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Lies We Still Tell Ourselves about 9/11 September 3, 2011

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Published on Saturday, September 3, 2011 by The Independent/UK

 

Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears?

  by  Robert Fisk

By their books, ye shall know them.

I’m talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as “boys”, almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.

Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there?

American publishers first went to war in 2001 with massive photo-memorial volumes. Their titles spoke for themselves: Above Hallowed Ground, So Others Might Live, Strong of Heart, What We Saw, The Final Frontier, A Fury for God, The Shadow of Swords… Seeing this stuff piled on newsstands across America, who could doubt that the US was going to go to war? And long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, another pile of tomes arrived to justify the war after the war. Most prominent among them was ex-CIA spook Kenneth Pollack’s The Threatening Storm – and didn’t we all remember Churchill’s The Gathering Storm? – which, needless to say, compared the forthcoming battle against Saddam with the crisis faced by Britain and France in 1938.

There were two themes to this work by Pollack – “one of the world’s leading experts on Iraq,” the blurb told readers, among whom was Fareed Zakaria (“one of the most important books on American foreign policy in years,” he drivelled) – the first of which was a detailed account of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction; none of which, as we know, actually existed. The second theme was the opportunity to sever the “linkage” between “the Iraq issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict”.

The Palestinians, deprived of the support of powerful Iraq, went the narrative, would be further weakened in their struggle against Israeli occupation. Pollack referred to the Palestinians’ “vicious terrorist campaign” – but without any criticism of Israel. He wrote of “weekly terrorist attacks followed by Israeli responses (sic)”, the standard Israeli version of events. America’s bias towards Israel was no more than an Arab “belief”. Well, at least the egregious Pollack had worked out, in however slovenly a fashion, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had something to do with 9/11, even if Saddam had not.

In the years since, of course, we’ve been deluged with a rich literature of post-9/11 trauma, from the eloquent The Looming Tower of Lawrence Wright to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose supporters have told us that the plane wreckage outside the Pentagon was dropped by a C-130, that the jets that hit the World Trade Centre were remotely guided, that United 93 was shot down by a US missile, etc. Given the secretive, obtuse and sometimes dishonest account presented by the White House – not to mention the initial hoodwinking of the official 9/11 commission staff – I am not surprised that millions of Americans believe some of this, let alone the biggest government lie: that Saddam was behind 9/11. Leon Panetta, the CIA’s newly appointed autocrat, repeated this same lie in Baghdad only this year.

There have been movies, too. Flight 93 re-imagined what may (or may not) have happened aboard the plane which fell into a Pennsylvania wood. Another told a highly romanticised story, in which the New York authorities oddly managed to prevent almost all filming on the actual streets of the city. And now we’re being deluged with TV specials, all of which have accepted the lie that 9/11 did actually change the world – it was the Bush/Blair repetition of this dangerous notion that allowed their thugs to indulge in murderous invasions and torture – without for a moment asking why the press and television went along with the idea. So far, not one of these programmes has mentioned the word “Israel” – and Brian Lapping’s Thursday night ITV offering mentioned “Iraq” once, without explaining the degree to which 11 September 2001 provided the excuse for this 2003 war crime. How many died on 9/11? Almost 3,000. How many died in the Iraq war? Who cares?

Publication of the official 9/11 report – in 2004, but read the new edition of 2011 – is indeed worth study, if only for the realities it does present, although its opening sentences read more like those of a novel than of a government inquiry. “Tuesday … dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States… For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta…” Were these guys, I ask myself, interns at Time magazine?

But I’m drawn to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan whose The Eleventh Day confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. “All the evidence … indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level,” they write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on “the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel”. Palestine, the authors state, “was certainly the principal political grievance … driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg”.

The motivation for the attacks was “ducked” even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this “issue” – cliché code word for “problem” – and its two most senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: “This was sensitive ground …Commissioners who argued that al-Qa’ida was motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… In their view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa’ida’s opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy.” And there you have it.

So what happened? The commissioners, Summers and Swan state, “settled on vague language that circumvented the issue of motive”. There’s a hint in the official report – but only in a footnote which, of course, few read. In other words, we still haven’t told the truth about the crime which – we are supposed to believe – “changed the world for ever”. Mind you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I’m really not surprised.

When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him, the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most important and “sensitive” question of 9/11: why?

© 2011 The Independent

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Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Answering Helen Thomas on Why They Want to Harm Us January 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War on Terror.
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(Roger’s note: I would like to add one minor aside to Ray McGovern’s incisive and tightly reasoned article posted below.  It has to do with President Obama.  Many, including myself, felt a profound relief that the exit of the barely literate Bush boy was followed by the ascendency to the presidency of a constitutional scholar.  How many times have I seen mention of relief that we finally have a president who can generate a readable sentence and who respects scientific analysis.  And yet …  And yet, here we see, as McGovern points out, the facile and banal manner in which Obama addresses the serious and vital question of al Qaeda and anti-American terrorism.  Instead of analysis, he gives us platitudes.  What is my point?  My point is that it is not intelligence or rhetoric or charisma — qualities which abound in the person of Barack Obama — but rather the policies, and the driving force behind those polices — read military-industrial complex — that are key.  Sadly, it has become all to clear that the differences between the Bush presidency and the Obama presidency are largely cosmetic.)
Published on Saturday, January 9, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Ray McGovern

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did.

Thomas: “Why do they want to do us harm? And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a – long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how evil al Qaeda continues to pervert a religion and entice and exploit impressionable young men.

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President limited himself to a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world.

But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room:

“America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a Donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11:

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney also has pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor did slip into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thusly:

“How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

But Napolitano doesn’t acknowledge the underlying problem, which is that many Muslims have watched Washington’s behavior closely for many years and view pious U.S. declarations about peace, justice, democracy and human rights as infuriating examples of hypocrisy and double talk.

So, Washington’s sanitized discussion about motives for terrorism seems more intended for the U.S. domestic audience than the Muslim world.

After all, people in the Middle East already know how Palestinians have been mistreated for decades; how Washington has propped up Arab dictatorships; how Muslims have been locked away at Guantanamo without charges; how the U.S. military has killed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; how U.S. mercenaries have escaped punishment for slaughtering innocents.

The purpose of U.S. “public diplomacy” appears more designed to shield Americans from this unpleasant reality, offering instead feel-good palliatives about the beneficence of U.S. actions. Most American journalists and politicians go along with the charade out of fear that otherwise they would be accused of lacking patriotism or sympathizing with “the enemy.”

Commentators who are neither naïve nor afraid are simply shut out of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Salon.com’s Glen Greenwald, for example, has complained loudly about “how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels terrorism directed at the U.S.,” and how it is taboo to point this out.

Greenwald recently called attention to a little-noticed Associated Press report on the possible motives of the 23-year-old Nigerian Abdulmutallab. The report quoted his Yemeni friends to the effect that the he was “not overtly extremist.” But they noted that he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. (Emphasis added)

Former CIA specialist on al Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, has been still more outspoken on what he sees as Israel’s tying down the American Gulliver in the Middle East. Speaking Monday on C-SPAN, he complained bitterly that any debate on the issue of American support for Israel and its effects is normally squelched.

Scheuer added that the Israel Lobby had just succeeded in getting him removed from his job at the Jamestown Foundation think tank for saying that Obama was “doing what I call the Tel Aviv Two-Step.”

More to the point, Scheuer asserted:

“For anyone to say that our support for Israel doesn’t hurt us in the Muslim world … is to just defy reality.”

Beyond loss of work, those who speak out can expect ugly accusations. The Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, which is considered the voice of the settler movement, weighed in strongly, branding Scheuer’s C-SPAN remarks “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

Media Squelching

As for media squelching, I continue to be amazed at how otherwise informed folks express total surprise when I refer them to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s statement about his motivation for attacking the United States, as cited on page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report.  Here is the full sentence (shortened above):

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

One can understand how even those following such things closely can get confused. On Aug. 30, 2009, five years after the 9/11 Commission Report was released, readers of the neoconservative Washington Post were given a diametrically different view, based on what the Post called “an intelligence summary:”

“KSM’s limited and negative experience in the United States – which included a brief jail-stay because of unpaid bills – almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a terrorist … He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist country.”

Apparently, the Post found this revisionist version politically more convenient, in that it obscured Mohammed’s other explanation implicating “U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” It’s much more comforting to view KSM as a disgruntled visitor who nursed his personal grievances into justification for mass murder.

An unusually candid view of the dangers accruing from the U.S. identification with Israel’s policies appeared five years ago in an unclassified study published by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board on Sept. 23, 2004. Contradicting President George W. Bush, the board stated:

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.

“Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

Abdulmutallab’s Attack

Getting back to Abdulmutallab and his motive in trying to blow up the airliner, how was this individual without prior terrorist affiliations suddenly transformed into an international terrorist ready to die while killing innocents?

If, as John Brennan seems to suggest, al Qaeda terrorists are hard-wired at birth for the “wanton slaughter of innocents,” how are they also able to jump-start a privileged 23-year old Nigerian, inculcate in him the acquired characteristics of a terrorist, and persuade him to do the bidding of al Qaeda/Persian Gulf?

As indicated above, the young Nigerian seems to have had particular trouble with Israel’s wanton slaughter of more than a thousand civilians in Gaza a year ago, a brutal campaign that was defended in Washington as justifiable self-defense.

Moreover, it appears that Abdulmutallab is not the only anti-American “terrorist” so motivated. When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda announced that they were uniting into “al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula,” their combined rhetoric railed against the Israeli attack on Gaza.

And on Dec. 30, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a 32-year-old Palestinian-born Jordanian physician, killed seven American CIA operatives and one Jordanian intelligence officer near Khost, Afghanistan, when he detonated a suicide bomb.

Though most U.S. media stories treated al-Balawi as a fanatical double agent driven by irrational hatreds, other motivations could be gleaned by carefully reading articles about his personal history.

Al-Balawi’s mother told Agence France-Presse that her son had never been an “extremist.” Al-Balawi’s widow, Defne Bayrak, made a similar statement to Newsweek.  In a New York Times article, al-Balawi’s brother was quoted as describing him as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor.”

So what led al-Balawi to take his own life in order to kill U.S. and Jordanian intelligence operatives?

Al-Balawi’s widow said her husband “started to change” after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. His brother said al-Balawi “changed” during last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians. (Emphasis added)

When al-Balawi volunteered with a medical organization to treat injured Palestinians in Gaza, he was arrested by Jordanian authorities, his brother said.

It was after that arrest that the Jordanian intelligence service apparently coerced or “recruited” al-Balawi to become a spy who would penetrate al Qaeda’s hierarchy and provide actionable intelligence to the CIA.

“If you catch a cat and put it in a corner, she will jump on you,” the brother said in explaining why al-Balawi would turn to suicide attack.

“My husband was anti-American; so am I,” his widow told Newsweek. Her two little girls would grow up fatherless, but she had no regrets.

Answering Helen

Are we starting to get the picture of what the United States is up against in the Muslim world?

Does Helen Thomas deserve an adult answer to her question about motive? Has President Obama been able to assimilate all this?

Or is the U.S. political/media establishment incapable of confronting this reality and/or taking meaningful action to alleviate the underlying causes of the violence?

Is the reported reaction of a CIA official to al-Balawi’s attack the appropriate one: “Last week’s attack will be avenged. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day.”

Revenge has not always turned out very well in the past.

Does anyone remember the brutal killing of four Blackwater contractors on March 31, 2004, when they took a bad turn and ended up in the wrong neighborhood of the Iraqi city of Fallujah – and how U.S. forces virtually leveled that large city in retribution after George W. Bush won his second term the following November?

If you read only the Fawning Corporate Media, you would blissfully think that the killing of the four Blackwater operatives was the work of fanatical animals who got – along with their neighbors – the reprisal they deserved. You wouldn’t know that the killings represented the second turn in that specific cycle of violence.

On March 22, 2004, Israeli forces assassinated the then-spiritual leader of Hamas in Gaza, Sheikh Yassin – a withering old man, blind and confined to a wheelchair. (Emphasis added)

That murder, plus sloppy navigation by the Blackwater men, set the stage for the next set of brutalities. The Blackwater operatives were killed by a group that described itself as the “Sheikh Yassin Revenge Brigade.”

Pamphlets and posters were all over the scene of the attack; one of the trucks that pulled around body parts of the mercenaries had a large poster photo of Yassin in its window, as did store fronts all over Fallujah.

We can wish Janet Napolitano luck with her “counter-radicalization” project and President Obama with his effort to “communicate clearly to Muslims,” but there will be no diminution in the endless cycles of violence unless legitimate grievances are addressed on all sides.

It would certainly also help if the American people were finally let in on the root causes for what otherwise gets portrayed as unprovoked savagery by Muslims.

This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Cheney’s Role Deepens May 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Torture.
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by Robert Windrem

At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

“To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House officials] had particular interest,” Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, told me. So much so that the officials, according to Duelfer, inquired how the interrogation was proceeding.

In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from “some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA),” who thought Khudayr’s interrogation had been “too gentle” and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. “They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,” Duelfer writes. “The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature.”

Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: “The language I can use is what has been cleared.” In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be declassified to prove his case. (The Daily Beast placed a call to Cheney’s office and will post a response if we get one.)

Without admitting where the suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and understood the rationale as political-and ultimately counterproductive to the overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of finding Saddam Hussein’s WMD after the invasion.

“Everyone knew there would be more smiles in Washington if WMD stocks were found,” Duelfer said in the interview. “My only obligation was to find the truth. It would be interesting if there was WMD in May 2003, but what was more interesting to me was looking at the entire regime through the slice of WMD.”

But, Duelfer says, Khudayr in fact repeatedly denied knowing the location of WMD or links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda and was not subjected to any enhanced interrogation. Duelfer says the idea that he would have known of such links was “ludicrous”.

This proposed use of enhanced interrogation techniques, or torture, in Iraq was not the only time these methods were actually used to derive information for a purpose other than the stated one-to derive intelligence about imminent threats to the United States following the 9/11 attacks.

An extensive analysis I conducted as a reporter for NBC News of the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report and its monograph on terrorist travel showed that much of what was reported about the planning and execution of the terror attacks on New York and Washington was based on the CIA’s interrogations of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives who had been subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

More than one-quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Report refer to CIA interrogations of al Qaeda operatives subjected to the now-controversial interrogation techniques. In fact, information derived from the interrogations was central to the 9/11 Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks.

The NBC analysis also showed-and agency and commission staffers concur-there was a separate, second round of interrogations in early 2004, specifically conducted to answer new questions from the 9/11 Commission after its lawyers had been left unsatisfied by the agency’s internal interrogation reports.

Human-rights advocates, including Karen Greenberg of New York University Law School’s Center for Law and Security and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, have said that, at the least, the 9/11 Commission should have been more suspect of the information derived under such pressure.

Commission executive director Philip Zelikow (later counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) admitted, “We were not aware, but we guessed, that things like that were going on. We were wary…we tried to find different sources to enhance our credibility.” (Zelikow testified before the Senate on Wednesday, May 13, that he had argued in a 2005 memo that some of the tactics used on suspected terrorists violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.)

A former senior U.S. intelligence official told me the Commission never expressed any concerns about techniques and even pushed for a second round of interrogations in early 2004, as the Commission was finishing up its work. The second round of interrogations sought by the Commission involved more than 30 separate interrogation sessions.

“Remember,” the intelligence official said, “the Commission had access to the intelligence reports that came out of the interrogation. This didn’t satisfy them. They demanded direct personal access to the detainees and the administration told them to go pound sand.”

“As a compromise, they were allowed to let us know what questions they would have liked to ask the detainees. At appropriate times in the interrogation cycle, agency questioners would go back and re-interview the detainees. Many of [those] questions were variants or follow-ups to stuff previously asked.”

At least four operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being “tortured.” Those claims came during their hearings in the spring of 2007 at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

For Duelfer, an experienced interrogator, the details now being laid out in CIA and White House memoranda and in congressional hearings cannot be justified. While admitting that the interrogators faced enormous pressure in 2002 and 2003, he said he had problems with the overall strategy.

“Interrogation is about two humans who are face to face, sweat to sweat. Is your hand going to hit them?” he notes. “That’s a relationship that becomes very deep. If you are going to reach someone at an intellectual or emotive level, it’s hard to see how you can do that and still be the person who accosts that person. I don’t know how to do that.”

Robert Windrem is a Senior Reserach Fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security. For three decades, he worked as a producer for NBC News. During that time, he focused on issues of international security, strategic policy, intelligence and terrorism. He is the winner of more than 40 national journalism awards for his work in print, television, and online journalism, including a Columbia-duPont Award, mostly for his work on international security issues.

Poll: Most Want Inquiry Into Anti-Terror Tactics February 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture, War.
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inquiryA man protesting Bush’s domestic wiretapping program. Polls show that Americans want investigations of the Bush administration. (Photo: AFP)

12 February 2009

by: Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY

  Washington – Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether its tactics in the “war on terror” broke the law.

    Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

    Calls to Move On: Even reversed, Bush policies divide

    Even more people want action on alleged attempts by the Bush team to use the Justice Department for political purposes. Four in 10 favored a criminal probe, three in 10 an independent panel, and 25% neither.

    The ACLU and other groups are pressing for inquiries into whether the Bush administration violated U.S. and international bans on torture and the constitutional right to privacy. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and his Senate counterpart, Patrick Leahy, have proposed commissions to investigate.

    Asked Monday about Leahy’s plan, President Obama said he would look at it. He added, “my general orientation is to say, let’s get it right moving forward.” Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have declined to rule out prosecutions. Leon Panetta, named to head the CIA, said this month that CIA officers would not be prosecuted for harsh interrogations authorized by the Bush White House.

    Leahy, D-Vt., this week proposed a “truth commission” to assemble facts. He said the panel could offer immunity from prosecution for everything but perjury. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why,” he said.

    Conyers, D-Mich., has called for a panel that would gather facts and make recommendations, and could possibly lead to prosecutions. “This isn’t payback,” he said. “We are getting things straightened out for the future.”

    The Republican viewpoint was summed up recently by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. “If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it,” he said. “This is not Latin America.”

    The politics of any investigation would be delicate. “You’d need people who haven’t made up their minds,” says Tom Kean, a Republican who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission.

President Bush Saved US Lives? That’s Only More Karl Rove-Style Spin January 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, George W. Bush.
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08 January 2009

by: Richard Clarke, The New York Daily News

www.truthout.org

George Bush, still President, is engaging in a legacy tour of media outlets. This comes despite his earlier having said he did not know how history would judge the Iraq war “because we’ll all be dead.”

    Actually, many people are already dead because of Bush, and that is the point to keep in mind when he talks about his legacy.

    Among the themes Bush is striking are that through action at home and fighting “them” over there, not over here, his administration stopped terrorist attacks and prevented another 9/11. There is a surface plausibility to those claims, as there has often been with the messaging served up by the Karl Rove spin machine. But let’s look beneath the surface of the assertions.

    Bush stopped terrorist attacks? Yes, some of the many alleged plots cited by the White House probably would have matured into attacks had not the U.S. intelligence community acted. Many were more aspirational than operational, and others were the pure inventions of FBI informants. (In the Miami Liberty City case, an FBI informant apparently bribed people who previously had no interest in Al Qaeda. When they swore the oath to Osama Bin Laden, they were then arrested for doing so.)

    But even if taken on its face as true, should having stopped terrorist attacks earn this President a Harry Truman-like reassessment down the road? I can attest from firsthand knowledge that the Clinton administration stopped numerous terrorist operations that would have resulted in American deaths. Yet I don’t hear Bill Clinton running around boasting about that. Clinton has other things to lay claim to – a balanced budget, huge job growth and eight years without a major war. If you don’t think the Clinton administration stopped a major terrorist attack in New York City, you might want to talk with the blind sheik, who was involved in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI. But that would be tough to do because Omar Abdel-Rahman is in solitary in a federal prison in Colorado.

    There wasn’t a second 9/11? That’s obviously true, but it misses the point. First, we must remember that Al Qaeda terrorists are patient, deliberate planners who often wait years between strikes. Second, there was the first 9/11 – and it happened on Bush’s watch. Without rehashing the entire 9/11 Commission Report, the historical record is pretty clear by now that Bush did virtually nothing about the repeated warnings to him that those cataclysmic attacks were coming. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to that as well.

    Bush saved American lives? Tell that to the families of the 4,200 U.S. military personnel who have perished in the needless war in Iraq. While they served heroically and deserve the great thanks of the American people, the tragic truth is that they were engaged in a war we should not have been fighting and which was sold to the Congress, the media and American people with exaggerated and even false claims.

    Beyond the needless American deaths that are Bush’s legacy, there are the Iraqis we almost never think about. Iraq Body Count is an ongoing human security project that claims to maintain “the world’s largest public database of violent civilian deaths during and since the 2003 invasion.” They say their data “encompasses noncombatants killed by military or paramilitary action and the breakdown in civil security following the invasion.” Currently, their estimate – conservative when put alongside other totals – is that between 90,253 and 98,521 Iraqis were killed because George Bush invaded that country. That’s thirty 9/11s.

    Let George Bush keep pushing the buttons on the spin machine. That cannot change the facts. His administration’s actions on terrorism, including Iraq, killed many more Americans than U.S. intelligence agencies saved in the past eight years.

    ———-

    Clarke was a counterterrorism adviser to former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He is the author of “Against All Enemies” and “Your Government Failed You.”

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