Waterboarding didn’t work, committee report finds – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Bottom line: Torture didn’t work.
It didn’t elicit actionable intelligence from suspected terrorists, nor did it foil plots against Americans. That’s a key assessment in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report released Tuesday on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs.
“The committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation,” the report concludes.
“Enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as beatings, solitary confinement and waterboarding — simulated drowning that induced convulsions and vomiting — failed to elicit intelligence to foil terror plots, the committee found.
Examples of the techniques’ failure involve some of the highest-profile terrorists in U.S. custody. The summary of the committee’s 6,000-page report repeatedly refutes CIA and administration statements that harsh measures saved innocent lives.
Chief among the failures, according to the report, is the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged plotter of the 9/11 terror attacks, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and interrogated by the CIA. Publicly, the CIA maintained that waterboarding was “particularly effective” in getting information from the man referred to as “KSM.” The senators’ report found that “numerous CIA personnel” believed waterboarding was ineffective on him. Interrogators waterboarded him at least 183 times, according to the report. The report refers to the technique used on KSM as evolving into a “series of near drownings.”
The medical officer at the interrogation facility that held him noted that KSM hated it “but knew he could manage.” Much of the information he provided during those interrogations, he would later recant as lies. For example, he told interrogators he sent Abu Issa al-Britani to Montana to recruit African-American Muslim converts.
Later, he acknowledged he “simply told his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear.”
The CIA “broke KSM” with e-mails and statements from other informants, “in other words by confronting KSM with information from other sources,” according to the report.
Mohammed is held at a prison at the Guantanamo Naval Station in Cuba. His military trial has not begun.
Waterboarding, solitary confinement and slamming another “high-value detainee” into a concrete wall failed to produce information on al-Qaeda cells in the USA or “operational plans for terrorist attacks” against American targets.
Despite the details of the Senate report, six of the committee’s Republican members said the interrogation techniques did provide valuable information.
The report “makes no mention of the pervasive, genuine apprehension about a possible second attack on the United States that gripped the CIA in 2002 and 2003,” the Republican senators wrote, and treats the death of nearly 3,000 Americans in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as “incidental” to the CIA’s detainee interrogation program.
Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda operative, like Mohammed, was captured in Pakistan.
Zubaydah provided more intelligence during his first two months of questioning by FBI interrogators in 2002 than during the next two months, “which included non-stop use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques 24 hours a day for 17 days,” the report said.
Waterboarding rendered Zubaydah “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth,” the report says.
Zubaydah is held at Guantanamo but has not been charged.
“People being tortured will tell interrogators what they want to hear, which is often far different than the truth,” Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
In the Senate, Lindsey Graham, R-S-C., said the interrogation methods worked against U.S. interests.
“As a military lawyer for more than 30 years, I believe we can and must fight this war within our values,” said Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “I supported the investigation of the CIA as the problems of interrogation policies were obvious to me. I do not condone torture and continue to believe abusive detention and interrogation techniques used in the past were counterproductive. I’m very happy the techniques in question are no longer utilized.”
Follow @tvandenbrook on Twitter.