Why Were the Torture Tapes Destroyed?

Bob Baer has a column out stating that he can’t figure out why the torture tapes were destroyed–and repeating CIA spin claiming the torture depicted in the tapes should not, itself, be a legal problem, since it was approved by DOJ. (h/t cs)

Did the CIA want to destroy graphic evidence of sleep-deprivation or waterboarding? They were interrogation methods approved by the Department of Justice in memos sent to the CIA, and therefore shouldn’t have been deemed a legal problem. The closest thing we come to answer is an internal CIA e-mail released last Thursday, in which an unidentified CIA officer writes that Rodriguez decided to destroy the tapes because they made the CIA “look horrible; it would be devastating to us.”

[snip]

I haven’t been able to clear up the mystery either, beyond the fact that a former CIA officer aware of the details of the 2002 interrogation of the two al-Qaeda suspects told me that the tapes’ images were “horrific.” He believes that although the interrogations fell within the guidelines provided by the Department of Justice, if the public ever saw them, it would conclude that “enhanced interrogation” is just another name for torture.

Those of you who have been following along already know this, but I thought I ought to sum up what we do know–but what Baer’s CIA sources aren’t telling him.

First, Baer’s source who “believes … the interrogations fell within the guidelines provided by the Department of Justice” is wrong–at least so long as we’re talking DOJ’s written guidelines. As CIA’s Inspector General made clear, the waterboarding that was depicted on the tapes in 2003 did not fall within the limits of the Bybee Two memo, both because the torturers used far more water, forced it down Abu Zubaydah’s throat, and used it with far more repetition than allowed by the memo. Furthermore, the torturers exceeded even the guidelines the Counterterrorism Center set on sleep deprivation–though Yoo may (or may not have) have set the limit in the Bybee Two memo high enough to cover what had already been done to Abu Zubaydah. Folks in the IG’s office had about seven more pages of concerns about what was depicted on the torture tapes (PDF 86-93)–but that all remains redacted.

So the tapes did not, in fact, match the written guidelines DOJ gave them. The torturers claim to have kept John Yoo and others up-to-date on their variances, but John Yoo’s statements thus far challenge that claim.

And in any case, that only describes the evidence on the torture tapes as they existed in 2003 when the IG reviewed them and presumably in 2005 when CIA destroyed them.

The other, potentially bigger problem for those depicted in the torture tapes has to do with what once appeared on the 15 tapes that the torturers altered before November 30, 2002, when CIA lawyer John McPherson reviewed them. Before that point, the torturers had altered 21 hours of the torture tapes, which covered at least two of the harshest torture sessions. Had someone done forensics on the tapes before they were destroyed, we might have learned what happened during those 21 hours. But by destroying the tapes completely, the CIA prevented that from happening.

I’m guessing–though it’s only a guess–that was the point.

None of that helps to explain Baer’s other questions, such as whether Jose Rodriguez get approval from anyone senior to him before he ordered the tapes destroyed (though we do have further evidence that David Addington and Alberto Gonzales both opposed destroying the tapes)?

I am, however, interested in the question he ends his piece with: why was CIA–and not DOD–tasked with these interrogations?

But what’s really too bad is that Durham hasn’t been tasked with explaining the broader mystery of why, in the first place, the CIA is even interrogating prisoners of war. The 1947 National Security Act established the CIA as a civilian spy agency, not as some Pentagon backroom where you get to do things you don’t want the American people to find out about. But more to the point, the military is much better equipped to interrogate prisoners. It has its own interrogation school at Fort Huachuca, not to mention hundreds of language-qualified and experienced interrogators. It also has the Uniform Code of Military Justice to deal with interrogations that have gone bad. (Some almost inevitably do.) Unlike the CIA, military interrogators have immediate access to legal counsel. It’s not an accident that military misdeeds such as those at Abu Ghraib go right to trial, while CIA investigations drag on for years — and drag down morale.

Because that may well have been the point, you know? And it may well have been why the torture tapes were destroyed.

The torturers appear to have been more interested in testing the limits of Abu Zubaydah’s human endurance than they were in getting usable intelligence from him. And one of the things those tapes may well have shown was up to 21 hours of human experimentation–potentially pushing techniques like waterboarding and sleep deprivation beyond all limits, potentially using techniques like mock burial the torturers asked for but didn’t get approved, and potentially using other techniques entirely.

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65 replies
  1. klynn says:

    Anon source from CIA, trained to lie CIA, and we are to believe every word?

    This is beyond spin. It’s another attempt at obstruction.

  2. qweryous says:

    “I am, however, interested in the question he ends his piece with: why was CIA–and not DOD–tasked with these interrogations?”

    Baer has a previous article on this issue:

    “The CIA and Interrogations: A Bad Fit from the Start
    By Robert Baer Friday, Aug. 28, 2009”

    LINK:
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1919406,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar

    EXCERPT:

    “Is CIA morale going to suffer from the Justice Department’s opening of an investigation into the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods under the Bush Administration? To a degree, yes. But there’s a stronger case that the CIA was damaged the moment the White House picked it to conduct the interrogation of “high value” al-Qaeda prisoners. What everyone seems to forget is that the CIA is a civilian intelligence organization never designed, trained, or staffed to interrogate prisoners of war. The program could never have gone any way other than badly. “

    Second EXCERPT:

    “At the same time it would of course be a mistake to lay responsibility for the Bush Administration’s torture policies solely at the doorstep of contractors. The Bush Administration is more culpable than anyone at the CIA or in corporate America. Still, the point remains that it was political expediency — the White House’s asking the CIA to do something it couldn’t do — that has damaged CIA morale more than a DOJ probe that was the all but inevitable outcome of the Bush Administration’s actions.”

  3. bmaz says:

    Fairly good bet that the tapes not only displayed “images were “horrific.” and that “if the public ever saw them, it would conclude that “enhanced interrogation” is just another name for torture”, but also that there was no credible information or intelligence adduced.

  4. perris says:

    The torturers appear to have been more interested in testing the limits of Abu Zubaydah’s human endurance than they were in getting usable intelligence from him

    couple of things here

    first, they were never interested in getting information they were interested in getting false information..they actually said so, they told cheney the information he wanted did not exist and he told them to get it anyway, that’s when the torture stared

    and the second thing, oh too close to hitlers Dr. Wirths

    • perris says:

      I imagine there will never be anything close to the doctors trial we had against the very same type of experiments conducted under hitler

      The Doctors’ Trial (officially United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al.) was the first of 12 trials for war crimes that the United States authorities held in their occupation zone in Nuremberg, Germany after the end of World War II. These trials were held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The trials are collectively known as the “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials”, formally the “Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals” (NMT).

      20 of the 23 defendants were medical doctors (Brack, Rudolf Brandt, and Sievers being Nazi officials) and all were accused of having been involved in Nazi human experimentation. Josef Mengele, one of the leading Nazi doctors, had evaded capture.

    • Leen says:

      thought Cheney was desperate at this point to torture someone into saying Iraq had somehow been linked to 9/11?

    • perris says:

      ya, the cia wouldn’t play along so rumsfeld/cheney (cheney was the underling) created their own arm of it called “team b”

      when you read that article you will be amazed that was written BEFORE we let them do it again and attack Iraq

      • harpie says:

        Oh. You caught that. Sorry and thanks for responding. I guess I should repeat, then.

        I had said something like “I thought Cheney and Rumsfeld had some kind of vendaetta against the CIA”

        Thanks for the reading material, too.

  5. 1boringoldman says:

    Because that may well have been the point [“…the military is much better equipped to interrogate prisoners.“], you know? And it may well have been why the torture tapes were destroyed. The torturers appear to have been more interested in testing the limits of Abu Zubaydah’s human endurance than they were in getting usable intelligence from him. And one of the things those tapes may well have shown was up to 21 hours of human experimentation–potentially pushing techniques like waterboarding and sleep deprivation beyond all limits, potentially using techniques like mock burial the torturers asked for but didn’t get approved, and potentially using other techniques entirely.

    Baer’s question [“why was CIA–and not DOD–tasked with these interrogations?“] hadn’t occurred to me, but it’s a great question. Zudaydah was in CIA custody early, and Ali Soufan was clear that Tenet was territorial from the start:

    Immediately after Abu Zubaydah was captured, a fellow FBI agent and I were flown to meet him at an undisclosed location. We were both very familiar with Abu Zubaydah and have successfully interrogated al-Qaeda terrorists. We started interrogating him, supported by CIA officials who were stationed at the location, and within the first hour of the interrogation, using the Informed Interrogation Approach, we gained important actionable intelligence. The information was so important that, as I later learned from open sources, it went to CIA Director George Tennet who was so impressed that he initially ordered us to be congratulated. That was apparently quickly withdrawn as soon as Mr. Tennet was told that it was FBI agents, who were responsible. He then immediately ordered a CIA CTC interrogation team to leave DC and head to the location to take over from us.

    I agree that the CIA didn’t have the problems of protocol that would come up with the DoD. Johnathan Fredman actually said it on his visit to GTMO.

    But I have to believe that they had Tenet on the payroll by then. After 9/11, the CIA had egg on its face. The neoconservatives were on a campaign to discredit the CIA and the State Department [Mylroie, PNAC]. Tenet was fighting to get back on the front burner, and what better way than to become “Interrogation Inc.”?

    I think you’re dead on about why the tapes were destroyed. But I wonder if they would also show the interrogators brow beating Zubaydah to try to get him to link al Qaeda and Iraq…

  6. JasonLeopold says:

    Baer seems to be stating what reporters at some mainstream outlets I have spoken to over the past few weeks believe, despite the fact that there is a mountain of evidence to suggest otherwise: that all of the torture depicted on the tapes took place in August 2002 after the legal memos were issued. They think the tapes that predated the memos don’t show any of the torture techniques. Sounds like that is what Baer is saying when he says it was cleared by the memos.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think he’s making a mistake in assuming that the memos approved any technique listed with no lmiits, too.

      But they’re all forgetting mock burial, as well. Even assuming they don’t do anything else that didn’t get approved, if they did mock burial, they did something on tape that John Yoo considers torture.

  7. orionATL says:

    as a consequence an investigation and report by a senate committeee headed by frank church, cia was “disciplined” for the human experimentation (drugs) performed in their MKULTRA program.

    it is at least possible the tapes may have been destroyed not only because of the terrible images they contained,

    but because they would have make clear that cia had, once again, engaged in human experimentation, perhaps contrary to law or guidelines arising from the MKULTRA debacle.

  8. Becca says:

    Why destroy evidence, he asks?

    Memo or no memo, the people inflicting the torture had to know that what they were doing would be deemed criminal acts by any sane and objective judge and/or jury. Once upon a time, not long ago, “I was following orders” and “someone important told me it was legal” were not deemed valid defense arguments for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    The tapes undoubtedly showed acts that any reasonable person would deem torture. Therefore their destruction was for the purpose of obstructing justice and concealing crimes, QED.

    Baer’s a moron.

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    Good article and pertinent comments by all.

    I would not like to see this point slip by, however.

    Baer says:

    Unlike the CIA, military interrogators have immediate access to legal counsel. It’s not an accident that military misdeeds such as those at Abu Ghraib go right to trial, while CIA investigations drag on for years — and drag down morale.

    As I wrote in an article in Jan. 2009 (the quote within from the SASC report):

    … the abuse at Abu Ghraib was a matter of policy, not character disorder or psychological slippage. The Levin/McCain report concluded that arguments, such as those advanced by the GOP Senators, that the torture was confined to “isolated” incidents, and the perpetrators “charged, tried, and punished,” were false:

    The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO.

    The only people who went to trial over Abu Ghraib were far-down underlings. The DoD personnel responsible got off scot-free. Oh, and it is DoD that runs Guantanamo, and I suppose Baer thinks they’ve done a great job there?

    Re orionATL @12, I think that could be one of the reasons. It certainly would look “ugly”, as Fredman said about even legal tapes, in the Gitmo minutes of 10/12/02.

    To Jason, I’m surprised to hear that people think AZ wasn’t tortured prior to 8/02. No reading of the record could support that, unless they think only the EITs constitute “torture”. Even then, it seems likely that some of them were applied earlier, via oral approval, or even after the fact oral approval. Soufan couldn’t countenance what CIA was doing as early as May 2002. – Or are they saying nothing was taped until August 02?

      • 1boringoldman says:

        In the ICRC narrative from AZ, he describes a month’s break between the first period of torture and another period of more torture.

        There then followed a period of about one month with no questioning. During this period I was given food, rice and beans, on a daily basis, varying between once and twice a day. They also continued to give me Ensure to drink. My cell was still very cold and the loud music no longer played, but there was a constant loud hissing or crackling noise, which played twenty-four hours a day. I tried to block out the noise by putting tissue in my ears.

        I thought it might be that they started torturing him, experimenting around some, then fed that back to Yoo to create his masterpiece to cover what they’d already started. So the period after the lull would have been after they had their cover [verbal/Memo]. My point is the this earlier period was certainly not torture-free [As in Session 63 which seemed to come before the Memo].

  10. Mary says:

    Let’s hit the “legal” bit to start with.

    Here is a synopsis of what the memos say that does not get much discussion. Bybee 1 says, hmmm – you have to do all these severe things to rise to the level of torture (and a jury would be who decides whether or not the severity of the treatment is torture, except that a few things like death threats to family may end being actionable no matter what, but we think even for those things you could try to sell a jury on them not causing the severe effects that make it torture)

    Plus you have to have a “specific intent” to torture. Now, while between us’n’s we think we could coach you on how to claim that your intent was to ask questions, not to torture, intent basically exists if someone can provide circumstantial evidence that would convince a jury that there was intent bc it is the jury’s call.

    Also, a jury is not likely to believe that if you were doing something horrific, you were not “intending” to torture when you did it.

    OK – so there you have Bybee 1 (which is the operative document for anything that doesn’t have a more specific reliance memo) saying – guys, a jury has to believe that you didn’t intend to torture, so your liabilty is contingent on a jury’s reaction to the evidence. If the jury looks at the evidence of what you did and thinks you had to have meant to torture when you were doing it, then you’re convicted.

    So there we have a big chunk of the legal effect of those tapes – the DOJ saying in Bybee 1 that it actually IS torture if a jury thinks what you inflicted was bad enough and if they think you had to have intended it to be bad (very simplified). We know from Abu Ghraib how easy it was for the nation to dismiss what was going on when it was being described in the Press (and actually the amount of suspension of belief that accompanied mere written reproting). With a video that, per the CIA, was “horrific” and with Bybee 1 telling them what a jury could do if it found the actions horrific, there’s zero legal cover from the Bybee 1 memo despite lots of claims to the contrary.

    All the discussion about organ failure is really so much wasted paper bc of the memos upfront admission that a jury can find intent from circumstantial evidence and controls the determination of severity to get you from standard criminal assault and into torture.

    So for AZ at least, you can then go to Bybee 2 – the reliance memo – and say, “well, surely this doc gets me off, if it authorizes exactly what I did (that big IF has been touched on by EW already). Except – the CIA itself says about the Bybee 2 memo (and the Bybee 2 memo recognizes this internally) that DOJ is NOT making that determination.

    The torture statute says that what is going on is torture IF it causes severe physical or mental pain and suffering. So, as CIA admits in the docs in the dump and as is internally discussed in the Bybee 2 memo, what DOJ did was say to CIA – “hey, is what you are doing causing severe physical or mental pain and suffering?” CIA then provides DOJ with the CIA’s own assessment (based on ???? yeah – right) that says, “hey, we’re going to do this and this and this and those things aren’t going to cause severe physical or mental pain and suffering”

    Yoo/Bybee 2 says “oh, ok, since CIA has advised us that when it freezes a stripped man and then offers him a towel (around his neck, for purposes of hurling him headfirst into a wall) that it doesn’t cause severe pain and suffering, then we can say it’s not torture.” [[keep in mind, even bybee and yoo’s supporters admit, at least Rotunda does, that if Yoo knew OTHER things were also being done or things were being done differently than what he relies upon in Bybee 2, then Yoo would have a big big problem]]

    The determinations in Yoo’s memo are based, over and over, on him saying, the CIA has told DOJ that they aren’t causing severe physical or mental pain and suffering when they do x, or y or z. Yoo then makes the most cursory possible looksee for a published opinion that might say “oh no, that is too torture” but he doesn’t really and truly do, or claim to do, any independent research on severity of the pain being caused (where he wouldn’t be the expert anyway). Instead, Bybee 2 says “you told me you weren’t causing severe pain, so if that’s right then yeah, you aren’t torturing.”

    Process that.

    This is why Bradbury et al dogpaddled so furiously over the “way” the CIA was drowning people being “different from” how people were drowned in the other cases where we charged and convicted. DOJ is saying that the CIA told it that the way CIA was waterboarding did NOT cause severe pain and suffering (despite the lack of discussion of extra poignancy in the info stated in the memo).

    So Yoo and his supporters (and Bybees too) claim when they say the memos, separately or together, dind’t constitute comfort or reliance memos it ws because Yoo wasn’t deciding that the actions didn’t cause severe pain and suffering, he was relying on the facts provided to him by “the expert” i.e., CIA, that it was not causing such sever pain and suffering. Which is what they have all said in connection with the OPR investigation – Yoo isn’t liable for professional ethics censure bc he never did give legal authorization to what was done – he just relied on CIA’s factual recitations.

    So even buying into the memos and the CIA doing only what the memos claimed, there are big issues.

    Then you hit the problems of all the misinformation CIA gave DOJ – that AZ was high value operational member of al-Qaeda with present info on future terrorist attack plans, etc. So if all that was false, then the memo (Bybee 2)isn’t supported by one of its fundamental supports either

    Then you get to how the different actions exceeded what the memos allowed (and remember the wording from McPherson, he looked to see if they did something that they said they did in the cable – he did NOT catalog all the things they did not say they were doing in the cable) He used careful language to claim that he was looking to see if what was in the cable was also on the tape. Not whether or not there was anything on the tape that wasn’t authorized by the DOJ memo.

    So Baer’s sources are a bit far afield on some of that.

    But I’m with you on the overall question, EW, and it’s why I still think that one question on the list from the dump could very well be asking about the transfer of interrogation from the FBI to the CIA. Bc really – unless you were going to do illegal things to the detainee that the FBI couldn’t or wouldn’t do – why?

  11. JasonLeopold says:

    Also, beyond what the tapes showed, could what AZ said that was captured on the tapes played a part in its destruction? The attorney representing Hani Abdullah told me that a preservation order was served on Porter Goss on July 22, 2005, well before the tape destruction of November 2005. According to the attorney, he said, “we also obtained an order from Roberts requiring the government to explain what it did and did not do to implement this directive. In doing so we convinced Roberts that there was a “colorable” case that AZ had been asked on tape about our client and that that tape had been destroyed.”

  12. orionATL says:

    mary @15

    this is such an enormously helpful summary of the legal issues for someone like myself who does not and never will know all the legal and factual details associated with the cia torture.

    now i have a simple logical structure to build understanding on.

  13. Rayne says:

    I did like this part:

    The case of the missing 92 CIA interrogation tapes would be a good subject for a modern day Agatha Christie mystery.

    I think he meant EW. ;-)

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It seems worth asking whether two lawyers – Addington and Gonzales – so prostratedly willing to do whatever their clients asked really advised that the tapes not be destroyed (or altered?), but that they be scrupulously preserved, when they could potentially incriminate just those clients or those who followed their orders. While that’s possible, the pattern of their behavior suggests that Gonzales would have done whatever Addington (his de facto superior both at the White House and at the DoJ) dictated, and that Addington might have asked the apocryphal and unrecorded question, a la Henry II, “Who will rid Fourth Branch of those dam-ned tapes?”

    • emptywheel says:

      See, I’ve always thought they were trying to do CYA. So long as that tape is out there, Mitchell and Jessen are more exposed than Addington and AGAG.

  15. quanto says:

    I cannot believe that James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen do not have copies of these tapes for their research. They could use them to further their advancement of destroying the human psyche.Also for their film fest at the local dungeon.

  16. johnsawyer says:

    From what I’ve seen in researching the CIA over the years, they often, if not always, when they get the chance in the field, mix some experimentation with implementation of previously learned techniques, to add “improvements”, innovations, etc. to their techniques, and to test the limits of individuals and situations they’re involved with, to fine-tune the specifics of the techniques they use on an individual or situation. Every individual and situation is at least somewhat different, and the CIA, by varying their techniques instead of always following exactly the same set of procedures (sometimes devised years prior), can determine what “works best” in each situation. This also adds to their store of knowledge for future work. Sometimes this variation includes going to extremes. They also “need” to try variations in order to work around changes to the laws controlling their behavior.

    As we’ve seen with the terrorist interrogations, when the US’s political machinery can get the laws changed or re-interpreted, even temporarily, to give the CIA more leeway, and/or to actually order the CIA to exercise more leeway (which the CIA may not always appreciate, depending on who’s in charge and/or in the field), the CIA often pushes those legal changes to the limit, and often beyond, for all the expected reasons: the belief by many in the CIA that limits on “harshness” are simply hindrances; new opportunities for experimentation; concern over how long the laws will allow them to expand their practices; etc. When they go over the line (either the one imposed by earlier law, which the legal re-interpretations falsely set aside, or even the line set by those re-interpretations), they can always claim (usually with support from the administration) that they did it out of their supposedly honest interpretation of the re-interpretations, and simply “apologize” if they went over the line, appealing to those who stand in judgment by citing the CIA’s supposed patriotic zeal, and the frequent fact that the administration ordered them to do many of those things. And all too often, that line of defense works for them, even though technically “just following orders” isn’t supposed to be an excuse. On rare occasion, a CIA administrator may be made to retire, as a sacrificial lamb, over extreme practices within the organization, and replaced by another administrator who may be marginally better in order to satisfy Congress, but he soon gets replaced by one that’s as bad as the one that was made to retire, and the process repeats.

    • 1boringoldman says:

      Here‘s a rough graphic of the timeline in this story. There’s something of a consensus that the tapes were altered before the CIA Attorney first saw them. You got any thoughts about who in this scenario might have done that?

      • johnsawyer says:

        The details as to why some of the tapes were partially or completely erased in late 2002/early 2003, is one of those important investigative/”bureaucratic” details that I described in my reply to orionATL, and it’s encouraging to see this detail being talked about here. However, I have no specific take on who did it, or who ordered it. It’s possible that anyone and everyone in the entire chain of command could have been responsible–from the torturers, to their bosses in the CIA, to the White House. Analyzed bureaucratically, it seems odd that the torturers themselves, or their immediate superiors, were the ones who had possession of the tapes in 2002/2003, after their bosses, even at this early stage, issued their first orders not to destroy the tapes–if the CIA heads had really wanted to prevent that, it seems to me that they would have taken the tapes away from the torturers. Since they didn’t, that implies to me that at the very least, the CIA heads were complicit in the tapes’ initial erasures, and that leaving the tapes in the hands of the torturers and/or their immediate superiors, may have been used as cover for the complicity of the CIA heads (similar to the “Lynndie England and her boyfriend were rogue elephants at Abu Ghraib” excuse).

        The Newsweek article linked by [email protected], contains some good barebones descriptions of some of the bureaucratic processes followed by the CIA, etc. regarding the torture tapes. Though that article says discussions between Clandestine Services, their CIA bosses, the Justice Department, and the White House about what to do with the tapes, began in 2003, after the tapes’ initial erasures, and that Tenet and Goss supposedly believed it would be “unwise” to destroy the tapes, I suspect some of that chain of command may have also been involved in the tapes’ initial erasures, but with less, if any, documentation involved.

        As for the tapes’ ultimate destruction by Clandestine Services, supposedly on their own initiative after being “dissatisfied” with “unclear direction” from their bosses, the White House, and the Justice Department–that’s a story that shouldn’t be automatically believed (as I’m sure few people believe anyway). Either specific, undocumented orders for the tape’s destruction came down from above, or the matter was left vague enough to allow Clandestine Services to destroy the tapes supposedly out of “frustration”, as plausible deniability for their bosses, who wanted it done but didn’t want to go on record as having wanted this.

  17. orionATL says:

    john sawyer @28

    that was extremely enlightening to read.

    it reads to me like it was written by a person who has either lived in a bureaucracy or studied bureaucracy extensively.

    it is my personal view that much of what happened to the detriment of the nation re iraq

    has occurred as the result of government bureaucracies like the cia or the fbi or dia attempting to further their agency’s
    influence or resources.

    • johnsawyer says:

      Thanks. I’ve never worked in a real bureaucracy (unless my second job after leaving home counts, when I worked in 1978 as a file clerk for a few months, in the Federal Building in downtown San Francisco), and to help run a computer repair business for about 23 years. What I count as my real exposure to bureaucracy was in an “alternative lifestyle” organization/commune in Oakland, CA in 1980/1981, called “The Institute for Human Abilities” (previously known as “More House”), which wasn’t what it tried to appear to be–it was the most onerously rule-based (with penalties) organization I’ve ever been a part of, and I got out relatively soon.

      I’ve been drawn to the machinations of bureaucracies ever since I was a teenager (though preferring to watch from afar than to get entangled, except for the instance I mention above), while watching the Watergate investigations on TV and in the papers, seeing how Nixon’s men, along with the (sometimes divided) help of the FBI, CIA, etc. worked together as a team, engaging in myriad discussions and operations, to promote the agenda of a single president, to everyone else’s detriment. It fascinated me that an entire corrupt machine was being revealed before our eyes, in detail, including the specifics of the formalized bureaucratic rules they often followed, a point not often gotten by many people looking at these events. This showed me the necessity of getting the details right through proper investigation, since everything else is speculation, rumor, and excessive chest-beating, none of which is truly effective in rooting out this stuff and dealing properly with it. Though the overall picture and impact of Watergate was the main story, I learned how important it also is to find out which specific people decide which specific things, and what prior established frameworks they operate within–knowing these things, allows one to better see their re-emergence later in other developments, organizations and politicians, and also sharpens one’s ability to see variations and new things added. Nixon’s men were revealed to often engage in fairly formalized, detailed analyses of things, of what to do next, of what to do if something went wrong, who were the best people to bribe (the most bang for their buck), which people to consider for more drastic action, etc.–though some of their behavior involved sloppy and over-emotional reactions to their circumstances (hence their downfall), much of it was very carefully thought out.

      In the case of the CIA and other intelligence organizations, much of what they do is also very formalized, and involves actual science-based research and implementation (drug and psychological experiments, both informal and formal; cryptography; electronics; optics (spy satellites); aeronautics (U2, SR-71); etc. As an electronics graduate, I can recognize some of the technical discipline (and even technical geekiness) that drives large parts of the intelligence organizations. My interest in psychology, from childhood, allows me to see some of the mental processes that drive these people too, as well as their own interest in psychology. In both these areas (technology and psychology), again the actual details of what these people do matter, to get a true picture of where their heads are at, and enough of those details have been revealed over the years to give someone who studies them a fairly good idea of what to expect in at least some of their activities, such as their role in torture. When it was reported that the videotapes of the torture of AZ had been destroyed, I expected this (though many other people did too), and I would have been surprised if the tapes had been confiscated and made available for viewing by Congress, etc. It’s encouraging to see discussion here about the specifics of what happened with the torture tapes–as with Watergate, who did what, and when.

      I agree that the motivations for the US invasion of Iraq include the desire to expand the influence of various people and organizations, instead of simply “liberating” Iraq. I don’t know if the CIA was one of those organizations, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a big role, beyond just torture. At the least, they jumped on the opportunity, once given the orders, to use their Mengele-like knowledge to further perfect their techniques.

  18. orionATL says:

    continuing

    and the cia will continue to “test limits” until their managers have been fited with legal curb bits that tolerate no sloppiness or lying to the public in the form of the congress.

  19. JasonLeopold says:

    In the event anyone is still around to read this thread, I thought I would share something I found regarding the videotapes, which goes to the discussion that took place on previous threads last weekend about digital, the second taping system I wrote about, etc.

    Buried in this Newsweek story by Isikoff and Hosenball:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/76574

    At one point portions of the tapes were electronically transmitted to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., so a small number of officials there could review them. A counterterrorism source, who also asked for anonymity when discussing this subject, said that there was no reason to believe that any recordings of such an electronic feed still exist.

    • bobschacht says:

      Yeah, right, and I’ve got some prime real estate in the middle of south Florida to sell you.

      But this is important information. It sure as heck fuels speculation that electronic copies of some of the tapes still exist– somewhere, hidden in someone’s computer, thumb drive, or portable hard drive.

      Bob in AZ

    • 1boringoldman says:

      Thanks for the find. I thought this part sounded right:

      The reason CIA officials involved the White House and Justice Department in discussions about the disposition of the tapes was that CIA officials viewed the CIA’s terrorist interrogation and detention program — including the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques—as having been imposed on the agency by the White House. “It was a political issue,” said the former official, and therefore CIA officials believed that the decision as to what to do with the tapes should be made at a political level, by Miers — a former personal lawyer to President Bush and later White House staff secretary and counsel — or someone else directly representing the president.

      re the question:

      I am, however, interested in the question he ends his piece with: why was CIA–and not DOD–tasked with these interrogations?

  20. JasonLeopold says:

    Keep in mind the same story says:

    According to one of the former officials, one reason the CIA executives originally decided the interrogations of Al Qaeda captives Abu Zubaidah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri should be videotaped was in order to protect the officers conducting the interrogations by demonstrating that everything done during the interrogations complied with guidelines set down by the White House and Justice Department. Another reason the tapes were made was because at the time Abu Zubaidah was captured he had suffered severe gunshot wounds and CIA officials wanted to document the fact that he received adequate medical treatment.

    • fatster says:

      Very interesting, JasonLeopold. Many thanks. This particular passage is interesting: “According to one of the former officials, one reason the CIA executives originally decided the interrogations of Al Qaeda captives Abu Zubaidah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri should be videotaped was in order to protect the officers conducting the interrogations . . . “ (italics added).
      That didn’t exactly turn out as expected, now did it?

  21. JasonLeopold says:

    This is the full excerpt:

    A detailed written transcript of the tapes’ contents—apparently including references to interrogation techniques—was subsequently made by the CIA. But the tapes themselves were never brought onto U.S. territory; they were kept, and later destroyed, at a secret location overseas. At one point portions of the tapes were electronically transmitted to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., so a small number of officials there could review them. A counterterrorism source, who also asked for anonymity when discussing this subject, said that there was no reason to believe that any recordings of such an electronic feed still exist.

    • harpie says:

      Question about “territory” [=jurisdiction? IANAL]:

      [from the article] But the tapes themselves were never brought onto U.S. territory; they were kept, and later destroyed, at a secret location overseas. At one point portions of the tapes were electronically transmitted to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., so a small number of officials there could review them.

      1] The secret CIA sites themselves [and what happens in them] are not under US jurisdiction? How is this circumstance similar [or not] to Guantanamo?

      2] The transmission was sent to Langley–that’s US territory. Do just the physical recordings count?

      • Leen says:

        Is that one of the reasons Cheney and Libby were visiting Langley so often? To watch these tapes?

      • bmaz says:

        The tapes are not people. Evidence within the possession of the US government is evidence within the possession of the government for obstruction purposes as far as I am aware; the crime would be against the entities here with a legitimate claim on the evidence such as courts or the 9/11 commission.

      • michaelfishman says:

        Dumb question, but wouldn’t the “portions of the tapes…electronically transmitted to CIA headquarters in Langley” have been picked up by NSA?

        • bmaz says:

          No, not necessarily; it, assuming it did occur, would likely have been transmitted over a discreet path via satellite or some other dedicated transmission modality that would not be within the purview of the NSA/TSP type of traps and collections. I have no clue what exactly this would be exactly; but am pretty sure it would be the case. There is one of our regular friends here who might well have a firmer grip on this, and if he sees this could elaborate at least a little if he can. I have to assume there are secure pathways for such things though.

  22. 1boringoldman says:

    The reason CIA officials involved the White House and Justice Department in discussions about the disposition of the tapes was that CIA officials viewed the CIA’s terrorist interrogation and detention program — including the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques—as having been imposed on the agency by the White House.

    Justice Department?

    • 1boringoldman says:

      Two sources said that Rizzo also discussed the issue with officials at the Justice Department, which had issued classified guidelines outlining how the CIA’s interrogation program should operate.

    • bobschacht says:

      the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques—as having been imposed on the agency by the White House.

      Justice Department?

      No, White House, because that’s where the OVP is theoretically (not geographically) located in the Org charts.

      Bob in AZ

  23. Leen says:

    “CIA e-mail released last Thursday, in which an unidentified CIA officer writes that Rodriguez decided to destroy the tapes because they made the CIA “look horrible; it would be devastating to us.”

    And they try to spin the destruction as necessary to protect Americans.
    ————————————————————————–
    ” But what’s really too bad is that Durham hasn’t been tasked with explaining the broader mystery of why, in the first place, the CIA is even interrogating prisoners of war. The 1947 National Security Act established the CIA as a civilian spy agency, not as some Pentagon backroom where you get to do things you don’t want the American people to find out about. But more to the point, the military is much better equipped to interrogate prisoners. It has its own interrogation school at Fort Huachuca, not to mention hundreds of language-qualified and experienced interrogators. It also has the Uniform Code of Military Justice to deal with interrogations that have gone bad. (Some almost inevitably do.) Unlike the CIA, military interrogators have immediate access to legal counsel. It’s not an accident that military misdeeds such as those at Abu Ghraib go right to trial, while CIA investigations drag on for years — and drag down morale.”

    EW “Because that may well have been the point, you know? And it may well have been why the torture tapes were destroyed.”

    Are you saying that those who did the torturing had this intention? Not only to experiment with torture techniques but to purposely drag down the morale of the CIA?

    —————————————————————————
    “And one of the things those tapes may well have shown was up to 21 hours of human experimentation–potentially pushing techniques like waterboarding and sleep deprivation beyond all limits, potentially using techniques like mock burial the torturers asked for but didn’t get approved, and potentially using other techniques entirely.”

    Feel like vomiting now. How different is this than what the SS did?

  24. Leen says:

    Ew “Why Were the Torture Tapes Destroyed?”

    Clearly to protect the torturers asses and those who had cut them loose?

  25. PeterK says:

    Just a guess, but is there any reason to believe that the tapes might have shown something worse? After all, a number of people died. Or do we know that none of those “sessions” were taped?

    • bmaz says:

      We don’t know if death sessions were taped one way or the other; but there is no tangible basis for believing they were that I am aware of. The “torture tapes”, as they are commonly understood, refer to a set of tapes regarding only two discreet detainees, abu-Zubaydah and al-Nashiri and they are both still alive (although not in perhaps the best mental condition by this point).

      • PeterK says:

        Is that for sure? Ie, could the language describing the tapes that were destroyed be such that they in fact include recordings of people being tortured other than those two? Has anyone asked that specifically, or is it unambiguously clear from official statements? Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but that kind of weasel-wording wouldn’t surprise me in the least…

  26. TheOracle says:

    Rodriguez at the CIA did what Bloch did at the OSC…destroyed evidence. How many other Bush/Cheney officials destroyed evidence?

  27. johnsawyer says:

    One possible reason the CIA, instead of the DOD, was given the job to perform the waterboarding, etc. torture of AZ, etc., is precisely because the DOD may try to do things according to the letter of the law, and that the CIA is much more experienced and expert in pushing the limits than DOD, and can bring much “peripheral knowledge” to bear on such interrogations.

    Even so, the CIA may be telling the truth when it says it performed these particular interrogations reluctantly, on orders from the White House. Because of that reluctance, it’s possible the CIA deliberately went beyond the warped guidelines provided to them by the Bush Jr. Justice Department, partly to embarrass the White House into not asking them to perform torture when they don’t want to. But that’s purely speculation on my part.

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