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A Shining, Torturing City Upon A Hill

I read through the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture yesterday. I’m sure you all read plenty of stories telling you that it was all much more appalling than we had previously thought. I decided that I’m going to do this a little differently than how everyone else covered it. I was shocked appalled, and fascinated while reading it so I’m going to give you actual snippets from the report so that you can experience for yourselves, what I experienced when reading it. My comments are going to be relatively short.

The summary broke down their conclusions into different areas which they numbered. I will go through each section in the order the report presents it.

#1: The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.

For example, according to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody.* CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques.

While being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.

That pretty much speaks for itself.

#2: The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.

The Committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects. In some cases, there was no relationship between the cited counterterrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. In the remaining cases, the CIA inaccurately claimed that specific, otherwise unavailable information was acquired from a CIA detainee "as a result" of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, when in fact the information was either: (1) corroborative of information already available to the CIA or other elements of the U.S. Intelligence Community from sources other than the CIA detainee, and was therefore not "otherwise unavailable"; or (2) acquired from the CIA detainee prior to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. The examples provided by the CIA included numerous factual inaccuracies.

That also speaks for itself. The CIA knew this wasn’t working, and took the proactive step of creating the illusion of efficacy.

#3: The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.

Beginning with the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, and continuing with numerous others, the CIA applied its enhanced interrogation techniques with significant repetition for days or weeks at a time. Interrogation techniques such as slaps and "wallings" (slamming detainees against a wall) were used in combination, frequently concurrent with sleep deprivation and nudity. Records do not support CIA representations that the CIA initially used an "an open, non- threatening approach,"^ or that interrogations began with the "least coercive technique possible"^ and escalated to more coercive techniques only as necessary.

The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example, became "completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth." Internal CIA records describe the water boarding of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad as evolving into a "series of near drownings." 

Contrary to CIA representations to the Department of Justice, the CIA instructed personnel that the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah would take "precedence" over his medical care,^ resulting in the deterioration of a bullet wound Abu Zubaydah incurred during his capture. In at least two other cases, the CIA used its enhanced interrogation techniques despite warnings from CIA medical personnel that the techniques could exacerbate physical injuries. CIA medical personnel treated at least one detainee for swelling in order to allow the continued use of standing sleep deprivation.

At least five CIA detainees were subjected to "rectal rehydration" or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.

 Here’s where I have a lot to interject in the form of additional information and some background on Abu Zubaydah. Ali Soufan was an FBI interrogator who had Zubaydah before the CIA took him. Zubaydah wasn’t like all of the other "#2 guys" that the Bush administration bragged about having captured. He actually knew some shit, and he was actually a high level operative in Al Qaeda. Ali Soufan used traditional interrogation techniques that have been proven to work since WWII. He treated detainees like humans with respect and dignity. He earned their trust by taking them out for pizza, and bringing one diabetic detainee some sugar-free cookies. We did this with the Nazis and got actionable intelligence by treating them to steak dinners.

Soufan interrogated Zubaydah from March – June 2002 (the torture began in August). While Soufan was interrogating Zubaydah, he got the single most important piece of information about 9/11: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind. It was because of that interrogation that we started looking for KSM. I’ve read copious amounts of information about 9/11 from a myriad of different sources including George Tenet, Dick Cheney, Ali Soufan, and Terry McDermott and Josh Meyers’ reporting. Yeah, I read Dick Cheney’s painful autobiography so that you didn’t have to. Here’s what most people don’t know about 9/11: Bin Laden had almost nothing to do with it beyond financing and some recruitment. KSM wasn’t even a member of Al Qaeda. They were not working closely together. KSM planned and executed every aspect of 9/11. We didn’t have his name until over 6 months after the attack, when Ali Soufan got it out of Abu Zubaydah by treating him like a human being. Once the torture began, Zubaydah never offered up another piece of information that was worth a damned. Who knows what else we could have learned from him, had the Bush administration not had their heads shoved so far up their asses.

Back to the report.

One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because "we can never let the world know what I have done to you."^ CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families— to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to "cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat."^

Threatening women and children. That’s what the US became on Bush’s watch. Is it me, or is it impossible to tell the difference between "the good guys" and "the bad guys" here? That’s the part of the report that disgusted me the most. 

 

#5: The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

From 2002 to 2007, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) within the Department of Justice relied on CIA representations regarding: (1) the conditions of confinement for detainees, (2) the application of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, (3) the physical effects of the techniques on detainees, and(4)the effectiveness of the techniques. Those representations were inaccurate in material respects.

The Department of Justice did not conduct independent analysis or verification of the information it received from the CIA. The department warned, however, that if the facts provided by the CIA were to change, its legal conclusions might not apply. When the CIA determined that information it had provided to the Department of Justice was incorrect, the CIA rarely informed the department.

That bolded and italicized is the part that jumped out at me. The whole report was written in a way that lays all the blame in the lap of the CIA as if they were a rogue operation secretly behaving badly, and that no one had a clue what was happening. I say that’s complete bullshit. Every arm of the Bush administration from DOJ to the OLC (office of legal council) took the CIA at their word on everything. There was comically little oversight, and that could only have been by design.

Back to #5.

The OLC determined that "under the current circumstances, necessity or self- defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate" the criminal prohibition against torture.

On the same day, a second OLC opinion approved, for the first time, the use of 10 specific coercive interrogation techniques against Abu Zubaydah—subsequently referred to as the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation techniques." The OLC relied on inaccurate CIA representations about Abu Zubaydah’s status in al-Qa’ida and the interrogation team’s "certain[ty]" that Abu Zubaydah was withholding information about planned terrorist attacks. The CIA’s representations to the OLC about the techniques were also inconsistent with how the techniques would later be applied.

In March 2005, the CIA submitted to the Department of Justice various examples of the "effectiveness" of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques that were inaccurate. OLC memoranda signed on May 30, 2005, and July 20, 2007, relied on these representations, determining that the techniques were legal in part because they produced "specific, actionable intelHgence" and "substantial quantities of otherwise unavailable intelligence" that saved lives.

Again, the lack of any interest in looking at what the CIA was doing was comical and unbelievable (as in, not to be believed).

#6: The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

The CIA did not brief the leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques until September 2002, after the techniques had been approved and used. The CIA did not respond to Chairman Bob Graham’s requests for additional information in 2002, noting in its own internal communications that he would be leaving the Committee in January 2003. The CIA subsequently resisted efforts by Vice Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, to investigate the program, including by refusing in 2006 to provide requested documents to the full Committee.

The CIA restricted access to information about the program from members of the Committee beyond the chairman and vice chairman until September 6, 2006, the day the president publicly acknowledged the program, by which time 117 of the 119 known detainees had already entered CIA custody. Until then, the CIA had declined to answer questions from other Committee members that related to CIA interrogation activities.

Prior to September 6, 2006, the CIA provided inaccurate information to the leadership of the Committee.

After multiple senators had been critical of the program and written letters expressing concerns to CIA Director Michael Hayden, Director Hayden nonetheless told a meeting of foreign ambassadors to the United States that every Committee member was "fully briefed," and that "[t]his is not CIA’s program. This is not the President’s program. This is America’s program."^^ The CIA also provided inaccurate information describing the views of U.S. senators about the program to the Department of Justice.

A year after being briefed on the program, the House and Senate Conference Committee considering the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill voted to limit the CIA to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. That legislation was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives in February 2008, and was vetoed by President Bush on March 8, 2008.

And there it is. Even when all of that plausible deniability the Bush Administration so carefully crafted evaporated, they insisted the program continue, despite the fact that they knew it didn’t work. And still, this report basically leaves the administration out of all of the CIA’s ostensibly totally fucking independent malfeasance. Riiiight.

And the whole next section of the report is dedicated to doing just that.

#7: The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.

The CIA provided extensive amounts of inaccurate and incomplete information related to the operation and effectiveness of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to the White House, the National Security Council principals, and their staffs. This prevented an accurate and complete understanding of the program by Executive Branch officials, thereby impeding oversight and decision-making.

According to CIA records, no CIA officer, up to and including CIA Directors George Tenet and Porter Goss, briefed the president on the specific CIA enhanced interrogation techniques before April 2006. By that time, 38 of the 39 detainees identified as having been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques had already been subjected to the techniques. The CIA did not inform the president or vice president of the location of CIA detention facilities other than Country

Oh, so the Bush administration were just hapless rubes?

But here’s the next paragraph:

At the direction of the White House, the secretaries of state and defense – both principals on the National Security Council – were not briefed on program specifics until September 2003. An internal CIA email from July 2003 noted that "… the WH [White House] is extremely concerned [Secretary] Powell would blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s been going on." Deputy Secretary of State Armitage complained that he and Secretary Powell were "cut out" of the National Security Council coordination process.

Yeah, not so much with the hapless rube routine.

#10: The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

The CIA’s Office of Public Affairs and senior CIA officials coordinated to share classified information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to select members of the media to counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA’s detention and inteiTogationauthorities and budget. These disclosures occurred when the program was a classified covert action program, and before the CIA had briefed the full Committee membership on the program.

The deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center wrote to a colleague in 2005, shortly before being interviewed by a media outlet, that "we either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities, messes up our budget… we either put out our story or we get eaten. [T]here is no middle ground."^ The same CIA officer explained to a colleague that "when the [Washington Post]/[New York Times quotes ‘senior intelligence official,’ it’s us… authorized and directed by opa [CIA’s Office of Public Affairs].

Remember, congress did exactly that in 2008, and Bush vetoed their decision. I find it hard to believe that these leaks were entirely the doing of members of the CIA. I could be wrong, but that really doesn’t sound right to me.

#11: The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.

On September 17, 2001, the President signed a covert action Memorandum of Notification (MON) granting the CIA unprecedented counterterrorism authorities, including the authority to covertly capture and detain individuals "posing a continuing, serious threat of violence or death to U.S. persons and interests or planning terrorist activities." The MON made no reference to interrogations or coercive interrogation techniques.

That would be republican style small government.

#12: The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.

On November, 2002,a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor died from suspected hypothermia at the facility.

At the time, no single unit at CIA Headquarters had clear responsibility for CIA detention and interrogation operations. In interviews conducted in 2003 with the Office of Inspector General, CIA’s leadership and senior attorneys acknowledged that they had little or no awareness of operations at COBALT, and some believed that enhanced interrogation techniques were not used there.

So now there’s a corpse for which no one appears to be responsible, and no one is asking questions? Curious.

Back to section 12.

Numerous CIA officers had serious documented personal and professional problems—including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others—that should have called into question their suitability to participate in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, their employment with the CIA, and their continued access to classified information. In nearly all cases, these problems were known to the CIA prior to the assignment of these officers to detention and interrogation positions.

This is actually the culture that the Bush administration created within the CIA when Bush appointed Porter Goss to be their Director. At the time, Goss himself said, "I’m not qualified for the CIA." I take that back- this was the culture the Bush administration created throughout the federal government. Remember the horsey lawyer who was put in charge of federal emergency management? You know, the one who was doing a "heckuva job"? This incompetence way systemic and started at the very top (Dick Cheney). 

#13: Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.

 

The CIA contracted with two psychologists to develop, operate, and assess its interrogation operations. The psychologists’ prior experience was at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school. Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.

On the CIA’s behalf, the contract psychologists developed theories of interrogation based on "learned helplessness,"^^ and developed the list of enhanced inteiTogation techniques that was approved for use against Abu Zubaydah and subsequent CIA detainees. The psychologists personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA’s most significant detainees using these techniques. They also evaluated whether detainees’ psychological state allowed for the continued use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including some detainees whom they were themselves interrogating or had interrogated. The psychologists carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody.

In 2005, the psychologists formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program.

In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.

What can I possibly add to that except that, the incompetence that allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place didn’t end on 9/11.

The Bush administration suffered from ideologically driven tunnel vision before, during, and after 9/11. We know that Richard Clarke repeatedly and emphatically warned the administration about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda from the moment that Bush was sworn in. Remember, Clarke worked under Reagan, Poppy Bush, and Clinton. He was there when republicans were screaming "no war for Monica’ in 1998 when Clinton tried to kill Bin Laden. He was there when the first terrorist attack happened at the World Trade Center. This is somebody who should have been taken very seriously. He says that they were so obsessed with Saddam, that they dismissed what he had to say entirely. In addition to Clarke’s warnings, the CIA had sent five PDBs (presidential daily briefs) warning that Bin Laden was planning another attack. That famous August 6th 2001 brief wasn’t the first one warning about Bin Laden. It was the last in a series of five that started in the spring of 2001.

The Bush administration suffered from incompetence and arrogance all the way through the last day of that miserable 8 years the world had to endure.

Don’t anyone tell you that this report says that this was entirely a CIA problem. They accidentally included some information that tells me exactly the opposite. The plausible deniability that was baked into this program to shield the administration for any culpability created a monster that any rational person could have seen coming. Those assholes turned Reagan’s "shining city upon a hill" into a terrorist nation that threatens women and children.

And if you’re one of those assholes who claims that Obama has shredded the constitution, you can go fuck yourself. You don’t care about your country at all. You’re an idiot rooting for a sports team and no one should take you seriously.            

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