Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects

THE NEW YORK TIMES

April 20, 2009

CHICKENHAWK GRAHAMC.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mr. Mohammed had been barraged more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning. But the precise number and the exact nature of the interrogation method was not previously known.

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

President Obama plans to visit C.I.A. headquarters Monday and make public remarks to employees, as well as meet privately with officials, an agency spokesman said Sunday night. It will be his first visit to the agency, whose use of harsh interrogation methods he often condemned during the presidential campaign and whose secret prisons he ordered closed on the second full day of his presidency.

C.I.A. officials had opposed the release of the interrogation memo, dated May 30, 2005, which was one of four secret legal memos on interrogation that Mr. Obama ordered to be released last Thursday.

Mr. Obama said C.I.A. officers who had used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods with the approval of the Justice Department would not be prosecuted. He has repeatedly suggested that he opposes Congressional proposals for a “truth commission” to examine Bush administration counterterrorism programs, including interrogation and warrantless eavesdropping.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has begun a yearlong, closed-door investigation of the C.I.A. interrogation program, in part to assess claims of Bush administration officials that brutal treatment, including slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in standing positions for days and confining them in small boxes, was necessary to get information.

The fact that waterboarding was repeated so many times may raise questions about its effectiveness, as well as about assertions by Bush administration officials that their methods were used under strict guidelines.

A footnote to another 2005 Justice Department memo released Thursday said waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume of water than the C.I.A. rules permitted.

The new information on the number of waterboarding episodes came out over the weekend when a number of bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the blog emptywheel, discovered it in the May 30, 2005, memo.

The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers.

Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A. for the last two years of the Bush administration, would not comment when asked on the program “Fox News Sunday” if Mr. Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times. He said he believed that that information was still classified.

A C.I.A. spokesman, reached Sunday night, also would not comment on the new information.

Mr. Hayden said he had opposed the release of the memos, even though President Obama has said the techniques will never be used again, because they would tell Al Qaeda “the outer limits that any American would ever go in terms of interrogating an Al Qaeda terrorist.”

He also disputed an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Abu Zubaydah had revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed that after unspecified “techniques” were used, Abu Zubaydah revealed information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh.

The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been “unnecessary” in his case.

Kicking Ass and Taking Names: Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald Call Bullshit on the White House Stenographers

jandg

The Grand Dame of Blogs, Jane Hamsher and the Tough, Smart Glenn Greenwald Are Getting it Done

Access Journalism — Business As Usual?

By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday February 11
F I R E D O G L A K E

Glenn Greenwald has been rightfully indignant about the Obama DoJ’s use of Bush’s “state secrets” argument to cover up charges of rendition and torture.  The NY Times this morning says “It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred…..Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court.”

But Bush’s “state secrets” claims aren’t the only White House holdovers. Glenn also singles out Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic today for being a DC stenographer whose idea of “reporting” is calling up administration sources, granting them anonymity without cause, and then writing it up mindlessly without critique or context:

What possible justification is there for granting administration officials anonymity to explain why they are embracing a Bush-era weapon that they have long criticized?  And why does an administration swearing great levels of transparency and accountability — and vowing to use secrecy only when absolutely necessary — need to hide behind a wall of anonymity in order to explain why they did what they did here?  Why can’t they attach their names to this explanation, so that they can be questioned about it and held accountable?

Why would he do that?  Well, possibly because that’s the only way they’ll talk to him — or anyone else.  New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston has also written about this “business as usual” quality of White House press relations:

My questions to LaBolt and Singh prompted a return phone call the next day from Nick Shapiro, who spelled his name, but had to be prodded several times to give his job title: assistant press secretary.

During our brief conversation, Shapiro, like LaBolt (whose name Shapiro did not recognize), started one sentence with “off the record.” Told that the journalist grants the privilege, and that none would be granted here, Shapiro expressed surprise. His surprise was double-barreled, at both the idea that the reporter issues any privilege and that any reporter would decline to talk “off the record.”

The reportorial practice of letting government officials speak without taking responsibility for their words has been an issue with the public and is being questioned now by some journalists, as shown by this article from Slate’s Jack Shafer.

Questions about whether Shapiro knows the difference between off-the-record, background, deep background, and on-the-record did not get asked, because Shapiro made it clear he had no interest in answering anything about how the Obama press secretary’s office is operating and what its tone will be. He said questions should be submitted in writing by e-mail to nshapiro@who.eop.gov. I sent Shapiro an e-mail outlining the contours of what would be covered in an interview, but have not received a response as of this writing, the following day.

Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter whose book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense [and Stick You with the Bill] is indispensible for anyone wanting to understand how the taxation and legislative system has been gamed to favor the rich.  He’s a superb journalist and sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s still employed at the Times(note:  Johnston has left the NYT.) An administration interested in transparency should be ecstatic about working with him.

But what is going on right now in the world of DC journalism finds its most naked expression in Ambinder’s piece, though I’ve seen other glaring examples of late — journalists are scrambling for who gets “access” to the White House.  So there’s no end to the bullshit they’ll write to ingratiate themselves to potential sources, or the inconvenient facts they’ll edit out in order to be the new Bob Woodward. (Though Ambinder does deserve some praise on this front — he wrote what everyone else knows but isn’t saying about White House plans:   “encouragement of moderate Democrats,” “entitlement reform” and “standing up to Speaker Pelosi.”)

You can see it in the horror with which the traditional media is responding to Sam Stein getting called on at the President’s press conference — there are rules, there is a pecking order, and This Is Not How It’s Done. While it’s great Sam got recognized — he’s a really good journalist and he asked a critical question — it’s not much more than “window dressing” if the day-to-day interaction with the press stays the same as it did during the Bush years.  And with Rahm managing the relations between the White House and the media these days, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.

Update: And the stenography continues: Ambinder calls back his “administration sources” so they can respond to Glenn but neither names him nor links to him.  “They’re sensitive to the politics of the case, but they’re not motivated by what civil libertarians may write on their blogs.”  The administration people don’t want you at the slumber party Glenn Greenwald, and they don’t give anonymous quotes to you, Glenn Greenwald, and they certainly aren’t going to RESPOND to you, Glenn Greenwald, well okay they DID and Ambinder just wrote PARAGRAPHS about it but they are going to just turn their backs and pretend you’re not there.  Feh.

Right-Wing Talking Points Alive and Well on Movie Websites

Cinema Blend Writer Ed Perkis

gets in a nifty bit about movie-goers being tired of “America Sucks” movies.

douchebag.jpg

Take two Medveds and call me in the morning douchebag.

Man, we do suck.

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