Backgrounder: Key Takeaways from the CIA Torture Report
- What’s new in the report? Didn’t we know about torture already?
The report contains a lot of new and worrying information. The CIA program included the use of horrific interrogation techniques that were not previously publicized, such as rectal rehydration, which officials justified as a medical necessity but doctors say has no medical value. The duration and frequency with which detainees were subject to techniques like waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation were much more extreme than previously thought.
CIA officials took extensive measures to overstate the success of the torture program, and misled the Senate intelligence committee (SSCI), Congress, the White House, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Security Council, and the public about the extent and success of the program. Additionally, CIA records show that very little was actually gained from these interrogations.
While the public knew there were many problems with the CIA program, this report demonstrates just how deep those problems were and how far CIA officials went to cover them up.
- Wasn’t torture only used as a last resort if nothing else worked?
No. The CIA told the Senate intelligence committee that detainees always had the opportunity to cooperate before starting enhanced interrogation techniques (“EITs”), but in the case of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, the interrogation plan called for him to be shackled nude with his arms overhead in a cold room prior to any discussion with interrogators or any assessment of his level of cooperation. Another detainee, Hambali, was also deemed cooperative before the use of torture. Hambali ended up recanting most of the information he provided to interrogators after being subjected to the CIA’s techniques.
- Didn’t Justice Department lawyers say that the techniques used didn’t constitute torture and were legal?
Techniques used in the CIA program went well beyond what the DOJ authorized. Even John Yoo, who was the principal author of DOJ memos arguing that the program was legal, has said that techniques like prolonged sleep deprivation and rectal rehydration violate international anti-torture laws.