The United States Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday delivered a damning verdict against secret interrogation procedures the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used on terror suspects in the aftermath of the attacks on 11 September, 2001. The exhaustive five-year investigation has revealed new allegations of cruelty in a program reminiscent of the series of human rights violations that were perpetrated by US military personnel on detainees at the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq.
The committee’s findings revealed brutal interrogation techniques that included ‘a series of near drownings’, subjecting detainees to ‘rectal re-hydration’, keeping a prisoner naked in a cold cell and dousing him with cold water, forcing the prisoner to stand shackled for hours on end, sleep deprivation, among other painful procedures that fell under the radar of federal oversight. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA had began using what it called “enhanced interrogation” procedures against captured terrorist suspects, held in clandestine sites across Europe and Asia. Some of the techniques were initially used by intelligence officials during the erstwhile George Bush-led administration, but were later banned by President Obama. Despite the president’s decree, the CIA, sometimes used other violent techniques that were not officially authorised by the US government.
Besides the use of inhuman torture techniques that were in direct contravention of US law and international human rights treaties, a key finding of the Senate report was that none of these techniques were instrumental in yielding intelligence that was used to halt terror attacks or capture dangerous suspects. The line taken by many senior CIA officials, in response to the Senate’s findings, is that enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, besides providing the intelligence they needed to find members of the Al Qaeda terror group, instrumental in the 9/11 attacks.
However, vast amounts of evidence supported by independent research and statements by former interrogators have suggested that enhanced torture procedures were not reliable sources of intelligence. Although the report sheds more light on a sordid chapter of America’s recent history, opposition to the Senate Committee findings from conservative Republicans, who have taken control of the US Senate, will show that a bipartisan consensus on the mistakes of such brutal interrogation procedures will not be forthcoming in the future.