Updated 11 December 2014

CIA report: 6 shocking torture methods exposed

The newly released summary of an investigation into the CIA's questionable interrogation methods has made some shocking revelations.


Tuesday saw the high-profile release of what has been dubbed the CIA Torture Report and, as expected, some eye-opening revelations were made.

Officially titled the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Intelligence Program, the report focuses almost exclusively on the work of the CIA in the wake of the September 11th attacks as they fought what they foresaw to be the substantial terrorist groups posed the US and its allies.

The full report runs for over 6 000 pages and due to the highly classified nature of its contents, it has not been released. Instead, a 525 page executive summary was made available to the public at the behest of the US Senate, and even this features substantial redactions throughout.

Here are some of the most shocking revelations made in the report:

Rectal feeding

At least five captives were subjected to rectal feeding. The reports details one case where a suspect’s meal, consisting of “hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused.” No medical justification was given for this act.

Mock Executions

On at least two occasions, CIA operatives conducted mock executions of their captives to coerce them into answering their questions. On one such occasion, a prisoner was separated from another who was being questioned and taken into an adjoining where a CIA operative fired a gun, making it appear as though the man had been executed, reported Newsweek in 2009.

Left out to die

At least one person is recorded to have died while in a CIA “Black Site.” Gul Rahman, a suspected Afghani militant, was slapped and then shackled to a concrete wall, naked except for a sweatshirt. Rahman was left overnight in temperatures as low as 2 degrees Celsius. The following day, Rahman was found dead. The autopsy did not declare the cause of death, but the “clinical impression of the medical officer… was that the cause of death was hypothermia.”

Read: Murder and torture, who can do such a thing?

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation formed a common part of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” It was usually accomplished by forcing detainees to stand or stay in “stress positions” in which all of the body’s weight is carried by just one or two muscles. Sleep deprivation in CIA black sites could last for up to 180 hours, or more than an entire week without sleep.

Excessive Waterboarding

Waterboarding is a well-documented technique favoured in US detention facilities overseas, where they don’t have to comply with strict laws that govern US soil. Waterboarding entails covering the face of the captive with a cloth before pouring water over their mouth and nose. This simulates the feeling of drowning, causing acute psychological distress.

The report alleges that Khaleid Sheikh Mohamed, the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded on at least 183 separate occasions.

Psychopathic interrogators

On the whole, the people who administered these enhanced interrogation techniques weren't the crème de la crème of CIA field agents, says Vox. Instead, black sites were often staffed by ill-disciplined operators. As the report notes: “This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.

Much, much more

The list of unwelcome surprises doesn’t end there. One detainee was forced to stand on a broken foot for several hours. Another detainee faced threats that his mother would be sexually assaulted and one man lost his left eye in unexplained circumstances.

You can read the full report here.

Senate torture report

Read more:

Most will torture if ordered 
10 things you didn't know about torture 
Executions increasingly viewed as torture


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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