The former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency defended the agency’s use of torture during a CNN interview on Thursday.
The Senate’s Intelligence Committee underwent an exhaustive investigation of the CIA torture program. The result of the investigation was an over 6,000 page report that detailed CIA torture during the Bush administration. The classified report has not been made public, although a 525 page executive summary has been made publicly available.
Among the torture techniques used was so-called “rectal feeding”, which was used on at least five prisoners. As the Senate report details quite graphically: “Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”
“That was a medical procedure,” Hayden told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “That was done because of detainee health.”
“Jake, I’m not a doctor and neither are you. What I am told is this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated. These were medical procedures.”
“You’re really defending rectal rehydration?” Tapper asks incredulously.
“What I’m defending is history,” Hayden says. “The Democrats on the committee have used one-half ass unwarranted comment in one email to justify the story that you have now bought hook, line and sinker that we used this to abuse other human beings.”
Tapper then countered that the CIA admitted the abuses.
Hayden served as the CIA director under President George W. Bush. He also served as the director of the NSA from 1999 until 2005. Since leaving the NSA, Hayden has been a steadfast defender of that agency’s post-9/11 expansion of power, which has swept up the phone records and private emails of hundreds of millions of American citizens.
The report also found that “rectal exams were conducted with ‘excessive force’ on two detainees… one of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse.”
Medical professionals that we spoke to have never heard of “rectal feeding.”
“In people who are confused we tie them to a bed and place an oral feeding tube,” said one doctor who wished to remain anonymous due to the graphic nature of the discussion. “And we give them Ensure or something like that, certainly not hummus.”
“Food doesn’t get absorbed in the rectum; only water and medications. We rarely give some medication as an enema but that’s it,” the doctor told us. He says that so-called “rectal feeding” is “completely outside the standard of any medical practice.”
The Senate report found numerous other instances of torture being used on detainees. Waterboarding was one of the most common methods, with some detainees receiving “at least 183 applications of the waterboard technique,” according to the report.
Other techniques included forcing prisoners to stand on broken feet, placing them in ice water “baths”, threatening sexual abuse on detainee’s mothers, and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation.
The Senate report found that 26 of the 119 known detainees who were tortured “were wrongfully held,” including the imprisonment of an “intellectually challenged man whose CIA detention was used solely as leverage to get a family member to provide information.”
The report concluded that the use of torture did not find actionable intelligence, and in fact hurt the nation’s intelligence gathering. Hayden and other former Bush administration officials have disagreed with that finding.
Senator John McCain made an impassioned Senate speech earlier in the week in which he disputed the CIA’s contention that torture was effective. McCain, who himself was a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, says that the use of torture results in inaccurate information, is inhumane, and violates international treaties that the United States has signed.