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CIA contractors got rich from torture and recommended its continued use

Contractors got rich from torture and recommended its continued use.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Dec 9, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:46 am CDT

C.I.A. interrogators were paid $1,800 dollars per day tax-free to waterboard and conduct other torture on prisoners—four times the amount of interrogators who didn’t employ waterboarding, according to a new U.S. Senate report on C.I.A. torture.

U.S. Senate

All in all, contract torturers were paid more than $80 million for their work between 2001 and 2009. A single contractor carrying out torture could potentially earn anywhere from $500,000 to almost $700,000 in a year in tax-free retainers.

The torturers employed “techniques” like forced rectal feeding, physical assaults, mock burial, deliberate hypothermia, waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, deprivation of solid food, and forced nudity.

The torturers were at the center of a huge conflict of interest: The same people who were paid enormous amounts to put prisoners through torture were also the people who judged the torture’s effectiveness and the prisoner’s psychological stability and resistance. These same people making hundreds of thousands of dollars from torture also recommended the continuous use of torture.

A January 2003 cable from C.I.A. headquarters made clear that “the individual at the interrogation site who administers the [torture] techniques is not the same person who issues the psychological assessment of record.”

They did it anyway, leading at least one C.I.A. doctor to say “any data collected by them from detainees with whom they previously interacted as interrogators will always be suspect.”

Update 3:25pm CT, Dec. 9: The retainer salary of CIA contractors was tax-free according the Senate report. 

Photo via Klara Kopf/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Dec 9, 2014, 6:11 pm CST