CIA’s terrorist detention and interrogation program began after the capture of Abu Zubaydah in March 2002. Zubaydah, who had extensive knowledge of al-Qa’ida personnel and operations, had been seriously wounded in a firefight. When President Bush officially acknowledged in September 2006 the existence of CIA’s counter-terror initiative, he talked about Zubaydah, noting that this terrorist survived solely because of medical treatment arranged by CIA. Under normal questioning, Zubaydah became defiant and evasive. It was clear, in the President’s words, that “Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking.”
Abu Zubaydah was a mess. It was early April 2002, and the al-Qaeda lieutenant had been shot in the groin during a firefight in Pakistan, then captured by the Special Forces and flown to a safe house in Thailand. Now he was experiencing life as America's first high-value detainee in the wake of 9/11. A medical team and a cluster of F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents stood vigil, all fearing that the next attack on America could happen at any moment. It didn't matter that Zubaydah was unable to eat, drink, sit up, or control his bowels. They wanted him to talk.
A C.I.A. interrogation team was expected but hadn't yet arrived. But the F.B.I. agents who had been nursing his wounds and cleaning him after he'd soiled himself asked Zubaydah what he knew. The detainee said something about a plot against an ally, then began slipping into sepsis. He was probably going to die.
Zubaydah was stabilized at the nearest hospital, and the F.B.I. continued its questioning using its typical rapport-building techniques. An agent showed him photographs of suspected al-Qaeda members until Zubaydah finally spoke up, blurting out that "Moktar," or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, had planned 9/11. He then proceeded to lay out the details of the plot. America learned the truth of how 9/11 was organized because a detainee had come to trust his captors after they treated him humanely.
It was an extraordinary success story. But it was one that would evaporate with the arrival of the C.I.A's interrogation team. At the direction of an accompanying psychologist, the team planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death.
While the methods were certainly unorthodox, there is little evidence they were necesssary, given the success of the rapport-building approach until that point.
Q: "Senator Durbin is calling for Justice to investigate whether the destruction represents an obstruction of justice [...]"
A: "[...] the CIA director is gathering facts [...]"
Q: "[...] there was no step short of destruction of these tapes that would address these concerns [of leaked identification of CIA employees]?"
A: "As they are gathering facts, I think that it's best that I not comment [...]"
Retired Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, reveals that senior CIA analysts pushed for the NIE’s key judgments on Iran to be released, threatening to speak to the media if they weren’t:The “jungle telegraph” in Washington is booming with news of the Iran NIE. I am told that the reason the conclusions of the NIE were released is that it was communicated to the White House that “intelligence career seniors were lined up to go to jail if necessary” if the document’s gist were not given to the public. Translation? Someone in that group would have gone to the media “on the record” to disclose its contents.
The “jungle telegraph” in Washington is booming with news of the Iran NIE. I am told that the reason the conclusions of the NIE were released is that it was communicated to the White House that “intelligence career seniors were lined up to go to jail if necessary” if the document’s gist were not given to the public. Translation? Someone in that group would have gone to the media “on the record” to disclose its contents.
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