Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vanity Fair article says Torture does't work, by David Rose

Tortured Reasoning

Part 2

As you can see reading this second part of this, there were concerns about the information they were getting, but it was full steam ahead. Even other agencies had concerns.

M.I.5 seems to have shared the C.I.A.’s groupthink. Sources in London say that its agents also assumed that anything Mohamed said to try to defend himself must be a lie. One admission he did make was that he had seen a Web site with instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb, but he was apparently claiming it was a joke. The intelligence agencies believed this was a smoking gun, notwithstanding Mohamed’s bizarre statement that the instructions included mixing bleach with uranium-238 in a bucket and rotating it around one’s head for 45 minutes. Neither the British nor the Americans thought Mohamed’s claim that the Web site was a joke was credible: his “confession” to reading instructions about building nuclear weapons on the Internet was cited in Mohamed’s Guantánamo charge sheet. Yet it was a joke: such a Web site, with instructions about how to refine bomb-grade uranium with bleach and a bucket, has been doing the rounds on the World Wide Web since at least 1994. In 2005, the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin cited it in her blog as evidence of al-Qaeda’s deadly intentions. She was swiftly disabused by readers, who, unlike the C.I.A. and M.I.5, immediately recognized it as satire.
But even M.I.5 couldn’t help but notice “glaring inconsistencies” among the different accounts of the plot being given by those getting interrogated. And instead of asking whether the plot was real, the investigators seem to have assumed that the different accounts of those being interrogated were merely an attempt to protect al-Qaeda operations.

Clive Stafford Smith believes that the weakness of the dirty-bomb charge against Padilla may well explain what happened to Binyam Mohamed: “Maybe what they were trying to do was turn him into a prosecution witness.” After all, he had already confessed in Pakistan, under torture that had been, in comparison with what was to come, relatively mild. But on July 21, 2002, as the plane’s flight log later confirmed, he was flown aboard a Gulfstream V jet chartered by the C.I.A. to Rabat, in Morocco. There he was to spend the next 18 months.

With the help of Stafford Smith, he later assembled a diary describing his treatment there. Amid numerous beatings in Rabat, Mohamed wrote, “They’d ask me a question. I’d say one thing. They’d say it was a lie. I’d say another. They’d say it was a lie. I could not work out what they wanted to hear.” He also said the Moroccans repeatedly cut his chest and genitals with a razor. Finally he was subjected to further harsh treatment in the “Dark Prison” near Kabul, Afghanistan, after being spirited away on another C.I.A. flight in January 2004.

After another nine months, he was brought to Guantánamo, where he remains. He filed a habeas corpus lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia, a claim that there was no credible reason for his continued detention, and in its attempt to defend this, the administration in October 2008 dropped all mention of the dirty-bomb plot. In Guantánamo’s parallel quasi-legal world of military commissions, where the rules make it much harder to exclude evidence derived from torture, the Pentagon in May 2008 issued a charge sheet against Mohamed. It said that having trained in various al-Qaeda camps and taken instruction from bin Laden, Mohamed “reviewed technical information concerning the construction of an improvised radioactive bomb” with K.S.M. and decided with Padilla to detonate one in America.

In October, the charges were withdrawn, after the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned. Later he told the BBC he had concerns at the repeated suppression of evidence that could prove prisoners’ innocence. Meanwhile, as of December 2008, Mohamed’s lawyers were fighting separate court cases to force the U.S. government in Washington and the British government in London to disclose all the information they have about Mohamed’s treatment. (Coincidentally, my sister, Dinah Rose, Q.C., is representing Mohamed in the London case.) Stafford Smith is bound by Draconian restrictions that prevent him from offering any but the blandest comments about the evidence in his client’s case. He says, “I know of no evidence against him other than his own confessions, all of which are the bitter fruit of his abuse.”

This is one of the cases the ACLU has been fighting I believe. This is a sad case. It needs to just go away. This poor man was just made a target for nothing it sounds like. All because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Note the first line I put in bold in this next section.

“There was no dirty-bomb plot. I’m sure it was just Abu Zubaydah trying to get them excited,” says the F.B.I.’s Dan Coleman. “There’s never been any corroboration except the confessions of Binyam Mohamed under torture. No one was willing to take their time.” But, in the words of the former C.I.A. official Mike Scheuer, “That dirty-bomb business put the fear of God into these people in the administration.” As a result, he says, “they may well have sent Binyam Mohamed somewhere where the authorities would do things we wouldn’t—or couldn’t.”

That is my bold...note the date.. that is before the dates of the memo which authorizes torture. June 10, 2002.

On June 10, 2002, then attorney general John Ashcroft interrupted a visit to Moscow to speak to reporters: “I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.” He meant Jose Padilla, who had been arrested as he flew into Chicago on May 8. The president, Ashcroft said, had designated Padilla an “enemy combatant,” and he had been removed from civilian custody to a navy brig. In due course, Ashcroft said, he would be tried by a military commission.
“Let me be clear: we know from multiple independent and corroborating sources that Abdullah Al Mujahir [Padilla’s nom de guerre] was closely associated with al-Qaeda and that … he was involved in planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians in the United States,” Ashcroft said. Had his dirty bomb gone off, it could have caused “mass death and injury.”
The shakiness of Ashcroft’s “multiple independent and corroborating sources” claim was demonstrated by an affidavit from an F.B.I. agent, Joe Ennis, in support of Padilla’s detention. Referring to Binyam Mohamed as “Subject-1,” it said that his “wife” had told law-enforcement authorities that he “would often become emotional and cry when he discussed his willingness to die for his God.” Strangely enough, Mohamed was and remains unmarried.
Mohamed, the affidavit said, “has not been completely candid about his association with Al Qaeda, and his own terrorist activities,” and was trying to “mislead or confuse U.S. law enforcement.” But it was clear that after weeks of abuse he had started to crack. According to Ennis, he had already told his interrogators that he and Padilla had “researched the construction of a uranium-enhanced explosive device”; that Padilla had been to meetings with al-Qaeda officials; and that he believed Padilla had been ordered to return to America.

Well why would Padilla be any different than anyone else. Just because he was an American citizen living in Chicago.

In the brig, Padilla’s attorneys claimed, he too was tortured. He was deprived of all contact with the outside world for two and a half years, and, according to one court filing, “He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making the cell extremely cold for long stretches of time.” Chained in agonizing “stress positions” repeatedly, he was also allegedly “threatened with imminent execution.… Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault [him].”
The government did not deny these assertions, only the claim that they amounted to torture. Donna Newman, Padilla’s attorney before he was taken to the brig, says that afterward “he was not the same person. Beforehand, he was engaged in his case; he asked pertinent questions. When I saw him again, he hardly said a word. He had no interest in what was happening, even though his case was nearing the Supreme Court.”
Under this pressure, Padilla produced ever more elaborate confessions. Former deputy attorney general James Comey said in June 2004 that Padilla spoke of discussing the dirty bomb with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, of an instruction from K.S.M. to blow up apartments by filling them with gas and igniting it, and of a dinner party with Binyam Mohamed, K.S.M., and al-Qaeda bigwigs the night before he left Pakistan.
Very senior officials had a lot invested in Padilla. But in November 2005, three days before the Justice Department was to file a brief before the Supreme Court in response to his lawyers’ claim that his treatment was unconstitutional, the administration returned him to civilian custody. With all mention of the dirty-bomb plot deleted, he stood trial in Florida on far less serious charges of conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap, and providing material support to terrorist organizations, and in January 2008 he was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison. “The dirty-bomb plot was simply not credible,” Jack Cloonan says. “The government would never have given up that case if there was any hint of credibility to it. Padilla didn’t stand trial for it, because there was no evidence to support it.”

Here is a statement from Zubaydah himself. Even with the broken English it really makes little sense. You can really tell he is suffering from some kind of brain damage. You cannot convince me he isn't.

On March 27, 2007,at a “Combatant Status-Review Tribunal” at Guantánamo—a military hearing convened to determine whether he should continue to be detained. Everything he said about the details of his treatment was redacted from the unclassified record. But a few relevant remarks remain: “I was nearly before half die plus [because] what they do [to] torture me. There I was not afraid from die because I do believe I will be shahid [martyr], but as God make me as a human and I weak, so they say yes, I say okay, I do I do, but leave me. They say no, we don’t want to. You to admit you do this, we want you to give us more information … they want what’s after more information about more operations, so I can’t. They keep torturing me.”

The tribunal president, a colonel whose name is redacted, asked him: “So I understand that during this treatment, you said things to make them stop and then those statements were actually untrue, is that correct?” Abu Zubaydah replied: “Yes.”
Some of those statements, say two senior intelligence analysts who worked on them at the time, concerned the issue that in the spring of 2002 interested the Bush administration more than almost any other—the supposed operational relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Given his true position in the jihadist hierarchy, Abu Zubaydah “would not have known that if it was true,” says Coleman. “But you can lead people down a course and make them say anything.”
Some of what he did say was leaked by the administration: for example, the claim that bin Laden and his ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were working directly with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. There was much more, says the analyst who worked at the Pentagon: “I first saw the reports soon after Abu Zubaydah’s capture. There was a lot of stuff about the nuts and bolts of al-Qaeda’s supposed relationship with the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The intelligence community was lapping this up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaydah was saying Iraq and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration hoped it would be.”
Within the administration, Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation was “an important chapter,” the second analyst says: overall, his interrogation “product” was deemed to be more significant than the claims made by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, another al-Qaeda captive, who in early 2002 was tortured in Egypt at the C.I.A.’s behest. After all, Abu Zubaydah was being interviewed by Americans. Like the former Pentagon official, this official had no idea that Abu Zubaydah had been tortured.

This is when the fallout started. People began to realize what had happened and were starting to cover their butts.

One result of Abu Zubaydah’s torture was that the F.B.I.’s assistant director for counterterrorism, Pasquale D’Amuro, persuaded Director Robert Mueller that the bureau should play no part in future C.I.A. interrogations that used extreme techniques forbidden by the F.B.I. The Justice Department’s Glenn Fine indicated in a statement before the U.S. Senate that the main reason was that the agency’s techniques would “not be effective in obtaining accurate information.”

If torture doesn’t work, what does? The evidence suggests that when the Bush administration decided to ignore many of America’s most experienced counterterrorist agents and go for torture in 2001 and 2002, it shut down rich sources of intelligence. In the biggest terrorist case of the 1990s, the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed more than 220 people, the F.B.I.’s Cloonan and his colleagues were able to persuade three of the main conspirators not only to talk to them but also to give prosecution testimony in court. Here Morocco, the U.S. ally where Binyam Mohamed was sent to be tortured in 2002, provided assistance of a very different order. Eighteen months after the attacks, Cloonan traced L’Houssaine Kherchtou, also known as Joe the Moroccan, an al-Qaeda operative who had played a key role, to his hiding place, in Sudan. The Moroccans concocted a story to lure him home, and when he arrived in Rabat he was arrested.

After reports of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, F.B.I. director Robert Mueller agreed that the bureau should play no part in future C.I.A. interrogations that use extreme techniques. Cloonan says, “We all went to a beautiful safe house outside of town, with gazelles bouncing around in the grounds and three solid meals fit for a king each day. We all sat on sofas in a big room—me, Ali Soufan [an F.B.I. colleague], Pat Fitzgerald [the U.S. attorney then in charge of a special counterterrorist section in New York], a C.I.A. guy, and two Moroccan colonels. The Moroccans said he’d never talk. He never shut up for 10 days.” Cloonan had done his homework: “His wife needed money for medical treatment in Khartoum, and al-Qaeda had failed to provide it.” That gave Cloonan his “in.”
The intelligence Kherchtou provided, at a time when U.S. knowledge about al-Qaeda was still perfunctory, was invaluable. “He told us about a lot of things,” says Cloonan. “We learned how they recruited people, their front organizations, how they used NGOs, false passports, what they thought about kidnapping, how they developed targets, did their surveillance, a day in the life of Osama bin Laden, what weapons they used, what vehicles they drove, who was the principal liaison with the Sudanese government, that there was a relationship between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, how they did their training exercises, their finances, and their membership.”
Finally Fitzgerald offered Kherchtou a deal: if he came to New York, pleaded guilty, and testified against the bombers, Fitzgerald would ask the judge to treat him leniently. At first, it looked as if he was going to turn it down. Then, Cloonan says, “I said, ‘Joe, you understand English, so I’d like you to go out and pray on this with your two Moroccan brothers.’ I thought Fitzy was going to give birth. Joe went out and prayed and came back and said yes.” Kherchtou is now in the federal witness-protection program. Thanks in part to his testimony, four of his onetime associates are serving life.

This next section, David Rose makes a statement which is being now proven wrong, I believe. We are now in the beginnings of the final calculus.

To reach a final calculus of the Bush administration’s use of torture will take years. It will require access to a large body of material that for now remains classified, and the weighing not just of information gained against false or missed leads but of the wider consequences: of the damage done to America’s influence with its friends, and of the encouragement provided to its enemies. Even harder to quantify is the damage done to institutions and their morale, especially the C.I.A.
“We were done a tremendous disservice by the administration,” one official says. “We had no background in this; it’s not something we do. They stuck us with a totally unwelcome job and left us hanging out to dry. I’m worried that the next administration is going to prosecute the guys who got involved, and there won’t be any presidential pardons at the end of it. It would be O.K. if it were John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales. But it won’t be. It’ll be some poor G.S.-13 who was just trying to do his job.”

Here the FBI really bemoans the work they had to do running down the false leads the torture produced. While they were doing that, instead of being safer, we were probably less safe. Because their eyes were really off the ball so to speak. Maybe that's why the Anthrax got through, and all the other things, like the D.C. Sniper.. of course, Bush doesn't consider that when he says he kept us safe all those years.

At the F.B.I., says a seasoned counterterrorist agent, following false leads generated through torture has caused waste and exhaustion. “At least 30 percent of the F.B.I.’s time, maybe 50 percent, in counterterrorism has been spent chasing leads that were bullshit. There are ‘lead squads’ in every office trying to filter them. But that’s ineffective, because there’s always that ‘What if?’ syndrome. I remember a claim that there was a plot to poison candy bought in bulk from Costco. You follow it because someone wants to cover himself. It has a chilling effect. You get burned out, you get jaded. And you think, Why am I chasing all this stuff that isn’t true? That leads to a greater problem—that you’ll miss the one that is true. The job is 24-7 anyway. It’s not like a bank job. But torture has made it harder.”

Several of those I interviewed point out the dearth of specific claims the administration has proffered. “The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.’ But if K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details,” says Cloonan. “What we got was pabulum.” A former C.I.A. officer adds: “Why can’t they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah or K.S.M. is? It’s not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable source. You’re not blowing your source but validating your program. They say they can’t do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it’s a ‘continuing operation.’ But has it really taken so long to check it all out?”

Officials who analyzed Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports say that the reports were afforded the highest value within the Bush administration not because of the many American lives they were going to save but because they could be cited repeatedly against those who doubted the wisdom of ousting Saddam by force.

“We didn’t know he’d been waterboarded and tortured when we did that analysis, and the reports were marked as credible as they could be,” the former Pentagon analyst tells me. “The White House knew he’d been tortured. I didn’t, though I was supposed to be evaluating that intelligence.” To draw conclusions about the importance of what Abu Zubaydah said without knowing this crucial piece of the background nullified the value of his work. “It seems to me they were using torture to achieve a political objective. I cannot believe that the president and vice president did not know who was being waterboarded, and what was being given up.”

One of the most specific claims Bush made in 2006 was that secret black-site C.I.A. interrogations “helped foil a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into Heathrow [airport] and London’s Canary Wharf.” Could that be true?

One man who knows is Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s Anti-terrorist Branch from the spring of 2002 until May 2008, and as such the U.K.’s chief counterterrorist official, who succeeded in stopping several jihadist attacks that were in advanced stages of planning. Clarke, who has not publicly discussed this issue before, says it is possible that al-Qaeda had considered some project along the lines suggested by Bush, but if so it was nowhere near fruition. “It wasn’t at an advanced stage in the sense that there were people here in the U.K. doing it. If they had been, I’d have arrested them.”

Perhaps the most dangerous of the plots disrupted on Clarke’s watch was through Operation Crevice, the 2004 bust of a gang of seven who had 1.3 tons of homemade explosive material, with which they had intended to blow up targets including a nightclub and a shopping mall. But the lead that led to Crevice came not from torture, Clarke says, but an electronic intercept. He says he can think of only one arrest made by his team that could be said to have been partly the result of C.I.A. interrogations—that of Dhiren Barot, sentenced to life, in 2006, for conspiracy to murder stemming from his plan to attack a range of British targets. But even here, the original lead, reportedly given up by K.S.M., was vague. “All we had was a nom de guerre, Esa al-Hindi, and the claim that he was a serious player and a Brit,” Clarke says. “We had no idea who he was. It took weeks and months of painstaking work to identify and find him.”

In an interview in London in April 2008, I remind F.B.I. director Robert Mueller of the attacks planned against targets on American soil since 9/11 that his agents have disrupted: for example, a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and another to wreak mayhem at army recruiting centers and synagogues in and around Torrance, California. These and other homegrown conspiracies were foiled by regular police work. The F.B.I. learned of the Fort Dix plot from an informant at a local mosque, while the Torrance cell was rounded up when cops probed the backgrounds of two of its members after they allegedly robbed a local gas station.

I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

So there you have it.. Finally Robert Mueller says, Even he does't believe there were any threats disrupted. But then we knew that didn't we?

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