‘Torture report’ a testament to CIA incompetence

images-6I’m reading through the Senate Intelligence Committee 600-page report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, but I’m already struck by a couple of things.

The first is the truly amateurish, slapdash nature of the torture program. The adoption of that tactic was not the result of some carefully thought-out agency process in which they sought the best way to get necessary intelligence and reluctantly settled on torture. That process never occurred. It also wasn’t motivated by frustration that legal, humane forms of questioning weren’t producing the answers they needed to protect the country. Torture wasn’t their last resort, it was their first resort, perhaps driven by a perceived need to “get tough.”

In addition, the “program” was devised not by interrogation experts but by two private-sector psychologists on contract with the CIA. As the committee reports: “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise….”**

Yet those two psychologists became the key to the entire program, displacing and overriding CIA and FBI personnel with decades of experience in successful interrogation techniques. The two “personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA’s most significant detainees,” according to the report, and “in 2005 they formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program. In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009.”

And once implemented and underway, the program was never reviewed for effectiveness, despite what appears to have been considerable doubt and criticism voiced by the military, by the FBI and from within the agency. The military refused to provide doctors to oversee the health of detainees, and the FBI refused to participate in interrogations.

The incompetence is further documented in the report’s finding that CIA headquarters didn’t know even basic things about the program that they themselves were supposed to be running, including how many detainees they had, where they had them, and who was torturing them. According to the Senate report, more than 20 percent of the CIA’s detainees did not meet the agency’s own standards for being detained and the CIA knew it, but it kept them anyway because, well, they couldn’t think of what else to do with them.

The head of one overseas detention site where “high-value” detainees were being held and interrogated complained that “managers seem to be selecting either problem, underperforming officers; new, totally inexperienced officers or whomever seems to be willing and able to deploy at any given time,” resulting in “the production of mediocre or, I dare say, useless intelligence.”

In addition, the report documents that the CIA tortured innocent people, and that people died as a result of their treatment. One man, left naked on a dungeon floor, froze to death. In a footnote, the report notes:

“One senior interrogator  told the CIA (inspector general) that ‘literally, a detainee could go for days or weeks without anyone looking at him,’ and that his team found one detainee who, ‘as far as we could determine,’ had been chained to the wall in a standing position for 17 days.’ According to the CIA interrogator, some of the CIA detainees … “‘literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.’ When the doors to their cells were opened, ‘they cowered.'”

Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah

And then there’s the matter of the effectiveness of torture, which is perhaps best addressed through the example of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 and suspected of strong ties to Osama bin Laden. Here’s the narrative in the Senate report:

“After Abu Zubaydah was rendered to DETENTION SITE GREEN on March XX 2002, he was questioned by special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who spoke Arabic and had experience interrogating members of al-Qa’ida. Abu Zubaydah confirmed his identity to the FBI officers, informed the FBI officers he wanted to cooperate, and provided background information on his activities.

That evening, Abu Zubaydah’s medical condition deteriorated rapidly and he required immediate hospitalization. Although Abu Zubaydah was largely unable to communicate because of a breathing tube, he continued to provide information to FBI and CIA officials at the hospital using an Arabic alphabet chart. According to records, the FBI officers remained at Abu Zubaydah’s bedside throughout this ordeal and assisted in his medical care. When Abu Zubaydah’s breathing tube was removed on April 8, 2002, Abu Zubaydah provided additional intelligence and reiterated his intention to cooperate.

During an April 10, 2002, debriefing session, conducted in the hospital’s intensive care unit, Abu Zubaydah revealed to the FBI officers that an individual named “Mukhtar” was the al-Qa’ida “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah identified a picture of Mukhtar provided by the FBI from the FBI’s Most Wanted list. The picture was of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad (KSM), who had been indicted in 1996 for his role in Ramzi Yousef’s terrorist plotting to detonate explosives on 12 United States-flagged aircraft and destroy them mid-flight over the Pacific Ocean.

Abu Zubaydah told the interrogators that “Mukhtar” was related to Ramzi Yousef, whom Abu Zubaydah said was in an American jail (Yousef had been convicted for the aforementioned terrorist plotting and was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack).

Zubaydah told the FBI officers that “Mukhtar” trained the 9/11 hijackers and also provided additional information on KSM’s background, to include that KSM spoke fluent English, was approximately 34 years old, and was responsible for al-Qa’ida operations outside of Afghanistan.”

 

All of that and more, in just a few days, under questioning by experienced FBI interrogators without resort to torture or coercive activities. Yet that questioning was halted at the insistence of the CIA, which immediately began to subject Abu Zubaydah to the “enhanced interrogation” outlined by its contract psychologists.

Tellingly, when the CIA tried years later to justify its subsequent torture of Abu Zabaydah, which included 83 waterboarding sessions, it tried to attribute the valuable intelligence gleaned by the FBI to its own, far harsher and illegal interrogation. As the report concludes:

“In providing the “effectiveness” examples to policymakers, the Department of Justice, and others, the CIA consistently omitted the significant amount of relevant intelligence obtained from sources other than CIA detainees who had been subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques — leaving the false impression the CIA was acquiring unique information from the use of the techniques.”

 

More to come, I’m sure.

———

** The two had experience overseeing the U.S. Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to teach U.S. military personnel how to handle torture if captured.

As the report notes:

“In May 2003, a senior CIA interrogator would tell personnel from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General that (the psychologists’ approach) was based on resisting North Vietnamese “physical torture” and was designed to extract “confessions for propaganda purposes” from U.S. airmen “who possessed little actionable intelligence.” The CIA, he believed, “need[ed] a different working model for interrogating terrorists where confessions are not the ultimate goal.”

Reader Comments 0

1086 comments
Bruno2
Bruno2

Heathen: Columbia Law School has agreed to delay final exams for students who face "trauma" and disillusionment following two recent, racially-charged cases 

I'm always a little cynical when folks pretend to caredeeply about someone they never met.  The reality is that these students wouldn't give two craps about either Garner or Brown except for their role as martyrs. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Crossbreed

Yeah, it takes many forms. 

Always felt poor Jimmy the Greek got a raw deal though.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@LeninTime

They seem to have a particularly fervent belief in the power of collective punishment.

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

"Columbia Law School has agreed to delay final exams for students who face "trauma" and disillusionment following two recent, racially-charged cases in which grand juries declined to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men. And now, students at Harvard and Georgetown want the same dispensation, also saying they just can't face their tests in the wake of the grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York."

Those poor babies.

TBS
TBS

@_GodlessHeathen_


Columbia Law School?


They might be babies but I'd venture to say that most are not poor 

But babies yes. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@_GodlessHeathen_ @LordHelpUs

 they just can't face their tests in the wake of the grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York.

That's some really sh#tty journalism even by their standards.

Remember, that is in the second graf of a "news" story.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@_GodlessHeathen_ @stands_for_decibels @LordHelpUs

Well, when the messenger gives us howlers like this:

Though few question the sincerity of these students' feelings

oh, REALLY? You're telling me the whole point of hyping something as minor as this isn't precisely because the sincerity is being not only questioned but ridiculed and used as a punching bag?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@TBS @_GodlessHeathen_

You're not actually basing this on what's obviously a hit piece from Fox, aimed at jealous rubes who hate NYC and especially hate them librul arts students... are you?

Normd
Normd

Well, as much as I have enjoyed this morning, I have to go.  While everyday is a Saturday for me now, my Saturday chore/project list is ever growing.  Good manners, folks, don't blog without them...lol

jaysbehind
jaysbehind

Why do blacks keep propping up liberal whites to vote for in almost all elections? You would think they would want a candidate to more resemble them? 

jaysbehind
jaysbehind

@LeninTime @jaysbehind Well soon the dem party will be completely the black party because they continue to turn off white voters obviously. Where will you far left white fruits go then?


Just askin...


You people...

LeninTime
LeninTime

@jaysbehind

Why do blacks keep propping up liberal whites to vote for in almost all elections?

***

Those blacks - I'm sure you'd prefer to use a different word - not behaving as you see fit. 

Drives you nuts doesn't it?

LeninTime
LeninTime

@jaysbehind @LeninTime

Well soon the dem party will be completely the black party because they continue to turn off white voters obviously. Where will you far left white fruits go then?

***
Sounds like somebody's got fantasies of a race war. Really classy.

TBS
TBS

There have been comments made that the report is full of lies and misinformation.

Has anyone posted those lies as of yet?  

kayaker71
kayaker71

Google news had a list of the "horrible" and "horrendous" things that the CIA is alleged to have done to these animals.  Threatening to harm their families, displaying an electric drill to imply you were going to drill a hole in something, sleep deprivation, playing loud music....... none of these things could be described as "horrible" or "horrendous" except when described by liberals.  Continual waterboarding probably qualifies as cruel and inhumane but the rest?  Not so sure.

kayaker71
kayaker71

@LeninTime @kayaker71 The key word here is threatening.  Was any family member of these men ever harmed?  Were any mothers raped?  You can blow and go all you want but until the deed is actually done, it is only blowing and going. 

LeninTime
LeninTime

@kayaker71

Threatening to rape and murder your mother? 

Once again, you people show yourself to have zero moral principle. A total lock of moral foundation.

Pretty sick.

Normd
Normd

We were just talking about cons that make us laugh, well, one just showed up...

WGA1990
WGA1990

Good people can disagree on what constitutes torture. Many like myself do not see waterboarding or sleep deprivation as torture. Those methods have been utilized by our own military in training participants in various escape and evasion courses. This report, however, was politically motivated and does not tell an unbiased story of what occurred.

LeninTime
LeninTime

@WGA1990

Good people can disagree on what constitutes torture.

***
Not really.

The range of what can be argued about is vaaaaastly overestimated by the likes of you.

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@WGA1990 actually, no good people can't really disagree on what constitutes torture. Training is done for a reason - training in how to survive torture because you know your enemies do it doesn't give you carte blanche to do it yourself. especially when you don't know what you're doing. The two are totally different.


The CIA should have participated if they wanted their version out in other than the myriad of leaks we've been subjected to for 10+ years. They chose not to.

WGA1990
WGA1990

@LordHelpUs @WGA1990 

Well that was a rather stupid question not worthy of an answer because ISIS beheads people and then releases video tape of their murderous act.

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

@WGA1990 @LordHelpUs Yes, it was a stupid question considering who I was responding to...

And, you didn't answer the question anyway...shocker...

WGA1990
WGA1990

@consumedconsumer @WGA1990 

You've just showed your ignorance. Feinstein's senate committee never even interviewed any of the CIA interrogators. Their report wasn't anything other than their own fabrication.

WGA1990
WGA1990

@LeninTime @WGA1990 

Anyone the likes of you whose an apologist for Lenin and now Putin's Russia, really doesn't have anything to say.

TBS
TBS

@WGA1990 @consumedconsumer


Please post those fabrications.  Not something about this person believes this is enhanced interrogation and another thinks it is torture but the actual fabrications of the incidents mentioned within the report

Thanks

TBS
TBS

@WGA1990 @TBS @consumedconsumer


In other words you have nothing.

You been huffing and puffing about the report for several days yet you can't produce one fabrication.

Thanks for the acknowledgement, 

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

@WGA1990 If a family member of yours was waterboarded by ISIS would you still feel the same?

Good Lord, I can't believe I had to ask...

cigs
cigs

It's good we don't behead people . We just let them freeze slowly to death.