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aACAyEnhanced interrogation'.

Details of harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on suspected terrorists are due to be released today. Former US President George W. Bush said lives were saved by using "enhanced interrogation techniques" to acquire information from suspects. President Barack Obama, however, condemned the CIA programme as a "dark and painful chapter in our history".

What are aACAyenhanced interrogation techniques'?

Shortly after the attacks on 11 September 2001, the CIA drew up a list of new interrogation techniques that included sleep deprivation, slapping, subjection to cold, and "waterboarding". Waterboarding involves a prisoner being restrained on his back with his feet at a level higher than his head, or tied upside down. A cloth is placed over the prisoner's face or pushed into his mouth. Sometimes a plastic film is used. Water is then poured on to his face and into his nose and mouth. The prisoner gags almost immediately as the water starts entering the lungs. As he starts to feel he is drowning, he typically panics and struggles, and his body goes into spasm. Waterboarding can result in brain damage, broken bones and psychological damage. The controversial methods were used by CIA interrogators at secret locations across the world, known as "black sites". Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, planner of the 9/11 attacks, is said to have been waterboarded 183 times

Does it constitute torture?

Torture is defined by the UN Convention against Torture, which the US has signed, as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person..." in order to get information. The US legal code defines torture as an action "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering", while the US Constitution bans "cruel and unusual punishment". Human rights groups and several foreign governments say the CIA programme -- known internally as the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation -- included torture.

But the US government under George W. Bush did not agree and made a distinction between "torture", which it accepted is banned by US and international law, and "enhanced interrogation techniques".

However, President Barack Obama halted the programme when he took office in 2009, and acknowledged that many of the measures amounted to torture.

What was the justification?

In April 2009, President Obama released a series of legal memos written by lawyers under the Bush administration that sought to justify the use of waterboarding and other methods. The memos argued that the methods were not "cruel, inhuman or degrading" under international law and highlighted safeguards, such as conducting the interrogations under the supervision of a physician or psychologist with the authority to stop it.

One memo said waterboarding would only be used when the CIA has "credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent" and there were "credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence". Former CIA lawyer John Rizzo authorised the programme.

Were the techniques effective?

The CIA used "enhanced interrogation techniques" for several years, but only three people are believed to have been subjected to waterboarding. According to ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou, Al Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah "broke" within half a minute of being waterboarded. Abu Zubaydah said later that he had made things up to satisfy his interrogators. The practices were brutal and produced little intelligence of value, a leaked White House memo said in July 2014. The arguments over waterboarding reflect all arguments about similar methods. Do they produce information or lies? Can the information be obtained by other means? And are they counter-productive?

George W. Bush said waterboarding helped stop attacks on Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf in London

Will anyone be prosecuted for torture?

President Obama has stated: "Those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the department of justice... will not be subject to prosecution." Initially the White House also indicated that those who authorised the techniques would not face prosecution either, but after protests from human rights groups and some members of Congress, the president said later that the attorney general would investigate and he would not prejudge the outcome. He also left the door open to a special commission to examine the Bush administration's use of interrogation techniques. Critics of the programme have called for George W. Bush himself to be be investigated, alongside former vice-president Dick Cheney, former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and ex-CIA Director George Tenet.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Dec 10, 2014
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