Tag Archive: Central Intelligence Agency

Mar 15 2018

CIA Torture Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Torture is back in the news with the nomination of the Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Gina Haspel, who ran the black site at which Abu Zubaydah was detained and interrogated, to head the agency. She personally supervised the torture of Zubaydah who was waterboarded 183 times over the course of one month and lost …

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Jun 16 2015

Torture, the CIA and Helen Mirren

After much wrangling with the White House and the CIA, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released the 525 page executive summary of its full 6000 page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation better known as the Torture Report. After five years and $40 million, the bulk of the report remains classified. If the executive report is any sample of what the CIA did, the rest of the report is must be really damning.

In a laughable move today, the Senate today passed an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would forbid the use of torture by any agent of the U.S. government and standardize certain noncoercive interrogation methods across the government’s military and intelligence arms. This is “laughable” because torture is already against the law in this country, President Obama chose not the enforce the laws.

Instead the Obama administration has kept hidden much of the evidence under the guise of “national security,” in clear violation of US and International laws. Even more laughable is President Obama’s statement after the release of the SSCI’s executive report when he said, “one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”  It was nauseating to hear that statement praised. Without holding anyone accountable, by promoting and appointing to office those who authorized and ordered torture, Pres. Obama is complicit in their crimes.

Yesterday another CIA atrocity has been exposed:

CIA torture appears to have broken spy agency rule on human experimentation

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

The Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation” – before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees – that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house and contracted medical research.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.

CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

But the revelation of the guidelines has prompted critics of CIA torture to question how the agency could have ever implemented what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – despite apparently having rules against “research on human subjects” without their informed consent.

Indeed, despite the lurid name, doctors, human-rights workers and intelligence experts consulted by the Guardian said the agency’s human-experimentation rules were consistent with responsible medical practices. The CIA, however, redacted one of the four subsections on human experimentation.

“The more words you have, the more you can twist them, but it’s not a bad definition,” said Scott Allen, an internist and medical adviser to Physicians for Human Rights.

The agency confirmed to the Guardian that the document was still in effect during the lifespan of the controversial rendition, detention and interrogation program.

After reviewing the document, one watchdog said the timeline suggested the CIA manipulated basic definitions of human experimentation to ensure the torture program proceeded.

“Crime one was torture. The second crime was research without consent in order to say it wasn’t torture,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a former war-crimes investigator with Physicians for Human Rights and now a researcher with Harvard University’s Humanitarian Initiative.

In one more of his memorable segments, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” enlisted Dame Helen Mirren to read parts of the executive report.

We don’t need another law, we need the torturers brought to justice.

May 22 2015

Torture, Lies and Video Tapes

If you haven’t watched the PBS Frontline segment on “Secrets, Politics and Lies,” you should but be prepared to get really angry. It is a painful indictment of the war crimes committed by the CIA since September 11, 2001, under the guise of legality, that will leave you wondering if we truly have a democracy left in the country. Not only are the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama responsible for the crimes that were committed, they were, and are, responsible for the cover up. And so is the media.

The program opens with the critique of the CIA propaganda film “Zero Dark Thirty” that the agency used as a means to sell the lie that tortured worked and was crucial in finding Osama bin Laden. We know now, it wasn’t and didn’t. Watching men like former CIA lawyer John Rizzo and the agency’s former Deputy Director John McLaughlin coldly rationalize their crimes will make you wonder why they aren’t in prison. That’s easily answered. President Barack Obama wanted it swept under the rug and his Attorney General Eric Holder’s justice department put little to no effort in making the case for war crimes.

This is the first five minutes of the show. Warning, some of it is graphic.

America on evil: Stunning PBS Frontline doc reveals the depths of CIA propaganda

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

“Secrets, Politics and Torture” tells the deeply disturbing story of an intelligence community’s craven lies

according to the Frontline documentary “Secrets, Politics and Torture,” the official story the film depicted was a lie, so perhaps the classified information Panetta and company shared with the “Zero Dark Thirty” production was false as well. It’s not a crime to spread government propaganda. If it were, the entire leadership of the U.S. intelligence services and a fair number of top White House officials would be legally exposed.

The Frontline film, takes a detailed look at the torture program and the saga of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Torture Report, the summary of which was finally released last December. (The 6,000 page report remains classified.) We know about the waterboarding and confining of prisoners in a tiny box for days, the sleep deprivation, the beatings and the grotesque depravities like “rectal feeding” from the Senate report.  It reads like a bureaucratic version of the Marquis de Sade’s “20 days of Sodom.” Seeing all that put in context with the lies and the coverup lends it a new layer of horror.

Of particular interest in this film are the interviews with top CIA officials John Rizzo, the agency’s legal counsel, and John McLaughlin, the deputy CIA director at the time, both of whom excuse any alleged shortcomings in the torture regime as a result of the agency being tasked with something it wasn’t trained to do. The film does make it clear that the members of the interrogation team, in the beginning at least, were sickened by what they were doing, but were told to continue by the people in Washington who insisted they keep doing it.

Rizzo is a complicated character who explains that he didn’t see his duty as one requiring him to question the morality of the program, but simply to find ways to protect the agency from legal exposure. And he cleverly did that by getting buy-in from the Department of Justice, members of Congress and the White House. He is a creature of the CIA, and is loyal to the agency. But he admits to being shaken when he went to John McCain, after the program had been revealed, to try to convince him that it was highly controlled and effective – and Mccain simply said, “it all sounds like torture to me.” Rizzo was also obviously upset that CIA Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez took it upon himself to destroy tapes of the first horrific interrogation, the revelation of which served as the catalyst for the Senate Torture Investigation.

But if Rizzo comes off as at least somewhat ambiguous about the whole thing, John McLaughlin reveals himself as one of the most chilling characters in recent American history. You wouldn’t assume that this rather bland looking fellow would look menacingly into the camera and hiss, “We were at war. Bad things happen in war,” as if he were in a Clint Eastwood movie. But he does just that.

He also specializes in fatuous nonsense like this:

   The CIA faced a real dilemma here: On the one hand, we knew this program would be contentious. On the other hand, we asked ourselves: Wouldn’t it be equally immoral if we failed to get this information and thousands of Americans died? If there was another 9/11? How immoral would that be? That’s the dilemma we were up against. And we felt a moral commitment to protect the United States.

That’s very stirringly heroic, but it ignores the fact that despite his insistence otherwise, there’s simply no evidence that their program was effective at all, much less any more effective than other means that didn’t require the United States of America to twist itself into a pretzel to try to justify its immoral behavior. And you have to wonder: With that kind of logic are there any limits to what we can do? It doesn’t sound like there are. [..]

This is reminiscent of one of those congressional investigations that came out of Seymour Hersh’s exposé of CIA activity mentioned earlier. The 1975 Pike Committee Investigation report into abuses by the agency (along with the FBI and the NSA) was never published because the Republicans opposed it. But it was leaked to Daniel Schorr, who finally managed to get some excerpts published in the Village Voice; and it was later published in its entirety in England.  Maybe somebody will leak the full Torture Report as well.

But the damage is already done, unfortunately. Torture was once a taboo, illegal and unthinkable, but it is now officially on the menu. John Brennan, the current CIA chief, would not rule out using it again in the future, saying it would be policy decision by our leaders. Bad things happen in wars, you know.

Esquire‘s Charles Pierce makes note of a recent article in the New York Times by investigative reporter Charles Savage who asks the only question worth asking:

But the open debate and vote was also striking because national security programs have so often been created in secret over the past 14 years – from the C.I.A.’s now-defunct torture program to sweeping surveillance activities to the use of drones to kill terrorism suspects away from combat zones. Secrecy has always been traditional and accepted in wartime, but traditional wars have an end. Under two administrations now, as the United States has remained on a permanent war footing against Al Qaeda and its splintering, morphing progeny, tensions over fighting battles in the shadows have steadily escalated. If this is a forever war, can a democracy wage it in secret?

And what Charlie said:

Secrecy is addictive. It deforms and mutates political institutions the way that alcohol and heroin deforms and mutates individual lives. It forces those institutions to take secrecy itself as their primary constituency. It forces the imperatives of secrets onto institutions designed to be free and open and democratically accountable. This is really what you’re being asked to debate when Chris Christie bellows about your not having civil liberties when you’re dead, or when Marco Rubio talks tough about what has to be done to maintain our values. The answer to Savage’s question is a definitive “no,” but that doesn’t really mean much any more.

Some of us will not give up the fight to bring these crimes to light and seek justice for the victims of these war criminals. There is no statute of limitation on war crimes, just ask Germany.

Mar 11 2014

CIA Creates New Scandal to Cover Up The Old Scandal

It was revealed last week that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been spying on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members as they investigated the agency’s involvement and cover up of torture, rendition, and black op prisons. A second inquiry has now been referred to the FBI regarding the possibility that the SSCI members may have accessed a document that the CIA didn’t want them to see. It was apparently a review of the same documents that was ordered by then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta.

It was early December when the Central Intelligence Agency began to suspect it had suffered what it regarded as an embarrassing computer breach.

Investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee, working in the basement of a C.I.A. facility in Northern Virginia, had obtained an internal agency review summarizing thousands of documents related to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Parts of the C.I.A. report cast a particularly harsh light on the program, the same program the agency was in the midst of defending in a prolonged dispute with the intelligence committee.

What the C.I.A. did next opened a new and even more rancorous chapter in the struggle over how the history of the interrogation program will be written. Agency officials began scouring the digital logs of the computer network used by the Senate staff members to try to learn how and where they got the report. Their search not only raised constitutional questions about the propriety of an intelligence agency investigating its congressional overseers, but has also resulted in two parallel inquiries by the Justice Department – one into the C.I.A. and one into the committee. [..]

t is unclear how or when committee investigators obtained parts of the Panetta review. One official said that they had penetrated a firewall inside the C.I.A. computer system that had been set up to separate the committee’s work area from other agency digital files, but exactly what happened will not be known until the Justice Department completes its inquiry.

Several officials said that the C.I.A. never intended to give the internal memos to the Senate, partly under the justification that they were draft documents intended for the C.I.A. director and therefore protected under executive privilege authorities.

Another justification was that the Panetta Review began in 2009, three years after the agreed upon 2006 end date for the document transfer.

But by late last year, Democrats on the committee increased pressure on the C.I.A. to formally hand over the internal review. Senator Feinstein wrote a letter to Mr. Brennan, and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado disclosed the existence of the review during an open hearing on Dec. 17.

In retaliation for the Inspector General’s request that that the Justice Department look into criminal violations by the CIA for spying on the Senate committee members, the legal council for the CIA has opened a second investigation accusing the committee members of having accessed and remove the document they didn’t want them to see, “The Panetta Report.”

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti joined MSNBC’s Now host Alex Wagner on the [standoff between the CIA and congress ] over a potentially explosive intelligence report the Senate Intelligence Committee prepared on the CIA’s former program of rendition, detention and interrogation.

How interesting that Obama and the Senate made Brennan the head of the CIA. Now the man who was complicit for the authorization for torture and detention policies of the Bush regime is able to cover up his own war crimes.

Mar 06 2014

CIA May Have Spied on Its Overseers

In an article from McCaltchy, it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been spying on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members as they investigated the agency’s involvement and cover up of torture, rendition, and black op prisons. The allegation that the CIA hacked the computers used by committee staffers preparing the 6300 page report has led to the CIA’s Inspector General to request the Justice Department to open an investigation of the SIA’s actions which may have been a violation of an agreement between the committee and the agency.

In question now is whether any part of the committee’s report, which took some four years to compose and cost $40 million, will ever see the light of day.

The report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, according to public statements by committee members. It also shows, members have said, how the techniques didn’t provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 29 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”

Brennan replied that he’d have to get back to Wyden after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”

At the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti reports:

The origins of the current dispute date back more than a year, when the committee completed its work on a 6,000-page report about the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program. People who have read the study said it is a withering indictment of the program and details many instances when C.I.A. officials misled Congress, the White House and the public about the value of the agency’s brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

The report has yet to be declassified, but last June, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, responded to the Senate report with a 122-page rebuttal challenging specific facts in the report as well as the investigation’s overarching conclusion – that the agency’s interrogation methods yielded little valuable intelligence.

Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”

It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.

Marcy Wheeler explained the lead up to these new revelations:

In January, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall suggested that CIA was hacking into US computers.

   Wyden asked (43;04) John Brennan whether the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applied to the CIA.

       

Wyden: Does the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA?

       Brennan: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for and its applicability to CIA’s authorities. I’ll be happy to get back to you, Senator, on that.

       Wyden: How long would that take?

       Brennan: I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible but certainly no longer than-

       Wyden: A week?

       Brennan: I think that I could get that back to you, yes.

   Minutes later, Mark Udall raised EO 12333′s limits on CIA’s spying domestically (48:30).

     

Udall: I want to be able to reassure the American people that the CIA and the Director understand the limits of its authorities. We are all aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of US citizens within our borders. Can you assure the Committee that the CIA does not conduct such domestic spying and searches?

       Brennan: I can assure the Committee that the CIA follows the letter and spirit of the law in terms of what CIA’s authorities are, in terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this country safe. Yes Senator, I do.

The NYT’s notes that it appears the spying began after the committee members accessed documents that the CIA didn’t want them to see. The next question should be, how did the CIA know what documents were accessed if they weren’t already monitoring the members? What were in those documents that the CIA didn’t want to be seen?

One of the questions that Sen. Udall asked Brennan was if the Computers Crimes and Abuse Act (18 USC § 1030) applied to the CIA. This was part of Brennan’s response

The answer is the statute does apply. The Act, however, does not expressly prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity , , , of an intelligence agency of the United States,

It appears not only did the CIA violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the National Securities Act and EO 12333 but Brennan lied about it to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why does he still have his job?