The Torture Memos and the FBI-CIA Dispute

I wanted to revisit this David Johnston article from September 10, 2006, written shortly after Bush brought the High Value Detainees to Gitmo (the second time, for some of them). At the time, the article served to challenge Bush’s portrayal of a fine-tuned interrogation system and pretty obviously aired the two sides of the FBI-CIA dispute over torture.

But rather than the smooth process depicted by Mr. Bush, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed on the process show, the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the C.I.A. that has yet to heal.

Read now, the article provides a lot of background to details that have been confirmed since the release of the memos–and as such it helps elucidate the information coming from the memos. And, by reading it in conjunction with the torture memos, it shows why the dispute between FBI and CIA has remained so intractable. 

Background Details for the Memos

For example, the article appears to report on something Michael Hayden blurted out the other day (and which Steven Aftergood picked up); the interrogation program started as a covert operation.

For the C.I.A., Mr. Zubaydah was a test case for an evolving new role, conceived after Sept. 11, in which the agency was to act as jailer and interrogator for terrorism suspects.

According to accounts by three former intelligence officials, the C.I.A. understood that the legal foundation for its role had been spelled out in a sweeping classified directive signed by Mr. Bush on Sept. 17, 2001. The directive, known as a memorandum of notification, authorized the C.I.A. for the first time to capture, detain and interrogate terrorism suspects, providing the foundation for what became its secret prison system.

That 2001 directive did not spell out specific guidelines for interrogations, however, and senior C.I.A. officials began in late 2001 and early 2002 to draw up a list of aggressive interrogation procedures that might be used against terrorism suspects. They consulted agency psychiatrists and foreign governments to identify effective techniques beyond standard interview practices.

A memorandum of notification is closely related to a finding. Which, as Aftergood pointed out, should mean that Congress’ intelligence committees were informed.

That timing is important for another reason. As Valtin first pointed out, the Administration was researching how to torture at least as early as December 2001. This article suggests the "research" went back even further, to just days after 9/11. Also, the description of Abu Zubaydah as a "test case" certainly accords with the ICRC report–particularly the way it shows interrogators experimenting with different techniques.

This article also reveals a detail made clear in the Bybee Memo.The interrogation started with just oral guidelines.

Three former intelligence officials said the techniques had been drawn up on the basis of legal guidance from the Justice Department, but were not yet supported by a formal legal opinion.

The Bybee Memo states, 

This letter memorializes our previous oral advice, given on July 24, 2002 and July 26, 2002.

(Though I suspect that’s not a comprehensive description of the timing–I would bet that chronology pre-dates July 24.)

The FBI-CIA Dispute about Abu Zubdaydah

Now, one of the things I find most intriguing about Johnston’s description of the squabble between FBI and CIA are the terms used to describes Abu Zubaydah’s cooperation or lack thereof.

In Thailand, the new C.I.A. team concluded that under standard questioning Mr. Zubaydah was revealing only a small fraction of what he knew, and decided that more aggressive techniques were warranted.


F.B.I. agents on the scene angrily protested the more aggressive approach, arguing that persuasion rather than coercion had succeeded. But leaders of the C.I.A. interrogation team were convinced that tougher tactics were warranted and said that the methods had been authorized by senior lawyers at the White House.


Crucial aspects of what happened during Mr. Zubaydah’s interrogation are sharply disputed. Some former and current government officials briefed on the case, who were more closely allied with law enforcement, said Mr. Zubaydah cooperated with F.B.I. interviewers until the C.I.A. interrogation team arrived. They said that Mr. Zubaydah’s resistance began after the agency interrogators began using more stringent tactics.

Other officials, more closely tied to intelligence agencies, dismissed that account, saying that the C.I.A. had supervised all interviews with Mr. Zubaydah, including those in which F.B.I. agents asked questions. These officials said that he proved a wily adversary. “He was lying, and things were going nowhere,” one official briefed on the matter said of the early interviews. “It was clear that he had information about an imminent attack and time was of the essence.”

Several officials said the belief that Mr. Zubaydah might have possessed critical information about a coming terrorist operation figured significantly in the decision to employ tougher tactics, even though it later became apparent he had no such knowledge.

“As the president has made clear, the fact of the matter is that Abu Zubaydah was defiant and evasive until the approved procedures were used,” one government official said.

We’ve long known that the FBI insisted they had gotten valuable information from Abu Zubaydah from persuasion. We’ve long known that the CIA focuses instead on purportedly valuable information they got through torture. But the chronology here is critical: FBI is interrogating Abu Zubaydah. CIA takes over and that new team–almost immediately, it seems–decides Abu Zubaydah is withholding information. At least partly because Abu Zubaydah had not produced any information about an impending attack, the CIA pushed for more coercion. But always, for the CIA partisans in this fight, there is the claim that "he was defiant and evasive until the approved procedures were used."

The torture memos offer one reason for that formula, I think–indeed, they explain the furor of this debate. Check out what the second paragraph of the Bybee Memo says:

Our advice is based upon the following facts, which you have provided to us. We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply. Zubaydah is currently being held by the United States. The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge. Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United Stares or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas. Zubaydah has become accustomed to a certain level of treatment and displays no signs of willingness to disclose further information. Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently level of "chatter" equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks. In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an "increased pressure phase." [my emphasis]

That is, the entire memo pre-approving their actions is premised on CIA’s representation that, first, Abu Zubaydah was evasive, and second, that he had more information. That’s got to be one reason the CIA guys are so adamant on this point. It’s their legal lifeline, and if that fact is challenged–as, indeed, the CIA guys knew it to be at the time–then their entire legal cover for their actions falls apart. 

And look at how Bradbury enshrines that restriction in his May 10, 2005 memo (recall that this memo formally superseded the Bybee Memo, though it "confirms the conclusion of [Bybee Memo] that the use of these techniques on a particular high value al Qaeda detainee, subject to the limitations herein, would not violate sections 2340-2340A," so interrogators were relying on this memo as well).

You have explained that the waterboard technique is used only if: (1) the CIA has credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent; (2) there are "substantial and credible indicators the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or delay this attack"; and (3) other interrogation methods have failed or are unlikely to yield actionable intelligence in time to prevent the attack. 

In addition, in the May 30 Bradbury memo, he cited a March 2, 2005 "Effectiveness Memo" and April 15, 2005 "Briefing Notes on the Value of Detainee Reporting" that make very specific claims about what they got through torture. For example, the "Briefing Notes" claim Abu Zubaydah only revealed KSM’s identity after the use of enhanced interrogation.

Interrogations of Zubaydah–again, once enhanced techniques were employed–furnished detailed information regarding al Qaeda’s "organizational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi" and identified KSM as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. 

The entire edifice of legal cover the CIA built themselves rests on the premise that 1) Abu Zubaydah was uncooperative and 2) Abu Zubaydah was hiding critical intelligence. Sure, the CIA guys may have believed it at the time (or they may have said those things to win their turf war and to get the chance to try out their fancy new techniques on Abu Zubdaydah). But the further we get from that time and the more that claim is called into question, the more important defending the claim becomes legally.

Because that’s all they’ve got keeping them out of the pokey. 

33 replies
    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, I know that report is critical for the timeline. Though I’m not talking about reconstructing that timeline.

      I’m talking about explaining the stakes.

      There’s a reason CIA fought so hard, and its because if they lose this battle, or lose the fiction they’ve told themselves, they go to jail.

      • Peterr says:

        The CIA also loses the story they told themselves to keep themselves sane while torturing their prisoners — which kept them sane while doing it: “The stakes are so high, and this is Our Only Choice in fighting this war.”

        If/when they realize that torture was not their only option, and they recognize the humanity of those they believed to be inhuman/subhuman, and they come to grips with the reality of what they themselves did to those who were completely within their power, they are going to be in a world of hurt. One of the dirty little secrets about torture is that it strongly affects those who carry it out, and not simply those who are its victims.

  1. pmorlan says:

    Marcy, you put all of us to shame. I’m lucky to get one blog piece up each day and here you are with a whole batch of them. And not only that but they’re really GOOD ones! Thank you for all of your hard work.

  2. susiedow says:

    Thought: prior to 9-11, the White House was actively looking for a rationale to invade Iraq (’Cheney’s Energy Task Force Meetings’). Looking at a beef between FBI and CIA, it strikes me that it’s not that FBI was more or less effective at interogation than the CIA (basically a turf struggle) – it’s that CIA was looking for a fixed answer where as FBI was looking for facts. This bangs right up against the Downing Street Memo ”…the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy…”

    • JimWhite says:

      it’s that CIA was looking for a fixed answer where as FBI was looking for facts

      I look at those turf wars a little differently. My take on the Iraq intelligence gaming is that the fixing to a pre-determined outcome came from Cheney’s intelligence team in DoD and that the CIA had a more even approach that got quashed at many junctures. I’ve always wondered if Cheney’s disdain for CIA carried over into this and he maneuvered things to put CIA on the spot for being responsible for torture. I’d especially look into the presence of contractors in the early torture and who was responsible for hiring them and placing them into “CIA” roles. My money’s on Cheney in this one, too.

      • Rayne says:

        Cheney’s unusual pressure on CIA is a big part of the puzzle:

        …The “near-theological conviction” of these high-ranking administration officials, writes Immerman, quoting James Risen of the New York Times and David Corn of the Nation, was that the CIA was in thrall to a conventional wisdom that “obscured the sinister plottings of America’s enemies.”

        With “insidious” intent, these morbidly suspicious “Bushites” leaned on the CIA to find a nuclear program in Iraq when there was none. Indeed, Cheney, Immerman writes, “went so far as to camp out at Langley to watch over analysts’ shoulders” as they performed their work. Though the CIA had biases of its own that led to its erroneous prewar assessment that Iraq was acquiring WMDs, Bush and his subordinates ultimately caused the larger scandal. Indeed, they made “every effort to ‘cook the books,’ they ‘hyped’ the need to go to war, and they lied too often to count.” What drove the policies of these government officials was not intelligence but sheer “dogma.”

        Certainly have enough other examples to point to where Cheney’s absolute belief was weighted more heavily than facts. One can almost hear him telling others, “It’s not torture. Prove it.”

        • Nell says:

          Crucial to distinguish between CIA analysts (completely distrusted by Cheney and neocons, just as much and for same reasons they distrusted State Dept. and foreign service professionals) and CIA operations people — much less of an obstacle (and possible to supplement/mole in with contractors).

    • Rayne says:

      Yes, spot on. Cheney has been trying as hard to keep the Energy Task Force documents from the public as implicated members of the last administration have tried to keep these torture memos from us.

      Cheney probably tried harder, for longer, still at it now.

      In re: the flimsy rationale — the CIA painted itself into a corner of sorts, since theoretically they can’t release any evidence which would prove they had reason to believe Zubaydah was holding out on them. They can only plead state secrets at best; do we have enough to get around this argument?

    • worldwidehappiness says:

      This bangs right up against the Downing Street Memo ”…the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy…”


  3. Mary says:

    That is, the entire memo pre-approving their actions is premised on CIA’s representation that, first, Abu Zubaydah was evasive, and second, that he had more information. That’s got to be one reason the CIA guys are so adamant on this point. It’s their legal lifeline, and if that fact is challenged–as, indeed, the CIA guys knew it to be at the time–then their entire legal cover for their actions falls apart.

    Yes – that’s it and there are other related elements too. Like Zubaydah being no 3 or 4 in al-Qaeda (where is that info on Noor al-Deen and Zubaydah not necessarily even being a member of AQ, much less it’s no 3 guy) etc. This is why I’ve been waiting to see what would happen when and if we finally got to reliance memos with “relevant facts” sections. There didn’t seem to be any way a complete or correct factual recitation would exist in the OLC memos and if they didn’t, then— well, they aren’t really reliance memos.

    They also skip over the rather large facts and factors of dealing with “disappeaered” persons being kept in isolation (which also limits their reliance factor). But the real tough issue, even when you have Obama and Holder promising that no one relying on the advice in the memos will be prosecuted, is a) the limitation of the advice in the memos, and b) the factual disconnects with what really was happening.

    By way of corollary, even the original really bad memos exempting “illegal enemy combatants” from the reach of the Geneva Conventions made that big factual assumption that, of course, they would “only” be applying their non-GC activities t real illegal enemy combatants. But what were the facts on the ground? Bounties and mass chaos. So even under the memos if the SUp Ct had not shot them down, what about the Errachidis, the Kurnaz-s, the Uighurs, the people sold off for bounty money, etc. EVEN UNDER the olc memos, there was no authorization for what was done to those people. People that US courts have said were never illegal enemy combatants.

    Then what?

    I really think that, as inured as Bush and the Democrats and the media have made sure that we’ve become to torture, esp the sanitized, non-factual torture described in the memos, the real issues for those like Hayden and Brennan weren’t that the torture descriptions would come out (although wailing someone by their head into a wall and 100+ waterboardings etc. are problems in and of themselves too) Those guys were worried bc some of their fact lies would be revealed and even more so bc, those lies leave them (and everyone else) hanging. The memos as written don’t give them the cover they need.

    Bradbury does try to come back later and make the case for the torture being based on a lack of cooperation v. a ticking time bomb need, and also the mosaic claim, that sutff might be give up under torture that might not be important on its own, but that might get put together with other facts to helps someone figure out something else.

    A ticking jigsaw puzzle.

  4. Loo Hoo. says:

    (Though I suspect that’s not a comprehensive description of the timing–I would bet that chronology pre-dates July 24.)

    Time-lines are important.

    This is all just surreal.

  5. susiedow says:

    I don’t disagree. My thought was that a pattern set in very early on during the Bush administration – searching for fixed answers. The only thing that changed over time was the policy. So, this week it’s Iraq and next week it’s Iran, etc. And yes, it’s very much driven by the White House.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Well, I don’t expect to ever be all that knowledgeable or expert about any of this, but the conflict between CIA and FBI had me so puzzled that I went to check out a couple of EW’s old timelines to see whether ‘FBI’ came up very much, and yeowsa — if anyone has a minute, the Ghorbanifar timeline of meetings is worth a look-see:

      Please excuse the length, but damn this sure is kind of interesting in view of the CIA-FBI conflict, which appears to have occurred during the period of time when the FBI evidently stumbled upon a certain group inside DOD that were providing intel to Israel (and who only knows who else):

      July 2003: FBI begins investigation of Larry Franklin…..

      May 2004: FBI catches Franklin leaking sensitive information and flips him

      May 20, 2004: US raids Chalabi’s Iraqi compound

      August 3, 2004: FBI contacts Weissman and Rosen

      August 24, 2004: State Department QFRs

      Week of August 22, 2004: FBI interviews American not in government about Franklin

      An American not in government who was interviewed by the FBI last week described the line of questioning as a “fishing expedition” that did not include any mention of Franklin or Iran.

      The FBI appeared more concerned about people this person knows who were looking for access to intelligence or classified information.

      “I was left startled that in a town of award-winning journalists, law enforcement officials were asking if anyone I knew might be interested in classified information,” the person said. “It was a fishing expedition. It was an extremely odd conversation.”

      August 27, 2004: Rosen and Weissman interviewed by FBI; Rosen warns Israeli of investigation

      August 27, 2004: News of AIPAC investigation leaked; Paul McNulty put in charge of case

      August 29-20, 2004: Feith, Luti, Rodman interviewed about whether they had authorized Franklin’s leaks to AIPAC

      September-October 2004: Through Michael Ledeen’s intercession, Plato Cacheris agrees to represent Franklin pro bono

      May 3, 2005: Franklin charged with espionage in sealed complaint

      August 2005: Feith leaves DOD

      September 2005: Roberts requests DOD IG investigation into “unlawful” activities of OUSD(P)

      September 2005: Levin requests DOD IG investigation into “improper” activities of OUSD(P)

      November 1, 2005: Harry Reid shuts down Senate in effort to restart Phase II

      November 2005: DOD OIG begins investigation into Feith, stalling the SSCI investigation into Feith

      January 2006: Jello Jay becomes Chair SSCI (Pat Roberts quits Committee, Kit Bond becomes Ranking Member)

      January 2006: Franklin sentenced

      July 13, 2006; Patton Boggs writes letter to DOD IG on behalf of Feith

      February 2007: DOD OIG report on Feith’s intelligence analysis

      March 6, 2007: DOD OIG report on involvement with the Rendon group

      July 2007: SSCI asks DOD for details on content of and response to CIFA investigation; receives nothing

      Presumably, the FBI is the logical entity to investigate Franklin and espionage. But is it possible that there were people in US government who wanted to keep information from the FBI at all costs, since the FBI was investigating them (and/or their co-workers).

      It suggests that Cheney and the neocons knew precisely what they were about — running ops out of the OVP. And trying to evade the FBI, which we know they certainly did because Scooter Libby deliberately lied — repeatedly — to the FBI.

      Also, FormerFed left a comment @32 on that thread that seemed important at the time (quoting Larry Wilkinson), but in retrospect — and in view of the info EW covers on this thread, that comment at @32 was prophetic.

      • Nell says:

        January 2006: Jello Jay becomes Chair SSCI (Pat Roberts quits Committee, Kit Bond becomes Ranking Member)

        That can’t be right. Democrats didn’t retake Senate until November 2006, new Senate was sworn in January 2007.

  6. bobschacht says:

    The FBI part of this thread reminds me of the ambiguous(?) or ambivalent(?) role of Robert Mueller, Bush’s (and now Obama’s?) Director of the FBI. Sometimes he seems to be the hero (e.g. supporting Comey during the infamous Hospital Visit), but other times he seems to be as deeply in the mire as anyone.

    I suspect that Mueller knows quite a lot about all these matters. Per wiki:

    “Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate and serve ten-year terms unless they resign or are let go before their term is up.”

    “Let go”? Apparently Obama has decided for the time being not to “let go” of Mueller?

    Bob in HI

  7. Mary says:

    5 – “it’s that CIA was looking for a fixed answer where as FBI was looking for facts.”

    I’m not best at motivation, but I think you definitely had Tenet looking for anything he can do, anyway to keep Bush (and more importantly Cheney) happy with him and I think there were other individuals that fell into that – like the aluminum tubing analysts and others with ideological agendas that they wanted space to go after. I do think those guys were out to do what pleased GWB. OTOH, I also think some individual at CIA were just plain hell bent to do whatever it took to get bin laden and in a lot of ways I can’t fault that. Their culture was covert too. Not an FBI bring to justice and find all the other info to make sure you roll up the whole organization culture; not a military “take to the battlefield” culture either.

    They were the best out of the box at leading the response to what happened, but it was an odd role for them. Instead of covert, it was front and center that CIA was going after al-Qaeda – and the roles and cultures would have been set for some repeated flashpoints under the best of circumstances. The additional problem was that no entity, not military, FBI or CIA, really had the depth of resources on language, culture, and terrorist organizational information to have the extensive response that was going to be needed when bin laden escaped at Tora Bora.

    So IMO part of the difference was that CIA mostly wanted bin laden and anyone close to him dead. I have a hard time not having a lot of sympathy for that. But to Tenet, more important was to have GWB happy and Bush, unfortunately, didn’t just want his guys to do what they needed to do to create a “bin laden is dead” scenario, he had all these overlays of agendas and Cheney had even more overlays of agendas. So a part of what they needed and wanted to accomplish was all about the assertions of power, the milking of the situations for political capital, and the progress towards the Iraq war.

    The FBI was also torn a bit, bc let’s face it – they wanted bin laden dead too – hell, we all do and did. OTOH, culturally they wanted more – they wanted to protect America and Americans – they wanted the info, they wanted to be able to really dig in and map the relationships, figure out who was who and how they were connected and big picture a roll up. Once the response was military, it bumped them out of their traditional roles too and changed both how they were being used and goals. They also were resource strapped and had a President that had no clear defined mission for them (and wanted to both demand a lot from them AND marginalize them at the same time). OTOH, FBI did have some very good resources – like Coleman, Cloonan, Soufan, etc.

    So you had two entities that are at cross purposes some in the best of times, then a huge national attack, everyone wanting revenge, some also tasked with long term protection as well as short term response, and then both organizations got kicked into roles they typically didn’t operate within. As in Iraq, neither was given coherent missions and the head of CIA was desperately trying to keep Bush happy at the same time. For that matter, the head of FBI was trying to do the same not because his position was as precarious but bc his crew were being marginalized.

    That’s my purely personal take, but with it I have a feeling of things much more complex than just that CIA was looking for a fixed answer. A lot of what has come out does point to that ‘fix around the facts’ problem and I absolutely do believe that was a big problem, but I also think CIA was put in a lot of really bad spots by a self absorbed, not that smart, arrogant, insular, petty man of not much vision or understanding. And when your culture is covert and you almost had bin laden in Afghanistan and you really really really want to get him, it’s hard to crawl out of those spots without someone standing up, saying no, drawing lines, etc.

    That was the role of DOJ. It wasn’t being asked to operate outside its role. It just failed. And over the next few years, it celebrated its failure at regular intervals.

    Unfortunately, everything’s continuing down the same road. There’s still no real well defined roles and missions vis a vis the FBI and CIA and terrorism – and the military role is still out of control. There’s more and more reason for a criminal justice response, but more and more problems with that because of prior decisions that can’t be undone. And DOJ is continuing to be nothing more than a failed instituation, now issuing get out of jail free letters to presidential torturers and creating a whole frightening parade of crimes that aren’t crimes, if a President calls them “policy.”

    • worldwidehappiness says:


      That was an amazing post!

      Mary for President! You could do a lot of good up high with that insightfulness.

      BTW, I think incoming politicians and presidents should be trained in the basics of law and their job requirements.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The CIA and OLC’s arguments boil down to a claim of “exigent circumstances”, which are specifically inadequate grounds legally to justify torture.

    They are on very thin ice even if they win this battle over framing. They are through it and into deep, cold water without it. Think Damien II and the game of pick-up ice hockey.

  9. WilliamOckham says:

    I just want to point out this sentence:

    But leaders of the C.I.A. interrogation team were convinced that tougher tactics were warranted and said that the methods had been authorized by senior lawyers at the White House.

    “Senior lawyers at the White House” would carry no weight with the FBI. This sums up one of the most important differences between the FBI and the CIA. The CIA effectively works directly for the White House and thinks of itself as an instrument of policy. The FBI is part of the DOJ had (up until the Bush Administration) been working hard to live down their rep as a policy instrument and live up to their rep as an instrument of justice.

  10. Nell says:

    WO: The FBI is part of the DOJ had (up until the Bush Administration) been working hard to live down their rep as a policy instrument and live up to their rep as an instrument of justice.

    Starting when? In 1982-4 the FBI placed informants and provocateurs into an organization I worked with/for (we sued them for it and won in the late 1980s). They were certainly behaving like a policy instrument during those years.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Yeah, I know all about that. Some friends of mine were the victims of an FBI black bag job during that time period. I’m pretty sure I have an FBI file because they listed me as a donor. I gave them my lunch money one day to help protest Henry Kissinger’s campus appearance (as a grad student that was all I could afford).

      I guess I should have been clearer in my comment that the FBI follows a wobbly path between policy and justice, veering more towards justice in Democratic administrations while the CIA is always a policy tool. The other difference is (and you can see this quite clearly in the DOJ IG’s report on GITMO), the only restraint anybody apparently felt was due to the fear of Congressional hearings. The CIA has more defenses against that than the FBI and DOJ. Maybe somebody should remind Congress of that.

  11. Valtin says:

    That 2001 directive did not spell out specific guidelines for interrogations, however, and senior C.I.A. officials began in late 2001 and early 2002 to draw up a list of aggressive interrogation procedures that might be used against terrorism suspects.

    We really need to see that September 17, 2001 directive. Do you know if anyone has been trying to get it?

    Meanwhile, I have surmised for some time that the December 17, 2001 fax of something (we don’t know what yet) from Lt. Col. Baumgartner to Richard Shiffrin concerned a CIA request (even if no CIA personnel are known as yet attached to it). But if the recipient is Shiffrin, then DoD should have been the recipient. And the document should have been JPRA or SERE related. Sounds like a document sent from one part of DoD to another. Why was there so much trouble (so I was told) getting it declassified?

    The important point is that anything related to Administration torture plans or operations prior to any of the enabling memos or findings is immediate cause for prosecutions, IMHO. None of Obama and Holder’s “good faith” BS.

    The CIA evidently wasn’t happy enough with the details in the 9/17 directive, thinking perhaps of CAT, or Geneva, or War Crimes Act. But I’m glad you pointed out Johnston’s article.

    I hear (he said cryptically) that many of our questions will be answered very, very soon.

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t know of it. Hayden’s comment the other day turned some heads, alerting fairly astute people that this was a covert op.

      That said, Leon Panetta was asked about covert ops in his confirmation hearing. That probably relates to CIA’s relations to JSOC, but it also may relate to this kind of thing.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        I’ve been aware of that finding for some time. I don’t remember off-hand where I heard about it first. The answer to Valtin’s question is that Presidential findings are impervious to FOIA and Congressional requests. The intelligence committees are supposed to be informed of them (or at least the gang of eight), but the findings are never released, with the possible exception of the expiration of the classification time limits.

  12. worldwidehappiness says:

    Emptywheel wrote:

    Which, as Aftergood pointed out, should mean that Congress’ intelligence committees were informed.

    Therefore, prosecutions will not happen.

  13. scribe says:

    What I’m suspecting is something like this: WH wants to torture, so they can find out who is willing to torture and can keep torturing in the future (or whatever political reasons they might have for being willing to torture and actually torturing – remember, “shock doctrine” includes acceptance of torture as one of the steps…) Anyway, someone in WH either (a) goes to CIA and says “A friendly foreign government has, through channels other than ones leading to you, told us that their intel reveals the particular high-value detainee the FBI is interrogating is holding out a lot of information. This has to be kept strictly compartmented because this friendly foreign government does not trust the FBI for reasons of their own. But, he is holding out.” Of course, this is a made-up story. Or, (b) the WH goes to the CIA and says “A closely compartmented source indicates to us that this hig-value detainee is holding out.” In either instance, the CIA interrogators are allowed only into a specific part of the compartmented information: “this high-value detainee is holding out”. Thus, the CIA interrogating guys, living in their own compartment, only know “he is holding out” and defend that position to the utmost against the evidence of their own eyes which the FBI persuaders have seen – that he is not holding out. The strict compartmentalization and playing one part of the bureaucracy off against another lay a lot of threads out there which lead, IMHO, back to one particular place: a man-sized safe. (sorry for no paragraphs, but my carriage return is not working again today….)

  14. TheraP says:

    I really like the way this post indicates the tiny top of a pyramid – upon which this whole torture program appears to sit. And my question continues to be: What expert assessment is the basis for believing AZ was lying? We can assume they believed he was withholding info. But cheney’s MO is not to leave fingerprints. So they must have delegated some willing “expert” to undertake an evaluation. I’m assuming there must be a record of that eval, since we have evidence of a personality description, which seems to come from a psychological report.

    So…. is the tip of the pyramid a psych report? Is it a report that concludes he is lying and withholding? Yes, I think we have enough info from the Aug 1, 2002 “authorization” to conclude that. Is it a report that also views him as so psychologically defended that no amount of friendly persuasion would suffice to get the desired info? That same report would seem to suggest that also.

    So we’ve got a set of beliefs underlying the torture process and this man’s personality and his importance. We already know he wasn’t important and likely didn’t have the info they were seeking. But where is that personality assessment? The one that claims he was an inveterate liar, strongly defended, in “need” of being “broken” – and we have this nice torture process, just waiting to be tried…..

    I want to see that assessment. And the raw data from which the conclusions were drawn.

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