As we’re getting a clearer picture of how much of the torture push was aimed at finding someone to ‘confess’ to knowledge of an alliance between Iraq and al Qaida, I wanted to flag people’s attention back to an article Jonathan Landay wrote back on April 21st which went into some detail on the subject — both from his own sources and from the recently released Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse.
As one “former senior intelligence official” told Landay, there were two main reasons behind the use of harsh interrogation methods and torture …
“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But 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.
“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and 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, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”
Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.
We also know from Robert Windrem’s report at The Daily Beast that Cheney apparently pressed Iraq Survey Group chief Charles Duelfer to use water torture on what was apparently a bona fide Iraqi POW — a senior intelligence official — in order to get him to confess to connections with al Qaida. Duelfer refused.
Looking at these revelations together put my mind back to those days in Washington in 2002 and 2003 when there was a feverish cottage industry of neocon journalists and think tankers endlessly vying with each other to match each other’s increasingly outlandish tales of Saddam-bin Laden conspiracies. What this emigre or exile had claimed, what the CIA knew but wouldn’t reveal. It went on and on. And, of course, these folks collectively had a metaphorical IV directly into Vice President Cheney’s brain — and, well, vice versa.
In any case, for all the puffed up chests these folks always had a certain air of needing confirmation or perhaps better to say validation about them. The desire was intense. And now, seeing it all together, you can just see Cheney — who was really one of these guys — having a few of these ‘high value’ guys in his grasp and just not stopping the waterboarding until they admitted it was true.
AEI and Lord of the Flies all playing out in some dungeon somewhere. And every time the waterboarders came back to say it was a dry hole, they’ve got Cheney — or I guess maybe Addington — ordering them to go back for more.