Posted by Wordsmith on 19 November, 2014 at 1:47 pm. 25 comments already!


Dianne Feinstein’s so-called 6,300 page “torture report” (executive summary is 500 pages “only”)- after 5 years and $40 million in taxpayer money- is slated to be released very soon. Perhaps this weekend; maybe next week, after Thanksgiving. But what will be missing from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s majority (re: Democrat) report? Participation by Republicans in the investigative process and input (when the report is released, Republicans plan to release the minority view, at the same time). And even more critically, the interviews and opinions of those directly involved in the CIA Detention and Interrogation program itself- you know, those who were actually there- the CIA interrogators, the debriefers, the officials in charge:

Current and former intelligence officials told The Washington Times they are furious that the Senate panel, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, did not interview the senior managers of the interrogation program launched after the Sept. 11 attacks or the CIA directors who oversaw it.

“The truth is they had their foregone conclusions with what they wanted to say in this report, and they did not want the facts to get into the way,” said Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., one of the CIA’s most respected retired officers and who, as head of the Agency’s clandestine service, oversaw the enhanced interrogation program that used sleep deprivation, waterboarding, uncomfortable positioning and other tactics to extract information from high-value al Qaeda operatives.

“The process has been political. It has been ideological. And it is just wrong,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who retired in fall 2007 and later wrote a best-selling book entitled “Hard Measures” that argued that the tactics, which critics have denounced as torture, saved American lives.

U.S. intelligence officials and Senate aides confirm that the Senate Intelligence Committee did not interview former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Mike Hayden, nor did the committee staff interview the program’s direct day-to-day managers, like Mr. Rodriguez.

Some of those officials told The Times they were told by Senate aides they weren’t interviewed because they once had been under possible criminal investigation.

But that investigation by a special Justice Department prosecutor was closed out more than two years ago, with no charges filed against any supervisor of the program.

“It is astonishing nobody ever reached out to us to interview us,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Especially those people who were directors and program managers during that period of time.”

It is hard to believe that this Report isn’t politically, ideologically-driven. Leaks of the report have gone to journalists, already shaping the battle space, as they have always done since the beginning when leaks about the CIA program surfaced over a decade ago:

Mr. Hayden, who ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, wrote in his regular column Tuesday in The Times that he is disappointed that journalists, op-ed writers and human rights groups got leaks from the report and appeared to have “more access than all but a very few former CIA senior officers whose actions are cataloged there but who have been denied access.”

Mr. Hayden said he, Mr. Tenet, and Mr. Goss, though never interviewed, were offered belated access to the report in late July, but only if they signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Senate committee.

For over a decade, journalists and human rights groups, anti-American enemies of the U.S., partisan political opponents, and so-called “experts” who operated on assumptions and half-experiences and not actual first-hand knowledge of the secretive CIA program, were able to shape the “torture” narrative, shaping public perception (or rather, distorting it). CIA interrogators have been unable to fight back the tide of opinion and defend themselves. They have not been at liberty to do so. It wasn’t until President Obama released the OLC “How not to torture” memos in April 2009, effectively neutering the EITs listed within the memo (their power was smoke-and-mirrors; once revealed, the techniques can be trained against. The reason why “enhanced interrogations” were even created was because some of the HVTs had received interrogation resistance training against standard techniques, like the “rapport-building” ones that the FBI favor in obtaining confessions and achieving criminal prosecutions).

On the flip side, Ms. Feinstein is upset that the Obama administration blacked out about 15 percent of the passages in the report for security reasons, redactions that she declared earlier this month undercut the report’s findings.

This comes as the UN expressed skepticism on the current administration’s “seriousness” and commitment on the torture issue:

A U.S. delegation, in a first appearance before the U.N. Committee Against Torture since 2006, told the panel in Geneva this week that it rejects Bush administration interpretations of torture statutes and affirms U.S. commitment to closing the dark chapter of the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program.

Those assertions, though, didn’t convince the U.N. panel, which hadn’t seen the U.S. crew since abuses of the Bush-era program were publicly revealed.

Despite its seeming reversal on Bush-era policies, the U.S. delegation was slammed for touting its 2009 Justice Department Investigation into the CIA’s torture program — which resulted in no charges — as proof of its commitment.

“We are not fully satisfied with that answer,” said torture committee Chairman George Tugushi. “In our view, any investigation into possible ill treatment by public officials must comply with the criteria of thoroughness. And actually to be considered credible, it must be capable of leading to a determination of whether force or other methods used were or were not justified under the circumstances, and to the identification of the appropriate punishment of those concerned.”

The Justice Department probe was supervised by John Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut. After the U.N. panel pressured the U.S. delegation for details, the Americans disclosed that the inquiry questioned more than 90 witnesses. Despite repeated questions, delegation members declined, however, to say whether those witnesses included any prisoners subjected to the CIA methods.

One member of the U.N. committee suggested the investigation was a whitewash.

The Durham investigation “found that there was not sufficient evidence,” said Jens Modvig. “Well … you won’t find what you’re not looking for.”

CIA detainees who have said they were not interviewed in the Justice Department investigation have described being waterboarded, locked in small boxes and otherwise tortured.

The Justice Department inquiry, which lasted from 2009 to 2012, found insufficient evidence to open a criminal probe into abuses. Obama himself said in 2008 before he took office that he wanted to move on from the era and “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

“By failing to hold the perpetrators of torture accountable, the Obama administration undermined the prohibition on torture and abuse, and it certainly falls short of what’s required by the treaty,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, following Thursday’s meeting of the U.N. panel. “We have no assurance that there has ever been a top-to-bottom criminal investigation that has included an investigation of any possible criminal conduct by government officials who authorized or ordered the use of torture and abuse.”

The Obama administration has reportedly used the Durham investigation in pressuring international courts to drop investigations into the Bush-era program, which employed the help of several foreign governments.

The focus by the U.N. panel on the Durham investigation underscores a lingering question that remains eight years after America’s torture chapter concluded: Why was no one held accountable?

That lack of closure has inspired new questions as the public awaits the release of the executive summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee review of the CIA’s operation. The five-year, $40 million Senate study has been touted as an authoritative accounting of the torture program. But it doesn’t examine the culpability of high-level Bush administration officials, McClatchy Newspapers revealed last month. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has stressed that the 6,300-page document is meant to be a comprehensive record, not an indictment.

The public may never know, at least officially, who in the Bush administration was responsible for a program that, as Feinstein said, was “un-American, brutal” and “never, never, never should have existed.”

That reality, the U.N. panel suggested, dents U.S. credibility on torture, and draws into question the Obama administration’s dedication to closing the Bush chapter.

The Obama administration’s delegation also was asked by the U.N. group on Wednesday if it agreed with a Bush-era interpretation of the panel’s international torture convention, which outlaws harsh treatment of prisoners. Secret Bush legal memos argued that the anti-torture treaty did not apply outside U.S. borders, creating the basis for a covert CIA program that shipped suspected terrorists to secret overseas prisons for harsh interrogation.

The Obama delegation had reportedly considered affirming that legal interpretation, which sent the international community into an uproar this month.

The U.S. delegation this week appeared to reject the Bush legal reasoning. But its careful parsing of words leaves room for interpretation.

The ideologically-partisan Senator Obama and 1st-day-in-office President is sympathetic to the UN and Feinstein-view in regards to the issue of “torture” and the CIA program. But like on Gitmo, on the NSA, on droning, on the GWoT or “Overseas Contingency Operations”, President Obama has found it more difficult to responsibly manage those ideological and political hot potatoes than he was in criticizing them from the outside as a JV senator.

The delay in the Report’s release is due to on-going disputes between Feinstein’s committee, the CIA, and the White House over the redactions (apparently they are negotiating on one last redacted item).

The key issue has been the pseudonyms used in the report to identify CIA personnel involved in the controversial interrogation program. The panel insists that identities are adequately shielded, but the Oval Office and the spy agency have fought tooth and nail against releasing the report with the pseudonyms intact.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that the CIA’s arguments are “ludicrous.”

Wyden has been joined by several of his fellow committee Democrats, who have said the White House’s proposed blackouts would completely dilute the narrative that the report constructs.

“Redactions are supposed to remove names or anything that could compromise sources and methods, not to undermine the source material so that it is impossible to understand,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said after the White House originally suggested redactions in August. “Try reading a novel with 15 percent of the words blacked out — it can’t be done properly.”

The White House originally suggested that 15 percent of the document had to be blacked out. Negotiations reportedly progressed so that roughly 5 percent was blacked out as of last month.

On Tuesday, Feinstein also sought to stifle concerns over what the Republicans’ imminent Senate takeover could mean for the future of her report. When asked what might happen if the declassification review isn’t done by January, Feinstein smiled.

“It is gonna get done, so don’t worry about it,” she said.

Back to the Washington Times read:

current and former senior intelligence personnel are working on their own rebuttals to dispute many of the report’s findings on factual grounds. The CIA produced its own official rebuttal to the report back in June 2013 that is in the process of being declassified.

The brewing storm between the CIA and its Democratic intelligence overseers in the Senate comes at an awkward time.

The Obama administration is pressing the intelligence community to step up its efforts to uncover possible new threats associated with terrorist groups like the Islamic State, which last week beheaded an American reporter who had been captured in Syria, and Boko Haram, which garnered worldwide attention by kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria this spring.

“We want our operations people focused on thwarting the next terror attack from very real and imminent threats like IS, and instead they’re looking over their shoulders worried about blind criticism about tactics from a decade ago that were authorized by the president and cleared by the Justice Department and briefed to Congress,” said one senior intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“It’s not the optimum circumstance for the intelligence community. They’re professionals and will do their job. But you never want them distracted at a critical time like this with leaks from a partisan report,” the official said.

Mr. Rodriguez, likewise, said he has heard from his former colleagues about the weight the impending report is having on them as they do their jobs each day. He declined to discuss the actual findings of the report, citing the nondisclosure agreement he signed.

“These people have mothers, fathers, neighbors and friends, and they have been slandered, been called torturers by the president. And I don’t think the government thinks stuff like this through for the consequences. They are throwing the Agency under the bus right at a time when they need it [the Agency] most,” he said.

Current CIA Director John Brennan has held calls and meetings with current staff and former high-level officials likely to be affected by the report.

Concerns inside the Agency include that some current or former officers will have their safety placed in jeopardy if outed, that methods and sources will be improperly revealed, that information in the report will be used by foreign governments to try to prosecute CIA officers and that the tenor of the report could create a backlash in the Muslim world, resulting in retaliatory protests and attacks against U.S. agencies and personnel.

Mr. Brennan’s message, according to those who have personally heard it, is that he agrees the government early on could have handled the enhanced interrogation program better in some circumstances. But he also has promised to aggressively rebut any disputed information in the report and to defend any individuals from unfair personal attacks.

The CIA’s official rebuttal, completed more than a year ago, contains many of the sentiments that Mr. Brennan has expressed privately to concerned Agency employees. Specifically, while acknowledging shortcomings, it challenges strongly the argument in Ms. Feinstein’s committee report that no valuable intelligence was derived from the enhanced interrogation program, according to sources directly familiar with it.

As I had written previously:

So much of what we’ve learned about al Qaeda, so many of the operations that have since been carried out in killing and capturing operatives, subsequently leading to more info and more kills and captures, can all be traced back to what we began learning about the al Qaeda network from CIA interrogations of HVTs. Waterboarding Zubaydah and KSM had a cascading effect, unlocking intell information that did not require more wateboardings, but which can trace their intell lineage back to the CIA program. By 2006, over half of what we knew about al Qaeda had come out of the CIA program.

I believe I had gotten that last information from Thiessen’s book.

Also in the Washington Times article:

One of its primary conclusions — reported in a recent New York Times article — is that CIA torture was more common in the period right after Sept. 11, 2001, than previously acknowledged and that the CIA misled Bush administration officials about how widely enhanced interrogations were used and why they were necessary.

In the early days on the heels of 9/11, in the chaotic aftermath to create new programs and prevent the next attack, mistakes were undoubtedly made. Stephen Hayes:

There are certainly parts of the program that deserve criticism. There were major problems with the way it was conceived, approved, and carried out. There were troubling abuses in the early years, and later some misleading briefings about the enhanced interrogation techniques used. There were conflicts of interest and questionable accounting practices. Some of the public claims about the intelligence derived from enhanced techniques were clearly exaggerated, and at least one of those claims was patently false.

Such matters should be subject to tough, dispassionate, fact-based investigation. Actual failings should be condemned by both Republicans and Democrats, by supporters of the program as well as opponents.

That’s not what happened here.

Instead, the report was produced by the Democratic staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Dianne Feinstein. Republicans declined to participate.

Anyone who decides to read the Feinstein “torture” Report and who is more interested in the truth than in partisan-blame and bias confirmation, should also balance it out with the Minority view, Republican rebuttal, as well as the CIA rebuttal. That also works the other way, as well. It is why I’ve read the works of so many of the critics. I still consider Ali Soufan’s Black Banner a good read; and the former FBI agent a great patriot. But his book, and that of Matthew Alexander (pseudonym for Anthony Camerino), should be balanced out with Jose Redriguez’ Hard Measures and Marc Thiessen’s Courting Disaster.

Even though “Beale” doesn’t name them, Ali Soufan and- I believe- Steven Kleinman– are the two interrogators “Beale” is calling out.

President Obama had made it clear we should move forward and not look backward. Senator Feinstein claims this isn’t about criminally prosecuting anyone. Then what’s the point? How did abu Ghraib’s revelations help our war efforts? It didn’t. It exacerbated and inflamed. It was a recruitment bonanza for the insurgents and jihad fighters joining up with Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq. It didn’t make us any safer, or Iraqis any safer, because we Americans ‘fessed and owned up to our sins in the middle of a war.

Former CIA Director Hayden also warns how, in a time like this where we are still fighting a global jihad movement, along with Islamists in Iraq and Syria, the timing of this release will only help America’s enemies. Jihadis have become well-versed in the promotion of jihadi propaganda over social media and the internet. The Feinstein Report is guaranteed to provide them with more fodder to feed their potential recruitment:

WASHINGTON — As the nation’s intelligence communities brace for the Senate’s explosive report on the CIA’s now-defunct torture program to be made public, officials are warning that its release in the midst of the Islamic State fight could put American lives at risk, according to former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

“American embassies and other installations around the world have been warned to take defensive action in anticipation of this report being released,” Hayden cautioned Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “That is somewhat troubling.”

Hayden’s concerns follow public reports of other officials pointing to risks for overseas U.S. personnel since the Senate Intelligence Committee first voted in April to publicly release parts of its behemoth study on the post-9/11 program. The committee voted 11-3 to make public the 500-page executive summary of its five-year, $40 million study.

Any chance of the Report not seeing the light of day in the middle of an ideological war? Nada:

On Tuesday, Feinstein also sought to stifle concerns over what the Republicans’ imminent Senate takeover could mean for the future of her report. When asked what might happen if the declassification review isn’t done by January, Feinstein smiled.

“It is gonna get done, so don’t worry about it,” she said.

I have a hard time believing that Feinstein isn’t ideologically and politically driven on this. I believe the accusations of the CIA “snooping” was also politically-charged, distorting what had actually happened.

This past week, a very important piece was made available at the Weekly Standard. As Stephen Hayes reports:

Now, for the first time, one of the lead interrogators is attempting to tell the other side of the story. Writing under the pseudonym Jason Beale, he has produced a provocative 39-page document in an effort to counter the narrative pushed by Democrats and amplified by journalists eager to discredit the program. The document—which Beale says was reviewed, redacted, and cleared by a U.S. government agency—does not reveal Beale’s precise role in the program. A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency would not confirm that the CIA was the agency that reviewed Beale’s document. And in an email interview, Beale refused even to acknowledge that he conducted interrogations in the CIA program. “The opinions I expressed on interrogations in the document I sent you,” he wrote, “are representative of the insight I’ve gained during my career as an interrogator. While I am aware that you and others may draw some inference from the approved portion of the text as to the basis of my arguments regarding enhanced techniques, I am not presently in a position to elaborate on how I formed those opinions.”

Sources familiar with the program independently confirm that Beale served as a senior interrogator beginning in 2004.

Beale’s document covers many aspects of the debate over enhanced interrogation—the morality of enhanced interrogation techniques, the use of EITs on U.S. servicemen and women during their survival training, the hypocrisy of public officials who approved the program and later pretended that they opposed it, the unearned authority of several top critics of the program, and, most important, the effectiveness of the techniques.

“Beale” challenges the Feinstein claim that EITs didn’t work.

Marc Thiessen’s book made it known that CIA interrogators underwent waterboarding themselves, so that they knew intimately, firsthand, the seriousness and severity of what they may be doing to HVTs, should the need arise. That neutralizes the critic challenge, “If waterboarding isn’t torture, then try it yourself”. The interrogators themselves had. “Beale” himself underwent waterboarding:

Beale participated in the course first as a student, then as an interrogator.

As a student, I learned that I could resist, and occasionally manipulate, a talented interrogator during my numerous “soft-sell” interrogations—the rapport-building, we-know-all, pride-and-ego up/down, do-the-right-thing approaches. I had my story relatively straight, and I simply stuck to it, regardless of how ridiculous or implausible the interrogator made it sound. He wasn’t doing anything to me—there was no consequence to my lies, no matter how transparent.

I then learned the difference between “soft-sell” and “hard-sell” by way of a large interrogator who applied enhanced techniques promptly upon the uttering of my first lie. I learned that it was infinitely more difficult for me to remember my lies and keep my story straight under pressure. I learned that it became difficult to repeat a lie if I received immediate and uncomfortable consequences for each iteration. It made me have to make snap decisions under intense pressure in real time—and fumble and stumble through rapid-fire follow-up questions designed to poke massive holes in my story.

I learned that I needed to practically live my lie if I were to be questioned under duress, as the unrehearsed details are the wild-cards that bite you in the ass. I learned that I would rather sit across from the most talented interrogator on earth doing a soft-sell than any interrogator on earth doing a hard-sell—the information I had would be safer because the only consequences to my lies come in the form of words. I could handle words. Anyone could.

Ask any SERE Level C graduate which method was more effective on him or her—their answer should tell you something about the effectiveness of enhanced techniques, whether you agree with them or not. In my case, I learned that enhanced techniques made me want to tell the truth to make it stop—not to compound my situation with more lies. The only thing that kept me from telling the truth was the knowledge that at some point it had to end—that there were more students to interrogate and only so many hours in a day. Absent that knowledge, I would have caved.

As a TDY [temporary duty] interrogator in the SERE course, I learned that the toughest, meanest, most professional special operations soldiers on earth had a breaking point. Every one of them. And of all the soldiers I interrogated, all of the “breaks” came during hard-sell interrogations—using as many enhanced techniques as necessary to convince the soldier that continuing to lie would result in immediate consequences. It worked—time and again, it worked.

The techniques were effective, Beale claims, not only with U.S. soldiers being prepared for what they might encounter if captured by an enemy, but also with senior al Qaeda prisoners. Defenders of EITs point to the extraction of important information on al Qaeda’s couriers to make their case. The information on one courier in particular—Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti—led to the location of Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In a heavily redacted section of his document, Beale writes that the EITs were essential to obtaining that information. Others have reported that two high-value detainees subject to enhanced interrogation—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi—went to great lengths to conceal information about the courier. That they did so after providing a steady stream of accurate and valuable information suggested to interrogators and analysts that the information about al-Kuwaiti was important. Beale writes:

That high-level detainee would no more have voluntarily sat down across from a debriefer and provided his list of Al Qaeda couriers without having been conditioned to do so than he would have walked ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ and asked to speak to the CIA debriefer. It simply would not have happened without incentive, and his incentive was to not go back to enhanced techniques. Period. Love it or hate it, that’s the way it worked.


I know that we couldn’t have collected the same information using standard techniques because I was an expert in using standard techniques — I used them thousands of times over two decades — and the notion that I could have convinced the detainees. . .to provide closely-held information (or any information at all) without the use of enhanced interrogation techniques is laughable. There is zero chance. Zero.

Hayes also points out how Beale makes mention of the change in President Obama’s language when speaking publicly about the efficacy of CIA “torture”. Essentially, it appears that President Obama, in being privy to the classified information, realizes that EITs had worked; but still disagrees with the methods and considers them to be “torture”.

One more item which is in Hayes’ article but not in Beale’s document:

In an interview, I pointed out that much of the coming debate will be about the effectiveness of the techniques and asked Beale directly: Were they effective? He made a simple point that he hadn’t made in his document. He noted that those subject to enhanced interrogation haven’t boasted about their ability to withstand the techniques and to withhold valuable information.

That is probably a question best asked of the former detainees—did Abu Zubaydah, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsi bin al-Shib, Hambali, Nashiri, or any of their brethren give up protected information during their time in the custody of CIA? If they didn’t they should be proud of their ability to withstand such torturous tactics—I would think they would mock the feeble and misguided efforts of the CIA interrogators to get them to talk, or to make a mistake, rather than claim that such treatment made them say things they later regret. That’s the point of enhanced interrogation—at least from my perspective as a former TDY SERE interrogator—you hope that they say things they will later regret.

Beale wrote his document “to remind the American public that there are two sides to every story” and to make clear “that the upcoming [Senate] report should be read with an understanding that the outcome was predetermined by the political and ideological leanings of the majority, which produced the report.”

He is concerned that the documentation included in the summary report was selected to make the argument that Senate Democrats wanted to make and that information complicating that narrative was deliberately excluded.

Read the entire 40-page document. It is well worth the time.

A blogpost I am proud of from 2011, “Torture doesn’t work…, ok, so where’s the disagreement?” has a link that no longer seems to work. In light of that, here is a reprint-copy of the post. I may try and restore the 40+ comments later on by embedding them into the copy.

Further recent articles of interest:

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