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CIA tactics did not work - report

The US Senate has delivered a damning indictment of CIA practices, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits and deceiving the nation that its interrogation techniques saved lives.

Treatment in secret prisons a decade ago was worse than the government told Congress or the public, the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report found.

Five hundred pages were released, representing the executive summary and conclusions of a still-classified 6,700-page full investigation.

"Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured," Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and the committee chairman, said.

Tactics included weeks of sleep deprivation, slapping and slamming of detainees against walls, confining them to small boxes, keeping them isolated for prolonged periods and threatening them with death. Three detainees faced the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. Many developed psychological problems.

But the "enhanced interrogation techniques" didn't produce the results that really mattered, according to the report.

It cites CIA cables, emails and interview transcripts to rebut claims that the torture thwarted terror plots and saved American lives.

The report, released after months of negotiations with the administration about what should be censored, was issued amid concerns of an anti-American backlash overseas. American embassies and military sites worldwide were taking extra precautions.

Earlier this year, Senator Feinstein accused the CIA of infiltrating Senate computer systems in a dispute over documents as relations between the investigators and the spy agency deteriorated, the issue still sensitive years after President Barack Obama halted the interrogation practices upon taking office.

Former CIA officials disputed the report's findings. So did Senate Republicans, whose written dissent accuses Democrats of inaccuracies, sloppy analysis and cherry-picking evidence to reach a predetermined conclusion. CIA officials prepared their own response acknowledging serious mistakes, but saying they gained vital intelligence that still guides counter-terrorism efforts.

"The programme led to the capture of al Qaida leaders and took them off the battlefield," said George Tenet, CIA director when the September 11, 2001, attacks occurred. He said it saved "thousands of American lives".

President George W Bush approved the programme through a covert finding in 2002, but he was not briefed by the CIA about the details until 2006. At that time Bush expressed some discomfort. Bush said in his 2010 memoirs that he discussed the programme with CIA director George Tenet, but Tenet told the CIA inspector general that never happened.

After al Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was arrested in Pakistan, the CIA received permission to use waterboarding, sleep deprivation, close confinement and other techniques. Agency officials added unauthorised methods into the mix, the report says.

President Obama declared the past practices to be "contrary to our values" and pledged: "I will continue to use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again."

In a statement, the CIA said the report "tells part of the story" but "there are too many flaws for it to stand as the official record of the programme".

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