A May 2004 Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) Office of the Inspector General (O.I.G.) report [.pdf] details new revelations of the C.I.A. violating federal statutes and international law in torturing detainees — “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” or “E.I.T.’s” is the Newspeak term. The redacted report was released Monday, due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.).

Declan McCullagh, at his CBS News blog “Taking Liberties”, notes three things one should have in mind before reading of this report:

1.) A 1994 federal law prohibits U.S. nationals from performing torture upon penalty of up to 20 years in prison. “Torture” is defined as the threat of imminent death, the threat of someone else being killed, and acts “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”

2.) Waterboarding has long been viewed as torture. A post-World War II tribunal ruled that waterboarding was torture when performed by the Japanese; the U.S. government condemned it at the time as a “brutal and bestial” practice. When U.S. soldiers were subjected to it during the Philippine-American War, a senator denounced it in a 1902 speech as “cold-blooded, deliberate, calculated torture.” In 1984, a federal appeals court ruled that waterboarding done by Texas law enforcement was “torture.”

3.) By the end of his term as president, George W. Bush knew the techniques that C.I.A. interrogators employed. Yet on his final days of office, when he was signing petitions for clemency, he chose not to pardon anyone involved. (A few years earlier, Bush had declared that “torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere.”)

Footnote #7 of the report notes:

[The Justice Department (D.O.J.)] takes the position that as Commander-in-Chief, the president independently has the Article 11 constitutional authority to order the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information.

The D.O.J. Office of Legal Counsel (O.L.C.) signed on on the now infamous torture memos in 2002. Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent writes:

In the August 1, 2002 memo written by [Jay Bybee and John Yoo], the lawyers summarize and refer repeatedly to what the C.I.A. told them about how the “enhanced interrogation techniques” are supposed to work, as well as to assurances that the lawyers then consider material for whether the proposed actions violate U.S. laws. For instance, discussing waterboarding, they write, that water would be applied “in a controlled manner,” and that the C.I.A. orally informed them that “this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is in fact not drowning.”

The D.O.J., headed by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, approved of “multiple applications of the waterboard” and that he and the General Counsel were “aware of exactly what C.I.A. was doing with respect to detention and interrogation, and approved of the effort”. (p. 29)

A.C.L.U. National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer said, “That the barbaric methods outlined in the paper were approved by the country’s senior-most officials is particularly appalling.”

“The background paper and the rest of the Justice Department O.L.C. documents turned over today shed further light on the origins and scope of the Bush administration’s torture program,” said A.C.L.U. staff attorney Amrit Singh. “These documents provide critical details about the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program following the enactment of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. It is troubling to see that many of the C.I.A.’s coercive interrogation methods survived despite the passage of that law. Collectively, the O.L.C. documents, along with the C.I.A. Inspector General report released earlier today, further underscore the need for a full investigation into the torture of prisoners and those who authorized it. The Obama administration made a commitment to transparency, and the release of documents related to the Bush administration’s torture program is a positive step.”

The nihilistic utilitarian argument of the sheepishly loyalist is that this ‘cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of prisoners’ is effective. The report states that such assertions are purely subjective, at best — objectively ignorant to the fundamental principle of morality, natural law, and natural rights that the executors of torture policy swear to uphold being legally bound the U.S. Constitution:

The Agency lacked adequate linguists or subject matter experts had very little hard knowledge of what particular al-Qa’ida leaders — who later became detainees — knew, This lack of knowledge led analysts to speculate about what a detainee “should know,” vice information the anal st could objectively demonstrate the detainee did know. [redacted]

When a detainee did not respond to a question posed to him, the assumption at Headquarters was that the detainee was holding back and knew more; consequently, Headquarters recommended resumption of E.I.T.’s…. (p.83)

Determining the effectiveness of each E.I.T. is important in facilitating Agency management’s decision as to which techniques should be used and for how long. Measuring the overall effectiveness of E.I.T.’s is challenging for a number of reasons including: (1) the Agency cannot determine with any certainty the totality of the intelligence the detainee. actually possesses: (2) each detainee has different fears of and tolerance for E.I.T.’s; (3) the application of the same E.I.T.’s by different interrogators may have different results; and [redacted]…. (p. 89-90)

Throughout its history, the United States has been an international proponent of human rights and has voiced opposition to torture and mistreatment of prisoners by foreign countries. ‘This position is based upon fundamental principles that are deeply embedded in the American legal structure and jurisprudence. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, for example, require due process of law, while the Eighth Amendment bars “cruel and unusual punishments.”

The President advised the Senate when submitting the Torture Convention for ratification that the United States would construe the requirement of Article 16 of the Convention to “undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture” as “roughly equivalent toll” and “coextensive with the Constitutional guarantees against cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment”. To this end, the United States submitted a reservation to the Torture Convention stating that the United States considers itself bound by Article 16 “only insofar as the term ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the 5th,8th and/or 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” Although the Torture Convention expressly provides that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, including war or any other public emergency, and no order from a superior officer, justifies torture, no similar provision was included regarding acts of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (p. 92)

Methods labeled under “Specific Unauthorized or Undocumented Techniques” in the report are:

  • Handgun and Power Drill
  • Threats
  • Smoke
  • Stress Position
  • Stiff Brush and Shackles
  • Waterboard Technique

Mock Executions

The report calls the handgun and power drill,”the most significant” of the unauthorized techniques used.

In December 2002, the interrogation team assessed alleged al Qaeda official Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri as “compliant”. (p. 41)

The report states:

Sometime between 28 December 2002 and 1 January 2003, the debriefer used an unloaded semi-automatic handgun as a prop to frighten al-Nashiri into disclosing information. After discussing this plan with [redacted], 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 used a power drill to frighten al-Nashiri. With [reddacted] consent, the debriefer entered the detainee’s cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded.

“O.I.G. investigated and. referred its findings to the Criminal Division of D.O.J. On 11 September 2003, D.O.J. declined to prosecute and turned these matters over to CIA for disposition. These incidents are the subject of a separate OIG Report of Investigation.” (p. 41-42)

Footnote #44 notes:

This individual was not a trained interrogator and was not authorized to use E.I.T.s.

The report continues later:

The debriefer stated that when he was [redacted] between September and October 2002, [redacted] offered to fire a handgun outside the interrogation room while the debriefer was interviewing a detainee who was thought to be withholding information. [redacted] staged the incident, which included screaming and-yelling outside the cell by other C.I.A. officers and [redacted] guards. When the guards moved the detainee from the-interrogation room, they passed a guard who was dressed as a hooded detainee, lying motionless on the ground, and made to appear as if he had been shot to death. (p. 70)

The debriefer did not think he had to report this mock execution because it was discussed “several days prior to and after the incident”. A “senior operations officer” was “not present” during the mock execution, but “understood it went badly; it was transparently a ruse and no benefit was derived from it”.

Another interrogater told the O.I.G. that he participated in mock execution where a gun was fired outside the building. (p. 72)


This “same Headquarters debriefer” told Mr. al-Nashiri, “We could bring your mother in here,” and “We could bring your family in here”

The officer had an “Arab dialect” and wanted Mr. al-Nashiri to believe he was an intelligence officer with a specific country where “it is widely believed in Middle East circles” that said country uses an interrogation method which “involves sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee”. (p. 42-43)

A C.I.A. interrogator said that a group of interrogators — whose affiliation was redacted — told proud 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (K.S.M.), “We’re going to kill your children.” More was said, but was also redacted.


K.S.M. was waterboarded 183 in a single month, though he proudly confessed to masterminding 9/11. The report states that then-A.G. John Ashcroft approved of a high quantity of waterboarding uses on individuals:

The Attorney General acknowledged he is fully aware of the repetitive use of the waterboard and that C.I.A. is well within the scope of the D.O.J. opinion and the authority given to C.I.A. by that opinion. The Attorney General was informed the waterboard had been used 119 times on a single individual. (p. 45)

The rest of the point following the report of K.S.M. being waterboarded 183 times is about 18-25 lines completely redacted. Outside of what I quoted on page 45 and two other sentences, pages 45-68 are completely redacted.

Cartoid artery restriction

Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story writes:

One such “improvised action” was a pressure point tactic: the compression of a detainee’s carotid artery by an agent with both hands around the prisoner’s neck.

Prolonged compression of the carotid artery is lethal, as it cuts off blood flow to the brain.

The interrogator “who was facing the shackled detainee, reportedly watched his eyes to the point that the detainee would nod and start to pass out; then [the interrogator] shook the detainee to wake him. This process was repeated for a total of three applications on the detainee.” (p. 70)


The reports tells of one detainee being beaten to death by a private contractor, contracted by the C.I.A. to conduct interrogations. The firm’s identity is redacted:

During the four days the individual was detained, an Agency independent contractor, who was a paramilitary officer, is alleged to have severely beaten the detainee with a large metal flashlight and kicked him during interrogation sessions. The detainee died in custody on 21 June: his body was turned over to a local cleric and returned to his family on the following date without an autopsy being performed. Neither the contractor nor his Agency staff supervisor had been trained or authorized to conduct interrogations. The Agency did not renew the independent contractor’s contract, which was up for renewal soon after the incident. O.I.G. is investigating this incident in concert with D.O.J. (p. 79)

At The Daily Beast, Human Rights Watch researcher John Sifton wrote in May:

A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including C.I.A.-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.

A review of homicide cases, however, shows that few detainee deaths have been properly investigated. Many were not investigated at all. And no official investigation has looked into the connection between detainee deaths and the interrogation policies promulgated by the Bush administration….

The government is not unaware of these homicides. In April 2006, a colleague of mine at Human Rights Watch and I met with Department of Justice criminal-division officials and requested information and updates on this case and several others. Justice officials were familiar with these cases, but our pleas for information were rejected….

The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices. Any meaningful investigation of those homicides would reveal the initial authorizations and their link to the homicides.

Homicide presents legal issues impossible to ignore. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice cannot conclude their deliberations about Bush-era torture policies without closely investigating the homicide cases tied to them. One cannot speak glibly of “policy differences” and “looking forward” and “distraction” when corpses are involved.

Eric Holder’s SPINO (Special Prosecutor In Name Only)

A.G. Eric Holder named John Durham as a special prosecutor to investigate and possibly prosecute C.I.A. employees for their participation in its torture program. Mr. Durham is currently investigating if laws were broken by C.I.A. employees in destroying videotaped interrogations in 2005.

But, Mr. Durham’s duty will not be that of a true special prosecutor with the duty to fully investigate the C.I.A.’s torture program in the pursuit of maximum justice. That would be an investigation to ‘take him where it takes him’, like the jobs given to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that led to locking up a U.S. Vice President’s Chief of Staff and Illinois state governors.

Extremely esteemed Salon blogger and Constitutional law scholar Glenn Greenwald quickly points out that Mr. Holder “has ordered what he calls ‘a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations'”:

Holder’s decision does not amount to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, since a preliminary review is used, as he emphasized, “to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter.” More important, the scope of the “review” is limited at the outset to those who failed to “act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance” — meaning only those interrogators and other officials who exceeded the torture limits which John Yoo and Jay Bybee approved. Those who, with good faith, tortured within the limits of the O.L.C. memos will “be protected from legal jeopardy”….

Strictly speaking, Holder’s announced “review” concerns only those in the intelligence community who conducted interrogations. And by extending immunity only to those who both (a) acted “within the scope of the [O.L.C.] legal guidelines” and (b) “acted in good faith,” it’s theoretically possible that there is some class of persons who could fall outside the scope of immunity even though they technically complied with the O.L.C. memos: i.e. high-level White House officials and/or DOJ lawyers who had reason to believe that the conduct authorized by the memos was illegal, meaning those who wrote or requested those memos with the deliberate intent to obtain cover for what they knew was criminal behavior….

As a practical matter, Holder is consciously establishing as the legal baseline — he’s vesting with sterling legal authority — those warped, torture-justifying DOJ memos. Worse, his pledge of immunity today for those who complied with those memos went beyond mere interrogators and includes everyone, policymakers and lawyers alike… Thus, as long as, say, a White House official shows that (a) the only torture methods they ordered were approved by the OLC and (b) they did not know those methods were criminal, then they would be entitled to full-scale immunity under the standard Holder announced today.

This quite likely sets up, at most, a process where a few low-level sacrificial lambs… might be investigated and prosecuted where they tortured people the wrong way. Those who tortured “the right way” — meaning the way the OLC directed — will receive full-scale immunity….

A repeat of the Abu Ghraib experience is exactly what it seems Holder intends. Making matters worse still is a new story today from The New York Times that a still-unreleased report from The D.O.J.’s Office of Professional Responsibility (O.P.R.) recommended that Holder re-visit prior decisions of the Bush D.O.J. not to prosecute individual detainee abuse cases, including ones that resulted in the murder of the detainee. Why is that significant? Because the role of the O.P.R. is to assess whether D.O.J. lawyers acted ethically, and their conclusion that those decisions not to prosecute should be re-visited means they believe there was some form of lawyer misconduct involved in those decisions. In other words, the Bush D.O.J. participated in a whitewash of torture — including cases involving homicide — that was so transparent that it rose to the level of attorney ethical misconduct. The Bush D.O.J. was rife at its core with corruption and an eagerness to justify criminal conduct by administration officials. Justifying criminal conduct by Bush officials was a core purpose of the Bush D.O.J.

Let’s name some names:

  • Dick Cheney
  • John Ashcroft
  • George Tenet
  • David Addington
  • Porter Goss
  • John Yoo
  • Jay Bybee
  • Bob Graham
  • Jay Rockefeller
  • Pat Roberts
  • Peter Hoekstra
  • Dennis Hastert
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Silvestre Reyes

This just a handful of people to look at who knew what, when, and whether or not they signed off on U.S. taxpayer dollars being stolen from people at gunpoint to violate the Constitution and Natural Law. Let’s not beat around the Bush.

  1. […] (McClatchy). I posted an analysis of the C.I.A. Inspector General’s report released yesterday here that it was heavily redacted, most notably 23 consecutive pages following the section reporting […]

  2. […] extremely redacted C.I.A. Inspector General report found detainees faced mock executions, threats to kill and rape family members, waterboarding, […]

  3. […] of the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. An inspector general’s report recently found the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) covered up murder, performed mock executions on detainees, […]

  4. […] extremely redacted C.I.A. Inspector General report found detainees faced mock executions, threats to kill and rape family members, waterboarding, […]

  5. […] I wrote about how this not foreign to the Iraqi government—the conduct and systematic cover-up and denial. It is system replicated from the U.S. government exported to Iraq. The Obama Administration is de facto immunizing murder, torture, humiliation, threats against children by the C.I.A. and the lawyers who criminally …. […]

  6. […] (September 2001-October 2003),” published in May 2004, but only made publicly available last August, it was stated that the “enhanced interrogation of al-Nashiri continued through 4 December […]

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