CIA lowered temperature in Gitmo detainee’s cell until he turned blue

(RAW STORY)   Two of the key designers of the Bush administration’s torture program ended up in a “tug of war” with their superiors about how far to go when coercing information out of suspects, says a new article in the Washington Post.

The article, published Sunday, provides graphic descriptions of some of the techniques contemplated when the torture program was just beginning, in the months after 9/11. Faced with the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, the Al Qaeda operative who had become the CIA’s first “star witness” in the “war on terror,” the CIA contemplated some disturbing options:

Put him in a cell filled with cadavers, was one suggestion, according to a former U.S. official with knowledge of the brainstorming sessions. Surround him with naked women, was another. Jolt him with electric shocks to the teeth, was a third.

“The thing that will make [Zubaida] talk,” one participant quoted by the Post said, “is fear.”

The article goes on to describe the evolving process by which the CIA tried to extract information from Zubaida.

In the initial stages, Abu Zubaida was stripped of his clothes while CIA officers took turns at low-intensity questioning. Later, [CIA contractor James E.] Mitchell added sleep deprivation and a constant bombardment of loud music, including tracks by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After each escalation, he would dispatch an interrogator into Abu Zubaida’s cell to issue a single demand: “Tell me what I want to know.”

There was also a struggle between the FBI and CIA agents present over the tactics to be used on Zubaida: “The CIA team lowered the temperature in Abu Zubaida’s cell until the detainee turned blue. The FBI turned it back up, setting off a clash over tactics.”

The torture methods, chaotic as they were, didn’t work. According to the Post, “Abu Zubaida went silent once Mitchell took charge. Within days of the CIA team’s arrival, the cables between Bangkok and Langley became devoid of new revelations.”


Speaking to MSNBC’s Chris Jansen on Sunday, article co-author Joby Warrick said that some interrogators eventually threatened to quit over some of the harsh methods used in interrogations.

Warrick said: “There was some push and pull that came from surprising places within the CIA as the interrogation program was going forward, including from some of the interrogators themselves whose resistance to things like sleep deprivation and nudity in the beginning — and when waterboarding started some interrogators revolted and said, after four, five days, they refused to do this, some threatened to quit.”

Warrick’s article focuses on two CIA contractors — James E. Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen — largely credited with designing the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” that could soon be the focus of an investigation by a special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“These men have been portrayed as eager proponents of coercion, but [a] former US official, whose account was corroborated in part by Justice Department documents, said they also rejected orders from [CIA headquarters in] Langley to prolong the most severe pressure on the detainee,” Warrick’s article states.

Warrick described a tug of war between the CIA duo and their bosses in Langley over the use of waterboarding on the CIA’s first “star witness” in the “war on terror,” Abu Zubaida. Eventually, “the two men threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued and insisted that officials from Langley come to Thailand to watch the procedure, the former official said.”

As to whether or not the torture produced results, Warrick said: “This is an issue that’s going to be debated to the end of time. … There are many people we talked to who worked in the program who said that nothing, really, of substance came out of the program in terms of stopping actual [terrorist] plots.”

This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast July 19, 2009.

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