Tag Archives: Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture

Bush ‘Intimately Involved’ with CIA Torture, says Rove

By Lauren McCauley
December 15, 2014
Common Dreams, December 14, 2014


Rove’s admission comes as a growing number of rights groups and others are calling on President Obama and lawmakers to prosecute those responsible for the abuses. (Screenshot: Fox News)


Former President George W. Bush knew and was “intimately involved” in the CIA’s practice of torture, former Bush adviser and Republican strategist Karl Rove confirmed on Fox News Sunday.

Despite arguments made in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that the CIA had not alerted Bush and other top officials about the extent of the abuses until 2006, Rove told the morning show: “He made the decision.”

“He was presented, I believe, 12 techniques, he authorized the use of 10 of them, including waterboarding,” Rove added.

The Senate report, released on Tuesday, documented such abuses as “rectal rehydration” and “water dousing,” as well as threatening to kill or sexually abuse family members of detainees—acts which the committee said were beyond the scope of what was portrayed by the CIA to congressional overseers and the Bush administration.

Rove argues that this alleged inaccuracy indicates that the report authors had insufficiently consulted Bush administration officials when researching the torture program.

Citing the former president’s recent book Decision Points, Rove confirmed that Bush was fully briefed on all of the CIA’s tactics in 2002, early on in the torture program. “He was briefed and intimately involved in the decision,” said Rove.

The Republican insider’s admission comes as a growing number of rights groups and others are calling on President Obama and lawmakers to prosecute those responsible for the abuses.

Cheney on CIA torture: “I’d do it again in a minute”

By Patrick Martin
December 2014
World Socialist Web Site

Dick-Cheney-3The interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program Sunday morning showed both the unapologetic savagery of American imperialism and its deepening crisis.

Cheney defended the Bush administration’s CIA torture program against its partial exposure through the release last week of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that documents the criminality of CIA operatives and their political masters, including George W. Bush and Cheney himself.

Asked about particular torture methods, Cheney repeatedly defended such horrific and illegal actions as waterboarding, hanging prisoners by their arms from an overhead bar for 22 hours straight, and the procedure described as “involuntary rectal feeding,” which he claimed was “done for medical reasons.”

One remarkable exchange with interviewer Chuck Todd went as follows:

Todd: Let me read you another one here. With Abu Zubaydah, over a 20-day period, aggressive interrogations. Spent a total of 266 hours, 11 days, two hours, in a large coffin-sized confinement box, 29 hours in a small confinement box, width of 21 inches, depth of 2.5 feet, height of 2.5 feet. That’s on page 42. Is that going to meet the standard of the definition of torture?

Cheney: I think that was, in fact, one of the approved techniques.

When asked about the CIA’s own admission that at least one-quarter of the prisoners detained and abused at its secret “black sites” were innocent of any connection to terrorism, Cheney replied, “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.” He reiterated, “I’d do it again in a minute.”

The former vice president seemed especially incensed by the suggestion that the CIA had lied to the White House about what it was doing at its secret prisons. He went out of his way to declare, even boast, that he and President George W. Bush were fully informed of what the CIA was doing and approved it every step of the way.

Again from the “Meet the Press” transcript:

Cheney: The notion that we were not notified at the White House about what was going on is not true. I sat through a lengthy session in ‘04 with the inspector general of the CIA as he reviewed the state of the program at that time. The suggestion, for example, that the president didn’t approve it, wrong. That’s a lie, that’s not true… There would be special meetings from time to time on various subjects that he would be directly involved in. This man knew what we were doing. He authorized it; he approved it.

These statements should be entered as evidence at a future war crimes prosecution of Bush, Cheney and all those associated with the American torture enterprise.

When faced with the suggestion by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture that Bush administration officials—including himself—should be prosecuted, Cheney was contemptuous, but also defensive. He described it as “an outrageous proposition” that former US government officials even had to answer such questions.

On at least five occasions—particularly when pressed to respond to a specific method of torture—he tried to change the subject to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which have become the all-purpose excuse for every crime committed by American imperialism.

Cheney cited as proof that the Bush administration did not torture the legal opinions issued the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that “specifically authorized and okayed… exactly what we did.” In other words, the president’s own lawyers, acting on his instructions, found that his orders to the CIA were legal. (In the same fashion, the Obama White House engineered a finding by the Office of Legal Counsel that the president could legally order the drone missile assassination of an American citizen.)

There was little to distinguish Cheney’s arguments from the type of self-justification offered by the Nazi defendants at the Nuremberg Tribunal following World War II. Every action they took, Goering, Keitel, Frank and others declared, was justified by the necessities of war against a savage enemy. Every action was in accordance with the legal principles laid down by the Third Reich.

Those further down the Nazi chain of command, like the CIA operatives and contractors who actually carried out the torture at the secret prisons, would plead that they were “just following orders.”

There is no reason to limit this comparison to the officials and operatives of the Bush administration. The Obama administration too consists of war criminals and their apologists. As one Bush defender pointed out in the panel discussion that followed Cheney’s appearance, under Obama, the US government is using drones to blow up its targets “and their families at picnics and weddings,” rather than capture them and torture them.

Obama himself reassured the torturers and murderers of both administrations that there would be no consequences for their actions, declaring within months of taking office that he would “look forward, not backward” on the crimes of the Bush era. This gave the green light to the CIA to shift its focus from waterboarding to drone missile assassinations.

The Obama Justice Department issued an official statement after the release of the 528-page unclassified executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee study, saying it had found no new information in either it or the full 6,700-page report. “Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed,” the department said.

The Justice Department added that if a foreign court took action against former or current US government officials, citing the evidence provided by the Senate report, the United States would raise “jurisdictional and other legal defenses to prevent unwarranted prosecution …”

These statements confirm that no government of the American financial aristocracy will take action against the crimes committed in its name. In order to hold the war criminals, murderers and torturers accountable, it is necessary to build up a mass socialist movement from below, based on a turn to the international working class.



Why the CIA tortured

Bureaucratic momentum, the desire to be ‘important’, helped drive torture programme to point where officials involved had too much to lose to call a halt

By Gareth Porter
December 14, 2014
Middle East Eye, December 13, 2014


The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page “executive summary” of the 6,700-page full report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” programme has completely shattered the official myth that the torture of al-Qaeda detainees – which the CIA calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – somehow helped to thwart further terrorist attacks.

After examining six million pages of official CIA documents, the committee staff refuted every one of the CIA’s claims that its torture programme generated the crucial intelligence that led to the disruption of plots and the apprehension of terrorist suspects.

The committee’s case is documented in such mind-numbing detail, based on the CIA’s own internal documents, that the CIA was compelled to acknowledge in its responses in June 2013 to each specific case analysed that it had repeatedly “mischaracterised” the relationship between its detention and interrogation programme and the disruption or failure of various proposed terrorist actions.

But the committee report leaves little doubt that the CIA was not simply mistaken about the issues involved; it had for years been systematically lying about virtually every aspect of the torture programme.

The report revealed that senior CIA officials decided in 2005 to destroy the videotapes of interrogations carried out under the programme when the idea of an independent investigation of the programme was first broached. The destruction was clearly carried out in order to ensure that the evidence could not be used to prosecute those responsible.

The report’s complete demolition of the rationale for the torture programme raises an obvious question: if the CIA knew that it was not really getting information that would help prevent terrorist attacks, why did the programme continue until 2008? Why not cut the agency’s losses years earlier?

The answer to that question lies not in the normal human reasoning but in the fundamental logic of all bureaucratic organisations. By their nature, bureaucracies seek to expand and defend their power, prominence and resources, and the CIA is no exception.  The agency’s detention and torture programme is a perfect example of how national security institutions pursue their organisational interests at the expense of even the most obvious interests of the nation they are supposed to serve.

What created the opportunity for the programme, as CIA director George Tenet recalled later, was the fact that Pakistani counter-terrorism officials rounded up more than two dozen al-Qaeda operatives simultaneously in March 2002. This quickly led to the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking al-Qaeda operative at that time – although his actual status in the hierarchy was apparently not very high.

The prospect of extracting crucial intelligence from Zubaydah and other “high value detainees” prompted Tenet and his associates to begin developing the idea for a whole new programme that would go well beyond existing legal and ethical boundaries for interrogation. The CIA detention and interrogation programme, based on hitherto forbidden abuses of detainees, was born. The powerful appeal of such a programme to the CIA’s counter-terrorism officials lay in the huge enlargement of the CIA role in US national security policy. The currency by which senior CIA officials measure the agency’s bureaucratic power is what they referred to as their “authorities”  –  their freedom to undertake various activities.

By taking on a new role in detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects, the CIA clearly stood to make unprecedented gains in this kind of power. Tenet hints in his memoirs that: “We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as the CIA ever had.” The most important such “authority”, of course, was the legal assurance that what had previously been considered illegal and “torture” would now be redefined as something else.

What was arguably equally or even more important to senior CIA officials working on terrorism was the opportunity to occupy center stage in what appeared to be the most compelling drama of the post 9/11 era. CIA officials certainly imagined themselves as extracting “actionable intelligence” from high-level detainees with their tough new approach to interrogation and being given credit for preventing the new attacks that they were certain were being hatched.

It was such dreams of basking in the glory of being responsible for saving the country from future terrorist attacks that gave the CIA torture project such bureaucratic momentum.

What animates national security bureaucracies to push for major new programmes is the desperate need to be important – to be a major “player” in big issue of the era. James Risen recounts in his new book, Pay Any Price, how the CIA’s Directorate of Science swallowed a fraudulent claim by a shady contractor in 2003 that they had a digital technology that could decode al-Qaeda terrorism instructions embedded in Al-Jazeera broadcasts – all because the directorate was afraid it had lost its importance in the previous several years.

The same need prompted the CIA to sign a deal up two contract psychologists who pushed an equally fraudulent theory of interrogation they called “learned helplessness”, which held that the way to get prisoners to spill all their secrets is to break their will.

Just as the Directorate of Science was taken in because of its dreams of a new status, the CIA bought into the false interrogation theory because it played into the heroic fantasy of breaking the will of the evil-doers and stopping the terrorists from striking again. It may not be accidental that the notion that torture would work on the bad guys surfaced in the wake of the enormously popular TV series “24” in which Jack Bauer showed millions of Americans how it could be done  – albeit without the elaborate machinery of abuse that the CIA would create.

But the CIA’s efforts to extract actionable intelligence by breaking the will of the detainees turned out to be an unrealistic fantasy, as the senate committee report documents. The detainees, who had often been cooperative prior to the application of torture tactics, simply told the torturers what they wanted to hear, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had warned before refusing to be associated with the CIA tactics.

Senior CIA officials had pushed false information about how successful the programme had been from the very beginning, claiming credit for disruptions and captures that had nothing to do with the torture programme. Yet by 2005, it was evident to many in the CIA that the experiment had been a failure. CIA officials involved in the programme recognised that negative messages about the programme were beginning to seep out – so they had to become even more aggressive in lying about the programme.

The senate report quotes the deputy director of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center in a message to a colleague in 2005 as saying: “We either get out and sell it or we get hammered.” If Congress sees negative media coverage of the programme, he warned, “it cuts our authorities, messes up our budget….[T]here is no middle ground.”

So the programme didn’t end when it became clear that it didn’t work the way it was supposed to for the simple reason that the officials involved had too much to lose.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Brennan’s defense of CIA torture

By Barry Grey
December 13, 2014
World Socialist Web Site


CIACIA Director John Brennan’s televised press conference Thursday at the agency’s headquarters, an unprecedented event, marked a new threshold in the collapse of American democracy and the erection of a police state.

The very fact that it was left to the head of the spy agency rather than President Obama to issue the government’s rebuttal to this week’s devastating Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture makes clear who is really in control of the American state.

In statements riddled with lies, and with little attempt to conceal his contempt for democratic procedures and the law, Brennan defended the agency’s use of horrific forms of torture during the Bush administration as a legitimate and “patriotic” response to the 9/11 terror attacks. He recycled all of the official myths associated with the “war on terror” to imply that the CIA and the military/intelligence apparatus as a whole had to remain outside of any congressional or legal restraints.

While declaring nominal support for Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era program of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” he fiercely defended the administration’s expanded program of drone assassinations, saying “the US military has done some wonderful things with these platforms.”

He also suggested that “EITs” might have to be revived to deal with future security threats. In reply to a reporter’s question, he said, “I defer to the policy makers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.”

At one point in his potted narrative on the origins of the “war on terror” and the CIA torture program, he hailed as an example of the agency’s heroism paramilitary operations officer Mike Spann, the first US casualty in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The invocation of Spann summed up the criminality of the policies being defended by Brennan and the Obama administration and the link between imperialist war abroad and the destruction of democratic rights at home.

Spann was killed in the November, 2001 uprising of Taliban prisoners at the Qala-i-Jangi Fortress in Mazar-i-Sharif. He was the chief CIA interrogator of hundreds of captured Taliban who were held in barbaric conditions at the fortress.

Among those he questioned and abused was the American Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh, one of 86 survivors out of 800 prisoners who were victims of a massacre carried out by US-allied forces led by CIA and Special Forces troops.

Brennan painted a grotesquely false picture of an American public clamoring for the most brutal possible measures to defend them against new and imminent terror attacks. “Our government and our citizens recognized the urgency of the task,” he declared. Why then, despite the shock and disorientation produced by the 9/11 attacks and the relentless fear-mongering of the government and media, did the Bush administration and the CIA feel obliged to keep their torture program secret?

Among his other lies was his denial that the CIA misled Congress and the American people about its interrogation program. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s unclassified executive summary, however, concludes with a 37-page appendix devoted entirely to listing the lies told to it by then-CIA Director Michael Hayden at an April 12, 2007 hearing.

Brennan said, with a straight face, that the CIA had fully supported and cooperated closely with the Senate Committee’s investigation. In fact, he and Obama obstructed the investigation, withholding thousands of documents, and then held up the report for two years after its December 2012 completion. Brennan then had the CIA hack into the computers of Committee staffers working on the final version of the document, a brazen violation of congressional oversight and the US Constitution.

Demanding “collaborative and constructive” congressional oversight, as opposed to what he called the partisan and “flawed” report issued on Tuesday, he pointed to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s whitewash of the CIA’s lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a model of such collaboration.

He went on to characterize abuses in the interrogation program as aberrations carried out by a few bad apples who went beyond the bounds laid down by the Bush administration. The “overwhelming majority” of CIA interrogators, he insisted, acted properly. “I look back at the record,” he said, “and I see that this was a workforce that was trying to do the right thing.”

He rejected the Senate Committee’s conclusion that torture did not produce useful intelligence and declared that the interrogation program “saved lives.”

He then echoed the position of the White House in demanding that there be no prosecutions of high-ranking state officials who ordered and oversaw the torture program, such as President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, and others. In this, Brennan has a direct interest, since he was deputy executive director of the CIA at the time the program was being carried out.

He demanded that “this debate” on torture be “put aside” in order to focus on “issues that are relevant to our current national security challenges.”

Showing his contempt for the public’s right to know, Brennan refused to answer a reporter who asked him directly if he supported the release of the Senate report, quipping, “I think there’s more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple of days. I think it’s over the top.”

Brennan and others who have come forward publicly to denounce the Senate report and defend the CIA torture program, such as Bush, Cheney and a host of former CIA officials, have been emboldened by the Obama administration’s repeated declarations of confidence in Brennan and opposition to launching criminal investigations in the light of the crimes exposed by the Intelligence Committee—and even more so by the impotence and cowardice of the liberal critics of the torture program.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairman of the Committee, was reduced to carping at Brennan’s statements via Twitter, after which she issued a groveling statement praising Brennan for showing “that CIA leadership is prepared to prevent this from ever happening again—which is all important.”

In fact, the establishment critics of the CIA all accept the basic framework of the “war on terror,” which provides the political and ideological justification for militarism abroad and the militarization of American society at home.

The New York Times summed up the craven position of the so-called liberal establishment in an editorial titled “Dark Again After Report on CIA Torture.” Praising Feinstein and the Intelligence Committee Democrats for bucking pressure from the CIA and Obama and releasing their report, the newspaper wrote: “Sadly, that is pretty much it on the disclosure front. In post-9/11 America, when it comes to momentous matters of national security, democratic tradition and the rule of law, there is precious little disclosure and no justice and accountability. It’s a bipartisan affliction.”

Of Brennan’s press conference, the Times wrote: “Mr. Brennan’s lack of interest in further discussion was fairly clear… Unhappily, he’s likely to get his wish.”

Indeed, after Brennan laid down the law on Thursday, the mass media all but dropped the entire subject of CIA torture. It virtually disappeared from the front pages of newspapers and the television news.

The working class, however, cannot allow the criminal perpetrators of torture to go unpunished. It is not only a matter of crimes committed overseas. If the argument that “torture works” is allowed to go unanswered, then what remains of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” within the United States?

The criminal conspiracy partially documented by the Senate report is directed at the American working class as much or more than at the victims of US imperialism internationally. It cannot be halted by appeals to any of the institutions of a state that is run by criminals. It can be stopped only by a mass, independent and revolutionary political movement of the working class.



The Senate CIA Torture Report. Dick Cheney: “The Report is Full of Crap”. Highlights, Executive Summary

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
December 13, 2014
Global Research, December 12, 2014


cia_tortureThe US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released its report on the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program” . The complete document consists of a 6000 page report, which remains classified.

The committee has released a 525-page unclassified summary version for public distribution as well as the executive summary of the full 6000 page report. 

We bring to the  attention of our readers the 525 page version (pdf download)  as well as the executive summary of the Select Committee on Intelligence 6000 page report. 

Below are screen shots of the title page, the Table of Contents and a sample of a “heavily redacted” page.

Scroll down for an interview with Dick Cheney, who says the “Report is Full of Crap.” But he also says almost verbatim: “We Did it”.  

He accepts responsibility for the torture program on behalf of George W. Bush.

His statements can be used against him in a court of law.  He invokes 9/11.

we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that are designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and to make sure it didn’t happen again.”  

We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.


BAIER: The end?

You have a lot of critics, some of them say that you should be behind bars.

Colonel Wilkerson who worked for Secretary Powell, said we all have to wear the taint Richard Bruce Cheney brought down on us with his full- throated endorsement of inhuman and evil methods of causing pain, humiliation and harm to other human beings. It’s wrong that there’s no consequences for those who perpetrated it and it’s wrong that Cheney isn’t languishing in a privatized prison somewhere.

CHENEY But remember, the terrorists were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment you would accord to those. Nonetheless, the people we captured, especially the folks that went down to Guantanamo have been treated very well.

9/11 is Cheney’s blanket  justification for extensive crimes against humanity.  

Amply documented, a large number of the detainees were innocent civilians.  

In this interview Cheney provides statements which confirm the criminal nature of the Bush-Cheney administration.  

“The report is full of crap.”

“I have no sympathy for them [the detainees].”

“How nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3,000 Americans on 9/11?”

“I’d do it again in a minute.”

The CIA did “a hell of a job and they deserve our gratitude.”

The end “absolutely” justified the means.

We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.

Mr. Cheney, Please tell us Who was behind 9/11?  

Miranda Warning to Dick Cheney: “Anything you say [on Fox News] can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Michel Chossudovsky, December 12, 2014

*     *     *

Below are selected highlights  

To consult the full 525 page report 



FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER 6:00 PM EST, December 10, 2014 Wednesday

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANCHOR: This is a Fox News Alert. I’m Bret Baier in Washington.

Joining us now, live to discuss this report is former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, thanks for being here.


BAIER: First of all, your overall impression to this report, what’s in it and its release?

CHENEY: Well, I think it’s a terrible piece of work, basically, it seems to me it’s deeply flawed. They didn’t bother to interview key people involved in the program. And I think that it’s sort of a classic example which you see too often in Washington where a group of politicians get together and sort of throw the professionals under the bus. We have seen it happen before, I can remember, in Iran contra.

What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that are designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and to make sure it didn’t happen again. And that’s exactly what they did and they deserve a lot of credit, not the kind of condemnation that they’re receiving from the Senate Democrats.

BAIER: The Feinstein Report suggests that President Bush was not fully briefed on the program and was deliberately kept in the dark by the CIA.

CHENEY: Not true – didn’t happen. Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program. He had to approve it before we went forward with it.

Full video interview on Fox News

BAIER: Was there ever a point when you believe you knew more about the program and how the U.S. government was interrogating than the President did?

CHENEY: I’m not quite sure how to answer that. I mean there were lots of things I read while he was doing other things. He had a much broader portfolio than I did and I spent a lot of my time just on national security. But I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program. There’s no question –

BAIER: What he needed to know — I mean did he know the details? 

CHENEY: I think he knew certainly the techniques that we did discuss the techniques. There’s nothing — there was no effort on our part to keep him from that. He was just as with the terrorist surveillance program. On the terrorist surveillance program, he had to personally sign off on that every 30 to 45 days. So the notion that the committee’s trying to peddle it, somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told is just a flat-out lie.

BAIER: I mean the reports suggest it was four years before he –

CHENEY: It’s not true.

BAIER: 2006.

CHENEY: Read his book. He talks about first with respect to the detention program and then with respect to the enhanced interrogation program. It started in the summer of ’02 and he was fully informed.

BAIER: “New York Times writes it this way about the report. “When told about one detainee being chained to the ceiling of his cell, clothed in a diaper and forced to urinate and defecate on himself, even a president known for his dead or alive swagger expressed discomfort — true?

CHENEY: I don’t have any idea. I have never heard of such a thing.

Bret – I guess partly what really bugs me as I watch all this process unfold is the men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program. We said we have got to go use enhanced techniques if we’re going to find out. We’ve got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was the mastermind of 9/11, who has killed 3,000 Americans, taken down the World Trade Center, hit the Pentagon, would have taken out the White House or the Capitol Building if in fact it hadn’t been on for the passengers on United 93.

He is in our possession. We know he’s the architect. What are we supposed to do kiss him on both cheeks and please, please tell us what you know? Of course not. We did exactly what needed to be done in order to catch those who were guilty on 9/11 and to prevent a further attack and we were successful on both parts and I think if I –

BAIER: This report says it was not successful.

CHENEY: The report’s full of crap — excuse. I said hooey yesterday and let me use the real word.

BAIER: You’re on cable.

CHENEY: It’s ok, you can bleep it.

BAIER: You’re saying that this led to actionable intelligence?

CHENEY: Absolutely. Look at the statement by the former directors and deputy directors of the CIA issued just within the last 24 hours. It did in fact produce actionable intelligence that was vital in the success of keeping the country safe from further attacks.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, some of the tactics though described in this report are horrifying. I mean is there anything that U.S. officials/interrogators are alleged to have done that you would consider torture?

CHENEY: I don’t know all the allegations that are out there, torture was something we very carefully avoided. One of the reasons we went to the Justice Department on the program was because we wanted them to tell us, where’s the line legally between what’s acceptable and what isn’t? And they did, that’s what came forth in the legal opinion that we got before proceeding with the program, Bret.

This is in terms of there being some problems in the program — there may well have been. But I don’t think they represented — the Senate report represents the truth of what actually happened. They put together a report without ever talking to anybody who was involved in the program.

BAIER: But at one point this report describes interrogators pureeing food of one detainee and inserting it into his anus — something agency called “rectal rehydration”. I mean is that torture?

CHENEY: I don’t know anything about that specific instance. I can’t speak to that. I guess the question is what are you prepared to do in order to get the truth about future attacks against the United States? Now, that was not one of the authorized or approved techniques, there were 12 of them, as I recall. They were all techniques that we used in training on our own people — even waterboarding.

People have been very concerned about waterboarding, calling it torture. First of all it was not deemed torture by the lawyers, and secondly it worked. And in fact that prevented — provided us the information we needed to prevent future attacks.

BAIER: How intimately involved were you involved in the legal process of setting up that justification? In other words, the frame for torture was narrowed in these legal decisions, a memo in August 2002 that essentially reframed Geneva rules on torture, and said the President had a lot more authority? You were intimately involved.

CHENEY: Strongly supportive of the program, strongly supportive of the opinions coming out of the Justice Department. The work that was done was, I think absolutely essential, absolutely crucial. And I guess the thing that always struck me was how careful the agency was in coming forward and saying yes, we can do the following but we need authorization. We need a legal opinion out of the Justice Departmentabout what’s copacetic, what’s legitimate. And we need the approval of the President of the United States and the National Security Council. And they got both and they did a hell of a job.

BAIER: But you rewrote the justification –

CHENEY: I didn’t rewrite the justification, the lawyers wrote it in the office of legal counsel and the Justice Department.

BAIER: You had an intimate role in –

CHENEY: I am strongly supportive of the program. I didn’t read the opinion and say you’ve got to change this and change that, but my job as vice president who was actively involved in the national security area was to push to get programs like this in place which in fact the CIA said they could produce better results if they had more authority. We got them that authority.

BAIER: You had one detainee, Gul Rahman, who died in captivity in November 2002.

CHENEY: 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did. And I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details, I’m sure there were instances cited in the report, I haven’t read the report. But I know for a fact –

BAIER: Now wait — you haven’t read it?

CHENEY: 6,000 pages — no, not yet.

BAIER: No, but how about 500 –

CHENEY: I’ve seen part of it — I read summaries of it.

I keep coming back again to the basic fundamental proposition — Bret. How nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3,000 Americans on 9/11?

BAIER: So what do you say to the people who say Americas is better than these methods? That John McCain takes to the Senate floor yesterday and gives a pretty impassioned speech.

CHENEY: I saw it –

BAIER: Take a listen to a piece of it and then I’ll have your react to it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear, were neither in the best interests of justice, nor our security, nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend. We are always Americans — and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.


BAIER: Your reaction to that, sir.

CHENEY: My reaction to that John is that John and I had a fundamental disagreement about the program. I think that what needed to be done was done. I think we were perfectly justified in doing it and I’d do it again in a minute.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, if you’ll stick around past the break –

CHENEY: I will.

BAIER: — a few more questions.

If you have a question for Vice President Cheney let me know at facebook.com/BretBaierSR or on Twitter @BretBaier, you can use the hashtag “SpecialReport”. We’ll use some of them in this next segment — so type fast.

More with Vice President Cheney after a quick break.

BAIER: We are back with former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, defenders of the program and of you say people forget the prism in which you were dealing with post 9/11. Days after that attack you told the late Tim Russert this.


CHENEY: We also have to work sort of the dark side if you will, we have got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. It’s going to be vital for us to use any means that are disposable — at our disposal basically to achieve our objective.


BAIER: So Mr. Vice president we have been attacked, I mean there’s Boston and Fort Hood and other attempts but not a spectacular attack –

CHENEY: Not a mass casualty like 9/11.

BAIER: — since 9/11.

CHENEY: Right.

BAIER: So did the ends justify the means?

CHENEY: Absolutely.

BAIER: No doubt in your mind?

CHENEY: I have no doubt in my mind. I’m totally comfortable with it.

Bret, I think you’ve got to remember partly what was going on as well too during that period of time. We had reporting that al Qaeda was trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons; that they had been dealing with Pakistanis who after all have nuclear weapons. We had the anthrax attacks that went on here at home. There was every reason to expect there was going to be a follow-on attack.

And from our perspective, if you were sitting in my chair, the President’s chair, our job was to keep the country safe and secure and go get those guys who hit us on 9/11. That’s exactly what we did. We did what we felt was necessary. The professionals in the intelligence community especially at the CIA did one hell of a job and they deserve our gratitude.

BAIER: You’ve been supportive of the Obama administration’s use of drone — one of the few things you’re supportive of the Obama administration on –

CHENEY: That’s a fair statement.

BAIER: — to take out terrorists. Do you find it disingenuous — their indignation about these techniques while they’re not interrogating many terrorists at all, they’re killing them in these strikes?

CHENEY: Well, if — we started the drone program and I think under certain circumstances, depending on the target and so forth, it’s the right thing to do. The thing that’s worrisome is they are not capturing anybody. They don’t have an interrogation program.

If they got to Zawahiri tomorrow, the current head of al Qaeda, what would they do with him? I’m perfectly happy to see him dead but he’s a very valuable source of information and intelligence. I think we need first class intelligence programs. I think that’s what we have with respect to enhanced interrogation program with the approval of the President and the National Security Council and the lawyers in the Justice Department. It’s the right thing to do.

BAIER: Sheryl Shelly writes on Facebook, “Had the tactics not been used, what would have happened? What events were prevented?”

CHENEY: Well, I think if you look at the example cited by the former directors, there was a perspective attack on the West Coast on the tallest building on the West Coast, with a hijacked aircraft that was thwarted by this. There are a number of examples that have been laid out over the years.

BAIER: I mean the President talked about it in 2006. Were there others beyond that?

CHENEY: Yes. Look specifically at the statement that was released today by the former directors — Mike Hayden, George Tenet, Porter Goss — where they lay out specifically those things that in their minds, and I think they’re the experts were prevented by virtue of these techniques.

BAIER: Senator Udall took to the floor today saying a Panetta review says that is in your words hooey. He says that there’s just not direct linkage.

CHENEY: Well, I don’t know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn’t in the bunker.

BAIER: The end?

You have a lot of critics, some of them say that you should be behind bars.

Colonel Wilkerson who worked for Secretary Powell, said we all have to wear the taint Richard Bruce Cheney brought down on us with his full- throated endorsement of inhuman and evil methods of causing pain, humiliation and harm to other human beings. It’s wrong that there’s no consequences for those who perpetrated it and it’s wrong that Cheney isn’t languishing in a privatized prison somewhere.

CHENEY: I guess you would have to call him not a fan.

BAIER: Not a fan.

CHENEY: Not a fan.

BAIER: Is there anything to the Geneva Convention, to the world rule of law on this?

CHENEY: Sure there is. But remember, the terrorists were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment you would accord to those. Nonetheless, the people we captured, especially the folks that went down to Guantanamo have been treated very well.

The high-value detainees of al Qaeda after we finished with the interrogation program — all were transferred to al Qaeda, where many of them are today being treated very reasonably. We did what we needed to do to keep this country safe. That was our job and we did it. And I think the agency deserves a lot of credit for it.

BAIER: Last thing — do you think Jeb Bush is going to run?

CHENEY: I don’t know.

BAIER: Do you have a favorite?

CHENEY: I have not signed on to anybody at this point. I don’t want to start naming people or I’ll leave somebody out. But I think it’s going to be a great campaign year and I think we’re going to win.

BAIER: Mr. Vice President, thanks for the time.

CHENEY: It’s good to be here — Bret.

Highlights of the Report

The 6,000-page report produced 20 key findings. They are, verbatim from the unclassified summary report compiled by Wikipedia

  1. The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
  2. The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
  3. The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
  4. The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
  5. The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
  6. The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
  7. The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
  8. The CIA’s operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
  9. The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General.
  10. The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
  11. The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
  12. The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
  13. Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
  14. CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
  15. The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
  16. The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
  17. The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious or significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systematic and individual management failures.
  18. The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.
  19. The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
  20. The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.




To consult the full report 


Torture and the Violence of Organized Forgetting

A Form of Moral Paralysis

By Henry Giroux
December 12, 2014
Counter Punch


With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, it becomes clear that in the aftermath of the loathsome terrorist attack of 9/11, the United States entered into a new and barbarous stage in its history, one in which acts of violence and moral depravity were not only embraced but celebrated. Certainly, this is not to suggest that the United States had not engaged in criminal and lawless acts historically or committed acts of brutality that would rightly be labeled acts of torture. That much about our history is clear and includes not only the support and participation in acts of indiscriminate violence and torture practiced through and with the right-wing Latin American dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil in the 1970s but also through the wilful murder and torture of civilians in Vietnam, Iraq, and later at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan. The United States is no stranger to torture nor is it a free of complicity in aiding other countries notorious for their abuses of human rights. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman reminded us by taking us as far back as 1979 that of the “35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United States.”[1]

In fact, the United States has a long record of inflicting torture on others, both at home and abroad, although it has never admitted to such acts. Instead, the official response has been to deny this history or do everything to hide such monstrous acts from public view through government censorship, appealing to the state secrecy principle, or deploying a language that buried narratives of extraordinary cruelty in harmless sounding euphemisms. For example, the benign sounding CIA “Phoenix Program” in South Vietnam resulted in the deaths of over 21,000 Vietnamese. As Carl Boggs argues, the acts of U.S. barbarism in Vietnam appeared both unrestrained and never ending, with routinized brutality such as throwing people out of planes labeled as “flying lessons” or “half a helicopter ride,”[2] while tying a field telephone wire around a man’s testicles and ringing it up was a practice called “the Bell Telephone Hour.”[3] Officially sanctioned torture was never discussed as a legitimate concern; but, as indicated by a few well-documented accounts, it seems to be as American as apple pie.[4]

But torture for the United States is not merely a foreign export, it is also part of a long history of domestic terrorism as was evident in the attempts on the part of the FBI, working under a secret program called COINTELPRO, designed to assassinate those considered domestic and foreign enemies.[5] COINTELPRO was about more than spying, it was a legally sanctioned machinery of violence and assassination.[6] In one of the most notorious cases, the FBI worked with the Chicago Police to set up the conditions for the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther Party. Noam Chomsky has called COINTELPRO, which went on from the 50s to the 70s, when it was stopped, “the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government,” and “compares with Wilson’s Red Scare.”[7] What characterized these programs of foreign and domestic terrorism was that they were all shrouded in secrecy and allegedly were conducted in the name of democratic rights.

Torture also has a longstanding presence domestically, particularly as part of the brutalized practices that have shaped American chattel slavery through to its most recent “peculiar institution,” the rapidly expanding prison-industrial complex.[8] The racial disparities in American prisons and criminal justice system register the profound injustice of racial discrimination as well as a sordid expression of racist violence. As the novelist Ishmael Reed contends, this is a prison system “that is rotten to the core … where torture and rape are regular occurrences and where in some states the conditions are worse than at Gitmo. California prison hospitals are so bad that they have been declared unconstitutional and a form of torture.”[9] One of the more recently publicized cases of prison torture involved the arrest of a former Chicago police commander, Jon Burge. He was charged with routinely torturing as many as 200 inmates, mostly African Americans, during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, “in order to force them to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit.”[10] One report claims that many of these men were beaten with telephone books and that “cattle prods were used to administer electric shocks to victims’ genitals. They were suffocated, beaten and burned, and had guns forced into their mouths. They faced mock executions with shotguns. … One tactic used was known as ‘the Vietnam treatment,’ presumably started by Burge, a Vietnam veteran.”[11] The filmmaker Deborah Davis has documented a number of incidents in the 1990s that amount to the unequivocal torture of prisoners and has argued that many of the sadistic practices she witnessed taking place in the American prison system were simply exported to Abu Ghraib.

After 9/11, the United States slipped into a moral coma as President Bush and Vice President Cheney worked tirelessly to ensure that the United States would not be constrained by international prohibitions against cruel and inhumane treatment, and they furthered that project not only by making torture, as Mark Danner argues, “a marker of political commitment” but also by constructing a vast secret and illegal apparatus of violence in which, under the cover of national security, alleged “terrorists” could be kidnapped, made to disappear into secret CIA “black sites,” become ghost detainees removed from any vestige of legality, or be secretly abducted and sent to other countries to be tortured. As Jane Mayer puts it,

the lawyers also authorized other previously illegal practices, including the secret capture and indefinite detention of suspects without charges. Simply by designating the suspects “enemy combatants,” the President could suspend the ancient writ of habeas corpus that guarantees a person the right to challenge his imprisonment in front of a fair and independent authority. Once in U.S. custody, the President’s lawyers said, these suspects could be held incommunicado, hidden from their families and international monitors such as the Red Cross, and subjected to unending abuse, so long as it didn’t meet the lawyer’s own definition of torture. And they could be held for the duration of the war against terrorism, a struggle in which victory had never been clearly defined. [12]

The maiming and breaking of bodies and the forms of unimaginable pain inflicted by the Bush administration on so-called “enemy combatants” was no longer seen in violation of either international human rights or a constitutional commitment to democratic ideals. The war on terror had now reduced governance in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant to combat. In the aftermath of 9/11, under the leadership of Bush and his close neoconservative band of merry criminal advisors, justice took a leave of absence and the “gloves came off.”   As Mark Danner states, “the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practised it.”[13] But it did more. Under the Bush-Cheney reign of power, torture was embraced in unprecedented ways through a no holds-barred approach to the war on terror that suggested the administration’s need to exhibit a kind of ethical and psychic hardening-a hyper-masculine, emotional callousness that expressed itself in a warped militaristic mind-set fueled by a high testosterone quotient. State secrecy and war crimes now became the only tributes now paid to democracy.

As Frank Rich once argued and the Senate Intelligence report confirms, “[T]orture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels … psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and … in the assessment of reliable sources like the FBI director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.”[14] When the torture memos of 2002 and 2005 were eventually made public by the Obama administration, clearly implicating the Bush-Cheney regime in torture, they revealed that the United States had been turned into a globalized torture state.[15] Conservative columnist, Andrew Sullivan, went so far as to claim that “If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos.”[16] The memos, written by government lawyers John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, and Jay Bybee, allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture Al Qaeda detainees held at Guantánamo and other secret detention centers around the world. They also offered detailed instructions on how to implement ten techniques prohibited in the Army Field Manual, including facial slaps, “use of a plastic neck collar to slam suspects into a specially-built wall,”[17] sleep deprivation, cramped confinement in small boxes, use of insects in confined boxes, stress positions, and waterboarding. All of this and more are now documented in the Senate report. In fact, the report claims that current disclosures about the practice of torture used by the CIA were more brutal and less effective than previously reported.

Waterboarding, which has been condemned by democracies all over the world, consists of the individual being “bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner [and] produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic.’”[18] The highly detailed, amoral nature in which these abuses were first defined and endorsed by lawyers from the Office of Legal Council was not only chilling but also reminiscent of the harsh and ethically deprived instrumentalism used by those technicians of death in criminal states such as Nazi Germany. Andy Worthington suggests that there is more than a hint of brutalization and dehumanization in the language used by the OLC’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Steven G. Bradbury, who wrote a detailed memo recommending:

“nudity, dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation”—now revealed explicitly as not just keeping a prisoner awake, but hanging him, naked except for a diaper, by a chain attached to shackles around his wrists—[as,] essentially, techniques that produce insignificant and transient discomfort. We are, for example, breezily told that caloric intake “will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day,” and are encouraged to compare this enforced starvation with “several commercial weight-loss programs in the United States which involve similar or even greater reductions in calorific intake” … and when it comes to waterboarding, Bradbury clinically confirms that it can be used 12 times a day over five days in a period of a month—a total of 60 times for a technique that is so horrible that one application is supposed to have even the most hardened terrorist literally gagging to tell all.[19]

The New York Times claimed in an editorial “that to read the…four memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.”[20] The editorial was particularly incensed over a passage written by Jay Bybee, who was an Assistant Attorney General in the Bush administration at the time. As the Times then pointed out, Bybee “wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.”[21] Bybee’s memo is particularly disturbing, even repugnant, in its disregard for human rights, human dignity, and democratic values, not only describing how the mechanics of waterboarding should be implemented but also providing detailed analysis for introducing insects into confined boxes that held suspected terrorist prisoners. In light of mounting criticism, Bybee both defended his support of such severe interrogation tactics and further argued that “the americas-ed-deficit-300x449memorandums represented ‘a good faith analysis of the law’ that properly defined the thin line between harsh treatment and torture.”[22] Indeed, it seems that Bybee should have looked carefully at the following judgment pronounced by the American court in Nuremberg to the lawyers and jurists who rewrote the law for the Nazi regime: “You destroyed law and justice in Germany utilizing the empty forms of the legal process.”[23] As brutal as the revelations revealed in the memos proved to be, the Senate report on torture goes even further documenting the millions of dollars spent on black sites, the amateurish qualifications of people to even conduct interrogations, the complicity of unqualified psychologists who milked the government for $81 million to develop torture techniques, and the endless lies produced by both the CIA and the Bush-Cheney administration regarding everything from the use of secret prisons established all over the world to the false claims that the use of torture was responsible for providing information that led to the finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden by members of the NAVY SEALs.[24] The report also stated that far more people were waterboarded than was first disclosed and that the sessions amounted to extreme acts of cruelty. Some members of the CIA choked up over the cruel nature of the interrogations and send memos to Langley calling their legality into question, but were told by higher officials to continue with the practice. In fact, the interrogations were considered so inhumane and cruel by some CIA officers that they threatened to transfer to other departments if the brutal interrogations continued.

The United States was condemned all over the world for its support of torture and that condemnation, hopefully, will take place once again in light of the report. Fortunately, President Obama when he came to office outlawed the most egregious acts practiced by the professional torturers of the Bush-Cheney regime. Yet undercurrents of authoritarianism die hard in the circles of unaccountable power. The Senate report makes clear that the CIA engaged in lies, distortions, and horrendous violations of human rights, including waterboarding and other sordid practices. The report also reveals that the CIA used monstrous methods such as forced rectal feeding, dragging hooded detainees “up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched” and threatening to kill or rape family members of the prisoners.

In spite of the appalling evidence presented by the report, members s of the old Bush crowd, including former Vice-President Cheney, former CIA directors, George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, and an endless number of prominent Republican Party politicians are still defending their use of torture or, as they euphemistically contend, “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The psychopathic undercurrent and the authoritarian impulse of such reactions finds its most instructive expression in former Bush communications chief Nicolle Wallace who while appearing on the “Morning Joe” show screeched in response to the revelations of the Senate Intelligence report “I don’t care what we did.” As Elias Isquith, a writer for Salon, contends, as “grotesque as that was, though, the really scary part was [the implication that] waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual assault is part of what makes ‘America ‘great.’”[25] Wallace’s comments are more than morally repugnant. Wallace embodies the stance of so many other war criminals who were either indifferent to the massive suffering and deaths they caused or actually took pride in their actions. They are the bureaucrats whose thoughtlessness and moral depravity Hannah Arendt identified as the rear guard of totalitarianism.

Illegal legalities, moral depravity, and mad violence are now wrapped in the vocabulary of Orwellian doublethink. For instance, the rhetorical gymnastics used by the torture squad are designed to make the American public believe that if you refer to torture by some seemingly innocuous name then the pain and suffering it causes will suddenly disappear. The latter represents not just the discourse of magical thinking but a refusal to recognize that “If cruelty is the worst thing that humans do to each other, torture [is] the most extreme expression of human cruelty.”[26] These apostles of torture are politicians who thrive in some sick zone of political and social abandonment, and who unapologetically further acts of barbarism, fear, willful lies, and moral depravity. They are the new totalitarians who hate democracy, embrace a punishing state, and believe that politics is mostly an extension of war. They are the thoughtless gangsters reminiscent of the monsters who made fascism possible at another time in history. For them, torture is an instrument of fear; one sordid strategy and element in a war on terror that attempts to expand governmental power and put into play a vast (il)legal and repressive apparatus that expands the field of violence and the technologies, knowledge, and institutions central to fighting the all-encompassing war on terror. Americans now live under a government in which the doctrine of permanent warfare is legitimated through a state of emergency deeply rooted in a mass psychology of violence and culture of cruelty that are essential to transforming a government of laws into a regime of lawlessness.

Once the authoritarian side of political governance takes hold, it is hard to eradicate. Power is addictive, especially when it is reckless and offers personal rewards from those who have capital, benefit from human misery, and are more than willing to reward politicians who follow the corporate script. Witness the support by a number of Republicans who still support the practice of torture and deny the legitimacy of the Senate report. Ignoring that torture is an element of power that is built on what can be rightly termed a willed amorality, they attack the Senate report not for its content but because they believe its release will anger the alleged enemies of the United States, as if that hasn’t already been done through a range of savage military practices or diplomatic acts. Or they argue that the Senate report is simply an attempt to embarrass the Bush-Cheney administration.
Civility has not been the strong point of a party that is overtly racist, hates immigrants, shuts down the government, and caters to every whim of the financial elite. Moreover, we don’t alienate our enemies, we create them by threatening to bomb them, encircle them with nuclear weapons, demonizing Muslims, torturing them, and killing them through indiscriminate drone strikes that mostly kill civilians. Principles are not being defended in these arguments only the kind of raw, naked power that has come to mark authoritarian regimes. It gets worse. The defenders of the globalized torture state are not simply confused or morally damaged; they are wedded to a finance state and the corporate machinery of social, cultural, and political violence that will provide them with lucrative jobs once they finish the bidding of defense contractors and other elements of the finance and warfare state.

To his credit, Arizona Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, broke with the moral dinosaurs in his party and in defending the release of the Senate report, insisted that the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush-Cheney years “stained our national honor, did much harm, and little practical good.” Most of his colleagues disagree and are now arguing that in spite of the evidence, torture produced actionable intelligence and helped to save lives, a claim the Senate report strongly negates. Once again, empirical utility trumps the levers of justice and the principles of human rights as moral considerations give way to a kind of ghastly death-embracing dance with a debased instrumental rationality.

Not only has the United States lost its moral compass, it has degenerated into a state of political darkness reminiscent of older dictatorships that maimed human bodies and inflicted unspeakable acts of violence on the innocent, while embracing a mad war-like utility and pragmatism in order to remove themselves from any sense of justice, compassion, and reason. This is the formative culture not simply of a society that is ethically lost, but one that produces a society that willingly becomes complicitous with the savage ethos and beliefs of an updated totalitarianism. The Senate report has brought one of the darkest sides of humanity to light and it has sparked a predictable outrage and public condemnation. Thus far, little has been said about either the conditions that made this journey into the dark side possible, or what moral, political, and educational absences had to occur in the collective psyche of both the American public and government that not only sanctioned torture but allowed it to happen? What made it so easy for the barbarians not only to implement acts of torture but to openly defend such practices as a sanctioned government policy?

With the release of the report, the supine American press finally has to acknowledge that the U.S. had joined with other totalitarian countries of the past in committing atrocities completely alien to any functioning democracy. America is no longer even a weak democracy. The lie is now more visible than ever. Nonetheless, the usual crowd of politicians, pundits, and mainstream media not only have little to say about the history of torture committed by the United States at home and abroad, but also about their own silence, if not complicity, in this dark side of American history. The possibility of a politically and morally charged critique has turned into a cowardly and evasive debate around questions such as: Does torture produce terrorist acts from taking place? Is waterboarding really an act of torture? Is torture justified in the face of extremist attacks on the United States? Is the CIA being scapegoated for actions promoted by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld crowd? And so it goes. These are the wrong questions and reveal the toxic complicity the mainstream press has had all along with such anti-democratic practices. War crimes should not be debated; they should be condemned without qualification.

In an incredible act of bad faith, those responsible for state sanctioned acts of torture are now interviewed by the mainstream media and presented, if not portrayed, as reasonable men with honorable intentions. Rather than being condemned as agents of a totalitarian state and as war criminals who should be prosecuted, those who both gave the orders to torture and those who carried out such inhuman practices are treated as one side of a debate team, anxious to get the real story out in order to provide the other side of the narrative. There is more than a hint of moral depravity here; there is also what I have called elsewhere the violence of organized forgetting. Torture is not about the cowardly appeal to balance. The only reasonable approach any democracy can take towards torture is to condemn it.

For a society to treat torture as a reasonable practice worthy of informed debate reveals a cancer deeply embedded in the American social and political psyche, partly produced by the carcinogenic culture of the mainstream media, the spectacle of violence, and unchecked militarism of American society, and those commanding cultural apparatuses that believe that the only value that matters is rooted in acts of commerce and the accumulation of capital at any cost. Ideas matter, education matters, morality matters, and justice matters in a democracy. People who hold power in America should be held accountable for what the actions they take, especially when they violate all decent standards of human rights.

Maybe it is time to treat the Senate torture report as just one register of a series of crimes being committed under the regime of a savage neoliberalism. After all, an economic policy that views ethics as a liability, disdains the public good, and enshrines self-interest as the highest of virtues provides a petri dish not just for state sanctioned torture abroad but also for a range of lawless and cruel policies at home. Maybe it’s time to connect the dots between the government’s use of waterboarding and a history that includes the killing of Black Panther, Bobby Hampton by the Chicago police, the illegal existence of COINTELPRO, the savage brutality of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the rise of the post-Orwellian surveillance state, the militarization of the local police, the transformation of underserved American cities into war zones, the creation of Obama’s kill list, the use of drones that indiscriminately execute people, and the recent killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of militarized police force that now acts with impunity.[27]

Is it not reasonable to argue that the lawlessness that creates the torture state and provides immunity for killer cops also provides protection for those in the government and CIA who put into play the tentacles of the globalized torture state? Is it too far-fetched to argue that Eric Garner’s utterance, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” is a reminder of the many foreign nationals under the control of the torture state who might have uttered the same words as they were being tortured? Connect these dots and there is more at play here than retreat into a facile high moralism that condemns torture as a “stain on our values.” Instead, what becomes evident is that torture has become symptomatic of something much larger than an errant plunge into immorality and lawlessness and begins to reveal a more systemic rush into what Robert Jay Lifton has described as “a death-saturated age”[28] in which matters of violence, survival, and trauma inescapably bear down on daily experience while pushing the United States into the dark recesses of a new authoritarianism. The Senate report reveals only one moment in an endless upsurge of lawlessness that has come to characterize the United States’ long, slow plunge into totalitarianism. Americans now inhabit a society where the delete button holds sway and the ethical imagination withers. And what are being erased are not only any vestige of a sense of commitment, but public and historical memory and the foundations of any viable notion of justice, equality, and accountability. That is the story that needs to be told.

There is another story to be told about another kind of torture, one that is more capacious and seemingly more abstract but just as deadly in its destruction of human life, justice, and democracy. This is a mode of torture that resembles the “mind virus” mentioned in the Senate report, one that induces fear, paralysis, and produces the toxic formative culture that characterizes the reign of neoliberalism.   Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of instrumental rationality have created a new kind of social formation and social order in which it becomes difficult to form communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. Neoliberalism has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are viewed as entertainment or deserving of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes a matter of expediency, and militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships.

Under the reign of neoliberalism, politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological metrics of political zombies. The key word here is atomization and it is the curse of both neoliberal societies and democracy itself. A radical democracy demands a notion of educated hope capable of energizing a generation of young people and others who connect the torture state to the violence and criminality of an economic system that celebrates its own depravities. It demands a social movement unwilling to abide by technological fixes or cheap reforms. It demands a new politics for which the word revolution means going to the root of the problem and addressing it non-violently with dignity, civic courage, and the refusal to accept a future that mimics the present. Torture is not just a matter of policy, it is a deadening mindset, a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis, a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence, and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.


[1] Cited in Edward S. Herman, “Folks Out There Have a ‘Distaste of Western Civilization and Cultural Values’,” Center for Research on Globalization (September 15, 2001). Online at: ,http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HER109A.html

[2]. Carl Boggs supplies an excellent commentary on the historical amnesia in the U.S. media surrounding the legacy of torture promoted by the United States. See Carl Boggs, “Torture: An American Legacy,” CounterPunch.org (June 17, 2009). Online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/boggs06172009.html.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. There are many valuable sources that document this history. Some exemplary texts include: A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979); Gordon Thomas, Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse (New York: Bantam, 1989); Danner, Torture and Truth; Jennifer K. Harbury, Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture (Boston: Beacon Press, 2005); Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006); and Rejali, Torture and Democracy. See also Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (New York: Doubleday, 2008); and Phillipe Sands, Torture Team (London: Penguin, 2009). On the torture of children, see Michael Haas, George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes (Westport: Praeger, 2009). Also, see Henry A. Giroux, Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Boulder: Paradigm, 2010).

[5] Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2),” Democracy Now! (January 8, 2014). Online:


[6] For an excellent source, see Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars against Dissent in the United States (Boston: South End Press, 2001). Also see The People’s History of the CIA. Online: http://www.thepeopleshistory.net/2013/07/cointelpro-fbis-war-on-us-citizens.html.

[7] Chomsky quoted in Amy Goodman, “From COINTELPRO to Snowden, the FBI Burglars Speak Out after 43 Years of Silence (Part 2).” Online: http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2014/1/8/from_cointelpro_to_snowden_the_fbi

[8]. See, for example, Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005); and Loic Wacquant, Punishing the Poor (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).

[9]. Ishmael Reed, “How Henry Louis Gates Got Ordained as the Nation’s ‘Leading Black Intellectual,’” Black Agenda Report (July 27, 2009). Online at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/how-henry-louis-gates-got-ordained-nations-leading-black-intellectual.

[10]. Pepe Lozano, “Chicago Torture Probe Draws Worldwide Attention,” Political Affairs Magazine (July 6, 2006). Online at: http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/3770/1/196/. See also Susan Saulny, “Ex-Officer Linked to Brutality Is Arrested,” New York Times (October 22, 2008). Online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/us/22chicago.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss.

[11]. Lozano, ibid.

[12]. Mayer, The Dark Side, p. 8.

[13]. Mark Danner, “US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites,” New York Review of Books, Vol. 56, No. 6 (April 9, 2009), p. 77.

[14]. Frank Rich, “The Banality of Bush White House Evil,” New York Times (April 26, 2009), p. WK14.

[15]. The torture memos can be found at the American Civil Liberties Union website. Online at: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html.

[16]. Andrew Sullivan, “The Bigger Picture,” The Daily Dish (April 17, 2009). Online at: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/the-bigger-picture.html.

[17]. Ewen MacAskill, “Obama Releases Bush Torture Memos: Insects, Sleep Deprivation and Waterboarding among Approved Techniques by the Bush Administration,” The Guardian (April 16, 2009). Online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/torture-memos-bush-administration.

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. Andy Worthington, “Five Terrible Truths About the CIA Torture Memos,” Future of Freedom Foundation (April 22, 2009). Online at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/04/22-6.

[20]. Editorial, “The Torturers’ Manifesto,” New York Times (April 19, 2009), p. WK9.

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. Bybee cited in Neil A. Lewis, “Official Defends Signing Interrogation Memos,” New York Times (April 29, 2009), p. A12.

[23]. Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 141.

[24] Mark Mazzetti, “Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations,” New York Times (December 9, 2014). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/world/senate-intelligence-committee-cia-torture-report.html.

[25] Error! Main Document Only.Elias Isquith, “‘I don’t care what we did’: What Nicolle Wallace’s rant reveals about America’s torture problem,” Salon (December 9, 2012). Online: http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/i_dont_care_what_we_did_what_nicolle_wallaces_rant_reveals_about_americas_torture_problem/

[26] Thomas C. Hilde, “Introduction,” in On Torture, ed. Thomas C. Hilde (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 1.

[27] See, for one example of this type of analysis, Error! Main Document Only.Chauncey DeVega, “The Culture of Cruelty is International: From Lynchings to Eric Garner and the CIA Torture Report,” We Are Respectable Negroes (December 10, 2014). Online: http://www.chaunceydevega.com/2014/12/the-culture-of-cruelty-is-international.html

[28] Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479


The Media Is Focusing On the WRONG Senate Torture Report

By Washington’s Blog
December 12, 2014


The Big Story Torture Everyone Is Missing

While the torture report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is very important, it doesn’t address the big scoop regarding torture.

Instead, it is the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report that dropped the big bombshell regarding the U.S.  torture program.

Senator Levin, commenting on a Armed Services Committee’s report on torture in 2009, explained:

The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting FALSE confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures [and] waterboarding.

McClatchy filled in important details:

Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration

For 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…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”  Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

The Washington Post reported the same year:

Despite what you’ve seen on TV, torture is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. Indeed, Bush-era torture techniques, we now know, were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.

So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense — in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a “ticking time bomb” scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks — in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.


Gordon Trowbridge writes for the Detroit News: “Senior Bush administration officials pushed for the use of abusive interrogations of terrorism detainees in part to seek evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq, according to newly declassified information discovered in a congressional probe.

Indeed, one of the two senior instructors from the Air Force team which taught U.S. servicemen how to resist torture by foreign governments when used to extract false confessions has blown the whistle on the true purpose behind the U.S. torture program.

As Truthout reported:

Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).


The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is EXPLOITATION, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

In a subsequent report, Truthout notes:

Air Force Col. Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the DOD’s most effective interrogators as well a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA’s teaching academy, said ….  “This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence”  …. “If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using.”

Interrogators also forced detainees to take drugs … which further impaired their ability to tell the truth.

And one of the two main architects of the torture program admitted this week on camera:

You can get people to say anything to stop harsh interrogations if you apply them in a way that does that.

And false confessions were, in fact, extracted.

For example:

And the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. And the government went to great lengths to obstruct justice and hide unflattering facts from the Commission.

According to NBC News:

  • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
  • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
  • The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves

Details here.


Today, Raymond McGovern – a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials – writes at former Newsweek and AP reporter Robert Parry’s website:

But if it’s bad intelligence you’re after, torture works like a charm. If, for example, you wish to “prove,” post 9/11, that “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda and might arm the terrorists with WMD, bring on the torturers.

It is a highly cynical and extremely sad story, but many Bush administration policymakers wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 and thus were determined to connect Saddam Hussein to those attacks. The PR push began in September 2002 – or as Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card put it, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

By March 2003 – after months of relentless “marketing” – almost 70 percent of Americans had been persuaded that Saddam Hussein was involved in some way with the attacks of 9/11.

The case of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a low-level al-Qaeda operative, is illustrative of how this process worked. Born in Libya in 1963, al-Libi ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from 1995 to 2000. He was detained in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, and then sent to a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was deemed a prize catch, since it was thought he would know of any Iraqi training of al-Qaeda.

The CIA successfully fought off the FBI for first rights to interrogate al-Libi. FBI’s Dan Coleman, who “lost” al-Libi to the CIA (at whose orders, I wonder?), said, “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

CIA interrogators elicited some “cooperation” from al-Libi through a combination of rough treatment and threats that he would be turned over to Egyptian intelligence with even greater experience in the torture business.

By June 2002, al-Libi had told the CIA that Iraq had “provided” unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that soon found its way into other U.S. intelligence reports. Al-Libi’s treatment improved as he expanded on his tales about collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq, adding that three al-Qaeda operatives had gone to Iraq “to learn about nuclear weapons.”

Al-Libi’s claim was well received at the White House even though the Defense Intelligence Agency was suspicious.

“He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

Meanwhile, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Maj. Paul Burney, a psychiatrist sent there in summer 2002, told the Senate, “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Just What the Doctor Ordered

President Bush relied on al-Libi’s false Iraq allegation for a major speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, just a few days before Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution. Bush declared, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

And Colin Powell relied on it for his famous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, declaring: “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”

Al-Libi’s “evidence” helped Powell as he sought support for what he ended up calling a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, in the general effort to justify invading Iraq.

For a while, al-Libi was practically the poster boy for the success of the Cheney/Bush torture regime; that is, until he publicly recanted and explained that he only told his interrogators what he thought would stop the torture.

You see, despite his cooperation, al-Libi was still shipped to Egypt where he underwent more abuse, according to a declassified CIA cable from early 2004 when al-Libi recanted his earlier statements. The cable reported that al-Libi said Egyptian interrogators wanted information about al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq, a subject “about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

According to the CIA cable, al-Libi said his interrogators did not like his responses and “placed him in a small box” for about 17 hours. After he was let out of the box, al-Libi was given a last chance to “tell the truth.” When his answers still did not satisfy, al-Libi says he “was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and fell on his back” and then was “punched for 15 minutes.”

After Al-Libi recanted, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission. By then, however, the Bush administration had gotten its way regarding the invasion of Iraq and the disastrous U.S. occupation was well underway.


Intensive investigations into these allegations – after the U.S. military had conquered Iraq – failed to turn up any credible evidence to corroborate these allegations. What we do know is that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were bitter enemies, with al-Qaeda considering the secular Hussein an apostate to Islam.

Al-Libi, who ended up in prison in Libya, reportedly committed suicide shortly after he was discovered there by a human rights organization. Thus, the world never got to hear his own account of the torture that he experienced and the story that he presented and then recanted.

Hafed al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American and a prominent critic of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime at the time of al-Libi’s death, explained to Newsweek, “This idea of committing suicide in your prison cell is an old story in Libya.”

Paul Krugman eloquently summarized the truth about the torture used:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

Torture Program Was Part of a Con Job

As discussed above, in order to “justify” the Iraq war, top Bush administration officials pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create a false linkage between between Al Qaida and Iraq. And see this and this.

But this effort started earlier …

5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said “my interest is to hit Saddam”.

He also said “Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement “judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time”, is the statement “Hard to get a good case.” In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.

Moreover, “Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda”.

And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.

And yet Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials claimed repeatedly for years that Saddam was behind 9/11. See this analysis. Indeed, Bush administration officials apparently swore in a lawsuit that Saddam was behind 9/11.

Moreover, President Bush’s March 18, 2003 letter to Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq, includes the following paragraph:

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Therefore, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war to Congress by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks.

Indeed, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind reports that the White House ordered the CIA to forge and backdate a document falsely linking Iraq with Muslim terrorists and 9/11 … and that the CIA complied with those instructions and in fact created the forgery, which was then used to justify war against Iraq. And see this.

Suskind also revealed that “Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official ‘that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.’ ”

Cheney made the false linkage between Iraq and 9/11 on many occasions.

For example, according to Raw Story, Cheney was still alleging a connection between Iraq and the alleged lead 9/11 hijacker in September 2003 – a year after it had been widely debunked. When NBC’s Tim Russert asked him about a poll showing that 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had been involved in 9/11, Cheney replied:

It’s not surprising that people make that connection.

And even after the 9/11 Commission debunked any connection, Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime , that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties.

Again, the Bush administration expressly justified the Iraq war by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks. See this, this, this.

Even then-CIA director George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11.

Top British officials say that the U.S. discussed Iraq regime change even before Bush took office.

And in 2000, Cheney said a Bush administration might “have to take military action to forcibly remove Saddam from power.” And see this.

The administration’s false claims about Saddam and 9/11 helped convince a large portion of the American public to support the invasion of Iraq. While the focus now may be on false WMD claims, it is important to remember that, at the time, the alleged link between Iraq and 9/11 was at least as important in many people’s mind as a reason to invade Iraq.

So the torture program was really all about “justifying” the ultimate war crime:  launching an unnecessary war of aggression based upon false pretenses.

Postscript:   It is beyond any real dispute that torture does not work to produce any useful, truthful intelligence.  Today, the following question made it to the front page of Reddit:

Why would the CIA torture if torture “doesn’t work”? Wouldn’t they want the most effective tool to gather intelligence?

The Senate Armed Services Committee report gave the answer.

Torture, police killings and the militarization of America

By Bill Van Auken
December 12, 2014
World Socialist Web Site


The fact that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report exposing CIA torture has been released in the United States as the country is being swept by angry protests over a series of vicious and unpunished police killings has been little noted by the American mass media.

What are treated as unrelated stories are, in fact, two facets of the same phenomenon: the growth of a massive and criminal police state apparatus that enjoys absolute impunity. The crimes carried out abroad and the crimes carried out at home have a common source in an economic and social system that is in deep crisis and whose overriding features are social inequality, militarism and a relentless assault on basic democratic rights.

The cops who shot down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, strangled to death Eric Garner in Staten Island and killed defenseless individuals in Cleveland, Phoenix and elsewhere go unpunished as prosecutors employ a deliberate system of exoneration by grand jury to prevent them from ever being called to account for their crimes.

The actions in the Senate report are sufficient to require the immediate arrest and prosecution not merely of the CIA’s killers and torturers, but of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and other top officials who authorized and oversaw a system of depravity and violence in violation of both US and international law.

Yet no one in the US Congress, the Obama administration or any other section of the American ruling establishment suggests that such prosecutions are even remotely possible. On Thursday, Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, himself implicated in the crimes, organized a press conference from CIA headquarters in Langley to defend the “enhanced interrogation” torture program and denounce the Senate report.

It was Cofer Black, the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who told an approving congressional committee in 2002 that “there was ‘before 9/11 and after 9/11.’ After 9/11 the gloves came off.”

The phrase, conjuring up the image of a bare-knuckled brawl, became a favorite cliché within both the Bush White House and the US military command. It was translated into far more gruesome forms of violence, ranging from waterboarding to hanging people from manacles and “rectal hydration.”

But the “gloves” that were taken off had more far-reaching implications. They involved dispensing with any adherence to the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions or other bodies of domestic and international law.

The gloves came off not just for the interrogators at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA black sites scattered across the globe, but for every level of the state, down to the local police.

Whatever Obama may say today about torture being “contrary to our values,” this process has only qualitatively deepened over the course of his presidency.

Mr. Obama’s “values” allow him to arrogate to himself the power to designate American citizens as enemy terrorists and order their execution via drone missile strikes with absolutely no judicial review. They permit the codification into law of his supposed right to declare anyone, American or foreign national, an enemy combatant and lock him away in indefinite detention without charges or trial. And they are in concert with his presiding over a massive expansion of domestic and foreign spying that encompasses virtually all forms of communication of innocent people across the globe.

This same process has found noxious expression within local police departments across the United States. “Homeland security” policing has become the new standard, in which “national security” is the overriding principle, and the entire population is looked on as potential enemies. The fradulent narrative of a never-ending “war on terrorism” has become an all-purpose justification for arbitrary and disproportionate violence leading to murder.

The military-police mindset has been embodied in the creation of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, bringing local cops together with Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal agencies. At the same time, billions of dollars worth of military hardware, from assault rifles to armored vehicles, are being funneled annually from the Pentagon to local police departments, creating a militarized force suitable for deployment in a domestic war.

The real significance of these developments was demonstrated first in the martial law lockdown of the Boston metropolitan area following the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. An entire population was turned into prisoners in their own homes and subjected to warrantless searches by helmeted and machine-gun toting police backed by armored vehicles—all supposedly to capture one 19-year-old youth.

More recently in Ferguson, peaceful protests against police murder have been met with cops who look like they are headed for combat in Afghanistan, followed by the Missouri governor’s preemptive declaration of a state of emergency and callout of the National Guard in anticipation of further protests over the grand jury’s failure to indict the killer cop.

In the course of the current protests over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been a concerted attempt by political forces ranging from President Obama to the millionaire operative Al Sharpton, along with a network of organizations orbiting the Democratic Party, to insist that the entire issue is one of racism, to be answered by a “conversation on race,” a “new civil rights movement” or various police reform palliatives.

All of this is meant to divert popular outrage into safer channels and conceal a far more sinister reality. A militarized police force, working in close collaboration with the US military and intelligence complex, is being prepared for violent repression against the working class as a whole. It will be used against strikes, demonstrations, protests and other forms of opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.

Torture, police killings, the destruction of core democratic rights—all are methods employed by a criminal ruling class whose wealth is secured through financial parasitism. It has built up its fortunes by transferring social wealth from the working class—the overwhelming majority of the population—to the top 1 percent, while employing militarist violence to further its plunder abroad.

These ruling layers operate not out of strength or confidence in their system, but rather out of fear. They know that record levels of social inequality are not only incompatible with democracy, but must give rise to social revolt at the next, inevitable eruption of global financial crisis. If the torturers and the police killers enjoy impunity, it is because preparations are being made to turn them loose against a rebellious population.

Obama CIA director defends “enhanced interrogation” torture program

By Niles Williamson and Joseph Kishore
12 December 2014
World Socialist Web Site


CIA Director John Brennan gave an extraordinary press conference from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on Thursday, aggressively defending the agency and the “enhanced interrogation” torture program exposed in a recently-released Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Brennan, who was a top official in the CIA when the torture program was planned and implemented by the Bush administration, echoed many of the comments made by Obama himself in a prepared statement released on Tuesday.

Speaking as the head of an agency that operates outside all legal restraint, Brennan said he hoped that it would be possible to “put aside this debate and move forward to focus on issues that are relevant to our current national security challenges.” In other words, no one is to be held accountable for clear and grave violations of domestic and international law.

Brennan opened his press conference with a lengthy and tendentious account of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He claimed that an aggressive response from the CIA was necessary, as there were “credible” reports of further attacks on the United States. Repeating the previous statement from Obama, Brennan said that the Bush administration “faced agonizing choices about how to pursue al-Qaeda and prevent additional terrorist attacks against the country.”

In other words, according to Brennan, the torture program was an entirely legitimate response to the threat of terrorism. This is the same argument deployed by every military dictatorship to justify torture and other crimes: The only way to ensure “national security” is to employ the most brutal forms of violence and adopt police state forms of rule.

In fact, the September 11 attacks—the circumstances of which have still not been the subject of an independent investigation—were not the cause of the CIA response, but rather were utilized as the catchall justification for torture, aggressive war and the destruction of democratic rights within the US.

Brennan presented what he repeatedly called “EITs” (enhanced interrogation techniques) as lawful and appropriate, though he added that in the view of the current president they “made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.” In other words, the decision on whether or not to adopt a policy of torture is a question not of legality, but the tactical considerations of the ruling class in pursuing its geostrategic interests.

The current CIA director, who under the Bush administration served as the deputy director to CIA chief George Tenet, insisted that all the “EIT” methods were “determined at the time to be lawful and…were duly authorized by the Bush administration.” This only confirms that top officials in the administration, including the president and vice president, are implicated in the crimes.

While defending the “enhanced interrogation program” as a whole, Brennan indicated that there were a “limited number of cases” in which agents made “mistakes” and used methods that “had not been authorized.” He did not indicate which of the torture techniques—waterboarding (repeated near-drowning), death threats, forced standing for days on end, sleep deprivation for over a week at a time, shackling prisoners to walls and forcing them to stand on broken limbs, “ice baths” causing hypothermia and death, and sodomy (“rectal rehydration”)—Brennan considered to be “mistakes,” and which ones he considered to be “lawful.”

Brennan also followed Obama’s previous statement in heaping praise on the CIA officials, calling them “patriots,” who had carried out “heroic service and sacrifices.” “They are among the best and brightest our nation has to offer,” he added.

While admitting that some representations by the CIA of its enhanced interrogations were “inaccurate, imprecise, or fell short of our tradecraft standards,” Brennan insisted that the CIA never misled Congress, the White House or the media about the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation program.

Brennan also denounced the Senate Intelligence Committee for reaching its conclusion without “agreeing on a bipartisan way forward,” and without interviewing CIA personnel. It was the CIA itself, working with the Obama White House, which actively sought to block the Senate report from being published by withholding vital documents. Toward this end, the CIA under Brennan spied on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers preparing the report, in violation of the law and the US Constitution.

Questions from the media at the press conference focused largely on whether or not the CIA torture “worked.” In response, Brennan said that prisoners subjected to “EITs” provided “useful information,” but, “The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is… unknowable.”

The US media as a whole has attempted to shift the discussion on the torture report from the illegality of the actions depicted to the efficacy of the methods as an instrument of policy.

Expressing the attitude of the CIA to any form of accountability, Brennan said as an aside to one question about his views on the torture program, “I think there’s more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple days. I think it’s over the top.”

Asked whether the torture program might be formally reinstated in the future, Brennan said that he would “defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis” as September 11.

These remarks expose the fact that the Obama administration’s decision to formally end the CIA torture program is entirely tactical in character. To the extent that the programs themselves have been temporarily halted, they have been replaced by the equally criminal policy of drone assassination, which has killed thousands of people in countries throughout the world.

Responding to a question about the drone program, which Brennan helped devise and implement, he said that it had “done tremendous work to keep this country safe… It has advanced the counterterrorism mission, and the US military has done some wonderful things with these platforms.”

Brennan’s comments are further confirmation that, in the aftermath of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the political establishment in the US is determined to ensure that no one will be held accountable. This is because the entire state apparatus—including the Obama administration—is culpable in the criminal conspiracy.

Brennan’s own evolution underscores the continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations. He was deputy executive director of the CIA between March 2001 and August 2004. This was the very the period in which the enhanced interrogation program was established and brutal torture techniques were carried out against detainees at black sites across the globe.

When he first came to office, Obama sought to appoint Brennan to head the CIA, but this proved politically impossible due to Brennan’s association with the torture programs. He was instead brought on as Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, a position that he occupied until his appointment as director of the CIA in 2013.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reasserted the president’s absolute confidence in Brennan. “The president wakes up every morning pleased to know that John Brennan and the men and women of the CIA are hard at work using their skills and expertise to protect the American people.”

‘The CIA Is Lying’: On Senate Floor, Udall Blasts Continued Torture Cover-Up

Outgoing Colorado senator calls on President Obama to “purge his administration of high-level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program”

By Deirdre Fulton
December 11, 2014
Common Dreams


U.S. Senator Mark Udall, of Colorado. (Photo: Mark Udall/flickr/cc)


In an impassioned speech on the U.S. Senate floor on Wednesday morning, outgoing Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) reiterated his call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan and blasted the CIA and the White House for dodging not just accountability, but also the truth.

While he acknowledged that the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Tuesday was a “significant, essential step” toward addressing American complicity in torture, Udall said the official response has been both incomplete and disingenuous.

“Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture,” Udall said. “In other words, the CIA is lying.”

What’s more, he said, “the deeper, more endemic problem lies in a CIA, assisted by a White House, that continues to try to cover up the truth. It’s this deeper problem that illustrates the problem we face today: reforming an agency that refuses to even acknowledge what it has done.”

Warning of the danger of “not reckoning with the past,” Udall said “the CIA cannot be its best until it faces the serious and grievous mistakes of the Detention and Interrogation Program. And for President Obama, that means taking real action to live up to the pledges he made early in his presidency.”

The speech—a swan song for the senator from Colorado, who lost his bid for re-election to Republican Cory Gardner in November—drew comparisons between the so-called ‘Panetta Review,’ a secret and controversial historical examination of CIA torture by ex-CIA director Leon Panetta that Udall exposed last year, and the report released Tuesday.

“In my view, the Panetta Review is a smoking gun,” Udall charged. “It raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago and never provided to the committee is so different from the official Brennan response and so different from the public statements of former CIA officials.”

For example, he offered, “the Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques.”

While the CIA claims that such methods yielded intelligence, Panetta’s analysis revealed “how detainees provided intelligence prior to the use of torture against them,” Udall said, and that the agency “tortured detainees before trying any other approach.”

“The Panetta review further identifies cases in which the CIA used coercive techniques when it had no basis for determining whether a detainee had critical intelligence at all,” the senator added, publicizing classified information not known until now. “In other words, CIA tortured detainees to confirm they didn’t have intelligence, not because they thought they did.”

Udall expressed disappointment in President Barack Obama for failing to follow through on his pledge to end torture. He also called on the president to “purge his administration of high-level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program,” declassify the Panetta review as well as the entire CIA torture report, and propose legislation that codifies his executive order prohibiting torture.

“There has been no accountability for the CIA’s actions or for Director Brennan’s failure of leadership,” Udall said. “Despite the facts presented, the President has expressed full confidence in Director Brennan and demonstrated that trust by making no effort at all to reign it in.”