The report, compiled by former Inspector General John L. Helgerson, concluded that the CIA waterboarding was not "justified" and that went "beyond" the limits of what the Department of Justice authorized. From the beginning, the report read, CIA officers involved in the program were worried about their personal reputations being "seriously damaged" and that public disclosure of the program would limit the "reputation and effectiveness of the agency itself."
Concerns of the waterboarding were widespread among those who knew of the waterboarding as an interrogation tactic. The Office of Medical Service, the agency's in-house team of doctors who were required to monitor the detainees while they were being waterboarded, noted to the IG staff that potential gains and "power" of the waterboarding to get detainees to talk was "exaggerated" and "appreciably overstated."
According to a former senior CIA official, the IG investigations into waterboarding—even before it was completed—made CIA officials nervous. On June 29, 2003, Director of CIA George Tenet went to the White House to discuss the "expanded use of [waterboarding]" with several senior administration officials. According to the former official, Tenet and CIA general Counsel John Rizzo informed attorney general John Ashcroft on the overuse of waterboarding on three al Qaeda detainees. According to the source, "The attorney general was fully informed of the severity of the situation and gave his approval."
Helgerson released a statement today that said, in part that waterboarding was used in a way that made it "inconsistent" with the understanding between CIA and the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice, Helgerson said in his statement, "provided the Agency a written legal opinion based on an Agency assurance that although some techniques would be used more than once, repetition would "not be substantial." My view was that, whatever methodology was used to count applications of the waterboard, the very large number of applications to which some detainees were subjected led to the inescapable conclusion that the Agency was abusing this technique."
Jameel Jaffer, of the ACLU, which sued the government to get this report released told ABC News said the report was "quite shocking. The fact that interrogators threatened children, the fact that they threatened prisoners with electric drills … that's really not something that I expected to read in a document discussing the activities of U.S. personnel."
Jaffer also applauded attorney general Holder's decision to open an investigation, but warned that any investigation that focused on low-lever CIA officers and not those who gave guidance to operatives on the ground would be inadequate.
"It's important that this investigation can be broad enough to encompass not just the interrogators who exceeded authority, but the senior officials who authorized torture and lawyers who facilitated it," Jaffer said. "We don't want an investigation that begins and ends with so-called rogue interrogators."
Robert Grenier, a former chief of counterterrorism, who oversaw the detention and interrogation program from later 2004 until early 2006, believes prosecuting the CIA officers would be a mistake.