A close reading of the CIA's Inspector General Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee's narrative on the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) torture memos reveals a more detailed picture of the CIA's involvement in the construction of the OLC memos. What emerges is consistent with recent charges of CIA experimentation on prisoners, and of the overall experimental quality of the torture program itself. It also points to a crucial piece of "analysis" by the CIA's Office of Technical Services, a memo which may or may not include damning medical and psychological evidence of the damaging effects of SERE techniques, and which the IG report maintains was utilized "in substantial part" in the drafting of the August 1, 2002 Bybee memos. If one is looking for a smoking gun in the torture scandal, in my opinion, one doesn't have to look much further than this.
The quote below is from the April 22, 2009 Senate Intelligence Committee narrative of the Office of Legal Counsel's opinions on the CIA's interrogation program. Please keep in mind as you read the quote and the added bolded emphasis, that recent documentation has shown that for years the CIA and Special Operations had researchers studying the effects of SERE training. Moreover, the research had been published in peer-reviewed journals, in part because the research was also meant to add to the psychiatric community's understanding of the mechanisms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of the research had also been published in the June 2000 edition of Special Warfare, "The Professional Bulletin of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School."
So, keeping this all in mind, consider the following from the Intel Committee's narrative (emphasis added):
According to CIA records, because the CIA believed that Abu Zubaydah was withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel met with the Attorney General, the National Security Adviser, the Deputy National Security adviser, the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, and the Counsel to the President in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.While the fact that the OLC accepted at face value the CIA's statements regarding the safety or the effects of the interrogation procedures they were proposing is no surprise to anyone who has read the torture memos -- and evidence of the unprofessionalism and bias of the memo's authors -- the degree to which the conspiracy (by CIA or OLC, or both) to withhold evidence of the real effects of the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs) by the CIA has never been made more concrete than now.
The CIA’s Office of General Counsel subsequently asked OLC to prepare an opinion about the legality of its proposed techniques. To enable OLC to review the legality of the techniques, the CIA provided OLC with written and oral descriptions of the proposed techniques. The CIA also provided OLC with information about any medical and psychological effects of DoD’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School, which is a military training program during which military personnel receive counter-interrogation training.
To my knowledge, we do not have the specific document wherein the CIA provides the "medical and psychological effects" of SERE school. I have been told that this document is still classified. But it seems possible that the CIA did pass on the details of the research that was available to it, including the debilitating effects of SERE techniques, which sent stress hormone levels, according to one research report, "some of the greatest ever documented in humans." Another report cited "neuroendocrine changes... [that] may have significant implications for subsequent responses to stress."