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Senate Panel's Report On CIA Calls Harsh Tactics Ineffective

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've been looking at what's known as "The Torture Report" - a Senate investigation of interrogations by the United States after 9/11. Here are some key findings from this Senate report. First, the CIA conducted interrogations even more brutal than Americans had previously been told. Second, those interrogations did not yield useful intelligence. This is according to Senate investigators. That's the Senate view. There are others, as we're about to hear. We're going to talk with NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, who's been following this story. Hi, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: More brutal than was already known, like waterboarding? What were people doing?

BOWMAN: Well, the report says these harsh techniques that some would call torture were far more brutal than the CIA had told policymakers. We're talking about sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, putting a drill near a detainee's head threatening to, you know, of course, drill him, the waterboarding we've heard about. Also, detainees were naked sometimes and shackled, slapped and punched. And in one case, a detainee actually died from hypothermia at one of these CIA black sites - these secret sites.

INSKEEP: Were all of these techniques approved at relatively high levels? Is that clear from what you've been able to read so far?

BOWMAN: Yes, these techniques were approved for a time. And then, of course, they were rescinded. And the other thing is, the CIA says - the committee report, rather, looks at 20 cases of examples where the CIA says, listen, this information helped us, you know, thwart attacks...

INSKEEP: Right.

BOWMAN: ...Or get terrorists. But the report says we looked at every one of these cases, and in not one case did they provide crucial information.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. I want to be clear on this because there must've been thousands of interrogations. It's not like they cherry picked 20 bad examples. They asked the CIA for 20 examples where these interrogations worked, and investigators don't agree that any of them worked, 0-for-20 for the CIA.

BOWMAN: Exactly. They say some information came from these harsh techniques, but nothing crucial, nothing important. The CIA in a statement today says basically, no, we don't agree, that we're convinced - still convinced - that we got useful information from these techniques. They helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save American lives.

INSKEEP: Is there an example we can talk through here? And I grant that you've just gotten the report in the last little while - some sense of how it could be the CIA could think these techniques were useful and how it is that Senate investigators simply don't buy it.

BOWMAN: Well, the big case, of course, is bin Laden. And the crucial piece of information in the bin Laden case was his courier. That's what led people to get bin Laden. And what the committee says is that the information on the courier came from a detainee before he went through these harsh techniques. And that's key because we've all seen the movie "Zero Dark Thirty." And when you watch the movie, a guy gets waterboarded, and you assume that that led to information about the courier. The Senate panel said that's not the case. This information came before this detainee who gave the information was - went through these harsh techniques.

INSKEEP: We've just got a few seconds, Tom Bowman. Why would it be at this late date that CIA officials and other defense officials would hold on to the idea that these techniques were valuable if outside investigators don't see any evidence of that at all?

BOWMAN: You know, it's hard to say. They never really did a good review of the program. And, Steve, what's interesting is a lot of these techniques date back to the Cold War, to oppressive regimes at that time. And the CIA actually looked at - reported on this back in 1989 and told Congress these aren't that effective because they leads to false leads, false information. And the Senate says that happened in this case, too. These techniques led to false information, false leads.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman talking with us on this morning that the Senate has released what is called the "Senate Torture Report" on interrogations techniques used by the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.