CIA Changed the Pelosi Briefing Description after Deciding to Destroy Torture Tapes

I’m working on some deep weeds for a post later on Monday (hopefully).

But as a preliminary to them, I wanted to point out a minor–but very critical–bit of timing.

As I pointed out in the comments to this thread, someone (I’ll show in my new weedy post why it might be then-Counterterrorism Center Legal Counsel Jonathan Fredman) changed the initial description of the briefing that Jose Rodriguez and two others (I believe Fredman was one of the two) gave to Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi on September 4, 2002. To see the documents showing discussing the alteration (but not the content of it), see PDF 84 of this set and PDF 11-12 of this set.

That’s suspicious enough. But as the email discussions of destroying the torture tape show (see PDF 3), the briefing and the alteration to the briefing record happened the day before and the day after–respectively–the day “HQS elements” started talking seriously about destroying the torture tapes.

On 05 September 2002, HQS elements discussed the disposition of the videotapes documenting interrogation sessions with ((Abu Zubaydah)) that are currently being stored at [redacted] with particular consideration to the matters described in Ref A Paras 2 and 3 and Ref B para 4. As reflected in Refs, the retention of these tapes, which is not/not required by law, represents a serious security risk for [redacted] officers recorded on them, and for all [redacted] officers present and participating in [redacted] operations.

[snip]

Accordingly, the participants determined that the best alternative to eliminate those security and additional risks is to destroy these tapes [redacted]

So here’s what this looks like in timeline form:

September 4, 2002: Jose Rodriguez, C/CTC/LGL (probably Fredman) and a CTC Records officer brief Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi on Abu Zubaydah’s treatment. According to both Goss and Pelosi, CIA briefs them on torture techniques, but implies they are hypothetical techniques that might be used in the future, not the past.

September 5, 2002: Unnamed people at CIA HQ discuss destroying the torture tapes, ostensibly because of danger to CIA officers conducting the torture.

September 6, 2002: Someone (possibly Jonathan Fredman or someone else in CTC’s Legal department) alters the initial description of the Goss-Pelosi briefing, eliminating one sentence of it. “Short and sweet” Rodriguez responded to the proposed change.

September 9, 2002: CIA records show a scheduled briefing for Bob Graham and Richard Shelby to cover the same materials as briefed in the Goss-Pelosi briefing. The September 9 briefing never happened; Graham and Shelby were eventually briefed on September 27, 2002 (though not by Rodriguez personally).

September 10, 2002: The altered description of the briefing is sent internally for CTC records. This briefing is never finalized by Office of Congressional Affairs head Stan Moskowitz into a formal Memorandum for the Record.

Or, to put it more plainly, they briefed Pelosi, decided they wanted to destroy the torture tapes (there’s no record Pelosi was told about the tapes), and then tweaked the record about what they had said to Pelosi.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

31 replies
  1. fatster says:

    Definitely another fine example of public employees deliberately altering the record to suit their purposes. And what consequences do they have to fear?

    • fatster says:

      Invaded by Russia, America (and that’s just in recent history) and now–the corporations!

    • Hmmm says:

      (Asking the Obvious Since 1960:) When were the mineral reserves first known, and who first knew about them? Iraq oil all over again?

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

        ***

        For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

        I’m so excited that the poor Afghanis could have some wealth. And I hope we Americans can help them keep it.

        • Hmmm says:

          Thanks much, dear Loo Hoo. That’s a long time ago. Been lots of opportunity to develop a plan; wonder why we’re only just now hearing about it.

          As to good outcomes, I am skeptical at best. International leasing of Iraq’s rich oil reserves was going to be the path to a bright prosperity for all of its citizens and society — “self funding reconstruction” was, I believe, Wolfowitz’ coinage — and as we all now know only too well, that’s not remotely how it’s gone down.

          Can we really hope Afghanistan will do any better?

          • Hmmm says:

            Plus: So let me get this straight. The new plan is now to start mining a major portion of the world’s rarest, most critical industrial raw minerals immediately adjacent to the HQ of the world’s most effective anti-modernity force?

            Genius. Sheer genius. What could possibly even begin to go wrong?

        • bobschacht says:

          I’m so excited that the poor Afghanis could have some wealth. And I hope we Americans can help them keep it.

          Well, I don’t see the snark tag, but this is about like African diamond trade, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or the British East India Company, among the many examples that could be named.

          Watch out. the Imperial tactic of extracting resources from Third World Countries is alive and well.

          Um, tell me again why we’re in Afghanistan?

          Bob in AZ

          • Hmmm says:

            Because after 8 years of looking with world’s greatest technology and humint we still can’t find the people who attacked us from there?

            Doesn’t really hold up, does it?

          • fatster says:

            Why we’re in Afghanistan? I thought it was so we could go into Pakistan. Wonder what they have there that would interest the corporations?

    • Leen says:

      Do people actually think that these minerals were just discovered? Did not hear them mention the huge deposits of uranium in Afghanistan. I am still in contact with the former Fulbright scholar from Afghanistan who was studying here in Ohio. He is now in the sitting government.

      http://www.wise-uranium.org/uissr05.html

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Re Loo Hoo @3, I’m sure American claims and assistance regarding those resources will be as restrained as were the Brits and BP’s predecessor in helping Iranians extract their oil. We just want to see Afghanistan set up a functioning democratic state that promotes the commonwealth of all Afghanis (and keep out the Ruskies and commie sympathizers).

  3. Hmmm says:

    Since we’re all OT and stuff: So on the BP thing, am I misreading things, or as of today do we basically have a race to the courthouse?… BP filing for bankruptcy vs. the USG filing to freeze BP’s assets?

  4. bobschacht says:

    The article is wrong about there being no mineral exploration in Afghanistan. There is one mineral for which Afghanistan is famous: Lapis Lazuli, in my book one of the most beautiful jewel stones anywhere. And most of it comes from Afghanistan.

    To follow up on my comment @11, check up on such international mining giants as Freeport, and what they did in New Guinea. It was my late father who brought this to my attention. Most people know nothing about it.

    Bob in AZ

    • fatster says:

      Your father was a man of great conscience, Bob. Thank you for letting us know about him. How wonderful that you continue his legacy, the greatest tribute you could possibly make.

      • bobschacht says:

        Thank you. We all pick and choose what things we will have a conscience about, and he did, too. I appreciate his legacy in many ways.

        Bob in AZ

    • skdadl says:

      Thanks very much for the link, Bob. I didn’t know most of that history, although it all rings so true. Loo Hoo’s news @ 3 made my heart sink for the Afghans, knowing as I do what the mining companies of my country have done to vulnerable peoples around the world.

    • kindGSL says:

      I looked up uranium not too long ago and found they had big deposits. It was mentioned there that the country was rich in minerals, but undeveloped. I saw then it was a land grab by the war powers that be. I do not think this is news. What is even worse is they are poisoning everything with DU munitions.

      As long as we are off topic, I found a terrific map of the drug war,

      The Official Green Panthers
      http://www.ph1landrews.com/tm/

      Click the U.N. role in the WOD to see what we are up against structurally. I find it intimidating. Why was it easier for me to go up against it when I didn’t know what it looked like?

      BTW, I am on that chart, like LEAP, I’m an insider. Girl Scouts.

  5. klynn says:

    Marcy great post. You are so kind to revisit this. I look forward to the deep weeding. Will bmaz revisit his weeding?

    but implies they are hypothetical techniques that might be used in the future, not the past.

    To imply the hypothetical techniques might be used makes me conclude Nancy must have asked a question or made a statement along the lines of, “We haven’t done this to detainees have we?” Followed by some commentary or warning of the grave impact of such actions nationally and internationally.

    Then someone realized they were screwed and decided to destroy evidence.

  6. PAR4 says:

    How is Kucinich’s impeachment bill proceeding? The majority of the Dems belong in jail for not prosecuting all of the Republicans.

    • ducktree says:

      Every valley shall be exhaulted
      and every mountain made low . . .

      Handel’s The Messiah

      who knew they were singing about strip mining the mountains of Afghanistan?

  7. timr says:

    So if they thought that the torture was all legal and everything, why the CYA? And waterboarding is beyond a doubt, torture. I had to take the EER-Escape, Evasion and Resistance-training way back in 1969 as a part of the training before shipping out to Vietnam. Waterboarding is torture. period. If any of those rethug keyboard commandos had ever done anything more than talk about it, they would have to agree. And no matter that KSM is a hardcore terrorist, the man is a very very strong person. To survive being waterboarded as many times as he was and remain sane is astonishing.I was 18 and still have nightmares about that training.

    The Afghanistan find makes me wonder. Aside from trying to kill OBL, why were we in A’stan? Sure, a change of govt(from rethugs who plainly stated that they would never ever make a new govt. Except that they did it-a piss poor job to be sure-twice), from Taliban-uber religious- to gangster drug warlords. Who have no control over the country. Now we say they have mega amounts of minerals. So are we there as reps of megacorps? As a “rent an Army” perhaps? Have we become a mercenary army, one who invades a country for a megacorp who wants the raw materials? What did bushcheney do?What did bushcheney commit us to? Why did Obama decide to follow what bushcheney started? Was it the mineral find? There are lots of questions but no answers.

    • bobschacht says:

      There has been mission drift in Afghanistan ever since, oh, say, 2002. The rationalizations change about every six months to a year. Its one of the reasons why we need to get out.

      Bob in AZ

    • fatster says:

      I was trying to find info on all the pipelines for you (I’m sure you’re familiar with the poppy stuff, Golden Triangle, etc.), and stumbled across this site. First time I’ve ever seen it and I don’t know anything about it other than it does have some good material about Afghanistan (including those pipelines) that I’ve seen in other places. So, here’s the link. I hope it’s of use to you.

      As I recollect, bobschacht knows more about the pipelines and the roles they play in all this useless, wasteful mess.

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    re [email protected] typo fugute, should be future.

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