CIA Stores Their Torture Tape the Same Place Judy Miller Does!

Remember how Judy Miller stored the notes showing that the Vice President’s lackey had leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to her under her desk in a shopping bag? Remember how we mocked that kind of record keeping? Well, the AP reports that the CIA uses the same archival system as Judy:

The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only remaining recordings made within the clandestine prison system.

The tapes depict Binalshibh’s interrogation sessions at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat in 2002, several current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recordings remain a closely guarded secret.

When the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two other al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005, officials believed they had wiped away all of the agency’s interrogation footage. But in 2007, a staffer discovered a box tucked under a desk in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and pulled out the Binalshibh tapes.

I look forward to learning whether this particular box of torture tapes once belonged to Jose Rodriguez, who when the tapes were discovered had just retired as head of Clandestine Services but who was head of CTC when the tapes were made, or whether someone else is a Judy Miller-style packrat.

Now, elsewhere in the AP story they make it clear that–as I have suspected–the tapes first revealed to Leonie Brinkema in 2007 were of Ramzi bin al-Shibh. That’s particularly significant because Brinkema had specifically given Zacarias Moussaoui permission to question al-Shibh in January 2003. So when the government told Brinkema they had no tapes (the AP says that since Morocco maintained control of the prison at which al-Shibh was held, CIA claimed it wasn’t “part” of the CIA program), they were denying evidence she had permitted to Moussaoui by name.

And this discovery has implications not just for Moussaoui, and for al-Shibh himself (the AP suggests the tapes may show that al-Shibh’s mental state declined very quickly after he was taken into custody; he had a pending competence assessment order in military commissions that–when al-Shibh was slotted for civilian trial–was thus negated), but also for Binyam Mohamed.

Mohamed, after all, has long claimed that the worst torture he suffered–the scalpels to his genitals–occurred while in that same Morocco prison in roughly the same time frame (though Mohamed was in Morocco longer). Mohamed made it clear the British were feeding questions to the US to ask while in Morocco (in interrogations, remember, they claim they weren’t running). Subsequently, documents showed that a member of MI5 visited Morocco while Mohamed was there. So Mohamed’s evidence refutes US claims that they–and their ally the UK–weren’t in charge of the interrogations. But at the same time, the videos may provide video evidence of the kind of treatment used in Morocco.

Now, the AP’s sources these tapes show “no harsh methods … like waterboarding.”

But current and former U.S. officials say no harsh interrogation methods, like the simulated drowning tactic called waterboarding, were used in Morocco. In the CIA’s secret network of undisclosed “black prisons,” Morocco was just way station of sorts, a place to hold detainees for a few months at a time.

“The tapes record a guy sitting in a room just answering questions,” according to a U.S. official familiar with the program.

But as I noted, al-Shibh would have been in Morocco at the same time that Mohamed was, during which time he was cut and beaten. What are the chances that the Moroccans acting as our proxy treated al-Shibh much differently than they treated Mohamed?

These tapes may well undo at least three of the lies the government told to cover up its torture and its counterterrorism mistakes. If John Durham–who the AP notes has expanded his investigation to include possible obstruction tied to these tapes–does anything with the tapes.

Update: All you timeline aficianados should check out this cool timeline/map of where Ramzi bin al-Shibh was when.

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.

  1. Jim White says:

    Hmmm. Now I wonder if, in a reversal of the slow leak process so perfectly described by Barry Eisler in Inside Out for the destruction of tapes, we will learn in a year or so that there aren’t two videos and one audio tape of other prisoners being interviewed, but a hundred or so. Would that explain why Durham has taken so much longer than was anticipated for his investigation?

    Is there footage of waterboarding and other torture that is of prisoners other than the “three” that CIA has admitted waterboarding?

    And what about the Caspers? Are some of them on tape?

    Things like that would really slow down an investigation…

    • emptywheel says:

      I think Durham made the decision about a month and a half ago to go for it, even though others were telling him he didn’t have the goods on obstruction. These tapes help him make that case significantly.

      I also suspect, based on something Pelosi said to me, that he is getting Congressional testimony.

      I also sort of wonder what happens when you’re doing an investigation in a District–EDVA–and one of the key witnesses for that investigation is a judge in that district–Leonie Brinkema, not just on this, but wasn’t she the judge who issued a ruling that Mohamed was subject to torture too?

      • emptywheel says:

        Sorry: Brinkema, the judge in Moussaoui, but also (and I’m getting the details wrong here and my toobz suck this AM), the judge who issued a ruling (I think) throwing out Mohamed testimony in another case which is what the Court in the UK used as their rationalization to release new details on Mohamed.

      • Jim White says:

        If Brinkema has seen the tapes, then she certainly would have grounds to say Mohamed was tortured if Binalshibh mentioned it. Or, in the spirit of my #1, perhaps she saw tapes of Mohamed…

        • emptywheel says:

          I’m going to do a post on what she may have learned, but it appears that she only ever saw transcripts, not the actual videos, of what was on them.

      • Mary says:

        Here’s a good, recent article that summarizes some of the Judges’ rulings – I’ve got a feeling you organize your info/source unlike my constant regoogling to try to find what I found before ;)

        Kessler was the Judge who ruled on Binyam Mohamed’s “evidence” from torture. Then she had the Circuit Court’s resident numerologist and his trusty sidekick, Kavanaugh take pot shots at her to get even when they reversed her last month on her release order for al-Adahi.

      • Leen says:

        Thank goodness for Ew, Jim White, others for staying on top of this. Wonder if Rachel, Keith, Ed etc will touch this? Have Ew on their programs to discuss torture, destroyed tapes, reappearing tapes etc. Mention it instead of the latest idiotic what Sarah said episode?

  2. tjbs says:

    As with anything CIA, approach with caution.

    This has a bad smell like a diversion, things like this don’t just happen.

    Copies of the snuff films are out here somewhere being the ultimate CIA insurance policy. This is a mighty tight lid to hold down.

    • papau says:

      my first thought also.

      CIA workers and Judy Miller (less directly) have been known (somewhat) to me in the long ago past, and the work ethic and style are very different, as are the work rules.

      The CIA just does not do the “tape storage” that is claimed.

      Something smells – so the question is why plant a story like this?

  3. Peterr says:

    Maybe Judy’s tradecraft was better than we thought. “No one would ever think to look for secret materials ‘in the open’ in a plain bag under your desk.”

    The Purloined Letter, anyone?

  4. MadDog says:

    The AP article also mentions the following:

    …If the tapes surfaced at trial, they could clearly reveal Morocco’s role in the counterterrorism program known as Greystone, which authorized the CIA to hold terrorists in secret prisons and shuttle them to other countries…

    (My Bold)

    While the “Greystone” wording in the AP article does not specifically date its genesis, apparently Erik Prince “inaugurated” in early 2005 (and later than when these tapes were made in 2002), something also called “Greystone” and perhaps that should ring some alarm bells.

    Via Jeremey Scahill in the Guardian back in August 2007:

    …While the private military/security industry rejects the characterisation of their forces as mercenaries, Blackwater executives have turned the grey area in which they operate into a brand asset. The company has been quietly marketing its services to foreign governments and corporations through an off-shore affiliate, Greystone Ltd, registered in Barbados…

    …Greystone’s promotional pamphlet told attendees. “Greystone is an international security services company that offers your country or organisation a complete solution to your most pressing security needs.”

    Greystone said its forces were prepared for “ready deployment in support of national security objectives as well as private interests”…

    You can find even more gory detail about “Greystone, Ltd.” over at SourceWatch’s page on it.

    • MadDog says:

      And more on Erik Prince’s “Greystone” from a Mother Jones article back in March 2008:

      Blackwater’s World of Warcraft

      Need a private-label armored vehicle? A detachment of Chilean infantrymen? A special forces “engagement team”? Erik Prince’s expanding global private army is at your service—and the war in Iraq was just the beginning…

    • Arbusto says:

      Torturers R Us. Makes me a happy camper that Erik and friends may run their own hit squads for hire, mobile torture apparatus, not to mention hidden facilities. We guarantee no come back Mr Cheney. Granted that’s not new, but holy shit.

      • MadDog says:

        And now EW that lives in the very same burg (Holland MI) as Erik Prince, she probably can get us a discount. *g*

        • bmaz says:

          I am getting her a membership at Prince-Mart and Prince-Club.

          Both located at the lovely and convenient Greystone Center!

      • Palli says:

        I have always wondered- What happens to Torturers R Us employees when they leave that employment? What is: the turnover; the number of employees; the unemployment benefit; the workman’s comp benefit; the pension plan; their medical plan? Early on we heard about some disgruntled relatives of employees.

    • Mary says:

      He really was poking them, wasn’t he. The downside of being Torturco is that the good guys you can rely on don’t want to be what you are – the guys who are jumping to work in the torture trade are just waiting for you to go from boss to next victim.

      I don’t suppose anyone (who can do something other than write a book for later publication) has had the authority, or the will, to follow money and see to what extent we were fronting money for the Moroccan facility. All of this dancing around about whether or not “they” “ran” it avoids the question of were we paying money – something that could be characterized as rent – for it. If we were, jurisdictiong attaches.

      Not that we need to worry – after all, Morocco has just reaffirmed a commitment to law and it is a party to all the same conventions we were – torture, Geneva, etc. I’m sure we’re willing to turn things over to them.

      The Ace card Bush and Obama have continued to hold with the courts in all this torture crap is that the Executive dealings with foreign nations are implicated if they don’t give states secrets protection – and news sources have politely waited for case after case to be tossed before coming out with the same info the Exec was arguing to the courts had to be kept secret.

  5. MadDog says:

    This latest AP article is surely linked to that AP article earlier this month:

    …The prisoner transfer flight, outlined in documents and interviews, visited five CIA prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco and Guantanamo Bay…

    …Next it was on to Rabat, Morocco, where the Moroccans ran an interrogation facility used by the CIA.

    At 8:10 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2003, the Boeing 737 took off from a runway in Rabat. On board were al-Hawsawi, al-Nashiri, Zubaydah and Binalshibh. At 1 a.m. the following day, the plane touched down at Guantanamo…

    (My Bold)

  6. skdadl says:

    Morocco was just a way station of sorts, a place to hold detainees for a few months at a time.

    Much of the UK will be doubled up in derisive laughter at that claim. The truth is on the loose in some of the rest of the world, after all.

    He [Binalshibh] is being treated for schizophrenia with a potent cocktail of anti-psychotic medications.

    To someone (ie: me) who has watched a loved one abused with “anti-psychotic medications” (ie: medical superstition and experimentation), that sentence, especially since it describes present and ongoing abuse, is just sickening. I’m opposed to capital punishment on principle, but for all those involved in Binalshibh’s treatment, or who have authorized it in the past or at present, I wish solitary confinement for the rest of their natural lives. They are destroyers of civilization, not just of this one man.

    • Leen says:

      “To someone (ie: me) who has watched a loved one abused with “anti-psychotic medications” (ie: medical superstition and experimentation), that sentence, especially since it describes present and ongoing abuse, is just sickening. I’m opposed to capital punishment on principle, but for all those involved in Binalshibh’s treatment, or who have authorized it in the past or at present, I wish solitary confinement for the rest of their natural lives. They are destroyers of civilization, not just of this one man.”

      Last night at the Boulder Bookstore Andrew Bacevich spoke about his latest book. During the question and answer segment someone asked about Bradley Manning and the Wilileaks release. Bacevich stated that this behaviour was reprehensible. That Manning should be prosecuted at the full extent of the law. (will get his exact words when they put up the reading at C-spans book T.V.) But Bacevich completely failed to expand that standard to those who re wrote torture laws, tortured, created false intelligence, Cheney’s outing of Plame, etc.

      When the rule of law is only applied to the flunkies and not to the thugs up line. The message is clear. Addington, Wolfowitz, Yoo, Feith, Cheney, Bush, Rove etc all above the law.

      • skdadl says:

        Bacevich sounds sentimentally misguided to me. I’m sure he’s a good man, and he’s brave to say as much as he has from his pov, but he still thinks that Bush acted out of conviction whereas Obama acts out of cynicism. That kind of locates Bacevich for me, as an old-fashioned conservative in semi-denial. They all act out of cynicism.

        • Leen says:

          Have a great deal of respect for Bacevich. But lots of contradictions in what he had to say last evening. The standards for who has the rule of law book thrown at them and who doesn’t sure got under my skin

  7. fatster says:

    Maybe they have bin Laden hidden under a desk in CIA also.

    Re Obamarahma and the media, comes the LA Times in an editorial:

    The Obama administration’s attacks on the media
    Cases brought against journalists who ferreted out confidential information appear to have little to do with protecting national security interests.


  8. Mary says:

    While you’re wondering about Brinkema as a witness, I’m wondering about a whole slew of other things that should be uncovered and used by Durham, but won’t be.

    I’m wondering about the USA in charge of the Moussaoui case, McNulty, also having a cadre of his lawyers working on whether or not to bring criminal charges for CIA torture and childnapping and human experimentation and homicide etc. Those lawyers shove each others heads up their asses over and over, then decide that from their fecal point they can’t see any crimes, all while never issuing any lit holds for the evidence they are reviewing vis a vis its impact and a boatload of other pending litigation – including Brinkema’s case.

    As McNulty’s AUSAs issue the “right” decisions, he ends up as DAG and while he is DAG, with all the info he has in that position, he STILL never tips off the courts about the evidence his lawyers are helping to suppress from courts and defense lawyers.

    Maybe because he’s so busily plotting to fire USA’s who can’t cough up the kinds of stellar performances he got out of this AUSAs and trying to figure out how it was that Monica Goodling comes off better/smarter/more truthful than him after Congressional hearings.

    A fact to file under irony – McNulty, back in the 80s, was a democratic counsel to the House Ethics committee. Apparently he moved from that, to becoming a Republican, to shepherding Ashcroft through nomination, to keeping torture evidence away from courts and firing USAs for not being useful enough political tools – all pretty seamlessly.

    For that matter, Comey had a boatload of 4th Cir ties as well (a law partner during his Richmond stint was Richard Cullen, former USA for EDVA under HW), and also sat on all the torture info that DOJ was conspiring to hide and lie to courts about. His Chief of Staff, Rosenberg, was an AUSA in ED VA for 6 years, later was a counsel to Mueller at FBI 2002-3, then hopped over to be counsel for Ashcroft, then to COS for Comey, then to Tex, and eventually back to VA where he kind of belatedly did confess to the existence of info his whole cadre of acquaintances and bosses had been hiding from the courts for several years.

    Durham is not going to do anything worthwhile imo. He’s already let the sol run for way too long on way too much. And he’s subject to ultimate review by guys like Margolis. And Holder. And worse yet, Obama.

    The guys availed themselves of the benefits of covering up torture and protectionism for the Exec branch for human experimentation, torture, lies into war, etc. – they’ve done well for themselves with the exception of Gonzales. Lockheed, Pepsico, Chevron, Hahvard, Boalt, Ninth Circuit, etc. Guys who did the right thing – well, there weren’t hardly any at DOJ, but what few there were have ended up like Tamm. And the DOJoverton window has moved to where something like Goldsmith or Bellinger or Comey is a hero, and to where something like the Fitzgerald appointment gets treated as the gold standard in an independent investigation/prosecution, when even in his answer to Congres he very forthrightly says that all he ever had were trappings to give the appearance of independence, never the real thing.

    Anyway – I thought the reference to Morocco as a CIA facility (when most of the original info on Binyam Mohamed made it sound more like the Egyptian/Syrian torture renditions)in the earlier AP article to be be one of the most interesting pieces of info.

    Another item for the irony file – this statement made within the last day by Morocco:

    Morocco reaffirms commitment to consolidating rule of law.

    Silly Morocco. They don’t need to reaffirm anything – Holderaseygonzocroft

    have reassuringly shown them they have been on the right track all along.

    • skdadl says:

      Anyway – I thought the reference to Morocco as a CIA facility (when most of the original info on Binyam Mohamed made it sound more like the Egyptian/Syrian torture renditions)in the earlier AP article to be be one of the most interesting pieces of info.

      I believe that it has been public in the UK High Court for two years that Binyam Mohammed’s scalpel torture happened in Morocco — I’ve never associated that with any other country.

      • Mary says:

        We’re talking about different things I think. The fact that Binyam Mohamed was dropped off in Morocco to be tortured has been known for a long long time (including the fact that when the US took him from Morocco they had him stripped for his flight and had a gasping woman take pictures of what the scalpel had done – pictures that have never been turned over, asked about, investigated, etc. like the videos).

        But the reports were always that he was turned over to Morocco the way that al-Libi was turned over to Egypt and Arar was handed over to Syria. IOW, that the CIA relinquished him to a foreign nation’s intel for them to do their thing. The CIA may have sent questions, etc. but they had no control and weren’t renting the site or paying (directly) Egypt or Syria for their torture space and weren’t residents on site and didn’t have their own contractors residents on site, etc. the way they did in Poland and Romania and at Bagram etc.

        The earlier AP story was the first one I have seen that identified definitely that the CIA had some relationship with the Moroccan site such that it was being called a CIA site. That makes a very big jurisdictional difference – if the US gov hands off someone to another gove, even in a process of conspiracy to have the other gov commit torture; that’s one thing (and hard to prove as well). BUT, if the CIA/US is paying for a site in some way and/or paying for contractors to help operate the site or paying Morrocans to operate for them – – big difference as far as jurisdiction over the CIA for what it allowed or orchestrated to happen on US rented grounds.

        • Leen says:

          “The fact that Binyam Mohamed was dropped off in Morocco to be tortured has been known for a long long time (including the fact that when the US took him from Morocco they had him stripped for his flight and had a gasping woman take pictures of what the scalpel had done – pictures that have never been turned over, asked about, investigated, etc. like the videos”

          Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Heaven help us

          Bush “we don’t torture”

          Obama “we don’t torture”

        • emptywheel says:

          I’m not sure AP is saying that, given what they say in this story. But I think we all agree that the claim that CIA didn’t “do” the torture in Morocco is about as credible as the claim that CIA didn’t murder Gul Rahman in Afghanistan because they didn’t “run” the Salt Pit.

          • Mary says:

            I was basing it on the earlier AP story in part, the one that MadDog links at 12. I think you did a post on that story too and I raised the same thing then – when they said “The prisoner transfer flight, outlined in documents and interviews, visited five CIA prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco and Guantanamo Bay” they were grouping the Moroccan site with the Polish and Romanian sites (also places where the CIA, IMO, could have special problems if the torture evidence tied the torture to those locations – vs. the out the courts are giving so far on jurisdiction over the Afghanistan where our “mission” to spread the rule of law and stability has become built on a foundation of our ability to claim lawlessness and instability as cover for our torture).

            Could be sloppy reporting, but the reference to the site as a CIA prison opens a lot of new doors.

    • bmaz says:

      If Durham does anything useful now, how does the DOJ harmonize that with their coverup and failure to have done anything before? It is too much dissonance for the narcissistic self ass coverers. Also cracks open the door backwards that Obama and Rahm have forbidden to be opened.

      • emptywheel says:

        Thus far, you guys have always been proven right assuming the flimsiness of this investigation. But I do think Durham is making a real effort to come up with enough evidence of intent to prove obstruction, perhaps even as Main DOJ tells him he hasn’t made his case yet.

          • Leen says:

            Sure glad you “lefty professionals” are all about the rule of law. Most of our Reps are not so concerned. Thanks

            Bmaz have you ever been invited on Rachel’s etc. Would sure like to see and hear you, Mary, Ew on one of those MSM outlets talking about these issues

          • emptywheel says:

            Yeah, I know. But if it becomes clear what Durham has, it might be a bit harder for Main DOJ to tell Durham to fuckoff, as I suspect they’re preparing to do.

            • bmaz says:

              That also, however, depends on Durham’s ability and willingness to make clear to anyone on the outside what is going on and being hidden if he is squashed. I am not sure about that kind of sack existing in Durham and crew.

              And, of course, Obama has made quite clear that the one thing he believes in and will actually bust his balls to do is take vengeance on any leakers and/or truth tellers.

            • Mary says:

              I don’t see how it can be that hard?

              They just tell him.

              It’s all in-house and he can’t talk about anything they tell him not to talk about.

              That’s what Schumer and Leahy and Feingold and Whitehouse gave us. Bless their little hearts.

  9. rmwarnick says:

    Just a dumb question, but are these literally “tapes” as in video cassettes? I thought video was stored on digital media now.

    • bmaz says:

      Dunno about here, but forensically, at least as of a couple of years ago, there were experts in the custodial interrogation field I know that still advocated using standard analog videotape because it is harder to screw with by devious actors; i.e. it made for more secure evidence. And, I might add cheaper and easier to replace if there is a problem in far off locales. So, I dunno.

    • bmaz says:


      But, you see, Margolis would order that cat quarantined, and likely kilt, because he is “the cleaner”. Holder would meekly concur, noting that it is “the tradition and policy of the DOJ”.

  10. alinaustex says:

    [email protected]
    who is Durham trying to get for obstruction – and would his target be considered a Prinicipal by Bmaz ? I am still counting on winning my wager with the B-miester and when I do I will donate the $200 to the marcy wheeler fundraiser thermometer thingamejiggie to help you reach your $$ goal
    And yes Hope does spring eternal