Goss Won’t Elaborate on Torture Techniques that “Were To Be Employed”

Almost four weeks ago, I pointed out that Porter Goss’ WaPo op-ed, purportedly attacking Nancy Pelosi, actually supported her primary contention that the CIA did not brief her and Goss that torture techniques had already been employed. It’s a detail that has gone almost unnoticed, as Republicans try to claim Nancy Pelosi should resign because Dick Cheney tortured.

But not entirely unnoticed. Greg Sargent has been patiently pushing for some clarification from Porter Goss. And today he got that clarification. Or rather, lack thereof: Goss has declined to say anything more than appeared in his WaPo op-ed, which (like Pelosi) speaks of torture prospectively. 

I asked a spokesperson for Goss if he would confirm that he and Pelosi had been informed of the use of torture. Goss was out of town, so it took her a while to get back to me, but now she has: She declined to answer the question, saying that Goss would not elaborate beyond what he said in a Washington Post Op ed last month.

In that carefully-worded piece, Goss did not write he had been told that torture had been used. Rather, he merely wrote that members of Congress were told that the CIA was “holding and interrogating” suspects and that EITs had been developed. He said that members should have “understood” that EITs “were to actually be employed” in the future, without saying that they were even told this, let alone told that they’d been used.

This does not contradict Pelosi’s claim that she was only told that such techniques were legal, not that they had been or certainly would be used — the crux of the GOP’s attack.

So I asked Goss’ spokesperson directly: Were he and Pelosi informed that EITs, including waterboarding, had already been used, and were they given a rough sense that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded more than 83 times the previous month?

Her answer: “He believes that his Op-ed makes it very clear and is not engaging beyond it at this time.” She declined repeated requests to elaborate.

Thanks to Greg for getting this (ahem) "clarification" from the old spook.

Can we please start talking about why, in September 2002, the CIA was unwilling to brief Congress (as they were legally obliged to do) that they had been torturing people for over a month? 

WaPo’s Partisan Press Release Service

The front page of the WaPo website features what amounts to a press release from John Boehner, attempting to continue blaming Nancy Pelosi because Dick Cheney tortured.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "ought to either present the evidence or apologize’" in the wake of her comments that CIA officials misled her about the use of controversial interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects.

"Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime," Boehner said yesterday on CNN’s "State of the Union." "And if the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they can be prosecuted."

He added: "And if that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world."

The story doesn’t report that two out of three of the other members of Congress who were "briefed" in September 2002 (including the hyper-anal Bob Graham) back Pelosi’s claim. Here’s Graham:

The CIA when I asked them, what were the dates these briefings took place, gave me four dates. And I went back to my spiral notebooks and a daily schedule that I keep and found, and the CIA concurred, that in three of those four dates, there was no briefing held. That raises some questions about the bookkeeping of the CIA. Under the rules of clandestine information, I was prohibited from keeping notes of what was actually said during that briefing other than a brief summation that it had to do with the interrogation of detainees.

And here’s Goss, speaking of the torture techniques prospectively (and therefore revealing that he was not briefed they had already been used, which is precisely what Pelosi has claimed):

the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed

And for good measure, here’s Jello Jay, pointing out that the CIA also got its briefing schedule wrong with him, as they did with Graham.

Read more

The Two Torture Tape Suspects, the Pelosi Briefing, and the Panetta Statement

A number of people are panicking about Leon Panetta’s statement to CIA employees, believing it rebuts Nancy Pelosi’s statement.

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

My advice — indeed, my direction — to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission. We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.

We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.

But there’s a better way to understand this. 

First, look at Panetta’s statement about the briefings themselves.

As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

Panetta is stating two things:

  1. The contemporaneous records (that is, the CIA briefer’s own notes on the briefing) show that the briefers "briefed truthfully … describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed’" on Zubaydah.
  2. It is up to Congress to evaluate this evidence and "reach its own conclusions about what happened."

Now, first of all, Panetta is not saying (nor has anyone said, not even Porter Goss) that the briefers briefed Congress that these techniques had been used. I know this sounds weasely, but until someone says, in plain language, that the CIA told Congress those techniques had already been used on Abu Zubaydah, we should assume that’s not what the notes reflect, because if they did, you can be sure both the briefing list and the public statements would say so. Read more

Mark Mazzetti, the Gray Lady’s Grammar-Impaired Spook Stenographer

picture-102.thumbnail.pngC’mon, NYT, don’t you remember how embarrassing it was when Judy Miller was playing warmonger stenographer in 2002? Then why are you guys whoring yourself out to serve disinformation again?

I’m speaking of this post on Nancy Pelosi’s press conference spelling out reaaaalllyyyy slowly that the CIA lied when it briefed Pelosi and Goss on torture in 2002. When I first looked at the post, the headline said something like, "Pelosi says CIA misled Congress" (sorry, I didn’t get a screen cap; I should have known). Now it has shifted its focus back onto the fact that a Pelosi staffer–not the CIA, as required by law–informed Pelosi that CIA was in the torture business in 2003. 

And with its update–including reporting from the NYT’s spook guy, Mark Mazzetti–the NYT claims that Porter Goss refutes Nancy Pelosi’s statement.

According to the C.I.A. records, Ms. Pelosi attended the Sept. 4 briefing about the agency’s interrogation techniques with her Republican counterpart, Representative Porter J. Goss of Florida. Based on agency notes from the briefing, the two lawmakers were told the specific techniques “that had been employed” on Abu Zubaydah.

By then, that C.I.A. already used a number of harsh methods on Mr. Zubaydah, including waterboarding.

The C.I.A. records do not list the individual techniques that lawmakers were told about. However, in an op-ed last month, Mr. Goss said he remembers being told specifically about waterboarding during the September 2002 briefing.

“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,” Mr. Goss wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

Mark, Mark, Mark. I spelled this all out here, back when it became apparent to anyone with a command of the English language that Goss’ dispute with Pelosi had nothing to do with her contention (which was clear even then) that the CIA hadn’t told Congress that it had already been using waterboarding. Rather, Goss argued that Pelosi should have known that the CIA was going to use waterboarding given that they told Pelosi they had gotten approval for it. 

Now, that’s clear even from the excerpt you’ve included in the post. Read more

Piling on PolitiFact

Jamison Foser already beat up PolitiFact for its ridiculous judgment on the he-said-she-said debate over whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed on torture.

The real problem here is PolitiFact’s insistance on declaring Pelosi’s statement "true" or "false," when the painfully obvious reality is that PolitiFact just doesn’t know whether it is true or false.  Other media would be wise to take PolitiFact’s conclusion with a grain of salt.

But I’m going to join in the fun to point out PolitiFact’s real difficulty with verb tenses and pronouns. The point of their post, remember, is to judge whether or not this Pelosi statement is correct.

We were not, I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would.

Pelosi’s statement refers to a briefing occuring on September 4, 2002, after Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. According to her statement, in September 2002, the CIA told Congress it could torture detainees, but did not say they would (in the future) be doing so. Her further comments from the same answer make that even more clear.

My experience was they did not tell us they were using that. Flat out. And any – any contention to the contrary is simply not true.


And so, you know – flat out – they never briefed us that this was happening. In fact, they said they would if and when they did?

That is, Pelosi’s entire point was that in September 2002, after the CIA had already torturing Abu Zubaydah for months, the CIA came before Congress and spoke prospectively about using torture, but did not reveal that they had already been and were currently using it. 

So PolitiFact goes to the CIA briefing list, acknowledging Panetta’s comments about its potential inaccuracy, yet nevertheless deciding that it, PolitiFact, should determine whether it is inaccurate or not (it decides not), and looks at this language.

Briefing on EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) including use of EITs on (alleged al-Qaeda operative) Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of the particular EITs that had been employed.

Now, even assuming one should treat this document as accurate when the Director of CIA is saying it may not be, look carefully at this language. "Use of [torture] on … Abu Zubaydah" Read more

Dick Cheney, the “Not Available” Briefer?

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."

At least, that seems to be the case for a briefing of John McCain the CIA describes as taking place in "late October 2005." As I pointed out earlier, that briefing appears to have been an attempt–partly successful–on the part of the Bush Administration to convince McCain to water down the Detainee Treatment Act that had passed the Senate earlier that month. 

As it turns out, whereas the CIA can’t seem to come up with details about that briefing (such as the date or the briefer), the WaPo covered a McCain meeting with Dick Cheney and then-CIA Director Porter Goss not long after it happened. 

The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.

The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday [October 20] to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department.


Cheney’s proposal is drafted in such a way that the exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could require a presidential finding that "such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack." But the precise applicability of this section is not clear, and none of those involved in last week’s discussions would discuss it openly yesterday.

McCain, the principal sponsor of the legislation, rejected the proposed exemption at the meeting with Cheney, according to a government source who spoke without authorization and on the condition of anonymity.

I guess maybe the CIA needs an introduction to the Google so it can refer to the public record to flesh out its briefing list?

If this was, in fact, McCain’s briefing, it might explain why McCain has imagined great heroism on his part in his one briefing on torture. Read more

CIA Lying to ABC about Torture. Again. ABC Reporting It Uncritically. Again.

As bmaz has reported, the CIA has sent a list of torture briefings to Crazy Pete Hoekstra on when and whom in Congress got briefed that the CIA was in the torture business. And ABC news, just off having to admit the CIA lied to them about torture in the past, has taken what the CIA gave them and treated it totally uncritically. Again.

Based on the list (which I’ve also obtained), they’re out with a post claiming they’ve caught Pelosi in a contradiction.

The report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, appears to contradict Pelosi’s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics. 

Setting aside the fact that the list doesn’t mention waterboarding specifically in its description of that briefing (it does in quite a few others), there are huge problems with using the list as a basis to claim anything.

First, there’s this paragraph the CIA included in the letter they sent with the briefing list to Crazy Pete (which ABC didn’t think important enough to include when they first posted this story):

This letter presents the most thorough information we have on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques. This information, however, is drawn from the past files of the CIA and represents MFRs completed at the time and notes that summarized the best recollections of those individuals. In the end, you and the Committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened. We can make the MFRs available at CIA for staff review. [my emphasis]

CIA: "Here’s a list, but we won’t vouch for its accuracy."

ABC: "We’ve proven that Nancy was wrong!!"

ABC, after having been burned in the past, took documents that the CIA itself said might not be accurate, and treated them as accurate.

But it gets worse. ABC printed the following description, as if it were an accurate representation of the next set of torture briefings, which took place in February 2003.

On Feb. 4, 2003, a briefing on “enhanced interrogation techniques” for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., revealed that interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were taped.

ABC doesn’t tell you, but there’s an asterisk by Jello Jay’s name, saying, "later individual briefing to Rockefeller," Read more

If It Sounds Too Good for the Goss, It’s Worth a Second Gander

The NYT allowed a bunch of gosslings to tell them a story anonymously that they were unwilling–at least partly for legal reasons–to say on the record. They told a story of Porter Goss heroically refusing Stephen Hadley’s (and by association, Dick Cheney’s) pressure to keep the CIA in the torture business.

Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005.


Provoked by the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and pushed by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had been tortured by the North Vietnamese, the 2005 bill banned cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Top C.I.A. officials then feared that the agency’s methods could actually be illegal. Mr. Goss, who had succeeded Mr. Tenet at the C.I.A., wrote a memorandum to the White House saying the agency would carry out no harsh interrogations without new Justice Department approval.

The national security advisor, Mr. Hadley, was angered by the C.I.A.’s response. He called Mr. Goss at home over the Christmas holidays to complain; Mr. Goss, backed by his lawyers, would not budge. Mr. Hadley decided he could not push the C.I.A. to do what it thought might be illegal.

But there’s a problem with this story.

Robert Grenier.

Grenier was head of Counterterrorism at the CIA during the Christmas holiday of 2005-6. Yet he was fired within weeks of Goss’ heroic stand against torture because–CIA sources said–he was "insufficiently forceful" against al Qaeda.

His boss at the clandestine service, the nation’s senior human intelligence officer, was said to regard him as insufficiently forceful in the battle with al Qaeda.

"The word on Bob was that he was a good officer, but not the one for the job and not quite as aggressive as he might have been," one official said.

Vincent Cannistraro was more explicit about what "not aggressive enough" means: that Grenier was opposed to waterboarding.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Read more

Rice and Goss Turn on Cheney

Keep in mind that this article seems to be at least partly the product of two entities–the Bellinger/Condi- and the Goss-reputation protection entities–that have been working overtime lately. (h/t Loo Hoo) In fact, the article references the YouTube of Condi proclaiming, "By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations in the Convention Against Torture," without explicitly telling NYT’s readers what Condi said. I guess that part–the part where Condi continues to defend the program by channeling Nixon–isn’t important.

Nevertheless, the article provides a few more data points on the torture plan.

June 2003 Statement of Support Was a Response to Shrub’s Speech

First, the article explains why CIA chose June 2003–of all times–to insist the White House write up a policy statement supporting torture with Bush’s name on it. 

The proclamation that President George W. Bush issued on June 26, 2003, to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture seemed innocuous, one of dozens of high-minded statements published and duly ignored each year.

The United States is “committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example,” Mr. Bush declared, vowing to prosecute torture and to prevent “other cruel and unusual punishment.”

Uh, yeah, I can see why that would make the CIA squirmy about doing Bush’s cruel and unusual punishment for him.

If this were a just world, the statement CIA forced Bush to write after he proclaimed we will prosecute torture and prevent cruel and unusual punishment, the statement basically endorsing torture as our country’s policy, will be the piece of evidence that leads to his prosecution. Alas, this is not usually a just world. 

Porter Goss CYAed Himself in December 2005

And then there’s the bit where Porter Goss protects himself by saying White House was pushing for torture at the end of 2005, but Goss was refusing without further cover from DOJ.

Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005.


Provoked by the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and pushed by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had been tortured by the North Vietnamese, the 2005 bill banned cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Top C.I.A. officials then feared that the agency’s methods could actually be illegal. Read more

Torture Tapes and Briefings

Isikoff has an article that basically catches everyone up on torture investigation. The big piece of news is that John Durham is flying spooks back from overseas stations to appear before the grand jury.

In recent weeks, prosecutor John Durham has summoned CIA operatives back from overseas to testify before a federal grand jury, according to three legal sources familiar with the case who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters. The sources said Durham is also seeking testimony from agency lawyers who gave advice relating to the November 2005 decision by Jose Rodriguez, then chief of the CIA’s operations directorate, to destroy the tapes.

There are lawyers probably named Robert Bennett quoted as saying, "maybe he’s just tying up loose ends," but that news, coupled with the news that Durham interviewed  Dusty Foggo, who had recently been hung out to dry by Porter Goss, suggests Durham has been able to break the omerta at the CIA and make some headway on this case.

But I’m sort of interested in this claim:

Durham was appointed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey shortly after the December 2007 revelation about Rodriguez’s decision. At the time, then-CIA director Michael Hayden insisted the tapes were destroyed only after "it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative or judicial inquiries—including the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui." But since then, declassified filings in the Moussaoui case show that around the time the tapes were destroyed, Moussaoui’s lawyers were seeking CIA records about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah—who, according to recent disclosures, was waterboarded 83 times. On Nov. 3, 2005, Judge Leonie Brinkema even ordered government lawyers "to confirm or deny that it has video- or audiotapes" of interro-gations of potential witnesses.

Now, this is assuredly not news. The Moussaoui request has been on my torture tape timeline for well over a year, based on this and other reporting. And it is just one case where a party had made a legally binding request for any torture tapes–the other two being the ACLU FOIA and the 9/11 Commission request for any such materials.

(On the 9/11 Commission request, keep in mind that Philip Zelikow, Commission Executive Director, has been saying "let the prosecutor work" in his recent public critiques of torture; he may well have been interviewed in this case, so he may have reason to be confident in the quality of the invsetigation.)

Okay, back to Moussaoui. Not new news. Read more