One prisoner froze to death after being left to sleep, without pants, on a cold concrete floor. Another was forced to stand in a "stress position" on broken bones. CIA officers threatened to sexually assault the wife of one detainee, and cut the throat of another prisoner's mother.
And it gets worse.
After months of negotiations with the White House and CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee has released a redacted summary of its original 6,300-page report on the "enhanced interrogation techniques" carried out by George W. Bush-era intelligence agents on suspected terrorists.
Through a process known as "extraordinary rendition," detainees were taken to prisons in allied nations — so-called CIA "black sites" — where American officers sought to extract information, often by using brutal and repugnant tactics banned by international law. The secret program began sometime in the weeks after 9/11; President Barack Obama's executive order formally ended it Jan. 22, 2009.
Tuesday's "executive summary" is approximately 500 pages, with certain key details — names and locations — blacked out by CIA censors. The report is a dense and at times confounding read. CIA officials did their best to obscure the names of the 54 countries that partnered with U.S. intelligence to host the prisons. In 2005, 92 videotapes showing hundreds of hours of extreme interrogations were destroyed. Names of individual agents have also been wiped from the record, either to protect their safety or preserve their careers.
Additional information will come out over time, but for now, here are 16 excerpts from the torture report the CIA does not want you to see:
1. A prisoner froze to death after being made to sit on a concrete floor without pants.
2. A CIA prison site known as COBALT was described as a "dungeon" and detainees were shackled with "only a bucket to use for human waste."
Prisoners would be disrobed and restrained with "mylar tape, then "walked around naked" and "hooded ... while being slapped and punched."
3. Federal Bureau of Prisons staff were "WOW'ed" by the depravity of the COBALT prison.
4. Torture tactics caused detainees to develop psychosis, leading to hallucinations, paranoia and attempts to self-mutilate.
5. Five prisoners were subjected to "rectal rehydration" or "rectal feeding."
One detainee was eventually "diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure and symptomatic rectal prolapse," symptoms normally associated with a violent rape.
6. Buried in the footnotes, the report mentions that an officer played "Russian Roulette" with a prisoner.
7. Detainees were made to stand in "stress positions" on broken bones and prosthetic limbs.
8. The waterboarding of a prized prisoner devolved into a "series of near drownings."
"Waterboard" is mentioned 275 times in the report, which is technically just a "summary" of the official, classified report.
9. On at least two occasions, the CIA conducted "mock executions" of prisoners.
10. Former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was deeply involved in evaluating the use of waterboarding and "staged burial."
11. The CIA manipulated the press and ignored when classified material that supported their torture policies was published.
12. Former CIA director Michael Hayden repeatedly misled Congress about the degree and extent of the torture.
13. A prisoner was tortured for months based on a false accusation made under duress by another prisoner.
On multiple occasions, CIA agents reported that Janat Gul knew nothing of the alleged "pre-election threat." But they were repeatedly told to continue their interrogations, including a "47-hour session of standing sleep deprivation," which over time caused him to hallucinate, seeing "his wife and children in the mirror" and "[hearing] their voices in the white noise."
14. Sleep deprivation led a detainee to hallucinate "dogs mauling and killing his sons."
15. CIA interrogators got tired of torturing one leading al-Qaida figure, so they took a 47-day vacation.
16. Torture did not provide the information that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan that resulted in his death.
The architects: Former Vice President Dick Cheney told the New York Times on Monday night that criticism of the barbaric program was "a bunch of hooey." The use of torture, he said, was "totally justified." Bush told CNN on Sunday that the men and women who carried out the interrogations were "patriots."
While some of the details released Tuesday are new to the public, the CIA's rendition of suspects to foreign "black sites" was first reported on in 2005 by the Washington Post. The New Yorker brought us closer in 2007. But even now, the full scope of the program remains hidden from public view. Outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who had threatened to read the full report into the Senate record — a privilege afforded federal legislators by the Constitution — if the summary was not released, has indicated that he will not press for more disclosures.
UPDATE: Udall chose not to read the full report, but did on Wednesday reveal key details the classified "Panetta Review," calling that report a "smoking gun" and proof that "the CIA lied."
Torture is never justified: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chaired the Senate panel that oversaw the investigation and ultimately agreed to release the declassified documents, said Tuesday that "the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate intelligence." This is a familiar argument, often employed by Democrats and activists working to expose the program.
But the underlying logic is flawed. Torture is wrong not because it is inefficient; by that measure, useful torture would be a valuable and righteous tool. No, the interrogation tactics employed by the CIA were self-evidently heinous. What they did or did not yield is immaterial.
The Obama administration justifies the current drone-killing program with much of the same legal theory the Bush team used to justify torture tactics. The strikes are carried out in secret, with decision-makers facing no real accountability for their actions. President Barack Obama is fond of saying we "need to look forward as opposed to looking backward" when it comes to questions about the sins of the Bush-era. In that case, Obama should learn the lessons of the torture report, and end this ongoing extralegal war.
This post has been updated.