It’s impossible to fully grasp the unrelenting horrors of the 500-page CIA torture report just released by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The torture described in the report took place as part of a CIA interrogation program launched weeks after the 9/11 attacks and overseen by President Bush's administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Detainees were seized and transported to "black sites"— prisons in allied nations where the CIA could carry out brutal abuses that aren’t legal in America.
According to the Senate report, the torture they experienced was not just obscenely brutal — it also didn't work, and it didn't make America safer. As if all that weren't bad enough, the CIA also lied to us during the program, and they're continuing to lie about it now. The agency claimed that intelligence gained through torture helped to catch Bin Laden, though the Senate investigation found that to be untrue.
While it's certainly upsetting to read, it's important to know the most dreadful abuses described in the CIA torture report. The detainees mentioned below were tortured even though they had never been charged with a crime, let alone tried and convicted. They deserve to have these atrocities known, so that we may hold our leaders accountable.
1. “Rectal feeding” was used to control prisoners.
The CIA claimed that rectal rehydration is a “well acknowledged medical technique.” Yes, it was well-acknowledged — in the 1880s. It was replaced soon after 1900 by intravenous rehydration. It's not medically effective, and it’s painful. In other words, it's just torture.
2. The CIA put hummus, nuts, and raisins into a detainee’s rectum.
When rectal feeding was last used by doctors — around 1920 — they used liquid foods like eggs or bouillon to aid absorption of nutrients, according to this book published in 1913. What the CIA did with this detainee’s lunch was clearly intended to be humiliating, rather than medically effective.
3. A prisoner froze to death while chained to a concrete floor without pants.
4. Prisoners were forced to stand in stress positions on broken feet and a prosthetic leg.
5. A prisoner was permanently injured by stress positions.
6. Another prisoner had his eye removed.
The Senate report doesn’t explain how Zubaydah lost his eye. However, he told his lawyers that he woke up one morning to find that his eye had been surgically removed by CIA medical personnel. He said he had no idea why, according to a 2011 report from progressive news site Truthout. The CIA claimed that they removed it because of an unspecified pre-existing condition.
7. Interrogators brought “high-value” suspects close to drowning.
The CIA admitted to waterboarding only three detainees. But items left at the COBALT site, including a waterboard and buckets, suggest that others were waterboarded, according to the Senate report.
8. Detainees were put in diapers or were denied a place to relieve themselves.
9. CIA interrogators threatened to sexually assault a prisoner’s mother.
10. “Forceful” rectal exams caused serious injuries.
“Excessive force” was used to conduct rectal exams, the report states. One prisoner "was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse," symptoms you might expect in a victim of anal rape.
11. The CIA’s COBALT prison was like a “dungeon,” with prisoners kept in total darkness.
The prison referred to as COBALT in the Senate report is otherwise known as the Salt Pit, a notorious CIA black site in Afghanistan.
12. U.S. Federal prison staff visiting the COBALT prison were “wowed” by its horrors.
As Senator John McCain powerfully put it, the abuse detailed here is "a stain on our national honor." Though the torture program was ended by President Obama's executive order the day after he was inaugurated as president in 2009, that order can be retracted by any subsequent president. That's why the UN has called for prosecutions for top U.S. officials and CIA operatives: it's only by holding accountable the people who planned torture that we can end it once and for all.
Images: Wikimedia Commons/United States Department of Defense