CIA Has No Idea What It Briefed Congress on Torture

The CIA documents released in the latest FOIA batch prove that all the claims that CIA (and Crazy Pete Hoekstra) have made about briefings Congress received on torture are, at best, reconstructions based on years old memories, if not outright fabrications.

The documents appear to have been a summary of torture briefings CIA Office of Congressional Affairs put together on July 11, 2004 in anticipation of CIA’s Congressional briefing in July 2004.

The summary shows that:

CIA OCA had not written up the briefings it gave Porter Goss and Jane Harman in February 2003 or the Gang of Four in September 2003 before July 2004. At that time, Moskowitz explained that the “[Memoranda for the Record] for the remainder of the sessions are being finalized.” In fact, the MFR for the February 2003 Goss-Harman briefing was ultimately closed in 2007, after Moskowitz had passed away. Thus, any claims they make about the content of those briefings cannot be said to be accurate.

Also, when putting together a list of briefings, OCA head Stan Moskowitz didn’t even seem to consider the September 2002 briefings (at which Bob Graham said he was not told about torture at all and Nancy Pelosi was told it might be used in the future) to be relevant as a Gang of Four briefing regarding interrogation/detainee issues. Now, it’s possible that Moskowitz was asked to summarize only the possible discussions of the torture tapes (page 11 seems to suggest this pertains to torture tape destruction and no one has ever claimed that CIA briefed on the torture tapes in 2002). Or, it may be that CIA just didn’t consider those the truly sensitive briefings.

The only MFR that OCA seemed to have completed by July 2004 is the February 4, 2003 briefing, at which Pat Roberts apparently unequivocally approved of destroying the torture tapes (and at which he also agreed to end nascent Congressional attempts at oversight). As noted in several places in these documents, Jay Rockefeller did not attend that briefing.

In other words, the claims that CIA had detailed records about what Nancy Pelosi or Jane Harman or Jay Rockefeller said about destroying the torture tapes? They appear to be completely fabricated.

Goss and Harman's July 13, 2004 Briefing on the IG Report

The Ghost Detainee FOIA (for more background see here, here, and here) also has a Memorandum for the Record from CIA’s briefing for Porter Goss and Jane Harman on the CIA’s IG Report on July 13, 2004.

The MFR is interesting for the details it gives of how Harman and Goss responded to news of the CIA IG Report–and with it, news of the abuses of the torture program.

None of the detainees who died had been subjected to enhanced interrogation

The MFR transcribes a claim from CIA IG John Helgerson that “none of the detainees who had died had been subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Helgerson must be playing word games here, because by the time he states this Habibullah and Dilawar had died from a combination of sleep deprivation and stress positions and other abuse. Manadel al-Janabi had been crucified by stress position during interrogation.

So what Helgerson must mean is that none of the High Value Detainees died during torture; others who were tortured did die.

Confirming previously redacted details of the IG Report

The MFR confirms two things we already knew about the CIA IG Report, but which had been redacted when the report came out last year. First, there was IG John Helgerson’s concerns about whether the program violated the Convention Against Torture:

The IG indicated that the 1 August memo did not address Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. AThe article 16that [sic] required signatory Sstates [sic] to prevent in any territory subject to their jurisdiction acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of punishment not amounting to torture. The question was whether CIA’s use of the enhanced techniques would transgress U.S. obligations under Article 16.

The MFR also spells out the IG’s concerns about the torture program as practiced.

The IG indicated he was also bothered in that the DOJ 1 August document did not address interrogations as we carried them out.

From here, Helgerson’s briefing goes into detainee deaths and waterboarding–and from there into a discussion of problems in the guidance sent out over cables.

[Helgerson] said that three people had been interrogated with the waterboard. On one, the IG felt it had been used excessively, beyond what the IG thought was the agreement with DOJ. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) got 183 applications [redacted] The IG indicated the guidance in cables sent to the field evolved over time and that the guidance did not get to everybody who was involved in debriefing interrogations.

Aside from the impression the IG report gives that Helgerson also found Abu Zubaydah’s waterboarding excessive (not least because officials at Langley ordered up another sessions after he was already compliant), I wonder whether he claims that the waterboarding itself, or the torture program more generally, got out of hand because the cables started going crazy?

Jane Harman still looking for a Presidential Finding

Read more

Poppy Bush Not Joining Other DCIs Opposing Investigation of W Bush’s Torture

There are a number of fascinating details in this letter from seven former living CIA Directors opposing DOJ’s torture investigation–starting with the fact that Poppy is one of just two three living CIA heads who didn’t sign (the others are Carter’s Stansfield Turner and close Poppy ally Robert Gates who, as Secretary of Defense, also has to weigh how our torture puts service men and women at risk). (h/t Ambinder)

Michael Hayden
Porter Goss
George Tenet
John Deutch
R. James Woolsey
William Webster
James R. Schlesinger

But that’s not all.

Note that these men are asking the President to intervene in a DOJ investigation.

We respectfully urge you to exercise your authority to reverse Attorney General Holder’s August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations that took place following the attacks of September 11.

They’re not asking Obama to pardon those CIA officers under investigation, which would be a proper request of the President; they’re asking Obama to spike an investigation the Attorney General has deemed necessary. They are, in short, asking for legal process to be set aside for, ultimately, a political decision.

And they’re making that request by appealing to an investigation conducted under a prior Attorney General–Alberto Gonzales–still (as far as we know) under investigation for politicizing DOJ.

The post-September 11 interrogations for which the Attorney General is opening an inquiry were investigated four years ago by career prosecutors.

They’re further making that request by appealing to a US Attorney–Paul McNulty–also involved in that politicization.

Career prosecutors under the supervision of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that one prosecution (of a CIA contractor) was warranted.

So they pile up political interference on top of political interference. Now, these former DCIs repeat the term "career prosecutor" four times. And it may well be the case that–unlike some other cases under Alberto Gonzales–there was no interference here.  But they ignore one of the precipitating causes for the investigation being reopened: The Office of Public Responsibility’s finding that there was serious misconduct involved with the referrals in these cases (the DCIs say there were fewer than 20).

It has been known that the Justice Department ethics report had criticized the authors of the legal opinions and, in some cases, would recommend referrals to local bar associations for discipline.

But the internal inquiry also examined how the opinions were carried out and how referrals of possible violations were made — a process that led ethics investigators to find misconduct serious enough to warrant renewed criminal investigation. 

Read more

NYT Neglects to Mention Foggo and the Torture Tapes

There’s a keystone to understanding the story from David Johnston (who frequently regurgitates highly motivated leaks) and Mark Mazzetti (CIA’s guy at NYT) on Dusty Foggo’s role in setting up the black sites run by the CIA: Foggo’s testimony in the torture tape investigation. Early this year, remember, DOJ and CIA told the ACLU that they couldn’t FOIA information pertaining to the disappearing torture tapes because John Durham’s investigation of their destruction was ongoing and would be for perhaps two more months.

And then, just as Dusty Foggo was about to go to jail, John Durham said he needed to interview Foggo. And since then, as far as we know, Durham’s investigation continues, now four months beyond when he thought he’d finish up. As recently as a month or so ago, Durham was flying people back from remote locations to appear before the grand jury. While we can’t be sure, it does seem likely that Foggo’s testimony provided new information that has sustained it.

And, thanks to Johnston and Mazzetti, we now know why Foggo would have something pertinent to say about the torture tapes–because he was the guy who set up the black sites. 

In March 2003, two C.I.A. officials surprised Kyle D. Foggo, then the chief of the agency’s main European supply base, with an unusual request. They wanted his help building secret prisons to hold some of the world’s most threatening terrorists.


“It was too sensitive to be handled by headquarters,” he said in an interview. “I was proud to help my nation.”

With that, Mr. Foggo went on to oversee construction of three detention centers, each built to house about a half-dozen detainees, according to former intelligence officials and others briefed on the matter.


Early in the fight against Al Qaeda, agency officials relied heavily on American allies to help detain people suspected of terrorism in makeshift facilities in countries like Thailand. But by the time two C.I.A. officials met with Mr. Foggo in 2003, that arrangement was under threat, according to people briefed on the situation. In Thailand, for example, local officials were said to be growing uneasy about a black site outside Bangkok code-named Cat’s Eye. (The agency would eventually change the code name for the Thai prison, fearing it would appear racially insensitive.) The C.I.A. wanted its own, more permanent detention centers.

Read more

Was Porter Goss Briefed on Things Pelosi and Harman Weren’t?

I decided recently that it was time to re-read George Tenet’s book.

And given all the recent discussion about CIA briefings, I was a little surprised to see this paragraph pertaining to early discussions with the UK on the Iraq war.

In May of 2002, my counterpart in Great Britain, the head of MI-6, Sir Richard Dearlove, traveled to Washington along with Prime Minister Blair’s then national security advisor, David Manning, to take Washington’s temperature on Iraq. Sir Richard met with Rice, Hadley, Scooter Libby, and Congressman Porter Goss, who was then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. (309) [my emphasis]

The paragraph almost appears to be a non-sequitur. The previous paragraphs discuss the series of meetings in 2002 that discussed the challenges of war in Iraq, without first addressing the question of "whether" war in Iraq was a good idea. Then the two paragraphs directly preceding this one pose the question, "When did you know for sure that we were going to war in Iraq"–but they focus on July 2002, not May. And the paragraphs following this one discuss the July 2002 Downing Street Memos amd Dearlove’s explanation to Tenet that he had concluded at the July 2002 meeting that war was "inevitable." (They also describe Dearlove disputing Libby’s allegations of a tie between al Qaeda and Iraq.)

So ostensibly, at least, this paragraph about May 2002 might be there for contrast–the previous meetings with which Dearlove was comparing the July 2002 meetings, after which he concluded there had been a "perceptible shift" and the war was definitely going to happen. Except that Tenet offers no details about what was said at that May 2002 meeting (note, Tenet did not apparently attend). 

And regardless of the content of the meeting, what was Porter Goss doing at a meeting with the National Security Advisor, the Deputy National Security Advisor, Cheney’s henchman, and the UK’s chief spook? Was he representing "the temperature" of those in Congress on a potential Iraq war? Or was he participating in the Administration’s early planning for that war?

I raise that question because of all the recent discussions about CIA briefings of Congress. This meeting occurred, of course, just as the Administration was implementing its torture program for Abu Zubaydah. CIA originally claimed that Bob Graham had been briefed on torture, twice, the previous month (April 2002). Read more

“Certain Officers”

Wow. This spat on the CIA lying to Congress is like a tennis game. First there was Silvestre Reyes’ letter to Crazy Pete reminding him that CIA had affirmatively lied to Congress. Then seven Congressmen and women released a letter saying that Panetta had recently told them that "top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress."

Now Reyes has released a statement. (h/t Laura Rozen)

I appreciate Director Panetta’s recent efforts to bring issues to the Committee’s attention that, for some reason, had not been previously conveyed, and to make certain that the Committee is fully and currently briefed on all intelligence activities. I understand his direction to be that the Agency does not and will not lie to Congress, and he has set a high standard for truth in reporting to Congress.

I believe that CIA has, in the vast majority of matters, told the truth. But in rare instances, certain officers have not adhered to the high standards held, as a rule, by the CIA with respect to truthfulness in reporting. Both Director Panetta and I are determined to make sure this does not happen again.

The men and women of the CIA are honest, hard-working patriots, and they do not deserve the distraction to their mission that this current issue has caused.

So, to conclude:

  1. Panetta confirmed that someone was lying in the past.
  2. Reyes will give Panetta the benefit of the doubt going forward.
  3. The men and women in the CIA are patriots.
  4. Our President still wants to maintain this system of abusive secrecy. 

I’m particularly interested in Reyes’ mention of "certain officers." Would those officers happen to be named Jose Rodriguez and/or Porter Goss, I wonder? Both of whom would fit the description the 7 members of Congress used, "top CIA officials." And hell, while we’re at it, let’s throw George Tenet onto that list as well…

So if just "certain officers" have been lying to Congress, what are we going to do about it?

John Rizzo Pre-Empts the OPR Report

As we speak, the CIA–including, by all appearances, John Rizzo–is reviewing the Office of Professional Responsibility’s report on OLC’s torture memos.

As if on cue, the LAT has a story profiling him. (Also, as if on cue, I take up Spencer’s bait.)

Given its scope, the OPR report must focus on two different periods: the months leading up to the August 2002 OLC memos, and the months leading up to the May 2005 OLC memos (as well as, probably, the time leading up to the March 2003 OLC memo, but that was a DOD memo, not a CIA one).

Those are, not surprisingly, the two years, at least, that appear in this story. We are told–with no sourcing–that Rizzo never dealt with legal questions about torture before the capture of Abu Zubaydah.

Rizzo had never dealt with legal questions about interrogation until officials from the agency’s Counterterrorism Center approached him in 2002 with a list of techniques they wanted to employ to get a suspected Al Qaeda captive, Abu Zubaydah, to talk. Among them was waterboarding, in which a prisoner is strapped to a plank and doused to make him feel he is drowning.

This would suggest the War Council–David Addington, Jim Haynes, John Yoo, and Rizzo–weren’t already talking about torture in December 2001, when Mitchell and Jessen first started developing their torture program. It would also suggest that Rizzo never weighed in on the treatment of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi and others rendered to torture. It would repeat the same myth the Cheney apologists like to tell–that these ideas bubbled up from CTC, rather than were imposed from the top.

It’s an interesting story. If true, then I wonder why it’s taking CIA so long to review that OPR report?

And then there are the 2005 dates. As Spencer describes, at some point in 2005 Rizzo personally observed the Salt Pit.

Rizzo kept close watch on the interrogation program. Once, during a 2005 trip by senior CIA executives to Kabul, Afghanistan, Rizzo disappeared from the crowd after dinner with Afghan intelligence officials.

It wasn’t until the next day, one participant remembered, that Rizzo revealed he had arranged a midnight trip to the Salt Pit, a secret CIA prison on the outskirts of the city, to see detention operations up close.

A CIA detainee had died at the site in 2002. But Rizzo came away newly assured that the operation was well-run, former officials said.

The story would have you believe that Rizzo thought, in 2005, that the torture we were conducting at the Salt Pit was all hunky dory. Read more

Why Did CIA Hide Dick Cheney’s Role in Briefing?

Thanks to the WaPo for confirming something I guessed last month. Back then, I wrote,

I’m going to make a wildarsed guess and suggest that when the CIA lists "not available" in a series of 2005 torture briefings to Republicans in Congress, they really mean "Dick Cheney attended, but we don’t want to tell you that."

Today, the WaPo reports,

Former vice president Richard B. Cheney personally oversaw at least four briefings with senior members of Congress about the controversial interrogation program, part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees.


The CIA made no mention of his role in documents delivered to Capitol Hill last month that listed every lawmaker who had been briefed on "enhanced interrogation techniques" since 2002. For meetings that were overseen by Cheney, the agency told the intelligence committees that information about who oversaw those briefings was "not available."


The CIA declined to comment on why Cheney’s presence in some meetings was left out of the records.


Several members of Congress who took part in the Cheney meetings declined to comment on them, citing secrecy concerns.

In one of my most unsurprisingly correct wildarsed guesses ever, Cheney was working with the CIA to keep his little torture program, and neither the CIA nor the Republicans he was arm-twisting want to talk about it.

But that ought to be worth some closer attention. WTF did the CIA hide Cheney’s role in these briefings (not to mention the date of their briefing with McCain)? It reveals not only a desire to hide the degree to which these "briefings" under Porter Goss became active lobbying in support of torture, but also the degree to which the CIA is working actively, with a former Administration official (Cheney) to hide their collaboration.

The article does provide two more important details that add to the damning story.

Cheney’s briefings on interrogations began in the winter of 2005 as the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees,  Sen. John D. Rockefeller III (W.Va.) and  Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), publicly advocated a full-scale investigation of the tactics used against top al-Qaeda suspects.

On March 8, 2005 — two days after a detailed report in the New York Times about interrogations — Cheney gathered Rockefeller, Harman and the chairmen of the intelligence panels,  Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and  Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Read more

WaPo Doubles Down on Conflict Over Truth

In spite of the fact that it is becoming increasingly clear to the rest of the media that Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi agree that they were not briefed that the CIA had already been torturing prisoners in September 2002, the WaPo has decided to double down on deliberately misreading events. The excuse the WaPo uses to present a story of Republican-Democratic conflict, again, is to report the impression that members of the intelligence committees express after having viewed the briefing documents.

Members of Congress are largely divided into two camps: One says that the CIA intentionally withheld information about the tactics it was already using against detainees, even as it was providing Congress with intelligence that led to an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction. The other says that Pelosi is covering up her original tacit support of techniques that she now labels as torture.

Before I go any further, look at how utterly crazy this description is. The WaPo notes that the CIA gave this briefing at the same time as it was drumming up the case for war, but rather than describe that case as something like "now recognized as one of the worst examples of CIA deception and incompetence in our history," it instead emphasized that the CIA’s case led to "an overwhelming bipartisan vote supporting the use of force in Iraq." WaPo. Don’t you think you owe your readers an admission that the whole point of raising the Iraq War case is to remind them that almost everyone agrees everything else the CIA was doing in September 2002 was either incompetent or deliberately deceptive?

Then there is the flatly deceptive language the WaPo uses to sustain their case that the "conflict" between Goss and Pelosi, Shelby and Graham, is one with equally credible sides. First, with Goss, they choose to ignore his language that is specific to the briefing in question, 

In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Read more

Victory Is Mine!!!!

Finally, a TradMed source who knows how to read!!!!

But in looking at the substance of the accusations, it increasingly looks like [Nancy Pelosi] was right. Porter Goss was careful to parse his words in the conditional future tense when talking about what, exactly, he and Pelosi were briefed on in September 2002:

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned.

And Senator Richard Shelby also carefully avoided saying he’d been briefed on EITs that had already been used, saying only that he’d been told about the techniques. And “purported” isn’t exactly a strong word – it’s a synonym of suggested or claimed. From his statement: 

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2002, Senator Shelby was briefed by the CIA on the Agency’s interrogation program and the existence of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during questioning.

Bob Graham, who was theoretically in the room with Shelby, says he has no recollection of the meeting at all – this from a man who famously details his every waking minute. Perhaps the most astonishing response has been from the CIA Director Leon Panetta, who basically said: Don’t trust our records. Which begs the question: what other issues have they kept questionable records on?

There are about 8 more sentences, all of them sweet vindication.  I can’t believe it took me one month and a Swampland post to feel like this. And it’s admittedly one damn battle in a too-long war on flaccid media.

But still. It feels good.