Senate Panel Finds CIA Torture Ineffective, 'Damaging' To U.S. Interests


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued on Dec. 9 a long report describing the CIA’s Bush-era torture program as not "effective" and damaging to U.S. interests.

The inquiry begun in 2009 made 20 key findings about the program launched during the Bush-Cheney administration, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. President George W. Bush (2001-2009) is shown in his official photo.

Update:  UN officials demand prosecutions for US torture, as reported by the Associated Press.

George W. BushThe program, the senate oversight panel said, was:

1 “not an effective means of acquiring intelligence”
2 “rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness”
3 “brutal and far worse than the CIA represented”
4 “conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher”
5 “repeatedly provided inaccurate information”
6 “actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight”
7 “impeded effective White House oversight”
8 “complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions”
9 “impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General”
10 “coordinated the release of classified information to the media”
11 “unprepared as it began operating”
12 “deeply flawed throughout the program's duration”
13 “overwhelmingly outsourced operations”
14 “coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved”
15 “did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained”
16 “failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness”
17 “rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable”
18 “ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections”
19 “inherently unsustainable”
20 “damaged the United States' standing in the world”

Justice Integrity Project coverage of the issue through the years included a column earlier this month reporting the fierce advocacy by the CIA and its allies to limit the details in the Senate report. That column and related articles are listed below in an appendix.

In 2010, we broke a story in Nieman Watchdog, a Harvard University publication for journalists, describing how the Obama administration was poised to continue a whitewash of internal U.S. Department of Justice probes initiated under the Bush-Cheney administration of the torture program and, separately, the firings of U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

That Nieman Watchdog column, New Questions Raised About Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials in U.S. Attorney Firings, began: "Four days before Nora Dannehy was appointed to investigate the Bush administration’s U.S. attorney firing scandal, a team of lawyers she led was found to have illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case. This previously unreported fact calls her entire investigation into question as well as that of a similar investigation by her colleague John Durham of DOJ and CIA decision-making involving torture."

The disclosures of that column were widely reprinted in the alternative media, and added new and sinister perspective especially to our ongoing investigations of the Bush-Cheney political prosecutions of such figures as former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and many others, including such Republicans as the late Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens.

John Brennan CIA Official PhotoCIA Director John Brennan, portrayed in his official photo, was identified in the Senate report as participating in the so-called "enhanced interrogations" during his career as a CIA officer before he became an advisor to the Obama 2008 presidential campaign and then a high level national security advisor in the White House of the Obama first term. Brennan has recently defended the CIA's practices and denounced the Senate investigation.

The Obama administration's reluctance to pursue justice in matters so serious as internal corruption at the Justice Department and torture helped broaden this project's focus from individual allegations of domestic law enforcement abuse.

Thus, our current scope includes reports of impropriety at top levels of all three federal branches, including the powerful intelligence and military organizations, and such supposed watchdog institutions as academia and the media.

Further research led also to my survey of the past half century of American politics, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, which explains how powerful behind-the-scenes players and institutions exercise hidden control over government leaders in such decision-making.

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman created the post of director of central intelligence to advise the president. Truman and Congress established the agency with the National Security Act of 1947.


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Barack Obama and John Brennan speak at White House in 2012 (White House photo)

Editor's Note: A White House photo in 2012 shows President Obama with then-aide and now CIA Director John O. Brennan. At the White House, Brennan managed the “kill lists” for drone strikes. Brennan was a career CIA officer and then head of a defense contractors association before becoming Obama's top national security advisor during the 2008 campaign. Given Obama's background documented in the book "Presidential Puppetry," Brennan might be regarded as a presidential "control officer" or "handler" as much as an "advisor."

Update: After Scrutiny, C.I.A. Mandate Is Untouched, Mark Mazzzetti, Dec. 26, 2014. The scathing report the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered this month is unlikely to significantly change the role the C.I.A. now plays in running America’s secret wars. A number of factors — from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations — ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished, either during his waning years in the White House or for some time after that. The Church Committee’s revelations [in the mid 1970s] about the abuses committed by the intelligence community — and a parallel House investigation led by Representative Otis G. Pike of New York — came at the end of America’s wrenching military involvement in Vietnam, and during a period of détente with the Soviet Union. The disclosures of C.I.A. assassination schemes and spying on Vietnam War protesters fueled a post-Watergate fury among many Americans who had grown cynical about secret plots hatched in Washington. By contrast, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on C.I.A. excesses since the Sept. 11 attacks arrived in the midst of renewed fears of global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic State and grisly beheading videos of American hostages. A CBS News poll released last week found that though 69 percent of those asked consider waterboarding to be torture, 49 percent think that brutal interrogation methods are sometimes justified. More than half, 57 percent, believe that the tactics are at least sometimes effective in producing valuable intelligence to help stop terrorist attacks.

ABC News, Pay and Suffering: Psychologists Made $80M From CIA Interrogation Program, Lee Ferran and Brian Ross, Dec. 9, 2014. The two psychologists contracted by the CIA to design the enhanced interrogation techniques Bruce Jessen, left, and Jim Mitchell ABC Newsused against al Qaeda suspects were paid more than $80 million, even though they were never themselves interrogators, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report,” released today -- a report that one of the psychologists told ABC News was "bulls**t." “On the CIA’s behalf, the contract psychologists developed theories of interrogation based on ‘learned helplessness,’ and developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques that was approved for use against [al Qaeda operative] Abu Zubaydah and subsequent CIA detainees,” the report says, referring to the list of techniques that included slapping captives and waterboarding, among others. "By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program." In 2009, ABC News identified the psychologists as former military officers Jim Mitchell, left, and Bruce Jessen, shown in an ABC News photo. “The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts,” Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator, said in the original ABC News report.

Fusion, The CIA paid other countries millions of dollars — in cash — to house secret prisons for their interrogation programs, Brett LoGiurato, Dec. 9, 2014. The Central Intelligence Agency paid millions of dollars in cash to foreign governments to help convince them to host black sites where the agency could carry out its disputed detention and interrogation programs, according to a new Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday.
The Washington Post identifies the five countries mentioned in the report as Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Afghanistan (four sites), and Thailand. The CIA provided millions of dollars in cash payments to the governments, while instructing station officers in those countries to compile “wish lists” of possible areas of assistance that could entice the countries to host CIA black sites.

Huffington Post, Senate Report Says Torture Program Was More Gruesome, Widespread Than CIA Claimed, Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim, Dec. 9, 2014. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the highly CIA Logoanticipated 500-page summary of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, providing a sobering glimpse into one of the darkest chapters in the U.S. government's history. In the report, a product of a 5-year investigation, Senate investigators reveal sordid details of the systemic and individual failures by the agency personnel who ran the "enhanced interrogation program" -- the government's euphemism for systematic torture -- during the George W. Bush administration. The program involved capturing terrorism suspects and shipping them to secret overseas prisons, where they were subjected to techniques such as waterboarding. The CIA's program has long been criticized as un-American and a chilling departure from the nation’s values. Opponents allege that it resulted in gross abuses and inhumane treatment of detainees, some of whom were eventually revealed not to have been involved in terror organizations. The 6,300-page report may be the most unsanitized official account to date of the agency’s program, which the Senate investigators say was mismanaged, poorly conducted and characterized by abuses far more widespread than the CIA previously conveyed to lawmakers.

Huffington Post Separate Stories: Forced Rectal Feeding...Detainee Waterboarded 83 Times...Kept In Cramped Box For 300 Hours...CIA Accidentally Tortured Own Informants...Led To Fabricated Info...Some Officers Had History Of Sexual Assault...Interrogator Threatened To Rape Detainee's Mother...CIA Paid Torture Experts $81 Million...Innocent People Brutalized...Quarter Of The World Helped Run Program...CIA Misled Media To Shape Coverage... Didn't Help Find Bin Laden...How U.S. Actually Captured 9/11 Mastermind...GOP: Torture Helped America!...Reminder: This Is Waterboarding

AP via Yahoo News! UN officials demand prosecutions for US torture, John Heilprin, Dec. 10, 2014. All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized or carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. officials said Wednesday. It's not clear, however, how human rights officials think these prosecutions will take place, since the Justice Department has declined to prosecute and the U.S. is not a member of the International Criminal Court. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it's "crystal clear" under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability. "In all countries, if someone commits murder, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they commit rape or armed robbery, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they order, enable or commit torture -- recognized as a serious international crime -- they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency," he said. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities is the "start of a process" toward prosecutions, because the "prohibition against torture is absolute," Ban's spokesman said.     

Washington Post, A grim portrait of CIA tactics, Report details brutality, pattern of deception, Greg Miller, Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Dec. 9, 2014. A Senate probe of the agency’s secret interrogations after 9/11 alleges the use of unapproved practices and dishonesty with the White House and Congress. Read the report. The 20 key findings. The 10 most harrowing excerpts.
Another hit for U.S. global standing.

Washington Post, Searing report unlikely to put a dent in CIA’s power, Greg Miller and Dana Priest, Dec. 9, 2014. Decades of scandals haven’t reined in the agency, which U.S. leaders rely on to do what no other agency can. The release of a searing report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s interrogation program Tuesday was the latest morale-sinking moment for an agency that has been buffeted repeatedly throughout its history, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the Nixon-era domestic abuses to the 1980s scandals tied to Iran and Latin America. If anything, the cycle has only been compressed in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with at least four major investigations, not to mention criminal probes, during a frenetic 13-year span. That collection now includes a 528-page account of alleged CIA abuses and dishonesty in its brutal treatment of terrorism suspects.

Lawfare, Released: SSCI Detention and Interrogation Study, Along With Minority Views and the CIA’s Response, Wells Bennett, Dec. 9, 2014. Here is the long-awaited Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. The latter includes in a single file a foreword authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as the Study’s findings and conclusions. Additionally, the Committee also has published these materials: Senator Feinstein’s statement; a history of key dates in in the Committee’s study; and a timeline of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Among other materials are: The Minority Views of Vice Chairman Chambliss, joined by Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio, and Coburn; Senator Jay Rockefeller's additional views; Additional view members of Committee members (Senators Rockefeller, Wyden, Udall, Heinrich, King,  Collins); The CIA’s June 2013 response; The statement from Director Brennan and the CIA's fact sheet.

New York Magazine, Meet the Psychologists Who Helped the CIA Torture, Jesse Singal, Dec. 9, 2014. Both men came from an Air Force background, where they worked on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program in which military personnel are trained to resist enemy questioning by enduring oftentimes brutal mock interrogations. Beyond that, though, they seemed otherwise poorly suited for the task of interrogating al-Qaeda detainees. “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator,” the report notes, “nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa'ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its report on the CIA’s torture program offers some horrifying details about U.S. treatment of detainees captured in the post-9/11 years. It also highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the “enhanced interrogation” program and carrying it out. Within the report, the duo in question are referred to with the pseudonyms "Grayson Swigert" and "Hammond Dunbar." But both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program.

New York Times, Obama Avoids Taking Sides on Effectiveness of C.I.A. Techniques, Peter Baker, Dec. 10, 2014. “We are not going to engage in this debate,” said a senior administration official close to President Obama. Other views: Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the Democratic chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said the program was not just morally wrong but ineffective. The committee’s report argues that information gleaned from the interrogations was often false, duplicative or could have been obtained in other ways.  “It finds that coercive interrogation techniques did not produce the vital, otherwise unavailable intelligence the C.I.A. has claimed,” she said. CIA Director John Brennan did not back down. "Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom E.I.T.s were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives,” he said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to enhanced interrogation techniques. “The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of Al Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.” Mr. Brennan acknowledged that the program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes,” especially because the C.I.A. was unprepared for its new post-Sept. 11 role. But he rejected the assertion that the agency deliberately deceived the public about the efficacy of the interrogations.

Sirius XM, Attorney General Eric Holder to SiriusXM’s Joe Madison: “The Senate report has done our country a great service,”  Joe Madison interview scheduled for broadcast Dec. 12, 2014. Attorney General Eric Holder recently spoke with SiriusXM’s Joe Madison on the possible prosecution of US administration officials after the release of the CIA torture report in the case the CIA broke laws in interrogations related to 9/11. The special interview will air on SiriusXM Urban View channel 126 on Dec. 12. SiriusXM’s “Joe Madison The Black Eagle" is a live, daily call-in show airing 6:00-10:00am on SiriusXM’s Urban View, channel 126. Madison is a human rights and civil rights activist, abolitionist against slavery in Southern Sudan, television commentator, columnist, lecturer, labor and corporate spokesman, musician and athlete. He is the former executive director of the Detroit NAACP and was later named director of the national NAACP political action department.

New York Times, Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report, Peter Baker, Dec. 7, 2014. A long-awaited Senate report condemning torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has not even been made public yet, but Dick Cheneyformer President George W. Bush’s team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions. The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that “we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,” as one former official put it. Mr. Bush made that clear in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Vice President Dick Cheney, a strong defender of the program, is shown in an official photo.

Politico, Dick Cheney Was Lying About Torture, Mark Fallon, Dec. 8, 2014. The Senate report confirms it doesn’t work. As those of us on the inside knew. It’s official: torture doesn’t work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden," as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11. I had long since come to that conclusion myself. As special agent in charge of the criminal investigation task force with investigators and intelligence personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, I was privy to the information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I was aware of no valuable information that came from waterboarding.

Justice Integrity Project, Our CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 1, 2014. The CIA's obstruction of probes of President Kennedy's 1963 assassination helps explain the agency's success thus far in blocking Senate oversight of CIA-run torture.  The agency this fall is fighting publication of a Senate report on torture while it also avoids for the most part adverse news coverage and government inquiry regarding Kennedy's death. The CIA has sought on national security grounds major edits in the Senate probe begun in 2009 of agency torture of terror suspects.

Esquire, Mark Udall Promises America Will "Be Disgusted" at CIA Torture Report; And that he'll use every power he still has to declassify it, Scott Raab, Dec. 5, 2014. The Senate Intelligence Committee is soon expected to Mark Udallelease its summary of the so-called CIA Torture Report, the committee’s four-year-long investigation into the CIA’s Bush-era torture practices. Release of the summary is the result of months of wrangling and negotiating with the White House on what would be released to the public and when—and it will likely be heavily redacted. During an interview conducted on Friday, November 21, by Esquire writer at large Scott Raab, outgoing senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who lost his reelection race on November 4, once again said that if the report is not released in a way he deems transparent, he would consider all options to make it public. In this excerpt from the interview, Raab asks Udall, right, if he will read the document into the record on the floor of the Senate before he leaves in January, an act for which he cannot be prosecuted.


Justice Integrity Project Coverage

Justice Integrity Project, Questions raised of prosecutor who cleared Bush officials in purge probe, July 25, 2010.

Other Coverage

Salon / Unclaimed Territory, Torture crimes officially, permanently shielded, Glenn Greenwald, July 1, 2011. In August, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder -- under continuous, aggressive prodding by the Obama White House -- announced that three categories of individuals responsible for Bush-era torture crimes would be fully immunized from any form of criminal investigation and prosecution:  (1) Bush officials who ordered the torture (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld); (2) Bush lawyers who legally approved it (Yoo, Bybee, Levin), and (3) those in the CIA and the military who tortured within the confines of the permission slips they were given by those officials and lawyers (i.e., "good-faith" torturers). The one exception to this sweeping immunity was that low-level CIA agents and service members who went so far beyond the torture permission slips as to basically commit brutal, unauthorized murder would be subject to a "preliminary review" to determine if a full investigation was warranted -- in other words, the Abu Ghraib model of justice was being applied, where only low-ranking scapegoats would be subject to possible punishment while high-level officials would be protected. Yesterday, it was announced that this "preliminary review" by the prosecutor assigned to conduct it, U.S. Attorney John Durham, is now complete, and -- exactly as one would expect -- even this category of criminals has been almost entirely protected, meaning a total legal whitewash for the Bush torture regime.

Porter Goss CIA DirectorPorter Goss, CIA director from 2004 to 2006 during a period of major abuses in the torture and rendition program, is shown in an official photo. Following his graduation from Yale College, he became a career CIA officer and then a longstanding congressman representing a Florida district before his appointment by President George W. Bush to lead the CIA.

Washington Post, Justice Department to investigate deaths of two detainees in CIA custody, Peter Finn and Julie Tate, June 30, 2011. The Justice Department has opened full criminal investigations of the deaths in CIA custody of two detainees, including one who perished at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. officials said Thursday. The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., means continued legal jeopardy for several CIA operatives but at the same time closes the book on inquiries that potentially threatened many others. A federal prosecutor reviewed 101 cases in which agency officers and contractors interrogated suspected terrorists during years of military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but found cause to pursue criminal cases in only two.


Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues, The Most Essential Lesson of History That No One Wants To Admit, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 8, 2014. This is a very important article by Thad Beversdorf. It documents that US military invasions of Iraq and Syria were planned long in advance of 9/11 and that the conflict that Washington is engineering with Russia long predates the conflict that Washington has orchestrated in Ukraine. Beversdorf demonstrates that the same handful of neoconservatives have been involved in writing policy papers that define Iraq, Syria, and Russia as threats. With the threat defined, the same people write letters to the US president describing an urgent need to act. Then the same people appointed to office and in power implement the military actions against the threat. Beversdorf establishes that it is all based on lies and deception of the Western peoples. Now the same handful of neoconservative ideologues are focused on “destroying Russia economically to disable them militarily in an effort to prevent a Sino-Soviet alliance.” This attempt to fortify Washington’s power over the world has the earmarks of World War III.

First Rebuttal, The Most Essential Lesson of History That No One Wants To Admit, Thad Beversdorf, Dec. 7, 2014. Ron Paul wrote an eye opening article recently about some legislation that was just signed in Congress, namely H. Res. 758. In the article Dr. Paul explains the purpose of the resolution. It’s not a new law but provides a basis of facts that will be relied on for future action. So essentially the resolution purports that Russia behaved badly in various ways and by way of signing H. Res. 758 each congressman was indicating their agreement that the propositions contained therein are factual. Iraq was not a consequence of poor intelligence or bad decisions in the wake of post 9/11 emotions. The invasions of both Iraq and Syria were being planned and discussed for many years before 9/11. It is imperative to understand such things. Because while we cannot change history, we must use history to change the future.

Naked Capitalism, NYTimes Dealbook’s Dishonest Salvo at Elizabeth Warren Over Calling Out an Unqualified Nominee for Treasury Post, Yves Smith, Dec. 8, 2014. Even though Andrew Ross Sorkin and his mini-empire, the New York Times Dealbook, are reliable defenders of their Big Finance meal tickets, they’ve managed to skim above, if sometimes just barely above, abject intellectual dishonesty. But Dealbook has published not one but three pieces in as many weeks in defense of an unacceptably weak Obama Administration nominee for an important Treasury post, the Under Secretary of Domestic Finance. The candidate is Antonio Weiss, a Lazard mergers and acquisitions professional who was elevated to head of investment banking in 2009. There’s no doubt that Weiss is accomplished. The non-trivial problem, as Elizabeth Warren and others have pointed out, is that Weiss’ experience and skills have absolutely nothing to do with the Treasury role.