Details of Illegal Torture That the CIA Doesn't Want You to Know About

Senate staffers say the agency tortured prisoners in ways that went beyond what the Bush-era DOJ approved, according to an Al-Jazeera America report.
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The Senate report on CIA torture is still being suppressed. But details are leaking out, according to a report by Jason Leopold. Citing Intelligence Committee staffers, he writes that "at least one high-value detainee was subjected to torture techniques that went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush's Justice Department." In addition, "harsh measures authorized by the Department of Justice had been applied to at least one detainee before such legal authorization was received." 

The notion that Bush-era interrogations were lawful has always been highly dubious. This latest news plucks away even the fig leaf afforded by Bush Administration attorneys. Some say it would be unfair to prosecute anyone told that a tactic was permitted. 

Will they call for a criminal investigation of these incidents?

The CIA seems to agree that these details are important. It is seeking new assurances that the report won't lead to criminal investigations, according to Leopold's sources:

When Panetta briefed CIA employees on March 16, 2009, about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review, he said Feinstein and her Republican counterpart, Kit Bond of Missouri, had “assured” him “that their goal is to draw lessons for future policy decisions, not to punish those who followed guidance from the Department of Justice.”

But now that some of the report’s conclusions suggest that some of the techniques used on Abu Zubaydah and other captives either went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or were applied before they had been authorized, the congressional staffers and U.S. officials who spoke to Al Jazeera said CIA officials are seeking further assurances against any criminal investigation.

Thus far, no such assurances have been given, according to Al Jazeera’s sources, nor is there any indication that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report would prompt a criminal investigation.

Any agreement to refrain from investigating torture as a criminal offense would itself violate the law. The UN Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan and later ratified by the U.S. Senate, compels signatories to investigate torture and "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."

Perhaps the U.S. will one day adhere to the law.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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