Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The picture becomes clearer every day that the Bush torture program was not for the purpose of preventing another imminent attack on the United States (the "ticking time bomb" scenario) or even for acquiring actionable intelligence in the field on the whereabouts of al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Bush torture program was primarily for the purpose of obtaining a coerced confession about a link between al Qaida (and 9/11) and Saddam Hussein's Iraq to justify the war with Iraq -- a politically expedient purpose to first sell and then to justify the war. As Andrew Sullivan notes, "This really is the explosive charge, because it reveals the real danger of torture in the hands of big government: it means our leaders can manufacture facts to justify anything."
In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
On April 21, McClatchy's Jonathan Landay first reported the Bush Administration used torture to intentionally extract false confessions linking Al Qaeda (and 9/11) to Iraq, to give Bush a false "casus belli" to invade Iraq. "[F]or 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."
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
The Senate Armed Services Committee Report "found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan."
On Wednesday, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department to Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his post at the Washington Note The Truth About Richard Bruce Cheney revealed this bombshell:
what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 -- well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion -- its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.
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-Qa'ida-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.
There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)
Bob Fertik, a lawyer blogger at Democrats.com points out that Wilkerson's account is a bombshell for three reasons:
First, he is well-known - and credible. Second, he says the desire to manufacture an Iraq-Al Qaeda link was the principal priority - not secondary to preventing another attack. Third, he pushes the timeline back to "April and May of 2002" - not as far back as February 2002, but getting close.
The "smoking gun" of the Iraq-Torture Scandal will be proof that the CIA took Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi away from the FBI in February 2002 and sent him to Egypt for one specific reason: to use torture to extract a false confession of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties.
Lawrence Wilkerson's account takes us much closer to finding that "smoking gun." And al-Libi's mysterious death guarantees that everyone will be looking for it.
In further developments on Thursday, Former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem in a post at The Daily Beast Cheney's Role Deepens tied Vice President Dick Cheney's office to a suggestion to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi, the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations, after the invasion of Iraq. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.
“To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House officials] had particular interest,” said Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials.
In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”
Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be declassified to prove his case. (The Daily Beast placed a call to Cheney’s office and will post a response if we get one.)
Without admitting where the suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and understood the rationale as political—and ultimately counterproductive to the overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of finding Saddam Hussein’s WMD after the invasion.
Duelfer says Khudayr repeatedly denied knowing the location of WMD or links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda and was not subjected to any enhanced interrogation. Duelfer says the idea that he would have known of such links was “ludicrous".
Both Robert Windrem and Charles Duelfer appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to discuss this report.
While Khudayr was not waterboarded at the suggestion of the Office of the Vice President, the disclosure of this incident should cause any good reporter to start asking questions and digging into the records to discover whether any of the 52 most wanted Iraqi government officials in the "deck of cards," including Saddam Hussein, were ever subjected to torture. This is important, because the government of Iraq, unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, was the recognized sovereign government of Iraq, and the Geneva Conventions apply directly to Iraqi military and government officials.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a former prosecutor, opened hearings into the Bush administration’s torture policy. The hearing produced two significant developments as well as a great deal of political rhetoric. A Turning Point in the Torture Debate
[FBI special agent Ali] Soufan’s testimony focused on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Throughout the history of the torture debate, the Bush administration has cited this as a triumph of its techniques. Sen. Whitehouse read Bush’s September 6, 2006, White House statement making one of these claims. Soufan, who was personally present through the process, called the Bush claims a “half-truth,” accurate as to the circumstances of Abu Zubaydah’s capture and detention, but not as to the claimed successes using highly coercive techniques. One of the Justice Department’s torture memos (from May 2005) contained a similar claim that actionable intelligence was obtained “once enhanced techniques were employed.” Soufan termed this a lie. He also noted that successful interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Jose Padilla, which gained useful intelligence, occurred before the introduction of the Bush program and therefore couldn’t be claimed as success stories for it. In his remarks, Soufan sharply repudiated the harsh techniques he observed. “These techniques... are ineffective, slow, and unreliable and, as a result, harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda," he said. He also downplayed claims that there was a dispute between the FBI and CIA about the use of the Bush techniques. CIA interrogators agreed with his assessment, he noted.
Philip Zelikow, a lawyer and history professor who had served as a counselor to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, testified that the Justice Department had thwarted legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that prohibited cruel, inhuman, and degrading techniques on detainees. He noted that McCain and other sponsors understood the legislation as a prohibition on waterboarding and other harsh techniques, but through legal sleight of hand, Steven Bradbury, then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had nevertheless found that the legislation was ineffective to make the expected changes. Zelikow recorded his opposition to this view in his own memo, which he disseminated widely within the Bush administration. It was made clear to him that his memo was not appreciated, and, moreover, an effort was made to collect and destroy copies of the memo. One copy has now been identified in the records of the State Department, he noted. Its declassification and release are anticipated shortly.
Senator Whitehouse later was interviewed by Rick Sanchez of CNN Sheldon Whitehouse: Iraq Justification Raises the Prospect of Criminal Prosecution for Torture:
Sanchez: We're hearing from ex-Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson and he's making the argument that he believes that what the Bush administration was doing with enhanced interrogations was trying to make a case for the invasion of Iraq and trying to justify what happened in Iraq. So you believe that is actually what enhanced interrogation, "so called" torture was being used for?
Whitehouse: I've heard that to be true. There is some further evidence of that in Chairman Levin's Armed Services Committee report. There is not a great deal of evidence that came out in our hearing one way or the other about that. The one thing I will say about that is that if that is true, then it takes the application of these techniques out of the protected scope of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion.
Sanchez: And it makes this them political. It's not about we were scared, we wanted to defend the country any more. Now it's about we needed to have some political justification or something we wanted to do. (crosstalk)
Whitehouse: And that raises the prospect of there being a criminal prosecution that could justifiably emerge from these facts if that were in fact the motivation.