Much of the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden Sunday night in Pakistan has consisted of sophomoric chest-thumping proclaiming a twisted version of “justice” that Peterr very eloquently exposed here. There is another trend in the response, however, that is even more disgusting. A number of people involved in the torture program created and implemented during the George W. Bush administration are now trying to claim that Bin Laden would not have been found and killed without torture. Marcy Wheeler was out in front of those claims, debunking them before they came out and has stayed on the task with more details as the torturers continue their spin. The torturers are getting more desperate, and today we have none other than Jose Rodriguez, who ordered much of the torture as head of the CounterTerrorism Center (and then was the one who destroyed videotaped evidence of torture, only to be given a “get out of jail free” card by Barack Obama and Eric Holder), appearing in the press to justify his actions.
Rodriguez gave his first interview after escaping justice to Massimo Calabresi of Time. Here is the most disgusting bit from Rodriguez:
Jose Rodriguez ran the CIA’s CounterTerrorism Center from 2002 to 2005 during the period when top al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were taken into custody and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret black site prisons overseas. KSM was subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Al Libbi was not waterboarded, but other EITs were used on him.
“Information provided by KSM and Abu Faraj al Libbi about Bin Laden’s courier was the lead information that eventually led to the location of [bin Laden’s] compound and the operation that led to his death,” Rodriguez tells TIME in his first public interview.
Calabresi then quotes National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor debunking Rodriguez’ claim: “There is no way that information obtained by [enhanced interrogation techniques] was the decisive intelligence that led us directly to bin Laden.”
To “support” Rodriguez, Calabresi allows a former deputy director of the CIA to spin another big lie about the torture program:
Former Bush officials say that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques is misunderstood. “The main thing that people misunderstand about the program is it was intended to encourage compliance,” says John McLaughlin, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the period in which waterboarding was used. “It wasn’t set out to torture people. It was never conceived of as a torture program.”
The torture program absolutely was set up as a torture program and it was established so that false confessions of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection could be obtained in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Rodriguez himself gave key orders for the application of torture because he felt the prisoners were not saying what he expected them to say. In this post, I quote a passage from the CIA OIG report which states:
Agency officers report that reliance on analytical assessments that were unsupported by credible intelligence may have resulted in the application of EIT’s without justification. Some participants in the Program, particularly field interrogators, judge that CTC assessments to the effect that detainees are withholding information are not always supported by an objective evaluation of available information and the evaluation of the interrogators but are too heavily based, instead, on presumptions of what the individual might or should know.
Note that EIT’s are Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and CTC is the CounterTerrorism Center, which Rodriguez ran. This quote says that Rodriguez ordered torture, without justification, based on what he presumed the prisoner should know.
In another post, I noted the timing for when KSM was waterboarded 183 times. He was captured on March 1, 2003 and the US invasion of Iraq was on March 19, 2003. The Bush administration clearly was very intent on getting the Iraq-al Qaeda connection they so desperately needed to justify the invasion, and that is why Rodriguez ordered so much torture of KSM to get information that was “unsupported by credible analytical assessments”.
That push for the Iraq-al Qaeda link also extended to Guantanamo:
A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.
“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”
So when Rodriguez tries to take credit for starting us on the trail to Bin Laden and McLaughlin tries to tell us the program was only about “compliance”, I don’t buy it for a minute. These criminals may never face a court for their crimes, but at least don’t let them attach themselves to the superior job of intelligence analysis and police work that found Osama Bin Laden.
Marcy has an excellent post on the Rodriguez interview and comes to this conclusion:
And if that’s the case, then al-Libi’s torture didn’t lead us to OBL; rather, it led us to stop searching in concerted manner for OBL.
No wonder Jose Rodriguez has taken this moment to start spinning wildly.
No matter how Rodriguez spins it, he is guilty of heinous crimes and will forever be associated with them. And by not prosecuting Rodriguez and the others who designed and implemented the torture program, Barack Obama’s greatest achievement, finding Osama Bin Laden, will forever be tainted by one of his biggest failures, the refusal to prosecute for torture.