Opinions on the newly released Senate Torture Report range from vehement disgust to absolute support of the torture tactics used to keep Americans "safe." Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum - one notion is absolutely clear - the fact that human beings tortured other human beings must not be overlooked. Objectifying another human being is absolutely dangerous and allows one to effectively deal with the cognitive dissonance naturally created by compromising a universal moral code.
One of the most overlooked facts about the "war on terror" is that America captured many innocent men and used "enhanced interrogation techniques," or more effectively labeled torture, to gain intelligence. Yes, innocent people were heinously tortured and even killed by CIA agents in the name of fighting "terrorism."
The Senate conducted a five year investigation into the "enhanced interrogation techniques" and concluded that the methods were not only ineffective but they were also inhumane and likely criminal. What kind of techniques were used and are the "enhanced interrogation techniques" really that concerning?
Forced Rectal Feeding and Hydration Techniques
Page 115 of the report details a method used by CIA agents to force feed detainees. Essentially, detainees were force fed food and nutrients through the anus. "After approximately three weeks, the CIA developed a more aggressive treatment regimen "without unnecessary conversation." Majid Khan was then subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and recta hydration, which included two bottles of ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan's "lunch tray" consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins, was "pureed" and rectally infused. Additional sessions of rectal feeding and hydration followed."
This technique was even used when there was not demonstrated medical need. "According to CIA records, interrogators began using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques at DETENTION SITE COBALT a 'few minutes' after the questioning of KSM began. KSM was subjected to facial and abdominal slaps, the facial grab, stress positions, standing sleep deprivation, (with his hands at or above head level), nudity, and water dousing. Chief of Interrogations *redacted* also ordered the rectal rehydration of KSM without a determination of medical need, a procedure that the chief of interrogations would later characterize as illustrative of the interrogators "total control over the detainee."
Detainees Died As A Result of Hypothermia
Page four of the report details the death of detainee who was chained, while partially nude, to a concrete floor of the facility. He later died and hypothermia was the expected caused.
An interrogator once played Russian Roulette with a detainee.
Torture and Abuse
Reading the entire torture report is a difficult task. The techniques used against other human beings is simply outrageous and makes me question the humanity of the architects "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Detainees were stripped nude, beaten, waterboarded until blue in the face, subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, and even subjected to long periods of isolation and confinement in coffin sized boxes.
"According to CIA records, Abu Ja'far al-Iraqi was subjected to nudity, dietary manipulation, insult slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holds, walling, 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 returned to the standing position. The sleep deprivation was extended to 102 hours. After four hours of sleep, Abu Ja'far al-Iraqi was submitted 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. In addition to the swelling, Abu Ja'far al-Iraqi also experienced edema on his head due to walling, abrasions on his neck, and blisters on his ankles from shackles."
"In the first half of 2003, the CIA interrogated four detainees with medical complications in their lower extremities: two detainees had a broken foot, one detainee had a sprained ankle, and one detainee had a prosthetic leg. CIA interrogators shackled each of these detainees in the standing position for sleep deprivation for extended periods of time until medical personnel assessed that they could not maintain the 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. CIA Headquarters did not react to the site's use of these CIA enhanced interrogation techniques despite the lack of approval."
"At times, the detainees at COBALT were walked around naked or were shackled with their hands above their heads for extended periods of time. Other times, the detainees at COBALT were subjected to what was described as "rough takedown," in which approximately five CIA officers would scream at detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off, and secure him with Mylar tape. The detainee would then be hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched."
Not only were these methods inhumane, abusive, and egregious - they were absolutely ineffective. The detainees, who often did not have any information the United States sought, gave false information under extreme pressure. Research indicates even police interrogation techniques often elicit false confessions and inaccurate information.
"On March 5, 2003, and March 6, 2003, while he was still at DETENTION SITE COBALT, KSM was subjected to nudity and sleep deprivation. On March 5, 2003, KSM was also subjected to additional rectal rehydration, which *redacted* OMS, *redacted*, described as helping to "clear a person's head" and effective in getting KSM to talk. On March 6, 2003, *redacted* adopted a "'softer Mr. Rogers' persona" after the interrogation team concluded that the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques had caused KSM to "clam up." During this session KSM was described as "more cooperative," and the day's interrogation was deemed the "best session held to date" by the interrogation team. During this period KSM fabricated information on on individual whom he described as the protector of his children. That information resulted in the capture and CIA detention of two innocent individuals."
Many of the CIA agents who witnessed such techniques were disturbed and refused to participate. Good people in bad situations often make bad decisions - succumbing to the power of situational forces that seem normal at the time. World renown Social Psychology researcher, Philip Zimbardo, details how "good people turn evil" in The Lucifer Effect. In this New York Times Bestseller, Zimbardo details some of the heinous crimes committed at the Abu Ghraib prison and compares the circumstances to the Stanford Prison Experiment.
The research is clear - the power of situational forces is absolutely incredible. Good people in bad situations are extremely likely to make bad decisions. It is unfair to paint all the CIA interrogators as inherently bad or evil - and those willing to paint with such a broad brush categorically misunderstand the frailty of the human psyche when exposed to such situational elements. I do believe, however, that the architects of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" must be sociopathic at best and psychopathic at worst. It is unfathomable to me that the only person in prison over the techniques used by the CIA is the whistleblower who exposed such odious crimes.