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Senate Report on CIA Torture Details Brutality Used Against Detainees—Including ‘Rectal Feeding’

At the Heart of Torture (Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

Senate Intelligence Committee releases summary of CIA torture report

The long-awaited summary from the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, which involved torture, has been released. It details a criminal conspiracy involving the brutality the CIA used against detainees in the global “War on Terrorism” and the lengths to which CIA officials and interrogators went to cover up and conceal their actions.

Senate intelligence committee staff, which put together the report over a period of three and a half years, reviewed the detention and treatment of at least 119 individuals. At least thirty-nine of them were subjected to what the CIA termed “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

There were likely more detainees captured and subjected to torture but the CIA never “conducted a comprehensive audit or developed a complete and accurate list of the individuals it had detained or subjected” to torture techniques. In fact, in late 2008, CIA director Michael Hayden instructed an officer to “devise a way to keep the number of CIA detainees at the same number the CIA had previously briefed Congress” after reviewing how many people had been detained. The number was 98.

The 499-page summary describes how early 2003 was the “most active period” of the CIA’s program. Of the 119 detainees identified, 53 were captured in 2003. Of the 39 who were subjected to torture techniques, 17 detainees were tortured between January 2003 and August 2003.

At least 17 of the detainees captured by the CIA were subjected to torture techniques without any approval whatsoever from CIA headquarters.

“CIA’s chief of interrogations used water dousing against detainees, including with cold water and/or ice water baths, as an interrogation technique without prior approval.”

One of the most gruesome and depraved paragraphs in the report describes how CIA detainees were subject to “‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.” 

The use of rectal rehydration is particularly heinous, as it is a standard medical procedure being used to torture detainees into complying with interrogators. In February 2004, CIA medical officers discussed using this “as a means of behavior control.”

“[W]hile IV infusion is safe and effective, we were impressed with the ancillary effectiveness of rectal infusion on ending the water refusal in a similar case.”

The same medical officer indicated the best way to place the “rectal tube” into Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the alleged suspects involved in the September 11th attacks, was to “place it and open up the IV tubing” so that the “flow will self regulate, sloshing up the large intestines.” He also stated “what I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag—let gravity do the work.”

Nashiri was fed Ensure through his rectum while he was “in a forward facing position” with his head lower than his torso. Another detainee, Majid Khan, had his “‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”

CIA personnel also conducted rectal exams with “excessive force” on at least two detainees imprisoned at the Salt Pit facility in Afghanistan. Mustafa al-Hawsawi was “later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure and symptomatic rectal prolapse.”

During the first half of 2003, there were four detainees interrogated by CIA who had “medical complications” in their legs. Two detainees each had a broken foot. One had a sprained ankle. Another had a prosthetic leg. They were made to stand for “extended periods of time” for sleep deprivation.

The CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to some of the worst brutality. The “aggressive phase of interrogation,” as the CIA called it, lasted for twenty days. He spent a “total of 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours) in a large (coffin size) confinement box and 29 hours in a small confinement box, which had a width of 21 inches, a depth of 2.5 feet and a height of 2.5 feet.”

When he was first waterboarded, Zubaydah “coughed, vomited and had ‘involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities.'” He maintained he had no information to provide on threats to the United States.

A medical officer wrote in an email, “So it begins. The session accelerated rapidly progressing quickly to the water board after large box, walling and small box periods. [Abu Zubaydah] seems very resistant to the water board. Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. No useful information so far…He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now. I’m head[ing] back for another water board session.”

Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times.

“The CIA interrogators told Abu Zubaydah that the only way he would leave the facility was in the coffin-shaped confinement box,” according to the  executive summary.

The CIA was prepared for the possibility that Zubaydah might die while in detention. He would be cremated if he did not survive his torture. The interrogation team put down in a cable, “Regardless which [disposition] option we follow however, and especially in light of the planned psychological pressure techniques to be implemented, we need to get reasonable assurances that [Abu Zubaydah] will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

In other words, because he was the CIA’s first detainee, the CIA did not want him to talk to others about what he had experienced so they could learn how to resist these “psychological pressure techniques” commonly regarded by humane people as torture.

Abu Ja’far al-Iraqi was “subjected to nudity, dietary manipulation, insult slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holds, walling, stress positions and water dousing with 44 degree Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes. He was shackled in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation and experienced swelling in his lower legs requiring blood thinner and spiral ace bandages.”

When this happened, the CIA did not decide to no longer subject him to this cruel treatment. He was instead “moved to a sitting position” and “his sleep deprivation was extended to 78 hours.” The “swelling subsided,” and he was given “more blood thinner and was returned to the standing position. The sleep deprivation was extended to 102 hours.”

Iraqi experienced 52 more hours of sleep deprivation before CIA headquarters told interrogators “eight hours was the minimum rest period between sleep deprivation sessions exceeding 48 hours. On top of the swelling, he also “experienced an edema on his head due to walling, abrasions on his neck and blisters on his ankles from shackles.”

At the Salt Pit, detainees were “often held down, naked, on a tarp on the floor, with the tarp pulled up around them to form a makeshift tub, while cold or refrigerated water was poured on them. Others were hosed down repeatedly while they were shackled naked, in a standing deprivation position. These same detainees were subsequently placed in rooms with temperatures ranging from 59 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Some detainees were subject to “water dousing,” which seemed to be very similar to waterboarding even though waterboarding had not been authorized.

For example, a CIA interrogator at the Salt Pit wrote that Mustafa al-Hawsawi “might have been waterboarded or subject to treatment that ‘could be indistinguishable from the waterboard.'”

A December 6, 2006, inspector general report found that Hawsawi had water poured on him while he was lying prone on the floor. That “can easily approximate waterboarding,” one CIA interrogator stated.

Another detainee, Abu Hazim, was subjected to similar treatment:

This incident was reported to the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia on September 10, 2004, as a “possible criminal violation.” However, the CIA inspector general concluded “there is no evidence that a cloth was placed over Abu Hazim’s face during water dousing or that his breathing was impaired.”

Below: 499-page summary of the CIA torture report



Creative Commons image “At the Heart of Torture” by Jared Rodriguez / truthout via Flickr.

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Senate Report on CIA Torture Details Brutality Used Against Detainees—Including ‘Rectal Feeding’

At the Heart of Torture (Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

Senate Intelligence Committee releases summary of CIA torture report

The long-awaited summary from the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, which involved torture, has been released. It details a criminal conspiracy involving the brutality the CIA used against detainees in the global “War on Terrorism” and the lengths to which CIA officials and interrogators went to cover up and conceal their actions.

Senate intelligence committee staff, which put together the report over a period of three and a half years, reviewed the detention and treatment of at least 119 individuals. At least thirty-nine of them were subjected to what the CIA termed “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

There were likely more detainees captured and subjected to torture but the CIA never “conducted a comprehensive audit or developed a complete and accurate list of the individuals it had detained or subjected” to torture techniques. In fact, in late 2008, CIA director Michael Hayden instructed an officer to “devise a way to keep the number of CIA detainees at the same number the CIA had previously briefed Congress” after reviewing how many people had been detained. The number was 98.

The 499-page summary describes how early 2003 was the “most active period” of the CIA’s program. Of the 119 detainees identified, 53 were captured in 2003. Of the 39 who were subjected to torture techniques, 17 detainees were tortured between January 2003 and August 2003.

At least 17 of the detainees captured by the CIA were subjected to torture techniques without any approval whatsoever from CIA headquarters.

“CIA’s chief of interrogations used water dousing against detainees, including with cold water and/or ice water baths, as an interrogation technique without prior approval.”

One of the most gruesome and depraved paragraphs in the report describes how CIA detainees were subject to “‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.” (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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