The journey into the CIA's most extreme interrogation program began in darkness.
hooded and wearing earmuffs, suspected terrorists were shackled and
flown to secret interrogation centers. The buildings themselves were
quiet, clinical and designed to fill prisoners with dread. Detainees
were shaved, stripped and photographed nude.
questioning began mildly, a shackled detainee facing a non-threatening
CIA interrogator. But for detainees who refused to cooperate, the
interrogation escalated in terrifying ways.
people have ever witnessed the process, which was designed to extract
secrets from "high value" suspects during the years after the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorism attacks on the U.S. But Justice Department documents, which the Obama administration simultaneously released and repudiated Thursday, describe the process from darkness to waterboarding in skin-crawling detail.
Prisoners were naked, shackled and hooded to start their
interrogation sessions. When the CIA interrogator removed the hood, the
questioning began. Whenever the prisoner resisted, the documents
outlined a series of techniques the CIA could use to bring him back in
• Nudity, sleep deprivation
and dietary restrictions kept prisoners compliant and reminded them
they had no control over their basic needs. Clothes and food could be
used as rewards for cooperation.
prisoners on the face or abdomen was allowed. So was grabbing them
forcefully by the collar or slamming them into a false wall, a
technique called "walling" that had a goal of fear more than pain.
Water hoses were used to douse the prisoners for minutes at a time. The
hoses were turned on and off as the interrogation continued.
Prisoners were put into one of three in "stress positions," such as
sitting on the floor with legs out straight and arms raised in the air
to cause discomfort.
At night, the detainees
were shackled, standing naked or wearing a diaper. The length of sleep
deprivation varied by prisoner but was authorized for up to 180 hours,
or 7 1/2 days. Interrogation
sessions ranged from 30 minutes to several hours and could be repeated
as necessary and as approved by psychological and medical teams.
of these techniques, such as stripping a detainee naked, depriving him
of sleep and putting a hood over his head, are prohibited under the
U.S. Army Field Manual. But in 2002, the Justice Department authorized CIA interrogators to step up the pressure even further on suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah.
Justice Department lawyers
said the CIA could place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box. Because
Zubaydah appeared afraid of insects, they also authorized interrogators
to place him in a box and fill it box with caterpillars (that tactic
ultimately was not used).
Finally, the Justice Department authorized interrogators to take a step into what the United States now considers torture, waterboarding.
Bush administration approved the use of waterboarding, a technique in
which Zubaydah was strapped to a board, his feet raised above his head.
His face was covered with a wet cloth as interrogators poured water
The body responds as if it is drowning, over and over as the process is repeated.
"We find that the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death," Justice Department attorneys
wrote. "From the vantage point of any reasonable person undergoing this
procedure in such circumstances, he would feel as if he is drowning at
the very moment of the procedure due to the uncontrollable
physiological sensation he is experiencing."
attorneys decided that waterboarding caused "no pain or actual harm
whatsoever" and so did not meet the "severe pain and suffering"
standard to be considered torture.
President Barack Obama
has ended the CIA's interrogation program. CIA interrogators are now
required to follow Army guidelines, under which waterboarding and many
of the techniques listed above are prohibited.