10 CIA torture tactics revealed
Updated on 17 April 2009
A memo from the US Department of Justice reveals the interrogation techniques the CIA used to try and break terror suspects.
The 10 "increased pressure phase" techniques were detailed in correspondence to John Rizzo, acting general counsel of the CIA, in 2002.
They were intended for use on Abu Zubaydah, who the US suspected of being one of the "highest ranking" members of al-Qaida. The methods were to be used in an "escalating fashion", starting with walling.
The 10 terror techniques
1. Attention grasp
Grasping the suspect with both hands - one hand on each side of the collar opening - in one quick motion. In the same motion, the suspect is pulled towards the interrogator.
The interrogators construct a flexible false wall, but do not tell the suspect it is fake. The individual is then placed with his or her heels touching the wall. The suspect is then pulled forward, and then quickly pushed back against the wall.
It is designed so that the suspect's shoulder blades hit the wall. The individual's neck is supported to stop whiplash.
The suspect is allowed to rebound off the wall - which makes a loud noise. The theory is that the noise will cause the suspect to think they are being harmed, when in fact no damage is being done.
3. Facial hold
One open palm is placed on either side of the suspect's face - to keep their head immobile. The fingertips are kept away from the individual's eyes. It is designed to intimidate.
4. Insult slap
The interrogator slaps the suspect's face, with fingers slightly spread. The slap is aimed for the area between the chin and the ear. The aim of the slap is not to cause long-lasting pain, but to shock, surprise or humiliate.
5. Cramped confinement
The suspect is placed in a dark and confined space. Confinement in a larger space can last up to 18 hours, in a smaller space it is supposed to be less than two hours.
6. Wall standing
Used to induce muscle fatigue. The suspect stands about four or five feet from the wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. Arms are stretched out in front of them, with fingers resting on the wall. The fingers support all the body weight, and they are not allowed to move.
7. Stress positions
A variety of positions may be used, such as sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front with arms raised above the head. Again, they are designed to create the physical discomfort of muscle fatigue.
8. Sleep deprivation
Used to reduce the suspect's ability to think on their feet, create discomfort, and encourage them to cooperate. The CIA was asking for this to happen for up to 11 days.
9. Insects placed in a confinement box
The suspect is placed in a confined space with a seemingly lethal insect. They are told is it lethal, even though it is actually harmless.
Strangely, the CIA had indicated that they wished to place Zubaydah in confinement with a caterpillar, as he appeared to have a fear of such creatures.
The individual is bound securely to a bench, with their feet elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes.
Water is then poured on the cloth, and the cloth itself is lowered to cover the mouth and nose.
Air flow is then restricted for up to 40 seconds at a time; this causes an increase in carbon dioxide in the individual's blood. It is designed to simulate suffocation and panic.
'Top secret': Bush-era interrogation memos
- Memorandum for John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel, CIA from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, 1 Aug 2002
Read full memo
- Memorandum for John Rizzo, Senior General Counsel, CIA from Steven Bradbury, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, 10 May 2005
Read the memo
Read the memo (2)
- Memorandum for John Rizzo, Senior General Counsel, CIA from Steven Bradbury, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, 30 May 2005
Read the memo