Released CIA study finds brutal interrogation tactics


Courtesy of CIA

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Tuesday revealed interrogation techniques following the 9/11 attacks to be more brutal than the CIA originally disclosed, leading to questions about whether the CIA’s methods are effective in keeping Americans safe.

Danielle Ferguson

With at least 119 detainees, 183 washboards done on a single suspect and more than 6,000 pages of reports hanging over its reputation, the CIA is under fire.

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report Tuesday revealed interrogation techniques following the 9/11 attacks to be more brutal than the CIA originally disclosed, leading to questions about whether the CIA’s methods are effective in keeping Americans safe.

“The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” the report summary stated. “The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.”

The report examined the CIA’s overseas detention and use of interrogation techniques which sometimes lead to forms of torture, including waterboarding, rectal feeding or rehydration, elongated sleep deprivation, extended isolation and more.

Some detainees, according to the report, were forced to walk around naked or were shackled with their hands above their heads. Other times, the detainees experienced what was called a “rough takedown,” in which about five CIA officers would “scream at a detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off and secure him with Mylar tape,” the report stated. Then, the detainee would be dragged up and down a corridor while being slapped and punched.

ISU psychology professor Christian Meissner leads a multi-million dollar research program funded by the U.S. government’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which is evaluating interrogation methods.

Meissner has been a research psychologist who has spent more than a decade assessing the effectiveness of various interview and interrogation methods. He was not immediately available for comment due to travel but shared his report “Using science to improve the practice of interrogation.”

“From my perspective, [enhancement interrogation techniques] are ethically indefensible,” Meissner said in his report. “Their use appears to violate both domestic and international law. Furthermore, no scientific assessment of the techniques can be offered to demonstrate their effectiveness in practice.”

The detainee interrogation group’s study found that interrogation methods that increase anxiety by violence or manipulation are less effective than those that try to seek the suspect’s motivation to cooperate.

“This conclusion is confirmed by the experiences of many highly skilled interrogators. Further, the ‘information gathering approach,’ as it is known, preserves the ethical principles of fairness and justice and is legally permissible,” Meissner said in the report.

The investigation began in the spring of 2009, almost a decade after the interrogations took place in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most of the activities covered in the report took place after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks when the nation was uncertain as to whether there would be continued attacks.

David Andersen, assistant professor of political science, said the government may have waited a decade to release the information for various reasons, whether they be political or security-related.

“Maybe 10 years is an appropriate time to wait,” Andersen said. “In the immediate moment, the government has to do whatever it believes is necessary, but at some point in time, you have to stop and take stock of what’s happened, what’s occurred and whether the public is okay with it.”

Both parties in the Senate will most likely be less than thrilled with the release of the report.

“The republican party is going to be furious at the disclosure. The democratic party is going to be furious at the actions that were taken 10 years ago,” Andersen said. “There will be a lot of impassioned speeches, but I’m not sure anything is really going to change.”

But the American public has the right to know about these findings, he said.

“If our government is committing these acts, a lot of people believe it is necessary for the people to be aware of it,” Andersen said. “It’s one thing for a government to say we have to do whatever is necessary to protect the people, but if the people are not even aware of the actions being taken, it’s hard to judge whether those actions are just.”

The last of the 20 conclusions found in the report stated the findings damaged the reputation of the United States.

“The general feeling behind this is that the United States is founded on this belief that we just do not do certain things,” Andersen said. “We believe in human rights. Not just American rights, but human rights. At the founding [of the country], at least, we believed that no government had the authority to just cease people for no reason and treat them in heinous ways because they could.”