Category Archives: Torture

How Guantanamo Became America’s Interrogation ‘Battle Lab’

Jason Leopold writes for VICE News:

‘[…] According to a new report, there was an ulterior motive for setting up Guantanamo: It was the ideal long-term interrogation facility, a “battle lab” where detainees would be subjected to untested interrogation methods and “exploited” for their intelligence value in what turned out to be a massive “experiment.”

The claims in the 66-page report, “Guantanamo: America’s Battle Lab,” prepared by Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy & Research and shared with VICE News, aren’t new. In 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee released the findings of its investigation about the treatment of detainees in custody of the US military and reached similar conclusions.

But the Seton Hall study, co-authored by the university’s adjunct professor and senior research fellow Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo guard who challenged the military’s narrative surrounding the June 2006 deaths of three detainees – the government called them suicides, Hickman came to believe they were murders – makes a much stronger case. The report relies exclusively on internal government and military documents and statements public officials have made since Guantanamo opened 13 years ago to show how the detention facility “was covertly transformed into a secret interrogation base designed to foster intelligence’s curiosity on the effects of torture and the limits of the human spirit.”‘

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Chris Hedges on Roots of Terrorism, Free Speech Hypocrisy & Translating #JeSuisCharlie

Editor’s Note: The interview with Chris Hedges begins at around 8:07.

Will France Repeat America’s Mistakes After 9/11?

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes for Consortium News:

First, a hat tip to Elias Groll, assistant editor at Foreign Policy, whose report just a few hours after the killings on Wednesday at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, included this key piece of background on the younger of the two brother suspects:

“Carif Kouachi was previously known to the authorities, as he was convicted by a French court in 2008 of trying to travel to Iraq to fight in that country’s insurgent movement. Kouachi told the court that he wished to fight the American occupation after viewing images of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.”

The next morning, Amy Goodman of Democracynow.org and Juan Cole (in his blog) also carried this highly instructive aspect of the story of the unconscionable terrorist attack, noting that the brothers were well known to French intelligence; that the younger brother, Cherif, had been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a network involved in sending volunteer fighters to Iraq to fight alongside al-Qaeda; and that he said he had been motivated by seeing the images of atrocities by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib.’

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A Brief History of the CIA’s Unpunished Spying on the Senate

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

This is the story of John Brennan’s CIA spying on Congress and getting away with it.

Last March, Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of spying on the Senate intelligence committee as it labored to finalize its report on the torture of prisoners. “I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” she said. “I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.”

CIA Director John Brennan denied the charge. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we’d do.” It would be months before his denial was publicly proved false. “An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program,” The New York Times reported. “The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information.”‘

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Irony 101: Study Ethics with Legal Ace Who Sanctioned NSA Wiretapping, CIA Torture

Ken Silverstein writes for The Intercept:

Waterboarding: Yes or no? It’s OK to selectively violate the Geneva Convention, right? Spying on Americans is illegal, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

The world is a confusing place and it’s hard for young people to answer complicated questions like these on their own. Fortunately, students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have Professor Robert Deitz to help them navigate the contemporary moral morass. “All of us are familiar with basic ethical notions,” he writes in the syllabus for his Spring 2015 course, Ethical Challenges in Public Policy. “We learn from childhood the idea that some conduct is right and other conduct is not right.”

How’d Deitz get so smart about ethics? He’s magna cum laude from Harvard (like President Obama) and then spent eights years as General Counsel at the National Security Agency, serving as the official Yes Man for General Michael Hayden, and after that three years as his Senior Councillor at the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009. At the former post Deitz rubber-stamped NSA surveillance. At the latter, he sought to derail an independent investigation by then-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the agency’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects.’

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The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

Lisa Hajjar reports for The Nation:

‘[…] The “war on terror” is not the CIA’s first venture into human experimentation. At the dawn of the Cold War, German scientists and doctors with Nazi records of human experimentation were given new identities and brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. During the Korean War, alarmed by the shocking rapidity of American POWs’ breakdowns and indoctrination by their communist captors, the CIA began investing in mind-control research. In 1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became an applied “science” in the Cold War.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” to guide agents in the art of extracting information from “resistant” sources by combining techniques to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Like the communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance. The Phoenix program model was incorporated into the curriculum of the School of the Americas, and an updated version of the Kubark guide, produced in 1983 and titled “Human Resource Exploitation Manual,” was disseminated to the intelligence services of right-wing regimes in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the global “war on communism.”

In the mid-1980s, CIA practices became the subject of congressional investigations into US-supported atrocities in Central America. Both manuals became public in 1997 as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Baltimore Sun. That would have seemed like a “never again” moment.

But here we are again.’

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Why The Guardian Censored One of Its Top Journalists: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Abby Martin interviews investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, about what was not discussed in the torture report and his claims of censorship at the Guardian newspaper, where he used to work.’ (Breaking the Set)

9/11 Commission Based on Torture

Editor’s Note: The below interview was conducted by Democracy Now in February 2008. Philip Zelikow served as executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Robert Windrem is an investigative journalism who co-authored an analysis on the 9/11 Commission Report, and Michael Ratner is the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. You can view the full uninterrupted interview here.

They Said ‘No’ to Torture: The Real Heroes of the Bush Years

Jon Wiener writes for The Nation:

‘Hidden in the Senate torture report are stories of some heroes—people inside the CIA who from the beginning said torture was wrong, who tried to stop it, who refused to participate. There were also some outside the CIA, in the military and the FBI, who risked careers and reputations by resisting—and who sometimes paid a heavy price. They should be thanked and honored.

But President Obama hasn’t mentioned them. Instead, he praised the CIA officials who presided over the torture regime as “patriots.”

We should “celebrate the ones who stood up for what was right,” says David Luban of the Georgetown University law school, author of Torture, Power and Law. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, author of the definitive book on Bush administration torture, The Dark Side, calls them “the real torture patriots.”

The opposition to torture within the CIA was so strong, Mayer reports, that the CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, “conducted a serious and influential internal investigation.” That led the Justice Department to “ask the CIA to suspend the torture program”—at least “until it could be reconciled with the law.”’

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What the Torture Report Isn’t Telling You

‘Why is the corporate media turning torture into a debate? Abby Martin discusses the media’s reaction to the Senate torture report and why torture has suddenly turned into a partisan debate.’ (Breaking the Set)

CIA First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards

Matt Apuzzo and James Risen report for The New York Times:

Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program.

They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would “be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001.

The C.I.A.’s early framework for its detention program offers a glimpse of a possible alternative history. As the country grapples with new disclosures about the program, the Senate report tells a story of how plans for American-style jails were replaced with so-called “black sites,” where some prisoners were chained to walls and forgotten, froze to death on concrete floors and were waterboarded until they lost consciousness.’

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Proposed Senate Bill Would Make Future CIA Torture Prosecutable

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press today [Sunday 14th December], Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has promised to introduce a new bill next year which would make any future incidents of CIA torture prosecutable.

Sen. Wyden expressed concern that in CIA Director John Brennan’s Thursday defense of past torture, he left open the possibility that the CIA would do so again in the future.’

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Former CIA Director Michael Hayden: Rectal Rehydration Necessary

Dick Cheney On The Torture: “I’d Do It Again In A Minute”

‘Do No Harm’: When Doctors Torture

Julie Beck writes for The Atlantic:

‘[…] Two psychologists, Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million to design the program, and medical officers and physicians’ assistants are cited throughout the report as consultants who advised on things like forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and “rehydrating” via a rectal tube rather than a standard IV infusion. While in many medical schools around the United States, students swear the Hippocratic Oath, saying out loud the words “may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help,” CIA medical officers used their intimate knowledge of the human body as a weapon, to harm people the U.S. government deemed enemies.

Dr. Steven Miles is a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, a board member of the Center for Victims of Torture, and author of Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors. He has been studying doctors’ involvement in torture programs since photos of the human rights violations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light in 2003. He maintains the website Doctorswhotorture.com, which tracks physician standards of conduct and punishments for doctors who aid torture around the world. We spoke by phone about the CIA report, the role doctors play in interrogation, and how they could be held accountable.’

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Untrained CIA Agents Were Just Making Up Torture Methods As They Went Along

‘On Tuesday morning [9th December], the Senate intelligence committee released an executive summary of its five-year investigation into the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.

Among the report’s most striking revelations is that CIA interrogators were often untrained and in some instances made up torturous techniques as they went along.

The CIA was “unprepared” to begin the enhanced interrogation program, the Senate report concluded. The agency sent untrained, inexperienced people into the field to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, the first important Al Qaeda suspect the US captured.’

Torture Report: CIA Was Pressured to Link Iraq to Qaeda After 9/11

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

‘The CIA tortured al-Qaeda suspects because it wanted evidence that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 in order to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The agency was under intense pressure from the White House and senior figures in the Bush administration to extract confessions confirming co-operation between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaeda, although no significant evidence was ever found.

The CIA has defended its actions by claiming that it was “unknowable” if torture had produced results, although the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, maintains torture produced nothing of value.

A second line of defence put forward by defenders of the CIA is to say that the agency was swept up in the reaction to 9/11 in the US and needed to find out quickly if there were going to be further attacks.’

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Fox News Host Andrea Tantaros’ “Awesome” Rant On CIA Torture Report

Editor’s Note: The “awesome” rant beings at around 2:59

CIA Had Propaganda Campaign Which Involved Leaking Classified Information to Sell Torture

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

The CIA had a propaganda campaign to defend its detention and interrogation program. It involved the leaking of classified information to shape the public’s opinion, undermine criticism and deceive Congress and is detailed in the executive summary of the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report, which shows the extent to which CIA officials were willing to engage in unauthorized disclosures, even as it fought to keep the program secret in the courts.

The torture report summary additionally highlights how the agency would not file crimes reports when leaked information was flattering to the agency.

In a conversation on April 13, 2005, with the chief of ALEC Station, the CIA unit hunting down Osama bin Laden, Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC), Philip Mudd, declared, “We either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities,” and “messes up our budget.”

Mudd added, “We either put out our story or we get eaten. There is no middle ground.”

The CIA developed a campaign to push propaganda on the “effectiveness” of using torture techniques on detainees into the media.’

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CIA unlikely to lose power in wake of interrogation report

Greg Miller and Dana Priest report for The Washington Post:

‘The release of a searing report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s interrogation program Tuesday was the latest morale-sinking moment for an agency that has been buffeted repeatedly throughout its history, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the Nixon-era domestic abuses to the 1980s scandals tied to Iran and Latin America.

If anything, the cycle has only been compressed in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with at least four major investigations, not to mention criminal probes, during a frenetic 13-year span. That collection now includes a 528-page account of alleged CIA abuses and dishonesty in its brutal treatment of terrorism suspects.

The Senate report is a substantial blow to the CIA’s reputation, one that raises fundamental questions about the extent to which the agency can be trusted. And yet, as in those previous instances of political and public outrage, the agency is expected to emerge from the investigatory rubble with its role and power in Washington largely intact.

Indeed, the CIA is in many ways at a position of unmatched power. Its budgets have been swollen by billions of dollars in counterterrorism expenditures. Its workforce has surged. Its overseas presence has expanded. And its arsenal now includes systems, including a fleet of armed drones, that would have made prior generations of CIA leaders gasp.’

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Ex-CIA Operative John Kiriakou Says Prison Was Punishment for Whistleblowing on Torture

Brian Ross reports for ABC News:

‘Former CIA officer John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee connected to its interrogation program to go to prison. But he was prosecuted for providing information to reporters, not for anything connected to waterboarding or other actions that today’s Senate Intelligence Committee report calls “torture.”

No other person connected to the program has been charged with a crime, after the Justice Department said their actions had been approved legally or that there was not sufficient admissible evidence in a couple cases of potential wrongdoing, even in light of the death of two detainees in the early 2000s.

Today the Justice Department said that the Senate Intelligence report didn’t provide new information that would lead them to reopen any of the old cases.

Kiriakou was the first person with direct knowledge of the CIA interrogation program to publicly reveal its existence, in an interview with ABC News in 2007. He is now serving a nearly-three-year prison sentence for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, but he says that’s only what the government wants people to believe.’

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Senate report finds CIA torture produced ‘fabricated’ intel and thwarted no plots

Michael Isikoff reports for Yahoo News:

George W Bush qupte‘[…] For years, the CIA has said its resort to aggressive interrogations had “saved lives” — an assertion that was repeated today by six former top CIA officials in a joint op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal.

Noting the panicked atmosphere in the country after 9/11, with intelligence reports pouring in about a “second wave” of attacks and nuclear weapons supposedly being smuggled into the streets of New York City (“It felt like the classic ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario — every single day”), the former officials — including ex-directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden — wrote that their approval of “enhanced interrogation techniques” had “led to the disruptions of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.”

But the Senate report paints a very different picture: of a chaotic, poorly run program that was far more brutal than was previously known and whose details were concealed from some of the most senior members of the U.S. government.’

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CIA Agents Blast Report, Defend Torture

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘It’s already glaringly obvious that the Senate isn’t going to follow up the CIA torture report with any actual reform, or even a token attempt to hold any of the torturers accountable. Still, CIA officials are outraged.

Nobody likes to be called a torturer, even if they tortured people and even if they’re going to get away with it. CIA Director John Brennan and others were furious about the release of the heavily redacted summary of the report.’

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CIA Torture Report Incomplete as Key Documents Remain Withheld: Interview with Marcy Wheeler

Editor’s Note: Marcy Wheeler is an investigative journalist who focusses on national security and civil liberties issues. You can find her writings over at emptywheel.net

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter: Interview with David Remes

New Calls to Prosecute Bush Admin as Senate Report Reveals Brutal CIA Torture: Interview with Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch

ACLU Head Calls For Obama To Pardon Bush And Those Who Tortured

CIA Tortured Many, Lied Often, Gained Little Intel

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The Obama Administration finally released the redacted 540-page summary of a still secret 6,000+ page report on CIA torture in the wake of 9/11. The story it tells is not a pretty one.

Brutal methods that led to the deaths of captives were the order of the day, and the CIA lied to both the American public and then-President George W. Bush about what they did and what it got them.

What did it get them? Not much as it turns out. The old adages about torture not being a reliable way to gather information and captives telling torturers what they think they want to hear to get them to stop proved true once again, getting them very little usable intelligence.’

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CIA’s brutal and ineffective use of torture revealed in landmark report

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

 ‘The CIA’s post-9/11 embrace of torture was brutal and ineffective – and the agency repeatedly lied about its usefulness, a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee released on Tuesday concludes.

After examining 20 case studies, the report found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarizing the findings.

“During the brutal interrogations the CIA was often unaware the information was fabricated.”

The torture that the CIA carried out was even more extreme than what it portrayed to congressional overseers and the George W Bush administration, the committee found. It went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits, which had revealed that agency interrogators subjected detainees to quasi-drowning, staged mock executions, and revved power drills near their heads.’

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US Prepares for Blowback as CIA Torture Report Looms

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘After a protracted battle with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Obama Administration will finally release its heavily redacted summary of the Senate’s CIA torture report Tuesday.

Details of what will be in the report are scant right now, though there have been reports that the 480-page document will not use the word torture at all when describing the CIA’s torture of detainees.

Officials who opposed the release were long warning it would provoke a backlash if the world knew what the CIA did, and US embassies the world over are ratcheting up security for the planned release.

The Pentagon is also making preparations, putting thousands of Marines on high alert across the Middle East and Africa for potential operations that may be launched after the release.’

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