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General News    H2'ed 2/12/15

Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says "I Would Do It All Again" to Expose Torture

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AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you learned happened to him from there.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Well, he was sent from Pakistan to this secret location. And once he was healthy enough to withstand interrogation, a group of CIA interrogators -- I'm sorry, a group of FBI interrogators interviewed him, appeared to have been successful in gathering some information, but then were replaced by CIA interrogators, that we've now learned were untrained, unprepared, and was subjected to waterboarding in addition to other torture techniques, placed into a cage. He had a fear of bugs, so they put him in a small box and put bugs in the box with him. He was subject to a cold cell, to lights on 24 hours a day, booming music so that he couldn't sleep. There were several different things that the CIA did to him.

AMY GOODMAN: And your response to that?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Torture is wrong under any circumstances. You know, we know from the Second World War, when the Justice Department was interrogating Nazi war criminals, we know that the establishment of a rapport, the establishment of a relationship with someone, results in actionable information, if that prisoner has actionable information which he's willing to give. That wasn't the case with Abu Zubaydah. He was beaten. He was waterboarded. He was subject to sleep deprivation. He had ice water poured on him in a 50-degree cell every several hours. The man just simply didn't have any information to give.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you learn that? And when, John, did you decide to go public with this, to reveal this information?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I learned initially that he had been waterboarded in the summer of 2002, at the end of the summer of 2002. And as I said in the 2007 interview with Brian Ross, I believed what the CIA was telling us, that he was being waterboarded, it was working, and we were gathering important, actionable intelligence that was saving American lives. It wasn't until something like 2005 or 2006 that we realized that that just simply wasn't true -- he wasn't producing any information -- and that these techniques were horrific.

It was in 2007, Amy, that I decided to go public. President Bush said at the time, categorically, "We do not torture prisoners. We are not waterboarding." And I knew that that was a lie. And he made it seem as though this was a rogue CIA officer who decided to pour water on people's faces. And that simply wasn't true. Torture -- the entire torture program was approved by the president himself, and it was a very carefully planned-out program. So to say that it was rogue, it was just a bald-faced lie to the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: Late last year, graphic new details of the post-9/11 U.S. torture program came to light when the Senate Intelligence Committee released the 500-page summary of its investigation into the CIA. The report concluded the intelligence agency failed to disrupt a single plot despite torturing al-Qaeda and other captives in secret prisons worldwide from 2002 and 2006. Maybe you watched this from prison, John Kiriakou--

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I did, indeed.

AMY GOODMAN: --but this is Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, outlining the report's key findings.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: First, the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were not an effective way to gather intelligence information. Second, the CIA provided extensive amounts of inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to the White House, the Department of Justice, Congress, the CIA inspector general, the media and the American public. Third, CIA's management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed. And fourth, the CIA program was far more brutal than people were led to believe.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you remember, when you heard this report in jail, where you were? I assume you watched Dianne Feinstein on the prison TV. And your thoughts about it?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I did, indeed. I was sitting in the Central One Unit TV room watching it with bated breath. Let me say that Senator Feinstein is one of the CIA's leading supporters on Capitol Hill. So for Dianne Feinstein to come out with a report as critical as this report was just shows you how wrongheaded the CIA torture program was.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the report comes out, and it details a list of torture methods used on prisoners -- waterboarding, sexual abuse with broomsticks, what they call rectal feeding or rectal hydration. Prisoners were threatened with buzzing power drills. Some captives were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads. The torture carried out at black sites in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Thailand, secret site at Guanta'namo Naval Base known as Strawberry Fields. As this unveiled, it's only you who went to jail around these issues. Your thoughts on this?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: I feel like I live in the Twilight Zone sometimes. When the report came out, like most other Americans, I was absolutely shocked and appalled at some of the details. Even inside the CIA, we didn't know anything about rectal hydration -- with hummus, no less -- with sexual abuse or sexual assault using broomsticks. I mean, people didn't even talk about those kinds of things in the hallway, so I was absolutely shocked hearing it.

This goes back to a point I made in 2013 on this wonderful program: We need to prosecute some of these cases. I understand that reasonable people can agree to disagree on whether or not case officers who really believed they were carrying out a legal activity should be prosecuted. I understand that. But what about case officers who took the law into their own hands or who flouted the law and raped prisoners with broomsticks or carried out rectal hydration with hummus? Those were not approved interrogation techniques. Why aren't those officers being prosecuted? I think, at the very least, that's where we should start the prosecutions.

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