Monday, March 16, 2009

9/11 Commission Relied on Tortured Confessions

Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, the moniker for one of Daily Kos's most intrepid diarists, has written an article covering the revelations in Newsweek that much of the information in the report of the 9/11 commission was gathered from prisoners who were tortured. NBC news reported:
According to both current and former senior U.S. intelligence officials, the operatives cited by the Commission were subjected to the harshest of the CIA’s methods, the "enhanced interrogation techniques." The techniques included physical and mental abuse, exposure to extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.
Even more startling, the 9/11 Commission's request for more information may have led to even more torture. Per PDNC's diary:
The 9/11 panel also did not publicly protest the interrogation methods even though there were public reports at the time that the prisoners were being tortured or subjected to "enhanced interrogation." Moreover, despite their suspicions and public news reports, the position of the commission staffers interviewed by NBC News was that interrogation techniques were "not in our mandate."

Finally, the commission "demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions." Newsweek reports that it is a "distinct possibility" that prisoners were subjected to torture in order to answer the questions posed by the 9/11 Commission. Commission members wanted to have direct access to the prisoners to ask questions, but the Whitehouse refused, so questions were passed onto the CIA.
What did the commission members make of all this at the time, these paragons of political virtue, who included Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton, Tim Roemer, Bob Kerrey and others, and as executive director, Philip D. Zelikow, an old colleague of Condoleezza Rice, and also an NSC member and director of the Aspen Strategy Group? According to the NBC "deep background" article:
9/11 Commission staffers say they "guessed" but did not know for certain that harsh techniques had been used, and they were concerned that the techniques had affected the operatives’ credibility. At least four of the 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."
Major Questions on 9/11

As PDNC points out, Newsweek can't help put notice that the "troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report". No kidding.

The very term, "9/11", can still rouse a great deal of emotion and fear. The idea that much of what we thought we knew about 9/11 is based on torture "evidence"/testimony is about as horrifying as anything I can think of.

Truly the use of torture has spread like a poison and infected everything this country does or claims to stand for. It has invaded the very notion of truth and sullied it beyond recognition.

Moreover, this kind of news will give new credence to those who have seen 9/11 as some kind of government conspiracy. While I am no such conspiracist on this issue, there are certainly strange doings around the 9/11 events.

One such unanswered aspect of the affair appeared in respected journalist James Bamford's recent book on the NSA post-9/11, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.

In the first chapter of the book, Bamford reports how Tom Wilshire, a high-level CIA deputy chief at Counter-Terrorism Center, spiked a report on the travel of a known associate of a terror center in Yemen to New York City. From Bamford's book (pp. 19-21 -- emphases added):

Doug Miller, one of three FBI employees at Alec Station, took one look at the faxes and became instantly alarmed. A possible terrorist, whose travel was arranged by bin Laden's ops center, was on his way to a secret al-Qaeda meeting [in Kuala Lampur] and would soon be heading for America's largest city. At 9:20 a.m. [roughly Dec. 1999], started pecking out a message to alert his superiors at FBI headquarters, who could then put [Khalid al] Mihdhar on a watch list to bar him from entry.

But inexplicably, the message -- known as a Central Intelligence Report (CIR) -- was spiked by his CIA boss, Tom Wilshire, the deputy chief of Alec Station. At about 4:00 p.m., one of the CIA analysts assigned to the station, a twenty-nine year old woman, typed a note onto it: "pls hold off on CIR for now per Tom Wilshire." Without Wilshire's approval, Miller could not pass on the information, even verbally. He had done everything by the book....

Miller then told his FBI colleague Mark Rossini what happened. Rossini had spent many years working on terrorism cases in the bureau, from the first World Trade Center bombing to the attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa, and had been assigned to Alec Station for several years. he was both perplexed and outraged that the CIA would forbid the bureau's notification on a matter so important. "Doug came to me and said, 'What the fuck?'" said Rossini, who took the matter up with Wilshire's deputy.... "So the next day I went to her and said, 'What's with Doug's cable. You've got to tell the bureau about this.' She put her hand on her hip and said, 'Look, the next attack is going to happen in Southeast Asia -- it's not the FBI's jurisdiction. When we want the FBI to know about it, we'll let them know. But the next bin Laden attack's going to happen in Southeast Asia.'" It made no sense to Rossini. The potential terrorists were coming to the U.S. -- not to Southeast Asia. Neither Rossini nor Miller was questioned by the 9/11 Commission.

"They refused to tell us because they didn't want the FBI... muddying up their operation," said one of the FBI agents assigned to the station....

Having forbidden Miller and Rossini from notifying their headquarters about Mihdhar's planned travel to the U.S., the CIA then proceed to lose Mihdhar and Hamzmi when they took off for a brief visit to Bangkok, en route to the U.S....

On January 14, the chief of Alec Station told senior officals that the search for Khalid al-Mihdhar and the others was still going strong. In fact, it had been over for days. The next day, the FBI agent Doug Miller sent an e-mail to Tom Wilshire asking what happened to his CIR to FBI headquarters warning of Mihdhar's plans to travel to the U.S. "Is this a no-go or should I remake it in some way?" he asked. He never received a response.

At almost the same moment, Mihdhar and Hazmi's plane touched down at Los Angeles International Airport.

Mihdhar and Hazmi died along with everybody else after they helped hijack American Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Will someone please stop asking for torture information and goddamn ask Tom Wilshire what the hell he was doing suppressing the CIR on Mihdhar. Someone also might want to investigate the coincidental loss of the tail of the two suspected terrorists after they left Kuala Lumpur.

I'm sure this doesn't represent the sum total of unanswered questions about 9/11. The diarist's own article raises a new one: who ordered or approved the use of tortured information in the investigation? They should be headed to jail, and pronto.

Looked at from another angle, the news reported above could have concerned any damn government report. If a government uses tortured evidence for military and intelligence purposes, that's evil, and bad enough (and illegal, and should be prosecuted).

But when torture is used by civil commissions as a basis of investigation, then the entire nation has jumped the shark, and we are in waters so deadly and deep, I don't know how we all don't drown.

1 comment:

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