Agencies | 17 Safar 1436/10 December 2014
Parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA-enhanced interrogations read like the script of a blood-soaked horror movie, reports from the USA highlight today.
The abject brutality of America’s so-called War on Terror is now again on gory display to a global audience. While the findings of the report are not entirely new and similar details have been laid bare by human rights activists previously, the scale of Tuesday’s revelations are so large that they are even getting US officials jittery and fearful of possible retribution.
The Guardian reports that Muslim detainees were forced to stand on broken limbs for hours, kept in complete darkness, deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, sometimes standing, sometimes with their arms shackled above their heads.
Prisoners were subjected to “rectal feeding” without medical necessity. Rectal exams were conducted with “excessive force”. The report highlights one prisoner later diagnosed with anal fissures, chronic hemorrhoids and “symptomatic rectal prolapse”.
The report mentions mock executions, Russian roulette. US agents threatened to slit the throat of a detainee’s mother, sexually abuse another and threatened prisoners’ children. One prisoner died of hypothermia brought on in part by being forced to sit on a bare concrete floor without pants.
A worrying factor is that the information revealed is only the tip of the iceberg. The report is an executive summary of a larger, 6,700-page report that remains classified.
Here are examples of some of the most horrific tactics employed by the USA, as contained in the report:
•Sleep deprivation: “According to CIA records, Abu Ja’far al-Iraqi was subjected to nudity, dietary manipulation, insult slaps, abdominal slaps … stress positions and water dousing with 44-degree Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes. He 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 moved to a sitting position, and his sleep deprivation was extended to 78 hours. After the swelling subsided, he was provided with more blood thinner and was returned to the standing position.
“The sleep deprivation was extended to 102 hours. After four hours of sleep, Abu Ja’far al-Iraqi was subjected to an additional 52 hours of sleep deprivation, after which CIA headquarters informed interrogators that eight hours was the minimum rest period between sleep deprivation sessions exceeding 48 hours.”
Other detainees were kept awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads. At least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation and, in at least two of those cases, the CIA nonetheless continued the sleep deprivation.” One of the prisoners forced to say awake for seven-and-a-half days was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Most of this time he was forced to stand. The report says that former CIS director Michael Hayden was aware that Mohammed had been deprived of sleep for this period.
•Stress positions: “The Office of Inspector General later described additional allegations of unauthorized techniques used against (Abd al-Rahim) al-Nashiri by [CIA OFFICER 2] and other interrogators, including slapping al-Nashiri multiple times on the back of the head during interrogations; implying that his mother would be brought before him and sexually abused; blowing cigar smoke in al-Nashiri’s face; giving al-Nashiri a forced bath using a stiff brush; and using improvised stress positions that caused cuts and bruises resulting in the intervention of a medical officer, who was concerned that al-Nashiri’s shoulders would be dislocated using the stress positions.”
•Nudity: In November 2002, a CIA officer “ordered that Gul Rahman be shackled to the wall of his cell in a position that required the detainee to rest on the bare concrete floor. Rahman was wearing only a sweatshirt, as [CIA OFFICER 1] had ordered that Rahman’s clothing be removed when he had been judged to be uncooperative during an earlier interrogation.
“The next day, the guards found Gul Rahman’s dead body. An internal CIA review and autopsy assessed that Rahman likely died from hypothermia — in part from having been forced to sit on the bare concrete floor without pants.”
In a specialised detention centre, codenamed DETENTION SITE COBALT and described as a dungeon, detainees were “kept in complete darkness and constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud music and only a bucket to use for human waste”. It was cold, something the report says likely contributed to the death of a detainee.
Prisoners were walked around naked or were shackled with their hands above their heads for extended periods of time. About five CIA officers would engage in what is described as a “rough takedown”. A detainee would be shouted at, have his clothes cut off, be secured with tape, hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched.
The facility consisted of 20 cells, all with blacked-out windows.
•Waterboarding: According to the report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — often described as the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks — was waterboarded at least 183 times. This is a technique that simulates drowning, in which the detainee is strapped to a board while water is poured in his mouth and nose.
“During these sessions, KSM ingested a significant amount of water. CIA records state that KSM’s ‘abdomen was somewhat distended, and he expressed water when the abdomen was pressed.’ KSM’s gastric contents were so diluted by water that the medical officer present was ‘not concerned about regurgitated gastric acid damaging KSM’s esophagus.’ The officer was, however, concerned about water intoxication and dilution of electrolytes and requested that the interrogators use saline in future waterboarding sessions. The medical officer later wrote … that KSM was ‘ingesting and aspiration [sic] a LOT of water’ and that ‘[i]n the new technique we are basically doing a series of near drownings.’ “
The report also suggests Abu Zubaydah was a broken man after his extensive interrogations. In CIA documents he is described as having become so compliant that “when the interrogator raised his eyebrows” he would walk to the “water table” and sit down. The interrogator only had to snap his fingers twice for Abu Zabaydah to lie down, ready for water-boarding, the report says.
“At times Abu Zubaydah was described as ‘hysterical’ and ‘distressed to the level that he was unable effectively to communicate’. Waterboarding sessions ‘resulted in immediate fluid intake and involuntary leg, chest and arm spasms’ and ‘hysterical pleas’. In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth’ … Abu Zubaydah remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and ‘expelled copious amounts of liquid’.”
•Rectal Feeding/hydration: Detainees who refused food or drink were forced to ingest food or water rectally. According to the report, a CIA officer “provided a description of the procedure, writing that ‘[r]egarding the rectal tube, if you place it and open up the IV tubing, the flow will self-regulate, sloshing up the large intestines.’
“Referencing the experience of the medical officer who subjected KSM to rectal rehydration, the officer wrote that, ‘[w]hat I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag — let gravity do the work.’ “
Another case describes forcing Ensure into a detainee rectally, and in a third instance, “Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”
Rectal feeding is of limited application in actually keeping a person alive or administering nutrients, since the colon and rectum cannot absorb much besides salt, glucose and a few minerals and vitamins. The CIA administered rectal rehydration to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “without a determination of medical need” and justified “rectal fluid resuscitation” of Abu Zubaydah because he “partially refus[ed] liquids”. Al-Nashiri was given an enema after a brief hunger strike.
Risks of rectal feeding and rehydration include damage to the rectum and colon, triggering bowels to empty, food rotting inside the recipient’s digestive tract, and an inflamed or prolapsed rectum from carless insertion of the feeding tube. The report found that CIA leadership was notified that rectal exams may have been conducted with “Excessive force”, and that one of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, suffered from an anal fissure, chronic hemorrhoids and symptomatic rectal prolapse.
The CIA’s chief of interrogations characterized rectal rehydration as a method of “total control” over detainees, and an unnamed person said the procedure helped to “clear a person’s head”.
•Transport by plane: “Detainees transported by the CIA by aircraft were typically hooded with their hands and feet shackled. The detainees wore large headsets to eliminate their ability to hear, and these headsets were typically affixed to a detainee’s head with duct tape that ran the circumference of the detainee’s head.
“CIA detainees were placed in diapers and not permitted to use the lavatory on the aircraft. Depending on the aircraft, detainees were either strapped into seats during the flights, or laid down and strapped to the floor of the plane horizontally like cargo.”
•Forced to Remain Standing on Broken Limbs
The CIA in the first half of 2003 interrogated four detainees described as having “medical complications in their lower extremities”: two had a broken foot, one had a sprained ankle and one a prosthetic leg.
CIA officers shackled each of them in a standing position for sleep deprivation for extended periods until medical staff assessed they could no longer maintain that position.
“The two detainees that each had a broken foot were also subjected to walling, stress positions and cramped confinement, despite the note in their interrogation plans that these specific enhanced interrogation techniques were not requested because of the medical condition of the detainees,” the report says.
One CIA interrogator at COBALT reported that “‘literally, a detainee could go for days or weeks without anyone looking at him’, and that his team found one detainee who ‘as far as we could determine’, had been chained to a wall in a standing position for 17 days’.’ Some prisoners were said to be like dogs in kennels: “When the doors to their cells were pened, ‘they cowered.’”
In April 2006, during a CIA briefing, President George W Bush, expressed discomfort at the “image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go to the bathroom on himself”. This man is thought to be Ridha al-Najjar, who was forced to spend 22 hours each day with one or both wrists chained to an overhead bar, for two consecutive days, while wearing a diaper. His incarceration was concealed from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
•Threats to Mothers
CIA officers threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.” In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.
Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.
Officers in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program included individuals who the committee said, “among other things, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
Starting with Abu Zubaydah, and following with other detainees, the CIA deployed the harshest techniques from the beginning without trying to first elicit information in an “open, non-threatening manner,” the committee found. The torture continued nearly non-stop, for days or weeks at a time.
The CIA instructed personnel at the site that the interrogation of Zubaydah, who’d been shot during his capture, should take “precedence over his medical care,” the committee found, leading to an infection in a bullet wound incurred during his capture. Zubaydah lost his left eye while in custody. The CIA’s instructions also ran contrary to how it told the Justice Department the prisoner would be treated.
(Via the Guardian, USA Today and The Daily Beast)