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The CIA Inspector General’s Report: COUNTERTERRORISM DETENTION AND INTERROGATION ACTIVlTIES (SEPTEMBER 2001 – OCTOBER 2003)

The long-awaited CIA Inspector General’s 2004 report on detention and interrogation was released today. The report can be found in pdf form here. I am still trying to  make my way through the report. In the meantime, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane in the New York Times observe:

Although large portions of the 109-page report are blacked out, it gives new details about a variety of abuses inside the C.I.A.’s overseas prisons, including suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family, staging mock executions, intimidation with a handgun and power drill, and blowing cigar and cigarette smoke into prisoners’ faces to make them vomit.

The report found that the interrogations obtained critical information to identify terrorists and stop potential plots and said some imprisoned terrorists provided more information after being exposed to brutal treatment.

But the inspector general’s review raised broad questions about the legality, political acceptability and effectiveness of the harshest of the C.I.A.’s methods, including some not authorized by the Justice Department and others that were approved, like the near-drowning technique of waterboarding.

“This review identified concerns about the use of the waterboard, specifically whether the risks of its use were justified by the results, whether it has been unnecessarily used in some instances,” the report said, and whether the frequency and volume of water poured over the prisoner’s mouth and nose exceeded the Justice Department’s legal authorization.

In what appeared to be a response to the Justice Department’s release, the C.I.A. later on Monday released previously secret agency reports from 2004 and 2005 that detailed intelligence scoops produced by the interrogation program.

One of the reports calls the program “a crucial pillar of U.S. counterterrorism efforts” and describes how interrogations helped unravel a network headed by an Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali. The other report details information elicited from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, chief planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying it “dramatically expanded our universe of knowledge on Al Qaeda’s plots.”

Those reports, which former Vice President Dick Cheney had sought to have released earlier this year, do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness.

The inspector general’s report, by contrast, offers details of abusive methods. During one session, a C.I.A. interrogator told Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, charged with plotting the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole, that if he did not cooperate with his captors, “we could get your mother in here” and “we can bring your family in here.”

According to the report, the interrogator wanted Mr. Nashiri to infer for “psychological” reasons that his female relatives might be sexually abused.

In another session of questioning, the report said, one C.I.A. interrogator told investigators that Mr. Mohammed was told that if there was another attack on American soil, the C.I.A. would “kill your children.” Mr. Mohammed’s young sons were in the custody of Pakistani and American authorities at the time.

Among a litany of C.I.A. tactics, the report describes the “hard takedown,” when a detainee was grabbed and thrown to the floor before being moved to a sleep-deprivation cell. It details baths given to Mr. Nashiri, saying he was sometimes scrubbed with “the kind of brush one uses in a bath to remove stubborn dirt” to induce pain. In July 2002, the report says, a C.I.A. interrogator grabbed a detainee’s neck to restrict the prisoner’s carotid artery until he began to faint. Another officer then “shook the detainee to wake him,” and the “pressure point” technique was repeated twice more.

Interrogators also staged a mock execution in 2002 to intimidate a detainee. C.I.A. officers began screaming outside the room where he was being interrogated. When leaving the room, he “passed a guard who was dressed as a hooded detainee, lying motionless on the ground, and made to appear as if he had been shot to death.”

In 2003, C.I.A. officers began using another technique — called “water dousing” — that involved laying a detainee on a plastic sheet and pouring water over him for 10 to 15 minutes.

According to the report, an interrogator believed this was an effective technique, and sent a cable back to C.I.A. headquarters requesting guidelines.

A return cable explained that a detainee “must be placed on a towel or sheet, may not be placed naked on the bare cement floor, and the air temperature must exceed 65 degrees if the detainee will not be dried immediately.”

Such detailed guidelines reflected concern throughout the C.I.A. about the potential legal consequences for agency officers. Officers “expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or legal action” and said “they feared that the agency would not stand behind them,” the report said.

The C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, issued a statement to employees Monday that carefully avoided defending the brutal treatment while expressing support for the agency’s efforts.

Mr. Panetta wrote that he was not “eager to enter the debate, already politicized, over the ultimate utility of the agency’s past detention and interrogation effort.” He said the program had produced crucial intelligence but added that use of the harsh methods “will remain a legitimate area of dispute.”

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.