
Its release was supported by the Obama administration, though some Republicans said making the findings public could lead to retaliation that could put U.S. lives at risk overseas. Others have said the release of the report will devalues the CIA's work in reacting to the 9/11 attacks.
It was also attacked by the CIA itself. In a Tuesday statement, the CIA acknowledged that initially, "the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the Agency made mistakes," in part because it wasn't prepared to carry out this unprecedented program.
"In carrying out that program, we did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us," it said. "As an Agency, we have learned from these mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies."
The CIA said those mistakes happened early in the program, and said it disagreed with the Senate report's conclusion that enhanced interrogation techniques yielded no useful information. It also rejected the idea that the CIA tried to mislead the administration and Congress about the program.
Those who favor the release of the report say it's critical for Americans to understand the steps the CIA took, in order to learn from these mistakes in the future.
"The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the intelligence community's actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards," Feinstein wrote in a forward to the release.
The report found that the CIA was not honest about how it was interrogating terrorist detainees. For example, it said the CIA's first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques for days and weeks at a time.
"Interrogation techniques such as slaps and 'walling' (slamming detainees against a wall) were used in combination, frequently concurrent with sleep deprivation and nudity," the report said. "Records do not support CIA representations that the CIA initially used 'an open, non-threatening approach,' or that interrogations began with the 'least coercive technique possible' and escalated to more coercive techniques only as necessary."
He was also subjected to waterboarding. "Abu Zubaydah, for example, became 'completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth,' " it said. "International CIA records describe the waterboarding of Khalid Shaykh Mohammand as evolving into a 'series of near drownings.' "
"One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because 'we can never let the world know what I have done to you,' " the report said. "CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families — to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to 'cut [a detainee's] mother's throat.' "
Sleep deprivation techniques involved keeping detainees awake for 180 hours in a row, "usually standing or in stress positions, at time with their hands shackled above their heads." Other techniques included "rectal rehydration," and telling detainees that they would not leave their captors alive.
The report found detainees were kept in complete darkness and shackled in isolated cells, and that the lack of heat likely contributed to the death of one prisoner.
Some detainees were "subjected to what was described as a 'rough takedown,' in which approximately five CIA officers would scream at a detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off, and secure him with Mylar tape. The detainee would then be hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched."
In addition to these practices, the report found the CIA lied to the Department of Justice about aspects of its interrogation program, and "actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program." The CIA also impeded oversight by its own inspector general.
In terms of results, the report said the techniques weren't effective at all. "For example, according to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody," it said.
It also found many detainees simply fabricated intelligence, including by providing false information that led the CIA to reprioritize terrorist threats.
Over the years, the CIA had claimed that intelligence gathered from its interrogation techniques led to various counterterrorism successes. But the report dismissed those claims.
"The committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects," it said. "In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques."
In other cases, the report found that the CIA inaccurately claimed intelligence from enhanced interrogation techniques that was already available from other sources, including the detainees themselves, before the techniques were applied.