For some time, former Vice President Dick Cheney has insisted that the declassification of various CIA memos will prove once and for all that the Bush administration's torture regime was successful at keeping America safe. But as Michael Isikoff reported over the weekend, the recently-released report from the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility contains disclosures that "could prove awkward for Cheney and his supporters."
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OLBERMANN: Give me context for this because you were there; what
Cheney meant to the whole concept of enhanced interrogation, as they
phrased it, and what this erroneous memo meant to Cheney's role in that.
WILKERSON: I'm convinced that David Addington in Cheney's office was the brainchild of what John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Jim Haines over at Defense OSD, general counsel, all wound up producing. Here's what you discovered, what the memo I think corroborates-what I suspected all along was that they were doing this sort of thing, this enhanced interrogation, this torture, to people long before the legal opinion was ever asked for, and thus rendered Bybee and Yoo and by others at OCL and the Department of Justice.
So I think this corroborates that as early as May, possibly, in 2002,
they were using these techniques, and then they went to Justice and said, we have cold feet; how about giving us legal justification. Which makes what Yoo and Bybee and others did even more heinous, in my view.
The key problem with the dates is the fact that the supposed key fact extracted from Abu Zubaydah was the identify of Jose Padilla - only Padilla was arrested in may, and the memos authorizing water-boarding and harsh techniques weren't even written. until August.
This Date problem is something that was first noted in 2008 by Scott Horton in the L.A. Times.
... Yoo's account of how and why the torture memos were crafted may not hold up. Congress is preparing hearings into the subject, and they have invited Yoo to testify. International law scholar Philippe Sands and other writers have punched holes in Yoo's claims about the facts. It increasingly appears that the Bush interrogation program was already being used before Yoo was asked to write an opinion. He may therefore have provided after-the-fact legal cover. That would help explain why Yoo strained to take so many implausible positions in the memos.
In March and April Zubaydah was being interrogated largely by FBI Agent Ali Soufan, and it's long been Soufan's contention that he gained information about Padilla without using harsh techniques, although there remains ssome despute and confusion on this because Soufan wasn't theonly person interrogating Zudaydah, he was also being talked to by CIA personnel and CiA Contractors.
It was the Contractors who mistreated Zubaydah, not regular CIA personnel - at one point it got so bad Soufan nearly Arrested them.
The agent, Ali Soufan, was known as one of the bureau's top experts on Al Qaeda. He also had a reputation as a shrewd interrogator who could work fluently in both English and Arabic. Soufan yelled at one CIA contractor and told him that what he was doing was wrong, ineffective and an affront to American values. At one point, Soufan discovered a dark wooden "confinement box" that the contractor had built for Abu Zubaydah. It looked, Soufan recalls, "like a coffin." The mercurial agent erupted in anger, got on a secure phone line and called Pasquale D'Amuro, then the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism. "I swear to God," he shouted, "I'm going to arrest these guys!"
D'Amuro and other officials were alarmed at what they heard from Soufan. They fretted about the political consequences of abusive interrogations and the Washington blowback they thought was inevitable, say two high-ranking FBI sources who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. According to a later Justice Department inspector general's report, D'Amuro warned FBI Director Bob Mueller that such activities would eventually be investigated. "Someday, people are going to be sitting in front of green felt tables having to testify about all of this," D'Amuro said, according to one of the sources.
Mueller ordered Soufan and a second FBI agent home. He then directed that bureau personnel no longer participate in CIA interrogations. In the corridors of the White House, Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, heated debates ensued. Three months later, on Aug. 1, 2002, Justice lawyers issued a chilling memo blessing everything the CIA contractors had proposed—including waterboarding, or simulated drowning, a ghoulish technique that was administered to Abu Zubaydah 83 times.
So the question is did Soufan get the information as he claims, or did the contractors he nearly arrested get it - without legal authorization?
The other question is that if Zubaydah had already given up both Padilla and KSM as Soufan contends, why did they need to start using Harsh Techniques at all - unless they weren't hearing what they wanted to hear, which at the time was How is Saddam Huessein connected to al Qaeda and 9-11?"
As Wilkerson correctly points out it was the false claim that Saddam had trained al Qaeda on using WMD's actually was generated using torture from Ibn Shayk al-Libi whose confession was used to convince Colin Powell into putting on his Iraq presentation to the UN.
Soufan's primary critic has been former Bush Speechwriter Marc Thiessen who just yesterday - after reports that Padilla was arrested months before the Yoo/Bybee memos were written - appeared live at the Heritage Foundation to continue hawking his book "Courting Disaster":
I actually crashed the Live Facebook Event and posted some of the following comments/critiques as Thiessen was spouting his rhetoric: (Links and additional text added)
- OPR report confirms that information from Zubaydah about Padilla was gained *before* Water-boarding
- If we're in a "War on Terror" then yes, al Qaeda members are "Prisoners of War" and protected by Geneva - confirmed by Hamden v Rumsfeld
- Torture was banned by McCain's Detainee Treatment Act (Said in response to Thiessen claiming Obama didn't ban Torture, technically he didn't he just ordered the Army Field Manual be used by CIA in accord with the DTA)
- Waterboarding was prosecuted as a War Crime in WWII and Vietnam, this was before Reagan signed UN Convention Against Torture in 1988 & Congress passed War Crimes Act in 1993 (Thiessen contends Water-boarding isn't Torture)
- During WWII the English gained the best intelligence from Top Nazi Generals by treating them Humanely
- Thiessen Lies when he says "No one in bush Admin suggested Saddam was connected to 9-11" Bush had Habbush, head of Iraqi intelligence making that exact claim that Mohammod Atta had been trained by Saddams Intel forces (In a forged letter). Yes, I've read UNCAT & War Crimes Act. (In response to someone asking wear I earned my law degree and if I'd read the UN Convention Against Torture & War Crimes Act - I have, they're clear enough for a layman to understand, "No affronts to Personal Dignity" leaves zero wiggle room, No means "No".)
- War Crimes (Act 18 USC 2441) states "All Greavious (sic) violations of Geneva" are punishable by 5 years in prison or death (AG Gonzales was aware of this enough to argue that Bush should determine that Al Qeada and Taliban were not covered by Geneva in order to avoid being prosecuted for War Crimes. Bush signed order to this effect in Feb of 2002 - this is very likely the letter than the CIA Contractors waved in Soufan's face - "We gave the green light from Gonzales!" - they said. That Letter still didn't cover the Torture Statute (18 USC 2340) - an omission that was addressed by a Bybee memo that redefined any Torture short of Death literally out of existence - and was later overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld which re-guaranteed Geneva protections for All Detainees)
- Thiessen claims water-boarding KSM stopped Library Tower Plot - yet it was already stopped, whose a monster? (In response to Thiessen claiming those who oppose harsh techniques are "monstrous" because it will lead to Americans dying horribly)
- FBI Agent Ali Soufan claims he got Padillia ID from Zubaydah before Harsh Techniques, Thiessens book - which I've reviewed disputes this claiming Soufan wouldn't know since he was gone by June, but Padilla was arrested in May - how's that work?
- Kris, this isn't about the terrorist behavior, it's about our behavior under our laws and Constitution - ever heard of the 8th Amendment? (In response to commenter saying we should attack terrorists as hard as they attack us. What are we in kindergarden - "I know you are but what am I?")
- Kris, if we can just use "any available resource" why don't we just Nuke Afghanistan and Pakistan and be done with it? (Something that Yoo stated the President can do - without Congressional approval)
- The techniques Thiessen is endorsing were developed by the Communists to force compliance and gain False Political Confessions, we trained our Special Forces in S.E.R.E to resist - Bush used that training as basis for program
- Kris, Supreme Court has already established - as documented by 14th Amendment - that anyone under U.S. Jurisdictions has Equal Protection of Law, regardless of where they came from, even Terrorists see Hamdan v Rumsfeld
- What do we do? Lots of things that are all fully legal and for more effective. Look up Interrogator Matthew Alexander, who helped find and kill Zarqawi Head of Al Qaeda ni Iraq. It'll open your eyes to possibilities
It was lively debate, but it's sad to say most of them weren't up on the facts or the law. The only thing I didn't respond to during the chat was Thiessen's claim that after water-boarding KSM gave us a"Master's Class" on the inner workings of al Qaeda, yet he said during his Military commissions that after he was Tortured he just told us Stories, plus he clearly didn't lead us to Bin Laden.
Seems to me we more likely got a "Master's Class" in bullshit.