Jose Rodriguez Brags that He Got Terrorists to Deny Things Using Torture

Jose Rodriguez, the guy who as head of Counterterrorism Center oversaw the torture program and who as head of Clandestine Services had the videotapes that would prove torturers exceeded torture guidelines destroyed, has chosen this moment to give his first public interview. And according to Rodriguez, torture was key in finding Osama bin Laden.

“Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al Libbi about Bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death,” Rodriguez tells TIME in his first public interview. Rodriguez was cleared of charges in the video destruction investigation last year.

Of course, as the NYT reports but doesn’t note the implication of, the intelligence KSM and al-Libi gave interrogators were unreliable denials.

Because Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Libi had both steered interrogators away from Mr. Kuwaiti, C.I.A. officials concluded that they must be protecting him for an important reason.

“Think about circles of information — there’s an inner circle they would protect with their lives,” said an American official who was briefed on the C.I.A. analysis. “The crown jewels of Al Qaeda were the whereabouts of Bin Laden and his operational security.”

That’s what we’re arguing about, folks: whether the torture program was so effective that it led two terrorists to protect particular information after they’d been tortured.

I guess Jose Rodriguez doesn’t think he could have gotten KSM and al-Libi to deny this information without torture?

To be fair to Rodriguez, that’s not what he said al-Libi–whom he describes as having provided the most important intelligence–gave us. Rather, al-Libi provided information that convinced Rodriguez that Osama bin Laden wasn’t all that important.

Faraj told interrogators that the courier would only carry messages from bin Laden to the outside world every two months or so. “I realized that bin Laden was not really running his organization. You can’t run an organization and have a courier who makes the rounds every two months,” Rodriguez says. “So I became convinced then that this was a person who was just a figurehead and was not calling the shots, the tactical shots, of the organization. So that was significant.”

As a reminder, Abu Faraj al-Libi would have provided this information some time in 2005–probably June or July. In late 2005, CIA closed Alec Station, its bin Laden unit, having decided that al Qaeda was no longer as hierarchical as it used to be, and so pursuing bin Laden was not that important.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice “dead or alive.”

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Agency officials said that tracking Mr. bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened.

All of which suggests that that great piece of intelligence al-Libi gave us–that OBL’s couriers would only check in every two months which meant he was just a figurehead–led directly to the CIA’s decision to stop focusing on bin Laden.

And if that’s the case, then al-Libi’s torture didn’t lead us to OBL; rather, it led us to stop searching in concerted manner for OBL.

No wonder Jose Rodriguez has taken this moment to start spinning wildly.

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. Ruth Calvo says:

    Nice. By torture Rodriguez establishes that distorted evidence is okay, after doing a distortion by his own reckoning. As you point out, protecting his leaders would have happened under straight questioning, also. Fareed Zakaria on Sunday reminded viewers of CNN that all al Qaeda members still swear allegiance to OBL even yet. CIA decisions to disregard his importance certainly made their own job easier. What a coincidence.

  2. MadDog says:

    I’ve long given up Time as nothing more than a purveyor of Beltway sophism, and once again, they do not disappoint:

    …Rodriguez was cleared of charges in the video destruction investigation last year…

    Sorry, but the above statement is just false. There was no clearance! The absence of charges does not mean there was no crime, and only a fool would think otherwise.

    At the very least, this is sloppy work done to the usual sloppy Time standards.

    At worst, this deliberately lying to change the facts of the matter.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      “Sorry, but the above statement is just false. There was no clearance! The absence of charges does not mean there was no crime, and only a fool would think otherwise.”

      No, it’s not false. It’s not that there was or wasn’t a crime, just the Obama DoJ isn’t going to bring any charges – hence being cleared.

  3. eCAHNomics says:

    It’s not just OBL who was irrelevant. The whole of AQ is irrelevant. It’s only a couple of hundred people.

    The big threat to U.S. empire is all the revolutions and countries that now consider the U.S. unilateral global power to be of no consequence for their lives anymore.

    Excellent interview on that subject here.

    • leftdcin72 says:

      No the biggest threat to the US is its neo colonialist piolicy embedded in the US dependence on foreign fossil fuels and the dictatorships and client states supported by the US through out the Middle East. Why at this very moment the US actively supports the Saudi slaughter on innocents in Bahrain.

  4. hotdog says:

    That’s what we’re arguing about, folks: whether the torture program was so effective that it led two terrorists to protect particular information after they’d been tortured.

    Okay, but isn’t that really a distraction to divert attention from another more basic argument that this government’s repeated tactic of destroying evidence to obstruct justice (at least in the romantic sense) and hide its own criminal acts is the fundamental problem? How will we ever be able to prosecute any crimes when the precedent that “you can’t prove anything, because we erase the records, nya, nya, nya” is allowed to stand?

    • BlueFloridian says:

      I think this also demonstrates how completely destructive the “looking forward not looking back” policy is to the rule of law. By failing to prosecute, particularly the egregious destruction of evidence that was under a court order to produce, you allow prevaricators like Rodriguez to rewrite history. It is the same as those repugs who are upset that George Bush is not getting enough credit for bringing down OBL. George Bush publicly declared in 2002 that he did not think about OBL much and that the war on terror was more than the pursuit of one person, (and if people did not understand that they just didn’t understand).In 2005 his CIA closed the OBL operation and called off the hunt. Bush pursued a war in Iraq pretending that that had some connection to Al Queda and OBL. All of which shows he wasn’t pursuing OBL or Al Queda. Now because there has never been an investigation of why we really went to war in Iraq or why we engaged in disappearing people and torturing people, (looking forward after all,) Bush and the Neocons are able to try to rewrite history and they will succeed with many, many Americans.

      • hotdog says:

        Yes. What worries me is the total acceptance by America of the practice of deception as SOP. It’s like the public are practically begging the government to lie to them: “It’s not that we can’t handle the truth, we just don’t want to deal with it.”

        “Tell us the story Papa, of the gallant Navy seals who conquered an evil dragon whose breathe threatened to burn them into cinders,” sounds a lot more noble than “An assassination team raided a compound, found an old man who might have been the guy they were looking for in his bed, shot a woman who tried to protect him, then shot him in the head instead of bringing him in for any kind of useful intelligence and dumped his body.”

  5. Peterr says:

    What? Rodriguez is talking about classified information to Time magazine?

    Isn’t there some kind of law about that? Or did he take some pixie dust home with him when he cleaned out his desk?

  6. klynn says:

    How does the government shut down Alec Station in 2005 but still manages to play the fear card with terror alerts and use language like actionable intelligence?

    Keith O was right.

  7. lsls says:

    Anything anyone says regarding torture or OBL is now officially “conspiracy theory”…that is today’s talking point in the corporate run MSM.

    Pretty soon the Pentagon and WH will issue an executive order: STFU

    • eCAHNomics says:

      My fave example (from Overthrow by Kinzer) is what U.S. military did to Philippinos in 1890s. Stuck bamboo polls down their throats, poured water in until their bellies swelled, then jumped on their bellies.

      • DWBartoo says:

        What’s done in our names is always just what we are … “exceptional”.

        Except we are not, of course.

        But remember, eCAHN, what is “done” is ALWAYS DONE for exceptionally exigent “reasons”.

        And no “exceptional” one, who authorizes, participates in, or “oversees” (“send it over seas, it it works, we’ll try it here …”) whatever is being done … sees anything wrong with it, apparently, as there is little “proof” of questions (except “operational”, on occassion) or qualm.

        There does seem to be some concern with actually examing what happened and everyone appears to be avoiding the rear-view mirrors …


  8. lsls says:

    New “wrinkle” in news reports. OBL’s young daughter says he was captured alive, kept alive for 10 minutes and then shot. MSNBC

    You can’t make this stuff up…

    • eCAHNomics says:

      As someone reminded on the last thread, we’ll have to wait until the prophet Woodward gets the revealed version from on high.

    • BlueFloridian says:

      Yes perhaps she did , but you know he was evil and “our” Seals performed so wonderfully and we should all just be so proud and happy. Sarcasm.
      This report if true just shows the despicable nature of the act and the really questionable idea that this was a mission that brought “justice.” Really, are we really going to endorse roving world wide firing squads? If so Anwar al Awlaki should become very very frightened at this. If OBL gets you 12% jump in the polls and a victory lap at Ground Zero, al Awlaki gets you what, six points and sainthood?

      • onitgoes says:

        Really, are we really going to endorse roving world wide firing squads?

        From what I see in the corp-owned fascist media, it would seem that the answer to your question is: YES! And some US citizens would resoundingly endorse that with a rousing: HELL YEAH!! TEAM USA USA USA (ad nauseum).

    • onitgoes says:

      Yep. Torture porn for one and all. I duly noted that it took until just today for some citizen to write a letter to the editor of my local “nooz” paper to wax lyrical about how “torture worked” and then also resoundly extol the wonderment of Guantanamo and how it must be kept open forevah!!! TEAM USA USA USA ad nauseum.

      Guess the job of torturer at Gitmo is one job that will not be lost during the current economic depresession, sad to say.

  9. tjbs says:

    Torture/ kill teams/ sure is hard to argue we are under the constitutional rule of law anymore. Welcome back to the jungle complete w/ Lion King or the Unitary Executive.

  10. bobschacht says:

    Speaking of spinning, a speaker at the beginning of the Diane Rehm show this morning contrasted John Brennan’s initial report of the OBL raid with the current WH version, noting that Brennan initially said that OBL was armed (he wasn’t) and that he used his wife as a human shield (he didn’t).

    This raises a big question for me: Does Brennan spin his Presidential Daily Briefs like this? If so, his intelligence reports are useless, and Obama is shielding him from trial as a war criminal for torture for no good reason.

    Bob in AZ

  11. Agent420 says:

    Hummmm. These assholes were waterboarded, what, 7 or 8 years ago and they are just now getting around to act on it. Sorry repukes, you guys are sounding like you have paper assholes.

    Another point. After being waterboarded 183 times you would get the idea that they were not going to kill you. That fact and familiarity with the routine would make it an inconvenience. It reminds me of a line from a Sheryl Crow song,”Lie to me and I promise to believe.”

    • harpie says:

      Matthew Alexander:

      So, this policy of torture and abuse, what it did is it helped al-Qaeda recruit, it lowered our moral standing in the world, it sacrificed our principles, and ultimately it cost us more time to find bin Laden, and it will take us longer to defeat violent extremism.

  12. pdaly says:

    No wonder Jose Rodriguez has taken this moment to start spinning wildly.

    I was hoping Darkblack might offer an illustration for this one. ;-)

  13. papau says:

    Leon Panetta of CIA and now Sec of Def seems to be giving cover for Bush and appears to be doing so under orders from Obama –

    The key word is
    “lead information”
    as the information was that waterboarding produced denials that the courier was important, making getting the name and location very important.

    And Main street media refuses to challenge this logic

  14. frankiet1 says:

    We wouldn’t have to suffer this bullshit if Obama had had the kahunas to look backward AND forward.

    As long as the assholes who tortured and those who gave the orders to do so aren’t prosecuted, (and BTW, they sure could be even today!) there will be a big purulent wound affecting the mood of this nation.

  15. Phoenix Woman says:

    By the way: Nice Polite Republicans this morning, while admitting that the torture victims didn’t actually provide useful information until after we stopped torturing them, allowed Brennan to argue that the torture softened them up and paved the way for their eventually providing the correct information. Ahem.