CIA torture did not help foil UK terror plots
The damning report, released on Tuesday, uncovers the CIA’s secret interrogation techniques, widely referred to as torture, used to extract information from suspects. The methods were authorized by the Bush administration in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
The report says the CIA misrepresented its role in uncovering terror plots linked to the UK, including a plan to fly hijacked planes into Heathrow Airport and London’s Canary Wharf. In reality, it was British law enforcement agencies that scotched those plots.
The US intelligence agency is charged with exaggerating the importance of information obtained under torture. The report discredited claims the CIA had been essential in smashing high-profile terror plots. Several of the cases that the CIA used to justify its “brutal” torture program had links to the UK.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
The CIA claimed its techniques uncovered a plot by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and accomplices “to target the United Kingdom using hijacked aircraft and surmised that Heathrow Airport and a building in Canary Wharf, a major business district in London, were powerful economic symbols.”
The plot to strike Heathrow in 2003 never progressed beyond its early stages, the report found, and was already defunct by the time Mohammed was captured in early 2003.
Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times. The CIA cited the plan to attack Heathrow as one of the “plots discovered as a result” of waterboarding in a briefing note for President George W Bush in 2007.
The CIA also claimed it was responsible for the capture of Al-Qaeda UK operative Dhiren Barot, who allegedly planned to plant radioactive, chemical or toxic gas bombs and pack limousines with nails and explosives in the UK and America. Barot was sentenced to life in 2006.
The CIA used the capture of the Briton and the foiling of his plot as evidence of the “effectiveness” of its interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. Such claims were “inaccurate,” the report found. Instead, it revealed: “The operation that resulted in ... Dhiren Barot’s arrest, and the thwarting of his plotting, resulted from the investigative activities of UK government authorities.”
The report also says the CIA claimed credit for the arrest and conviction in Britain of shoe-bomber Saajid Badat, thanks to its interrogation techniques. Badat was jailed in 2005 for trying to explode a shoe bomb aboard a transatlantic flight from London to the US.
However, the report stated: “UK domestic investigative efforts, reporting from foreign intelligence services, international law enforcement efforts, and US military reporting resulted in the identification and arrest of Saajid Badat.”
The report describes the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation – often for more than a week at a time – and mock executions. Some detainees were mock-drowned until they vomited and lost consciousness. Others were subjected to games of “Russian Roulette,” in which agents pointed their guns and pulled the trigger.
US President Barack Obama ended the torture program when he was elected in 2008. He said the CIA program was “not only inconsistent with our values as nation” but failed to serve America’s national security interests and the so-called 'War on Terror.'
Both the CIA officers and former Bush administration officials criticized the publishing of the 525-page report.
George W Bush said the CIA officers involved were "patriots,” while his then vice-president, Dick Cheney, said the suggestion that the CIA had “gone rogue” and over-stepped its legal authorization was “all a bunch of hooey.”