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Tortured Conclusions, Pre-Ordained

A lot of material from the declassified Senate Armed Services Committee report (pdf) couldn’t fit into my piece last night, so we take to the blogs. Take a look

Daisy-Mae Schmitt
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Apr 22, 2009

A lot of material from the declassified Senate Armed Services Committee report (pdf) couldn’t fit into my piece last night, so we take to the blogs. Take a look at page 41, which gives an account of some of the pressures that Guantanamo Bay interrogators were under in the summer of 2002. This is from Maj. Paul Burney, an Army psychologist assigned to a Behavioral Science Consultation Team there that was “expected to become familiar with resistance training techniques used in SERE school.”

[T]his is my opinion, even though they [the detainees] were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.

Consider that the context. The report says that Becker was told by the then-commander of interrogations at Guantanamo that “the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense [Paul] Wolfowitz had called to express concerns about the insufficient intelligence production at GTMO” and that after one such call, “the Deputy Secretary himself said that GTMO should use more aggressive interrogation techniques.” The ex-commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey doesn’t remember such conversations. But Wolfowitz was known for telling al-Qaeda experts like Richard Clarke in the spring of 2001 that Osama bin Laden was a red herring, since global terrorism emanated from Iraq. It stands to reason that he would want to get more “aggressive” — which, in this context, means abusive — when detainees don’t confirm his longstanding articles of faith. Over the course of the next several months, the report documents extensively, SERE techniques became ingrained — at Guantanamo, and by the CIA.

It’s worth remembering that this is part of a pattern. Clarke said in his memoir that on the day of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush growled that the administration needed to find a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Within months, the constellation of Pentagon analytical efforts known as the Office of Special Plans got to work re-synthesizing the analysis in order to demonstrate the basis for a connection. (The Pentagon’s inspector general judged those efforts to be “not fully supported by underlying intelligence.”) The CIA sent an al-Qaeda detainee named Ibn Shaikh al-Libi to Egypt to be tortured before the invasion of Iraq and Libi told his tormenters that, indeed, there were al-Qaeda links to Saddam Hussein. After the invasion, the CIA recanted those claims as unreliable. And it’s worth asking, as Oxdown Gazette diarist Jim White does, if the 183 waterboarding sessions endured by 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in March 2003 had to do with manufacturing a Saddam/al-Qaeda confession.

Jon Landay of McClatchy focuses on Burney’s statements to the committee for his write-up, and here’s some context he provides, courtesy of an anonymous intelligence official:

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

Seems like something that a Congressional investigation into torture would be interested in.

Daisy-Mae Schmitt | Daisy-Mae is obsessed with inventing new ways to create awesome content that's absurdly useful and successful, with over ten years of editorial and inbound marketing experience. She also serves as a reporter, strategist, interviewer, mentor, and therapist for in-house contributors and clients.

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