Details of how U.S. rebuked foreign regimes while using same torture methods

December 11, 2014

A protester dressed as a detainee of the US government demonstrates outside the White House in Washington

So the CIA doesn’t consider “waterboarding” — mock execution by near drowning — to be torture, but the U.S. State Department does.

State Department reports from 2003 to 2007 concluded that Sri Lanka’s use of “near-drowning” of detainees was among “methods of torture.” Its reports on Tunisia from 1996 to 2004 classified “submersion of the head in water” as “torture.” In fact, the U.S. military has prosecuted variants of waterboarding for more than 100 years — going back to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines in the early 1900s.

If you want to know whether the U.S. government considers the “enhanced interrogation techniques” described in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report summary on the CIA’s interrogation program to be torture, you could read President Barack Obama’s 2009 statement rejecting the use of waterboarding — or you could click on the State Department’s annual Country Reports on human rights conditions. It turns out that all those methods carried out by the CIA would be torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if committed by other governments.

The grotesque and previously unreported “anal feeding” and “anal rehydration” discussed in the Senate report may not have been used elsewhere, but the State Department has reported on analogous sexual assault of prisoners as a form of torture. Its 2012 report on Syria described as custodial torture the “forcing of objects into the rectum.”

Stress positions and forced standing also can amount to torture. The State Department’s 2006 report on Jordan said that subjecting detainees to “forced standing in painful positions for prolonged periods” was torture. It also described as torture the Iranian practice of “suspension for long periods in contorted positions.”

The same holds true for sleep deprivation and blaring music. In State Department reports on Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, sleep deprivation was classified as torture. The 2002 report on Turkey lists “loud music” as a torture method.

The Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, had no qualms about calling the methods used by the CIA torture. In her forward to the summary she says that “under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured.”


CIA and former Bush administration officials still insist that the interrogation methods were not torture. They consider the techniques to have been legal and back up that claim by pointing to the Justice Department’s legal memorandums — the infamous and discredited “torture memos.” Tellingly, the summary discusses a 2002 draft letter from the CIA to the attorney general seeking effective immunity from prosecution for their program, suggesting that all along the CIA knew it involved illegal methods.

This is not just about semantics. Torture, whether committed at home or abroad, is a crime under U.S. law. As a party to the UN Convention against Torture, the United States has an obligation to investigate and prosecute those who commit torture. Other countries also have responsibilities to prosecute those within their borders responsible for torture and other ill-treatment.

Those seeking to defend the CIA actions as being lawful not only have to contend with the gruesome detail of the Intelligence Committee report summary, but many years of State Department reporting on torture abroad.

PHOTO: A tourists take souvenir snaps nearby as a hooded protester dressed to represent a detainee of the U.S. government demonstrates against torture outside the White House in Washington, Nov. 22, 2005. REUTERS/Jason Reed


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Guys like Cheney have been very good at convincing the frightened and weak people of the US that torture is evidence of strength and toughness. However, common sense would suggest otherwise, especially in the face of such a weak enemy as these distributed and unorganized gorilla troops. However, it works since Americans are very weak and frightened and irrational and they live in a world of make-believe. No, strength would be not succumbing to a degradation to an animalistic state, not adopting the same tools as our weak and insane enemies. The fact that the US tortures now suggests that we have become less than we were and that we are filled with fear.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Too bad Feinstein didn’t retire before she got old and senile and the same goes for McCain and several other senile members of Congress. There is no good purpose solved by this committee report other than bringing up worn out topics and tearing down our country’s honor. I guess old lady Feinstein just forgot to actually interview the people involved in the actions of this report—poor dear.

Posted by fedupaj | Report as abusive

Becoming a torturer like our enemies is an indication of fear and weakness. They win, they make us like them and they win. Well done all you spook geniuses. Havin’ a hard time with braniac recruitment are we?

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

This whole thing is nuts, why would this not be classified information? How quickly we forget the blood on the hands of these thugs, as thousands of Americans were killed on sept 11th. It makes me sick to listen to the lawyers and politicians tear down the CIA who’s job it is to keep Americans safe. In the days following 9/11 I went to bed at night scared, of what was going to happen next. Perhaps a nuclear bomb in New York? More killings in large cities?

Let’s let the U.S. government protect us and be thankful they are there. This new wave of thinking is going to bring this great country down, if we keep trying to protect the criminals. In the end, these thugs walked away from their prison cells, unfortunately, 3000 Americans could not walk away.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

when you live in a glass house be careful what you preach. It no surprise though, will this shut them up is something that I doubt very much doubt. It will make them much more careful so that we will never find it out like many other things. Its so easy to stamp “top secret” on everything and muzzle it for the sheep

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

Might as well give captured terrorists a retirement plan, financial assistance and job skills while we are at it. They are not POW, they are terrorist detainees. Whilst execution would serve a better end for these individuals, the information retained by their upper echelons gives enough right to any individual or nation to squeeze it out of them. There is no such thing as an innocent terrorist, it would be satire for a news source to say “Poor terrorists, all they wanted to do is kill people!” and that is the message that I get from all this.

Posted by TheGreenWeenie | Report as abusive

American exceptionalism at it’s worse.

Posted by shabang | Report as abusive

The Bush administration proved that they adhered to the same moral standard as those who flew the planes into the towers — perhaps far lower…

And, Cheney and Bush and the CIA show no remorse for their actions. That is the sign of a psychopath.

Admitting wrong is only the first step — but this country has not really even done that. Some have, but the other half proudly proclaims: “We will do it again!”

Posted by GeorgeBMac | Report as abusive

Integrity – doing the right thing even when nobody is looking.

Sorry, but you torture apologists are just plain wrong. You are never better for acting base. It’s so very sad how few of you understand this premise. ‘Do unto others….’ and all of that.

The really stupid thing is we’ve known torture to be ineffective for hundreds of years now, it’s not like it hasn’t been tried before. We are somehow expected to believe in a ‘gentler torture’ because it’s our side doing it. ‘Kinder, gentler machine gun hands’?

Posted by stambo2001 | Report as abusive