The CIA’s New Deputy Director Ran a Black Site for Torture

IN MAY 2013, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the head of the CIA’s clandestine service was being shifted out of that position as a result of “a management shake-up” by then-Director John Brennan. As Miller documented, this official — whom the paper did not name because she was a covert agent at the time — was centrally involved in the worst abuses of the CIA’s Bush-era torture regime.

As Miller put it, she was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees. Even more troubling, she “had run a secret prison in Thailand” — part of the CIA’s network of “black sites” — “where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture also detailed the central role she played in the particularly gruesome torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.

Beyond all that, she played a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees both at the black site she ran and other secret agency locations. The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as “obstruction” by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane. A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.

The name of that CIA official whose torture activities the Post described is Gina Haspel. Today, as BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold noted, CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced that Haspel was selected by Trump to be deputy director of the CIA.

This should not come as much of a surprise given that Pompeo himself has said he is open to resurrecting Bush-era torture techniques (indeed, Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, was forced to withdraw from the running in late 2008 because of his support for some of those tactics only to be confirmed in 2013). That’s part of why it was so controversial that 14 Democrats — including their Senate leader Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Tim Kaine — voted to confirm Pompeo.

That Haspel was the actual subject of the 2013 Post story was an open secret. As Leopold said after I named her on Twitter as the subject of that story: “All of us who covered CIA knew. She was undercover and agency asked us not to print her name.” Gina Haspel is now slated to become the second-most powerful official at the CIA despite — or because of — the central, aggressive, sustained role she played in many of the most grotesque and shameful abuses of the war on terror.

Top photo: An interrogation room at Camp Delta in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for detainees from the U.S. war in Afghanistan, April 7, 2004.

Glenn Greenwald
February 2 2017, 9:50 p.m.
Find this story at 2 February 2017

Copyright https://theintercept.com/

Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion (2015)

Exclusive: Information from terror suspects about 2010 plot was used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’

The former head of MI6 has revealed that torture “does produce intelligence”

The former head of MI6 has said torturing suspected terrorists produces “useful information”, as The Independent on Sunday reveals that “real-time” intelligence understood to have been obtained by torture in Saudi Arabia helped to thwart a terrorist bombing on British soil.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers told the BBC yesterday that torture “does produce intelligence” and security services “set aside the use of torture… because it is against the values” of British society, not because it doesn’t work in the short term. Sir John defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

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Sir John Sawers has advised increasing defence spending to counter the security threat posed by Russian aggression (AFP/Getty)
The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

There is growing frustration on the part of some UK security officials at Britain’s lack of candour about aspects of intelligence work. “There is a lack of understanding in that most people, if they knew about a ticking bomb scenario, would say torture was defensible, yet we insist on saying ‘we never do it’. Yet we are very happy beneficiaries of it,” one official said.

CIA torture report: The 10 most harrowing stories
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The human rights group Cage said the use of torture by MI5 and MI6 allegedly played a role in radicalising young British Muslims, including Michael Adebolajo, convicted of murdering soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013. In the interview, Sir John said blaming the security services for radicalisation was “specious” and offered a vigorous defence of the methods used by MI5 and MI6. He said torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information”.

He said: “The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of campaign group Liberty, said: “That is a low ebb, even for a senior spook in this country. After 9/11, I could have predicted internment without charge or trial. I could predict more invasions of privacy and blanket surveillance, but the one thing I could never have predicted is in 2015 we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.”

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Floral tributes to Fusilier Lee Rigby at the spot where he was killed (Getty)
According to a source close to the East Midlands bomb operation, the British officials “would have made sure they were not actually in the room” where the torture was allegedly taking place, but there was “no way” the intelligence that thwarted the bombing “wasn’t procured under duress”. “It is a fair inference to say he was being tortured. He wasn’t volunteering the information, that’s for sure,” the source said. “Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say ‘we don’t want that’. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.”

Earlier this month, in what aides confirmed as a reference to the plot, Prime Minister David Cameron alluded to a “piece of information” from Saudi Arabia that “saved potentially hundreds of lives”.

While in office Sir John described torture as “illegal and abhorrent”, but in 2010 said the security services faced “real, constant operational dilemmas” to avoid using information which has been gathered by torture. Two year later, he admitted British agents went “close to the line” when questioning alleged terrorists.

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Shami Chakrabarti is shocked that in 2015 “we would be having to talk about torture in the UK.” (Teri Pengilley)
However, senior Tories said the case raised serious issues. Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, said: “History shows us that torture can work but that it also often results in completely misleading information. It’s utterly unlawful, totally repugnant, and contrary to our national practices.”

Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Parliamentary all-party group on rendition, said: “Allegations of British complicity in rendition, torture and kidnap just keep coming. The case for an independent judge-led inquiry into them has been overwhelming for years.”

There are growing calls backing Mr Tyrie’s long-held argument that the next chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) be elected by MPs and not the Prime Minister.

Social media and terrorist threats

Facebook, Twitter and other technology firms have been savaged by a former spy chief for refusing to “fulfil their responsibilities” by protecting people from terrorists.

Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, told Radio 4’s Today programme that the leaks by Edward Snowden had “driven a wedge” between the security services and social media companies which had hampered counter-terrorism efforts.

His comments were echoed by the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said social media firms “can’t just stand back and ignore” evidence of their users engaging in extremist activity.

Sir John said: “Before the Snowden leaks took place, there was a good working relationship between technology companies and the intelligence agencies that kept us all safe. That has now gone down to the absolute legal minimum.

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Edward Snowden’s revelations sparked outrage about the scope of government snooping (AP)
We cannot just leave the security of society to the intelligence agencies. Technology companies have to find a way whereby they can fulfil their responsibilities and play their part.

“They need to have mechanisms whereby they can identify this dangerous activity, and they are sitting on a mine of data which they use extensively for commercial purposes, but which they are not allowing to be used for purposes of public good like national security.”

Ms Cooper told The IoS: “At the moment, some of the online social media organisations will do more around child abuse than on counter-terror or terrorist threats. I don’t think people can just stand back and ignore it.”

Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly, Nick Clark @Jamie_Merrill Sunday 1 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

Copyright http://www.independent.co.uk/

The “Torture Works” Story (2015)

After Adam Goldman exposed the identity of Jihadi John, ISIL’s executioner, as Mohammed Emwazi, it set off an interesting response in Britain.

CagePrisoners — the advocacy organization for detainees — revealed details of how MI5 had tried to recruit Emwazi and, when he refused, had repeatedly harassed him and his family and prevented him from working a job in Kuwait (where he was born).

While that certainly doesn’t excuse beheadings, it does raise questions about how the intelligence services track those it has identified as potential recruits and/or threats.

And seemingly in response to those questions, the former head of MI6 has come forward to say that torture has worked in a ticking time bomb scenario — that of the toner cartridge plot in 2010.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers

…defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

At the time, multiple sources on the Saudi peninsula revealed that authorities learned of this plot — and therefore learned about the bombs — from an apparent double agent(and former Gitmo detainee), Jabir al-Fayfi, who had left AQAP and alerted the Saudis to the plot. If so, it would mean what was learned from torture (if this account can be trusted) was the precise location of the explosives in planes that boxes that had already been isolated.

that may mean this “success” prevented nothing more than an explosion in a controlled situation, because it had already been tipped by a double agent who presumably didn’t need to be tortured to share the information he had been sent in to obtain.

The toner cartridge story significantly resembles the UndieBomb 2.0 plot, which was not only tipped by a double agent, but propagated by it …in that case, the double agent came not via Gitmo and Saudi “deradicalization,” but via MI5, via a recruitment effort very like what MI5 used with Emwazi.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Emwazi knew that double agent

the treatment of a range of people implicated in Yemeni and/or Somali networks (MI5 accused Emwazi of wanting to travel to the latter) derives from the growing awareness among networks who have tried to be recruited who else might have been recruited.

Which might be one reason to tie all this in with “successful torture” — partly a distraction, partly an attempt to defer attention from a network that is growing out of control

2015-03-01 / N/A / www.emptywheel.net

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© 2016 INFOSOURCES

British authorities foiled ink cartridge plot to bring down two planes ‘after tip-off obtained from torture’ (2015)

British authorities intercepted bomb at East Midlands airport after ‘tip off’
Plastic explosives discovered on cargo planes travelling to the US
Intelligence from Saudi Arabia ‘came after torture of al-Qaeda operative’
Ex-spy chief says torture ‘does produce useful information’

Information obtained using torture was used to help foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes, it has been claimed.

British authorities intercepted a bomb at East Midlands Airport after being ‘tipped off’ by Saudi Arabian security forces, reportedly following the interrogation by torture of an al-Qaeda operative.

The claim comes as former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term.’

Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)
+5
Intelligence obtained via torture was reportedly used in a ‘Jack Bauer real-time operation’ to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two planes and intercept a bomb at East Midlands Airport (pictured)

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is the package found at East Midlands Airport

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010.

It is believed the bombs were designed to go off mid-air and bring the huge planes down over the US.

After what was described as a ‘tip-off’ from Saudi Arabian security forces, the planes were stopped at East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire and the United Arab Emirates and the bombs uncovered.

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A group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) later took responsibility for the plot.

Now it has been claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of terror group al-Qaeda.

‘The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as it happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time,’ an intelligence source told Jamie Merrill, James Hanning, Mark Leftly and Nick Clark at The Independent On Sunday.

A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport
A major security alert was launched after plastic explosives concealed inside inkjet printer cartridges were discovered on two cargo planes travelling from Yemen to the US in October 2010. Pictured is a packaged being launched onto a police helicopter at East Midlands Airport

It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda
It is claimed the discovery at East Midlands Airport was only possible because British officials in Saudi Arabia were in communication with a team believed to have been using torture on a member of al-Qaeda

A source close to the operation said there was ‘no way’ that the information which led to the plot being exposed ‘wasn’t procured under duress’, but that the British officials would have ensured they were not present.

He added: ‘Of course we use intelligence from torture. We take it from wherever we can get it, but we are never, ever going to say “we don’t want that”. Or ask too many questions about where it has come from. It is the difference between intelligence and evidence.’

Last month, following the death of King Abdullah, Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain’s ties with Saudi Arabia – despite the country’s record on human rights.

He also said that a piece of counter-terrorism intelligence supplied by the Arab state had ‘saved potentially hundreds of lives’ in the UK, which aides have confirmed was a reference to the bomb plot.

He added: ‘Now, you can be Prime Minister and say exactly what you think about every regime in the world and make great headlines, and give great speeches.

Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’
Former MI5 head Sir John Sawers said yesterday that torture does produce ‘useful information’ and can be ‘effective in the short term’

‘But I think my first job is to try and keep this country safe from terrorism and if that means you have to build strong relationships sometimes with regimes you don’t always agree with, that I think is part of the job and that is the way I do it. And that is the best way I can explain it.’

Former spy chief Sir John, who was head of MI6 from 2009 to 2014, yesterday hit back at claims that security services played a role in the radicalisation of British jihadist Mohammed Emwazi.

Asim Qureshi, research director of Cage, claims Emwazi, who was nicknamed Jihadi John, was interrogated by MI5 and subjected to security agency harassment before becoming a militant.

But Sir John said arguments that harassment drove Emwazi to join IS were ‘very specious’.

‘The idea that somehow being spoken to by a member of MI5 is a radicalising act, I think this is very false and very transparent,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Sir John also told presenter Mishal Husain: ‘Torture had been used for “thousands of years in order to extract useful information.

‘If you decide in 2015 that it doesn’t work at all then that would be to misunderstand the problem.’

He added: ‘The whole problem about torture and maltreatment is sadly is that it does produce intelligence. And that’s why in a civilised society like ours we have to set aside certain methods, even though they might be effective in the short term. In the longer term they are very counterproductive; they are undermining the values of our society.’

By LUCY CROSSLEY FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 14:28 GMT, 1 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:32 GMT, 2 March 2015

Find this story at 1 March 2015

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Former MI5 head: Torture is ‘wrong and never justified’ (2011)

The use of torture is “wrong and never justified”, the former head of the security service MI5 has insisted.
Eliza Manningham-Buller said it should be “utterly rejected even when it may offer the prospect of saving lives”.
Giving the second of her BBC Radio Reith lectures, she acknowledged recent disclosures about alleged British intelligence operations in Libya would “raise widespread concerns”.
“No-one could justify what went on under Gaddafi’s regime,” she added.
Baroness Manningham-Buller’s lectures examine the issues of terrorism and security on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
She said that the use of torture had not made the world a safer place, adding that the use of water-boarding by the United States was a “profound mistake” and as a result America lost its “moral authority”.
Allegations have recently emerged that the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was involved in the rendition of Libyan terror suspects, following the discovery of papers suggesting close ties between MI6, the CIA and the Gaddafi regime.
Find out more

The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller’s Reith Lectures will be broadcast on Tuesday 13 September 2011 at 09:00 BST on BBC Radio 4.
Listen via the Radio 4 website
Download the Reith Lectures podcast
Explore the Reith Lectures archive
Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was director-general of the security service MI5 between 2002 and 2007, stated that she “would like to say more” on the recent allegations.
However, her position made it difficult to do so as she anticipates being called to give evidence to the Gibson Inquiry which will investigate the subject.
Sir Peter Gibson is chair of the ongoing detainee inquiry, which was set up last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate the alleged involvement in torture by UK security agencies.
A statement issued by the inquiry said it would also be considering the new allegations of UK involvement in rendition to Libya. Some of the inquiry will be held in secret to protect intelligence sources and methods.
Following the lecture, which was held in Leeds City Museum, Lady Manningham-Buller answered questions posed by members of the audience.
The Conservative MP, David Davis, asked the former MI5 head if she thought Britain’s resistance to the use of telephone intercept evidence in court had hindered the conviction rate of terrorists in the UK.
Baroness Manningham-Buller replied that MI5 had first suggested the use of intercept evidence in 1988, and she would “still like to see that happen” – but successive British governments have found the idea “procedurally difficult”.
The second of Eliza Manningham-Buller’s Reith Lectures, which is entitled Security, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 13 September.

8 September 2011

Find this story at 8 September 2011

Copyright © 2016 BBC

For American Psychological Association, National Security Trumped Torture Concerns

A new report disclosed by James Risen of the New York Times on Friday tells in greater detail than ever before the story of how members of the American Psychological Association colluded with the CIA when it came to the application of brutal interrogation techniques.

The report describes how repeated expressions of concern from within the CIA itself that psychologists had no place in the abusive treatment of detainees were brushed asided by leaders of what was supposed to be a highly ethical professional association. Psychologists with close ties to the CIA, in some cases even involving financial relationships, cited national security as the reason to ignore their fundamental oaths to do no harm.

As one example, when the CIA asked Melvin Gravitz, a long-time APA governance member and former CIA contractor, to weigh in on whether or not it was ethical for psychologists to participate in torturous interrogations in early 2003, he concluded that it was fine because ethics need to be “flexible” in the face of national security.

The report details Gravitz’s response, in a February 13, 2003 e-mail titled “Ethical Considerations in the Utilization of Psychologists in the Interrogation Process.”

Recently, some questions have been raised regarding the ethical implications of psychologists applying their skills by assisting in the interrogation process of certain persons who have been detained in the currently ongoing world-wide war against terrorism. . . .

The following comments are based upon a review of the principles of the Ethical Code as they may be relevant to certain psychological services rendered by Agency staff psychologists and contractors, all of whom are required by regulation to be licensed.622 In the interrogation of detainees, such services may include (1) acting as a consultant to officers who design and conduct interrogations, (2) acting as observers but not actually participating in the interrogations, and (3) participating in the interrogation process themselves.

The authors of the report write that “Gravitz identified a number of ethical standards that might be relevant to psychologists’ involvement in interrogations, including conflicts between ethics and law (Standard 1.02), conflicts between ethics and organizational demands (Standard 1.03), management of alleged or possible ethical violations, boundaries of competence, providing services in emergencies (Standard 2.02), bases for professional judgments (Standard 2.04),624 and cooperation with other professionals.”

Nevertheless, Gravitz concluded:

While the APA Ethics Code focuses primarily on concern for the individual (i.e., client or patient), it also recognizes that the psychologist has an obligation to the group of individuals, such as the Nation. The Ethics Code is in its essence a set of aspirations and guidelines, and these must be flexibly applied to the circumstances at hand.

The complaint Gravitz was asked to address was raised by the head of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, Terrence DeMay, in late 2002, very early in the “enhanced interrogation program.”

DeMay was not the only naysayer. Multiple CIA officers questioned the morality of involving psychologists in the interrogations over the course of several years.

CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard sent an inquiry in March 2004 to the APA Ethics Office, writing in an e-mail to the office’s director that his staff had “been discussing a problem that is experienced by both psychiatrists and psychologists alike…both specialties are being asked to provided consultation to law enforcement, the military, and other organizations that have a role in national security,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, some of what they are asked to do runs counter to [their] code of ethics.”

Andy Morgan, the CIA psychiatrist who first raised the issue with Hubbard, told the authors of the report that he was worried mental health professionals were being misled about their roles in interrogations. He said psychologists he knew working in Guantanamo Bay were “placed in roles that were different from what they had been told before deployment,” according to the report. He told the report’s authors he was worried psychologists might start becoming interrogators themselves.

Morgan’s concerns were dismissed by APA members who insisted that “the code” of ethics does not extend to matters of national security.

When CIA psychologist Kirk Kennedy also raised concerns that psychologists were involved in abusive tactics without scientific evidence of their effectiveness, his complaint was “received poorly,” according to a footnote in the report, and he decided to transfer out of the operational assessment division.

The new report was commissioned by the APA’s board, and was the result of an investigation led by David Hoffman, a lawyer with the firm Sidley Austin.

CIA torture techniques, which it called “enhanced interrogation,” included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other egregious practices, most extensively detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s December 2014 “torture report.” The APA shielded the program, and enjoyed a “harmonious working relationship” that brought them money and media attention, according to the new report.

“The military and CIA’s insensitivity to professional medical and psychological ethics continues to this day,” says Katherine Hawkins, national security fellow at OpenTheGovernment.org told The Intercept. “If the medical and psychological community wants to make real amends for clinicians’ role in the torture program, they should put serious pressure on the U.S. government to change this.”

Jenna McLaughlin
July 14 2015, 3:13 p.m.

Find this story at 14 July 2015

Copyright https://firstlook.org/

Three senior officials lose their jobs at APA after US torture scandal

American Psychological Association framed the departures of its chief executive officer, deputy CEO and communications chief as ‘retirements’ and resignations

The torture scandal consuming the US’s premiere professional association of psychologists has cost three senior officials their jobs, part of a reckoning that reformers hope will lead to criminal prosecutions.

US torture doctors could face charges after report alleges post-9/11 ‘collusion’

As the American Psychological Association copes with the damage reaped by an independent investigation that found it complicit in US torture, the group announced on Tuesday that its chief executive officer, its deputy CEO and its communications chief are no longer with the APA.

All three were implicated in the 542-page report issued this month by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, who concluded that APA leaders “colluded” with the US department of defense and aided the CIA in loosening professional ethics and other guidelines to permit psychologist participation in torture.

Despite rumors of the three oustings circulating for over a week, the APA framed the departures of longtime executive officials Norman Anderson and Michael Honaker as “retirements”. Rhea Farberman, who served as APA’s communications director for 22 years, “resigned”, the APA said in a statement.

While CEO Anderson’s retirement was scheduled before the Hoffman report was released, the APA stated: “Dr Anderson felt that moving up his retirement date to the end of 2015 would allow the association to take another step in the important process of organizational healing, and to facilitate APA’s continuing focus on its broader mission.”

Psychologist accused of enabling US torture backed by former FBI chief
Read more
Anderson, Honaker and Farberman join Stephen Behnke, the APA’s former ethics chief also implicated in torture, in the first wave of APA departures as the organization seeks to rebuild its credibility. Behnke has issued a combative statement threatening unspecified legal action.

“This is a major step toward reforming the APA and the profession,” said Stephen Soldz, a longtime APA critic on torture affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights.

“I hope it is only the beginning of change. The selection of the right CEO will be crucial.”

Soldz is part of a group pushing for the APA to refer the Hoffman report to the FBI and justice department for potential criminal inquiries. Thus far, the APA has committed to providing the report to the Senate committees overseeing the military and CIA, and a call to end all psychologist participation in US interrogation and detention operations is slated for APA consideration at a major conference next month.

Thus far, there is no indication from the justice department that it intends to revisit the politically fraught question of legal accountability for torture, which ended in 2012 without prosecutions. The defense department, which still assigns psychologists to Guantanamo Bay, has yet to comment; and the White House has stayed out of the fray.

Hoffman’s report identifies Behnke, a defense department contractor, as a chief culprit in maneuvering the APA toward loosening its opposition to torture while denying doing any such thing; and the departed APA officials as complicit.

Behnke undertook “extensive efforts to manipulate” the APA’s council of representatives “in an effort to undermine attempts to keep psychologists from being involved in national security interrogations”, Hoffman found. Other “APA officials involved with Behnke in these efforts included “Anderson, Honaker [and] Farberman”.

Nevertheless, Farberman insisted to the press that the APA had taken a consistent position against torture.

After the Guardian reported that the APA had declined to take action against a psychologist who participated in a brutal Guantanamo interpretation, Farberman told the Guardian: “A thorough review of these public materials and our standing policies will clearly demonstrate that APA will not tolerate psychologist participation in torture.”

It is unclear if the three officials are the APA’s last to leave. Barry Anton, the APA’s current president, is also listed in the “Key Players” section, as Anton is said to have “participated in the selection” of members of a critical task force on psychologist involvement in torture that was stacked with US defense department officials.

The APA will meet in Toronto beginning on 6 August for its annual convention, which former president Nadine Koslow told the Guardian she expected to be consumed with the issue of what reforms the organization must adopt in the wake of the Hoffman report.

Tuesday 14 July 2015 17.43 BST Last modified on Tuesday 14 July 2015 18.51 BST

Find this story at 14 July 2015

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Robert Jay Lifton, Author of “The Nazi Doctors”: Psychologists Who Aided Torture Should Be Charged

Robert Jay Lifton, the prominent psychiatrist famous for his study of the doctors who aided Nazi war crimes, speaks out on the role of the American Psychological Association in aiding government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A new report alleges the APA, the world’s largest group of psychologists, secretly coordinated with government officials to align its ethics policy with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. “What the APA did was a scandal within a scandal,” Lifton says. “[This] is something we have to confront as a nation.”

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. The report also reveals a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations.

AMY GOODMAN: Much of the report is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. In 2004, for example, the APA secretly took part in a meeting with officials from the CIA and other intelligence agencies to discuss ethics and national security.

Still with us, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, leading American psychiatrist who has spoken out against the APA’s practices. So, the American Psychological Association has about 150,000 members, the largest association in the world. That’s the APA. The little APA is the American Psychiatric Association, which I assume you’re a part of. Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, your thoughts on what the APA did?

ROBERT JAY LIFTON: What the APA did—and I read that report—is what I call a scandal within a scandal. That is, I have been much concerned with the behavior of professionals and their ethics, not just in terms of how they conduct their everyday profession—that’s important enough—but their relationship to the world ethically. I became interested in this in working with veterans of the Vietnam War. And in that war, military psychiatrists would be in a position, when examining a soldier who was brought to them with anxiety and a sense of outrage at what was going on—would be in the position of helping that soldier to be strong enough to return to duty, which meant daily atrocities. And I asked myself, how did a psychiatrist find himself in that situation? And it had to do with a military structure of medicine and with the psychiatrist entering into what I called an atrocity-producing situation. In my work with Nazi doctors, it was even, of course, much more extreme, probably the most extreme example of any profession of any country engaging in extremely immoral behavior, engaging directly in killing, because Nazi physicians were in charge of the killing in Auschwitz. And that’s what I studied in that research. But, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: What’s interesting, both Nermeen and I saw you speak last night on a very different issue, on the Armenian genocide, and you talked about the significance of Dr. Josef Mengele dying without acknowledging what he did.

ROBERT JAY LIFTON: Yes, when Mengele, who was a notorious fanatical Nazi, quite unusual in that way among doctors, was found to be dead in a lake in Argentina, survivors of Auschwitz were upset that there wasn’t the opportunity to bring him to the dock so that he could confront his crimes. It wasn’t so much a desire for revenge as it was for justice. So I mentioned that survivors of holocaust or genocide, or survivors in general, are what can be called collectors of justice. They need a sense of justice for their own healing.

But now, here we have American psychologists. There were psychiatrists involved early also in the enhanced interrogation, which spilled over into torture in American use. Fortunately, American Psychiatric Association had slightly more enlightened leadership, and we had the advantage of doctors’ Hippocratic Oath, which is “do no harm,” and there could be developed a resolution prohibiting any physician, any psychiatrist, from being in the interrogation room. The American Psychological Association took an opposite tendency. It’s one thing—and there were a couple of psychologists, who are well known, who helped create the torture and the whole psychological regimen for the torture, crudely and very unscientifically, but with the claim of psychological science. It’s still another level when the professional organization supports torture by meeting with the administration and those people who were looking for some legitimation coming from a professional group for torture. And that’s what the American Psychological Association did.

And that’s all too reminiscent of what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung. I’m not saying they’re Nazis. We’re not Nazis. We’re still a sufficiently open society to confront this, criticize it and do something about it. But with the Nazis, there was this process of Gleichschaltung, meaning reordering or re-gearing all professional organizations, not destroying them, but breaking them down and reconstructing them to serve the Nazi project. That’s the kind of thing we must and can confront and avoid here.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last December, psychologist James Mitchell, who was contracted by the CIA while still a member of the American Psychological Association to design its interrogation program, appeared on Fox News to talk about his role in the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. He was interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

MEGYN KELLY: So you—were you the one actually conducting the techniques on Abu Zubaydah, or were you in more of a sort of background role?
JAMES MITCHELL: It depends on when you’re talking about. Initially, I was in a background role. Then, after we shut down and the enhanced interrogations were approved, I was in an administration role.
MEGYN KELLY: OK, so did you personally waterboard him?
JAMES MITCHELL: Yes.
MEGYN KELLY: We’re going to get to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a minute, but sticking with Abu Zubaydah for now, were all of the methods that were cited in the Senate report employed, like nudity, standing sleep deprivation, the attention grab, the insult slap? Were those all used?
JAMES MITCHELL: The ones you mentioned were used.
MEGYN KELLY: The facial grab, the abdominal slap, the kneeling stress position, walling?
JAMES MITCHELL: Walling was used. The others—if they showed up on the list, they were used. We didn’t typically use a lot of those stress positions. We didn’t use any stress positions with Abu Zubaydah, because he had an injury.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was psychologist James Mitchell speaking on Fox News last December. He was the psychologist who was asked by the CIA to design its interrogation program. Could you talk about that, Dr. Lifton? And in particular, in the context of what you called earlier an atrocity-producing situation, what enabled this to occur?

ROBERT JAY LIFTON: Professionals are as prone to being socialized to the norm of a group, including being socialized to evil, as are any other groups in American society. What that means is that psychologists, in this case—and there are others from other professions—internalize what is considered to be acceptable and appropriate for them in carrying out their profession. So, torture exists. There is the nod from the administration: Go ahead with torture. And psychologists then adapt to that and, in this case, become not just participants in torture, but the creators of the methods of torture.

That’s a shocking clip because it shows him kind of slightly reluctantly admitting that they do all those things. Of course, it’s denied that they’re torture, and that’s absurd. They’re out-and-out torture. But the fact that they’ll come on a network program and describe it as something legitimate is another level of scandal. After all, torture has been conducted, you know, from the time of the beginning of history. It’s always been seen, and especially in recent centuries, as something evil. You can judge a society as to whether it engages in torture. You condemn a society that engages in torture.

In our case, looking at the sequence, one can praise the Obama administration for ending that torture, but one must criticize the Obama administration for blocking any examination or confrontation of our role in torture. You showed an interesting clip about the city of Chicago confronting and at least recognizing that the police had engaged in torture of certain suspects. Well, that doesn’t undo what they did, but it’s a step toward some kind of ethical advance. And for the United States to have engaged in torture on such a widespread dimension, to have legitimated it among professionals like psychologists, for psychologists and others to have created and participated in it, is something that we have to confront, as a nation, to move ahead in something like an ethical way.

AMY GOODMAN: And when you talk about confronting, what exactly do you mean? You’ve just given a psychological, sociological explanation, understanding. For example, James Mitchell, or Mitchell and Jessen, the company of two psychologists that Pentagon funneled money into, not to mention other psychologists who didn’t even work for them, working at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, but should they be brought up on charges?

ROBERT JAY LIFTON: Of course they should. There are many situations that I can probe psychologically, or psychohistorically, as we say, but have to be approached politically for some kind of resolution, and this is an example of that. A proper confrontation of what we did would mean a real investigation that didn’t stop as we got to the top. Yes, of course, the order for torture being acceptable and advised comes from above, comes from the highest sources in the administration. That has to be uncovered by an investigation, and there has to be a legal context. Whether or not everybody who participated in torture is in some way condemned and put to jail, I don’t know. But at minimum, there must be a confrontation and revelation of what was done, who did it, what the consequences were and how to prevent it in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of this comment by CIA psychologist—former CIA psychologist Kirk Hubbard, who served as the CIA’s chief of operations of the Operational Assessment Division before he joined Mitchell Jessen and Associates? In 2012, Hubbard told the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, quote, “Detainees are not patients nor are they being ‘treated’ by the psychologists. Therefore the ethical guidelines for clinicians do not apply, in my opinion. Psychologists can play many different roles and should not be forced into a narrow doctor-patient role.” Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, your response?

ROBERT JAY LIFTON: What you’ve heard, what you just recited, is a rationalization for torture and for destructive behavior on the part of professionals. All professions require some sort of ethical code, as I said before, not just in everyday practice, but in what they do in society. And to weasel out of any such ethical requirement because one is dealing not with patients, but with prisoners—and, of course, that administration didn’t even give them prisoner rights, according to Geneva Conventions—to do that is simply a rationalization for destructive or even evil behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a leading American psychiatrist, author of many books, including Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir. We’ll be back with him, talking about a number of issues, including another of his books, Who Owns Death?: Capital Punishment, the American Conscience, and the End of Executions—Prosecutors, Judges, Jurors, Wardens, and the American Public in Conflict. Stay with us.

THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2015

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Outside Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report.

The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

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Psychologists and ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation
A 542-page report concludes that prominent psychologists worked closely with the C.I.A. to blunt dissent inside the agency over an interrogation program that is now known to have included torture. It also finds that officials at the American Psychological Association colluded with the Pentagon to make sure the association’s ethics policies did not hinder the ability of psychologists to be involved in the interrogation program.

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The association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public,” the report said.

Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program, it said.

The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board. Mr. Behnke did not respond to a request for comment.

The report, which was obtained by The New York Times and has not previously been made public, is the result of a seven-month investigation by a team led by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer with the firm Sidley Austin at the request of the psychology association’s board.

After the Hoffman report was made public on Friday, the American Psychological Association issued an apology.

“The actions, policies and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” Nadine Kaslow, a former president of the organization, said in a statement. “We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the consequences that ensued.”

The association said it was considering proposals to prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations and to modify its ethics policies, among other changes.

The involvement of psychologists in the interrogation programs has been a source of contention within the profession for years. Another report, issued in April by several critics of the association, came to similar conclusions. But Mr. Hoffman’s report is by far the most detailed look yet into the crucial roles played by behavioral scientists, especially top officials at the American Psychological Association and some of the most prominent figures in the profession, in the interrogation programs. It also shows that the collaboration was much more extensive than was previously known.

A report last December by the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed the brutality of some of the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods, but by focusing on the role of psychologists, Mr. Hoffman’s report provides new details, and can be seen as a companion to the Senate report.

The C.I.A. and the Pentagon both conducted harsh interrogations during the administration of President George W. Bush, although the C.I.A.’s program included more brutal tactics. Some of them, like the simulated drowning technique called waterboarding, are now widely regarded as torture. The agency’s interrogations were done at so-called black site prisons around the world where prisoners were held secretly for years.

The report found that while some prominent psychologists collaborated with C.I.A. officials in ways that aided the agency’s interrogation program, the American Psychological Association and its staff members focused more on working with the Pentagon, with which the association has long had strong ties.

Indeed, the report said that senior officials of the association had “colluded” with senior Defense Department officials to make certain that the association’s ethics rules did not hinder the ability of psychologists to remain involved with the interrogation program.

The report’s most immediate impact will be felt at the association, where it has been presented to the board and its members’ council. The board met last week to discuss the report and is expected to act on its findings soon. The association has since renounced 2005 ethics guidelines that allowed psychologists to stay involved in the harsh interrogations, but several staff members who were named in the report have remained at the organization.

A C.I.A. spokesman said that agency officials had not seen it and so could not comment.

Dissent began building within the C.I.A. against the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques not long after its interrogation program began.

In about late 2002, the head of the C.I.A.’s Office of Medical Services, Terrence DeMay, started to complain about the involvement in the program of James Mitchell, a psychologist and instructor at the Air Force’s SERE (survival, evasion, rescue and escape) program, in which United States military personnel are subjected to simulated torture to gird them for possible capture. Mr. Mitchell had also served as a consultant to the C.I.A. advisory committee that included two former presidents of the psychological association.

One unidentified witness was quoted in the Hoffman report as saying that doctors and psychologists in the C.I.A.’s Office of Medical Services “were not on board with what was going on regarding interrogations, and felt that they were being cut out of the discussion.” One leading C.I.A. psychologist told investigators that Mr. DeMay “was berating Jim Mitchell about being involved in the interrogation program,” and that Mr. DeMay’s objections “related to the involvement of psychologists as professionals adept at human behavior and manipulation.”

Mr. DeMay’s complaints “led to a substantial dispute within the C.I.A.,” according to the report, and prompted the head of the agency’s counterterrorism center to seek an opinion from a prominent outside psychologist on whether it was ethical for psychologists to continue to participate in the C.I.A.’s interrogations.

The C.I.A. chose Mel Gravitz, a prominent psychologist who was also a member of the agency’s advisory committee. In early 2003, Mr. Gravitz wrote an opinion that persuaded the chief of the agency’s counterterrorism center that Mr. Mitchell could continue to participate in and support interrogations, according to the Hoffman report.

Mr. Gravitz’s opinion, which the Hoffman report quotes, noted that “the psychologist has an obligation to (a) group of individuals, such as the nation,” and that the ethics code “must be flexible [sic] applied to the circumstances at hand.”

But ethical concerns persisted at the C.I.A. In March 2004, other agency insiders emailed the psychological association to say they were worried that psychologists were assisting with interrogations in ways that contradicted the association’s ethics code.

One of those who contacted the association was Charles Morgan, a C.I.A. contractor and psychiatrist who had studied military personnel who went through the SERE program’s simulated torture training, research that showed that the techniques used on them could not be used to collect accurate information.

Another, oddly, was Kirk Hubbard, a C.I.A. psychologist who was chairman of the agency advisory committee that included two former association presidents and on which Mr. Mitchell was a consultant. Mr. Hubbard told the Hoffman investigators that he did not have concerns about the participation of psychologists in the interrogation program, but emailed the association because he had been asked to pass on the concerns of other behavioral scientists inside the agency.

The ethical concerns raised by Mr. Morgan and others inside the C.I.A. led to a confidential meeting in July 2004 at the psychological association of about 15 behavioral scientists who worked for national security agencies. This was followed by the creation of an association task force to study the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in interrogations.

But association and government officials filled the task force with national security insiders, and it concluded in 2005 that it was fine for psychologists to remain involved, the report found.

The report provides new details about how Mr. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, another SERE trainer who would later go into business with Mr. Mitchell, gained entree to the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which hired them to create and run the interrogation program. After Mr. Mitchell worked as a consultant to the C.I.A. advisory committee, Mr. Hubbard introduced Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen to Jim Cotsana, the chief of special missions in the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center.

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen were later hired as contractors for the counterterrorism center, where they helped create the interrogation program by adapting the simulated torture techniques from the SERE program, using them against detainees.

Separately, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the psychological association who was a member of the C.I.A. advisory committee, was asked by Mr. Hubbard to provide an opinion about whether sleep deprivation constituted torture. Mr. Matarazzo concluded that it was not torture, according to the report.

Later, Mr. Matarazzo became a 1 percent owner of a unit of Mitchell Jessen and Associates, the contracting company Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen created to handle their work with the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Mr. Matarazzo was also listed as a partner of the company in a 2008 annual report, according to the Hoffman report.

Mr. Matarazzo said he had not read the report and could not comment.

Mr. Hubbard, after he retired from the C.I.A., also did some work for Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

The report reaches unsparing conclusions about the close relationship between some association officials and officials at the Pentagon.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that A.P.A. officials colluded with D.O.D. officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain A.P.A. ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the guidelines that key D.O.D. officials wanted,” the report says, adding, “A.P.A. chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping D.O.D., managing its P.R., and maximizing the growth of the profession.”

By JAMES RISENJULY 10, 2015

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Emails Show American Psychological Association Secretly Worked with Bush Admin to Enable Torture

New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. Much of the report, “All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program,” is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. The report also reveals Susan Brandon, a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush, secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations. We are joined by two of the report’s co-authors: Dr. Steven Reisner, a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and member of the APA Council of Representatives, and Nathaniel Raymond, director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: New details have emerged on how the American Psychological Association, the world’s largest group of psychologists, aided government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush. A group of dissident psychologists have just published a 60-page report alleging the APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House and the Pentagon to change the APA ethics policy to align it with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program. The report also reveals a behavioral science researcher working for President Bush secretly drafted language that the APA inserted into its ethics policy on interrogations.

Much of the report is based on hundreds of newly released internal APA emails from 2003 to 2006 that show top officials were in direct communication with the CIA. In 2004, for example, the APA secretly took part in a meeting with officials from the CIA and other intelligence agencies to discuss ethics and national security. In one email, the APA stated that the aim of the meeting was, quote, “to take a forward looking, positive approach, in which we convey a sensitivity to and appreciation of the important work mental health professionals are doing in the national security arena, and in a supportive way offer our assistance in helping them navigate through thorny ethical dilemmas,” unquote.

One attendee was Kirk Hubbard, then the chief of operations for the CIA Operational Assessment Division. He would later leave the CIA to work for the private firm set up by James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who were hired as private contractors to set up the CIA interrogation program including the waterboarding of prisoners. In one 2003 email, Hubbard wrote to a top APA official, quote, “You won’t get any feedback from [Dr. James] Mitchell or Jessen. They are doing special things to special people in special places, and generally are not available,” unquote. While the APA has attempted to distance itself from Mitchell and Jessen, the newly disclosed emails show the men attended a 2003 invite-only conference called “The Science of Deception,” sponsored by the APA, the CIA and RAND Corporation, to discuss so-called enhanced interrogations.

We’re joined now by two of the co-authors of the new report, “All the President’s Psychologists: The American Psychological Association’s Secret Complicity with the White House and US Intelligence Community in Support of the CIA’s ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program.” Steven Reisner is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. He’s a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and adviser on psychology and ethics for Physicians for Human Rights. He’s currently a member of the APA Council of Representatives. Nathaniel Raymond is director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

We did invite a representative from the APA to join us, as well, but they declined. Last year, the APA commissioned an outside attorney named David Hoffman to conduct a third-party, independent review of the allegations about the APA and the Bush administration torture program. Rhea Farberman, the APA’s executive director for Public and Member Communications, told Democracy Now! the APA won’t respond to the allegations in the “All the President’s Psychologists” report until Hoffman’s review is completed.

Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond, welcome back to Democracy Now! OK, Nathaniel Raymond, why don’t you lay out the core findings in your 60-page report?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: There are four core findings. The first is that the American Psychological Association allowed, as you mentioned, Dr. Susan Brandon, it appears, who, three weeks before the APA engaged in its ethics process in 2005 on psychological ethics and national security, had been president Bush’s behavioral science adviser—she wrote what appears to be research language in the PENS report, the Psychological Ethics and National Security policy of the APA. That language, we now know because of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, directly aligns with the legal memos authorizing the enhanced interrogation program, and provided an ethical get-out-of-jail-free card that aligned with the then-classified legal get-of-jail-free card.

Secondly, we see clear deception by the APA, including some outright lies, including the assertion for many years that James Mitchell, the CIA torture psychologist you mentioned, had not been an APA member. We now know he was an APA member from 2001 to 2006. And the APA has also contended, according to Dr. Stephen Behnke, the ethics director, that they had had no contact on interrogations and interrogation techniques with Mitchell and Jessen. We now know that they discussed sensory overload and the use of psychopharmacological agents with Mitchell and Jessen in 2003.

The last two critical findings, Amy, are that the APA, as we see throughout the emails, expressed no concern about clear evidence of abuse that at that point, between 2004 in 2005, was public knowledge. And lastly, what we see in this report is a clear coordination that directly mirrors the timeline inside the Bush administration when Office of Medical Services personnel inside the CIA were raising concerns about human subjects research as part of the program. The APA, whether they knew it or not, allowed the administration to write a policy that basically helped put down that rebellion inside CIA.

AMY GOODMAN: How?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: By allowing psychologists to play a critical monitoring and research role, that was at the heart of the newly—then newly authorized Bradbury Office of Legal Counsel memo. If psychologists couldn’t ethically play this role, if the APA had not engaged in this policy, it is highly likely that the interrogation program itself would have disintegrated.

AMY GOODMAN: You ran, Steven Reisner, for president of the American Psychological Association. Your main platform was speaking out against torture and APA’s involvement with the Bush administration. You didn’t win. Talk about what this means for the American Psychological Association.

STEVEN REISNER: Well, I think the issue is what this means for the entire profession of psychologists and the fact that we are represented by the American Psychological Association, because I think that what we’re finding is that psychologists are feeling betrayed by our association. What has happened is that the ethics code that we are all trained in, that we align ourselves with and that gives us our identity as health professionals dedicated to the public good, that ethics code and ethics policy was twisted to align—not only to align with what the government needed it to do, but in the service of torture. It is a betrayal of what I think we all are expecting from and try to identify with from our association. So, what has to happen right now is that we’ve got to—the membership, the council, any concerned American has to insist that we reclaim our association, put it back on an ethical track, and find a way to expose this, be accountable for it, be transparent about it and make significant change so that we can restore trust.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go into detail on what the APA knew and when they knew it with Dr. Steven Reisner and Nathaniel Raymond, co-authors of the new report, “All the President’s Psychologists,” in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about a new report that has just come out on the American Psychological Association’s involvement with the Bush administration’s so-called enhanced interrogation program. In 2005, Stephen Behnke, the director of ethics at the American Psychological Association, then and now, appeared on Democracy Now!

STEPHEN BEHNKE: I don’t have firsthand knowledge of what went on at Guantánamo. I know that the APA very much wants the facts, and that when APA has the facts, we will act on those facts.
AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Behnke appeared on the show in a debate with Michael Wilks, chair of the medical ethics committee at the British Medical Association. Dr. Behnke went on to defend the APA’s actions.

STEPHEN BEHNKE: In all fairness, the American Psychological Association is very clear that under no circumstances is it in any manner permissible for a psychologist to engage in, to support, to facilitate, to direct or to advise torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued a joint statement against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in 1985. In 1986, the American Psychological Association issued another resolution against torture. So, to even suggest that that would in any manner be permissible is completely out of bounds.
MICHAEL WILKS: Might I ask a direct question, because I’m really interested to know? Could I ask why the APA’s presidential report then specifically recommends that psychologists should be involved in research into interrogation techniques?
STEPHEN BEHNKE: Well, as I have—as I have said, psychologists have been working together with law enforcement for many years domestically in information gathering and interrogation processes. We believe that as experts in human behavior, psychologists have valuable contributions to make to those activities.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. Stephen Behnke on Democracy Now! in 2005. Our guests now are Dr. Steven Reisner, a member of the American Psychological Association, and Nathaniel Raymond. They both co-authored the new report, “All the President’s Psychologists.” Nathaniel Raymond, can you respond to what Dr. Behnke said?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, what we now know, by reading the American Psychological Association’s emails, is that Dr. Behnke’s assertion in 2005 of “bring us the facts, and we will respond” directly contradicts his own words to the Operational Assessment Division of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2004, where he basically says, “We are not going to investigate,” in the context of the secret meeting they had, almost to the—basically, to the day that the White House was reauthorizing the enhanced interrogation program—”We’re not going to investigate any claims of abuse or any charges made at that meeting.” That directly contradicts what he said on Democracy Now!

Second is his continued assertion that somehow the American Psychiatric Association, which endorsed in 2006 a clear ban on participation in all interrogations, direct participation by psychiatrists, is analogous to the APA position, is entirely specious. The fact of the matter is, is the American Psychological Association position in that PENS report, that we now know was the direct result of coordination with the intelligence community and, in some cases, elements of that community writing language in the report, critical research language, is—it is entirely different to look at the APA position and the American Psychological Association position for one reason. The American Psychological Association based its policy on U.S. definitions of torture at that time, which we now know from the declassified Office of Legal Counsel memos had an entirely different view of what constituted, quote, “torture” and what constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. So, saying that those positions are the same is just not the facts.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what changed.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: What changed is—there was two periods of change. The first is immediately after 9/11. We have evidence in the public record that the American Psychological Association changed a large portion of its ethics code related to research, and basically it wrote out international and domestic protections on consent for human subjects research. We know, by different names, some of those protections, such as the Nuremberg Code and the Common Rule. They allowed for the revocation of consent when consistent with a lawful order or regulation.

That then combined with the second set of changes, which is the 2005 PENS report. The Psychological Ethics and National Security Task Force report then not only allows, but exhorts psychologists to have a research role in not only interrogations, but—this is the key sentence, Amy—in determining what constitutes cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment. Now, last time I checked, psychologists were not lawyers. This is outside the professional competency of psychologists to make a legal determination based on research. The question is, why were they being asked to do that, in language that we now know from the emails appears to have been written by a White House—former White House official? The fact of the matter is, that’s exactly what the Bradbury memos, that were then protecting the Bush administration from potential torture charges, required. And that’s exactly the concern that was being raised by the Office of the Inspector General internally at CIA, we now know from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. So that one sentence about research into what constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment positioned psychologists to be the legal heat shield for the president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Reisner?

STEVEN REISNER: Well, we listened to Dr. Behnke say that the APA is opposed to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the very moment when they are writing into our ethics code a policy that permits psychologists’ very presence at those sites, researching, overseeing and monitoring, that the psychologists being there is what makes it fall outside the definition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment concocted by the Justice Department in order to legally allow the torture. So what we have is a working together between the psychologists, the American Psychological Association, the CIA and the White House to create a cover story that says that torture is not torture, that it’s not legally torture under these rules. And while Dr. Behnke is claiming that psychologists don’t torture, psychologists are in fact torturing, and the APA seems to know it, according to these emails and according to what was in the press. But so what he’s doing is he’s parsing the facts and funneling it through a bent and distorted APA ethics code that has been changed simply to allow that program to continue.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read another one of the newly disclosed emails. This is from Dr. Geoff Mumford, director of science policy at the APA, to CIA psychologist Dr. Kirk Hubbard, who was then chief of operations for the CIA Operational Assessment Division. Dr. Mumford writes, quote, “I thought you and many of those copied here would be interested to know that APA grabbed the bull by the horns and released this [Psychological Ethics and National Security] Task Force Report today.” The PENS Task Force. “I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution … in getting this effort off the ground over a year ago. Your views were well represented by very carefully selected Task Force members,” unquote.

In another email from 2005, the APA’s Dr. Geoff Mumford admitted former White House adviser Susan Brandon, who was then at the National Institute of Mental Health, helped craft language for the PENS report. Mumford wrote, quote, “Susan serving as an Observer (note she has returned to NIMH, at least temporarily) helped craft some language related to research and I hope we can take advantage of the reorganization of the National Intelligence Program, with its new emphasis on human intelligence, to find a welcoming home for more psychological science.”

OK, Nathaniel Raymond, talk about who Mumford is. Talk about also the significance of the Susan they are referring to, Susan Brandon, and her position today.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, Geoff Mumford, then and now, was executive director and is executive director of science policy at the American Psychological Association. And while he is one of the most prominent officials in these emails, I want to make clear he’s not the only one. We also see Rhea Farberman, the spokeswoman who denied any coordination between the APA and the Bush administration in James Risen’s New York Times story. We see Steve Behnke. And we also see—and this is new to our report—that the deputy CEO, Michael Honaker, deputy CEO of APA, was also CCed on one of the emails about the secret 2004 meeting.

Dr. Brandon, then, was, as you described, at NIMH. She served in a variety of roles.

AMY GOODMAN: National Institute of Mental Health.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yeah, National Institutes of Mental Health. And she served in a variety of roles in the Department of Defense and elsewhere. But she also had been, during the time of the planning of the 2003 conference that Mitchell and Jessen attended, an APA employee, previously. Now she is the chief scientist of the High-Value Interrogation Group of the FBI. And in that role, she is basically the senior interrogation research scientist in the U.S. government. And thus, the High-Value Interrogation Group, which advises the National Security Council at the White House, is the leading interrogation group in the intelligence community. What we’ve seen in the—

AMY GOODMAN: She’s head of it now. She’s heading it now.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: She’s head of it right now. And I think that’s something that’s been missed in the coverage so far, is that this is not just about what happened five years ago. It is about a currently serving Obama administration official. And I want to say that Mark Fallon, the former assistant deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, came out—

AMY GOODMAN: NCIS.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: NCIS—came out a few days ago calling for an independent prosecutor in these matters, including the issues raised in our report. He is serving as chair of an advisory group to the High-Value Interrogation Group. So I want to make a point here that we have master interrogators, people who are affiliated with the current interrogation group, who are raising real concerns about the allegations in our report and are saying this isn’t old news. This has direct implications for accountability on these matters, involving, in this case, a current administration official.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2007, psychologist Jean Maria Arrigo stood on the dais before a standing-room-only crowd at the annual American Psychological Association meeting in California. This came two years after she participated in an APA panel known as the PENS Task Force, that we’ve referred to today, that concluded psychologists working in interrogations play a, quote, “valuable and ethical role.” Dr. Arrigo criticized the findings and makeup of the panel she was on.

JEAN MARIA ARRIGO: Six of the 10 members were highly placed in the Department of Defense, as contractors and military officers. For example, one was the commander of all military psychologists. Their positions on two key items of controversy in the PENS report were predetermined by their DOD employment, in spite of the apparent ambivalence of some. These key items were: (a) the permissive definition of torture in U.S. law versus the strict definition in international law, and, second, participation of military psychologists in interrogation settings versus nonparticipation. Those are the two principal issues. And because of their employment, they have to decide the way they do.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Jean Arrigo. Talk about the significance of what she was saying. Democracy Now! was there covering these meetings as the APA even tried to cut down public access to the public parts of the meeting. But, Dr. Steve Reisner, she served on the PENS committee.

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right. She served, believing that it was a committee that—of interested and knowledgeable psychologists to actually review ethics policy and national security. What she found was that the task force seemed to have a predetermined agenda, that the members of the task force were involved in the very commands that were implicated in the abuse, and that the majority of the conclusions seemed to have already been drawn before they began. It was a guided operation.

AMY GOODMAN: She attempted to take notes during the meeting, is that right?

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right, and she was asked not to, which is totally bizarre for a meeting that is trying to generate a new policy. She was taking notes. She was participating as if it was a regular meeting. It turned out that the meeting was a meeting of, as the emails reveal, carefully selected members. And that email was to Kirk Hubbard. The members were carefully selected in order, it seems, to guarantee what the CIA and the White House needed from that meeting. And that’s what Jean Maria realized and what she’s talking about in that—on that panel.

AMY GOODMAN: She talked about having a meeting for a few hours and then being handed the resolution of the committee—

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: —before she had even weighed in.

STEVEN REISNER: That’s right. The drafts came fast and furious. This meeting lasted two-and-a-half days. And then the very final draft, where they added the piece on research, that came between the end of the meeting and, I would—and just, you know, 12, 24 hours later. The final rewritten version was sent to the members for them to just give their OK. It was whirlwind. They were told that this had to go to the Pentagon, it had to go to the White House. It was hurried, and there was very little room for critique.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Nathaniel Raymond, who do we now know wrote these drafts?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, we know from the PENS listserv and from Jean Maria Arrigo herself and others that Dr. Stephen Behnke was responsible for being the keeper of the draft and, during lunch breaks and in the evenings, wrote the language in the report.

But that’s not the whole story. From what we see in the emails, as you mentioned, Dr. Brandon’s avowed role by Dr. Mumford in the research piece raises the broader question of: Who were the observers in the room, and how did they get there? What we see from the PENS listserv, the listserv of this task force that Jean Maria Arrigo has helped the world to see, that listserv shows that Dr. Gerald Koocher and Dr. Barry Anton, who is the current president right now of the APA, was responsible for approving the observers in the room. We now know that one of those observers was a senior administration official who had never— and still now never—been publicly acknowledged by the APA as having been in the room. So it’s not just who was writing the report, who was Dr. Behnke; it was who put those other people secretly in the room. And we now know it was Drs. Anton and Koocher, according to the listserv.

AMY GOODMAN: Why were psychologists so important to this whole process? I mean, what was happening with the psychiatrists of the United States? What was happening with other physicians?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: This is where it can get complicated sometimes, and I want to try to express this as clearly as possible. In the enhanced interrogation program, you had two roles for health professionals, and these roles were conjoined. Role one was actually designing and implementing the tactics. And that’s what James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen did. The second role is this monitoring and indemnification role, to say that we have not crossed this threshold of severe and long-lasting harm. Now, that role changes throughout the program. It begins with Yoo-Bybee making sure that a line hasn’t been crossed. But by the time we get to—

AMY GOODMAN: Bybee now being a federal judge. Explain his role.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yeah, he was assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. And John Yoo worked for him in that office, and he was responsible for primarily crafting the first torture memo.

AMY GOODMAN: Now at the University of California, Berkeley, law school.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yes, at Boalt Hall. And now we move forward in time. And so, what we can see in these emails is that at the time the APA was really working hard—its engine was going overdrive on these issues between 2004 and 2005—in direct contact with the CIA, you have another process going on, which is the creation of that new legal authorization that we now know George Tenet asked for upon his resignation. And that’s what we call the Bradbury memo. In that memo, there is a significantly changed role for this second group of health professionals, putting Mitchell and Jessen aside: the monitors, the researchers. And it moves from them determining whether you crossed the line to determining the line. And to determine the line, that required research. And so, we see in the Bradbury memos very clearly, as we documented in the Physicians for Human Rights report, “Experiments in Torture,” in 2010, is that they were having to look at the effect of the tactics to the whole detainee population over years and determine what the line was, because there was no clinical literature on torture.

AMY GOODMAN: Last December, psychologist James Mitchell, who was contracted by the CIA to design its interrogation program, appeared on Fox News to talk about his role in the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. He was interviewed by Megyn Kelly.

JAMES MITCHELL: Zubaydah shut down. And they asked me to come back to the campus. And it was clear to me, when I was at the campus listening to what people were saying, that there was so much pressure about trying to head off this second wave that was coming, that they were going to use some kind of physical coercion. And so, I have been—spent a lot of time in the Air Force SERE school, and I see what happens when people sort of make stuff up on the fly. And in the course of the conversations, I said, “If you’re going to use physical coercion—not that you should use physical coercion, but if you’re going to use physical coercion—then you should use physical coercion that has been demonstrated over 50 years not to produce the kinds of injuries we would like to avoid.
MEGYN KELLY: OK. So you—were you the one actually conducting the techniques on Abu Zubaydah, or were you in more of a sort of background role?
JAMES MITCHELL: It depends on when you’re talking about. Initially, I was in a background role. Then, after we shut down and the enhanced interrogations were approved, I was in an administration role.
MEGYN KELLY: OK, so did you personally waterboard him?
JAMES MITCHELL: Yes.
MEGYN KELLY: We’re going to get to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a minute, but sticking with Abu Zubaydah for now, were all of the methods that were cited in the Senate report employed, like nudity, standing sleep deprivation, the attention grab, the insult slap? Were those all used?
JAMES MITCHELL: The ones you mentioned were used.
MEGYN KELLY: The facial grab, the abdominal slap, the kneeling stress position, walling?
JAMES MITCHELL: Walling was used. The others—if they showed up on the list, they were used. We didn’t typically use a lot of those stress positions. We didn’t use any stress positions with Abu Zubaydah, because he had an injury.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s psychologist James Mitchell, who was in the APA from 2001 to 2006, admitting on Fox News that he waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, the prisoner. Dr. Steve Reisner, we are wrapping up right now. Your response to Mitchell?

STEVEN REISNER: Well, this was—this is chilling to listen to the description of a psychologist dedicated to the public good and individual well-being talking about destroying a prisoner’s mind and body. And it was chilling to the medical professionals in the CIA, who were pushing back. It was chilling to the inspector general, who was pushing back. The program was shut down. And just at that moment when the program was shut down, the Office of Legal Counsel, the White House, some members of the CIA and the American Psychological Association appear to have all worked together to revive that program and to find the rationale for psychologists to be able to help that program continue.

AMY GOODMAN: So what are you looking for now? What is the next step that’s taking place right now with the American Psychological Association, Nathaniel?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, as we heard from Senator Feinstein when James Risen’s article came out last week, there’s clear congressional interest in what happens next. And she said in her statement that she is looking forward to the results of the Hoffman investigation, the independent review of alleged collusion between—

AMY GOODMAN: Now, is this independent? He has been hired by the American Psychological Association?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Yes, it is called by the APA the independent review. Dr. Reisner and I and our co-authors have met extensively with David Hoffman, and obviously the proof will be in the pudding when the report is released. But right now, the next step—

AMY GOODMAN: Did the APA say they will release the report?

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: Well, this is a big issue, Amy, is the APA has said that the board will review it and, after it reviews it, will release it. And as we’ve been calling for, they need to release it to the public right now. When you have Senator Feinstein saying she wants to see this report, there cannot be a half-step before it goes to the public. The key issue now is to put pressure on the American Psychological Association to release the report to the public as soon as it is completed.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to what Kirk Hubbard said, the former CIA psychologist, who in a 2012 interview with the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment said that “Detainees are not patients, nor are they being ‘treated’ by the psychologists. Therefore the ethical guidelines for clinicians do not apply, in my opinion. Psychologists can play many different roles and should not be forced into a narrow doctor-patient role.”

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: The Declaration of Helsinki and the Declaration of Tokyo, the Nuremberg Code, U.S. law, the Geneva Conventions are not based on whether someone’s a patient. It’s based on whether someone’s a human being. And the fact of the matter is that those codes were mangled and, in some cases, written out of what the APA did. So the issue is not about doctor-patient relationship here. It is about war crimes and about crimes against humanity, which are not contingent on someone being your patient.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Nathaniel Raymond and Dr. Steven Reisner are co-authors of the new report, “All the President’s Psychologists.” We will link to it at democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015

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Psychologists met in secret with Bush officials to help justify torture – report

Newly disclosed emails reveal American Psychological Association coordinated with officials in CIA and White House to help ethically justify detainee program

The leading American professional group for psychologists secretly worked with the Bush administration to help justify the post-9/11 US detainee torture program, according to a watchdog analysis released on Thursday.

The report, written by six leading health professionals and human rights activists, is the first to examine the alleged complicity of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the “enhanced interrogation” program.

Based on an analysis of more than 600 newly disclosed emails, the report found that the APA coordinated with Bush-era government officials – namely in the CIA, White House and Department of Defense – to help ethically justify the interrogation policy in 2004 and 2005, when the program came under increased scrutiny for prisoner abuse by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A series of clandestine meetings with US officials led to the creation of “an APA ethics policy in national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors found.

The APA is the largest organization representing psychologists in the US, with more than 122,500 members. That mental health professionals – let alone members of the APA itself – played any role in the justification or enhancement of the interrogation program undoubtedly lent the program an air of legitimacy, if even behind closed doors.

In secret opinions, the US Department of Justice argued that the torture program did not constitute torture and was therefore legal, since they were being monitored by medical professionals.

A spokeswoman for the APA denied that the group had coordinated its actions with the government, in a statement to the New York Times. There “has never been any coordination between the APA and the Bush administration on how APA responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program”, Rhea Farberman said.

The US paid torture doctors millions. Why is it last in the world in punishing them?
Dr Steven Miles
Read more
However, the report details a meeting in July 2004 – as images from Abu Ghraib stirred international outrage – at which the APA invited psychologists “directly involved in the CIA’s ‘enhanced’ interrogation program” to meet with the APA’s ethics office regarding the organization’s ethics policies. The meeting came on the heels of a secret order – signed one month prior by then-CIA director George Tenet – suspending the agency’s use of torture techniques, which also requested a detailed policy review.

A second meeting took place in 2005, when the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (Pens), according to the emails, ensured that the “legal safeguards built into the ‘torture memos’ issued by the DOJ’s office of legal counsel were codified in APA ethics policy”.

Following the Pens meeting, the report says the APA passed “extraordinary policy recommendations”, in which the association reaffirmed that its members could be involved in the interrogation program, without violating APA ethical codes.

Additionally, the APA permitted research on “individuals involved in interrogation processes” without their consent; according to the report’s authors, such a policy turned against decades of medical ethics prohibitions.

“The analysis presented in this report raises serious concerns about the APA Board’s knowledge of, involvement in and responsibility for allowing the US government to unduly influence and change APA policy on interrogations,” the report concludes. “The resulting policy facilitated the continuation of the Bush administration torture program.”

Although the Bush-era torture program has since been shuttered, a partially declassified report released by the Senate intelligence committee in December concluded that torture does not work. Detainees subjected to so-called enhanced techniques, it found, produced no intelligence or “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence”.

Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an organization with which all of the report’s authors have been affiliated at some point, said in a statement issued on Thursday: “This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of US medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society.”

James Mitchell: ‘I’m just a guy who got asked to do something for his country’
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PHR has previously called on the APA to clarify its ties to the CIA torture program and its architects, namely the two CIA contract psychologists Dr James Mitchell and Dr Bruce Jessen. “In the meantime,” the statement said, “there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to warrant a Department of Justice investigation.”

In their own report, issued last December, PHR called for a federal commission to investigate the full extent of health professionals’ alleged participation in CIA torture, accusing them of “[betraying] the most fundamental duty of the healing professions” and suggesting that some psychologists may have committed war crimes.

The new report found that the APA concealed its numerous contacts with Mitchell and Jessen, and had failed to disclose Mitchell’s past APA membership when it released its 2007 statement in response to public revelation of Mitchell’s role in enhanced interrogations.

Perhaps most damning, the watchdogs reported that in examining the trove of 638 new emails, they found no evidence that any APA staff member “expressed concern over mounting reports of psychologist involvement in detainee abuse during four years of direct email communications with senior members of the US intelligence community.”

Last November, the APA announced an independent investigation into its alleged collusion with the CIA. The findings are expected this summer.

Raya Jalabi in New York
Thursday 30 April 2015 18.23 BST Last modified on Thursday 30 April 2015 18.38 BST

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

“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

Portland man: I was tortured in UAE for refusing to become an FBI informant (2015)

Yonas Fikre, who attends a mosque where at least nine of its members have been barred from flying, says the US no-fly list is being used to intimidate American Muslims into spying on behalf of US authorities

When Yonas Fikre stepped off a luxury private jet at Portland airport last month, the only passenger on a $200,000 flight from Sweden, he braced for the worst.

Would the FBI be waiting? That would mean more interrogation, maybe arrest. But he told himself that whatever happened it could hardly be as bad as the months of torture he endured in a foreign jail before years of exile in Scandinavia.

A US immigration officer boarded the plane and asked for his passport. Fikre handed over the flimsy travel document that was valid for a single flight to the US. The officer said all was in order. He was free to go.

“I don’t think they knew who I was. I think they thought I was just some rich guy who’d come on a private jet. A rapper or someone,” said Fikre.

The 36-year-old Eritrean-born American was finally back in Portland at the end of a five-year odyssey that began with a simple business trip but landed him in an Arab prison where he alleges he was tortured at the behest of US anti-terrorism officials because he refused to become an informant at his mosque in Oregon.

Fikre is suing the FBI, two of its agents and other American officials for allegedly putting him on the US’s no-fly list – a roster of suspected terrorists barred from taking commercial flights – to pressure him to collaborate. When that failed, the lawsuit said, the FBI had him arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates.

As shocking as the claims are, they are not the first to emanate from worshippers at Fikre’s mosque in Portland, where at least nine members have been barred from flying by the US authorities.

“The no-fly list gives the FBI an extrajudicial tool to coerce Muslims to become informants,” said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer who represents other clients on the list. “There’s definitely a cluster of cases like this at the FBI’s Portland office.”

They include Jamal Tarhuni, a 58 year-old Portland businessman who travelled to Libya with a Christian charity, Medical Teams International, in 2012. He was blocked from flying back to the US and interrogated by an FBI agent who pressed him to sign a document waving his constitutional rights.

“The no-fly list is being used to intimidate and coerce people – not for protection, but instead for aggression,” said Tarhuni after getting back to Portland a month later. He was removed from the no-fly list in February after a federal lawsuit.

Detained, then put on the no-fly list
Another member of the mosque, Michael Migliore, chose to emigrate to live with his mother in Italy because he was placed on a no-fly list after refusing to answer FBI questions without a lawyer or become an informant. He had to take a train to New York and a ship to England. In the UK, he was detained under anti-terrorism legislation. Migliore said his British lawyer told him it was at the behest of US officials.

“We have a name for it: proxy detention,” said Abbas, Migliore’s lawyer. “It’s something the FBI does regularly. It’s not uncommon for American Muslims to travel outside the US and find they can’t fly back and then they get approached by law enforcement to answer questions at the behest of the Americans.”

I refused to answer questions. That’s when the beating started
Fikre’s problems began not long after he travelled to Khartoum to set up an electronics import business. He still had relatives in Sudan after his family fled there when he was a child to escape conflict in Eritrea. Fikre’s family arrived to California as refugees when he was 13 and he moved to Portland in 2006 where he worked for a mobile phone company.

Not long after he arrived in Khartoum in June 2010, Fikre went to the US embassy to seek advice from its commercial section. A couple of days later he was invited back to what he was told would be a briefing for US citizens on the security situation. Instead he found himself in a small room with two men.

“They pulled out their badges. They mentioned their names and said they were from the FBI Portland field office,” he said.

The agents were David Noordeloos and Jason Dundas, both attached to the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the FBI office in Portland. Fikre was immediately suspicious because of the agents’ duplicity in luring him to the embassy.

“They said, we just want to ask you a few questions. Right away I invoked my right to have a lawyer. Then they became threatening,” he said.

Fikre said it swiftly became clear the agents wanted information about his mosque in Portland, Masjed As-Saber.

The mosque is the largest in Oregon and drew the FBI’s attention not long after 9/11. In 2002, four years before Fikre arrived in Portland, seven members of its congregation were charged for attempting to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban. Six received prison sentences. A seventh was killed in Afghanistan.

In late 2010, a Somali American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was arrested and later convicted for plotting to blow up the lighting of downtown Portland’s Christmas tree amid allegations of FBI entrapment. He occasionally prayed at the As-Saber mosque.

Fikre has acknowledged meeting Mohamud but said he was no more than a passing acquaintance and that he had left for Sudan months before the plot was even hatched or the FBI became involved.

When Fikre hesitated to answer the agents’ questions, he was told he had been placed on the US “no-fly list”.

“I asked them, why am I on a no-fly list after I leave the country? I said to them, you did this in order to coerce me to work with you guys,” he said. “They said there’s a case in Portland and they wanted me to help them. I asked, what is this case about? They said, we can’t talk about it. You have to agree you’ll work with us and if you agree, we’ll tell you.”

Fikre said he would answer questions about the mosque but he was not going to work as an informant.

“Eventually I was answering questions because you know how it feels to be in a room with two of the major agencies and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “They wanted to know about fundraising. Were there any people that made me feel uncomfortable? What do they talk about during Friday sermons?”

‘The choice is yours to make’
The FBI’s account of the interrogation is summarised in a declassified document written a week later and marked “secret”. It is heavily redacted but Fikre’s claim that he was lured to the embassy under false pretences appears to be confirmed by a line which says that after being escorted to an interview room, “Fikre was informed of the true identity of the agents”.

Yonas Fikre Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Yonas Fikre. Photograph: Dan Lamont
The document shows part of the questioning focussed on financial transactions including his attempt to open a bank account in Dubai, which Fikre said he needed to do business in the region.

“Fikre was asked if he knew anyone related to international terrorism. Fikre denied any knowledge of anyone attempting to train or go to train for terrorist acts against the US or its interests,” the FBI document said. “Fikre agreed to assist and stated that he honestly does not know of anyone attempting to leave the US to attend terrorism related training.”

Fikre agreed to return for further questioning the next day.

“I said OK because I wanted to get out of there,” he said. “The next day I called David Noordeloos and told him, I’m wasting your time and you’re wasting my time. I don’t plan to work for you guys. He got very angry and he said, you mean to tell me you don’t want to work for us?”

About two weeks later, Fikre received an email from Noordeloos.

“While we hope to get your side of issues we keep hearing about, the choice is yours to make. The time to help yourself is now,” it said.

That was the last he heard from the agents. Fikre conclude Khartoum wasn’t the best place to do business and decided to try his hand in the United Arab Emirates but first went to visit relatives in Sweden. He worried that the no-fly list might create difficulties.

“If I was a threat, you would think the US would tell them. If some British guy was coming to this country and he was a threat, the US would be very pissed off if the British knew and didn’t make them aware of it. But nothing happened in Sweden. I came to Sweden normally,” he said.

That only confirmed Fikre’s belief he was on the no-fly list as a means to pressure him not because he was a terrorist threat.

Weeks later he moved to the UAE where he established himself trading in electronics with financial help from his family in California. Months went by. Then in June 2011 he was arrested by the local police.

“I didn’t know what was happening until I was taken away and the next day, that’s when I knew that it was questions related to Portland, Oregon,” he said. “At first I kept on saying, I’m an American. I need my lawyer, I need my embassy. They said to me, the American government don’t care about you. Then they started asking, tell us the story about what’s going on in Portland. The same questions the FBI were asking in Sudan about As-Saber I was being asked in the UAE.”

Fikre swiftly concluded the US had a hand in his arrest.

“Without a doubt this was instigated by the FBI. Why would the UAE ask me questions about this particular mosque in Portland?” he said.

So began months of interrogation.

“I refused to answer questions. That’s when the beating started,” he said. “They started with punches, slaps. They got tired of that so they brought water hose. There’s the hard ones, the black ones, and there’s the soft ones. The soft kind they would use for strangling. When I refused to answer, they put that thing on my neck. They had me lay down and beat me on the soles of my feet. They beat me on the back constantly.

You want to believe it’s not true, that some employee made a mistake
“If they weren’t beating you, they made you stand for eight hours with your hands raised. The beating was much better than the standing.”

The torture continued even when he was alone in his cell at night.

“I was sleeping on tiles, very cold tiles. They put on this AC so it was very cold. The body can’t take this cold on top of the beating,” he said. “That’s when I decided to answer their questions.”

‘You want to believe it’s not true’
After eight weeks of demanding to see someone from the US embassy, he was told he was being taken to meet American diplomat but warned not to say anything about his torture or it would delay his release, which was promised within days.

Fikre found himself sitting in front of woman who only identified herself as Marwa.

“I look all fragile, pale. I’ve lost a lot of weight. I’m drained. I wanted to tell her the situation but I felt like I was so close to my freedom, just two days, three days, and I was getting my ass beaten, and if I tell her it’ll set me back,” he said.

Fikre asked why it took so long for the US to find him, a citizen held by the security services of a close ally. He said Marwa told him they had been looking hard. Later he learned he was being held just blocks from the US embassy.

The State Department has confirmed that a US diplomat visited Fikre while he was being held in the UAE on “unspecified charges”. It said he “showed no signs of having been mistreated and was in good spirits”.

Fikre was not released and the questioning resumed. But an incident gave him hope. An interrogator beating Fikre with a hose caught him on the funny bone in his knee. He collapsed in agony. The man appeared alarmed he had done lasting damage.

“I thought to myself, why would you care? You were strangling me just a few days ago. Then I realised they didn’t want to leave me with any visible injuries. That’s when I had hope that I would get out of there,” he said.

Fikre said he was given a lie detector test but instead of more questions about Portland he was asked if he was a member of al-Qaida or soliciting funds for it. He denied it strenuously. He said it was clear from the response of his interrogators that he passed the test.

Through it all Fikre could not shake the sense that someone in the US had outsourced his interrogation to a place with few legal constraints.

“Toward the end of his interrogation [Fikre] inquired of his interrogator whether the FBI had requested that he be detained and interrogated,” the lawsuit said. “This time, instead of being beaten, the interrogator stated that indeed the FBI had made such a request and that the American and Emerati authorities work closely on a number of such matters.”

The FBI in Portland said it is unable to comment directly on the allegations because they are the subject of pending litigation. But an FBI spokesperson, Beth Anne Steele, said in a statement that the agency works within the law.

“A fundamental FBI core value is the belief that every person has the right to live, work and worship in this country without fear. As such, FBI agents take an oath to uphold the US constitution and to protect the rights of every American citizen under the Constitution, no matter where in the world an agent may working. This holds true every day in every situation,” she said.

After 106 days of imprisonment, the UAE released Fikre without charge.

The no-fly list prevented Fikre from flying back to the US so he opted to go to Sweden where he applied for political asylum. His application was rejected in January because he was unable to prove the US had a hand in his imprisonment although the Swedes accepted that he had been tortured.

In February, Fikre was finally formally notified by the US government he was on the no-fly list because he “may be a threat to civil aviation or national security”. Sweden paid for a private jet to fly him to Portland five years after he left.

Fikre has not been charged with any terrorism related crimes or even questioned as a potential threat on his return to the US. He remains on the no-fly list.

“It’s hard to comprehend that the government does something like this. You want to believe it’s not true, that some employee made a mistake,” he said. “I could be angry but anger doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t answer the question of why I was there. You can’t have this anger build up against your own government, your own country, your own people. I’m an American. I want to try to move on.”

Chris McGreal in Portland, Oregon
Monday 16 March 2015 11.38 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 18 March 2015 21.00 GMT

Find this story at 16 March 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

American Muslim Alleges FBI Had a Hand in His Torture (2012)

EXCLUSIVE: Yonas Fikre believes the US government played a role in his hellish three-month detention in the United Arab Emirates.

UPDATE: Fikre’s lawyers have written a letter to the Justice Department about his allegations and released a video of him talking about his ordeal.

Last June, while Yonas Fikre was visiting the United Arab Emirates, the Muslim American from Portland, Oregon was suddenly arrested and detained by Emirati security forces. For the next three months, Fikre claims, he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured. Fikre says he was beaten on the soles of his feet, kicked and punched, and held in stress positions while interrogators demanded he “cooperate” and barked questions that were eerily similar to those posed to him not long before by FBI agents and other American officials who had requested a meeting with him.

Fikre had been visiting family in Khartoum, Sudan, when, in April 2010, the officials got in touch with him. He agreed to meet with them, but ultimately balked at cooperating with FBI questioning without a lawyer present and he rebuffed a request to become an informant. Pressing him to cooperate, the agents told him he was on the no-fly list and could not return home unless he aided the bureau, Fikre says. The following week he received an email from one of the US officials; it arrived from a State Department address: “Thanks for meeting with us last week in Sudan. While we hope to get your side of the issues we keep hearing about, the choice is yours to make. The time to help yourself is now.”

“When Yonas [first] asked whether the FBI was behind his detention, he was beaten for asking the question,” says his lawyer. “Toward the end, the interrogator indicated that indeed the FBI had been involved.”
Fikre made his way to the UAE the following year, where, he and his lawyer allege, he was detained at the request of the US government. They say his treatment is part of a pattern of “proxy” detentions of US Muslims orchestrated by the the US government. Now, Fikre’s Portland-based lawyer, Thomas Nelson, plans to file suit against the Obama administration for its alleged complicity in Fikre’s torture.

“There was explicit cooperation; we certainly will allege that in the complaint,” says Nelson, a well known terrorism defense attorney. “When Yonas [first] asked whether the FBI was behind his detention, he was beaten for asking the question. Toward the end, the interrogator indicated that indeed the FBI had been involved. Yonas understood this as indicating that the FBI continued to [want] him to work for/with them.” Nelson, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Council on American Islamic Relations are assembling a high-powered legal team to handle Fikre’s case in the United States.

Fikre’s story echoes those of Naji Hamdan, Amir Meshal, Sharif Mobley, Gulet Mohamed, and Yusuf and Yahya Wehelie. All are American Muslim men who, while traveling abroad, claim they were detained, interrogated, and (in some cases) abused by local security forces; the men claim they were arrested at the behest of federal law enforcement authorities, alleging the US government used this process to circumvent their legal rights as American citizens.

As Mother Jones reported in its September/October 2011 issue, the FBI has acknowledged that it tips off local security forces on the names of Americans traveling overseas that the bureau suspects of involvement in terrorism, and that these individuals are sometimes detained and questioned. The FBI also admits that its agents sometimes “interview or witness an interview” of Americans detained by foreign governments in terrorism cases. And as several FBI officials told me on condition of anonymity, the bureau has for years used its elite cadre of international agents (known as legal attachés, or legats) to coordinate the overseas detention and interrogation by foreign security services of American terrorism suspects. Sometimes, that entails cooperating with local security forces that are accustomed to abusing prisoners. (FBI officials have told Mother Jones that foreign security forces are asked to refrain from abusing American detainees.)

It’s difficult to confirm US involvement in the detentions of Fikre or other alleged proxy detainees—indeed, plausible deniability is part of the appeal of the program. But what’s clear is that Fikre was on the FBI’s radar well before his detention in the UAE. (The FBI declined to comment on his case, as did the State Department.) Fikre, whose only previous brush with the legal system came when he sued a restaurant for having ham in its clam chowder, may have drawn the FBI’s interest because of his association with Portland’s Masjed-as-Saber mosque, where he was a youth basketball coach.

The mosque has been a focus of FBI scrutiny ever since the October 2002 case of the “Portland Seven,” in which seven Muslims from the Portland area were charged with trying to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban in the wake of 9/11. (Six are now in jail; the seventh was killed in Pakistan.) Masjed-as-Saber was in the news again in 2010 when Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali American who sometimes worshipped there, was charged with trying to detonate a fake car bomb provided by an undercover FBI agent.

More recently, three other men who attended Fikre’s mosque—Mustafa Elogbi, Michael Migliore, and Jamal Tarhuni—have found themselves on the no-fly list after traveling abroad. (The government’s use of the no-fly list to prevent American terrorist suspects from returning home after traveling overseas is currently the subject of a major ACLU lawsuit.)

Fikre’s case “really does make a mockery of the FBI’s use of watchlisting as a means of protecting the US,” says Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It’s not a means of protecting America—it’s a tool the FBI uses to put people in vulnerable positions.”

It “really does make a mockery of the FBI’s use of watchlisting as a means of protecting the US.”
Fikre, who is currently living in Sweden and believes that it would be unsafe for him to return to the United States, has given a series of videotaped interviews detailing his ordeal. His presence in Sweden beyond the three-month window allowed for tourist visas suggests that he has applied for permanent status there, and local media have so far refrained from reporting on the story for fear of affecting his case to stay in the country.

In the interviews, Fikre describes a series of events that are similar to the 2008 case of Naji Hamdan, a Lebanese American auto-parts dealer from Los Angeles who was then living in the UAE. Like Hamdan, Fikre claims he was detained in the UAE, tortured (including with stress positions and beatings on the soles of his feet, so as to not show marks), and asked about his activities in the United States. Like Hamdan, Fikre believed a western interrogator was present in the room at some points during his detention, because when he could peek out under his blindfold (“after being kicked/punched and falling over,” Nelson says) he occasionally saw western slacks and shoes. “In those occasions there was a fair amount of whispering,” Nelson added.

The similarities between the two cases were so striking that Michael Kaufman and Laboni Hoq, lawyers who are representing Hamdan in his separate case against the government, initially thought that Fikre had simply parroted Hamdan’s story. But once they heard more, they decided “the backstory of why the government was interested in him was reasonable and something that didn’t sound fabricated,” Kaufman said. “It seemed like a long way to go for a lie,” Hoq added.

A key difference between Hamdan’s and Fikre’s stories is that Hamdan eventually confessed—under torture, he now emphasizes—to being a member of several terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda. He ultimately spent 11 months in UAE custody before being deported to Lebanon, where he now runs a children’s clothing store. Despite an extensive FBI investigation, he was never charged in the United States.

Fikre, his lawyer says, “never confessed to anything”—”thankfully.”

“The FBI does this stuff because they can get away with it,” Nelson says. “But the bureau has totally destroyed any relationship it had with the Muslim community in Portland.”

UPDATE, Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. EST: Fikre’s lawyers have released a video of him talking about his ordeal (they’ve also written a letter to the Justice Department). You can watch the video here:

—By Nick Baumann | Tue Apr. 17, 2012 3:01 AM EDT

Find this story at 17 April 2012

Copyright ©2015 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress

MI5 spied on Libyan torture victims, documents reveal (2011)

BRITAIN’S security service MI5 asked Muammar Gaddafi’s secret services for regular updates on what terrorist suspects were revealing under interrogation in Libyan prisons, where torture was routine.

MI5 also agreed to trade information with Libyan spymasters on 50 British-based Libyans judged to be a threat to Gaddafi’s regime.

The disclosures come from secret intelligence documents left lying around in the ruins of the British embassy in Tripoli for anyone to find.

They include an MI5 paper marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only Secret”, which shows that the service provided Gaddafi’s spies with a trove of intelligence about Libyan dissidents in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.

Other documents seen by The Sunday Times in the abandoned offices of British and Libyan officials reveal that:

– The Ministry of Defence invited the dictator’s sons Saadi and Khamis Gaddafi, whose forces have massacred civilians during Libya’s revolution, to a combat display at SAS headquarters in Hereford and a dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Mayfair;

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MORESpy agencies’ ties to Libya revealed
MOREAnother Gaddafi stronghold set to fall
VIDEOPapers show Gaddafi links with CIA, MI6
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– Tony Blair helped another son, Saif Gaddafi, with his PhD thesis, beginning a personal letter with the words “Dear Engineer Saif”;

– The Foreign Office planned to use Prince Andrew in a secret strategy to secure the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, from prison in Scotland and offset the risk of retaliation if he died in jail. In fact, Megrahi was released anyway.

The cache of documents shows how close the British governments of both Blair and Gordon Brown were to a brutal regime that was overthrown last month when pro-democracy rebels seized Tripoli.

Nowhere is this closeness more evident than in the intelligence sphere. The MI5 paper for Gaddafi’s security services contains detailed information about members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant dissident outfit with cells in Britain.

The document, prepared ahead of an MI5 visit to Tripoli in 2005, formally requested that Libyan intelligence should provide access to detainees held by secret police and to “timely debriefs” of interrogations.

It added: “The more timely (the) information the better … Such intelligence is most valuable when it is current. It is notable that LIFG members in the UK become aware of the detention of members overseas within a relatively short period.”

The request was made despite widespread evidence of torture in Libyan prisons and assassinations of dissidents in other countries, including Britain. Torture practices identified by the US State Department included “clubbing, setting dogs on prisoners, electric shocks, suffocation by plastic bags and pouring lemon juice into open wounds”.

The disclosures will reignite the debate on the alleged complicity of British security services in the torture of terrorist suspects abroad. Last year David Cameron announced a judge-led inquiry into separate claims that M15 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of British citizens by foreign interrogators.

Some of those named in the documents found in Tripoli are thought to have been arrested subsequently in Britain and placed on control orders, a form of house arrest that is due to be debated in parliament this week.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “These chilling revelations show just how cosy British authorities became with a regime known for torture. How on earth did they think these timely detainee debriefs were going to be obtained?

“The thought that people [who were] discussed with Gadaffi’s henchmen may have been placed on control orders as a result of ‘detainee debriefs’ should prey on the mind of every MP who votes on the new control order regime tomorrow.”

Other documents that have emerged show how America’s CIA sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya. One letter from an MI6 officer to his Libyan counterpart reported the release from detention in Britain of a key LIFG member.

The MI5 document makes clear the key area of mutual interest to both countries was the LIFG, the most powerful radical faction waging war against Gadaffi’s regime. The group aimed to replace his dictatorship with a hardline Islamist state. Its main external base was in Britain, where 50 members lived.

MI5 believed the group had growing links to al-Qa’ida. It was suspected of supplying a “pipeline” of finance and false documents for the group’s international operations and of facilitating trips by jihadists from Britain to fight against western forces in Iraq.

MI5 also feared the LIFG might be planning terrorist attacks against the West.

A rider to the report says the information is being sent to the Libyans “for research and analysis purposes only and should not be used for overt, covert or executive action” – an apparent reference to kidnapping or execution.

A senior Whitehall official declined to discuss details of the agreement to share intelligence. He said: “We do not engage in, or encourage others to engage in, or contract out in situations where we knowingly, or have a very strong reason to believe that someone is being maltreated or is at risk of, maltreatment.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said intelligence documents emerging in Tripoli “relate to a period under the previous government, so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.

A document found in the office of Saadi Gaddafi, head of Libya’s special forces, showed the Ministry of Defence made elaborate plans for him to visit Britain in 2006 with his brother Khamis, whose commandos killed dozens of detainees before retreating from Tripoli as the regime fell.

The Sunday Times
MILES AMOORE AND DAVID LEPPARD THE SUNDAY TIMES SEPTEMBER 04, 2011 1:13PM

Find this story at 4 September 2011

Copyright http://www.theaustralian.com.au

Libya rebel commander wants MI6 and CIA apologies (2011)

The commander of anti-government forces in Tripoli has told the BBC he wants an apology from Britain and America for the way he was transferred to a prison in Libya in 2004.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was then a terror suspect, says he was tortured after being arrested in Bangkok and taken to the Libyan capital in an operation organised by the CIA and MI6.
Details of his case are included in messages sent to the Gaddafi regime by the two intelligence services.
Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli.

4 September 2011 Last updated at 22:39 BST

Find this story at 4 September 2011

Copyright © 2015 BBC

The Killing of Osama bin Laden (2015)

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’

This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

‘When your version comes out – if you do it – people in Pakistan will be tremendously grateful,’ Durrani told me. ‘For a long time people have stopped trusting what comes out about bin Laden from the official mouths. There will be some negative political comment and some anger, but people like to be told the truth, and what you’ve told me is essentially what I have heard from former colleagues who have been on a fact-finding mission since this episode.’ As a former ISI head, he said, he had been told shortly after the raid by ‘people in the “strategic community” who would know’ that there had been an informant who had alerted the US to bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, and that after his killing the US’s betrayed promises left Kayani and Pasha exposed.

The major US source for the account that follows is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. He also was privy to many aspects of the Seals’ training for the raid, and to the various after-action reports. Two other US sources, who had access to corroborating information, have been longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command. I also received information from inside Pakistan about widespread dismay among the senior ISI and military leadership – echoed later by Durrani – over Obama’s decision to go public immediately with news of bin Laden’s death. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

*

It began with a walk-in. In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001. Walk-ins are assumed by the CIA to be unreliable, and the response from the agency’s headquarters was to fly in a polygraph team. The walk-in passed the test. ‘So now we’ve got a lead on bin Laden living in a compound in Abbottabad, but how do we really know who it is?’ was the CIA’s worry at the time, the retired senior US intelligence official told me.

The US initially kept what it knew from the Pakistanis. ‘The fear was that if the existence of the source was made known, the Pakistanis themselves would move bin Laden to another location. So only a very small number of people were read into the source and his story,’ the retired official said. ‘The CIA’s first goal was to check out the quality of the informant’s information.’ The compound was put under satellite surveillance. The CIA rented a house in Abbottabad to use as a forward observation base and staffed it with Pakistani employees and foreign nationals. Later on, the base would serve as a contact point with the ISI; it attracted little attention because Abbottabad is a holiday spot full of houses rented on short leases. A psychological profile of the informant was prepared. (The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.)

‘By October the military and intelligence community were discussing the possible military options. Do we drop a bunker buster on the compound or take him out with a drone strike? Perhaps send someone to kill him, single assassin style? But then we’d have no proof of who he was,’ the retired official said. ‘We could see some guy is walking around at night, but we have no intercepts because there’s no commo coming from the compound.’

In October, Obama was briefed on the intelligence. His response was cautious, the retired official said. ‘It just made no sense that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad. It was just too crazy. The president’s position was emphatic: “Don’t talk to me about this any more unless you have proof that it really is bin Laden.”’ The immediate goal of the CIA leadership and the Joint Special Operations Command was to get Obama’s support. They believed they would get this if they got DNA evidence, and if they could assure him that a night assault of the compound would carry no risk. The only way to accomplish both things, the retired official said, ‘was to get the Pakistanis on board’.

During the late autumn of 2010, the US continued to keep quiet about the walk-in, and Kayani and Pasha continued to insist to their American counterparts that they had no information about bin Laden’s whereabouts. ‘The next step was to figure out how to ease Kayani and Pasha into it – to tell them that we’ve got intelligence showing that there is a high-value target in the compound, and to ask them what they know about the target,’ the retired official said. ‘The compound was not an armed enclave – no machine guns around, because it was under ISI control.’ The walk-in had told the US that bin Laden had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that ‘the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him.’ (Reports after the raid placed him elsewhere in Pakistan during this period.) Bank was also told by the walk-in that bin Laden was very ill, and that early on in his confinement at Abbottabad, the ISI had ordered Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army, to move nearby to provide treatment. ‘The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,’ the retired official said. ‘“You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?”’

‘It didn’t take long to get the co-operation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet-proof limousines and security guards and housing for the ISI leadership,’ the retired official said. He added that there were also under-the-table personal ‘incentives’ that were financed by off-the-books Pentagon contingency funds. ‘The intelligence community knew what the Pakistanis needed to agree – there was the carrot. And they chose the carrot. It was a win-win. We also did a little blackmail. We told them we would leak the fact that you’ve got bin Laden in your backyard. We knew their friends and enemies’ – the Taliban and jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan – ‘would not like it.’

A worrying factor at this early point, according to the retired official, was Saudi Arabia, which had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his seizure by the Pakistanis. ‘The Saudis didn’t want bin Laden’s presence revealed to us because he was a Saudi, and so they told the Pakistanis to keep him out of the picture. The Saudis feared if we knew we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaida. And they were dropping money – lots of it. The Pakistanis, in turn, were concerned that the Saudis might spill the beans about their control of bin Laden. The fear was that if the US found out about bin Laden from Riyadh, all hell would break out. The Americans learning about bin Laden’s imprisonment from a walk-in was not the worst thing.’

Despite their constant public feuding, American and Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked together closely for decades on counterterrorism in South Asia. Both services often find it useful to engage in public feuds ‘to cover their asses’, as the retired official put it, but they continually share intelligence used for drone attacks, and co-operate on covert operations. At the same time, it’s understood in Washington that elements of the ISI believe that maintaining a relationship with the Taliban leadership inside Afghanistan is essential to national security. The ISI’s strategic aim is to balance Indian influence in Kabul; the Taliban is also seen in Pakistan as a source of jihadist shock troops who would back Pakistan against India in a confrontation over Kashmir.

Adding to the tension was the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, often depicted in the Western press as an ‘Islamic bomb’ that might be transferred by Pakistan to an embattled nation in the Middle East in the event of a crisis with Israel. The US looked the other way when Pakistan began building its weapons system in the 1970s and it’s widely believed it now has more than a hundred nuclear warheads. It’s understood in Washington that US security depends on the maintenance of strong military and intelligence ties to Pakistan. The belief is mirrored in Pakistan.

‘The Pakistani army sees itself as family,’ the retired official said. ‘Officers call soldiers their sons and all officers are “brothers”. The attitude is different in the American military. The senior Pakistani officers believe they are the elite and have got to look out for all of the people, as keepers of the flame against Muslim fundamentalism. The Pakistanis also know that their trump card against aggression from India is a strong relationship with the United States. They will never cut their person-to-person ties with us.’

Like all CIA station chiefs, Bank was working undercover, but that ended in early December 2010 when he was publicly accused of murder in a criminal complaint filed in Islamabad by Karim Khan, a Pakistani journalist whose son and brother, according to local news reports, had been killed by a US drone strike. Allowing Bank to be named was a violation of diplomatic protocol on the part of the Pakistani authorities, and it brought a wave of unwanted publicity. Bank was ordered to leave Pakistan by the CIA, whose officials subsequently told the Associated Press he was transferred because of concerns for his safety. The New York Times reported that there was ‘strong suspicion’ the ISI had played a role in leaking Bank’s name to Khan. There was speculation that he was outed as payback for the publication in a New York lawsuit a month earlier of the names of ISI chiefs in connection with the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. But there was a collateral reason, the retired official said, for the CIA’s willingness to send Bank back to America. The Pakistanis needed cover in case their co-operation with the Americans in getting rid of bin Laden became known. The Pakistanis could say: “You’re talking about me? We just kicked out your station chief.”’

*

The bin Laden compound was less than two miles from the Pakistan Military Academy, and a Pakistani army combat battalion headquarters was another mile or so away. Abbottabad is less than 15 minutes by helicopter from Tarbela Ghazi, an important base for ISI covert operations and the facility where those who guard Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal are trained. ‘Ghazi is why the ISI put bin Laden in Abbottabad in the first place,’ the retired official said, ‘to keep him under constant supervision.’

The risks for Obama were high at this early stage, especially because there was a troubling precedent: the failed 1980 attempt to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. That failure was a factor in Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan. Obama’s worries were realistic, the retired official said. ‘Was bin Laden ever there? Was the whole story a product of Pakistani deception? What about political blowback in case of failure?’ After all, as the retired official said, ‘If the mission fails, Obama’s just a black Jimmy Carter and it’s all over for re-election.’

Obama was anxious for reassurance that the US was going to get the right man. The proof was to come in the form of bin Laden’s DNA. The planners turned for help to Kayani and Pasha, who asked Aziz to obtain the specimens. Soon after the raid the press found out that Aziz had been living in a house near the bin Laden compound: local reporters discovered his name in Urdu on a plate on the door. Pakistani officials denied that Aziz had any connection to bin Laden, but the retired official told me that Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up because the DNA sample had showed conclusively that it was bin Laden in Abbottabad. (In his subsequent testimony to a Pakistani commission investigating the bin Laden raid, Aziz said that he had witnessed the attack on Abbottabad, but had no knowledge of who was living in the compound and had been ordered by a superior officer to stay away from the scene.)

Bargaining continued over the way the mission would be executed. ‘Kayani eventually tells us yes, but he says you can’t have a big strike force. You have to come in lean and mean. And you have to kill him, or there is no deal,’ the retired official said. The agreement was struck by the end of January 2011, and Joint Special Operations Command prepared a list of questions to be answered by the Pakistanis: ‘How can we be assured of no outside intervention? What are the defences inside the compound and its exact dimensions? Where are bin Laden’s rooms and exactly how big are they? How many steps in the stairway? Where are the doors to his rooms, and are they reinforced with steel? How thick?’ The Pakistanis agreed to permit a four-man American cell – a Navy Seal, a CIA case officer and two communications specialists – to set up a liaison office at Tarbela Ghazi for the coming assault. By then, the military had constructed a mock-up of the compound in Abbottabad at a secret former nuclear test site in Nevada, and an elite Seal team had begun rehearsing for the attack.

The US had begun to cut back on aid to Pakistan – to ‘turn off the spigot’, in the retired official’s words. The provision of 18 new F-16 fighter aircraft was delayed, and under-the-table cash payments to the senior leaders were suspended. In April 2011 Pasha met the CIA director, Leon Panetta, at agency headquarters. ‘Pasha got a commitment that the United States would turn the money back on, and we got a guarantee that there would be no Pakistani opposition during the mission,’ the retired official said. ‘Pasha also insisted that Washington stop complaining about Pakistan’s lack of co-operation with the American war on terrorism.’ At one point that spring, Pasha offered the Americans a blunt explanation of the reason Pakistan kept bin Laden’s capture a secret, and why it was imperative for the ISI role to remain secret: ‘We needed a hostage to keep tabs on al-Qaida and the Taliban,’ Pasha said, according to the retired official. ‘The ISI was using bin Laden as leverage against Taliban and al-Qaida activities inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. They let the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership know that if they ran operations that clashed with the interests of the ISI, they would turn bin Laden over to us. So if it became known that the Pakistanis had worked with us to get bin Laden at Abbottabad, there would be hell to pay.’

At one of his meetings with Panetta, according to the retired official and a source within the CIA, Pasha was asked by a senior CIA official whether he saw himself as acting in essence as an agent for al-Qaida and the Taliban. ‘He answered no, but said the ISI needed to have some control.’ The message, as the CIA saw it, according to the retired official, was that Kayani and Pasha viewed bin Laden ‘as a resource, and they were more interested in their [own] survival than they were in the United States’.

A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI told me that ‘there was a deal with your top guys. We were very reluctant, but it had to be done – not because of personal enrichment, but because all of the American aid programmes would be cut off. Your guys said we will starve you out if you don’t do it, and the okay was given while Pasha was in Washington. The deal was not only to keep the taps open, but Pasha was told there would be more goodies for us.’ The Pakistani said that Pasha’s visit also resulted in a commitment from the US to give Pakistan ‘a freer hand’ in Afghanistan as it began its military draw-down there. ‘And so our top dogs justified the deal by saying this is for our country.’

*

Pasha and Kayani were responsible for ensuring that Pakistan’s army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission. The American cell at Tarbela Ghazi was charged with co-ordinating communications between the ISI, the senior US officers at their command post in Afghanistan, and the two Black Hawk helicopters; the goal was to ensure that no stray Pakistani fighter plane on border patrol spotted the intruders and took action to stop them. The initial plan said that news of the raid shouldn’t be announced straightaway. All units in the Joint Special Operations Command operate under stringent secrecy and the JSOC leadership believed, as did Kayani and Pasha, that the killing of bin Laden would not be made public for as long as seven days, maybe longer. Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border. The Americans who planned the mission assured Kayani and Pasha that their co-operation would never be made public. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests – bin Laden was considered a hero by many Pakistanis – and Pasha and Kayani and their families would be in danger, and the Pakistani army publicly disgraced.

It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: ‘Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he’s there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders.

‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive – to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.

*

At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. One of the Black Hawks crashed inside the walls of the compound, injuring many on board. ‘The guys knew the TOT [time on target] had to be tight because they would wake up the whole town going in,’ the retired official said. The cockpit of the crashed Black Hawk, with its communication and navigational gear, had to be destroyed by concussion grenades, and this would create a series of explosions and a fire visible for miles. Two Chinook helicopters had flown from Afghanistan to a nearby Pakistani intelligence base to provide logistical support, and one of them was immediately dispatched to Abbottabad. But because the helicopter had been equipped with a bladder loaded with extra fuel for the two Black Hawks, it first had to be reconfigured as a troop carrier. The crash of the Black Hawk and the need to fly in a replacement were nerve-wracking and time-consuming setbacks, but the Seals continued with their mission. There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone. ‘Everyone in Pakistan has a gun and high-profile, wealthy folks like those who live in Abbottabad have armed bodyguards, and yet there were no weapons in the compound,’ the retired official pointed out. Had there been any opposition, the team would have been highly vulnerable. Instead, the retired official said, an ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden’s rooms were on the third floor. The Seal squad used explosives to blow the doors open, without injuring anyone. One of bin Laden’s wives was screaming hysterically and a bullet – perhaps a stray round – struck her knee. Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired. (The Obama administration’s account would hold otherwise.)

‘They knew where the target was – third floor, second door on the right,’ the retired official said. ‘Go straight there. Osama was cowering and retreated into the bedroom. Two shooters followed him and opened up. Very simple, very straightforward, very professional hit.’ Some of the Seals were appalled later at the White House’s initial insistence that they had shot bin Laden in self-defence, the retired official said. ‘Six of the Seals’ finest, most experienced NCOs, faced with an unarmed elderly civilian, had to kill him in self-defence? The house was shabby and bin Laden was living in a cell with bars on the window and barbed wire on the roof. The rules of engagement were that if bin Laden put up any opposition they were authorised to take lethal action. But if they suspected he might have some means of opposition, like an explosive vest under his robe, they could also kill him. So here’s this guy in a mystery robe and they shot him. It’s not because he was reaching for a weapon. The rules gave them absolute authority to kill the guy.’ The later White House claim that only one or two bullets were fired into his head was ‘bullshit’, the retired official said. ‘The squad came through the door and obliterated him. As the Seals say, “We kicked his ass and took his gas.”’

After they killed bin Laden, ‘the Seals were just there, some with physical injuries from the crash, waiting for the relief chopper,’ the retired official said. ‘Twenty tense minutes. The Black Hawk is still burning. There are no city lights. No electricity. No police. No fire trucks. They have no prisoners.’ Bin Laden’s wives and children were left for the ISI to interrogate and relocate. ‘Despite all the talk,’ the retired official continued, there were ‘no garbage bags full of computers and storage devices. The guys just stuffed some books and papers they found in his room in their backpacks. The Seals weren’t there because they thought bin Laden was running a command centre for al-Qaida operations, as the White House would later tell the media. And they were not intelligence experts gathering information inside that house.’

On a normal assault mission, the retired official said, there would be no waiting around if a chopper went down. ‘The Seals would have finished the mission, thrown off their guns and gear, and jammed into the remaining Black Hawk and di-di-maued’ – Vietnamese slang for leaving in a rush – ‘out of there, with guys hanging out of the doors. They would not have blown the chopper – no commo gear is worth a dozen lives – unless they knew they were safe. Instead they stood around outside the compound, waiting for the bus to arrive.’ Pasha and Kayani had delivered on all their promises.

*

The backroom argument inside the White House began as soon as it was clear that the mission had succeeded. Bin Laden’s body was presumed to be on its way to Afghanistan. Should Obama stand by the agreement with Kayani and Pasha and pretend a week or so later that bin Laden had been killed in a drone attack in the mountains, or should he go public immediately? The downed helicopter made it easy for Obama’s political advisers to urge the latter plan. The explosion and fireball would be impossible to hide, and word of what had happened was bound to leak. Obama had to ‘get out in front of the story’ before someone in the Pentagon did: waiting would diminish the political impact.

Not everyone agreed. Robert Gates, the secretary of defence, was the most outspoken of those who insisted that the agreements with Pakistan had to be honoured. In his memoir, Duty, Gates did not mask his anger:

Before we broke up and the president headed upstairs to tell the American people what had just happened, I reminded everyone that the techniques, tactics and procedures the Seals had used in the bin Laden operation were used every night in Afghanistan … it was therefore essential that we agree not to release any operational details of the raid. That we killed him, I said, is all we needed to say. Everybody in that room agreed to keep mum on details. That commitment lasted about five hours. The initial leaks came from the White House and CIA. They just couldn’t wait to brag and to claim credit. The facts were often wrong … Nonetheless the information just kept pouring out. I was outraged and at one point, told [the national security adviser, Tom] Donilon, ‘Why doesn’t everybody just shut the fuck up?’ To no avail.

Obama’s speech was put together in a rush, the retired official said, and was viewed by his advisers as a political document, not a message that needed to be submitted for clearance to the national security bureaucracy. This series of self-serving and inaccurate statements would create chaos in the weeks following. Obama said that his administration had discovered that bin Laden was in Pakistan through ‘a possible lead’ the previous August; to many in the CIA the statement suggested a specific event, such as a walk-in. The remark led to a new cover story claiming that the CIA’s brilliant analysts had unmasked a courier network handling bin Laden’s continuing flow of operational orders to al-Qaida. Obama also praised ‘a small team of Americans’ for their care in avoiding civilian deaths and said: ‘After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.’ Two more details now had to be supplied for the cover story: a description of the firefight that never happened, and a story about what happened to the corpse. Obama went on to praise the Pakistanis: ‘It’s important to note that our counterterrorism co-operation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.’ That statement risked exposing Kayani and Pasha. The White House’s solution was to ignore what Obama had said and order anyone talking to the press to insist that the Pakistanis had played no role in killing bin Laden. Obama left the clear impression that he and his advisers hadn’t known for sure that bin Laden was in Abbottabad, but only had information ‘about the possibility’. This led first to the story that the Seals had determined they’d killed the right man by having a six-foot-tall Seal lie next to the corpse for comparison (bin Laden was known to be six foot four); and then to the claim that a DNA test had been performed on the corpse and demonstrated conclusively that the Seals had killed bin Laden. But, according to the retired official, it wasn’t clear from the Seals’ early reports whether all of bin Laden’s body, or any of it, made it back to Afghanistan.

Gates wasn’t the only official who was distressed by Obama’s decision to speak without clearing his remarks in advance, the retired official said, ‘but he was the only one protesting. Obama didn’t just double-cross Gates, he double-crossed everyone. This was not the fog of war. The fact that there was an agreement with the Pakistanis and no contingency analysis of what was to be disclosed if something went wrong – that wasn’t even discussed. And once it went wrong, they had to make up a new cover story on the fly.’ There was a legitimate reason for some deception: the role of the Pakistani walk-in had to be protected.

The White House press corps was told in a briefing shortly after Obama’s announcement that the death of bin Laden was ‘the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work’ that focused on tracking a group of couriers, including one who was known to be close to bin Laden. Reporters were told that a team of specially assembled CIA and National Security Agency analysts had traced the courier to a highly secure million-dollar compound in Abbottabad. After months of observation, the American intelligence community had ‘high confidence’ that a high-value target was living in the compound, and it was ‘assessed that there was a strong probability that [it] was Osama bin Laden’. The US assault team ran into a firefight on entering the compound and three adult males – two of them believed to be the couriers – were slain, along with bin Laden. Asked if bin Laden had defended himself, one of the briefers said yes: ‘He did resist the assault force. And he was killed in a firefight.’

The next day John Brennan, then Obama’s senior adviser for counterterrorism, had the task of talking up Obama’s valour while trying to smooth over the misstatements in his speech. He provided a more detailed but equally misleading account of the raid and its planning. Speaking on the record, which he rarely does, Brennan said that the mission was carried out by a group of Navy Seals who had been instructed to take bin Laden alive, if possible. He said the US had no information suggesting that anyone in the Pakistani government or military knew bin Laden’s whereabouts: ‘We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace.’ He emphasised the courage of Obama’s decision to order the strike, and said that the White House had no information ‘that confirmed that bin Laden was at the compound’ before the raid began. Obama, he said, ‘made what I believe was one of the gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory’. Brennan increased the number killed by the Seals inside the compound to five: bin Laden, a courier, his brother, a bin Laden son, and one of the women said to be shielding bin Laden.

Asked whether bin Laden had fired on the Seals, as some reporters had been told, Brennan repeated what would become a White House mantra: ‘He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know … Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks … living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield … [It] just speaks to I think the nature of the individual he was.’

Gates also objected to the idea, pushed by Brennan and Leon Panetta, that US intelligence had learned of bin Laden’s whereabouts from information acquired by waterboarding and other forms of torture. ‘All of this is going on as the Seals are flying home from their mission. The agency guys know the whole story,’ the retired official said. ‘It was a group of annuitants who did it.’ (Annuitants are retired CIA officers who remain active on contract.) ‘They had been called in by some of the mission planners in the agency to help with the cover story. So the old-timers come in and say why not admit that we got some of the information about bin Laden from enhanced interrogation?’ At the time, there was still talk in Washington about the possible prosecution of CIA agents who had conducted torture.

‘Gates told them this was not going to work,’ the retired official said. ‘He was never on the team. He knew at the eleventh hour of his career not to be a party to this nonsense. But State, the agency and the Pentagon had bought in on the cover story. None of the Seals thought that Obama was going to get on national TV and announce the raid. The Special Forces command was apoplectic. They prided themselves on keeping operational security.’ There was fear in Special Operations, the retired official said, that ‘if the true story of the missions leaked out, the White House bureaucracy was going to blame it on the Seals.’

The White House’s solution was to silence the Seals. On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private. ‘The Seals were not happy,’ the retired official said. But most of them kept quiet, as did Admiral William McRaven, who was then in charge of JSOC. ‘McRaven was apoplectic. He knew he was fucked by the White House, but he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Seal, and not then a political operator, and he knew there’s no glory in blowing the whistle on the president. When Obama went public with bin Laden’s death, everyone had to scramble around for a new story that made sense, and the planners were stuck holding the bag.’

Within days, some of the early exaggerations and distortions had become obvious and the Pentagon issued a series of clarifying statements. No, bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and killed. And no, bin Laden did not use one of his wives as a shield. The press by and large accepted the explanation that the errors were the inevitable by-product of the White House’s desire to accommodate reporters frantic for details of the mission.

One lie that has endured is that the Seals had to fight their way to their target. Only two Seals have made any public statement: No Easy Day, a first-hand account of the raid by Matt Bissonnette, was published in September 2012; and two years later Rob O’Neill was interviewed by Fox News. Both men had resigned from the navy; both had fired at bin Laden. Their accounts contradicted each other on many details, but their stories generally supported the White House version, especially when it came to the need to kill or be killed as the Seals fought their way to bin Laden. O’Neill even told Fox News that he and his fellow Seals thought ‘We were going to die.’ ‘The more we trained on it, the more we realised … this is going to be a one-way mission.’

But the retired official told me that in their initial debriefings the Seals made no mention of a firefight, or indeed of any opposition. The drama and danger portrayed by Bissonnette and O’Neill met a deep-seated need, the retired official said: ‘Seals cannot live with the fact that they killed bin Laden totally unopposed, and so there has to be an account of their courage in the face of danger. The guys are going to sit around the bar and say it was an easy day? That’s not going to happen.’

There was another reason to claim there had been a firefight inside the compound, the retired official said: to avoid the inevitable question that would arise from an uncontested assault. Where were bin Laden’s guards? Surely, the most sought-after terrorist in the world would have around-the-clock protection. ‘And one of those killed had to be the courier, because he didn’t exist and we couldn’t produce him. The Pakistanis had no choice but to play along with it.’ (Two days after the raid, Reuters published photographs of three dead men that it said it had purchased from an ISI official. Two of the men were later identified by an ISI spokesman as being the alleged courier and his brother.)

*

Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers. Snippets from one of the videos showed a solitary bin Laden looking wan and wrapped in a blanket, watching what appeared to be a video of himself on television. An unnamed official told reporters that the raid produced a ‘treasure trove … the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever’, which would provide vital insights into al-Qaida’s plans. The official said the material showed that bin Laden ‘remained an active leader in al-Qaida, providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group … He was far from a figurehead [and] continued to direct even tactical details of the group’s management and to encourage plotting’ from what was described as a command-and-control centre in Abbottabad. ‘He was an active player, making the recent operation even more essential for our nation’s security,’ the official said. The information was so vital, he added, that the administration was setting up an inter-agency task force to process it: ‘He was not simply someone who was penning al-Qaida strategy. He was throwing operational ideas out there and he was also specifically directing other al-Qaida members.’

These claims were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over. The retired intelligence official said that the CIA’s internal reporting shows that since bin Laden moved to Abbottabad in 2006 only a handful of terrorist attacks could be linked to the remnants of bin Laden’s al-Qaida. ‘We were told at first,’ the retired official said, ‘that the Seals produced garbage bags of stuff and that the community is generating daily intelligence reports out of this stuff. And then we were told that the community is gathering everything together and needs to translate it. But nothing has come of it. Every single thing they have created turns out not to be true. It’s a great hoax – like the Piltdown man.’ The retired official said that most of the materials from Abbottabad were turned over to the US by the Pakistanis, who later razed the building. The ISI took responsibility for the wives and children of bin Laden, none of whom was made available to the US for questioning.

‘Why create the treasure trove story?’ the retired official said. ‘The White House had to give the impression that bin Laden was still operationally important. Otherwise, why kill him? A cover story was created – that there was a network of couriers coming and going with memory sticks and instructions. All to show that bin Laden remained important.’

In July 2011, the Washington Post published what purported to be a summary of some of these materials. The story’s contradictions were glaring. It said the documents had resulted in more than four hundred intelligence reports within six weeks; it warned of unspecified al-Qaida plots; and it mentioned arrests of suspects ‘who are named or described in emails that bin Laden received’. The Post didn’t identify the suspects or reconcile that detail with the administration’s previous assertions that the Abbottabad compound had no internet connection. Despite their claims that the documents had produced hundreds of reports, the Post also quoted officials saying that their main value wasn’t the actionable intelligence they contained, but that they enabled ‘analysts to construct a more comprehensive portrait of al-Qaida’.

In May 2012, the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point, a private research group, released translations it had made under a federal government contract of 175 pages of bin Laden documents. Reporters found none of the drama that had been touted in the days after the raid. Patrick Cockburn wrote about the contrast between the administration’s initial claims that bin Laden was the ‘spider at the centre of a conspiratorial web’ and what the translations actually showed: that bin Laden was ‘delusional’ and had ‘limited contact with the outside world outside his compound’.

The retired official disputed the authenticity of the West Point materials: ‘There is no linkage between these documents and the counterterrorism centre at the agency. No intelligence community analysis. When was the last time the CIA: 1) announced it had a significant intelligence find; 2) revealed the source; 3) described the method for processing the materials; 4) revealed the time-line for production; 5) described by whom and where the analysis was taking place, and 6) published the sensitive results before the information had been acted on? No agency professional would support this fairy tale.’

*

In June 2011, it was reported in the New York Times, the Washington Post and all over the Pakistani press that Amir Aziz had been held for questioning in Pakistan; he was, it was said, a CIA informant who had been spying on the comings and goings at the bin Laden compound. Aziz was released, but the retired official said that US intelligence was unable to learn who leaked the highly classified information about his involvement with the mission. Officials in Washington decided they ‘could not take a chance that Aziz’s role in obtaining bin Laden’s DNA also would become known’. A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’ It was soon reported that the CIA had organised a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad with Afridi’s help in a failed attempt to obtain bin Laden’s DNA. Afridi’s legitimate medical operation was run independently of local health authorities, was well financed and offered free vaccinations against hepatitis B. Posters advertising the programme were displayed throughout the area. Afridi was later accused of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison because of his ties to an extremist. News of the CIA-sponsored programme created widespread anger in Pakistan, and led to the cancellation of other international vaccination programmes that were now seen as cover for American spying.

The retired official said that Afridi had been recruited long before the bin Laden mission as part of a separate intelligence effort to get information about suspected terrorists in Abbottabad and the surrounding area. ‘The plan was to use vaccinations as a way to get the blood of terrorism suspects in the villages.’ Afridi made no attempt to obtain DNA from the residents of the bin Laden compound. The report that he did so was a hurriedly put together ‘CIA cover story creating “facts”’ in a clumsy attempt to protect Aziz and his real mission. ‘Now we have the consequences,’ the retired official said. ‘A great humanitarian project to do something meaningful for the peasants has been compromised as a cynical hoax.’ Afridi’s conviction was overturned, but he remains in prison on a murder charge.

*

In his address announcing the raid, Obama said that after killing bin Laden the Seals ‘took custody of his body’. The statement created a problem. In the initial plan it was to be announced a week or so after the fact that bin Laden was killed in a drone strike somewhere in the mountains on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and that his remains had been identified by DNA testing. But with Obama’s announcement of his killing by the Seals everyone now expected a body to be produced. Instead, reporters were told that bin Laden’s body had been flown by the Seals to an American military airfield in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and then straight to the USS Carl Vinson, a supercarrier on routine patrol in the North Arabian Sea. Bin Laden had then been buried at sea, just hours after his death. The press corps’s only sceptical moments at John Brennan’s briefing on 2 May were to do with the burial. The questions were short, to the point, and rarely answered. ‘When was the decision made that he would be buried at sea if killed?’ ‘Was this part of the plan all along?’ ‘Can you just tell us why that was a good idea?’ ‘John, did you consult a Muslim expert on that?’ ‘Is there a visual recording of this burial?’ When this last question was asked, Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, came to Brennan’s rescue: ‘We’ve got to give other people a chance here.’

‘We thought the best way to ensure that his body was given an appropriate Islamic burial,’ Brennan said, ‘was to take those actions that would allow us to do that burial at sea.’ He said ‘appropriate specialists and experts’ were consulted, and that the US military was fully capable of carrying out the burial ‘consistent with Islamic law’. Brennan didn’t mention that Muslim law calls for the burial service to be conducted in the presence of an imam, and there was no suggestion that one happened to be on board the Carl Vinson.

In a reconstruction of the bin Laden operation for Vanity Fair, Mark Bowden, who spoke to many senior administration officials, wrote that bin Laden’s body was cleaned and photographed at Jalalabad. Further procedures necessary for a Muslim burial were performed on the carrier, he wrote, ‘with bin Laden’s body being washed again and wrapped in a white shroud. A navy photographer recorded the burial in full sunlight, Monday morning, May 2.’ Bowden described the photos:

One frame shows the body wrapped in a weighted shroud. The next shows it lying diagonally on a chute, feet overboard. In the next frame the body is hitting the water. In the next it is visible just below the surface, ripples spreading outward. In the last frame there are only circular ripples on the surface. The mortal remains of Osama bin Laden were gone for good.

Bowden was careful not to claim that he had actually seen the photographs he described, and he recently told me he hadn’t seen them: ‘I’m always disappointed when I can’t look at something myself, but I spoke with someone I trusted who said he had seen them himself and described them in detail.’ Bowden’s statement adds to the questions about the alleged burial at sea, which has provoked a flood of Freedom of Information Act requests, most of which produced no information. One of them sought access to the photographs. The Pentagon responded that a search of all available records had found no evidence that any photographs had been taken of the burial. Requests on other issues related to the raid were equally unproductive. The reason for the lack of response became clear after the Pentagon held an inquiry into allegations that the Obama administration had provided access to classified materials to the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty. The Pentagon report, which was put online in June 2013, noted that Admiral McRaven had ordered the files on the raid to be deleted from all military computers and moved to the CIA, where they would be shielded from FOIA requests by the agency’s ‘operational exemption’.

McRaven’s action meant that outsiders could not get access to the Carl Vinson’s unclassified logs. Logs are sacrosanct in the navy, and separate ones are kept for air operations, the deck, the engineering department, the medical office, and for command information and control. They show the sequence of events day by day aboard the ship; if there has been a burial at sea aboard the Carl Vinson, it would have been recorded.

There wasn’t any gossip about a burial among the Carl Vinson’s sailors. The carrier concluded its six-month deployment in June 2011. When the ship docked at its home base in Coronado, California, Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the Carl Vinson carrier strike group, told reporters that the crew had been ordered not to talk about the burial. Captain Bruce Lindsey, skipper of the Carl Vinson, told reporters he was unable to discuss it. Cameron Short, one of the crew of the Carl Vinson, told the Commercial-News of Danville, Illinois, that the crew had not been told anything about the burial. ‘All he knows is what he’s seen on the news,’ the newspaper reported.

The Pentagon did release a series of emails to the Associated Press. In one of them, Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette reported that the service followed ‘traditional procedures for Islamic burial’, and said none of the sailors on board had been permitted to observe the proceedings. But there was no indication of who washed and wrapped the body, or of which Arabic speaker conducted the service.

Within weeks of the raid, I had been told by two longtime consultants to Special Operations Command, who have access to current intelligence, that the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place. One consultant told me that bin Laden’s remains were photographed and identified after being flown back to Afghanistan. The consultant added: ‘At that point, the CIA took control of the body. The cover story was that it had been flown to the Carl Vinson.’ The second consultant agreed that there had been ‘no burial at sea’. He added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials … The Seals should have expected the political grandstanding. It’s irresistible to a politician. Bin Laden became a working asset.’ Early this year, speaking again to the second consultant, I returned to the burial at sea. The consultant laughed and said: ‘You mean, he didn’t make it to the water?’

The retired official said there had been another complication: some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed. At the time, the retired official said, the Seals did not think their mission would be made public by Obama within a few hours: ‘If the president had gone ahead with the cover story, there would have been no need to have a funeral within hours of the killing. Once the cover story was blown, and the death was made public, the White House had a serious “Where’s the body?” problem. The world knew US forces had killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. Panic city. What to do? We need a “functional body” because we have to be able to say we identified bin Laden via a DNA analysis. It would be navy officers who came up with the “burial at sea” idea. Perfect. No body. Honourable burial following sharia law. Burial is made public in great detail, but Freedom of Information documents confirming the burial are denied for reasons of “national security”. It’s the classic unravelling of a poorly constructed cover story – it solves an immediate problem but, given the slightest inspection, there is no back-up support. There never was a plan, initially, to take the body to sea, and no burial of bin Laden at sea took place.’ The retired official said that if the Seals’ first accounts are to be believed, there wouldn’t have been much left of bin Laden to put into the sea in any case.

*

It was inevitable that the Obama administration’s lies, misstatements and betrayals would create a backlash. ‘We’ve had a four-year lapse in co-operation,’ the retired official said. ‘It’s taken that long for the Pakistanis to trust us again in the military-to-military counterterrorism relationship – while terrorism was rising all over the world … They felt Obama sold them down the river. They’re just now coming back because the threat from Isis, which is now showing up there, is a lot greater and the bin Laden event is far enough away to enable someone like General Durrani to come out and talk about it.’ Generals Pasha and Kayani have retired and both are reported to be under investigation for corruption during their time in office.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s long-delayed report on CIA torture, released last December, documented repeated instances of official lying, and suggested that the CIA’s knowledge of bin Laden’s courier was sketchy at best and predated its use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. The report led to international headlines about brutality and waterboarding, along with gruesome details about rectal feeding tubes, ice baths and threats to rape or murder family members of detainees who were believed to be withholding information. Despite the bad publicity, the report was a victory for the CIA. Its major finding – that the use of torture didn’t lead to discovering the truth – had already been the subject of public debate for more than a decade. Another key finding – that the torture conducted was more brutal than Congress had been told – was risible, given the extent of public reporting and published exposés by former interrogators and retired CIA officers. The report depicted tortures that were obviously contrary to international law as violations of rules or ‘inappropriate activities’ or, in some cases, ‘management failures’. Whether the actions described constitute war crimes was not discussed, and the report did not suggest that any of the CIA interrogators or their superiors should be investigated for criminal activity. The agency faced no meaningful consequences as a result of the report.

The retired official told me that the CIA leadership had become experts in derailing serious threats from Congress: ‘They create something that is horrible but not that bad. Give them something that sounds terrible. “Oh my God, we were shoving food up a prisoner’s ass!” Meanwhile, they’re not telling the committee about murders, other war crimes, and secret prisons like we still have in Diego Garcia. The goal also was to stall it as long as possible, which they did.’

The main theme of the committee’s 499-page executive summary is that the CIA lied systematically about the effectiveness of its torture programme in gaining intelligence that would stop future terrorist attacks in the US. The lies included some vital details about the uncovering of an al-Qaida operative called Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was said to be the key al-Qaida courier, and the subsequent tracking of him to Abbottabad in early 2011. The agency’s alleged intelligence, patience and skill in finding al-Kuwaiti became legend after it was dramatised in Zero Dark Thirty.

The Senate report repeatedly raised questions about the quality and reliability of the CIA’s intelligence about al-Kuwaiti. In 2005 an internal CIA report on the hunt for bin Laden noted that ‘detainees provide few actionable leads, and we have to consider the possibility that they are creating fictitious characters to distract us or to absolve themselves of direct knowledge about bin Ladin [sic].’ A CIA cable a year later stated that ‘we have had no success in eliciting actionable intelligence on bin Laden’s location from any detainees.’ The report also highlighted several instances of CIA officers, including Panetta, making false statements to Congress and the public about the value of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the search for bin Laden’s couriers.

Obama today is not facing re-election as he was in the spring of 2011. His principled stand on behalf of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran says much, as does his decision to operate without the support of the conservative Republicans in Congress. High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.

Seymour M. Hersh
21 May 2015

Find this story at 21 May 2015

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Seymour Hersh’s 10,000-word bin Laden story — told four years ago in 640 words by Larry Johnson (2011 – 2015)

When Seymour Hersh releases each of his blockbuster reports, what supposedly makes his claims authoritative is, more than anything else, the mere fact that they come from Seymour Hersh.

The reader is meant to trust the word of retired intelligence officials, consultants, and other unnamed experts, because Hersh trusts them. And we are meant to trust Hersh because of his stature as a veteran investigative journalist.

We are being invited to join a circle of confidence. Which is to say, we are being hooked by a confidence trick. Hersh is the confidant of (mostly) anonymous sources of inside information of inestimable quality, and we then become confidants of Hersh when he lets us in on the secrets.

To say this is not to imply that everything Hersh reports should be doubted, but simply to note that his egotistical investment in his own work — the fact that Hersh’s stories invariably end up being in part stories about Hersh — inevitably clouds the picture.

As a result, ensuing debate about the credibility of Hersh’s reports tends to devolve into polarized contests of allegiance. Each side sees the other as having been duped — either duped by a conspiracy theorist (Hersh) or duped by government officials and the mainstream media.

*

A week after Osama bin Laden was killed, Larry Johnson wrote a blog post that reads like an outline draft of Hersh’s latest report. Johnson is a retired senior intelligence official who claims to be knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. Maybe he was the “major U.S. source” on whom Hersh relied.

On May 9, 2011, Johnson wrote:

I’ve learned some things from friends who are still active that dramatically alter the picture the White House is desperately trying to paint. Here is what really happened. The U.S. Government learned of Bin Laden’s whereabouts last August when a person walked into a U.S. Embassy and claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) had Bin Laden under control in Abottabad, Pakistan. Naturally the CIA personnel who received this information were skeptical. That’s why the CIA set up a safehouse in Abottabad in September 2010 as reported yesterday in the Washington Post.

The claim that we found Bin Laden because of a courier and the use of enhanced interrogation is simply a cover story. It appears to be an effective cover story because it has many Bush supporters pressing the case that enhanced interrogation worked. The Obama operatives in the White House are quite content to let the Bushies share in this part of the “credit.” Why? It keeps most folks from looking at the claims that don’t add up.

Anyway, the intel collection at the safe house escalated and the CIA began pressing Pakistan’s ISI to come clean on Osama.

As Pakistan’s Dawn notes in an editorial, the Pakistani version of events — the Abbottabad Commission report — has yet to be officially released.

Buried after initial promises that it would be made public, one version of the report has already seen the light of day via a leaked copy to Al Jazeera. That version alone contains a deep, systematic, even fundamental critique of the manner in which the ISI operates.

Surely, it is morally and legally indefensible of the state to hide from the public the only systematic inquiry into the events surrounding perhaps the most humiliating incident in decades here. National security will not be undermined by the publication of a report; national security was undermined by the presence of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

PAUL WOODWARD 05/12/2015

Find this story at 12 May 2015

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