Revelations from the Torture Report – CIA Lies, Nazi Methods and the $81 Million No-Bid Torture Contract

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Courtesy of Michael Krieger @ Liberty Blitz Krieg:

After initially helping to devise the “enhanced interrogation” efforts, they were designated as the only two contractors allowed to oversee these interrogations at sites around the world. In 2005, they formed a company to receive contracts from the CIA. According to the Senate report, the base value of their contract in 2006 was in excess of $180 million.

By the time the CIA terminated their contract in 2009, the consulting firm founded by the two men had collected $81 million in taxpayer money. In May of that year, ProPublica reported, the firm abruptly gave up the lease on its Spokane, Washington, headquarters and disconnected the phone.

Still, according to the Senate report, the CIA will provide $5 million in indemnity costs to the firm to cover all legal expenses for potential criminal prosecution and investigations through 2021.

– From the Huffington Post article: Architects Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million, Report Reveals

One of the greatest propaganda successes of the consolidated and corporate owned mainstream media in the US. has been its ability to convince many naive Americans that people with fascist tendencies do not exist in our society, and it they do, they certainly don’t reside in the highest halls of power.

One of the key points I try to get across in my writing is that the sociopathic mindset knows no borders, and a society that ignorantly believes that its “leadership” consists of good people with a moral high ground is a society of sheep primed for slaughter. Not only do fascist types exist at the highest levels of the U.S. status quo, the smart ones will typically do everything they can to attain such positions. Why?

As I noted recently in the post, In Great Britain, Protecting Pedophile Politicians is a Matter of “National Security”:

I’ve long written about how the percentage of sociopaths within a group of humans becomes increasingly concentrated the higher you climb within the positions of power in a society, with it being most chronic amongst those who crave political power.

The reason for this is obvious. Those with the sickest minds, and who wish to act upon their destructive fantasies, understand that they can most easily get away with their deeds if they are protected by an aura of power and ostensible respectability. They believe that as a result of their status, no one would dare accuse them of horrific activities, and if it ever came to that, they could quash any investigation.

One of the reasons the Senate “Torture Report” is so important, is that it forces Americans to confront the fascists and torture profiteers in their midst. Without this report, allegations of wrongdoing at the very top of the U.S. status quo can be easily dismissed as “conspiracy theory.” Hopefully now that we have some proof, we can start to meaningfully confront the cancer metastasizing within our society.

This post will be spilt into three separate parts, each of which will zero in on a separate aspect of what we have learned from the report. The first part goes back to an article in the Atlantic from 2007 titled: “Verschärfte Vernehmung.” Verschärfte Vernehmung in German translates to something like “enhanced interrogation”, and the article explains the disturbing similarities of what the U.S. government did to what the Nazis did in Germany a generation ago. First take a look at the following:

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More from The Atlantic:

The phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. ‘Waterboarding” was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The “cold bath” technique – the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo – was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College,

In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether “enhanced interrogation” using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration…

Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end – all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases. Notice the classic, universal and simple criterion used to define torture in 1948.

What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

Back in 2007 when that Atlantic article was written, a large percentage of people were willing to give the U.S. government and the CIA the benefit of the doubt. That’s not the case today, which is why I am hopeful that the Senate report, along with the Snowden revelations, will ultimately force the public to admit to itself it has been propagandized and things aren’t as they are told on the television set. Only if we know there is a problem can we start to fix it.

With that concerning introduction out of the way, let’s move on to some of the conclusions reached by the Intercept upon analyzing the report. We learn that:

For the CIA officials involved in torture, one thing was clear from the very beginning: The only way they would be forgiven for what they did was if they could show it had saved lives.

It was the heart of their rationale. It was vital to public acceptance. It was how they would avoid prosecution.

Specifically, they pointed out: “states may be very unwilling to call the U.S. to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

And so, when the tragically predictable sequence of events began to unfold – and torture, as it always has, produced false confessions and little to no intelligence of value – admitting that it had failed was not even an option.

Instead, those involved made up stories of success.

They insisted that Abu Zubaydah was a top al Qaeda figure who, only after being waterboarded, provided information that foiled a major attack on the U.S. – even though Zubaydah wasn’t in al Qaeda, the plot was a farce, and the only related information he provided came before he was tortured.

They cast Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s false confessions as deadly threats, then announced they had been thwarted.

They viciously brutalized people, some of them entirely innocent, and described what they were doing as an art and a science.

There are no indications the CIA is ready to turn things around, of course. CIA Director John Brennan went to extraordinary lengths to stymie and discredit the investigation. And now, he is rebuffing its conclusions.

There are descriptions of sleep deprivation that “involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.”

The report identifies 26 detainees, out of the CIA’s 119 in total, who the agency itself determined should never have been held at all. That unfortunate group includes “Abu Hudhaifa, who was subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation before being released because the CIA discovered he was likely not the person he was believed to be,” and “Nazir Ali, an ‘intellectually challenged’ individual whose taped crying was used as leverage against his family member.”

A particular sore point is the inaccurate information the CIA fed to Congress. First CIA officials disavowed torture, and promised that the Senate Intelligence Committee would be notified about every individual detained by the CIA. Then came the misinformation and the outright subterfuge.

A 2005 proposal from Senator Carl Levin to establish an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse, for instance, “resulted in concern at the CIA that such a commission would lead to the discovery of videotapes documenting CIA interrogations.” As a result, the CIA destroyed them.

Hayden told the Senate Intelligence committee: “Punches and kicks are not authorized and have never been employed.” But interviews conducted for two CIA internal reviews described the treatment of Gul Rahman, the detainee was died at the Salt Pit. One witness stated:

[T]here were approximately five CIA officers from the renditions team… they opened the door of Rahman’s cell and rushed in screaming and yelling for him to “getdown.” They dragged him outside, cut off his clothes and secured him with Mylar tape. They covered his head with a hood and ran him up and down a long corridor adjacent to his cell. They slapped him and punched him several times… a couple of times the punches were forceful. As they ran him along the corridor, a couple of times he fell and they dragged him through the dirt (the floor outside of the cells is dirt). Rahman did acquire a number of abrasions on his face, legs, and hands, but nothing that required medical attention. (This may account for the abrasions found on Rahman’s body after his death. Rahman had a number of surface abrasions on his shoulders, pelvis, arms, legs, and face.)

But the report provides new, horrifying details about what it calls COBALT – the notorious Salt Pit facility in Afghanistan, that one CIA official described as a “dungeon.”

The CIA kept few formal records of the detainees in its custody at COBALT. Untrained CIA officers at the facility conducted frequent, unauthorized, and unsupervised interrogations of detainees using harsh physical interrogation techniques that were not—and never became—part of the CIA’s formal “enhanced” interrogation program. The CIA placed a junior officer with no relevant experience in charge of COBALT. On November [REDACTED], 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor died from suspected hypothermia at the facility.

Most notably, CIA “headquarters” informed DOJ and White House officials in July 2002 that Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation team believed he possessed information on terrrorists and terrorist threats in the U.S. “The CIA officials further represented that the interrogation team had concluded that the use of more aggressive methods ‘is required to persuade Abu Zubaydah to provide the critical information needed to safeguard the lives of innumerable innocent men, women, and children within the United States and abroad,’ and warned ‘countless more Americans may die unless we can persuade AZ to tell us what he knows.’”

But according to the CIA cables the Senate investigators reviewed, the interrogation team had not made any such determination — quite the contrary. They wrote that they were operating under the assumption that Zubaydah was “not holding back actionable information concerning threats to the United States beyond that which [he] has already provided.”

In 2003, George W. Bush’s included the following language:.

The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy.

But when then-CIA general counsel John Rizzo heard about that statement – along with a quote from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that all prisoners being held by the U.S. government were being treated “humanely” — he panicked.

Rizzo wanted to make sure this didn’t represent a change in policy.

He called John Bellinger, then the legal advisor to the National Security Council, to “express our surprise and concern at some of the statements.”

Rizzo told his CIA colleagues that it “might well be appropriate for us to seek written reaffirmation by some senior White House official that the Agency’s ongoing practices… are to continue.”

CIA director George Tenet then sent a memo to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice seeking reaffirmation of White House support because “recent Administration responses to inquiries and resulting media reporting about the Administration’s position have created the impression that these [interrogation] techniques are not used by U.S. personnel and are no longer approved as a policy matter.”

Not coincidentally, it was right about then that the CIA started making a major effort internally to build the case that what they had been doing was effective.

But the convoluted story Bush told was completely untrue and unsupported. The CIA “validated” the claim with a June 2003 cable, leaving out any mention of a March 2003 cable which showed that information about the alleged plot, such as it was, actually came out before KSM said anything.

“Terrorists held in CIA custody have also provided information… [that] they helped stop a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into Heathrow or the Canary Wharf in London,” Bush said.

But according to Senate investigators:

A review of records indicates that the Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf plotting had not progressed beyond the initial planning stages when the operation was fully disrupted with the detentions of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, KSM, Ammar-al-Baluchi, and Khallad bin Attash. None of these individuals were captured as a result of reporting obtained during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques against CIA detainees.

Furthermore, CIA operational cables and other records showed “that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques played no role in the identification of Jose Padilla or the thwarting” of any plot. When Zubaydah provided information on a “dirty bomb” attack, he didn’t identify Padilla by name – and in any case, whatever he did say was while talking to the FBI, three months before the CIA started torturing him. And the CIA first heard about Padilla from a foreign government, the report states.

This is why you don’t trust people who in many cases lie and deceive for a living.

Just in case that’s not bad enough, it has also come to light that two individuals seen as the masterminds of the torture program made $81 million from it. They were also in charge of overseeing the program’s effectiveness. You can’t make this stuff up. From the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Two psychologists were paid $81 million by the CIA to advise on and help implement its brutal interrogation program targeting detainees in the war on terror, according to the Senate torture report summary released Tuesday.

The contract psychologists are identified with pseudonyms — Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar — like most of the individuals named in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA program. Published reports dating back to 2007, however, identify the two men as James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, both former members of the military.

BoingBoing also ran a story on James Mitchell, which includes a video interview of the man that can be found here.

The Senate report details how Swigert and Dunbar traveled the world for the CIA, devising and carrying out interrogations using tactics that meet widely accepted definitions of torture. The two men were also entrusted with judging whether their methods were successful. Not surprisingly, they reported to their CIA bosses that their methods were crucial to persuading prisoners to divulge high-value information.

Although Jessen has previously said that a confidentiality agreement prevents him from discussing his work for the CIA, the two men in 2007 issued a statement saying, “The advice we have provided, and the actions we have taken have been legal and ethical.” They added, “We are proud of the work we have done for our country.”

The report reveals that for Dunbar and Swigert, that work was also a cash cow.

After initially helping to devise the “enhanced interrogation” efforts, they were designated as the only two contractors allowed to oversee these interrogations at sites around the world. In 2005, they formed a company to receive contracts from the CIA. According to the Senate report, the base value of their contract in 2006 was in excess of $180 million.

No-bid torture contract. Classy.

By the time the CIA terminated their contract in 2009, the consulting firm founded by the two men had collected $81 million in taxpayer money. In May of that year,ProPublica reported, the firm abruptly gave up the lease on its Spokane, Washington, headquarters and disconnected the phone.

Still, according to the Senate report, the CIA will provide $5 million in indemnity costs to the firm to cover all legal expenses for potential criminal prosecution and investigations through 2021. The firm has already received $1.1 million from the CIA to cover legal expenses, much of that related to interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee. In addition, Swigert and Dunbar received payments of $1.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively, as individuals.

The company would come to employ an undisclosed number of former CIA officers (the figure is redacted in the report) while the torture program would ultimately be staffed largely by contractors. At least officially, this gave the CIA a certain distance from the brutality that was used. According to the report, contractors accounted for 85 percent of the program’s staff by 2008.

According to the Senate report, neither Swigert nor Dunbar had any relevant experience in traditional interrogation methods used by the CIA and the FBI. “Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise,” the report states.

This lack of experience was seen as bonus by the CIA as the two men were tasked with implementing a new form of interrogation.

The idea was to create a “level of helplessness” that induced the detainee to provide the desired information. As detailed in the report, tortured detainees often provided false information just to tell their captors something.

As early as 2003, the report shows that concerns were raised about the conflicts of interest that could arise when Dunbar and Swigert, who devised and monitored the aggressive techniques, were also tasked with judging their effectiveness. Essentially, the two were being paid to assess their own work, a practice that violated the CIA’s stated policy.

Conflicts of interest were “never more graphic,” the Senate report notes, than when Dunbar and Swigert performed all three phases of an interrogation. First, they “applied an [enhanced interrogation technique] which only they were approved to employ.” Second, they “judged both its effectiveness and detainee resilience.” And third, they “implicitly proposed continued use of the technique — at a daily compensation reported to be $1800/day, or four times that of interrogators who could not use the technique.”

Simply incredible. As I have said before, pretty much EVERYTHING in the U.S. is a money-making racket.

Finally, the Huffington Post reported on the fact that more than 1 out of every 4 countries on earth participated in one way or the other with the U.S. torture program. This revelation so scared Secretary of State John Kerry that:

Secretary of State John Kerry indicated before the Senate document was released that he is worried about the global outrage that could follow the report. For Kerry and other diplomats, the evidence revealed in the Senate document could prove critically embarrassing for friendly governments, vindicate the narrative that the U.S.’s human rights record is no better than those of its foes, and show that the U.S. is willing to throw partner nations under the bus.

This is sort of the point isn’t it? The U.S. government justifies all of its militaristic and other interventions overseas using this false narrative that it occupies some sort of moral high ground. It now should be abundantly clear to everyone that this invented ethical position is a total fabrication.

I can summarize my thoughts on this entire matter with the following tweet:

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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