On December 11, the Senate Armed Services Committee
issued a compelling report into the torture and abuse of prisoners in US custody
based on a detailed analysis of how Chinese torture techniques, which are used
in US military schools to train personnel to resist interrogation if captured,
were reverse engineered and applied to prisoners captured in the "War on
The techniques, taught as part of the SERE programs (Survival, Evasion, Resistance,
Escape) include sleep deprivation, the prolonged use of stress positions, forced
nudity, hooding, exposure to extreme temperatures, subjecting prisoners to loud
music and flashing lights, "treating them like animals," and,
in some cases, the ancient torture technique known as waterboarding,
a form of controlled drowning that the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition
called "tortura del agua."
The report rejected the conclusions of over a dozen investigations, conducted
since the Abu
Ghraib scandal in 2004, which identified problems concerning the treatment
of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, but which were not
authorized to gaze up the chain of command to blame senior officials for approving
the use of torture by US forces, and for instigating abusive policies.
This enabled the administration to maintain, as it did with Abu Ghraib, that
any abuse was the result of the rogue activities of "a few bad apples,"
but the Senate Committee report comprehensively demolished this defense. The
"The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed
to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own. The
fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited
information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create
the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.
Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that
could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised
our moral authority."
Those singled out for blame include President George W. Bush (for stripping
prisoners of the protections of the Geneva Conventions in February 2002, which
paved the way for all the abuse that followed), former defense secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney's former legal counsel (and now chief of
staff) David Addington, former Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II,
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, former White
House general counsel (and later US Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales, former
White House deputy counsel Timothy Flanigan, former Assistant Attorney General
Jay S. Bybee, former Justice Department legal adviser John Yoo, former Guantánamo
commanders Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, and Lt.
Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq.
The one senior official who was not mentioned – presumably because of the
talent for remaining behind the scenes that once earned him the secret service
– was Dick Cheney. However, just four days later, as if to make up for his
omission from the report, Cheney was interviewed
by ABC News, and took the opportunity to present a detailed defense of the
administration's national security policies, throwing down a very public gauntlet
to critics of torture, Guantánamo, illegal wiretapping and the invasion
of Iraq, and raising fears that he was only doing so because a Presidential
pardon is just around the corner.
Cheney's most significant remark was his first admission in public that he
was involved in approving the waterboarding of Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (who,
it should be noted, claimed
responsibility for the attacks before he was captured by US forces). However,
the entire interview is worth looking at, as Cheney's version of the truth does
not stand up to scrutiny, and features ten lies that should not be allowed to
pass without further comment and analysis.
1) On the supposed legality of unauthorized wiretapping
Asked what he thought about suggestions from Barack Obama's transition team
that the Bush administration's homeland security policy "has basically
been torture and illegal wiretapping, and that they want to undo the central
tenets of your anti-terrorist policy," Cheney replied, "They're wrong.
On the question of terrorist surveillance, this was always a policy to intercept
communications between terrorists, or known terrorists, or so-called ‘dirty
numbers,' and folks inside the United States, to capture those international
communications. It's worked. It's been successful. It's now embodied in the
FISA statute that we passed last year, and that Barack Obama voted for, which
I think was a good decision on his part. It's a very, very important capability.
It is legal. It was legal from the very beginning. It is constitutional, and
to claim that it isn't I think is just wrong."
THE LIE: Although the Bush administration secured Congressional approval
for the Authorization
for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the week after the 9/11 attacks (the
founding document of the "War on Terror," which granted the President
seemingly open-ended powers "to use all necessary and appropriate force
against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001"),
the approval for the warrantless surveillance of communications to and from
the United States that followed on September 25 was neither "legal"
In a series on Dick
Cheney in the Washington Post last summer, Barton Gellman and Jo
Becker explained how, on the day of the 9/11 attacks, Cheney and David Addington
swiftly assembled a team that included Timothy Flanigan and John Yoo to begin
"contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What
extraordinary powers will the President need for his response?" Gellman
and Becker described how Flanigan, with advice from Yoo, drafted the AUMF, and
Yoo explained that "they used the broadest possible language because ‘this
war was so different, you can't predict what might come up'."
In fact, as the authors point out, they "knew very well what would come
next: the interception – without a warrant – of communications to and from the
United States." Although warrantless communications intercepts had been
forbidden by federal law since 1978, the administration claimed that they were
"justified, in secret, as ‘incident to' the authority Congress had just
granted" the President, in a memorandum that Yoo finalized on 25 September.
Far from being "legal" and "constitutional," therefore,
the secret memorandum was the first brazen attempt by the key policymakers (in
the Office of the Vice President and the Pentagon) to use the AUMF as cover
for an unprecedented expansion of presidential power that was intended to cut
Congress, the judiciary, and all other government departments out of the loop.
2) On the definition of torture
Moving on to the allegations of torture, Cheney said, "On the question
of so-called ‘torture,' we don't do torture, we never have. It's not something
that this administration subscribes to. Again, we proceeded very cautiously;
we checked, we had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order
to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross. The professionals
involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful, wouldn't do
anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And
any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong."
THE LIE: The claim, "we don't do torture," which President
Bush has also peddled on numerous occasions, is an outright lie. The definition
of torture, as laid down in the UN
Convention Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, is "any
act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally
inflicted on a person." However, in the summer of 2002 (obviously with
Cheney's knowledge), John Yoo, with input from Addington, Gonzales and Flanigan,
drafted another secret memorandum, issued on August 1 (PDF),
which has become known as the "Torture Memo." This extraordinary document
– one of the most legally manipulative in the whole of the "War on Terror"
– drew creatively on historical rulings about torture in countries including
Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and attempted to claim that, for the pain inflicted
to count as torture, it "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying
serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function,
or even death."
Last summer, Yoo confirmed that Addington was responsible for another of the
memo's radical claims – that, as Commander in Chief, the President could authorize
torture if he felt that it was necessary – and also confirmed that a second
opinion was signed off on August 1, 2002, which, unlike the first (leaked after
the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004) has never been made public. An unnamed source
cited by Gellman and Becker explained that this second memo contained a long
list of techniques approved for use by the CIA, which included waterboarding,
but apparently drew the line at threatening to bury a prisoner alive.
As a result, all Cheney's talk of "careful" and "cautious"
legal advice is nothing more than a failed attempt to justify redefining torture.
Outside of the White House and the Pentagon, it has always been abundantly clear
that the SERE techniques (let alone the more extreme methods approved for use
by the CIA) are torture, pure and simple, and the Senate Committee's recent
report quotes extensively from a number of bodies – the Air Force, the Defense
Department's Criminal Investigative Task Force, the Army's International and
Operational Law Division, the Navy and the Marine Corps – who were opposed
to their implementation for this very reason. Others, who took their complaints
to the highest levels, were Alberto J. Mora, the head of the Naval Criminal
Investigative Service, and the FBI.
3) On intelligence obtained through torture
Following his defense of the interrogation techniques authorized by the administration,
Cheney continued: "Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.
I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the number three man in
al-Qaeda, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth
of information. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when
about half of everything we knew about al-Qaeda came from that one source."
THE LIE: With exquisite timing, Cheney's bombastic pronouncements about
the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and its supposed value coincided
with the publication, in Vanity
Fair, of an article by David Rose, in which a number of senior officials
from both the FBI and the CIA directly refuted Cheney's claims. The article,
which is worth reading in its entirety, focused primarily on the torture of
Mohamed and Jose
Padilla (which I have discussed at length before), but there were also key
insights into the torture of KSM. Although President Bush claimed that KSM had
provided "many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans,"
a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports from KSM's
torture in secret CIA custody, explained that "90 percent of it was total
fucking bullshit," and a former Pentagon analyst added, "KSM produced
no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were."
In addition, Cheney's claims about KSM were directly contradicted by Jack Cloonan,
a senior FBI operative whose torture-free interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives
in the years before 9/11 provides an object lesson in how the administration
should have operated afterwards. Disputing the unspecified claims that, as Cheney
put it, the interrogation of KSM had produced "a wealth of information,"
Cloonan said, "The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information
that has been obtained by these methods.' But if KSM and Abu Zubaydah did give
up stuff, we would have heard the details." Rose added that a former CIA
officer asked, "Why can't they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah
or KSM is? It's not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable
source. You're not blowing your source but validating your program. They say
they can't do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it's
a ‘continuing operation.' But has it really taken so long to check it all out?"
However, what was probably the most damning opinion was offered by FBI director
"I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America
been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration
still calls 'enhanced techniques'?
"'I'm really reluctant to answer that,' Mueller says. He pauses,
looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: 'I don't
believe that has been the case.'"
4) On approval for the use of torture on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
The key elements of Cheney's admission that waterboarding was used on Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, and that Cheney believed that this was "appropriate,"
are as follows:
Jonathan Karl: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Dick Cheney: I was aware of the program certainly, and involved
in helping get the process cleared, as the agency, in effect, came in and
wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as
well as others, to explain what they wanted to do, and I supported it.
Jonathan Karl: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics
that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?
Dick Cheney: I don't.
Jonathan Karl: And on KSM, one of those tactics, of course, widely
reported was waterboarding, and that seems to be a tactic we no longer use.
Even that you think was appropriate?
Dick Cheney: I do.
THE LIE: Cheney's explanation of how he came to "support"
the CIA program that was responsible for the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
(and numerous other "high-value detainees") suggests that he was little
more than an adviser for a preconceived project. Yet again, nothing could be
further from the truth.
To understand why, it is necessary to examine how the "Torture Memos"
of August 2002 came about, by looking at the events of November 13, 2001, when,
under the cover of his regular weekly meeting with the President, Cheney played
the leading role in circulating and gaining approval for a presidential order
that authorized the President to seize "terror suspects" anywhere
in the world and imprison them as "enemy combatants" without charge
or trial, (or, if required, to try them in Military Commissions, which were
empowered to accept secret evidence and evidence obtained through torture).
Approved within an hour by only two other figures in the White House – associate
counsel Bradford Berenson, and deputy staff secretary Stuart Bowen, whose objections
that it had to be seen by other presidential advisors were only dropped after
"rapid, urgent persuasion" that the President "was standing by
to sign and that the order was too sensitive to delay" – the order was
the first move in a deliberate ploy to strip prisoners of rights, so that they
could be interrogated as the administration saw fit.
This was confirmed the following day, when Cheney told the US Chamber of Commerce
that terrorists do not "deserve to be treated as prisoners of war."
It took him another ten weeks to persuade the President to agree with him, but
in the meantime the pressure to approve the use of torture increased when, shortly
after Guantánamo opened, a CIA delegation came to the White House to
explain, as John Yoo described it, that they were "going to have some real
difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees," if interrogators
were obliged to confine themselves to treatment permitted by the Geneva Conventions.
While this timeline confirms that CIA representatives pressed for removing
the protections of the Geneva Conventions in mid-January 2002, it's also clear
that Cheney had a similar plan in mind at least two months earlier. After the
CIA visit, Addington wrote another notorious memorandum – to which the rather
less articulate Alberto Gonzales put his name – in which the Conventions' "strict
limits on questioning of enemy prisoners" were seen as hindering attempts
"to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."
This was issued on January 25, and on February 6 Addington provided the President
with the words for his next presidential order, which, as Cheney had signaled
on November 14, stated that the protections of the Geneva Conventions did not
apply to prisoners seized in the "War on Terror." The final development
came after the capture of Abu Zubaydah on March 28, 2002, when, as John Yoo
explained, CIA officials returned to the White House to ask "what the legal
limits on interrogation are." As described above, this led to the "Torture
Memos" of August 2002, even though the torture of Zubaydah began four months
before the memos were issued.
In conclusion, then, although the CIA had some input, the development of the
entire program, from November 13, 2001 to August 1, 2002, in which prisoners
were defined as "enemy combatants," stripped of all rights so that
they could be interrogated, and then set up for torture, was driven not by the
CIA but by Cheney and his close advisers.
5) On the prisoners in Guantánamo
When Jonathan Karl mentioned that President Bush had said that he wanted to
close Guantánamo two years ago, and asked, "Why has that not happened?"
Cheney said, "It's very hard to do. Guantánamo has been the repository,
if you will, of hundreds of terrorists, or suspected terrorists, that we've
captured since 9/11. They – many of them, hundreds, have been released back
to their home countries. What we have left is the hardcore. Their cases are
reviewed on an annual basis to see whether or not they're still a threat, whether
or not they're still intelligence value in terms of continuing to hold them.
But – and we're down now to some 200 being held at Guantánamo – that
includes the core group, the really high-value targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
THE LIE: Cheney's description of the remaining prisoners as "the
hardcore" is typical, but by no means accurate, as the Vice President has
always claimed that those in Guantánamo are "the hardcore"
or "the worst of the worst." Just two weeks after Guantánamo
opened, on January 27, 2002, he told Fox
News, "These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous.
They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they
can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort." And last July,
he said, "I think you need to have someplace to hold those individuals
who have been captured during the global war on terror. I'm thinking of people
like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed … There are hundreds of people like that, and if
you closed Guantánamo, you'd have to find someplace else to put these
Given that around 80 prisoners have been released since Cheney made this last
pronouncement, it's clear that his talk of "hardcore" prisoners is
a repeated lie, adjusted according to how many prisoners are actually held at
In addition, Cheney's unsubstantiated claim about the remaining prisoners ignores
the fact that, as I explained at length in The Guantánamo Files,
and have repeatedly described in articles (most recently here),
the majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo were captured not by US forces,
but by their Afghan and Pakistani allies, at a time when the US military was
offering substantial bounty payments for "al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects."
Moreover, they have never been screened adequately to determine whether they
should have been declared as "enemy combatants" – not on capture
(when they should have received Article 5 battlefield tribunals, according to
the Geneva Conventions), not in the prisons in Afghanistan that were used to
process them for Guantánamo (where the orders were that every Arab was
to be sent to Cuba), and not in Guantánamo itself. The tribunals established
to review the status of the prisoners in Guantánamo relied almost exclusively
on woefully generic information, and on confessions obtained through the torture,
coercion or bribery of other prisoners. As former insider Lt.
Col. Stephen Abraham has eloquently explained, the entire process was designed
not to provide justice, but to defend the administration's blanket assertions
that the prisoners were "enemy combatants."
6) On the prisoners' rights
Cheney continued, "Now, the question, if you're going to close Guantánamo,
what are you going to do with those prisoners? One suggestion is, well, we'll
bring them to the United States. Well, I don't know very many congressmen, for
example, who are eager to have 200 al-Qaeda terrorists deposited in their district.
It's a complex and difficult problem. If you bring them onshore into the United
States, they automatically acquire certain legal rights and responsibilities
that the government would then have, that they don't as long as they're at Guantánamo.
And that's an important consideration.
THE LIE: In this statement, Cheney's lie, which reveals his disdain
for the Supreme Court, is his claim that, as long as the prisoners are in Guantánamo,
they don't have "certain legal rights." As far as the Supreme Court
is concerned, the pretense that Guantánamo was beyond the reach of US
law, and that the prisoners could be held without rights, was demolished in
June 2004, when the highest court in the land ruled in Rasul
v. Bush that Guantánamo was "territory over which the United
States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control," and that, because
the prisoners denied that they had "engaged in or plotted acts of aggression
against this country," and had "never been afforded access to any
tribunal, much less charged with and convicted of wrongdoing," they
had habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to challenge the basis of
their detention before an impartial judge.
The administration then persuaded Congress to remove these rights in two appalling
pieces of legislation – the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and the Military
Commissions Act of 2006 – but the Supreme Court restored their habeas corpus
rights in another landmark case in June 2008, Boumediene
v. Bush, and made sure that Cheney could not persuade Congress to remove
them again by ruling that this time their rights were constitutional.
The prisoners have therefore had "certain legal rights" since June
2004, although it is clear that Cheney still does not regard Supreme Court rulings
as having any impact on the President's whims as the Commander-in-Chief of a
self-declared war without end.
7) On conditions at Guantánamo
Next, Cheney said, "These are not American citizens. They are not subject,
nor do they have the same rights that an American citizen does vis-à-vis
the government. But they are well treated."
THE LIE: It is hard to conceive of a manner in which the prisoners at
Guantánamo are "well treated." A dedicated PR machine has attempted
to make out that they are all coddled and well-fed, but the truth is that, unlike
convicted criminals on the US mainland, who watch TV, have opportunities to
socialize, receive family visits and have regular access to reading and writing
materials, the prisoners in Guantánamo – who have never been charged
with a crime, let alone convicted – are deprived of almost all "comfort
items" to relieve the crushing monotony of their daily lives and the desperate
uncertainty of their fate. They have, for example, never received a single visit
from their loved ones, they are still hurled into isolation cells or beaten
by armored response teams for the slightest infraction of the rules, and if
they protest their seemingly endless imprisonment without charge or trial by
embarking on hunger strikes, they are force-fed
in the most brutal manner, even though force-feeding competent prisoners is
8) On the Military Commissions at Guantánamo
Cheney continued, "They also have the opportunity, and the process has
just started now to be heard before a military commission with a judgment, fair
and honest judgment made about their guilt or innocence, to be represented by
counsel provided through that process."
THE LIE: I have covered the Military Commissions in depth over the last
year and a half, and at no point has it ever been demonstrated that the system
dreamt up by Cheney and Addington in November 2001 is "fair and honest."
Every defense attorney appointed by the government has risked
his or her career by openly criticizing the system, and several prosecutors
have resigned in protest at what they regarded as a rigged system, the most
significant being Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor, who complained
of political interference, and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who complained that
evidence vital to the defense was routinely withheld. Both stories were covered
in detail in my article, "The
Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials."
Two prisoners who were juveniles when seized (Omar
Khadr and Mohamed
Jawad) have been put forward for trials, despite claims that the allegations
against them are rigged, and several insignificant
Afghan prisoners have also been charged. In addition, those regarded as
particularly significant (the alleged 9/11
co-conspirators, for example) have been allowed to make a mockery
of the system, and on the eve of the Presidential election, a man named Ali
Hamza al-Bahlul was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his
association with al-Qaeda, even though he refused to mount a defense. In the
rest of the world, that would be referred to as a show trial.
9) On the alleged recidivism of released prisoners
Cheney was asked about the danger of closing Guantánamo "too soon,"
shortly after the following disturbing exchange took place:
Jonathan Karl: So when do you think we'll be at a point where
Guantánamo could be responsibly shut down?
Dick Cheney: Well, I think that would come with the end of the
war on terror.
Jonathan Karl: When's that going to be?
Dick Cheney: Well, nobody knows. Nobody can specify that.
Jonathan Karl: But basically it sounds like you're saying Guantánamo
Bay will be open indefinitely.
Cheney said, "Well, if you release people that shouldn't have been released,
and that's happened in some cases already, you end up with them back on the
battlefield. We've had, as I recall now – and these are rough numbers, I'd
want to check it – but, say, approximately 30 of these folks who've been held
in Guantánamo, been released, and ended up back on the battlefield again,
and we've encountered them a second time around. They've either been killed
or captured in further conflicts with our forces."
THE LIE: The claim that 30 former prisoners "ended up back on the
battlefield" is a staple of Pentagon propaganda, even though it has never
been backed up with evidence. Instead, as the Seton Hall Law School noted in
a report last December (PDF),
the Pentagon regarded speaking out about Guantánamo as "returning
to the battlefield" (as in the case of three Britons, Ruhal Ahmed, Asif
Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, who were involved in a film about their experiences,
The Road to Guantánamo).
The Pentagon has also conveniently ignored the fact that at
least six Taliban fighters were released because the US authorities had
refused to consult with their Afghan allies. In 2004, officials in Hamid Karzai's
government blamed the US for the return of Taliban commanders to the battlefield,
explaining that "neither the American military officials, nor the Kabul
police, who briefly process the detainees when they are sent home, consult them
about the detainees they free."
The true number of prisoners who have "returned to the battlefield"
is certainly less than the number quoted by the Pentagon – and by Dick Cheney
– although it should also be noted that, even if it were correct, a recidivism
rate of 6 percent is considerably lower than in any other US prison, and indicates,
of course, that a large number of those released were not terrorists or militants
in the first place.
10) On the reason for invading Iraq
Turning to Iraq, Jonathan Karl said, "You probably saw – Karl Rove last
week said that if the intelligence had been correct, we probably would not have
gone to war," and Cheney responded, "I disagree with that. I think
the – as I look at the intelligence with respect to Iraq, what they got wrong
was that there weren't any stockpiles. What we found in the after-action reports
after the intelligence report was done and then various special groups went
and looked at the intelligence and what its validity was, what they found was
that Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction.
He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic feedstocks. They
also found that he had every intention of resuming production once the international
sanctions were lifted."
THE LIE: Brazen to the end, Cheney has clung to the WMD deception as
though it had ever been anything other than an excuse for regime change following
the illegal invasion of a sovereign country, drive by a deranged desire to gain
geopolitical supremacy and establish an ill-defined facsimile of the American
political and economic system in the heart of the Middle East.
No one credible agrees with Cheney's assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons
capabilities – or his intentions – and in addition, of course, Cheney has a
colorful and reprehensible record of bullying the intelligence agencies into
finding reasons to invade Iraq, and promoting
the fiction that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain "yellowcake"
uranium ore from Niger.
Moreover, two of Cheney's particular enthusiasms – the torture of prisoners,
and the invasion of Iraq – came together when Ibn
al-Sheikh al-Libi, the head of the Khaldan military training camp in Afghanistan
(which had little connection with al-Qaeda) was captured and sent to Egypt to
be tortured, where he made a false confession that Saddam Hussein had offered
to train two al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons.
Al-Libi later recanted his confession, but not until Secretary of State Colin
Powell – to his eternal shame – has used the story in February 2003 in an
attempt to persuade the UN to support the invasion of Iraq.
This, of course, is disturbing enough, but as David Rose explained in an article
Fair that coincided with Cheney's recent ABC News interview, al-Libi
was not the only torture victim spouting nonsense about Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
According to two senior intelligence analysts, Abu
Zubaydah, the facilitator for the Khaldan camp, who was also subjected to
torture – including waterboarding – also made a number of false confessions
about connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, beyond one ludicrous
claim which was subsequently leaked by the administration: that Osama bin Laden
and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were working with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the
autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. One of the analysts, who worked
at the Pentagon, explained, "The intelligence community was lapping this
up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaydah was saying Iraq and
al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration
hoped it would be."
However, none of the analysts knew that these confessions had been obtained
through torture. The Pentagon analyst told David Rose, "As soon as I learned
that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood
the damage it had done. I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration
knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted
by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq." He added,
"It seems to me they were using torture to achieve a political objective."
This is the end, for now, of my tour through the dark, unjust and counterproductive
world fashioned by Dick Cheney and his colleagues and close advisers in the
wake of the 9/11 attacks, but I hope – as disturbing rumors begin to swirl –
that it serves to confirm how a Presidential pardon for the Vice President would,
effectively, be an endorsement for some of the cruellest manifestations of unfettered
executive power and disdain for the rule of law that the United States has ever