CIA torture program draws heavy criticism

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A U.S. Senate report that reveals a brutal torture program of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has drawn heavy criticism at home and abroad.

The CIA repeatedly misled the public, Congress and the White House about its aggressive questioning and torture on detainees after the terrorist attacks in 2001, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday.

The CIA downplayed the brutality of the interrogations and exaggerated the usefulness of the information it gathered, including its role in setting in motion the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, says the report.

The 6,000-page report also found that the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" program escaped effective scrutiny by outsiders long after its inception in 2002. CIA records showed that then President George W. Bush was never fully briefed by the agency on torturous interrogation techniques until 2006, it says.

The report contains details about waterboarding, sexual threats and other controversial methods to obtain information, and finds those techniques largely ineffective and poorly managed.

Some of the detainees were kept awake for up to 180 hours, or more than seven days, usually in standing or stress positions. Interrogators also placed the interrogations above medical needs, such as treating bullet wounds, the report says. Some detainees were also placed in ice water "baths".

Conditions at CIA detention sites were poor, says the report, and detainees at a detention facility called "COBALT" were kept in complete darkness, and lack of heat at the facility likely contributed to the death of a detainee.

The White House and President Barack Obama backed the decision to release the report, despite warning from lawmakers and some officials inside the administration that it could lead to a backlash against Americans.

Obama said in a written statement that Bush-era CIA interrogation techniques "did significant damage to America's standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners."

"These harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counter-terrorism efforts or our national security interests," Obama said.

Republican Senator John McCain said harsh interrogations did little to make Americans safer, adding it will produce more bad than good intelligence.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the report "shocking," saying,"It is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes."

"The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable," Romero said.

There was also international consternation at the findings.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the use of torture and other violations of human rights to battle terrorists was ultimately counter-productive.

"Let us be clear: Torture is wrong. Torture is always wrong," Cameron told a press conference in Ankara, where he met Turkish officials.

"Those of us who want to see a safer, more secure world want to see extremism defeated. We won't succeed if we lose our moral authority," Cameron noted.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, also said the report revealed a "clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration" and called for prosecution of those officials.

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