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A Closer Look At CIA Torture Techniques

The long-awaited Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program details methods of torture, including waterboarding and sensory deprivation.

By Elizabeth Hagedorn | December 9, 2014

The U.S. Senate intel committee has released its long-awaited report on the CIA's Bush-era interrogation program. Here's a look at how a few of the torture techniques work. 

When sensory deprivation is employed, the prisoners experience total silence and total darkness. Extreme isolation can cause hallucinations. (Video via BBC

In the 1950s, a study from McGill University subjected volunteers to "near-total sensory deprivation." One participant saw "nothing but dogs." Another, a "green horse." One heard a "music box playing" and one heard a "choir singing in full stereophonic sound."

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The Senate report uses Yemeni detainee Ramzi bin al-Shibh as an example, saying due to his isolation and long-term detention, he experienced "visions, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm."

Like the name suggests, sleep deprivation involves keeping prisoners awake for long periods of time. U.S. Justice Department memos released in 2009 found the CIA kept prisoners awake for as long as 11 days. (Video via National Geographic)

According to the report, some detainees were kept awake for more than a week, "usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads."

Perhaps the most controversial and most widely publicized of all methods, waterboarding works by tricking a person's brain into believing he or she is drowning. The prisoner lies on an inclined platform like this

Water is poured through the mouth and nose or on top of cellophane covering the prisoner's face. The lungs don't fill with water but feel like they do. (Video via Vanity Fair)

According to the report, during one session, Saudi Arabian prisoner Abu Zubaydah became "completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth."

Interestingly, the Senate rarely uses the word "torture."

This video includes an image from Getty Images, Karl Gunnarsson / CC BY SA 2.0 and the U.S. Department of Defense.

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