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Leaked findings paint pattern of CIA deception

April 11, 2014 - Ben Klein
WASHINGTON (AP) — A controversial torture report by the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a pattern of CIA deception about the effectiveness of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods used on terror suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to leaked findings. The committee said it will ask the Justice Department to investigate how the material was published.

The McClatchy news service late Thursday published what it said are the voluminous, still-classified review's 20 findings. It concludes that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" failed to produce valuable intelligence; the CIA misled the Bush administration, Congress and the public about the value of the harsh treatment; the agency employed unauthorized techniques on detainees and improperly detained others; and it never properly evaluated its own actions.

Both the CIA's interrogation techniques and confinement conditions "were brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers."

The reported findings are consistent with what senators have detailed about the investigation since its 2009 inception and with what numerous news reports, human rights organizations and various governmental and non-governmental studies have suggested in the decade since the CIA's program started to coming to light. President Barack Obama has likened the harsh interrogations to torture, but the spy agency defends its actions and says much in the Senate committee's report is inaccurate.

The committee voted last week to declassify the summary and conclusions of the 6,600-page review and is now waiting for the Obama administration to censor material sensitive to national security.

The panel's chairwoman said an investigation into how the findings were published was underway. The two pages of findings published by McClatchy did not include the names of any U.S. government employees or terror detainees, locations of secret CIA prisons or anything else that might threaten national security. They also did not indicate how or why the committee reached its conclusions.

"If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure, and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice."

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to address the publication of the findings.

"Given the report remains classified, we are unable to comment," Boyd said. He said the CIA was committed to carrying out an "expeditious classification review" of the parts of the report the Senate committee wants to make public. He reiterated, however, that the spy agency disagreed with several areas of the report.

The committee and the CIA are embroiled in a related dispute concerning the production of the report, with each side accusing the other of illegal snooping. The Justice Department is reviewing competing criminal complaints.

Given the ongoing tensions, Feinstein has appealed to President Barack Obama for the White House to head the declassification process for the torture report. The Obama administration up to now has said the CIA will take the lead in blacking out sections of the report that might reveal national security secrets, in consultation with other agencies of the executive branch.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Feinstein and Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a fellow Democratic member of the committee, said the public release of almost 500 pages of the report is "the best way to ensure that this program of secret detention and coercive interrogation never happens again."

"It will also serve to uphold America's practice of admitting wrongdoing and learning from its mistakes," they said.

The senators sought to answer two of the main criticisms of the report from former CIA officials and others: that its conclusions were predetermined and that that it didn't include direct interviews with CIA officials.

Calling the report "fact-based," Feinstein and Rockefeller said almost every sentence in the report is attributed to CIA cables, internal notes, emails, testimony and other documents.

They acknowledged that Justice Department reviews of the spy agency's program meant top CIA managers, lawyers, counterterrorism personnel, analysts and interrogators didn't have to speak to the committee. But they said Senate investigators used transcripts from more than 100 interviews conducted by internal CIA auditors and other agency officials that took place while the harsh interrogations were still ongoing or shortly after they ended.

From McClatchy:

A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.

The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”

The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.

Some of the report’s other conclusions, which were obtained by McClatchy, include:

_ The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters.

_ The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program.

_ The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

_ The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office.

"The investigation determined that the program produced very little intelligence of value and that the CIA misled the Bush White House, the Congress and the public about the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques, committee members have said.

The techniques included waterboarding, which produces a sensation of drowning, stress positions, sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time, confinement in a cramped box, slaps and slamming detainees into walls. The CIA held detainees in secret “black site” prisons overseas and abducted others who it turned over to foreign governments for interrogation."

From Al Jazeera:

"The Senate report, like a 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee report (PDF), says Air Force psychologists under contract to the CIA reverse-engineered a decades-old resistance-training program taught to U.S. airmen known as survival evasion resistance escape (SERE).

According to a SERE training document obtained by Al Jazeera titled “Coercive Exploitation Techniques,” Air Force personnel were taught that communist regimes used “deprivations” of “food, water, sleep and medical care” as well as “the use of threats” in order to weaken a captive’s mental and physical ability to resist interrogation. “Isolation” would be used, according to the SERE program, to deprive the “recipient of all social support” so that he develops a “dependency” on his interrogator. And “physical duress, violence and torture” are used to weaken “mental and physical ability to resist exploitation.”

Ironically, perhaps, the SERE document (displayed below) notes that such techniques were used by the Soviet Union, China and North Korea to obtain false confessions."

SERE Techniques Reverse Engineered

 
 

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