We know that the CIA has been fighting tooth and nail to keep the US Senate report on their torture practices secret. But as hat battle drags out, leaks are beginning to emerge and today saw one that sheds a little more light on what they did.
The CIA brought top al-Qaeda suspects close “to the point of death” by drowning them in water-filled baths during interrogation sessions in the years that followed the September 11 attacks, a security source has told The Telegraph.
The description of the torture meted out to at least two leading al-Qaeda suspects, including the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, far exceeds the conventional understanding of waterboarding, or “simulated drowning” so far admitted by the CIA.
“They weren’t just pouring water over their heads or over a cloth,” said the source who has first-hand knowledge of the period. “They were holding them under water until the point of death, with a doctor present to make sure they did not go too far. This was real torture.”
A second source who is familiar with the Senate report told The Telegraph that it contained several unflinching accounts of some CIA interrogations which – the source predicted – would “deeply shock” the general public.
Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that authored the report has promised that it will expose “brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation”. The Senate report is understood to accuse the CIA of lying and of grossly exaggerating the usefulness of torture.
Recall how defenders of US torture tried to argue that waterboarding was not really torture though almost all neutral observers said that it had long been held to be torture. No doubt such people will now claim that holding people’s heads under water was just hijinks, another form of hazing that does not amount to torture.