Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was subjected to the CIA’s harshest interrogation methods while he was held in secret prisons around the world for more than three years, part of an interrogation regimen that the International Committee of the Red Cross has called “tantamount to torture,” according to a New Yorker article published on the magazine’s Web site Sunday.
In a 12-page article released Saturday, reporter Jane Mayer analyzes the development of the CIA’s secret interrogation techniques and writes that a confidential ICRC report to the U.S. government details Mohammed’s assertions that he was tortured by the CIA.
Unnamed Washington sources told Mayer that Mohammed said he was held naked in his cell, questioned by female interrogators to humiliate him, attached to a dog leash and made to run into walls, and put in painful positions while chained to the floor. Mohammed also said he was “waterboarded” – a simulated drowning – in addition to being held in suffocating heat and painfully cold conditions.
Mohammed’s captors also told him shortly after his arrest in March 2003: “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the very brink of your death and back,” the article said.
The CIA techniques have come under harsh criticism from human rights groups who argue that they are abusive and torturous. President Bush last month signed an executive order that requires the CIA to treat detainees humanely, but a classified list of techniques that are approved for the agency’s use has been kept from public view.
The U.S. military services’ Judges Advocate General have said in written responses to Congress that techniques such as waterboarding, forced removal of clothing and stress positions would be illegal and against international standards. The JAGs were not consulted before the CIA’s development of its new rules.
Asked about the interrogation methods described in the article, CIA spokesman George Little responded, “The program is about more than specific methods of questioning. It’s about the use of the CIA’s collected knowledge of al-Qaida and its affiliates to elicit additional information from detainees, and to do so in accord with U.S. law.”
Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington, declined to comment Saturday, citing the organization’s confidentiality agreements.
Mohammed and 13 other detainees were transferred to the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from the CIA’s secret detention program and its “black sites” last year. That transfer was the first time that the Bush administration acknowledged it had custody of the detainees and allowed ICRC representatives to be the first outsiders to interview them in years.
The ICRC report, which was given to CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and has had limited distribution within the administration’s highest ranks, details interviews with the 14 detainees and assesses the CIA program. Sources familiar with the document have told the Washington Post that the report shows similarities in terms of how the detainees were treated even though they were isolated from one another.
Sources also have said that the detainees almost universally told the ICRC that they made up stories to get the harsh interrogations to stop, possibly leading U.S. officials astray with bad intelligence. Mohammed confessed to taking part in 31 of the world’s most dramatic terrorist attacks when he appeared at a Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing at Guantanamo.
“The United States of America should not be in the business of ‘disappearing’ people,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, referring to the use of secret prisons. “The notion is against what we stand for as Americans.”