The first time the CIA tried enhanced interrogation with a high-value target, the sessions were so intense that they nearly brought some CIA personnel to tears, according to Senate Intelligence Committee’s recently released “torture report.”
The report says that al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah had already provided the FBI with “vital” information regarding the 9/11 attacks after his capture in Pakistan in 2002 and was cooperating, but at some point the CIA, convinced Zubaydah was holding back, took over.
Zubaydah was held in complete isolation for more than a month and then subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques “on a near 24-hour-per-day basis” for 20 days straight, the report says.
On the first day of his enhanced interrogation, the report says Zubaydah was left naked and no questions were asked of him as he was “slam[med] against a concrete wall” with a towel around his neck as a “collar”.
Later interrogators demanded to know about planned terror attacks and when Zubaydah told them he didn’t have any information, he was slapped. His first waterboarding session lasted two and a half hours.
He “coughed, vomited, and had ‘involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities’ during waterboarding.”
Over the next few weeks, Zubaydah was subjected to waterboardings two to four times a day and when he was left alone, he was put in “stress positions,” designed to strain the body for hours on end. CIA documents later revealed Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in all.
“According to daily [CIA] cables… Abu Zubaydah frequently ‘cried,’ ‘begged,’ ‘pleaded,’ and ‘whimpered,’ but continued to deny that he had any additional information on current threats to, or operatives in, the United States,” the report says.
Citing comments made by CIA personnel on the scene, the report said several were “disturbed” by what they had witnessed
“Today’s first session.. had a profound effect on all staff members present… it seems the collective opinion that we should not go much further… everyone seems strong for now but if the group has to continue… we cannot guarantee how much longer,” one CIA official said.
“Several on the team profoundly affected… some to the point of tears and choking up,” another said.
Today’s report says that after the enhanced interrogation ended, “CIA personnel at the detention site concluded that Abu Zubaydah had been truthful and that he did not possess any new terrorist threat information.” That didn’t stop the CIA from telling the National Security Council that the techniques were “producing meaningful results,” the report says.
Several former high-level CIA officials today criticized the release of the Senate report, saying the interrogation program “saved thousands of lives” by in part forcing Zubaydah and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed to talk.