CIA interrogators used rectal feedings to encourage prisoner compliance, report reveals

In 2003, the White House reconsidered its position on using the term “humane treatment” when publicly describing how it handled suspected al-Qaida and Taliban detainees in U.S. custody and elsewhere abroad.

CIA General Counsel Scott Muller expressed concern to the National Security Council principals, White House staff, and Department of Justice personnel that the CIA’s program might be inconsistent with public statements from the Administration that the U.S. Government’s treatment of detainees was “humane.” (Select Committee on Intelligence Report Executive Summary — Page 115)

The Senate’s report details how this change in language may have had an effect on the treatment of Majid Khan, a prisoner who participated in a series of hunger strikes and self-mutilation beginning in March 2004. In 2006, CIA personnel took radical measures to force-feed Khan and administered a “lunch tray” of pureed hummus, raisins and pasta through his rectum.

According to CIA records, Majid Khan’s “lunch tray” of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was “pureed” and rectally infused. (page 488)

According to CIA records cited by the report, Khan became “‘very hostile’” to the rectal feedings and “removed the rectal tube as soon as he was allowed to.”

This treatment comes to public light after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a more than 500-page summary report on the use of enhanced interrogation tactics on detainees in U.S. custody. The full 6,600-page report remains classified.

Khan was one of at least five out of 119 detainees who received either rectal feedings or rectal rehydration, the report says. In at least one instance, these types of procedures were described in cables as “enemas,” but later clarified as being rectal rehydration.

Personnel administered rectal rehydration to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified as the principal orchestrator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in order to “clear a person’s head” and prompt Mohammed to talk to interrogators, the Office of Medical Services said, according to the report.

The use of rectal feedings and rehydration as a coercive tactic adds a new layer to existing arguments against the U.S. practice of force feeding prisoners as part of enhanced interrogation techniques. In 2013, Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, who has extensively covered the conditions of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, told the NewsHour:

Well, you know, the head of the International Red Cross tells us that they oppose force-feeding, that actually prisoners do have the right to a certain measure of self-determination. And one of the things that they can do is choose not to eat.

The Pentagon has a different policy. And what they say is that they have developed these force-feeding protocols from the Federal Bureau of Prisons years ago when they were first confronted with the hunger strikes. So there are international human rights and medical organizations that say what the U.S. is doing down there, feeding them twice a day with these tubes tethered up their nose, down the back of their throat and into their stomach, a can of Ensure twice a day, there are organizations that say this is wrong, that they should be allowed to choose to starve to death if they want to.

The Senate’s CIA interrogation report quoted excerpts from the October 2001 edition of the CIA Directorate of Operations Handbook, which clearly stated that CIA personnel are to “neither participate directly in nor encourage interrogation which involves the use of force, mental or physical torture, extremely demeaning indignities or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation.

Read the full report below: