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Fact 4

Last updated: August 4, 2023

The CIA torture program caused profound, and in numerous cases permanent, psychological and physical harm to its victims.

CIA torture program victims have suffered permanent psychological and physical damage, as it should have been clear from the outset they would if subjected to “enhanced interrogation.” To take just three examples: 

  • According to Dr. Sondra Crosby, a physician with deep expertise in torture and trauma evaluation, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri—whom Dr. Crosby has evaluated repeatedly—“presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen,” and “is most likely irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him.” The CIA tortured al-Nashiri extensively through methods including waterboarding, rape (euphemized as “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding”), and mock execution with both a handgun and a power drill. In describing detainees at one of the black sites at which Mr. al-al-Nashiri was held, a CIA interrogator said “[‘they] literally looked like [dogs] that had been kenneled.’ When the doors to their cells were opened, ‘they cowered.’”
  • Abu Zubaydah suffers from permanent brain damage, seizures and loss of vision in his left eye. According to internal CIA communications, CIA officers were well aware that these types of consequences, and potentially more serious ones, were foreseeable if they subjected Zubaydah to the torture being proposed, and they sought to devise ways in advance to shield themselves from accountability:

The CIA repeatedly slammed Zubaydah against a concrete wall, locked him in “confinement boxes” for more than 12 days over a 20-day period, and waterboarded him to the point that he “became completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” Some of the sessions were so gruesome that the CIA reported officers being “profoundly affected,” in some cases “to the point of tears and choking up,” and that several personnel were “likely to elect transfer” if the torture continued.

To this day, both Zubaydah and al-Nashiri—like other torture program victims—remain captive at the Guantanamo prison with no current prospect of release. The prolonged, indefinite detention they continue to endure exacerbates the trauma they have experienced. None of them has access to rehabilitation services, or, in many cases, to adequate medical care more generally.