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Unauthorised Torture by the CIA (2002-2004)


The CIA Inspector General’s investigation into the use of the EITs by the CIA, demonstrates that CIA interrogators went much further in the use of these various techniques than Bybee had sanctioned.

The CIA Inspector General’s report shows that frequently interrogators deviated from the guidelines, using methods than had not been sanctioned, and using those that had been sanctioned in more prolonged and harsher ways than had been permitted:

  • In practice, the use of water boarding was far more severe than the Bybee memo had permitted. Instead of the controlled pouring of a small amount of water over the damp cloth, placed over the mouth and nose, consistent with SERE training, the IG found that water boarding involved ‘the continuous application of large volumes of water’;
  • Interrogators also developed various ‘improvised techniques’. These included the threatening of a detainee, Al-Nashiri, at an undisclosed location, with a power drill and handgun: “The debriefer entered the cell where Al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al-Nashiri’s head. On what was probably the same day, the debriefer used a power drill to frighten An-Nashiri ... the debriefer entered the detainee’s cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded”;
  • Threats were made to detainees that their families would be tortured and murdered;
  • Al-Nashiri was bathed by his captors using a stiff floor cleaning brush, and his captors stood on his ankle shackles causing cuts and bruising;
  • A ‘pressure point’ technique was applied to one detainee. Here, the interrogator put ‘both of his hands on the detainee’s neck, [name redacted] manipulated his fingers to restrict the detainee’s carotid artery. [Name redacted], who was facing the shackled detainee, reportedly watched his eye to the point that the detainee would nod and start to pass out; then, [name redacted] shook the detainee to wake him’;
  • Detainees were forced to inhale tobacco smoke to the point that they were sick;
  • Mock executions were staged, with detainees shown ‘dead bodies’ (really CIA agents acting dead) in an attempt to have them believe that their life was in danger.

These unauthorised sets of abusive techniques found by the CIA’s Inspector General conform to wider accounts of abuse at CIA prisons by the detainees themselves.

Between 2002 and 2004, it is clear that the use of EITs by the CIA went far beyond what had been sanctioned by the OLC. The CIA Inspector General’s report was pretty damning, raising serious questions about the effectiveness of the EITs, expressing considerable concern that they violate US and international law, despite the assurances given by Bybee, and that CIA personnel were at considerable risk of prosecution for their use of the EITs. The CIA Inspector General also encountered a system out of control, with poor and inadequate training, disregard for the requirements to keep records of all interrogation sessions, and the deliberate destruction of evidence in relation to the interrogations, including video tapes of a number of the water-boarding sessions. For a full analysis, of the CIA IG’s findings, see Ruth’s article, ‘Dirty Hands, Clean Conscience'.



Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C