The Interview Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    One thing that’s interesting about this document is that it shows the IG interest in the tapes was as strong as the IG interest in the Nashiri death threats.

  2. tjbs says:

    I think it may be the death(s) or a word that fits fatalities.

    This was the bright line not to be crossed ” if the suspect dies you’re doing it wrong” was the macabre guideline. Then there’s a problem of a torture session turning into a snuff filming and weather or not the EIT’s were legal/illegal murder one was always off the table.

    I imagine it took the most egregious, open knowledge murder to get noticed while many were just sweep under the rug so to speak.

    • bobschacht says:

      ” if the suspect dies you’re doing it wrong”

      Yeah, but if you have managed to turn the living corpse of the suspect into a zombie, well, that’s OK.

      I suspect that sooner or later, all those detainees that can’t be brought to trial but are for some reason “too dangerous” to be released will be warehoused in an institutionalized “Home for Zombies” until they die.

      Bob in AZ

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Questions 1-5 are general

    Q 6-13 are about the Thai black site

    Q 14 – 21 are about some other site (GITMO? Hard takedown q)

    Q 22 – 27? about site where al-Nashiri was held

    Q 28? – 33 more general questions

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, and just to clarify, al-Nashiri was at two sites. The Thai site (for a few weeks). And then whereever they moved him and AZ. It was at the second site where the CTC people were onsite with al-Nashiri using SERE techniques–in particular death threats–that Yoo had specifically not refused to approve.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    Btw, I think that all docs in this release with no Bates numbers are original work product from IG’s office.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think you’re probably right. There are just two, if I’m doing my math right: the potential statement, and the interview questions. I had originally though the potential statement was from OPA or Hayden’s office. But the argument they’re making there is definitely IG related. Remember that Helgerson got canned not too long after this process started.

      • emptywheel says:

        What’s interesting about that, though, is that the Trip Report–which is clearly an OIG person emailing another OIG person the trip report the second person had done in 2003–is the latest TCG date (3/17/09), and it looks like they had rolled over the numbering system by then or started fresh with the new year.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    I wonder if Q10 above was answered with some fluff answer or “5th amendment”. Because an honest answer would be to facilitate destruction of the tapes.

    Boxturtle (Another answer: We needed to get those tapes into a SCIF so they could vanish)

  6. Mary says:

    Does the trip report leave you with the impression that maybe there were some people they originally intended to interview, but then didn’t? There’s some reference interspersed with blackouts about “intended” to interview personnel that made me think they didn’t interview those persons after all. I wondered if that might have been contractors and/or if it might have tied to the later strange statements in Re updates to DOJ about INV management deciding to not interview anyone outside the building – iow, if the trip started with the thought of interviewing everyone, but at some point the word came down to only interview CIA personnel, not doj, nsc, contractor, fbi, etc. ??

    Just spec that occured to me when I saw the “intended” and made a baseless link to the “outside the building” info from a different context.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      As I read through the docs, I do get the impression that they originally intended to talk to more people.

      Since the objective of this (even if the investigators thought differently) was to whitewash it and protect the people and the program, those people they choose not to talk to may have had answers that Gonzo did not want to hear. And Gonzo couldn’t have been confident they would lie correctly under questioning, since at the time their legal exposure would be minimal due to their acting under orders effectively directly from the President.

      Boxturtle (Don’t ask the question if you can’t stand the answer)

      • DWBartoo says:

        Perhaps questions are not asked because answers are not wanted?

        The “problem” with too many questions, it seems, is that ANY answer raises MORE questions.

        That is why placing as much as possible in the “TOP SECRET” and National Security “box” is so very “useful”.

        It is not only people who are disappeared.

        Justice requires access to truth.

        When truth conveniently disappears, then “reality” is whatever “they” say that it is.

        “History” will soon follow suite.

        Thank all of you, and EW, especially, for the monkey wrenches you toss into “their” works.


  7. Mary says:

    Question 2 sounds framed in the way you’d frame a question to a lawyer – asking about history and “legal authorities” and 5 seems to assume that respondent can speak to the DOJ opinion, as if it had been seen. We don’t think they sent that opinion for distribution to the field, do we? Since 6 asks about views on methods used by interrogators vs. “other interrogators” it kinda sounds like a non-interrogator being questioned.

    I think 10 would have one of the interesting answers – it talks about responsiblity for interrogation being transferred with a redact – from the FBI to CIA or something like that might fit. Gee – why would you transfer from someone like Soufan, with his background and language skills and interrogation training to – torturers? That would be an interesting answer. We decided we wanted to beat up on the crazy guy bc we didn’t have anyone else to beat up on and besides, we did this whole Thailand and Western European riding ring crap so we could torture people. Oh, and we were hoping to get a nickname from W… Or not.

    For 14/15, as some spec, one maybe fit would be to put Salt Pit in the redaction for 14 and other fatalities for the redaction in 15. Maybe even “at the Salt Pit” for 11/12? Or am I not counting characters correctly?

    I mentioned this in an earlier thread, but the nature of question 24, “Were you aware of the specific EIT used on al-Nashiri?” is odd unless there was a lot of discussion already involving this particular interviewee about a specific EIT such that no kind of foundation is even attempted and no questions about what would seem to be a wide range of things to ask about EITs w/al-Nashiri, from the drills to the waterboarding. So it seems as if that focus would have been on a specific ‘eit’ that was not in any way authorized and which they felt the interviewee knew was not in any way authorized, so that they knew asking abou the “specific EIT” he knew exactly which one they meant.

    Would CIA have sent a lawyer from CTC to be on site for the torture, along with the medical personnel on site – bc the questions just have a flavor of questions to a lawyer, esp the constant flip back to the DOJ opinion, which doesn’t seem like it would have been handed around to everyone. You could even see the evolution of the guidelines as being, in part, due to the fact that they were so steeped in the torture program that they didn’t just have one site where they could send a lawyer to explain to the interrogators what they could or couldn’t do.

    All fwiw, just rambling spec.

    • emptywheel says:

      Remember that Jonathan Fredman sent guidance to the Field–he was the guy who was the translator of the Bybee Memos (or, as it turns out, the July 13 Yoo memo) to the interrogators. Though I thought about this being Fredman, and it doesn’t seem like him, only bc they talk about this person’s assignment to CTC as a short term thing. Fredman was there, I think, until last spring.

      Which leads me to wonder whether this isn’t the person (for some reason I think it’s a woman, though I could be wrong) who was feeding Koester info for the memos, and who therefore was very closely in the loop on the nitty gritty of the torture program. And that also makes me wonder whether this wasn’t the person who was in the loop of torture tape destruction.

      FWIW, when Hayden set up some controls over Helgerson before he left, I remember there was one person who bitched that Helgerson had been out for him(her) for years, sort of a Javert type hunt. When that was reported, I wondered if it was Rodriguez, but the person sounded more like someone who was, in Fall 2007 after Rodriguez retired, still at CIA. So again, I wonder if that’s not the same person.

      As to the transfer of authority, I think it more likely that the transfer went from CIA/CTC to MJ rather than FBI to CIA. FBI was never really in charge of any of this interrogation.And remember that one of the things we got in the IG Report dump last fall was a March (IIRC) proposal on torture program, so it’s possible this was formally, entirely outsourced at that point.

      • Mary says:

        As to the transfer of authority, I think it more likely that the transfer went from CIA/CTC to MJ rather than FBI to CIA. FBI was never really in charge of any of this interrogation

        I think from what Soufan said they thought they were in charge of the AZ interrogation early on. Since he really dug in on his objections and since CIA isn’t typically in the interrogation business, I think that would be a legitmate kind of question – how did we (CIA) end up doing these interrogations after all.

        I could see the other, as well, except that I don’t really believe that the actual torture sessions – which now-MJ employee, formerly CIA “Deuce” Martinez described as being done by the “knuckle draggers” – would have been handed off to MJ, or even the questioning. I can see the planning for the torture sessions and the monitoring, but I have to think CIA wanted their own guys asking the questions. Maybe not – I just see the original hand off, from Soufan and FBI (and Cloonan and FBI with al-Libi) to CIA as one of the actions that would trigger questions after the CIA gets involved in the questioning and ends up with people losing eyes, dying, having to have trach kits on hand, etc. If I was involved, one of my questions would have been of the “and how is it that WE ended up doing these interrogations instead of FBI after all” esp if the answer was what – by then – I knew it would be: That FBI refused to participate in the EITs bc they thought they were illegal and counterproductive.

        I’d sure like to hear the CIA response to why THEY thought FBI didn’t stay at the helm if I was doing the investigation, inhouse or not.

        Obviously, a hand off to MJ would be really important too, but I’m not sure I buy that there was a complete hand off to them – I think the CIA was still providing guys named Deuce, even if they opted out of using resources like the guy who knew more about KSM than anyone else, bc he was FBI and not mafiCIA.

  8. MadDog says:

    EW – grammatically, this sentence seems to be missing something:

    …In this post, I wanted to try to figure out why the most puzzling document–the Interview Questions from PDF 106-108…

    • tjbs says:

      Yo, how about a graphic warning warning on that pic.

      To clarify my comment # 2 I meant to suggest the answer to question # 7. 15, 22 is the word “fatalities”.

      And back to # 15 it is all in one Torture/ Murder/ Treason.

      Thanks you EW for all you do.

  9. tjbs says:

    Isn’t this what Nuremburg should have taught us?

    That we allowed an assembly line of torture that lead to an assembly line of death and no one says ENOUGH. We showed a depraved indifference to human suffering and death, just like the Nazis. This has lead to the unending wars or is a result there of but either way it’s not where our country should be.

    • Leen says:

      these thugs have taken torture up another notch. They learned from the Nuremberg trials. Re write the laws before you torture and then cover your torturous ass. No regard for International treaties signed.

      Were they trying so hard because they really thought they were protecting the U.S. from more attacks? Or was this all about Cheney wanting to torture some lies connecting Iraq to 9/11? Is this why they were going so far out of bounds?

      Thank you to EW and the rest of you justice addicts for all you do. Really mean that

      • klynn says:


        I too have been struck by the fact that this whole mess has elements of premeditation and systemic demoralizing of the US.

        I have a short list of what countries/people would benefit from such efforts and how a 9-11 attack would allow the “pieces” to be put into place.

        But now I am just getting all tin foily!

        Rove’s comment, “Rich harvest from the politic of fear,” being the reason for GOP success in Nov. 2002 and 2004, just adds to this picture.

        • klynn says:

          Re the politics of fear…

          I find it interesting that Bush/Cheney and the GOP worked hard to frame this as a “war” but then on January 18, 2002 Bush decides detainees “as terrorists” disqualifies them from prisoner of war protection under the Geneva Conventions. And now, it is clear that from the start, a majority withheld are not terrorists and should be released.

          How about making this process a little easier. Restore those who are not high value and not “terrorists” to POW status and proceed accordingly.

        • Leen says:

          “premeditation” sounds like it. Destroying the evidence seems like a sure sign. Sounds like they were just protecting their own asses and identities. No other reasons for destroying.

          Bet your ass if they had gotten one person they tortured to say the attack on 9/11 was linked to Iraq. We would have been hearing that audio on MSNBC, CNN, etc. Cheney would have been dancing in the streets

  10. Leen says:

    Questions from a peasant

    I don’t know how you folks stomach this stuff? As I read it my stomach just starts to turn.

    What is with the “eyes only” everywhere? Is that the name of the program? What is with that? “eyes only, eyes only” not being redacted

    And then the problems with hearing the audio.Obviously they audio taped with the video taping. But did they audio tape separately too? referencing listening to audio instead of watching.

    #Quite a leap from: “Please do not tape over or edit videos of Abu Zabaydah. Interrogations 2)Please preserve all videos”

    To: “Destruction of Video tapes. Confirmation that all 92 tapes were destroyed on 09”


    Who was that who was asking “please do not destroy or tape over”

    Who was using the word “please?” Sounded like they were begging.

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