How Abu Zubaydah’s Sleep Deprivation Got Out of Control

The latest CIA document dump also provides more background on how Abu Zubaydah got subjected to extended sleep deprivation long before it was approved. PDF page 113-114 explains:

After consulting with the NSC and DOJ, CTC[redacted] originally approved 24-48 hours of sleep deprivation.

In April 2002 CTC[redacted] learned that due to a misunderstanding, that time frame had been exceeded.

However, CTC[redacted] advised that since the process did not have adverse medical effects or result in hallucinations (thereby disrupting profoundly Abu Zubaydah’s senses or personality) it was within legal parameters.

There a number of important points about this.

First, note the timing: April. When AZ was still recovering from bullet wounds and surgery.

This was also the same time period when (oops!) Binyam Mohamed was being subjected to extended sleep deprivation, presumably pursuant to the same kind of “misunderstanding.”

But also note the language. The “profoundly disrupt the senses or personality” is the language on severe mental suffering that John Yoo gave John Rizzo on July 13, 2002, which Jonathan Fredman sent to the torturers as their guideline on torture. It seems likely, then, that this (oops!) sleep deprivation was the “incident” that CIA was so concerned about as they were writing the Bybee Memos.

109 replies
  1. Mary says:

    So someone invented a definition that “profoundly disrupt senses or personality” = “hallucinations” but nothing much else?

    I’m wondering if they used Hanni 1, Hanni 2 or Hanni 3 as the baseline personality that was being disrupted.

    • klynn says:

      I’m wondering if they used Hanni 1, Hanni 2 or Hanni 3 as the baseline personality that was being disrupted.

      With the establishment regarding how long such policies have been practiced, I cannot tolerate reading another, “You do not know what it was like after 9-11.” And I imagine we will here this excuse again and soon.

  2. klynn says:

    The “profoundly disrupt the senses or personality” is the language on severe mental suffering that John Yoo gave John Rizzo on July 13, 2002, which Jonathan Fredman sent to the torturers as their guideline on torture. It seems likely, then, that this (oops!) sleep deprivation was the “incident” that CIA was so concerned about as they were writing the Bybee Memos.

    Ooops = EW scoop!

    CIA = CYA

    Great catch there EW!

  3. 1boringoldman says:

    It also speaks to the fact that the DoJ Opinions were written interactively with the CIA Interrogators.

    DoJ says 24-48 hours. Whoops, they’ve done more [11 days?] without AZ becoming openly psychotic [hallucinating]. Ergo, Yoo puts 11 days in his Memo [the result of the procedure becomes the standard for the approval for the procedure].

  4. Leen says:

    “due to a misunderstanding” How do these people keep getting away with this horseshit? If the peasants use that excuse in a court of law. You can hear the prison cell door slam.

  5. MadDog says:

    A couple notable things on Part 2 pages 11-12 (35 page PDF):

    From page 11 – 4 August 2003 – it sounds like there are more than one set of videotapes:

    …Final disposition of material. Please note that inventory list should only contain listing of magnetic media from [redacted] project and not/not the videotapes in [redacted] possession. Thanks and regards…

    From page 12 – 18 July 2003 – note the fact that they’re talking about the “disposition” of both videotapes and hard drives:

    …Subject: Eyes Only – Disposition instructions for [redacted] media
    Ref: None
    1. Action required: Please provides inststructions for disposition of hard drives and magnetic media…

  6. tjbs says:

    24-48 hours means something else not continuous hours awake but possibly 4 hours of sleep deprivation per day which would be 6-12 days. I heard a guard on NPR, way back, describe it as 16 hours on, 4 off, cutting 4 hours off of the normal 8 hour sleep cycle per day and also extremely disorienting.

    Other wise they keep mentioning it’s legal to destroy the tapes, meaning this was done before the court wanted them preserved ?

  7. 1boringoldman says:

    That first email is dated 04/27/2002. It mentions “tapes.” Were they taping from the get-go? It implies that the tapes were being sent somewhere [“arrive here”]. Where is “here”? Is this email from Langley? Are the things being sent the electronic copies?

  8. MadDog says:

    More notable stuff from Part 2 on page 14 (35 page PDF) confirming videotaping of both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri:

    …1. Action required: None, FYI only.
    2. On 03 Dec 02, [redacted part of sentence] conducted an inventory of all videotapes and other related materials created at [redacted word] during the interrogations of al-Qa’ida detainees Zayn Al-‘Abidin Muhammad ((Husayn)) aka Abu ((Zubaydah)) and ‘Abd Al-Rahim Al-((Nashiri)) aka ((Bilal)) [redacted partial paragraph]…

  9. MadDog says:

    And folks should really read and strongly ponder this from Part 3 page 16 (57 page PDF):

    …11/10/2005 07:25 PM

    To: Dusty Foggo
    Subject: short backgrounder – part 2

    Dusty – ok – on the Zubaydah tapes – – I am no longer feeling comfortable. While I understand Jose’s ‘decision’ (and believe the tapes were bad news) I was just told by Rizzo that [redacted] DID NOT concur on the cable – it was never discussed with him (this is perhaps worse news, in that we may have ‘improperly’ destroyed something). In fact, it is unclear now whether the [halfway redacted 2 characters – IG] did as well. Cable was apparently drafted by [redacted 4-6 characters] and released by Jose; they are only two names on it, so I am told by Rizzo. Either [redacted 4-6 characters] lied to Jose about ‘clearing’ with [redacted word] and [halfway redacted 2 characters – IG] (my bet) or Jose misstated the facts. (It is not without relevance that [redacted 4-6 characters] figured prominently in the tapes, as [redacted 4-6 characters] was in charge of [redacted word] at the time and clearly would want the tapes destroyed.) Rizzo is cleary upset, because he was on the hook to nofity Harriet Miers of the status of the tapes because it was she who asked to be advised before any action was taked. Apparently, Rizzo called Harriet this afternoon and she was livid, which he said was actually unusual for her. Rizzo does not think this is likely to just go away. Rizzo has advised [redacted 3-4 characters] of this latest ‘wrinkle.’ Sounds like we will regroup on Monday…

    (My Bold)

    As this was written on the Thursday evening before Veterans Day holiday on Friday, consider this the CIA’s own virtual Friday document dump to themselves. *g*

  10. Leen says:

    “Continued retention of these tapes is not/not required by law”

    Is this true? Why do they say not twice?

    The reason given for getting rid of the tapes is that the officers torturing could be in danger or the American public.

    These guys really did learn from the SS. Get rid of the goods.

    “slugs” keeps jumping out at me.

  11. person1597 says:

    What ever happened to…

    Destruction of Government Property—18 U.S.C. § 1361

    … and the government must prove that the defendant acted willfully; that is intentionally, with knowledge that he/she is violating a law.

    Wait, what?

    “There may have been some people who thought precise procedure wasn’t followed, but I haven’t heard of anyone who believed at the time that any law had been broken…

  12. BoxTurtle says:

    I sure wish there was interest in prosecuting these crimes SOMEWHERE under the level of St. Peter.

    When Cheney’s time comes, may he be buried in an orange jumpsuit to the sound of loud rap music in the very same box they used for interrogations.

    Boxturtle (Would not be suprised if grass never grows on his grave)

  13. Leen says:

    What is the “hard take down?”

    “the agency sought and received Dept of Justice approval for the following enhanced techniques————— the waterboard”

      • Leen says:

        sick mother fuckers

        No need to wonder why any U.S. captured soldiers would have these same things done to them.

        Monkey see monkey doo doo

        • harpie says:

          The phrase “hard takedown” also reminded me of the IRFing [Initial Response Force] which was done in Guantanamo [probably other places as well]. Here’s a description from the first Chaplain at Guantanamo:

          Testimony of a Chaplain

          “[…] The IRF team stopped at the detainee’s cell and lined up in single file outside it. The team leader in front drenched the prisoner with pepper spray and then opened the cell door. The others charged in and rushed the detainee with the shield as protection. The point was to get him to the ground as quickly as possible, with whatever means necessary—shields, boots, or fists.[…]”

          But I was just reading yesterday that at least one American soldier [in 2007] did not even have to be “captured” by the enemy to have been subjected to torture: isolation for more than 30 days, sleep deprivation and forced injection of medication.

          “They told me I wasn’t a real soldier, that I was a piece of crap. All I wanted was to be treated for my injuries. Now suddenly I’m not a soldier. I’m a prisoner, by my own people,” says Luther, his voice tightening. “I felt like a caged animal in that room. That’s when I started to lose it.”

          Then he’s offered a “deal”:

          Eventually Luther was brought to his commander, who told him he had a choice: he could sign papers saying his medical problems stemmed from personality disorder or face more time in isolation.

          The Army wanted to renege on their contractual responsibilities to this 19-year veteran. The article is called “Disposable Soldiers

          Sick, indeed.

  14. Mary says:

    A bit OT to this post, but germane to the overall – do we know at what point Durham on the tapes (his Mukasey appointment) switched over from invistigation to convening a Grand Jury?

    I don’t really expect anything of Durham and haven’t paid much attention on the procedural details, but it looks like his original mandate from Mukasey was pretty narrow (torture tape destruction only and criminal acts only – not, for example, any prof conduct/DOJ/CIA lawyers issues and of course, those weren’t involved in the equally narrow OPR mandate looking into the drafting of the memos, but not interactions of DOJ involved in torture with Congress and Courts).

    For that narrow mandate, which was IIRC authorized as a criminal investigation, he was supposed to report to the DAG, at the time, Filip. After Holder came in, that would have been Ogden (who left in Feb of this year). Ogden received support during his nomination proceedings from an assortment of names related to DOJ/CIA torture, and guys who have a lot of vested interest in making sure they kept their “good guy” status. Larry Thompson, Daniel Levin, John Bellinger – the roman numeral collector, and one who hasn’t managed to really make anyone’s good guys list but has managed to float under the radar on the bad guys list – Peter Keisler. He did also get the nod from another Wilmer Hale lawyer, though, Seth Waxman, who has been involved in GITMO representation.

    So with Ogden gone in Feb, then, presumably, Acting DAG, Grindler (who got to go to Congress and explain why the Margolis turn down of any action under the OPR report was a *nuthin to see here* moment) is who Durham reports to directly on that original Mukasey appointment. But since it is all in-house, any or all of that could have changed at any time and without notice.

    So after Ogden leaves in Feb (to faint fanfare but some grumblings that he didn’t get along with Holder) in March we start to get hints out of what had been a pretty tight, non-leaky Durham ship, about the immunity deal with McPherson and that a Rodriguez associate had testified before the GJ last year and that testimony was being “scrutinized” and now we get a bit more.

    Meanwhile, Holder also appointed Durham for the prelim review on torture and that is – where? – do we know? Sitting on Margolis’ desk?

    And I’m kinda wondering what Brinkema and some other judges who had outstanding discovery issues in their courts when the tapes were destroyed are going to want to know about McPherson’s immunity – which wouldn’t seem to reach his prof responsiblities issues to the court.

    Oh well – I’ll sit back and watch EW and bmaz on this one and see how it all sorts out.

  15. 1boringoldman says:


    This meeting took place on the Thursday before the Sunday [September 8, 2002] when the Administration hit the airways in its march to invade Iraq [the “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” Sunday]. Looks like they were cleaning up before the next phase…

    • Leen says:


      Are they required by law to retain the tapes?

      • 1boringoldman says:

        “Are they required by law to retain the tapes?”

        I don’t know the answer to that. Obviously, there’s a way in which the answer might be “no.” After all, they could’ve never taped in the first place. But once the records existed, it was by their own admission a proof of something. They knew it and said it over and over. It’s easily argued that they destroyed the tapes to avoid prosecution. How is that different from Ollie North shredding documents he had created? Particularly with all this chatter about “to destroy or not to destroy”? But I expect there are a gajillion legal ways that legal guys have looked at such things in the past. Mercifully, the thought of going to law school passed quickly, and I chose another path…

        • Leen says:

          and then they cover their asses by saying that the tapes should be destroyed to protect Americans and the interrogators.

          • person1597 says:

            Kind of like Kongress did with the Abu-Blabu pix. Fuckwads. Who needs black smoke when you can just shit the bed.

    • timbo says:

      You mean the tapes might show some sadist beating a prisoner to get them to confess to a connection between AQ and Iraq? I mean, there is an ‘a’ and a ‘q’ in each…”Why is that you m-fing terrorist?! Huh?! Huh?! You want some more?!” *vicious dog barking*

      I mean, surely it doesn’t show something like a trumping up an excuse to invade Iraq, right?

      And that wouldn’t be a crime, right?

      Well, that would of course depend on whether there is any evidence and…

  16. Mary says:

    So the very first doc in the dump is an email (4/27/2002) saying that the tapes should be cataloged and made into official record copies (“When will the tapes of the interrogations arrive here? They should all be cataloged and made into official record copies”) but apparently later there wasn’t anyone who thought destruction of “official records” was a problem?

    I guess, too, once that word “copies” is there, you have to wonder what the process was that rendered copies from the tapes.

    • person1597 says:

      And I’m kinda wondering what Brinkema and some other judges who had outstanding discovery issues in their courts when the tapes were destroyed…

      Good point!

      The offense of selling, conveying or disposing of government property without authority can be seen simply as one form of knowing conversion. Section 641 of Title 18, however, contains a separate prohibition against this conduct. To prove a violation of this prohibition the United States must show: that the defendant sold, conveyed or disposed of; property belonging to the United States; without authority to do so; and with knowledge that he did not have authority to do so.

      As if…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Undoubtedly, there are copies in the thoroughly and well-preserved Vice Presidential records at SMU.

  17. JasonLeopold says:

    Would this be Jim Pavitt? Part 3 page 2 (pdf)


    • timbo says:

      Hmm, who would have said there was no legal reason preventing destruction? The President? WHC? Whomever formulated that transmission and transmitted it and the person(s) who prompted that transmission would likely be guilty of obstruction, conspiracy, and a few other crimes having to do with retention of official records, etc.

      This doesn’t even get us to the instances where prisoners died while being interrogated. But that’s another investigation everyone in power at the time–and possibly those in power now?–are trying to avoid…to the detriment of our Republic.

  18. Mary says:

    Killing time –

    I wonder what the C Ref was that got added (in Dec?) after the Oct 2002 doc with only References A& B, which said destroy the tapes (that sounds as if they were already made into official records in April or May), since they are relying on the C Ref as the urgent reason not to destroy the tapes in that missive. Lots redacted, but while you see them saying don’t destroy the tapes, there doesn’t seem to be any modification of the prior coverup order to reuse the same tape every day so that they don’t create more until Mayish?

    The copy that has routing and shows a CC to Muller and Rizzo- was McPherson as the guy who was going to review for conformity the blacked out third cc and if so, why is he redacted? Interesting to see Atty-Client show up on the doc describing review of the tapes for conformity – what client on what topic. Sounds like someone got bored, what with reviewing in the “play fast forward” mode. Did the reviewer (McPherson)have language skills, do we know, or a translator available?

    The interview(McPherson?) has some good lawyerly take on what they may have meant by checking for conformity, “Yes they’re doing that. Yes, yes, it corresponds” doesn’t sound like a review for things that weren’t mentioned on the cable, just to make sure that the things that were mentioned are on there.

  19. Mary says:

    So sifting through a bit more, is Ref C the IG? There is a request for a cable from the IG authorizing the “ref” action and then the refs expand from A & B to include a C and a direction not to destroy.

    So way back during the time Yoo was drafting his memos, in Aug 2002, all these CIA guys knew about, but were not providing to DOJ and Yoo wasn’t asking for, the videos. Hmmm.

  20. Mary says:

    3 hours, 20min to destroy 92 tapes.

    In 07, there’s only one person who has access to and can pull up torture tapes cables being requested? Although they respond in the plural (“we were able to access most”)WTH is going on with them listing some cables on the torture program being “owned” by an entity not Gov? You have cables about highly classified info that are “owned” by someone else? Wah? (12/20/2007)

    • person1597 says:

      WTH is going on with them listing some cables on the torture program being “owned” by an entity not Gov?

      Owned and pwned! The good stuff was free said the contractor with glee.

      The situation where the corpus delicti must be proved by circumstantial evidence is rare and presents far greater problems than the situation where the only issue is the defendant’s participation in the offense.

    • tjbs says:

      That’s EXACTLYwhat they said they were going to do in Iran contra , I can hear the TREASONOUS BASTARD OLLIE saying what we need is a self financed, off the shelf, quick to go meaning, no congressional approval or oversight operation. Something to operate in the shadows.

      This is what happens when people are too damn polite to demand prison for these TRAITOROUS FELONS. Time to amend this pardon shit in our constitution.

  21. Mary says:

    The 12-3-2007 doc that someone – redacted – “assured us that he gave regular updates to DoJ (i.e., John Yoo,redacted maybe Koester?)during this time frame (Aug 2002 Bybe memo drafting period) and DoJ was aware of the real numbers, but we were never able to verify this with DoJ, as INV mangement at the time elected not to interview witnesses outside the building” is pretty damn interesting.

    And this is how splitting everything up into artificial mandates doesn’t work. So – if you have a person named (although currently redacted) as having, during the Aug 2002 drafting time frame being in touch with and providing info to Yoo and presumably Koester about the “real” info, this would go a helluva long way towards a revamp on that OPR opinion.

    Yoo’s pal Rotunda (I think, I’d have to go check, my mind is mush), makes the point in his letter that if there were facts known by the DOJ lawyers and not included, then of course, THAT would make for a very different outcome in determining their prof responsibilty violations …

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not sure, but I think there’s a four-letter name in the OPR report as the person (female, I think) who coordinated w/Koester. SO I wonder if that’s the person.

    • MadDog says:

      The 12-3-2007 doc that someone – redacted – “assured us that he gave regular updates to DoJ (i.e., John Yoo,redacted maybe Koester?)during this time frame (Aug 2002 Bybe memo drafting period) and DoJ was aware of the real numbers, but we were never able to verify this with DoJ, as INV mangement at the time elected not to interview witnesses outside the building” is pretty damn interesting…

      I think this is more than just interesting!

      I’ll include the total page from Part 3 page 21 (57 page PDF):

      …First, and most obvious, Jay Bybee’s 1 Aug 2002 memo to John Rizzo stated, in part, “Moreover, you have also orally informed us that althought some of these techniques may be used with more than once, that repetition will not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.” (p. 2) and again, “You have indicated that these acts will not be used with substantial repetition, so that there is no possibility that severe physical pain could arise from such repetition.” (p. 11). The OIG review determined that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to [redacted 2 characters?] waterboard sessions, consisting of at least 83 seperate exposures [redacted sentence] assured us that he gave regular updates to DoJ (i.e. John Yoo [redacted 2-3 words] at OLC) during this time frame, and DoJ was aware of the real numbers, but we were never able to verify this with DoJ, as INV management at the time elected not to interview witnesses outside the building. In addition to the disparity in numbers, the method of water application as recorded on the tapes was at odds with the Bybee opinion

      (My Bold)

      A couple of points:

      This seems to intimate that there is more confusion about just how many times AZ was waterboarded. 83 times may just be the low end counted by viewing some, but not all, videotapes.

      Secondly, as EW has already observed, these seem to be the documents Durham originally withheld from the ACLU for prosecutory purposes.

      It would seem that the last bolded sentence meets AG Holder’s criteria of “exceeding” the parameters of cover provided by any of the OLC opinions, and therefore qualifies for prosecution.

  22. 1boringoldman says:

    10/02/2002: They seem on the verge of destroying the tapes
    12/02/2002: “It was a mistake to move [redacted] tapes” “no tapes are to be destroyed”

    Looking through these documents and EW’s timeline, I just don’t get it.
    ….”move … tapes”? from where to where? why?
    ….”no tapes are to be destroyed” why the change of heart?
    Did I miss an introductory lecture?

    • emptywheel says:

      THe closed the black site in December. So that was the urgency. BUt November 30-December 4 (or thereabouts) McPherson did the review. While eveything we’ve seen suggests McP gave them a clean bill of health, I suspect they had their own concerns that weren’t documented. Or maybe they were just trying to get Congressional buy off. HOw interesting, though, when they briefed Goss and Harman, and DID NOT get buyoff, they ended up never summarizing that briefing?

  23. Mary says:

    @36 – I kind of wonder if the “move” part had to do with tapes coming into CIA in April or May to be made into official records before being returned to Thailand or wherever for holding. That’s probably not it, but it struck me that in April they were waiting for tapes on the way to be made official record copies, in Oct they were treating them as all being back wherever for safekeeping and were using a Ref A and B for the ok to destroy, then someone asks for the OIG’s ok to destroy and then they say -nope, don’t destroy and it was a mistake to move the tapes … might tie with saying, “oh crap, we never should have sent some to be made into official record copies, now the IG knows all about it and won’t ok the destruction” ??

    Or not.

    Do we know what the heck happened April fools in 2004 that got so redacted on their timeline doc?

    • 1boringoldman says:

      I was thinking something like that, but I just ran across this:

      The videos were taken at a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, and later stored at the CIA station in Bangkok for three years before they were ordered destroyed.

      But why would that be a mistake?

      • Mary says:

        Yeah – I’m thinking the mistake issue has to be something that has prevented them from being able to claim, for example as the seem to have done with cables – that someone else “owned” the tapes or to just pretend they didn’t exist, esp since they hadn’t cataloged them yet. The only move I see any reference to that might cause those kinds (and more) of issues would be a move that ended up with some vids being made into official records copies within the US.

        • 1boringoldman says:

          I agree. That’s how this whole dump actually started in email #1:

          4/27/2002 …When will the tapes of the interrogations arrive here?

          • Mary says:

            That – and the reference to someone saying they were keeping Yoo and someone else with DOJ up to date on how things were really being done (v. what the memo said) are the two things that have struck me most – and the big doc with all the lies at the end.

    • 1boringoldman says:

      I don’t know about April 1, 2004 either, but it sure got Addington’s and Gonzales’ attention:

      11 May 2004 GC attends meeting at the White House and is told by Addington and Gonzales not to destroy the tapes.(NFI).

      • emptywheel says:

        Anyone wonder whether Addington and Gonzales were interested in retaining the tapes as much to keep something over Mitchell and Jessen as anything else?

        And remember, Gonzales left before this broke out in AUgust 2007–not long before Rodriguez left.

        • Leen says:

          you mean keep your mouths shut because we have the goods on you? How would they use those tapes?

          Or did they hold back their o.k. of the destruction until everyone weighed in on the destruction? Covering their bases?

          Did they ever give an O.K.?

        • bobschacht says:

          Anyone wonder whether Addington and Gonzales were interested in retaining the tapes as much to keep something over Mitchell and Jessen as anything else?

          Absolutely! And this is what gives me hope that copies of those tapes, or at least some of them, will turn up. Cheney & Addington –and others, I’m sure– would not have been afraid to use blackmail if it was necessary to save their sorry asses, or to achieve some other high priority objective.

          Bob in AZ

    • emptywheel says:

      We don’t. But that would have been when they were discussing referrals out of the IG REport. I suspect, though it’s just a giant Wildarsedguess, that they talked Helgerson out of referring either AZ’s treatment or the earlier destruction of the tapes by asking him to do further review of them. NOt sure if that every happened–I know Jello Jay kept asking for the details on this stuff.

  24. Mary says:

    “Were you aware of the specific EIT used on Nashiri” (emph added) as their interview question 24 sure makes it sound as if there was no need to refresh the interviewee’s recollection as to which of the many EITs that had been authorized they were talking about.

    What is that “CIA INTERROGATION OF ABU ZUBAYDAH March 2001- January 2003” document that looks like it was generated in 2007? Was that a briefing to the intel committees? If so, who authorized the statements, in 2007, about AZ being a senior lt, high value operational, etc. etc. etc. – all the fibs?

    • emptywheel says:

      I think so. And I also think that there were two copies, and one was never given to the IG.

      Remember that Hayden was demonstrably lying ot COngress in and around that time frame.

  25. Mary says:

    I’ll be interested to see how EW timelines it all, but it looks to me like in Oct 2002 the cables said to start taping over and destroy what they had, in Dec 2002 the cable says don’t destroy, but doesn’t mention taping over, and then – argh, I’ve already forgotten, but then I think there’s something after the Dec 2002 memo that says NOT to tape over.

    • Hmmm says:

      I guess that highlights the distinction between the tapes as more durable physical artifacts vs. the more ephemeral recordings of the torture sessions that were made on them. Subpoenas etc. for the tapes themselves could be honored without risk if the recordings were no longer on the tapes. The recordings could be transferred/copied off the tapes before the tapes were erased, taped over, or physically destroyed. The transfers/copies could have been anywhere, and/or could have been made in secret, so absent a properly worded description — perhaps very very difficult to write — a subpoena or other investigatory request would miss the copies/transfers entirely.

      Shorter: What the investigators really wanted was the recordings, not the tapes. Were they smart enough to word the requests/demands that way?

    • Mary says:

      Oops, sorry, it was before the Dec 2002, just later in the dump (p. 30 of 122) a directive went out it looks like in May to “please do not tape over or edit videos of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogations” [but doesn’t mention anyone else or a game plane for other interrogations] and “please preserve all videos” and it specifically mentions as one of the reasons that the videos “offer evidence” emph added of will be valuable in the future apart from actionable intel.

      Another thing that I had meant to put up before that I thought was a biggie was from p 40 of 122 (Aug 03?). There, they seem to specifically start narrowing down from tapes to “magnetic media” but then has


      I would guess/hope that AZ’s lawyers and Senate/House Intel committee lawyers etc. would have, a long time ago, admonished good ol redacted that videotapes in their possession shouldn’t be destroyed.

      Makes you wonder what kind of discovery requests were served or preservation orders given and subpoenas etc. served etc. etc. with respect to vidoes of torture that they claim are in someone else’s (but a known someone else) possession.

      • Mary says:

        BTW – it also sounds like there were other “magnetic media” from other *projects* or in general that they wanted to make sure didn’t get put on the inventory list.

        I’m also wondering about the whole issue of regular pics as well as the videos. Apparently it was a big part of their regime, to strip them and have a woman photograph them.

          • Mary says:

            I think the not/not is just the way they highlight (not, repeat NOT) but even a highlight can have a lot of different meanings.

            I think there are several things that point to the Mitchell/Jessen crew having all kinds of things that CIA wanted to be able to keep for reghoulingtooling at a later date, while being able to claim nothing in “their” or “gov” custody. As per earlier above, I was struck by the assertion that there were cables about the torture that CIA couldn’t turn over bc they were “owned” by someone else??

            The cable references to me sound like someone who is pretty desperate to not say more than they have to, but who really wants to make sure that too much stuff doesn’t all get destroyed. So they ended up having to make sure they emphasize only project xyz and HEY YOU, IN CASE YOU DIDN’T GET IT, NONE OF THE STUFF *THOSE* GUYS HAVE.

            I’ll let you and EW sort it, though.

            I’m still most struck back on the legal end, with the fact that there are supposedly claims from CIA that Yoo and someone else at OLC knew more than they put in their memos and OPR having two CIA attys not cooperating (along with Ashcroft and others) and even Yoo’s own shining light hanging him out as having big problems if there were evidence that he did know more and not include it.

            • Jeff Kaye says:

              I think the not/not is just the way they highlight (not, repeat NOT) but even a highlight can have a lot of different meanings.

              I think you’re probably right. But I went looking for other possibilities precisely because I thought the retention of the videotapes was required by law. Is that right? Because if it is, then the highlighting of a fact opposite to law doesn’t make sense. Only if it is not actually required by law, then the highlighting makes sense, to remind the reader that they are not required to retain the tapes.

              Your point about cables “owned” by someone else is very interesting.

              • Mary says:

                Shoot -you would do that right as I’m leaving.

                Depends on what you mean by law in the “required by law” and upon some things we don’t know for sure yet on the way the interrogations were done and by whom and to what extent they were intended for purposes “other than” (as one doc admits) intel operations and …

                I’d say that by the time they were destroyed, though, even with the limits on what we know, absolutely NO GOVERNMENT LAWYER who knew about them would be free from professional responsiblity and responsibility to the various courts with respect to their preservation or notice to the courts before destruction.

                For the rest, I think that would take a long comment with a lot of blanks for what we don’t know.

        • emptywheel says:

          Remember that we first learned of this when EDVA had to tell Brinkema that they had found a video of at least one of the people requested by Moussaoui–I think either al-Libi or (more likely) bin al-SHibh.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nice catch. “Magnetic media” would have been limited to video or audio tapes and would have excluded digital copies and hard descriptions, notes, etc. (if any). Do we know where the limitation came from?

  26. Hmmm says:

    (Sorry if this has already been figured out:) Could the reason why destroying the tapes was internally deemed OK as a matter of law and SOP (as per @27) be that the recordings on the tapes had already been copied to other media (for example to the hard drives mentioned @8) and they were relying on retention of the copies rather than the camera originals?

    If so, it might be worth looking at the exact wording used in all the requests for production of things — were the investigators & the judge only asking for tapes, so that their failure to produce the copies that had been made onto other media would not have constituted contempt/evasion?

  27. 1boringoldman says:

    starting on page 39, there’s something about hard drives and magnetic media – something “in black”…

  28. Hmmm says:

    Whoa there. Magnetic media is broader than video tape, not narrower. Hard drives are magnetic. CDs, DVDs, thumb drives, and SDRAM drives are not magnetic. So limiting a request to magnetic excludes important backup / copy media. There are also camcorders that record straight to optical, so that would also exclude camera originals made that way.

    • Mary says:

      It’s broader in some ways and much more specific than a somewhat colloquial “videotapes” that, like kleenex, to most would mean more than Kleenex.

      I think both aspects are important – they aren’t asking for a destruction of non-magnetic media copies that might exist, but I also thought, since hard drives do factor in elsewhere, if this was really someone trying to give a heads up on hard drives without a paper trail (or cable trail) of mentionging hard drives, since much of the emphasis was on VCR tapes.

      I’m trying to think – and not being a techie can’t really – of the hows and whys and whats and wherefors of all the stuff you would have on the one hand accumulated on a hard drive with respect to the torture, and on the other hand want destroyed from a hard drive, when supposedly the only thing anyone is worried about at the time is VCR tapes.

      Hmm over to you, Hmmm.

      • Hmmm says:

        I would think that if the hard drive contained nothing more than digital copy/copies of the video recording(s) from the video tapes, then that would be an ample sufficiency.

        • Mary says:

          Not a lot of flat out questions on that topic that seem to appear in anything released (including questions for interviewees) is there?

          You’d think one of the very first and most prominent of questions would have to do with people’s knowledge of any and all kinds of copies and facsimiles and duplications and yada yada and what they were, how they were made, who had accesss, etc.

        • Mary says:

          That’s got a lot of cred, but I still have to think and wonder a bit about authorizing the destruction of hard drives with who knows what on them under the cover of destroying them for possible torture tape copies on them.

          Not that you need more, I just tend to spec a lot. It seems a bit drastic – destroying hard drives, but more so it seems to indicate that there’s a reason to destroy them and if it is the torture tape tie alone, you have to at least wonder how the hard drives were used in connection with the torture taping projects. Why were copies put on the hard drives would be one thing to have clarified. jmo.

          • Hmmm says:

            Ah, I understand you now, thanks. Good points.

            Well, one reason for a video copy to exist on an HD is that the process of making a DVD usually involves first getting a working copy of the recording off the video tape and onto the HD (‘capture’ in the parlance). Loosely speaking, that HD copy is processed by the DVD burner/maker program and used to create the re-built recording that it writes out to the DVD.

            Of course there may be other reasons, too. Some folks like to buy lots of HDs and use them for backup, kinda like tape cartridges. Or maybe they couriered the HDs elsewhere routinely for analysis and archiving and didn’t want to take the time onsite to make further copies. Etc.

          • tjbs says:

            Would you ever believe georgis dicks or condis voice are on the tapes? Just speculating the worst case scenario. If not why not ?

            And one more thing about the guy transcribing the tapes to so call verify compliance with the rules, I noticed he went from viewing to viewing at fast forward I guess to avoid hearing the tortured screams, pleadings, begging in a foreign language for some MERCY. which you avoid at F/F.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Floppy disks are magnetic.

      Types of magnetic media

      The term ‘magnetic media’ is used to describe any record format where information is recorded and retrieved in the form of a magnetic signal.

      The common types of magnetic media are:

      * magnetic tape, including audio cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes, videotapes, computer tapes both on open reels and in cassettes, and tapes used in digital recording processes
      * magnetic hard disks
      * magnetic floppy disks or diskettes

      To Hmmm’s suppositions @52, keep in mind that in 2002, it was not usual to copy to other than magnetic media, unless perhaps CD, which is optical media. I feel confident that, lumped with the references to hard disks, and using the words “magnetic media” they were referring to floppies, perhaps the Zip drive floppy then still popularly in use. On the other hand, due to technological ignorance, or sloppiness in writing, they may have meant some kind of CD disk, and simply lumped it in with the hard drive and still called it “magnetic media”.

      • Hmmm says:

        Well, I have a slightly different perspective on the technology availability timelines there*, and by that reckoning optical is a prime candidate, in fact the only smart way to do the job of keeping the recordings. By 2002 Zip drives were out of fashion even in the consumer market, largely because of the ready and cheap availability of writable optical drives and media — certainly including writable CDs, but also writable DVDs by that point. But these optical technologies were available quite a bit earlier than that in the industrial/professional video equipment markets, while they were still economically unfeasible for consumer products, and we have no reason to believe the tirturers were buying their gear at Best Buy. Likely pro/industrial gear.

        *For example, DVD-RAM, a predecessor of the writable DVD-R format, goes back to 1996; cite:

        • Mary says:

          or anyone else –
          What would be the take on why the original tapes, in 2002, would have been VCR tapes?

          • Hmmm says:

            Lotsa reasons. Tape was still the most common camera original format at that time. In industrial/pro video, a format called S-VHS was (is?) commonly used for its better-than-consumer picture and sound quality; it uses a more-or-less VHS like tape cartridge but is wider or runs at faster speed or some darn thing. There are (were?) digital video tape cartridge formats too, with a wide range of quality. Tape cartridges are very convenient to organize, and don’t leave incriminating recordings in the camera itself like a modern camcorder with an internal hard drive could do.

            That said, it would also have been possible to record direct to the hard drive in (or connected to) a computer, rather than to a tape first. In that case there would be no tape to produce in a subpoena, and the recording could be made to disappear by deleting the file (and wiping the hard drive), and the recording would still be copyable when needed.

              • Hmmm says:

                Not necessarily. As long as you have electricity from batteries or generator, and maybe a voltage inverter, any video system (50 Hz/60Hz, NTSC/PAL, what-you-got) will work anywhere in the world.

                But even if that’s what they used, those guys can certainly figure out the conversions. Don’t see that that matters a lot…?

          • Hmmm says:

            (insert smiley here:) It doesn’t?

            Anyway, pro/industrial stuff would still be called VCRs. In that scenario, the optical stuff would come in a bit later, at the stage of copying/archiving the tape recordings made on the VCR.

          • bobschacht says:

            Remember elsewhere they use the term VCR. THough of course a VCR doesn’t record.

            Is this some kind of snark, or sarcasm, as suggested @ 88? If so, it has sailed right over my head. After all, the “R” in VCR does stand for “recorder.” Per the Wikipedia:

            The videocassette recorder (or VCR, more commonly known in the UK and Ireland as the video recorder or video machine), is a type of video tape recorder that uses removable videotape cassettes containing magnetic tape to record audio and video from a television broadcast so it can be played back later.

            And I am well into my first cuppa coffee this morning (tho it is decaf).
            What am I missing here?

            Bob in AZ

          • bmaz says:

            Um, what do you think the R in VCR stands for?

            Nevermind, strike that last comment. I see now that Mr. Schacht has already covered this most critical of all points.

  29. harpie says:

    I haven’t concentrated on this stuff in quite a while, but fwiw:
    “Entity-not government”=Mitchell/Jessen?

  30. Jeff Kaye says:

    Two uses of “not/not”

    The August 3, 2003 usage:

    Please note that inventory list should only contain listing of magnetic media from [redacted] project and not/not the videotapes in [redacted] possession.

    What “project” could this refer to? A “project” separate from the interrogation per se? Or ran in conjunction with the interrogation, as say, an experiment would be?

    The December 20, 2002 usage:

    Continued retention of these tapes is not/not required by law

    Could the double negative not/not refer to a quote from other material or communications, such that, in the case of the latter, it would make sense if the author meant, “Continued retention of these tapes is not “not required by law”, i.e., it is required, and that’s why it’s a security risk.

    In the earlier case of the “magnetic media”, we would see it means, “Please note that inventory list should only contain listing of magnetic media from [redacted] project and not “not the videotapes in [redacted] possession”. Someone is making sure that there is no confusion. They do not want the videotapes in “[redacted] possession” mixed in with the other media list.

    Two kinds of storage media, two kinds of inventories! The reference to a “project” (the word does not recur in this set of documents) may also mean two kinds of operations upon the same set of prisoner(s).

    Magnetic media we know includes the hard disks, but the other kind is, given the time frame, most likely some kind of floppy or removable disk, since these are types of magnetic storage for computers.

    • harpie says:

      At some point along the thread a few minutes ago I read something that made me wonder about the “experiment” angle, and what you might think of it…and here you are!

      • tjbs says:

        I didn’t note the page # but I immediately thought of Jeff when when I read he was medically watched before, during and after each session by Dr. Mengele.

  31. harpie says:

    “Something to operate in the shadows.”-Joint Special Operations Command?

    “Grey Fox” [SOCOM]?

    […] Rumsfeld planned and lobbied for more than two years before getting Presidential authority, in a series of findings and executive orders, to use military commandos for covert operations. One of his first steps was bureaucratic: to shift control of an undercover unit, known then as the Gray Fox (it has recently been given a new code name), from the Army to the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), in Tampa. Gray Fox was formally assigned to SOCOM in July, 2002, at the instigation of Rumsfeld’s office, which meant that the undercover unit would have a single commander for administration and operational deployment. […]

    The Coming Wars; What the Pentegon Can Now Do in Secret; Seymour Hersh; 1/24/05

  32. orionATL says:

    with respect to retaining some record or another of the az torture,

    that might have been been done, in part, to provide evaluational and/or instructional material.

    – evaluational: so others could see how az responded to jessen’s torture regimen. recall the whole point of some tortures of az was to see how far the torturers could go in torturing before az began disassociating.

    – instructional: to show others (including potential torturers) the specific techniques used to torture az.

    in short, there might have been non-legal concerns that drove copying az’s torture.

    those copies might still be around, maybe at dod instead of cia.

    • Mary says:

      And to the extent that Cheney really was as paranoid as they have tried to make it sound – and not just gung ho over power and torture – then anyone who really had any baseline worry of any kind that AZ truly DID know something important – they aren’t going to want everything destroyed. They are going to want to be able to have other translators and behaviorists etc. be able to sift through for clues if something comes up later in antoher rendition/interrogation that might be applicable.

  33. Mary says:

    I’m done for awhile – will hope to see what you guys and EW, bmaz etc. make of all of it later.

  34. orionATL says:


    jessen was, after all, a career military officer, far more so i would guess than a clinical psychologist.

    his career was in the air force.

    dod was trying to get established in black oops.

  35. 1boringoldman says:

    I expect John Durham is savvy enough to have gone after the question of whether there is any visual record of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation on any media anywhere on the planet. If it were to exist, Mitchell and Jessen would be the most likely place to look. This was their personal baby, and records of such things have an almost talisman-like appeal. At the risk of a gross [or perhaps apt] example, serial killers are frequently convicted based on their inability to destroy their souvenirs.

    But even without the visuals, this stuff is pretty damning – that November 10, 2005 email to Dusty Foggo in particular. Fill in the names that were redacted, and it reads like an indictment, maybe several. I await the master parsers to put all of this together, but I, for one, am beginning to look towards Durham’s investigation as one that might begin to move this block of granite.

  36. orionATL says:


    be sure to forward your foia’s and discovery requests to the dod with their own copy to the jsoc.*

    *no charge this time.

  37. orionATL says:

    1interestingoldman @85

    that was perfectly in keeping with these grim matters.

    following up on a part of your comment,

    perhaps the doj/fbi need to do a thomas drake on jessen and other cia or dod torture contractors- corporate or individual.

  38. orionATL says:

    harpie @27

    thanks for bringing the article about sgt luther to
    my attention.

    disposable soldiers indeed.

    what a terrible injustice to a man who was such a fine leader.

    my blood boiled as i read the multiple injustices his commanding officer and “pediatrician” piled on him.

    those two “leaders” ought to be court-martialled.

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