WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The CIA routinely misled the White House and Congress over its harsh interrogation program for terrorism suspects and its methods, which included waterboarding, were more brutal than the agency acknowledged, a Senate report said on Tuesday.
The programme, devised by two agency contractors to squeeze information from suspects after the Sept 11 2001 attacks, was ineffective and never led to the disruption of a single plot, the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee said.
The program ran from 2002 to 2006 and involved questioning Al-Qaeda and other captives in secret detention facilities in various countries, including Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Thailand.
The report, which followed a five-year investigation, found the techniques used were "far more brutal" than the CIA told the public or policymakers. Its release prompted a boost of security at US facilities abroad.
"This document examines the CIA's secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques - in some cases amounting to torture," committee chair Dianne Feinstein said.
The CIA dismissed the findings, saying the interrogations did result in valuable information. Many Republicans condemned the report, which was put together by the committee's Democratic majority, saying it would put Americans at risk.
Specific examples of brutality cited include the November 2002 death from hypothermia of a detainee held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor at a CIA prison.
The report said the CIA had tried to justify its use of the program by giving examples of what it called "thwarted"terrorist plots and suspect captures, but the "representations were inaccurate and contradicted by the CIA's own records".
Some captives were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads, and the report recorded cases of "rectal feeding" or "rectal hydration"without any documented medical need.
It described one secret CIA prison, whose location was not identified, as a "dungeon" where detainees were kept in total darkness and shackled in isolated cells, bombarded with loud noise and given only a bucket in which to relieve themselves.
It says that during one of the 83 occasions on which he was subjected to a simulated drowning technique the CIA called "waterboarding," an Al-Qaeda detainee known as Abu Zubaydah became "completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth", though he later was revived.
The report said CIA records showed that seven of 39 CIA detainees subjected to harsh interrogations produced no intelligence at all while in CIA custody. Others made up stories, "resulting in faulty intelligence".
It said: "The methods in question, which were based on discredited coercive interrogation techniques such as those used by torturous regimes during the Cold War to elicit false confessions, regularly resulted in fabricated information."
The report also said the CIA had failed to use adequately trained and vetted personnel. Two psychologists were contracted to set up the programme and run it, but neither had any experience in interrogation or specialised knowledge of Al-Qaeda.
One detainee subjected to some of the harshest treatment, Al Qaeda commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of being the mastermind of the Sept 11 hijacked plane attacks, was among the militants who gave interrogators false information, the report said.
In his case, such information included a bogus claim that he had assigned Dhiren Barot, a British al Qaeda operative, to recruit African-Americans in Montana to the Qaeda cause.
The report said internal CIA records described the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as evolving into a"series of near drownings".