Only two weeks' training for CIA interrogators

Report reveals agents' doubts about whether their actions were legal

New details about the treatment of terror suspects in the wake of 9/11 contradict old assurances from former Vice President Dick Cheney that interrogators were "highly trained professionals" who well knew the boundaries of the law. Often, they had received barely two weeks' training and sometimes made up the rules as they went along. The haphazard nature of the CIA's handling of the detainees, especially in the early years of the "war on terror", becomes clear in the internal CIA report released by the US Justice Department. Its publication on Monday coincided with the appointment of a special prosecutor by the Attorney General, Eric Holder.

"How cold is cold?" one officer is reported to have enquired of CIA headquarters, offering just one example of how interrogators were sometimes forced to seek guidance via email or telephone from superiors thousands of miles away in Virginia as they muddled along in the field. "How cold is life threatening?"

Mr Holder agreed to open the new investigation in part because of what he read in the report. Authored in 2004 by the-then Inspector General of the CIA, it described several instances where the actions of the agency's interrogators may have amounted to criminal abuse. Those cases were referred to the Justice Department. In the Bush-Cheney era, the department decided not to prosecute anyone involved.

Among those expressing dismay at Mr Holder's decision was Mr Cheney himself who insisted again that the CIA's interrogation efforts "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks".

He went on to say that the hiring of a prosecutor served as a reminder "if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security".

The report reveals how the CIA, which had no previous experience of so broad an interrogation programme, was sending people out into the field whose only relevant prior experience was debriefing, which by definition means getting information from people who willingly participate.

Tellingly, it describes how some of those assigned to these missions foresaw even then that there might be trouble for them if what they were doing were ever to leak into the public arena. "Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this (but) it has to be done," one unidentified CIA officer was quoted as saying.

While parts of the report had been amply trailed, some passages nonetheless elicited fresh shock. One section describes a CIA interrogator telling Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, charged with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, that if he did not play ball, "we could get your mother in here". This, the report says, would have been understood as a threat to sexually abuse them.

On another occasion, another high-level detainee, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, was told directly that the CIA would "kill your children" if any other attacks were perpetrated against the US.

While the CIA's interrogation's programme had a role in foiling potential new attacks, the report says there was no telling whether the harsh tactics used actually helped. Measuring the success of such interrogation is "a more subjective process and not without some concern," it said.

Yesterday, the UN human rights chief said there should be no immunity. "I hope there is a swift examination of the various allegations... and if they are verified, that the next steps will involve accountability for anyone who has violated the law," Navi Pillay said.

The appointment of John Durham as special prosecutor has already sparked a political firestorm in Washington that may rage for months, possibly creating a dangerous distraction for Mr Obama as he tries to revive his faltering healthcare reform package. It also adds considerable to the miseries of an already-battered CIA.

Its director Leon Panetta finds himself trying to maintain morale while also separating himself from what happened under the Bush-Cheney watch. In an email to worried staff he said his "primary interest... is to stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given."

Torture details: 'We're going to kill your children'

* "According to the interrogator the [blacked out] interrogators said to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that if anything else happens in the United States 'we're going to kill your children'."

* "The debriefer entered the cell where Al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al-Nashiri's head. On what was probably the same day, the debriefer... revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded."

* "During another incident [blacked out] the same headquarters debriefer, according to a [blacked out] who was present, threatened Al-Nashiri by saying that if he did not talk, 'we could get your mother in here,' and, 'we can bring your family in here'... It was widely believed in Middle East circles that [blacked out] interrogation techniques involves sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee."

* One officer expressed concern that one day officers would wind up on a 'wanted list' to appear before a war crimes court due to [their] activities.

Read the interrogation report in full at: independent.co.uk/cia-report

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London