CIA Hoodwink: Torture Sham, Media Manipulation
“Enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA did not contribute in any way to finding and killing Osama bin Laden — the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.” – United States Senate Intelligence Committee
When Torture Failed to Help Find bin Laden, The Agency Deceived the Press
by Avaneesh Pandey
Displayed with permission from International Business Times
For more on the Senate Intelligence Report, See: Senate Intelligence Committee Releases CIA Torture Report
The US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which detailed the findings of a five-year investigation into the agency’s interrogation practices, claimed that information that eventually led to the raid that killed bin Laden had either been obtained outside of CIA’s interrogation and detention program or prior to detainees being held by the agency.
The investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani al Qaeda operative who was captured in Iraqi Kurdistan and handed over to the CIA in January 2004, had provided substantial information about a courier connected to bin Laden. However, the report said, the information “was acquired from Hassan Ghul prior to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.”
“Information in CIA records indicates Hassan Ghul was cooperative prior to being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. In an interview with the CIA Office of Inspector General, a CIA officer familiar with Ghul’s initial interrogations stated, ‘He sang like a tweetie bird. He opened up right away and was cooperative from the outset,’” the report said.
The information provided by Ghul included crucial intelligence on Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the courier who was bin Laden’s only link to the outside world while the latter was living in Abbottabad in Pakistan. Moreover, the report added, “CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated information about Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti.”
“Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities,” the report alleged.
As an example, the report gave the name of Ammar al-Baluchi, who, the CIA said, in a statement released in response to the report, was the first detainee to reveal that al-Kuwaiti was bin Laden’s courier. The Senate committee investigation found that under “enhanced interrogation,” al-Baluchi had provided inaccurate information about al-Kuwaiti and bin Laden’s whereabouts.
The Senate report also pointed out that the CIA was already collecting information about al-Kuwaiti since 2002, “prior to any reporting on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti from CIA detainees.” This finding directly contradicted the CIA’s claims over the effectiveness of its interrogation techniques, according to the report.
Briefings by several senior CIA officials, including former director Leon Panetta, “indicated that CIA detainee information — and the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques — played a substantial role in developing intelligence that led to the UBL operation. The testimony contained significant inaccurate information.”
The report also contained references to internal communications within the CIA showing that many within the agency had questioned the authenticity of the information extracted from the detainees.
“Detainees provide few actionable leads, and we have to consider the possibility that they are creating fictitious characters to distract us or to absolve themselves of direct knowledge about Bin Laden,” CIA officials said in a document dated Sept.1, 2005, cited in the report.
The CIA’s Big Sell: How The Agency Convinced The Press Its Brutal Interrogation Methods Were Working
By Michael Learmonth
The Central Intelligence Agency misled journalists from top U.S. news organizations such as the New York Times, NBC News and the author of the book “The CIA at War” to convince the public its brutal interrogation tactics were working, according to a Senate investigation released Tuesday.
The agency picked journalists and authors to work with and selectively provided information attributed to anonymous sources described as “top American intelligence officials” and “senior U.S. intelligence analysts” to sell the CIA’s story — namely, that the interrogations were yielding valuable information and to take credit for arrests made by the FBI.
The descriptions of interactions between CIA personnel and journalists provide a window into how reports about classified activities are sourced, often sanctioned by government officials at the highest level, who are then allowed to hide behind vague attributions. The CIA also did not investigate illegal leaks of classified information but was actively disseminating the same information to convey its message that the interrogations were working and that the agency deserved more credit for the arrests.
Philip Mudd, deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, argued in an email to other CIA officials that the misinformation campaign was essential:
we either got out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond media. congress reads it, cuts our authorities, messes up our budget. we need to make sure the impression of what we do is positive … we must be more aggressive out there. we either put out our story or we get eaten. there is no middle ground.
CIA attorneys warned officials that the agency should not allow any of the information be attributed to the agency but rather to an “official knowledgeable” about the program.
The report claims that both Ronald Kessler’s “The CIA at War” and two New York Times reports written by Douglas Jehl included “inaccurate claims” proffered by CIA officials speaking on background. Kessler reported that the FBI’s arrest of two other suspects was based on information from the interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Jehl, now foreign editor of the Washington Post, reported that the secret interrogation program “disrupted terrorist operations” and “saved lives.”
“Both the Kessler book and the Jehl article included inaccurate claims about the effectiveness of CIA interrogations, much of it consistent with the inaccurate information being provided by the CIA to policymakers at the time,” the report said.
Reached by International Business Times, both Kessler and Jehl said they were never contacted by the Senate Committee to get their side of the story. Kessler said the information he got from the CIA was corroborated by sources at the FBI.
“The whole thing is ridiculous,” he said, referring to the report. “Of course I solicited the CIA’s cooperation. This was just standard reporting. Of course they wanted to tell their side, but I was the one who solicited them.”
Moreover, he said, former CIA director Leon Panetta, an Obama administration appointee, argued that “enhanced interrogation” did provide information that helped lead to Osama bin Laden.
In an email, Jehl said he would never comment on confidential conversations with government officials but that he stands by his reporting:
As a national security reporter for the Times in 2005, I worked aggressively to pursue and publish stories about the CIA’s harsh interrogation of terrorist suspects, at a time when those details remained highly classified. I am proud of the work that my Times colleagues and I did in bringing these CIA practices to light.
The CIA wanted to both disseminate the idea that interrogations were working but also discredit claims by other agencies such as the FBI. The CIA’s director of public affairs, Mark Mansfield, described a proposed story by the New York Times’ David Johnston as ‘“bulls—” and biased toward the FBI and added ‘we need to push back.’”
The CIA collaborated with Kessler on a second book that was also deemed too congratulatory of the FBI but after meeting with Mansfield, added the following to his account: “[T]he CIA could point to a string of successes and dozens of plots that were rolled up because of coercive interrogation techniques.”
The report cites “erroneous” reporting by NBC’s “Dateline” that cited senior U.S. officials saying that al Qaeda leaders “bundled off” to secret interrogation centers became founts of actionable information and were key to the captures of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Khallad bin Attash. “These information is inaccurate,” the report said.