Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogators staged mock executions as part of the agency's drive to track down terrorists, the US magazine Newsweek reported on its website on Saturday.
Quoting from a CIA report due to be released next week, Newsweek said one detainee suspected of involvement in the bombing of a US warship was threatened with a gun and a power drill.
Seventeen American sailors were killed in a suicide attack against the USS Cole when it was berthed in the Yemeni port of Aden on Oct 12, 2000.
The purpose of the threats made against the suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was to scare him into giving information, Newsweek quoted a source who had seen the CIA report.
A federal law banning the use of torture expressly forbids threatening a detainee with "imminent death".
US officials confirmed last year that Nashiri was one of three CIA detainees who were subject to waterboarding, a practice which involves pouring water on a suspect to make him think he's drowning.
The report also said a mock execution was staged in a room next to another detainee, during which a gunshot was fired in an effort to make the suspect believe that another prisoner had been killed, Newsweek said.
The magazine said the lengthy report, compiled by the CIA's inspector general and completed in 2004, alluded to more than one mock execution.
The document was not released at the time, apparently at the insistence of senior military and political officials in the administration of President George W Bush.
The Senate Committee on Intelligence is now conducting an investigation of the CIA's detention-and-interrogation programme.
Under the programme, detainees were held in a network of secret overseas prisons before being transferred to the US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.