Abu Zubaydah: Waterboarded 83 Times for 10 Pieces of Intelligence

The torture apologists are out in force, insisting that torture produces useful information. Cheney’s even promising to release information from CIA cataloging all the useful information that came from torture.

But we don’t have to wait for Cheney to make good on his promise. We already have a way to assess how much intelligence we got directly from torturing Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: the 9/11 Report. After all, the 9/11 Report integrates a huge amount of information from interrogation reports, and cites them all meticulously. As early as June 6, 2003, the 9/11 Commission asked for, "“all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations” of forty named individuals, including Abu Zubaydah and (apparently) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and they used what they got in return to write their report. So if there was useful information in those reports, they presumably got it.

Here was a bipartisan group–including many staffers and members with extensive national security backgrounds–attempting to learn everything it could about al Qaeda, poring through interrogation reports produced as a result of torture, tracking inconsistencies in the intelligence, corroborating that intelligence where possible with documents and other testimony, and ultimately selecting what it felt was useful in telling the story of al Qaeda. While certainly not a perfect assessment of what was useful (I’ll explain why below), it provides one of the best unbiased ways to measure how useful this intelligence was.

And in the case of Abu Zubaydah, such an assessment is horrifying. 

In the entire 9/11 Report, just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports.


And there are several other damning details that come from this analysis. One of the ten pieces of intelligence that appears in the 9/11 Report–regarding Abu Zubaydah’s role running terrorist training camps–came from July 10, 2002, before the CIA first received oral authorization to use torture. Thus, it either came from persuasive, rather than coercive, techniques. Or it came from treatment that had not been legally approved.

In addition, the 9/11 Report doesn’t cite interrogation reports addressing [the lack of] ties between Iraq and al Qaeda directly; it cites a 2003 memo from Doug Feith that in turn cites 2003 interrogations of AZ and KSM. It’s unclear whether AZ’s and KSM’s earlier denials of links between al Qaeda and Iraq simply don’t show up in the earlier interrogation reports, or whether such information was deemed not credible in earlier reports. But the absence of such references, when we know interrogators were pushed to ask about them, raises questions about the integrity of the interrogation reports.

Of the ten pieces of information that appear in the Report, just one comes from the month when AZ was under most intensive interrogation. As it pertains to Rahim al-Nashiri, who had not yet been captured, it might be said to have an influence on his capture. Though appears to be background on who he was rather than details about how to find him. 

Finally, it was not until the Commission started submitting specific questions to be asked of detainees that AZ is reported to have discussed one key detail: why so many Saudis took part in the attacks.

I’ve got caveats and further discussion on this below. But a review of what the 9/11 Commission found useful from AZ suggests we waterboarded a man 83 times for ten pieces of intelligence.

The Timeline

Here are the ten references to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports that appear in the 9/11 Report’s notes, along with other key dates from the chronology:

March 28, 2002: Abu Zubaydah captured

July 10, 2002: Abu Zubaydah describes his role running the Khaldan and Derunta training camps and the arrangement he has withal Qaeda (chapter 6, footnote 5)

Khaldan and Derunta were terrorist training camps in Afghanistan controlled by Abu Zubaydah.While the camps were not al Qaeda facilities,Abu Zubaydah had an agreement with Bin Ladin to conduct reciprocal recruiting effort whereby promising trainees at the camps could be invited to join al Qaeda.

July 24, 2002: CIA first receives oral guidance from Jay Bybee on interrogation techniques

August 1, 2002: Bybee memo formally authorizes enhanced interrogation techniques

August 29, 2002: Abu Zubaydah describes Rahim al-Nashiri’s success as a recruiter (chapter 5, footnote 31)

Nashiri also enjoyed a reputation as a productive recruiter for al Qaeda.

August 31, 2002 (approximately): Month-long intensive interrogation (including waterboarding) ends

October 2002: Rahim al-Nashiri captured

October 29, 2002: AZ describes Bin Laden’s popularity (chapter 2, footnote 18, text from body of report; also supported by 2000 CTC report)

By 1998, Bin Ladin had a distinctive appeal, as he focused on attacking America. He argued that other extremists, who aimed at local rulers or Israel, did not go far enough.They had not taken on what he called “the head of the snake.”

November 7, 2002: AZ gives tempered description of KSM’s popularity (chapter 5, footnote 19; the report suggests AZ may have been jealous of KSM)

KSM appears to have been popular among the al Qaeda rank and file. He was reportedly regarded as an effective leader, especially after the 9/11 attacks. Co-workers describe him as an intelligent, efficient, and even-tempered manager who approached his projects with a single-minded dedication that he expected his colleagues to share. Al Qaeda associate Abu Zubaydah has expressed more qualified admiration for KSM’s innate creativity, emphasizing instead his ability to incorporate the improvements suggested by others.

2003, undated: Doug Feith cites 2003 interrogations of AZ and KSM in a memo summarizing ties between Iraq and al Qaeda (chapter 2, footnote 76) [Note, Phillip Shenon’s The Commission notes that "in the early days of the investigation, [Philip Zelikow] had pushed for the commission’s staff to try to find evidence linking al-Qaeda and Baghdad." So we know the Commission was looking for such details. But the 9/11 Report cites no interrogation report describing Iraq-Al Qaeda ties directly.] 

We have seen other intelligence reports at the CIA about 1999 contacts. They are consistent with the conclusions we provide in the text, and their reliability is uncertain. Although there have been suggestions of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda regarding chemical weapons and explosives training, the most detailed information alleging such ties came from an al Qaeda operative who recanted much of his original information.Intelligence report, interrogation of al Qaeda operative,Feb. 14,2004.Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any such ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. Intelligence reports, interrogations of KSM and Zubaydah, 2003 (cited in CIA letter, response to Douglas Feith memorandum,“Requested Modifications to ‘Summary of Body of Intelligence Reporting on Iraq–al Qaida Contacts (1990–2003),’” Dec. 10, 2003, p. 5).

May 16, 2003: AZ claims Bin Laden expanded the scope of KSM’s original plan (chapter 5, footnote 25) [Note, this footnote appears because it contradicts KSM’s claims–included in the text–that the 9/11 plan was originally much bigger than it ended up being. The Commission appears to find KSM’s claim more truthful here.]

Abu Zubaydah,who worked closely with the al Qaeda leadership, has stated that KSM originally presented Bin Ladin with a scaled-down version of the 9/11 plan, and that Bin Ladin urged KSM to expand the operation with the comment,“Why do you use an axe when you can use a bulldozer?” Intelligence report, interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, May 16, 2003.The only possible corroboration we have found for Abu Zubaydah’s statement is Khallad’s suggestion that Bin Ladin may have expanded KSM’s original idea for an attack using planes. Intelligence report, interrogation of Khallad,Apr. 22, 2004. Neither Abu Zubaydah nor Khallad claims to have been present when KSM says he first pitched his proposal to Bin Ladin in 1996.

June 6, 2003: 9/11 Commission asks for “all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations” of forty named individuals.

June 24, 2003: AZ provides description of the origins of "the Encyclopedia," a terrorist training manual created during the anti-Soviet campaign (chapter 6, footnote 8)

The Encyclopedia is a multivolume instruction manual containing lessons on weapons handling, tactics, covert operations, bomb making, and other topics.The manual was originally created in the late 1980s by Afghanistan-based extremists, who considered it essential for waging terrorist operations and guerrilla warfare in the jihad against the Soviets.

October 14, 2003:  9/11 Commission gives CIA “Questions for CIA Regarding Detainee Interrogation,” which,

posed dozens of very specific questions about puzzles in the interrogation reports themselves, including questions for anyone involved in the interrogations (e.g., interrogation administrators, interrrogators, or reporting officers) to clarify statements made in Abu Zubaydah’s interrogations (among others) or to clarify statements with further questions to the detainees. 

October 16, 2003:  9/11 Commision gives CIA “Evaluating Primary Information about the 9/11 Plot,” which,

… included questions about the translation process in the interrogations; the knowledge base of the interrogators; the way the interrogators had handled inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories; the context of what particular questions had been asked in order to elicit the reported information; the context of how interrogators had followed up on particular lines of questioning; and more information to assess the credibility and demeanor of the detainees in making the reported statements – and the views or assessments of the interrogators themselves. 

December 13, 2003: AZ provides a description of Bin Laden’s actions after the Cole bombing (chapter 6, footnote 125, text from body of report)

Back in Afghanistan, Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation. He ordered the evacuation of al Qaeda’s Kandahar airport compound and fled— first to the desert area near Kabul, then to Khowst and Jalalabad, and eventually back to Kandahar. In Kandahar, he rotated between five to six residences, spending one night at each residence.

January 26, 2004: After repeated negotiations with the 9/11 Commission, which still felt its information from detainees was insufficient, the Administration offered to take sets of written followup questions, pose them to detainees, relay answers back to the Commission, and take further questions.

February 18, 2004: AZ provides information on Abu Turab, who reportedly conducted the final training for the 9/11 plotters. (chapter 7, footnote 108)

Abu Turab was the son-in-law of Ayman al Zawahiri.

February 19, 2004: AZ provides a comment on whether Saudis were selected for the 9/11 plot specifically (chapter 7, footnote 90, text from body of report)

Several other al Qaeda figures, however, have stated that ethnicity generally was not a factor in the selection of operatives unless it was important for security or operational reasons.

Now, as the Report makes clear, AZ was not the original source for a piece of intelligence the torture apologists credit to his torture–KSM’s nickname, Mukhtar. Here’s what the text of the report says about the nickname.

When additional pieces of the puzzle arrived in the spring and summer of 2001, they were not put together.

The first piece of the puzzle concerned some intriguing information associated with a person known as “Mukhtar” that the CIA had begun analyzing in April 2001.The CIA did not know who Mukhtar was at the time—only that he associated with al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and that, based on the nature of the information, he was evidently involved in planning possible terrorist activities. 110

The second piece of the puzzle was some alarming information regarding KSM.On June 12, 2001, a CIA report said that “Khaled”was actively recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the United States where colleagues were reportedly already in the country to meet them, to carry out terrorist-related activities for Bin Ladin. CIA headquarters presumed from the details of the reporting that this person was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In July, the same source was shown a series of photographs and identified a photograph of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the Khaled he had previously discussed.111

The final piece of the puzzle arrived at the CIA’s Bin Ladin unit on August 28 in a cable reporting that KSM’s nickname was Mukhtar. No one made the
connection to the reports about Mukhtar that had been circulated in the spring.

As to the one other piece of intelligence credited to AZ’s torture (though FBI sources dispute this, too), Jose Padilla’s name never appears in the Report. The 9/11 Commission, it appears, did not find Padilla a notable player in the threat posed by al Qaeda.

The Caveats

As I said above, this analysis is definitely not a perfect measure of the value of AZ’s intelligence. While the 9/11 Commission includes abundant details of the second half of KSM’s plan (to blow up US-flagged planes in Asia), and that may have been perceived to be a real ongoing threat when KSM was interrogated, the 9/11 Report does not provide information on impending threats. So the 9/11 Report is not a good measure of precisely what the torture apologists want to claim torture is good for–for quick discovery of ticking timebomb threats.

That said, we know from the IG Report fragments cited in the May 30, 2005 torture memo that as of May 2004, there was no conclusive data connecting intelligence gained through torture with preventing any attacks.

As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. See id. at 88.

And even today, in a memo some point to as proof that torture works, Dennis Blair emphasizes the importance of information gained through torture to provide a "deeper understanding" of al Qaeda; he makes no claims that the information prevented any imminent attack.

High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.

Philip Zelikow describes the goal of the Commission as seeking precisely that kind of deeper undersanding of al Qaida.

[The Commission] did seek information not only about the 9/11 plot, but also any intelligence information about the history and evolution of al Qaeda and its connections  to other terrorist entities.

So while the 9/11 Report may not be a fair measure of whether intelligence gained through torture prevented any imminent attacks, it is a fair measure of what information gained through torture "provided a deeper understanding" of al Qaeda.

Another caveat: while the 9/11 Report uses almost nothing from Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports, it relies heavily on KSM’s interrogation reports. I’m just part of the way through collecting all the KSM references from the report, and I’ve tracked over a hundred references attributed to KSM interrogation. One of the interrogation reports–claiming Hambali helped Moussaoui–comes from the month he was tortured. And a few more of the reports from April, shortly after the waterboarding apparently ended, pertain to Hambali as well. Though I wonder whether the intelligence community still stands by the claim that an al Qaeda associate was attempting to create anthrax in Kandahar for a year?

But even with KSM, the most substantive interrogation reports–the ones that "provided a deeper understanding" of al Qaeda, came after the waterboarding stopped. Interrogation sessions on July 12, 2003, August 18, 2003, January 9, 2004, and (presumably using questions that came from the Commission) mid-February, 2004 provided by far the most information appearing in the Report.

We will never know whether the later interrogation reports from AZ or KSM could have been gleaned without having used torture or not. Both AZ and KSM describe threats of ongoing torture after the month of intense torture (with AZ, they left the small confinement box in sight; with KSM they would occasionally place the "walling" collar on the table). But also during this time, AZ and KSM increasingly received solid food and clothing and other apparent rewards for cooperation. Thus, we can’t say whether the later, much more productive interrogation sessions came because interrogators began to build rapport with these men–or at least a system of sticks and carrots, or because the threat of ongoing torture remained credible.

The Low-Quality Reports

One final point on the quality of the torture-based interrogations.

If intelligence is to be useful, then the interrogation reports must be accessible and meaningful to others, outside of the interrogation team, who read the reports. And on that level, at least as measured by the 9/11 Commission, the process that created the interrogation reports of AZ and KSM failed, utterly. As Zelikow explains, the first batch of interrogation reports received in fall 2003 were not very useful. "After reviewing and digesting this material, Commission staff concluded that this information was not as detailed as they had expected." The material raised questions about information edited out between the operational cables [what was sent back to HQ] and the disseminated reports [what the Commission got to read]. It raised questions about the translation process used for the interrogations and the "knowledge base" of the interrogators. Ultimately, though, the Commission was never able to adequately address concerns about the "credibility and meaning" of the reports. So the experience of the 9/11 Commission–in addition to what they tell us about the inefficacy of the torture–also suggests that the entire interrogation system, with compartmented interrogators working in secret locations, who didn’t have the appropriate language skills or a solid understanding of al Qaeda, did not produce usable intelligence. Cheney wants to argue that torture produced intelligence–but the 9/11 Commission makes it clear that it wasn’t usable intelligence. 

As I said, using the 9/11 Report to measure the value of the information we got through torture is imperfect–though it is a means of doing so outside of the inflamed debate we’re currently in (though its publication did postdate the Abu Ghraib scandal that put torture on the front pages). 

However imperfect a way to measure the intelligence we got, it still tells a really horrifying story. Abu Zubdaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a month. And for all that torture, he only revealed 10 (perhaps 9) pieces of intelligence deemed useful by the 9/11 Commission. 

120 replies
  1. sojourner says:

    Marcy, be VERY proud!! I just came in from mowing the yard. While I mow, I wear headphones and listen to talk radio. I happened to knock the frequency adjustment off and kept tuning around to try to find the station that I like to listen to. I came across at least five local talk stations here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area — and every one of them was talking about torture! It was interesting to hear those that are most conservative trying to defend what has happened — and some of their listeners were having none of it!

    While there have been many people writing and blogging about torture in the last few years, I think you are the one who set off the explosion!!

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I’ll second the ‘be proud’.

      William Ockham once left one of my all-time favorite links on an EW thread,
      . Perhaps some of those Texas radio listeners are familiar with the work of Walter Wink…? Note the careful attention to language analysis at this link — in contrast to the translation and language problems that the 9/11 Commission highlighted. This bit of Biblical scholarship underscores the real need for better language skills and translators, IMHO. Enjoy!

      An excerpt:

      There is not a single instance in which Jesus does not resist evil when He encounters it. The problem begins right there with the word resist. The Greek term is antistenai. Anti is familiar to us in English still, “against,” “Anti”-Defamation League. Stenai means to stand. So, “stand against.” Resist is not a mistranslation so much as an undertranslation. What has been overlooked is the degree to which antistenai is used in the Old Testament in the vast majority of cases as a technical term…

      …Jesus is trying to break that spiral of violence. Don’t resist one who is evil probably means something like, don’t turn into the very thing you hate. Don’t become what you oppose. The earliest translation of this is probably in a version of Romans 12 where Paul says, “Do not return evil for evil.”[my bold]

      I’m really heartened by your report of the audience ‘reality check’. Very heart-warming.

      I shudder to think how many of our problems stem from mistranslations and misunderstandings. More foreign language skills are arguably a national security priority for the U.S.

      • sojourner says:

        Thank YOU! I had heard or read something about that before, but I now have it in my links…

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          My pleasure. Thanks go to William Ockham.
          But I think it does also — inadvertantly — make a case for more, better foreign language skills. And also for thoughtful Biblical and text/Comparative Literature scholarship ;-))

        • dosido says:

          hi reader, it’s also a great link to use when discussing the Bible Literalists. “a camel passing through the eye of a needle” is one example of literal translation. someone a long time ago explained that a narrow passage through craggy mountaintops were sometimes referred to as eyes of needles. after that my understanding of the bible became a lot more fun and enlightening and flexible!

  2. klynn says:

    “If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong,” Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told a meeting of officials on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes from the meeting.

    The officials who had visited Guantanamo the week before were David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s top lawyer; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and now President Bush’s Homeland Security secretary.

    This from McClatchy somewhat fits into your timeline…

    • tjbs says:

      That’s why we need the doctors that swore to do no harm. After they have been murdered they can be revived to be murdered another day. COOL

  3. phred says:

    burqa posted a bunch of really good quotes on the McCain thread the other day and it has gotten me thinking about the whole ticking time bomb scenario. There are 3 underlying assumptions that the Jack Bauer crowd makes:
    1) There is a ticking time bomb
    2) The person you are torturing knows about it
    3) Torture will force the person in part 2 to yield information fast enough to defuse the bomb (or expressed another way, faster than rapport building).

    Here we see evidence where in fact
    1) There was not a ticking time bomb, they just postulated its existence
    2) The person(s) they tortured didn’t know about the time bomb, because it didn’t exist

    And in other reports we have seen that
    3) Rapport building worked prior to any torture tactics.

    In a movie, the writer is omniscient, so the ticking time bomb scenario makes sense. The audience knows it’s there. The torturers know it’s there. And the tortured cooperate only under tortured coercion, because the script says so.

    In reality, these assumptions are false. Even under the one “justifiable” (to some, not to me) case that gets trotted out over and over and over again, torture cannot succeed because the torturers don’t already know what the tortured person knows. It is doomed to fail.

  4. drational says:

    The other caveat is that an investigation might have been initiated based upon a waterboard session, but the report writing not be completed for weeks or months. Thus, reports filed before waterboarding are certainly untainted, but it seems unclear whether there is enough information to say that waterboarding did not form the basis of (or at least initiate) the post-waterboarding reports. Right?

    • emptywheel says:

      Possibly true. Here’s what the CIA told the Commission.

      The Commission staffers who took part in these discussions (Zelikow,
      Marcus, Snell, Dunne, and De) recall being told that interrogations were
      turned into written reports, first through operational cables sent to reports
      officers and then as the reports officers wrote up the material for
      dissemination to the intelligence community. The staff was repeatedly
      assured that there were no material or substantive differences between the
      information contained in the operational cables and the information in the
      disseminated reports. Thus any gaps in the reports would not be solved by
      consulting the operational cables. The Commission staffers who took part in these discussions (Zelikow,
      Marcus, Snell, Dunne, and De) recall being told that interrogations were
      turned into written reports, first through operational cables sent to reports officers and then as the reports officers wrote up the material for dissemination to the intelligence community. The staff was repeatedly assured that there were no material or substantive differences between the
      information contained in the operational cables and the information in the
      disseminated reports. Thus any gaps in the reports would not be solved by
      consulting the operational cables. (The Commission had sought and
      obtained access to CIA operational cables on other issues, as needed.)

      So that does allow for a delay, making it possible–probable, even, that those April reports from KSM (which IMO look least credible) were waterboarding (which is why I focsed on it). We do know there were reports made, on both, during the torture month of each (which in KSM’s case was his first month of captivity in any case).

      That said, unless it took them 4 months to get purportedly active intelligence into the field with KSM, then it remains that the bulk of the information came after waterboarding.

      • drational says:

        Probably unanswerable questions: What is the accepted delay between interrogation and sending a cable? Did each interrogation session get a unique cable and report? What is the accepted delay between receiving cable and producing report?

        If there is high temporal fidelity then your premise is valid; That the commission was not permitted to see the cables suggests major filtering. This fact could cover delay. But most interesting is the question of whether the original cables still exist or whether they were destroyed along with the tapes….

        • Nell says:

          That the [9/11] commission was not permitted to see the cables suggests major filtering. … But most interesting is the question of whether the original cables still exist or whether they were destroyed along with the tapes

          Very interesting question, indeed, drational. If I were Leon Panetta, I’d want to have the answer to that question right this minute.

      • bobschacht says:

        The staff was repeatedly assured that there were no material or substantive differences between the information contained in the operational cables and the information in the disseminated reports.

        As an investigator, I would be extremely suspicious of any such claims, and I would want, at a minimum, to know the author of each report, and to conduct a sample comparison between operational cables and disseminated reports for each author, to get a first-hand impression about the reliability of these reports. I’d be willing to bet that at least some reports by some analysts were “spun”.

        We have to keep in mind that the CIA was being pressured to come up with good stuff. It is not reasonable to suppose that the lower(?)-level operatives who wrote the reports were immune to this pressure, unless one has direct evidence to support that judgment.

        Bob in HI

        • emptywheel says:

          So would I.

          Shenon describes that one of the staffers–who was a former AUSA, real PatFItz type–was going nuts with the interrogation reports. I can imagine.

        • TheraP says:

          Bob, you are asking for the same thing I am about psychological assessments re AZ. Where are the actual psych assessments? And where is the raw data, so that other psychologists can assess whether the assessments fit the data?

          This is the kind of thing that underlies the decisions to torture. And we need requests for this info. It is vital!

          It’s like asking if the map fits the territory? Show me the maps! Show me the territory!

  5. klynn says:

    Interesting question being asked a few places right now…regarding the Feith memo…

    “Why did we need to extract false information linking Iraq to al Qaeda?

    I know the answer is obvious…

    If the purpose of interrogation is produce “useful” information, it does not mean that the end goal is “truthful” information.

  6. Mary says:

    Absolutely excellent piece – a terrific contribution.

    I’m glad you pointed to what seemed to jump out from the Blair memo – this wasn’t torture for a ticking time bomb, but rather torture to try to get a “deeper understanding” of how al-Qaeda operated.

    Think of all the other ways that could have been achieved. There is a section in Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea where he is in the mountains (I don’t remember if it was Afghanistan or Pakistan) with a donor at a village where a school had been built when the news of the attacks came out. Their village contacts had no real concept of what New York City was or the twin towers, etc. but the man who was talking to Mortenson about the bombing information that was coming in told Mortenson *Bin Laden has done this* with a certainty. Not because he was “al Qaeda” and definitely not because he was anti-American, but because of the geographic and tribal knowledge banks.

    You can’t go back, but you have to wonder at all the lost opportunities to have real data banks put together if we had gone with more of a criminal law, and less a military, response.

    Does the 9/11 report ever mention Noor al-Deen btw?

    • emptywheel says:

      It doesn’t but it wouldn’t have in any case. The 9/11 Commiss was only permitted to use the names of 10 detainees who capture had been confirmed by the govt.

      So, for example, there are footnotes we know to be Sheikh al-Libi. But identified only as “detainee.”

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Mary, I could not have been this succinct, but this comment wonderfully expresses my own sense. (Kilcullen’s “Accidental Guerilla” is on my to-read list, in part b/c a cursory view suggests that this is his approach, although that’s only a preliminary hope/hunch on my part.)
      In a Google Earth world, Cheney’s approach is not functional.

      And I can’t wait until you track down the Chertoff links.
      Without any doubt, he links to Alice Fisher, who also links to that mess with Siegelman in Alabama (which links to Gov Riley, and links to a federal judge… lotsa nodes on that organizational structure, many of them linking back to K-k-k-karl Rove, who links to Jack Abramoff).

    • Palli says:

      Yes, we could have found the individual criminals, Bin Laden and all, given them a true and transparent trial to show to the world what justice means and turned directly to rebuilding an Afganistan that could free itself from the Taliban and recover from the years of being the world’s war arena…but clearly the desire for the emmense redistribution of American wealth was easier to disquise under a vengeful war in Iraq.

  7. hackworth1 says:

    Google: Bush’s Faustian Deal With the Taliban. Article by Robt. Sheer, The Nation May 2001.

    ….the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the United States the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that “rogue regime” for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban’s estimation, are most human activities, but it’s the ban on drugs that catches this administration’s attention.

    Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.

    • MarkH says:

      It just shows bin Laden and Al Qaeda are the dangerous enemy and that the Taleban is a party we can deal with in some ways, but not with respect to AQ. We saw that with our first foray to get AQ in Afghanistan. The Taleban protected AQ as brothers.

      If we got Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (sp) and bin Laden might be dead, then who is left in AQ leadership except al Zawahiri?

    • MarkH says:

      Article by Robt. Sheer, The Nation May 2001.

      ….the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the United States the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that “rogue regime” for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God.

      “May 2001″, just shortly before they knew bin Laden was sending his troops to America to attack.

      Did this really finance the attacks or did the Taleban use that money in other ways? Remember, bin Laden had some money and a lot of charity money sent his way for funding.

      There is still a big question of how independent bin Laden was or if he had a sponsor and some ulterior motives (rather than just jihad).

  8. TheraP says:

    If medicine or psychology were looking for a method to determine a diagnosis or whatever, you’d look at what we call a “hit rate.” You’d look for false positives and false negatives. In other words, how cost effective is your method? How often is it correct? How often does it provide false information” How often can you trust what you gather?

    This is a pretty low hit rate. Most of the time, you can’t trust you’ve gathered anything worth while. If it were medicine, imagine how costly it would be to use a method providing such poor results. Health care, no matter where you’d get it, would deem this to be a useless method. Way too costly for the number of times you actually got the correct diagnosis.

    Suppose a cancer test: 73 people told they had cancer – who didn’t have it!

    Suppose you had this hit-rate for a weapons’ system. You’d have to drop 83 bombs to be sure of getting 10 targets accurately. The other 73 would be schools demolished, people killed – making more enemies!

    Suppose it related to transportation. You use a map. But only 10 times out of 83 would it actually be reliable!

    Suppose it was food safety. 10 times out of 83 you don’t get trichinosis!

    How about learning to swim? Teach your kid via this method, and 10 times out of 83, they don’t drown!

    Ok, I think I’ve made my point! And you’ve made it too, EW! Unfortunate that we even need to make such a point. Because torture is always wrong!

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, this doesn’t count the misses, of course, only the “hits.”

      I suspect the Commiss used so little from AZ not because they didn’t get a lot of reports, but because so little of it was credible. It’s pretty clear from the Zelikow memo that they were having problems establishing anything AZ said with any level of credibility.

      • TheraP says:

        For the other 73 times:

        so little of it was credible.

        In other words, false positives. Or false negatives.

        What if indeed the erased tapes showed AZ saying there was a connection between Al Qaida and Sadam? But all that info he “provided” turned out to be false? Well… can’t have that, can we?

  9. hackworth1 says:

    The Bush Admin. financed the 911 attacks, then tortured KSM and others to confess Al Qaida/Saddam links.

  10. Mary says:

    17 – Thanks – so even without a name attached, do we know if they were given any information that might have contradicted the information on Z’s status as a high level al-Qaeda operative?

    • emptywheel says:

      None. But it appears taht 9/11 found AZ’s testimony to be totally not credible in the first place. That might be bc it was contradicted everywhere. It may be because it came off as totally incoherent. Or it may be because they were already getting whiffs of his torture.

      But they didn’t buy it.

    • burqa says:

      17 – Thanks – so even without a name attached, do we know if they were given any information that might have contradicted the information on Z’s status as a high level al-Qaeda operative?

      They were.
      Take a look at the following from THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of It’s Enemies Since 9/11, by Ron Suskind (Simon and Schuster, 2006)
      The first quote regards Zubaidah’s arrest and Dan Coleman was the top FBI expert on al Qaeda:

      page 95-96
      “Then Dan saw the prize: Zubaydah’s diary. It was extensive, stretching back more than a decade – a winding path through Zubaydah’s life. He was born in a Riyadh suburb but spent his teens on the West Bank. In 1987, at sixteen, he joined the Palestinian uprising. He eventually migrated to Afghanistan in the last days of the war with the Soviets. Somewhere in this period – in Afghanistan, it is believed – he received a severe head injury. Dan didn’t think much about the head wound report – something he’d heard a year before – until he read the top secret diary, which had been translated by a CIA team in the first few days after the Shabaz cottage was cleaned out.
      In it, Zubaydah wrote of his exploits in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3. Hani 1 was a boy, really ten years younger than the youthful Zubaydah’s real age. Hani 2 was the same age as Zubaydah; and Hani 3 was ten years older. Zubaydah wrote impressions of countless days – years, all told, of meeting with potential recruits, and his reactions to events and news reports – from all three perspectives. Each Hani had a distinctive voice and personality. What was being observed, by three pairs of eyes, meanwhile, was often less than compelling – what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said… in page after page after page. Zubaydah was a logistics man, a fixer, mostly for a niggling array of personal items, like the guy you call who handles the company health plan, or benefits, or the people in human resources. There was almost nothing “operational” in his portfolio. That was handled by the management team. He wasn’t one of them.
      As disappointing as what was in the diary, Coleman’s trained eye noticed what wasn’t. The CIA had long suspected that the ubiquitous Zubaydah was involved in the August, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa. He looked for entries in the summer of 1998 in Zubaidah’s diary. Nothing … nothing but nonsense.”

      Then, from pages 99-101:
      “In the wide, diffuse “war on terror,” so much of it occurring in the shadows – with no transparency and only perfunctory oversight – the administration could say anything it wanted to say. That was a blazing insight of this period. The administration could create whatever reality was convenient.
      Messages, of all kinds, could finally stand unfettered and unchallenged – a kind of triumph, a wish fulfillment, that could easily overwhelm principles of informed consent and accountability.
      Accountability, in fact, was shrunk to a single standard: prevent attacks on the U.S. mainland. As long as there were no such attacks, little else mattered.
      What, for instance, did all of this mean upon the capture of Zubaydah? A freeing of rhetoric for the “wartime” President to say what he felt desperately needed to be said.
      Which Bush did, first, in a speech at the Greenwich, Connecticut, Hyatt Regency on April 9, 2002. “The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He’s one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He’s not plotting and planning anymore. He’s where he belongs,” the President said to raucus cheers from a roomful of Republican Party contributors….
      ….. This message –and the characterization of Zubaydah as the “chief of operations” for all of al Qaeda, a putative “number three” to bin Laden and Zawahiri – would be a drum the President, the Vice President, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and others would beat relentlessly that April and the months to follow.
      Meanwhile, Dan Coleman and other knowledgeable members of the tribe of al Qaeda hunters at CIA were reading Zubaydah’s top secret diary and shaking their heads.
      “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,” Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul. “That’s why they let him fly all over the world doing meet and greet. That’s why people used his name on all sorts of calls and emails. He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights. You can see from what he writes how burdened he is with all these logistics – getting families of operatives, wives and kids, in and out of countries. He knew very little about real operations, or strategy. He was expendable, you know, the greeter … Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace, shaking hands.”
      This opinion was echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President. While Bush was out in public claiming Zubaydah’s grandiose malevolence, his private disappointment fell, as it often would, on Tenet – the man whose job he’d saved.
      “I said he was important,” Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?”
      “No sir, Mr. President.”
      Back at Langley, Tenet pressed subordinates over what could be done to get Zubaydah to talk ……
      “He received the finest medical attention on the planet,” said one CIA official. “We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him.” ……
      ….The first application of the new rules, however, would be to Zubaydah. The combination of forces was less than optimal: the value of his capture had already been oversold to the American public; and Zubaydah wouldn’t talk. Tenet was pushing his staff at CIA for a surprise, a breakthrough, which he could then deliver to Bush – evidence that would, after the fact, support the President’s public statements. It was a pattern that would be repeated many times in the coming years….
      …Misleading the public for no apparent reason except short-term political gain seemed willful and self-interested.
      And ensnaring.
      “Around the room a lot of people just rolled their eyes when we heard comments from the White House. I mean, Bush and Cheney knew what we knew about Zubaydah. The guy had psychological issues. He was, in a way, expendable. It was like calling someone who runs a company’s in-house travel department the COO,” said one top CIA official, who attended the 5 p.m. meeting where the issue of Zubaydah came up. “The thinking was, why the hell did the President have to put us in a box like this?”

      • RevBev says:

        I am guessing there are several people here can answer that question. To wit: stupid, arrogant, liar, narcissist, bully, coward, for a start.

      • cinnamonape says:

        Zubaydeh was Al Qaida’s “Concierge”…not their #3. In fact, even though he was arranging all of these things most of it was probably presented to him as unrelated to AQ activities. After all, he ran a camp for mujahideen who were coming into Afghanistan.

        He may have had a lot of information in his mind, but they were asking the wrong questions. He needed to be groomed and have events placed in context for proper recall. Instead they tortured him and torture creates stress, which simply confuses events and names.

        • burqa says:

          Zubaydeh was Al Qaida’s “Concierge”…not their #3. In fact, even though he was arranging all of these things most of it was probably presented to him as unrelated to AQ activities. After all, he ran a camp for mujahideen who were coming into Afghanistan.

          He may have had a lot of information in his mind, but they were asking the wrong questions. He needed to be groomed and have events placed in context for proper recall. Instead they tortured him and torture creates stress, which simply confuses events and names.

          In post #72 in the McCain thread, I posted the following quote from former military interrogator Tony Lagournis’ book:

          “I spoke to Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent and an expert in the field of interrogation. Joe has had great success in gathering intelligence during interrogations and interviews without the use of torture. He outlined four main reasons why torture is ineffective. First, talk can’t be confused with truth. A torture victim will say anything, true or false, to get the pain to stop. Second, the stress pain creates confuses the subject and he simply can’t remember details well enough to produce good intelligence. Third, the torture subject may die or go into shock, in which case no information can be obtained from him. Finally, and perhaps most compelling, the torture victim, if he tells the interrogator anything at all, is likely to give one piece of information, or very little information, whereas a cooperative subject will talk and continue talking. Joe added that he believes that torture strengthens the resolve of the detainee, citing Senator John McCain, who, after having his shoulder torn from its socket by interrogators in Vietnam, was more determined than ever to keep his silence.”

  11. Mary says:

    7 – I’m still hoping we end up getting info on how Chertoff linked DOJ Crim Div in on all of this.

    • klynn says:

      To think EW was asking these questions way back…

      They’re just trying to distract from the fact that Chertoff bought off on the larger concept that DOJ would not prosecute torture in time of war–and then gave Yoo the leeway to decide for himself what kinds of torture he wanted to authorize


  12. Mary says:

    18/20 – all the more reason to send off someone to have their genitals razored and to disappear a US citizen in the US into military isolation based on that info. Or not. OT – but related, Binyam Mohamed is back in court asking again for release of info On the pro-disclosure side, Miliband has to deal with the fact that he told the British High Court and Parliament two different things about what the US reaction to the disclosure would be; on the anti-disclosure side, now that Mohamed is released from GITMO and in the UK and not facing charges it may be harder to make his argument of need.

    Meanwhile Britain is digging in to have Parliament address the whole issue of secret evidence and its use — so OT, but not completely so

    An early day motion has just been tabled for MPs to sign calling on the Government to set up an independent review into the use of such evidence.

    The motion, tabled by Diane Abbott, MP, says that “this House believes that the use of secret evidence in UK courts is fundamentally wrong”

  13. klynn says:

    EW wrote a few weeks back:

    And I’m suspecting, given Judge Hellerstein’s continued skepticism after having reviewed the documents, we might see some of the documents.

    Note, too, that judges are already holding the government to Eric Holder’s recent declaration on FOIA requiring agencies to lean towards openness. So if the CIA is making bogus claims about some of this stuff, we may well learn about that.

    I swear EW has a crystal ball!

    Would love to be a fly on the wall around Hellerstein now.

  14. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, EW!

    Many current talking heads are distinguishing between intelligence about immanent threats (Jack Bauer scenarios) and intelligence about general matters of Al Qaeda “structure.”

    As I read your account, it looks like the score is as follows:

    * Immanent threat information (Jack Bauer scenarios): 0

    * General matters of Al Qaeda “structure”: 9-10

    Is that correct?

    Also, your recent posts have indicated that an important purpose of the waterboarding was to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq– which I suppose relates to “structural” matters– in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Here there is no “ticking bomb,” only the Bush administration’s obsession with linking Al Qaeda to Iraq in order to justify the war they wanted to wage.

    IOW, the Jack Bauer justification just didn’t apply.

    Something else about the Jack Bauer rationale: In those scripts, if I understand correctly, Bauer & co. find out *in advance* about an impending attack, and have evidence that a prisoner in their custody knows about the impending attack. However, in the case of AZ and KSM, there is no known impending attack, and the torture merely represents a fishing expedition.

    Again, it would appear that the Jack Bauer scenario is totally irrelevant.

    Do I understand correctly, or am I missing something?

    Bob in HI

    • SparklestheIguana says:

      Well see EW’s earlier post quoting the David Johnston NYT article of 2006


      Other officials, more closely tied to intelligence agencies, dismissed that account, saying that the C.I.A. had supervised all interviews with Mr. Zubaydah, including those in which F.B.I. agents asked questions. These officials said that he proved a wily adversary. “He was lying, and things were going nowhere,” one official briefed on the matter said of the early interviews. “It was clear that he had information about an imminent attack and time was of the essence.”

      As well as the Bybee memo:

      The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge. Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United Stares or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas. Zubaydah has become accustomed to a certain level of treatment and displays no signs of willingness to disclose further information. Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently level of “chatter” equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks.

      • bobschacht says:

        But were these interrogation teams convinced a priori that AZ had such information, or was their conviction based on any evidence? What, actually, was the basis for the allegation that “It was clear that he had information about an imminent attack and time was of the essence”?

        Mere assertion does not make it so.

        Of course, Dick Cheney would accept the judgment of this interrogator because it fitted his preconceived opinions. I can predict that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh will also accept this judgment.

        Bob in HI

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    January 26, 2004: After repeated negotiations with the 9/11 Commission, which still felt its information from detainees was insufficient, the Administration offered to take sets of written followup questions, pose them to detainees, relay answers back to the Commission, and take further questions.

    Nice Rovian touch there. The administration at least impliedly denies having asked the victim these questions or similar ones about identical or related issues. It makes Congress an implied, but ignorant co-torturer.

    That is, the legal historian in David Addington would have known that the medieval phrase (rendered in English) “Putting the Question” means to torture the answer from the victim.

    • emptywheel says:

      Ugh. Nice touch. Did not know that.

      Though Congress would have been second-hand involved, onyl through the monster tey created in teh 9/11 commission.

  16. SparklestheIguana says:

    Dana Rohrabacher asks Hillary if she agrees with Dick’s request to release further CIA memos and she says “It won’t surprise you that I don’t consider Dick a reliable source of information.” Chuckles all around. (24 seconds)


  17. Leen says:

    A long long distance between the claim that they wanted to have a “deeper understanding” and the claims coming out of Cheney and the Bush administrations that these individuals had information that could stop an “imminent threat”

    This “the means justify the end” strategy ran straight through hell

  18. acquarius74 says:

    included questions about the translation process in the interrogations

    Some of these alleged responses by the detainee sound a bit like high-flown government-ese to me. You think Z actually expressed himself like that under the duress of torture?? Not me.

  19. Mary says:

    31 – thanks again. This post is really an incredible piece of work, huge kudos. (I may have to break down and read the 9/11 Commission report instead of just excerpts, but it’s awfully nice to just have you pull the thread together instead of having to work through it).
    It really does kind of bolster Wilkerson’s claims about the continuted detentions in GITMO and elsewhere of an assortment of people, many of whom were not terrorists, under a “mosaic” theory if even Blair is stating in writing that torture is fine to get a “deeper understanding” of how al-Qaeda operates. Think that through – it kind of goes to Bradbury’s broader point in one of the May 2005 memos about use of all the techniques in combinations on just “detainees” and not high value detainees. Not even “illegal enemy combatant” detainees. Just detainees.

    • Nell says:

      Joseph Margulies’ book Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power has an excellent section laying out how the ‘mosaic’ theory lays the groundwork for systematic abuse and torture of any and all detainees. Because who might not be part of the ‘mosaic’?

      [blogger triumphalism footnote: Katherine, at the time a Harvard Law student and front-page blogger at Obsidian Wings, worked as an assistant during the preparation of Margulies’ book, to the point that he credits her and a few others as co-editors. There’s enough similarity between the book passage and a couple of ObWi posts that I think that K. largely wrote that section. Katherine was one of the earliest and overall the most significant blogger on the Maher Arar kidnaping to torture case, and did her senior thesis on rendition to torture.]

  20. SparklestheIguana says:


    There are plenty of new names and details in the Armed Services Committee report, including a scene of two military men teaching the C.I.A. how to use Chinese torture techniques. One of the instructors, Joseph Witsch, played the “beater,” while the other, Gary Percival, became the “beatee.” By the mid-summer of 2002, beating was no longer just an academic exercise. Precisely when these tactics were used on live captives, and at what point top Bush officials endorsed them, may be a matter of serious interest to Attorney General Eric Holder.


    • Nell says:

      The headline of that AP story says it was an NSA tap, but the body of the story only calls it a ‘government wiretap’ and the briefers as ‘intelligence officials’.

  21. plunger says:

    Torture is NOT CONSERVATIVE.


    Ari Fleisher was interviewed by Anderson Cooper stating that he actually didn’t perceive sleep deprivation to be torture, and saw no problem with it.

    The actual Conservatives in the United States are recoiling in horror, as those whom they had relied on to frame their point of view during the Bush Administration are now revealed to be the true agents of the ACTUAL axis of evil.

    If you can’t figure out who Bill Kristol and Ari Fleisher and Phillip Zelikow and the rest of these Zionistas truly represent, you need to do some research.

    What country favors torture as a policy?


    It’s time for Conservatives to put America first again, and help all of us get to the bottom of this traitorous cabal’s funding and true loyalties.

  22. plunger says:

    Philip Zelikow – PsyOps Operative


    The Bush administration is very serious about controlling information. That’s why they launched the Pentagon’s Dept of Strategic Information. The military is now deeply engaged in “full spectrum dominance” of all information technologies.

    Consequently, “controlling the narrative” is more important than one might think. Propaganda is the cheapest and most effective way to control public behavior.

    The Bush administration has made some notable contributions to the traditional propaganda-paradigm. In fact, former Counselor at the State Dept, Philip Zelikow, (who was also executive director of the 9-11 Commission) is an expert in “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’, which he defines as beliefs thought to be true although not necessarily known to be true with certainty, shared in common with the relevant political community. He has taken a special interest in ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events that take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain there power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene”.

    “In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force.

    The previous paragraph is WRITTEN IN 1998!?! 3 YEARS BEFORE 9-11!

    Where, one might ask, did Zelikow get his crystal ball?

    Isn’t this the exact blueprint for what is taking place right now?

    Zelikow has figured out that the real essence of controlling behavior is not simply “propagating” ideas but understanding how humans process information.

    Both 9-11 and the blowing up of the Golden dome Mosque are examples of how this theory works.

  23. Skilly says:

    Great Stuff as always EW. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when the Pulitzer Committee did not award to you this year. AS for me, you earned it.

    Random thoughts: What was Scooter Libby doing between October 2001 and May 2003? Are his fingerprints on the “enhanced Interrogation” matters? Perhaps as a ghost writer of OLC Memos?

    I have been thinking about the “Meat Grinder” memo a lot lately. What did that memo say about Dick in a broader sense? Did he means to impute that some people did deserve to be put through the “meat grinder”, just not scooter? Did he mean “Meat Grinder” literally?

    I was wondering if Dick thought of his CIA interrogators, in the same light as Scooter when he was busy breaking the law at his bequest? Perhaps, he felt they needed cover just like Scooter?


  24. plunger says:

    According to Melvin Goodman, Zelikow “headed a case study project at Harvard and took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CIA. He used CIA documentation and produced case studies that exonerated the CIA from any charges of politicization of intelligence, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union.”


  25. Mary says:

    48 – yep, she’s been dogged even when Chiquita threatened to take her off their My Friends page. *g*

    I also still wonder what I wondered back in that post about Chris Wray and how his name manages to not be mentioned much either. I know Alice Fisher is, well, so Alice Fisher, but Wray was on the torture field trip too and took over initially for Chertoff. And I went back to look on exactly when it was that he left (damn the timeline virus that you pick up at this site – I don’t even wear a watch and have to get cashiers to remind me what day to put on my checks all the time) Interestingly, although not necessarily apropos of anything, he hightails it back to King and Spaulding right before Bybee comes out with the new torture memos. K&S announces his re-association April 25, 2005 (with a nod to his role in “oversight” of legal issues in the GWOT).

    Wray and Hur (who went from Crim Div to K & S with Wray) team up in 2007 to provide the Federalist Society with a review of Ashcroft’s book.

    If you like fan fiction, it’s worth a moment. Wray is an inky version of breathless that after it came out through other sources that there were 3000 pages of info in McVeigh’s case that were never turned over to defense counsle, Big John heroically held off on executing McVeigh until after the turnover. Wow – can you imagine? You can sure see why, if that was considered some stellar Olympian feat that went beyond the call of duty by a recent former head of DOJ Crim Div, we seem to be having so much trouble with DOJ and exculpatory information these days.

    Given the use by DOJ of immigration channel to ship Maher Arar to torture, I found this part of the review to be something – well, something else:

    The Department relied heavily on immigration violations—expired visas, for example—in order to detain and/or deport terrorism suspects lawfully. Ashcroft describes this approach as one that bought valuable time to gather more information, connect dots, and disrupt potential terrorist plots, all in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

    Remembering that one of the first things Dep AG Larry Thompson did when he, Chertoff, Wray et al got back from their torture field trip to GITMO was to use DOJ and its immigratoin powers to coordinate the shipment to Syrian torture of Arar (which now seems to have been based at least in part an “identification” from broken and desparate to please teenaged GITMO detainee, Khadr), that’s just a lovely little insight into Wray IMO.

  26. Valtin says:

    EW – breaking news on AP wire at Yahoo says the Senate Intelligence Committee just released a document (source unknown) re CIA proposal to waterboard Zubaydah originated mid-May 2002:

    WASHINGTON – A new document indicates the CIA first proposed waterboarding alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to top Bush administration officials in mid-May 2002, three months before the Justice Department approved the interrogation technique in a secret legal opinion.

    The document released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA’s harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved.

    • behindthefall says:

      Does this announcement have the (superficial) effect of taking the initiative out of the WH and putting it in the CIA’s lap? The CIA being the agency with n >= 2 heads, though, it raises the question of _who_ in the CIA suggested torture. And at _whose_ behest.

    • plunger says:

      They tried to have justice paper over the torture that had already been approved at the top of the Administration and ongoing. Reminds me of the after-the-fact declassification of Plame’s status and other Bush Administration legal maneuvers to re-write the law after the crime.

      The US has previously argued that behaviors such as these should be viewed as EVIDENCE OF CRIMINALITY IN WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATIONS.


      Published on Friday, November 3, 2006 by The Nation
      War Criminals, Beware
      by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith


      The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which the President promoted and recently signed into law, provides retroactive immunity for civilians who violated the War Crimes Act, including officials of the Bush Administration. Such an attempt to provide immunity for their crimes, it will be argued, is in itself evidence of an effort to block prosecution of those crimes. Indeed, according to Scott Horton, chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association, when Yugoslavia sought to immunize senior government officials, the United States declared the act itself to be evidence of such a conspiracy.

      TO REPEAT:

      “The United States declared the act itself to be evidence of such a conspiracy.”

      Despite their original efforts to frame this war as not a war, therefore not subject to the Geneva Conventions, Dick Cheney himself tripped all over himself on Larry King Live, and literally admitted that the Gitmo Captives were in fact Prisoners Of War:


      KING: They specifically said, though, it was Guantanamo. They compared it to a gulag.

      D. CHENEY: Not true. Guantanamo’s been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military. Remember who’s down there. These are people that were picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places in the global war on terror. These are individuals who have been actively involved as the enemy, if you will, trying to kill Americans. That we need to have a place where we can keep them. In a sense, when you’re at war, you keep prisoners of war until the war is over with.”

      With all of the recent ranting of high level officials about the damage done by the Obama Administration’s release of the torture memos “during a time of war,” the case for War Crimes tribunals has been cemented.

      All of the guilty parties have spent the past few years arguing both sides of the same lie:

      “It’s not torture, we don’t torture, if we did torture, the Geneva Conventions don’t apply, because we never made a declaration of war, these prisoners were picked up off the “battlefield,” but they weren’t wearing uniforms, so Geneva doesn’t apply, but now that the Administration has released these memos, during a time of war, our entire existence as a nation has been compromised.”

      Every apologist for torture needs to be arrested. It’s very simple. We are Americans, and we don’t do this shit.

  27. Mary says:

    57 – when I was getting upset about that case and had to go link-looking “teh google” would often have a post by Katherine there.

    49 – that’s horrific and I didn’t watch the video, just read the report. Good lord. And interesting that what was done to the guy who had the video pretty much tracks what we did to detainees – which I guess is why the story calls what happened to him “abuse” rather than torture, while the guy on the video being, among other things, run over repeatedly by a Mercedez – they can safely call that torture.

    Until the OLC releases its Escalade Memo.

    Oh – and the Republican member of Congress says – hey, we can’t ignore any of this because there is … a videotape.

  28. Balrog says:

    The information Cheney wants released would tip off the terrorists to our methods.

    Double standard being better than no standards at all.

  29. Valtin says:

    62 – First we need to know from whom or what department this “document” originated. The question of who first initiated the torture program is an excellent one, but it may be begging the question. The real question is, IMHO, did the U.S. torture program, beginning with Operation Bluebird and Artichoke and MKULTRA in the 1950s, and continuing through Operation Phoenix and the propagation of torture into Central and Latin America, ever really end.

    As I’m reading, my initial feelings that what we have in the Bush years was a hybrid program, looking at counterintelligence/production of intel and misinformation, on one hand, and an experimental program (or programs) on torture, on the other. How else can we really understand the “enhanced interrogations” program, with its odd use of insects, or its peculiar emphasis on waterboarding, a technique well-known to break a prisoner down very quickly, and produce very questionable intel; or the use of Gitmo as a “lab” (as the SASC reports). Dr. Steven Miles, in his new edition of Oath Betrayed, makes a very good case about the use of experimentation on al Qahtani (and you can see this in the discussion of the Gitmo minutes I’ve posted online). Also, Binyam Mohammad has spoken to his own belief he was the subject of experimentation.

    The secrets, one way or the other, all lie within the CIA, which agency has been the repository for most of U.S. research into and propagation of torture for decades. Even when the military has been involved, and they have been, particularly the Office of Naval Intelligence (in the 50s and 60s, we know) and the Air Force, the CIA wasn’t far from the picture.

    Before Bush was even president, there’s evidence of CIA interest in and experiments made upon SERE students and the effects of the training. Some of this research must be secret and inaccessible to us, but as with MKULTRA, some of the research was published in peer-reviewed journals. I will publish on this soon.

  30. tjbs says:

    Just got off the phone with a pastor.
    Q. How many Iraqies died in the war?
    A. Maybe Twenty Thousand.
    My answer: We did that in the first night and as a representative of CHRIST you don’t know that?
    Q. why do you pray from the pulpit to protect the members that are involved in an illegal invasion?
    A. my secretary felt threatened by your tone.

  31. SDC1 says:

    One question to those of you who are against torture: Would you slap someone in the face to save the life of your mother or your child? If so, you are a hypocrite.

    • burqa says:

      One question to those of you who are against torture: Would you slap someone in the face to save the life of your mother or your child? If so, you are a hypocrite.

      False premise.

      We are talking about interrogation.
      So the question to you would be whether you would want an interrogator to use the most successful techniques to get reliable information from a prisoner, or would you prefer the least successful techniques being used?

  32. OrganicGeorge says:


    You are one of the finest reporters in America.

    I sent this post to the NYT’s editor so they could start stealing from you immediately.

  33. countryjoe says:

    Does it mean that the republicans want to forgive all the Nazis since they were just following orders? Last week an old Nazi was about to be deported from this country but it was stopped at the last minute. Some repubs must have gotten involved and want to forgive him.

  34. Synoia says:

    In a prepared statement the Republican Members of Congress have released a statement on the Enhanced Interrogations techniques.

    We abhor the reckless way that the Barak HUSSEIN Obama administration have damaged out national security by releasing the enhanced interrogation techniques we need to used to protect out country.

    We also reiterate our determination to shrink the Government and Reduce taxes. The release of these memos are a clear reason to put the complete intelligence gathering for the US Government under no-bid contract to an Israeli Company, Adaneuqrot Unlimited Inc, as then we would not have wasted taxpayer dollars on keeping copies of these memos in triplicate. We regard this retention and copying of the memos as classic examples of Government waste.

    John Boner, Republican House Leader Emphasized “Under Republicans you can trust us to keep secrets secret, instructions verbal, and contracts flowing to companies friendly to Republican interests, to shield the US taxpayers from harmful disclosures. We know how to protect our Friends.”

  35. SDC1 says:

    If that’s what it takes, however, all it really would take is some waterborading. I’d tell you everything you want to know.

    Now…..how about answering my question?

  36. plunger says:


    New Yorker

    From the article:

    Yoo believed that the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief gave him virtually unlimited authority to decide whether America should respond militarily to a terror attack, and, if so, what kind of force to use. “Those decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make,” he wrote in a law article.

    A top Administration official told me that Yoo, Addington, and a few other lawyers had essentially “hijacked policy” after September 11th. “They thought, Now we can put our views into practice. We have the ability to write them into binding law. It was just shocking. These memos were presented as faits accomplis.”

    In Yoo’s opinion, he wrote that at Guantánamo cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.

    “The memo espoused an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the President’s Commander-in-Chief authority,”

    So this same approach was used across the board. Addington effectively sought to obtain “legal opinions” which were in fact illegal, with the specific intent to provide Bush and Cheney with sufficient legal cover to behave as Dictators and Kings, as there were virtually no laws that applied to them, as determined by edict.

    This is where we stand today. There is not one single law that applies to Bush or Cheney. They have found lawyers who were willing to craft opinions stating that they were above the law, and in so doing, have subverted the Constitution of the United States.

    This activity was intentional, willful and treasonous.

    They were sworn to uphold the constitution.

    Given this information, others in a position to do something about it (who also swore under oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies Foreign and DOMESTIC) now have an obligation to fulfill.

    If the Obama Administration doesn’t take proactive action to make these war criminals available for investigation and prosecution, he become’s complicit in a coverup. If he doesn’t take proactive steps to actually REVERSE the overt power grab by the prior Administration, reducing the powers of the Presidency to their prior (reasonable) stature, he is in effect endorsing the prior coup.

    Mr. President: We know about the instructions that Rahm and your other minders have given you. You don’t work for them, and you don’t work for Israel. You work for us. We are totally onto them, and we are watching you. If you are being blackmailed, just admit it. In fact, it’s the only way out. Otherwise, your stonewalling and reluctance to prosecute can only be viewed under the law as part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

  37. cregan says:

    These figures of 183 and 83 are not credible, no matter what desk jockey wrote the report.

    Other than saying KSM and AZ couldn’t remember being water boarded that many times because of disorientation, no one has addressed:

    1. The common sense improbability of someone being water boarded that many times in a 5 day period (both AZ and KSM say only 5 days).

    2. the conflict in the testimony the two gave to the Red Cross (they each only said 1 to 3 times a day for 5 days)

    The extensive RC report is posted on the New York Review of Books. When you read the entire thing, you will see how thorough it is. They interviewed ALL 14 high value detainees. It is the most complete picture of what happened from the detainees themselves. Not some desk jockey writing a report.

    They said directly what I said here in quotes. It is plain what they mean and requires no speculation. No speculation.

    Anyway, to suggest that someone who was waterboarded 30 times a day for 5 days straight would forget it, is quite unrealistic. Very far fetched. NO ONE would forget that. And they would want to tell anyone who would listen. And, please also explain how you could even water board someone 30 times in a day?

    Because of the contrary testimony of KSM and the unreality of doing it 30 times in a day, I say I suspect there is some error or other trouble with the IG report regarding the definition of “uses,” etc.

    There is no link I have seen for the IG report itself. I would be happy to read it if there is a link to the complete report. Other than speculation that the IG got the figure from watching video, there is no detail on how he arrived at this figure. You know he wrote a report, you know he watched films, but there is no documentation saying the number came directly from watching video and counting each one as watched.

    As far as I know, there is no detail on exactly how that number was arrived at. Meaning, an explanation of how it was compiled.

    You say the IG report says it plainly, it does. I say the Red Cross report says it plainly, and it does. I come down on the side of the guy who was really there. And, KSM’s statements and Z’s statements on this fit in with the rest of the Red Cross report.


    Logical alignment with the other parts of the report
    Logical alignment with the other 14’s experience
    Direct statements of direct personal experience
    They were actually there
    The Red Cross believes them
    No evidence that any of the 14 forgot or minimized their experiences
    The detail of what they say happened
    They both have no reason to minimize the number of times

    The IG report number is not believable by common sense
    The IG was not there
    Uncertainly as to how he got the number
    No link to the actual IG report

    Those are all the reasons I believe the 183 number and 83 number are suspect. On top of that, it is odd that both numbers end in “3″ (going by the numbers in the link provided). It may very well be that the correct number is 18 and 8, and that the memo or report contains an error. THAT would align with the Red Cross report and the statements of both men and bring all into coodination.

    That last IS speculation. But, again, use of it aligns the data very well.

    But, of course, it doesn’t make for a dramatic story of world class “journalism.”

    The odd thing is that it never occurred to anyone here that while they speculated that “gosh, 183 times for very little” or “83 times for only 10 pieces of information” and the many other similar expressions that they were really expressing their own disbelief of the figures. It doesn’t make any sense to any of you either, but you never question whether the premise itself has some error in it. Now, THAT is critical thinking.

    • cinnamonape says:

      And, please also explain how you could even water board someone 30 times in a day?

      Okay! First 10 minutes. Take subject out of cell and to water boarding site. Strap them down. First 10 second application of water to cloth over face.

      2 minutes of interrogation.

      Next application of 10 seconds.

      2 minutes of interrogation… repeat 15 times.

      Total time: 35 minutes

      Rest: 20 minutes and interrogation.

      Round II: Renew waterboarding with 2 minute rounds of interrogation for 15 more applications.

      Total to obtain 30 applications of water to face including 20 minute break and 2 minute interludes: 1.5 hours

  38. human says:

    “Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States.” — Not just any novel, but the first sentence of the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

    What is being overlooked here, in spite of significant and well-meaning effort, is that none of this is corroborated by any independent second opinions. Why were all of those tapes destroyed?

    Zelikow is a self-described myth-maker. In point of fact, the commission staffers were compartmentalized. No office had any knowledge of what any body else was working on… except the editor of the grand epic.

    Please use http://www.historycommons.org/ for verifiable, contemporaneous public news reports for serious research.

    • burqa says:

      What is being overlooked here, in spite of significant and well-meaning effort, is that none of this is corroborated by any independent second opinions. Why were all of those tapes destroyed?

      That is a good question, given the obsessiveness with which the CIA keeps intelligence reports.

      Earlier, reference was made to the footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report.
      I strongly recommend examining them, for there one will find oodles of information.

  39. Nell says:

    On further reading, the Roll Call story does say that it was NSA that briefed Pelosi on the existence of a wiretap of Harman.

  40. Mary says:

    59 – Here’s what it seems like from what I’ve seen, but EW probably has much better time lines and a lot of gap filler.

    If in May they start talkig about waterboarding Zubaydah, here’s some additional context.

    They’ve had al-Libi in a turnover from Pakistan since some point between Nov 2001 and Jan 2002 (someone may have better info on that). In Feb 2002 according to the SSCI Phase II report, DIA is saying that al-libi is not credible, CIA is saying that he is. From what I have seen, they don’t really have any good info that Zubaydah is al-Qaeda’s “No. 3″ at this point, or that al-libi is what what CIA says, a member of the al-Qaeda “Executive committee”

    But after some time in US hands, al-libi is tying Z to al-Qaeda and also making the initial contentions about al-Qaeda training in Iraq. However, in Feb 2002 DIA says:

    This is the first report from Ibn al-Shaykh in which he claims Iraq assisted al-Qaida’s CBRN efforts. However, he lacks specific details on the Iraqi’s [sic] involved, the CBRN materials associated with the assistance, and the location where training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may describing [sic] scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.
    Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.

    But Bush is putting on all that pressure for Tenet to make him look good, and Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush are gearing up for war with Iraq.

    Then in June of 2002 Indonesia hands over Omar al-Faruq How did they know about him? Apparently from Zubaydah.

    U.S. officials already had reason to believe al-Faruq was one of bin Laden’s top representatives in Southeast Asia, responsible for coordinating the activities of the region’s disparate Islamic militant groups and employing their forces to conduct terror attacks against the U.S. and its allies. According to one regional intelligence memo, the CIA had been told of al-Faruq’s role by Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking al-Qaeda official in U.S. custody and a valuable, if at times manipulative, source of intelligence on the terror network and its plans.

    And Faruq may have had three months, not 30 days, of abuse techniques:

    Initially, al-Faruq was not as cooperative. Though al-Faruq was subjected to three months of psychological interrogation tactics — a U.S. counterterrorism official says they included isolation and sleep deprivation — he stayed virtually silent.

    Then Time touches on what will be a theme of corroboration from the detainees, who all eventually (and if you discount other things they say to the contrary) seem to corroborate the confessions of each other. Because al-Faruq “breaks” at the beginning of Sept 2002

    On Sept. 9, according to a secret CIA summary of the interview, al-Faruq confessed that he was, in fact, al-Qaeda’s senior representative in Southeast Asia. Then came an even more shocking confession: according to the CIA document, al-Faruq said two senior al-Qaeda officials, Abu Zubaydah and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, had ordered him to “plan large-scale attacks against U.S. interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, (the) Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia. In particular,” the document continues, “(al-)Faruq prepared a plan to conduct simultaneous car/truck bomb attacks against U.S. embassies in the region to take place on or near” the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Faruq said that, despite his arrest, backup operatives were in place to “assume responsibilities to carry out operations as planned.”

    Those bombings didn’t take place, but al-Faruq also coughed up info on al-Haramain

    Al-Faruq told the CIA that some of al-Qaeda’s operations in the region were funded through a branch of al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, an international charity based in Saudi Arabia

    We also go ahead and apparently, even with all kinds of improved “techniques” in the offing, we inexplicaly hand off al-Libi to Egypt for interrogation – possibly because the DIA keeps questioning the crediblity and by August of 2002, so is the CIA?

    “Questions persist about [al-Libi’s] forthrightness and truthfulness,” the CIA wrote in the still-classified Aug. 7, 2002, report, which was circulated throughout the U.S. intelligence community. “In some instances, however, he seems to have fabricated information.”

    The agency found that al-Libi–in an “attempt to exaggerate his importance”–had told interrogators that he was a member of Al Qaeda’s “Shura Council,” or governing body. But that claim was not corroborated by other intelligence reporting, the CIA analysis concluded in its report, which was titled: “Terrorism: Credibility of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and the Information He has Provided While in Custody.”

    (umm, about that August 2002 requirement that torture victims be operational control honchos? -never mind)

    So al-Libi’s uncorroborated and questioned status as an al-Qaeda high value operational insider was used to corroborate Z’s high value operational insider status and then Z’s high value,operational insider status was used to corroborate al-Faruq’s … Can you go round in circles? Meanwhile, Noor al-Deen who was saying something to the contrary about Zubaydah (and who it would have been hard to fit into one of those “high value” torture slots that they were then -2002- trying to fashion) gets handed off to Syria for torture and to be ultimately disappeared. Down 1 on the list of witnesses who might have said Zubaydah wasn’t an al-Qaeda officer when he was tortured.

    Then there’s the weird story of al-Faruq. In July 2005 he supposedly escapes from Bagram, although nothing mentioned until Nov of 2005. At that point, the lawyer for a guard accused of abuse at Bagram tries (and why ?) to get access to al-Faruq as a witness. Then in Sept of 2006, in an operation that is conveniently not linked to the US, 250 British troops descend on a safehouse, supposedly planning on taking al-Faruq alive, but they end up killing him when they are fired upon. The British officer strangely “declined to say whether he was the same man who had escaped from the American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in July 2005″ although [a]n American official in Washington and an official in Basra, neither of whom was authorized to speak publicly on the subject, said Mr. Faruq was the same man” Second corroborator down.

    Then you have al-libi. After he antes up in 2002 with the “Iraq is training us and I know, bc I am a member of the governing council” George Bush touts that info in Oct in his Cincinnati speech and Powell trots out the info from al-libi (from US enhanced interrogation about which both DIA and CIA had put in writing their doubts in 2002 and also from Egyptian enhanced interrogation results). In particular, supposedly the Egyptians used ‘mock burial’ on al-Libi to make him talk on the Iraq connection.

    From Stephen Grey’s Blotter report:

    A Feb. 5 cable records that al Libi was told by a “foreign government service” (Egypt) that: “the next topic was al-Qa’ida’s connections with Iraq…This was a subject about which he said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

    Al Libi indicated that his interrogators did not like his responses and then “placed him in a small box approximately 50cm X 50cm [20 inches x 20 inches].” He claimed he was held in the box for approximately 17 hours. When he was let out of the box, al Libi claims that he was given a last opportunity to “tell the truth.” When al Libi did not satisfy the interrogator, al Libi claimed that “he was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and he fell on his back.” Al Libi told CIA debriefers that he then “was punched for 15 minutes.” (Sourced to CIA cable, Feb. 5, 2004).

    Here was a cable then that informed Washington that one of the key pieces of evidence for the Iraq war — the al Qaeda/Iraq link — was not only false but extracted by effectively burying a prisoner alive.

    After al-Libi was returned to Bagram he disappeared. One story is that he was quietly sent to Libya (and Suskind’s book indicates that Bush relied heavily on Kappes for his Libyan contacts).

    From an Isikoff piece, The Missing Terrorist:

    Portions of two CIA operational cables describing al-Libi’s account, dated Feb. 5, 2004, and Feb. 19, 2004, were declassified last fall and were first cited in the footnotes of the Sept. 8, 2006, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report , Post War Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs. The content of the cables, which received virtually no media attention at the time, appear to corroborate a comment, published in Hubris, by former FBI counterterrorism supervisor Jack Cloonan-who had responsibility for al-Libi’s case before the Al Qaeda operative was rendered by the CIA to Egypt. Cloonan is quoted in the book as saying he had been told by a U.S. military officer that al-Libi had been subjected to a mock burial. The use of mock burials as a U.S.-sanctioned interrogation technique provoked protests from some Bush administration officials and FBI agents who feared that it might violate a U.S. anti-torture law. It is not clear whether the CIA itself ever used such methods.

    Noman Benotman, a former Afgan jihad fighter who knew al-Libi and who is now a London-based Libyan political opposition leader, told NEWSWEEK that during a recent trip to Tripoli, he met with a senior Libyan government official who confirmed to him that al-Libi had been quietly returned to Libya and is now in prison there. Benotman said that he was told by the senior Libyan government official-whom he declined to publicly identify-that Al Libi is extremely ill, suffering from tuberculosis and diabetes. “He is there in jail and very sick,” Benotman told NEWSWEEK. He also said that the senior official told him that the Libyan government has agreed not to publicly confirm anything about al-Libi-out of deference to the Bush administration. “If the Libyans will confirm it, it will embarrass the Americans because he is linked to the Iraq issue,” Benotman said.

    Another source, for both information on the Iraq/al-Qaeda link and the importance of Zubaydah in al-Qaeda – unavailable.

    [side note, after being in US hands for questioning (and perhaps giving information inconsistent with that given by KSM on the murder of Daniel Pearl) Saud Memon was found dumped in front of his Pakistan home, weighing 80 lbs and his soon to follow death was attributed to meningitis and also – TB]

    • cinnamonape says:

      And to this that it’s later reported that Hambali, and not Omar al-Faruq, is Al Qaida’s main operational officer in South East Asia. And if al-Faruq was such a critical source he failed to disclose, under water-boarding, a critical upcoming attack…the October 12 Bali bombings. An attack that was in the works for some time.

      Not a whisper? From the guy that supposedly was running the Al-Qaida network up until the summer?

      They are getting a lot of false leads and false confessions and this is actually failing to reveal “imminent attacks”.

  41. Mary says:

    64 – thanks. I have read Suskind’s book and other references (mostly Mayer amd Wright) so I have a little bit on what Coleman was being pretty forthright about, but I’ve never sat down with all of the 9/11 Commission report (in part bc I wasn’t all that impressed with the crew they put together and I just didn’t think it would be much other than spin)

    So I wasn’t sure what the Commission had in front of it vis a vis someone like Coleman and his info. So my “they” was about the Commission more so than Bush, Cheney, Tenet et al. But that’s a good passage from Suskind’s book to reproduce.

  42. Mary says:

    77 – or, for that matter, wouldn’t you take a non-uniformed leader of a rebel religious group and drive nails through his wrists and hang him on a cross?

    Yep – a face slap to save your child is the very same thing as a shipment of Arar to torture to … terrify and forever damage HIS children.

  43. cinnamonape says:

    The right-wing is currently pushing the meme that there was an attack thwarted on the LA “Library Tower” by intell derived from water boarding KSM.

    But this is clearly wrong. That plot failed long before that time. It had already been scaled back from the “Oplan Bojinka” era plot with 11 aircraft.
    By 9/11 it had been scaled down to a single plane, and even in this it was likely going to fail, since any hijacking after 9/11 would have been intercepted long before LA, and over open water. Furthermore, the plotters intended to use explosive devices to breach the cockpit doors. Sheer lunacy.

    In any case, the perpetrators had either “resigned”
    http://www.historycommons.org/…..zakaria__1">“The Pilot” Zaini Zakaria or had been captured by the Malaysian authorities long before any actionable intelligence would have been obtained from water boarding KSM.

    Given that the CIA already had knowledge of this plot before KSM was water boarded one has to wonder if, like so many of the things he “confessed” to, that this was just one of many they encouraged him to confess to.

  44. stryder says:

    While we wade through all the pros and cons involved in torture I can’t help coming back to the issues that shouldn’t be overlooked.these are the fact that as abhorrent as torture is it is equally (if not more)important to realize the structure that was used to establish it’s use.
    My point is it is frightening to think the OLC can be used as a tool to validate an ideological concept that can blur the line between policy and law for whatever end by whoever is in a position to take advantage of this tactic.
    Whether it be torture or economic manipulation,to find ways to circumvent the constitution with secret laws and legal smoke to accomplish the policies of a small group is the critical point that needs to be made.
    The argument isn’t so much about tortue as it is about the ability to game the system.
    This is about the ability to do anything to anyone anytime they want without answering to anyone.

  45. cregan says:

    cinnaman; yes, it certainly can be fit in time wise, but it is doubtful that you would have any kind of concious person in any meaningful sense.

    If you asked someone who had done the milder SERE program, with some experience, I doubt they would agree you could have 30 applications within a day, or that you would have anyone to interrogate after a much smaller number than 30.

    Again, it makes no sense from ANY point of view and it doesn’t jive with what the two men said.

    I know that what the men said doesn’t fit your viewpoint. No one else brought up the conflict. No one else was troubled by the fact the two clearly don’t fit together. In fact, as far as I can tell, no one here is troubled by any fact that conflicts with their pre-set viewpoint. Or, at least I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe it has sometime in the past occurred.

    Bigger yet is that it appears impossible that someone waterboarded 30 times a day for 5 days would not recall it. Especially when in their interviews they can recall many small details about the water boarding experience. It clearly wasn’t any kind of blur to them.

    • emptywheel says:


      You’re making two false assumptions.

      1) That anyone else sees this as a conflict.

      2) That, if this weren’t true, the CIA would remain silent about it for 5 days.

      Don’t you think, after 5 days with not peep from CIA that those numbers are inaccurate, you can give it a rest?

  46. burqa says:

    Getting caught up in the numbers allows one to avoid the real issue.
    We tortured a mentally ill man after we became aware he was not al Qaeda’s #3 man and after he had willingly given us information and after the White House pressured intelligence agencies to come up with justification for their outlandish claims.
    They knew they were wrong and could not man up.

  47. MarkH says:

    EW wrote & quoted the Report:

    KSM’s nickname, Mukhtar. Here’s what the text of the report says about the nickname.

    When additional pieces of the puzzle arrived in the spring and summer of 2001, they were not put together.

    The first piece of the puzzle concerned some intriguing information associated with a person known as “Mukhtar” that the CIA had begun analyzing in April 2001.The CIA did not know who Mukhtar was at the time—only that he associated with al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and that, based on the nature of the information, he was evidently involved in planning possible terrorist activities. 110

    The second piece of the puzzle was some alarming information regarding KSM. On June 12, 2001, a CIA report said that “Khaled”was actively recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the United States where colleagues were reportedly already in the country to meet them, to carry out terrorist-related activities for Bin Ladin. …

    Holy cow! Nobody could have predicted Al Qaeda was going to attack IN America. And apparently nobody could have known there were AQ allies already in America that summer. Remember, this is BEFORE the August briefing to Dubya.

  48. SomeGuy says:

    Rush Limbaugh has proof that torture is effective.

    Here’s the link to the story at ThinkProgress.org:

    Limbaugh’s Proof That Torture Works: McCain Was ‘Broken By The North Vietnamese’

    Even after Limbaugh stabbed Senator McCain in the back over and over in the campaign, Senator McCain came to Limbaugh’s defense when President Obama made a comment that said something like you can’t get anything done if you are listening to Rush Limbaugh.

    I still grudgingly admire Senator McCain. His military service and life story are heroic. However, if he can’t strongly and unapologetically respond to this insult not just to him, but to the American POWs who suffered alongside him, I have to ask what is missing that he used to have?

    Senator McCain Republican friends will let this insult go unanswered, because they fear Limbaugh. I bet the only condemnation Limbaugh will receive for this will come from Democrats.

  49. KevinFenton says:

    The example of “new” information given up by KSM under interrogation (about Moussaoui and Hambali) is wrong. It was not new information at the time, but had been known for months, perhaps years, as I outline here: http://hcgroups.wordpress.com/…..-very-low/

  50. burqa says:

    I bet Rep. Trent Franks is feeling a bit foolish these days.

    “…Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) contended at the hearing that sometimes severe techniques need to be used in emergencies and against the nation’s top enemies, such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks alleged architect, who was subjected to waterboarding in CIA custody. Franks said that Mohammed experienced just 90 seconds of waterboarding and gave up important information about al-Qaeda…”
    – “Waterboarding Is Torture, Says Ex-Navy Instructor,” by Josh White, Washington Post, November 9, 2007, page A4

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