CIA memo details procedures for breaking detainees

WASHINGTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Sleep deprivation, "insult slaps", water dousing and "walling", or slamming a detainee's head against a wall, were techniques used by CIA interrogators to break high-value detainees, according to an agency memo.

The memo, sent to the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel on Dec. 30, 2004, was released on Monday under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday named a special prosecutor to probe Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisoner abuse cases. [ID:nN24142323]

His decision, which promises political headaches for President Barack Obama, came after the Justice Department's ethics watchdog recommended considering prosecution of CIA employees or contractors for interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan that went beyond approved limits.

"The goal of interrogation is to create a state of learned helplessness and dependence conducive to the collection of intelligence," the memo, outlining procedures for handling captured al Qaeda leaders sent to CIA "black site" prisons, said.

The document, first reported by The Washington Post, said prior to an interrogation session, detainees may be stripped and held in a "vertical shackling position" to begin sleep deprivation.

Once the interrogation begins, the "insult slap" on the face may be used when the interrogator needs to immediately correct the detainee, the memo said.

The document said "walling" was one of the most effective interrogation techniques for wearing down detainees physically.

"An HVD (high-value detainee) may be walled one time (one impact with the wall) to make a point or 20 to 30 times consecutively when the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question," the document said.

Interrogations at CIA prisons occurred in special cells outfitted on one side with a plywood wall to prevent severe head injuries, The Washington Post reported.

The paper said agency spokesman George Little noted that the interrogation programme operated under guidelines approved by top legal officials of the Bush administration.

"This programme, which always constituted a fraction of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts, is over," Little was quoted as saying.

CIA officials have also noted that harsh techniques were reserved for a small group of top-level terrorism suspects believed to be knowledgeable about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Post said.

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney criticised Obama's ability to handle national security after the special prosecutor was appointed. [ID:nN25208112]

Cheney, who has emerged as a vocal defender of Bush administration policies since leaving the White House, said the intelligence obtained from harsh interrogation techniques had saved lives.

"The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," he said in a statement. (Editing by Nick Macfie)