Podcast: CIA torture report dissected by Reprieve’s Crofton Black

Image credit: The U.S. Army, Creative Commons license

In this week’s Drone News, Owen Bennett-Jones discusses the Senate report on CIA torture with Crofton Black, who researches the agency’s secret prisons for the legal NGO Reprieve.

Black said that though the report confirmed what he and other researchers had thought was happening, he wasn’t expecting “the graphic and horrific level of abuse” or the “extraordinary level of mismanagement” it revealed.

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“There are many records in the report of objections being raised that were never passed up the chain of command, of people simply being unsure what was going on, lack of oversight, (and) in some cases a wilful obfuscation of oversight,” said Black.

He was especially surprised to see that even by the CIA’s own assessment, around a quarter of the prisoners in the programme did not meet their criteria for being included in it.

One man subjected to some of the more extreme practices detailed in the report is Abu Zubaydah. According to Black, he was the person “around whom essentially the whole programme was structured.”

He was thought at the time of his capture and rendition to be the third most senior figure in al Qaeda. Among the methods used on him were placing him in a coffin-shaped box for 266 hours.

“The terrible irony of this is that in fact he wasn’t number three in al Qaeda… the report makes this very clear,” said Black.

Black said that the report showed Abu Zubaydah’s captors wanted him to remain “incommunicado for the rest of his life”.

“He’s still in Guantanamo Bay, he’s never been charged, he’s never been tried,” said Black. “As far as we know the government still has no plans to release him.”

Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith followed up with the latest developments in the US drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen. Drones were reportedly used in the botched attempt at rescuing a US hostage in Yemen, Fielding-Smith told Drone News. Serle meanwhile highlighted a curious incident in early December when the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad released a statement criticising and condemning a drone strike in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan that no-one else had reported taking place, reflecting the difficulty of confirming information about attacks in remote or sparsely populated areas.

Follow our drones team Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith on Twitter.

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Note: the above image has been cropped.  The original can be found here