Did Jello Jay Rockefeller Endorse Torture Based on a Fabrication?

Over at Al Jazeera, I have a piece about ASSET Y, a CIA source whose fabricated claimed served as one excuse to restart both the torture and the Internet dragnet (ASSET Y’s intelligence was the excuse to restart torture).

Buried amid details of “rectal rehydration” and waterboarding that dominated the headlines over last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee findings was an alarming detail: Both the committee’s summary report and its rebuttal by the CIA admit that a source whose claims were central to the July 2004 resumption of the torture program  — and, almost certainly, to authorizing the Internet dragnet collecting massive amounts of Americans’ email metadata — fabricated claims about an election year plot.

[snip]

The CIA in March 2004 received reporting from a source the torture report calls “Asset Y,” who said a known Al-Qaeda associate in Pakistan, Janat Gul — whom CIA at the time believed was a key facilitator — had set up a meeting between Asset Y and Al-Qaeda’s finance chief, and was helping plan attacks inside the United States timed to coincide with the November 2004 elections. According to the report, CIA officers immediately expressed doubts about the veracity of the information they’d been given by Asset Y. A senior CIA officer called the report “vague” and “worthless in terms of actionable intelligence.” He noted that Al Qaeda had already issued a statement “emphasizing a lack of desire to strike before the U.S. election” and suggested that since Al-Qaeda was aware that “threat reporting causes panic in Washington” and inevitably results in leaks, planting a false claim of an election season attack would be a good way for the network to test whether Asset Y was working for its enemies. Another officer, assigned to the group hunting Osama bin Laden, also expressed doubts.

[snip]

Soon after the reauthorization of the torture and the Internet dragnet, the CIA realized ASSET Y’s story wasn’t true. By September, an officer involved in Janat Gul’s interrogation observed, “we lack credible information that ties him to pre-election threat information or direct operational planning against the United States, at home or abroad.” In October, CIA reassessed ASSET Y, and found him to be deceptive. When pressured, ASSET Y admitted had had made up the story of a meeting set up by Gul. ASSET Y blamed his CIA handler for pressuring him for intelligence, leading him to lie about the meeting.

Like the Iraq War before then, then, the torture and the dragnet were in part justified by a fabricator, one who, when caught in his lie, complained his handler had pressured him into telling this story. CIA obtained this intelligence in March 2004, after it became clear the counterterrorism programs were in trouble.

The CIA used the claim Janat Gul was involved in an election year plot to get the Principals Committee to reauthorize torture after Jack Goldsmith and George Tenet had halted it.

But there’s also this detail not included in the AJAM piece, which may explain quite a bit about why Senate Democrats have been so aggressive on oversight here where they usually aren’t.

On July 15, 2004, based on the reporting of ASSET Y, the CIA represented to the chairman and vice chairman of the Committee that Janat Gul was associated with a pre-election plot to conduct an attack in the United States.

 According to handwritten notes of the briefing, CIA briefers described Janat Gul as “senior AQ” and a “key facilitator” with “proximity” to a suspected pre-election plot. Committee records indicate that CIA briefers told the chairman and vice chairman [Jay Rockefeller] that, given the pre-election threat, it was “incumbent” on the CIA to “review [the] need for EITs,” following the suspension of”EITs.” (See Handwritten notes ofAndrew Johnson (DTS #2009-2077) CIA notes (DTS #2009-2024 pp. 92-95); CIA notes (DTS #2009-2024, pp. 110-121).) [redacted] CTC Legal [redacted] later wrote that the “only reason” for the chairman and vice chairman briefing on Janat Gul was the “potential gain for us” as “the vehicle for briefing the committees on our need for renewed legal and policy support for the CT detention and interrogation program.” See email from:mmil;to: [REDACTED]; subject: Re: Priority: congressional notification on Janat Gul; date: July 29, 2004. (Senate Report, 345)

That is, not only did CIA use this fabricated single source story to get the Principals Committee to reauthorize torture (as well as a series of OLC memos and, ultimately 2 of the May 2005 memos), but they used it as an opportunity to get at least two members of Congress, SSCI Chair Pat Roberts and SSCI Vice Chair Jay Rockefeller, to reauthorize it as well (it’s unclear whether Porter Goss and Jane Harman got an equivalent briefing; in what appears unredacted from the released record of their briefing, they did not, but the CTC lawyer talks about briefing the “committees,” plural, so I assume they did).

This July 2004 briefing would have been the only known briefing for the Gang of Four about the use of torture on a particular detainee before that detainee was tortured (while 3 of 4 Gang of Four members had been briefed that CIA was using torture in February 2003, I know of no briefing where they signed off on torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or those rounded up around that time). And the briefing happened even as Pat Roberts was releasing a whitewash on the Iraq War intelligence and the fabricators who went into that.

In his own narratives about torture, Jello Jay never explained what went on in this briefing — that CIA told a story based on a fabrication and based on that, he gave at least tacit approval, after which the CIA tortured someone so badly the detainee asked to be killed. But I can imagine how that might lead him to have a particular interest in exposing all the lies that CIA told Congress about torture.

For its part, CIA is fairly circumspect about how they resumed torture based on a fabrication. Unlike the GOP response, they admit fairly readily this was a fabrication. Yet one of the key claims the SSCI Report challenges is that the torture of Gul, Sharif al-Masri, and Ahmed Ghailani, all of whom were tortured based on this claim, served to “validate” one of their sources — that it, the three together served to debunk Asset Y. Given how central Janat Gul’s torture was, both in 2004 and in Steven Bradbury’s retroactive authorizations in May 2005, I can see why they’d have to invent some purpose for this torture (and Gul did have associations with al Qaeda — just not very involved ones). But ultimately, this torture fell so far below the standards they had set for themselves, it may well explain a great deal about the tensions between CIA and those in Congress who reauthorized torture based on a fabrication.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. wallace says:

    quote’Unlike the GOP response, they admit fairly readily this was a fabrication. Yet one of the key claims the SSCI Report challenges is that the torture of Gul, Sharif al-Masri, and Ahmed Ghailani, all of whom were tortured based on this claim, served to “validate” one of their sources — that it, the three together served to debunk Asset Y”unquote

    So the CIA admits it’s appeal to the SSCI for authorization to torture again, was based on a lie, and they KNEW IT AT THE TIME. So, they tortured more people, in order to give them the satisfaction their lie could be ..ahem..validated.

    What part of sadistic, lying and murdering war criminals doesn’t 54% of Murka get?

    Furthermore..what more does the laws of this nation need to DEMAND prosecution of these scumbags? oh..wait..I know. An AG who isn’t a war criminal himself.

    This nation redefines the word shameless.

  2. wallace says:

    WHOA!! wait a minute here. ..let me get this straight…

    quote”Did Jello Jay Rockefeller Endorse Torture Based on a Fabrication?”quote

    By “endorse”, does this mean “authorized”??? If not, exactly how does a stinking Congress member’s “endorsement” translate into approval of CIA’s request, regardless if it was based on a lie? Furthermore, if this “endorsement” DOES translate into “approval”, how does Congress(rolling eyes at the thought 2 members of the SSCI=Congress) supercede DOJ’s authority to authorize anything? LET ALONE..authorise something that is AGAINST THE LAW!!!!!!!

    Something stinks here. WHEN can Congress authorize breaking the law??????????

    Oh..I know. When ever it wants to..unless it get’s caught. Then it’s…”OH! well..haha..we were lied to. Now move on along. Nothing to see here”

    sheeezusHfuckingchrist. What we have for a government is a great big lying sack of criminal shit.

  3. wallace says:

    One more thing…
    quote”But ultimately, this torture fell so far below the standards they had set for themselves, it may well explain a great deal about the tensions between CIA and those in Congress who reauthorized torture based on a fabrication.”unquote

    This torture fell so far below the standards they had set for themselves???? WTF? TORTURE IS TORTURE. STANDARDS? What kind of bullshit is that? What are you doing there emptywheel? Tell me the difference between inflicting pain of one kind for suffering of another? In fact, with all due respect, I get the feeling sometimes you’ve completely lost any kind of human revulsion. Instead, we get journalistic analysis bordering on missing the point! Again…with all due respect. I just get tired of reading these kind of observations as if you were looking at ameoba through a microscope. I dunno..maybe outrage isn’t your “thang”.

    • jasmine says:

      She’s not saying she thinks there can be standards for torture. She’s saying the US already had standards in place for it and when Congress found out that the torture of these three people fell far below those established standards, they probably felt antagonism towards the CIA for asking them sign off on it.

      • wallace says:

        quote”She’s not saying she thinks there can be standards for torture. She’s saying the US already had standards in place for it and when Congress found out that the torture of these three people fell far below those established standards, they probably felt antagonism towards the CIA for asking them sign off on it.”unquote

        Hahahahahahahaha! So, let me get your sarcasim straight. So, what you are saying is..emptywheel was pointing out … Congress(..ie..two members of the SSIC) got pissed off because the CIA was asking them to sign off on a “level” of fucking torture that wasn’t degenerate enough? Like..they wanted CIA to murder him?

  4. bloopie2 says:

    Ah, crap. Joe Cocker has died. Seventy, he was. “Up Where We Belong”. “You Are So Beautiful.” To leave behind such a legacy, we mortals can only wish.

    • wallace says:

      quote”Ah, crap. Joe Cocker has died. Seventy, he was “unquote

      Indeed. Bless his heart. I turned 70 yesterday. I am a 40 yr pro guitarist. I played his music in the 70’s and 80’s. He was as real as it gets. So was his music.

  5. wallace says:

    I finally get it. There are certain employees of all three branches of our government, that are simply degenerate animals that given a position of power, …will not only murder you at their slightest whim and get away with it for what ever reason they deem, but tear your flesh from your body and enjoy it.

    Now, excuse me while I clean my AK-15 and load 20 magazines.

  6. wallace says:

    In respect of this night…

    On this holy night, given the reality of Revelations, and the current trajectory of the United States, I can only pray that sanity will prevail for a while longer so my grandchildren will learn to understand the grace of God. I wish a Merry Christmas and a happier New Year to you all.

  7. mzchief says:

    This coincides with Jello Jay getting a heads up about and refusing to do anything about the crime wave of identity/land records theft to become MERS which set up the impending mortage fraud-closure crime wave.

  8. mambo says:

    In the military , “silence means consent, so if you don’t speak up, the mission is executed as briefed/planned, whether it is torture or an assault.

    The same goes for the government, if you aren’t doing anything to stop it, you are consenting.

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