Senate Intelligence Committee report claims CIA ‘covered up use of torture and misled US government about its value’

Brutal interrogation methods are said to have done little, if anything, to add to the gathering of useful intelligence

The CIA misled the US government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation programme for years – concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques, a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use – and later tried to defend – excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to US officials who have reviewed the document.

“The CIA described [its programme] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” said one US official briefed on the report. “Was that actually true? The answer is no.”

Current and former US officials who described the report spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and because the document remains classified. The 6,300-page report includes what officials described as damning new disclosures about a sprawling network of secret detention facilities, or “black sites”, which was dismantled by President Obama in 2009.

Classified files reviewed by committee investigators reveal internal divisions over the interrogation programme, officials said, including one case in which CIA employees left the agency’s secret prison in Thailand after becoming disturbed by brutal measures employed there. The report also cites cases in which officials at CIA headquarters demanded the continued use of harsh interrogation techniques even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information.

The report describes previously undisclosed cases of abuse, including the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a detention site in Afghanistan – a method that bore similarities to waterboarding but never appeared on any Justice Department-approved list of techniques.

The Senate report is by far the most comprehensive account to date of a highly classified programme that was established within months of the 11 September attacks.

Several officials who have read the document said some of its most troubling sections deal not with detainee abuse but with discrepancies between the statements of senior CIA officials in Washington and the details revealed in the written communications of lower-level employees directly involved.

Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qa’ida, including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Men who have been held by the CIA (from left): Abu Zubaydah; Abd al- Rahim al-Nashiri, Ammar al-Baluchi and Khalid al-Sharif (REUTERS/FBI; muslm.net/AP; Human Rights Watch) Men who have been held by the CIA (from left): Abu Zubaydah; Abd al- Rahim al-Nashiri, Ammar al-Baluchi and Khalid al-Sharif (REUTERS/FBI; muslm.net/AP; Human Rights Watch)
The report is divided into three volumes – one that traces the chronology of interrogation operations, another that assesses intelligence officials’ claims, and a third that contains case studies on virtually every prisoner held in CIA custody since 2001.

One official said almost all of the critical threat-related information from Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, the suspected al-Qa’ida operative better known as Abu Zubaydah, was obtained during the period when he was questioned at a hospital in Pakistan, well before he was interrogated by the CIA and waterboarded 83 times.

Information obtained by the CIA, however, was passed up through the ranks of the US intelligence community, the Justice Department and Congress as though it were part of what CIA interrogators had obtained, according to the committee report.

“The CIA conflated what was gotten when, which led them to misrepresent the effectiveness of the programme,” said a second US official who has reviewed the report. The official described the persistence of such misstatements as among “the most damaging” of the committee’s conclusions.

Detainees’ credentials also were exaggerated, officials said. Agency officials described Abu Zubaydah as a senior al-Qa’ida operative – and, therefore, someone who warranted coercive techniques – although experts later determined that he was essentially a facilitator who helped to guide recruits to al-Qa’ida training camps.

The CIA also oversold the role of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 US sailors. CIA officials claimed he was the “mastermind”.

The committee described a similar sequence in the interrogation of Hassan Ghul, an al-Qa’ida operative who provided a critical lead in the search for bin Laden: the fact that the al-Qa’ida leader’s most trusted courier used the name “al-Kuwaiti”. But Ghul disclosed that detail while being interrogated by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq who posed questions scripted by CIA analysts.

If declassified, the report could reveal new information on the treatment of high-value detainee Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 11 September attacks. Pakistan captured Ali, known also as Ammar al-Baluchi, on 30 April, 2003, in Karachi and turned him over to the CIA about a week later. He was taken to a CIA black site called “Salt Pit” near Kabul.

There Baluchi endured a regime that included being dunked in a tub of ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said.

As with Abu Zubaida and even Nashiri, officials said, CIA interrogators continued the harsh treatment even after it appeared that Baluchi was co-operating. On 22 September, 2003, he was flown from Kabul to a CIA black site in Romania. In 2006, he was taken to Guantanamo Bay. His attorneys contend that he suffered head trauma while in CIA custody.

Julie Tate contributed to this report

© The Washington Post

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried