The Obama administration launched a criminal probe Monday, August 24, into “unauthorized … inhumane” interrogations of terror suspects during President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism. This probe was spurred by newly declassified revelations of CIA tactics, including threats to kill one suspect’s children, and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted.
Monday’s five-year-old report by the CIA’s inspector general, released under a federal court’s orders, described harsh tactics used by interrogators on terror suspects after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Seeking information about possible further attacks, interrogators threatened one detainee with a gun and a power drill and tried to frighten another with a mock execution of another prisoner.
Attorney General Holder said he had chosen a veteran prosecutor to determine whether any CIA officers or contractors should face criminal charges for crossing over the line from rough-but-permissible tactics. Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines, but the report by the CIA’s inspector general said they went too far-even beyond what was authorized under Justice Department legal memos that have since been withdrawn and discredited. The report also suggested some questioners knew they were crossing a line.
“Ten years from now we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this (but) it has to be done,” one unidentified CIA officer was quoted as saying, predicting the questioners would someday have to appear in court to answer for such tactics.
The report concluded the CIA used “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane” practices in questioning “high-value” terror suspects. Monday’s documents represent the largest single release of information about the Bush administration’s once-secret system of capturing terrorism suspects and interrogating them in overseas prisons.
In one instance cited in the new documents, Abd al-Nashiri, the man accused of being behind the 2000 USS Cole bombing, was hooded, handcuffed, and threatened with an unloaded gun and a power drill. The unidentified interrogator also threatened Nashiri’s mother and family, implying they would be sexually abused in front of him, according to the report.
Other interrogators told alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that “if anything else happens in the United States, ‘We’re going to kill your children,'” one veteran officer said in the report. Death threats violate anti-torture laws.
In another instance, an interrogator pinched the carotid artery of a detainee until he started to pass out, then shook him awake. He did this three times. The interrogator said he had never been taught how to conduct detainee questioning.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the revelations showed the Bush administration went down a “dark road of excusing torture.”
The report describes at least one mock execution, which would also violate U.S. anti-torture laws. To terrify one detainee, interrogators pretended to execute a prisoner in a nearby room. A senior officer said it was a transparent ruse and that it yielded no benefit.
As the report was released, Attorney General Holder appointed prosecutor John Durham to open a preliminary investigation into the claims of abuse. Durham is already investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos and now will examine whether CIA officers or contractors broke laws in the handling of suspects.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said some CIA officers have been disciplined for going beyond the methods approved for interrogations by the Bush-era Justice Department. Just one CIA employee-contractor David Passaro-has been prosecuted for detainee abuse.