“24’s” phony history exposed: The dark history of a CIA “black site”

Diego Garcia has been mythologized by American pop culture. Its true story is stranger (and bleaker) than fiction

“24’s” phony history exposed: The dark history of a CIA “black site”
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.
First, they tried to shoot the dogs. Next, they tried to poison them with strychnine. When both failed as efficient killing methods, British government agents and U.S. Navy personnel used raw meat to lure the pets into a sealed shed. Locking them inside, they gassed the howling animals with exhaust piped in from U.S. military vehicles. Then, setting coconut husks ablaze, they burned the dogs’ carcasses as their owners were left to watch and ponder their own fate.

The truth about the U.S. military base on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is often hard to believe. It would be easy enough to confuse the real story with fictional accounts of the island found in the Transformers movies, on the television series 24, and in Internet conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

While the grim saga of Diego Garcia frequently reads like fiction, it has proven all too real for the people involved. It’s the story of a U.S. military base built on a series of real-life fictions told by U.S. and British officials over more than half a century. The central fiction is that the U.S. built its base on an “uninhabited” island. That was “true” only because the indigenous people were secretly exiled from the Chagos Archipelago when the base was built. Although their ancestors had lived there since the time of the American Revolution, Anglo-American officials decided, as one wrote, to “maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos [were] not a permanent or semi-permanent population,” but just “transient contract workers.” The same official summed up the situation bluntly: “We are able to make up the rules as we go along.”

And so they did: between 1968 and 1973, American officials conspired with their British colleagues to remove the Chagossians, carefully hiding their expulsion from Congress, Parliament, the U.N., and the media. During the deportations, British agents and members of a U.S. Navy construction battalion rounded up and killed all those pet dogs. Their owners were then deported to the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, 1,200 miles from their homeland, where they received no resettlement assistance. More than 40 years after their expulsion, Chagossians generally remain the poorest of the poor in their adopted lands, struggling to survive in places that outsiders know as exotic tourist destinations.

During the same period, Diego Garcia became a multi-billion-dollar Navy and Air Force base and a central node in U.S. military efforts to control the Greater Middle East and its oil and natural gas supplies. The base, which few Americans are aware of, is more important strategically and more secretive than the U.S. naval base-cum-prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Unlike Guantánamo, no journalist has gotten more than a glimpse of Diego Garcia in more than 30 years. And yet, it has played a key role in waging the Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, and the current bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Following years of reports that the base was a secret CIA “black site” for holding terrorist suspects and years of denials by U.S. and British officials, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic finally fessed up in 2008. “Contrary to earlier explicit assurances,” said Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband, Diego Garcia had indeed played at least some role in the CIA’s secret “rendition” program.

Last year, British officials claimed that flight log records, which might have shed light on those rendition operations, were “incomplete due to water damage” thanks to “extremely heavy weather in June 2014.” A week later, they suddenly reversed themselves, saying that the “previously wet paper records have been dried out.” Two months later, they insisted the logs had not dried out at all and were “damaged to the point of no longer being useful.” Except that the British government’s own weather data indicates that June 2014 was an unusually dry month on Diego Garcia. A legal rights advocate said British officials “could hardly be less credible if they simply said ‘the dog ate my homework.’”

And these are just a few of the fictions underlying the base that occupies the Chagossians’ former home and that the U.S. military has nicknamed the “Footprint of Freedom.” After more than four decades of exile, however, with a Chagossian movement to return to their homeland growing, the fictions of Diego Garcia may finally be crumbling.

No “Tarzans”

The story of Diego Garcia begins in the late eighteenth century. At that time, enslaved peoples from Africa, brought to work on Franco-Mauritian coconut plantations, became the first settlers in the Chagos Archipelago. Following emancipation and the arrival of indentured laborers from India, a diverse mixture of peoples created a new society with its own language, Chagos Kreol. They called themselves the Ilois — the Islanders.

While still a plantation society, the archipelago, by then under British colonial control, provided a secure life featuring universal employment and numerous social benefits on islands described by many as idyllic. “That beautiful atoll of Diego Garcia, right in the middle of the ocean,” is how Stuart Barber described it in the late 1950s. A civilian working for the U.S. Navy, Barber would become the architect of one of the most powerful U.S. military bases overseas.

Amid Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, Barber and other officials were concerned that there was almost no U.S. military presence in and around the Indian Ocean. Barber noted that Diego Garcia’s isolation — halfway between Africa and Indonesia and 1,000 miles south of India — ensured that it would be safe from attack, yet was still within striking distance of territory from southern Africa and the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia.

Guided by Barber’s idea, the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson convinced the British government to detach the Chagos Archipelago from colonial Mauritius and create a new colony, which they called the British Indian Ocean Territory. Its sole purpose would be to house U.S. military facilities.

During secret negotiations with their British counterparts, Pentagon and State Department officials insisted that Chagos come under their “exclusive control (without local inhabitants),” embedding an expulsion order in a polite-looking parenthetical phrase. U.S. officials wanted the islands “swept” and “sanitized.” British officials appeared happy to oblige, removing a people one official called “Tarzans” and, in a racist reference toRobinson Crusoe, “Man Fridays.”

“Absolutely Must Go”

This plan was confirmed with an “exchange of notes” signed on December 30, 1966, by U.S. and British officials, as one of the State Department negotiators told me, “under the cover of darkness.” The notes effectively constituted a treaty but required no Congressional or Parliamentary approval, meaning that both governments could keep their plans hidden.

According to the agreement, the United States would gain use of the new colony “without charge.” This was another fiction. In confidential minutes, the United States agreed to secretly wipe out a $14 million British military debt, circumventing the need to ask Congress for funding. In exchange, the British agreed to take the “administrative measures” necessary for “resettling the inhabitants.”

Those measures meant that, after 1967, any Chagossians who left home for medical treatment or a routine vacation in Mauritius were barred from returning. Soon, British officials began restricting the flow of food and medical supplies to Chagos. As conditions deteriorated, more islanders began leaving. By 1970, the U.S. Navy had secured funding for what officials told Congress would be an “austere communications station.” They were, however, already planning to ask for additional funds to expand the facility into a much larger base. As the Navy’s Office of Communications and Cryptology explained, “The communications requirements cited as justification are fiction.” By the 1980s, Diego Garcia would become a billion-dollar garrison.

In briefing papers delivered to Congress, the Navy described Chagos’s population as “negligible,” with the islands “for all practical purposes… uninhabited.” In fact, there were around 1,000 people on Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 500 to 1,000 more on other islands in the archipelago. With Congressional funds secured, the Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, summed up the Chagossians’ fate in a 1971 memo of exactly three words: “Absolutely must go.”

The authorities soon ordered the remaining Chagossians — generally allowed no more than a single box of belongings and a sleeping mat — onto overcrowded cargo ships destined for Mauritius and the Seychelles. By 1973, the last Chagossians were gone.

“Abject Poverty”

At their destinations, most of the Chagossians were literally left on the docks, homeless, jobless, and with little money. In 1975, two years after the last removals, a Washington Post reporter found them living in “abject poverty.”

Aurélie Lisette Talate was one of the last to go. “I came to Mauritius with six children and my mother,” she told me. “We got our house… but the house didn’t have a door, didn’t have running water, didn’t have electricity. And then my children and I began to suffer. All my children started getting sick.”

Within two months, two of her children were dead. The second was buried in an unmarked grave because she lacked money for a proper burial. Aurélie experienced fainting spells herself and couldn’t eat. “We were living like animals. Land? We had none… Work? We had none. Our children weren’t going to school.”

Today, most Chagossians, who now number more than 5,000, remain impoverished. In their language, their lives are ones of lamizer (impoverished misery) and sagren (profound sorrow and heartbreak over being exiled from their native lands). Many of the islanders attribute sickness and even death tosagren. “I had something that had been affecting me for a long time, since we were uprooted,” was the way Aurélie explained it to me. “This sagren, this shock, it was this same problem that killed my child. We weren’t living free like we did in our natal land.”

Struggling for Justice

From the moment they were deported, the Chagossians demanded to be returned or at least properly resettled. After years of protest, including five hunger strikes led by women like Aurélie Talate, some in Mauritius received the most modest of compensation from the British government: small concrete houses, tiny plots of land, and about $6,000 per adult. Many used the money to pay off large debts they had accrued. For most, conditions improved only marginally. Those living in the Seychelles received nothing.

The Chagossian struggle was reinvigorated in 1997 with the launching of alawsuit against the British government. In November 2000, the British High Court ruled the removal illegal. In 2001 and 2002, most Chagossians joined new lawsuits in both American and British courts demanding the right to return and proper compensation for their removal and for resettling their islands. The U.S. suit was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the judiciary can’t, in most circumstances, overrule the executive branch on matters of military and foreign policy. In Britain, the Chagossians were more successful. In 2002, they secured the right to full U.K. citizenship. Over 1,000 Chagossians have since moved to Britain in search of better lives. Twice more, British courts ruled in the people’s favor, with judges calling the government’s behavior “repugnant” and an “abuse of power.”

On the government’s final appeal, however, Britain’s then highest court, the Law Lords in the House of Lords, upheld the exile in a 3-2 decision. The Chagossians appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling.

A Green Fiction

Before the European Court could rule, the British government announced the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago. The date of the announcement, April Fool’s Day 2010, should have been a clue that there was more than environmentalism behind the move. The MPA banned commercial fishing and limited other human activity in the archipelago, endangering the viability of any resettlement efforts.

And then came WikiLeaks. In December 2010, it released a State Departmentcable from the U.S. Embassy in London quoting a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office official saying that the “former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” U.S. officials agreed. According to the Embassy, Political Counselor Richard Mills wrote, “Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed… be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling.”

Not surprisingly, the main State Department concern was whether the MPA would affect base operations. “We are concerned,” the London Embassy noted, that some “would come to see the existence of a marine reserve as inherently inconsistent with the military use of Diego Garcia.” British officials assured the Americans there would be “no constraints on military operations.”

Although the European Court of Human Rights ultimately ruled against the Chagossians in 2013, this March, a U.N. tribunal found that the British government had violated international law in creating the Marine Protected Area. Next week, Chagossians will challenge the MPA and their expulsion before the British Supreme Court (now Britain’s highest) armed with the U.N. ruling and revelations that the government won its House of Lords decision with the help of a fiction-filled resettlement study.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the Chagossians’ return, the African Union has condemned their deportation as unlawful, three Nobel laureates have spoken out on their behalf, and dozens of members of the British Parliament have joined a group supporting their struggle. In January, a British government “feasibility study” found no significant legal barriers to resettling the islands and outlined several possible resettlement plans, beginning with Diego Garcia. (Notably, Chagossians are not calling for the removal of the U.S. military base. Their opinions about it are diverse and complicated. At least some would prefer jobs on the base to lives of poverty and unemployment in exile.)

Of course, no study was needed to know that resettlement on Diego Garcia and in the rest of the archipelago is feasible. The base, which has hosted thousands of military and civilian personnel for more than 40 years, has demonstrated that well enough. In fact, Stuart Barber, its architect, came to the same conclusion in the years before his death. After he learned of the Chagossians’ fate, he wrote a series of impassioned letters to Human Rights Watch and the British Embassy in Washington, among others, imploring them to help the Chagossians return home. In a letter to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, he said bluntly that the expulsion “wasn’t necessary militarily.”

In a 1991 letter to the Washington Post, Barber suggested that it was time “to redress the inexcusably inhuman wrongs inflicted by the British at our insistence.” He added, “Substantial additional compensation for 18-25 past years of misery for all evictees is certainly in order. Even if that were to cost $100,000 per family, we would be talking of a maximum of $40-50 million, modest compared with our base investment there.”

Almost a quarter-century later, nothing has yet been done. In 2016, the initial 50-year agreement for Diego Garcia will expire. While it is subject to an automatic 20-year renewal, it provides for a two-year renegotiation period, which commenced in late 2014. With momentum building in support of the Chagossians, they are optimistic that the two governments will finally correct this historic injustice. That U.S. officials allowed the British feasibility study to consider resettlement plans for Diego Garcia is a hopeful sign that Anglo-American policy may finally be shifting to right a great wrong in the Indian Ocean.

Unfortunately, Aurélie Talate will never see the day when her people go home. Like others among the rapidly dwindling number of Chagossians born in the archipelago, Aurélie died in 2012 at age 70, succumbing to the heartbreak that is sagren.

DAVID VINE, TOMDISPATCH.COM
TUESDAY, JUN 16, 2015 10:45 AM +0200

Find this story at 16 June 2015

Copyright © 2015 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Diego Garcia: UK Delays Publication of Flight Records Which May Hold Truth About CIA Activities

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) has further delayed publication of flight records for Diego Garcia, following disclosures by a senior Bush administration official that interrogations took place at a CIA black site on the British island.

FCO officials are “still assessing the suitability of the full flight records for publication”, nine months after they were first requested from the government by human rights NGO Reprieve.

Campaigners believe that the logs — written records of all flights landing on and leaving the atoll — could provide crucial, previously undisclosed details of flights involved in the intelligence agency’s post-9/11 rendition and torture program.

‘It is now over seven years since the UK government was forced to admit that CIA torture flights were allowed to use the British territory of Diego Garcia, yet we still seem no closer to the publication of flight records which could provide crucial evidence of what went on.’
However, the UK government has so far declined to publish the logs, and has dismissed the new claims made by a former senior Bush administration official — published by VICE News — that the CIA did in fact detain prisoners on Diego Garcia, despite years of assurances from British ministers to the contrary.

“We have responded publicly in recent years to previous claims,” wrote Hugo Swire, the FCO minister of state, in a letter to Reprieve. “However, Colonel Wilkerson has not presented any new evidence to support his allegation that detainees were held on Diego Garcia.”

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told VICE News in January that the island was home to “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time.” His information came from four well-placed CIA and intelligence sources, he said.

Related: Exclusive: CIA interrogations took place on British territory of Diego Garcia, Senior Bush administration official says. Read more here

Swire said that the British government “seeks regular reassurance from the US government” on renditions, in the letter dated March 3.

“All previous assurances on transfer of detainees provided by the US government since 2008 remain valid and correct,” Swire wrote.

“Whilst I am not able to make public the details of diplomatic correspondence, I can confirm that the most recent assurances were received this month.”

Swire did not explain whether the FCO contacted the US in direct response to Wilkerson’s disclosures, but did say that the most recent assurances were made “after Colonel Wilkerson’s claims were made.”

Donald Campbell of Reprieve said the publication of the flight logs was necessary to reassure the public that Britain is not involved in a cover-up of torture evidence.

“It is now over seven years since the UK government was forced to admit that CIA torture flights were allowed to use the British territory of Diego Garcia,” he said, “yet we still seem no closer to the publication of flight records which could provide crucial evidence of what went on.

“Last summer, after the records reportedly suffered ‘accidental’ water damage, ministers promised that they were ‘assessing their suitability for publication.’ Eight months later, they say they are still ‘assessing.’ It is hard to see how such a long delay could be justified.”

It is far from the first time that Diego Garcia’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition and torture program has been disputed.

The tiny atoll in the Indian Ocean, which has been leased to the US for use as a military base since 1966, has been the subject of CIA torture program claims and counter-claims stretching back more than a decade. The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report in December confirmed that the CIA did operate a post-9/11 global rendition and torture program, with secret prisons all over the world — but the heavily redacted document did not reveal whether Diego Garcia was a part of the CIA’s international network of black sites.

The UK’s changing position on Diego Garcia’s unpublished flight records

The British government says it has received repeated assurances from the US that no CIA rendition flights landed on Diego Garcia — bar two rendition planes which stopped briefly to refuel in 2002.

The government has been slow to release flight logs for the atoll, however, and the position of the Foreign Office in relation to the records has shifted as pressure for them to be released has grown.

February 21 2008: The UK admits that two rendition flights stopped over on Diego Garcia to refuel.

David Miliband, then the foreign secretary, tells parliament he is “very sorry indeed” to report that contrary to earlier assurances, two rendition flights carrying a single detainee each did, in fact, land on Diego Garcia.

July 2008: … but the UK claims that records on these two flights — and for the whole of 2002 — are no longer held.

Miliband tells the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) that records “are unfortunately no longer held for the period when the two cases of rendition occurred [2002],” because they are generally only held for up to five years.

June 26 2014: NGO Reprieve asks the foreign secretary whether flight records from 2002 onwards are held…

Reprieve writes to William Hague, who has by then taken over as foreign secretary, asking: “Can you confirm whether the government holds monthly statistics of flights through D[iego] G[arcia] from January 2002 onwards; daily logs from October 2002 onwards; and general aviation reports from January 2004 onwards? And can you confirm that all planes and flights recorded in all these logs and statistics have been investigated, and discounted as being possible rendition flights?”

July 8 2014: …and the Foreign Office says they are held, but 2002 flight records are incomplete due to ‘water damage.’

Mark Simmonds, a Foreign Office minister, tells members of parliament (MPs) that “though there are some limited records from 2002, I understand they are incomplete due to water damage.”

July 14 2014: … but then the foreign secretary says he believes that there’s actually a complete set of flight logs for 2002.

Hague replies to Reprieve’s letter saying that actually only a small number of flight records have been irretrievably damaged: “I am satisfied that for the period you are asking about, we have a complete set of information about types of aircraft, passenger and crew numbers landing and departing Diego Garcia.”

July 15 2014: The Foreign Office confirms that the water damaged 2002 flight records have not been lost after all — because they’ve “dried out.”

Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds tells MPs that water-damaged records have “dried out”: “Since my answer of 8 July, BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] immigration officials have conducted a fuller inspection, and previously wet paper records have been dried out. They report that no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage.”

He says that “a small number of immigration arrival cards from 2004” have been damaged, however.

August 19 2014: The Foreign Office says that not all flight records from 2002 onwards are complete, but they should be able to get a full set anyway.

Responding to a letter from Reprieve asking for clarification on which flight records are damaged, Philip Hammond, now foreign secretary, writes: “The Administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory holds several different types of record about flights entering the territory, though not all of these are complete for the period you are referring to. By combining different types of records, we are confident we can establish what types of aircraft landed on a particular day, and passenger and crew numbers on these aircraft, for the period since 2002.”

September 4 2014: It turns out the heavy weather that damaged the records wasn’t so heavy after all…

VICE News obtains the government’s own records which show that the so-called “extremely heavy weather” in June 2002 amounted to 3.25 inches of rainfall — considerably less than the average for that month.

“I don’t think it’s very helpful for us to have a discussion about how much rain is a lot of rain,” a FCO spokesperson told VICE.

By Ben Bryant
April 8, 2015 | 1:15 pm

Find this story at 8 April 2015

Copyright https://news.vice.com/

CIA interrogated suspects on Diego Garcia, says Colin Powell aide

Lawrence Wilkerson is the latest of a number of US officials to say British territory was used in CIA rendition programme

The UK government is facing renewed pressure to make a full disclosure of its involvement in the CIA’s post-9/11 kidnap and torture programme after another leading Bush-era US official said suspects were held and interrogated on the British territory of Diego Garcia.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the US state department, said the Indian Ocean atoll was used by the CIA as “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time”.

In an interview with Vice News, Wilkerson said three US intelligence sources had informed him that the CIA used Diego Garcia for what he described as “nefarious activities”, with prisoners being held for weeks at a time.

“What I heard was more along the lines of using it as a transit location when perhaps other places were full or other places were deemed too dangerous or insecure, or unavailable at the moment,” said Wilkerson, who served under Powell from 2002 to 2005.

“So you might have a case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a month or two weeks or whatever and you do your nefarious activities there.”

Donald Campbell, spokesman for the legal rights group Reprieve, said: “We already know Diego Garcia was used for CIA renditions, yet over a decade on the British government has yet to own up to the full part the island played in the CIA’s torture programme.

“Ministers have consistently claimed that no CIA detainees were held on the island, but Col Wilkerson’s account suggests that either they are lying or they have been lied to. It is high time the British government came clean over the part UK territory played in the CIA’s shameful torture programme.”

Diego Garcia’s population was removed during the late 1960s and early 70s and forced to settle on the Seychelles and Mauritius. Since then the atoll has been leased by the UK to the US for use as a military base.

Wilkerson is the latest of a number of well-placed officials who have said that after 9/11 the atoll was also used in the CIA rendition programme.

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star American general, has twice spoken publicly about the use of Diego Garcia to detain suspects.

Manfred Nowak, a former United Nations special rapporteur on torture, has said he has heard from reliable sources that the US held prisoners on ships in the Indian Ocean.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who led a Council of Europe investigation into the CIA’s use of European territory and air space, said he received confirmation of the use of the atoll. He later said he received the assistance of some CIA officers during his investigation.

There also is a wealth of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Diego Garcia was used in the so-called rendition programme.

There have been reports that an al-Qaida terrorist known as Hambali, who was suspected of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombing in which 202 people died, was taken to Diego Garcia to be interrogated following his capture in August 2003. A report in Time magazine quoted a regional intelligence official as saying he was being interrogated there two months after his detention.

An American detention facility of some sort is known to exist on Diego Garcia. In 1984 a review by the US government’s general accounting office of construction work on the atoll reported that a detention facility had been completed the previous December.

According to answers given to parliamentary questions, British military officials – who are nominally in command of the atoll – re-designated another building as a prison three months after the September 11 attacks.

In the past, Tony Blair, as prime minister, and Jack Straw, as foreign secretary, both denied the use of the atoll during the rendition programme, but these denials were contradicted by David Miliband, one of Straw’s successors, who told parliament in February 2008 that information had “just come to light” to show that two rendition flights stopped there to refuel.

That statement was made after human rights organisations obtained flight data showing that two aircraft closely involved in the CIA’s rendition programme had flown into and out of Diego Garcia.

A number of sources in the US have said there were a number of references to the CIA’s use of Diego Garcia in the report on the agency’s use of torture that was published last month by the US Senate intelligence committee.

Since then the UK Foreign Office has evaded a series of media inquiries about Diego Garcia and about the report, and has instead responded with a stock response.

Asked about Wilkerson’s comments, a spokesperson issued the same statement: “The US government has assured us that apart from the two cases in 2002 there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our overseas territories, or the crown dependencies with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.”

The Foreign Office has also performed a number of twists and turns when asked questions about the fate of flight and immigration records relating to Diego Garcia.

Last July the Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds told Andrew Tyrie, the Tory MP who has been investigating the UK’s involvement in the rendition programme for almost a decade, that daily records were “incomplete” due to water damage.

The following day, however, a Foreign Office official was photographed in Whitehall carrying a batch of emails that showed that Scotland Yard detectives had taken possession of “monthly log showing flight details” and “daily records [obscured] month of alleged rendition”.

A few days later, Simmonds told MPs that “previously wet paper records have been dried out”, and that “no flight records have been lost as a result of the water damage”.

Two months after that, the Foreign Office told the Commons foreign affairs committee that a number of immigration records relating to civilians landing on Diego Garcia “have been damaged to the point of no longer being useful”.

Ian Cobain
Friday 30 January 2015 17.11 GMT Last modified on Saturday 31 January 2015 00.08 GMT

Find this story at 30 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

MI5 says rendition of Libyan opposition leaders strengthened al-Qaida

Intelligence assessment concludes abduction of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi allowed dissident group to be taken over by exponents of al-Qaida
Abdel Hakim Belhaj

A secret UK-Libyan rendition programme in which two Libyan opposition leaders were kidnapped and flown to Tripoli along with their families had the effect of strengthening al-Qaida, according to an assessment by the UK security service, MI5.

Prior to their kidnap, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi had ensured that their organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), focused on the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, the classified assessment says. Once handed over to the Gaddafi regime, their places at the head of the LIFG were taken by others who wanted to bring the group closer to al-Qaida.

The two men were seized in Thailand and Hong Kong in March 2004 with the assistance of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, and were “rendered” to Tripoli along with Belhaj’s pregnant wife and Saadi’s wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

In an assessment made 11 months later, MI5 concluded that the capture of the pair had cast the group “into a state of disarray”, adding: “While these senior-ranking members have always jealously guarded the independence of the LIFG, providing it with a clear command structure and set goals, the group is now coming under pressure from outside influences.

“In particular, reporting indicates that members including Abu Laith al-Libi and Abdallah al-Ghaffar may be pushing the group towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by AQ [al-Qaida].”

Two years after MI5 made this assessment, Libi announced the LIFG had formally joined forces with al-Qaida. He became a leading member of the merged organisation and is believed to have orchestrated a series of suicide bomb attacks across Afghanistan, including one in 2007 that killed 23 people at Bagram airfield north of Kabul during a visit by then US vice-president Dick Cheney. Libi was killed in a drone strike the following year.

The classified MI5 intelligence assessment was among hundreds of highly sensitive Libyan and British files that were discovered in official buildings that had been abandoned during the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi.

The end of his 42-year dictatorship was hastened by Nato air strikes, and was followed by a period of brief and heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed enormous crowds waving their countries’ flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.

But Libya’s new leadership was already struggling to impose its authority on the country. And since then, the country has descended into violence and economic instability, with rival militias shelling residential areas and destroying infrastructure in their fight for supremacy.

Fears that Islamist militants would fill the yawning power vacuum appeared to be realised on Tuesday when gunmen claiming allegiance to Islamic State said that they were responsible for an attack on a Tripoli hotel in which at least five guards and five foreigners were killed.

The papers that were recovered during the revolution show that Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with Gaddafi’s government and that some of the information extracted from victims of rendition was used as evidence during control-order and deportation proceedings in UK courts.

They also show that in 2006, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Another of the recovered documents is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, and whose existence publicly emerged last week. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar”, Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.

The classified MI5 document was prepared in advance of a five-day visit to Tripoli by senior agency staff in February 2005. Marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret”, it explains that members of the LIFG had been permitted to settle in the UK in the 1990s. This was at a time when Gaddafi, whom the group was plotting to overthrow, was considered to be an enemy of Britain.

The document adds that MI5 reassessed the LIFG’s UK-based members following the change in the group’s leadership that resulted from the detention of Belhaj and Saadi.

“We are actively investigating key individuals in the UK and are seeking to disrupt their activities,” the document says. This action was part of a new strategy “for countering the threat from the LIFG to the UK and its allies” – allies which, by 2005, included the Libyan dictatorship.

Accompanying the document was a list of questions that MI5 wanted Libyan interrogators to put to Belhaj and Saadi. A total of more than 1,600 questions were sent from the UK to Tripoli, in four batches, with MI6 at one point thanking the Libyan intelligence agents for “kindly agreeing” to pass the questions to their “interview team”.

Belhaj and Saadi both say they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli.

They say they were also interrogated by British intelligence officers, and Belhaj says he made it clear, by sign language, that he was being tortured.

After one of these encounters, he says, he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK to avoid being subjected to a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk.

The discovery of the documents that exposed the existence of the UK-Libyan rendition operations had caused widespread dismay in Westminster, even before the emergence of the latest report, which makes clear that one consequence of these operations was that the terrorist organisation that posed the greatest threat to the UK at that time was strengthened.

A criminal investigation into the affair was opened in January 2012 after Dominic Grieve, the then attorney general, wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. After a three-year investigation codenamed Operation Lydd, detectives handed their report to the Crown Prosecution Service last month.

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time, is among the people who have been questioned by police. His office says he was interviewed as a witness.

The rendition operations also led to damages claims being brought by Saadi – who received £2.2m in compensation from the British government – and by Belhaj. Belhaj is claiming damages on behalf of himself and his wife. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, and Belhaj says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, before being jailed for several months.

Belhaj says he would settle his claim for just £3, as long as he and his wife also receive an apology. With the CPS currently considering the police file, this is unlikely to happen.

Ian Cobain
Thursday 29 January 2015 11.27 GMT Last modified on Friday 30 January 2015 00.05 GMT

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

The CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah, my client. Now charge him or let him go Abu Zubaydah has now been held incommunicado for 12 years without trial. This is gross injustice

‘Abu Zubaydah is exhibit A of the Senate’s report. He is mentioned no less than 1,001 times.’ Photograph: AP
Even for those accustomed to the horrors of the CIA’s secret detention, torture and extraordinary rendition regime, the summary of the US Senate select committee on intelligence report makes chilling reading. It chronicles a systematic programme of prisoner torture and abuse, led by the CIA, but with the involvement of all levels of government and a multitude of other states. But it also reveals the extent of the misinformation surrounding the programme, and the pervasive sense of impunity that made it possible.

The report is the latest but not the last in a line of developments that are gradually prising open the truth about rendition. I am one of the legal representatives of Abu Zubaydah, a victim of that programme, in his proceedings against Poland and Lithuania before the European court of human rights. In a decision of 24 July, that court found Poland responsible for torture and secret detention by the CIA at a “black site” on its territory, and for failing to investigate and hold those responsible to account.

Abu Zubaydah might now be described as exhibit A in the week’s Senate report. He has the regrettable distinction of being the first victim of the CIA detention programme for whom, as the report makes clear, many of the torture (or “enhanced interrogation”) techniques were developed, and the only prisoner known to have been subject to all of them. With no less than 1,001 references to Abu Zubaydah specifically, the Senate report confirms the Strasbourg court’s findings regarding the horrific conditions of detention and interrogation techniques to which he and others were subject.

Among them were “wallings” (slamming prisoners against a wall), cramped confinement in boxes, sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, usually nude and in stress positions, and waterboarding (which induced convulsions and vomiting). The waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, to which the court notes he was subjected 83 times in one month alone, was authorised at the highest levels of government. It notes how “Abu Zubaydah became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth”. The report concludes that “brutal” interrogations were far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.

Beyond the torture itself, the report reveals how misinformation has been generated to justify the dehumanisation of “high-value detainees” including Abu Zubaydah. Several of the exorbitant CIA claims, in some cases reiterated long after they were known to be false, are rejected point by point in the report. Despite repeated assertions that Abu Zubaydah was “the third or fourth man in al-Qaida”, the report notes that the “CIA later concluded that Abu Zubaydah was not a member of al-Qaida”. Likewise, it refutes claims regarding his involvement in 9/11, that the interrogating team was “certain he was withholding information” and claims, widely publicised, that his torture led to valuable actionable intelligence. The rejection of the last of these claims as unsupported by CIA records led to the Committee’s overall finding that “based on a review of CIA interrogation records … the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation”.

Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Today, 12 years after he was captured and subjected to this torture by the CIA, Abu Zubaydah, our client, remains in unlawful detention at Guantánamo Bay. He has had no review of the lawfulness of his detention, no criminal charges laid against him, no trial (despite his US counsel making a plea for him to be tried, noting that even trial by military justice is better than no trial at all), and he is not slated for trial. Instead, the US baldly asserts the right to detain him indefinitely under supposed “law of war” detention. The Senate report notes that, after taking custody of Abu Zubaydah, CIA officers concluded that he “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life”. Thus far, that is effectively what has happened. Despite evidence of his torture and secret detention, there has been no meaningful criminal investigation, no one has been held to account, and until the ECHR judgment this year, there has been no recognition of the violations of his rights.

Regrettably, the Senate report is heavily redacted so that the names of the states involved are withheld. But it is not difficult to identify the state to which he was transferred in December 2002, the date on which the ECHR found he had been transferred to Poland. Like the ECHR judgment, the Senate report reflects the existence of a “memorandum of understanding” between this state and the US to house a detention site. It records the state’s discomfort at one point, but says it later became “flexible with regard to the number of CIA detainees at the facility” following the intervention of the US ambassador and the transfer of millions of dollars. It records that officials of the state were upset, not at the discovery of unlawful detention or torture on its territory, but at the CIA’s “inability to keep secrets”.

In a galling twist, Poland has recently asked the ECHR to set aside its judgment and to refer the case to the court’s grand chamber, because it disputes the existence of a detention site. Throughout, it has maintained a policy of denial, refusing to cooperate with the court on secrecy grounds.

Since the Senate report, Poland’s position has begun to shift, with acknowledgments of the site but not what happened, exposing its disingenuity towards the court. The detailed and careful analysis by the Strasbourg judges of what the Warsaw government knew, and when, is already enough to demonstrate the implausible nature of Poland’s latest position. But the report throws Polish protestations (and those of other states) into much harsher relief. The court should dismiss Poland’s attempt to delay and obstruct justice for rendition victims.

Not only does Poland have an obligation to investigate and prosecute those responsible for rendition. For the other states which facilitated the practice, including the UK, where information pointing to knowledge and responsibility continues to emerge, investigation and prosecution is an international legal obligation not a policy alternative. It is time for victims of rendition such as Abu Zubaydah to be brought within the legal framework, to be either tried or released, to have the wrongs again them redressed, and for those responsible to be held to account.

Justice is best done by the states responsible. But where national courts fail, there is a continuing role for human rights courts to determine state responsibility, for courts in other states to judge individuals under universal jurisdiction, and ultimately also for the international criminal court. Truth, justice and accountability for these crimes against humanity are essential, not just for the individuals involved, but to reassert the relevance of the rule of law.

Helen Duffy, lawyer for Abu Zubaydah
The Guardian, Monday 15 December 2014 18.45 GMT

Find this story at 15 December 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

CIA torture report: The doctors who were the unlikely architects of the CIA’s programme

The doctors subjected American soldiers to ‘coercive interrogation techniques’

They are the most unlikely architects of the CIA’s programme of torture. Two psychologists who swore to heal not harm.

Now it has been revealed that two doctors, identified by the pseudonyms Dr Grayson Swigert and Dr Hammond Dunbar, were paid $81 million by the CIA to help develop and implement a seven-year programme that included “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, placing detainees in stress positions and sleep deprivation.

Until now, little was known about the pair, who the New York Times has named as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

According to the declassifed documents, they created the programme in 2002 when the CIA took custody of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi arrested in Pakistan and suspected of being an al-Qaeda lieutenant.

He was taken to an unnamed country, reportedly Thailand, where a prison – “detention site green” – became an experimental laboratory for Swigert and Dunbar to perfect the techniques they had learned at the US Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (Sere) school where they were based before.

Dr. Bruce Jessen refused to talk with ABC News in 2009, citing a confidentiality agreement with the government. Dr. James Mitchell refused to talk with ABC News in 2009 It was at the elite school, often used to train Special Forces troops, that the doctors subjected American soldiers to “coercive interrogation techniques that they might be subjected to if taken prisoner by countries that did not adhere to Geneva protections”.

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Neither doctor had any experience as an interrogator; neither had knowledge of al-Qaeda. Swigert, however, had reviewed literature on “learned helplessness in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events”.

Such helplessness, he imagined before joining the CIA’s programme, could “encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information”.

After the detention of Zubaydah, the doctors’ programme – authorised by Justice Department lawyers – was expanded with detainees taken to secret prisons in Poland, Romania, Lithuania and other countries, or “partners” as they are referred to in the report.

CIA suspect Abu Zubaydah CIA suspect Abu Zubaydah (AP) During Swigert’s pitch for the programme he described 12 SERE techniques that could prove useful to the CIA. They were: “The attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, water-board, use of diapers, use of insects, and mock burial.”

A year after Swigert and Dunbar began the torture (or “enhanced interrogation techniques”), a senior CIA interrogator would tell colleagues that their model at SERE was “based on resisting North Vietnamese physical torture” and “designed to extract confessions”.

Indeed, the interrogation was prioritised over the health of the detainee. One declassified cable says the interrogation team understood that “interrogation process takes precedence over preventative medical procedures”.

Four years after it began, the programme was at an end when George W Bush ordered detainees to be taken to Guantanamo Bay, and another form of torture began.

But Swigert and Dunbar had by that time realised their invention was lucrative and formed a company to conduct their work with the CIA.

The CIA’s contract with that company was in excess of $180million and the pair received in excess of $81m before the deal was terminated in 2009.

Before that, the CIA had provided a “indemnification agreement” to “protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the programme”.

But by then, the doctors had completed their work.

SAM MASTERS Tuesday 09 December 2014

Find this story at 9 December 2014

© independent.co.uk

Kings of torture who made £50m inflicting pain: The incredible story of how two Mormons with no expertise conned the CIA Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen paid $81m to devise torture techniques

They told CIA to use waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation Senate report says ‘enhanced’ techniques did not thwart terrorist plots But Mitchell says the report is a politically-motivated ‘load of hooey’ Doctors charged as much as $1,800 for their help with interrogations CIA contract was worth $180million but was cancelled by Obama in 2009 Mitchell is currently retired and living in Florida
Jessen has lived a private life in Spokane, Washington.
He was appointed a Mormon bishop in his hometown, but had to resign when church members found out about his past

Their names appear again and again in the U.S. Senate’s shocking report on CIA torture — two clinical psychologists who dreamt up ever more brutal ways to inflict humiliation and pain on uncharged prisoners kept in secret prisons.
Often they would do interrogations themselves, subjecting Al Qaeda suspects to endless waterboardings, beatings and week-long sleep deprivation with a gusto that even shocked hardened CIA agents. And all the time they were raking in millions as they convinced their CIA paymasters — against all evidence — that their illegal, immoral methods were getting results.

The 528-page Senate Intelligence Committee report published on Tuesday identifies the pair — who earned $81 million (£52 million) masterminding the CIA’s disastrous ‘enhanced interrogation’ programme from 2002 to 2009 — as Dr Grayson Swigert and Dr Hammond Dunbar.

These are pseudonyms. U.S. media have named them as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two retired air force psychologists who learnt their trade when they helped to teach U.S. servicemen how to avoid capture and survive interrogation.
As part of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) programme at the elite Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State, they subjected U.S. airmen to mock ‘interrogation techniques that they might be subjected to if taken prisoner by countries that did not adhere to Geneva protections’.

They struck gold when they convinced a gullible CIA that these techniques should be used in deadly earnest on terror suspects.
No matter that the men were almost comically ill-equipped to be interrogation masterminds. As the Senate report witheringly observes: ‘Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialised knowledge of Al Qaeda, a background in terrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.’
What they did have was some aggressive ideas on how to grill suspected terrorists that perfectly suited the CIA’s grim mood after the 9/11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, in 2001.Mitchell, now 63, had just retired from the military but saw an opportunity to display his gung-ho patriotism and make some money. He already had CIA contacts from his role at the airbase and he approached them with a plan, backed by impressive-sounding psychobabble, for ‘enhanced’ interrogation.
Base: Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were given the huge sum to develop the ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques used at facilities such as Guantanamo Bay (pictured)

Ironically, Mitchell borrowed his central theory — called ‘learned helplessness’ — from an expert on happiness. Psychologist Martin Seligman studied depression and discovered research from the 1960s in which dogs given persistent small electric shocks eventually became listless and didn’t bother to escape.
Mitchell adapted this research for his own ends. He claimed that if Al Qaeda suspects were made to face ‘persistent adversity’ they would be pushed into hopelessness and co-operate.
It didn’t seem to matter that other psychologists and experienced interrogators disagreed, arguing that there was no scientific evidence for Mitchell’s theory and that experience had shown brutal interrogation techniques did not work: prisoners would just say whatever they thought their interrogators wanted to hear.
Within two months of 9/11, desperate CIA bosses had recruited Mitchell to study an Al Qaeda manual, seized in the UK, which coached members on how to resist interrogations. How could the CIA get around such resistance and elicit intelligence from captives, they asked.
For help with the answer, Mitchell recruited Jessen, now 65, an old friend from the airbase who shared his Mormon background.

They put together a 12-point interrogation programme based on the techniques they had used on U.S. servicemen in SERE training. These included slaps to the face, cramped confinement, agonising stress positions, prolonged sleep deprivation, forced nudity, slamming prisoners into the wall, making them soil themselves while wearing nappies, and waterboarding.
The pair admitted they had never tried waterboarding but insisted it was an ‘absolutely convincing technique’.
The SERE methods they taught were based on tactics first used by the Chinese to extract confessions from U.S. prisoners during the Korean War. Now they would be used by the Americans.
The irony that now it was the U.S. that would be flouting the Geneva Conventions seemed lost on everyone.
Mitchell reportedly told CIA chiefs that interrogations required ‘a comparable level of fear and brutality to flying planes into buildings’. Some of their proposals, such as mock burials, were too extreme even for the CIA, which rejected them.
CIA chief admits some interrogation techniques were abhorrent

‘Our goal was to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist or deny providing us information (intelligence) to which he had access,’ Mitchell and Jessen said in a cable published in the Senate report.
The cold-blooded pair — Jessen the son of an Idaho potato farmer, Mitchell raised in straitened circumstances by his grandmother in Tampa, Florida — got their first chance to try out their ideas when the CIA captured Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah in 2002.
He was spirited to a secret CIA prison, or ‘black site’, in Thailand. Although FBI interrogators used conventional, non-violent ‘rapport-building’ techniques to get crucial information from him, the CIA flew in with Mitchell and he got to work. The psychologist had the prisoner stripped, placed in a freezing cold all-white room and blasted with rock music to prevent him sleeping.
Jessen soon joined his friend in Thailand and, according to the Senate report, FBI agents there complained that the psychologists had ‘acquired tremendous influence’ over the CIA.
Yet even after being waterboarded for two-and-a-half hours and put in a coffin-sized ‘confinement box’ for more than 11 days out of 20, Zubaydah offered no more useful information.
Some CIA interrogators were so disturbed by his treatment they were on the point of tears. Even the agency’s interrogations chief was dismayed, emailing colleagues to say the unending brutality towards prisoners was a train wreck ‘waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens’.
Dismissive: Despite being bound by a non-disclosure agreement to not reveal any details of their work with the CIA, Mitchell yesterday labelled the Senate’s findings as a ‘load of hooey’

A CIA doctor warned that the pair’s ‘arrogance and narcissism’ — believing ‘their way is the only way’ — could prove seriously counterproductive.
Yet the influence of ‘the Mormon Mafia’, as they were nicknamed, merely increased as their methods were used on at least 27 more prisoners, and interrogators across the U.S. were trained in their tactics.
Under their lucrative CIA contract they toured black sites across the world, briefing senior politicians including Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and conducting interrogations themselves, often training CIA staff ‘on the job’.
And who was given responsibility for checking on the psychological state of those being interrogated? Amazingly, it was Mitchell and Jessen.
In 2003 they were summoned to a black site in Poland to interrogate another Al Qaeda big fish — 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When he resisted, says the report, Jessen promised to ‘go to school on this guy’.
Techniques: A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher after being interrogated in 2002
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Techniques: A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher after being interrogated in 2002
They not only threatened his children — a new low — but upped the unpleasantness of his waterboarding (which Mohammed was subjected to 183 times) by waiting for him to open his mouth to talk before pouring water over it.
It was, of course, Mitchell and Jessen who then assessed the state of the suspect. They concluded that interrogation should continue — conducted by them.
Mitchell and Jessen were getting very rich from the CIA’s patronage, each being paid about $1,800 (£1,146) a day — four times what other interrogators were getting. The Senate report reveals that by 2005 the CIA had almost fully outsourced its detention and interrogation programme. The pair were the chief beneficiaries.
WHY DID DR MITCHELL DECIDE TO OFFER HIS SERVICES TO THE CIA?
In an emotional interview with Vice News, Dr Mitchell, a former military man, explained how the September 11 attacks inspired him to help America get revenge on Al Qaeda.
He said: ‘It was horrific that people had to choose between burning to death and jumping off of buildings.
‘I don’t think that should happen to anybody. So I called up one of the people who was managing one of my contracts and said, ‘I want to be part of the solution’, really not knowing anything about anything other than, like anyone who watched [the attacks] who has a background in the military, we all wanted to be part of the solution.’
That year, they formed a company — Mitchell Jessen and Associates — specifically for their work for the CIA. It operated from an unmarked office in Spokane, Washington State. In 2006 its contract with the agency was worth a potential $180 million; by 2007 it was employing 60 people, including senior ex-CIA and FBI staff.
Mitchell was wealthy enough to buy a BMW and build a $1 million dream house in Florida.
By the time the contract was terminated in 2009, when the Obama Administration shut the black sites and stopped contractors doing interrogations, they had earned $81 million (£51 million) of taxpayers’ money, the Senate report reveals. Mitchell and Jessen shut up shop overnight, leaving no forwarding address, and have largely disappeared from public sight. The CIA has agreed to cover any legal expenses for them until 2021.
Neither has ever publicly expressed any regret, citing a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA. But Mitchell defended the CIA’s record within hours of the Senate report coming out.
‘It’s like somebody backed up your driveway and dumped a steaming pile of horse crap,’ he growled to U.S. broadcaster ABC. He described the report as politically motivated ‘bull****’ that had relied on ‘cherry-picked’ facts.
The Senate report said there was no evidence that enhanced interrogation ever worked. Other experts say it probably did the opposite, bolstering prisoners’ resolve or producing a string of false leads from people talking just to get the pain to stop.
The U.S. Justice Department has declined to prosecute anyone accused of interrogation abuses — but outrage over the revelations has led to demands from human rights groups, senators and even the United Nations for the guilty to be held accountable.
Many hope that, as the most easily identifiable offenders in the Senate report, Mitchell and Jessen will soon be the ones sweating it out in the glare of the interrogator’s spotlight.

By TOM LEONARD IN NEW YORK FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 11:49 GMT, 11 December 2014 | UPDATED: 00:37 GMT, 12 December 2014

Find this story at 12 December 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist’s Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush’s Torture Program (2011)

Dr. Bruce Jessen’s handwritten notes describe some of the torture techniques that were used to “exploit” ”war on terror” detainees in custody of the CIA and Department of Defense.

Bush administration officials have long asserted that the torture techniques used on “war on terror” detainees were utilized as a last resort in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.

But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government’s top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence.

Jason Leopold interviews Jessen’s former SERE colleague, retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns.

Rather, as Jessen’s notes explain, torture was used to “exploit” detainees, that is, to break them down physically and mentally, in order to get them to “collaborate” with government authorities. Jessen’s notes emphasize how a “detainer” uses the stresses of detention to produce the appearance of compliance in a prisoner.

Click to view notes larger.

Click to view larger.

Indeed, a report released in 2009 by the Senate Armed Services Committee about the treatment of detainees in US custody said Jessen was the author of a “Draft Exploitation Plan” presented to the Pentagon in April 2002 that was implemetned at Guantanamo and at prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. But to what degree is unknown because the document remains classified. Jessen also co-authored a memo in February 2002 on “Prisoner Handling Recommendations” at Guantanamo, which is also classified.

Moreover, the Armed Services Committee’s report noted that torture techniques approved by the Bush administration were based on survival training exercises US military personnel were taught by individuals like Jessen if they were captured by an enemy regime and subjected to “illegal exploitation” in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jessen’s notes, prepared for an Air Force survival training course that he later “reverse engineered” when he helped design the Bush administration’s torture program, however, go into far greater detail than the Armed Services Committee’s report in explaining how prisoners would be broken down physically and psychologically by their captors. The notes say survival training students could “combat interrogation and torture” if they are captured by an enemy regime by undergoing intense training exercises, using “cognitive” and “exposure techniques” to develop “stress inoculation.” [Click here to download a PDF file of Jessen’s handwritten notes. Click here to download a zip file of Jessen’s notes in typewritten form.]

The documents stand as the first piece of hard evidence to surface in nine years that further explains the psychological aspects of the Bush administration’s torture program and the rationale for subjecting detainees to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).

Kearns and his boss, Roger Aldrich, the head of the Air Force Intelligence’s Special Survial Training Program (SSTP), based out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, hired Jessen in May 1989. Kearns, who was head of operations at SSTP and trained thousands of service members, said Jessen was brought into the program due to an increase in the number of new survival training courses being taught and “the fact that it required psychological expertise on hand in a full-time basis.”

“Special Mission Units”

Jessen, then the chief of Psychology Service at the US Air Force Survival School, immediately started to work directly with Kearns on “a new course for special mission units (SMUs), which had as its goal individual resistance to terrorist exploitation.”

The course, known as SV-91, was developed for the Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) branch of the US Air Force Intelligence Agency, which acted as the Executive Agent Action Office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jessen’s notes formed the basis for one part of SV-91, “Psychological Aspects of Detention.”

Special mission units fall under the guise of the DoD’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and engage in a wide-range of highly classified counterterrorist and covert operations, or “special missions,” around the world, hundreds of who were personally trained by Kearns. The SV-91 course Jessen and Kearns were developing back in 1989 would later become known as “Special Survival for Special Mission Units.”

Before the inception of SV-91, the primary SERE course was SV-80, or Basic Combat Survival School for Resistance to Interrogation, which is where Jessen formerly worked. When Jessen was hired to work on SV-91, the vacancy at SV-80 was filled by psychologist Dr. James Mitchell, who was also contracted by the CIA to work at the agency’s top-secret black site prisons in Europe employing SERE torture techniques, such as the controlled drowning technique know as waterboarding, against detainees.

While they were still under contract to the CIA, the two men formed the “consulting” firm Mitchell, Jessen & Associates in March 2005. The “governing persons” of the company included Kearns’ former boss, Aldrich, SERE contractor David Tate, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the American Psychological Association and Randall Spivey, the ex-chief of Operations, Policy and Oversight Division of JPRA.

Mitchell, Jessen & Associates’ articles of incorporation have been “inactive” since October 22, 2009 and the business is now listed as “dissolved,” according to Washington state’s Secretary of State website.

Capt. Michael Kearns (left) and Dr. Bruce Jessen at Fort Bragg’s Nick Rowe SERE Training Center, 1989. Photo courtesy of retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns.

Lifting the “Veil of Secrecy”

Kearns was one of only two officers within DoD qualified to teach all three SERE-related courses within SSTP on a worldwide basis, according to a copy of a 1989 letter written by Aldrich, who nominated Kearns officer of the year.

He said he decided to come forward because he is outraged that Jessen used their work to help design the Bush administration’s torture program.

“I think it’s about time for SERE to come out from behind the veil of secrecy if we are to progress as a moral nation of laws,” Kearns said during a wide-ranging interview with Truthout. “To take this survival training program and turn it into some form of nationally sanctioned, purposeful program for the extraction of information, or to apply exploitation, is in total contradiction to human morality, and defies basic logic. When I first learned about interrogation, at basic intelligence training school, I read about Hans Scharff, a Nazi interrogator who later wrote an article for Argosy Magazine titled ‘Without Torture.’ That’s what I was taught – torture doesn’t work.”

What stands out in Jessen’s notes is that he believed torture was often used to produce false confessions. That was the end result after one high-value detainee who was tortured in early 2002 confessed to having information proving a link between the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, according to one former Bush administration official.

It was later revealed, however, that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, had simply provided his captors a false confession so they would stop torturing him. Jessen appeared to be concerned with protecting the US military against falling victim to this exact kind of physical and psychological pressure in a hostile detention environment, recognizing that it would lead to, among other things, false confessions.

In a paper Jessen wrote accompanying his notes, “Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture,” which was prepared for the symposium: “Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course,” he suggested that additional “research” should be undertaken to determine “the measurability of optimum stress levels in training students to resist captivity.”

“The avenues appear inexhaustible” for further research in human exploitation, Jessen wrote.

Such “research” appears to have been the main underpinning of the Bush administration’s torture program. The experimental nature of these interrogation methods used on detainees held at Guantanamo and at CIA black site prisons have been noted by military and intelligence officials. The Armed Services Committee report cited a statement from Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), who noted that Guantanamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term “battle lab” to describe the facility, meaning “that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit [the Department of Defense] in other places.”

What remains a mystery is why Jessen took a defensive survival training course and assisted in turning it into an offensive torture program.

Truthout attempted to reach Jessen over the past two months for comment, but we were unable to track him down. Messages left for him at a security firm in Alexandria, Virginia he has been affiliated with were not returned and phone numbers listed for him in Spokane were disconnected.

A New Emphasis on Terrorism

SV-91 was developed to place a new emphasis on terrorism as SERE-related courses pertaining to the cold war, such as SV-83, Special Survival for Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations (SRO), whose students flew secret missions over the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and other communist countries, were being scaled back.

The official patch of the Special Survival Training ProgramThe official coin of the Special Survival Training Program

The official patch and coin of the Special Survival Training Program. (Photo courtesy of retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns)

SSTP evolved into the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), the DoD’s executive agency for SERE training, and was tapped by DoD General Counsel William “Jim” Haynes in 2002 to provide the agency with a list of interrogation techniques and the psychological impact those methods had on SERE trainees, with the aim of utilizing the same methods for use on detainees. Aldrich was working in a senior capacity at JPRA when Haynes contacted the agency to inquire about SERE.

The Army also runs a SERE school as does the Navy, which had utilized waterboarding as a training exercise on Navy SERE students that JPRA recommended to DoD as one of the torture techniques to use on high-value detainees.

Kearns said the value of Jessen’s notes, particularly as they relate to the psychological aspects of the Bush administration’s torture program, cannot be overstated.

“The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

Ironically, in late 2001, while the DoD started to make inquiries about adapting SERE methods for the government’s interrogation program, Kearns received special permission from the US government to work as an intelligence officer for the Australian Department of Defence to teach the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) how to use SERE techniques to resist interrogation and torture if they were captured by terrorists. Australia had been a staunch supporter of the invasion of Afghanistan and sent troops there in late 2001.

Kearns, who recently waged an unsuccessful Congressional campaign in Colorado, was working on a spy novel two years ago and dug through boxes of “unclassified historical materials on intelligence” as part of his research when he happened to stumble upon Jessen’s notes for SV-91. He said he was “deeply shocked and surprised to see I’d kept a copy of these handwritten notes as certainly the originals would have been destroyed (shredded)” once they were typed up and made into proper course materials.

“I hadn’t seen these notes for over twenty years,” he said. “However, I’ll never forget that day in September 2009 when I discovered them. I instantly felt sick, and eventually vomited because I felt so badly physically and emotionally that day knowing that I worked with this person and this was the material that I believe was ‘reverse-engineered’ and used in part to design the torture program. When I found the Jessen papers, I made several copies and sent them to my friends as I thought this could be the smoking gun, which proves who knew what and when and possibly who sold a bag of rotten apples to the Bush administration.”

Kearns was, however, aware of the role SERE played in the torture program before he found Jessen’s notes, and in July 2008, he sent an email to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, who was investigating the issue and offered to share information with Levin about Jessen and the SERE program in general. The Michigan Democrat responded to Kearns saying he was “concerned about this issue” and that he “needed more information on the subject,” but Levin never followed up when Kearns offered to help.

“I don’t know how it went off the tracks, but the names of the people who testified at the Senate Armed Services, Senate Judiciary, and Select Intelligence committees were people I worked with, and several I supervised,” Kearns said. “It makes me sick to know people who knew better allowed this to happen.”

Levin’s office did not return phone calls or emails for comment. However, the report he released in April 2009, “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody,” refers to SV-91. The report includes a list of acronyms used throughout the report, one of which is “S-V91,” identified as “the Department of Defense High Risk Survival Training” course. But there is no other mention throughout the report of SV-91 or the term “High Risk Survival Training,” possibly due to the fact that sections of the report where it is discussed remain classified. Still, the failure by Levin and his staff to follow up with Kearns–the key military official who had retained Jessen’s notes and helped develop the very course those notes were based upon that was cited in the report–suggests Levin’s investigation is somewhat incomplete.

Control and Dependence

A copy of the syllabus for SV-91, obtained by Truthout from another source who requested anonymity, states that the class was created “to provide special training for selected individuals that will enable them to withstand exploitation methods in the event of capture during peacetime operations…. to cope with such exploitation and deny their detainers useable information or propaganda.”

Although the syllabus focuses on propaganda and interrogation for information as the primary means of exploiting prisoners, Jessen’s notes amplify what was taught to SERE students and later used against detainees captured after 9/11 . He wrote that a prisoner’s captors seek to “exploit” the prisoner through control and dependence.

“From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer’s goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION,” Jessen wrote. “Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel ‘EVERYTHING’ is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind.”

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the “end goal” of the detainer, who wants the detainee “to see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”

Jessen described the kinds of pressures that would be exerted on the prisoner to achieve this goal, including “fear of the unknown, loss of control, dehumanization, isolation,” and use of sensory deprivation and sensory “flooding.” He also included “physical” deprivations in his list of detainer “pressures.”

“Unlike everyday experiences, however, as a detainee we could be subjected to stressors/coercive pressures which we cannot completely control,” he wrote. “If these stressors are manipulated and increased against us, the cumulative effect can push us out of the optimum range of functioning. This is what the detainer wants, to get us ‘off balance.’”

“The Detainer wants us to experience a loss of composure in hopes we can be manipulated into some kind of collaboration…” Jessen wrote. “This is where you are most vulnerable to exploitation. This is where you are most likely to make mistakes, show emotions, act impulsively, become discouraged, etc. You are still close enough to being intact that you would appear convincing and your behavior would appear ‘uncoerced.’”

Kearns said, based on what he has read in declassified government documents and news reports about the role SERE played in the Bush administration’s torture program, Jessen clearly “reverse-engieered” his lesson plan and used resistance methods to abuse “war on terror” detainees.

The SSTP course was “specifically and intentionally designed to assist American personnel held in hostile detention,” Kearns said. It was “not designed for interrogation, and certainly not torture. We were not interrogators we were ‘role-players’ who introduced enemy exploitation techniques into survival scenarios as student learning objectives in what could be called Socratic-style dilemma settings. More specifically, resistance techniques were learned via significant emotional experiences, which were intended to inculcate long-term valid and reliable survival routines in the student’s memory. The one rule we had was ‘hands off.’ No (human intelligence) operator could lay hands on a student in a ‘role play scenario’ because we knew they could never ‘go there’ in the real world.”

But after Jessen was hired, Kearns contends, Aldrich immediately trained him to become a mock interrogator using “SERE harsh resistance to interrogation methods even though medical services officers were explicitly excluded from the ‘laying on’ of hands in [resistance] ‘role-play’ scenarios.”

Aldrich, who now works with the Center for Personal Protection & Safety in Spokane, did not return calls for comment.

“Torture Paper”

The companion paper Jessen wrote included with his notes, which was also provided to Truthout by Kearns, eerily describes the same torturous interrogation methods US military personnel would face during detention that Jessen and Mitchell “reverse engineered” a little more than a decade later and that the CIA and DoD used against detainees.

Indeed, in a subsection of the paper, “Understanding the Prisoner of War Environment,” Jessen notes how a prisoner will be broken down in an attempt to get him to “collaborate” with his “detainer.”

“This issue of collaboration is ‘the most prominent deliberately controlled force against the (prisoner of war),” Jessen wrote. “The ability of the (prisoner of war) to successfully resist collaboration and cope with the obviously severe approach-avoidance conflict is complicated in a systematic and calculated way by his captors.

“These complications include: Threats of death, physical pressures including torture which result in psychological disturbances or deterioration, inadequate diet and sanitary facilities with constant debilitation and illness, attacks on the mental health via isolation, reinforcement of anxieties, sleeplessness, stimulus deprivation or flooding, disorientation, loss of control both internal and external locus, direct and indirect attack on the (prisoner of war’s) standards of honor, faith in himself, his organization, family, country, religion, or political beliefs … Few seem to be able to hold themselves completely immune to such rigorous behavior throughout all the vicissitudes of long captivity. Confronted with these conditions, the unprepared prisoner of war experiences unmanageable levels of fear and despair.”

“Specific (torture resistance) techniques,” Jessen wrote, “taught to and implemented by the military member in the prisoner of war setting are classified” and were not discussed in the paper he wrote. He added, “Resistance Training students must leave training with useful resistance skills and a clear understanding that they can successfully resist captivity, interrogation or torture.”

Kearns also declined to cite the specific interrogation techniques used during SERE training exercises because that information is still classified. Nor would he comment as to whether the interrogations used methods that matched or were similar to those identified in the August 2002 torture memo prepared by former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

However, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee report “SERE resistance training … was used to inform” Yoo and Bybee’s torture memo, specifically, nearly a dozen of the brutal techniques detainees were subjected to, which included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, wall slamming and placing detainees in a confined space, such as a container, where his movement is restricted. The CIA’s Office of Technical Services told Yoo and Bybee the SERE techniques used to inform the torture memo were not harmful, according to declassified government documents.

Many of the “complications,” or torture techniques, Jessen wrote about, declassified government documents show, became a standard method of interrogation and torture used against all of the high-value detainees in custody of the CIA in early 2002, including Abu Zubaydah and self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as detainees held at Guantanamo and prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The issue of “collaborating” with one’s detainer, which Jessen noted was the most important in terms of controlling a prisoner, is a common theme among the stories of detainees who were tortured and later released from Guantanamo.

For example, Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen who was rendered to Egypt and other countries where he was tortured before being sent to Guantanamo, wrote in his memoir, “My Story: the Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t,” after he was released without charge, that interrogators at Guantanamo “tried to make detainees mistrust one another so that they would inform on each other during interrogation.”

Binyam Mohamed, am Ethiopian-born British citizen, who the US rendered to a black site prison in Morocco, said that a British intelligence informant, a person he knew and who was recurited, came to him in his Moroccan cell and told him that if he became an intelligence asset for the British, his torture, which included scalpel cuts to his penis, would end. In December 2009, British government officials released documents that show Mohamed was subjected to SERE torture techniques during his captivity in the spring of 2002.

Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian prisoner at Guantanamo until he was forcibly repatriated against his wishes to Algeria in July 2010, told an Algerian newspaper that “some detainees had been promised to be granted political asylum opportunity in exchange of [sic] a spying role within the detention camp.”

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, whose surname is sometimes spelled “Slahi,” is a Mauritanian who was tortured in Jordan and Guantanamo. Investigative journalist Andy Worthington reported that Salahi was subjected to “prolonged isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, beatings, death threats, and threats that his mother would be brought to Guantanamo and gang-raped” unless he collaborated with his interrogators. Salahi finally decided to become an informant for the US in 2003. As a result, Salahi was allowed to live in a special fenced-in compound, with television and refrigerator, allowed to garden, write and paint, “separated from other detainees in a cocoon designed to reward and protect.”

Still, despite collaborating with his detainers, the US government mounted a vigorous defense against Salahi’s petition for habeas corpus. His case continues to hang in legal limbo. Salahi’s fate speaks to the lesson Habib said he learned at Guantanamo: “you could never satisfy your interrogator.” Habib felt informants were never released “because the Americans used them against the other detainees.”

Jessen’s and Mitchell’s mutimillion dollar government contract was terminated by CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009. According to an Associated Press report, the CIA agreed to pay – to the tune of $5 million – the legal bills incurred by their consulting firm.

Recently a complaint filed against Mitchell with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists by a San Antonio-based psychologist, an attorney who defended three suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo and by Zubaydah’s attorney Joseph Margulies. Their complaint sought to strip Mitchell of his license to practice psychology for violating the board’s rules as a result of the hands-on role he played in torturing detainees, was dismissed due to what the board said was a lack of evidence. Mitchell, who lives in Florida, is licensed in Texas. A similar complaint against Jessen may soon be filed in Idaho, where he is licensed to practice psychology.

Kearns, who took a graduate course in cognitive psychotherapy in 1988 taught by Jessen, still can’t comprehend what motivated his former colleague to turn to the “dark side.”

“Bruce Jessen knew better,” Kearns said, who retired in 1991 and is now working on his Ph.D in educational psychology. “His duplicitous act is appalling to me and shall haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Tuesday, 22 March 2011 14:29
By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout | Investigative Report

Find this story at 22 March 2011

© 2014 Truthout

THE CHARMED LIFE OF A CIA TORTURER: HOW FATE DIVERGED FOR MATTHEW ZIRBEL, AKA CIA OFFICER 1, AND GUL RAHMAN

Matthew Zirbel’s home in Great Falls, Virginia is filled with oriental carpets, perhaps collected from his time spent working in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The million dollar home has “LOTS of “WOW!” You will “Oooh & Ahhh”, says this recent description on Zillow.

This isn’t the first time Zirbel’s surroundings have wowed someone. Over a decade ago, Zirbel, then a junior CIA officer, was in charge of the Salt Pit, a “black site” in Afghanistan referred to in the recent Senate torture report as “Cobalt,” where detainees were routinely brutalized and which one visitor described as a “dungeon.” A delegation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons was “WOW’ed” by the Salt Pit’s sensory deprivation techniques, and a CIA interrogator said that prisoners there “literally looked like [dogs] that had been kenneled,” according to the report.

In fact, one of the most horrifying stories – and there are many – in the Senate report on torture takes place in the Salt Pit, where Gul Rahman was murdered by the U.S. government in November 2002

Rahman, an Afghan, was rendered to the Salt Pit in the fall of 2002 after being apprehended in Pakistan. At that time the torture center was being run by a man referred to as “CIA Officer 1” in the Senate report. News outlets have not named him in covering the report but he has previously been identified as Zirbel, after the government accidentally included his name in a report that had been declassified.

Zirbel was on his first foreign tour for the CIA and colleagues, according to the Senate report, had recommended that he not be allowed access to classified material due to his “lack of honesty, judgment, and maturity,” according to the Senate report. A Senate aide who briefed reporters about Zirbel said the CIA officer had “issues” in his background, the Daily Beast reported, and should never have been hired by the CIA.

The CIA officer deemed Rahman “uncooperative,” and ordered that the detainee be “shackled to the wall of his cell in a position that required him to rest on the bare concrete floor.” The following morning Rahman, who was wearing only a sweatshirt, was found dead of hypothermia. He’d frozen to death in his cell, where the temperature hovered around 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zirbel’s initial cable to CIA headquarters about the case was riddled with lies — “misstatements and omissions,” as the Senate report put it. Four months later, a superior at the agency recommended Zirbel for a $2,500 bonus for “consistently superior work.”

The CIA successfully covered up Rahman’s death until 2010 — his wife and four daughters were never notified — when Adam Goldman and Kathy Gannon of the AP revealed his identity. The Senate report identifies Rahman as one of 26 detainees who did not meet the “standard for detention”; Footnote 32 calls his a case of “mistaken identity.”

In 2005, the CIA’s “Accountability Board” suggested that Zirbel be suspended without pay for ten days. But the agency’s then-Executive Director — Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who later received a prison term of about three years for defrauding the government in a case involving bribes paid to former congressman Randy Cunningham — decided that was excessive, and ruled that no disciplinary action was merited.

A few years later a limited probe of the torture program by the Department of Justice recommended that Rahman’s death be the subject of a full criminal investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was busy not prosecuting Wall Street firms for collapsing the global economy, eventually closed the case.

President Obama still can’t decide whether the CIA got carried away with its interrogation program and former Vice President Dick Cheney and General Michael Hayden are on cable news defending “rectal rehydration” as a dietary aid. But for most people the revelations in the Senate report were appalling. “You interrogate people to get information, not revenge,” Frank Anderson a former CIA Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, told me. “Torture is counterproductive, illegal and morally repugnant.”

***

Rec Room in Basement -We know what became of Rahman, but what happened to Zirbel?

There’s very little in the public record about him, which suggests he prefers to keep a low profile. However, a notice in the Congressional Record in 2004 shows that he received an executive appointment that year as a State Department foreign service officer, a post that’s often used as CIA cover.

Seven years after his orders led to Rahman’s death, Zirbel, who has been described as unfit for CIA employment, was working for one U.S. government agency or another in Saudi Arabia. In 2009, U.S. Customs records show that Zirbel shipped 26 containers of “House Hold Goods & Personal Effect” from the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah to a home in Great Falls.

Several news accounts in 2010 said that Zirbel — whom the stories described but did not name — was still working for the agency.

It’s not clear if Zirbel currently works for the CIA, or government, but wherever he is, he certainly doesn’t appear to he hurting for money. Public records show he owns several properties, including the house in Great Falls, which he bought in 2006 for $1.3 million and still owns. The house sits on five wooded acres and is apparently being rented for $4,500 per month, so Zirbel lives elsewhere.

In the meantime, renters get to enjoy views of a stocked pond (“feel free to fish!” the ad says). There’s also an “invisible fence,” which is typically used to keep dogs from wandering off the property by delivering an electric shock through a collar.

Incidentally, Zirbel’s estate in Virginia is about 200 miles southeast of Loretto, Pennsylvania. That’s where CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, the only person ever sentenced to prison time over the torture program, is currently shacked up at a federal correctional institute.

Zirbel did not respond to attempts to reach him at phone numbers listed in public records and via Skype.

“We have no comment on the individual you reference or claims you make about his purported affiliation,” a CIA spokesman said in reply to questions about Zirbel. He said “significant improvements” had been implemented following Rahman’s death, “including far more stringent standards governing interrogations and safety.” Further refinements have been made in response to concerns raised in the Senate report, the spokesman said.

The spokesman also pointed to the CIA’s response to the Senate report, which said that it had been a mistake to delegate management of Salt Pit — the name of the “facility” is redacted in the response — to a junior officer “given the risks inherent in the program.”

“The Agency could have and should have brought in a more experienced officer to assume these responsibilities,” the CIA response said. “The death of Rahman, under conditions that could have been remediated by Agency officers, is a lasting mark on the Agency’s record.”

BY KEN SILVERSTEIN @KenSilverstein1 AN HOUR AGO

Find this story at 15 December 2014

Copyright firstlook.org/theintercept/

Torture report: CIA interrogations chief was involved in Latin American torture camps

Senior agent in torture programme was recommended for censure decades earlier for “inappropriate use of interrogation techniques”

The CIA officer tasked with interrogating the most important prisoners in America’s secret detention programme allegedly abused captives during the agency’s covert operations in Latin America in the 1980s, it has emerged.
The US Senate’s three-year inquiry into the CIA’s use of torture after September 11 reveals that a senior agent involved in the programme was recommended for censure decades earlier for “inappropriate use of interrogation techniques”.
The unnamed officer was appointed to head the CIA’s “high value detainee” team in autumn 2002, shortly after the agency began waterboarding a prisoner at secret detention centre in Afghanistan.
Human rights groups said that the agent’s promotion despite his track record of abusing prisoners was evidence that that the CIA did not hold its officers accountable for torture.
“We should all be afraid that many of these agents are still at the CIA and used in the same sorts of operations when they have already shown they cannot be trusted,” said Katherine Hawkins of OpenTheGovernment.org, a pro-transparency group.

According to the 480-page report, the CIA had engaged in torture during the Cold War, when Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko was detained for three years and subjected to the sensory deprivation and forced standing techniques that would later be used against al-Qaeda detainees.
During testimony to Congress in 1978 one former officer charged with investigating Nosenko’s torture described his treatment as an “abomination”.
The techniques used against Nosenko were taken from the CIA’s “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual” drawn up by the CIA in 1963, which served as the basis of the so-called ‘torture manuals’ that were provided by the CIA to at least seven Latin American countries in the 1980s.
According to the report, the agent who would become the CIA’s chief of interrogations beginning in 2002 “was involved in training and conducted interrogations” in Latin America during that era. The report goes on to say that “the CIA inspector general later recommended that he be orally admonished for inappropriate use of interrogation techniques.”

Additionally, the report claims that in 2005 senior CIA officers, including Jose Rodriguez who ran the entire interrogation programme, objected to a proposal that the CIA should actively “vet and review” the records of interrogating officers in order to give itself better legal protection.
The proposal suggested that the “unusual measures” – ie enhanced interrogation techniques – could be considered “lawful only when practised correctly by personnel whose records clearly demonstrate their suitability for that role.”
Despite this, the report found that “numerous CIA interrogators and other CIA personnel…had either suspected or documented personal and professional problems that raised questions about their judgement and CIA employment.
“This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
In a heavily redacted footnote to the report, the Committee noted “that among the abuses [officer name deleted] had engaged in ‘Russian Roulette’ with a detainee” according to a 1984 internal memo to the CIA Inspector General.
The report is too heavily redacted to determine whether this is the same officer who was selected to head the interrogation programme in 2002.
Among the many objections by civil rights groups is that the CIA demand for heavy redactions to the report was intended not to protect officers’ lives in the field but to obscure the fact that many CIA officers involved in torture have remained at the agency and been promoted.

By Peter Foster, Washington7:00AM GMT 11 Dec 2014

Find this story at 11 December 2014

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

CIA ‘Torture’ Practices Started Long Before 9/11 Attacks

Filed Under: U.S., Torture, torture report, CIA, U.S. Foreign Policy, Barack Obama, George Bush, Dianne Feinstein, 9/11, Cold War
“The CIA,” according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, had “historical experience using coercive forms of interrogation.” Indeed, it had plenty, said the committee’s report released Tuesday: about 50 years’ worth. Deep in the committee’s 500-page summary of a still-classified 6,700-page report on the agency’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11 there is a brief reference to KUBARK, the code name for a 1963 instruction manual on interrogation, which was used on subjects ranging from suspected Soviet double agents to Latin American dissidents and guerrillas.

The techniques will sound familiar to anybody who has followed the raging debate over interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA to break Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons around the world. When the going got tough, the CIA got rough.

The 1963 KUBARK manual included the “principal coercive techniques of interrogation: arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis and induced regression,” the committee wrote.

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Many such methods were used on a Cold War-era Soviet defector whom a few CIA officials suspected of being a double agent. They came to light in a congressional investigation over 25 years ago. “In 1978, [CIA Director] Stansfield Turner asked former CIA officer John Limond Hart to investigate the CIA interrogation of Soviet KGB officer Yuri Nosenko using the KUBARK methods—to include sensory deprivation techniques and forced standing,” the committee reported.

Hart found the methods repugnant, he told a congressional committee investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “It has never fallen to my lot to be involved with any experience as unpleasant, in every possible way as…the investigation of this [Nosenko] case and…the necessity of lecturing upon it and testifying,” Hart told the committee. “To me, it is an abomination, and I am happy to say that it is not in my memory typical of what my colleagues and I did in the agency during the time I was connected with it.”

But the CIA reached for KUBARK when U.S.-backed Latin American military regimes were faced with human rights protests, left-wing subversion and armed insurgencies. “Just five years” after Hart expressed his dismay about torture on Capitol Hill, “in 1983 a CIA officer incorporated significant portions of the KUBARK manual into the Human Resource Exploitation (HRE) Training Manual, which the same officer used to provide interrogation training in Latin America in the early 1980s,” the Intelligence Committee report said. The new HRE manual was also “used to provide interrogation training to” a party whose name was censored in the committee’s report but was almost certainly the Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel group the CIA created to overthrow the Marxist revolutionary government in Managua.

“A CIA officer was involved in the HRE training and conducted interrogations” that may have gone overboard, the committee’s report said. “The CIA inspector general later recommended that he be orally admonished for inappropriate use of interrogation techniques.” While it’s not clear whether the officer was disciplined, he was sufficiently rehabilitated so that two decades later, “in the fall of 2002, [he] became the CIA’s chief of interrogations in the CIA’s Renditions Group, the officer in charge of CIA interrogations.”

According to the report, an unnamed head of the interrogation program—possibly the same man—threatened to quit over ethical concerns about CIA methods. “This is a train [wreck] waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens,” the CIA officer wrote in an email to colleagues obtained by the committee. He said he had notified the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center of his impending resignation and cited a “serious reservation” about “the current state of affairs.”

Other veterans of the Latin American counterinsurgency wars were key players in the questionable post-9/11 interrogation practices exposed by the Senate committee, although they went unmentioned in its report because they were not CIA officers.

Retired Army Colonel James Steele, along with another retired army colonel, James H. Coffman, helped the Iraqi government set up police commando units and “worked…in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of U.S. funding,” the London-based Guardian newspaper and the BBC reported in a joint project in 2013.

Steele had been commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador during its 1980s civil war, a struggle remembered chiefly for the “death squads” the regime used against nuns and priests allied with the poor. Steele had previously been decorated for his service in South Vietnam as a U.S. Army reconnaissance patrol leader.

Oddly, the CIA’s vast interrogation experience from the Vietnam War gets scant mention in those parts of the Senate committee report dealing with the methods’ origins. It notes only that in May 2013, “a senior CIA interrogator would tell personnel from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General” that the harsh methods being adopted by the agency after 9/11 originated in a practice used by North Vietnamese Communist interrogators to extract “confessions for propaganda purposes” from U.S. prisoners “who possessed little actionable intelligence.” The CIA, the interrogator believed, “need[ed] a different working model for interrogating terrorists where confessions are not the ultimate goal.”

The CIA’s Vietnam interrogation centers, jointly run in most cases with its South Vietnamese counterparts, were chiefly designed to extract information from captured Communist guerrillas, spies and suspected underground political agents, in order to launch attacks. Sometimes, however, a confession was used to then parade an apostate through South Vietnamese-controlled neighborhoods, like a trophy.

And prisoner abuse, including torture in so-called “tiger cages,” was common, according to many witnesses and other sources over the years. In 1969, the Army filed murder charges against the commander of the Green Berets in Vietnam and seven of his men after they used hallucinogenic drugs on a suspected double agent and killed him after he failed to confess. The charges were eventually dropped after a fierce lobbying campaign by then-CIA director Richard Helms, who feared a trial would expose abuses under the agency’s secret Phoenix assassination program.

After Vietnam and El Salvador, Steele went on to work in Baghdad under General David Petraeus, according to the account by the Guardian and BBC. He took Coffman with him. Petraeus commanded CIA and military special ops groups working jointly against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. “They worked hand in hand,” an Iraqi general, Muntadher al-Samari, said of Steele and Coffman. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there…the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.” Steele and Coffman could not be reached for comment.

“Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” added al-Samari, whose account was buttressed by others. “Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee [would] use all means of torture to make the detainee confess, like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”

Coffman was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, “for exceptionally valorous conduct while assigned as the Senior Advisor to the 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade” during the battle for Mosul, Iraq, in 2004, “during which the unit likely would have been overrun were it not for the courageous leadership of Colonel Coffman and the one Commando officer not wounded.”

The prison abuses in Iraq, however, turned out to be the loose strings in the otherwise tightly wound U.S. interrogation program. When the photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib exploded in the media in April 2004, at least one American ambassador in an unidentified country demanded to know if the CIA was doing anything similar under his roof that he didn’t know about. The Senate Intelligence Committee was disturbed enough by the Abu Ghraib revelations to arrange a classified briefing. “The media reports caused members of the Committee and individuals in the executive branch to focus on detainee issues,” the committee’s report said. Top CIA officials were summoned to Capitol Hill.

Their testimony was basically: That’s the Army, not us.

“The CIA used the Abu Ghraib abuses as a contrasting reference point for its detention and interrogation activities,” the committee’s report said. “In a response to a question from a Committee member, CIA Deputy Director [John] McLaughlin said, ‘We are not authorized in [the CIA program] to do anything like what you have seen in those photographs.’”

One member of the committee was soothed. “I understand,” the senator said, that the “norm” of CIA interrogations was “transparent law enforcement procedures [that] had developed to such a high level…that you could get pretty much what you wanted” without torture.

“The CIA did not correct the Committee member’s misunderstanding,” Tuesday’s report said, “that CIA interrogation techniques were similar to techniques used by U.S. law enforcement.”
That understanding would come later.

BY JEFF STEIN 12/10/14 AT 5:29 PM

Find this story at 10 December 2014

© 2014 NEWSWEEK LLC

CIA paid Poland to ease qualms over secret prison: Senate report

(Reuters) – Poland threatened to halt the transfer of al Qaeda suspects to a secret CIA jail on its soil 11 years ago, but became more “flexible” after the Central Intelligence Agency gave it a large sum of money, according to a U.S. Senate report.

U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the report’s forthcoming publication during a telephone call on Monday with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, administration officials and the Polish government said.

The heavily redacted report does not mention Poland. But it is clear it refers to the country because details such as the names of three detainees and the dates they were transferred match other documents, including a European Court of Human Rights ruling relating to a CIA-run “black site” in Poland.

The details also match interviews with people with knowledge of a Polish investigation into the alleged facility.

The CIA declined to comment on the Senate report, and Polish officials have always denied the CIA ran a jail in Poland.

A Polish government spokeswoman did not answer calls to her mobile phone seeking comment on the Senate report, or reply to emailed questions. A foreign ministry spokesman asked for questions in writing, but did not immediately respond when they were sent. A spokesman for Leszek Miller, who was Polish Prime Minister at the time the alleged CIA jail was running, declined to comment.

According to a ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court, between 2002 and 2003 the CIA operated a facility near the northeast Polish village of Stare Kiejkuty, one of a network of sites around the world where al Qaeda suspects were held and subjected to interrogation techniques human rights groups say amounted to torture.

The report published on Tuesday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence described how seriously the CIA’s rendition program strained relations with Poland, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member and one of Washington’s staunchest European allies.

People close to the Polish authorities at the time say Poland felt an obligation to protect its relationship with Washington, even as it knew hosting the facility was open to legal challenge.

“The agreement to host a CIA detention facility in Country [] created multiple, ongoing difficulties between Country [] and the CIA,” the report said. All mentions of the name of the country were blacked out.

It said the country proposed drawing up a written memorandum of understanding defining the CIA’s roles and responsibilities at the facility, but the agency refused.

The host country’s government then refused to accept the planned transfer of new detainees, who the report said included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

“The decision was reversed only after the U.S. ambassador intervened with the political leadership of Country [] on the CIA’s behalf. The following month, the CIA provided $[] million” to the country, the report said, blacking out the amount of money handed over.

The report did not name the ambassador. The U.S. ambassador to Poland at the time was Christopher Hill. A woman who answered the telephone in his office at the University of Denver, where he now works, said he was not reachable until Wednesday afternoon.

After the money changed hands, officials speaking for the country’s political leadership indicated the country “was now flexible with regard to the number of CIA detainees at the facility and when the facility would eventually be closed,” according to the report.

Years later, officials in the country were “extremely upset” when details of the detention program began to emerge from U.S. government sources, and were disappointed not to have had more warning before President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the program existed in 2006, it said.

Adam Bodnar, vice-president of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said of the Polish authorities at the time: “They betrayed the Polish constitution for money, to a great extent, and all the values that are associated with the Polish constitution.”

The Polish constitution states that no one can be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

Bodnar said the diplomatic tensions outlined in the report explain why Obama telephoned the Polish Prime Minister on the eve of the report’s publication.

The two leaders “expressed hope that the publication of this report will not have a negative effect on Polish-U.S. relations,” according to a statement from the Polish prime minister’s office.

Senior U.S. administration officials confirmed the subject of the Senate report came up during Obama’s call with Kopacz.

A Polish foreign ministry spokesman, Marcin Wojciechowski, said on Tuesday he hoped the Senate report would shed new light on allegations there was a CIA jail in Poland, and that it would give new impetus to an investigation into the allegations by Polish prosecutors that has been running since 2008.

“The Polish state’s intention is to investigate and establish the truth in this case.” he said.

The Washington Post newspaper reported in January this year, citing unnamed former CIA officials, that the agency paid $15 million to Poland for use of the facility, handing over the cash in two cardboard boxes.

At the time of the newspaper’s report, Polish officials did not respond directly to questions about whether they had received the cash. The United States has never disclosed which countries hosted the CIA detention centers overseas.

Representatives of the European Court of Human Right did not respond to calls on Tuesday evening seeking comment about the Senate report.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Julia Edwards in Washington and Marcin Goettig in Warsaw. Editing by Andre Grenon)

BY CHRISTIAN LOWE AND WIKTOR SZARY
WARSAW Tue Dec 9, 2014 8:09pm EST

Find this story at 9 December 2014

Copyright Thomson Reuters

‘CIA paid me to use airstrip as rendition zone… and to look the other way’: Former airport director reveals secret Polish staging post for U.S. torture programme

Detailed picture of how CIA flew terror suspects to Szymany has emerged
Officials later flew them to a nearby ‘dark site’ for brutal interrogations
Mariola Przewlocka says anonymous officials paid six times the landing fee
Believes she witnessed arrival of 9/11 ‘mastermind’ on CIA Gulfstream jet
Cars with darkened windows secretly took travellers to Polish military base
Airport staff were banned from approaching aircraft and basic safety rules were sometimes flouted, she says

Deep in north-eastern Poland, a neglected airstrip has been identified as a key staging post in the CIA’s clandestine torture programme.
For the first time, a detailed picture of how the CIA flew terror suspects into Szymany and on to a nearby ‘dark site’ for brutal interrogations has emerged.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, the airport’s former managing director Mariola Przewlocka reveals:

Mysterious flights arrived with little notice – and up to six times the landing fees were paid by anonymous officials
Military cars with darkened windows took passengers from the plane in secret and off to a Polish military intelligence base
She believes she witnessed the arrival of September 11 ‘mastermind’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on a CIA Gulfstream jet – which later landed in Glasgow
Airport staff were forbidden to approach the aircraft
A quiet American woman, said to be ‘from the embassy’, once watched as a transfer took place
Basic safety rules were sometimes flouted.

Known by its codename ‘Detention Site Blue’, Szymany airport – which is 100 miles from Warsaw – was the destination for several terror suspects on unmarked civilian planes. They were hooded, handcuffed and shackled for ‘enhanced interrogation’ at nearby Stare Kiejkuty base.
The detainees would arrive, sometimes in the dead of night, in aircraft owned by CIA ‘shell companies’.
Some of the most brutal torture sessions in the CIA’s murky war against terror took place near this forbidding spot.
Mrs Przewlocka, who ran Szymany airport at the time, told of her shock at discovering she may have seen the arrival of the CIA’s most high-value prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Known as KSM to the CIA, he was waterboarded no fewer than 183 times by his captors, both during his six months in Poland and at other CIA facilities.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that the Gulfstream executive jet which ‘dropped off’ KSM in Poland then went on to stay overnight at Glasgow airport, where it stopped for 24 hours, presumably to allow the flight crew to rest.
The role of Szymany airport was highlighted in last week’s US Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA renditions. After being flown here, prisoners were transferred 13 miles on near-deserted roads to Stare Kiejkuty, where they were tortured.
Mrs Przewlocka realised the clandestine activity signified some kind of undercover operations being conducted but had no idea the facility was being used for ‘extraordinary rendition’.
The 57-year-old grandmother became suspicious after traffic to the airport suddenly picked up in late 2002. ‘The airport wasn’t doing well economically, operations were being run down,’ she recalled.
From December 2002, however, as President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’ escalated, the small planes she was used to seeing gave way to much bigger jets which thundered dangerously down the runway.

‘On one occasion the airport director told me a “special” flight was due to arrive the next day and it had to be given landing permission at any cost. I told him that wouldn’t be possible as there had been a lot of snow.
‘He said something like, “Don’t worry about that, bring in an outside contractor. However much it costs, we will pay”. When the plane touched down, it turned out to be an American-owned Gulfstream jet, which we’d never seen before at the airport. The customs staff were told to go home and a border police unit was brought in for the day, which was extremely unusual.
‘Two military cars from the intelligence base at Stare Kiejkuty drove up to the aircraft and after a few minutes returned to the airport building and then went out through the main gate. We couldn’t see what was going on because the cars had darkened windows. I assumed the flight was bringing in secret agents.’

KSM told a US military tribunal he saw snow when the plane bringing him from Afghanistan stopped over in Europe. Mrs Przewlocka now believes she may have been at Szymany when the Al Qaeda terrorist’s plane touched down. She is unsure of the date, but independent records show his flight almost certainly arrived at Szymany on March 7, 2003. ‘I have my suspicions that this was the flight which we were under orders to accept at any cost,’ she said. ‘Everything was hidden from us.’
Mrs Przewlocka recalled a Polish civilian official who would always take care of landing fees in cash. ‘They would pay up to six times the normal charge for a civilian aircraft and we were instructed to keep away and ask no questions.’
The normal landing fee of around £380 could soar up to £2,300 for the flights, she said. On one occasion, Mrs Pzewlocka noticed a quiet American woman in the background when a flight came in. She recalled: ‘She was smartly dressed and didn’t speak to us but we were told she was from the American embassy. She waited near the office in the airport building and didn’t go near the planes. It was as if she didn’t want to know too much about what was going on.’
On September 22, 2003, a Boeing 737 was given permission to land at Szymany, although the runway was unsuitable for an aircraft of this size. Mrs Przewlocka said the flight plan indicated it had come from Kabul and was scheduled to refuel at Warsaw’s main civilian airport before going on to Guantanamo Bay. ‘This was inexplicable because if it could get to Szymany why couldn’t it fly directly to Warsaw which is only 100 miles or so away?
‘We should not have accepted the flight – there weren’t even any firefighters on duty, which is illegal – but we were given no choice. Once again, two military vehicles went out to meet it, waited for a few moments at the aircraft steps and then headed in the direction of Stare Kiejkuty. I saw several more 737s after that.’ The Senate report reveals the Polish authorities initially refused to allow KSM into the country, claiming they had accepted enough prisoners on behalf of the Americans already.

But their stance crumbled when the US ambassador personally intervened with the government in Warsaw, followed by a CIA delivery of $15 million in cash, after which Polish officials assured the Americans they would be more flexible.
Research by the Rendition Project, a collaboration between academics at Kent and Kingston universities, has pieced together the journey followed by the plane almost certainly carrying KSM – a Gulfstream V jet, code-number N379P and owned by a CIA company.
Records show that on March 7, the plane arrived at Szymany with two passengers and two crew. It stayed on the ground for two and a half hours, then flew to Prague, stopping for an hour, before flying to Glasgow where it stopped for over 24 hours. On the morning of March 9, the aircraft left for Washington. Mrs Przewlocka said: ‘I feel a deep sense of shame that politicians let this to happen. This has left a terrible stain on my country.’

By MARTIN DELGADO IN SZCZYTNO, POLAND FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 22:47 GMT, 13 December 2014 | UPDATED: 12:29 GMT, 14 December 2014

Find this story at 13 December 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

More Than A Quarter Of The World’s Countries Helped The CIA Run Its Torture Program

WASHINGTON — For several months before the Senate Intelligence Committee released a summary of its controversial report on the CIA’s torture program on Tuesday, Senate Democrats were locked in a well-publicized battle with the executive branch over whether to redact the aliases used for CIA officials used in the document.

But even as the White House and the CIA engaged in this dispute with the Senate, a separate, and potentially more serious, set of revelations was at stake.

According to several U.S. officials involved with the negotiations, the intelligence community has long been concerned that the Senate document would enable readers to identify the many countries that aided the CIA’s controversial torture program between 2002 and roughly 2006. These countries made the CIA program possible in two ways: by enabling rendition, which involved transferring U.S. detainees abroad without due legal process, and by providing facilities far beyond the reach of U.S. law where those detainees were subjected to torture.

The officials all told The Huffington Post in recent weeks that they were nervous the names of those countries might be included in the declassified summary of the Senate report.

The names of the countries ultimately did not appear in the summary. This represents a last-minute victory for the White House and the CIA, since Senate staff was pushing to redact as little as possible from its document.

The various sites in foreign countries are now only identified in the report by a color code, with each detention facility corresponding to a color, such as “Detention Site Black.”

cia foreign governments
But immediately after the document was released, journalists began to crack the code by cross-referencing details in the Senate study with previous reports about the CIA’s activities in different countries.

Readers of the report can also learn how the agency managed its relationship with foreign governments, offering monetary payments for their silence and undermining more public U.S. diplomatic efforts by explicitly telling their foreign contacts not to talk to U.S. ambassadors about the torture program.

cia foreign governments
The officials interviewed by HuffPost believe the Senate report takes a major risk by enabling the identification of these countries. They pointed out that the countries participated with the understanding that their involvement would remain secret. And while many of the countries have already been identified publicly by investigations in Europe, reports from outside analysts and stories in the press, the U.S. government’s tacit exposure of their involvement is still likely to have a dramatic impact abroad.

There’s precedent for this: Defenders of the executive branch’s position can point to the fact that even though much of the information exposed by Wikileaks about Middle East regimes’ collusion with the U.S. was not a surprise, seeing the evidence in official U.S. cables helped spark outrage throughout the region and fuel the Arab Spring protests. In that sense, the intelligence community, by managing to obscure the names of the countries even though they are easily identifiable, scored a significant victory in its dispute with the Senate.

Secretary of State John Kerry indicated before the Senate document was released that he is worried about the global outrage that could follow the report. For Kerry and other diplomats, the evidence revealed in the Senate document could prove critically embarrassing for friendly governments, vindicate the narrative that the U.S.’s human rights record is no better than those of its foes, and show that the U.S. is willing to throw partner nations under the bus.

On Friday, Kerry called Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, to request that she delay the release of the report in light of its potential global ramifications. Feinstein did not honor the request, likely out of concern that, were the report’s release to be delayed any further, the Senate’s new Republican majority would bury the investigation once they took control of the intelligence panel.

Transparency advocates who defend the report believe that the administration’s critiques are flawed. If the report makes countries less willing to cooperate on such projects in the future, they argue, that’s a benefit, not a cost, because the program was illegal and immoral. The report may actually boost the pressure on foreign governments to make amends, even as the prospects for accountability seem low in the U.S. Four countries — Canada, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom — have previously given compensation to victims of the program, and Canada has also issued an apology to a victim.

Here are the countries involved.

Countries with secret CIA prisons

The Washington Post decoded the report to reveal countries that were home to secret CIA-controlled prisons.

Afghanistan (4 sites)
Poland
Lithuania
Romania
Thailand

Note: According to a 2013 report by the Open Society Justice Initiative, U.S. facilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina were used to “process” detainees, but it is unclear whether the U.S. agency running that operation was the CIA or the Department of Defense.

Countries with proxy CIA prisons

A number of other foreign partners (including two governments that the U.S. has since disavowed, those of Libya and Syria) permitted the CIA to conduct enhanced interrogation in their own facilities, through what are called proxy CIA prisons. Here’s a list, drawn from reports by the ACLU and the Open Society Justice Initiative:

Egypt
Syria
Libya
Pakistan
Jordan
Morocco
Gambia
Somalia
Uzbekistan
Ethiopia
Djibouti

Countries that enabled renditions

This list features countries that proved amenable to at least some CIA measures that were only questionably legal. It is a curious mix of prominent Western nations and nations with which the U.S. has long has difficulties. The governments’ assistance ranged from passing along information about suspects, including those countries’ own citizens, to serving as a transit point for flights to countries where enhanced interrogation was taking place.

Afghanistan
Austria
Australia
Albania
Algeria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Canada
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Egypt
Ethiopia
Finland
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Iceland
Indonesia
Iran
Ireland
Italy
Jordan
Kenya
Libya
Lithuania
Macedonia
Malawi
Malaysia
Mauritania
Morocco
Pakistan
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Syria
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
United Kingdom
Uzbekistan
Yemen
Zimbabwe

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of the infographic failed to include Macedonia and Hong Kong as states that participated in the rendition program (Hong Kong took part as an autonomous region of China able to enter some international agreements on its own) and to include Thailand as a country that hosted a secret CIA prison and enabled rendition. Macedonia was also wrongly excluded from the list of “countries that enabled renditions” in the text of the story. The infographic earlier misidentified Norway and Kosovo as countries that enabled rendition and misidentified Myanmar as a country that hosted a secret CIA prison and enabled rendition. None of these three countries has been shown to be part of the CIA’s program. The graphic also misidentified the geographical position of Malawi and excluded areas of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Posted: 12/09/2014 8:34 pm EST Updated: 12/11/2014 11:59 am

Akbar Shahid Ahmed Ryan Grim Lauren Weber

Find this story at 11 December 2014

Copyright ©2014 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

CIA ‘torture’ report: The 54 countries that will be worried by controversial revelations

World prepares for moment America comes clean on its ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ – with which much of the world is complicit

After years of waiting, the US is about to publish a report exposing the “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by its intelligence service around the world – in other words, what many class as CIA torture.
The implications of the report stretch around the whole world, with much of the most controversial activity taking place off US soil. The map above shows just how many countries were participants in the CIA programme, according to the George Soros’ Open Society Foundation’s 2013 report.

Though unofficial, that very detailed probe concluded that 54 countries around the world assisted the CIA’s programme – 25 of them in Europe.

Today’s report, actually a 480-page summary of a 6,000-page investigation from the Senate Intelligence Committee, is expected to include graphic details about sexual threats, waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques meted out to captured militants since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Preparing for a worldwide outcry, and possibly even violence, from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had taken steps to shore up security of US facilities worldwide.

But what is the report? And how much light will it shine on almost a decade and a half of secretive, possibly illegal Government activity.

CIA-Getty.jpgWhat is the report?

The report, which took years to produce, is the first independent assessment of the CIA’s “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which George Bush authorised after 9/11.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and Obama swiftly banned so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

Senate Intelligence Committee staff reportedly reviewed around six million pages of information, while the report itself has over 38,000 footnotes citing CIA documents.

CIA ‘torture’ report: Timeline from 9/11 to Dianne Feinstein’s findings

What details will it reveal?

Sources say the overall findings of the report are expected to be that the CIA programme did not deliver life-saving intelligence, that its techniques were more brutal than previously admitted, and that CIA officials misled the White House as to the extent of their activities.

More specifically, the report is said to describe how senior al-Qaeda operative Abdel Rahman al Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was threatened by his interrogators with a buzzing power drill. The drill was never actually used on Nashiri.

Barack-Obama.jpgIn another instance, the report documents how at least one detainee was sexually threatened with a broomstick, sources told the Reuters news agency.

Other methods, such as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces and waterboarding, will be described as having gone beyond what was “legally allowable”, CBS News reported.

Cases in which CIA interrogators threatened one or more detainees with mock executions – a practice never authorised by Bush administration lawyers – are documented in the report, the Reuters sources said.

Why has it taken so long to be published?

It has taken three separate bipartisan votes to create, approve and finally declassify the report – in 2009, 2012 and 2014 respectively.

Republicans have fiercely opposed the publication, suggesting it will be to the detriment of national security, and critiques from Republican committee members and CIA officials are expected to be included in the release.

Abdul-Hakim-Belhadj.jpgWith negotiations over how much could be released complete, Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier asked the committee to “consider” changing the timing of the report.

But that request has been denied – the committee does not want to risk not coming out under this Government, giving a potential new Republican government the chance to bury it altogether.

How will the world respond?

Preparing for a worldwide outcry, and possibly even violence, from the publication of such graphic details, the White House and US intelligence officials said on Monday that they had taken steps to shore up security of US facilities worldwide.

“There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to greater risk that is posed to US facilities and individuals all around the world,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

web-kerry-getty.jpgBut because so much of the CIA programme appears to have involved activity away from US soil, many other countries around the world will be concerned.

Among them is the UK which, it has been claimed, provided assistance to the CIA in the illegal rendition of Abdelhakim Belhadj, an anti-Gaddafi rebel leader who was returned to Libya reportedly via CIA custody.

The US State Department has warned all overseas posts to be prepared for a “range of reactions” in the wake of the report.

And the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, has been outspoken in his opposition. “I think this is a terrible idea,” he said on CNN. “Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths’.”

Adam Withnall Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Find this story at 9 Decembe 2014

© independent.co.uk

Decoding the secret black sites on the Senate’s report on the CIA interrogation program

The public version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA detention program refers to the agency’s post-Sept.11 “black sites” as color-themed codes. Other details in the report, however, help indicate the locations of the secret prisons.

Note: This does not include Morocco, which was not a CIA-controlled facility.

By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate December 9

Find this story at 9 December 2014
Interactive: 119 detainees held in secret CIA prisons
View timeline: CIA’s use of harsh interrogation

Copyright washingtonpost.com

 

The Media Is Focusing On the WRONG Senate Torture Report (2014)

The Big Story Torture Everyone Is Missing

While the torture report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is very important, it doesn’t address the big scoop regarding torture.

Instead, it is the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report that dropped the big bombshell regarding the U.S. torture program.

Senator Levin, commenting on a Armed Services Committee’s report on torture in 2009, explained:

The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting FALSE confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures [and] waterboarding.

McClatchy filled in important details:

Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration…

For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.” Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

The Washington Post reported the same year:

Despite what you’ve seen on TV, torture is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. Indeed, Bush-era torture techniques, we now know, were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.

So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense — in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a “ticking time bomb” scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks — in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.

***

Gordon Trowbridge writes for the Detroit News: “Senior Bush administration officials pushed for the use of abusive interrogations of terrorism detainees in part to seek evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq, according to newly declassified information discovered in a congressional probe.

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff (Colonel Larry Wilkerson) wrote in 2009 that the Bush administration’s “principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda.”

Indeed, one of the two senior instructors from the Air Force team which taught U.S. servicemen how to resist torture by foreign governments when used to extract false confessions has blown the whistle on the true purpose behind the U.S. torture program.

As Truthout reported:

[Torture architect] Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).

***

The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is EXPLOITATION, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

In a subsequent report, Truthout notes:

Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the DOD’s most effective interrogators as well a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA’s teaching academy, said …. “This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence” …. “If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using.”

Interrogators also forced detainees to take drugs … which further impaired their ability to tell the truth.

And one of the two main architects of the torture program admitted this week on camera:

You can get people to say anything to stop harsh interrogations if you apply them in a way that does that.

And false confessions were, in fact, extracted.

For example:

A humanitarian aid worker said: torture only stopped when I pretended I was in Al Qaeda
Under torture, Libyan Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi falsely claimed there was a link between Saddam Hussein, al-Qaida and WMD
President Bush mentioned Abu Zubaydah as a success story, where torture saved lives. Zubaydah was suspected of being a high-ranking al-Qaida leader. Bush administration officials claimed Zubaydah told them that al-Qaida had links with Saddam Hussein. He also claimed there was a plot to attack Washington with a “dirty bomb”. Both claims are now recognized to be false, even by the CIA, which also admits he was never a member of al-Qaida.
One of the Main Sources for the 9/11 Commission Report was Tortured Until He Agreed to Sign a Confession that He Was NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO READ
The so-called 9/11 mastermind said: “During … my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear” (the self-confessed 9/11 “mastermind” falsely confessed to crimes he didn’t commit)
And the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. And the government went to great lengths to obstruct justice and hide unflattering facts from the Commission.

According to NBC News:

Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves
Details here.

Today, Raymond McGovern – a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials – provides details about one torture victim (Al-Libi) at former Newsweek and AP reporter Robert Parry’s website:

But if it’s bad intelligence you’re after, torture works like a charm. If, for example, you wish to “prove,” post 9/11, that “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda and might arm the terrorists with WMD, bring on the torturers.

It is a highly cynical and extremely sad story, but many Bush administration policymakers wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 and thus were determined to connect Saddam Hussein to those attacks. The PR push began in September 2002 – or as Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card put it, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

By March 2003 – after months of relentless “marketing” – almost 70 percent of Americans had been persuaded that Saddam Hussein was involved in some way with the attacks of 9/11.

The case of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a low-level al-Qaeda operative, is illustrative of how this process worked. Born in Libya in 1963, al-Libi ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from 1995 to 2000. He was detained in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, and then sent to a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was deemed a prize catch, since it was thought he would know of any Iraqi training of al-Qaeda.

The CIA successfully fought off the FBI for first rights to interrogate al-Libi. FBI’s Dan Coleman, who “lost” al-Libi to the CIA (at whose orders, I wonder?), said, “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

CIA interrogators elicited some “cooperation” from al-Libi through a combination of rough treatment and threats that he would be turned over to Egyptian intelligence with even greater experience in the torture business.

By June 2002, al-Libi had told the CIA that Iraq had “provided” unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that soon found its way into other U.S. intelligence reports. Al-Libi’s treatment improved as he expanded on his tales about collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq, adding that three al-Qaeda operatives had gone to Iraq “to learn about nuclear weapons.”

Al-Libi’s claim was well received at the White House even though the Defense Intelligence Agency was suspicious.

“He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

Meanwhile, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Maj. Paul Burney, a psychiatrist sent there in summer 2002, told the Senate, “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

***

President Bush relied on al-Libi’s false Iraq allegation for a major speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, just a few days before Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution. Bush declared, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

And Colin Powell relied on it for his famous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, declaring: “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”

Al-Libi’s “evidence” helped Powell as he sought support for what he ended up calling a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, in the general effort to justify invading Iraq.

For a while, al-Libi was practically the poster boy for the success of the Cheney/Bush torture regime; that is, until he publicly recanted and explained that he only told his interrogators what he thought would stop the torture.

You see, despite his cooperation, al-Libi was still shipped to Egypt where he underwent more abuse, according to a declassified CIA cable from early 2004 when al-Libi recanted his earlier statements. The cable reported that al-Libi said Egyptian interrogators wanted information about al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq, a subject “about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

According to the CIA cable, al-Libi said his interrogators did not like his responses and “placed him in a small box” for about 17 hours. After he was let out of the box, al-Libi was given a last chance to “tell the truth.” When his answers still did not satisfy, al-Libi says he “was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and fell on his back” and then was “punched for 15 minutes.”

After Al-Libi recanted, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission. By then, however, the Bush administration had gotten its way regarding the invasion of Iraq and the disastrous U.S. occupation was well underway.

***

Intensive investigations into these allegations – after the U.S. military had conquered Iraq – failed to turn up any credible evidence to corroborate these allegations. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bitter enemies, with al-Qaeda considering the secular Hussein an apostate to Islam.

Al-Libi, who ended up in prison in Libya, reportedly committed suicide shortly after he was discovered there by a human rights organization. Thus, the world never got to hear his own account of the torture that he experienced and the story that he presented and then recanted.

Hafed al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American and a prominent critic of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime at the time of al-Libi’s death, explained to Newsweek, “This idea of committing suicide in your prison cell is an old story in Libya.”

Paul Krugman eloquently summarized the truth about the torture used:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

Torture Program Was Part of a Con Job

As discussed above, in order to “justify” the Iraq war, top Bush administration officials pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create a false linkage between between Al Qaida and Iraq. And see this and this.

But this effort started earlier …

5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said “my interest is to hit Saddam”.

He also said “Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement “judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time”, is the statement “Hard to get a good case.” In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.

Moreover, “Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda”.

And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.

And yet Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials claimed repeatedly for years that Saddam was behind 9/11. See this analysis. Indeed, Bush administration officials apparently swore in a lawsuit that Saddam was behind 9/11.

Moreover, President Bush’s March 18, 2003 letter to Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq, includes the following paragraph:

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Therefore, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war to Congress by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks.

Indeed, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind reports that the White House ordered the CIA to forge and backdate a document falsely linking Iraq with Muslim terrorists and 9/11 … and that the CIA complied with those instructions and in fact created the forgery, which was then used to justify war against Iraq. And see this.

Suskind also revealed that “Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official ‘that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.’ ”

Cheney made the false linkage between Iraq and 9/11 on many occasions.

For example, according to Raw Story, Cheney was still alleging a connection between Iraq and the alleged lead 9/11 hijacker in September 2003 – a year after it had been widely debunked. When NBC’s Tim Russert asked him about a poll showing that 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had been involved in 9/11, Cheney replied:

It’s not surprising that people make that connection.

And even after the 9/11 Commission debunked any connection, Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime , that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties.

Again, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks. See this, this, this.

Even then-CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11.

Top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change even before Bush took office.

And in 2000, Cheney said a Bush administration might “have to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power.” And see this.

The administration’s false claims about Saddam and 9/11 helped convince a large portion of the American public to support the invasion of Iraq. While the focus now may be on false WMD claims, it is important to remember that, at the time, the alleged link between Iraq and 9/11 was at least as important in many people’s mind as a reason to invade Iraq.

So the torture program was really all about “justifying” the ultimate war crime: launching an unnecessary war of aggression based upon false pretenses.

Postscript: It is beyond any real dispute that torture does not work to produce any useful, truthful intelligence. Today, the following question made it to the front page of Reddit:

Why would the CIA torture if torture “doesn’t work”? Wouldn’t they want the most effective tool to gather intelligence?

The Senate Armed Services Committee report gave the answer.

Posted on December 12, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog

Find this story at 12 December 2014

© 2007 – 2014 Washington’s Blog

KSM Questioned About al Qaeda-Iraq Ties During Waterboarding (2011)

Some of the first questions asked of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed upon his capture and during the time during which he was waterboarded were about possible connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, according to a review of several reports on U.S. intelligence operations.

The mastermind of the September 11 attacks was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and according to Office of Legal Counsel memos released last month, was waterboarded 183 times that same month.

The substance of the intelligence that was being sought from him has been an object of some speculation, with several defenders of the interrogation practice arguing that the goal was to prevent an impending attack on America. But a line buried on page 353 of the July 2004 Select Committee on Intelligence report on pre-Iraq war intelligence strongly suggests that the interrogation was just as centered on a possible Iraq-al-Qaeda link as terrorist activity.

“CTC [Counter Terrorist Center] noted that the questions regarding al-Qaida’s ties to the Iraqi regime were among the first presented to senior al-Qaida operational planner Khalid Shaikh Muhammad following his capture.”

Revelations that KSM was questioned about possible al Qaeda ties to Iraq at roughly the same time that he was undergoing waterboarding provides some key insight into the purpose of the CIA interrogations. A recently de-classified Senate Armed Services Committee report quoted army psychologist Maj. Paul Burney as saying that a large part of his time on a Behavioral Science Consultation Team was “focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.” McClatchy newspapers, meanwhile, published an article last month citing a former intelligence official acknowledging that the Bush administration had pressured interrogators to use harsh techniques to produce evidence connecting the terrorist organization and Iraq’s regime.

The efforts at establishing a link never bore fruit. Burney went on to note that “we were not being successful in establishing a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.” Meanwhile, earlier in the July 2004 Select Committee on Intelligence report, it is noted that KSM was “unaware of any collaborative relationship between al-Qaida and the former Iraqi regime, citing ideological disagreements as an impediment to closer ties. In addition, he was unable to corroborate reports that al-Qada associate Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi had traveled to Iraq to obtain medical treatment for injuries sustained in Afghanistan.”

That said, reports showing that waterboarding would be used as a means of establishing a link between Iraq and al Qaeda does appear to diffuse the notion that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were only being used in “ticking time bomb” scenarios.

Some former senior Bush administration officials have publicly echoed this version of events. “[W]hat I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S.,” wrote former Colin Powell chief of staff and prominent Bush critic, Lawrence Wilkerson, on the Washington Note, “but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.”

Sam Stein
Posted: 06/15/2009 5:12 am EDT Updated: 05/25/2011 1:20 pm

Find this story at 25 May 2011

Copyright ©2014 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

Powell aide says torture helped build Iraq war case (2009)

(CNN) — Finding a “smoking gun” linking Iraq and al Qaeda became the main purpose of the abusive interrogation program the Bush administration authorized in 2002, a former State Department official told CNN on Thursday.

The allegation was included in an online broadside aimed at former Vice President Dick Cheney by Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. In it, Wilkerson wrote that the interrogation program began in April and May of 2002, and then-Vice President Cheney’s office kept close tabs on the questioning.

“Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda,” Wilkerson wrote in The Washington Note, an online political journal.

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said his accusation is based on information from current and former officials. He said he has been “relentlessly digging” since 2004, when Powell asked him to look into the scandal surrounding the treatment of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

“I couldn’t walk into a courtroom and prove this to anybody, but I’m pretty sure it’s fairly accurate,” he told CNN.

Most of Wilkerson’s online essay criticizes Cheney’s recent defense of the “alternative” interrogation techniques the Bush administration authorized for use against suspected terrorists. Cheney has argued the interrogation program was legal and effective in preventing further attacks on Americans.

Critics say the tactics amounted to the illegal torture of prisoners in U.S. custody and have called for investigations of those who authorized them.

Representatives of the former vice president declined comment on Wilkerson’s allegations. But Wilkerson told CNN that by early 2002, U.S. officials had decided that “we had al Qaeda pretty much on the run.”

“The priority had turned to other purposes, and one of those purposes was to find substantial contacts between al Qaeda and Baghdad,” he said.

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The argument that Iraq could have provided weapons of mass destruction to terrorists such as al Qaeda was a key element of the Bush administration’s case for the March 2003 invasion. But after the invasion, Iraq was found to have dismantled its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, and the independent commission that investigated the 2001 attacks found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between the two entities.

Wilkerson wrote that in one case, the CIA told Cheney’s office that a prisoner under its interrogation program was now “compliant,” meaning agents recommended the use of “alternative” techniques should stop.

At that point, “The VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods,” Wilkerson wrote.

“The detainee had not revealed any al Qaeda-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, ‘revealed’ such contacts.”

Al-Libi’s claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s government had trained al Qaeda operatives in producing chemical and biological weapons appeared in the October 2002 speech then-President Bush gave when pushing Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. It also was part of Powell’s February 2003 presentation to the United Nations on the case for war, a speech Powell has called a “blot” on his record.

Al-Libi later recanted the claim, saying it was made under torture by Egyptian intelligence agents, a claim Egypt denies. He died last week in a Libyan prison, reportedly a suicide, Human Rights Watch reported.

Stacy Sullivan, a counterterrorism adviser for the U.S.-based group, called al-Libi’s allegation “pivotal” to the Bush administration’s case for war, as it connected Baghdad to the terrorist organization behind the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

And an Army psychiatrist assigned to support questioning of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba told the service’s inspector-general that interrogators there were trying to connect al Qaeda and Iraq.

“This is my opinion,” Maj. Paul Burney told the inspector-general’s office. “Even though they were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between aI Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between aI Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Burney’s account was included in a Senate Armed Services Committee report released in April. Other interrogators reported pressure to produce intelligence “but did not recall pressure to identify links between Iraq and al Qaeda,” the Senate report states.

Cheney criticized Powell during a television interview over the weekend, saying he no longer considers Powell a fellow Republican after his former colleague endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Wilkerson said he is not speaking for his former boss and does not know whether Powell shares his views.

May 14, 2009 — Updated 0311 GMT (1111 HKT)
By Matt Smith

Find this story at 14 May 2009

© 2009 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company

Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link (2009)

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would’ve provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”

Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Excerpts from Burney’s interview appeared in a full, declassified report on a two-year investigation into detainee abuse released on Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called Burney’s statement “very significant.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

A senior Guantanamo Bay interrogator, David Becker, told the committee that only “a couple of nebulous links” between al Qaida and Iraq were uncovered during interrogations of unidentified detainees, the report said.

Others in the interrogation operation “agreed there was pressure to produce intelligence, but did not recall pressure to identify links between Iraq and al Qaida,” the report said.

The report, the executive summary of which was released in November, found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld approved extreme interrogation techniques for Guantanamo in December 2002. He withdrew his authorization the following month amid protests by senior military lawyers that some techniques could amount to torture, violating U.S. and international laws.

Military interrogators, however, continued employing some techniques in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

Bush and his top lieutenants charged that Saddam was secretly pursuing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in defiance of a United Nations ban, and had to be overthrown because he might provide them to al Qaida for an attack on the U.S. or its allies.

(John Walcott and Warren P. Strobel contributed to this article.)

BY JONATHAN S. LANDAY
McClatchy Newspapers April 21, 2009

Find this story at 21 April 2009

Copyright McClatchy DC