Torture for US, Retire With Impunity

Gulalai's face, as seen in photo accompanying Washington Post story on his comfortable life in Southern California.

Gulalai’s face, as seen in photo accompanying Washington Post story on his comfortable life in Southern California.

Torturing on behalf of the United States appears to be a career move that results in a comfortable lifestyle after moving on from government service. Jose Rodriguez, who both ordered up torture and then personally destroyed video evidence of it, now profits from those events through book sales. James Mitchell, who was integral to the design of the torture program, now lives quietly in Land O’Lakes, Florida and until very recently didn’t even have to bother talking with reporters, let alone crime investigators. Of course, if you choose to expose US torture, it’s prison for you, as John Kiriakou has demonstrated.

But the disgusting free status of Rogdriguez and Mitchell pales in comparison to the level of depravity in the known history of personal involvement in torture for Haji Gulalai and how it was revealed yesterday that Gulalai is now living a quiet, comfortable life just outside Los Angeles. [Just as a bit of life advice, never piss off Julie Tate, as her work in finding Gulalai is perhaps the best bit of investigative journalism in the US in decades.]

Even very early in the US misadventures in Afghanistan, Gulalai was a favorite for the US and its press. Here is a bit from CNN in December of 2001:

Despite intelligence reports indicating the location of Mullah Mohammed Omar, a senior Afghan official said going after the Taliban leader is not a priority.

Haji Gulalai, Kandahar’s intelligence chief, said information suggests that Omar is in Helmand province, west of Kandahar, in a district called Baghran.

He says the priority of officials in the Kandahar region is to rebuild the country and the city of Kandahar first, not chasing after Omar.

Gulalai played a special role in development of the Afghan government, eventually becoming, as described in the Post article, Afghanistan’s “torturer in chief”:

Since its inception, the NDS [National Directorate of Security] has depended on the CIA to such an extent that it is almost a subsidiary — funded, trained and equipped by its American counterpart. The two agencies have shared intelligence, collaborated on operations and traded custody of prisoners.

Gulalai was considered a particularly effective but corrosive figure in this partnership. He was a fierce adversary of the Taliban, officials said, as well as a symbol of the tactics embraced by the NDS.

“He was the torturer in chief,” said a senior Western diplomat, who recalled meeting with a prisoner at an NDS facility in Kabul to investigate how he had been treated when Gulalai entered unannounced. The detainee became agitated and bowed his head in submission. “He was terrified, which made sense,” the diplomat said. Gulalai was “a big wheel in a machine that ground up a lot of people.”

In setting up the torture program for Afghanistan, Gulalai was paid directly by the CIA:

“It was chaos; you had to start from scratch,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official involved in the effort. The agency equipped the NDS with a fleet of vehicles brought up through Pakistan, delivered office supplies to a Kabul building that the Taliban had trashed and provided a stream of cash to cover payroll. “Money would come in on aircraft, we’d put it through a counting machine and distribute it in duffel bags,” said the former U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the CIA’s role.

Gulalai distinguished himself particularly for his torture in Kandahar:

Twice, U.N. officials persuaded then-NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh to issue orders firing Gulalai. Both times, the orders were undone by ethnic politics, U.N. officials said, as Karzai countermanded the Tajik NDS chief to protect his fellow Pashtun tribesman.

Instead of being dismissed, Gulalai was promoted to NDS headquarters in Kabul and put in charge of the agency’s investigations directorate, known at the time as Department 17. The position gave him authority over the main NDS prison in Kabul, to which detainees from across the country were sent for long-term custody.

Allegations of abuse surged.

Although Gulalai disappeared sometime in 2009, it appears that by 2010 his Department 17 had been specifically banned by the UK for receiving prisoners they captured because of the known torture carried out there.

Standing out especially among the disgusting aspects of Gulalai’s case is the mystery surrounding how he was able to enter the US and then be granted asylum. Rank and file interpreters who worked for the US military in Afghanistan (and Iraq) face incredible difficulty getting into the US, even when they can present evidence that they face extreme danger staying behind:

With the looming withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans who have served as military interpreters are in limbo as the State Department works to clear a backlog of SIV [Special Immigrant Visa] applications. Congress had authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through Dec. 10.

/snip/

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project calls the SIV process “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group, which also assists Afghans, says more than 5,000 Afghan applicants are backlogged. It says only 6,675 of the 25,000 visas authorized for Iraqi interpreters have been issued.

Congress last month extended the Iraq SIV program through Sept. 30, but failed to extend the Afghan program, which is set to expire Sept. 30.

But here is an even bigger outrage in the process surrounding Gulalai, again from the excellent report from Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Joshua Partlow:

Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim.

Just like Rogriguez and Mitchell, Gulalai will never face trial for his many well-documented crimes. Legal and diplomatic barriers magically fade away for those who conduct torture on behalf of the US, and every step is taken to make sure they live out the remainder of their lives in comfortable surroundings.

We can only hope that their sleep is haunted forever by the screams of their victims.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
14 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    This was under Bush. CIA-supported torture under Obama would be more interesting given Obama’s anti-torture policy.
    .
    January 22, 2009
    Obama Orders Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Closed
    .
    WASHINGTON — Saying that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret overseas prisons, banning coercive interrogation methods and closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year.
    .
    “We believe we can abide by a rule that says, we don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need,” Mr. Obama said.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/us/politics/23GITMOCND.html?pagewanted=all

  2. chronicle says:

    Notwithstanding the point of Jim’s current post, this caught my attention….
    quote” It says only 6,675 of the 25,000 visas authorized for Iraqi interpreters have been issued.”unquote

    ummm…you mean we had 25 THOUSAND non-American interpreters in Iraq ?
    Hmmm. Something seems amiss here though. State Department whistle blower, Peter Van Buren claims that “most” interpreters were already American citizens…
    quote”
    The majority of our ‘terps were Iraqi-Americans. They had immigrated to the US and become citizens years ago. Most were from Detroit or Chicago, recruited by subcontractors for their alleged language skills. Most of our Iraqi-American translators were employees of an Alaskan Native-owned business. This business had one employee in the US, an Alaskan Native far away in Alaska, and subcontracted to some other business that recruited Iraqi-Americans in Detroit or Chicago and sent those people to us in Iraq. To help support minority businesses such as those owned by Alaskan Natives, the US government offered them an advantage in the otherwise competitive bidding process, a sort of contracting affirmative action, even as they subbed out 100 percent of the work and lent nothing to the company but their name and ethnicity. It seemed like a get-rich-quick internet scam, but this one apparently worked.”unquote

    http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2011/07/11/tongue-tied-state-department-failing-in-its-core-mission-part-i/
    I smell a big DoS Visa scam rat. Wouldn’t be the first time either. In fact..it goes on all over the world. I digress though.

    quote:”Just like Rogriguez and Mitchell, Gulalai will never face trial for his many well-documented crimes. Legal and diplomatic barriers magically fade away for those who conduct torture on behalf of the US, and every step is taken to make sure they live out the remainder of their lives in comfortable surroundings. “unquote

    Living proof that the USG covers the ass of it’s war criminals with impunity. At this point, it’s impossible to understand how shameless the USG really is. I submit though, these psychopaths do not possess the ability to recognize shame.

    quote”We can only hope that their sleep is haunted forever by the screams of their victims.”unquote
    While hope springs eternal Jim, I also submit those sub human excrement who DID torture human beings, remain immune from feeling guilt as real humans could not possibly do what these pond scum cockroaches have done and continue to do to this day. In reality, this country will NEVER recover from its decent into sadistic barbarism. The stain and stench of torture will forever seep from it’s soul until such time America can no longer hide it’s war crimes and prosecute those that perpetrated them. But I’m not holding my breath. Now that Obomination has relinquished to the CIA the authority to oversee the “review” process of the Senate Torture Report, notwithstanding the absurdity, what ever does happen to come out of the CIA laundering process, will no doubt make hero’s out it’s torturers. Given a recent poll of American’s who think torture is A-ok, I believe this country is beyond moral repair. Way beyond. In ,my universe..there is only one thing left for this nation of moral reprobates. And it ain’t nice. Of course..I’ll leave that to Revelations.

    • Garrett says:

      @chronicle:

      I also submit those sub human excrement who DID torture human beings, remain immune from feeling guilt as real humans could not possibly do what these pond scum cockroaches have done and continue to do to this day.

      Here is a youtube that shows it can be otherwise. It’s of Damien Corsetti, a.k.a. Monster, who was at both Bagram and Abu Ghraib.

      A 15-year old had been brought into Abu Ghraib, wrongly suspected of responsibility for a mortar attack on the prison. Watch Corsetti’s physical reaction at :30, after “stick me in a room with the guy that did it”.

  3. P J Evans says:

    We didn’t have any problem letting in Nazi scientists (and others) after WW2, so I’m not surprised we let in torturers from Shrub’s war, especially when we’d already bought them.

    I’d rather that we did that for the Iraqi translators and their families that we made so many promises to.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    On interpreters: You collaborate with foreign military occupation forces, you better be prepared to pay the price. That has always been the case.

      • Don Bacon says:

        I’m from Missouri — show me the safety promises to interpreters.
        .
        And even if there were promises they wouldn’t men a thing, coming from the government which always acts in its own interest. The death of forty vets while awaiting VA care in Phoenix is an example. Many other vets are in similar circumstances — used up and forgotten.

          • Don Bacon says:

            Probably the US got interpreters the same way that get soldiers — they recruit them with false promises and pay them well. But the soldiers, if they survive, get a plane ticket to the US whereas the collaborating local interpreters get to stay and maybe explain their activities to other locals who might be interested in why these people did what they did.

  5. Guy Montag says:

    “Torturing on behalf of the United States appears to be a career move that results in a comfortable lifestyle after moving on from government service. ”

    A year ago, on April 16, 2013, the Constitution Project released their “Detainee Treatment Report” report which was “the product of more than two years of research, analysis and deliberation.” This report described the evolution of torture policies and practice by the military & CIA at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Although it received front-page coverage in the New York Times, it was largely overshadowed by the Boston bombings that occurred that same day.

    Unfortunately, the report whitewashed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s command of torture from 2003 to 2005 by JSOC forces. How’s he doing in retirement? A year after being fired by President Obama for “Le’Affair Rolling Stan” McChrystal was appointed by Obama to head the “Joining Forces” program (over the objections of Mary Tillman), he’s feted at the Aspen Institute, and reportedly gets five figures for his speeches on the lecture circuit (on top of his fat Army pension).

    And, the report doesn’t even mention Admiral Bill McRaven by name (the report is written to scapegoat his predecessor BG Kyle Koenig) although he commanded JSOC TF 121 during its worst use of torture in late fall 2003 and spring 2004. Why? Probably because McRaven isn’t yet retired and is now commander of US SOCOM. So much for torture accountability!

    For details, see the chapter “No Blood, No Foul” (pp. 98-102) in the Feral Firefighter Dec 2012 post ““NEVER SHALL I FAIL MY COMRADES” — The Dark Legacy of Gen. Stanley McChrystal & His Memoir “My Share of the Task”: His Betrayal of Pat Tillman, Command of JSOC Torture, and Failed Afghan War “Surge”

  6. Camp No-means-yes says:

    Don’t be too sure Gulalai’s out of the woods. Does anybody think the NY Times ass-kissers would dare rat out an agent without CIA supervision? The US is under concerted pressure from charter and treaty bodies for its bad faith in breach of peremptory norms of international law. Official secrecy is breaking down as acquiescent and complicit officials scramble for impunity. Everybody and his brother is implicated. They kept refouling victims when Obama took over as figurehead. It’s not just torture. We’re talking about death camps.

    http://correntewire.com/scott_horton_interviews_the_other_scott_horton_on_the_white_house_cia_torture_and_homicide_complex

    As the treaty body for the binding ICCPR put it, diplomatically as they could:

    “Accountability for past human rights violations
    5. The Committee is concerned at the limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the U.S. Government, including private contractors, for unlawful killings in its international operations and the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in U.S. custody, including outside its territory, as part of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” program. While welcoming the Presidential Executive Order 13491 of 22 January 2009 terminating the programme of secret detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meagre number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives. The Committee is concerned that many details of the CIA programme remain secret thereby creating barriers to accountability and redress for victims (arts. 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, and 14).

    The State party should ensure that all cases of unlawful killing, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted and sanctioned, and that victims are provided with effective remedies. The responsibility of those who provided legal pretexts for manifestly illegal behavior should also be established. The State party should also consider the full incorporation of the doctrine of ‘command responsibility’ in its criminal law and declassify and make public the report of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence into the CIA secret detention programme.”

    Supreme law of the land. Enforced not by CIA’s federal-court bitches but by grown-up independent courts anywhere in the world.

    The government is going to keep a couple scapegoats in its back pocket to try and pacify the international community. Better a western-oriented gentleman than some NCS coward, Right?

  7. Anonsters says:

    I’m surprised we didn’t go after this guy. It would be par for our typical hypocritical course to go after him and not the American Torture Gang.

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