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Report Reveals Deeply Misguided Interrogation Tactics, Feinstein Says


What has come to be known as the "Torture Report" by Senate investigators broke more new ground than expected. Lawmakers examined interrogations of terror suspects after 9/11.


It was already known that interrogators used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and more. Senate investigators have now added to that story. Their report, released by Democrats, contends the tactics failed to produce useful information.

MONTAGNE: It says the CIA failed to tell lawmakers everything it was doing, and the report says interrogation practices were even more brutal than previously known. NPR's national security correspondent Dina Temple-Raston reports on just what was more brutal.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: The report drew its conclusions from an analysis of over 6 million internal agency documents, from classified emails to memos to text messages. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California and the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to release the report was a difficult one. But...


SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I believe the documentation and the findings' inclusions will make clear how this program was morally, legally and administratively misguided.

TEMPLE-RASTON: ...The report focused on specific cases in which the CIA claimed harsh interrogation had provided critical intelligence. Feinstein said the committee concluded that the tough interrogations weren't critical at all.


FEINSTEIN: Our staff reviewed every one of the 20 cases. And not a single case holds up.

TEMPLE-RASTON: One of the case studies focused on Osama bin Laden and how he had been discovered. A central figure was an al-Qaida operative named Hassan Ghul. Ghul was thought to have provided the most accurate intelligence about the courier who led the CIA to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. A CIA document cited in the report claimed Ghul sang like a Tweety Bird as soon as he was in custody. That information, the report says, came before Ghul was subjected to harsh interrogations. He provided information on the courier and speculated that he was probably living in a house with bin Laden in Pakistan. The CIA , for its part, said that in fact another detainee had been the first to reveal the name of bin Laden's courier. And he had provided the name only after enhanced interrogations. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the report spent too much time dwelling on the negative.


SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS: It seems as though the study takes every opportunity to unfairly portray the CIA in the worst light possible.

TEMPLE-RASTON: He said that while the CIA interrogation program had flaws, it had been hastily put together in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And the abuses happened early in the program and were corrected. The report also focused on a detainee named Abu Zubaydah. He was an operative who ran a guest house for al-Qaida. The CIA believed he had information about imminent plots and sleeper cells in America. So he was at one point subjected to harsh interrogations nearly 24 hours a day for 19 days. It got to the point, the report said, that Abu Zubaydah became so compliant he would walk over to the waterboard without being asked. When the interrogator snapped his fingers twice, the report said, Abu Zubaydah would lie flat.

COLONEL STEVE KLEINMAN: That speaks to really the heart of this whole issue of using enhanced interrogation.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Colonel Steve Kleinman was an intelligence officer and an expert in strategic interrogations. He was in the Department of Defense when these programs were under discussion. And he said at the time that they wouldn't work.

KLEINMAN: Most interrogators think, oh, I want somebody to comply - I want them to tell me exactly what they know. I want somebody that has some degree of independence.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That way, you have a detainee who will tell an interrogator when they misunderstand or have it wrong. Compliance gets you a detainee who tells you exactly what you want to hear.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Senator John McCain, who was tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He continued...


MCCAIN: But in the end, torture's failure to serve its intended purpose isn't the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and I will always maintain, that this question isn't about our enemies; it's about us.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.
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