One Former Official Ready to Bust Others for Torture

In my post on the scope of any torture investigation, I noted that if you went after the guy–whom I called Mr. Poignant–who clearly exceeded even John Yoo’s guidelines on torture, he would quickly get you to the architects of the torture program.

In other words, if you go after Mr. Poignant, he will quickly be faced with the opportunity to burn the torture architects to protect himself. (And hell, even if he’s a Scooter Libby type, this stuff is all out there anyway.)

And in many posts–including this recent one on Chuck Todd’s inanity–I pointed to three things that would be used to implicate those architects.

  • The psychologist/interrogator/contractor quoted in the OLC opinion admitting he exceeded John Yoo’s guidelines
  • The OLC memo’s description of CIA HQ ordering up another round of waterboarding for Abu Zubayah when that violated the OLC memo’s clear prohibition on waterboarding when the detainee was compliant
  • The near-daily White House authorization of torture before John Yoo crafted a memo saying it was legal

The WaPo has a story today that proves my point. It is basically a summary of information already out there, supplemented by one "former US official" involved in the torture discussions who seems prepared to do just what I said–implicate the architects of the torture program.

The former official describes how, when interrogators in Thailand determined Abu Zubaydah was fully compliant, those in DC harangued them into further torture.

In August 2002, as the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks approached, officials at CIA headquarters became increasingly concerned that they were not learning enough from their detainee in Thailand. When the interrogators concluded that Abu Zubaida had no more to tell, Langley scolded them: "You’ve lost your spine." If Mitchell and his team eased up and then al-Qaeda attacked the United States again, agency managers warned, "it would be on the team’s back," recalled the former U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. 


"Headquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was believed to be imminent," the former official said. "Headquarters said it would be on the team’s back if an attack happened. They said to the interrogation team, ‘You’ve lost your spine.’ "

Mitchell and Jessen now found themselves in the same position as Soufan, Shumate and others.

"It was hard on them, too," the former U.S. official said. "They are psychologists. They didn’t enjoy this at all.

The two men threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued and insisted that officials from Langley come to Thailand to watch the procedure, the former official said. 

The former official repeats stories about meticulous approval for the torture from Langley–and (though this is probably from other sources) through Langley from DC.

"The program was fully put together, vetted and run by the counterterrorism folks at the agency," the former U.S. official said. "CIA headquarters was involved directly in every detail of interrogation. Permission had to be obtained before every technique was used, and the dialogue was very heavy. There were cables and also an IM system. All Mitchell’s communications were with the Counterterrorist Center."

In Bangkok, word circulated among those at the secret site that the tactics had been approved "downtown" — agency jargon for the White House.

(Note the use of the IM system–I wonder if those got archived at all?)

Mind you, this former official is still trying to cover his own ass–and justify the torture. Witness his claim that Abu Zubaydah exposed Padilla after sleep deprivation.

"In two different bits, after sleep deprivation, is when Abu Zubaida gave clues about who Padilla might be," the former U.S. official said. "When that was put together with other CIA sources, they were able to identify who he was. . . . The cables will not show that the FBI just asked friendly questions and got information about Padilla." 

And he repeats the verifiably false claim that torturing Abu Zubaydah led to Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s capture.

The former U.S. official said that waterboarding forced Abu Zubaida to reveal information that led to the Sept. 11, 2002, capture of Ramzi Binalshibh, the key liaison between the Hamburg cell led by Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan.

But others contend that Binalshibh’s arrest was the result of several pieces of intelligence, including the successful interrogation by the FBI of a suspect held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan who had been in contact via satellite phone with Binalshibh, as well as information gleaned from an interview Binalshibh gave to the television network al-Jazeera.

But this is precisely the kind of person who–as I suggested–will make it all but impossible to limit the torture investigation to James Mitchell. Because as soon as you start going after the guys who implemented the torture, they will begin to implicate those higher up who also clearly violated the terms of John Yoo’s memo (remember–the entire memo is premised on certainty that the detainee has further information that can only be gained through torture, making the order for the final waterboard totally illegal according to the memo). 

  1. phred says:

    Ok, I just tried to read the WaPo article, but I only made it as far as the suggestion to put Zubaydah in a room with cadavers, before I had to come back and point out…

    That just this morning I heard on NPR that the US is calling out the Taliban for showing the video of one of our soldiers in their captivity, because it violates international law.

    I am sputtering, just sputtering with indignation over the unmitigated gall of our government chastising anyone for violations of international laws on the treatment of prisoners. Every stenographic media outlet should be prohibited from repeating such an accusation, until we have punished those who perpetrated crimes against prisoners here at home.

    • dopeyo says:

      “…until we have punished those who perpetrated crimes against prisoners here at home America”

      it seems you’re right in your comment @ that M&J were chosen because they had no experience. if we ‘had no idea what it was like right after 9/11′ we can guess that the administration was in mortal fear of another attack, and of being blamed for negligence during the 2004 campaign. they had to be seen as going the full monty, and knew the FBI wouldn’t do it.

      M&J must surely have known that a major product of the SERE techniques was false confessions, and false confessions would be very valuable in the run-up to Iraq (already under discussion per Dilulo (sp?)).

      so the next link in the chain is not the person who gave the AQ manual to M&J, it’s the person who gave the manual to M&J’s handler.

      i’m betting Addington. he knew the re-election issues, and he knew that Iraq was already on the table. plus he’s got a reputation for fear-mongering and intimidation.

    • esseff44 says:

      I heard the same thing on NPR this morning and had the same reaction. The Taliban are signatories to the treaties against torture, but we are. Yet, we are condemning them for showing him seemingly healthy and unstressed but the the fact he is a captive. Wouldn’t his family prefer to see him alive and apparently well-treated than not at all? OMG, the ironies.

      It underlines what we have been saying all along about reciprocity. If we want our military and citizens treated well, we should do the same.

  2. phred says:

    From the 2nd paragraph of the WaPo article…

    Put him in a cell filled with cadavers, was one suggestion, according to a former U.S. official with knowledge of the brainstorming sessions. Surround him with naked women, was another. Jolt him with electric shocks to the teeth, was a third.

    Who were these fucking monsters that were “brainstorming” in our name?

    Jeebus, EW I haven’t had enough coffee yet, for this much outrage in the morning. I don’t know how you made it through the whole article…

    • emptywheel says:

      And note, while they were dreaming up tortures, Soufan and Gaudin were successfully interrogating AZ. That’s a pretty key part that WaPo leaves out.

      • phred says:

        Yep. I noticed that. Especially in light of Mitchell’s statement:

        Yesterday, Mitchell issued a brief statement: “It may be easy for people who were not there and didn’t feel the pressure of the threats to say how much better they could have done it. But they weren’t there. We were and we did the best that we could.”

        Gee, you think if we had let the professionals handle things that we might have gotten a better result?

        Cowards, sadists, and the criminally inclined were running the country and Congress was too busy cashing campaign checks to lift a finger.

      • Rayne says:

        It read to me like they did show Soufan and Gaudin were successful in getting some intel with simple acts of kindness, obtaining trust and getting “Mukhtar” ID’d. WaPo didn’t close the sale very well, making it sound more like Soufan/Gaudin merely gave Mitchell et al an angle to grab with AZ.

        What’s your opinion of Warrick’s and Finn’s body of work?

        • phred says:

          I’m curious to see how EW answers your question about Warrick’s and Finn’s body of work, but in this particular article I wish they had asked the obvious next question to this quote:

          “It was not a job we sought out,” said one former senior intelligence official involved in early decisions on interrogation. “The generals didn’t want to do it. The FBI said no. It fell to the agency because we had the [legal] authorities and could operate overseas.”

          Why did the FBI say no? Why didn’t the generals want to do it? Was it because they knew the torture game plan was illegal and the agency is the go-to organization for executing state-sponsored crimes? I wish W&F hadn’t let that particular comment pass without further explanation.

          • emptywheel says:

            Actually, the next question is, “WHEN did the FBI say no.”

            Because they didn’t. Not until Bush had already given CIA the lead, not until they were forced to be a party to sleep deprivation, not until they had to fight to turn the AC down to safe levels did they say no.

            It seems to be a very important point, but one the WaPo forgets to make.

        • emptywheel says:

          Finn is good. Warrick is also good, though as with any intell reporter he can be prone to tunnel vision.

          But I’m increasingly coming to the reluctant conclusion that every time the WaPo does a joint byline, the spin of the story is bad. There are several ways to tell the story resulting from these interviews, and I think “more nuanced” is not the one I’d use (particularly since these competing sides HAVE been reported, what hasn’t is a guy saying “fuck those superiors who got us into this mess.”)

          • MadDog says:

            I almost see 2 (or more) competing stories about the very same subject being cobbled together to make a “whole”, but a “whole” that doesn’t hang together very well.

            And one of the most important takeaways to me is the obviously foreseen and predicted finger-pointing every which way.

            Every single different component/compartment of the program mentioned in the story is anxiously laying the blame on somewhere else.

            M&J try to come off as compassionate warriors with this part:

            …Mitchell and Jessen now found themselves in the same position as Soufan, Shumate and others.

            “It was hard on them, too,” the former U.S. official said. “They are psychologists. They didn’t enjoy this at all.”

            The two men threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued and insisted that officials from Langley come to Thailand to watch the procedure, the former official said…

            It was “hard on them, too,”?

            Waterboarding someone 83/84 times in 4/5 days?

            What kind of compassion is that?

            And EW, I entirely agree with you that almost everybody can’t wait to squeal.

            It will an orgy of “finger-pointing” like we’ve never seen before.

            And all the bread crumbs will lead right back to Cheney and Addington, who will both go to the grave rather than break Omerta.

            • lysias says:

              Cheney, or Bush? Sounds more like Bush to me.

              In Bangkok, word circulated among those at the secret site that the tactics had been approved “downtown” — agency jargon for the White House.

              Abu Zubaida was lying but eventually would disclose everything, Mitchell asserted to his colleagues, citing his backers at the Counterterrorist Center. He repeated that his methods had been approved “at the highest levels,” one of the interrogators later told the Justice Department investigators.

              The WaPo article seems to me most unclear about the enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied to Abu Zubaydah before approval of waterboarding was gotten from the OLC, first orally on July 26, then in writing on Aug. 1.

            • klynn says:

              I almost see 2 (or more) competing stories about the very same subject being cobbled together to make a “whole”, but a “whole” that doesn’t hang together very well.

              You know, as read this I was thinking, “Is there a Team C now?”

              • emptywheel says:

                That was kind of my point about the WaPo’s increasing use of dual-byline stories. Recall that during the “did CIA inform Congress about torture” story, they’d keep pairing Warrick with Paul Kane, who’s a terrible reporter who bought the “Nancy Pelosi lies” story hook line and sinker. So you’d have great info in the second half of the article, hidden behind Kane’s “Nancy Nancy Nancy.” It was a real disservice to Warrick, whose hard work became toilet paper by association.

                So the one thing that happens is competing narratives that are never made coherent. Just as importantly, I suspect the dual bylined stories give too much power to an editor who doesn’t know shit about what he’s gluing together.

                It doesn’t have to be that way. But at the WaPo, it increasingly is.

      • phred says:

        Sorry EW, I know I’m getting carried away, but here’s another great quote:

        …former U.S. official, describing Mitchell and Jessen’s thinking. “They didn’t think rapport-building techniques would work…”

        Would that be because these thugs couldn’t read? Or did CIA and FBI compartmentalize their interrogators so that Mitchell and Jessen weren’t allowed to see reports that proved rapport-buidling was working.

        I suspect M&J spent so much time contemplating SERE, that it never occurred to them that the whole world doesn’t see interrogation through the prism of torture.

        • Rayne says:

          M-J and their fan club suffered from “One Tool” syndrome: if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

          Bang, bang, bang away at everything.

        • emptywheel says:


          Some interesting things. They note–as I was the first to report–that Mitchell and Jessen started developing their torture program in response to being handed the Al Qaeda manual. But they don’t ask why being handed that–which basically has one or two paragraphs TOTAL on interrogation–would lead them to develop a torture program. It’s a non-sequitur thought that deserves A LOT more attention.

          The most telling line from the article is this one, IMO.

          In Mitchell, the CIA found an authoritative professional who had answers, despite an absence of practical experience in interrogating terrorism suspects or data showing that harsh tactics work.

          “Here was a guy with a title and a shingle,” recalled the participant in the Langley meeting, “and he was saying things that others in the room already believed to be true.”

          THat is, those in the room believed–as Mitchell did–that only fear works. They believed–as Mitchell did–that you’ve got to instill learned helplessness. And in spite of the fact that AT THAT VERY MOMENT different interrogation methods were working, Mitchell’s degree gave them cover to use a fear-based approach anyway.

        • behindthefall says:

          If I weren’t told about it, I wouldn’t come up with the idea that “trust-building interrogation” could be effective in difficult cases. The FBI guys take my breath away. They seem to be masters of a rare art, easily lost and overlooked. If I were on the other side, this art would threaten me more than any amount of force and sadism, in large part because it says that each of us is vulnerable in ways that even after considerable introspection we still cannot define or predict.

          • phred says:

            Fair enough, but you aren’t a professional interrogator either. From what I’ve read, the people who are professionals DO know all about this stuff. Which of course is why they needed to bring in someone who had no idea what he was doing to create this bullshit “interrogation” program. If interrogation had been the point, they would have gotten the pros.

            • behindthefall says:

              Well, I find that reassuring, that it is a recognized art, not the exceptional abilities of two or so unusual individuals. Maybe there’s a chance that in the future we do this kind of thing right. (Side question: What’s up with the CIA, then? Haven’t they had to do interrogations over the years? Why didn’t they adopt “trust-building” as the most effective technique? Is this the MI-5/MI-6 dichotomy — one pries into systems, makes moles, networks and double agents; the other investigates and extracts information.)

        • dopeyo says:

          “they didn’t think rapport-building techniques would work pay off…”
          Mitchell and Jesson are patriots with $$$ signs in their eyes.

        • esseff44 says:

          I think they saw themselves as scientists who had experimented with theories they wanted to prove (learned helplessness). It was their chance to try the theories out on real subjects. They replaced trained interrogators with medical and psychological experimentation which IIRC is itself a war crime.

      • NMvoiceofreason says:

        The CIA dispatched FBI agents Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin for an initial look. The two men arrived a few hours before the wounded man was transferred to a hastily assembled CIA interrogation facility near one of Bangkok’s airports.


        Abu Zubaida had given the agents the first positive link to the man who would later be charged as the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks.

        ‘Creating the Atmosphere’

        With the FBI’s breakthrough, the CIA recognized that the captured man was indeed Abu Zubaida and began assembling a team to send to Thailand. Agency officials had no firm notion of what a post-Sept. 11 interrogation of a terrorism suspect should look like.


        Soufan testified to Congress in May that Abu Zubaida went silent once Mitchell took charge. Within days of the CIA team’s arrival, the cables between Bangkok and Langley became devoid of new revelations. Agency officials decided to let the FBI back into the interrogations, but on the condition that forced nudity and sleep deprivation be allowed to continue.

        The CIA team lowered the temperature in Abu Zubaida’s cell until the detainee turned blue. The FBI turned it back up, setting off a clash over tactics.

        Under FBI questioning, Abu Zubaida identified an operative he knew as Abdullah al-Mujahir, the alias, he said, of an American citizen with a Latino name. An investigation involving multiple agencies identified the suspect as Jose Padilla, the al-Qaeda operative later convicted of providing material support for terrorism.

        Internal Rifts on Road to Torment

        Politely disagree. The article documents that nothing significant resulted from torture, whereas conventional interrogation identified Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Jose Padilla.

  3. Rayne says:

    (Note the use of the IM system–I wonder if those got archived at all?)

    Dammit. If they were using a feature of an MSFT network with WinOS on server(s) and clients, probably not (I’m thinking earlier versions of a WinPop-type messaging, which would be an admin feature of the OS).

    Wonder whether WO will be on today to give an opinion.

    BTW, does the increasing number of sources like “one U.S. official” sound like the internecine tension generated during the last administration is getting more air time?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Where is William Ockham?
      Where is dmackay?

      Why is everyone here except EW and Rayne appearing to skip over this key item:

      (Note the use of the IM system–I wonder if those got archived at all?)

      In this timeframe, weren’t Cheney and Libby going out to Langley all the time?

      Was Rodriguez charged with destroying the tapes not because HE was on them, but because people ‘at the highest levels of government’ were on them?

      Now, in 2002… an IM system… where else could that have been linked in? (It’s not my area of technical expertise, but go back to Rayne @5…. this is definitely one item for the guys and gals over at WIRED to sink their teeth into.)

      In other words, we’re told that ‘CIA officials’ were involved.
      Anyone else…?

      And from where?

      And is there any link that MZM put in to an IM system when they put the technology into the OVP’s office…? Since, IIRC, wasn’t MZM the firm that got a contract because owner Mitchell Wade was good buddies with CIA’s Dusty Foggo…?

      I’m not saying that any of my ‘brainstorms’ are accurate.
      But as a US citizen, I’d at least like some assurance that the Pres. or VP or Libby (or Bolten, or Addington, or Yoo, or…) weren’t hanging out on IM in some kind of desparate, rabid attempt to get in on the very latest, up-to-date info.)

      I mean honestly, people use IM all the time.
      Multiple connections on IM all the time.

      As for Rayne @5, even if Rodriguez destroyed stored data, doesn’t mean Putini or the Saudi’s or the Israeli’s or the Chinese or… just about anyone doesn’t have a file somewhere to use as blackmail.

      • Rayne says:

        WRT IM messaging circa 2002 — at that time in a rather large enterprise environment for a Fortune 100 company, we used a facility which was an embedded feature within Microsoft’s Windows NT server inside a corporate network. IM messages were not stored to the best of my knowledge; they were only transient messages which remained on the desktop once sent until one either cut-pasted the content to a different application, or until the IM app was closed. There may only have been a log of transactions in WinNT app, but I can’t be certain since messaging wasn’t my gig. I do know that from a storage perspective — and I was responsible for maintenance projects on both data and email servers — storage of IMs was never a consideration, they were simply not there.

        It would be interesting to know whether this was a WinNT environment or something custom, and how secure it was, whether it went across multiple networks or not (like from Naval network, Thailand to EO-OA network, DC). It would also be nice to know if this was an WinNT feature whether anybody did some archiving of some or all of the transactions.

      • Garrett says:

        In the Vaughn indexes of the CIA cables, there are two main types of cable.

        One that contains “atmospherics” and behavioral observations.

        Another that contains raw intelligence and discussions of techniques.

        The first type was perhaps something like play-by-play for the folks at home. And perhaps with an audience wider than Langley. The first type contains the “threat update”. CIA would have had to send threat updates on. Raw intelligence, properly, not.

        • Rayne says:

          But the Vaughn index would likely catalog only those documents which are archived.

          If IMs don’t archive automatically, they aren’t in there.

          • emptywheel says:

            And they’ve agreed to leave the most voluminous kind of communication off the Vaughns. So I wonder whether those are actually archived IMs.

            • Rayne says:

              Will need to do some digging to see what would have been most likely application at that time, still very skeptical they’d use an IM tool for so much of this kind of communication.

              Don’t remember reading specifics about the dox to be included in Vaugh; would telephone calls also have been a communication “document” subject to exclusion?

              Re: (81) — Pincus contributed to this piece. Wonder if some of the choppiness was insertions of content “dictated” or “directed” and if the same “former official” for Mayer’s work would also be a consistent Pincus source.

              Purely rhetorical question: are either Warrick or Finn or other pairing being used to front info from sources who typically speak with a more senior reporter, offering a second layer of shielding? (Jus’ sayin’ I know this could be an option…)

              • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

                would telephone calls also have been a communication “document” subject to exclusion?

                If you wanted to bullshit someone, wouldn’t you call it VoIP, and decide that technically since VoIP is not ‘phone’ — at least, plausibly you could claim that it’s ‘not phone’ — you would throw sand in the eyes of anyone who said they wanted ‘phone call logs’.

                Because VoIP wouldn’t be a ‘phone call log’, now would it?

                (It would, however, be a reason to try and control electrical grids that supplied a new kind of digital telecomm communication, would it not?)

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              And they’ve agreed to leave the most voluminous kind of communication off the Vaughns. So I wonder whether those are actually archived IMs.

              Well, if you think of IMs as text, those would not be voluminous. But if you are thinking of IMs as containing any image or video files, those would be voluminous (even at smaller aspect ratios and screen sizes); I’m guessing that the GRIT-tv stored interviews viewable at larger dimensions are at least 80 MG, minimum. But write that as text of the interviews, and you’d have a few hundred KB for the text file version.

              In the late 1990s, VoIP was coming into use, which enabled real-time conversation online.

              Through the 1990s and up to the present, the hardware designers worked their butts off, IMHO, to improve graphics card capabilities (driven in part by online gaming). So the potential for online real-time video communication kind of opened up right around the time that Clinton left office and BushCheney took power, partly because the codecs for streaming video were just starting to mature, and also b/c the graphics cards in computers were finally maturing. (Much of this driven by gaming, IMHO.) Also, that was the period in which telecomm and energy were being bought up big time: remember that Enron was buying up power grids. What do you use for online game delivery…? Lotsa electricity and big fookin’ pipes (i.e., like cables, FOIS, also known as ‘telecomm’).

              I suppose that someone could claim IM is ‘not raw intel’ but if so… then what is it? And if it was in digital format at one point… well, it’s a safe bet that techie spooks somewhere wanted to intercept it, but whether they were successful I have no idea.

              For that ‘voluminous’ stuff to be left out of the Vaughn index is a point that I’d missed earlier on. But now, it makes me suspicious. (Man, I sure hope that Sen Sheldon Whitehouse has been bird-dogging that topic!)

        • emptywheel says:

          Are you sure that’s the case? You have read this, right?

          At the very least, I’m not sure you can make claims about what cables included intell and what didn’t, since that def was a moving target.

          • Garrett says:

            Read it. Forgot about it.

            I’m still fairly sure there are two main types of reporting cable. One with the “atmospherics” and scene setting, one not.

            With a vague suspicious not very sustainable link to some Abu Ghraib statements about reporting pressures, especially one given by a cynical MI noncom, that DOD higher ups really wanted interesting reading, not intelligence reporting. That there was strong pressure to do it that way.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Well, I don’t want to jump down too many rabbit holes on one thread, but would like to point out:

          ‘atmospherics’ could arguably include video, but not necessarily the whole long thing; if someone captured the ‘relevant’, ‘interesting’ segments then those could be sent as individual clips. No clue whether that happened, but certainly by 2002 it was technically possible although server resources would have placed some constraints — but if something were saved to a drive, then sent by courier, then the size constaints vaporize and you can have all the video you want sent around the globe on a drive or DVD.

          I don’t want to lead to dead ends, nor do I want to waste time with misinformation. However, if it is the case that digital video exists, and if there is a single clip that can be shown with a high liklihood of validity to include the Pres, Rice/NSC, OVP among the viewers OR participants, then every one of those people should be sweating frog eggs about now.

      • klynn says:


        Didn’t skip it. Found the IM info eyebrow raising.

        I am not a techie. However, when we renew our phone contracts we get asked if we want an IM plan included in our bundle, “since we have teens.” Our teens refrain from IMing. No IM plan needed.

        The interesting part in the “bundle pitch” from the saleperson, was an ability to capture the IM’s and be able to read our kids’ IM’s to make sure no “sickie” is Iming our kids. According to the salesperson, for a small charge, we can get hard copies too. It was clear, we could archive our IM’s.

        Rayne, Garrett, EW (75,77,83) –

        If IM’s cannot be or were not archived, is it legal?

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Yes, the Warrick-Finn article left a lot of questions. I see it as a mosaic of differing narratives. One thing the article does is show the FBI in a more nuanced and negative light, e.g., they agreed to stay on after the CIA insisted on using “nudity” and “sleep deprivation” techniques. As I (and EW and Spencer) have insisted earlier, “sleep deprivation” included the use of a lot of bad coercive techniques, including hanging, starvation, stress positions, etc. No wonder the FBI agents wouldn’t comment for the article.

    Also, phred (@10) you hit on the single crucial part of the narrative, it’s weakest point. While the legal implications for prosecutions may hinge on the Zubaydah narrative, the use of SERE psychologists does not begin or end with this interrogation, as we shall see. (In fact, I’ve reported before on earlier such use with Special Forces, and that’s where, I suspect, the CIA picked up Mitchell.)

    • emptywheel says:

      And note the report that the early interrogation plan didn’t include waterboarding.

      Why include that detail? Is it Mitchell’s–or the officials–attempt to say M-J didn’t jump to torture in teh first place?

      I’d really like to know who chose that phrase and to what degree it reflects soemthing their sources were pitching.

      • emptywheel says:

        Oops. Didn’t finish that thought. My complaint being that someone seems to have suggested that the other report proved they didn’t jump to torture bc it had “only” sleep deprivation.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        I wish I knew the answer to this. Warrick and Finn are being played by different sides, and I think know that, and do a respectable job of trying to give the narrative some coherence. But in doing so, they also make it more confusing and self-contradictory.

        Re the creation of the torture program. We shall see it didn’t begin after Mitchell got the AQ “manual.” I think that’s best seen as a McGuffin, after Hitchcock’s ostensible exciting object, which turns out not to be central to the narrative. It’s a red herring. Maybe good for convincing some military and politician types, but definitely steers one away from the real actors involved, which I can tell you are being investigated by some (and I don’t mean just me).

        Previously, I showed that the use of SERE torture techniques was born out of sponsorship by Special Forces and Joint Forces leadership, in conjunction with certain military contractors. It seems likely the CIA knew of or even sponsored this activity. The Warrick/Finn article makes clear the crucial role of CTC.

        • emptywheel says:

          That was my point about the manual. There’s no reason to include it without asking why a manual that says next to nothing about resisting interrogation would elicit the formation of a torture program. It wouldn’t. Though the claim that you need to plan for AQ propaganda about torture is nice cover for having developed torture. In that, it’s not a red herring, but evidence of the bad faith from the start and the degree to which cover was built in.

          • Jeff Kaye says:

            Exactly, and it kills me that I never wrote up my examination of the AQ manual. It suggests a difference in interrogation between intel agencies and those working for “prosecution” offices (e.g., CIA and FBI). It does discuss resistance, relying mostly on prayer, and suggesting that some do eventually “talk”, and trying to keep revelations to a minimum. The Mitchell counter-resistance expertise is BS, because the manual already “knows” that use of nudity, insults, religious taunts, physical torture, isolation, etc. will be used. It insists the “brothers” complain about it to judicial entities.

            Many suspect the manual was given to Mitchell by Roger Aldrich, a M-J “governing” officer, and earlier “Director of Training” for major SERE/JPRA contracting entity, Tate, Incorporated. Earlier, Aldrich was a teacher at JPRA’s Joint Recovery Academy, and ostensibly taught Mitchell and Jessen their use of techniques. Aldrich had major contacts, again, it’s presumed, with Special Forces and CIA personnel, through his decades in the JPRA and earlier “recovery” milieu.

            As for the debate upthread re use of rapport techniques, it’s never supposed by interrogation specialists that rapport is counterpoised to coercive techniques, but grotesquely that rapport can be developed in more than one way. The good cop/bad cop technique, honed by generations of police and prosecutorial agencies in different countries, is testimony to this fact. So Mitchell is arguing against prohibition of “coercive” interrogation techniques to produce “rapport” (by which he means “cooperation”). As we can see, Soufan and Co. were okay (up to a point) with using their means of “rapport” building with some CIA procedures, e.g., nudity, “sleep deprivation”. This was already made clear in the testimony and questioning of Soufan himself.

            Anyone who wishes to take up this rapport issue should first read the Kubark CIA manual on interrogation (easily available online), as past and present discussion of this in intelligence circles centers on this paradigm (see Steven Kleinman’s discussion of this in the “Educing Information” report put out by the National Defense Intelligence Council in Dec. 2006).

            BTW, EW, your thesis re how prosecuting Mitchell/Jessen will only open up culpability up the chain of command, hence vulnerability to prosecution, is certainly correct, and a major reason this kind of limited hangout has not taken place as yet (and what keeps Holder and Obama up nights, I would suppose).

              • Jeff Kaye says:

                Just finishing vacation, and shouldn’t even be typing these words ;-p

                Still, as an article I already submitted promises, the next article I write will document use of SERE psychologists like Mitchell and Jessen in ongoing U.S. military operations — an exclusive for FDL! It’s tempting to add the points about the manual. I’ll think about it. Or I’ll write it up separately very soon.

                • emptywheel says:

                  My vote is for a separate post on the manual. Just so each post focuses closely on the point you’re making…

                  This point about the manual is an important one and it’d make nice pushback against the line they gave the WaPo.

                  • Jeff Kaye says:

                    You are, per usual, right. I’ll do that.

                    I also agree re your @53 that that last session with the VIPs we had more than one waterboarding.

                    Mitchell and Jessen were so certain the waterboarding was useless, so full of “spine” they were willing to waterboard into senselessness AZ to show who — Alberto Gonzales? David Addington? Jonathan Fredman? Cofer Black? others? — the waterboarding was useless, and AZ had been “broken” thoroughly already. What great guys! So sensitive!

                    If they go down — and they should — there won’t be a clique of underlings so deserving. Of course, the MOMFs are untouchable, and certainly will threaten to bring down those above them if they are sent to the Grand Jury. Those above are gambling the MOMFs are bluffing, and will go mum when placed before the prosecutor. At least, that’s how I imagine these things are being discussed.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Jeff, I would swear I read somewhere a timeframe on the last waterboarding. Like for an hour or something. Cannot remember. Went back through this article, didn’t see it there. Maybe I am confused…….

            • Jeff Kaye says:

              2nd thought — others I’ve spoken to have supposed, btw, that R. Scott Shumate gave the manual to Mitchell.

              I obviously don’t know who did, but Aldrich and Shumate seem top candidates.

              And for those reading who wonder what it matters… if as EW and I believe the manual supplied the raison d’etre for the cover story for creating the torture program (or introducing one that has already been developed, as I suspect), then whoever gave the manual to Mitchell essentially was operating as the agent in charge of Mitchell, or in any case higher in the chain of command which introduced the torture protocols. In the end, of course, the White House had top responsibility, and blame. But we need to know the totality of who and what agencies were involved, because otherwise the torture program remains alive in the sinews of U.S. governmental operations.

          • klynn says:

            Just guessing here…I think the comment about the manual relates more to creating the fear argument within M & J. I think CIA used the manual to back the “threat” language of another attack.

            This becomes consistent with the Condi, “You do not know what it was like after 9-11.”

            It appears we are being set up again with the same argument but from a different level of government. I assume because the “they” think if this is the “consistent” language, the villagers will have compassion.

          • esseff44 says:

            It’s similar to the claim that we have to classify the treatment of detainees (EIT’s) so that AQ won’t be able to train their terrorists to resist the EIT’s. Those are training classes I cannot imagine. “Today, we are going to learn how to resist Red Hot Chili Peppers played at deafening levels for days and weeks at a time while naked in a dark box kept just above hypothermic temperatures with insects crawling which may or may not be harmless.”

  5. lysias says:

    Why does the WaPo story continue to say that Padilla’s Arabic nom de guerre was Abdullah al-Mujahir? Shouldn’t that be “al-Muhajir” (”the emigrant”, same root hjr as in Hejira)?

  6. plunger says:

    They said to the interrogation team, ‘You’ve lost your spine.’ ”

    So basically, the United States ordered continued torture in our collective names because the ass hats at HQ under pressure from Darth Cheney and Rummy berated the interrogators as “pussies!”

    It all came down to being the macho, sadistic fucks that the leaders of the Shadow Government wanted projected from themselves through all subordinates.


  7. JimWhite says:

    JHFC! Okay, I haven’t read the WaPoo article yet, but had to rant just from the title. “Torment”? Really? Is that the newest euphemism for torture?

    Now off to read…

  8. klynn says:

    And for those reading who wonder what it matters… if as EW and I believe the manual supplied the raison d’etre for the cover story for creating the torture program (or introducing one that has already been developed, as I suspect), then whoever gave the manual to Mitchell essentially was operating as the agent in charge of Mitchell, or in any case higher in the chain of command which introduced the torture protocols. In the end, of course, the White House had top responsibility, and blame. But we need to know the totality of who and what agencies were involved, because otherwise the torture program remains alive in the sinews of U.S. governmental operations.


    Which is why I pointed out that the article does pick up the, “You do not know what it was like after 9-11,” language which has been the Condi, Cheney, and miniCheney language. As though it is pointing the way to the chain of command involved in torture.

    I bet, if we traced how many from the administration have used the language, “You do not know what it was like after 9-11,” in the media,we would probably come close to finding all involved.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      But what if it all didn’t start after 9-11? Wouldn’t that bust that narrative apart?

      I do think they panicked after 9-11. (It’s beginning to look to me that the need to protect government intel or black operations led to an intel “blind eye” on the 9-11 operation, and hence a huge “failure” by the intel agencies.) But the whole Mitchell-Jessen torture issue began before 9-11, and when the M-J operation is pinned down, we will have something very evil and strange to consider, a governmental edifice rife with corruption from top to bottom (top U.S. military command, CIA-DIA-FBI, WH, Congressional “oversight”, etc.). (Note, however, not all government agencies or personnel failed; consider the military JAGs, and certain military legal counsel, for instance.)

      Another teaser…. I will document one of those pre-9-11 links within the next week or so. Stay tuned to FDL. (But if you want some evidence, you could look back to my story, “Targets of Opportunity”: Corruption, Contractors, and the Origins of the SERE Torture Program.)

      • klynn says:

        But what if it all didn’t start after 9-11? Wouldn’t that bust that narrative apart?

        Nope. I do not see it that way. If anything, those who are repeating the, “You do not know what it was like,” are the very ones who were ready for it and thus, ready to implement a torture plan and a “fear” PR plan.

        I think this ties into EW’s FISA’s 15-Day Exemption thoughts and would love to take what you write about the pre-9-11 links with her thoughts on the window for planning.

  9. klynn says:

    Mitchell and Jessen now found themselves in the same position as Soufan, Shumate and others.

    (my bold)

    Gee, that’s loaded.

    And others…Hmmm…

  10. NMvoiceofreason says:

    And in many posts–including this recent one on Chuck Todd’s inanity–I pointed to three things that would be used to implicate those architects.

    * The psychologist/interrogator/contractor quoted in the OLC opinion admitting he exceeded John Yoo’s guidelines
    * The OLC memo’s descrption of CIA HQ ordering up another round of waterboarding for Abu Zubayah when that violated the OLC memo’s clear prohibition on waterboarding when the detainee was compliant
    * The near-daily White House authorization of torture before John Yoo crafted a memo saying it was legal

    I agree that the architects have to be taken down. Mr.Poignants (and there are many, from Gitmo, to Abu Ghraib, to Bagram, to Afghanistan) are needed to, as in “You will testify or get the death penalty”. Remember, the legal standard these people were operating under was “Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” Bybee memo We know of at least a dozen cases where that standard was violated (Abed Hamed Mowhoush, Abdul Jameel, Fashad Mohammed, Manadel al-Jamadi, Nagem Sadoon Hatab, Abdul Wali, Habibullah, Dilawar, Sajid Kadhim Bori al-Bawi, Obeed Hethere Radad, Mohammed Sayari and Zaidoun Hassoun). Nice set of legal features there. It is clearly outside of any civilized standard. It is clearly the result of what Bybee, Yoo, and Addington wrote. Capital crimes have no “use before” (statute of limitations) date. You can sweep up the lesser crimes as they plead guilty to the capital crimes to avoid execution.

  11. MadDog says:

    I bet that this WaPo story is a direct result of last week’s trial ballon story on AG Holder’s likely investigation/prosecution story.

    The rats are frantically looking for some way to save themselves.

    And I bet neither Warrick nor Finn had to initiate any calls. All the calls were inbound and their phones were ringing off the hook!

  12. tjbs says:

    “making the order for the final waterboard totally illegal according to the memo”
    Wow and here I thought the first water boarding was totally illegal.

    Using Bangkok, dragging another country into the Torture/ Murder/ Treason net.
    The only solution is an International Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal ,let’s roll.

  13. scribe says:

    EW: You on fire today.

    Me, I’m baking bread via a “new” method. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Just for shits and giggles at the hypocritical naivete of both the Beltway denizens and their media whores, the Taliban video released shows the captured soldier with his head shaved and the beginnings of a beard.

    Remember how the elites derided everyone who got exercised because Americans were doing “forced grooming” and “involuntary shaving” of Gitmo captives? And how they were warned repeatedly – in the press, in legal briefs, in discussions and consultations of all flavors – that by going over to Deadeye’s dark side into violating Geneva, they would both lose the moral high ground and expose Americans to torture. Look at how pissed they are today when it’s happening.

    Of course, if you accept that the purpose of having the war in these furrin’ lands inhabited by browner, heathener people was to have a war, then going over to the dark side in the face of those warnings was, again, not a bug but a feature. It is inevitable that someone is going to get captured and treating the captives we captured shittily guaranteed shitty treatment of our people when captured. Which shitty treatment engendered anger (carefully stoked by TPTB, I’m sure) when publicized. Which anger guaranteed additional support for continuing the war.

    Nothing like some anger to stiffen resolve and to blind people to alternatives to further warring.

    Further warring being, of course, the objective. It facilitates more power and more contracts and, as a collateral benefit, puts a crimp on moving government spending from “Defense” to other social programs.

    You have to remember that, for all their actions which seem stupid, Cheney, Bushie and all the rest are not stupid people. Nor were they advised by stupid people. They chose this course of action quite deliberately, and definitely knowing of all the history and precedent behind all the alternatives. This was an intended result and one in service of their ideology.

  14. Jeff Kaye says:

    Last posting (I’m busting with things to write after a bit of vacation), but I can’t help pointing out that I beat Warrick/Finn on the “Masters of the Mind [expletive]” terminology reported in their article. I wrote about it in an article at my blog, SERE Psychologist (”Master of the Mind F*ck”) Interviewed on NPR, which I suppose it’s possible the WaPo read, back on May 4:

    [SERE psychologist Bryce] Lefever is certainly being honest when he says he believes that what he says is the position of most SERE psychologists. Whether it is or not, I can’t say. But his attitude fits the “cowboy” reputation of a certain element at Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, the parent department of SERE at DoD, where ex-Special Forces personnel, careerist military officers, and poorly trained and educated psychologists fashioned a culture of inviolability and anti-intellectual superiority, best caught in their self-proclaimed moniker (as one source that wishes to remain anonymous with some knowledge of the individuals involved told me): “Masters of the Mind Fuck”!

  15. drational says:

    After a CIA delegation arrived, Abu Zubaida was strapped down one more time. As water poured over his cloth-covered mouth, he gasped for breath. “They all watched, and then they all agreed to stop,” the former official said.

    A 2005 Justice Department memo released this year confirmed the visit. “These officials,” the memo said, “reported that enhanced techniques were no longer needed.”

    OK. So one thing is AZ was not waterboarded 83 times as has been widely held.
    He was waterboarded 84 times. The last waterboarding was not undertaken to gain intelligence. It was done to show the VIPs from Langley that waterboarding was cruel and pointless. Seems like this event might figure prominently in an investigation. Who was there?

    • emptywheel says:

      1) As I said upthread, I suspect the WaPo is in error in the 84 number. The CIA OIG number (83) came from reviewing the videos and cables. There’s no reason to believe–and this article doesn’t give us any–that somehow the CIA IG report missed the last one. Furthermore, I highly doubt that the extra session included only one pour. More likely, five or more of the 83 uses occurred in that session.

      2) This HAS been investigated–in the IG Report. Which is why I have long pointed to it as one of the key events that was illegal, according to any interpretation of the law, given the way Yoo wrote the Bybee Two memo.

      • drational says:

        Maybe an error, except WaPo specifically notes it happened after the 83 time over 4-5 days.

        Go back and look at the May 30 Bradbury memo.

        The CIA used the waterboard “at least 83 times during August 2002″ in the interrogation of Zubaydah…

        Bradbury excerpted from the IG report to make the number 83, referring only to waterboarding in August and also noting “at least”. Whereas with KSM it was 183 times period.

        The May 30 memo does not rule out other Zubaydah sessions done for “demonstration purposes” in September, October, November, or December, or whenever.

        A CIA delegation came to watch after the August sessions. To put a junket like that together would take some time. And since they knew it was not for intelligence, there is no reason to assume they would have recorded it.
        It could have even come after they had something bad happen to al-Nashiri, like mid-december. And it may have even been the session that got them to stop recording the interrogations and change their protocols in the 2 January 2003 Tenet memos.

        I think this is a big relevation and the OIG report will show us this was a show session, long after August.

        • drational says:

          This is not to say that the interrogation program has worked perfectly. According to the IG Report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have the information. See IG report at 83-85. On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques. On that occasion, although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements with CIA Headquarters still believed he was withholding information. [Redaction of more than one full line] See id, at 84. At the direction of CIA Headquarters interrogators, therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah. [Redaction of ~3/4 of a line] See id, at 84-85.

          I think the redactions are the dates of interest for the waterboarding show and tell on Zubaydah, and the IG notes it was unnecessary.

        • emptywheel says:

          Your point about the language of the Bradbury memo is a good one. But I don’t think the rest of your comment makes the argument. Here’s the quote:

          Abu Zubaida was waterboarded 83 times over four or five days, and Mitchell and Jessen concluded that the prisoner was broken, the former U.S. official said. “They became convinced that he was cooperating. There was unanimity within the team.”

          CIA officials at the Counterterrorist Center were not convinced.

          “Headquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was believed to be imminent,” the former official said. “Headquarters said it would be on the team’s back if an attack happened. They said to the interrogation team, ‘You’ve lost your spine.’ “

          Mitchell and Jessen now found themselves in the same position as Soufan, Shumate and others.

          “It was hard on them, too,” the former U.S. official said. “They are psychologists. They didn’t enjoy this at all.”

          The two men threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued and insisted that officials from Langley come to Thailand to watch the procedure, the former official said.

          After a CIA delegation arrived, Abu Zubaida was strapped down one more time. As water poured over his cloth-covered mouth, he gasped for breath. “They all watched, and then they all agreed to stop,” the former official said.

          Note, CTC wanted the torture to “continue for 30 days,” which is what later memos say only ever got approved (that is, there was never more than one torture month approved for any detainee). So there’s no reason to believe it went on after August–and significant reason to believe it did not.

          Furthermore, you’re the one who introduces the “delegation came to watch after the August sessions.” It took something like 13 days to get Mitchell to Thailand–probably significantly less. So there’s no reason to think it’d take LONGER to get the CTC people there since they didn’t have to do any prep first. And the earlier passage describes this pressure in context of the approaching 9/11 anniversary–so while it might have happened in September or August, it did not happen in October.

          And according to Abu Zubaydah, all the waterboarding took place over the course of a week. So, again, all in August.

          I’m not saying it’s not possible that 83 represents the number of times Mitchell et al did it before CTC intervened. But the number appears to be a simple insertion of the data in the ICRC report alongside the data in the Bradbury memo without much thought what either represents. Particularly given the vagueness on the number of days on which AZ was waterbaorded, there’s no reason to believe the the former official actually counted himself (or even was the source here)–had the 83 number come independently, then there would be no question about whether it took place over four or five days.

          The WaPo frequently gets this kind of data wrong (when I tried to get them to correct an obvious error in their reporting on the Cheney interview, they basically said, “that’s what the researcher said” and ignored that it was factually incorrect). They simply don’t think through things like this. SO unless you have reason to believe the “former official” has reason to have counted himself and somehow kept track of the number of waterboards but not the number of days, then I don’t see any reason to take this as an actual fact.

          • Jeff Kaye says:

            Re timelines, it’s worth considering what CIA legal counsel Fredman was saying when asked about waterboarding (the “wet towel” technique) by DOD personnel at Gitmo on 10/02/02 — from the minutes of that meeting (italic emphasis added):

            LTC Beaver: Does SERE employ the “wet towel” technique?

            Fredman: If a well-trained individual is used to perform [sic] this technique it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function. It is very effective to identify phobias and use them (ie, insects, snakes, claustrophobia). The level of resistance is directly related to person’s experience.

            MAJ Burney: Whether or not significant stress occurs lies in the eye of the beholder. The burden of proof is the big issue. It is very difficult to disprove someone else’s PTSD.

            Fredman: These techniques need involvement from interrogators, psych, medical, legal, etc.

            Becker: Would we blanket approval or would it be case by case?

            Fredman: The CIA makes the call internally on most of the types of techniques found in the BSCT paper, and this discussion. Significantly harsh techniques are approved through the DOJ.

            Note the emphasis on CIA making the call “internally”. Also, after this portion of the minutes, DOD types fall over themselves asking how they too can get the requisite permission.

            The calling off of waterboarding of AZ was meant for him, not a turnaway from waterboarding as a technique at that point. It was CIA’s call, per Fredman. Now, if CIA was getting pressure from above (Cheney, Bush), that’s not something he would necessarily say at a meeting at Gitmo.

  16. drational says:

    [Mitchell] and his colleagues called themselves “Masters of the Mind [Expletive],” according to two military officials who worked in the program.

    “Masters of the Mind Fuck”

    Nice job Jeff!

    Mitchell sometimes spoke directly to the prisoner, but unlike the CIA officers, he wore a mask, according to two sources familiar with the events in Thailand.

    Sick Sadistic Pervert.

  17. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Driveby, but there’s new research out and some of it is reported in a book called ‘The Lucifer Effect‘ about the role of social systems in promoting good or evil outcomes.

    Which would make people in leadership positions more culpable.
    Which would be the complete opposite of what seems to have occurred in say…Iran-Contra or other scandals.

    Worth considering.

  18. rosalind says:

    Langley scolded them: “You’ve lost your spine.”

    In a more sober tone, he said, “We’ve had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, ‘You don’t realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.’ They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that. – Joel Surnow, Creator & Producer of ‘24′

    Quoted in Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article “Whatever It Takes”

    After meeting Surnow, Clarence Thomas’ wife Virginia put together a ‘24′ symposium at the Heritage Foundation. The article continues:

    The same day as the Heritage Foundation event, a private luncheon was held in the Wardrobe Room of the White House for Surnow and several others from the show…Among the attendees were Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff; Tony Snow, the White House spokesman; Mary Cheney, the Vice-President’s daughter; and Lynn Cheney, the Vice-President’s wife, who, Surnow said, is “an extreme ‘24’ fan.”

    One of the experts who spoke to the staff of ‘24′ was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. From the article:

    I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee’s hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened.” Some people, he said, “gave confessions. But they just told us what we already knew. It never opened up a stream of new information.”

    emphasis mine.

    They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that.
    You’ve lost your spine.

    • lysias says:

      Did the people behind “24″ promote torture because they know Israel tortures?

      “24″ was in production weeks before 9/11.

      • libbyliberal says:

        Ever see the movie The Little Drummer Girl with Dianne Keaton? Jewish torture seriously spelled out there, and the I/P conflict violence. Very provocative movie and Keaton represents the obtuse “outsider” meddling within. A bit like the role played by Brendan Fraser (narcissistic America) in the Quiet American with Michael Caine.

  19. rosalind says:

    June 2006: Heritage Foundation ‘24′ Symposium & White House lunch featuring #1 Fan Lynne Cheney.

    July 2006: Roberts & Rockefeller briefed on “potential to revive use of the [torture] program.” (from EW’s Torture timeline)

  20. Mary says:

    Quickie – I haven’t even made it to part way through the last thread, but when I saw this topic I wanted to throw something out and it may already be discussed in your post or noted elsewhere.

    Think about what the waterboarding stuff they are saying means.

    They had even a happy-to-torture dogs guy reach end-point on further waterboarding of the crazy guy (and I’ll say that some of his endpoint might have been tied to an OLC opinion that required that Zubaydah be a high level al-Qaeda operative in order to provide cover and a very increased sure certainty that he was NOT such a high level operative than to a determination as to when or where he was *broken*)

    Then you had a reference in the article to the WH and CIA etc wanting a full 30 day torture protocol to be completed (that sounds very weirdly like someone in addition to Mitchell wanting to keep this on a Nazi experiment footing).

    Then you had a crew back in DC/Langley pushing for more more more more more torture per Mitchell.

    Then you had the rabid torture supporters baited with “well come and watch” and they do go and watch. And are taped.

    And what happens in that time, much closer to 9/11, when the RABID PRO-TORTURE crew go and chillingly assemble to watch the torture? They walk away deciding to stop it.

    No wonder that tape was destroyed. If what was on it had that impact on the preo-torture boys, claiming that attacks were going to be charged against the Zubaydah torture crew and shaking their pom poms for more torture – think what it would have had on a normal person.

    If the slathering torture supporters all walk away saying, “not again” what does that tell you?

    • emptywheel says:

      That tells you that Durham is still investigating why those torture tapes were destroyed, and one person involved in it, Jose Rodriguez, may well have been part of the show and tell.

      In other words, Rodriguez himself might be in the vids.

  21. WTFOver says:

    Bush’s key men face grilling on torture and death squads

    Former vice-president Dick Cheney could be forced to testify to Congress over allegations that a secret hit squad was set up on his orders, as Democrats press for inquiries into the conduct of the ‘war on terror’.…..ey-torture

  22. WTFOver says:

    Eric Margolis: CIA claims of cancelled campaign are hogwash…..6-sun.html

    The CIA and Pentagon have been in the assassination business since the early 1950s, using American hit teams or third parties. For example, a CIA-organized attempt to assassinate Lebanon’s leading Shia cleric, Muhammad Fadlallah, using a truck bomb, failed, but killed 83 civilians and wounded 240.

    In 2001, as this column previously reported, US Special Forces oversaw the murder at Dasht-e-Leili, Afghanistan, of thousands of captured Taliban fighters by Uzbek forces of the Communist warlord, Rashid Dostum.

    CIA was paying Dostum, a notorious war criminal from the 1980s, millions to fight Taliban. Dostum is poised to become vice-president of the US-installed government of President Hamid Karzai. Bush hushed up this major war crime.

    History shows that state-directed murder is more often than not counterproductive and inevitably runs out of control, disgracing nations and organizations that practise it.

    But US assassins are still at work. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, US drones are killing tribesmen almost daily. Over 90% are civilians. Americans have a curious notion that killing people from the air is not murder or even a crime, but somehow clean.

    US Predator attacks are illegal and violate US and international law. Pakistan’s government, against which no war has been declared, is not even asked permission or warned of the attacks.

    Dropping 2,000-pound bombs on apartment buildings in Gaza or Predator raids on Pakistan’s tribal territory are as much murder as exploding car bombs or suicide bombers.

  23. Rayne says:

    Have read and re-read this WaPo piece…why do I get the impression we are hearing from one or more people we have heard from before? Can’t put my finger on what it is which suggest this.

  24. Garrett says:

    Yeah. It’s just a suspicion that in the cables, combining threat update with the graphic atmospheric storytelling stuff was someone understanding the needs of a high level non-CIA audience, and how to game a compartmented system.

  25. libbyliberal says:



    Excerpt from article by David Swanson (I’ve Seen 1200 Torture Photos):

    There are three photos of a little boy, naked, in a robe, and fully dressed. While it is very disturbing to see this little child’s photos in the middle of this revolting collection, I have no idea what they are doing there or whether he was mistreated, or whether anyone was threatened with his mistreatment. But I do know that the leading lawyer who facilitated our national torture campaign and famously said that a U.S. president has the right to crush a child’s testicles is a professor at a prestigious university, while his boss is sitting as a life-time judge in the Ninth Circuit because Congress refuses to impeach him. The current excuse for delay is that the Justice Department plans to release its internal report (from the Office of Professional Responsibility) very soon, just as it has been promising for many months. If Holder finally releases the report and simultaneously announces the appointment of a special prosecutor, two things must happen.

    1. We must not allow Congress to delay impeachment of Bybee any longer with the new excuse that a criminal investigation is underway.

    2. We must pressure the special prosecutor to act without delay and without considering anyone to be above the laws written by Congress.

  26. perris says:

    here’s something important that’s missing from this guys report;

    cheney wanted ifnormation linking al qaeda to sadam even though he knew from his own agencies that there was no connection

    that’s why they started torturing these captives

  27. libbyliberal says:

    Interesting historical moments of torture from Bradblog:

    On Mar. 10, 1992, then Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney ordered [PDF] a recall and destruction of SOA training manuals containing “offensive and objectionable” materials because these “undermine[d] U.S. credibility, and could result in significant embarrassment.”

    On Sept. 28, 1992 the US Army Field Manual was revised [PDF] to insure full compliance with international law. It specifically barred forced stress positions and psychological torture. It warned that interrogators who violated the Geneva Convention would be subject to prosecution.

    CIA officers, however, were not subject to the revised provisions of the US Army Field Manual.

    • libbyliberal says:


      Rumsfeld, who signed a Dec. 2002 memo authorizing torture at Guantanamo, displayed a despicable cowardice by asserting the emerging Abu Ghraib torture photos were the work of “a few bad apples.” Today, as low level former MPs languish in military prisons because of their role in carrying out those policies he specifically approved, Rumsfeld walks about, a free and wealthy man.

  28. Gitcheegumee says:

    Prison ships, torture claims, and missing detainees | World news …
    Jun 2, 2008 … America may have held terror suspects in British territory, despite UK denials.……terrorism – Cached – Similar

    I haven’t heard anyone adress the torture performed on the high seas.

    This linked article is superb-names the vessels involved,and the years when they began being used.

    BTW, WHY would torture be taped to begin with?

    For blackmail,for sadistic pleasure,to verify the work had been done to secure a contractaul agreement annd collect a paycheck?

    • libbyliberal says:

      BTW, WHY would torture be taped to begin with?

      Part of the psychological torture. The promise that you will be further humiliated when it is shown to others later. Torture … the evil that just keeps on giving hurting.

    • libbyliberal says:

      BTW, WHY would torture be taped to begin with?

      Ernest Canning has an incredible running blog on torture at bradblog

      What Ortiz’s remarks reveal is that filming is a standard CIA technique used to heighten the impact of psychological torture. This, together with a sense of impunity, explains why the CIA videotaped waterboarding — supposedly destroying the tapes only when it feared public disclosure.



      The knowing transfer of a prisoner to another country where they are likely to be tortured violates the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture. Conspiracy to commit torture is just as unlawful as direct application of torture techniques.

      Can’t the Cheneys and Yoos and Addingtons and Bybees be prosecuted for “conspiracy” to commit torture, since they passed on the orders but did not perpetrate the crime directly?

        • lysias says:

          Since the Federal Torture Act, while it prohibits conspiracy to torture, also limits the statute of limitations to five years by stipulating the conspiracy to torture (as opposed to actually doing the torture) is not subject to the death penalty.

          But what about other possible torture counts? Conspiracy to commit war crimes? Conspiracy to murder?

          • bmaz says:

            Actually, I think I gave bad information above. The normal statute of limitation for conspiracy is five years, but there is a separate conspiracy charge under the torture statute, 18 USC 2340, that would appear to have a statute of eight years like the rest of the provisions in 2340.

            • lysias says:

              I looked at 18 USC 2340, and didn’t see a statute of limitations there. Do you know what provision specifies the eight years for violations of it?

  29. bmaz says:

    BTW, WHY would torture be taped to begin with?

    Well, it depends, and we do not know here. But, yes, there is a legitimate reason to tape any interrogation of a suspect, and that is for the interrogators and related behavioral specialists to have a record of what was said and the ability to analyze visual cues in the questioning and responses from the subject. Taping does have a proper purpose; now whether or not that was the case here is unknown and very debatable.

  30. Gitcheegumee says:

    All of this gives new meaning to the term “moral hazard”,with the agents acting on behalf of the principals,and the principals alleging thay didn’t know what the agents were doing on THEIR behalf.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Actually, it’s quite possible that new psych research, like the info that is evidently being published in “The Lucifer Effect” is going to redirect responsibility from the ‘few bad apples’ to those who created a rotting, fetid barrel designed to rot any apple that fell into it.

      In other words, all during the 20th c and including Iran-Contra, responsibility was attributed to individuals gone bad; to a few ‘bad apples’.

      But look at Lynndie England; she’s no rocket scientist, but I doubt that she was born to do harm. She wanted to please the people that she thought were in charge; what they wanted her to do was inhumane, but they didn’t want to soil themselves with any ‘hands on’ participation.

      But Lynndie England didn’t invent the confusion, chaos, and hostility of Abu Gharbib. She was placed into that situation, and in that circumstance she acted atrociously.

      But to simply charge her and allow a bad SYSTEM to remain in place — which every day puts US citizens at risk for blowback — is gutless and dumb.

      • TheOrA says:

        I’m not sure you need any high level psych research to prove certain points.

        I have a buddy who was an Air Force MP. While on vacation over the 4th, I decided to quiz him on the topic of detainee treatment given his background.


        Look the whole point of basic training is to break you down and then build you back up so that you will follow orders without question.

        They don’t tell you that you can go to jail for following illegal orders. You follow orders. That is what you are programmed to do.

        Sure we went over the Geneva Conventions in Police School. In some class, that we were all half awake for given the schedule they had us keep. No I can’t rattle any of them off.


        So let me get this straight, you were given some sort of hazy framework about detainee treatment (those Geneva Convention things), but you were trained to follow orders, so if someone came along and gave you a different set of instructions, to say “soften up the prisoners for the interrogators”, what would a soldier do?


        The prisoners would have gotten softened up. If the instructions weren’t detailed then we would have improvised.


        So in your opinion, was what happened at Abu Ghraib carried out under orders?


        I don’t want to say this…but there is no doubt in my mind that the soldiers received instructions to work the prisoners over, whether those instructions came from command or a CIA op, or whoever. Low level grunts, even MPs, don’t do shit without orders

      • libbyliberal says:

        Isn’t there one lone Abu Ghraib guard serving time for that fiasco right now? Not that he is not guilty, but low person on the totem. And no outrage for that. They said Bernie Madoff was nailed so solidly because he stole not only from the poor but the RICH … he betrayed cronyism. Oy vey.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          Isn’t there one lone Abu Ghraib guard serving time for that fiasco right now?

          Grainger. I believe he has a number of years left in his sentence.

          And from recent information it sounds as if he’d received accolades for his ‘work’ at Abu Gharib, so HE thought that he was doing a good job.

          If it’s true that Darby (who put the photo CD under the door of someone who could get it out to the world) is in a federal witness protection program, shouldn’t we wonder who he’s having to hide from?

          This was kicking the shit out of the little guy if I’ve ever seen that scenario in my life.

          Karpinski’s the only one that I’ve ever seen stand up for her soldiers. And Gen Taguba (who has several Masters Degrees and according to a New Yorker profile sounds like a really hard working individual dedicated to the military) was practically sent out to pasture after his report turned up questions about ‘upper management’ and the extent of the abuse.

          So clearly, powerful interests want the lid heavily on this mess.
          It’s my view they screwed over so many people that it’s not possible to keep the lid on indefinitely.

          • libbyliberal says:

            This was kicking the shit out of the little guy if I’ve ever seen that scenario in my life.

            So clearly, powerful interests want the lid heavily on this mess.

            It’s my view they screwed over so many people that it’s not possible to keep the lid on indefinitely.

            Thank you for Grainger’s name. And for Darby. We should remember their names. Muntadher al-Zaidi the shoe thrower, what became of him. And for Alyssa Peterson re torture fiasco and the opaque consequences of her tragedy. Sybil Edmonds.

            People who suffer because the layer above them is so corrupt it cannot aid them or reward them for their sense of integrity.

            Insane screw-overs as you say. But the truth will out … but wheels of justice are truly glacial.

  31. worldwidehappiness says:

    I think Bush was a fear type e.g. see his fear when reading My Pet Goat to the kids when he was told of the 9/11 attack.

    I can imagine he was embarrassed by 9/11 and was terrified of an annual attack. And he is also stupid so I can imagine him thinking torture was the best “obvious” method. And fear types can easily want to torture others because they feel tortured by their own fear.

    And I can imagine Cheney wanting torture just because he’s an mean-spirited agressive type.

    So I 100% believe these guys when they say they were put under constant pressure to torture coming up to the anniversary of 9/11. It rings true.

    And people who join organisations like the military, police force, CIA, and FBI are the types to obey authority figures.

    So I think these quotes give good insight into the facts on the ground.

  32. timbo says:

    I think we need to really look at the much bigger picture here…and that is that there may have been communications about these decisions, these decisions to torture human being, that we’re not kept in the Presidential records as required by the PRA. This gets back to the use of IMs, texting, and emails, (possibly digitally recorded voice mails as well?) on the creepy RNCP and other Republican Party servers. Also, what about the Federalist Society servers? Seriously, take a look at Judge Robert’s face when the Federalist Society is mentioned in his confirmation hearings…he looks downright uncomfortable.

    Now I’m not much of a paranoid theorist…but the more the whole picture of how this all went down comes out, it seems to me that the leaks about the Wilsons weren’t the only things that needed to be destroyed from the record by these thugs…

  33. klynn says:

    And would this be the contractor for the IM service?

    But it is probably this company.

    In recent months, Bantu has announced education-related deals with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). Helping with Bantu’s education efforts is Blackboard Inc., which has developed product extensions that allow the Bantu IM & Presence Platform to interoperate with the Blackboard 5.5 product. The addition of Bantu’s IM enhancement offers real-time communication and collaboration for Blackboard’s 2,200 customers.

    Also, Bantu was recently added to Lockheed Martin’s Global Combat Support System – Air Force (GCSS-AF) Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) federal government contract. As part of this program, Lockheed Martin provides the procurement vehicle for the U.S. Air Force to purchase the Bantu Instant Messaging (IM) & Presence Platform and associated services.

    And Bantu and Annapolis, Md.-based TeleCommunication Systems, which provides wireless location and messaging software, have developed an enhanced IM service for wireless carriers. Both companies will offer the integrated mobile chat and IM application that lets subscribers participate in chat sessions with multiple subscribers or one-to-one IM sessions from their mobile phones, two-way pagers, and desktop computers.

    -May 2002

    • klynn says:

      I should have included our bundle includes our internet and they were including the IM “capture text” service on both phone and computer. But this is probably still different overall.

      More on Bantu here:…..elive.html

      • Rayne says:

        We really need to know what the IM platform was at the time; there’s no way to make a reasonable assumption about archiving without this info.

        As I said, the IM system I used in 2002 was a component of the OS, originally intended for use in notifying users on a networked server of computer/network problems/service (back in the day we’d “ping” users and send them warning messages in advance of a system shutdown using the same kind of IM).

        Cellphone system would use entirely different platform, especially seven years later after a relative explosion of applications and standards for IMing.

        • klynn says:

          Is there a way to narrow the IM platform possibilities at the time and search for gov contracts for such and then consider the archival possibilities?

          Would it be a platform for just computers or one that has multiple interfaces with Blackberries, laptops etc? Again, I am not a techie (IANAT). Just wondering what to look for in a search.

        • klynn says:

          Is there any way to do a “process of elimination” to try and determine a possible list of platforms and then search for gov contracts for such?

          Just reading a homeland security doc on cell phone forensics (written in 2007); it seems to indicate that smart phones/Blackberries interface with computer IM systems. Is this correct? IANAT (I am not a techie).

          If the chain of command on this is who we think it is, would IMing via Blackberry be something to consider?

          • Rayne says:

            It’d be better to comb through .gov docs to see if there were any established specs for IM platforms.

            Also need to remember this was in flight; I know that EDS was in the process of redesigning and implementing a communications systems for Navy-Marines about that time period, don’t recall how far they got. There were ongoing problems with multiple platforms across multiple government entities, with vendors all trying to stake out their slice of the pie and entities trying to hang on to their own turf.

            I’m also positive that VoIP was NOT a viable technology between 2001-2003 time frame, having worked in what was the largest corporate deployment then. It just plain sucked, highly unreliable, would not have been the source of any communications for government at this time.

            Suspect we are looking at some fairly basic, older technologies because the military’s demands for continuity and uptime are more rigid than that of corporations.

          • Rayne says:

            Re: Blackberry devices — first ones came out in 2001. Would not have been widely used or supported in 2002-2003 among military and intel community.

            Big problem then as now is the transmission of data through RIM servers (which is why the hubbub over Obama wanting one, all data goes through servers in Canada before routing to/from sender/receiver). I strongly believe this would not have been a device used during any of these sessions.

            • klynn says:

              Re: Blackberry devices — first ones came out in 2001. Would not have been widely used or supported in 2002-2003 among military and intel community.

              Wasn’t smartphone technology available to DoD intel in 1998-1999? I may have that wrong.

              If it was, it might help in .gov doc search if the technology was good enough to interface with IM platform back in 2001.

              But from your description, it sounds like it’s probably not possible.

              • Rayne says:

                It probably would have been Palm or Nokia; IIRC, I bought stock in Palm about 1997 because I thought that Palm would be the big smart phone firm, since WinMobile was not yet viable and Nokia did not yet have big U.S. market. (Blackberry threw a wrench in the works with a disruptive technology.)

                What I don’t know is whether there were custom built devices based on other technology, like Motorola or Symbian, both of which were preferred technologies for radio and other network communications in corporate world.

                Again, probably easiest to do a wide search for instant messaging specs.

  34. Gitcheegumee says:

    OK,I’m going out on a very long limb here, but the Velvet Underground did an impressive series of articles about how electronic votes were being rerouted through servers in the basement of a Tennessee building.

    (Think Mike Connell, who died in a plane crash just before testifying in Ohio election hijinks,last year.)

    I am technologically challenged, but could the same principle have been used to occlude the origin and method of delivery regarding messages and visuals?

  35. Gitcheegumee says:

    This is an interesting piece,in line with the discussion here.
    Definitely worth a look,imho.

    ACLU: “Matrix” Terror Profiling System Shared Data on 90 percent of Americans with CIA/NSA
    Posted by leveymg in Editorials & Other Articles
    Sun Jul 19th 2009, 06:14 AM

  36. klynn says:

    I think Bantu is the contract. But I am most likely wrong. However, this bit I found interesting.

    Published August 13, 2001 in EDP Weekly’s IT Monitor

    The U.S. Army has announced its selection of the Bantu Instant Messaging Exchanging text messages in real time between two or more people logged into a particular instant messaging (IM) service. Instant messaging is more interactive than e-mail because messages are sent immediately, whereas e-mail messages can be queued up in a mail server for seconds or and Presence Platform for its Army Knowledge Online

    The fully integrated Instant Messaging (IM) application will be available by early September, and the portal is expected to have over 3 million users by 2003. Setting the standard for security and reliability, Bantu is the leading provider of business-grade IM and presence solutions for enterprises and government agencies.

    “Presence and IM will be integral components of the Army’s online knowledge-management initiative,” said Colonel Robert Coxe, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Army. “Bantu’s highly secure tools will enable AKO users worldwide to share enterprise information instantly and easily in a fully encrypted environment.”

    By integrating presence technology into AKO, portal members will be able to see which colleagues are online and available to communicate. The AKO portal is one facet of the Army’s effort to use information technology to leverage system-wide innovation in services, processes and knowledge creation.

    “The Army’s thorough evaluation and approval of Bantu’s platform – particularly our patent-pending security — validates the impact a secure IM solution can have in the government market, ” said Larry Schlang, President and CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. of Bantu. “Their desire to integrate Bantu into the AKO also demonstrates the power of IM in large organizations seeking more efficient ways to collaborate. We’re finding that corporations, government agencies and educational institutions are seeing this value more than ever before.”

    Bantu’s contract with the Army includes the installation of the IM and Presence Platform in the Army’s secure environment to be accessed by both classified and unclassified. Bantu will also provide presence and IM within the Army White Pages, a worldwide locator service providing contact information for anyone with an AKO account.

  37. Gitcheegumee says:

    According to BANTU’S home page,2 of th4 top execs there were at ATT before coming to BANTU.

    Qeulle coinkydink!

    Wasn’t ATT embroiled in the scandal about the “secret room” that was rerouting domestic phone calls of US citizens a few years ago?

  38. Rayne says:

    Agh, got to really wonder if this was something much older and more stable, like a UNIX system, especially since there were so many different and competing protocols for IM at the time.

    Wish we had somebody with background in gov telecom here to hash this out.

  39. outsider26 says:

    “You’ve got it all wrong,” the detainee told one interrogator in May 2002, according to a former intelligence official with access to sensitive records. Abu Zubaida said that al-Qaeda had been surprised at the devastating efficacy of the Sept. 11 attacks and that any plans for future attacks were mere aspirations.

    Not trying to add to the conspiracy theory, but why was AQ so surprised?

  40. Rayne says:

    Damn…now I recall there were changes to SarbOx which changed the way IMs were treated, forcing changes to IM platforms. Happened sometime between 2003 and 2005 (well post Enron/Worldcom/Tyco), but something did happen, remember seeing a lot more buzz in IT industry news outlets about compliance.

    In tandem with this change was a federal code change.

    Wonder if the code means we could try to FOIA the IMs??

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      FOIA the IMs?
      I wonder whether the EFF has done that?

      I recall someone showing me what I’m quite sure was good VoIP in 2000 so think it was viable then.

      • Rayne says:

        VoIP in 2002 if good (and our perception of good has changed a lot) was not a commercially available enterprise product. I worked as a project manager for one of the largest IT consulting firms at the time; the corporation lost beaucoup dollars trying to install a corporate system because it simply wasn’t ripe for the environment. The same consultancy also sold the U.S. military systems which were major money losers and not what one would call successes.