Feinstein and Levin: Hassan Ghul Revealed Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s Role, and Then We Tortured Him

Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have released a statement that basically says Jose Rodriguez’ Big Boy Pants are on fire for the lies he has told about the torture program.

The statement is interesting for two reasons. First, it gets closer and closer to saying that the torture program was successful primarily in eliciting false confessions.

Further, it’s worth repeating, as discussed in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s 2008 report, the SERE techniques used in the CIA’s interrogation program were never intended to be used by U.S. interrogators. Rather, the techniques – which are based on Communist Chinese interrogation techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions – were developed to expose U.S. soldiers to the abusive treatment they might be subjected to if captured by our enemies. An overwhelming number of experts agree, the SERE techniques are not an effective means to illicit accurate information. [my emphasis]

It’s really time for them to be as clear as their leaking aides are in saying, anonymously, that the torture program got–and was designed to get–false confessions.

Hopefully, as Jose Rodriguez’ torture tour continues, they’ll get over this reticence.

The statement also confirms what was described in this AP report: that the CIA detainee who provided the most important intelligence leading to Osama bin Laden–who has been reported as Hassan Ghul–did so before we tortured him.

The CIA detainee who provided the most significant information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.

So we tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and he gave up invented locations for OBL (while hiding the courier). But we got key evidence from Ghul that might have led to OBL and … we tortured him anyway.

I wonder how many books Rodriguez is going to sell claiming that this program was effective?

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.

16 replies
  1. thatvisionthing says:

    The statement also confirms what was described in this AP report: that the CIA detainee who provided the most important intelligence leading to Osama bin Laden–who has been reported as Hassan Ghul–did so before we tortured him.

    I just came here from firedoglake and reading David Swanson’s diary on Sibel Edmonds:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/davidswanson/2012/04/30/sibel-edmonds-finally-wins/

    Edmonds took a job as a translator at the FBI shortly after 9-11. She considered it her duty. Her goal was to prevent any more terrorist attacks. That’s where her thinking was at the time, although it has now changed dramatically. It’s rarely the people who sign up for a paycheck and healthcare who end up resisting or blowing a whistle.

    Edmonds found at the FBI translation unit almost entirely two types of people. The first group was corrupt sociopaths, foreign spies, cheats and schemers indifferent to or working against U.S. national security. The second group was fearful bureaucrats unwilling to make waves. The ordinary competent person with good intentions who risks their job to “say something if you see something” is the rarest commodity. Hence the elite category that Edmonds found herself almost alone in: whistleblowers.

    Reams of documents and audio files from before 9-11 had never been translated. Many more had never been competently or honestly translated. One afternoon in October 2001, Edmonds was asked to translate verbatim an audio file from July 2001 that had only been translated in summary form. She discovered that it contained a discussion of skyscraper construction, and in a section from September 12th a celebration of a successful mission. There was also discussion of possible future attacks. Edmonds was eager to inform the agents involved, but her supervisor Mike Feghali immediately put a halt to the project.

    Two other translators, Behrooz Sarshar and Amin (no last name given), told Edmonds this was typical. They told her about an Iranian informant, a former head of SAVAK, the Iranian “intelligence” agency, who had been hired by the FBI in the early 1990s. He had warned these two interpreters in person in April 2001 of Osama bin Laden planning attacks on U.S. cities with airplanes, and had warned that some of the plotters were already in the United States. Sarshar and Amin had submitted a report marked VERY URGENT to Special Agent in Charge Thomas Frields, to no apparent effect. In the end of June they’d again met with the same informant and interpreted for FBI agents meeting with him. He’d emphatically warned that the attack would come within the next two months and urged them to tell the White House and the CIA. But the FBI agents, when pressed on this, told their interpreters that Frields was obliged to report everything, so the White House and other agencies no doubt already knew.

    One has to wonder what U.S. public opinion would make of an Iranian having tried to prevent 9-11.

    Next, a French translator named Mariana informed Edmonds that in late June 2001, French intelligence had contacted the FBI with a warning of the upcoming attacks by airplanes. The French even provided names of suspects. The translator had been sent to France, and believed her report had made it to both FBI headquarters and the White House.

    Edmonds translated other materials that involved the selling of U.S. nuclear information to foreigners and spotted a connection to a previous case involving the purchase of such information. The FBI, under pressure from the State Department, Edmonds writes, prevented her from notifying the FBI field offices involved. Edmonds has testified in a court deposition, naming as part of a broad criminal conspiracy Representatives Dennis Hastert, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Tom Lantos, and the following high-ranking U.S. government officials: Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Marc Grossman.

    When Edmonds was hired, she was the only fully qualified Turkish translator, and this remained the case. In November 2001, a woman named Melek Can Dickerson (referred to as “Jan”) was hired. She did not score well on the English proficiency test, and so was not qualified to sign off on translations, as Edmonds was. Melek’s husband Doug Dickerson worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency under the procurement logistics division at the Pentagon dealing with Turkey and Central Asia, and for the Office of Special Plans overseeing Central Asian policy. This couple attempted to recruit Edmonds and her husband into the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, offering large financial benefits. But these were organizations that the FBI was monitoring. Edmonds reported the Dickersons’ proposal to Feghali, who dismissed it.

    Then Edmonds discovered that Jan Dickerson had been forging her (Edmonds’) signature on translations, with Feghali’s approval. Then Edmonds’ colleagues told her about Jan taking files out of other translators’ desks and carrying them out of the building. Dickerson attempted to control the translation of all material from particular individuals. Dennis Saccher, who was above Feghali, discovered that Jan was marking every communication from one important person as being not important for translation. Saccher attempted to address the matter but was shut down by Feghali, by another supervisor named Stephanie Bryan, and by the head of “counterintelligence” for the FBI who said that the Pentagon, White House, State Department, and Congress would not allow an investigation.

    And thinking too about Jeff Kaye’s report not so long ago about [Iron Man?] — a military intelligence unit that was tasked with following Osama bin Laden and was trying to report intelligence about him prior to 9/11 but was shut down — and then later their evidence to Congress was mangled and squelched? And FBI Ali Soufan, crying when 9/11 happened and he was finally handed information from the CIA that he had been requesting over and over about a key meeting.

    Come on. No one accountable wanted Osama bin Laden stopped. They needed that event and that villain. And then they needed “intelligence” beyond evidence. Because evidence is something you use in court, and that wasn’t the plan. They needed unaddressable fear and authority beyond anything the Constitution’s checks and balances could handle.

  2. lysias says:

    @thatvisionthing: And, if the powers that be did deliberately allow 9/11 to happen, the decision to torture — so very soon after 9/11 — makes a lot more sense. They needed to make sure they could control the narrative, so that people would not realize that they had allowed 9/11 to happen.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    From a long comment I left earlier: http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/04/03/the-national-security-committee-knew-they-were-going-to-get-false-confessions-from-torture/#comment-343756

    Craig Murray, who was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002-3, saw American intelligence reports, recognized that it was based on torture and false to boot, and tried to stop British complicity, tried to blow the whistle. It cost him his career.

    In testimony to Parliament three years ago (transcript at http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%20Transcript%2028%20April%2009.doc), he said this:

    Q95: Mr Murray: …Torture gives you false intelligence; it does not give you the truth. There was an appetite for false intelligence.

    And at a speech in Berlin earlier this year he made the point that what freaked them out was not so much that he was bringing attention to torture, but that he was saying the intelligence WASN’T TRUE:

    From the Berlin speech youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUZTiAoaax4

    [37:20] You know, so much of this material was nonsense. There was material about training camps that named locations with coordinates given where we knew – we had been there and there was nothing. But the extraordinary thing is, what got me in more trouble than anything with the Foreign Office – they hated the fact that I was protesting about the intelligence from torture. What they really hated was the fact that I was saying the intelligence wasn’t true, and giving examples of it not being true. Because they were saying it’s high-quality intelligence. This is building into our intelligence picture.

    And remember that I was called back to a meeting where – basically I wasn’t sacked immediately at that meeting, but the process was started, and that meeting took place two weeks before we invaded Iraq. I was saying your intelligence is rubbish. And at precisely that same time, of course, we had published the dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which contained a lot of other intelligence material which was also rubbish. It was completely untrue. And I knew that as well, having been head of the Foreign Office union in charge of embargo surveillance.

    So I’m afraid to say that in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the analysis of intelligence, which is something I had spent quite a lot of my career doing and at which I believe I was very good, had ceased to be a genuine intellectual exercise in determining the facts and had become instead a process of providing lies to government that government wanted to publish. Making the world as it was. The government wanted to support Karimov for reasons of oil and gas and the war in Afghanistan. There needed to be a reason for supporting him, therefore there needed to be Al Qaeda activity in Central Asia, where it did not in fact exist. And the media is complicit in this building of lies.

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    So we tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and he gave up invented locations for OBL (while hiding the courier). But we got key evidence from Ghul that might have led to OBL and … we tortured him anyway.

    Thinking again about other comments I’ve left, about Detainee 001 — John Walker Lindh — and what his dad had to say on Democracy Now, about Donald Rumsfeld’s “Take the gloves off” order:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/barryeisler/2011/02/01/donald-rumsfeld-defender-of-the-constitution-really/#comment-43

    FRANK LINDH: He was already wounded. He had a bullet wound in his thigh, and he had shrapnel wounds in his legs. He was dehydrated. He suffered hypothermia. He was very close to death in that media interview there.

    And instead of being treated humanely—it’s a difficult subject for us, but Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—this is a document that came out in the discovery in John’s case—ordered, “Take the gloves off.” Juan referred to this. This was his order, direct order from the Secretary of Defense. And from that point forward, they severely abused John to the point that I would say constitutes torture. He was stripped naked in the winter. His bullet wound was left untreated. They put painful restraints, plastic restraints, around his wrists and his ankles, and he was tied to a gurney and placed naked in a metal—unheated metal shipping container in the desert and left there for two days and two nights shivering. His wounds were left—

    AMY GOODMAN: Donald Rumsfeld—

    FRANK LINDH: His wounds were left untreated.

    AMY GOODMAN: Donald Rumsfeld’s words? This is on his orders?

    FRANK LINDH: Yes, it’s in a document that John’s lawyers received from the government, and those are the words in the document: “Take the gloves off in your interrogation of John Walker Lindh.”

    and what Frank Lindh had to say earlier in a 2006 speech, that they tortured someone who was already willing to tell them anything he knew:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/barryeisler/2011/02/01/donald-rumsfeld-defender-of-the-constitution-really/#comment-44

    What I find most troubling about this treatment, however, was that it was completely gratuitous and unnecessary. John Lindh did not need to be tortured in order to tell American forces what he knew, where he had been and what he had seen. He was glad to be rescued, he had nothing to hide. I cannot fathom why the military would have felt it necessary to humiliate him in this way.

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    @lysias: They needed a show and they scripted one.

    Was thinking about what Lawrence Wilkerson said on Antiwar Radio about Rumsfeld and Rove and why we kept hundreds of innocent prisoners in Gitmo even though we knew they weren’t terrorists: Because Rumsfeld didn’t want to admit we made mistakes, and because Rove wanted orange jumpsuit terror theater. I think I gave the fullest Wilkerson quote here ( http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2011/02/21/who-was-and-was-not-in-on-rummys-plan/#comment-275972 ) — and in light of the 2008 SASC report DiFi and Carl Levin refer to above, the comment below that is worth revisiting, Jeff Kaye’s question to Carl Levin about December 2001 SERE documents that were referenced in testimony but then disappeared? I hope Jeff Kaye stops by here, he would be able to tell us what that story is and whether those docs ever showed up.

    And here’s another comment I left earlier about that terror theater — http://my.firedoglake.com/valtin/2010/09/15/whats-up-with-transparency-government-hid-report-on-drugging-of-detainees-for-months/#comment-44 — I seem to think in a nest of linking facets, find one and you see the bigger picture in the facets around it. In this one, powwow’s comment directly above mine is right on target, how detainees and their lawyers are kept from communicating with the world and even with each other — no unallowable knowledge allowed. And how to get rich, convincing false testimony.

    Also, the idea that the interrogations were scripted to get the desired story, I was thinking how the CIA’s code name for Cheney was Edgar, as in the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. When ex-CIA Glenn Carle had his book salon at FDL, I asked him who wrote the interrogation scripts, and he answered: http://fdlbooksalon.com/2011/07/09/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-glenn-carle-author-of-the-interrogator-an-education/#comment-2207982

  6. MadDog says:

    "Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have released a statement that basically says Jose Rodriguez’ Big Boy Pants are on fire for the lies he has told about the torture program…”

    You got that right EW!

    And they said the same about Mikey Hayden and Mikey Mukasey.

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    On a side note, I am so tired of Freinstein, Levin and others repeating the old canard that the SERE techniques were based on Chinese Communist torture to produce false confessions from Korean War prisoners. The historical record, as written contemporaneously by Albert Biderman, Robert Jay Lifton, and Edgar Schein, shows Chinese interrogation techniques were based on group pressures and not physical torture. Psychological forms of coercion were used, but most of those used by SERE came from Stalin’s camps, as well as “ordinary” police abuses through the ages, as Biderman pointed out.

    Nor were the supposedly false confessions of the airmen that testified to US use of biological weapons in the Korean conflict actually false, as a number of historical observers now admit.

    The top secret origins of the US coercive interrogation research and operations program is still shrouded in some secrecy, particularly on the DoD side. I recently discovered that a Russian NTS leader (NTS famously collaborated with the Nazis in occupied Russia) taught interrogation resistance to US officers at Georgetown Univ. in the early 1950s, before, it seems, the institution of the survival school (later called SERE) programs. The latter were sites of CIA behavioral research (as I’ve documented in the case of Harry Harlow and Louis West’s DDD paper on breaking down prisoners.

    See http://pubrecord.org/torture/1948/top-u-s-behavioral-scientists-studied-survival-schools-to-create-torture-program-over-50-years-ago/

  8. greengiant says:

    @thatvisionthing: I appreciate Edmond’s comments on the Fethullah Gülen and the various axes of power both pre and post 9/11. It also seems the “Gulens” have been successful getting support from a number of politicians in the US.

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Hi Jeff, good to see you here. Did you see my question for you in #7? Did the actual December 2001 documents ever get released, or does that matter? I see they’re referred to in the SASC report, so that part of the narrative wasn’t lost.

  10. Jeff Kaye says:

    @thatvisionthing: Thanks for remembering all that. The only relevant document released by the SASC was the fax cover sheet for the Dec. 17, 2001 “exploitation” document Lt. Col. Dan Bumgarner of JPRA sent to Dan Shiffrin in the Office of the Secty of Defense, General Counsel. The actual document (5 or 6 pgs.) is still classified.

    Here’s our spin on exploitation. If you need experts to facilitate this process, we stand ready to assist. There are not many in DoD outside of JPRA that have the level of expertise we do in exploitation and how to resist it.

    The description of the document Bumgarner sent is in the SASC final report:

    The memo provided the JPRA perspective on how their SERE school staff would handle the “initial capture,” “movement,” and “detention” of prisoners.30 It also provided advice on interrogation and recommended various approaches, including the use of undefined “deprivations.,,3

    The memo cautioned, however, that while “[p]hysical deprivations can and do work in ahering the prisoners’ mental state to the point where they will say things they normally would not say,” use of physical deprivations has “several major downfalls.,,32 JPRA warned that physical deprivations were “not as effective” a means of getting information as psychological pressures, that information gained from their use was “less reliable,” and that their use “tends to increase resistance postures when deprivations are removed.’,33 JPRA also warned that the use ofphysical deprivations has an “intolerable public and political backlash when discovered.,,34

  11. orionATL says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    your comment on the origins of sere is very interesting.

    there are however two messages here:

    – one involving the origins of u.s. coercive interrogation tactics,

    – the other, by far the more important message politically at this time, is that the interrogation techniques the parts of the american gov’t used on gwot detainees was intended to elicit false confessions

    which were, in turn, intended to be used as justificatory propaganda by cheney-bush-rumsfeld.

  12. lysias says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Well, if the ultimate source of the techniques was Soviet rather than Chinese Communist, it’s well known how Stalin’s secret police used torture and other kinds of pressure to coerce false confessions.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Thanks for that clarification. One needn’t have read only the reporting of Wilfred Burchett to realize that the Shirley Templeish US version of its conduct in the Korean “police action” did not match its actions on the ground. It experimented there, too, and lied, notwithstanding the significant sacrifices of its men and women in country.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Glenwald
    Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:12 AM MDT
    Since bin Laden’s death
    The War on Terror and its various civil liberties assaults have escalated, not been reversed or even slowed down
    http://www.salon.com/2012/05/01/since_bin_ladens_death/
    “Does it sound like the War on Terror and its accompanying civil liberties erosions are ending, or going in the opposite direction? The morning after the bin Laden killing, I wrote that the killing of bin Laden would likely re-ignite American excitement over militarism and would thus likely further fuel, rather than retard, the War and its various implications. As always: combatting Terrorism is not the end of the War on Terror; the War on Terror is the end in itself, and Terrorism is merely its pretext.”

Comments are closed.