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Fact 3

Last updated: August 4, 2023

“Enhanced interrogation” was torture and the CIA knew it.

The CIA has always referred, at least publicly, to the torture tactics it employed as “enhanced interrogation.” Each technique itself was given a similarly innocuous sounding name: for example, “sleep deprivation,” “cramped confinement” and “waterboarding.” In practice, “sleep deprivation” often meant chaining men to the ceiling, naked except for a diaper, in the dark with music blaring, sometimes for days on end; “cramped confinement” meant stuffing men for hours into (at times insect-filled) boxes the size of small dog crates or in the shape of coffins; and “waterboarding” meant actually drowning them, just not to the point of death.

CIA interrogators also subjected detainees to abuses beyond those formally labeled “enhanced interrogation.” Some examples include: “rectal rehydration” (a form of rape accomplished by pumping fluid, or sometimes food, into a detainee’s rectum through a tube forced into his anus against his will); threating a detainee with a power drill; and dousing detainees with freezing cold water, which led to one detainee’s death.

Conditions of confinement also served as forms of torture and cruel treatment. As the CIA’s chief of interrogations told the CIA’s inspector general: “[DETENTION SITE COBALT] is good for interrogations because it is the closest thing he has seen to a dungeon, facilitating the displacement of detainee expectations.”

Although the CIA may not have known from the outset that these were the specific methods it would employ, officials there clearly knew the CIA would engage in torture because, months before the CIA took custody of its first detainee, CIA lawyers were researching legal defenses to torture. As the Torture Report explains:

In interviews with the CIA’s office of inspector general after torture had begun, James Pavitt, the CIA’s deputy director of operations, described possible public revelation of what the CIA was doing as “the CIA’s worst nightmare.” According to records of an interview with CIA director George Tenet himself, “Tenet believes that if the general public were to find out about this program, many would believe we are torturers.”