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Classified report warned of possible abuses by CIA

Douglas Jehl/New York Times | November 9 2005

WASHINGTON -- A classified report issued last year by the CIA's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the CIA after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials said.

The previously undisclosed findings from the report, which was completed in the spring of 2004, reflected deep unease within the CIA about the interrogation procedures, the officials said. A list of 10 techniques authorized early in 2002 for use against suspected terrorists included one known as known as waterboarding, and went well beyond those authorized by the military for use on prisoners of war.

The convention, which was drafted by the United Nations, bars torture, which is defined as the infliction of "severe" physical or mental pain or suffering, and prohibits lesser abuses that fall short of torture if they are "cruel, inhuman or degrading." The United States is a signatory, but with some reservations set when it was ratified by the Senate in 1994.

Torture banned under U.S. law

The report, by CIA inspector general John L. Helgerson did not conclude that the techniques constituted torture, which is also prohibited under U.S. law, the officials said. But Helgerson did find, the officials said, that the techniques appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under the convention.

The CIA said in a written statement in March that "all approved interrogation techniques, both past and present, are lawful and do not constitute torture." The agency reaffirmed that statement Tuesday, but would not comment on any classified report issued by Helgerson. The statement in March did not specifically address techniques that could be labeled cruel, inhuman or degrading, and which are not explicitly prohibited in U.S. law.

Detained in secret locations

The officials who described the report said it discussed particular techniques used by the CIA against particular prisoners, including about three dozen suspected terrorists being held by the agency in secret locations around the world. They said it referred in particular to the treatment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, who has been detained in a secret location by the CIA since he was captured in March 2003. Mohammed is among those believed to have been subjected to waterboarding, in which a prisoner is strapped to a board and made to believe he is drowning.

"The ambiguity in the law must cause nightmares for intelligence officers who are engaged in aggressive interrogations of Al-Qaida suspects and other terrorism suspects," said John Radsan, a former assistant general counsel at the agency who left in 2004. Radsan, now an associate professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, would not comment on Helgerson's report.

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