Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has been busy trying to convince the American public of the merits of torture—euphemistically known as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs)—claiming that torture was a legal and effective way of preventing further terrorist attacks. However, not only has evidence come to light debunking the effectiveness of ‘the Cheney method of interrogation’, but several investigations have found that torture was used, almost exclusively, to elicit false testimony linking Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda, in order to build a case for the war with Iraq.
Last Wednesday, former FBI special agent Ali Soufan testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with investigating torture. Soufan’s testimony debunked Cheney’s claims that the use of torture had led to information that prevented further attacks after 9/11, stating that the “techniques, from an operational perspective, were ineffective, slow and unreliable and harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda.”
Soufan interrogated CIA detainee Abu Zabaydah before CIA contractors took over, and was able to obtain actionable intelligence within one hour, using approved, non-torturous “Informed Interrogation Approaches”. This intelligence lead to the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the 9/11 attacks.
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Following Soufan’s interrogation, CIA contractors then waterboarded Zabaydah 85 times, after which he shut down—no further information was gained. When CIA interrogators declared that Abu Zabaydah had to be treated “like a dog in a cage”, FBI director Robert Mueller pulled Soufan, and the FBI presence, from the interrogation proceedings.
Recently, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph revealed that US military experts had warned the CIA that the use of torture was likely to produce “unreliable information”. The article, entitled ‘CIA ignored warnings from US soldiers that torture and extreme stress would not work’, cited a leaked memo from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an arm of the US government that trains military personnel to resist torture if captured.
“A subject in extreme pain may provide an answer, any answer or many answers to get the pain to stop. The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably the potential to result in unreliable information.”
The CIA is reported to have “reverse-engineered” torture resistance techniques from the JPRA’s SERE programme (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) for use on suspected terrorists. The same techniques were used to break down US captives in the Korean War for propaganda purposes and were well known to produce false confessions and misinformation. The CIA ignored the warnings of the JPRA under pressure from the White House.
The White House intentionally used techniques that were known to produce false information because false information was needed to build a case for war with Iraq.
Last Thursday, a former State Department official told CNN that “finding a ‘smoking gun’ linking Iraq and al-Qaeda became the main purpose of the abusive interrogation program the Bush administration authorized in 2002.”
Retired Army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, then chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, published the findings of his investigation in The Washington Note, using information gained from current and former officials. Col. Wilkerson has been investigating the scandal around the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison since 2004, at the request of Colin Powell.
“Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the US but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda. So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qaeda-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.”
A similar report was published by former NBC investigative producer Robert Windrem on Tina Brown’s blog, The Daily Beast. Windrem—a Senior Research Fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security and recipient of over 40 national journalism awards for his work on issues of international security, strategic policy, intelligence and terrorism—has confirmed from two US intelligence officers that the suggestion to waterboard Iraqi prisoners, who were suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al-Qaeda connection, came from Vice President Cheney’s office.
The Iraq War has claimed the lives of over 4000 US soldiers and over a million Iraqis. America chose war. We chose to invade an unarmed nation that had never attacked us. War was sold to the American public based on a trumped up relationship between Saddam and Bin Laden, playing on our fears of another 9/11. We know now this to be false, and as of last week we know that torture was used—not to keep us safe, as Cheney insists—but to justify preemptive war.
Torture was used to justify murder.
The atrocities committed by the Bush administration—in my name—have now compounded into a disgusting, festering mass of war and misery and death and naked bodies stacked into pyramids and mutilated human flesh. There is no avoiding it. Congress now has to acknowledge what’s happened to us and take steps to fix it.
I believe that Senator Laehy’s truth commission will finally be tabled and people will be held accountable. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and the others have been exposed for what they are: