The CIA Tortured People, Or How We Find Out That They Are Who We Thought They Were


The Central Intelligence Agency ran a brutal torture regime in the ‘aughts, according to this long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee report on the spy agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

Keep in mind that this is only an executive summary of the full report, and yet still clocks in at a whopping 525 (often redacted) pages. If you want a real basic summary, well, what Drum said:

The torture was far more brutal than we thought, and the CIA lied about that. It didn’t work, and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad intel that it most likely impaired our national security, and of course they lied about that as well. They lied to Congress, they lied to the president, and they lied to the media. Despite this, they are still defending their actions.

There’s a lot more, of course. If you want more background on how the investigation developed I recommend Andrew Prokop’s explainer. What follows is just a glimpse at some of the awfulness contained in the report:

  • From page 4 of the report: In which the federal government threatens to kill a dude’s mom ~ “CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families—to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.'”
  • Via ThinkProgress‘ list, from page 11 of the report: “The two psychologists who helped the CIA create the torture techniques earned over $81 million.” ~ “In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.”
  • Tim Mak reports at The Daily Beast, from page 50 of the report: “The mismanagement and abuse at detention site Cobalt can be traced at least in part to a CIA officer identified in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report as ‘CIA Officer 1.’ This officer had no experience in handling prisoners or conducting interrogations, and other CIA officers had questioned whether the officer’s access to classified information should continue due to a “lack of honesty, judgment and maturity.” He continued as a manager of Cobalt until July 2003.”
  • Also via the ThinkProgress list, from page 485 of the report: The CIA tortured innocent people. ~ “Of the 119 known detainees that were in CIA custody during the life of the program, at least 26 were wrongfully held. Detainees often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined they should not have been detained….Other KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] fabrications led the CIA to capture and detain suspected terrorists who were later found to be innocent.”

Here are more details of some specific acts, all of which are stomach-turning, but also include at least one incident in which the agency’s tactics “probably killed at least one person.” Coupled with the supporting evidence based on internal memos describing how the CIA also lied to pretty much everyone and, you know, they are who we thought they were.

Or at least who some of us thought they were, the notable (and unsurprising) exception of at least one man who thinks a good chunk of the allegations are “a bunch of hooey.” It should also be noted that despite this and other allegations, most folks in this country are totally cool with torture as long as it is done “in order to gain important information.”

So maybe all this new information won’t end up changing very many minds, but at the same time we shouldn’t view this as an “apology tour on steroids.” Rather, this report is a bitter confirmation of the moral depravity done in the name of the American people. That some celebrate that moral descent, or #shruglife away the misery done unto others in our name, is an added bit of human darkness I’m not ready to deal with today. Let’s just start with acknowledging the way things were, and then start fighting for the way things should be.


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