WASHINGTON - CIA torture of Al-Qaeda suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged, did not produce useful intelligence and was so poorly managed it lost track of detainees, a scathing US Senate report revealed Tuesday.
The Central Intelligence Agency also misled the White House and Congress with inaccurate claims about the programme's usefulness in thwarting attacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee said in its graphic report that revived the debate over interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
President Barack Obama admitted some of the tactics detailed in the explosive report's 500-page declassified summary were "brutal." "There are a lot of folks who worked very hard after 9/11 to keep us safe, during a very hazardous situation and a time when people were unsure of what was taking place," he said in an interview with Telemundo.
"But what was also true is that we took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values." Among the findings: a CIA operative used "Russian Roulette" to intimidate a prisoner and another - untrained in interrogation techniques - threatened to use a power drill.
Detainees were humiliated through the painful use of medically unnecessary "rectal feeding" and "rectal rehydration." One died of hypothermia while shackled, some suffered broken limbs.
CIA director John Brennan defended his agency's adoption of tough tactics under president George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on US cities.
He insisted that, while mistakes were made, brutal techniques "did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives." US embassies were on alert for reprisals as committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein pushed ahead with publication of the report, despite Secretary of State John Kerry warning it could provoke anger around the world.
The extensive detailing of the CIA's interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects followed Obama's admission in August that "we tortured some folks."
'Naked and shackled'
Feinstein told the Senate at least 119 detainees were held under the programme, with many subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture." The detainees were rounded up by US operatives beginning in 2001 after Al-Qaeda destroyed New York's World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, and through to 2009.
They were interrogated either at CIA-run secret prisons in allied nations or at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Feinstein said some around the world "will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence." "We can't prevent that. But 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.'" While heavily redacted, the report is damning.
"The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others," it said.
Conditions were particularly ghastly at a so-called black site nicknamed Cobalt, in an undisclosed country, where "at times detainees there were walked around naked and shackled with their hands above their head," the report said.
Management of the programme deteriorated so poorly in one country "that the CIA remains unable to determine the number and identity of the individuals it detained." The review of 6.3 million pages of documents concluded that use of the techniques "was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation."
Seven of 39 detainees known to have been subjected to so-called enhanced interrogations "produced no intelligence while in CIA custody," while others "provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques."
And in several cases "the CIA inaccurately claimed that specific, otherwise unavailable information was acquired from a CIA detainee" as a direct result of the harsh interrogations.