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Senate Report on CIA Torture

Sleep Deprivation

The CIA authorized sleep deprivation “for up to 180 hours.” In January 2003, the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence produced interrogation guidelines, which classified sleep deprivation for more than 72 hours as an “enhanced” interrogation technique while sleep deprivation for less than 72 hours was considered a “standard” technique. On January 10, 2004, following a November 2003 email entitled “Al-Hawsawi Incident” from CIA General Counsel Scott Muller suggesting reducing the threshold to 48 hours, “CIA headquarters informed CIA detention sites...that sleep deprivation over 48 hours would now be considered an ‘enhanced’ interrogation technique.” 

Many detainees were forced to stand or shackled, while others were in kept in stress positions or subjected to round-the-clock interrogationGul Rahman, who died of suspected hypothermia in November 2002, was subjected to 48 hours of sleep deprivation. During his detention, Abu Zubaydah was routinely kept naked and denied sleep. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were also subjected to standing sleep deprivation, naked, with their hands over their head. Al-Nashiri was left with his arms over his head at one point for as long as 16 hours. Abu Ja’far Al-Iraqi “was shackled in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation, and experienced swelling in his lower legs requiring blood thinner and spiral ace bandages.” He was then moved to a sitting position and deprived of sleep for 24 more hours. After the swelling in his legs subsided, Al-Iraqi was made to stand again for 24 hours, for a total of 102 hours of sleep deprivation. “After four hours of sleep, Al-Iraqi was subjected to an additional 52 hours of sleep deprivation.” After 59 hours of sleep deprivation, Hassan Ghulcomplained of back pain and asked to see a doctor,” but interrogators responded that the “pain was normal, and would stop when [Ghul] was confirmed as telling the truth.” A CIA physician assistant noted that Gul was experiencing (among other symptoms) “notable physiological fatigue,” “mild paralysis of arms, legs and feet,” and an “occasional premature heartbeat.” In 2003, “[t]o avoid using the ‘enhanced’ interrogation technique,” of 72 hours or more sleep deprivation, CIA officers subjected Walid bin Attash (referred to in the report as “Khallad bin Attash”) to 70 hours of standing sleep deprivation, followed by four hours of sleep, then 23 hours of standing sleep deprivation, and then 20 hours of seated sleep deprivation. 

As with many techniques, the CIA sometimes subjected detainees to sleep deprivation without getting approval from CIA headquarters, or used it for longer than was authorized. The CIA also told the Office of Legal Counsel that medical personnel would intervene in the “unlikely” event that sleep deprivations caused hallucinations, but this was often not to be the case. When Ghul was sleep deprived for 59 hours, he experienced hallucinations, “but was told by a psychologist that his reactions were ‘consistent with what many others experience in his condition,’ and that he should calm himself by telling himself his experiences are normal and will subside when he decides to be truthful.” Arsala Khan, an Afghan national in his mid-fifties was “barely able to enunciate, and “visibly shaken by his hallucinations depicting dogs mauling and killing his sons and family’” after 56 hours of sleep deprivation.