Senate report graphically details brutal CIA interrogation tactics – Part 1

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The debate over what American agents did to terror suspects in the years after 9/11 was rejoined today at full volume. A sweeping Senate report leveled damning charges against the Central Intelligence Agency and gave graphic details of how it carried out interrogations.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence: History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law, and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say, never again.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It was late morning when Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, came to the floor to address the report.

  • SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

    It shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The findings follow a five-year examination into CIA interrogation tactics authorized by the Bush administration. The full report, crafted by the committee's Democratic staff, runs 6,700 pages and remains classified.

    Today's release was a declassified executive summary of more than 500 pages. It found, the CIA program was far more brutal than previously disclosed. So-called enhanced techniques were not effective in producing intelligence. The program had little oversight and was managed poorly, and the agency provided extensive inaccurate information to the White House, Congress, the media, and the public.

    The report doesn't explicitly call the interrogation methods torture, but in her hour-long speech, Feinstein outlined a number of practices that are considered torture under international law.

  • SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

    In contrast to CIA representations, detainees were subjected to the most aggressive techniques immediately, stripped naked, diapered, physically struck and put in various painful stress positions for long periods of time. They were deprived of sleep for days, in one case, up to 180 hours. That's seven-and-a-half days.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The report also detailed harsh techniques, including rectal forced feeding and hypothermia that led to the death of at least one detainee who had been held naked and chained.

    Perhaps the most infamous technique, water-boarding, was used repeatedly on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attack, who was captured in 2003. The report says he became so resistant to the simulated drowning that one interrogator told superiors Mohammed beat the system.

    In all, 119 detainees were held within this program, but Feinstein made clear the CIA wasn't the only responsible party.

  • SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

    What we have found is that a surprisingly few people were responsible for designing, carrying out, and managing this program. Two contractors developed and led the interrogations.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    According to the report, the CIA effectively outsourced elements of the program to those contractors, who in 2005 formed a company that collected more than $80 million for its work. The use of most of the tactics reportedly ended in 2006. And upon taking office in January 2009, President Obama signed an executive order banning the enhanced interrogations he later termed torture.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In a statement today, the president said: "These harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation. They didn't serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests."

    But the question of whether the CIA's toughest methods actually produced substantial results remains much debated. Most Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, led by Senator Saxby Chambliss, defended the practices in their own minority report.

    SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) Georgia: We found that these claims and conclusions were largely not supported by the documentary record and were based upon flawed reasoning. Specifically, we found that, one, the CIA's detention and interrogation program was effective and produced valuable and actionable intelligence.

    Two, most of the CIA's claims of effectiveness with respect to the use of EITs were accurate. Three, the CIA attempted to keep the Congress informed of its activities and did so on a regular basis.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The current director, John Brennan, was involved in some of those decisions during the Bush administration. In a statement today, he acknowledged wrongdoing, but said the interrogations did prevent attacks.

    Three former CIA directors, George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, and other top-level agency officials countered the release with a lengthy statement. They argued that the interrogations — quote — "led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and allied lives."

    The former directors also said the CIA's enhanced interrogations, or EITs, made possible the 2011 operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Feinstein sharply disputed that claim in her speech.

    As to the decision to release the report, Republican John McCain, a survivor of extensive torture as a prisoner in Vietnam, strongly endorsed it today.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) Arizona: I believe American people have a right, indeed responsibility, to know what was done in their name.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Other Republicans warned that making the executive summary public is a dangerous mistake that will prompt attacks on U.S. interests overseas.

    And over the last several years, the Obama administration repeatedly sought to delay the release of the summary, and it continues to withhold some documents related to the interrogations.

    There is no indication when, or if, the entire 6,700-page report will be released.

    We will talk to Senator Feinstein and get the views of a former top CIA official right after the news summary.

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