- Air Force Captain Michael Schwartz, military counsel for the defense of Walid bin Attash
During the arraignment hearings, this comment was drowned out by white noise when the court security officer thought classified information might be mentioned. However, upon review, The Pentagon office in charge of the military commission tribunals decided nothing compromising was revealed and released a transcript on Wednesday.
Jose Rodriguez: We needed to get everybody in government to put their big boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed.
Lesley Stahl: Their big boy pants on–
Jose Rodriguez: Big boy pants. Let me tell you, I had had a lot of experience in the agency where we had been left to hold the bag. And I was not about to let that happen for the people that work for me.
Lesley Stahl: There wasn’t gonna be any deniability on this one?
Jose Rodriguez: There was not gonna be any deniability. And I tell you something. In August of 2002, I felt I had all the authorities that I needed, all the approvals that I needed. The atmosphere in the country was different. Everybody wanted us to save American lives.
I believe that the mention of torture and the apparent religious observations are merely ploys.
Also found at the site was a spare prosthetic leg belonging to AQ operative Walid bin Attash. Sadly, bin Attash wasn’t connected to it at the time. Some of our people discovered that bin Attash had frequented online dating websites and described himself as someone who “Loves to travel- sometimes at a moment’s notice.” It took us six more months, but finally we captured him in Karachi in April 2003 and put a serious dent in his social life.
Debra Saunders writes:
On Saturday, Attash was one of five defendants charged with 2,976 counts of murder for their role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It would seem that Attash has grown very devout at Guantanamo Bay. His civilian attorney Cheryl Bormann wore a hijab and abaya at the military pre-trial hearing. She even suggested that female prosecutors dress in more “appropriate” fashion in deference to the defendants’ “fear of committing a sin under their faith.” According to news reports, distaff prosecutors wore military uniforms with knee-length skirts.
Is the Attash in your book the same guy whose attorney feels she must cover her entire body? I asked Rodriguez. Yes, he answered. “These people are pretty hypocritical; one thing is their religious beliefs, the other thing is what they do.”
I’m sure a number of FA readers will disagree with me here, but al Qaeda theology is not the same religion as the Islam practiced by 1.5 billion. And a number of al Qaeda fighters aren’t even particularly pious, let alone religiously observant, except when it serves their agenda and interest to be so. The allure of violent jihad attracts a certain kind of personality; and some of those involved in the business of jihadism merely are in it for the adventurism of violence and not religion. Islam is and also isn’t the problem.
While Bormann may try to shame female prosecutors to take the veil, Rodriguez found that KSM preferred dealing with female CIA officers who wore work attire. At the end of one debriefing, Rodriguez writes, KSM called a female officer back and said, “There’s something else you should know.” KSM then described how “he had personally decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.” KSM was not remorseful.
At the end of the chapter on KSM in Rodriguez’s book, is this account (the most detailed one I’ve read) of where he threatens to murder one of his CIA debriefers:
One of our senior CTC officers spent some time at the black site and established what seemed to have been a good relationship with KSM, getting some very valuable information from him. His contact with KSM came long after the “difficult period” (as the detainees called it) when EITs were employed. When it was time for this officer to return to headquarters, he dropped by KSM’s cell to say good-bye. Mohammed surprised him by saying: “Have a safe trip.” Sensing that what he had just said might be taken as a sign of humanity, KSM quickly added: “It is not that I wish you well. But if I ever get out of here, I want to personally be the one to kill you.”
“Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, by Jose Rodriguez with Bill Harlow, Pg 96-97
Jose Rodriguez writes a piece today for CNN, covering the media carnival around the court circus:
While the antics of these al Qaeda terrorists were certainly colorful, I would like to take a moment to focus on the performance of an entirely different group, the journalists who covered the proceedings.
While most reporters have been careful to write that those who were arraigned are “alleged” to have committed terrorism (an allegation Mohammed has previously gleefully accepted), they are less careful when discussing the treatment these top terrorists received at the hands of the CIA.
The biggest myth is that the detainees were “tortured.” Some of the stories coming out of Gitmo this past weekend simply state that as a fact. There is no “allegedly” attached to the allegation in these stories. About 30 out of the 100 or so detainees that the CIA held were subjected to some harsh treatment.
But the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice assured us in writing that the treatment was specifically not torture.
From Hard Measures, pg 63:
Any interrogation program we developed had to be effective and legal. Assuring ourselves of the latter proved time-consuming. But as critically important as we felt it to be to get information that might help us thwart impending attacks, I insisted that we take no action unless and until we were assured, in writing, by the seniormost legal authorities, that we were not crossing legal red lines. Some of my most senior leaders in CTC argued that we couldn’t afford to wait for approval from policymakers. They felt the pressure of a possible second wave of attacks that might happen at any moment and knew that Abu Zubaydah had in his head information that could help us thwart them. But I said, no, we will not go ahead until we know we have the backing of our political leaders and a binding legal opinion from the Department of Justice.
And of course some political leaders, like they did in regards to previous statements they made on the question of Iraq and WMD including voting on AUMF, wish to rewrite history and absolve their hands, abandoning the soldiers out on the battlefield to take the heat and blame.
Many of the techniques were essentially bluffs — designed to get the attention of a detainee and perhaps scare him — but to cause no physical harm.
Some of the stories this weekend talked of “years” of abusive treatment these detainees endured. In fact, the enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) that CIA used were applied at most for only 30 days. On average, it was much less.
Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee subjected to EITs, received them for less than three weeks. Mohammed’s period of harsh — but legal and necessary — treatment was even less.
The public impression, aided and abetted by the media, is that the practice of waterboarding was rampant.
In fact, only three detainees: Mohammed, Zubaydah and one other were ever waterboarded, the last one more than nine years ago. Many of the stories this weekend repeated the assertion that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. But 183 is a count of the number of pours of water from a plastic water bottle. Mohammed told the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2007 that he had been waterboarded five times.
If his story has now changed, it is only to match the media narrative.
In the end, it wasn’t even waterboarding that did him in. It was sleep deprivation.
(Senator Bill Nelson, btw, asked to be waterboarded and was denied).
Ali Soufan’s Black Banners is a very good read, with detailed accounts of his experience in investigating the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and his interrogation of HVDs, including Abu Zubaydah. He writes a very persuasive argument, speaking from a position of authority and not just from expertise in his field (I mention this because I’ve seen interrogators and former SERE instructors criticize the CIA program, only to succeed in revealing their ignorance of the actual program in so doing).
When I picked up Rodriguez’ book on the day of release (April 30th), upon first glance it seemed less impressive than Soufan’s. The latter is in smaller print and lots of pages; the former had larger printing and less pages (neither has any appendices, notes, or index at the end; although Black Banners does list some sources cited). My fear became that it might be a partisan read rather than a serious work of contribution to the ongoing debate. But once I delved in, I was reassured by the contents. Mr. Rodriguez writes very convincing arguments that challenges the narrative painted by Soufan’s account. What fascinates me is trying to reconcile both accounts, because I don’t think either person is intentionally lying or deceiving; in some cases, it’s a matter of differing perspectives; in others, it will require some sleuthing on the part of the reader to reconcile dates, fill in missing pieces, and determine for himself where the truth lies (*snicker*…see what I did? “Truth” and “lies”, side x side?…okay, nevermind).
There are a number of details in Rodriguez’ book regarding the capture and interrogation of AZ and KSM, as well as the CIA program that I’ve not seen revealed anywhere else. It definitely is a book that enriches the debate.
What is great about this book and Thiessen’s is that they directly challenge the narrative woven by the FBI and Soufan. And they extract the hysteria, hyperbole, and distorted mystique that has surrounded the nature and purpose of the EIT program and how it was implemented briefly upon 30 of the 100 HVTs who made it into the CIA program.
I believe that the mention of torture at the arraignment hearings is for the most part a ploy on the part of the HVDs about to be put on trial.
On a lighter note…