Breaking News! CIA’s Spooks Lie and Deceive!

I shouldn’t be snarky, because this NYT article describing how John Kiriakou managed to frame the entire debate on torture with his false claims about waterboarding on ABC is quite good.

His ABC interview came at an especially delicate juncture in the debate over the use of torture. Weeks earlier, the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general was nearly derailed by his refusal to comment on the legality of waterboarding, and one day later, the C.I.A. director testified about the destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mr. Kiriakou told MSNBC that he was willing to talk in part because he thought the C.I.A. had “gotten a bum rap on waterboarding.”

At the time, Mr. Kiriakou appeared to lend credibility to the prior press reports that quoted anonymous former government employees who had implied that waterboarding was used sparingly. In late 2007, Mr. Ross began pursuing Mr. Kiriakou for an interview, “leaning on him pretty hard,” he recounted.

On Dec. 10, in the subsequent interview, Mr. Kiriakou told Mr. Ross that he believed the waterboarding was necessary in the months after the 9/11 attacks. “At the time I was so angry,” he told Mr. Ross. “I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks on the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.”

My favorite part is the quotes from Brian Ross, admitting he didn’t ask the most obvious follow-ups.

Mr. Kiriakou was the only on-the-record source cited by ABC. In the televised portion of the interview, Mr. Ross did not ask Mr. Kiriakou specifically about what kind of reports he was privy to or how long he had access to the information. “It didn’t even occur to me that they’d keep doing” the waterboarding, Mr. Ross said last week. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

He added, “I didn’t give enough credit to the fiendishness of the C.I.A.”

Golly gee! Brian Ross seems to say, whodathunk that those professional liars at the CIA would lie to me?

And, in a throwback to the Pulitzer-prize winning story on the Rent-a-General program that no one wants to talk about, Stelter goes onto note that ABC hired this guy who lied his ass off* provided false information to them. (More recently, John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee has hired this trained liar.)

But here’s the thing. To quote our current President, why look backwards? Why not look forward? Because those trained ex-spook liars are doing it again! 

As I pointed out the other day, the public record makes it pretty clear that the CIA did not notify Congress about torture before they started–and in a Congressional briefing given after waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 83 times, they did not reveal they had already started waterboarding. According to both Porter Goss’ account and Nancy Pelosi’s, it appears, CIA and the Bush Administration violated laws requiring Congressional notice.

But rather than tell that story and largely through the considerable manipulation and deceit skills of Porter Goss, the press wants to cover the "drama" of Goss’ and Pelosi’s purportedly conflicting stories.

What was it Bush said? Fool me once, and figure you can play me for a fool again?

*Spencer has pointed out to me that we don’t know whether Kiriakou–or those in CIA who told him this story–lied. So I’ve changed this language.

51 replies
  1. TheraP says:

    Here’s my image from an email exchange this morning:

    I suppose it was like a “gold rush” – they heard the story and they all believed it. And everybody rushed off, believing it was true!!!!

  2. Aeon says:

    Brian Ross was one of the key facilitators for the Bush Administration’s post-911 perception management efforts.

    Iraq involvement in the anthrax mailings, etc.

  3. cbl2 says:

    Mornin’ EW,

    just saw a diary linking a Der Spiegel piece on black site torture chamber in Poland.

    it names a torturer (this is news to me) but found myself agape with this:

    ” His life today is quiet by comparison with the secret interrogations of 2002 and 2003. But Mr. Martinez has not turned away entirely from his old world. He now works for Mitchell & Jessen Associates, a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program.

    was this connection already known to y’all ?

    • Sparkatus says:

      I didn’t see the paragraph you quote in the Der Spiegel article link.

      When is “now”? 2009? I thought that Mitchell Jessen had closed up shop.

      • cbl2 says:

        that came from this NRO link

        I didn’t initially realize that myself as I was so gobsmacked to read it in the diary’s comments and was undercaffeinated at the time. sorry.

        the linked article is from 7/08

        btw, golly gee, what are the odds of a Mormon owned firm doing the business sanctioned by a Mormon OLC lawyer ?!?!?

        yeah I know, am adjusting my tin foil ‘garment’ as we speak

    • Rayne says:

      Sorry so late to the party…

      Yes, we knew about the link, although I’m certain there is more digging to do with regard to any associates of Mitchell & Jessen.

      We also have more digging to do into the Polish black site; somewhere in the last week I have run into conflicting information about KSM being in Poland and in Thailand within the same period, which impacts how they were doing interrogation. (Still can’t lay my hands on my copy of Ghost Plane, one of my peeps must still have it on loan and it’s probably the more definitive resource in this case…)

  4. phred says:

    O/T, EW, I just left a comment for you at the bottom of your torture timeline post. I don’t want to go O/T here, so please take a peek when you get a chance, thanks ; )

  5. JimWhite says:

    I remember thinking Kirakou had to be full of crap when he was making the rounds, but even with that, the magnitude of his lies is breath-taking.

    OT (somewhat): I’m still so worked up over the confluence in time of the Downing Street Memo and the probable attempt to get Bybee to reverse an initial rejection of waterboarding that I’ve put up an Oxdown.

  6. pmorlan says:

    I wrote a short post about this NYT attempt to address the widely reported disinformation by Kiriakou. I hope if anyone sees any of our other establishment media outlets making a similiar attempt to correct this disinformation, that they spread far and wide, that you will kindly post links to any such reporting on my blog. I’d really like to see if any of them will report this. Quite frankly, I have my doubt that they will do so because it doesn’t help them sell their “no accountability” torture narrative.

    • cinnamonape says:

      The use of the CIA for internal disinformation is definitely ILLEGAL. If Kiriakou was a compliant member of a conspiracy to influence Congressional action by spreading disinformation he is involved in a felony. Even if he was “played” those who arranged for hism to have this false information are in violation of the CIA Charter.

  7. GregB says:

    Ah yes, who would have known that they would turn the spook agency against us?

    This Kiriakou shtick was a page right out of the Ollie North book.


  8. drational says:

    There are some timeline issues that can be discerned from the DOJ IG report from May 2008.
    1. Regarding Zubaydah, he revealed that KSM was Mukhtar to the FBI, but the FBI only had him alone for “a few days”.

    Within a few days, CIA personnel assumed control over the interviews, although they asked Gibson and Thomas to observe and resist. Gibson told the OIG that the CIA interrogators said Zubaydah was only providing “throw-away information” and that they needed to diminish his capacity to resist.

    2. CIA started enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah BEFORE JUNE. Again from the IG report:
    [There were 2 FBI agents with Zubaydah, alias Gibson and Thomas. I surmise Gibson is Abu Soufan]

    Thomas communicated his concerns about the CIA’s methods to the FBI Counteterrorism Asssistant Director Pasquale D’Amuro by telephone. D’Amuro and Thomas told the OIG that D’Amuro ultimately gave the instruction that Thomas and Gibson should come home and not participate in the CIA interrogation. However Gibson and Thomas provided the OIG differing accounts of their departure from the CIA Facility where Zubaydah was being interrogated. Thomas stated that D’Amuro instructed the agents to leave the facility immediately and that he complied.

    However, Gibson said he was not immediately ordered to leave the facility. Gibson said that he remained at the CIA facility until some time in early June 2002, several weeks after Thomas left, and that he continued to work with the CIA and participate in interviewing Zubaydah

    Gibson stated that after he returned to the United States he told D’Amuro that he did not have a “moral objection” to being present for the CIA techniques because the CIA was acting professionally and Gibson himself had undergon comparable harsh interrogation techniques as part of U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training.

    The IG report goes on to note that FBI agents were pulled right after a meeting with CIA in late July or Early August.

    Thus form the IG report you can see that the CIA started enhanced techniques before any OLC legal opinion, and also that the “rapport-building traditional methods” of interrogating Zubaydah were only led by the FBI agents for a “few days”, although I surmise the harsh stuff did not start until May 2002, when “Thomas” left and Gibson alone was present for “several weeks” until “early June”.

    • phred says:

      From an earlier thread Thomas is Soufan. Gibson was the other guy who wasn’t so bothered by torture.

        • phred says:

          The first sentence in EW’s post on Soufan’s NYT Op-Ed (my bold):

          Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator described in the DOJ IG report on interrogation as the interrogator (whom they call “Thomas”) who called CIA’s tactics on AZ, “borderline torture,” has an important op-ed in the NYT.

          Thomas and Gibson were discussed further in threads of subsequent posts, but as usual, EW cited it right off the bat.

          • behindthefall says:

            a. So, do we know who “Gibson” is or was?

            b. What’s the best way to search back through posts and threads? Do you all hold everything in your heads, use Google, use that little Search window in the banner that I just noticed for the first time (*blush*) …?

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              Can only speak for myself; I use the ‘Search’ box on EW’s pages.
              And then I have a specific bookmark folder for ‘EW’, with subfolders…

            • phred says:

              a. I don’t, but that is not the same as saying it isn’t known by someone else in these parts ; )

              b. In this case, I went back to the first post after Soufan’s appeared (April 22nd), EW’s post was on the 23rd and in my browser I performed a “Find” command on the word “Thomas” and poof there it was in the first sentence, but there was only one occurrence in that thread. I remember a discussion of Thomas and Gibson, so that must have been in a subsequent thread. If you want to try to find it, just play around with the Find command and see where it takes you.

              • behindthefall says:

                I haven’t gotten anything relevant using “Gibson”; “Gibson FBI” turned up the same 10 results, but since they had nothing to do with “FBI”, I’m guessing that the FDL search box just takes the first word it sees and runs with it — nothing like regular expressions, ANDs, ORs, etc. Oh, and the results don’t show the hit itself, just the title and first few lines of the post. Have to go to the post, use ^-F, and step through the actual hits. Clunky.

                Can we put that on our FDL wish list? A reeeely, reeeeely good search facility, with a good display?

                • phred says:

                  Have to go to the post, use ^-F, and step through the actual hits. Clunky.

                  Yep. That’s the way I do it, but it takes some time and effort, which is why I didn’t volunteer to go find the rest of the discussion.

                  It would be nice if there was a way to do a search from the top page where multiple posts are shown and have the search go through each post and comment thread. I know zip about programming web pages though, so I don’t know how hard that would be to do…

                  • behindthefall says:

                    No. I had it in mind to find that site-specific syntax again, so thanks for giving me that example. I’m going to scribble it down and tape it to the monitor.

            • Mary says:

              I don’t know if EW does or not. I don’t have much spec, beyond the probably too obvious and not likely possiblity that he was the FBI agent who gave the affidavit in the Padilla pick up – the affidavit that sets out the info from Z and Binyam Mohamed as coming from their sources. The Enis affidavit.


              • behindthefall says:

                Thanks, Mary. Google (in my hands) doesn’t cough up any “Enis Affidavit”; was “Enis” the name of the agent who authored it and brought “the info from Z and Binyam Mohamed”?

                Padilla, IIRC, was maltreated terribly and denied counsel and due process for 2 or 3+ years, had a non-defense at his trial, and still was not convicted of the “dirty bomb” charge. (Was that so weak by that time that it was not even brought against him?)

                So, there we have the FBI using relationship-interrogation, getting one piece of useful info, getting info against ’some guy named Padilla’ — quotes because I guess he had not been on anybody’s radar before then — and not much more. Well, 1 out of X ain’t bad …

                Then the CIA steps in and uses “borderline torture”. It walks out with, what, 0 out of Y? Plus some broken human beings? And some broken principles, too?

                I really hope that there are some head-banging “lessons learned” sessions going on throughout Washington and Langley.

                • Mary says:

                  Sorry – I tend to not proofread for comments and I’m a bad typist to boot. It should have been Ennis. In order to get the Material Witness warrant that was originally used to pick up Padilla in Chicago, they had to tell the Judge something – that was done by means of an Affidavit given by an FBI agent named Joseph Ennis.


                  The shakiness of Ashcroft’s “multiple independent and corroborating sources” claim was demonstrated by an affidavit from an F.B.I. agent, Joe Ennis, in support of Padilla’s detention. Referring to Binyam Mohamed as “Subject-1,” it said that his “wife” had told law-enforcement authorities that he “would often become emotional and cry when he discussed his willingness to die for his God.” Strangely enough, Mohamed was and remains unmarried.

                  A bit reminescent of the information proving that Kurnaz was an illegal enemy combatant – the “secret fact” that a good friend of his who he intended to travel with originally was a suicide bomber killed in a then fairly notorious attack. Except for the minor problem that his friend is still alive and well today and never travelled out of the country to participate in any bombing, much less a suicide bombing. But without advocacy, these things get tossed out unchallenged and bad things ensue.

                  For example, we are now finding out that Binyam Mohamed looked at a satirical piece on how to make a nuclear weapon.

                  How Mom Sent a Guy to GITMO details”

                  “my mother, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote with two coauthors 30 years ago. The article, published in Seven Days magazine, was chock-full of helpful tips for would-be nuclear bomb makers. For instance, it advised those struggling to enrich uranium to make “a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the [bucket] around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes.”

                  Barbara’s daughter goes on to flesh out a part of what happened:

                  Pressed for details about his purported nuclear know-how, for instance, Mohamed admitted that he had, indeed, once read my mother’s article on the Web, but said it was just a spoof.

                  They didn’t get the joke. According to Mohamed’s attorneys, who have had access to classified records, the article seems to have been deemed a crucial piece of “evidence” against their client. An intelligence-community game of Telephone ensued, in which Mohamed’s “confession” that he’d read up on the manufacture of nuclear weapons was passed along from interrogator to interrogator, until U.S. authorities convinced themselves that Mohamed was part of a dangerous nuclear plot against the United States.

                  This, then, is the basis for the allegations in the Mobbs Declaration and other Padilla filings that Padilla and “his associate” were “researching” how to make a dirty bomb. From the declaration:

                  Padilla and his associate conducted research in the construction of a “uranium-enhanced” explosive device.

                  This got passed on to all of us, in the Dept of Justice Press Conf given by Comey where he explained all about how top Al-Qaeda Operative (not non-al Qaeda, hotelier to a range of persons including some al-Qaeda) had provided evidence that had been widely corroborated (by a guy whose penis was being sliced) about “plans” Padilla had to create a dirty bomb (bc after all, Binyam Mohamed admitted to reading the online available piece of satire).

                  So yeah, when faced with having to put on proof that a guy whose genitals were being hacked had admitted to reading a piece of satire and he may have shared it with Padilla and melding that into a claim of a plot to detonate a dirty bomb, DOJ folded.

                  But not before actively and aggressively pursuing the ability of the CIC to torture American citizens, in America, without charge and with no advocate and no reliable evidence, for years — to use Americans in America as lab rats for torture interrogation experiments.

                  Beyond sick.

                  • behindthefall says:

                    Thank you, Mary. That is the most complete telling of the story I’ve heard, and it ’shocks the conscience’!

                  • prostratedragon says:

                    … An intelligence-community game of Telephone ensued, in which Mohamed’s “confession” that he’d read up on the manufacture of nuclear weapons was passed along from interrogator to interrogator, until U.S. authorities convinced themselves that Mohamed was part of a dangerous nuclear plot against the United States.

                    Some may call it a game of Telephone, but I call it proof that you can indeed whip up something using a version of Barbara Ehrenreich’s home centrifuge.

    • behindthefall says:

      I’m slow. I hadn’t considered the possibility that the names given for, here, the FBI agents were aliases. Do we have any idea who “Thomas” is? Whether s/he has anything to say? Indeed, whether s/he is in danger?

    • TheraP says:

      That fits pretty much with this WaPo article on 4/17/09:

      His interrogation, according to multiple accounts, began in Pakistan and continued at the secret C.I.A. site in Thailand, with a traditional, rapport-building approach led by two F.B.I. agents, who even helped care for him as his gunshot wounds healed.

      Abu Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.

      A C.I.A. interrogation team that arrived a week or two later, which included former military psychologists, did not change the approach to questioning, but began to keep him awake night and day with blasting rock music, have his clothes removed and keep his cell cold.

      The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation.

  9. lesserdevil says:

    Actually, Ms. Wheeler, you give Bush too much credit in that “fooled again” quote. What he said was, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” I think he may have meant what you said, but he didn’t even come close to getting it right.

      • ghostof911 says:

        Marcy, the media would like to be perceived as gullible, as opposed to being discovered as playing a primary role in setting the agenda.

    • Kathryn in MA says:

      Lesser Devil – re Bush’s hash of the idiom, not Marcy’s shark, i think bush got rattled half way thru because he didn’t want to say “shame on me.” that phrase just wouldn’t pass his lips – that’s how degenerate the guy is.

  10. behindthefall says:

    OT, I suppose — In that video clip, the phrase that Bush can’t get out is, as I recall, “… shame on me.” Is it significant that the man couldn’t even complete an old saying that implied accountability on the part of the speaker? Did he ever take responsibility for one single thing in his life?

    Beyond that, the loss of concentration tells me, a man in the street and no professional judge of such matters, that that was one badly fried brain, whether drunk or drugged at the time. It wandered after a couple of seconds with a thought. You’d have had to communicate with that brain using pictures.

    I wonder if that’s why he had that tic of staring at the audience after every sentence or two: he couldn’t trust that he remembered what he himself had said or what argument he was trying to make, so he had to check to see whether the crowd’s current reaction was positive or not. Based on what he saw, he would improvise the next statement out of his mouth.

    Wouldn’t it be possible to manipulate him mercilessly? (Not an original thought or even a new one, but getting a little distance between him and the present time does seem to help see him for what he was.)

    • patg says:

      i’ve often wondered about that tic of his, your analysis is probably bang on. and yes, how easy to pull the puppet’s strings, eh…

  11. skdadl says:

    OT but related: The Canadian government is using Abu Zubaydah’s testimony to drag out one of the more bizarre interrogation-by-proxy cases we know of.

    Abousfian Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen who has been declared entirely innocent by both the RCMP and CSIS after years of on-off detention and interrogation and torture in Sudan. He has been living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for a year because he is indigent and the government keeps finding new ways to frustrate his plans to return home. Over a hundred citizens, including a former solicitor general, have bought him a plane ticket home (one of the endless moving-goal-post moves of the government), but even that didn’t work.

    It’s been pretty clear for a while that a U.S. no-fly list is at work behind the scenes, and now, with the dredging up of Zubaydah’s testimony, we know where the pressure is still coming from.

    You wanna know what BushCo dead-enders look like? Come to Ottawa!

  12. Kathryn in MA says:

    “At the time I was so angry,” he told Mr. Ross. “I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks on the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.”

    That’s why we have laws – to keep vigilante types from going berserk.

    • ghostof911 says:

      Mr. Ross is not a vigilante type. He was fully aware that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Tel Aviv. His comment was made at the instigation of the Israeli-controlled US media to divert attention from the true culprits of 9/11.

  13. Nell says:

    It’s appalling that reporters have to ferret out who the hell is being paid with public dollars to staff Congressional committees. Laura Rozen at the FP link in the post: “The SFRC has also hired former CIA official John Kiriakou to be part of the investigations team, as the Washington Independent first reported and The Cable has confirmed.”

    WTF? There should be a list of staff at the SFRC and every committee’s website, and there should be a press release anytime someone’s hired. What possible justification is there for such secrecy?

  14. Beerfart Liberal says:

    —More recently, John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee has hired this trained liar.)


  15. Mary says:

    The fact that no one at CIA went out and “collected” Kirakou and no FBI investigation etc. started after his revelations kind of indicated where they were coming from.

    It’s not like you see Mary McCurnin out giving ontape interviews while Hayden cleans his nails.

  16. Mary says:

    BTW – the same NYT article that talks about the CIA interrogator (with no al-Qaeda background and no Arabic language skills, who helped generate all the reports) did have a reference to how much the waterboard was used…..gewanted=1

    The Times reported last year that the intensity of his treatment — various harsh techniques, including waterboarding, used about 100 times over a period of two weeks — prompted worries that officers might have crossed the boundary into illegal torture.

    emph added

    So in a June 2008 article they are referencing a 2007 article about the intensity of the treatment, but I don’t know if that article used the 100 times in two weeks info or not. This June 2008 article does, but boy does it bury that info. And not only bury it, but they also include earlier and more prominently the info from Kirakou, in their story about Z instead of the “90 secs) story about KSM

    In a December interview with The Times, before being cautioned by the C.I.A. not to discuss classified matters, Mr. Kiriakou, who was not present for the waterboarding but read the resulting intelligence reports, said he had been told that Abu Zubaydah became compliant after 35 seconds of the water treatment.

  17. Mary says:

    42 – I realize I skipped around a bit, but I was trying to get at the fact that the NYT article EW has in the post is a bit snarky about ABC and Kirakou, but back in 2008, the NYT had it’s own story with Kirakou that had some “fail” aspect too, including the highlighting there of asking him about Z (not KSM) and framing the 35 seconds info, while not asking him about KSM when they supposedly had other source info even back then that referenced waterboarding KSM over 100 times in two weeks.

    So while Kirakou was telling them about how great it was that Z could be waterboarded for 35 seconds and that flipped a switch and then everything was gook and he was compliant, it seems the logical follow up would have been to ask him why, then, with his understanding of how it only takes 35 seconds to turn the faucet to open, KSM took 100 sessions in two weeks. They really buried that number back then. AND alluded to the fact that they might have had it since 2007.

    • JTMinIA says:

      >> So while Kirakou was telling them about how great it was that Z could be waterboarded for 35 seconds and that flipped a switch and then everything was gook and he was compliant, it seems the logical follow up would have been to ask him why, then, with his understanding of how it only takes 35 seconds to turn the faucet to open, KSM took 100 sessions in two weeks.

      You know, Freud would have a field day with that typo.

  18. jcc2455 says:

    Kiriakou’s remarks may be illegal. There is supposed to be a prohibition against CIA using propaganda to manipulate domestic US politics.

  19. Leen says:

    that video clip makes one think Bush has been water boarded quite a few times. Maybe back in his frat days

  20. cinnamonape says:

    Kiriakou may still have let some interesting information out of the bag.

    “Kiriakou: “The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific. And the bottom line was these were very unusual authorities that the agency got after 9/11. No one wanted to mess them up. No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard. So it was extremely deliberate. . . . “

    CABLE traffic (I presume more in the nature of typed messages a la the internet). And Kiriakou goes on to suggest that every slap, every stress position, every act had to be approved by the Deputy Director of Operations before they could be applied. So presumably the treatments are described in realtime, after approvals are requested and authorized. I’d imagine the cables give a running commentary, along with information being obtained. There’s also likely a time logged, as well.

    Not as indicting as the tapes, perhaps, but such a detailed description would go far beyond a simple roster of what was on the tapes. I wonder if these “cables” were also destroyed.

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