It’s Four Years Since the Executive Summary of the Senate Torture Report Was Published: Where’s the Full Report?


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Today, December 9, marks four years since the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was published. Although this 500-page document was quite heavily redacted, its release was nevertheless something of a triumph for America’s notion of itself as having a government whose actions are subjected to checks and balances.

The full 6,000-page report, which took five years and $40 million to compile, was approved by nine members of the committee to six on December 13, 2012, and the executive summary was released eight months after the committee voted to release significant parts of the report — key findings and an executive summary.

What was released was devastating for the CIA.

As I explained in an article for Al-Jazeera, entitled, ‘Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report’, which was published the day after the executive summary was published:

[A]lthough some of the gruesome facts about the torture programme were known, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report provides far more. In its “Findings and Conclusions”, for example, the report states: “At least five CIA detainees were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water ‘baths’. The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you’. CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families — to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’”

There are many more examples. The report states: “The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example, became ‘completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth’. Internal CIA records describe the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad as evolving into a ‘series of near drownings.’”

In addition, “sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours”, and although some “experienced disturbing hallucinations”, in at least two cases the CIA continued its abuse.

As I also explained, the committee also concluded that “torture was ‘not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees’, that the CIA made ‘inaccurate claims’ about the ‘effectiveness’ of the programme in an attempt to justify it and that it led to friction with other agencies that endangered national security, as well as providing false statements that led to costly and worthless wild goose chases.”

The report also concluded that non-approved techniques were used widely, that “[a]t least 17 detainees were subjected to CIA enhanced interrogation techniques without authorisation from CIA headquarters”, and that “multiple detainees were subjected to techniques that were applied in ways that diverged from the specific authorisation, or were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques by interrogators who had not been authorised to use them.”

The executive summary also provided details about the number of prisoners held by the CIA, and previously unknown information about their cases, establishing that there had been 119 prisoners in total. For years, researchers had tried to establish details about the program, and I had played a part in this as the lead writer of a United Nations report about secret detention that was published in 2010. The original document is here, and my annotated cross-posts of the relevant sections about the US program are here: UN Secret Detention Report (Part One): The CIA’s “High-Value Detainee” Program and Secret Prisons, UN Secret Detention Report (Part Two): CIA Prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq and UN Secret Detention Report (Part Three): Proxy Detention, Other Countries’ Complicity, and Obama’s Record.

Unfortunately, since the executive summary of the report was published, calls for the full report to be made publicly available have been thwarted, as have calls for any kind of public accountability.

There has, however, been one noticeable victory. Former US military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who instigated and led the torture program — and were paid $81m for doing sowere taken to court by several former “black site” prisoners — and the family of another “black site” prisoner who was killed — and ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.

This was significant, because the committee had been highly critical of the central role played by Mitchell and Jessen, even though neither of them “had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialised knowledge of al-Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.”

Unfortunately, while this was a success, a noticeable defeat has been the appointment of Gina Haspel as CIA Director, because she spent some time running the first post-9/11 “black site’ in Thailand, where the torture program was first used, and her appointment sends a horrible message about the unaccountability of the US government — particularly under Donald Trump.

As I have mentioned before, if anyone has a full copy of the torture report, I’m happy for you to send it to me!

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    It’s exactly four years since the executive summary of the CIA torture report was issued, which shocked America and the world with its clear evidence of the brutality and pointlessness of the CIA’s Bush-endorsed post-9/11 torture program, and showed that checks and balances still mean something in the US. Since then, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the torture program, have been forced to settle out of court with former prisoners for an undisclosed amount, but no one else has been held accountable, and Gina Haspel, of course, who ran a “black site,” is now director of the CIA. Also, the full 6,000-page report has been buried, even though its sordid details still need to see the light of day!

  2. Tom says...

    While a few torture survivors have gotten some compensation, keep in mind those who don’t. The usual reason? There’s no uniform law on statute of limitations in the US. Is the same true in the UK?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Good question, Tom, which I hadn’t thought about before. Wikipedia, however, tells me that the UK “is almost unique in the world in that it has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence tried above magistrate level”, so that’s quite interesting. More here:

  4. Tom says...

    The reason for many statute of limitations in the States is to put a cap on potential damages. Which when you think about it is insulting. What value do you put on a human being’s life? A rape survivor? A torture survivor? This is also why many powerful US celebs try their defamation cases in the UK and not here.

  5. Tom says...

    Here the burden of proof is on the plantiff. In the UK, it’s the defendant.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your comments, Tom. Fundamentally, I fail to understand why there should be statutes of limitations at all, but then again maybe I’ve missed the significance of your comment – that it is, fundamentally, to protect the rich and/or powerful.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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