Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture And False Confessions

As early as January 22, 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney was hard at work trying to convince the American people of a link between Sadaam Hussein and Al Qaeda. The Center for American Progress quotes him as claiming

There's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I am very confident that there was an established relationship there.

CAP notes the following sources as refutation of this central claim of the war:

"According to documents, "Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle U.S. troops. The document provides another piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration contention of close cooperation between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda terrorists." [NY Times, 1/15/04]

"CIA interrogators have already elicited from the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion, Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Saddam." [NY Times, 1/15/04]

"Sec. of State Colin Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no 'smoking gun' proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of al-Qaeda.'I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection,' Powell said." [NY Times, 1/9/04]

“Three former Bush Administration officials who worked on intelligence and national security issues said the prewar evidence tying Al Qaeda was tenuous, exaggerated and often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence agencies.” [National Journal, 8/9/03]

Declassified documents “undercut Bush administration claims before the war that Hussein had links to Al Qaeda.” [LA Times, 7/19/03].

“The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track Al Qaeda told reporters that his team had found no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.” [NY Times, 6/27/03]

"U.S. allies have found no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda.'We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda,' said Europe's top investigator. 'If there were such links, we would have found them. But we have found no serious connections whatsoever.’" [LA Times, 11/4/02]


But sometimes a lie dies a slow death, and fictitious claims of a connection may be at the heart of the current controversy over the torture regime established by the CIA. According to this article in the New York Times, the enhanced interrogation tactics taught to the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency were based on a chart which in turn "had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

Torture as a means to obtain false confessions. Now here is investigative journalist Ron Suskind, author of The Way of the World, explaining on Rachel Maddow on 4/22:

I heard some of that back when I was reporting the book, but I really couldn‘t confirm it and you need, you know, several sources confirming to put it in the book.

And what‘s fascinating here, if you run the timeline side by side, you see, really, for the first time from that report that the key thing being sent down in terms of the request by the policymakers, by the White House, is find a link between Saddam and al Qaeda so that we essentially can link Saddam to the 9/11 attacks and then march into Iraq with the anger of 9/11 behind us. That was the goal and that was being passed down as the directive.

It‘s, you know, it‘s often called the requirement inside the CIA for both agents with their sources and interrogators with their captives. “Here‘s what we‘re interested in, here‘s what we, the duly elected leaders, want to hear about. Tell us what you can find.”

What‘s fascinating, in the Senate report, is finally clear confirmation that that specific thing was driving many of the activities, and mind you, the frustration inside of the White House that was actually driving action. The quote, in fact, inside of the Senate report from a major said that as frustration built inside of the White House, that there was no link that was established—because the CIA told the White House from the very start there is no Saddam/al Qaeda link. We checked it out. We did every which way. Sorry.

The White House simply wouldn‘t take no for an answer and it went with another method. Torture was the method. “Get me a confession, I don‘t care how you do it.” And that bled all the way through the government, both on the CIA side and the Army side. It‘s extraordinary.

Mind you, Rachel, this is important. This is not about an impetus to foil an upcoming potential al Qaeda attacks. The impetus here is largely political diplomatic. The White House had a political diplomatic problem. It wanted it solved in the run-up to the war....

My question, the question for investigators now: Is how many of these interrogations were driven specifically by a desire to come up with the Saddam/al Qaeda link? It‘s essentially rivers coming together.


Perhaps this is what Dick Cheney means when he refers to the "success" of the "enhanced interrogation" tactics. The scheme was borrowed from the (Chinese) Communists who got false confessions out of it, and the Administration needed someone on the other side, a terrorist, an enemy combatant, somebody to say there was a connection between the guy the U.S. military deposed and the architects of the worst attack ever on American soil. This may seem nefarious, but for the crew who ran things, their way, into the ground the last eight years, pretty standard fare.

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