CIA torture scandal, new information

This 7 December 2019 video says about itself:

An article in the New York Times has raised more concerns over America’s human rights record. The article cites a report entitled “How America Tortures”, describing the treatment one current Guantanamo Bay prisoner and others endured at the hands of American intelligence agents.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

America’s torturers and their co-conspirators must be prosecuted

9 December 2019

“I was in such an indescribable state of pain… I could hear sounds coming from the brothers, not only one but more than one brother; one was moaning, another one vomiting and another one screaming: my back, my back!”

“He started banging my head against the wall with both his hands. The banging was so strong that I felt at some point my skull was in pieces… Then he dragged me to another very tiny squared box. With the help of the guards he shoved me inside the box…”

—Denbeaux, Mark et al., How America Tortures (2019), Appendix I: Abu Zubaydah’s Notes


Last month, the Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research published a paper titled “How America Tortures”, which contains eight significant drawings by torture victim Abu Zubaydah.

The drawings by themselves are a powerful indictment of the entire political establishment in the United States, which has failed to hold anyone accountable for the crimes that are depicted.

The paper represents the work of a team led by Professor Mark Denbeaux, who is serving as an attorney for a number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, including Abu Zubaydah. The paper brings together material from numerous sources, including Central Intelligence Agency cables and other government documents, and Abu Zubaydah’s own account of what occurred, to provide a chronology “not only from the CIA’s perspective, but also from the perspective of the tortured.” The result is damning.

The CIA’s torture techniques are cataloged in comprehensive detail in the report. They include “cramped confinement” in small boxes, in some cases “adding insects to the dark box as another way to scare the detainee locked inside.” The paper documents the use of female soldiers to sexually abuse and humiliate detainees, with “female military personnel going shirtless during interrogations, giving forced lap dances, and rubbing red liquids on the detainees which they identified as menstrual blood.”

One FBI agent described finding detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defacated [sic] on themselves, and had been left there for [eighteen, twenty-four] hours or more.”

Loud rap music was played around the clock. The now-infamous practice of “involuntary rectal feeding” involved pumping pureed food into the victim’s rectum for no medical reason.

How have the perpetrators of these bestial crimes managed to avoid prosecution? It is not for lack of evidence.

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “executive summary” of its findings regarding the CIA torture program. This executive summary, which runs in the hundreds of pages, is itself merely an outline of the full 6,700-page report, including 38,000 footnotes, which has been suppressed.

The World Socialist Web Site wrote at the time of the release of the summary: “From a legal standpoint, the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are documented in the report warrant the immediate arrest, indictment, and prosecution of every individual involved in the program, from the torturers themselves and their ‘outside contractors’ all the way up to senior officials in the Bush and Obama administrations who presided over the program and subsequently attempted to cover it up.”

The crimes perpetrated by the American military and intelligence agencies in the course of the so-called “war on terror” were heinous, premeditated, and involved extreme depravity. These crimes were further aggravated by protracted efforts to cover them up, destroy evidence and obstruct investigations.

The crimes cannot be written off as the overzealous conduct of low-level “rogue” agents. On the contrary, they were organized in cold blood and at the highest levels. The Seton Hall Law School paper states as a matter of fact that “top officials in the West Wing of the White House and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice orchestrated and poorly oversaw a horrific torture program that was responsible for the detention and interrogation of countless detainees.”

A New York Times editorial dated December 5, titled “Don’t Look Away”, is an attempt at damage control following the release of the Abu Zubaydah illustrations. While denouncing torture as “barbaric and illegal”, the article seeks to blame the torture program on the Republicans, denouncing President Trump and “those who think like him.”

The Times concludes: “The United States has by far the greatest security establishment on earth, with the greatest reach. When the United States commits or abets war crimes, it erodes the honor, effectiveness, and value of that force.”

The Times does not attempt to explain how it came to pass that nobody was ever prosecuted for conduct that it admits was “barbaric and illegal” and constituted “war crimes”.

In reality, the CIA torture program was entirely bipartisan. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as then-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi were briefed on the program in 2002.

The Obama administration played a key role in legitimizing torture and shielding war criminals from prosecution. Under the slogan of “looking forward not backward”, the Democrats refused to prosecute anyone involved in the program or cover-up. The only CIA employee who was ever prosecuted by the Obama administration in connection with torture was analyst John Kiriakou, who was jailed for publicly acknowledging that the CIA was engaged in waterboarding.

Obama refused for years to release the Senate torture report and assisted the CIA’s efforts to suppress it. In 2015, the Obama administration successfully sued to prevent the American Civil Liberties Union from obtaining it under the Freedom of Information Act.

What did the New York Times have to say about these “barbaric and illegal” practices at the time? On April 6, 2002, a Times headline gloated, “A Master Terrorist is Nabbed”. Describing the abduction of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan, without charges or legal proceedings of any kind, the Times wrote, “His seizure demonstrates that the painstaking international detective work of the current phase of the war on terror is paying off.”

On June 12, 2002, in an article titled “Traces of Terror”, the Times continued its role as a CIA stenographer: “After nearly 100 sessions with CIA and FBI interrogators at a heavily guarded, undisclosed location, the captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah has provided information that American officials say is central to the Bush administration’s efforts to pre-empt a new wave of attacks against the United States.”

This version of events was, as is now universally acknowledged, a pack of lies. Abu Zubaydah was not a high-level operative in Al Qaeda, and he may not have even been a member. He has never been charged with a crime, let alone tried and convicted. Yet to this day, he continues to rot in a cell in the Guantanamo Bay torture camp, with no prospect of being released.

Five years after the publication of the Senate report, where are the torturers and their co-conspirators now? Gina Haspel, who presided over a CIA torture compound in Thailand and was implicated in the destruction of tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s torture in 2005, was promoted by Trump to become the new director of the agency.

The previous director, John Brennan, who was a high-level CIA official during the Bush administration and under Obama ordered agents to break into Senate staffers’ computers in an effort to search for incriminating information relating to torture, is now serving as a well-paid “senior national security and intelligence analyst” for NBC News and MSNBC. He makes regular appearances on news programs to agitate in favor of the Democrats’ impeachment drive.

James Mitchell, whose company, Mitchell Jessen and Associates, received a $81 million contract from the CIA to develop and implement the “enhanced interrogation” techniques that were used on Abu Zubaydah and others, remains at large. According to a Bloomberg News article in 2014, he is now retired and spends his free time kayaking, rafting and climbing.

And what has been the fate of those who have exposed official criminality? Julian Assange is imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison in London, where his life is endangered by conditions amounting to torture. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned and tortured, released, and then imprisoned again for refusing to testify against Assange before a grand jury. Edward Snowden was forced to flee the country and seek refuge in Russia.

The torturers and their co-conspirators have not been prosecuted, not because of lack of evidence or insufficient legal grounds, but because the entire political establishment is implicated at the highest levels, including the Democrats, the Republicans, the military and intelligence agencies, the establishment media, and all of those who perpetrated the reactionary fraud of the “war on terror”.

The failure to prosecute the torturers has served to embolden the most fascistic layers in the state apparatus, opening the way for Trump to boast of his support for torture in broad daylight. Trump and his fascistic advisers, frightened by the growth of social opposition, believe that the Gestapo-style methods that have been implemented in the course of the “war on terror” are necessary to terrify and suppress opposition both abroad and internally. While Trump brags that he is in favor of implementing torture practices at Guantanamo Bay that are a “hell of a lot worse”, he tells police officers within the US: “Don’t be too nice.”

The Democrats and their allies are concerned that public discussion of the crimes of the state would serve to fuel popular hostility towards the institutions the New York Times describes as the “greatest security establishment on earth”. It would cut across the Democrats’ ongoing efforts to ingratiate and align themselves with the CIA as part of the impeachment drive against Trump. Moreover, the revelations of CIA torture underscore the hypocrisy of their efforts to justify American imperialist aggression and subversion all over the world in the name of “human rights”.

For these reasons, the demand to bring the torturers to justice must be taken up by the international working class. Every individual who participated in the CIA torture program or the cover-up in any capacity, including those who failed to intervene when they had an opportunity to do so, should face arrest, indictment and prosecution.

The fight to end torture once and for all must be connected to the mounting struggles of the international working class to defend and expand its democratic and social rights and halt the drive of the ruling class toward dictatorship. The entire existing social order is implicated in torture and must be overthrown.

CIA, FBI not good alternatives to Trump

This 24 March 2016 video says about itself:

The Dark Prison: The Legacy of the CIA Torture Programme | Fault Lines

“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”

It’s been more than a year since US President Barack Obama admitted that the CIA tortured prisoners at its interrogation centres.

While the CIA has long admitted the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning by pouring water into a person’s nose and mouth, a truncated and heavily redacted report by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2015 detailed other abuses that went beyond previous disclosures.

Reading like a script from a horror film, some of the techniques involved prisoners being slapped and punched while being dragged naked up and down corridors, being kept in isolation in total darkness, subject to constant deafening music, rectal rehydration and being locked in coffin-shaped boxes.

Critical to the development of the CIA’s brutal interrogation programme was a legal memo that said the proposed methods of interrogation were not torture if they did not cause “organ failure, death or permanent damage”.

Despite failing to produce any useful information about imminent terrorist attacks, the CIA meted out these and other brutal treatments for years after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

And with dozens of people having since been released without charge, and at least a quarter of them officially declared to have been “wrongfully detained”, the effects of torture live on with the victims, burned into their minds.

In this episode of Fault Lines, we explore the plight of these men struggling to overcome their harrowing experiences of torture since leaving CIA-run black sites.

By Barry Grey in the USA:

“Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd grills senator: “You don’t trust the FBI and CIA?”

8 October 2019

An exchange on Sunday between NBC News’ “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and Senator Ron Johnson (Republican from Wisconsin) sums up the right-wing basis on which the Democratic Party and its media allies are conducting their impeachment drive against President Trump.

In the interview, Johnson refused to condemn Trump for withholding military aid in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the role of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in his son Hunter’s business dealings with a Ukrainian oligarch, the central issue in the impeachment inquiry.

The senator, who cosponsored a bipartisan bill to send arms to the right-wing anti-Russian regime, also sought to defend Trump’s demand that Kiev investigate collaboration between the 2016 Clinton election campaign and Ukraine in depicting Trump as a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin and charging Moscow with hacking Democratic Party emails.

At the beginning of 2017, in advance of Trump’s inauguration, the CIA and the rest of the US intelligence agencies officially adopted the fabricated narrative of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election and Trump campaign collusion. This became the basis for a secret FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump White House, which then morphed into the nearly two-year investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller. The current impeachment drive is an extension of this CIA-driven campaign.

When Johnson evaded Todd’s questions concerning Trump’s bullying of Ukraine to advance his personal electoral chances, and instead repeatedly raised the Clinton campaign’s collaboration with Ukrainian officials against Trump, Todd exclaimed as though in exasperated disbelief:

“Do you not trust the FBI? You don’t trust the CIA?” …

Nothing could more clearly reveal the role of the Democratic Party and its media allies in fronting for the intelligence agencies than this exchange between the “liberal” news analyst and the right-wing Republican defender of Trump. The Democrats’ alternative to Trump’s efforts to establish a form of presidential dictatorship and create a fascist movement based on anti-immigrant racism and extreme nationalism is to install a government directly run by the CIA and the Pentagon. …

They evidently believe that the public is infinitely gullible and suffering from collective memory loss.

These, after all, are the organizations that justified the war in Iraq on the basis of the Big Lie of “weapons of mass destruction”. They created the fraudulent narrative of the “war on terror” to justify aggressive wars in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa that killed millions and destroyed entire societies. Meanwhile, in Libya and Syria, they funded and collaborated with Al Qaeda-linked terrorist militias in wars for regime-change.

The CIA has engineered coups and installed military dictatorships and far-right regimes all over the world. It would take many volumes to detail all of the lies and crimes of these pillars of the “deep state” against the people of the United States and the entire world. …

It is crucial that working people not allow their opposition to Trump to be channeled behind the CIA-Democratic impeachment drive. The working class must conduct the struggle against Trump independently of all sections of the ruling class and both capitalist parties. Its methods are those not of palace coup, but class struggle, which must be expanded to embrace all sections of workers and youth both in the US and internationally in the fight against the capitalist system, the source of inequality, war and dictatorship.

As Donald Trump responds to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry by seeking to whip up far-right and fascistic forces, the Democrats and their allies in the media are promoting dissident elements in the military command that are publicly denouncing the White House’s decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria. The extraordinary intervention of high-ranking retired generals is a breach of the core constitutional principle of the subordination of the military to civilian authority. It highlights the right-wing and anti-democratic character of both factions in the political conflict in Washington and the immense dangers facing the working class if the resolution of the crisis is left in the hands of the warring factions of the ruling class: here.

CIA killing people with drones

This 10 March 2019 video says about itself:

Civilian deaths by US drone strikes will no longer be reported

President Donald Trump has reversed a 2016 policy that requires US intelligence to report the number of civilians killed in US drone strikes.

Knack weekly in Belgium reported on 7 June 2017 on the long-distance killing of people thousands of miles away by drones piloted from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia in the USA. The Trump administration made these drone killings even worse.

Translated from the report, interviewing an ex-CIA employee:

A colleague killed a man and spared his child. But then he saw how the child walked back, and put his father’s body parts back into the form of a human body.

CIA drones killing civilians OK, Trump decides

This 2 July 2016 video says about itself:

US downplays civilian drone fatalities in new report

The White House has released its report on the number of civilians killed by drone strikes during its two terms in office. The report says they conducted 473 strikes killing as many as 2,500 people labeled as combatants and also taking the lives of up to 116 civilians.

It only applies to areas the US does not consider itself in active combat, so excludes Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane reports from Washington, DC.

From the BBC today, about the USA:

Trump revokes Obama rule on reporting drone strike deaths

President Donald Trump has revoked a policy set by his predecessor requiring US intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of war zones.

As the video says, these official numbers of civilians killed were probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The 2016 executive order was brought in by then-President Barack Obama, who was under pressure to be more transparent.

The Trump administration said the rule was “superfluous” and distracting.

The order applied to the CIA, which has carried out drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. …

What was the rule?

It required the head of the CIA to release annual summaries of US drone strikes and assess how many died as a result.

Mr Trump’s executive order does not overturn reporting requirements on civilian deaths set for the military by Congress.

There have been 2,243 drone strikes in the first two years of the Trump presidency, compared with 1,878 in Mr Obama’s eight years in office, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based think tank.

What is the reaction?

Lawmakers and rights groups have criticised Mr Trump’s decision, saying it could allow the CIA to conduct drone strikes without accountability.

“The Trump administration’s action is an unnecessary and dangerous step backwards on transparency and accountability for the use of lethal force, and the civilian casualties they cause,” Rita Siemion of Human Rights First told AFP news agency.

Trump’s torturing CIA boss Haspel, new documents

This 17 May 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Doctor who treated a Gina Haspel torture victim speaks out

While I was uploading this video, Gina Haspel was confirmed as CIA director.

The details of how victims were tortured under her watch at a CIA black site in Thailand are horrifying.

By E.P. Milligan in the USA:

Cables document CIA Director Haspel’s direct role in torture at black site in Thailand

15 August 2018

Declassified cables released last Friday provide irrefutable evidence that the current CIA director, Gina Haspel, played a direct role in the torture of detainees at a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002. The National Security Archive obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Haspel was chief of base at “Detention Site Green” (also known as “Cat’s Eye”) and either wrote or authorized the cables.

The publication of the damning cables was given short shrift by the corporate media. The New York Times and the Washington Post each published only one article on the story in their August 10 editions. Both newspapers placed the story on their inside pages and buried it thereafter.

Haspel, tapped by Trump earlier this year to succeed Mike Pompeo, who was promoted to secretary of state, served as acting director beginning last April 26 and became director on May 26. The Democrats supplied the necessary votes to assure her confirmation by the Senate following hearings in May. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearings on Haspel’s nomination provided a revealing exposure of the criminality of the US intelligence apparatus as well as the disintegration of bourgeois democratic processes in the United States.

The hearing was characterized by gushing tributes by both Democrats and Republicans for the work of an agency long ago dubbed “Murder, Inc.” for its crimes around the world, including the organization of political assassinations, the creation of terrorist armies and the orchestration of fascist-military coups.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who after the hearing became the first Democrat to announce his support for the nomination, went so far as to tell Haspel that when speaking to constituents, “I brag about what you people do in the Clandestine Services.”

The CIA has redacted Haspel’s name from the released cables, as well as those of CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The three were identified in a Senate Intelligence Committee torture report declassified and released in 2014, which documented the grisly and illegal torture methods sanctioned by the George W. Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC.

President Obama and his CIA chief, John Brennan, blocked the release of the report for months, and Brennan had his agents hack into the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee staff who were drafting the report. Obama blocked any prosecution of Bush officials, including Brennan himself, a high-ranking CIA official during the Republican administration, who were involved in the torture program.

The 16 cables from Haspel published by the National Security Archive document scenes fit for a medieval dungeon. The CIA’s victims endured waterboarding, a technique in which water is poured through a cloth placed over the victim’s mouth and nose, inducing drowning; walling, i.e., having one’s back and head slammed repeatedly into a wall; forced nudity, hooding and shackling, confinement in a small box, sleep deprivation and other forms of physical and psychological torture.

Haspel was also involved in the 2005 destruction of CIA tapes of torture sessions sought by the courts.

The documents identify the victim as Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, a Saudi national and member of Al Qaeda, who endured at least 16 days of unabated torture before he was moved to another facility. Sixteen years later, Al-Nashiri is a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. A psychological expert has described him as “one of the most damaged victims of torture” she has ever examined.

The first torture session of Al-Nashiri took place on November 15, 2002. “At 0415 hours, HVT [high-value target] interrogators, security team members and linguist entered the cell”, the first cable states. “The rolled towel/neck support was placed around his neck, and subject was moved to the walling board.”

When it was deemed that Al-Nashiri had not divulged a sufficient amount of information, the interrogators “immediately used the attention grab with the rolled towel/neck support to move subject off the wall and down on to the floor of the cell. Subject’s clothes were ripped off of him by security team members while the interrogator told subject we knew he was lying…”

The interrogators threatened Al-Nashiri, stating that “if he refused to cooperate he would suffer in ways he never thought possible.” The security team then forcibly shaved his head while he “moaned and wailed.” Finally, the security team locked him in a box roughly the size of a coffin.

Another document reveals that at a subsequent torture session, interrogators locked al-Nashiri in an even smaller box, requiring that he curl up in order to fit inside.

The cables describe as many as three torture sessions a day. The victim spent the majority of this time nude and shackled in a containment box, allowed only liquid food. When he gave information that interrogators believed to be true, he was “given solid food and allowed to sleep on the floor of his cell with a mat and a towel to cover himself.” On day 12 of his confinement, his interrogators began routinely waterboarding him.

One particular cable from December 1 describes a torture session in lurid detail. The author, who may have been Haspel herself, gloats:

“Security team backed the hooded and shackled subject against the walling panel with the towel/neck restraint over his shoulders. [High-value target interrogator] [redacted] and linguist [redacted] strode, catlike, into the well-lit confines of the cell at 0902 hrs [redacted], deftly removed the subject’s black hood with a swipe, paused, and in a deep, measured voice said that subject—having ‘calmed down’ after his (staged) run-in with his hulking, heavily muscled guards the previous day—should reveal what subject had done to vex his guards to the point of rage.”

Haspel, 61, joined the CIA in 1985. Among the positions she has held in the agency are chief of station in several world capitals, senior manager of the Counterterrorism Center and, under the Obama administration, acting deputy director of the National Clandestine Service (NCS), which carries out covert operations around the globe.