The ‘Hard Takedown’
In a section of the 2004 CIA inspector general report about interrogation techniques that were used on detainees by the CIA but never approved by the Justice Department — including mock executions, blowing cigar smoke into someone’s face until he became ill, squeezing a detainee’s neck “to restrict the detainee’s carotid artery … [until he] would nod and start to pass out,” and other techniques that interrogators thought were in-bounds — there’s a blacked-out paragraph about something called the “hard takedown.” It’s a long paragraph, taking up about half a printed page of the CIA inspector general’s 2004 report on torture. And then it’s followed by this:
According to [REDACTED] the hard takedown was used often in interrogations at [REDACTED] as “part of the atmospherics.” For a time it was the standard procedure for moving a detainee to the sleep deprivation cell. It was done for shock and psychological impact and signaled the transition to another phase of the interrogation. The act of putting a detainee into a diaper can cause abrasions if the detainee struggles because the floor of the facility is concrete. The [REDACTED] stated he did not discuss the hard takedown with [REDACTED] managers, but he thought they understood what techniques were being used at [REDACTED] stated that the hard takedown had not been used recently. [REDACTED] After taking the interrogation class, he understood that if he was going to do a hard takedown, he must report it to Headquarters. Although the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] and OMS [Office of Medical Services] Guidelines address physical techniques and treat them as requiring advance Headquarters approval, they do not otherwise specifically address the “hard takedown.”
So the Hard Takedown involved putting a detainee into a diaper and preparing him for sleep deprivation, which was done through placing a detainee in painful contorted positions. And those who performed it believed they merely needed to report it to CIA headquarters. Obviously no one thought he was doing anything above and beyond the approved techniques. Another operative tells the inspector general that “they are authorized and believed they had been used one or more times at [REDACTED] in order to intimidate a detainee.” (That’s a direct quote of the IG report, not the CIA operative.) And why not? Sleep deprivation wasn’t even considered an enhanced technique by then-CIA Director George Tenet, and clearly “headquarters” knew what the Hard Takedown was if officials were reporting its use — and could have stopped it. It’s harder and harder to argue these abuses weren’t the direct outgrowth of policy, even if the Justice Department didn’t explicitly order such techniques.