When Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that he would have a prosecutor look into possible abuse of detainees by the CIA, he said he was partly motivated by newly declassified documents from 2004 that provide details of the interrogations and the range of abuses inside the CIA's overseas prisons.
The Justice Department just released parts of the 2004 report, which was previously released in 2007 but was so redacted that it revealed little new information. The less censored version is the largest single release of information about the Bush administration's detainee interrogation program so far.
The use of enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and stress positions, has been known for some time. What is new is the chronology of other methods interrogators decided to employ on their own.
Interrogators threatened to kill and possibly sexually assault members of detainees' families — which violates anti-torture laws. And there were more basic abuses, such as stepping on shackles, washing someone with a wire brush, blowing smoke constantly in a detainee's face until he started to throw up and dousing detainees with water.
There was also something called "the hard takedown," which essentially meant grabbing a detainee and throwing him to the floor before moving him to a sleep-deprivation cell.
The report describes an episode in July 2002, before the Justice Department had formally authorized harsh methods, in which a CIA interrogator grabbed a detainee's neck and restricted the flow of the carotid artery until the detainee began to faint. The CIA then "shook the detainee to wake him." He did that same pressure-point technique two more times.
There are a number of ominous entries. One begins: "By November 2002, the agency had Abu Zubaydah and another high value detainee, Abd al-Nashiri, in custody." It is followed by a large block of blacked out text and then the sentence "and the Office of Medical Services provided medical care to the detainees." Clearly something bad happened before the medical services were called in, but it is unclear what it was.
Also redacted are the names and locations where these abuses took place.
The report also makes clear that some CIA agents were worried about what they were doing. The report says some CIA agents were worried they would wind up on some "wanted list" and would end up having to appear before the World Court for war crimes because of what they did. Another said "10 years from now, we're going to be sorry we're doing this."
As a general matter, inspector general reports like this one contain a roster of recommendations for the agency under review to follow — generally to ensure that abuses won't happen again.
This report is no different. There are four pages of recommendations, but they are all blacked out.
Read The CIA Report:
- Inspector General's Report On Abuse Allegations
- Holder Names Prosecutor To Probe Interrogations
- ACLU: Holder Should 'Go Ahead And Prosecute'
- Probe Begins Into Whether CIA Abused Detainees
- DOJ Prosecutor Investigates Interrogation Abuses
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And I'm Renee Montagne.
The debate over the interrogation of suspected terrorists entered a new phase yesterday. The Justice Department released newly declassified documents from 2004 detailing abusive interrogation methods used by the CIA against suspected terrorists. Also yesterday, the attorney general named a prosecutor to look into the legality of some CIA interrogations of detainees. We'll hear more about that investigation in a few minutes.
First, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston joins us now to talk about the report itself. Good morning.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: And Dina you have been following this story for some time. What's in this report that you didn't know?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, this is the largest single release of information about the Bush administration's interrogation program in its overseas prisons so far. And, you know, we have been hearing for some time about the really tough stuff the CIA employed to try get detainees to talk. I think what surprised me, in reading the report, were the other methods that interrogators decided to use. For example, it wasn't just that interrogators threatened to kill or possibly sexually assault members of detainee's families, which by the way violates anti-torture laws.
There were, like, these basic abuses; things like stepping on shackles or washing someone with a wire brush; or blowing smoke constantly in the detainee's face until he starts to throw up; or something that they called a hard take down, which was essentially meant grabbing a detainee and throwing him to the floor before moving him to a sleep deprivation cell.
All these revelations in the report are new. There was also this episode in July 2002, before the Justice Department formally authorized using harsh interrogation methods. And the report says a CIA interrogator, in July 2002, grabbed a detainee's neck and restricted the flow of the carotid artery until the detainee began to faint and then the CIA agent apparently shook the detainee to wake him. And he did that pressure point technique two more times. The point of all this is there was a sense, whether you agreed with it or not, that perhaps stress positions and waterboarding had some sort of rules that were outlined by Bush administration lawyers.
What this new information seems to reveal is that the interrogators felt that they could make up creative ways to try to get someone to talk as well.
MONTAGNE: And this report is still highly redacted. I mean, there is some entire pages are virtually blacked out. So, it gives one the impression that there is much more there that we're not seen.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. I mean there were sort of a number of ominous entries that I thought I would read for you. One began by November 2002, the agency had Abu Zubaydah and another high value detainee in custody. This is how the passage starts, and then it's followed by this big block of blacked out text and then the sentence quote "and the office of medical services provided medical care to the detainees." Clearly something bad happened before the medical services were called in and we don't know what that was. And there were also lots of names and locations that were redacted. So, we don't know really where all these abuses took place either.
MONTAGNE: The inspector general interviewed about hundred people involved in the interrogation process for this report, and there was some indication whether or not that some did think that something might be wrong.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yeah, the report touches on that too. The report says some CIA agents were worried that they would wind up on some wanted list or have to appear before the World Court for war crimes because of what they did. In fact, one is quoted as saying, "Ten years from now, we are going to be sorry we did this."
MONTAGNE: Did the report have any recommendations to make sure that this would not happen again?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, inspector general reports always have recommendations at the end. Whether it's for something controversial like this or something more mundane, and in this case they did have this list of recommendations. In fact, there were four pages of them. But all four pages were blacked out.
MONTAGNE: Dina, thanks very much.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.