“Torture” Architect Breaks His Silence

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One of the torture boogeymen– one of the architects of the CIA program- did an interview with Megyn Kelly. His perspective and that of “Beale”, really should be listened to.


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.

CIA Fact Sheet Regarding the SSCI Study on the Former Detention and Interrogation Program

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

Findings, Conclusions and Areas of Dispute Between the SSCI Report, the Minority and the CIA: Part 2

Findings, Conclusions and Areas of Dispute Between the SSCI Report, the Minority, and the CIA: Part Four

Findings, Conclusions and Areas of Dispute Between the SSCI Report, the Minority, and the CIA: Part Five

Here’s the latest post by one of its contributors:

The SSCI Report and Its Critics: Torturing Efficacy

7 Responses to ““Torture” Architect Breaks His Silence”

  1. 1


    You know that the left is truly anti-harsh interrogation because they are the same people who jump with joy over the idea of cutting Cheney’s heart out and using it as a football, punching Ann Coulter in the face or raping or crapping on Sarah Palin. So, being nice, civil and gentle is imbedded in their nature.

    None of these prisoners was “innocent”. They may have been in the EIT program by error, but none were not guilty of being involved in the terrorism; otherwise, they would not have been captured.

    Often a prisoner is safed from life imprisonment or death row with new evidence, but it is rarely the case that they were just some innocent bystander that got fingered for the crime. No, usually they were criminals that just didn’t directly participate in the act.

    If any of these terrorists accidentally got harsh treatment, well I’m all broken up about that. They shouldn’t have been terrorists.

  2. 2


    Today the media is reporting that Hersh who broke the Mai Lai massacre is now reporting that the Pentagon has had in its possession video shot by an American of Iraqi guards ( our guys) raping young boys in front if their mothers. This apparently was done to force their fathers to surrender themselves
    Hersh said the soundtrack was horrifying
    Apparently some on the radical right think things like that should be forgotten/forgiven as necessary to “saving lives “

  3. 3


    Dr James Mitchell is a blessing and we should be thanking him for what he has done for us. I guess people have forgotten what happened on 911 it wasn’t just the buildings but the people on the planes and to me that was torture. I cannot forget the people that were jumping from buildings and running as fast as they could to get away. Diane Feinstein should be ashamed of herself for putting this man in jeopardy because we didn’t live up to her standards what a joke. Thank You James Mitchell…

  4. 4


    @John: One of the problems with biased, partisan reports it that it makes morons out of people who might not otherwise be morons. It causes them to grasp upon every partisan straw and, most often, look partisanly foolish.

    In the first place, we have “reported” and, secondly, they are not “our guys” as if we directed what they may or may not have done. Had the report not been totally partisan and biased to guide fools such as yourself down a particular path (and had you bothered to read this report), you would know that whenever wrong-doing was brought to the attention of those responsible for the program, the wrong-doing (or even mistakes) was punished.

    I also saw it reported that Obama murdered his gay lover. Should I run with that?

  5. 5


    It is mildly amusing to read people dancing around the word torture, to the point of feeling the need to put it in quotes.
    If what happened was so valuable and life saving, I’d think that defenders like Vice President Cheney or President George Bush would say, call it what you want, it saved American lives and I’d do it again.

    After all, what’s wrong with calling a spade a spade.
    I thought birthers love that.

  6. 6




    If what happened was so valuable and life saving, I’d think that defenders like Vice President Cheney or President George Bush would say, call it what you want, it saved American lives and I’d do it again.

    Hasn’t Cheney essentially been interpreted as saying as much from his Sunday morning comments?

    What’s your problem with the quotation marks? Do you believe there is no difference between waterboarding (as the CIA carried it out and the harshest of the EITs) and the water torture performed by WWII Japanese officials? Or al Qaeda operatives drilling holes into people? You don’t distinguish a difference in intent, purpose, and physicality?

    Is sleep deprivation torture? isolation? If it is, then it’s still being used in interrogation & detention practices in law enforcement and in military around the world, outside of and independent from the CIA program.

  7. 7



    Michael Mukasey:

    In September 2001, there was but one law that defined torture, making it a crime to act with the intent to cause “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” Severe physical pain or suffering is not defined. Severe mental pain or suffering is defined as “prolonged mental harm” resulting from any of four causes, including causing severe physical pain or suffering.

    So, to take the harshest of the techniques used in the CIA program, and the one that has therefore become emblematic of them all, the central question is whether waterboarding as applied by the CIA to the three terrorists who underwent it would have caused severe physical or mental pain or suffering. The procedure used by the CIA involved placing a detainee on a flat surface with his feet slightly elevated, placing a towel over his face, and pouring water over his nose and mouth repeatedly for periods that did not exceed 40 seconds. If that does not cause severe physical or mental pain or suffering, it is not torture, and those who applied it cannot reasonably be said to have acted with intent to cause such pain or suffering.

    It was not torture, for at least two reasons. First, Navy SEALs for years have undergone waterboarding of that sort as part of their training, and they report that the procedure does not cause much physical pain at all; their splendid careers show that it also does not cause severe mental pain or suffering as defined in the law.

    Second, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perhaps the worst of the three waterboarded terrorists, eventually came to know the precise limits of the procedure and was seen to count the seconds by tapping his fingers until it was over. Some torture. Arguably, what broke him was sleep deprivation, but in any event he disclosed reams of valuable information. At last report, he is doing just fine.

    Our treaty commitments in those post-9/11 days—agreements that also have the force of law—were expressed in a statute that criminalized any “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions. Because of a later Supreme Court ruling, Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions could be read to protect even unlawful combatants who adhere to no rules of combat and who were never intended to be protected by treaties drafted to promote adherence to the accepted rules of combat. The definitional sections of that law, as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, show that what it makes criminal are egregious acts similar to those already made criminal by the domestic torture statute.

    Restrictions imposed by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 are framed in opaquely general terms—e.g., “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Those provisions at their broadest are read to impose limitations on the federal government no broader than those contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and in the ban on Cruel and Unusual Punishments in the Eighth. The latter is read to apply to treatment imposed as “punishment” on the convicted, and therefore wouldn’t apply to interrogations of detainees for investigative purposes.

    As to the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court has said that the treatment barred by the Due Process Clause is an abuse of power that “shocks the conscience,” and that “what shocks in the one case is less egregious in the other.” Which is to say that it matters what is at stake—like, say, national security.

    Was all this dry and abstruse stuff known to Sen. Feinstein at the time that she presented the CIA report and wrote the six-page aria that constitutes her foreword? Consider that in 2006 she co-sponsored an amendment to the Military Commissions Act that would have classified waterboarding as torture; the amendment was voted down. In 2008 the Senate passed a measure that would have limited interrogators, including those working for the CIA, to the techniques set forth in the Army Field Manual, and thus would have outlawed waterboarding. That bill was vetoed by President George W. Bush .

    Insofar as she damns conduct that occurred before the formal CIA program was in place in the summer of 2002, or was otherwise outside the program, that conduct was reviewed in multiple investigations and no criminality found, save for one prosecutable case in which the defendant received a 12-year sentence.

    Consider also Sen. Feinstein’s language. Dismissing the conclusion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that the CIA techniques were not torture, she says it “is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading.”

    Which is to say, Sen. Feinstein wins the argument only by defining herself as both the standard setter and the winner. Also, if she is looking for a “common meaning” of torture, how about something like a procedure to which no rational person would submit voluntarily? More journalists have tried the experience of being waterboarded than terrorists were subjected to it. That wouldn’t be the case if, for example, we were talking about needles under the fingernails.

    And what of “our values,” which not only she but also Sen. John McCain —a man whose fortitude in the face of real torture by the North Vietnamese gives him nearly unique moral stature—have claimed were violated by the CIA program? Others with credentials similar to Sen. McCain’s, including Medal of Honor recipients and fellow Vietnam prisoners of war Leo Thorsness and Bud Day, believe in the efficacy and morality of waterboarding.

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