New Revelations of CIA Torture—and the Terrible Consequences of U.S. Role in the World

June 20, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

3 things that have to happen...

The first and second of Bob Avakian’s “3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better” (May 1, 2016) are (1) “People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this,” and (2) “People have to dig seriously and scientifically into how this system of capitalism-imperialism actually works, and what this actually causes in the world.”

People should think about—confront and scientifically analyze—the testimony of victims of CIA torture revealed this week in response to lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). These specifics were not released in the 2014 Senate Torture Report when it was made public. As said at the time, the report showed that the purpose of the torture was “to instill terror across a wide swathe of the Middle East and Central Asia, and to send a mob-style message that nobody fucks with the U.S. empire... or else.” (“What the Senate Report Reveals... and Covers Up—Torture to Enforce a World of Horrors,” December 15, 2014) The documents revealed last week make that assessment all the more vivid.

The Bush regime decided early in its “war on terror” to designate men they captured as “enemy combatants” rather than as prisoners of war. “Enemy combatants” is the name made up by Bush’s legal advisors to circumvent domestic and international law (like the Geneva Conventions) against holding people without charge indefinitely.

A prisoner being abused in Abu Ghraib prison. AP photo
A prisoner being abused in Abu Ghraib prison. AP photo

In “black sites” around the world, the CIA tortured their prisoners—beat them, underfed, isolated, chained, and shackled them upside down and in painful positions, deprived them of sleep, humiliated them, and threatened them with death.

The documents reveal more clearly how CIA medical staff—those who are sworn to “do no harm”—were given specific instructions on the tortures of sleep deprivation, limiting food, chaining prisoners standing for 48 hours in a fixed position, and waterboarding. (Waterboarding, used by the U.S. on people of the Philippines in the 19th century, means tying a person down, repeatedly pouring water into their nose and mouth to the point of drowning, then stopping while the victim coughs air back into their lungs.)

Khaled El-Masri is a German citizen who was traveling in Macedonia in 2004 when he was kidnapped (“rendered”) by the CIA and taken to a black site prison in Afghanistan where he was tortured. The reports say the CIA “quickly concluded he was not a terrorist.” By the time he was released four months later, he had lost 50 pounds and threatened a hunger strike. The CIA told him that a condition of his release, as an innocent person, was that he “not reveal his experiences to the media or local authorities.”

A released CIA document says, “[T]here was an insufficient basis to render and detain al-Masri and the Agency’s prolonged detention of al-Masri was unjustified. His rendition and long detention resulted from a series of breakdowns in tradecraft, process, management, and oversight. CTC and [redacted] failed to take responsible steps to verify al-Masri’s identity. ALEC Station exaggerated the nature of the data it possessed linking al-Masri to terrorism. After the decision had been made to repatriate al-Masri, implementation was marked by delay and bureaucratic infighting.”

Even after El-Masri’s release, the government fought his attempts at justice by claiming his case could not be heard in U.S. courts because of “state secrets.”

Gul Rahman was left half-naked, doused with water, and chained to the floor of an unheated cell to freeze to death at a secret CIA prison referred to by the U.S. military as “The Salt Pit,” near Kabul, Afghanistan, in the winter of 2002. Jason Leopold of VICE News reported the story of Rahman’s death: “The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the architects of the torture program on behalf of Rahman’s family, alleging human experimentation and torture. One of the two architects, retired Air Force psychologist Dr. Bruce Jessen, was present at COBALT [a CIA detention site] prior to Rahman’s death and performed a psychological evaluation on Rahman, deciding what torture techniques should be used on him ‘to render him compliant.’”

Dror Ladin of the ACLU says, “The CIA and Jessen considered Gul Rahman to have a ‘sophisticated level of resistance training’ because he ‘complained about poor treatment’ and said he couldn’t ‘think due to conditions (cold)....’ When they decided he wasn’t sufficiently ‘broken,’ CIA personnel brutalized, starved, and froze him to death, then lied about it.”

waterboarding artwork
Artwork: Special to

Again from Vice: a released document details that the CIA’s Associate Deputy Director for Operations/Counterintelligence concluded that Rahman’s “actions likely caused his own death. By throwing his last meal he was unable to provide his body with a source of fuel to keep him warm,” the report said. “Additionally, his violent behavior resulted in his restraint which prevented him from generating body heat by moving around and brought him in direct contact with the concrete floor leading to a loss of body heat through conduction.” Think about that! It’s like the lawyer for the pigs who said, “Rodney King alone was in control of the situation” because he didn’t stop moving while they beat him.

The Justice Department has declined to prosecute anyone in connection with Rahman’s death.

Abu Zubaydah was misidentified by the CIA as a leader of al Qaeda, and severely wounded when he was captured in Pakistan in 2002. He apparently gave information during interrogation, but the CIA thought he knew more. So they shackled him naked in a cold room and waterboarded him 83 times in a month. He was held in a secret CIA prison for years, until he was moved to Guantánamo in 2006, as a “high-value” detainee. Zubaydah is still held at Guantánamo., awaiting trial by military commission. It is unlikely such a trial will ever happen, because the government has no interest in revealing more on the extensive torture by the CIA.

These are the terrible consequences of U.S. imperialism’s role in the world today.

The third of what BA says are the “3 Things that have to happen...” is: People have to look deeply into the solution to all this.

You could start by studying the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which forbids torture by armed forces, militia, or any organs of public defense or security: “No prisoner or any other person may be tortured or subjected to other forms of cruel and unusual punishment, nor treated in any other way which violates the high standards which must be maintained in accordance with the nature, purpose and role of these institutions of defense and security, as set forth in this Constitution.”

And then get more fully into BA.



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