The post 9/11 milieu put forth the question of whether torture (officially referred to as enhanced interrogation techniques) had any place in a civilized society that was trying to prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks. Nuances and legal loopholes were used to skirt around the “ugly things” that many believed the CIA and other intelligence agencies had to do at that time. With transfers of terror suspects to GITMO or countries like Afghanistan, Poland, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, etc. with lower human right standards, people were being black bagged, water boarded, electrocuted and put through worse in the name of fighting the war on terror. But questions quickly emerged on whether the information extracted from torture or enhanced interrogation techniques helped in any tangible ways. And the disclosure of waterboarding and other forms of torment lead to a loud outcry in America and around the world. The United States Senate took up investigations into that matter and the Select Committee on Intelligence has now released a voluminous official report on this matter.
The report is more than 6,000 pages long, but the committee voted in April to declassify only its 524-page executive summary and a rebuttal by Republican members of the committee. The investigation was conducted by the committee’s Democratic majority and their staffs. Many of the C.I.A.’s most extreme interrogation methods, including waterboarding, were authorized by Justice Department lawyers during the Bush administration. But the report also found evidence that a number of detainees had been subjected to other, unapproved methods while in C.I.A. custody.
The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some C.I.A. personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions. The Senate report quotes a series of August 2002 cables from a C.I.A. facility in Thailand, where the agency’s first prisoner was held. (New York Times)