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CIA's Interrogation Program Was More Brutal Than Believed

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CIA's Interrogation Program Was More Brutal Than Believed

National Security

CIA's Interrogation Program Was More Brutal Than Believed

CIA's Interrogation Program Was More Brutal Than Believed

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The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report examining the CIA's secret overseas detention and interrogation program. The 500-page report has new details about the program.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The CIA treated detainees in its custody more brutally than had been previously understood. That's one of the conclusions of a 500-page report out today from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Democrats on the committee have spent the last five years reviewing interrogation practices used after 9/11. And Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, said the rough interrogations didn't work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Even if one were to set aside all of the moral arguments, our review finds that coercive interrogation techniques did not produce the vital, otherwise unavailable, intelligence the CIA has claimed.

SIEGEL: In a moment, we'll hear from another senator who has been advocating for the release of this report.

CORNISH: But first, NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is here with more of the details from the report. And, Dina, what exactly - the committee said that tactics were more brutal than had been reported. What exactly did they discover?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, the committee decided to organize this report around 20 case studies. They tracked the experiences of specific detainees and provide detailed that we've never seen before. Let me just give you one example. There's a detainee named in Abu Zubaydah. He ran a guest house for al-Qaida and helped take care of travel arrangements for jihadis who were joining the group. In March 2002, the CIA took over his questioning from the FBI. The report says interrogators stripped Abu Zubaydah naked and began slamming him against a concrete wall. They put him in a box that looked like a coffin, and they water boarded him. Now, bits and pieces of that have been made public in the past. But the report goes further. It quotes from an email that includes an exchange with the interrogator. And what we're talking about here is water boarding. And here's what the e-mail says.

The longest time the cloth has been over his face so far has been 17 seconds, it reads. This is sure to increase shortly. No useful information so far. He did vomit a couple of times. It's been 10 hours since he ate. So this is surprising and disturbing. Then the email read, I'm heading back for another water board session.

CORNISH: How long did this treatment go on?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the report says Abu Zubaydah was subjected to this for 19 days, nearly 24 hours a day. It was pretty brutal stuff. It got to the point, the report says, that Abu Zubaydah became so compliant that he would walk to the water board without being instructed to do so. And then the interrogator snapped his fingers twice, and Abu Zubaydah would lie flat on the water board. And during one session, the report says, quoting from an email, he became unresponsive.

CORNISH: We heard earlier Senator Feinstein challenging the notion that these tactics worked. Did the CIA not get useful intelligence?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, it doesn't appear that they got actionable intelligence from him once these techniques started. The CIA says they did. The FBI says what they got from Abu Zubaydah came from their regular interrogation methods. And this is what the committee finds from analyzing all of those 20 case studies - either there was no intelligence, or if there was, it could have been or was obtained another way. Again, the CIA disputes this.

CORNISH: And what other conclusions did the report draw about the program?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there are two key points. The report said that the interrogation program was mismanaged. A secret detention facility they called Cobalt, for example, was run by a junior intelligence officer who'd never been overseas and had never handled prisoners before. The report said that those who violated agency policy were - and I'm quoting here - "rarely held accountable." The CIA, for its part, says that when it found abuses, it reported it.

The report also provides examples of the CIA misleading members of Congress and the White House about the program. For example, a report says that the CIA never produced an accurate accounting or a list of the people it detained. Now, keep in mind, the CIA insists that everything they did was authorized and that the Justice Department said it was legal. But the committee says that whenever the CIA briefed them, they dissembled and they either exaggerated the merits of the program or they didn't explain precisely what they were doing.

CORNISH: That's NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

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