In Which Country Were the Tapes Stored?

The NYT’s article has one more detail of note–again, reporting something that is intuitive, but not something that had been confirmed before, AFAIK. The torture tapes were stored in the country–singular–where the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri took place.

Until their destruction, the tapes were stored in a safe in the C.I.A. station in the country where the interrogations took place, current and former officials said. According to one former senior intelligence official, the tapes were never sent back to C.I.A. headquarters, despite what the official described as concern about keeping such highly classified material overseas.

Which raises some really interesting questions. Abu Zubaydah has been widely reported to have been taken from Pakistan to Thailand to be interrogated. Yet al-Nashiri’s trajectory has been less clear. He was reported to have been detained in the United Arab Emirates but it has never been clear where he was taken after he was captured (though I’ve seen unreliable sources say al-Nashiri was taken to Jordan).

But according to the NYT, al-Nashiri was apparently interrogated in the same country as Abu Zubaydah. So, presumably, Thailand, unless Abu Zubaydah was moved.

Though there is a distinct possibility that Abu Zubaydah was moved. From James Risen’s State of War:

The CIA assigned a group of agency officials to try to find alternative prison sites in countries scattered around the world. They were studying, said one CIA source, "how to make people disappear."

There were a number of third world countries, with dubious human rights records, willing to play host. One African country offered the CIA the use of an island in the middle of a large lake, according to CIA sources, and other nations were equally accommodating. Eventually, several CIA prisons were secretly established, including at least two major ones, code-named Bright Lights and Salt Pit. A small group of officials within the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center was put in charge of supporting the prisons and managing the interrogations.


Bright Light is one of the prisons where top al Qaeda leaders–including Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the cenral planner of the September 11 attacks–have been held. Bright Light’s location is secret, and it has been used for only a handful of the most important al Qaeda detainees. (30)

This passage follows Risen’s reporting that Abu Zubaydah was moved to Thailand not long after his capture. Which suggests, as far as Risen knows, Bright Light may not be in Thailand. And therefore, the country where Abu Zubaydah and al-Nishiri were tortured (and where their torture tapes were stored for three years) may not be Thailand.

That’s not much to go on. But I find this news particularly interesting considering the news that,

… the CIA came into possession of the three recordings [revealed to Leonie Brinkema in October] under unique circumstances involving separate national security matters unrelated to the Moussaoui prosecution.

On September 13, 2007, an attorney for the CIA notified us of the discovery of a videotape of the interrogation of [redacted]

The whole discussion of the destroyed torture tapes appears to be connected to the discovery, three months ago, of these other torture tapes, which were not destroyed. So it might suggest that the "separate national security matters" might have something to do with the location at which the torture tapes had been stored.

82 replies
  1. FrankProbst says:

    Hold it. I keep forgetting that the tapes were destroyed outside the US, and also that the torture occurred outside the US. That means that there are legal issues with at least one foreign government. What if the torture wasn’t quite as legal in that country as we’ve been led to believe? What if those tapes, along with the inevitable uproar that they would have produced, would have led to the arrest of several of our people abroad if they became public? I used to think that the tapes were destroyed to protect people from OUR laws. What if they were destroyed to protect our people from some other country’s laws?

  2. bmaz says:

    So what would cause there to be security issues in the storage country? Leadership change? (Spain, Australia, France) Internal security anxiety? (Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey) Hostility of local investigations and invasive discovery such as subpoenas etc.? Something motivated or drove this whole scene; what was it?

  3. emptywheel says:

    Oh, and yes. I remember that, in a “separate national security matter … unrelated to the Moussaoui prosecution,” Israel bombed a site in Syria on September 6, just one week before the CIA discovered these missing tapes on September 13.

    Just saying.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Just sayin’… I could interpret that remark in any of several ways. So I’ll wait to see what phred and others think about what you are really sayin’ here.

      Meanwhile, random thoughts:
      A couple years ago, the Christian Science Monitor did a small article on the fact that tiny flash drives were missing from ?Bagram Airbase, which IIRC is in Afghanistan. They were being sold in the local marketplace. Who needs a laptop when you can wear a flash drive under your shirt and walk right out with it after cleaning toilets, eh? Less risk, plenty of data/info.

      I’ve stored digitial video files (small clips) on flash drives.
      I’ve also backed up tons of them to DVD and CD-Roms.

      Who knows what ‘data’ or ‘files’ could have been bartered or exchanged in some dusty market among chickens, or shoes, or… whatever.

      As for shoes dropping… Bush and Cheney seem to be growing additional feet by the hour; Jeezus, these guys are growing more feet than a centipede.

      • phred says:

        I hate to disappoint ROTL, but I think EW raises more questions than can be answered at the moment. The timing of the Israel/Syria strike is significant, as is the mischief in Pakistan (thinking of Scarecrow’s post this morning about the NYT article regarding the pressure Musharraf was under regarding the “disappeared” in Pakistan, that seems a likely spot to consider) but if Bright Lights isn’t Thailand (or Syria or Pakistan) we appear to be left with a lot of possible countries to choose from.

        That said, I’m not sure that I buy this business of “separate national security matters” being in regard to foreign countries in terms of the “found” tapes (as opposed to the destroyed tapes). I still think the found tapes have to do with the change in personnel at CIA, which one can certainly construe to be in reference to “separate national security matters” . I think Sulick knew about the tapes and didn’t want that legal liability falling on his head. I still think his return was contingent upon cleaning up this particular mess. But, that’s just my WAG, so I’ll be waiting to see what the rest of you think…

        I’m about to head out of town for the holidays and will be away from the tubes while I’m gone. I have to say after the past week or so, I really hate to be away, because I just know I’m going to miss some interesting stuff over the next few days : ) Happy holidays all!

          • phred says:

            Thanks bmaz, same to you and yours : ) As much as missing out on all the great discussions of current events here, it’s gonna kill me to miss the football trash talk thread next weekend… You’ll have to fill in for me ; ) Go Fish! Heh heh. And more importantly, GO PACK!

            Oh and BobSchacht @ 32, I quite agree with your point about any changes in air base command personnel abroad…

        • bobschacht says:

          “I still think the found tapes have to do with the change in personnel at CIA, which one can certainly construe to be in reference to “separate national security matters”.”

          I think you’re on the right trail with this one, and I would suggest that the same logic applies to military bases such as Bagram in Afghanistan, where there is regular turnover, even at the command level.

          Bob in HI

    • Rayne says:

      So was the EO issued in early August, declaring a national emergency, threatening those who would undermine the democracy of Lebanon, really a veiled threat to Syria to play ball about the records?

    • leveymg says:

      “A small group of officials within the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center was put in charge of supporting the prisons and managing the interrogations.”

      Now, that’s significant. In April or May 2002, when Abu Zubayda was tortured, Cofer Black was still CTC Director. Wasn’t he?

      The really significant thing about Cofer is that he was also in charge of CTC on 01/15/2000 when Nawaf al-Hazmi and Midhar al-Midhar, the Pentagon hijackers, entered the U.S. What’s so significant about that? The pair were entering the U.S. after attending the al-Qaeda planning summit in Kuala Lumur where 9/11 and the USS Cole attacks were planned January 5-8. Just so happens, al-Hazmi had earlier trained at Abu Zubayah’s camp in Afghanistan, along with five of the other 9/11 hijackers. See,…..911/423196

      The second al-Qaeda figure tortured at that time, Abd al-Nashiri, also had a role in recruiting and training the 9/11 attack cell. These two worked closely with another trainer, Sakkra, who now states that he was a double-agent working for U.S. and Syrian intelligence in organizing al-Hazmi and the others as part of the CIA’s secret war in Chechnya. See,…..799/420257

      Here’s the kicker. Cofer Black was CIA Chief of Station in Khartoum at the same time bin Laden made his base of operations there. Black admits the two had a confrontation shortly before they both left Sudan in 1996. bin Laden went to Afhanistan. Black was made commander of CIA CTC, where he maintained his focus on UBL.

      Bottom-line: Cofer Black was in immediate command of CTC at the time CIA let the Flt. 77 hijackers into the U.S. — and an intentional decision was then made at CTC not to alert the FBI when they came in — and Cofer Black was in immediate command of CTC when CIA tortured those who knew the details of the CIA’s role in training at least six of the 9/11 hijackers.

      Why torture these two and then “erase” the tapes? Begins to make sense now, doesn’t it?

      • LS says:

        Wow. I read way before 9/11 that Bushco or Carlyle had financially assisted a whole bunch of middle eastern citizens to be trained as pilots in the US sometime following the first Gulf War. I don’t know where I read it, but I did, and when 9/11 happened…I thought…hmmmmm. Ever hear something like that? It may be completely innocent.

      • emptywheel says:

        It makes more sense than some of the Posner allegations, which a number of seemingly credible reports seem to refute.

        Also note–there is some dispute, with very credible support from the FBI, that AZ was not tortured until August.

        • leveymg says:

          Hi, ew –

          Cofer Black was sworn in as State Dept. Coordinator for Counterterrorism, an Ambassadorial level position (with full diplomatic immunity), on December 3, 2002. AFASIK, he was still CIA-CTC Director until that date.

          So, if the interrogations took place in August, rather than April-May, he was still in charge.

          – leveymg

          • leveymg says:

            F/U to comment last night.

            Came across a report by Richard Sale mentioning a May 17, 2002 WAPO backpager that stated Black had been reassigned from CTC. That article references conflict with Tommy Franks over command blame for letting UBL escape from Tora Bora. See,

            I guess we’ll have to wait to find out when videotaped torture of Abu Zubydah and al-Nashiri actually started. My money’s still on Cofer.

  4. TeddySanFran says:

    Wasn’t there a blind quote from an anonymous intelligence source about a week ago saying that there was no reason to expect the electronic copies of the torture tapes transmitted to CIA headquarters were archived? How is that possible? Doesn’t everything get archived somewhere?

    • nolo says:

      teddy — i vaguely remember
      this, too — and i clearly recall
      there was some reporting that these
      tapes were digitized, and sent
      via secure lines, to the CIA here.

      thus, wherever the actual tapes
      were, the electronic archives re-
      side, somewhere here, on a back-up
      server, at langley. . .

      this really does look at
      least a little like “operation
      dinner out
      ” [or, real old skoolz:
      three days of the condor“. . .], no?

      could the other shoe actually
      be a digitized version — on youtube?!

      yesterday, i’d have said no; after
      a suspicious “fire” today — i’m not
      so sanquine. . . someone must have ‘em.

      and someone must be getting ready
      to let ‘em loose — else why not a
      denial outright from “missile pig” perino?

  5. Hugh says:

    Musings on this whole affair.

    My suggestion is to take a step back and ask how often the CIA destroys any data it collects. I don’t think this happens very often either.

    The only reason that people inside the CIA would want to destroy material would be if they had a highly specific reason to do so. It says a lot that there were discussions for 2 years about destroying some “training” tapes with some embarrassing information on them and that these discussions included Addington, Gonzales, Miers, and Bellinger at the White House, along with then DNI Negroponte, then head of the CIA Goss, and the CIA General Counsel Rizzo. Given this level of involvement of top players, does anyone seriously think that Dick Cheney didn’t know about this or even to some degree George Bush?

    Also I do not think this was principally about the court cases, at least not initially. Cables and transcripts of Zubaydah’s interrogation had been made available to the prosecutors in the Moussaoui trial. When copies of the tapes were “found” recently these same prosecutors reviewed them and opined that on the basis of their viewing of them they were not materially pertinent to the Moussaoui case.

    Finally, it is unlikely that Rodriguez came up with the idea of destroying the tapes on his own. It beggars belief that one day he said to himself, “Hey, I just remembered some training tapes that no one is talking about and opining that nobody destroy. Maybe as some of my spring cleaning in November, I should get rid of them along with that dead geranium in the window. But to be on the safe side first I’ll ask a couple of in house lawyers if it’s OK to get rid of a few old training tapes. Oh and I might as well ask about the geranium while I’m at it.”

    Rodriguez had to know that there were wider discussions about the tapes and that these involved his bosses. Given his own high position, he had to know that these were taking place at very high levels indeed. He had to know that it wasn’t the training nature of the tapes that was sparking this interest but that the tapes contained incontrovertible evidence of torture. Most importantly, he had to know because of involvement of major players that the destruction of the tapes was not his call.

    The whole Hermes and Eatinger episode is an exercise in misdirection. Rodriguez knew from the get go that just as it wasn’t his call to destroy the tapes it could in no way be theirs. What the Hermes and Eatinger represent is an attempt to provide a plausible (but in retrospect incredibly lame) legal rationale for the destruction. Rather than exculpatory, what this shows is that Rodriguez was aware of what he was doing and was developing a cover story for it (A cover story that would only be needed down the road if the subject came up again and his bosses wanted to know about the tapes were doing, by which time he Rodriguez would very likely be retired). As for Hermes and Eatinger, Rodriguez’s questions should have raised red flags. If the tapes were not important, why destroy them? Rodriguez would not be asking these questions if he did not want to destroy them so they were important. If they were important then it was not up to in house lawyers like themselves to offer legal advice about their destruction. I see this going down in one of two ways: Either Rodriguez told them he had a few old training tapes which he wanted to get rid of and did they have any problem with that or he posed the destruction of the tapes as a hypothetical to which they hypothetically responded.

    If you look at Rodriguez’s bio, it is pretty clear he was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. He did not come up with this on his own. So my questions are who got to him and why in November 2005. I don’t know the who but the why I think involves someone panicking about graphic evidence of the Administration’s torture policy coming out as a result of Judge Brinkema’s confirmatory request about taping of interrogations. Or perhaps with this second query someone realized that the taping of interrogation sessions was not going away and could arise in other cases as well. To misstate the facts once as happened in the CIA denial of May 9, 2005 to Judge Brinkema could be considered a one off. The assertion was false but who cared if there was no follow up. However, Brinkema asked again and the specter of perjury and many other things as well, mostly felonies, arose as well as the likelihood that.someone would blab, accidentally or purposefully, down the road. How much better and simpler if some old training tapes disappeared? Then the government could declare honestly and, it was to be hoped, with complete accuracy as it did on November 14, 2005: the “U.S. Government does not have any video or audio tapes of the interrogations of [redacted].”

  6. emptywheel says:

    And then of course, there’s the NYT story detailing how one reason why Musharraf invoked martial law was to get rid of a lawyer pestering him for disappearing detainees. The timing is not as close (and geez–as the opening scenes in Charlie Wilson’s War–the book at least–make clear, the last thing you want to do is store secrets in Pakistan). Though it also describes someone detained in Pakistan taken to Jordan and then Israel.

  7. SaltinWound says:

    Wheel, I have a pain in the ass question. I haven’t read Risen. In fact, I haven’t read any kind of current history that was written in the last five years. I do read many blogs every day, including yours (it’s partly why I stopped reading books on current history, the information seemed to come too slow compared to the internet). I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read your book, although I read the posts leading up to it and I’ve given it as a gift many times. Here’s the question: what three books should I read? It looks like this strike is going to go on forever, I have some time on my hands, so this isn’t a hypothetical. In fact, if you pick three, I’ll treat it as an assignment.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Jeebuz, if there’s a ‘reading list’ and we can compare and comment on a Salon thread, count me in.

      And EW’s book is a very quick read.
      Although I have sometimes used the index to refresh my memory. (Being a huge fan of good indexes, and consider them as a key feature of any solid publication.)

  8. emptywheel says:

    Oh, and incidentally, recall there was a coup in Thailand in September-October 2006, so after the Zubaydah/Nashiri tapes were destroyed, but before the other three tapes were “discovered.”

  9. RodUnderleaf says:

    Here is what “Alvin R” said about this issue which I thought may be useful

    “….no transcripts were made of Zubaida’s interrogations.

    Sources: Destroyed CIA Videotapes Were Hundreds of Hours; No Transcripts Made

    from the article…
    “…The destroyed CIA videotapes at the center of a growing investigation recorded roughly a “couple hundred hours” with two terror suspects, a small portion of which showed interrogators using “enhanced” interrogation methods that might have included waterboarding.

    But, U.S. officials tell FOX News, no transcripts of the standard, VHS-style videotapes ever were made. That would mean the only record of what happened during the interrogations captured on the tapes appears to lie in interrogators’ summaries that were sent electronically from the sites of the interrogation back to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va”.

    This means that crucial 9/11 “evidence” is based on torture sessions, the records of which were destroyed by the torturers themsleves. All we have now are summaries, also provided by the torturers themselves…

    …Just even more reason to doubt the official 9/11 story. Not only was Zubaida tortured and made insane, no record was made of his “confession.” Thus, his “evidence” is worthless on three counts, at least. Zubaida’s “testimony” is a key part of the gov’t story of 9/11 and the “war on terror.” The true nature of this testimony is beyond absurd–it hardly meets the standards of the middle ages.

    The torturers themselves destroyed the transcripts of a man driven insane by torture. And it is only from them that we learn what he supposedly said. If the gov’t ever does provide transcripts, they will be totally worthless anyway. If they ever provide the videos, it will surely gut their whole case–that’s why they destroyed them.

    Also, notice that the media is playing this as a “waterboarding right or wrong” story, or “did the gov’t even have to save the tapes,” or “which lawyer said what,” etc. The main point should be clear to all–Zubaida’s (and others) “evidence” is total 100% garbage. It’s completely worthless and thus anything built on that evidence is too–the gov’t 9/11 story and war on terror, etc.

    Was Mukassey appointed just to help cover this up? It sure looks that way, though it’s hard to prove that.”

  10. Peterr says:

    I’m with you, Hugh. The CIA is in the business of collecting, not destroying, information. Even if it’s not useful today, it might be tomorrow — so store it away until it is needed. To decide to destroy information like these tapes goes against the SOP, and thus had to have been done only with lots of discussion and debate.

    I’ve been re-reading Curveball, and putting that narrative next to this story makes me think the antagonisms between the various intelligence agencies (both within the US [DIA, State, CIA, etc.] and with foreign agencies) might be a major part of the destruction of these tapes.

    The US likely made assurances to host nations as to what would and would not take place at their secret prisons, in order to get their approval to set up the prisons and bring prisoners in and out in secret. Should the tapes reveal that the US had lied to these nations, this would be yet another HUGE blow against the credibility of the US. It would be a blow not in the areas where we are already hated, but in the areas where (at least the govt) views us as a friend. If BushCo was worried about having our few remaining allies show us the proverbial door if these tapes got out, that could account for the tapes being destroyed. The fear of having some of our foreign listening posts shut down, or getting stiffed in requests to share future intelligence would be mighty powerful incentive to insure these tapes never got out.

  11. TheraP says:

    Would it have had anything to do with the UN guy whose job it is to check on prisons? And what if he stumbled on something? Someone who told him about being taped? Or someone who knew about the taping? And that might have been important to get the UN inspector to focus on the CIA, rather than the country itself?

  12. SaltinWound says:

    Thanks, I’ll get Savage. I’ll take anything during the span of this administration, basically any of the sorts of things you blog about. So yeah, I’ll take Iran-Contra too.

  13. WilliamOckham says:

    I’m starting to suspect that the real impetus for destroying the tapes wasn’t a court case in the U.S., but one in Italy. Remember the abduction of Abu Omar (Nasr)? The Italians issued arrest warrants for CIA employees in June, 2005 and indictments in February, 2007. If the torture tapes were in Poland (a distinct possibility), the Italian investigation could have uncovered them. The CIA would have more to fear if those tapes ended up in the hands of Europeans.

  14. bobschacht says:

    Let me make another nomination: Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan. They already have a Gitmo-like setup there, and they don’t have to worry about pesky national governments interfering with what they’re doing.

    Bob in HI

  15. LS says:

    Check this out:

    The plaintiff, Maher Arar, a Syrian-born, Canadian citizen was detained during a layover at J.F.K. Airport in September 2002 on his way home to his family in Canada. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two weeks, interrogated, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer. The Bush administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda, and rendered him, not to Canada, his home and country of citizenship, but to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture.”

    “On January 22, 2004, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit, on behalf of Mr. Arar, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Tom Ridge, as well as numerous directors of the U.S. immigration officials.

    On January 18, 2005, the U.S. government moved to dismiss the case by asserting the “state secrets” privilege, claiming that the reason Mr. Arar was deemed a member of al-Qaeda and sent to Syria, instead of Canada, are “state secrets.” The government argued that litigating the would disclose these state secrets, revealing intelligence gathering methods, and harming national security and foreign relations.

    On March 15, 2005 CCR filed a response, arguing that Mr. Arar could prove his case without privileged information, and even if such information were necessary to establish a defense, procedural safeguards could protect such information.”

    “On October 18, 2007, Mr. Arar will testify via video-link before a joint-session of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties at a hearing that is examining his case and the practice of extraordinary rendition.

    On Friday, November 9, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case. The case was argued by CCR board member David Cole. “……-ashcroft

  16. mainsailset says:

    From the Guardian 6/07…..69,00.html

    “…Council of Durope investigation: ‘revealed that Abu Zubayday…and Khalid Sheik Mohammed..were held and interrogated in Poland…”

    later in the article, “Romania’s bid to join Nato…in exchange for cooperation”

    alot of bargaining going on, beginning to sound like the same negotiators that walked through the doors of the telecoms. Immunity is a big word.

  17. Mary says:

    JMO, but I don’t think that there’s any way the tapes were stored in Syria. While the Syrian “Palestine Branch” seemed to have a lot of “US guests” from Arar’s descriptions, it was also not really CIA operated blacksite and there were very conflicted issues re: the US and Syria. CIA agents didn’t even show up for Arar’s questionings the way they did in other places – it would have been way too dangerous IMO.

    If I had to guess, I’d say they used the Guantanmo model and had things at Diego Garcia, where they had tremendous control but still the technical claim of “another country.” Plus the whole of the surrounding populace is US military under a chain of torture command. But with Blair stepping down and grumblings about Brown not being as cooperative, and lots of pressure in Europe over detainee investigations, I can see where there might have been some concern over a British court ordering up production.

    But keep in mind that,in addition to whatever was going on in Sept of 07 (and that is when Rizzo’s nomination tanked) the ACLU FOIA case was also being stalled from a much earlier point in time by DOJ assertions that tapes and documents were being used for internal investigations.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, I agree they probably weren’t stored in Syria.

      But I think it possible that the strike on Syria affected relations with another country in such a way that the CIA had to get its little archive out of the country in a pinch.

  18. LS says:

    I’m making a wild guess here…but not viewing the tapes…we don’t know for sure that they were of Zubayday and Nahiri…that is just what has been reported. Sounds like Maher Arar has material backup for his case. Timeline fits…also, it causes legal problems for the US, because of Canada.

  19. RodUnderleaf says:

    The largest issue is not the torture in itself but what was covered up through the use of torture. By design, the use of torture has corrupted the crucial evidence and allowed for the erection of false narratives.

    The “clarity” and “truth” that the torture provided is the problem. The narratives supported by the torture information are false and obscure the far greater and dangerous truths.

  20. Mary says:

    And mainsailset’s spec on Poland or Romania is pretty good too – again, you have a US military tie that gives you lots of control.

    Another link on Poland…..00985.html

    Marty’s report in June of 07 might have started the ball rolling too on an internal investigation, with more and more info coming up; the Italian case putting all kinds of info into the public record; Spataro’s cooperation with a German investigation of flights making more and more info available on that front, ongoing Spanish investigations on flights, Blair resigning and Brown coming on, etc. It might have triggered a review of what to do with evidence in various places.

  21. Mary says:

    27 – ?

    I understand that he was held here in the US for that time frame, but I’m not sure what you are getting at?

    The way the Palestine Branch was set up, Arar pretty much knew who went in and out, including the other prisoners being held and which ones were courtesy of the US. He wasn’t tortured in the US, although the beginnings of coercion were being applied.

    He also has never claimed his interrogations were taped, but in any event, I really do no believe that the US CIA would leave such highly incriminating and incendiary tapes, and tapes that might actually have info that might have a national security implication on them as well, with a Syrian torturer. Way too risky and the bombing aside, once we pushed Syria out of Lebanon we were at flashpoint there.

    jmo fwiw

    • LS says:

      Yes, I believe you are quite right. I just read his entire complaint. He says it was FBI and INS and others that interrogated him prior to being rendered to Syria. He does not describe being waterboarded anywhere in his complaint, and he also does not describe anyone taping him.

  22. oldtree says:

    the part about the safe these were held in, in which embassy, secure city, secure location, secure country….. There really could have been fear that the embassy holding the info, or an even less diplomatically secure location, physical evidence that could be stolen.
    not too likely. it almost has to be on numerous servers at cia and the whitehouse, and ATT, hmm?

  23. Mary says:

    28 – a great point. It’s like the statements at the Padilla press conference about how “heavily corroborated” Padilla’s statements during his years of blackhole abuse were – – heavily corroborated by Binyam Mohammed, after mutilating his genitalia and disappearing him; heavily corroborated by crazy guy Zubaydah after torturing him; and heavily corroborated by KSM after torturing him – – with the acknowledgement that they all, also, provided “incorrect” information. Until they were tortured into uniformity.

    It’s how we got the “al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq” info via the Egyptian torture of al-Libi. It’s how we got Arar’s confession to being at an al-Qaeda training camp. Coercion is how we got Higazy’s confession to being involved in 9/11 and owning the transmitter. It’s how we got a long string of lies. Not only from the detainees, but now we have the fact that the interrogators themselves and filtering organizations have tremendous incentive to lie as well – either for cover up or justification purposes. So the lies get so layered that you can’t punch through them anymore.

  24. TheraP says:

    Torture: how you fit the intelligence around what’s wanted/expected.

    First, decide on your story line.

    Next, torture till you get it.

    This way you don’t have to worry that your needed intelligence will not be forthcoming.

    (Vietnam… it was body counts they needed. Here… a story line.)

  25. radiofreewill says:

    Mary – It sounds like the Administration was Using Torture to ‘Fix’ the Facts to ‘Fit’ Bush’s Ideological GWOT Policy.

    If the UE says it, it must be true!

    So, create a Hell to ’show’ Terrorists Co-ordinating Their Plots – and have ‘no problem’ putting the scripted words into the mouths of the ‘enemy’ through Torture.

    That takes some grade A psychopathy to call ‘legitimate’…

    • phred says:

      Thanks EW, that would be a fine Christmas present indeed : ) Best wishes to you and Mr. EW, too! I hope if there is yet travel in your holiday plans, it is free of blizzards and freezing rain ; )

  26. MadDog says:

    Marty Lederman over at the Balkination blog brings up an interesting point:

    But even if no such “sentiment” was expressed, more important, perhaps, are the dogs that have not barked (not yet, anyway) — those things that are conspicuous by their absence from the story as we know it so far:


    Second, given all the discussion and uncertainty about the issue, the logical, natural, thing to do would have been to ask the Justice Department for its legal views on the question — to seek an official OLC opinion, in particular, which would be informed by the views of the DOJ lawyers who were responsible for compliance with court orders concerning preservation of evidence. Yet as far as we know, everyone assiduously avoided asking DOJ for its views. Why? Perhaps because no one wanted to hear those views . . . and because once those views were provided, the CIA would have no choice but to preserve the tapes…

    Just when were these “discussions” at the WH taking place. Various MSM reports talk about 2003 thru 2005.

    And wrt to Marty’s question, who was causing “trouble” over at the OLC during part of this period?

    Jack Goldsmith, viewed as a “trouble-maker” by many including Addington et al, was in charge of the OLC from October 2003 to July 2004.

    As Marty asked, why didn’t all these folks at the WH ask the OLC for an opinion, as they had numerous times previously when they had a more amenable OLC busybody like Bybee or Addington’s acolyte John Yoo?

    Does the question answer itself?

    • bmaz says:

      My guess is that it was not so much who was at OLC, anybody there would arrive at the same conclusion; namely that the tapes can’t be destroyed. There is no amount of happy horseshit they could concoct to cover destruction. The outcry would be fierce. Contrast that with the placid response to the two CIA lawyers; we are all looking above the two for culpability, not trying to lynch them.

      • MadDog says:

        I would never underestimate the inventive minds of either Bybee or Yoo. Both seem perfectly at peace with defining “Up” as “Down”.

        Any opinions that their masters desired seem to magically appear as if manna from heaven.

        • bmaz says:

          Maybe; but keep in mind that Bybee, Yoo, Goldsmith, Bradbury et. al. are all weasely self preservationists. There is just NO credible way to legally justify destruction of these tapes. I have been involved in some pretty slippery, disingenuous positions over my time in the field, once in a while I even thought twice about it, but not often; here, I cannot think of any theory, no matter how creative, that would let me sign off on the destruction.

          • MadDog says:

            How about:

            The Geneva Conventions prohibit the photographing (videotaping) of prisoners. So destoy those tapes ’cause we can’t violate the GC. And btw, the GC takes precendence over our own laws such as destruction of evidence, doncha know?

            Signed with Smileys, John Yoo.

            • bmaz says:

              Mad Dog – that is somewhat of a meme. The actual prohibition is against humiliating and degrading behavior, and dissemination of the same for propaganda purposes. To the best of my knowledge, tapes made for evidentiary purposes and used solely for that purpose does not offend the Geneva Protocols. In fact, most legitimate interrogation and confession experts worldwide recommend taping for purposes of accuracy and providing a record of the propriety of the modalities, and application thereof, used. Taping these interrogations was not a crime, engaging in torture and destroying the evidence thereof was.

          • bobschacht says:

            “There is just NO credible way to legally justify destruction of these tapes.”

            This is where Addington’s method of compartmentalization comes in.
            a.) Lawyers are called in, given a narrowly defined question: “Is there any law against destroying the tapes?” These lawyers are selected because they are completely out of the loop of discussions about the implications of tape destruction, and they are kept out of the loop.

            b.) Someone in the White House says, like Henry II, Geez, I wish these tapes would just disappear!

            c.) Miers and others say, but we can’t destroy them because x, y & z!

            d.) Addington sez to Fernandez(?), well, you’ve got this legal opinion here that there’s no law against destroying these tapes, and the Prez wants the tapes to go away; why don’t you get rid of them?

            Compartmentalization is the key.

            Bob in HI

            • bmaz says:

              Ah, but I said “credible”. Segmenting and compartmentalizing existing material facts and circumstances in order to prevent an informed determination on the merits is not credible; it is fraudulent and unethical.

  27. DeadLast says:


    thanks for your dedication of brain cells to this pile of bush-it. you have been a true patriot.

    these guys running this conspiracy are really good at their jobs of keeping up the facade. hopefully we are entering the tower of babel stage where the conspiracy has moved beyond thier technical ability to maintain the lies. it is interesting how they believe that for the most part they are telling the truth when they report the minimal facts. at least the internet allows the citizens (thanks to those like you) to index, keep track of, and publish those facts. it is clear that american altruistic idealism in the political arena is what has allowed bush to lie and get away with it.

    thanks again for your dedication

  28. QuickSilver says:

    Check out this creepy little article in the New York Times. The founder of the Carlyle Group, reclusive 71-year-old billionaire David Rubenstein, purchased a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta so that it can stay in the United States:

    Asked if he had set a personal limit on what he was willing to pay for the charter, Mr. Rubenstein said the thought never crossed his mind.

    “Freedom really doesn’t have a price,” he said.

    • bobschacht says:

      “The founder of the Carlyle Group, reclusive 71-year-old billionaire David Rubenstein, purchased a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta. . .”

      The founder of the Carlyle Group now owns the Magna Carta? What next, will Washington auction off the Declaration of Independence? This privatization schtick has gone way too far. Historic documents like those are public treasures, and should nevermore be personal property!

      Bob in HI

      • TheraP says:

        I don’t think anyone replied to your comments. The Magna Carta copy he bought was the only copy in private hands and the only copy in the US, I believe. The other copies (15+ or so) are all in public hands, on display etc.

        The purchaser bought the document for the purpose of giving it to the National Archives, to be displayed alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

        So, he may be wealthy and have made a lot of money in finance, but obviously he has some strong civic values. And I commend him for that.

  29. Pokerface says:

    This is silly, Marcy. As soon as the tapes were made, I’m positive they sent them via satellite to CIA HQ in Langley and to other interested parties.

    In what country were they stored is irrelevant in the modern age of telecommunications. They were stored in more than one country simultaneously.

    And speaking of “intuitive,” I agree with previous posters who say the tapes probably still exist here and there. My feeling is: the New York Times has them.

    This is the Zapruder film all over again.

    • emptywheel says:


      Um, it’s silly to try to figure out whether there is a connection between the place where the torture and the tapes occurred and their destruction or their release? It’s silly to figure out whether this piece of information helps us piece together what happened and why?

      I have been saying for some time that there are probably digital copies of these tapes. But I’m not going to just stop thinking because I believe it is easy to replicate tapes.

  30. Pokerface says:

    No, I said nothing about not thinking. Since it’s inevitable copies were made and exist…what follows from that?

  31. emptywheel says:

    What follows from that is still the WHY Rodriguez ordered them destroyed, WHY he did so in 2005, WHY that news has come forward now, and HOW it relates to a whole slew of legal issues. The way to answer THOSE questions is not to poo poo the entire question, but to use the evidence at hand to try to figure it out.

    • LS says:

      Here’s another crazy thought…dumb I’m sure, but..what if Rodriguez told them he had destroyed them or even if someone witnessed that he destroyed them, but what if he has copies…what if he’s the whistleblower…and why did he get “outed” in August? Something about that stinks.

  32. LS says:

    On Aug. 8, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, in a statement to employees posted on the agency’s website, identified Rodriguez as the director of the National Clandestine Service. As such, he was in charge of the CIA’s spies around the world. Until that moment, the identity of the 30-year veteran spy had been a closely guarded secret.

    “Jose. . . sought recently to have his operational cover lifted,” Hayden told the employees, “and that, indeed, has proved to be possible. He is no longer undercover.”

    Hayden took the unusual step of outing Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, so he could participate on a panel on ethnic “diversity as an operational imperative” at a conference on border security in El Paso whomped up by Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.…..commentary

    Hmmmm….Puerto Rico again….that would be my bet as to where the tapes were, considering that Hartmann made the comment about a classified information unit in Puerto Rico.

    Truly, the connection to Reyes is questionable to be sure….sniff, sniff…

  33. sailmaker says:

    My vote for the tape storage: the country where the torture was done. Poland, Romania, Thailand, a couple of north African countries, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq of course, and Egypt. Actually, that is a lot of countries, a someone probably thought that that made no sense, so they ‘cabled’ them home, and destroyed the originals. I put ‘cabled’ in there because many ‘official sources’ seem to think that is how the CIA communicates, maybe they actually do it that way. Anyway, IMO the data is here on American turf, hopefully in a fireproof vault somewhere – like in the vicinity of the OVP.

    Something that needs to be checked out: Cheney made a trip to Poland in January 2005. There are rumors of his side visit to what we now know to be one of the CIA black sites. Could Cheney be one of the people on the tapes, and therefore the reason for destruction??

  34. emptywheel says:

    The Reyes thing just got more disconcerting–TeeVee is reporting (I’m getting this from Scarecrow, not directly) that Mukasey has recanted and will cooperate with Congress. Though it sounds like JUST HPSCI, the place ripe for hte most mischief.

    • emptywheel says:

      No. I can say that with a fair degree of certainty. Armstrong has been in an analytical role in this Adminsitartion, not operations.

      Plus, if I understand the allegiances correctly, he’s the other faction at CIA.

      • LS says:

        I asked that because he was,

        Fulton Armstrong
        National Intelligence Officer for Latin America
        National Intelligence Council

        and, I’m sure his name isn’t really Fulton Armstrong.

        Just takin’ a shot at it, looking under every stone…*G*

  35. LS says:

    What did W/Dick want more than anything for Christmas 2002?? To find something to validate the 16 words that would soon appear in the 2003 SOTU.

  36. mainsailset says:

    Certainly given the animosity that Cheney has openly directed at the CIA; given the disdain Cheney & his office demonstrated by outting (right before America’s very eyes) a valuable CIA NOC named Valerie, if I were a CIA team in the field who held those tapes in my hands, I’d be thinking long and hard about what it means to prosecute Cheney/Bush’s directives and destroy what is the sole hard evidence to either save my sorry ass or hold my superiors accountable. It would seem credible that these tapes would have time stamps, authorizations, whatever as an introduction to each session.

  37. Hugh says:

    I think the tapes were held in Thailand. It doesn’t particularly matter which foreign country though. The main point is that by keeping overseas it made it easier to keep them away from Washington leakers and it also made them easier to destroy once that decision was made. The part these brainiacs overlooked was that storing them abroad meant they had less effective control and various people could and did make copies of them.

  38. WilliamOckham says:

    Perhaps one of the lawyers here can venture a legal opinion, but from a technical perspective a digital copy of the interrogations is completely untrustworthy. The act of destroying the originals was profound, irrespective of any copies that may exist.

  39. bmaz says:

    WO – That is right; you undoubtedly understand the technical explanations far better than I, but there are many more ways to manipulate and alter digital and it is harder to detect. The analog signals on a linear tape are, counter-intuitively in today’s society, better evidence. That said, there are no problems getting it into evidence as long as a proper foundation is laid. Most jurisdictions, actually all jurisdictions as far as I know, use some form of what is colloquially known as the “best evidence rule”. The best evidence rule essentially provides that copies, facsimiles, second or subsequent generation/secondary evidence etc. are not admissible if the original document is available. If the original is not available, which is the “best evidence”, consideration is then given the next best evidence. At this point of the discussion, different jurisdictions (and different types of evidence) scatter all over the spectrum as to both admissibility and weight to be afforded the evidence if admissible. Quite frankly, common sense, you hope, kind of dictates.

    In the context of your comment, assuming the originals are indeed unavailable from having been destroyed, digital copies that have been retrieved would undoubtedly be admitted with some establishment of chain of custody and appropriate foundation. However, a good lawyer is going to rip it up in cross-examination with all the holes and potential for mischief. The general standard is does the probative value outweigh the potential prejudicial effect in light of the quality of the proffered evidence. I would assume here that it would, but that would depend on a lot more factors than we have any clue about right now.

  40. radiofreewill says:

    He bought the ‘good’ one, too – the 1297 copy of the 1279 version, much updated and amended over the 1215 Original, which John had violated less than a year after signing. The 1279 version is what stands as the actual ‘base law’ for what we know as modern democracy.

    It’s the logical predecessor document to Our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    The signifigance of the 1215 Original version was the clear statement that ‘No man is above the Law,’ which by itself was a Landmark Event in the History of Western Civilization, but it contained nothing else that later became Law.

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