Accused Terrorist Detainees

The often-furious debate over treatment of U.S. war on terrorists prisoners is back on the front burner, boiling away. Today, the CIA finally released part of a May 7, 2004 report on the agency's interrogation practices. As expected, the report by the agency's inspector general provided new details on methods of forcing information out of men believed to be major figures in jihadist terrorism networks.
In addition to waterboarding, those methods included choking a prisoner until he lost consciousness, threatening the lives of a prisoner's children, staging a mock execution in which a guard dressed as a detainee was posed as if he'd been shot to death - in view of the prisoner being interrogated. And an interrogator menaced a prisoner by "racking" a round into a pistol held next to his head.
As the report - released with major portions blacked out - was making the rounds, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named a career federal prosecutor to investigate cases outlined in the CIA report and elsewhere.
President Barack Obama has expressed reluctance to review the Bush administration's record on prisoner treatment. But Holder, the nation's chief law-enforcement officer, may have had no choice but to order an investigation. Among the CIA report's disclosures were that interrogators challenged the judgement of officials in the agency's "Counterterrorist Center" who concluded that some prisoners were refusing to tell everything they knew. Those officials weren't always proceeding on the basis of objective assessments or interrogators' reports, but from "presumptions of what the individual [prisoner] might or should know," the report said.
CQ Researcher most recently examined treatment of detainees in 2006. The topic is far from exhausted.
One of the central issues animating the debate is whether the CIA and other agencies obtained any worthwhile information by waterboarding and other techniques that may violate anti-torture law (an issue hotly debated even within the Bush administration). Former Vice President Dick Cheney has consistently said that "enhanced interrogation" produced information that saved American lives. But the inspector general's report concluded: "The effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained cannot be so easily measured."