Did Condi Really Not Know Defense Was Sleeping with the Spooks on Torture?

There’s a weird detail in John Yoo’s prepared testimony for last year’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on Assholes Who Torture. He claims the National Security Council (so, presumably John Bellinger or Condi or her boss) ordered OLC not to let on what it was doing to either State or Defense.

In particular, the offices of the CIA general counsel and of the NSC legal advisor asked OLC for an opinion on the meaning of the anti-torture statute. They set the classification level of the work and dictated which agencies and personnel could know about it. In this case, the NSC ordered that we not discuss our work on this matter with either the State or Defense Departments. 

To be fair, Yoo is referring to the production of just the Bybee One memo–the one requiring torture to rival organ failure or death–and not the recently-released Bybee Two memo–the one detailing the techniques in question.  And from reviewing the hearing now that Bybee Two has been released (trust me, I mean it when I call it the hearing on Assholes Who Torture), it’s clear that Addington and Yoo both maintained a clear distinction between the two memos (in Addington’s case, for example, he did so to avoid admitting he had discussed torture techniques with the folks in Gitmo.)

So it’s possible that Yoo was only ordered to keep this memo secret from DOD; it’s possible Condi knew the techniques memo was basically a group project for the torture kids over at Defense and CIA. 

But with this weird detail in mind, I find another weird detail from the Senate Armed Services Report even weirder.  Both DOD’s Jim Haynes and CIA’s John Rizzo kind of sort of take credit for passing the material from JPRA to Yoo and friends at OLC. Here’s Haynes:

Mr. Haynes also recalled that he may have been "asked that information be given to the Justice Department for something they were working on," which he said related to a program he was not free to discuss with the Committee, even in a classified setting.

And here’s Rizzo:

According to Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, the techniques that the OLC analyzed in the Second Bybee memo were provided by his office. In his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Rizzo stated that his office was "the vehicle" for getting the interrogation practices analyzed in the Second Bybee memo to the Department of Justice.

These aren’t necessarily contradictory. Read more

Jim Haynes’ Request: A[nother] List of Techniques–Including Waterboarding

There’s an interesting footnote in the Senate Report on Torture that suggests Jim Haynes personally went fishing for a description of waterboarding so it could be added to techniques approved by OLC.

Footnote 179–describing JPRA (the SERE people) receiving a request for descriptions of SERE techniques from DOD’s Office of General Counsel reads,

Committee staff interview of Lt Col Daniel Baumgertner (August 8, 2007); see also email from Col Moulton to [redacted] (June 30, 2006) ("We [JPRA] initially received a call from OSD General Counscil (sic) requesting information about resistance techniques used against U.S. POWs. I believe this was early in Operation Enduring Freedom. We were requested to provide that information within hours and were authorized by JFCOM to forward it to OSD. … Once we understood what OSD/GC was looking for, we provided a[] list of techniques.")

There are several things about this note. Colonel Randy Moulton, the head of JPRA, presumably in response to a DOD IG request, seems to refer to the December 2001 request from DOD’s General Counsel (since that would have been "early in Operation Eduring Freedom"). He goes on to describe the process by which Jim Haynes’ office asked for a list of techniques, suggesting that JPRA at first didn’t understand what Haynes’ office was looking for. And note the bracket: "a[] list of techniques." That suggests a word beginning with "a" was shortened–the most likely possibility being "another." That suggests that JPRA may have submitted a list of techniques, subsequently learned that Haynes’ office was looking for something else, and then submitted a second set of techniques. 

That’s interesting because there’s a difference of recollection between Richard Shiffrin, then DOD Deputy General Counsel in charge of Intelligence, and Daniel Baumgartner, Chief of Staff for JPRA, that pertains to these requests.

First, the timeline the SASC Report describes surrounding the list of techniques is:

July 25, 2002: Shiffrin requests information  for a "list of exploitation and interrogation techniques" from Baumgartner.

July 25, 2002: Baumgartner writes a memo in response to Shiffrin including lesson plans and describing JPRA’s expertise on exploitation.

July 25, 2002: "Prior to the memo being delivered" to the General Counsel’s office, Shiffrin calls Baumgartner again to ask for additional information, including a list of techniques used by JPRA at SERE school.

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Yet Another Warning against Torture Ignored

So what kind of Friday night news dump do you think would elicit this much silence? (h/t scribe)

Haynes declined to comment, as did Rizzo and the CIA. Jay. S. Bybee, who as an assistant Attorney General signed the Aug. 1, 2002, memo, did not respond to a request for comment.


James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen … declined to comment on their role in formulating interrogation policy.

How about a document–given to DoD and from DoD to CIA and from CIA to Jay Bybee–referring to harsh tactics as torture and warning they don’t work?

The key operational deficits related to the use of torture is its impact on the reliability and accuracy of the information provided. If an interrogator produces information that resulted from the application ofphysical and psychological duress, the reliability and accuracy of this information is in doubt. In other words, a subject in extreme pain may provide an answer, any answer, or many answers in order to get the pain to stop.

The document comes complete with quotes from someone (my wildarsed guess is John Bellinger) who had been involved in deliberations on the torture policy stating that CIA shared none of this with the National Security Council.

A former administration official said the National Security Council, which was briefed repeatedly that summer on the CIA’s planned interrogation program by George Tenet, then Director of Central Intelligence, and agency lawyers, did not discuss the issues raised in the attachment.

"That information was not brought to the attention of the principals," said the former administration official, who was involved in deliberations on interrogation policy who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "That would have been relevant. The CIA did not present with pros and cons, or points or concern. They said this was safe and effective, and there was no alternative."

The urgent efforts of all the people involved in setting up our torture regime to blame each other seems likely to keep us in new document dumps for the next several weeks. But I don’t know about you–I’m getting overwhelmed. Though, imagine how Haynes, Rizzo, Bybee, Mitchell, and Jessen feel. It’s almost … "poignant."

Debunking the Torture Apologists’ “Half the Intelligence” Claim

In another thread, Bob Schacht wrote,

BTW, according to CNN, Haynes and Mukasey are claiming that “half” of what we “know” about Al Qaeda came from torture sessions. Did they really write that, and if so, I’m wondering if its puffery or true.

Using the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, I think I can show where it comes from–and show why it’s a totally useless claim.

Bradbury Needed to Appeal to Efficacy to Claim These Techniques Didn’t Violate the Convention Against Torture

In the May 30, 2005 Memo, Steven Bradbury spends four pages recording the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation. He does this, at least partially, to make sure he can claim that the techniques at issue don’t "shock the conscience" and therefore don’t violate the Fifth Amendment (and therefore don’t violate CAT, which is the whole point of this memo) . In particular, Bradbury resorts to efficacy when trying to distinguish between torture condemned by the State Department and that practiced by the US. Speaking of torture practiced by other countries, Bradbury claims it simply doesn’t serve the same purpose as our torture.

There is no indication that techniques are used only as necessary to protect against grave terrorist threats or for any similarly vital government interests.

And when Bradbury is trying to distinguish enhanced interrogation from SERE, he again appeals to efficacy and necessity.

… the interrogation program we consider here furthers the paramount interest of the United States in the security of the Nation more immediately and directly than SERE training.


It follows that use of these techniques will not shock the conscience in at least some circumstances. We believe that such circumstances exist here, where the techniques are used against unlawful combatants who deliberately and secretly attack civlians in an untraditional armed conflict in which intelligence is difficult or impossible to collect by other means and is essential to the protection of the United States and its interests, where the techniques are used only when necessary and only in the interrogations of key terrorist leaders reasonably thought to have acionable intelligence, and where every effort is made to minimize unnecessary suffering and to avoid inflicting significant or lasting harm.

It bears noting that this rant goes far beyond what Bradbury elsewhere carefully laid out as the premise of his memo. But both this claim and the one dismissing State Department concerns about torture rely on his argument that the program was necessary to protect the US. 

So to accomplish his apparent task–which was to find a way to declare the CIA interrogation program did not violate CAT (after CIA’s own IG had already concluded it did), Bradbury needed to be able to say it was effective.

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The FISA Dance in the Wake of 9/11

Looseheadprop asks some good questions about the September 25, 2001 opinion on FISA David Kris requested from OLC.

Now that the Obama Administration has released this opinion (as well as others–see more FDL coverage from Christy and emptywheel), the first thing that strikes me is: How did he get this researched and written so fast (especially during a period when many people where spending lots of work hours reconnecting with friends and family and chewing over every scrap of information coming out of the attack sites)? Or had he started work on it earlier? And if so, why?

The question Kris asked, 

You have asked for our opinion on the constitutionality of amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. . . so a search may be approved when the collection of foreign intelligence is "a purpose" of the search. In its current form, FISA requires that "the purpose" of the search be the collection of foreign intelligence.

… presents a ready answer for the timing. After all, Congress made almost precisely this change when it amended FISA as part of the PATRIOT Act, which got rushed through Congress from October 23 to October 26, 2001 ("the purpose" became "a significant purpose").

Change in certification requirement for electronic surveillance and physical searches under FISA from “the purpose” being gathering of foreign intelligence information to “a significant purpose” being gathering of foreign intelligence information.

Under Section 218, Sec. 104(a)(7)(B) and Sec. 303(a)(7)(B) of FISA, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1804(a)(7)(B) and 1823(a)(7)(B) respectively, are amended to strike “the purpose” and to replace it with “a significant purpose.” As amended, under Sec. 104(a)(7)(B), in an application for a FISA court order authorizing electronic surveillance, a national security official must certify that “a significant purpose” of the surveillance is to gather foreign intelligence information. Similarly, in an application for an order authorizing a physical search under FISA, a national security official must certify, under the amended Sec. 303(a)(7)(B), that “a significant purpose” of the search is to gather foreign intelligence information. This has been interpreted to mean that the primary purpose of the electronic surveillance or physical search may be criminal investigation, as long as a significant purpose of the surveillance or search is to gather foreign intelligence information.

And the admission in the memo that "most courts have adopted the test that the ‘primary purpose’ of a FISA search is to gather foreign intelligence" may be the reason the PATRIOT Act ultimately included the modifer "significant" on "purpose." Thus, it seems that Kris was using this memo to prepare more general changes to FISA to make it easier to use intelligence information in criminal prosecutions (as LHP points out).

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The Removal of Clothing Does Not Lead to Nudity

nudity.JPGThat’s a claim that Jim "Chevron" Haynes made yesterday in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on torture. In a pathetic attempt to claim that his own 2-page (with zero footnotes) recommendation and Rummy’s subsequent authorization of a number of techniques–including the use of fear and the removal of clothing–did not lead to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Haynes actually claimed that the removal of clothing was in some way qualitatively different than nudity.

Haynes: Some conflation. Two of items for Qahtani included clothing and use of phobia. What was approved by SecDef. Widely held understanding of what was in those two categories. Use of dogs not intended to be dogs in interrogation room with detainee. Muzzled dogs in perimeter. Removal of clothing not nudity. You then jumped to dogs in room and naked people.

As Claire McCaskill pointed out to Diane Beaver and Jane Dalton, if the written documentation allows the use of phobias and removal of clothing, and that written documentation doesn’t rule out the removal of all clothing, you’re going to have nudity.

McCaskill Reading memo. You understand words matter. Removal of clothing. It says Using detainee phobias such as fear of dogs. I’m trying to figure out as a lawyer, how that does not envision naked people having dogs sicced on them. How does that not occur?

Beaver When you develop a plan, if someone had said, lets sic the dogs on them. That did not happen.

McCaskill Dogs were used with naked people.

Beaver Not at Gitmo

McCaskill Within our military. It happened.

Beaver I can’t comment..

McCaskill Ms Dalton

Dalton: Those approved for Gitmo and did not involve nudity.

McCaskill Removal of clothing. When you were discussing safeguards. Did any one talk putting in the word "all"? If I saw removal of clothing and I was trying to get info, how would anyone know?

Dalton General Miller said it did not involve nudity.

McCaskill there’s nothing here that would say removal of clothing. It’s not in there.

All three of these people are pretending that "everyone" involved knew there were a certain set of conditions that limited the use of phobias and removal of clothing that would somehow prevent piling detainees into heaps of naked human flesh–conditions that, unfortunately, Haynes’ two page memo failed to communicate. Read more

DOD and Torture Declassification Timing

I think I’ll be doing a series of posts on the DOJ IG report on torture. In this post, I will look at some of the timing surrounding torture declassification.

The very first footnote in the 300-odd page report sticks a shiv into DOD for its stalling on this report:

The OIG has redacted (blacked out) from the public version of this report information that the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Department of Defense (DOD) considered classified. We have provided full versions of the classified reports to the Department of Justice, the CIA, the DOD, and Congressional committees. The effort to identify classified information in this report has been a significant factor delaying release of the report. To obtain the agencies’ classification comments, we provided a draft report to the FBI, the CIA, and the DOD for classification review on October 25, 2007. The FBI and the CIA provided timely responses. The DOD’s response was not timely. Eventually, the DOD provided initial classification comments to us on March 28, 2008. However, we believed those classification marking were over-inclusive. After several additional weeks of discussion with the DOD about these issues the DOD provided revised classification comments. The DOD’s delay in providing comments, and its over-inclusive initial comments, delayed release of this report.

This is not the first we’ve heard of DOD’s stalling. In an April interview with McClatchy, Fine complained about it.

Marisa Taylor reports that DOD is stalling the release of a DOJ IG report on the FBI’s role in torture.

The release of a report on the FBI’s role in the interrogations of prisoners in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq has been delayed for months because the Pentagon is reviewing how much of it should remain classified, according to the Justice Department’s watchdog.

Glenn Fine, the Justice Department’s inspector general, told McClatchy that his office has pressed the Defense Department to finish its review, but officials there haven’t completed the process "in a timely fashion."

"Why that happened, I don’t know," Fine said in an interview this week.

Tell me, Marisa Taylor, did Fine have a smirk on his face when he said that? I couldn’t imagine why DOD would be stalling the release of this report!

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Why Drop Charges Against Al-Qahtani?

The AP reports that charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani have been dropped, suggesting that charges were dropped because he was tortured.

The Pentagon has dropped charges against a Saudi at Guantanamo who was alleged to have been the so-called "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks, his U.S. military defense lawyer said Monday.

Mohammed al-Qahtani was one of six men charged by the military in February with murder and war crimes for their alleged roles in the 2001 attacks. Authorities say al-Qahtani missed out on taking part in the attacks because he was denied entry to the U.S. by an immigration agent.

But in reviewing the case, the convening authority for military commissions, Susan Crawford, decided to dismiss the charges against al-Qahtani and proceed with the arraignment for the other five, said Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, the Saudi’s military lawyer.


Officials previously said al-Qahtani had been subjected to a harsh interrogation authorized by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

But that’s not right. After all, the remaining 5 detainees were also tortured. Heck, the government has even admitted to water-boarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But he’s still going to get a show trial.

I would suggest that two things contributed to al-Qahtani’s charges being dropped. First, the disqualification of Thomas Hartmann last week may be related. As I suggested in my post on the disqualification, Judge Allred made clear that the charges against Hamdan could go forward because those charges were finalized before Hartmann came on the scene. But the charges in which Hartmann was directly involved–notably of the group of high value detainees that until Friday included al-Qahtani–would be affected. The government is now going to have to prove that those 6 5 detainees would have been charged even without Hartmann making decisions about whether to include evidence gained by torture.

Note that Allred’s decision is dated May 9, Friday, the same day Susan Crawford decided to drop charges against al-Qahtani, so if this was a response to the Hartmann disqualification, it was a very quick response.

But there’s another reason why the charges against al-Qahtani were dropped while KSM will still be charged: evidence that the torture against al-Qahtani didn’t reveal anything. Read more

Just Making It Up on Classification

A number of you have pointed to smintheus’ excellent post on Bush’s new classification, Controlled Unclassified Information.

On Friday afternoon, with George Bush in Texas for his daughter’s wedding, the White House finally released its new Executive Branch rules for designating and disseminating what used to be known as "sensitive" information. The most common term in the past for such material has been "Sensitive But Unclassified" (SBU), though there was an alphabet soup of competing classifications in various agencies. In part, the new rules create a uniform standard across the Executive by replacing SBU etc. with a new classification, "Controlled Unclassified Information" (CUI).

The Friday memo states that its purpose "is to standardize practices and thereby improve the sharing of information, not to classify or declassify new or additional information." The initial impetus for change came in a December 2005 memo in which Bush called for a new policy for information sharing between agencies. The alphabet soup of "sensitive" designations too often played into the hands of officials who sought to hoard information rather than to share it.


Though the material to be regulated is nominally "unclassified", this new system is in fact a much more sweeping program for keeping information secret than the ostensibly higher grades of secrecy for "classified" material. And at the same time, the system for designating "unclassified" information is in significant ways far less regulated than for "classified" information. This new memo represents the opposite of reform.

I agree with smintheus that this classification is simply an invitation for bureaucratic games that result in less information sharing rather than more.

But at the same time, with the increasing evidence that it doesn’t matter what Bush says the classification guidelines are, key players in his Administration will just do as they please anyway, I’m not sure the CUI is the worst of our worries.

Consider the example offered by Bill Leonard in his statement for Russ Feingold’s April 29 30 [thanks selise] hearing on Secret Law. Leonard focused most of his attention on the improper classification of the Yoo Torture Memo authorizing the military to torture; he offered quite a striking soundbite about the memo:

To learn that such a document was classified had the same effect on me as waking up one morning and learning that after all these years, there is a "secret" Article to the Constitution that the American people do not even know about.

But I found the details of Leonard’s discussion even more interesting. Read more

Cheney’s Lawyer Now Defending Haynes

We’ve discussed the quiet omnipresence of Terry O’Donnell on this blog several times before. O’Donnell is, of course, Dick Cheney’s long-time personal lawyer. We know that David Addington informed Cheney when he discovered the "meatgrinder" note in the evidence being turned over to the FBI in the CIA Leak Case. We also know that O’Donnell took the lead on efforts to convince DOJ not to indict James Tobin–even though O’Donnell was not one of the named Williams & Connolly lawyers representing Tobin.

If the Tobin example didn’t already make it clear that O’Donnell’s job is not just to keep Cheney–but to keep the entire top Bush Administration out of jail–consider this news.

Terry O’Donnell is now representing the former General Counsel for DOD, William Haynes.

The panel notified the Pentagon in early February that it wanted to question Haynes. Before receiving any response, investigators learned on Feb. 25 that Haynes was leaving for Chevron in San Francisco. "How often does somebody like that give two weeks’ notice and leave town?" said one government source familiar with the sequence of events.

Haynes’s departure initially raised concerns about obtaining his testimony without a subpoena, especially after the panel learned that he had retained top criminal defense attorney Terrence O’Donnell, who represented Cheney during the Valerie Plame leak investigation. But O’Donnell told NEWSWEEK that Haynes has agreed to be interviewed, adding that the committee’s probe "had nothing to do" with his resignation.

This mind-boggling news appears in an Isikoff story about a secret Senate Armed Forces investigation into abuses of detainees in DOD custody (recall that Carl Levin Chairs Armed Forces and John McCain is the ranking member–which itself is cause for discussion).

Not surprisingly, Isikoff doesn’t bat an eye about the fact that the Vice President’s personal lawyer is now representing the guy at DOD who is at the nexus of policies permitting torture, the guy who stands between the policies at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, and Rummy and Dick. Isikoff doesn’t consider the tremendous conflict that O’Donnell is likely to have, representing both the legal facilitator of the torture and the mastermind of the whole damned Unitary Executive itself.

Once again, this Administration appears to be defending itself as a collectivity. Read more