Obama Administration Releases 2004 CIA Inspector General Report on Torture

On Aug. 24, the Washington Independent published a new version of a redacted 2004 report by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson on the agency’s so-called “Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities.”  The report was previously released in 2008 to the National Security Archive but remained mostly classified.  The 2009 release, made in accordance with an order by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in an ACLU FOIA lawsuit, uncover new details of the CIA’s secretive torture programs.

The National Security Archive has created a side-by-side comparison of the two versions of the report.  About 90 percent of the 2008 release was redacted in comparison with only about 25 percent of the 2009 version.

New aspects uncovered in this release include:

  • Details on a number of “specific unauthorized or undocumented torture techniques” not mentioned in the 2008 release, including the use of guns, drills, threats, smoke, extreme cold, stress positions, “stiff brush and shackles,” mock executions and “hard takedown.” The Bush administration censured almost all portions of the document pertaining to specific torture techniques, save for a few references to waterboarding that omitted nearly all other contextual information.
  • A look at the legal reasoning behind the Agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the development of Agency guidance on capture, detention and interrogation.
  • A brief discussion of the history of CIA interrogation, including the "resurgence of interest in teaching interrogation techniques" in the early 1980s "as one of several methods to foster foreign liaison relationships."
  • The conclusion that, while CIA interrogations had produced useful intelligence, the “effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained” is not “so easily measured.”

Although the Obama administration seems intent on preserving the claims to presidential authority for such programs as extraordinary rendition, it also seems to be furthering its claims to greater transparency.

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