How enhanced Interrogation Techniques were Applied:
Abu Zubaydah was a Saudi born terror suspect captured in a joint raid in Pakistan in 2002. He was shot in the leg during the raid. He was initially interviewed by ISI, CIA and the FBI in what appears to be cooperative means. He was later transferred to a U. S. detention facility where a joint CIA / FBI began interviewing him. That evening his medical condition deteriorated and he was placed into a hospital facility. During his stay he was periodically interviewed by the interrogators from the FBI and CIA. According to the reports, he was cooperative, informative and appeared not be withholding information. At this point the FBI is described as the lead in the interview process in the report. The senate report goes into some detail about the CIA headquarters determining an interrogation plan and effectively cutting the FBI out of the process. He was transferred back to the detention facility and the CIA became the lead agency with the FBI having seeming intermittent interviews during April, May and June.
Throughout April and May the interrogations continued and while the FBI interrogators have what appears to be limited interaction during this period with Zubaydah, however, what they do have appears to be positive.
In June and July, the CIA interrogation team requests time to attend to personal matters and recommends Zubaydah be placed in isolation. This period lasted 47 days. During this period there was extensive discussion about the application of the enhanced techniques. There is cable traffic indicating substantial concern with the potential actions being taken. The cables included a statement that if Zubaydah dies during interrogation, his body will be cremated. There are requests for assurances that Zubaydah would never be released. More telling is the indication that the interrogation team had the correct understanding that “the interrogation process takes precedence over preventative medical procedures”.
The CIA enhanced interrogation program developers returned in August for what is described as the aggressive phase of the interrogation. Abu Zubaydah was placed in a white cell with no natural light. For 19 days he was interrogated nearly 24 hours a day, kept naked and cold, and subjected to physical aggression and waterboarding. When left alone he was placed in stress positions, and confinement boxes. By day 6 of the process the interrogation team indicated it was highly unlikely that Zubaydah had any additional useful information. Despite this indication the techniques were applied extensively for an additional 13 days.
During the process, Zubaydah was conditioned (as in trained like a lab rat) to the point that the interrogator had trained him to respond to only hand signals and facial expressions. For example, when the interrogator snapped his fingers twice, Zubaydah would walk to the water board and sit down. This resigned acceptance and continued denial that he had any useful information was considered a success. They have effectively broken Zubaydah to point where they could “confidently assess” that he had no further useful information.
Ramzi Bin Al Shibh
Ramzi Bin Al Shibh was a Yemenni facilitator of the 9/11 attacks. He was unable to obtain an entry visa to the U.S., but managed to obtain a German visa where he became roommates with Mohammad Atta. Al-Shibh was unable to participate directly in the attacks and worked to provide money, documents and communications from Khalid Sheik Mohammad in Afghanistan to Mohammed Atta. The report indicates that it was unlikely Al-Shibh had access to information about further attacks, and was not a high level Al-Quaida operative. Based on his position in the network, that appears to be a difficult if not impossible position to defend. He was the conduit from the planners to the executor. Any reasonable person would have to assume that with out the benefit of hindsight that he may or likely would have had some level of information about other potential attacks.
He was captured in Pakistan on September 11, 2002, and subsequently transferred to a foreign government where the US had access to his interrogations. The officers on scene believed he was truthful during these interrogations and reported that they believed him to be cooperative. He was then transferred to US custody five months later. The interrogation plan consisted of medical and psychological assessment after which he would be stripped, placed in an uncomfortably cold room, chained over head and by his hands and feet so he could not sit or stand comfortably, in a completely white room with loud music being played prior to any assessment of his desire to cooperate. This was to continue until his “initial resistance” was estimated to be reduced by the on site interrogators.
The use of enhanced interrogation techniques continued for 32 days during which he was kept sleep deprived on a liquid diet, subject a range of physical aggression, and the water board – repeatedly. During much of this time it was CIA HQ directing the use of the techniques against the advice of onsite interrogators who believed Al Shibh had no further useful information. This particular interrogation is not noteworthy save it sets the tone for future interrogations.
First, there would be no assessment of cooperation prior to the application of enhanced techniques. Second, interrogators were directed by CIA HQ quite frequently to continue use of enhanced techniques against the advice of on site personnel. The general belief that a detainee may have had access to information was adequate, without any specific basis for that assumption. This became the model for all future interrogations.
Additionally, the sensory deprivation was nearly continuous and enhanced interrogation techniques were applied periodically over the next two and one half years. A psychological assessment of Al Shibh reported that the “social isolation was having a clear and escalating effect on his psychological functioning”…”It is important to keep in mind that he was a relatively high functioning individual making his deterioration over the past several months alarming”. At the time of his transfer to Guantanamo, his psychological functioning consisted of hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and attempts at suicide. He was placed on anti-psychotic medication on arrival. The issue of his psychological fitness to stand trial is still being assessed.
Khalid Sheik Muhammad
Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM) was the key Al Qaida operative behind the 9/11 attacks and is also likely to have personally beheaded Jewish-American Journalist Daniel Pearl. He was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and held for what appears to be a few weeks during which time Pakistani officials and CIA officers jointly conducted interrogations which reportedly involved some sleep deprivation. Upon capture an interrogation plan was approved which included the immediate use of enhanced interrogation techniques, and it was enacted upon transfer to a CIA detention facility and custody. Standing sleep deprivation, water dousing, nudity and “rectal rehydration” were used by the interrogator to demonstrate “total control over the detainee”. He was later transferred to another detention site where the designers of the interrogation program took over the process.
KSM was water boarded extensively for the next several weeks in addition to the application of other enhanced techniques. Per the report the water board was a frequent experience to the point they indicated that he had begun to understand the time limits and limitations placed on the process. There are references in cables that the on site team believes that the water board use is not productive in the case of KSM and that it may have “poisoned the well”. Despite these concerns its use is continued to include modifying the procedure to ensure the subject could not ingest the water poured and would have to choke on much of it. He was placed in a stress position to deprive him of sleep for 7 and one half days (180 Hours), which was interspersed with interrogation, the water board and a variety of other techniques.
There are frequent references to false information and an assessment that indicates KSM was doing what anyone in that situation would do “pretend to cooperate”. Despite these reports the use of enhanced interrogation techniques continued for an extended period of time. Enhanced interrogation techniques were “abruptly stopped” at some point for what is an undisclosed reason. Ultimately, KSM confessed to involvement in a variety of terrorist actions, some of which it is highly unlikely for him to have been involved. Additionally, he provided verifiable false information on a variety of topics.
Many other detainees’ were interrogated under the program and due to inadequate record keeping; we may never know the exact number. The “enhanced techniques” appear to have become standard and were applied in many cases by personnel untrained in the use or purpose of the techniques. Additionally, there is the use of unauthorized techniques (Rectal rehydration and feeding), and the modification of other techniques by on site personnel. The designers of the program became key players in its implementation. The process of psychologically and medically protecting the long term safety of detainee’s was turned into a use of their expertise to enhance the suffering in order to meet the goals of the program.
The process was designed to produce a state of learned helplessness. From everything we read in the reports, that is exactly what it did. Next week we take a look at the programs the processes and the control functions and attempt to answer the question – Did America Torture Prisoners?
~ Patrick Henry