Look Forward, and Promote the Torturers

There’s Matt, who froze Gul Rahman to death in the Salt Pit. Paul, his boss and the CIA Station Chief of Afghanistan, who ignored Matt’s requests for more help at the prison. There’s Albert, who staged a mock execution of Rahim al-Nashiri, and his boss, Ron, the Station Chief in Poland, who witnessed the forbidden technique and did nothing to stop it. There’s Frances, the analyst who was certain that Khaled el-Masri had to be the terrorist with a similar name, and Elizabeth, the lawyer who approved Frances’ decision to have el-Masri rendered and tortured. There’s Steve, the CIA guy who interrogated Manadel al-Jamadi and, some say, effectively crucified him. There’s Gerry Meyer, the Baghdad station chief, and his deputy, Gordon, who permitted the ghost detainee system in Iraq. And of course, there’s Jennifer Matthews, the Khost station chief who ignored warnings about Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi that might have prevented his attack (and her own death).

These are the CIA officers responsible for the Agency’s biggest known fuck-ups and crimes since 9/11.

The AP has a story tracking what happened to those officers. And it finds that few were held accountable, particularly not senior officers, and even those who were reprimanded have continued to prosper in the agency.

In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officers who committed serious mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead have received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all, an Associated Press investigation has revealed.


Though Obama has sought to put the CIA’s interrogation program behind him, the result of a decade of haphazard accountability is that many officers who made significant missteps are now the senior managers fighting the president’s spy wars.

The AP investigation of the CIA’s actions revealed a disciplinary system that takes years to make decisions, hands down reprimands inconsistently and is viewed inside the agency as prone to favoritism and manipulation. When people are disciplined, the punishment seems to roll downhill, sparing senior managers even when they were directly involved in operations that go awry.

Paul–the guy who let the inexperienced Matt freeze Gul Rahman to death–is now chief of the Near East Division.

Ron–who watched Albert stage a forbidden mock execution–now heads the Central European Division.

Albert–who staged the mock execution–was reprimanded, left the CIA, but returned to the CIA as a contractor involved in training officers.

Frances–who insisted Khaled el-Masri be rendered and tortured–was not disciplined and now heads the CIA’s “Global Jihad” unit.

Elizabeth–the lawyer who approved el-Masri’s rendition–was disciplined, but has since been promoted to the legal adviser to the Near East Division.

Steve was reprimanded–not for his interrogation of al-Janabi, but for not having him seen by a doctor. He retired and is back at CIA as a contractor.

Gordon–the Deputy at the Baghdad station at the time of the worst torture–was temporarily barred from working overseas and sent to training; he’s now in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Department of the Counterterrorism Center.

And, as the AP notes, several of these people are now among Obama’s key counter-terrorism advisors. (Of course, John Brennan, who oversaw targeting for Dick Cheney’s illegal wiretap program, is his top counter-terrorism advisor.)

No wonder Obama has no problem pushing our Egyptian torturer, Omar Suleiman, to lead Egypt. It’s completely consistent with our own practice of promoting our own torturers.

More Cheney Get Out of Jail Free Costs: Mitchell and Jessen’s $5 Million Indemnity Agreement

The AP has a story on Mitchell and Jessen’s torture defense. The lead of the story describes how CIA protected the torturers both by paying all of their defense costs–up to $5 million–as well as paying it directly out of CIA funds.

But there’s an interesting sub-narrative. The piece describes how, in addition to just waterboarding Rahim al-Nashiri twice (even Dick Cheney has implicitly admitted that waterboarding did not work), Mitchell and Jessen also successfully argued against waterboarding Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Mitchell and Jessen successfully argued against waterboarding admitted terrorist Ramzi Binalshibh (RAM’-zee bin-al-SHEEB’) in Poland, the official said.

And then when it came time to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, Mitchell and Jessen played a somewhat different role.

The role of Mitchell and Jessen in the interrogation of confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a bit murkier.

At least one other interrogator was involved in those sessions, with the company providing support, a former official said. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in Poland in 2003, according to documents and former intelligence officials.

Remember, too, that authority over the torture program within the CIA also shifted around this time, and that after al-Nashiri was deemed compliant originally, analysts came in and used the kind of death threat that even John Yoo said was torture. And of course, over the period, the CIA decided it was probably a good idea not to film their torture sessions.

All of which suggests there was some regret or recognition that the torture program wasn’t such a good idea.

Read more

Polish Prosecutor Looks Backward; US Prosecutor Lets Statute of Limitations Tick Away

ACLU reports that Rahim al-Nashiri’s lawyer’s request to include their client’s treatment at a black site in Poland in the country’s investigation has been successful.

The Polish prosecutor will investigate the detention and torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a black site in Poland after he was kidnapped and transported there by the CIA.


Al-Nashiri, who is accused in the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, was granted the status of “injured party” in Poland’s ongoing investigation into torture in response to a September 21 petition from his lawyers.

Jameel Jaffer uses this event to focus on how little our own country has done to hold its torturers accountable.

Today’s announcement that Poland will investigate the torture of Mr. al-Nashiri serves as a stark reminder of how little has been done in the U.S. to hold top officials accountable for torture. Holding torturers accountable is essential to restoring American credibility at home and abroad – the U.S. can no longer remain silent as, one by one, other nations begin to reckon with their own agents’ complicity in the torture program through prosecutions and judicial inquiries.

Of course, at the rate we’re going, there will be no accountability. The statute of limitations on the destruction of the torture tapes will expire in just 11 days. At that point, the CIA will have officially gotten away with destroying the evidence of their torture, including evidence pertaining to al-Nashiri himself.

More Torturers Coming Back to CIA as Contractors

Adam Goldman has another in his series of articles fleshing out the details of the torture that John Durham is investigating. Today’s story describes the former FBI-turned CIA guy, “Albert” threatened Rahim al-Nashiri with a drill–with the approval of Albert’s boss, “Mike.” (Though the AP story says this threat would be less than a felony assault, recall that John Yoo specifically forbade CIA to use death threats, so while it might not be assault it would–according even to John Yoo–constitute torture.)

I assume you’ll go read that in its entirety.

While you’re there, note this emerging pattern in Goldman’s reporting on torture: the return of torturers as CIA contractors. He reports that “Albert” left the CIA then returned to train CIA officers as a contractor.

After leaving the CIA, Albert returned at some point as a contractor, training CIA officers at a facility in northern Virginia to handle different scenarios they might face in the field, according to former officials. Albert hasn’t been involved in training CIA employees for at least two years, but a current U.S. official says he continues to work as an intelligence contractor.

A message left with Albert was not returned. It’s not clear when he left the agency and became an intelligence contractor.

Recall that, in a story from a few weeks ago, Goldman reported that Jose Rodriguez (who gave the order to destroy the torture tapes, among other things) regularly lurks around CIA and ODNI as the head of Edge Consulting.

Rodriguez, now an executive with contractor Edge Consulting, a job that regularly gives him access to the national intelligence director’s office and CIA headquarters, still hasn’t received an official retirement party.

Military Commissions Good Enough for Teen Acting in Self-Defense, But Not Alleged Cole Bomber

The WaPo reports that the Administration has shelved plans to try Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in military commissions.

The decision at least temporarily scuttles what was supposed to be the signature trial of a major al-Qaeda figure under a reformed system of military commissions. And it comes practically on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attack, which killed 17 sailors and wounded dozens when a boat packed with explosives ripped a hole in the side of the warship in the port of Aden.

In a filing this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that “no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future.”

The statement, tucked into a motion to dismiss a petition by Nashiri’s attorneys, suggests that the prospect of further military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has all but ground to a halt, much as the administration’s plan to try the accused plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in federal court has stalled.

Only two cases are moving forward at Guantanamo Bay, and both were sworn and referred for trial by the time Obama took office. In January 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates directed the Convening Authority for Military Commissions to stop referring cases for trial, an order that 20 months later has not been rescinded.

Which of course means that our government (though the article suggests this is a distinction between the Bush and Obama Administrations, since Gates–though he spans both Administrations–has not ordered the Convening Authority to start referring cases) has decided it’s okay to try Omar Khadr, who was 15 and arguably acting in self-defense for his alleged crime, in a military commission. But not to try al-Nashiri, at least allegedly a genuine terrorist.

To be fair, the WaPo suggests the Administration is holding off until it can have civilian trials for other High Value Detainees (presumably, still the 9/11 conspirators). So it may well be a supportable goal. But it all seems to add to the Kangaroo stench around the military commissions.

The Timing of the Ramzi bin al-Shibh Tapes

I wanted to point out two details of timing on the Ramzi bin al-Shibh tapes:

  • The tapes were made after CIA started getting worried about making interrogation tapes
  • The tapes were disclosed after the CIA started trying to figure out what happened to the Abu Zubaydah tapes

The tapes were made after CIA already started getting worried about making interrogation tapes

The AP says the tapes were made while al-Shibh was in Morocco for the first time–sometime between September 17, 2002 and March 7, 2003.

When FBI agents finally had a chance to interview Binalshibh, they found him lethargic but physically unharmed. He projected an attitude suggesting he was unconcerned he had been caught.

Before the FBI made any real headway, the CIA flew Binalshibh on Sept. 17, 2002, to Morocco on a Gulfstream jet, according to flight records and interviews.

Current and former officials said this was the period when Binalshibh was taped. His revelations remain classified but the recordings, the officials said, made no mention of the 9/11 plot. It’s unclear who made the tapes or how they got to the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters.

In March 2003, Binalshibh was moved to a Polish facility code-named Quartz soon after his mentor, Mohammed, was nabbed in Pakistan.

This would mean al-Shibh arrived in Morocco (and therefore the tapes were made) sometime after some people met at Langley and decided they should destroy the Zubaydah tapes.

On 05 September 2002, HQS elements discussed the disposition of the videotapes documenting interrogation sessions with ((Abu Zubaydah)) that are currently being stored at [redacted] with particular consideration to the matters described in Ref A Paras 2 and 3 and Ref B para 4. As reflected in Refs, the retention of these tapes, which is not/not required by law, represents a serious security risk for [redacted] officers recorded on them, and for all [redacted] officers present and participating in [redacted] operations.


Accordingly, the participants determined that the best alternative to eliminate those security and additional risks is to destroy these tapes [redacted]

The CIA appears to have already been manipulating briefing records, possibly to give the appearance of Congressional support for either the program or the destruction of the tapes.

Note, too, that there are only two video tapes (plus the “audio” tape I’ve raised questions about here). If the audio tape were, in fact, just an audio tape, that would leave two video tapes. Which is how many tapes existed of Rahim al-Nashiri’s interrogations, at least by the time they did the inventory. That’s presumably because al-Nashiri was taken into CIA custody after the point when–on October 25, 2002–HQ told the Thai black site to record over tapes every day.

It is now HQS policy that [redacted] record one day’s worth of sessions on one videotape for operational considerations, utilize the tape within that same day for purposes of review and note taking, and record the next day’s sessions on the same tape. Thus, in effect, the single tape in use [redacted] will contain only one day’s worth of interrogation sessions.

Now we know they kept two (or maybe three) tapes for al-Nashiri (presumably taking notes off one day’s tape while the other was being used to record new interrogations) because the tape inventory shows the following:

Detainee #2

[Tape] 91 [Redacted]tape and rewind #2

[Tape] 92 3 [Redacted] use and rewind #3 [redacted] final

While obviously we have no such inventory showing the al-Shibh tapes, it is possible that they were used in the same manner as the al-Nashiri tapes were–to collect just one day’s worth of interrogation to assist in transcription or note-taking. (And remember, ultimately there were transcriptions made of the al-Shibh tapes, though we don’t know when that happened). It’s possible then–though this is just a wildarsed guess–that the existence of just three tapes suggests they were started after HQ decided to tape over tapes (so after October 25), or that they first implemented the policy for al-Shibh sometime before October 25.

Also note the content of the last three–presumably chronologically–tapes of Abu Zubaydah. Tapes 89 and 90 are “use and rewind” #1 and #2. But the tape just before that–tape 88–has “no video but there is sound.” Thus, the last three tapes from Abu Zubaydah consist of two video tapes and one “audio” tape, just like the three tapes from al-Shibh.

If in fact the 2-3 al-Shibh tapes only include the last days of his interrogation on which taping was used, then the AP source’s claim that they simply show him sitting in a room being interrogated doesn’t mean that the tapes contained no forensic evidence of something else–more abusive interrogations that happened on earlier days. After all, the tapes would no longer “show” what had happened during earlier interrogation sessions.

One more note about this early period. One question the AP raises is when and how the tapes were moved from Morocco to Langley.

It’s worth remembering that the Zubaydah and al-Nashiri tapes were also moved at one point. In a cable from HQ to the field (we know this from Vaughn Indices that described this cable before it was released) written on December 3, 2002, just days after John McPherson reviewed the torture tapes and presumably discovered they had been tampered with, someone says:

It was a mistake to move [redacted] tapes [redacted] in light of Ref C guidance.

Notably, given that this refers to tapes being moved in the past tense on December 3, this may suggest the tapes were moved from the black site before it was finally closed. Mind you, the detail may be completely irrelevant to al-Shibh’s tapes, but they do suggest people in the field were moving tapes without clear approval from HQ.

The tapes were disclosed after the CIA started trying to figure out what happened to the Abu Zubaydah tapes

As I noted here, the story the AP’s sources told (that a person stumbled across a box under a desk with all three al-Shibh tapes in it) and the story DOJ told Leonie Brinkema (that they learned first of one tape, and then, after asking CIA to make sure there were no more) differ in key ways.

But that difference gets all the more interesting given indications that CIA was trying to figure out what had happened to the Zubaydah tapes in precisely the same time period. Read more

Abu Zubaydah’s American-Taxpayer Paid Tour of the World

You should read two pieces in conjunction this morning. First, this Andy Worthington piece from last week, that lays out new details on the black site CIA used in Poland in 2002-2003.

On Friday, the Polish Border Guard Office released a number of documents to the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which, for the first time, provide details of the number of prisoners transferred by the CIA to a secret prison in Poland between December 5, 2002, and September 22, 2003, and, in one case, the number of prisoners who were subsequently transferred to a secret CIA prison in Romania. The documents (available here and here) provide important information about the secret prison at Szymany, in northeastern Poland, and also add to what is known about the program in Romania, which has received far less scrutiny.


Friday’s revelations by the Polish Border Guard Office are, however, even more significant, firstly because they include, for the first time, confirmation that N63MU flew into Poland on December 5, 2002, and secondly, because they provide details of the number of passengers on seven of the flights, as follows:

December 5, 2002: 8 passengers delivered

February 8, 2003: 7 passengers delivered; 4 others flown to an unknown destination

March 7, 2003: 2 passengers delivered

March 25, 2003: 1 passenger delivered

May 6, 2003: 1 passenger delivered

July 30, 2003: 1 passenger delivered

September 22, 2003: 0 passengers delivered; 5 flown to Romania

Then, read this AP piece, which fleshes out details about the first time that Abu Zubaydah and three other detainees went to Gitmo.

Four of the nation’s most highly valued terrorist prisoners were secretly moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2003, years earlier than has been disclosed, then whisked back into overseas prisons before the Supreme Court could give them access to lawyers, The Associated Press has learned.


Before dawn on Sept. 24, 2003, a white, unmarked Boeing 737 landed at Guantanamo Bay. At least four al-Qaida operatives, some of the CIA’s biggest captures to date, were aboard: Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Nashiri, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

Together, the articles provide key new details of the global voyages that Abu Zubaydah and other key detainees took between CIA black sites. And the AP piece confirms something earlier revealed in the ICRC report completed in 2007 and released last year: that at least four of the High Value Detainees were in Gitmo in 2003-2004, until they were moved again precisely to hide them from the ICRC.

ICRC notes that four detainees believed that they had previously been held in Guantanamo, for periods ranging from one week to one year during 2003/4. They reported recognising this location upon return there in September 2006, as each had been allowed outdoors on a daily basis during their earlier time there. The ICRC has been assured by DoD that it was given full notification of and access to all persons held in Guantanamo during its regular detention visits. The ICRC is concerned, if the allegations are confirmed, it had in fact been denied access to these persons during the period in which they were detained there.

Now, the two pieces in conjunction answer key questions. As Worthington points out, we know from this that Abu Zubaydah and Rahim al-Nashiri (and, he adds, Ramzi bin al-Shibh) got moved from Thailand to Poland in December 5, 2002, as CIA was making their first efforts to close the Thai black site and destroy the torture tapes. And then the three of them, plus Mustafa al-Hawsawi, got moved to Gitmo the following September 24, 2003. Then, on March 27, 2004, they were taken away from Gitmo.

One implication of this, of course, is that the death threats used against al-Nashiri–reportedly investigated by John Durham (and, I have speculated, possibly one reason Philip Mudd retired in March) happened on Polish soil.

It also times interestingly with Jack Goldsmith’s tenure at OLC (October to July) and even more interestingly with the CIA IG Report (they got Zubaydah and Nashiri–against both of whom the IG Report described torture–out of Gitmo before Congress got a hold of the report).

But the two reports also lay out further area for inquiry. At least according to what detainees told the ICRC, at least one of the detainees who were in Gitmo in this early period were only there for a week. But that also suggests some of the four might not have known they were at Gitmo when they returned in 2006, perhaps because they didn’t have the same exercise privilege (and remember that detainees, at least as of a few months ago, still exercised only with those who they had been in black sites before, so they couldn’t compare notes). Does this mean others were moved to Gitmo’s “Strawberry Fields” after this first bunch?

Finally, note how CIA’s spokesperson, in his comment to the AP, wants this story to be about events that happened six years ago.

CIA spokesman George Little said: “The so-called black sites and enhanced interrogation methods, which were administered on the basis of guidance from the Department of Justice, are a thing of the past.”

Aside from the fact that Little said this while John Durham’s inquiry into the torture that exceeded the guidance of DOJ is ongoing, it also distracts attention from other inconvenient little facts: like the presumably ongoing existence of Camp No, and the weird qualification in Obama’s Gitmo closure orders limiting them only to those at Gitmo considered to be enemy combatants.

Still, kudos to Worthington and the AP for their work to tease out the global trajectories of these detainees.

Mudd Wrestling and Torture

Spencer’s got one of the big scoops of the day: that Philip Mudd left the FBI about six weeks ago (so early March).

Philip Mudd, one of the intelligence community’s leading al-Qaeda analysts, has quietly retired from the FBI, where he was associate executive director of the National Security Branch. Mudd confirmed in an email that he left “about six weeks ago,” but didn’t immediately respond to additional questions about his departure.

Mudd was a longtime CIA counterterrorism specialist before coming to the FBI, but it doesn’t appear as if he’ll return to his home agency. This could be it for Mudd’s government career.

Spencer describes Mudd as one of the smartest guys on al Qaeda in government (here’s Mark Hosenball’s report on this, repeating the superlatives). But, last year, when he was nominated to take over Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence side, he was forced to withdraw his nomination after Senate staffers questioned whether he had ties to the torture program.

The White House nominee to be the undersecretary of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn, he and the White House said in statements Friday. 

The withdrawal of the nomination of Philip Mudd, a veteran CIA analyst who had worked in recent years as a senior executive at the FBI, comes after an AP report yesterday. The report said that a Republican lawmaker planned to question Mudd over whether he had “direct knowledge” of the Bush-era harsh interrogation program while serving in a senior analytical role at the CIA.

The sinking of the nomination of someone who had served in an analytical capacity at the CIA, rather than in an operational or senior policy one, shows the broad scope of exposure to the controversial Bush-era harsh interrogation program for officials who did not obviously have a direct role in the program.

An aide to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told the AP that “Mudd’s analysts used information obtained through harsh interrogations, and the official said that Mudd is likely to be questioned on whether the analysis branch pressured interrogators in the field to use harsher methods because they believed detainees were not telling the truth.” Collins sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee that oversees the DHS. [my emphasis]

Now, I didn’t make the connection between these two events last year, but since I’ve been reading the questions CIA’s Inspector General was (probably) asking a manager at CTC in February 2003, I happen to have read this passage of the CIA IG Report just this morning.

Handgun and Power Drill
91. [Redacted] interrogation team members, whose purpose it was to interrogate al-Nashiri and debrief Abu Zubaydah, initially staffed [redacted]. The interrogation team continued EITs on Al-Nashiri for two weeks in December 2002 [redacted] they assessed him to be “compliant.” Subsequently, CTC officers at Headquarters [redacted] sent a [redacted] senior operations officer (the debriefer) [redacted] to debrief and assess Al-Nashiri.

92. The debriefer assessed Al-Nashiri as withholding information, at which point [redacted] reinstated [redacted] hooding, and handcuffing. Sometime between 28 December 2002 and 1 January 2003, the debriefer used an unloaded semi-automatic handgun as a prop to frighten Al-Nashiri into disclosing information.44 After discussing this plan with [redacted] the debriefer entered the cell where Al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al-Nashiri’s head.45 On what was probably the same day, the debriefer used a power drill to frighten Al-Nashiri. With [redacted] consent, the debriefer entered the detainee’s cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded. [my emphasis]

Of note, the torturers had deemed al-Nashiri compliant. But CTC decided he had more information and sent out an operations guy to further question him, which is what led to two death threats being used against al-Nashiri (the kind of threats John Yoo had specifically refused to approve around July 25, 2002).

Read more

The Interview Questions

I talked yesterday about one of the puzzling documents in last week’s FOIA dump. In this post, I wanted to try to figure out why the most puzzling document–the Interview Questions from PDF 106-108. The document has no date nor any office information–it’s just a 3-page list of questions marked Top Secret.

Given how little we have to go on, this is just a wildarsed guess. But I’m guessing the questions were used in CIA Inspector General’s review of the torture program while interviewing someone who, while at CTC, had had a supervisory role over the program. And I’m guessing John Durham withheld this document under the law enforcement privilege because he was using these questions to make better sense of the interview report, which presumably is one of the interview reports identified to have ties to the torture tapes, but which remains classified.

At first, I wasn’t sure this was a set of questions from the IG Report. But question 24, which asks about a specific EIT used with Rahim al-Nashiri at what must be a third black site, maps onto the IG Report’s description of the use of a gun and a drill to threaten al-Nashiri in what, too, must have been al-Nashiri’s second black site (because we know the Thai black site closed in December 2002). Significantly, it was a CTC debriefer who made these death threats against al-Nashiri.

In addition to the interview report of John McPherson (PDF 33-37) there are two or three IG interview reports associated with the torture tapes. The Vaughn Index of hard-copy documents shows an interview report dated February 19, 2003. The interrogation index shows interview reports from February 3 and February 10, 2003.  Assuming these are three different interviews, one of the interviews is probably the interview in question. Significantly, we know from a number of Vaughn Index entries that there was some discussion about how to arrange for the IG to review the tapes on February 7, 2003, so it’s possible that the interview in question preceded the IG’s efforts to go review the tapes.

In any case, the items of interest to John Durham’s investigation must be the CTC officer’s response to the following two or three questions.

8. What is the background related to the decision to videotape interrogations [redacted]?

9. What are your views regarding whether the tapes should be destroyed?

10. What was the rational [sic] for transferring responsibility from [redacted]?

I’m assuming the answers to those questions–in one of the actual interview reports–is considered too classified to be released in any form.

One more item on this point. Note the document at PDF 95-99, which is clearly someone within the IG office forwarding a trip report from the torture review to the person who originally wrote the trip report. Most of this clearly pertains to the review of the videotape. But the last two paragraphs or so refers to three interviews.

Finally, one more question all this raises. When did the IG decide to review the torture tapes? When did the IG review become the big delay on destroying the torture tapes? We know it happened before February 5, 2003, when Scott Muller briefed Jane Harman and Porter Goss, because she references the IG review in her letter objecting to their destruction. But the Abu Zubaydah document written some time in January doesn’t mention an IG review.

Did Addington Oppose 9/11 Commission Questions to Avoid Independent Evaluation of Torture Program?

Shortly after news broke that CIA destroyed the torture tapes, the 9/11 Commission issued a letter complaining that they had not been told of–much less been allowed to review–the torture tapes.

The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

They released a memo from Philip Zelikow describing how the Administration refused to allow the 9/11 Commission direct access to detainees in early 2004.

The full Commission considered this issue in a meeting on January 5, 2004 and decided the CIA responses were insufficient. It directed the staff to prepare a letter to administration officials that would make the dispute public. There were then discussions between Hamilton and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and several meetings of CIA lawyers with Commission staff. The Commission offered various compromises to avoid disrupting the interrogation process, including direction or observation of questioning in real-time using one-way glass, adjoining rooms, or similar techniques. In a January 15, 2004 memo to Gonzales, Muller, and Undersecretary of Defense Steve Cambone, Zelikow wrote, “We remain ready to work creatively with you on any option that can allow us to aid the intelligence community in cross-examining the conspriators on many critical details, clarify for us what the conspirators are actually saying, and allow us to evaluate the credibility of these replies.”

But these negotiations made little progress. Hamilton and commissioner Fred Fielding then met with Gonzales, Tenet, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Chris Wray from the Department of Justice. The administration offered to take sets of written followup questions, pose them to detainees, relay answers back to the Commission, and take further questions. In a January 26, 2004 meeting the Commission accepted this proposal as the best information it could obtain to address its longstanding questions.

Today’s document dump includes an interesting snapshot of the Administration response to the Commission request. (PDF 25-30)

It appears that David Addington took the lead on refusing the 9/11 Commission’s request. It appears Addington got the draft of the letter from 9/11 Commission–which was addressed to Rummy and George Tenet. Tenet and Addington clearly had a conversation about how to respond. But it seems that Addington drafted the response, got Condi, Andy Card, and Alberto Gonzales to review it, and then sent it to Tenet (and, presumably, Rummy) to okay and sign the letter.

In other words, OVP had the lead in refusing the 9/11 Commission’s request for more information from the detainees.

The document is also interesting for the underlining on the letter from the Commission. While it’s not clear who made the markings (though it seems likely to be Addington since that version of the letter clearly came from him), whoever made them appears to have reacted strongly against the Commission’s intention to independently evaluate the detainees and their interrogations. Read more