Why were the CIA torture tapes destroyed? Were
they destroyed? Larry Johnson
offers a timeline and some insights.
His basic argument: In 2005, the Italians "flipped" on the CIA's
kidnapping of two Italian citizens considered terror suspects. CIA Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez figured that if the friendly Italian government could turn on the Agency, then anything
was possible. Best to get rid of the evidence -- which Rodriguez did, after consulting with the CIA's
Inspector General and counsel.
The chief controversy concerns the filmed interrogations of Abu Zubaydah
-- who is either a low-level jihadist
kook or Osama's mucho importante
Number Two Man, depending on which source you favor. (If you believe some folks, Al Qaeda
had more "Number Twos" than The Village.) Zubaydah
was captured in March of 2002 in Pakistan.
Johnson reveals something previously unknown to me...
What we know for certain is that the CIA was keeping the President and his National Security team fully briefed on the methods and results of interrogating Abu Zubaydah. In fact, it is highly likely that George Tenet showed part of the videotape of the interrogation to the President.
How would Johnson know? Agency scuttlebutt, I presume. If W did see the tapes, and if the tapes reveal either criminal activity
on the part of the interrogators or admissions of Al Qaeda
-Saudi collusion, then Bush becomes criminally liable.
(To read the rest, click "Permalink" below)Johnson links to this letter from U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, which we've seen before. From this letter, we learn the following:
On May 7, 2003, as part of the trial of Moussaoui, the judge asked the CIA for any audio or video of prisoner interrogations. (The idea was to determine whether any of the captured prisoners mentioned Moussaoui. Reasonable enough.) Two days later, on May 9, the CIA said that no such evidence existed. When the defense asked if interrogations were recorded "in any format" the government's representative answered "no."
This answer was obvious balderdash. Why conduct an interrogation if you're not going to jot down a few notes or otherwise record the answers? Why trust to memory what may be a complex stream of data?
Nevertheless, that unbelievable denial stood. The CIA repeated this denial in 2005, during the penalty phase of the Moussaoui trial.
But it wasn't true:
Unbeknownst to the authors of the declarations, the CIA possessed the three recordings at the time the Declarations were submitted. We asked the CIA to ascertain the reason for such an error. [Sentence redacted.] As best as can be determined, it appears that the authors of the Declarations relied on assurances of the component of the CIA that [line redacted] unknowing that a different component of the CIA had contact with [line redacted]. The authors of the letter did get a chance to view interrogation tapes of someone; unfortunately, the name or names are redacted. The subject(s) may be Zubaydah or those Italian citizens or Khaled Sheikh Mohammed or someone else. Although we are supposed to believe that the prisoner(s) had intimate knowledge of the 9/11 plot, the prisoner(s) said nothing about Moussaoui -- an interesting fact in and of itself.
So. Tapes do exist. Then what did Rodriguez destroy?
As near as I can tell, our only clue derives from that mysterious reference to differing "components" of the CIA.
Let's also toss into this stew another interesting factoid: Rodriguez is friends with House intelligence committee chairman Sylvestre Reyes. At first, I supported the Reyes appointment -- until he made statements revealing himself to be about as dumb as Al Bundy's daughter. He labeled Al Qaeda a Shi'ite organization! (By the way, the report that Rodriguez was in business with a Reyes family member appears to be in error.)
Rodriguez is also pals with Cofer Black, now one of the head honchos at Blackwater. But in early 2002, Black was the head of counter-terrorism at the CIA. As Johnson puts it:
Abu Zubaydah is captured in Pakistan. George Bush is briefed regularly by George Tenet on the details of Zubaydah’s interrogation (see p. 22, State of War by James Risen). Cofer Black is in charge of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and oversees the CIA’s hunt for the terrorists. Zubaydah is interrogated in Thailand, where the sessions were filmed. He was waterboarded sometime in the May-June 2002 time frame.If we read between the lines here, we may presume that Black was intimately involved with the torture of Zubaydah. Is it possible that he appears on the videotape itself? This page portrays Black as a hands-on, can-do type of guy. So...maybe.
Thus, Rodriguez may have wanted to protect a friend -- a friend who might offer lucrative post-CIA employment.
(Incidentally, Cofer Black is Romney's chief advisor. That fact tells me to expect Rudy to fade and Romney to surge.)
The Black resume also contains these ominous words:
Black also conceived, planned and led the CIA's war in Afghanistan.Why "ominous"? Because I accept the assertions in the documentary 9/11: Press for Truth. Specifically, I accept as a starting point for all research into the attack on America that film's evidence that Al Qaeda's leadership and key fighters were deliberately allowed to find safe haven in Pakistan.
If so many "big fish" were permitted to swim away, why the focus on Zubaydah?
We have two major Theories of Zubaydah (or TOZs):
1. The Posner version. Gerry says that Zubaydah fingered three Saudi princes and the head of the Pakistani Air Force, all of whom died soon thereafter. (Now, dear old Gerry is a lawyer, and he might consider himself libeled if anyone were to suggest that he works for either the CIA or Mossad. So we must never, ever suggest that.)
2. The Suskind version. Ron Suskind insists that Zubaydah is a nutjob who, under pressure, could be relied upon to say whatever his abusers wanted him to say. He thus becomes an all-purpose scapegoat for the ramping up of public fear.
Seems to me that intelligence gathered through other means -- illegal wiretaps, or the proverbial "man inside" -- can be attributed to a fellow like Zubaydah. (One of the traditional problems in espionage is how to use your data without betraying its source.)
To a certain degree, Posner's TOZ and Suskind's TOZ can be reconciled. Past a point, they cannot.
So we are left with a number of questions. Who is Abu Zubaydah really? Why was he scooped up while so many other jihadists were allowed safe exit? Does he appear in the "destroyed" torture tapes? Were those tapes, in fact, destroyed -- and if they were, what did Chuck Rosenberg see on September 19, 2007? And why didn't Zubaydah discuss Moussaoui?