President Obama signed Executive Order 13491 in January 2009 to prohibit the CIA from holding detainees other than on a "short-term, transitory basis" and to limit interrogation techniques to those included in the Army Field Manual. However, these limitations are not part of U.S. law and could be overturned by a future president with the stroke of a pen. They should be enshrined in legislation.
Even so, existing U.S. law and treaty obligations should have prevented many of the abuses and mistakes made during this program. While the Office of Legal Counsel found otherwise between 2002 and 2007, it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.
While the Committee did not make specific recommendations, several emerge from the Committee's review. The CIA, in its June 2013 response to the Committee's Study from December 2012, has also already made and begun to implement its own recommendations. I intend to work with Senate colleagues to produce recommendations and to solicit views from the readers of the Committee Study.
I would also like to take this opportunity to describe the process of this study.
As noted previously, the Committee approved the Terms of Reference for the Study in March 2009 and began requesting information from the CIA and other federal departments. The Committee, through its staff, had already reviewed in 2008 thousands of CIA cables describing the interrogations of the CIA detainees Abu Zubaydah and 'Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose interrogations were the subject of videotapes that were destroyed by the CIA in 2005.
The 2008 review was complicated by the existence of a Department of Justice investigation, opened by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, into the destruction of the videotapes and expanded by Attorney General Holder in August 2009. In particular, CIA employees and contractors who would otherwise have been interviewed by the Committee staff were under potential legal jeopardy, and therefore the CIA would not compel its workforce to appear before the Committee. This constraint lasted until the Committee's research and documentary review were completed and the Committee Study had largely been finalized.
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