Newly declassified documents on torture techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have sickened human rights activists.
The documents were declassified after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency. Totaling around 50 documents, they detail how to torture suspects using medical and psychological programs.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer says that the new documents highlight the impunity of the CIA:
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These newly declassified records add new detail to the public record of the CIA’s torture program and underscore the cruelty of the methods the agency used in its secret, overseas black sites. It bears emphasis that these records document grave crimes for which no senior official has been held accountable.
One of the reports, which details the death prisoner Gul Rahman — who died of hypothermia — shows the degrading and inhumane treatment meted out by guards.
According to the papers, prisoners were often kept in adult diapers — and nothing else. Prisoners also endured total darkness and music playing 24 hours a day. The report also notes that, although heating was a known challenge in the cell, if they ran out of diapers, prisoners were placed in their cells nude.
Rahman was often subjected to torture, including being chained in a standing position for days and forced into cold showers. The night he died, Rahman was nude from the waist down. Reports say guards saw him shaking on the floor of his cell but didn’t think it merited intervention.
Other documents in the declassification detail the use of “awkward boxes,” offered in two sizes. Detainees without certain health challenges, like cardiovascular issues, were put into boxes that only allowed them enough space to sit with their legs crossed. Prisoners were held in this confinement for around two hours at a time.
Other boxes, designed for those with greater health issues, were about the size of a coffin — just clearing the head and body. Prisoners were confined for up to eight hours multiple times a day, not to exceed 18 hours.
The papers, which essentially amount to medical instruction on how to bring someone to the brink of death and destroy them psychologically for the purpose of interrogation, are full of similarly disturbing details. Waterboarding is laid out in sterile and unsettling detail as a potentially lethal method that, therefore, deserved “precautions.”
In another instance, medical professionals note that standing for prolonged periods — with hands shackled to a metal bar above the prisoner – can cause swelling in the lower limbs. Because of this, they say, it’s important to ensure that the shackles can be loosened as needed.
These methods absolutely amount to torture and break numerous international treaties and human rights laws. However, so far no one has held any major officials accountable for these gross violations. Rather, it seems that those working in the government’s top offices have waltzed off into a comfortable retirement with zero legal repercussions.
The ACLU is calling on President Obama to launch a full criminal investigation before leaving office, emphasizing that it is the “least he could do.”
But without public support to hold the officials who instituted these programs accountable, it seems that the vast rendition and torture network — paid for with our tax dollars — will continue to go unchallenged.