The American photojournalist who was beheaded by Islamic State militants was also tortured using some of the same methods employed by the CIA in its controversial, post-9/11 interrogation program.
James Foley was subjected to waterboarding multiple times while being imprisoned by the Islamic State, as were three other kidnapped Westerners. According to the Washington Post, several unnamed American officials confirmed the news, with one adding that Foley “suffered a lot of physical abuse” before his death.
A French journalist who was held by the Islamic State along with Foley said, in addition to waterboarding, the American was punished even more than others after militants discovered his brother was a member of the US Air Force.
In a video released last week, Foley was beheaded by a masked, English-speaking Islamic State militant. The actions of the hardline Islamist group, which has brutally torn through parts of Iraq and Syria, have triggered a military response from the United States, and they described Foley’s murder as “a message to America” for its use of airstrikes in Iraq.
Waterboarding is a process that simulates drowning, and involves covering an individual’s face with a cloth and pouring cold water over them. The wet cloth makes it extremely difficult to breathe, and the procedure has typically been regarded as torture in the United States.
Following the September 11th attacks, however, the CIA began using the technique on captured terrorism suspects under the banner of “enhanced interrogation," and Islamic State militants reportedly modeled their behavior after the agency’s own procedures. Since taking office, President Barack Obama has criticized the practice as torture and banned it, along with several other techniques.
As the Post noted, opponents of the technique have long argued that performing it on prisoners opens the door to the possibility that America’s enemies would subject US citizens to the same kind of treatment.
“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” said Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) back in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”
Responding to the charge that the Islamic State’s methods mirrored those once employed by the CIA, however, one US official adamantly denied the idea.
“[The Islamic State] is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” the official told the newspaper. “To suggest that there is any correlation between [its] brutality and past US actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
Following President Obama’s election, the Senate initiated a comprehensive investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation tactics, the results of which have still not been released to the public. As RT reported previously, the Senate is currently wrangling with the White House and the intelligence community over how much of the report’s conclusions to keep redacted.
“I have concluded the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions,” Feinstein said earlier this month. “Until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction, the report will not be made public.”
As a result of various leaks to the press, it’s believed that the so-called “torture report” is highly critical of the CIA’s behavior, and found that techniques like waterboarding provided no valuable intelligence regarding terrorism.