For 9 years, it’s been the critics who have been at liberty to shape the battle-space narrative on “torture” as it pertains to the CIA detention and interrogation program that began and ended on Bush’s watch (not Obama’s), exposed in 2005 by WaPo. And the critics continue to distort the narrative and feed into the worst imaginings and distorted perceptions of our enemies abroad as well as that of fellow Americans, here at home.
Without interviewing key officials, there’s no context in the Feinstein Majority Views Report. I’ve read online comments from low information headline news readers who do not even realize it is a lopsided, non-bipartisan committee Report. “Torture” has been thrown around out there for so long now, that it’s an accepted, unchallenged definition to many Americans (and global citizens). Yet, you know what? According to a number of recent polls, Americans still don’t care. That’s disheartening to the Kos Kiddies, who grumble most of these uncaring Americans must be church-goers.
The 524-page executive summary of the tabloid investigation reads like Democratic staffers data-mined then drew partisan observations without contextualizing. Imagine strangers going through your emails and then trying to make sense of it all without ever interviewing you about them.
The early days of the Program were chaotic. They were overwhelmed, under-staffed/trained to deal with setting up a competent detention program in the heyday of the war(s), immediately after OEF. So they were self-correcting as they went; and by Rodriguez’ account, after the initial growing pains and after August 2002, the program was functioning smoothly and managed professionally. The Report mentions the abuses, but seems to fail in noting where corrective measures and reprimands were administered:
Michael Hayden, the CIA director from 2006 to 2009, told The Sunday Times that the report was “relentlessly accusatory” and the CIA had admitted to errors in the early years of the interrogations.
“A case in point was a contractor [David Passaro] who used a flashlight to beat a detainee…it was reported immediately and he was prosecuted and convicted in North Carolina and was sentenced to [eight years] prison [in 2004].”
Similarly, the CIA had reacted swiftly when the Gul Rahman died of hypothermia. “The agency made a big mistake. “It put a young officer into a position for which we had not prepared him. The incident was immediately turned over to the Department of Justice. It has been investigated twice and each time prosecution was declined.”
Feinstein’s report concluded Rahman was not a terrorist but a victim of “mistaken identity”.
Hayden said outrage over rectal rehydration had been uninformed. “It was a medical procedure, not an interrogation technique.” Rather than using a needle or feeding through the nose, it “was considered to be the safest approach for a non-compliant detainee and so that’s why it was done”.
119 HVTDs were enrolled in the CIA Program. Of these, 26 were apparently wrongfully placed into it. Of the 119, 39 HVTs experienced some form of EIT. Of those 39, only 3 were ever given CIA swimming lessons. The last was KSM in 2003.
A number of the techniques which the CIA is being maligned for- such as sleep deprivation and isolation- are not unique to the CIA EIT menu and are part of the arsenal of techniques used by military interrogators, as per Army Field Manual, and approved of by the Geneva Conventions. Under the current PotUS who signed an executive order in his 2nd day in office that for all intents of purpose essentially said the same thing as the previous PotUS’ 2007 EO, the CIA is still allowed to use “questionable techniques”.
Holder even had trouble in 2009 in not contradicting his own self on the issue of whether or not waterboarding arises to the legal definition of “torture”.
Do not hold your breath on any cascade of prosecutions to pour out of the DoJ. After several investigations, including Holder-Durham in 2009-2012, that ship has already sailed.
Lawfare Blog has done a good job of even-handedly covering the Majority Views, Minority Views, and CIA Rebuttal in a series of posts.
Thoughts on the SSCI Report, Part I: Introduction and Overview
Here’s the latest post by one of its contributors: