CIA Torture Report: The Most Shocking Abuses

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The recent Senate report on CIA torture has revealed an array of abuses performed by CIA operatives on detainees.

Many of the techniques and practices mentioned in the report exceed those that were previously known and are contradictory to previous statements by the CIA about its “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Here are the most shocking revelations from the report:


1. Widespread Waterboarding

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Protesters performing a mock-waterboarding during an anti-torture demonstration outside in front of the Justice Department in 2007. (Getty)

It has been widely claimed by the CIA that only three detainees were ever waterboarded, but the report claims waterboarding was used far more extensively than this.

The report mentions a “well-worn” waterboarding apparatus at a site where the CIA claimed the practice never took place.

The waterboardings in some cases went past the point of simulated drowning and became “near-drownings.” In one case, Abu Zabaydah, who was extensively waterboarded, was unresponsive after the procedure, with bubbles coming out of his mouth and nose.


2. Dungeon-Like & Prisoner Frozen to Death at ‘the Salt Pit’

A prison called “COBALT” in the Senate report is widely believed to be the the facility known as “the Salt Pit” in Afghanistan.

Known as the “dark prison,” conditions there were described as being “dungeon”-like by a CIA chief of interrogation. Page 13 of the report says that, “another senior CIA officer stated that COBALT was itself an enhanced interrogation technique.”

Cold temperatures at the facility caused the death of Gul Rahman, a suspected extremist who was brought to COBALT for interrogation in 2002.

Page 83 of the report says that after “48 hours of sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation, a cold shower and rough treatment,” Gul Rahman was shackled to a cold concrete wall naked from the waist down. He was found dead the next morning.

An internal CIA autopsy said that he had died from hypothermia as a result of being shackled in a position that forced him to sit on the freezing concrete floor.


3. Forced Rectal Feeding

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The report details the practices of rectal feeding and rectal rehydration. A previous CIA note mentions the use of rectal rehydration as a legitimate medical procedure, but the report seems to make clear that these practices were often used as torture rather than for therapeutic reasons.

One CIA officer said in an email contained in the report that “we used the largest Ewal[d] tube we had.”

At least five detainees were subject to this procedure. It was done to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “without a determination of medical need.”

One of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, suffered from an anal fissure, chronic hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse after the procedure.


4. Forcing Stress Positions on Detainees With Broken Legs

The use of “stress positions” is mentioned extensively in the report. Detainees were forced through shackling or threat of beating to remain in positions that caused pain. In many cases detainees were held with their arms shackled over their heads for hours on end.

The use of stress positions has been widely reported in the past, but the report shows that these positions were sometimes used for detainees who had previous injuries, including broken legs or feet.

In a section of the report on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, it mentions that a doctor examining him was concerned about the possibility of the stress positions dislocating his shoulders (page 99).

One CIA officer said in the report that as far as his team could determine, one detainee had been left shackled in a standing position for 17 days.


5. Depriving Detainees of Sleep for Over a Week

Many detainees were subject to sleep deprivation in which they were shackled in a standing position and kept awake by light, noise, constant playing of loud music, and other techniques.

In some cases, the CIA continued to sleep deprive detainees who were experiencing hallucinations and signs of mental breakdown as a result of sleep deprivation.


6. Violent Interrogations by Untrained Officers With ‘Anger Issues’ & History of Sex Assault

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The report offers damning evidence that interrogations were performed by poorly trained, unqualified CIA officers, and also claims that some of the CIA officers were placed on the job with the knowledge that they “had workplace anger issues” and “had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”

CIA interrogators reportedly told detainees that they would harm their children and that they would bring their mothers in front of them to be sexually assaulted.


7. Long-Term Detention of 26 ‘Wrongfully Held’ People

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A U.S. Army Military Police checks in on a detainee during morning prayer in Guantanamo Bay. (Getty)

Footnote 32 of the report has been widely focused upon because of its revelations about the 26 detainees (CIA’s own estimate) who were held mistakenly. The report calls the number “a conservative calculation” (page 45).

These detainees were wrongfully held and did not meet the detention standards in the September 2001 Memorandum of Notification.

These detainees were subject to torture encompassing the practices mentioned in the report as the most abusive and damaging.

Abu Hudhaifa, whom the CIA later admitted was wrongfully detained, was subjected to baths in which ice water was used and standing sleep deprivation for 66 hours, despite “a swollen leg.”

Senate Report CIA Torture


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