WASHINGTON – Newly declassified documents offer more details about a detainee who died inside the secret prison network the CIA operated abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks and disclose that President George W. Bush was worried about the image of shackled detainees wearing adult diapers.
Among the 50 documents released was a heavily redacted memo in which then-CIA Director Porter Goss recounts a meeting with Bush on June 7, 2006. The only sentence left to read said: "The president was concerned about the image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper and forced to go to the bathroom on themselves."
Human rights advocates said Wednesday that this week's release of the documents — many footnoted in the 2014 Senate report on the torture of detainees — depict the human suffering associated with the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, which President Barack Obama said did significant damage to America's standing in the world.
"A lot of these details haven't been released before and I think they kind of underscore the depravity of the program," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union. "You read these documents and you cannot help come away with and understand the grotesqueness of the methods they were using.
"It's not like this (the interrogation program) was precisely calibrated. It was just abuse piled upon abuse."
CIA Director John Brennan has said that the agency made mistakes and learned from them, but insisted the coercive techniques used on detainees produced intelligence "that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives." The CIA also has acknowledged, in a response to the Senate report, that its "lack of preparation and competencies resulted in significant lapses in the agency's ability to develop and monitor its initial detention and interrogation activities."
The documents were released Tuesday under a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU and Vice News.
The ACLU's Jaffer cited the case of suspected extremist Gul Rahman, who was interrogated in late 2002 at a CIA detention facility set up in a former brick factory in Afghanistan. He was shackled to a wall in his cell in "near-freezing confinement."
One afternoon, Rahman, who had been deemed very uncooperative with interrogators, threw his food, water bottle and defecation bucket at guards and threatened them with death if he were ever released. Rahman was shackled using the "short chain" method. His hands were chained together. His feet were chained together. Then, a short chain was used to shackle his hands to his feet.
"This position forced Rahman, who was naked below the waist to sit on a cold concrete floor and prevented him from standing up," according to the declassified CIA inspector general's report about his death.
He was found dead the next day in his cell at the compound, northwest of the airport in Kabul. "A palm-sized pool of dried blood was present in and around the mouth and nose of subject. Rahman was observed still shackled and slumped over in the seated position," the report said.
An autopsy reported the cause of the November 2002 death as "undetermined," but the clinical conclusion was that Rahman, who was about 34 at the time, died of hypothermia. Justice Department investigations into his death resulted in no charges.
Rahman was captured in October 2002 in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was thought to be connected to Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, an insurgent group headed by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and allied with al-Qaida.
The IG report, dated April 27, 2005, described Rahman as "stoic and very stubborn." He complained about conditions, poor treatment and "claimed inability to think due to (cold) conditions," the report said.
A few months after Rahman's death, a memo to the CIA's deputy director for operations on Jan. 28, 2003, described the standard procedure used for detainees at that detention facility.
"Prisoners are dressed in sweat suits and adult diapers," the memo said. "The diapers are used for sanitary reasons during transportation, and as a means to humiliate the prisoner. ... Sometimes the guards run out of diapers and the prisoners are placed back in their cells in a hand-crafted diaper secured by duct tape."