A “brutal” CIA programme of torture was completely ineffective at yielding information that could have helped the security services stop an attack on US citizens, a long-awaited report shows.
The US Senate’s intelligence committee found that the agency misled the White House, government agencies, the press and the public on the extent of its torture programme. The agency was also found to have overstated its effectiveness, falsely claiming that it had saved lives.
US President Barack Obama said the report “reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests”.
In an example of the techniques used, the Senate committee found that the CIA “led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box”.
And one CIA interrogator was found to have told a detainee that he would never go to court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you”.
The report added: “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’.”
The report, which was years in the compiling and presented to senators by the head of the intelligence committee Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday, found “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” torture techniques being used by the CIA.
One detainee died from suspected hypothermia after being held, chained to a concrete floor, the report said.
And the programme, which was run along with two contractors who were paid tens of millions of dollars, ran contrary to the values espoused by the United States of America.
Security at embassies and other sites was stepped up ahead of the report’s release. “There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to greater risk that is posed to US facilities and individuals all around the world,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The 500-plus page report summary, which the intelligence committee has prepared for release, includes a 200-page narrative of the interrogation programme’s history and 20 case studies of the interrogations of specific detainees.
Mr Earnest reiterated that President Barack Obama supports making the document public “so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired”.
The report found that senior US government officials were kept in the dark about some of the details of the campaign. An email from the CIA lawyer John Rizzo read that former US Secretary of State Colin Powell would “blow his stack if he were to be briefed” in full.
Two cases in which CIA interrogators threatened detainees with mock executions – a practice never authorised by Bush administration lawyers – are documented in the report. The report also shows that agents discussed the use of insects and mock burials on detainees.
In a statement, the CIA acknowledged that “the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes”. But it insisted that the report’s claim that no information useful to the prvention of attacks was gleaned were incorrect.
A Human Rights Watch spokeswoman said that “last-minute attempts to delay the release of the Senate torture report show just how important this document is to understanding the CIA’s horrific torture programme”.
She added: “US foreign policy is better served by coming clean about US abuses rather than continuing to bury the truth.”