The CIA IG Report on the Inefficacy of Torture

Much of the focus on the now-delayed but upcoming release of the CIA IG Report on torture has been on whether the six page section on "Effectiveness"–the section that most challenges Dick Cheney’s claims–would be released.

What people seem to be oblivious to, however, is that much of this section has already been released–in two of the Bradbury Memos declassified in April. I first reported on the IG Report’s comments about efficacy here and a week later, McClatchy did effectively the same report. I’ve replicated the section describing the page-by-page contents, as revealed by the Bradbury memos, below. But here’s basically what the IG Report appears to have concluded about torture’s inefficacy.

  • It could not be conclusively determined whether or not torture had prevented any attacks
  • There is limited data on whether torture is effective or not
  • Torture leads to an increased number of intelligence reports–it’s not clear whether the IG Report comments on the quality of those reports
  • But you can’t learn everything form one detainee–even someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; the information from more minor figures is important to challenge High Value Detainees
  • The CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah and KSM a whole bunch of times

Note that last bullet: the report on the sheer number of times AZ and KSM were waterboarded shows up in the section on efficacy–suggesting that the number itself says something about the inefficacy of the technique.

So that’s it–that’s much what the Effectiveness section will show. And given the stinginess of the CIA of late, I expect we might just get exactly what was revealed in the Bradbury memos, and nothing more, once the IG Report is actually released.

I’m actually more interested in some other sections of the IG Report–which we also know of thanks to Steven Bradbury. But I’ll explain those in a follow-up post.

As Bradbury notes on page 10 of his memo, the IG Report discusses the efficacy of enhanced interrogation from page 85 though 91. Here are the topics that discussion covers, in order, with the Bradbury description of the reference:

Page 85: No direct reference

Page 86: A description of an increase in intelligence reports attributable to enhanced methods and a discussion arguing that you can’t measure the efficacy of interrogation by pointing to just the reports from one detainee..

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

According to the CIA Inspector General:

CTC frequently uses the information from one detainee, as well as other sources, to vet the information from another detainee. Although lower-level detainees provide less information than the high value detainees, information from these detainees has, on many occasions, supplied the information needed to probe the high value detainees further. … [T]he triangulation of intelligence provides a fuller knowledge of Al-Qa’ida activities than would be possible from a single detainee.

IG Report at 86.

Page 87: No direct reference

Page 88: A statement that it is difficult to determine whether interrogations have stopped specific attacks.

As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. See id. at 88.

Page 89: A statement noting that there is limited data on whether enhanced methods are effective (note–Bradbury pitches this as an observation that the techniques were used "sparingly," which from the context appears to be disingenuous).

And, because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, "there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness." Id at 89.

Page 90: A comment on the increased number of reports tied to enhanced methods, along with a discussion of the number of times Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded.

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.  

Page 91: A comment on the increased number of reports tied to enhanced methods, along with a discussion of the number of times KSM was waterboarded.

See IG Report at 86, 90-91 (describing increase in intelligence reports attributable to use of enhanced techniques). 

The CIA used the waterboard … 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.  

41 replies
  1. perris says:

    I’ll tell you what IS missing from the report that sorely needs to be there;

    the amount of issues torture creates, the amount of new insurgents torture recruits, the amount of voluntary information that is not gained, the amount of unrest torture causes

    put those in the report to really find “the efficacy” and the counter productive nature of these policies will be breath taking

  2. fatster says:

    A new article this am. Great! But first, let me share this link as Greenwald is discussing several things that have been discussed on these pages lately.

    MONDAY JUNE 22, 2009 06:23 EDT

    Contradictions that aren’t seen as contradictory

    Glenn Greenwald

    “Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Bradley Graham, discussing his new book on Donald Rumsfeld, June 15, 2009: 

    “As for the enhanced interrogation techniques, Rumsfeld personally authorized one set of harsh measures for use at Guantanamo in December 2002, then rescinded the measures the following months after strong objections from some Pentagon lawyers. He issued a new set of 24 measures in April 2003 after a review by Pentagon officials. . . “…..adictions/

  3. Jkat says:

    it’s still a smokescreen .. it doesn’t matter if torture did/does “work” .. it’s completely anathema to our national principles and ideals .. and completely outside our laws ..

    there’s a point there somewhere ..

    • 1boringoldman says:

      While I personally agree with you, if we are to argue as we do [and Senator Whitehouse does] that torture is ineffective or unreliable, we have to allow their argument in the mix. Also, one can imagine a scenario where some prisoner spills big the beans while being tortured that would have been seen as a vindication of the method. That is, actually, what they were counting on.

      My point is that even if we see the efficacy of E.I.T. as a moot point, we still are forced to engage their argument. Lucky us, it never worked. I think the operative saying has something to do with “trying to get blood out of a turnip…

    • Mary says:

      That point was the joke that got deleted from Obama’s standup routine.

      The one that was supposed to get big big big laugh lines. The, “Oh yes, and a venerable television instituion has also jumped onboard with their own WH spinoff. Look for ‘Law & Order, XIXIVIII – Torture Prosecutions’ next season” (huge self generated guffaws) “What? Oh com’on guys, that one was really funny – think how many people I punk’d on that one! (grumbling) Ok, I’ll cut it, but it was almost as funny as the Williams stopping up the toilet joke”


      • Jkat says:

        good thing i can spell facetious .. ?? i actually got a laugh out of the Law and Order bit .. i could just imagine how many pols across the land might crap their pants on hearing that “Torture Prosecutions” ..

        since L&O often takes real cases as a basis for their story lines .. i wonder when they’ll take on a torture case .. or if ..

        as i see it ..getting the torture issue to a point of prosecution is an ongoing battle .. and that battle is being fought in the blogs .. like this one .. by folk like you and marcy and labdancer and mad dog and bmaz ..and me .. and others .. i simply refuse to believe this nation .. in the end .. will shirk it’s responsibility to justice ..

  4. poopyman says:


    Yeah, the point is that if we start debating whether torture is effective, we’ve implicitly allowed it to be a legitimate, legal, and morally acceptable technique.

    And it’s just not.

    • Jkat says:

      i agree poopy .. that was my point … i just left off the snark tag [/cynical]

      and i’m really proud of marcy this mornin’ .. the fact the CIA/WH stifled the release of the IG report last friday STILL didn’t stop her from developing a post on it anyway ..

      take THAT you bastards …… they just don’t get up early enough to stop the emptywheel from it’s appointed roll … lol

      • skdadl says:

        take THAT you bastards …… they just don’t get up early enough to stop the emptywheel from it’s appointed roll … lol

        That’s just what I was thinking as I read the post. A shot across the bow! All the wiseguys, CIA and other, just got pre-empted.

        I can hardly wait to see their next defensive move. When will they ever learn?

        • drational says:

          I can hardly wait to see their next defensive move.

          I can spell it out:
          Apply copious black ink to the pages EW is most interested in….

    • brendanx says:

      If you choose talk about the moral dimension of torture and say its efficacy is irrelevant, you’ve put the debate on Cheney’s ground and already ceded it, really. Implicit in a lot of the public’s mind, I suspect, is the false dichotomy you’re nudging them towards: that we have a choice between efficacy and the immorality of inflicting pain.

      Meanwhile, if you ignore discussing the purpose and efficacy of torture, you’re really discussing an idealized abastraction instead of the phenomenon as it’s really practiced. You won’t get to the heart of the matter: the common thread among regimes that torture is that they do it for reasons unrelated to “intelligence”, or objective fact — they do it for a host of other reasons, such as to obtain false confessions and to terrorize real and potential political adversaries.

      • alabama says:

        Since torturers take pleasure in torturing, it follows that those who enable torture take a vicarious pleasure in its practice. We can only forego this source of pleasure by creating and maintaining a taboo. It’s like learning to stay away from incest: cultures learn to accept the incest taboo slowly, reluctantly, and largely by coming to dread the costs of ignoring it.

        We Americans have hardly begun to acknowledge the costs of indulging in torture.

  5. drational says:

    Like a good zoologist, partitioning the weeds before you start counting the bugs.
    Because the OMS Guidelines probably won’t be coming out, I am interested in P14-15 and 28-30 of the IG report, discussing the bad outcomes of waterboarding.

  6. drational says:

    I also want page 15 of the IG report for the transition from discussion of waterboarding to sleep deprivation, as I think it will provide more hints regarding questions I have with this combination and al Nashiri.

    • Mary says:

      And I’ll toss in that I’m interested in what the report has about elements of “the terrorist torture” program that deal with the “preliminaries” and the “conditions of confinement” issues Bradbury recognizes in footnotes that he’s afraid to touch under 2340.

      Especially since some of the sexual depravity section of the torture program was stripping kidnap victims and taking pictures and yet somehow there has never been any accounting for THOSE pictures (as opposed to the final acknowledgements of the videos destroyed) despite all the court ordered preservation and production orders.

      Then there’s the fact that someone like Cloonan is on the record with allegations that the CIA threatened al-Libi’s mother with rape (something I think was also done with a GITMO detainee – Qhatani?).

      Threats against KSM’s children, as reported by Suskind, might get a mention too.

      But really, the biggie is that you look at what 2340 sets out on serious effects on personality – then look at the Mitchellco background (”learned” helplessness) and the cables on interrogators Becoming God, etc. and there is no way to avoid that the anticipated, planned outcome was to engage in human experimentation to reproduce a similar human response. Mitchellco might argue that their “dogs” weren’t “tortured” by the “electric shocks” resulting in the behavioral changes of “learned helplessness” BUT

      I don’t see how anyone can argue that a process of prolonged disorientation, abuse, torture, isolation, sensory deprivation etc. that is mapped out by “learned helplessness” experts interested in Becoming God is anything but “procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality”

      Anyway – I think that there is plenty of stuff, much of which will be redacted, about excesses over and above what the Bradbury and Yoo memos specify (as bad as what they specified was anyway). But that may be massaged around some as field conditions, good faith, etc. But let’s face it – when Bradburyco drops footnotes to say that “you haven’t asked us to look at” things like conditions of confinement and all the preliminaries and isolation issues etc. occuring outside of the actual torture chamber, there’s a big ol reason that he wasn’t asked to look at those things. And that reason is not someone’s abundance of “good faith.”

  7. Becca says:

    And the obligatory proviso: Regardless of efficacy, the intentional infliction of pain, whether physical or psychological or both, remains a violation of the Constitution, current law, and international treaties — as well as flat out wrong and evil.

    Civilized countries have been prosecuting individuals and organizations for waterboarding, withholding food, sleep deprivation and other means of torture — in some cases for centuries now. Something in America died when this bright line (torture, not-torture) was allowed to be erased.

    I remain deeply dismayed and ashamed at what’s been done in our name — and worse, that we seem to lack the nerve to truly hold the perpetrators accountable. So far.

    • bmaz says:

      It is NOT a coverup. It was a completely expected and predictable decision by the Supremes. The die was cast by John Bates’ exploitation (and to some extent contortion) of glaring and gaping holes in the pleading by Plame/Wilson. It is a shame, but especially in light of the subsequent Iqbal decision, there is no way to credibly call this a cover up. This case was over when it started.

      • BayStateLibrul says:

        Couldn’t the Supremos zing Bates?
        Yeah I used the term “cover-up” in the flash-popping sense of the word.

    • Petrocelli says:

      Hmmm, now that the legal fight is over, I wonder if Plame & Friends will let slip a bunch of anonymous tips and names to hit Chin-ee where it hurts …

  8. wavpeac says:

    Wow there is so much here today. Thanks as always Marcy for the enlightening posts.

    Becca…what I think is almost worse is that they took our laws, and like only a good psychopath can, stood them on their head to make what would normally be considered perverse…appear logical and within the realm of our laws. (some of us saw through this, but of course some Americans did not). I don’t believe they did this out of fear and impulsive decision making. It is clear that they did this with purpose and much thought. I believe they used and manipulated the fear of the American people. This is truly one of the distinctions of a psychopath. The ability to “appear” normal while plotting the perverse. Instead using socially accepted values and turning them on their head for the sole purpose of meeting some self serving hidden agenda.

    Mary…I hope that one outcome of this is increased knowledge and awareness of the impact of this kind of trauma. Much of the research continues to focus on PTSD and it’s symptoms, what the end result of this kind of torture and abuse if far worse that PTSD. It is clear that long term brain damage can occur, where many clinicians continue to believe that these symptoms come from early childhood trauma. It is clear that personality changes occur for adults under this kind of trauma and that these changes are debilitating. I really think this damage has been largely ignored or not properly labeled. I work with women and men who have been severly abused. Many end up with pervasive and debilitating personality disorders as well as severe mental illness. We seem reticent to make it completely clear that abuse not only causes PTSD but can result in something similar to complex ptsd, and that it can have profound impact on the relationship with self. (which is what many survivors of trauma refer to as “soul death”.)

  9. Mary says:

    I am going to be hoping for the “effectiveness” issue on all those SE Asian attacks, in the plethora of countries, that al-Faruq broke down (under EITs that started before the Aug memo too) and fessed up as being things he was ordered by Zubaydah and al-Libi, wearing their Al-Qaeda hats, to conduct.

    The intel that al-Libi was a member of al-Qaeda’s governing council (guess there’s not way to ask al-libi about that anymore, is there?)

    The intel that el-Masri was not German, wasnot “Khaled el-Masri” and was some guy who had been in Jalalabad?

    The intel that Arar was at a training camp as well.

    The intel about the British survivors of Dostum’s shipping container massacre being the “previously unidentified men” in a picture with Bin Laden.

    The intel about cyber threats to proliferate dirty bombs stemming from internet sarcasm sites about bucket swinging centrifuge

    The intel about Iraqi training camps

    The intel about the Godzilla Attacks, based upon familiar scenes from B grade movies (I am personally waiting for the new, reality show – Godzilla v. The Torturemonster, a two headed monster with one Jack Bauer visage and one Alberto Gonzales one – I hear the villager screams already —- oh, wait, sorry, that wasn’t my imaginary expectation of the movie event after all; it was the screams of villagers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq being bombed)

    Aw, intel. Remember the good ol days when it wasn’t a copyrighted chip reference.

    • emptywheel says:

      I suspect we won’t find that, Mary. I’ll explain why in a later, totally unrelated post. But as I’m looking at what we KNOW to be there, there isn’t much room for that stuff and it doesn’t seem to be what the IG focus was one.

      • Mary says:

        Yeah, I need to get a bit faster with my /s bc I’d go further than even suspecting that it wouldn’t be there, I’d lay money. It would have all been more tied to and better related to some of the Senate releases, that also didn’t deal with any of it. And some of it involves GITMO and ongoing Afghanistan issues, like the Dostum killings and coverups and payoffs, that would have been more the provence of Congressional armed svcs investigations, where it wasn’t either.

        On the effectiveness front, all anyone had to ever do to smack the snot out of Cheney was go to al-libi and the training camps and link to how quickly he was re-disappeared after that was shown to be false and it was never done by anyone in Congress, in the DOJ, in the MSM – it wasn’t done by Panetta, it wasn’t even done by Whitehouse and Feingold, who probably do walk a fine line on what they can say about things that they have been briefed on, but which overlap with things that are being publically discussed (on blogs only pretty much, or in a few books if people ante up for them).

        Still, I’m not really expecting a Godzilla v. the Torture Monster set of efficacy revelations.

  10. Mary says:

    OT – but related, since living in constant fear of your babies being bombed or in the aftermath of digging them out of the rubble can also ” disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality” apparently after 8/10th of a decade of civilian bombings and village destruction, along with village support like wells, roads, homes etc. being destroyed, McCrystal is perhaps going to order that it’s maybe better to pass up a fight than to destroy a village and it’s civlian population

    The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.

    The order would be one of the strongest measures taken by a U.S. commander to protect Afghan civilians in battle.

    I guess if our “strongest measure” to protect Afghan civilians is that we will cut back on our killing of Afghan civilians, well, you go with what you can have.

    • Leen says:

      thanks for linking this had just read. Just a bit difficult for the Afghani and Pakistani folks to believe that Obama came to Cairo with a message of Peace from the American people when “peace” comes in the destructive form and power of drones instead of a dove. Just a bit tough to swallow.

      FDL and EW and team keep the faucet drip drip dripping

  11. wavpeac says:

    I find most war disgusting and far more damaging than most folks want to admit. A thesis of mine…is that we will not stop the violence (interpersonal, intra personal and intercultural) until we can fully and factually validate it’s true consequences. For now, the denial (and damage) continues and I wonder if we will ever look it square in the eyes. Which of course leaves us vulnerable to more war, more abuse, more violence. As long as we as a nation collude with the oppressors who minimize, deny and blame. As long as we keep blaming victims for being damaged and refuse to recognize it’s true consequences, we will continue in this cycle.

    It blows my mind that we haven’t fully accepted that all violence does psychological damage. From domestic violence (well documented by the American Pediatrics Association) to war. It all hurts.

    • skdadl says:

      That word you use — “minimize.” Oh, that a few good WH correspondents would start to insert that word in every question they ask Obama about his many decisions to suppress various truths. That word has legs. I see a meme a-building.

  12. mediaskeptic says:

    It’s really amazing to me that so many American citizens could actually believe that torture could, at any time, under any set of circumstances, be considered an acceptable practice of any civilized society. It’s astonishing what some of the polling in this area has indicated. Are our fellow citizens (those who believe this baloney), emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, or just plain stupid? Perhaps there’s some psychological explanation for some of these results, but I’ve never heard of anything like mass hypnosis, mass hysteria, or mass psychosis, lasting for more than a short period of time, certainly not several years. Maybe it’s the slow motion, drip, drip, drip effect of the disclosure of these revelations that dull the common senses. (although, common sense doesn’t really appear to be all that common)

    Anyway, keep up the good work EW. As they say “it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it”, and the MSM certainly isn’t doing it.

    • esseff44 says:

      I think what our fellow citizens who think torture is OK are compartmentalizing. It’s OK when we do it to protect American lives as we so often have heard. It’s not OK for other people to do it and especially not OK to do it to Americans under any circumstances.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      I think tolerance for torture is related to lack of video and photos and statements from the victims, which makes it hard for people to empathize. It’s that empathy thing. Nothing has made the torture more real and people more angry than the photos from Abu Ghraib.

      You know what I found “poignant” today? I was reading Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s CSRT transcript ( ). Out of everyone present in that room, only one talked about the Constitution and George Washington and the idea of America: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Only one was concerned about fair treatment for others in Guantanamo, and getting the truth known: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Really, in terms of faithfulness to an oath of office, again, one guy: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. He confessed to everything — and that’s been made a joke of, in that he confessed to things he couldn’t possibly have done, and yet as I read it, he was sharing/taking responsibility even if it meant his end. No weaseling. No Bush. He asked to have the hearing conducted in English, with the help of a translator for things he didn’t know how to say, which led to some funny passages…

      PRESIDENT: Do you have any questions concerning the Tribunal process?

      DETAINEE: Okay by me.


      DETAINEE: I hope you will take care of other Detainees with what I said. It’s up to you.


      DETAINEE: So, we derive from religious leading that we consider we and George Washington doing same thing. As consider George Washington as hero. Muslims many of them are considering Usarna bin Laden. He is doing same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence. Even we think that, or not me only. Many Muslims, that al Qaida or Taliban they are doing. They have been oppressed by America. This is the feeling of the prophet. So when we say we are enemy combatant, that right. We are. But I’m asking you again to be fair with many Detainees which are not enemy combatant. Because many of them have been unjustly arrested. Many, not one or two or three. Cause the definition you which wrote even from my view it is not fair.

      I think it was Woody Allen’s Zelig where he had movie newsreel footage running behind him on the wall of his room– ? A powerful counternarrative. What I wouldn’t give for these hearings and courtrooms to have such walls. Franklin Templeton has a commercial out now with a ubiquitous giant engraving of Benjamin Franklin’s face in rooms and behind papers and in the sky and on buildings around the world. In Guantanamo it should be George Washington, the father of our country, watching the American devolution.

      If I saw that, I would know shame.

  13. bmaz says:

    I wonder exactly how long it is going to take them to steam clean the thing to where they can release it to the dirty unworthy masses?

  14. Jkat says:

    Aw, intel. Remember the good ol days when it wasn’t a copyrighted chip reference.

    that’s a poignant line .. lol..

  15. kgb999 says:

    CTC frequently uses the information from one detainee, as well as other sources, to vet the information from another detainee. Although lower-level detainees provide less information than the high value detainees, information from these detainees has, on many occasions, supplied the information needed to probe the high value detainees further. … [T]he triangulation of intelligence provides a fuller knowledge of Al-Qa’ida activities than would be possible from a single detainee.

    If one accepts that torture is a justifiable means to extract intelligence, couldn’t this line of thought lead to justification for it’s use on lower value detainees to establish corroboration?

    Something is confusing me about these later memos. Is the Bradbury memo designed as a “shield” for past actions taken under Yoo/Bybee or is it designed to guide future policy? In other words, if a JSOC task force used sleep/sensory deprivation, stress positions, dietary manipulation and induced hypothermia on a couple dozen detainees in the course of trying to find a high value target – what happens in relation to the legality of their actions if Yoo is rescinded (or if it was done after Yoo, pre-Bradbury)? Does a properly crafted Bradbury memo theoretically mitigate past issues?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah. In fact we know the Techniques memo, and maybe Combined, was writtne to retroactively authorize what was done to Hassan Ghul in 2004. But they were about to use it–I believe–with Abu Furaj al-Libi in 2005.

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