And Did James Mitchell Also Write the Psychological Profile of Abu Zubaydah Bybee Used?

I think Spencer and I are just going to keep tag-teaming the torture memos.

He writes about something I’ve been thinking: to what degree was James Mitchell, almost certainly the contractor involved in making the case that they needed to use torture to get information out of Abu Zubaydah, making that case so he could win a hefty contract?

But is it too cynical to suggest that Mitchell also had an interest in saying that Soufan and the FBI’s (and apparently, in part, CIA’s) non-brutal techniques failed? From page 24 of the Senate Armed Services Committee report:

Subsequent from his retirement from DoD [the Department of Defense], Dr. Jessen joined Dr. Mitchell and other former JPRA [Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which oversees SERE] officials to form a company called Mitchell Jessen & Associates. Mitchell Jessen & Associates is co-owned by seven individuals, six of whom either worked for JPRA or one of the service SERE schools as employees and/or contractors. As of July 2007, the company had between 55 and 60 employees, several of whom were former JPRA employees.

Science may be science, but money is money.

But Mitchell may have done more than certify that the only way to get Abu Zubaydah to speak was to waterboard him. He may have been the guy who did the psychological profile that found him fit to be waterboarded.

The May 30, 2005 memo attributes an incredibly chilling comment, acknowledging that waterboarding exceeded the guidelines laid out in the 2002 OLC memo, to a "psychologist/interrogator."

The IG Report noted that in some cases the waterboard was used with far greater frequency than initially indicated, see IG Report at 5, 44, 46, 103-04, and also that it was used in a different manner. See id. at 37 ("[T]he waterboard technique  … was different from the technique described in the DoJ opinion and used in the SERE training. The difference was the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency Interrogator …  applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique is different from that used in SERE training because it is "for real–and is more poignant and convincing.") [my emphasis]

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Abu Zubaydah’s FBI Interrogator Removes the Legal Cornerstone of the Torture Regime

Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator described in the DOJ IG report on interrogation as the interrogator (whom they call "Thomas") who called CIA’s tactics on AZ, "borderline torture," has an important op-ed in the NYT. He writes,

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. 

I pointed this out myself, in a post on why the debate over whether these techniques were necessary and effective is so heated.

Check out what the second paragraph of the Bybee Memo says:

Our advice is based upon the following facts, which you have provided to us. We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply. Zubaydah is currently being held by the United States. The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge. Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United Stares or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas. Zubaydah has become accustomed to a certain level of treatment and displays no signs of willingness to disclose further information. Moreover, your intelligence indicates that there is currently level of "chatter" equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks. In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an "increased pressure phase." [my emphasis]

Here’s what Ali Soufan says:

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Read more

Spotted: Aspen Trees, Turning on Roots

Nico Pitney put this YouTube up as a preface to Shep Smith losing it in a later segment. (If you want to see Shep say "We are America, we do not fucking torture" click through.)

But I’m at least as fascinated by Judy Miller admitting she had a tough time getting all the way through the torture memos. "You know it when you see it," she said, referring to torture. Waterboarding someone 183 times, she repeated.

But as Shep points out, "if there was torture, that’s a crime. If there was crime, there were criminals. Who ordered the torture?" 

So now, two years after Judy’s dubious testimony got Dick Cheney off scot free after he ordered the outing of CIA spy, she’s demanding information about "Who Why When What, this system came about."

Let’s start with "Who," Judy…

Maybe she hasn’t thought through how this one ends. She claims she doesn’t know who ordered the torture, so that’s possible.

But we’re headed dangerously close to Judy turning on her roots, rather than turning in clusters. Not that I’m complaining, mind you–if Shep Smith and Judy Miller want to make it cool for Republicans to oppose torture, I’m all in favor. 

But it is a bit of a biological oddity, this aspen tree turning on its roots.

Lambert Dogs the Press

I beat the NYT to actual close reading over the weekend and it made a stink.

But Lambert documents his superior canine instincts from five years ago.

Je repete. 2004-05-09, Corrente:

Maybe there is a smoking gun. … Somebody’s got to authorize the dogs, the kennels, the handlers, and the purpose. … Who let the dogs out?

2009-05-20, Senator Carl Levin via Digby:

The interrogation techniques authorized by Secretary Rumsfeld in December 2002 for use at GTMO – including … military working dogs – were used by military intelligence personnel responsible for interrogations. … On September 14, 2003, Lieutenant General Sanchez issued an interrogation policy for CJTF-7 that authorized interrogators to use stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs …

This was a very easy post to write: Evidence, and a soupçon of reasoning. So why was an unpaid, foul-mouthed blogger the one to write it, instead of a reporter in our famously free press? Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?

From one foul mouth blogger to another … good fucking question.

Zelikow’s Destroyed Memos

Last night, as I was beginning my catalog of the interrogation reports used in the 9/11 Report, the former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission was on Rachel Maddow, elaborating on his Foreign Policy article where he revealed how the Bush Administration destroyed his objections to the May 2005 Bradbury Memos.

Anonymous Liberal had a very good take on Zelikow’s story (which basically matches what bmaz said to me via email). The destruction of Zelikow’s memos is clear evidence of criminality.

That’s an incredibly damning allegation. The only reason to collect and destroy all copies of this memo would be in order to preserve, for as many Bush administration officials as possible, a potential defense against later prosecution. If the extent of these activities ever became public and investigations were commenced, the White House wanted to be able to argue that everyone involved relied in good faith on the advice of counsel. That defense would be severely undermined if it could be shown that these officials were warned, by a lawyer of Zelikow’s caliber and rank within the administration, that the legal arguments they were relying on were poorly reasoned and unlikely to be sustained by a court.

This was pure CYA. And it was being done for reasons beyond the potential for political fallout. It was done in order to preserve the illusion of good faith reliance on OLC advice in the event of future criminal prosecutions. This is yet another reason why a special prosecutor needs to be appointed. While I agree with the decision by Eric Holder not to pursue prosecutions against CIA officials who relied in good faith on OLC advice (and did not exceed the scope of that advice), it is becoming increasingly clear that there were people (likely high ranking intelligence officials and people in the White House) who were explicitly warned (likely repeatedly) of the shoddy and highly dubious nature of the OLC’s advice. These folks should not be entitled to any presumption of good faith reliance. They need to be investigated. The attempt to scrub Zelikow’s memo from the record looks to me like an act of criminal conspiracy intended to preserve plausible deniability about the illegal nature of various government activities.

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Abu Zubaydah: Waterboarded 83 Times for 10 Pieces of Intelligence

The torture apologists are out in force, insisting that torture produces useful information. Cheney’s even promising to release information from CIA cataloging all the useful information that came from torture.

But we don’t have to wait for Cheney to make good on his promise. We already have a way to assess how much intelligence we got directly from torturing Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: the 9/11 Report. After all, the 9/11 Report integrates a huge amount of information from interrogation reports, and cites them all meticulously. As early as June 6, 2003, the 9/11 Commission asked for, "“all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations” of forty named individuals, including Abu Zubaydah and (apparently) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and they used what they got in return to write their report. So if there was useful information in those reports, they presumably got it.

Here was a bipartisan group–including many staffers and members with extensive national security backgrounds–attempting to learn everything it could about al Qaeda, poring through interrogation reports produced as a result of torture, tracking inconsistencies in the intelligence, corroborating that intelligence where possible with documents and other testimony, and ultimately selecting what it felt was useful in telling the story of al Qaeda. While certainly not a perfect assessment of what was useful (I’ll explain why below), it provides one of the best unbiased ways to measure how useful this intelligence was.

And in the case of Abu Zubaydah, such an assessment is horrifying. 

In the entire 9/11 Report, just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports.

Ten.

And there are several other damning details that come from this analysis. One of the ten pieces of intelligence that appears in the 9/11 Report–regarding Abu Zubaydah’s role running terrorist training camps–came from July 10, 2002, before the CIA first received oral authorization to use torture. Thus, it either came from persuasive, rather than coercive, techniques. Or it came from treatment that had not been legally approved.

In addition, the 9/11 Report doesn’t cite interrogation reports addressing [the lack of] ties between Iraq and al Qaeda directly; it cites a 2003 memo from Doug Feith that in turn cites 2003 interrogations of AZ and KSM. It’s unclear whether AZ’s and KSM’s earlier denials of links between al Qaeda and Iraq simply don’t show up in the earlier interrogation reports, or whether such information was deemed not credible in earlier reports. But the absence of such references, when we know interrogators were pushed to ask about them, raises questions about the integrity of the interrogation reports.

Of the ten pieces of information that appear in the Report, just one comes from the month when AZ was under most intensive interrogation. As it pertains to Rahim al-Nashiri, who had not yet been captured, it might be said to have an influence on his capture. Though appears to be background on who he was rather than details about how to find him. 

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Breaking: Torture Architect John Rizzo Still Working at CIA

The ACLU is reporting something that I’ve suspected.

According to the CIA public affairs office, Rizzo is still Acting General Counsel.

John Rizzo, the man who worked with both Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury to pre-authorize torture, is still being paid by you and me to make sure that the CIA follows the law.

As the SASC report notes, Rizzo is the man who provided the list of torture techniques to Jay Bybee for inclusion in the memo–the key link in turning SERE techniques into torture.

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.

This suggests it’s likely that Rizzo knew that CIA was intending to do one thing with waterboarding but tempering the description of that in the OLC memo. Also, I outlined ways in which it appears the information Rizzo provided to OLC was, at a minimum, under dispute when it was given. In other words, Rizzo may well be the key person who manipulated the OLC process to legalize torture.

I’ve got a half-written post explaining why Rizzo must be included among those whose role we investigate going forward.  That’s all the more crucial given that Rizzo is still in a position of power in our government. 

Update: basic grammar corrected per pm.

Did Cheney Order Up Abu Zubaydah’s 83rd Waterboarding?

McClatchy reports that one of the reasons Khalid Sheikh Mohammed got waterboarded 183 times and Abu Zubaydah got waterboarded 83 times is that Cheney and Rumsfeld refused to believe they had no information on ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq. (h/t Hmmm)

The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

[snip]

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

This suggests that when Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded an additional time–perhaps his 83rd–against the judgment of the interrogators working with him directly, the "elements with CIA Headquarters" that ordered up the additional torture were being pushed by Cheney and Rummy (a suggestion JimWhite made here).

This is not to say that the interrogation program has worked perfectly. According to the IG Report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have the information. See IG report at 83-85. On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques. On that occasion, although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements with CIA Headquarters still believed he was withholding information. [Redaction of more than one full line] See id, at 84. At the direction of CIA Headquarters interrogators, therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah. [Redacted] See id, at 84-85. [my emphasis]

I’ll have more to say on the intelligence they got from Abu Zubaydah in a later post. But if Cheney can be tied–presumably through Tenet–to waterboarding sessions that even the torturers Read more

The SASC Smoking Gun on Waterboarding

The SASC Report on Torture strongly suggests that CIA was following one set of guidelines on waterboarding, but had gotten approval from DOJ for another set of guidelines. 

The SASC reveals that on July 26, 2002, JPRA sent a report on SERE techniques. That report is almost certainly one of the resources Jay Bybee consulted when writing his memo, which was published on August 1, 2002. The SASC report says,

[DOD General Counsel] 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

See Valtin’s story showing that the data came from the same place.

Now, as SASC describes it, the JPRA document didn’t describe waterboarding as it used to be done in Navy training. 

JPRA’s description of the waterboarding technique provided in that first attachment was inconsistent in key respects from the U.S. Navy SERE school’s description of waterboarding. According to the Navy SERE school’s operating instructions, for example, while administering the technique, the Navy limited the amount of water poured on a student’s face to two pints. However, the JPRA attachment said that "up to 1.5 gallons of water" may be poured onto a "subject’s face." While the Navy’s operating instructions dictated that "[n]o effort will be made to direct the stream of water into the student’s nostrils or mouth," the description provided by JPRA contained no such limitation for subjects ofthe technique. While the Navy limited the use ofthe cloth on a student’s face to twenty seconds, the JPRA’s description said only that the cloth should remain in place for a "short period of time." And while the Navy restricted anyone from placing pressure on the chest or stomach during the administration of this technique, JPRA’s description included no such limitation for subjects of the technique. [my emphasis]

In other words, JPRA was advising waterboarding to be used in torture to use six times the amount of water as that used in training, and JPRA eliminated the 20 second limit on waterboarding.

Now, Bybee’s memo is closer to what it appears Navy did in SERE, with limits on timing (though twice as long as SERE allowed), and description of  water being poured from a "canteen cup."

Finally, you would like to use a technique called the "waterboard" in this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, Read more

SASC Torture Report, Working Thread

graphic

The Senate Armed Services Committee just released its report on torture.

Spencer has a post on it here.

Remember, as you’re reading it, that not only did they re-purpose SERE. But we know they went far beyond SERE in its application.

I’ll be reading it as I fall asleep and should have more detailed comments tomorrow morning. Plus, I’m working on a post that should demonstrate, once and for all, just how futile all this torture was. 

One more thing. As you read this, remember that Kirk Lippold who has become one of the talking heads attacking Obama’s efforts to shut Gitmo, worked on crafting Gitmo detainee strategies. 

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