Friday :: Dec 9, 2005

Torture Are U.S.

by Mary

Both Laura Rozen and Kevin Drum discuss Douglas Jehl's NY Times article about how Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi gave a false story that Iraq provided training to al Qaeda after being tortured interrogated in Egypt.

The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

al-Libi's "evidence" was used by the Bush administration to make the case for war against Iraq and was the primary story underpinning Bush's charge that Saddam was in cahoots with the terrorists. This charge has been discredited because when he finally could, al-Libi retracted it, and as it was obtained under torture, his story was deemed without merit.

In statements before the war, and without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and other officials repeatedly cited the information provided by Mr. Libi as "credible" evidence that Iraq was training Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons. Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases."

The question of why the administration relied so heavily on the statements by Mr. Libi has long been a subject of contention. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made public last month unclassified passages from the February 2002 document, which said it was probable that Mr. Libi "was intentionally misleading the debriefers."

The document showed that the Defense Intelligence Agency had identified Mr. Libi as a probable fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda involving illicit weapons.

The first thing that popped out to me in this story is the subtext of the narrative has changed. Now we get to say that the bad guys who torture are the Egyptians, not the Americans. Our government was just using the "cultural expertise" of our ally in Eygpt to conduct the interrogation. And Egypt says, of course, they don't torture people, they just know how to interrogate people.

But, you notice that one of the reasons the CIA decided to ship al-Libi off to Egypt was because they weren't getting the dirt they wanted from him. And in fact, they were pretty upset with his cooperativeness and said that he "was intentionally misleading his debriefers" while in American hands.

So we need to ask: was it really Egypt that created this bad intelligence? When did al-Libi actually come up with his story about Iraq training al Qaeda? According to ABC News last month, it was after the US tried their new enhanced interrogation methods approved by the administration.

According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

And kudos to ABCnews, because it actually did its job, by describing what it means to "water board" someone. [To water board someone sounds so innocuous unless you really know what it means.]

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

There are a number of reasons I find the story of al-Libi fascinating and absolutely infuriating. First, when Douglas Jehl first wrote about him last month, I found it outrageous that al-Libi was being labeled a liar when because he wasn't specific enough in his confession. Here is what I wrote then:

And another thing that has been bugging me the past couple of days is the number of times I've heard reports accusing the al Qaeda prisoner, al-Libi, of being a liar. How does anyone condemn him of being a liar when the reason he "lied" was because he was being tortured?

Reading Douglas Jehl's piece it was clear that al-Libi had been tortured.

The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda's work with illicit weapons.

Intentionally misleading the debriefers.... do you think that was before or after they shipped him off to Egypt?

And when do you think they started to question his reliability?

In outlining reasons for its skepticism, the D.I.A. report noted that Mr. Libi's claims lacked specific details about the Iraqis involved, the illicit weapons used and the location where the training was to have taken place.

"It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers," the February 2002 report said. "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."

Do you think he might have been trying to figure out what his "debriefers" wanted to hear? Perhaps that might explain the reason he wasn't too good on the details?

Yet, after coming up with the story that the Bushies wanted to hear, he was now deemed uncooperative because he couldn't provide them the "detail" they needed. So what did they do? They shipped him off to Egypt where he finally "provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda".

Here is more from Jason Vest last summer long before these latest revelations:

What Cloonan’s agents told him happened next blew his mind. "My guys told me that a Toyota Tundra with a box in the back pulls up to the building," he recalls. "CIA officers come in, start shackling al-Libi up. Right before they duct tape his mouth, he tells our guys, 'I know this isn’t your fault.' And as he's standing there, chained and gagged, this CIA guy gets up in his face and tells al-Libi he’s going to fuck his mother. And then off he apparently goes to Cairo, in a box."

Yup. It is now clear that it's not American policy to torture. Thanks, Condi, for clearing up that matter.

Mary :: 6:00 AM :: Comments (7) :: TrackBack (4) :: Digg It!