Harsh interrogation tactics overused, report finds
WASHINGTON — Six years and $40 million into an investigation, the Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release conclusions this month from its controversial probe of CIA detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects overseas during the George W. Bush administration.
The partly redacted report is likely to renew the national debate over now-banned techniques that critics decried as torture and which supporters insist were necessary to stop further terrorist plots after 9/11.
U.S. embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the Islamic world have been told to prepare for the possibility of violent protests and threats after the report’s release, according to officials briefed on the preparations who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The classified report finds that the CIA used waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than was legally authorized at then-secret prisons known as “black sites,” according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the findings.
Although those methods were exposed long ago, one official said the biggest effect of the release may come from the lengthy and graphic descriptions of interrogations based on the CIA’s own archives.
The report, completed in 2012, also concludes that nearly all the intelligence gleaned from waterboarding and other harsh techniques could have been obtained from more traditional intelligence-gathering systems. Despite claims to the contrary, it says the interrogations were not necessary to locate Osama bin Laden or thwart any terrorist plots.
Republicans on the intelligence committee refused to participate in the investigation and will issue a separate report that says it was not fairly conducted. The CIA has also written a detailed refutation that it intends to make public as well.
CIA officials worry that descriptions and aliases in the committee report, when combined with information already public, could reveal names of officers and the scope of assistance that other countries secretly provided to the spy agency.
President Obama, who has said the harsh techniques amounted to torture and banned their use when he came into office in 2009, instructed intelligence officials to declassify and release most of the 480-page executive summary of the committee’s findings.
The White House delivered a redacted version to the committee in August, but an interagency declassification review blacked out about 15 percent of the words, including every pseudonym used by officials. The committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been negotiating since then to remove some of those redactions.