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This article, by John Prados,was published by Foreign Policy in Focus, October 03, 2009
Former CIA director Michael Hayden played a key role in organizing support among his predecessors for the letter a group of them sent last week demanding that President Barack Obama end or curtail the Justice Department investigation into abuses by CIA interrogators during the Bush years. This initiative comes on top of months of active campaigning during which Hayden pressed the same point from every soapbox he could find.
Attorney General Eric Holder would be justified in wondering why General Hayden is so determined to suppress this investigation. The public is entitled to ask the same question. Hayden effectively argues for secret government and against accountability. His arguments are a disturbing carryover from the Bush administration and its violation of domestic and international law. Tortuous Arguments Sent to the president on September 18, the letter was signed by General Hayden, his Bush-era predecessors Porter J. Goss and George J. Tenet, and former CIA bosses John M. Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William J. Webster, and James R. Schlesinger. They argue that the torture investigation currently undertaken by the Justice Department sets a bad precedent to reopen matters settled by a previous administration and that "zeal on the part of some to uncover every action taken" might incline our foreign allies not to share intelligence with the CIA because "they simply cannot rely upon our promises of secrecy."
Both arguments are significantly misleading. Both featured prominently in General Hayden’s earlier attempts to head off the investigation that Attorney General Holder ordered on August 24. And both seek to cloak CIA misdeeds behind fatuous appeals to national security.
The Hayden argument about foreign cooperation, for instance, is a favorite CIA smokescreen. Since the agency conducts 90% of its operations in cooperation with foreign services this is an all-purpose excuse. The other side of the coin is that the CIA frequently denies information to foreign services. The stories of the British, Australian, Israeli, French, and Danish reviews of pre-Iraq war intelligence are full of notes on all the data that the CIA withheld from them. Lack of CIA cooperation has brought legal prosecutions in Britain, Germany, Canada, and Italy to a halt. In short, CIA cooperation with allied intelligence services has been uneven and self-interested. Plain calculations of the advantage in collaborating with the CIA are far more important drivers of states’ propensity to work alongside us than simple issues of the protection of classified information. And the use of secrecy to hide illegal activity itself adds to the damage. In Great Britain both the foreign and domestic intelligence services (MI-6 and MI-5) are currently being investigated for collaborating with the CIA on "interrogations." The best way to limit the impact of scandal has long been to get the bad news out as quickly as possible — the cover-up is worse than the crime.
As for the Justice Department’s "zeal" to uncover this sordid record, the investigation so far is not the result of some rush to judgment but of patient digging by a host of reporters and commentators. Our honorable spymasters resisted this probe at every turn. For instance, the original revelation of the CIA’s "black prisons," Dana Priest’s story in the Washington Post on November 2, 2005, identified a facility in Afghanistan called the "Salt Pit" as the largest such prison in the country. Priest also reported the death of an inmate there at the hands of an inexperienced CIA officer. Agency officials probably began destroying the videotapes of the CIA interrogation sessions within days of the story’s publication. Porter Goss, the CIA director at the time, reportedly opposed this obstruction of justice (the tapes had been subpoenaed for the trial of alleged terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, and the CIA filed a written declaration that they did not exist). But Goss never appeared before the congressional intelligence committees to explain these circumstances. In fact, Goss briefed Congress only once on CIA interrogations — to say that the agency was awaiting new Department of Justice analyses of the legality of torture.
Under George Tenet, another signatory of the Hayden Letter, the black prisons and interrogation programs got started. Tenet issued directives for conducting these programs in January 2003, according to the recently declassified CIA Inspector General’s report on the interrogations. The documented cases of detainee deaths took place during Tenet’s tenure. Tales of "renditions, "ghost planes," and more were already becoming legion. A Muslim cleric was kidnapped off the street in Italy. But Tenet appeared at a congressional briefing only once, in September 2003.
As for Jim Woolsey, he was one of the neocon cheerleaders for war with Iraq and a primary booster of the fabrication that Saddam Hussein, in league with al-Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Iraq brought us Abu Ghraib.
There is also a glaring omission. Admiral Stansfield Turner, who tried to craft a regime of intelligence within the law after the Church-Pike era, is found nowhere on the Hayden Letter. Turner no doubt preserved a sense that intelligence scandals only fester until they are laid open to the light of day. Hayden’s Record From the beginning Michael Hayden strove to contain the torture scandal. He took over the CIA only three months before President George W. Bush, bowing to white-hot controversy in September 2006, acknowledged the black prisons, closed them, and sent the remaining detainees to Guantánamo Bay. Hayden went from a congressional appearance that July at which he anticipated reviving CIA interrogations, to a marathon day of half a dozen briefings of lawmakers when Bush brought down the ax. Hayden actually presided over 15 of the 22 CIA events he staged for Congress prior to the Obama presidency. He ordered a security investigation of the CIA Inspector General. He sought fresh Justice Department opinions on the legality of torture. Through it all, Hayden argued that there was nothing to investigate in the CIA interrogation program — and had the temerity to cite the Bush Justice Department as his authority. This department repeatedly pronounced torture legal during the Bush years. A Justice Department decision to investigate would have been tantamount to rejecting its own legal arguments — and these were the same people who fired federal prosecutors to enforce a certain political line. Those legal positions and political tendencies without question cloud the Bush Justice Department decisions against prosecuting any but the most egregious torture cases — as well as the prosecutors’ failure to pursue accountability up the chain of command.
The general has an awfully tin ear for the public. At a mid-September conference in Geneva sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Hayden argued that besides the usual technical and legal considerations, intelligence activities need to be "politically sustainable." The CIA interrogation program was inherently controversial because it went against the grain of traditional American values — it was never politically sustainable. The notion that refusing to investigate these excesses can make them go away would be laughable if it were not so disturbing.
Most people have a rule for when they get into a hole: stop digging. Evidently Michael Hayden’s rule is to dig deeper. The Hayden approach of hiding behind secrecy will virtually guarantee that this scandal deepens and becomes more sinister.
This article by Devlin Barrett andf Pamela Hess, was posted to Yahoo News, August 24, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration launched a criminal investigation Monday into harsh questioning of detainees during President George W. Bush's war on terrorism, revealing CIA interrogators' threats to kill one suspect's children and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted.
At the same time, President Barack Obama ordered changes in future interrogations, bringing in other agencies besides the CIA under the direction of the FBI and supervised by his own national security adviser. The administration pledged questioning would be controlled by the Army Field Manual, with strict rules on tactics, and said the White House would keep its hands off the professional investigators doing the work.
Despite the announcement of the criminal probe, several Obama spokesmen declared anew — as the president has repeatedly — that on the subject of detainee interrogation he "wants to look forward, not back" at Bush tactics. They took pains to say decisions on any prosecutions would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder, not the White House.
Monday's five-year-old report by the CIA's inspector general, newly declassified and released under a federal court's orders, described severe tactics used by interrogators on terror suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Seeking information about possible further attacks, interrogators threatened one detainee with a gun and a power drill and tried to frighten another with a mock execution of another prisoner.
Attorney General Holder said he had chosen a veteran prosecutor to determine whether any CIA officers or contractors should face criminal charges for crossing the line on rough but permissible tactics.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, appointed by President Bush in 2006, expressed dismay by the prospect of prosecutions for CIA officers. He noted that career prosecutors have already reviewed and declined to prosecute the alleged abuses.
Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines, but the report by the CIA's inspector general said they went too far — even beyond what was authorized under Justice Department legal memos that have since been withdrawn and discredited. The report also suggested some questioners knew they were crossing a line.
"Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this (but) it has to be done," one unidentified CIA officer was quoted as saying, predicting the questioners would someday have to appear in court to answer for such tactics.
The report concluded the CIA used "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane" practices in questioning "high-value" terror suspects.
Monday's documents represent the largest single release of information about the Bush administration's once-secret system of capturing terrorism suspects and interrogating them in overseas prisons.
White House officials said they plan to continue the controversial practice of rendition of suspects to foreign countries, though they said that in future cases they would more carefully check to make sure such suspects are not tortured.
In one instance cited in the new documents, Abd al-Nashiri, the man accused of being behind the 2000 USS Cole bombing, was hooded, handcuffed and threatened with an unloaded gun and a power drill. The unidentified interrogator also threatened al-Nashiri's mother and family, implying they would be sexually abused in front of him, according to the report.
The interrogator denied making a direct threat.
Another interrogator told alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, "if anything else happens in the United States, 'We're going to kill your children,'" one veteran officer said in the report.
Death threats violate anti-torture laws.
In another instance, an interrogator pinched the carotid artery of a detainee until he started to pass out, then shook him awake. He did this three times. The interrogator, a CIA debriefer accustomed to questioning willing subjects, said he had only recently been trained to conduct interrogations.
Top Republican senators said they were troubled by the decision to begin a new investigation, which they said could weaken U.S. intelligence efforts. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the revelations showed the Bush administration went down a "dark road of excusing torture."
Investigators credited the detention-and-interrogation program for developing intelligence that prevented multiple attacks against Americans. One CIA operative interviewed for the report said the program thwarted al-Qaida plots to attack the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, derail trains, blow up gas stations and cut the suspension line of a bridge.
"In this regard, there is no doubt that the program has been effective," investigators wrote, backing an argument by former Vice President Dick Cheney and others that the program saved lives.
But the inspector general said it was unclear whether so-called "enhanced interrogation" tactics contributed to that success. Those tactics include waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique that the Obama administration says is torture. Measuring the success of such interrogation is "a more subjective process and not without some concern," the report said.
The report describes at least one mock execution, which would also violate U.S. anti-torture laws. To terrify one detainee, interrogators pretended to execute the prisoner in a nearby room. A senior officer said it was a transparent ruse that yielded no benefit.
As the report was released, Attorney General Holder appointed prosecutor John Durham to open a preliminary investigation into the claims of abuse. Durham is already investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos and now will examine whether CIA officers or contractors broke laws in the handling of suspects.
The administration also announced Monday that all U.S. interrogators will follow the rules for detainees laid out by the Army Field Manual. The manual, last updated in September 2006, prohibits forcing detainees to be naked, threatening them with military dogs, exposing them to extreme heat or cold, conducting mock executions, depriving them of food, water, or medical care, and waterboarding.
Formation of the new interrogation unit for "high-value" detainees does not mean the CIA is out of the business of questioning terror suspects, deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton told reporters covering the vacationing president on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Burton said the unit will include "all these different elements under one group" and will be located at the FBI headquarters in Washington.
The structure of the new unit the White House is creating would be significantly broader than under the Bush administration, when the CIA had the lead and sometimes exclusive role in questioning al-Qaida suspects.
Obama campaigned vigorously against Bush administration interrogation practices in his successful run for the presidency. He has said more recently he didn't particularly favor prosecuting officials in connection with instances of prisoner abuse.
Burton said Holder "ultimately is going to make the decisions."
CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an e-mail message to agency employees Monday that he intended "to stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given. That is the president's position, too," he said.
Panetta said some CIA officers have been disciplined for going beyond the methods approved for interrogations by the Bush-era Justice Department. Just one CIA employee — contractor David Passaro_ has been prosecuted for detainee abuse.
This article, by Daniel Tencier, was posted to Raw Story, August 19, 2009
Nine Republican Senators are urging Attorney General Eric Holder to drop the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-era torture practices, news reports indicated Wednesday.
The appointment of a special prosecutor would “have serious consequences, not just for the honorable members of the intelligence community, but also for the security of all Americans,” nine GOP senators told Holder in a letter, as reported at the Hill.
Among the nine are Kit Bond (R-MO), who is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The others are Christopher Bond (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Kyl (R-AZ), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
Newsweek first reported that Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to look at the torture practices carried out during the Bush administration. That news came shortly after congressional Democrats revealed the existence of a secret CIA hit squad that the agency kept from Congress, perhaps in contravention of the law.
An article last week in the Los Angeles Times stated that the appointment was imminent, but that “Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be narrow in scope, focusing on ‘whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized’ in Bush administration memos that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.”
But that narrow scope is not narrow enough for the nine GOP senators.
“The country would be better served if the Justice Department refocuses its priorities and allocates its resources to pressing matters — such as prosecuting the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks — instead of contemplating legal action against the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting this country,” CQ Politics quoted the letter as saying.
Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent says it’s not a coincidence that the senators sent out their letter today, as Monday of next week is the court-ordered deadline for the US government to release a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report into torture practices during the Bush years.
“That document, which according to reports is filled with grisly tales of abuse, is reportedly prompting Attorney General Eric Holder to consider a special prosecutor,” Ackerman writes.
The Hill reports:
In their letter to Holder, the Republican senators are taking issue with reports that the special prosecutor would particularly be looking into how CIA interrogators treated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The senators argue that the interrogation of Mohammed produced information that “was absolutely vital” to capturing other terrorists and preventing other attacks on the United States, such as a West Coast plot to destroy the Library Tower in Los Angeles.
On the other side of the political fence, supporters of an investigation into torture practices say the limited investigation Holder is allegedly preparing doesn’t go far enough, because it would limit itself only to prosecuting those who went outside of the guidelines that the Bush administration’s lawyers set out for torture. They say all instances of torture should be looked at.
Writes Ackerman: “Liberals have been pretty dissatisfied by the idea that the guy who waterboarded a detainee with — to steal a memorable phrase that Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) used at Netroots Nation on Saturday — eight ounces of water would be investigated but the lawyer or official who said it was OK to waterboard someone with three ounces of water has nothing to worry about.”
This article, by Mike Silva, was published by the Chicago Tribune, August 11, 2009
This just in from Lubbock, Texas, where former U.S. Att'y Gen. Alberto Gonzales poses the perennial question: "Where do you draw the line?''
And allows that anyone who thinks that anyone who operates at the level that he did, or at the presidential level, will not make mistakes "is living in fairy-tale land.''
Gonzales, who ran the Justice Department for former President George W. Bush, warned today against the current Justice Department's inclination to investigate the CIA interrogations of detainees captured in "the war on terror'' on Bush's watch.
This could "discourage'' CIA operatives from "engaging in conduct that even comes close" to meeting the government's guidelines, Gonzales said in an interview with the Associated Press today. "So where do you draw the line?" he asked. "What is allowed, what's not allowed?"
The Bush Justice Department had told the CIA what was allowed - and "water-boarding'' was. The Obama Justice Department, which considers the simulated drowning used in interrogations and other tactics approved by its predecessors as torture, is weighing a probe to see if any CIA agents exceeded the authority that Justice had given them.
Att'y Gen. Eric Holder is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of terrorism suspects, current and former U.S. government officials have said, as reported by the Tribune Washington Bureau. A senior Justice Department official has said that Holder envisions an inquiry narrow in scope, focusing on "whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized" in Bush administration memos that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.
Gonzales, who served as attorney general until resigning in 2007, has spoken with current CIA lawyers, who have spoken with CIA operatives. "They're very, very concerned about the legal liability and legal exposure," Gonzales told the AP. "And that's the danger with launching some kind of investigation.''
Gonzales has been hired by Texas Tech University to recruit and retain minority students. He will also teach a 15-student political science class, Contemporary Issue of the Executive Branch. He is classified as a visiting professor and has agreed to teach one year. His salary for both positions is $100,000, school officials have said.
Gonzales acknowledged wishing that he could "do some things over" during his time in Washington. He erred in using the words "quaint" and "the Geneva Convention" in the same sentence in a memo he wrote about the privileges that suspected terrorists should have in incarceration, he said.
"Now looking at it...I would not have done that," he allowed. "At this level you make mistakes. And if you think this president, this attorney general, this administration isn't going to make mistakes, you're living in a fairy-tale land."
This article, by Scott Shane, was published by the New York Times, August 11, 2009
WASHINGTON — Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were military retirees and psychologists, on the lookout for business opportunities. They found an excellent customer in the Central Intelligence Agency, where in 2002 they became the architects of the most important interrogation program in the history of American counterterrorism.
They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.
But they had psychology credentials and an intimate knowledge of a brutal treatment regimen used decades ago by Chinese Communists. For an administration eager to get tough on those who had killed 3,000 Americans, that was enough.
So “Doc Mitchell” and “Doc Jessen,” as they had been known in the Air Force, helped lead the United States into a wrenching conflict over torture, terror and values that seven years later has not run its course.
Dr. Mitchell, with a sonorous Southern accent and the sometimes overbearing confidence of a self-made man, was a former Air Force explosives expert and a natural salesman. Dr. Jessen, raised on an Idaho potato farm, joined his Air Force colleague to build a thriving business that made millions of dollars selling interrogation and training services to the C.I.A.
Seven months after President Obama ordered the C.I.A. interrogation program closed, its fallout still commands attention. In the next few weeks, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to decide whether to begin a criminal torture investigation, in which the psychologists’ role is likely to come under scrutiny. The Justice Department ethics office is expected to complete a report on the lawyers who pronounced the methods legal. And the C.I.A. will soon release a highly critical 2004 report on the program by the agency’s inspector general.
Col. Steven M. Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator and intelligence officer who knows Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen, said he thought loyalty to their country in the panicky wake of the Sept. 11 attacks prompted their excursion into interrogation. He said the result was a tragedy for the country, and for them.
“I feel their primary motivation was they thought they had skills and insights that would make the nation safer,” Colonel Kleinman said. “But good persons in extreme circumstances can do horrific things.”
For the C.I.A., as well as for the gray-goateed Dr. Mitchell, 58, and the trim, dark-haired Dr. Jessen, 60, the change in administrations has been neck-snapping. For years, President George W. Bush declared the interrogation program lawful and praised it for stopping attacks. Mr. Obama, by contrast, asserted that its brutality rallied recruits for Al Qaeda; called one of the methods, waterboarding, torture; and, in his first visit to the C.I.A., suggested that the interrogation program was among the agency’s “mistakes.”
The psychologists’ subsequent fall from official grace has been as swift as their rise in 2002. Today the offices of Mitchell Jessen and Associates, the lucrative business they operated from a handsome century-old building in downtown Spokane, Wash., sit empty, its C.I.A. contracts abruptly terminated last spring.
With a possible criminal inquiry looming, Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen have retained a well-known defense lawyer, Henry F. Schuelke III. Mr. Schuelke said they would not comment for this article, which is based on dozens of interviews with the doctors’ colleagues and present and former government officials.
In a brief e-mail exchange in June, Dr. Mitchell said his nondisclosure agreement with the C.I.A. prevented him from commenting. He suggested that his work had been mischaracterized.
“Ask around,” Dr. Mitchell wrote, “and I’m sure you will find all manner of ‘experts’ who will be willing to make up what you’d like to hear on the spot and unrestrained by reality.” A Career Shift
At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Dr. Mitchell had just retired from his last military job, as psychologist to an elite special operations unit in North Carolina. Showing his entrepreneurial streak, he had started a training company called Knowledge Works, which he operated from his new home in Florida, to supplement retirement pay.
But for someone with Dr. Mitchell’s background, it was evident that the campaign against Al Qaeda would produce opportunities. He began networking in military and intelligence circles where he had a career’s worth of connections.
He had grown up poor in Florida, Dr. Mitchell told friends, and joined the Air Force in 1974, seeking adventure. Stationed in Alaska, he learned the art of disarming bombs and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology.
Robert J. Madigan, a psychology professor at the University of Alaska who had worked closely with him, remembered Dr. Mitchell stopping by years later. He had completed his doctorate at the University of South Florida in 1986, comparing diet and exercise in controlling hypertension, and was working for the Air Force in Spokane.
“I remember him saying they were preparing people for intense interrogations,” Dr. Madigan said.
Military survival training was expanded after the Korean War, when false confessions by American prisoners led to sensational charges of communist “brainwashing.” Military officials decided that giving service members a taste of Chinese-style interrogation would prepare them to withstand its agony.
Air Force survival training was consolidated in 1966 at Fairchild Air Force Base in the parched hills outside Spokane. The name of the training, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, or SERE, suggests its breadth: airmen and women learn to live off the land and avoid capture, as well as how to behave if taken prisoner.
In the 1980s, Dr. Jessen became the SERE psychologist at the Air Force Survival School, screening instructors who posed as enemy interrogators at the mock prison camp and making sure rough treatment did not go too far. He had grown up in a Mormon community with a view of Grand Teton, earning a doctorate at Utah State studying “family sculpting,” in which patients make physical models of their family to portray emotional relationships.
Dr. Jessen moved in 1988 to the top psychologist’s job at a parallel “graduate school” of survival training, a short drive from the Air Force school. Dr. Mitchell took his place.
The two men became part of what some Defense Department officials called the “resistance mafia,” experts on how to resist enemy interrogations. Both lieutenant colonels and both married with children, they took weekend ice-climbing trips together.
While many subordinates considered them brainy and capable leaders, some fellow psychologists were more skeptical. At the annual conference of SERE psychologists, two colleagues recalled, Dr. Mitchell offered lengthy put-downs of presentations that did not suit him.
At the Air Force school, Dr. Mitchell was known for enforcing the safety of interrogations; it might surprise his later critics to learn that he eliminated a tactic called “manhandling” after it produced a spate of neck injuries, a colleague said.
At the SERE graduate school, Dr. Jessen is remembered for an unusual job switch, from supervising psychologist to mock enemy interrogator.
Dr. Jessen became so aggressive in that role that colleagues intervened to rein him in, showing him videotape of his “pretty scary” performance, another official recalled.
Always, former and current SERE officials say, it is understood that the training mimics the methods of unscrupulous foes.
Mark Mays, the first psychologist at the Air Force school, said that to make the fake prison camp realistic, officials consulted American P.O.W.’s who had just returned from harrowing camps in North Vietnam.
“It was clear that this is what we’d expect from our enemies,” said Dr. Mays, now a clinical psychologist and lawyer in Spokane. “It was not something I could ever imagine Americans would do.” Start of the Program
In December 2001, a small group of professors and law enforcement and intelligence officers gathered outside Philadelphia at the home of a prominent psychologist, Martin E. P. Seligman, to brainstorm about Muslim extremism. Among them was Dr. Mitchell, who attended with a C.I.A. psychologist, Kirk M. Hubbard.
During a break, Dr. Mitchell introduced himself to Dr. Seligman and said how much he admired the older man’s writing on “learned helplessness.” Dr. Seligman was so struck by Dr. Mitchell’s unreserved praise, he recalled in an interview, that he mentioned it to his wife that night. Later, he said, he was “grieved and horrified” to learn that his work had been cited to justify brutal interrogations.
Dr. Seligman had discovered in the 1960s that dogs that learned they could do nothing to avoid small electric shocks would become listless and simply whine and endure the shocks even after being given a chance to escape.
Helplessness, which later became an influential concept in the treatment of human depression, was also much discussed in military survival training. Instructors tried to stop short of producing helplessness in trainees, since their goal was to strengthen the spirit of service members in enemy hands.
Dr. Mitchell, colleagues said, believed that producing learned helplessness in a Qaeda interrogation subject might ensure that he would comply with his captor’s demands. Many experienced interrogators disagreed, asserting that a prisoner so demoralized would say whatever he thought the interrogator exp
At the C.I.A. in December 2001, Dr. Mitchell’s theories were attracting high-level attention. Agency officials asked him to review a Qaeda manual, seized in England, that coached terrorist operatives to resist interrogations. He contacted Dr. Jessen, and the two men wrote the first proposal to turn the enemy’s brutal techniques — slaps, stress positions, sleep deprivation, wall-slamming and waterboarding — into an American interrogation program.
By the start of 2002, Dr. Mitchell was consulting with the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center, whose director, Cofer Black, and chief operating officer, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., were impressed by his combination of visceral toughness and psychological jargon. One person who heard some discussions said Dr. Mitchell gave the C.I.A. officials what they wanted to hear. In this person’s words, Dr. Mitchell suggested that interrogations required “a comparable level of fear and brutality to flying planes into buildings.”
By the end of March, when agency operatives captured Abu Zubaydah, initially described as Al Qaeda’s No. 3, the Mitchell-Jessen interrogation plan was ready. At a secret C.I.A. jail in Thailand, as reported in prior news accounts, two F.B.I agents used conventional rapport-building methods to draw vital information from Mr. Zubaydah. Then the C.I.A. team, including Dr. Mitchell, arrived.
With the backing of agency headquarters, Dr. Mitchell ordered Mr. Zubaydah stripped, exposed to cold and blasted with rock music to prevent sleep. Not only the F.B.I. agents but also C.I.A. officers at the scene were uneasy about the harsh treatment. Among those questioning the use of physical pressure, according to one official present, were the Thailand station chief, the officer overseeing the jail, a top interrogator and a top agency psychologist.
Whether they protested to C.I.A. bosses is uncertain, because the voluminous message traffic between headquarters and the Thailand site remains classified. One witness said he believed that “revisionism” in light of the torture controversy had prompted some participants to exaggerate their objections.
As the weeks passed, the senior agency psychologist departed, followed by one F.B.I. agent and then the other. Dr. Mitchell began directing the questioning and occasionally speaking directly to Mr. Zubaydah, one official said.
In late July 2002, Dr. Jessen joined his partner in Thailand. On Aug. 1, the Justice Department completed a formal legal opinion authorizing the SERE methods, and the psychologists turned up the pressure. Over about two weeks, Mr. Zubaydah was confined in a box, slammed into the wall and waterboarded 83 times.
The brutal treatment stopped only after Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen themselves decided that Mr. Zubaydah had no more information to give up. Higher-ups from headquarters arrived and watched one more waterboarding before agreeing that the treatment could stop, according to a Justice Department legal opinion. Lucrative Work
The Zubaydah case gave reason to question the Mitchell-Jessen plan: the prisoner had given up his most valuable information without coercion.
But top C.I.A. officials made no changes, and the methods would be used on at least 27 more prisoners, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times.
The business plans of Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen, meanwhile, were working out beautifully. They were paid $1,000 to $2,000 a day apiece, one official said. They had permanent desks in the Counterterrorist Center, and could now claim genuine experience in interrogating high-level Qaeda operatives.
Dr. Mitchell could keep working outside the C.I.A. as well. At the Ritz-Carlton in Maui in October 2003, he was featured at a high-priced seminar for corporations on how to behave if kidnapped. He created new companies, called Wizard Shop, later renamed Mind Science, and What If. His first company, Knowledge Works, was certified by the American Psychological Association in 2004 as a sponsor of continuing professional education. (A.P.A. dropped the certification last year.)
In 2005, the psychologists formed Mitchell Jessen and Associates, with offices in Spokane and Virginia and five additional shareholders, four of them from the military’s SERE program. By 2007, the company employed about 60 people, some with impressive résumés, including Deuce Martinez, a lead C.I.A. interrogator of Mr. Mohammed; Roger L. Aldrich, a legendary military survival trainer; and Karen Gardner, a senior training official at the F.B.I. Academy.
The company’s C.I.A. contracts are classified, but their total was well into the millions of dollars. In 2007 in a suburb of Tampa, Fla., Dr. Mitchell built a house with a swimming pool, now valued at $800,000.
The psychologists’ influence remained strong under four C.I.A. directors. In 2006, in fact, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her legal adviser, John B. Bellinger III, pushed back against the C.I.A.’s secret detention program and its methods, the director at the time, Michael V. Hayden, asked Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen to brief State Department officials and persuade them to drop their objections. They were unsuccessful.
By then, the national debate over torture had begun, and it would undo the psychologists’ business.
In a statement to employees on April 9, Leon E. Panetta, President Obama’s C.I.A. director, announced the “decommissioning” of the agency’s secret jails and repeated a pledge not to use coercion. And there was another item: “No C.I.A. contractors will conduct interrogations.”
Agency officials terminated the contracts for Mitchell Jessen and Associates, and the psychologists’ lucrative seven-year ride was over. Within days, the company had vacated its Spokane offices. The phones were disconnected, and at neighboring businesses, no one knew of a forwarding address.
This article, by Stephen Webster, was posted to Raw Story, May 23, 2009
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco warned the Obama administration on Friday of severe sanctions if it does not comply with the court’s order to turn over a secret document an Islamic group says proves they were illegally spied upon.
The case, Al-Haramain v. Obama (see also: Al-Haramain V. Bush), springs out of a government mistake in which a secret document detailing the wiretapping of calls between attorneys and Saudi charity Al-Haramain was turned over to the charity’s counsel.
The document was taken back by the government, and the Department of Justice has since maintained that the attorneys who read it should not be allowed to use their memories to pursue litigation over the illegal spying.
“It could be a scene from Kafka or Brazil ,” noted Wired when the story first broke in March 2007. “Imagine a government agency, in a bureaucratic foul-up, accidentally gives you a copy of a document marked ‘top secret.’ And it contains a log of some of your private phone calls.”
“Walker, bringing to a head months of volleying between the government, the plaintiffs and himself, ordered Justice Department lawyers to explain why he should not essentially enter a default judgment against the government for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by spying on the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation,” reported Law.com.
“The government has refused to obey court orders by repeatedly stonewalling Walker’s attempt to move the case forward, Walker wrote.”
“The Court noted the government was ‘continuing to assert legal positions already specifically rejected by the court in previous orders’ and ‘government officials in one or more defendant agencies, including the NSA Director … are refusing to cooperate with the court’s orders,’” noted the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. “Judge Walker ordered the government to show cause as to ‘why, as a sanction for failing to obey the court’s orders’ the government ’should not be prohibited … from opposing the liability’ for spying without warrants and that the ‘court should not deem liability … established and proceed to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to plaintiffs.’ A hearing is set for June 3, 2009 in the San Francisco federal court.” Should Walker rule in favor of Al-Haramain, it would not fully satisfy the group’s legal aims, but “it would be a stiff rebuke to an administration that has pledged to reconsider Bush’s broad claims of secrecy in all cases touching on national security,” noted Bob Egelko at The San Francisco Chronicle.
He continued: “The department, under both Bush and Obama, has argued that courts have no power to decide the legality of the surveillance program unless the government acknowledges that it monitored a particular person or group. It has not done so in Al-Haramain’s case.”
“The case is one of more than three dozen domestic surveillance lawsuits pending before Walker,” reported CBS5 in San Francisco.
“Congress granted immunity to the telecommunication companies last year, essentially killing their eavesdropping lawsuits and leaving before Walker the Al-Haramain case as the only surviving legal challenge to the government’s eavesdropping program,” reported the Associated Press.
This article, by Nick Baumann and David Corn, was originally published in Mother Jones, May 6, 2009
Who in the George W. Bush White House tried to shred a memo challenging the use of torture?
On April 21, Philip Zelikow, who was counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Bush administration, revealed on Foreign Policy's "Shadow Government" blog that he wrote a memo in 2005 disputing the conclusions of Bush Justice Department lawyers that torture was legal. The existence of such a memo was a surprise. But Zelikow also disclosed that the "White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo.
"This story is not over. Zelikow tells Mother Jones that he doesn't know for sure who in the White House ordered the suppression of his memo, but he says that his "supposition at the time" was that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was behind the cover-up. In an email exchange with Mother Jones, Zelikow notes that Cheney's office did not have the authority to request that his memo be deep-sixed: "They didn't run the interagency process. Such a request would more likely have come from the White House Counsel's office or from NSC staff." But that request did not reach him in written form. "It was conveyed to me, and I ignored it," Zelikow recalls. But he suspected that Team Cheney was probably behind it
Zelikow, who is scheduled to testify before a Senate judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday Wednesday, also notes that his memo was not the only one raising questions about the administration's legal rationale supporting so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques": "There were a number of papers, mainly arguing for alternative legal frameworks." But his memo, he adds, was "a more direct assault on [the Bush Justice Department's] own interpretation of American law."
(UPDATE: The Senate judiciary subcommittee just formally announced the testimony, which will be on Wednesday, not Tuesday, as earlier reports had indicated.)
Congressional Democrats are already seeking any surviving copies of Zelikow's memo. They might now also want to request these other papers. (No such documents have been declassified or released so far.)
Cheney's office was reportedly the hub of the Bush administration's torture program. And Neil Kinkopf, a law professor at Georgia State University, who served in the Clinton administration's Office of Legal Counsel, notes, "People in the White House—Dick Cheney for example; David Addington, his legal adviser—didn't want the existence of dissent to be known. It's not hard to imagine David Addington playing very hardball internal politics and not only wanting to prevail over the view of Zelikow but to annihilate it. It would be perfectly consistent with how he operated." Zelikow, who ran the 9/11 Commission before joining the State Department, wrote in his original blog post that he believed the administration had failed to erase the evidence of his dissent: "I expect that one or two [copies of the memo] are still at least in the State Department's archives." And four top congressional Democrats on Monday wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [PDF] and Adrienne Thomas, the acting national archivist [PDF], requesting surviving copies of the Zelikow memo.
In their letter to Clinton, the Democrats—Reps. John Conyers, Howard Berman, Jerry Nadler, and Bill Delahunt—ask for a search of the archives that Zelikow believes may contain his memo. But the Dems' letter to the archivist requests more. In that letter, Conyers and the others request the Zelikow memo along with "[c]opies of any 'documentary materials'" that "mention or refer to" the Zelikow memorandum or "are related to or reflect any effort by an official of the Bush Administration to collect, destroy, or impede the preservation or retention of this memorandum." In other words, they are looking for evidence of who attempted to bury Zelikow's opposing view.
This could even have legal implications. Federal law—including the Presidential Records Act—requires that the White House adhere to strict record-keeping standards. If a White House official tried to disappear an inconvenient memo, he or she might have committed a crime. Concerning the Presidential Records Act, the Bush administration never was a stickler. If millions of emails can disappear, what's one memo?
The Dems want to get Zelikow's allegations of a cover-up on the record and under oath, and they will. In his email to Mother Jones, Zelikow says that when he testifies next week he plans to "go through a brief chronology of the various arguments for changing the administration position." But since Zelikow doesn't appear to know who attempted to smother his memo, congressional Democrats may have to do some legwork—which could include questioning various Bush White House officials—to solve this latest Bush-era mystery.
This article, by Charlotte Dennett, was posted to Consortium News, April 1, 2009
We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a truth commission over the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Halfway through the allotted 30 minute meeting (with him taking up much of the time explaining why he was not generally opposed to prosecution, since he had been a DA for eight years and had the highest conviction rate in Vermont), he told us that his truth commission had failed to get the broad support it needed in Congress, and since he couldn’t get one Republican to come behind the plan, “it’s not going to happen.”
It was a sobering exchange. The meeting had begun with our expressing serious concerns about ongoing dangers to our democracy, with the trend going to executive power while damaging our Constitution.
“We are a nation of laws,” said Dan DeWalt, who had helped organize 36 Vermont towns to vote for impeachment of Bush on town meeting day. “If we have a system of justice, why not let it take its course? It seems to many Americans that the rich and powerful don’t have the same system of justice, and they’re getting away with torture, murder, fraud, and Ponzi schemes.”
By the end of the meeting, we were beginning to wonder whether anything at all was going to done – by Congress, by Attorney General Eric Holder, by President Barack Obama – to hold the Bush team accountable for its crimes.
Leahy’s own aversion to appointing a special prosecutor appeared to be more practical than philosophical.
“We don’t want another Abu Ghraib,” he said. “You know, ‘Boy, did we get those privates and corporals.’ So many up on high will never get touched. It’s like the war on drugs – ‘let’s get those black kids on cocaine.’”
So it’s not that Leahy had a problem with prosecutions per se. “I just worry that the prosecutions will be done only on middle-level people,” he said.
Well then, what would happen to the higher-ups? Leahy had said, on previous occasions, that the purpose of his truth commission was to grant immunity to those willing to testify – presumably middle-level people – and we could infer from that that they, in turn, would spill the beans on their superiors.
If any of the witnesses lied under oath or were less than thorough in their answers, Leahy had told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow a month ago, they could be prosecuted for perjury. But that still left the fate of high government officials uncertain.
Leahy had hinted to Maddow that if officials refused to honor subpoenas, they, too could be prosecuted. But in the real world, as Monday’s news suggests, the people most responsible for the crimes will continue to get off free.
We should at least be content, Leahy said, with his success in forcing former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s resignation in 2007.
After Leahy left the meeting, his aide, Chuck Ross, assured our group that there was no one more devoted to protecting the Constitution than Leahy.
“He has been persistent in the face of obfuscation,” Ross said. “He got rid of Gonzales. I would challenge you to find someone who has done more to defend the Constitution.”
Then Ross let out a memorable one-liner: “He’s all you’ve got.”
What? Leahy’s all we’ve got to protect the Constitution? And we have to accept Gonzales’s resignation as the only punishment for years of gutting the rule of law? It took about five minutes for all this to sink in.
Then fellow Vermonter John Nirenberg spoke, I think, for all of us: “If he’s the only guy, this is not a healthy situation.”
It is, perhaps, no coincidence, that the same time Leahy downplayed the truth commission, congressional aides were quoted by reporter Jason Leopold of Consortiumnews.com that “the focus has shifted to the economy and that pressure for a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the Bush administration’s past actions could become a distraction to that focus.”
Leahy’s aide Ross had said the same thing. Everyone was focusing on the economy.
So now, it seems, the wrecked economy – complements of the Bush administration -- is becoming the excuse for congressional inaction after eight years of unremitting malfeasance by the Bush administration.
This is serious, folks. Appointing a special prosecutor had been the top issue on President Obama’s Web site when he took office. Either he’s not listening any more, or his supporters are “looking forward, not backward,” just as he prefers – and just as his right flank (the CIA, the neocons, and everyone else who has something to hide) desperately want.
It remains to be seen if Obama’s huge base can get through to him on this issue, now that he occupies the White House. If they cannot, then the failure to hold even a truth commission, let alone prosecutions, signals a return to the same old way of doing things. Deterrence be damned.
This article, by Mark Townsend, was published by The Observer, February 22, 2009
Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.
Mohamed will arrive back tomorrow in the UK, where he was a British resident between 1984 and 2002. During medical examinations last week, doctors discovered injuries and ailments resulting from apparently brutal treatment in detention.
Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo's guards to give him counselling.
Mohamed's British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten "dozens" of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: "He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages."
Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."
The former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who campaigned for Guantánamo Bay to be closed, said any allegation of US abuse against a British resident inside the prison should be urgently raised by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
"If there are credible accounts of mistreatment then they need to be pursued," said Goldsmith.
Claims that Mohamed was beaten during the period after President Obama announced Guantánamo's closure in January risk harming diplomatic relations between the administration and the British government. Prime minister Gordon Brown is believed to have raised Mohamed's case with the US president during their first talk following Obama's inauguration two months ago.
Stafford Smith, the director of legal charity Reprieve, said yesterday that Mohamed had been routinely beaten by Guantánamo's notorious emergency reaction force, a six-strong team of guards in riot gear who have been the subject of previous abuse allegations. The alleged beatings were routinely administered against Mohamed "for no reason" and some were "recent" according to Stafford Smith.
Upon his return to England after more than four years inside Guantánamo, Mohamed will be taken to a secure, secret location in order for him to be fully rehabilitated by a team of volunteer doctors and psychiatrists. Mohamed will be kept under a "voluntary security arrangement" which involves reporting to the authorities, but he will not be subject to an anti-terror control order. His lawyers reiterate that he has nothing to hide after US terror charges against him were dropped last year.
Mohamed will not be debriefed upon his arrival by the British authorities or face any interview from the British security agencies. At least one MI5 officer is currently waiting to hear whether he will face a criminal investigation over alleged complicity in the torture of Mohamed, who settled in Kensington, west London, after arriving from Ethiopia as a teenage asylum seeker.
Mohamed's eventual testimony may also shed light on MI5's alleged complicity in his interrogation and alleged torture. One likely step will involve suing the British government and its security services over potential allegations of complicity in his illegal detention, abduction, treatment and interrogation.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent reviewer of the anti-terrorism laws, warned yesterday that, once settled, Mohamed's possible legal action against the US or British authorities could force them to disclose vital evidence relating to the torture allegations.
Following his arrest in Pakistan more than six years ago, Mohamed has claimed he was told by British government officials that everything would be done to help him.
Lt Col Bradley, who is staying in England until Thursday to welcome Mohamed, said the most crucial issue was stabilising his health. Mohamed's weight has fallen from 170lbs to about 125lbs. "He needs to get his weight back on and start eating," she said.
Mohamed's return to England coincides with signs that the government is preparing to accept more detainees from Guantánamo in the face of increasing US pressure to help shut the camp.
The Foreign Office appears to be softening its stance towards accepting more detainees from the prison after last month insisting there were "no plans" to accept more inmates. The position has now shifted to a statement explaining that "no formal decision has been made" on the UK accepting detainees from other countries.
A Foreign Office source added that all cases were now being reviewed on an individual basis by the home secretary Jacqui Smith. This comes amid intensifying pressure from the US authorities, with the Observer learning that direct requests for Britain to accept more detainees have now been lodged by the Obama administration. Sources at the US department of defence said talks were ongoing with countries, including the UK, to re-house inmates.
Dean Boyd, spokesman for the US department of justice, said: "We will undoubtedly need the assistance of our close friends and allies as we work towards closing Guantánamo."
Goldsmith said Britain should accept prisoners from the camp if it would help Obama to close it down.
British citizens and residents mentioned in the report is Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, from Rochdale, who claims he was tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents before being questioned by two MI5 officers. Ahmed was convicted of being a member of al-Qaida at Manchester crown court, yet the jury was not told that three of the fingernails of his left hand had been removed. The response from MI5 to the allegations that it had colluded in Ahmed's torture were heard in camera, however, after the press and the public were excluded from the proceedings. Ahmed's description of the cell in which he claims he was tortured closely matches that where Salahuddin Amin, 33, from Luton, says he was tortured by ISI officers between interviews with MI5 officers.
Zeeshan Siddiqui, 25, from London, who was detained in Pakistan in 2005, also claims he was interviewed by British intelligence agents during a period in which he was tortured.
Other cases include that of a London medical student who was detained in Karachi and tortured after the July 2005 attacks in London. Another case involving Britons allegedly tortured in Pakistan and questioned by UK agents involves a British Hizb ut-Tahrir supporter.
Rashid Rauf, from Birmingham, was detained in Pakistan and questioned over suspected terrorist activity in 2006. He was reportedly killed after a US drone attack in Pakistan's tribal regions, though his body has never been found.
Hasan said: "What the research suggests is that these are not incidents involving one particular rogue officer or two, but rather an array of individuals involved over a period of several years.
"The issue is not just British complicity in the torture of British citizens, it is the issue of British complicity in the torture period. We know of at least 10 cases, but the complicity probably runs much deeper because it involves a series of terrorism suspects who are Pakistani. This is the heart of the matter.
"They are not the same individuals [MI5 officers] all the time. I know that the people who have gone to see Siddiqui in Peshawar are not the same people who have seen Ahmed in Rawalpindi."
Last night the government faced calls to clarify precisely its relationship with Pakistan's intelligence agencies, which are known to routinely use torture.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that an investigation by the British security services had revealed "there is nothing to suggest they have engaged in torture in Pakistan". He added: "Our policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture, or inhumane or degrading treatment, for any purpose."
But former shadow home secretary David Davis said the claims from Pakistan served to "reinforce" allegations that UK authorities, at the very least, ignored Pakistani torture techniques.
"The British agencies can no longer pretend that 'Hear no evil, see no evil' is applicable in the modern world," he added.
Last week HRW submitted evidence to parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights. The committee is to question Miliband and Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, over a legal loophole which appears to offer British intelligence officers immunity in the UK for any crimes committed overseas.
It has also emerged that New York-based HRW detailed its concerns in a letter to the UK government last October but has yet to receive a response.
The letter arrived at the same time that the Attorney General was tasked with deciding if Scotland Yard should begin a criminal investigation into British security agents' treatment of Binyam Mohamed. Crown prosecutors are currently weighing up the evidence.
Hasan said that evidence indicated a considerable number of UK officers were involved in interviewing terrorism suspects after they were allegedly tortured. He told the Observer: "We don't know who the individuals [British intelligence officers] were, but when you have different personnel coming in and behaving in a similar fashion it implies some level of systemic approach to the situation, rather than one eager beaver deciding it is absolutely fine for someone to be beaten or hung upside down."
He accused British intelligence officers of turning a blind eye as UK citizens endured torture at the hands of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.
"They [the British] have met the suspect ... and have conspicuously failed to notice that someone is in a state of high physical distress, showing signs of injury. If you are a secret service agent and fail to notice that their fingernails are missing, you ought to be fired."
Britain's former chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, said that the Foreign Office would want to examine any British involvement in torture allegations very carefully and, if necessary, bring individuals "to book" to ensure such behaviour was "eradicated".