CIA officials justified their torture techniques on terror suspects citing a 1999 Israeli legal ruling, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report published on Tuesday (9 December).
The report claimed that following the 9/11 attacks, CIA started examining possible "interrogation techniques" to get information.
A November 2001 memorandum, Hostile interrogations: Legal Considerations for CIA Officers, said that CIA cited the "Israeli example as a possible basis for arguing that 'torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.'"
The "Israeli example" referred to a 1999 ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice according to which certain techniques, such as sleep deprivation, could be used during interrogations "but require some form of legislative sanction".
The court also said that interrogators could invoke the so called "necessity defense law", which allows people to break the law in situations of urgency, such as an imminent attack, to justify methods used during interrogations and avoid prosecution.
However, the court's decision overturned findings of the 1987 Landau Commission, which allowed interrogators to use, under supervision, "a moderate measure of physical pressure" in cases when non-violent psychological pressure did not work.
The Senate report also cited a 2007 CIA memorandum stating that, after analysing the 1999 Israeli ruling, enhanced techniques were "clearly authorised and justified by legislative authority".
The memorandum argued that in Israel "'several techniques were possibly permissible, but require some form of legislative sanction" and "the Israeli government ultimately got limited legislative authority for a few specific techniques."
The Senate report sparked worldwide outrage and US President Barack Obama admitted that some of the torture techniques were "brutal, wrong, and counter-productive".
The findings showed that CIA officials used torture techniques beyond legal limits causing permanent injuries on the detainees. In one occasion, one detainee died of hypothermia after he was chained naked to the floor inside the detention centre known as the Colbat or Salt Pit.
Other methods used by the CIA included "rectal feeding" or "rectal hydration", a procedure that the chief of interrogations would later characterise as illustrative of the interrogator's "total control over the detainee".
Others received "ice baths" and death threats. CIA officers also threatened to kill the children of detainees, rape the mother of one man and cut the throat of another's mother.
The UN and several NGOs have also urged that CIA officials must be prosecuted for committing gross violations of international human rights law.