Torture

Will Illegality of Nashiri Torture Get Exposed?

Carol Rosenberg reports the very big news that Judge James Pohl has ordered the government to turn over to Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri’s lawyers top secret information on  the torture their client endured.

The judge’s order instructs prosecutors to provide nine categories of closely guarded classified CIA information to the lawyers — including the names of agents, interrogators and medical personnel who worked at the so-called black sites. The order covers “locations, personnel and communications” as well as cables between the black sites and headquarters that sought and approved so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, the two sources said.

It does not, however, order the government to turn over Office of Legal Counsel memos that both blessed and defined the so-called Torture Program that sent CIA captives to secret interrogations across the world after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — out of reach of International Committee of the Red Cross delegates.

“It’s a nuclear bomb that may shut down the case,” said one person who read the order and is not a part of the Cole case.

I find Pohl’s decision to order this in Nashiri’s case whereas he has not made equivalent orders in the 9/11 case of particular interest. Perhaps he will once public releases back WaPo’s report that CIA subjected Ammar al-Baluchi to ice drowning not sanctioned by any DOJ memo.

But in Nashiri’s case, we have reason to believe that CIA realized right away they had broken the law with Nashiri. His treatment generated the referral to CIA IG John Helgerson. And the only technique John Yoo rejected was mock burial, which may have implications for the mock execution Nashiri endured.

I’m also quite interested in two other details. First, there are conflicting reports about how long Nashiri was subject to torture in in the UAE. I’m curious if this is part of the chronology at issue.

And finally, remember that even Papa Dick Cheney and his daughter don’t claim waterboarding worked with Nashiri. We’ve never learned why not, though there are hints he may have had medical problems with the waterboard. Which makes Pohl’s order about the doctors present particularly interesting too.

DropBox Turns to Condi Rice to Help Protect Users’ Rights Overseas

On Wednesday, cloud server company DropBox named Condi Rice to its board, touting her brilliance and even her service as Secretary of State, but not her role as George Bush’s National Security Advisor during the period he rolled out his most abusive policies.

Finally, we’re proud to welcome Dr. Condoleezza Rice to our Board of Directors. When looking to grow our board, we sought out a leader who could help us expand our global footprint. Dr. Rice has had an illustrious career as Provost of Stanford University, board member of companies like Hewlett Packard and Charles Schwab, and former United States Secretary of State. We’re honored to be adding someone as brilliant and accomplished as Dr. Rice to our team.

The privacy community is predictably unimpressed by the involvement of someone so closely tied to civil liberties abuses.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston didn’t mention the appointment during his keynote at a press event on Wednesday, but a day later, Rice’s arrival had eclipsed the rest of the company’s carefully crafted public event. Unsurprisingly, some people aren’t too happy about the move. Over on Hacker News, a leading barometer for what’s on the minds of tech geeks, the day’s most popular link connects toDropDropbox, a new site calling on users to boycott the company unless it removes Rice.

The campaign’s apparently anonymous creators are calling for her removal in part because of her support for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, including claims that Rice herself authorized eavesdropping on UN Security Council members. “Why on earth would we want someone like her involved with Dropbox, an organization we are trusting with our most important business and personal data?” the site asks.

DropBox has now responded by claiming it takes someone with Condi’s international experience — experience which includes involvement in illegal wiretapping and torture — to protect the rights of DropBox’s hoped-for international customers.

We’re honored to have Dr. Rice join our board — she brings an incredible amount of experience and insight into international markets and the dynamics that define them. As we continue to expand into new countries, we need that type of insight to help us reach new users and defend their rights. [my emphasis]

I guess Condi’s involvement in harming the rights of so many people overseas makes her an expert on how to protect them?

Shorter DiFi: The Torture Report Started in Response to Michael Hayden’s Lie

I gotta hand it to Dianne Feinstein: the closest she comes to calling Michael Hayden a shriveled impotent old man in response to his suggestions she’s a hysterical female is when (at 6 minutes) she says calling women emotional is “an old male fallback position.”

Far more interesting, though, is the description she offers for the genesis of the report. It arose in response to Hayden’s damage control after CIA’s destruction of the torture tapes became public.

In December [2007]–the 11th–Director Hayden appeared before our committee and said he would allow members and/or staff to review operational cables which he said were just as good.

[snip]

The genesis of the report was back with the videotape and back under then Chairman Rockefeller, who assigned staff, staff studied the operational cables, came back, reported to us, we took a look at that and said — both sides — we should move ahead and do a full study.

And while she doesn’t say it, she makes clear that Hayden lied in this damage control, when he said the “operational cables were just as good” as the torture tapes.

He can’t know that.

The backup to the CIA IG Report, after all, is that the even by the time CIA’s Office of General Counsel decided to destroy the tapes, they had been damaged.

[Redacted] for many of the tapes one 1/2 or 3/4 of the tape “there was nothing.” [Redacted] on some tapes it was apparent that the VCR had been turned off and then turned back on right away. [Redacted] on other tapes the video quality was poor and on others the tape had been reused (taped over) or not recorded at all. [Redacted] The label on some tapes read “interrogation session,” but when viewed there was just snow. [Redaction] did not make note of this in [redaction] report. [Redaction] estimated that “half a dozen” videotapes had been taped over or were “snowy.”

And at least one torture session, including waterboarding, was not captured on the tapes at all.

OIG compared the videotapes to logs and cables and identified a 21-hour period of time” which included two waterboard sessions” that was not captured on the videotapes.

That’s important because the IG also found that the waterboarding depicted in the videos that remained undamaged didn’t comply with the guidelines laid out by DOJ. In other words, there’s very good reason to believe that the tapes got destroyed, in part, because they showed CIA exceeding the legal limits laid out by DOJ.

To make things worse, Rockefeller had requested the torture tapes in the weeks before they got destroyed.

So I can imagine how Hayden’s bullshit line about the cables being just as good as the torture tapes withheld from Rockefeller might launch an investigation.

Michael Hayden has only himself to blame for this report.

Dianne Feinstein Invokes Torture’s Covert Status on Declassification

Five years ago, I reported (BREAKING) that the Bush Administration (aka Dick Cheney) made the torture program a Special Access Program in unusual fashion. Rather than CIA Director George Tenet make torture a SAP, as mandated by the Executive Order governing such things, unnamed people in the National Security Council did so.

Panetta tells a funny story about how (but not when) the torture program became a special access program.

Section 6.1(kk) of the Executive Order defines a “special access program” as “a program established for a special class of classified information that imposes safeguarding and access requirements that exceed those normally required for information at the same classification level.” Section 4.5 of the Order specifies the U.S. Government officials who may create a special access program. This section further provides that for special access programs pertaining to intelligence activities (including special activities, but not including military operations, strategic, and tactical programs), or intelligence sources or methods, this function shall be exercised by the Director of the CIA.

[snip]

Officials at the National Security Council, (NSC) determined that in light of the extraordinary circumstances affecting the vital interests of the United States and the senstivity of the activities contemplated in the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program, it was essential to limit access to the information in the program. NSC officials established a special access program governing access to information relating to the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program. As the executive agent for implementing the terrorist detention and interrogation program, the CIA is responsible for limiting access to such information in accordance with the NSC’s direction. [my emphasis]

See the funny bit? The first paragraph says the Director of the CIA “shall” “exercise” the function of creating special access programs pertaining to intelligence. But then the very next paragraph says “NSC officials established a special access program.” One paragraph says the Director of CIA has to do it, but the next paragraph admits someone else did it.

Since that time, I’ve asked experts in classification and they agree that something funky went down (note, too, that torture wasn’t a SAP at the very beginning).

I believe torture’s odd SAP status is one of the things that has implicated the Presidency, which the Obama Administration went to some lengths to cover up.

But it also should dictate the White House take the lead on declassification of the torture program.

Don’t take my word for it — take Dianne Feinstein’s word. In a letter to the White House, she invoked torture’s status as a “covert action program under the authority of the President and National Security Council” to call for the White House to lead declassification.

In a letter to the President dated April 7 and obtained by McClatchy, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for swift action on the summary and the findings and conclusions of the report, which members voted last week to declassify. The summary, Feinstein said, should be released “quickly and with minimal redactions.”

“As this report covers a covert action program under the authority of the President and National Security Council, I respectfully request that the White House take the lead in the declassification process,” the letter reads.

Note, Dianne Feinstein has just formally confirmed the same detail the Obama Administration appealed to keep secret: torture was authorized by the President, not by OLC, not by George Tenet, not by John Rizzo. The President.

Which is why the President should take responsibility for releasing the report.

 

In Defending Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden Reminds that Michael Hayden Lied to Congress

Like Harry Reid and Mark Udall, Ron Wyden has defended Dianne Feinstein against Michael Hayden’s suggestion that she’s too “emotional” to investigate torture.

But unlike Reid and Udall — who attack Hayden for being a sexist pig (though not in that language) — Wyden attacks Hayden for being a liar.

General Hayden’s suggestion that Chairman Feinstein was motivated by ‘emotion’ rather than a focus on the facts is simply outrageous. Over the past five years I watched Chairman Feinstein manage this investigation in an extremely thorough and professional manner, and the result is an extraordinarily detailed report based on millions of pages of internal CIA records, including operational cables, internal memos, and interview transcripts.

General Hayden unfortunately has a long history of misleading the American public – he did it on domestic surveillance when he was the head of the NSA, and he did it on torture when he was the CIA Director. The best way to correct this culture of misinformation is to give the American people a chance to review the facts for themselves, and I’ll be working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that happens quickly.

Mind you, Wyden focuses on Hayden’s lies to the American people.

But it’s as good a time as any to recall the lies Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee on April 12, 2007, when he said the following:

While FBI and CIA continued unsuccessfully to try to glean information from Abu Zubaydah using established US Government interrogation techniques, all of those involved were mindful that the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks were still at large and, according to available intelligence reportedly, were actively working to attack the US Homeland again. CIA also knew from its intelligence holdings that Abu Zubaydah was withholding information that could help us track down al-Qa’ida leaders and prevent attacks. As a result, CIA began to develop its own interrogation program, keeping in mind at all times that any new interrogation techniques must comply with US law and US international obligations under the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

A handful of techniques were developed for potential use; these techniques are effective, safe, and do not violate applicable US laws or treaty obligations. In August 2002, CIA began using these few and lawful interrogation techniques in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. As stated by the President in his speech on 6 September 2006, “It became clear that he (Abu Zubaydah) had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures … the procedures were tough, and thy were safe, and lawful, and necessary.”

Prior to using any new technique on Abu Zubaydah, CIA sought and obtained from the Department of Justice an opinion confirming that none of these new techniques violated US statutes prohibiting torture or US obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

As CIA’s efforts to implement these authorities got underway in 2002, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the Speaker and the minority leader of the House, and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees were fully briefed on the interrogation procedures.

After the use of these techniques, Abu Zubaydah became one of our most important sources of intelligence on al-Qa’ida. [my emphasis]

The lies here include:

  • FBI was successful at getting intelligence from Abu Zubaydah
  • CIA never considered the Convention against Torture until after the CIA IG Report in 2004
  • CIA knew Abu Zubaydah had lied under torture in the past
  • CIA did not receive DOJ authorization before starting the torture, which started before August 1
  • CIA used techniques outside those approved by DOJ
  • Only the Gang of Four got briefed on Abu Zubaydah’s torture, and even then they were not fully briefed until February 2003

It is highly likely that Hayden knew that most of these were lies, but for most I can’t prove that. I also doubt Zubaydah had information on the whereabouts of al Qaeda’s leadership.

But as I showed in this post, I can prove that he did know only the Gang of Four got briefed on torture.

That’s because the day before Hayden testified at the SSCI hearing, in a memo addressed to him entitled “Information for 12 April SSCI Hearing,” CIA laid out all the briefings they had done on torture and rendition. And CIA’s own records–records Hayden received the day before he made these statements in preparation for the hearing–show that:

  • Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader from the time the torture began until the end of 2002, and Minority Leader until the end of 2004, was never briefed on the torture program.
  • Trent Lott, Senate Minority Leader until the end of 2003, was never briefed on the torture program while in leadership (though as a member of SSCI, he was briefed on the torture program on March 15, 2006).
  • Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House through the end of 2006, was not briefed on any aspect of the program until July 1, 2005.
  • Dick Gephardt, House Minority Leader through the end of 2003 (and therefore, through the worst torture) was never briefed on the program.
  • Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader from 2005 until 2007 and Senate Majority Leader thereafter, was not briefed until September 6, 2006, when Bush made the program public.
  • Though Nancy Pelosi had an (incomplete) briefing as House Intelligence Ranking Member in 2002, she did not have a briefing as House Minority Leader.
  • Just Bill Frist, who was first briefed in July 2004, seven months after he took over as Senate Majority Leader, was briefed in timely fashion at all.

The Intelligence Committee heads were briefed, however inadequately. But with the exception of Bill Frist, the CIA barely briefed Congressional Leadership at all.

I had forgotten how blatantly Hayden lied, in what would have been one of the earliest briefings for the full Committee after they first got read into the program.

But it’s clear he did lie. And he lied about information he had just been informed was a lie.

No wonder Hayden seems so desperate to defend his own manhood at this time.

He’s about to be exposed.

Update: While we’re talking about Michael Hayden lies, here’s my new favorite NSA lie, when he had Paul Wolfowitz tell Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that NSA wasn’t collecting content-as-metadata in the Internet dragnet program when they actually were.

The Court had specifically directed the government to explain whether this unauthorized collection involved the acquisition of information other than the approved Categories [redacted] Order at 7. In response, the Deputy Secretary of Defense [Paul Wolfowitz] stated that the “Director of NSA [Michael Hayden] has informed me that at no time did NSA collect any category of information … other than the [redacted] categories of meta data” approved in the [redacted] Opinion, but also note that NSA’s Inspector General [Joel Brenner] had not completed his assessment of this issue. [redacted] Decl. at 21.13 As discussed below, this assurance turned out to be untrue.

13 At a hearing on [redacted] Judge Kollar-Kotelly referred to this portion of the Deputy Secretary’s declaration and asked: “Can we conclude that there wasn’t content here?” [redacted] of NSA, replied, “There is not the physical possibility of our having [redacted] [my emphasis]

The Torture Apologists Raise Brennan’s Torture-Derived Scary Memos

Some time in mid-2004, 8 high ranking National Security officials gave then presiding FISA Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly a briefing. Their goal was to convince her the then halted and now-discontinued Internet dragnet program was so important, and the terrorist threat against the US so great, she should write a shoddy legal opinion authorizing NSA to restart the program under the authority of the FISA Pen Register statute.

As part of the briefing, they replicated a process they had used for Bush’s illegal wiretap program: to have CIA’s analytical people write what they called a “scary memo” explaining why al Qaeda was so dangerous we had to continue that dragnet.

After the terrorism analysts completed their portion of the memoranda, the DCI Chief of Staff added a paragraph at the end of the memoranda stating that the individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism (and discussed in the memoranda) possessed the capability and intention to’ undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States. The DCI Chief of Staff recalled that the paragraph was provided to him initially by a senior White House official. The paragraph included the DCI’s recommendation to the President that he authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance activities under the PSP. CIA Office of General Counsel (OGC) attorneys reviewed the draft threat assessment memoranda to determine whether they contained sufficient threat information and a compelling case for reauthorization of the PSP. [my emphasis]

As head of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (and later as head of the nascent National Counterterrorism Center), John Brennan oversaw that “scary memo.”

Last year, John Brennan admitted that he used information derived from the torture program (he calls it the detention and interrogation  program) for those “scary memos.”

Burr: I’m still not clear on whether you think the information from CIA interrogations saved lives.  Have you ever made a representation to a court, including the FISA court, about the type and importance of information learned from detainees including detainees in the CIA detention and interrogation program?

Brennan: Ahm, first of all, in the first part of your question, as to you’re not sure whether I believe that there has been information … I don’t know myself.

Burr: I said I wasn’t clear whether I understood, whether whether I was clear.

Brennan: And I’m not clear at this time either because I read a report that calls into question a lot of the information that I was provided earlier on, my impressions. Um. There, when I was in the government as the head of the national counterterrorism center I know that I had signed out a number of um affirmations related to the uh continuation of certain programs uh based on the analysis and intelligence that was available to analysts. I don’t know exactly what it was at the time, but we can take a look at that.

Burr: But the committee can assume that you had faith if you made that claim to a court or including the FISA court, you had faith in the documents in the information that was supplied to you to make that declaration.

Brennan: Absolutely. At the time if I had made any such affirmation, i would have had faith that the information I was provided was an accurate representation. [my emphasis]

We can imagine the kind of things Brennan might have used in his “scary memos” and that briefing to Kollar-Kotelly, on which the entire FISC-authorized dragnet .

Hassan Ghul — whom CIA tortured even after he provided critical information about Osama bin Laden’s courier — was already in custody, and given uncertainty about when his torture started, may have provided such information.

Continue reading

The Neverending CIA Drone Story Actually about Outsourced Intelligence

On March 20, 2013, I wrote one of several stories calling bullshit on reports that CIA would get out of the drone business. Not only did John Brennan’s actions up to that point (as opposed to what had been leaked to journalists anonymously) make it clear he intended for CIA to keep that portfolio. But his confirmation testimony made it clear he intended to retain and use CIA’s paramilitary — as distinct from traditional military — capabilities (and no, I’m not sure where the line between the two lies).

Today, the NYT has another of those stories reporting that — shock!! — I was right after all. It has a new twist though. It selectively quotes from Brennan’s confirmation materials to suggest he testified he would get CIA out of paramilitary operations.

During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Brennan obliquely criticized the performance of American spy agencies in providing intelligence and analysis of the Arab revolutions that began in 2009, and said the C.I.A. needed to cede some of its paramilitary role to the Pentagon.

“The C.I.A. should not be doing traditional military activities and operations,” he said.

This is what the quote actually looked like in context.

MIKULSKI: So, let me get to my questions. I have been concerned for some time that there is a changing nature of the CIA, and that instead of it being America’s top spy agency, top human spy agency to make sure that we have no strategic surprises, that it has become more and more executing paramilitary operations.

And I discussed this with you in our conversation. How do you see this? I see this as mission-creep. I see this as overriding the original mission of the CIA, for which you’re so well versed, and more a function of the Special Operations Command. Could you share with me how you see the CIA and what you think about this militarization of the CIA that’s going on?

BRENNAN: Senator, the principal mission of the agency is to collect intelligence, uncover those secrets, as you say, to prevent those strategic surprises and to be the best analytic component within the U.S. government, to do the allsource analysis that CIA has done so well for many, many years. At times, the president asks and directs the CIA to do covert action. That covert action can take any number of forms, to include paramilitary.

[snip]

And the CIA should not be doing traditional military activities and operations. [my emphasis]

That is, Brennan was not suggesting CIA should get out of paramilitary ops. On the contrary, he said CIA should retain that ability but not do traditional military activities.

His responses to questions for the record were even more clear.

What role do you see for the CIA in paramilitary-style intelligence activities or covert action?

The CIA, a successor to the Office of Strategic Services, has a long history of carrying out paramilitary-style intelligence activities and must continue to be able to provide the President with this option should he want to employ it to accomplish critical national security objectives.

How do you distinguish between the appropriate roles of the CIA and elements of the Department of Defense in paramilitary-style covert action?

As stated in my response to Question 6 above, the CIA and DOD must be ready to carry out missions at the direction of the President. The President must be able to select which element is best suited. Factors that should be considered include the capabilities sought, the experience and skills needed, the material required, and whether the activity must be conducted covertly.

The NYT quotes one more Brennan claim with much more fidelity, however, and in a way that is far more illuminating to the story it tells.

“Despite rampant rumors that the C.I.A. is getting out of the counterterrorism business, nothing could be further from the truth,” the C.I.A. director said during a speech last month at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The agency’s covert action authorities and relationships with foreign spy services, Mr. Brennan said, “will keep the C.I.A. on the front lines of our counterterrorism efforts for many years to come.”

Those lines come from this speech, which was most closely watched as Brennan’s rebuttal to Dianne Feinstein on the torture report, but which in fact declared the war on terror would continue along the same lines as it had since 9/11.

And despite rampant rumors that the CIA is getting out of the counterterrorism business, nothing could be further from the truth. CIA’s global mission, our intelligence collection, analysis, and covert action authorities and capabilities, as well as our extensive liaison relationships with intelligence and security services worldwide, will keep CIA on the frontlines of our counterterrorism efforts for many years to come.

Which is interesting, because the items reported in NYT’s story all say more about the US remaining hostage to the way we outsourced certain intelligence activities after 9/11 than anything else.

As a reminder, the Gloves Come Off Memorandum crafted by Cofer Black and signed on September 17, 2001 included a number of different activities. In addition to capturing and detaining top al Qaeda leaders (which became the torture program) and killing top al Qaeda figures using Predator drones (which remains in CIA hands), it authorized heavily subsidizing (“buying” was the word Bob Woodward used) Arab liaison services, originally including Jordan and Egypt but presumably adding Saudi Arabia once we got over the fact that the Saudis had ties to the attack. In a 2006 interview, John Brennan echoed and endorsed Cofer Black’s plan when discussing the war on terror.

With that in mind, consider the real scope of the details described in the NYT story:

  • After another catastrophically badly targeted strike — this time on a wedding — Yemen has banned JSOC’s drones but continues to permit CIA to fly them; CIA’s flights operate out of Saudi territory, presumably with significant Saudi involvement
  • Pakistan continues to permit only drone strikes run by CIA
  • Jordan required that CIA be in charge of training Syrian rebels and other fighters there
  • CIA missed the Arab Spring because it relied so heavily on Egypt’s Omar Suleiman, to whom we had outsourced our earliest torture

That is, the NYT is really reporting that, in spite of nominal efforts to change things, we remain captive to those relationships with liaison services, almost 13 years after 9/11. And that happens to also translate into operating drone strikes in such a way that two countries which were implicated in the 9/11 attacks — Pakistan and especially Saudi Arabia — have managed to stay relevant and above criticism by sustaining (perhaps artificially) our dependence on them.

And, almost certainly, the President’s implicit role in all these actions gives the CIA the institutional clout to make sure it retains whatever parts of this portfolio it cares to.

This, at least, should be the story.

In all of these countries, it’s not clear whether our reliance on these long-term partners helps or exacerbates the war on terror. But no one should maintain any illusions that it will change.

Thanks to Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall for Seeing Torture Report Through

The Senate Intelligence Committee just voted 11-3 to release the torture report, with 3 ardent GOP critics voting to release the report.

McClatchy (as it has had throughout recent debates over this) has good coverage, including two new details:

  • CIA illegally detained 26 of 119 detainees (this may refer to CIA’s practice of ghosting detainees, and removing some illegally from Iraq, as well as the mistaken detention of people like Khalid el-Masri).
  • “The news media were manipulated with leaks that tended to blunt criticism of the agency.” (We knew that, but glad to see SSCI agrees).

A lot of people on the Senate Intelligence Committee deserve credit for making this happen. It started, after all, under Jay Rockefeller’s tenure.

But Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall deserve particular attention. Feinstein persisted in this through a lot of opposition from Republicans on the committee. And she oversaw a great deal of work to get it done.

Her statement read, in part,

The report also points to major problems with CIA’s management of this program and its interactions with the White House, other parts of the executive branch and Congress. This is also deeply troubling and shows why oversight of intelligence agencies in a democratic nation is so important.

The release of this summary and conclusions in the near future shows that this nation admits its errors, as painful as they may be, and seeks to learn from them. It is now abundantly clear that, in an effort to prevent further terrorist attacks after 9/11 and bring those responsible to justice, the CIA made serious mistakes that haunt us to this day. We are acknowledging those mistakes, and we have a continuing responsibility to make sure nothing like this ever occurs again.

While I’m not satisfied simply with admitting error — democracy can’t work when rule of law doesn’t — she’s right that the intel agencies need adequate oversight.

Mark Udall, in the last year, has also made the report a particular focus, particularly with his relentless pressure on the White House, even in a tough reelection year. He repeated that pressure in his statement on the release.

“Following today’s historic vote, the president faces what I believe should be a straightforward question. He can defer declassification decisions to the CIA — which has demonstrated an inability to face the truth about this program — or pass this authority to the Director of National Intelligence or hold on to the redaction pen himself,” Udall added. “The president needs to understand that the CIA’s clear conflict of interest here requires that the White House step in and manage this process.”

Let’s hope Feinstein, Udall, and others persist in their efforts to fight back on what is sure to be CIA criticism of the report.

Update: As I noted earlier, Richard Burr was a yes vote, along with Saxby Chambliss and one other Republican in addition to Collins. Tom Coburn voted “present.”

How the Torture Report Declassification Is Likely to Work

Aspiring Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr has announced he will vote to declassify the Torture Report.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., also said he planned to vote to declassify.

[snip]

Burr added: “We’ve already expressed our opposition to the content.”

Declassifying, he said, is “the only way that we get minority views out there,” because the Republicans plan to offer their views on the report.

This gives a pretty strong indication of where this Torture Report debate will go — and why CIA got so quiet all of a sudden, aside from former CIA lawyer John Rizzo’s tireless propaganda efforts.

The Committee would have published dissenting views in any case, but Republican Susan Collins specifically included them in her support for the report.

What we’re going to get will be the Executive Summary, Findings, and Additional and Dissenting Views. Because we’ll get just the Executive Summary, we won’t get much hard detail — aside from that which has been public for years — about the allegations that will appear in the Executive Summary, which will make it harder to rebut any claims CIA’s defenders make.

Moreover, I would not be in the least surprised if the same rule that applies to CIA Publication Review Board decisions — that the writings of torture critics like Ali Soufan and Glenn Carle are aggressively censored, while the views of torture boosters like Rizzo and Jose Rodriguez will be permissively published — applied here. The CIA has — as McClatchy emphasizes — already assumed they’ll do the declassification review. And in spite of calls for the White House to take the lead, I expect they won’t. After all, the White House has relied on CIA to hide the Executive Privilege-lite documents (which I suspect would show that CIA only lied to some people at the White House, but not to people like David Addington). So CIA is owed something by the White House.

That mutual embrace of incrimination will provide the CIA a great deal of protection.

Remember, too, that torture critics have gotten recent warnings not to speak publicly, even while Rodriguez and Rizzo blather away.

And all this — what will surely be calls that Democrats have unfairly tainted noble Jose Rodriguez’ reputation — will play out against electoral politics, as Republicans try to take out Mark Udall for his opposition to torture.

Thus far, too, the torture boosters have laid the groundwork to win this debate. Even ignoring Rizzo and Rodriguez’ books, they’ve been working the press with details, as compared to the vague releases that the Torture Report will find CIA lied.

Which is my pessimistic way of saying that unless torture critics get a lot more serious about the propaganda onslaught the Republicans plan to launch to defend torture, this Torture Report release may not do all that much good at all. Torture critics largely lost this debate in 2009, and they’ll actually have less new information with which to fight this if CIA gets its way on declassification.

CIA’s Own Records of CIA’s Lies to Congress

Monday, WaPo made big news for reporting what Ron Wyden made clear 14 months ago: a key conclusion of the Senate Torture report is that CIA lied to Congress (and DOJ and the White House).

But much of this has been clear for even longer, having been exposed in some form in 2009-10.

Yet much of that got lost in CIA’s aggressive attack on Congress — one that anticipated what we’ve seen and will surely continue to see with the release of the Torture Report.  At the time, CIA attempted to claim Congress had been fully briefed on torture, and therefore shouldn’t criticize the agency. Yet it gradually became clear how laughable CIA’s claims were. Along the way details of the lies CIA told in briefings came out.

The lies CIA told Congress in its first several years of the torture program include that it,

  • Refused, at first, to reveal that the CIA relied on the September 17, 2001 Finding and therefore hid that the President had personally authorized the torture.
  • Briefed on torture techniques that had happened months in the past, but claimed they had never yet been used.
  • Falsely claimed CIA had not tortured before the August 1 memos purportedly authorizing it.
  • Claimed Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were not yet compliant as late as February 2003, even though they had been found compliant, after which CIA continued to use torture anyway.
  • Claimed the torture tapes were a perfect match with what had been recorded in the torture log when a CIA OGC lawyer reviewed them in December 2002.
  • Did not disclose the tapes had already been altered by the time CIA OGC reviewed them.
  • Claimed the torture tapes had shown the torturers followed DOJ’s guidance when in fact they showed the torturers exceeded DOJ guidance.
  • Misled regarding whether the detainees who had been killed had been tortured.
  • Oversold the value of information provided by Abu Zubaydah.
  • Lied about importance of torture in getting Abu Zubaydah to talk.

There are a number of claims CIA made that are almost certainly also false — most notably with regards to what intelligence came from torture — but most of that didn’t get recorded in the CIA’s records. I fully expect we’ll find details of those in the Senate Intelligence Committee report.

September 17, 2001: Bush signs “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification that authorizes capture and detention of top al Qaeda leaders, but leaves CIA to decide the details of that detention

Before I focus on the briefings, some background is in order.

Torture started as a covert operation authorized by the September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification. Under the National Security Act, the Intelligence Committees had to be briefed on that Finding and they were. However, the Finding was structured such that it laid out general ideas — in this case, the capture and detention of senior al Qaeda figures — and left the implementation up to CIA. As a result, key members of Congress (notably, Jane Harman, who was Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee for much of the period during which the program operated) apparently had no idea that the Finding they had been briefed on in timely fashion actually served as the Presidential authorization for torture until years later. Also, since that September 17, 2001 Finding authorized both torture and the outsourcing of nasty jobs to foreign intelligence partners, the earliest torture, such as that of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi in Egyptian custody starting in February 2002 and Binyam Mohamed in Pakistani custody starting in April 2002, should be considered part of the same covert op.

April to July 2002: CIA tortures Abu Zubaydah based solely on Presidential authorization

By now there is no dispute: the CIA started torturing Abu Zubaydah well before the August 1, 2002 memo that purportedly prospectively authorized that treatment. CIA even exceeded early verbal guidance on things like sleep deprivation, after which CIA unilaterally authorized what CIA had done retrospectively. The CIA appears to have gotten in real trouble when they moved to conduct mock burial with Abu Zubaydah, to which Ali Soufan objected; his objections appear to be the reason why mock burial (and by extension, mock execution) was the only technique John Yoo ultimately rejected. On July 13, after Michael Chertoff refused to give advance declination of prosecution to CIA for things they were ostensibly talking about prospectively but which had in fact already occurred, Yoo wrote a short memo, almost certainly coached by David Addington but not overseen by Yoo’s boss Jay Bybee, that actually served as the authorization CIA’s CTC would rely on for Abu Zubaydah’s torture, not the August 1 memos everyone talks about. As a result, CIA could point to a document that did not include limits on specific techniques and the precise implementation of those techniques as their authorization to torture.

CIA had, in internal documents, once claimed to have briefed the Gang of Four (then Porter Goss, Nancy Pelosi, Richard Shelby, and Bob Graham) in April 2002. But after being challenged, they agreed they did not conduct those briefings. This, then, created a problem, as CIA had not really briefed Congress — not even the Gang of Four — about this “covert op.”

Septmber 4, 2002: CIA provides initial trial balloon briefing to Pelosi and Goss, then starts destroying evidence

On September 4, 2002, 7 months after Egypt started torturing Ibn Sheikh al-Libi at America’s behest, almost 5 months after CIA started torturing Abu Zubaydah, and over a month after the OLC memo that purportedly started a month of torture for Abu Zubaydah, Jose Rodriguez, a CTC lawyer, and Office of Congressional Affairs head Stan Moskowitz first briefed Congress on torture techniques.

The record supports a claim that CIA provided some kind of description of torture to Nancy Pelosi and Porter Goss. It supports a claim that neither objected to the techniques briefed. Both Pelosi and Goss refer to this briefing, however, as a prospective briefing. Goss referred to the torture techniques as “techniques [that] were to actually be employed,” not that had already been employed, and when asked he did not claim they had been briefed on techniques that had been used. Pelosi claimed,

I was informed then that Department of Justice opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was legal. The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed.

Those conducting the briefing promised to inform the appropriate Members of Congress if that technique were to be used in the future.

Thus, at least as far as Goss and Pelosi are concerned, over a month after they first waterboarded Abu Zubaydah (and many more after Egypt had waterboarded al-Libi for us), CIA implied they had not yet done so with any detainee.

As striking as the evidence that CIA only briefed prospectively on torture that had been used for as many as 7 months, however, is what happened next. CIA moved to destroy evidence.

The day after that initial briefing in which CIA told Congress it might torture in the future, it “determined that the best alternative to eliminate those security and additional risks is to destroy these tapes.” Then, the following day, CTC altered its own notes on the substance of the briefing, taking out a sentence (it’s not clear what that sentence said). CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs never finalized a description for this, and at one time even listed Jane Harman as the attendee rather than Pelosi. In fact, in a list of the briefings on torture compiled in July 2004, it did not treat this briefing as one covering torture at all.

In addition, for some reason a briefing for Bob Graham and Richard Shelby  initially scheduled for September 9 got rescheduled for the end of the month, September 27. According to available records, Jose Rodriguez did not attend. According to Bob Graham’s notoriously meticulous notes, the briefing was not conducted in a SCIF, but instead in Hart Office Building, meaning highly classified information could not have been discussed. Graham says it chiefly described the intelligence the CIA claimed to have gotten from their interrogation program. Graham insists waterboarding did not come up, but Shelby, working off memory, disputes that claim.

February 4 and 5, 2002: CIA gets Republican approval to destroy the torture tapes, kills SSCI’s nascent investigation, and refuses to explain torture’s Presidential authorization

By November 2002, Bob Graham had started to hear vague rumors about the torture program. He did not, he says, receive notice that CIA froze Gul Rahman to death after dousing him with water or even hear about it specifically. But because of those rumors, Graham moved to exercise more oversight over the torture program, asking to have another staffer read into the program, and asking that a staffer see a Black Site and observe interrogation. That effort was thwarted in the first full briefing CIA gave Congress on torture on February 4, 2002, when CIA told Pat Roberts (who had assumed Senate Intelligence Chair; newly Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller was not present at this briefing, though a staffer was) they would not meet Graham’s requests. CIA claims — but Roberts disputes — that he said he could think of “ten reasons right off why it is a terrible idea” to exercise such oversight.

In addition to getting Roberts to quash that nascent assessment, CIA gave Roberts the following false information:

  • CIA described Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri “as founts of useful information” about “on-going terrorist operations, information that might well have saved American lives.” While Abu Zubaydah provided some useful information, the “ongoing operations” were often invented. Moreover, of all the information Abu Zubaydah gave up under torture, just 10 bits of it were deemed important enough to appear in the 9/11 Report.
  • CIA told Roberts about the “difficulty of getting that information from [Nashiri and Zubaydah], and the importance of enhanced techniques in getting that information.” Public records show CIA repeatedly attributed to Abu Zubaydah either things FBI had elicited without torture or things CIA learned via other means.
  • CIA claimed Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were not yet compliant. “[T]hey have not, even under enhanced techniques, revealed everything they know of importance.” Subsequent reports made clear that in both cases, they were fully compliant but people within CIA demanded more torture believing they were withholding information.
  • To get Roberts to buy off on the destruction of the torture tapes, CIA told Roberts “the match” between what appeared in the torture tapes and what got recorded in CIA logs “was perfect” and that the CIA OGC lawyer who had reviewed the tapes “was satisfied that the interrogations were carried out in full accordance with the guidance.” While it is in fact true that CIA OGC claimed the tapes were an exact match, in fact the tapes had already been significantly altered (and the taping system had been shut down for some torture sessions), and the tapes showed that the torturers had not followed DOJ’s guidelines on torture. CIA also appears to have neglected to tell Roberts that 2 of the tapes showed interrogations involved Nashiri.

The Memorandum of Understanding of this briefing appears to be one of only two that got finalized (it actually included a reference that Goss and Harman had been briefed on the torture tape, but not that Harman warned against destroying it).

The February 5, 2003 briefing involving Porter Goss and Jane Harman is just as interesting, though CIA has refused to release their notes from it.

Five days after the briefing, Harman wrote a letter questioning whether torture had been reviewed from a policy perspective and advising against destroying Abu Zubaydah’s torture tape. In addition, she asked if the President had signed off, revealing that she didn’t know that the Finding she had been briefed on included torture. The CIA and the White House met to decide how to respond. In the end, CIA General Counsel Scott Muller’s response didn’t really answer any of Harman’s questions, nor note her warning against destroying the torture tape.

Also note: in the month before these briefings, the CIA prepared what appears to be a tear-line document on Abu Zubaydah. While it’s not certain the document was prepared to brief the Gang of Four, it matches what we know to have been said to Roberts, especially as regards to the torture tapes. But it also reveals real discrepancies between the tear-line (Secret) claims and the Top Secret claims it was based on, notably inflating the value of Abu Zubaydah’s intelligence below the tear-line.

September 4, 2003: An innocuous briefing left off some of the tracking

We don’t really know what happened in the September 4, 2003 briefings of both Goss and Harman and Roberts and Rockfeller, which is a shame because it would have covered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s treatment (and that of Ammar al-Baluchi, whom we now know may have been treated even worse than his uncle). In fact, it was left off lists of “sensitive” briefings at different times.

July 2004: CIA has to tell Congress even CIA(‘s IG) thinks they lied

On May 7, 2004, CIA’s IG John Helgerson completed his report finding that the torture had exceeded guidelines and questioning the value of the intelligence obtained using it. On June 23, the Roberts and Rockefeller got copies (it’s not clear whether Goss and Harman got advance copies). On July 13, 2004, CIA briefed Goss and Harman again.

The briefing did include some details from CIA IG John Helgerson’s report on the program — that it violated the Convention Against Torture and did not comply with the OLC memos. He also explained that both Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s waterboarding was problematic, the first in execution and the second in number.

As part of that briefing (or by reading the IG Report), Harman learned that the Finding authorized this torture; in the briefing she pointed out the Finding had only authorized detention and capture, not interrogation.

But CIA persisted in a narrow dodge and two false claims:

  • CIA claimed that none of the at least 3 or 4 detainees who had died in CIA custody by that point were in the interrogation program; by that, it meant only that they weren’t part of the RDI program, but CIA did in fact torture them before they died.
  • CIA claimed we had not used any torture before the OLC memos, which is only true if you ignore that al-Libi and Mohamed’s torture was carried out by proxies.
  • CIA claimed it did not start torturing Abu Zubaydah until August 1; in reality, they had started torturing him earlier.

There are few details on the briefing CIA gave Roberts and Rockefeller on July 15.

These are just the details of the lies CIA itself has documented and released CIA telling Congress. There are other allegations of CIA lies in briefings, though those records were not released under FOIA. And things started getting really funky in 2005, as Dick Cheney started participating in CIA briefings to try to defeat the Detainee Treatment Act. In addition, CIA briefed Pete Hoekstra (who had become the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee) on the morning they destroyed the torture tapes; the content of that briefing has never been revealed.

None of this excuses Congress, of course: the knew enough to know this was problematic.

But it is clear that CIA lied to them both to boost the value of the torture they were doing and to diminish the problems and abuses.

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