American interrogators shackled detainees to the ceiling, stripped them naked, hooded, and dragged through the halls, deprived them of sleep for 180 hours – seven and a half days – and simulated drowning, the so-called enhanced interrogation technique known as waterboarding.
These harrowing acts were announced on the floor of the Senate and forever written into the Congressional record on Tuesday, as Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein revealed the devastating details of an oversight report of the country’s detention, torture, and interrogation program.
“The CIA’s actions are a stain on our values and our history,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, introducing the results of Democrats’ five-year investigation, which reviewed more than 6 million CIA documents, finding that the torture techniques employed by the CIA were unproductive, under regulated, and far more brutal than previously represented.
Crucially: the U.S. never once obtained actionable, otherwise unavailable information from these techniques, despite assertions from CIA officials that the U.S. had saved lives with the program. ”Not a single case holds up,” Feinstein said.
But that wasn’t what the CIA told others: the intelligence agency provided “extensive, inaccurate information” to the “White House, Department of Justice, Congress, the CIA Inspector General, the media, and the American public” that systemically mislead the rest of the government and public about the nature and success of the program, Feinstein said.
The interrogations were “far more brutal” than previously thought, she said, before detailing the harrowing torture CIA interrogators implemented on detainees.
The CIA tortured detainees were deprived of sleep for days and put in painful, stress positions. They were shackled to the ceiling with their hands above their heads. a process called a “rough takedown” was employed, where detainees were dragged taken from their cells, their clothes cut off and their heads hooded, and then run and dragged down the halls while being punched. One detainee who was subjected to that, Gul Rahman, later died from hypothermia after being shackled to the floor wearing just a sweatshirt.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain – who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam – poignantly slammed the CIA’s torture and detention program.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad intelligence from good,” he said. “I know they will say whatever their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises what most distinguishes us from our enemies.”
Assurances the CIA gave to the Department of Justice that torture techniques would be carefully used, supervised by medical officials, and that “interrogators would be carefully vetted and highly trained,” Feinstein said.
“None of these assurances,” she said “were consistently or even routinely carried out.”
At least 119 people were detained and interrogated, Feinstein revealed – that’s more than the “less than 100 people” officials have stated prior – and at least 26 were wrongfully held, by the CIA’s own account.
“Due to poor record keeping, a full accounting of how many specific detainees were held and how they were treated may never be known,” she added.
While releasing the report “cannot remove that stain, but it can and does say to our people that America is big enough to admit when it’s wrong and … learn from its mistakes,” the 81-year-old California Democrat said of more than 500-page executive summary, culled from more than 6,000 pages the Senate Democrats produced after a multi-year investigation.
Feinstein defended her decision to release the report, despite warnings from various officials that it could spark violence and anti-American sentiment.
“There may never be the right time to release this report,” she said, but it “is too important to shelve indefinitely.”
The senator was partially motivated, she said, by the “campaign of mistaken statements and press articles launched against the report before anyone has had a chance to read it.”
McCain also defended it.
“I believe the American people have a right - indeed, a responsibility - to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values,” he said.