CIA Program Tortured Dozens To Produce Nearly Nothing In The Way Of Useful Intelligence

from the did-we-win-the-War-on-Terror-yet? dept

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the Torture Report [pdf link] is the fact that the CIA clearly knew the methods weren’t producing usable intelligence but continued to use them anyway, all the while hiding the extent of its abuses from the rest of the goverment.

The Executive Summary is 525 pages of abusive activity, carried out under the pretense that no other approach would keep the US safe from further terrorist attacks. Dianne Feinstein’s preamble addresses the incredible amount of work that went into the full report (which weighs in at over 7,000 pages). While it does point out that the CIA destroyed evidence and forced Senate staffers to work in a CIA-controlled environment while performing research, it curiously omits any mention of the CIA’s spying on Senate staffers — something that seemed to be a big deal a few months ago.

The introduction to the full report runs more than 20 pages, but even this limited sampling expands greatly on Feinstein’s 6-page statement released in conjunction with the report. Contained within are more details of the futility of the CIA’s torture program and the efforts it made to cover up both its extraterritorial rendition sites as well as the lack of usable intelligence it produced.

The thing is, the CIA’s own records (what remains of them) point out the limited return on investment.

[A]ccording to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody. CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques.

Torture produced useful intel less frequently than other methods. Information was volunteered even without the use of torture. But some who might have volunteered useful information were never given the chance, as the CIA showed a predilection for torturing first and asking questions later. And those who were tortured did what they could to end the torment.

While being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.

A lack of useful intel wasn’t enough to derail the CIA’s torture plans. Agents ignored warnings from medical staff and continued to “break down” detainees. Medical personnel were asked to do whatever was needed to return detainees to torture-ready condition.

Detainees were subjected to waterboarding, ice water “baths,” 180-hour stints of sleep deprivation, extended physical/mental abuse and being chained naked to cell floors. The CIA also made it personal, threatening detainees with a list of horrors their family members would be subjected to if they didn’t cooperate.

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.”

Some of this behavior was exacerbated by the CIA’s active disinterest in ensuring it didn’t create a playground for problematic agents in its employ.

Numerous CIA officers had serious documented personal and professional problems—including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others—that should have called into question their suitability to participate in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, their employment with the CIA, and their continued access to classified information. In nearly all cases, these problems were known to the CIA prior to the assignment of these officers to detention and interrogation positions.

The agency callously turned over detainees to these agents and continued with its unproductive “intelligence gathering.” The program veered from merely useless to borderline psychopathy on several occasions. Detainees who should never have been detained were subjected to torture, including one who was held simply to coerce information out of undetained relatives.

Of the 119 known detainees, at least 26 were wrongfully held and did not meet the detention standard in the September 2001 Memorandum of Notification (MON). These included an intellectually challenged” man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information…

In addition, the CIA apparently tortured its own, thanks to its torture-first policy.

…two individuals who were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources…

And bad intel obtained via torture led to even more torture of individuals who never should have been detained.

…and two individuals whom the CIA assessed to be connected to al-Qa’ida based solely on information fabricated by a CIA detainee subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

The program was such a fiasco that it actually harmed US counterterrorism efforts.

The CIA, in the conduct of its Detention and Interrogation Program, complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The CIA withheld or restricted information relevant to these agencies’ missions and responsibilities, denied access to detainees, and provided inaccurate information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to these agencies.

But the agency still believed — or at least wanted to believe — it was fighting the good fight. The Office of Legal Counsel intervened on its behalf, redefining “torture” as acceptable “under the current circumstances.”

Having reviewed information provided by the CIA, the OLC included the “necessity defense” in its August 1, 2002, memorandum to the White House counsel on Standards of Conduct for Interrogation. The OLC determined that “under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate” the criminal prohibition against torture.

Two consecutive CIA directors further insulated the program by pursuing actions to lock out the Office of the Inspector General. In 2005, CIA Director Goss requested that no further reviews be initiated until the faulty 2004 review was complete. In 2007, Director Michael Hayden vindictively ordered a review of the OIG itself, deterring it from pursuing further investigations of the CIA’s interrogation programs. The “faulty” 2004 review was the direct result of the CIA feeding bad info to the OIG in order to cover up its rendition and interrogation programs.

Not only was the OIG eventually locked out, but the CIA’s activities were so “dirty” and its gathered intel so questionable that the FBI and Dept. of Defense distanced themselves from the program, refusing to participate in any way. Anything usable was ignored along with anything useful the CIA obtained from its detainees. To further complicate things, the CIA denied requests for access from FBI director Mueller and compartmentalized its intelligence, walling itself off from other intelligence and investigative agencies.

Further details contained in the report point to the fact that the CIA program was never properly documented nor was it ever under any proper oversight.

This program, which was hidden by its participants, lied about to multiple layers of supposed oversight (including the President), and produced little to no usable intelligence, is the same program that is now being defended by former officials as something that “saved” American lives. If it has, there’s no evidence of it in here. What it looks like is a post-terrorist-attack reaction being allowed to indulge in its own excesses, using justifications like “under the current circumstances” and “ticking time bombs” to excuse the abysmal depths of its ultimately futile depravity.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “CIA Program Tortured Dozens To Produce Nearly Nothing In The Way Of Useful Intelligence”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
David says:

Re: Re:

Of course it was. Now the U.S.A. have a troup of merciless psychopaths willing to do everything to save their ass and beholden and loyal to the government for covering their ass and handing them victims.

I mean, if you want to go full fascism, you need a Gestapo. The recruitment and loyalty program was effective.

Entitlement act? Check, “Patriot” Act.
Gestapo? Check.
Imperial chancellor with ridiculous powers, like the power to have anybody killed without process? Check.
A unified press at the whim of government? Effectively check, but some outliers.
Exploding nationalism and chauvinism? Check.
Disregard of international courts and justice? Check.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

Pretty sure that’s why the first thing the Bush administration did was run to the lawyers when they wanted to do this. Instead of having to think about abusing a fellow human, no matter how dispicable, it was about whether or not a specific way of exploiting a resource was against the rules or not.

Legalistic euphemisms where human decency should be. Shameful.

Anonymous Coward says:

If it produced “little to no” usable information, how could the FBI and Dept. of Defense ignore the information? I guess it is pretty easy to ignore something that doesn’t exist. That being said, sounds like a major mess at the CIA, but the truth is, I am much more concerned on how the police here in the US act rather than what the CIA was doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Soundbites = Horrible Policy

Yet another example that what may sound like a great soundbite on the campaign trail (I’m so tough on terrorism I’m not afraid to torture them to save American lives!) very often ends up being horrible policy in practice.

Oversimplifying the best way to protect America from terrorists as simply an argument that we need to be harsher, and need to harshly torture prisoners for information, was never a good idea, as any experts in the field could have told you from the very beginning.

Worse yet, before this America had a reputation for over 100 years of NOT torturing prisoners, even when we knew perfectly well that our opponents were torturing our soldiers. By changing course not only have we thrown away a reputation we built up over a 100 years. We’ve also put our own soldiers at greater risk of being tortured themselves, because other countries and terrorist groups know their own prisoners are likely to be tortured.

Anonymous Coward says:

Collateral Damage

And so the United States loses its status of the “Shining City on the Hill.” It is now just one more nation whose power-hungry rulers will resort to “any means necessary” to keep themselves on the throne, regardless of how many lives they ruin, how many widows they make, or how much they have made themselves hated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Obscures the point

While the ineffectiveness may highlight the abuses, any attention to this point creates an impression that it would somehow be acceptable if it were only more effective.

Even if people end up being prosecuted for these actions, distorted minds will read this not as a crime of committing torture, but simply of failing to get the desired results.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why is there still a CIA?

The publication of this report should coincide with the dissolution of the agency, the robust prosecution of those involved, and a massive, humble apology by the United States to the entire world including our enemies for this shameful conduct.

(Why to our enemies? Because if we don’t, then there is no difference between what we did in the CIA’s dungeons and what ISIS did in broad daylight. Our only chance at redemption is to apologize, and to hope our enemies take it seriously enough that they won’t torture our soldiers when they’re captured.)

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Why is there still a CIA?


When did this country lose its ability to lead by example? Now, every country in the world can torture people with the excuse of “Well, the United States does it”.
And what happens when the opposite happens: I can easily see some country like Libya banning torture just to claim they’re better than the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

What do you mean the enhanced interrogation techniques didn’t produce something? Sure it did.

▶ It produced war criminals.
▶ It produced crimes against humanity.
▶ It totally destroyed any claim to human rights the US might raise.
▶ It showed that the US is willing to break any and all laws including treaties it has signed saying it would not do such.
▶ It showed that signing any other treaties with the US is speculation that sometime in the future the US may decide to break them as well.
▶ It totally ruined any creditability the US has with it’s citizens.
▶ It totally ruined any chances of another country being convinced the US is a good guy type.
▶ It showed the US no longer obeys it’s own laws when convenient.

That’s quite an accomplishment from a single program.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One might begin to believe that those who have accomplished all of these things so perfectly, must actually be oath-sworn enemies of the United States.

They must be Enemies Inside The Gates.

One must also entertain the notion that those now speaking out in favor of these actions that have so resoundingly ruined the reputation of the USA, and those doing their level best to prevent the United States Public from learning who exactly did these things, must also be oath-sworn enemies of the USA, because they approve of the damage done to the USA.

The enemy inside the gates is always deadlier than those beating against your walls.

Anonymous Coward says:

Baby steps...

Call it what you will, the CIA messed up. Big time.
Everybody already knew it. Finally this report admits it.

That is the first step.

The next and much more important step will be for the CIA itself to admit it.

Then we can move on and find and punish the guilty ones. Not just symbolically, but really punish them. No matter who they are, or how ‘important’ they were. This is crucial, since it will demonstrate, publicly, that what happened was wrong, and that this kind of wrongdoing is not tolerated.

Next is amending the damages. Although it will be impossible to completely undo all wrongdoings, there should at the very least be a genuine effort.

Finally, there’s asking forgiveness of the victims. And remember, we’re talking about “asking forgiveness”, not “giving excuses”. If you can’t tell the difference, you’re doing it wrong!

And after all that, maybe, the CIA can get a second chance and we can slowly believe them when they say “it will never happen again”.

David says:

Re: Baby steps...

Finally, there’s asking forgiveness of the victims.

This is Nobel Peace Prize Obama you are talking about. He liberally handed out retroactive forgiveness to numerous powerful people and corporations breaking the law of the land.

The victims of his torture programs are not powerful. Forgiveness is not for them to have or hand out. And there does not seem to be a lot of money in it either.

Anonymous Coward says:

You think this is bad and things like this didn’t happen in the past?

You change the conversation, build a strawman and then go on and say you win.

Is waterboarding torture? Is telling someone you will kill their mother torture? In the past it wasn’t, and on most schoolyards, it happens today in many cities (not the waterboarding part, at least hopefully not.)

A submarine during WWII sank a Japanese troop transport ship, leaving many Japanese soldiers in the water. The CO surfaced the sub and then machine gunned the troops. In today’s world, that would be a war crime.

Who was right? Who was wrong?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Is waterboarding torture?”

Yes. Quite obviously so, in fact….

“Is telling someone you will kill their mother torture?”

Once? Probably not. As part of a larger ongoing theater you’ve set up to traumatize a victim? Again, yes, and obviously so….

“A submarine during WWII sank a Japanese troop transport ship, leaving many Japanese soldiers in the water. The CO surfaced the sub and then machine gunned the troops. In today’s world, that would be a war crime.”

I love these types of arguments, because they presuppose that society and humanity doesn’t progress and that all standards old are valid standards today. Was machine-gunning Japanese sailors who posed no threat wrong? OF FUCKING COURSE IT WAS. WHY ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS DISCUSSION!?!?!?!?

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Is waterboarding torture? Is telling someone you will kill their mother torture? In the past it wasn’t…

Read up on the history of waterboarding. Wikipedia has a short version, dating back to the 1500s, when it was referred to (among other names) as “water torture“.

But I suppose, yes, maybe at some point in human history (prior to the 2000s, that is) waterboarding wasn’t considered torture. So let’s just throw all consideration of human rights and dignity out the window.

Anonymous Coward says:

1) This is what pretty much every non-crazy person on the planet told you was going to happen.

2) Criminal responsibility for this extends to pretty much the entire Bush Adminstration, as direct conspirators for some and accomplices for others. As well as a fair number of the non-Republican political and military class.

3) Substantial numbers of these criminals are still employed in the US security services, still in position in the US House and Senate, and set up to control the US GOP for the next several decades.

The US is a rogue state, built domestically on the exploitation of racism and poverty, and internationally on murderous hypocrisy,

New Mexico Mark says:

Tough reading

I couldn’t get past the 20 page intro and the first 100 pages of the report. As a veteran and I’m under no illusions that the any country is truly good, but this level of depravity makes me deeply sad and ashamed of my country. We all know the CIA is an organization built on lies and liars, but the level of internal and external deception uncovered in this report is still astounding. The lack of meaningful oversight (NSA today, much?) is also astounding.

One thing that kept going through my mind is that habitual liars can no more analyze and/or recognize the truth than a person born blind can analyze visual art. Any interrogator should have the highest qualifications of both intellect, character, and even compassion. These people were scumbags according to their personnel records, even before they started into this program. One even had a record of “anger management” issues and “sexual assault”!

Oh, and the word used for the CIA turning around and “investigating” the OIG was “unprecedented”. Congress and the President must consider these events and take action appropriately and publicly at all levels. Roaches hate the light and it would let today’s roaches know that the deeds they are doing now in darkness may one day come to the light. It would still take many years to restore any credibility, but these actions would be a start.

Finally, Pelosi’s defense, essentially saying that this is mitigated by the fact that everyone was scared might be a good defense for a small child. It is utterly inappropriate for the leaders or the people of a great nation. Our times of greatest trial should be the times we show our greatest courage and restraint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Tough reading

Public Fear mongering is a government specialty, and deadly effective…. because people die for it with a smile on their face!

You fought for a thankless nation and many others died as they pissed on their graves.

Bush is beloved by the military forces despite pissing away everything our forced died for by creating the DHS, Patriot Act, and the TSA.

Tell me, do you like the one that pissed on your service too? I have a family member that just though Bush was great for how he treated the armed forces, long retired and disabled for his service, but yet voted in someone that destroyed years of liberty he bled and nearly died to protect. The US Armed forces have not been properly respected for their sacrifices since the Vietnam War!

Beech says:

A dark day

The CIA, in the conduct of its Detention and Interrogation Program, complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The CIA withheld or restricted information relevant to these agencies’ missions and responsibilities, denied access to detainees, and provided inaccurate information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to these agencies.”

So basically the CIA broke all kinds of laws an treaties to torture some “folks” because they watched too much 24, and ended up hampering national security. If the gross negligence of human rights isn’t enough to warrant disbanding the Agency, then the total incompetence damn well should be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dead soldiers in the water pose no threat. Soldiers that make their way back to their units and go on to fight in the war do, in fact, pose a threat.

If you are in a war, you had better be prepared to win it. If you are not prepared to win it, you should not be in the war. Not getting in the war in the first place is the problems the US have been having recently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You have got to be kidding. What the FUCK is wrong with you?

What you do, if you’re the United States of America, and you behave with honor even toward your enemies, is you rescue them and inform them that they are now prisoners of war. You provide them with medical care if necessary. You feed, clothe and house them. You treat them humanely and decently, and when the war is over, you repatriate them.

You do this because it’s the right thing to do. You do this because it’s required under international law. You do this because you want the same for your own people. And you do this, because if you don’t, then you are no longer The United States of America. It doesn’t matter if you win the war in a military sense or not: you’ve lost.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you are in a war, you had better be prepared to win it. If you are not prepared to win it, you should not be in the war.

Boy, it’s a good thing that logic couldn’t be turned around and used against you, like say to justify killing a bunch of civilians by crashing planes into skyscrapers, or detonating a bomb in the middle of a crowd, or dropping bombs on weddings.


When ‘Anything is acceptable as long as it helps us win’ becomes the norm, guess what, you are no longer the good guys.

tomczerniawski (profile) says:

You folks really have to read the full report. Linky:

There is some truly abhorrent detail in that document. At least one of the detainees in CIA custody turned to self-mutilation, and tried to gnaw his veins open/chew his arm off to escape the torture.

Oh yeah, and the CIA seems to have a really pervasive fetish toward squirting Ensure and pureed hummus up terrorists’ butts.

I’ve gotten through the first 300 pages, but I can’t stand reading any more today. I can actually feel my idealism dying.

Anonymous Coward says:

“A submarine during WWII sank a Japanese troop transport ship, leaving many Japanese soldiers in the water. The CO surfaced the sub and then machine gunned the troops. In today’s world, that would be a war crime.”

That’s actually an interesting scenario. What exactly is the submarine commander supposed to do with the enemy soldiers? He can’t take them prisoner, there’s not enough room on a WWII submarine (or a modern one, for that matter) to do so. He can’t radio anyone to come pick them up, since that would give away his position to the enemy fleet, forcing him to abandon the rest of his assignment or be destroyed. He can’t shoot them, since they have effectively surrendered. He could leave them to drown, of course, but that almost seems worse than shooting them outright. What is the correct course of action here?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There’s two angles: the pragmatic and the idealistic.

The pragmatic angle: machine gunning a disabled enemy is a fucking waste of bullets. Surfacing the sub and staying around is making it stay more time in a place with a very visible marker (pieces of the sunk ship), time which the sub should be using to get away.

The idealistic angle: leaving them to drown makes it possible that, by a stroke of luck, a passing ship finds them (survivors from a sunk ship can survive for a few days in the right conditions). Mixing it with the pragmatic angle, the enemy could even waste significant resources searching for and rescuing the survivors. A wounded survivor would have to be cared for, tying up even more resources.

The ideal course of action would be to capture the survivors, but it’s too risky (the sub has to stay in the same place for a while) and not viable (subs are small, not enough space).

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

The ideal course is to notify enemy forces and leave expendable life boats in the area.

Then the enemy can waste a lot of power and effort picking up what he can, or be the one responsible for abandoning his own.

And any survivor will be severely impacted in his willingness to fight you and will be infectuous.

At one point of time the U.S.A. knew that this was the course of power. In WWII, German troups rather surrendered to the Americans than risk getting overrun by the Russians later.

Being merciful from a position of power is not “idealistic”. It is a powerful part of making the enemy surrender eventually. That does not mean that it cannot also be a temporary setback. But for the act of truly conquering someone and have him give in for real, there needs to be a silver lining and a perspective.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The US Naval Handbook:
Combatants, whether lawful or unlawful, who are hors de combat are those who cannot, do not, or cease to participate in hostilities due to wounds, sickness, shipwreck, surrender, or capture. They may not be intentionally or indiscriminately attacked. They may be detained.

The following acts are representative war crimes:

5. Offenses against the survivors of ships and aircraft lost at sea, including killing, wounding, or mistreating the shipwrecked; and failing to provide for the safety of survivors as military circumstances permit.

1949 Geneva Convention
This convention requires the … protection of members of the armed forces and other persons at sea who are wounded, sick, or shipwrecked

Based on this, shooting them is a war crime and leaving them to drown violates the Geneva convention.

I am sure the US Navy has a procedure to follow for a shipwrecked enemy vessel, but I do not have it at this time.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, why arent any of these people in jail yet?
Yeah right, justice freedom and democracy for everyone, salute the flag and ignore the crazy psychos who torture people and threaten to rape their mothers and daughters.

Friendly reminder that these are just the things they admit, most of the evidence was destroyed. Its mkultra all over again, a few months and they will admit that they drugged and raped little kids.

David says:

Re: Re:

It’s creepy to think that these war criminals are now living amongst us like normal people.

Why? They torture and kill only whom the government hands them. Many people are living in the South where the Ku Klux Klan tortured and murdered people in a “white supremacy” setting, and there is a fair number of those who engaged in those acts still alive and part of the community.

It does not creep out their fellow citizens, particularly not those who were off their radar.

This is part of what it means to be an American.

But it would be nice to STOP. So that at least our great grandchildren would not need to be ashamed for us.

GEMont (profile) says:

If at first you don't succeed, repeat.

I find it truly amazing that nobody in the CIA realized, or realizes, that by torturing a person and letting them live, you have made a mortal enemy of that person, who will there-after be more than willing to do absolutely anything to exact revenge.

Not only does this officially sanctioned, childish punishment process create real future terrorists from those who likely would never have considered doing such a thing, but it is the reason why so many torture victims manufacture totally false, but real-sounding intel and deliver it as if it were of extreme importance to their hated interrogators.

Simple revenge.

Perhaps it is time to begin a mandatory intelligence test for intelligence operatives, executives and managerial staff, that will hopefully eliminate the employment of morons, idiots, and semi-retarded abusive jerks such as those currently making up the lion’s share of the CIA leadership, managerial staff and field personnel roster.

It is patently obvious that the only test currently being used is the “Tie your shoes and whistle at the same time” test. Would love to see how many wanna-be spies actually failed that test each year.

My Solution:

I would disband the entire organization, (after putting its upper echelon in prison for thirty years without parole,) and then start fresh with a Real Mandate and some Real Oversight language, written up in a crowd-sourced public-created document with the force of law behind it and extreme punishments laid out in plain english, for all and any wrong-doing or cover-up.

Boy, you can sure tell I’m not a member of the Ownership Society eh!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...