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Memo Instructed CIA To Document Both Torture Techniques And Agents Participating In Interrogations FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; email@example.com
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today obtained three redacted documents related to the Bush administration's brutal interrogation policies, including a previously withheld Justice Department memo authorizing the CIA's use of torture. The government was ordered to turn over the documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought in 2004 by the ACLU and other organizations seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.
"These documents supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes."
One of the documents obtained by the ACLU today is a redacted version of a previously undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion from August 2002 that authorizes the CIA to use specific interrogation methods, including waterboarding. The memo states that interrogation methods that cause severe mental pain do not amount to torture under U.S. law unless they cause "harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoners." Initially, the CIA took the position that it could not confirm or deny the existence of this memo; it dropped that position after President Bush disclosed in September 2006 that the CIA had been operating detention centers overseas.
The other two documents, from 2003 and 2004, are memos from the CIA related to requests for legal advice from the Justice Department. The 2003 memo shows that CIA interrogators were authorized by OLC to use torture practices known as "enhanced interrogation techniques." The memo also indicates that, for each session in which these techniques were used, the CIA documented, among other things, "the nature and duration of each such technique employed" and "the identities of those present." The documentation relating to the CIA's torture sessions, including the names of agents who participated, is still being withheld.
The 2004 memo shows that CIA interrogators were told that the Justice Department had concluded that certain interrogation techniques, including "the waterboard," did not constitute torture. The document also indicates that, after the Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that courts can decide whether foreign nationals held in Guantánamo Bay were rightfully imprisoned, CIA interrogators were told to take into account the possibility their actions would ultimately be subject to judicial review.
"While the documents released today do provide more information about the development and implementation of the Bush administration's torture policies, even a cursory glance at the documents shows that the administration continues to use 'national security' as a shield to protect government officials from embarrassment, criticism and possible criminal prosecution," said Jaffer. "Far too much information is still being withheld."
In May, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York overruled some of the CIA's claims that the documents released today were exempt from disclosure under the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit. The judge is still considering the ACLU's motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying hundreds of hours of videotape depicting the abusive interrogations of two detainees in its custody.
The documents released today are available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/36104res20080724.html
To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit. They are available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
Many of these documents are also compiled and analyzed in "Administration of Torture," a recently published book by Jaffer and ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture
In addition to Jaffer and Singh, attorneys on the case are Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
NEW YORK – In response to litigation filed by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Justice Department today released four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture. The memos, produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), provided the legal framework for the CIA's use of waterboarding and other illegal interrogation methods that violate domestic and international law.
The ACLU has called for the Justice Department to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate torture under the Bush administration.
"We have to look back before we can move forward as a nation. When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability. President Obama's assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable. Enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "There can be no more excuses for putting off criminal investigations of officials who authorized torture, lawyers who justified it and interrogators who broke the law. No one is above the law, and the law must be equally enforced. Accountability is necessary for any functioning democracy and for restoring America's reputation at home and abroad."
Three of the memos released today were written by Steven Bradbury, then a lawyer in the OLC, in 2005. The fourth memo was written by then-OLC head Jay S. Bybee in August 2002.
"Memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel, including the memos released today, provided the foundation for the Bush administration's torture program," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "Through these memos, Justice Department lawyers authorized interrogators to use the most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes. The memos are based on legal reasoning that is spurious on its face, and in the end these aren't legal memos at all – they are simply political documents that were meant to provide window dressing for war crimes. While the memos should never have been written, we welcome their release today. Transparency is a first step towards accountability."
"The documents released today provide further confirmation that lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel purposefully distorted the law to support the Bush administration's torture program," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "Now that the memos have been made public, high-ranking officials in the Bush administration must be held accountable for authorizing torture. We are hopeful that by releasing these memos, the Obama administration has turned the page on an era in which the Justice Department became complicit in some of the most egregious crimes."
Since 2003, the ACLU has filed several lawsuits to enforce FOIA requests seeking government documents relating to torture, rendition, detention and surveillance. These lawsuits have resulted in the release of thousands of records.
"We need to know our history to learn from history," said Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel on the case. "Disclosure of these documents is essential for our country, and will shed much-needed light on one of the darkest chapters in American history."
The memos released today, in addition to more information, including a copy of the ACLU's recent letter to the OLC, a chart of the still-secret OLC memos, a video and information about the ACLU's FOIA litigation, is available at: [url]www.aclu.org/olcmemos [/url]
Abuse of Power: The Bush Administration's Secret Legal Memos
On April 16, 2009, the Department of Justice released four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture.
A 18-page memo, dated August 1, 2002, from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF] A 46-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF] A 20-page memo, dated May 10, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF] A 40-page memo, dated May 30, 2005, from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA. [PDF]
Demand Accountability for Torture! >>
For more than five years, the ACLU and other advocacy organizations have been seeking the release of Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that supplied the basis for the Bush administration's interrogation, detention, rendition, and warrantless surveillance policies.
The OLC, which is a component of the Justice Department, was created to provide objective legal advice to the Attorney General and to resolve legal disputes among federal agencies. During the Bush administration, however, the OLC became a facilitator for illegal government conduct, issuing dozens of memos meant to permit gross violations of domestic and international law. Some of these memos have become public through leaks to the media and through the ACLU's litigation under the Freedom of Information Act. But most of them are still secret.
The Obama administration should release the still-secret memos. As the ACLU wrote in a January 28, 2009 letter to the OLC, the release of the memos would allow the public to better understand the legal basis for the Bush administration's national security policies; to better understand the role that the OLC played in developing, justifying, and advocating those policies; and to participate more meaningfully in the ongoing debate about national security, civil liberties, and human rights. ACLU
Bush officials defend physical abuse described in memos released by Obama
• Techniques used at Guantánamo Bay elsewhere • Hayden and Mukasey criticise president for releasing memos
* Ewen MacAskill in Washington * guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 April 2009 18.36 BST
Senior members of the Bush administration today defended the physical abuse of prisoners by CIA operatives at Guantánamo and elsewhere round the world set out in graphic detail in secret memos released by president Barack Obama.
General Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under president George Bush, and Michael Mukasey, who was attorney-general, criticised Obama for releasing the memos. The two accused him of pandering to the media in creating "faux outrage", undermining the morale of the intelligence services and inviting the scorn of America's enemies.
But the interrogation techniques outlined in the memos prompted a flood of calls from human rights groups and others for the prosecution of politicians, lawyers, doctors and CIA operatives involved.
Following years of pressure from civil rights groups for release of the memos, the Obama administration yesterday finally published four internal Bush administration documents from the justice department telling the CIA what interrogation techniques it regarded as legally permissible.
Human rights groups, who say that waterboarding amounts to torture, welcomed the release of the memos but expressed disappointment with an accompanying statement from Obama saying that CIA operatives would not be prosecuted over what had taken place at Guantanamo and hidden prisons round the world.
"The release of CIA memos on interrogation methods by the US department of justice appears to have offered a get-out-of-jail-free card to people involved in torture," Amnesty International said. "Torture is never acceptable and those who conduct it should not escape justice."
The Bush administration lawyers argued in the memos that the techniques did not amount to torture because no serious psychological or physical harm was done. About 10 techniques, with variations, were approved, ranging from waterboarding, which simulates drowning, to sleep deprivation and playing on a detainee's perceived fear of insects.
The Obama administration is conducting a review of what happened to prisoners held in Guantánamo and at CIA secret sites round the world. As part of the review, there is an investigation into whether some CIA operatives may have gone beyond the approved techniques.
The CIA, in the memos, justified the interrogation techniques, saying they had produced 6,000 intelligence reports and helped prevent another attack on the US in the wake of September 11 2001.
Hayden and Mukasey, in a jointly written piece in the Wall Street Journal today, declared there was no need to release the memos. "Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies.
"Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg [the US businessman who was killed in Iraq] and Daniel Pearl [the US journalist killed in Pakistan], and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the US will no longer interrupt that sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens."
One of the memos, dated 2005, said that the CIA had 94 detainees in its custody at the time and had used the approved techniques against 28 of them, and that these amounted to the hard core of prisoners
Three of the memos were written by Steven Bradbury, of the US justice department, in response to questions from John Rizzo, a lawyer with the CIA, who wanted to know if the techniques complied with international laws.
The memos, along with a leaked International Red Cross report earlier this year, provide the most detailed accounts yet into what happened to prisoners held at Guantanamo and hidden CIA sites round the world and corroborate much of the testimony of former Guantanamo detainees.
Patrick Leahy, chairman of the senate judiciary committee, said the content of the memos was "as alarming as I feared it would be".
The Centre for Constitutional Rights called for prosecutions: "Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted water boarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture programme who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted."
Stacy Sullivan, of Human Rights Watch, echoed this: "President Obama said there was nothing to gain 'by laying blame for the past'. But prosecuting those responsible for torture is really about ensuring that such crimes don't happen in the future."
Mozzam Begg, the Briton who was held in Guantánamo and who is a spokesman for Cageprisoners, expressed disappointment at the decision not to prosecute: "The lessons from Nuremberg clearly have not been applied and, whilst the belated admission that the previous US administration sanctioned and practiced torture is welcome, prosecuting those responsible is an international obligation that remains unfulfilled."
Clara Gutteridge, an investigator with Reprieve, the London-based organisation that represents many Guantánamo detainees, said: "The Bush administration has professionalised torture and it will take more than the release of a few memos to put this right."
The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists issued a statement calling on Obama to investigate and prosecute officials who authorised and engaged in torture."Without holding to account the authors of a policy of torture and those executing it, there cannot be a return to the rule of law," said Wilder Tayler, acting secretary-general of the ICJ.
Four memos from the Bush administration set out in chilling detail the kind of techniques used by the CIA against suspected al-Qaida operatives and others held after the 9/11 attacks.
The memos from the justice department in 2002 and 2005 to the CIA lists techniques that are permissible, from the most severe - waterboarding - to the almost laughable - though not for the detainee - the use of insects in a confined space.
The lawyers insisted that the techniques did not amount to torture. It would only be torture "if the medical and psychological evaluations or ongoing monitoring suggest that the detainee is likely to suffer serious harm".
Waterboarding: The detainee is placed on a board with his head lying downwards.
The memos say: "A cloth is placed over his face on which cold water is then poured for periods of at most 40 seconds. This creates a barrier through which it is either difficult or impossible to breathe. The technique thereby induces a sensation of drowning." A doctor was to be on hand in case the detainee got into trouble, in which case the doctor would perform tracheotomy.
Walling: The detainee is slammed into a wall. "Walling is performed by placing the detainee against what seems to be a normal wall but is in fact a flexible false wall. The interrogator pulls the detainee towards him and then quickly slams the detainee against the false wall." The false wall exaggerates the sound, making the contact apparently sound worse than it is.
Sleep deprivation: The CIA was authorised to deny detainees sleep for up to 180 hours. "Generally, a detainee undergoing this technique is shackled in a standing position with his hands in front of his body, which prevents him from falling asleep but also allows him to move around within a two- to three-foot diameter."
Nudity: "Nudity is used to induce psychological discomfort and because it allows interrogators to reward detainees instantly with clothing for cooperation ... Because the ambient air temperatures are kept above 68F, the technique is at most mildly physically uncomfortable and poses no threat to the detainee's health."
Insect: In the 2002 memo, the justice department gave the go-ahead for the CIA to play on the fears of Abu Zubaydah, an alleged high-ranking member of al-Qaida, a charge he denies. "You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect in the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him." CIA officials say that the technique was never used.
Slaps: "With the facial slap or insult slap, the interrogator slaps the individual's face with fingers slightly spread The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individual's chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe."
Abdominal slap: Delivered in the same way, but to the stomach.
Water dousing: The aim is to weaken resistance by making the detainee cold but stopping short of inducing hypothermia. "In the water dousing technique, potable cold water is poured on the detainee either from a container or a hose without a nozzle. Ambient air temperatures are kept above 64F."
Food deprivation: "Dietary manipulation involves substituting a bland, commercial liquid meal for a detainee's normal diet ... As a guideline, the CIA causes a formula for calorific intake that depends on a detainee's body weight and expected level of activity and that ensures that calorific intake will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day."
Cramped confinement: Detainees put in uncomfortably small containers. But this was judged to be unsuccessful, as it offered detainees a temporary save haven.
Senior Bush figures could be prosecuted for torture, says Obama
President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence
* Ewan MacAskill and Robert Booth * guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 April 2009 11.30 BST
Former US vice-president Dick Cheney has asked the CIA to declassify memos detailing 'success' of torture.
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today .
He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
But for the first time today he opened up the possibility that those in the administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding could be prosecuted.
The revelation will enrage senior Bush administration figures such as the former vice-president Dick Cheney.
The Obama administration views the use of waterboarding as torture, while Cheney claims it is not.
Obama, taking questions from the press during a visit by King Abdullah of Jordan, reiterated he did not believe in prosecution of those CIA agents who carried out the interrogations within the guidelines set down for them. But "with respect to shoe who formulated'' the policies, "that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws". He added: "I don't want to prejudge that."
He also opened the way for a Congressional inquiry into the issue.
Meanwhile the former US vice-president Dick Cheney has called for the disclosure of CIA memos which reveal the "success" of torture techniques, including waterboarding, used on al-Qaida suspects under the Bush administration.
Cheney said that, according to secret documents he has seen, the interrogation techniques, which the Obama administration now accepts amounted to torture, delivered "good" intelligence. He hinted that it had significant consequences for US security.
Cheney was speaking out in response to the release by Barack Obama of four Bush administration memos detailing the agency's interrogation methods used against al-Qaida suspects.
"One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort," Cheney said in an appearance on Fox News.
"I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.
"I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."
Obama yesterday visited CIA headquarters to defend the publication of the internal documents. The row gathered further momentum yesterday when it emerged that one detainee, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been subjected to waterboarding 183 times and another, Abu Zubaydah, 83 times.
Obama is keen to try to put the row behind him, reluctant to see prosecutions that could be politically divisive and distract attention from his heavy domestic and foreign agenda.
In a speech to about 1,000 staff aimed at restoring CIA morale, Obama, who promised last week that CIA operatives would not be prosecuted, reiterated that he would stand by them.
"Don't be discouraged by what's happened in the last few weeks," Obama said. "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn."
At a private meeting with 50 rank-and-file CIA members at their headquarters in Langley, Virginia, before his speech, Obama heard "understandable anxiety and concern" from agents fearful of prosecution.
The CIA's director during the Bush administration, Michael Hayden, who criticised the release of the memos, warned on Sunday that agents could be vulnerable because of the memos, facing civil lawsuits or congressional inquiries.
Sensitive details were blacked out in the memos seen by most of the media on Thursday but over the weekend Marcy Wheeler, of the Emptywheel blog, found a copy in which crucial details were not masked.
That copy showed that Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding – which simulates drowning – 183 times in March 2003. He had been arrested in Pakistan at the start of that month. Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi captured in Pakistan in March 2002, was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in August 2002.
Mohammed had admitted to involvement in terrorist actions before his capture but, after being interrogated, confessed to a list of incidents and plots that included the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, as well as a plot to attack Heathrow, Big Ben and Canary Wharf, the beheading of the US journalist Daniel Pearl, and the Bali bombing.
Abu Zubaydah denied involvement with al-Qaida.
Obama, defending himself against those in the CIA who argued that he should not have released the memos, said legally he had no grounds for blocking a freedom of information request from the US human rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I acted primarily because of the exceptional circumstances that surrounded these memos, particularly the fact that so much of the information was public," Obama said.
Standing in front of a wall with 89 stars, each depicting an officer killed in action, Obama praised the CIA as the "tip of the spear" in protecting the US from its enemies.
Obama said he understood that intelligence officials must sometimes feel that they are working with one hand tied behind their backs. But, rebutting Hayden, he said: "What makes the United States special and what makes you special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy, even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when its expedient to do so.
"So yes, you've got a harder job and so do I, and that's OK. And over the long term, that is why I believe we will defeat our enemies, because we're on the better side of history."
Hayden had argued that the harsher interrogation techniques had provided valuable information and said that the techniques did not amount to torture.
Human rights lawyers question the credibility of the confessions because they were obtained under duress.
The White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked yesterday why Bush administration lawyers could not be prosecuted, said: "The president is focusing on looking forward."
Harsh Tactics Readied Before Their Approval Senate Report Describes Secret Memos
By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn Washington Post Staff Writers Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Intelligence and military officials under the Bush administration began preparing to conduct harsh interrogations long before they were granted legal approval to use such methods -- and weeks before the CIA captured its first high-ranking terrorism suspect, Senate investigators have concluded.
Previously secret memos and interviews show CIA and Pentagon officials exploring ways to break Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees in early 2002, up to eight months before Justice Department lawyers approved the use of waterboarding and nine other harsh methods, investigators found.
The findings are contained in a Senate Armed Services Committee report scheduled for release today that also documents multiple warnings -- from legal and trained interrogation experts -- that the techniques could backfire and might violate U.S. and international law.
One Army lieutenant colonel who reviewed the program warned in 2002 that coercion "usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain," according to the Senate report. A second official, briefed on plans to use aggressive techniques on detainees, was quoted the same year as asking: "Wouldn't that be illegal?"
Once they were accepted, the methods became the basis for harsh interrogations not only in CIA secret prisons, but also in Defense Department internment camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, the report said.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee, said the new findings show a direct link between the early policy decisions and the highly publicized abuses of detainees at prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
"Senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques," Levin said. "Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses."
The new findings are expected to add further pressure on the White House to authorize an independent investigation of the Bush-era interrogation policies. President Obama for the first time yesterday refused to rule out the possibility of a probe to determine whether government lawyers acted illegally in approving interrogation practices. Obama said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should determine whether they broke the law.
The report, which runs 261 pages and contains nearly 1,800 footnotes, sheds new light on the adaptation of techniques from a U.S. military program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), used to train American service personnel to resist interrogations if captured by an enemy that does not honor the Geneva Conventions' ban on torture.
The military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) has been reported to have reverse-engineered these methods to break al-Qaeda prisoners. The techniques, including waterboarding, or simulated drowning, were drawn from the methods used by Chinese Communists to coerce confessions from U.S. soldiers during the Korean War -- a lineage that one instructor appeared to readily acknowledge.
"We can provide the ability to exploit personnel based on how our enemies have done this type of thing over the last five decades," Joseph Witsch wrote in a July 2002 memo.
The report shows Pentagon officials reaching out to the military agency for advice on interrogations as early as December 2001 and finding some specialists eager to help. By late 2001, counterterrorism officials were becoming frustrated by the paucity of useful leads coming from interrogations -- a meager showing that was linked, according to one Army major, to interrogators' insistence on "establishing a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq," the report said.
By January 2002, James Mitchell, a retired Air Force psychologist, and Bruce Jessen, the senior SERE psychologist at the agency, drafted a paper on "al-Qaeda resistance capabilities and countermeasures to defeat that resistance." Both later consulted for the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, and conducted training courses on how to interrogate high-level captives, the report said.
A memo by Jessen proposed an interrogation program that closely resembled the ones adopted by the CIA and the Defense Department. It recommended the creation of an "exploitation facility" that would be off limits to outside observers, including journalists and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Inside, a team would use such tactics as sleep deprivation, physical violence and waterboarding to apply physical and psychological pressure on detainees.
Agency officials also suggested other controversial tactics that were later reported to have been used in interrogation programs, including sexually provocative acts by female interrogators and the use of military dogs to induce fear, the report said.
The school instructors conducted a training seminar for intelligence officials in early July 2002. At the seminar, two "agency legal personnel" told the group that harsh measures were already deemed acceptable, even though Justice Department approval was still a month away.
"They [interrogators] could use all forms of psychological pressure discussed, and all the physiological pressures with the exception of the 'water board,' " the lawyers were quoted as saying at the seminar. Waterboarding might also be permitted, but the interrogators "would need prior approval," the report said.
The Senate report confirms participation by SERE officials in the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, an al-Qaeda associate who was the first high-level CIA detainee and the first to be subjected to waterboarding.
"At some point in the first six months of 2002, JPRA assisted with the preparation of a [redacted name], sent to interrogate a high level al Qaeda operative," according to the Senate report. A June 20, 2002, memo described the assistance as "training" and noted that the JPRA psychologist suggested "exploitation strategies to [redacted] officer."
Jessen, who was interviewed by Senate committee staff members in November 2007, confirmed that such a meeting took place. Mitchell, the former Air Force psychologist, was present at Abu Zubaida's interrogation and was said to have played a key role in what the CIA called an "increased pressure phase," according to former intelligence and law enforcement officials. The report also repeats, but does not confirm, long-held suspicions that the interrogation of Abu Zubaida became coercive before the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo on Aug. 1, 2002, sanctioning the use of 10 escalating techniques, culminating in waterboarding.
Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Saudi-born Palestinian Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, was captured in Pakistan on March 28, 2002, and transferred to a secret CIA prison in Thailand. To justify the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on him, the Aug. 1 memo invoked a ticking-bomb scenario.
The CIA told the Justice Department that there was a "level of chatter" equal to the period before Sept. 11, 2001, and said that Abu Zubaida was withholding information regarding "terrorist networks in the United States" and "plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas," according to the memo.
John A. Rizzo, a CIA lawyer, asked the Justice Department whether the use of additional interrogation techniques would violate the prohibition against torture.
Yet, the Senate report notes, weeks before the Justice Department approved harsh interrogation for Abu Zubaida, an FBI agent described the CIA's handling of the terrorism suspect as "borderline torture."
A second FBI agent present at Abu Zubaida's interrogation said he had no "moral objection" to the techniques and noted that he had "undergone comparable harsh interrogation as part of [SERE] training." Both agents had left the CIA site by early June 2002. No substantive plots were disrupted as a result of information provided during Abu Zubaida's interrogation, according to current and former counterterrorism officials.
Brent Mickum, one of Abu Zubaida's attorneys in a habeas corpus proceeding in U.S. District Court in Washington, said he believes the Justice Department's Aug. 1, 2002, memo retroactively approved coercive tactics that had already been used.
"If torture occurred before the memo was written, it's not worth the paper it's written on, and the writing of the memo is potentially criminal," Mickum said.
FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.
One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.
One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.
It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice.
The debate after the release of these memos has centered on whether C.I.A. officials should be prosecuted for their role in harsh interrogation techniques. That would be a mistake. Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.
Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).
My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)
As we move forward, it’s important to not allow the torture issue to harm the reputation, and thus the effectiveness, of the C.I.A. The agency is essential to our national security. We must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated. We’re making a good start: President Obama has limited interrogation techniques to the guidelines set in the Army Field Manual, and Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, says he has banned the use of contractors and secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects (the so-called black sites). Just as important, we need to ensure that no new mistakes are made in the process of moving forward — a real danger right now.
Ali Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005