The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration's treatment of al-Qaeda captives "constituted torture," a finding that strongly implied that CIA interrogation methods violated international law, according to newly published excerpts from the long-concealed 2007 document.
The report, an account alleging physical and psychological brutality inside CIA "black site" prisons, also states that some U.S. practices amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." Such maltreatment of detainees is expressly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
The findings were based on an investigation by ICRC officials, who were granted exclusive access to the CIA's "high-value" detainees after they were transferred in 2006 to the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The 14 detainees, who had been kept in isolation in CIA prisons overseas, gave remarkably uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding, or simulating drowning.
At least five copies of the report were shared with the CIA and top White House officials in 2007 but barred from public release by ICRC guidelines intended to preserve the humanitarian group's strict policy of neutrality in conflicts.
The report continues to describe the treatment of an accused al-Qaeda operative who was waterboarded multiple times, and "suffered approximately 175 seizures that appear to be directly related to his extensive torture -- particularly damage to Petitioner's head that was the result of beatings sustained at the hands of CIA interrogators and exacerbated by his lengthy isolation."
President Obama's expressed reluctance to conduct a legal inquiry into the CIA's policies despite his commitment to closing Guantanamo is puzzling in light of this report. Hopefully now that this is public information, a closer look will happen.
Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish has more.