Did a U.S Department of Justice Official really claim that if the president wanted to crush a child’s testicles, no treaty could stop him? Did waterboarding ever result in truthful confession? What happened to Abu Zubaydah during the interrogation? Why were video recordings of many 9/11 suspected terrorists deleted?
The graphics/ words might be disturbing in the article below
11th September 2001, World Trade Centre in New York, The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia – the headquarters of United States Department of Defence attacked by 3 hijacked planes.
Finally, a hijacked plane destined to the U.S Capitol- the seat of the United States government-crashed in an empty field in Pennsylvania.
This single largest intelligence failure of the American intelligence community resulted in deaths of 2,977 people, over 25,000 injured people and a loss of $10 Billion in property and infrastructure damage.
9/11 brought a paradigm shift in how the United States gathered intelligence, in the times before 9/11 the CIA used to look for a needle in a haystack to determine the next attack- most of this surveillance was on other countries. Post 9/11 the CIA started collecting the entire haystack from within mainland America as they felt that the next attack would be planned simultaneously on foreign land and carried out in American heartland.
November 2001, the Bush administration authorised international war on terrorism, which was targeted to capture or kill ‘high value’ Al-Qaeda targets like Osama Bin Laden, Kahlid Sheikh Muhammad (the mastermind of 9/11) and various other Al-Qaeda branch heads.
The Al-Qaeda operatives that were detained were taken to the CIA’s black sites. These sites were for conducting ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ – that is, officially sanctioned torture- on suspected terrorists.
Vice President Dick Cheney told the public at the time. “We’re going to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world.”
The New ‘learned helplessness’ Technique
The CIA had a hard time cracking the suspected terrorists and could not get the truthful confessions. In order to do something different, the CIA accepted a team of military contractors and psychologists who had come up with unique interrogation techniques.
John “Bruce” Jessen and James Mitchell were military contractors and psychologists who had helped the U.S. Air Force train American soldiers to resist and cope with torture as part of its Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) School.
These two had neither had any experience in interrogation nor did they have any information about the Al-Qaeda or any of its workings.
The pair essentially reverse-engineered SERE, claiming they could make subjects confess by breaking their will to resist. Mitchell and Jessen claimed to be experts on ‘learned helplessness,’ a state in which someone has been tortured to the point where all resistance is gone.
These techniques included beating, binding in contorted stress positions, hooding, subjection to deafening noise, sleep disruption, sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, deprivation of food, drink, and withholding medical care for wounds, as well as waterboarding, walling, sexual humiliation, subjection to extreme heat or extreme cold, and confinement in small coffin-like boxes with insects. Some of these techniques fall under the category known as “white torture.
Several detainees endured medically unnecessary “rectal rehydration”, “rectal fluid resuscitation”, and “rectal feeding”. In addition to brutalizing detainees, there were threats to their families such as threats to harm children, and threats to sexually abuse or to cut the throat of detainees’ mothers.
The Abu Zubaydah Example
Abu Zubaydah was one of the first detainees from the Al-Qaeda group, who faced almost every method mentioned above. He was not a ‘high value’ Al-Qaeda operative but spell out the terrorists plots that were fake. Other suspected terrorists also learned the method of breaking up and speaking out what the CIA wanted to hear but none of them were ever true.
Abu Zubaydah became the bait for the commencement of the programme, the CIA sold Abu Zubaydah as a ‘high value’ source to the White House and many in the executive branch of the United States government allowed these techniques to start and continue.
Abu Zubaydah was subject to waterboarding 83 times. Waterboarding is intended to simulate drowning. A person is strapped to a board with the upper part of his body on a downward incline. Then, a cloth is placed over the person’s mouth, and water is poured over his face, causing the person to have difficulty breathing and to feel as though his lungs are filling with water.
What happened to Kahlid Sheikh Muhammad?
Khalid Sheik Mohammed is what one TV talking head called “the mastermind of 9/11.” He resisted being broken down by waterboarding, revealing only things investigators already know. Mitchell orders the waterboarding to continue (along with an unapproved technique called “rectal rehydration”), and KSM coughs up details of a non-existent plot to blow up gas stations and start forest fires in Montana.
He also said he’d lied after being abused. President Bush later acknowledged he’d approved KSM’s waterboarding, claiming it led to useful information.
Nothing ever confessed by Muhammad led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 by U.S seals.
According to Senate investigators in the Senate torture report released in December 2014, “Abu 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 Qaeda operations outside Afghanistan.” It was the FBI and Soufan that collected this critical information.
There was no CIA involvement. But interestingly, Senate investigators noted, “Subsequent representations on the success of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program consistently describe Abu Zubaydah’s identification of KSM’s role in the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as his identification of KSM’s alias (Mukhtar), as being ‘important’ and ‘vital’ information.” The CIA was taking credit for the FBI’s success.
The Legal Work
The torture methods are in violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners.
Yet prior to the actual torture beginning, the CIA found it had more paperwork to take care of. Following the July meetings, the CTC General Counsel and other CIA legal officials sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking for a formal declination letter. This would be a letter from the Justice Department specifically declining to prosecute any CIA officer, or any person working on behalf of the CIA, “who may employ methods in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah that otherwise might subject those individuals to prosecution.”
The letter would also specify that “the interrogation team had concluded that the use of more aggressive methods is required to persuade Abu Zubaydah to provide the critical information we need to safeguard the lives of innumerable innocent men, women, and children within the United States and abroad.” It concluded, tellingly, that these “aggressive methods” would otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.
The CIA knew that what they were planning to do was torture. They admitted as much in this letter. That was why they were asking for a “Get out of Jail Free” card for their torturers.
In 2015, 14 years after the program was initiated, the Obama administration shut down the enhanced interrogation techniques program, and while a senate house intelligence committee report of 700 pages was due to release on the realities of the program, only 500-word summary has been released and the rest of the document has been reserved as presidential documents till 2028, post which CIA would control the release of the document.