The Senate Intelligence Committee disclosed a summary of a classified CIA report detailing the torture tactics employed by operatives using so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques and rendition programs aimed at extracting sensitive information from individuals captured in conflict zones throughout the world. The summary released by the Senate details accounts of beatings, death threats, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, mock executions, forced rectal feeding and a laundry list of other inhumane techniques which the summary concludes are far worse than CIA officials initially claimed and that have been almost entirely ineffective in attaining information.
The 499-page Senate summary draws upon evidence included in a 6,000-word CIA report presented to Congress which detailed the brutal methods employed in the CIA’s controversial enhanced interrogation and rendition programs, which operated from 2002 until 2007. The programs subjected hundreds of foreign nationals to a range of inhumane treatments which have been widely criticized by both U.S. officials and members of the international community as torture, thus violating the human rights and undermines the protections afforded to detainees under the Geneva Convention.
One of the most glaring and often-referenced examples of such CIA-sanctioned torture tactics detailed in the Senate report is the use of force-feeding techniques, such as those used on prisoners detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval facility in Cuba, many of whom have been detained for years without ever officially being charged with a crime. Such force-feeding techniques gained international attention in 2013 when several detainees staged a hunger strike to protest their continued imprisonment without charge or trial, as well as the inhumane conditions at the facility. Wells Dixon, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated that force feeding is conducted by “forcibly inserting” an “especially large” tube through the detainee’s nose which extends down the esophagus into the stomach. This technique causes an extreme amount of stress on the body and can be fatal if the tube slips into the airway and pierces a lung.
The CIA torture tactics detailed in the Senate summary also included physiological torture techniques such as mock executions, waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which involved keeping detainees awake for periods of up to 180 hours at a time while they were forced to remain standing in awkward or painful positions. One of the most infamous examples of such physiological torture can be seen in the example of Redaal Najar, the first prisoner to be detained at the now infamous COBALT facility. Najar was imprisoned in total isolation and kept in complete darkness while being subjected to exceedingly cold temperatures and music that blared 24 hours a day. Najar was also shackled, hooded and hung by his wrists from an overhead bar for up to 22 hours a day, during which time he was forced to wear a diaper due to the denial of access to toilets.
Najar’s experience is but one of the many accounts listed in the Senate summary detailing the experiences of detainees who have endured such torture tactics at the hands of the CIA. While many former detainees have welcomed the release of the Senate report, several have expressed disappointment that their names and accounts of their detention have seemingly been omitted from the summary, such as Abdelhakim Balhadj, a prominent Libyan political and military official.
At one time, Balhadj was a political dissident in Libya who led a group of Islamic fighters against the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Balhadj recounted in an interview with Al Jazeera how he and his pregnant wife Fatima were abducted by U.S. CIA agents in 2004 while they were attempting to leave China to seek asylum in the U.K. Balhadj claims that he and his wife were then taken to a secret U.S. prison where he was hooded and beaten while suspended by his wrist on hooks that hung from the ceiling before being rendered back to Libya where he was imprisoned and tortured until 2010. The U.S. continues to deny its involvement in Balhadj’s case and Balhadj claims that certain evidence has been omitted from the Senate summary – information which is central to claims that his abduction and rendition to Libya was part of an effort conducted by U.S. and U.K. officials to cultivate a relationship with Gaddafi to aid in the so-called “war on terror.” “We were handed over to a dictator,” Belhadj states.
The Senate report also failed to detail the accounts of several other individuals who claim they were abducted and subjected to rendition and CIA-sanctioned torture tactics, including Khadija al-Saadi, who recounts how she and her family were abducted from their home in Hong Kong and rendered back to Libya during a joint operation between U.S. and U.K. agents. Khadija’s father, an outspoken opponent of then-dictator Gaddafi was detained and tortured by Libyan intelligence agents for seven years until 2010, when Gadhafi was overthrown in the popular uprising. Khadija has stated that her family now has access to the flight records and faxes exchanged between intelligence agencies during the operation which prove the whole ordeal. “Hiding the truth is how tyrannies and dictatorships function,” Khadija said.
The Senate summary has detailed the torture tactics utilized by the CIA during a period spanning from 2002 until 2007, during which the CIA has admitted its rendition program was actively operating in numerous locations throughout the world, yet the report fails to address the fact that such “enhanced interrogation” and rendition tactics are still taking place to this day. Joseph Margulies, an attorney who represents a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, stated that countries currently receive “money, material and training” to conduct inhumane interrogation techniques on behalf of the U.S. Margulies cited a report published by national security journalist Jeremy Scahill when he stated that such procedures are currently underway in regions of Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Opinion by Charles Stephen Craun
Photo Courtesy of: Ron Cogswell-Flickr License