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US Intel Vets Decry CIA's Use of Torture

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Reprinted from Consortium News

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).
(image by (White House photo))


FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Veteran Intelligence Professionals Challenge CIA's "Rebuttal" on Torture

Former CIA leaders responsible for allowing torture to become part of the 21st Century legacy of the CIA are trying to rehabilitate their tarnished reputations with the release of a new book, Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee's Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program. They are pushing the lie that the only allegations against them are from a partisan report issued by Democrats from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

We recall the answer of General John Kimmons, the former Deputy Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was asked if good intelligence could be obtained from abusive practices. He replied: "I am absolutely convinced the answer to your first question is no. No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that."
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But the allegation that the CIA leaders were negligent and guilty was not the work of an isolated group of partisan Democrat Senators. The Senate Intelligence report on torture enjoyed bipartisan support. Senator John McCain, for example, whose own encounter with torture in North Vietnamese prisons scarred him physically and emotionally, embraced and endorsed the work of Senator Feinstein. It was only a small group of intransigent Republicans, led by Saxby Chambliss, who obstructed the work of the Senate Intel Committee.

Indeed, some of us witnessed firsthand during the administration of President George W. Bush that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence were virtually paralyzed from conducting any meaningful oversight of the CIA and the U.S. Intelligence Community by the Republican members of these committees. Instead, they pursued the clear objective of protecting the Bush administration from any criticism for engaging in torture during the "War on Terror."

It is curious that our former colleagues stridently denounce the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee but are mute with respect to an equally damning report from the CIA's own inspector general, John Helgerson, in 2004.

Helgerson's report, "Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities (September 2001-October 2003)," was published on May 7, 2004, and classified Top Secret. That report alone is damning of the CIA leadership and it is important to remind all about the specifics of those conclusions. According to the CIA's own Inspector General:

--The Agency's detention and interrogation of terrorists has provided intelligence that has enabled the identification and apprehension of other terrorists and warned of terrorist plots planned in the United States and around the world. ... The effectiveness of particular interrogation techniques in eliciting information that might not otherwise have been obtained cannot be so easily measured however.

--In addition, some Agency officials are aware of interrogation activities that were outside or beyond the scope of the written DOJ opinion. Officers are concerned that future public revelation of the CTC Program is inevitable and will seriously damage Agency officers' personal reputations, as well as the reputation and effectiveness of the Agency itself.

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--By distinction the Agency -- especially in the early months of the Program -- failed to provide adequate staffing, guidance, and support to those involved with the detention and interrogation of detainees ...

--The Agency failed to issue in a timely manner comprehensive written guidelines for detention and interrogation activities. ... Such written guidance as does exist ... is inadequate.

--During the interrogation of two detainees, the waterboard was used in a manner inconsistent with the written DOJ legal opinion of 1 August 2002.

--Agency officers report that reliance on analytical assessments that were unsupported by credible intelligence may have resulted in the application of EITs without justification.

The CIA's Inspector General makes it very clear that there was a failure by the CIA leaders, who include Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin, Counter Terrorism Center Chief Cofer Black, Counter Terrorism Center Chief Jose Rodriguez and the Director Directorate of Operations James L. Pavitt. Lack of proper guidance and oversight created fertile soil for subsequent abuses and these men were guilty of failing to properly do their jobs.

We do not have to rely solely on the report of the CIA's Inspector General. In addition, the Report by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Detainee Treatment reached the same conclusions about the origins, evils, harm to U.S. policy and intelligence collection of "enhanced interrogation," a euphemism for "torture" first used by Nazi Germany during World War II.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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