Reprinted from Truthdig
Editor's note: John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former counterterrorism consultant for ABC News. He was responsible for the capture of Abu Zubaydah, then believed to be the third-ranking official in al-Qaida, in Pakistan in 2002. In 2007, Kiriakou blew the whistle on the CIA's torture program, telling ABC News that the CIA tortured prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that the policy had been approved by then-President George W. Bush. He became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act -- a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of the revelation and now writes a regular column for Truthdig.
The Guardian published a story Friday on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) investigator Dan Jones and his quest to get to the bottom of the CIA's torture program. Jones' hard work resulted in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. The article provides great insight into the day-to-day machinations between the SSCI and the CIA, although no new details on the torture program per se.
What the article does provide, however, is proof that then-Attorney General Eric Holder and others conspired to keep the worst news of the CIA's torture crimes secret. They conspired to protect the CIA's most notorious torturers. Holder also worked hard to make sure that as little news of the torture program as possible was released to the American people.
Jones, a whistleblower in his own right, admits in the article that he (probably "illegally") removed a document from the CIA that, in the end, formed one of the main points of the torture report: that the CIA tortured its prisoners with a level of brutality that was heretofore unknown, that the agency covered up the torture and that it lied to both the congressional oversight committee and the president about the extent of the program and its efficacy.
The document that Jones removed, known as the "Panetta Review," was more than 1,000 pages long. Jones did not leak it. He locked it up in the SSCI's secure spaces and provided it to Democratic members of the oversight committee. The CIA initially denied its existence. It later argued that the document was a "work product" and thus not meant to be turned over to the committee. In fact, it already had been turned over, but then it was subsequently deleted from the SSCI computer system.
The article's author, Spencer Ackerman, notes that Jones and the committee faced a stacked deck from the very beginning:
"In November 2005, a senior CIA official named Jose Rodriguez destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the brutal 2002 interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Rodriguez's tapes destruction remained a secret to his congressional overseers for two years, until a 6 December 2007 New York Times article revealed it; they barely even knew the CIA taped interrogations at all. Outrage was swift and, while tilted toward the Democrats, bipartisan, to include the eminences grises of the 9/11 Commission. Even the U.S. Justice Department began an ultimately fruitless inquiry. The Senate committee, then controlled by the Democrat (Jay) Rockefeller, demanded an explanation."
That explanation came from then-CIA Director Michael Hayden. He told the committee that there was no "evidence destruction," because the CIA kept extensive records of its interrogations. If the committee needed data, the CIA would provide it.
What the CIA eventually provided stunned committee members. It included, for the first time, reports that Abu Zubaydah had been tortured so relentlessly that he would obey his interrogators "like a dog, when they would snap their fingers." Zubaydah was "kept naked, filthy, stinking, shaking with fear, shoved inside a filth-riddled wooden box, defecating on himself." Jones said, "Everything we (committee investigators) were told was basically the opposite of what happened."
Jones stated further that "it was hard to deny the ineffectiveness of the CIA interrogations, the brutality, or the fact that the committee had been deeply misled by the CIA." Unfortunately, Jones' conclusions did not seem to interest most members of the SSCI.
Importantly, however, what Jones described was a pattern of felonious behavior, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements, all of which are punishable by five years in a federal prison per incident.
READ and WATCH: John Kiriakou Challenges the American Injustice System
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