Did the CIA Use Fire Ants to Torture Detainees?

A recently released legal memo describing interrogation techniques showed that Bush Administration lawyers had approved the use of "insects" in interrogations. "You would like to place [Abu] Zubaydeh in a cramped confinement box with an insect," Jay Bybee, then a Justice Department lawyer and now a federal judge, wrote in 2002. He opined that as long as the bug wasn't actually harmful, it would not violate the law to use one to scare a terrorist detainee.


That was the first mention of insects to become public. But the memo's release may make it worth looking back to a brouhaha that occurred in secret at the agency in 2005. A CIA supervisor involved in the "enhanced interrogation" program bragged to other CIA employees about using fire ants while during questioning of a top terror suspect, according to several sources formerly with the Agency. The official claimed to other Agency employees, the sources say, to have put the stinging ants on a detainee's head to help break him.

The CIA insists, however, that no matter what the man said, it never took place. In fact, even though the Bush administration lawyers condoned the use of non-harmful insects, as the memo revealed, the technique wasn't employed, the agency says. "The CIA did not use insects as part of its terrorist interrogation program," said CIA Spokesman Paul Gimigliano. "That didn't happen, period."

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