The Interrogation of Muhammad Rahim

Senate Select Committe on Intelligence

Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, pp. 163[189] - 167[193].
December 2014

Muhammad Rahim, the CIA's Last Detainee, is Subjected to Extensive Use of the CIA's
Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Provides No Intelligence


On June 25, 2007, al-Qa'ida facilitator Muhammad Rahim was captured in Pakistan. [NOTE 995] Based onreports of debriefings of Rahim in foreign government custody and other intelligence, CIA personnel assessed that Rahim likely possessed information related to the location of Usama bin Laden and other al-Qa'ida leaders. [NOTE 996] On July 3, 2007, Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo informed Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury that the CIA was anticipating a "new guest," and that the CIA "would need the signed DOJ opinion 'in a matterof days." [NOTE 997]

Muhammad Rahim was rendered to CIA custody at DETENTION SITE BROWN [NOT ITS REAL NAME, SEE BELOW] in Country [REDACTED] on [REDACTED] July 2007. [NOTE 998] Upon his arrival, CIA interrogators had a single discussion with Rahim during which he declined to provide answers to questions about threats to the United States and the locations of top al-Qa'ida leaders. [NOTE 999] Based on this interaction, CIA interrogators reported that Rahim was unlikely to be cooperative. As a result, CIA Director Michael Hayden sent a letter to the president formally requesting that the president issue the Executive Order interpreting the Geneva Conventions in a manner to allow the CIA to interrogate Rahim using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. A classified legal opinion from OLC concluding that the use of the CIA's six enhanced interrogation techniques proposed for use on Rahim (sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, facial grasp, facial slap, abdominal slap, and the attention grab) did not violate applicable laws was issued on July 20, 2007. The accompanying unclassified Executive Order was issued the same day. [NOTE 1000] Although Rahim had been described by the CIA as "one of a handful of al-Qa'ida facilitators working directly for Bin Ladin and Zawahiri," [NOTE 1001] Rahim remained in a CIA cell without being questioned for a week, while CIA interrogators waited for approval to use the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques against him. [NOTE 1002]

CIA interrogators initially expressed optimism about their ability to acquire information from Rahim using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. A cable sent from the CIA detention site stated:

"Senior interrogators on site, with experience in almost every HVD [high value detainee] interrogation conducted by [CIA], believe the employment of interrogation with measures would likely provide the impetus to shock [Rahim] from his current resistance posture and provide an opportunity to influence his behavior to begin truthful participation. [NOTE 1003]." [NOTE 1003]

Four CIA interrogators present at the CIA detention site began applying the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques on July 21, 2007. [NOTE 1004] According to CIA records, the interrogators "employed interrogation measures of facial slap, abdominal slap, and facial hold, and explained to [Rahim] that his assumptions of how he would be treated were wrong." [NOTE 1005] The interrogators emphasized to Rahim that "his situation was the result of his deception, he would stay in this position until interrogators chose to remove him from it, and he could always correct a previous misstatement." [NOTE 1006] According to the cable describing the interrogation, Rahim then threatened to fabricate information:

"[Rahim] reiterated several times during the session that he would make up information if interrogators pressured him, and that he was at the complete mercy of the interrogators and they could even kill him if they wanted. Interrogators emphasized to [Rahim] that they would not allow him to die because then he could not give them information, but that he would, eventually, tell interrogators the truth." [NOTE 1007]

During the interrogation of Rahim using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Rahim was subjected to eight extensive sleep deprivation sessions, [NOTE 1008]

[NOTE 1008: Rahim was subjected to 104.5 hours of sleep deprivation from July 21, 2007, to July 25, 2007. Sleep deprivation was stopped when Rahim "described visual and auditory hallucinations." After Rahim was allowed to sleep for eight hours and the psychologist concluded that Rahim had been faking his symptoms, Rahim was subjected to another 62 hours of sleep deprivation. A third, 13 hour session, was halted due to a limit of 180 hours of sleep deprivation during a 30 day period […] On August 20, 2007, Rahim was subjected to a fourth sleep deprivation session. After a session that lasted 104 hours, CIA Headquarters consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that "[t]ermination at this point is required to be consistent with the DCIA Guidelines, which limt sleep deprivation to an aggregate of 180 hours in any repeat any 30 day period." […] Between August 28, 2007, and September 2, 2007, Rahim was subjected to three additional sleep deprivation sessions of 32.5 hours, 12 hours, and 12 hours. […] As described, CIA interrogators conducted an eighth sleep deprivation session, lasting 138.5 hours, in November 2007]

as well as to the attention grasp, facial holds, abdominal slaps, and the facial slap. [NOTE 1009] During sleep deprivation sessions, Rahim was usually shackled in a standing position, wearing a diaper and a pair of shorts. [NOTE 1010] Rahim's diet was almost entirely limited to water and liquid Ensure meals. [NOTE 1011] CIA interrogators would provide Rahim with a cloth to further cover himself as an incentive to cooperate. For example, a July 27, 2007, cable from the CIA detention site states that when Rahim showed a willingness to engage in questioning about "historical information," he was "provided a large towel to cover his torso" as a "subtle reward." [NOTE 1012] CIA interrogators asked Rahim a variety of questions during these interrogations, seeking information about the current location of senior al-Qa'ida leaders, which he did not provide. [NOTE 1013]

On September 8, 2007, CIA Director Hayden approved an extension of MuJiammad Rahim's CIA detention. [NOTE 1014] The Director of the National Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez disagreed with the approved extension, writing:

"I did not sign because I do not concur with extending Rahim's detention for another 60 days. I do not believe the tools in our tool box will allow us to overcome Rahim's resistance techniques. J.A.R." [NOTE 1015]

Shortly after the September 2007 extension, CIA personnel were directed to stop the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques on Rahim. Rahim was then left in his cell with minimal contact with CIA personnel for approximately six weeks. [NOTE 1016] On September 10, 2007, Rahim's interrogators reported to CIA Headquarters that Rahim had "demonstrated that the physical corrective measures available to HVDIs [NOTE 1017: High Value Detainee Interrogators (HVDIs)] have become predictable and bearable." [NOTE 1018] The use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques on Rahim resumed on November 2, 2007, with a sleep deprivation session that lasted until November 8, 2007, for a total of 138.5 hours. This sleep deprivation session, the longest to which Rahimhad been subjected, was his eighth and final session. Rahim was also subjected to dietary manipulation during this period. [NOTE 1019]

According to CIA records, intermittent questioning of Rahim continued until December 9, 2007, when all questioning of Rahim ceased for nearly three weeks. During this time, CIA detention site personnel discussed and proposed new ways to encourage Rahim's cooperation. These new proposals included suggestions that Rahim could be told that audiotapes of his interrogations might be passed to his family, or that [REDACTED] Rahim was cooperating with U.S. forces. On December 18, 2007, CIA Headquarters directed the detention site to stand down on the proposals. [NOTE 1020]

The CIA's detention and interrogation of Mohammad Rahim resulted in no disseminated intelhgence reports. [NOTE 1021] On March [REDACTED], 2008, Muhammad Rahim was [REDACTED] by the CIA to [REDACTED], where [REDACTED] took custody of Rahim. The [REDACTED] government immediately transferred Rahim to the custody of [REDACTED], at which point Rahim was transferred back to CIA custody and rendered by the CIA to U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay. [NOTE 1022]

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  • To read the notes cited above, please consult the full summary of the committee study.
  • DETENTION SITE BROWN is generally thought to refer to a CIA "black site" in Afghanistan.