Key findings from CIA report


Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released an exhaustive review of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects under President George W. Bush.

The executive summary of their controversial report runs more than 500 pages, and contains new information based on a review of more than 6 million classified documents provided by the CIA. Here are some of the highlights.

CIA wrongly held 26 people and accidentally interrogated sources

Of the 119 people detained and harshly questioned by the CIA during its program, at least 26 were wrongly held, the report concludes.

In one instance in the spring of 2004, the CIA realized that it had detained former sources only after shackling them upright in a position where they could not sleep for 24 hours.

“The two detainees had tried to contact the CIA on multiple occasions prior to their detention to inform the CIA of their activities and provide intelligence,” the report says, but their messages were not translated until after the interrogation.

In another case, an “intellectually challenged” man was held solely as leverage, in order to get a member of his family to talk.

Of the 39 detainees who were subjected to the CIA's techniques, seven "produced no intelligence while in CIA custody," the report says.

Detainee spent 266 hours in a coffin-sized box

Detainee Abu Zubaydah, an al Qaeda facilitator captured in Pakistan, spent a total of 266 hours, or more than 11 days, in a large, coffin-sized box. The CIA interrogators told Zubaydah that the only way he would leave the facility was in the box.

Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding dozens of times while in custody. In at least one session, Zubaydah "became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth." According to CIA records, he remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and expelled "copious amounts of liquid."

Some detainees were kept awake for 180 hours

Sleep deprivation was one of the primary techniques by the CIA.  At the time, detainees were kept awake for up to 180 hours, usually while they were standing or kept in “stress positions,” in which a person’s weight is put on one part of the body.

At least five of the detainees said they had “disturbing hallucinations” during those bouts of sleep deprivation. In at least two of those cases, the CIA continued with the method.

Mock burials were among proposed techniques

At the start of the program, two psychologists with the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school were brought in as contractors helped the CIA come up with the interrogation techniques. The SERE school helps military officials prepare for being prisoners in countries that do not adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

Neither psychologist had participated in direct interrogations before. They proposed a list of 12 techniques that included cramped confinement, stress positions, waterboarding, the use of diapers and insects, and mock burials, among others.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel never considered approving mock burials, according to the report, though some of the others were approved.

Detainees were subjected to ‘rectal feeding’

At least five CIA detainees were subjected to "rectal rehydration or rectal feeding” without documented medical necessity, the report claims.

In the case of one detainee, a lunch of "hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, “was subjected to rectal rehydration without a determination of medical need,” the report says.

Officers threatened to harm the families of prisoners

CIA officers threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families during interrogations, the report says.

The threats included doing harm to the children of prisoners and sexually assaulting their mothers. One officer threatened to “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’ ”

Detainee died of hypothermia

One of the detainees, Gul Rahman, died of hypothermia in November 2002, according to the report.

He was shackled to the wall of his cell in a short chain position, which required him to sit on bare concrete. He was wearing a sweatshirt, but was nude from the waist down and froze to death.

CIA objected to White House’s 'humane' description

In 2003, the CIA told the White House that officials’ use of the word “humane” to describe detainee treatment might not be accurate.

After those concerns were raised, the White House press secretary at the time was advised to avoid using the phrase “humane treatment” when talking about the treatment of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

A 2002 presidential memorandum requiring the U.S. military to treat detainees humanely did not apply to the CIA, a top lawyer with the spy agency said.

White House, Cabinet was kept in the dark about ‘black sites’

The report says the President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney were informed when the first detainee of value, Abu Zubaydah, was taken to a secret location for interrogation. But they were never told of the existence of other “black sites” in other countries, according to the report.

The CIA also did not inform two secretaries of State — Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice — about the locations of the detention facilities, despite the fact that the political leaders of host countries were generally informed of their existence. CIA officers told U.S. ambassadors not to discuss the CIA program with State Department officials.

Program cost well over $300 million

CIA records indicate that the Detention and Interrogation Program cost well over $300 million in non-personnel costs. The expenses included funding for the CIA to construct and maintain detention facilities, including two facilities costing nearly $1 million that were never used, in part due to host country political concerns.

To encourage governments to clandestinely host detention sites, or to increase support for existing sites, the CIA paid millions of dollars in cash payments to foreign government officials.

CIA leaked classified details to press

Back when the CIA report was still a closely guarded secret, the CIA’s public affairs office and select officials within the agency shared secret information about its interrogation program with reporters.

Those leaks were made in order to “counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA's detention and interrogation authorities and budget,” the report said. 

“We either put out our story or we get eaten,” one top official wrote to a colleague in 2005, before heading to an interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC.

The report says the information that the CIA leaked to the press was “inaccurate,” as were the details it slipped to the White House, Congress and the Justice Department.