The Corner

CIA Interrogations Uncovered Terrorist Plots

We’re still working our way through the new CIA report. Here are some notable passages:

Pt. 17:

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 for the United States and around the world. The CTC Program has resulted in the issuance of thousands of individual intelligence reports and analytic products supporting the counterterrorism efforts of U.S. policymakers and military commanders.

Pt. 47:

Representatives of the DO in the presence of the Director of Congressional Affairs and the General Counsel, continued to brief the leadership of the Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of EITs and detentions in February and March 2003. The General Counsel says that none of the participants expressed any concern about the techniques or the Program.

Pt. 90:

This Review heard allegations of the use of unauthorized techniques [redacted]. The most significant, the handgun and power drill incident, discussed below, is the subject of a separate OIG investigation. In addition, individuals interviewed during the Review identified other techniques that caused concern because DoJ had not specifically approved them. These included the making of threats, blowing cigar smoke, employing certain stress positions, the use of a stiff brush on a detainee, and stepping on a detainee’s ankle shackles. For all of the instances, the allegations were disputed or too ambiguous to reach any authoritative determination regarding the facts. Thus, although these allegations are illustrative of the nature of the concerns held by individuals associated with the CTC Program and the need for clear guidance, they did not warrant separate investigations or administrative action.

Pt. 92:

The debriefer assessed Al-Nashiri as withholding information, at which point [redacted] reinstated [redacted] hooding, and handcuffing. Sometime between 28 December 2002 and 1 January 2003, the debriefer used an unloaded semi-automatic handgun as a prop to frighten Al-Nashiri into disclosing information. After discussing this plan with [redacted] the debriefer entered the cell where Al-Nashiri sat shackled and racked the handgun once or twice close to Al-Nashiri’s head. On what was probably the same day, the debriefer used a power drill to frighten Al-Nashiri. With [redacted] consent, the debriefer entered the detainee’s cell and revved the drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded. The debriefer did not touch Al-Nashiri with the power drill.

Pt. 94:

During another incident [redacted] the same Headquarters debriefer, according to a [redacted] who was present, threatened Al-Nashiri by saying that if he did not talk, “We could get your mother in here,” and, “We can bring your family in here.” The [redacted] debriefer reportedly wanted Al-Nashiri to infer, for psychological reasons, that the debriefer might be [redacted] intelligence officer based on his Arabic dialect, and that Al-Nashiri was in [redacted] custody because it was widely believed in Middle East circles that [redacted] interrogation techniques involves sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee. The debriefer denied threatening Al-Nashiri through his family. The debriefer also said he did not explain who he was or where he was from when talking with Al-Nashiri. The debriefer said he never said he was [redacted] intelligence officer but let Al-Nashiri draw his own conclusions.

Pt. 95:

An experienced Agency interrogator reported that the [redacted] interrogators threatened to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad [redacted] According to this interrogator, the [redacted] interrogators said to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad that if anything else happens in the United States, “We’re going to kill your children.” According to the interrogator, one of the [redacted] interrogators said [redacted] With respect to the report provided to him of the threats [redacted] that report did not indicate that the law had been violated.

Pt. 96:

An Agency [redacted] interrogator admitted that, in December 2002, he and another [redacted] smoked cigars and blew smoke in Al-Nashiri’s face during an interrogation. The interrogator claimed they did this to “cover the stench” in the room and to help keep the interrogators alert late at night. This interrogator said he would not do this again based on “perceived criticism.” Another Agency interrogator admitted that he also smoked cigars during two sessions with Al-Nashiri to mask the stench in the room. He claimed he did not deliberately force smoke into  Al-Nashiri’s face.

Pt. 171:

A senior operations officer recounted that around September 2002 [redacted] heard that the debriefer had staged a mock execution. [redacted] was not present but understood it went badly; it was transparently a ruse and no benefit was derived from it. [redacted] observed that there is a need to be creative as long as it is not considered torture, [redacted] that if such a proposal were made now, it would involve a great deal of consultation. It would begin with [redacted] management and would include CTC/Legal, [redacted] and the CTC [redacted].

Pt. 172:

The [redacted] admitted staging a “mock execution” in the first days that [redacted] was open. According to the [redacted] the technique was his idea but was not effective because it came across as being staged. It was based on the concept, from SERE school, of showing something that looks real, but is not. The [redacted] recalled that a particular CTC interrogator later told him about employing a mock execution technique. The [redacted] did not know when this incident occurred or if it was successful. He viewed this technique as ineffective because it was not believable.

Pt. 173:

Four [redacted] who were interviewed admitted to either participating in one of the above-described incidents or hearing about them. [Redacted] described staging a mock execution of a detainee. Reportedly, a detainee who witnessed the “body” in the aftermath of the ruse “sang like a bird.”

Pt. 194:

In June 2003, the U.S. military sought an Afghan citizen who had been implicated in rocket attacks on a joint U.S. Army and CIA position in Asadabad located in Northeast Afghanistan. On 18 June 2003, this individual appeared at Asadabad Base at the urging of the local Governor. The individual was held in a detention facility guarded by U.S. soldiers from the Base. During the four days the individual was detained, an Agency independent contractor, who was a paramilitary officer, is alleged to have severely beaten the detainee with a large metal flashlight and kicked him during the interrogation sessions. The detainee died in custody on 21 June; his body was turned over to a local cleric and returned to his family on the following date without an autopsy being performed. Neither the contractor nor his Agency staff supervisor had been trained or authorized to conduct interrogations. The Agency did not renew the independent contractor’s contract, which was up for renewal soon after the incident. OIG is investigating this incident in concert with DoJ.

Pt. 211:

The detention of terrorists has prevented them from engaging in further terrorist activity, and their interrogation has provided intelligence that has enabled the identification and apprehension of other terrorists, warned of terrorists plots planned for the United States and around the world, and supported articles frequently used in the finished intelligence publications for senior policymakers and war fighters. In this regard, there is no doubt that the Program has been effective. Measuring the effectiveness of the EITs, however, is a more subjective process and not without some concern.

Pt. 216:

Detainee information has assisted in the identification of terrorists. For example, information from Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the identification of Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammed—operatives who had plans to detonate a uranium-topped dirty bomb in either Washington, D.C. or New York City. Riduan “Hambali” Isomuddin provided information that led to the arrest of previously unknown members of an Al-Qa’ida cell inside the United States. Many other detainees, including lower-level detainees such as Zubayr and Majid Khan, have provided leads to other terrorists, but probably the most prolific has been Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. He provided information that helped lead to the arrest of terrorists including Sayfullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, businessmen whom Khalid Shaykh Muhammad planned to use to smuggle explosives into the United States; Saleh Almari, a sleeper operative in New York; and Majid Khan, an operative who could enter the United States easily and was tasked to research attacks [redacted] Khalid Shaykh Muhammad’s information also led to the investigation and prosecution of Iyman Faris, the truck driver arrested in early 2003 in Ohio.

Pt. 217:

Detainees, both planners and operatives, have also made the Agency aware of several plots planned for the United States around the world. The plots identify plants to [redacted] attack the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; hijack aircraft to fly into Heathrow Airport [redacted] loosen track spikes in an attempt to derail a train in the United States [redacted] blow up several U.S. gas stations to create panic and havoc; hijack and fly an airplane into the tallest building in California in a west coast version of the World Trade Center attack; cut the lines of suspension bridges in New York in an effort to make them collapse; [redacted] This Review did not uncover any evidence that these plots were imminent. Agency senior managers believe that lives have been saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali, and Al-Nashiri.

Pt. 218:

Judge the reporting from detainees as one of the most important sources for finished intelligence. [redacted] viewed analysts’ knowledge of the terrorist target as having much more depth as a result of information from detainees and estimated that detainee reporting is used in all counterterrorism articles produced for the most senior policymakers. [redacted] In an interview, the DCI said he believes the use of EITs has proven to be extremely valuable in obtaining enormous amounts of critical threat information from detainees who had otherwise believed they were safe from any harm in the hands of Americans.

Pt. 223:

Prior to the use of EITs, Abu Zubaydah provided information for [redacted] intelligence reports. Interrogators applied the waterboard to Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times during August 2002. During the period between the end of the use of the waterboard and 30 April 2003, he provided information for approximately [redacted] additional reports. It is not possible to say definitely that the waterboard is the reason for Abu Zubaydah’s increased production, or if another factor, such as the length of detention, was the catalyst. Since the use of the waterboard, however, Abu Zubaydah has appeared to be cooperative. [Redacted].

Pt. 224:

With respect to Al-Nashiri [redacted] reported two waterboard sessions in November 2002, after which the psychologist/interrogators determined that Al-Nashiri was compliant. However, after being moved [redacted] Al-Nashiri was thought to be withholding information. Al-Nashiri subsequently received additional EITs, [redacted] but not the waterboard. The Agency then determined Al-Nashiri to be “compliant.” Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify exactly why Al-Nashiri became more willing to provide information. However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [redacted] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.

Pt. 225:

On the other hand, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete. As a means of less active resistance, at the beginning of their interrogation, detainees routinely provide information that they known is already known. Khalid Shaykh Muhammad received 183 applications of the waterboard in March 2003.

Pt. 231:

During the course of this Review, a number of Agency officers expressed unsolicited concern about the possibility of recrimination or legal action resulting from their participation in the CTC Program. A number of officers expressed concern that a human rights group might pursue them for activities [redacted]. Additionally, they feared that the Agency would not stand behind them if this occurred.

Pt. 232:

One officer expressed concern that one day, Agency officers will wind up on some “wanted list” to appear before the World Court for war crimes stemming from activities [redacted] Another said, “Ten years from now we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this . . . [but] it has to be done.” He expressed concern that the CTC Program will be exposed in the news media and cited particular concern about the possibility of being named in a leak.

More to come soon.

NRO Staff — Members of the National Review Online editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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