That included plots to fly planes into buildings on the West Coast, setting off bombs in U.S. cities and planning to employ a network of Pakistanis to target gas stations, railroad tracks and the Brooklyn Bridge.
“These documents suggest that enhanced interrogation techniques prevented terrorist attacks and protected our country,” said Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, which filed the request under the Freedom of Information Act. “Now, the American people can have a more complete understanding of whether these enhanced interrogation programs are effective. We are very pleased to be able to bring these documents to light for the first time.”
But the redacted documents do not specify any enhanced-interrogation tactics as having led to detainees revealing specific information, though they do say the most important information came from so-called high-value detainees, some of whom faced those tactics.
The report does indicate that an effective way to obtain information from detainees was to confront them with information that had already been obtained from other detainees. For example, the Mohammed report said he discussed details of a plot to attack London’s Heathrow Airport and other targets in the United Kingdom because he thought a co-conspirator in custody had previously done so.
The CIA inspector general’s report, which was produced in 2004, also grapples with question of the effectiveness of the tactics, but reaches no conclusion on their effectiveness. For example, it notes that Abu Zabuydah was waterboarded 83 times from August 2002 to April 2003.
“It is not possible to say definitively that the waterboard was the reason for Abu Zabuydah’s increased production, or if another factor, such as the length of detention was the catalyst,” the IG report said. “Since the use of the waterboard, however, Abu Zabuydah has appeared to be cooperative.”
The investigation, the results of which were released in response to an ACLU lawsuit, denounces the program as having led to “unauthorized, improvised and inhumane and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques.”
The IG report reviewed incidents from September 2001 to mid-October 2003. The most aggressive techniques, such as waterboarding, which stimulates drowning, are no longer used.
But one CIA officer, according to the report, said at the time that “ten years from now we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this … [but] it has to be done.”
The report said that some cases of abuse were so extreme that they were referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. Those cases were never prosecuted during the Bush administration, a decision Mr. Holder reversed Monday.
According to the investigation, the enhanced-interrogation program, which was used only against so-called high-value detainees, began after the 2002 capture of Abu Zabuydah, a high-level al Qaeda operative.
Tactics of the program included waterboarding, forced nudity and sleep deprivation. Critics say those tactics were illegal, ineffective and amounted to torture.
“Senior agency officials believed Abu Zubaydah was withholding information that could not be obtained through then-authorized techniques,” the report said. “Agency officials believed that a more robust approach was necessary to elicit threat information from Abu Zubaydah and possibly other senior Al-Qaeda high value detainees.”
The report said interrogators waterboarded Abu Zabuydah more aggressively than what their training and Justice Department legal opinion allowed.
The training and legal opinions said “the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth in a controlled manner,” the report said. “By contrast, the agency interrogator … continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainees moth and nose.”