John Helgerson, the former CIA inspector general, who conducted a year-long investigation into the agency detention and torture practices, criticized the Obama administration’s decision to redact a crucial section of his report that was declassified Monday.
“I am disappointed that the Government did not release even a redacted version of the Recommendations, which described a number of corrective actions that needed to be taken,” he said in a statement e-mailed to the Washington Post.
Helgerson said it appeared that many of the torture techniques “were designed solely because they were degrading.”
He added that he took agency manager at their word that torture produced “a large amount of valuable intelligence.” But he suggested government officials should undertake a comprehensive review conducted by an “independent panel of experts” with interrogation-related backgrounds should evaluate the “quality of intelligence” gained through torture.
Helgerson said the CIA needed to “answer more definitively the question of whether the particular interrogation techniques used were effective and necessary, or whether such information could be acquired using more traditional methods.”
Moreover, he said his investigation, launched in January 2003, was undertaken “in part because of expressions of concern by Agency employees that the actions in which they were involved, or of which they were aware, would be determined by judicial authorities in the U.S. or abroad to be illegal.”
“Many expressed to me personally their feelings that what the Agency was doing was fundamentally inconsistent with long established U.S. Government policy and with American values, and was based on strained legal reasoning,” Helgerson said. “We reported these concerns.
He also said CIA officers were left “scrambling” in the aftermath of 9/11 and were forced to “improvise” when interrogating suspected terrorist “as management oversight, staffing, training, written guidance, and many processes and procedures were still being established.”
He said the common thread among all of the problems he discovered with the torture and detention program was “that management controls and operational procedures were not in place…”
On specific methods, such as waterboarding, Helgerson said:
We found that waterboarding had been utilized in a manner that was inconsistent with the understanding between CIA and the Department of Justice. The Department had provided the Agency a written legal opinion based on an Agency assurance that although some techniques would be used more than once, repetition would “not be substantial.” My view was that, whatever methodology was used to count applications of the waterboard, the very large number of applications to which some detainees were subjected led to the inescapable conclusion that the Agency was abusing this technique.
Helgerson said the Justice Department did not provide the CIA with a “critical legal opinion…, which I believed was needed to protect Agency employees and detainees.”
“The Department of Justice had earlier determined that the Agency’s interrogation techniques did not constitute torture, but it had never opined on whether the same actions were consistent with the obligation undertaken by the US Government under Article 16 of the Torture Convention to prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” Helgerson said. “In fact, it appeared that certain of the techniques were designed solely because they were degrading. As a result of our report and appeals from other key officials, the Department of Justice did later issue an opinion on this matter, approving the Agency’s actions.”
Although Helgerson said he accepted the conclusions of CIA managers that the brutal torture of detainees resulted in “valuable” intelligence, he believed the CIA has yet to provide definitive answers as to whether specific torture techniques were “effective” and “necessary” in obtaining intelligence or whether the same information could have been obtained through “traditional methods.”
“Even at this late date, an independent panel of experts with backgrounds in interrogation should systematically evaluate the quality of the intelligence gained as related to the specific techniques used, or not used, in particular cases,” he said. “This would clarify the value of the information and the utility of various approaches.”
"[DNC Chair Tom Perez] has gotten instructions from Bill Clinton not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks." - Jonathan Allen, co-author of Shattered, revealing new material in the upcoming paperback release pic.twitter.com/dLEnwl7kIc— HootHootBerns 🌹🐦 (@HootHootBerns) May 3, 2018