Sunday, November 06, 2005

Memories

A Tortured Debate, from the June 21, 2003 Newsweek:
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was America's first big trophy in the war on terror: a senior Qaeda operative captured amid the fighting in Afghanistan. What is less known is that al-Libi, who ran Qaeda training camps, quickly became the subject of a bitter feud between the FBI and the CIA over how to interrogate terror suspects. At the time of al-Libi's capture on Nov. 11, 2001, the questioning of detainees was still the FBI's province. For years the bureau's "bin Laden team" had sought to win suspects over with a carrots-and-no-sticks approach: favors in exchange for cooperation. One terrorist, in return for talking, even wangled a heart transplant for his child.

With al-Libi, too, the initial approach was to read him his rights like any arrestee, one former member of the FBI team told NEWSWEEK. "He was basically cooperating with us." But this was post-9/11; President Bush had declared war on Al Qaeda, and in a series of covert directives, he had authorized the CIA to set up secret interrogation facilities and to use new, harsher methods. The CIA, says the FBI source, was "fighting with us tooth and nail."

The handling of al-Libi touched off a long-running battle over interrogation tactics inside the administration.
Eventually,

Al-Libi was handed over to the CIA. "They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo" for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official. "At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, 'You're going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I'm going to find your mother and I'm going to f--- her.' So we lost that fight."
And Doug Jehl reveals what happened next in Sunday's Times:

A top member of Al Qaeda in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.

The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, “was intentionally misleading the debriefers’’ in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons.

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al 8Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’
Why was he "intentionally misleading the debriefers"? Possibly because if he didn't tell them what they wanted to hear, they would "find [his] mother and fuck her," then turn him over for "extraordinary rendition," to be tortured in Egypt.

As Dick Cheney pushes to institutionalize torture in the CIA's armory, it's worth noting that he continued peddling al-Libi's line not only after DIA cast doubt on its claims, but after al-Libi recanted and all the results of his debrief were officially withdrawn. Here's an example from June, 2004, about 6 months after, when Cheney said:

It’s clearly established in terms of training, provision of bomb-making experts, training of people with respect to chemical and biological warfare capabilities, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Iraq for training and so forth…
Which was – to be delicate – a lie. What evidence existed was fatally flawed because of the abusive practices pioneered by … wait for it … Dick Cheney.

This is what we mean by the claim that political pressure resulted in failures of intelligence before the war. Dick Cheney visited the CIA an unprecedented number of times in the run-up to the invasion, and he made it clear what evidence he wanted. Then he pushed for the use of techniques which professional interrogators at the FBI and DoD know to produce useless results. If Cheney weren't pushing for an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, would the interrogators have been asking about that?

That's what I want Senator Roberts to find out with his Phase II inquiry.