The United States Senate Intelligence Committee released a report this week after a four-year $40 million investigation assessing the CIA’s post – 9/11 terrorist detention program and the methods used to interrogate detainees. Following the release of the report, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded the CIA’s use of torture was “brutal and ineffective – and that the CIA repeatedly lied about its usefulness.”
The investigation determined the CIA held an estimated 119 prisoners throughout secret detention facilities, 26 of whom were held illegally. The main conclusions of the Senate’s report are “that the CIA misled Congress, the White House and the Department of Justice, that the agency ignored internal critiques of the program and that the CIA’s use of the [interrogation] techniques went far beyond the legal authority bestowed upon it by the Bush White House.” The CIA responded to the allegations by asserting the enhanced interrogation program was approved under orders from within the Bush administration.
It was revealed in the Senate report that CIA interrogators subjected detainees to quasi-drowning, staged mock executions and revved power drills near their heads. Agents also employed the use of sensory and sleep deprivation interrogation methods. Some CIA members went so far as to subject prisoners to rectal rehydration and rectal feeding.
There was at least one detainee fatality resulting from hypothermia, and multiple near fatal occurrences in instances where inmates were waterboarded in excess of 180 times. The report also documents the CIA’s recruitment of psychologist contractors to “develop enhanced [psychological] interrogation techniques to be used on terror suspects and other detainees.”
President Barack Obama has praised CIA employees as “patriots” since the release of the report. However he has subsequently reiterated, “the techniques constituted torture in my mind and were a betrayal of American values.” The President maintains the CIA was at a disadvantage entering the interrogation program, as the agenda was constructed very quickly and lacked foresight.
Obama’s predecessor George Bush affirmed the detention and interrogation program was humane, legal and essential both to obstructing terrorist plots and to capturing senior Al-Qaeda militant figures. Ex-CIA officials also defended the viability of the program stating the Senate report is a “partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.”
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney assures the international community that the Canadian government does not condone or engage in torture. However, Ottawa officials maintain they would not rule out information obtained through the use of torture. Canada has been involved within the United States detainee custody agenda. Canadian officials have permitted the CIA to use Canadian airspace and airports repeatedly after Sept. 11, 2001 for secret fights transporting detainees to prison sites outside the U.S. as part of the United States’ extraordinary rendition program.
In the future, government officials must be vigilant and structure policy initiatives that respect international human rights treaties and condemn nations’ involvement in acts of torture. The United States should not hold itself above the law and defend actions abroad that contradict the nation’s values.