Unofficial drafts of executive orders on reviewing current terrorism interrogation practices and examining the possibility of reopening CIA blacksites for business were leaked to WaPo and the NYTimes, apparently:
The interview came the same day a series of extraordinary documents claiming to be drafts of executive orders were leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post and quickly flew across the Internet. The one that caused by far the biggest stir would create a pathway for the CIA to re-open the “black site” prisons it once maintained overseas for interrogating and at times torturing suspected terrorists, and orders a review of the Army field manual, which all U.S. agencies must, by law, use when interrogating suspects.
Reports indicate that Pompeo and Mattis had no idea the document existed, and were “blindsided” when they were leaked to the press.
Speed read. White House spokesman Sean Spicer quickly said the document wasn’t theirs, but the New York Times contradicted that account later in the day when it tracked down three Trump administration officials who provided a tick-tock for how the document made it though Trump’s national security staff on Tuesday morning.
“If Trump does follow through with such an order, it would run smack into existing law and the stated views of Trump’s just-confirmed Cabinet secretaries and top national security chiefs, including Mattis and Pompeo,” FP’s Molly O’Toole and Paul McLeary report, and it promises “to revive the searing debates of the mid-2000s over torture and secret CIA prisons where al Qaeda suspects were kept for weeks at a time outside the bounds of international law.”
President Trump also gave an interview with ABC News in which the topic of waterboarding once again came up:
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Donald Trump said he “absolutely” thinks waterboarding works and would consider reinstating it as an interrogation technique, depending on the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t want to do, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally,” Trump exclusively told “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir during an interview at the White House. “But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”
Trump explained it’s important to reconsider the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique because, he said, “we’re not playing on an even field.”
“When they’re chopping off the heads of our people and other people. When they’re chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire,” he said.
“I’m going to go with what they say,” Trump said of Mattis and Pompeo. “But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question ‘Does it work? Does torture work?’ And the answer was ‘Yes, absolutely.'”
I’m thinking that one of those persons “at the highest level of intelligence” that he may have spoken to on the efficacy of waterboarding, might have been Jose Rodriguez. Back in November, post-election win:
DONALD TRUMP MAY select Jose Rodriguez, one of the primary architects of the George W. Bush torture program, to run the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a law firm with close ties to Trump.
Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service, helped developed the CIA black sites, secret prisons operated in foreign countries where interrogators used a range of torture tactics, including the use of “waterboarding,”
The former senior CIA officer who championed waterboarding hopes President-elect Donald Trump will bring back harsh interrogation methods—and bring the CIA back into the business of interrogating terrorist suspects.
“We have to be able to capture terrorists. We have to be able to interrogate them. We don’t do that anymore,” said Jose Rodriguez, who led the CIA’s clandestine service during the Bush administration.
A Trump supporter, Rodriguez said he didn’t want to lead the CIA, though he has been named as a possible pick. But he does want to bring back some form of now-illegal interrogation measures, like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and other so-called “enhanced interrogation methods” approved by the Bush White House to question terrorist suspects in the wake of the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11.
Mike Pompeo has ended up to be Trump’s pick for CIA Director. He, along with General Mattis, are against bringing back enhanced interrogation practices, for either CIA or military. ABC News:
But Trump’s position on the use of waterboarding seems to differ from some of his Cabinet picks’. In an interview with The New York Times last year, Trump said he was “impressed” by a recommendation from Mattis, who at the time was under consideration for defense secretary.
“I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being, like, the toughest guy,” Trump told the Times.
During his confirmation hearing to become CIA director, Pompeo was asked whether he would comply if Trump issued a presidential order calling for the reinstatement of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside the Army Field Manual.
“Absolutely not. Moreover, I can’t imagine I would be asked that by the president-elect,” Pompeo said. “There is no doubt in my mind about the limitations placed not only on the DOD but on the intelligence agency, and I’ll always comply with the law.”
This blog draft was originally started Dec 10th and never finished:
A couple of weeks ago, the President-elect Trump appears to have chosen for his Secretary of Defense, also supposedly changed Trump’s tune on torture and waterboarding within the hour upon meeting:
one issue that has been simmering on the back burner for the whole election cycle is Trump’s opinion that “torture works.” Will we begin torturing enemy captives again?
It doesn’t look likely. As he has already done with some of his more well known campaign promises, Trump has reversed himself on torture. His views changed after a meeting with Marine Gen. James Mattis, whom Trump is considering for Secretary of Defense.
How is it that Gen. Mattis was able to influence Trump’s position on torture? The two met for an hour this past Saturday at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, to discuss the possibility that Mattis could serve as defense secretary. Little of the substance of the meeting has been made public, but Trump did share a few notable moments.
Tuesday, Trump told reporters from The New York Times that he and Mattis had discussed Trump’s position on waterboarding.
From the Times:
“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.’” He added: “I was very impressed by that answer.’’
Torture, Trump said after the conversation with Mattis, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.’’
The reversal is significant. Trump’s no-nonsense and heavy handed approach to interrogation was a fundamental characteristic of the candidate that many voted for. For him to reverse himself now won’t be an easy sell for his supporters.
How could Trump not know about the counter-arguments and factuals regarding torture and interrogation practices? Experts and critics of waterboarding have long touted the virtues of the relationship-building types of techniques favored by most. As I’ve mentioned previously, Trump shares the same narrative that the critics have bought into: That the CIA were brutal and tortured, going all Jack Bauer on jihadi-a$ses to get information. Where Trump had parted ways with the torture critics is that while he acknowledges and concedes in the belief that we tortured, whereas the Feinstein camp is outraged, Trump was not. He’s all for torturing the enemy. Bring back waterboarding “and worse”, he said. Essentially, Trump shares the same cartoonish, worldview narrative about the CIA “torture” program that the critics have pushed. It is a distorted view, filled with hyperbole and hysteria and ignorance, exacerbated by the politically partisan and deeply flawed December 2014 Feinstein Report.
This is why defenders of waterboarding and the CIA interrogation program- such as Marc Thiessen, Michael Hayden, and Mike Morell- also were opposed to presidential candidate Donald Trump, a supporter of waterboarding. His reasons for supporting it are not their reasons. His understanding was flawed misunderstanding- the same kind of misunderstanding that leads Feinstein and McCain to vehemently oppose its use. McCain says he’d have Trump in court “in a New York Minute“.
People at the time had figured that General Mattis had changed Trump’s tune, regarding “torture” and torture. Fred Kaplan, at the time, however, pointed out that this was not the case:
There’s a notion out there that, after talking with Gen. James Mattis, who might be the next secretary of defense, President-elect Donald Trump is suddenly opposed to waterboarding. In fact, this isn’t true at all.
The notion arose from a story in the New York Times about Trump’s hourlong meeting on Tuesday with the paper’s editors and reporters. The story stated:
On the issue of torture, Mr. Trump suggested he had changed his mind about the value of waterboarding after talking with Gen. James N. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general…
“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Mr. Trump said. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terrorism suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better.’”
“I was very impressed by that answer,” Mr. Trump said.
Torture, he said, is “not going to make the kind of difference that a lot of people are thinking.”
However, the full transcript of the session, which the Times published on its website, reveals a different bottom line. Trump is quoted as telling the same story about Mattis, adding, “I was surprised [by his answer], because he’s known as being like the toughest guy.”
But Trump then goes on, “And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind.” (Italics added.) Let me repeat that: Contrary to the Times’ own news story, it is not the case that “Mr. Trump suggested he had changed his mind about the value of waterboarding.” In fact, he explicitly said the opposite. Right after that point in the transcript, a Times editor adds the following, in parentheses and italics: “(Earlier, we mistakenly transcribed ‘changed my mind.’)” Hence the misreporting and the as-yet largely unrecognized misunderstanding.
Trump goes on in the transcript: “Look we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not—it’s not going to make the kind of difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But Gen. Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say.”
In short, Mattis exposed Trump to a different view of torture—a view, by the way, that most American generals and admirals hold.
Rumsfeld, himself, had rejected waterboarding as an EIT, deeming it inappropriate for military use when military officers had approached him for approval on alternate interrogation techniques in dealing with some captured jihadis. And he rescinded the orders he signed approving of certain techniques, shortly after.
I doubt EITs will be used by military interrogators in the Trump-era; and they will abide by what’s approved in the current Army FM.
I do not know Pompeo’s feelings or knowledge about EITs and how they were employed within the CIA RDI program; although there is this reported in the BBC:
Mr Pompeo has been a bit more ambivalent. He has defended the use of harsh techniques but during his confirmation hearing said he would “absolutely not” reinstate those methods.
He was more equivocal in written responses, saying that if intelligence gathering was being impeded he would look into whether changing the laws was necessary.
I doubt that Pompeo would bring their usage back, for the reasons given by Michael Hayden, who in 2006, spent the summer pouring through the program’s record of use (ultimately deciding the CIA interrogation program was too important not to bring back, after having been temporarily suspended amidst passage of the 2005 and 2006 DTA and MCA- CIA and their lawyers did not want to continue with the program without knowing that they were still legally protected).
Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden— an outspoken “NeverTrump’er”—expressed doubt the CIA would welcome a return to the interrogation mission.
“This is not the agency disowning it’s past because it truly believes that these techniques worked and saved lives,” Hayden emailed The Daily Beast. “Rather, it is based on the sense of betrayal at the agency for having followed previous direction in good faith, and then having that overturned by a subsequent administration.”
Rodriguez said that sense of betrayal is part of why he has no desire to return to Washington.
“I would not want to go back to government even as director of CIA,” Rodriguez said Sunday. “I served my country for 31 years, and the last six-and-a-half were especially challenging. I think I fulfilled my duty, I did my part.”
But he does want Trump to unleash the CIA again to interrogate terrorist suspects, and grant them new powers beyond what the military is allowed to do.
“The Army Field Manual…is totally inadequate for a premier agency like the CIA to interrogate high level terrorists,” said Rodriguez, calling interrogation the easiest and best way to gain intelligence.
In answer to the widely reported position of General Mattis on the issue of “torture”, James Mitchell wrote an op-ed in WSJ:
It is understandable that Gen. Mattis would say he never found waterboarding useful, because no one in the military has been authorized to waterboard a detainee. Thousands of U.S. military personnel have been waterboarded as part of their training, though the services eventually abandoned the practice after finding it too effective in getting even the most hardened warrior to reveal critical information.
During the war on terror, the CIA alone had been authorized to use the technique. I personally waterboarded the only three terrorists subjected to the tactic by the CIA. I also waterboarded two U.S. government lawyers, at their request, when they were trying to decide for themselves whether the practice was “torture.” They determined it was not.
I volunteered to be waterboarded myself and can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience. But no one volunteers to be tortured.
Waterboarding was never the first, nor the best, choice for most detainees. We started out with the “tea and sympathy” approach and only escalated to harsher methods when it became clear that the detainee held vital information that might save innocent lives and was determined not to provide it. We quickly moved away from enhanced interrogations as soon as the detainee showed even a little cooperation.
The people I dealt with were not run-of-the-mill battlefield detainees, but hardened terrorists. Men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. These people were hellbent on bringing about further devastation.
I would ask Gen. Mattis this: Imagine being captured by America’s enemies. Would you give up important secrets that could get fellow Americans captured or killed in exchange for a Michelob and a pack of Marlboros?
In our case, it is not as if we had unlimited time to see if we could buddy up to terrorists to find out if another attack was on the horizon. There were multiple attacks being planned at the time. For example, not long after 9/11 the CIA was told of an al Qaeda effort to obtain nuclear fissionable material. When KSM was captured in 2003, we asked whether another major attack was in the works, and he responded, “Soon you will know.” We didn’t have time to dither.
Critics will point to the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report that declared enhanced interrogation didn’t work. The investigation cost $40 million and took five years, yet investigators didn’t even speak to anyone involved in the program. Anyway, a report produced by an extremely partisan congressional committee deserves skepticism to begin with.
I am not advocating that Mr. Trump “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” as he suggested during the campaign. But the president-elect needs to think through what to do when the U.S. captures a major terrorist who likely has information about an impending nuclear, chemical or biological attack. Is he prepared to say that if intelligence cannot be elicited using only the tactics contained in the Army Field Manual—as President Obama has directed—we will simply have to live with the consequences?
I had ordered James Mitchell’s “Enhanced Interrogation” from Amazon and received it a week or two after its release. I only now have started reading it. No matter which side of the debate you may fall under, the book is well worth the read. There are a lot of details that have not been reported before by anyone, previous to this book’s release.
One of the reasons why CIA sought alternate techniques is because some of the HVDs had trained to resist commonly known interrogation practices. Pg 11, Enhanced Interrogation”:
I didn’t know it at the time, but we had been asked to attend because a few months earlier Bruce [Jenssen] and I had written a paper describing the resistance to interrogation techniques that terrorists familiar with the “Manchester Manual” were likely to use. The Manchester Manual is a set of how-to instructions for resisting interrogation. It was created from resistance-to-interrogation course materials stolen from U.S. Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, by Ali Mohammed, a former Egyptian military officer who had immigrated to the United States and enlisted in the U.S. Army Special Forces. It turned out that Mohammed was a valuable al-Qa’ida asset, and the information he stole from the U.S. military ended up being widely circulated in multiple languages among Islamic Jihadists.
Copies of Army Field Manuals, past and present, can be found on the internet. The FM details what is allowable in interrogating captured combatants. Is it any surprise, then, that our enemy is able to train against techniques they can expect to have employed against them, if captured?
Page 13, “Enhanced Interrogation”:
As a result, it was widely believed that Abu Zubaydah might also be aware of al-Qa’ida plans for follow-on attacks on the United States. Because he ran training camps for Islamic jihadists, someone said, there was a good possibility that he had been trained to resist interrogation. Months later Abu Zubaydah would tell me that he not only had studied resistance to interrogation, he had taught it in his training camp.
From the outset, military interrogators concluded that the approved FM 34-52 techniques “were ineffective against detainees who had received interrogation resistance training.” This is hardly surprising when one considers not only counter-interrogation training received in camps such as al Farouk and detailed instructions guiding detainee conduct through al Qaeda’s so-called Manchester Manual, but the example of what al Qaeda and Taliban extremists chose to subject themselves to while fighting at Qala-i-Jangi.7
–pg 30, Inside Gitmo
~~~These were extremely tough, defiant men familiar with giving and taking cruelty. The challenge faced by the military was to save lives by finding out what these men knew about al Qaeda, the Taliban, and, most critically, any future plots to attack the West. Military interrogators at Guantanamo thought that the approved FM 34-52 techniques would be ineffective in achieving this goal because they were dealing with incredibly hard men who had been drilled and trained to resist normal interrogations.
–Pg 31-32, Inside Gitmo
7The Manchester Manual, discovered in a counterterrorist police raid in Manchester, England, revealed specific instructions for captured operatives to make extravagant claims of torture. In the chapter entitled “Prisons and Detention Centers,” the al Qaeda “brothers” are instructed to “prove that torture was inflicted on them” and to “complain of mistreatment while in prison.” Al Qaeda operatives are told to memorize the names of guards and to “mention those names to the judge.” If brought to a trial, the terrorists need to make certain to “notify [the court] of any mistreatment.” While in confinement they are encouraged to establish clandestine communications links with each other and to “master the art of hiding messages.” Most important, the Manual stresses, is for the jihadists to “create an Islamic program for themselves inside the prison,” and to “shout Islamic slogans out loud” if exposed to the public. These enemy combatants were thoroughly prepared to resist interrogation, defy convention, upset the court pro cesses, and play to the interests of anti- American, pro- Islamic organizations to sow dissension and further their cause. The full text of the Manual can be found in translation.
We have seen an estimated 1 in 7 Guantanamo graduates return to the battlefield, having convinced those “harsh” interrogators that they had reformed their ways, loved Americans, or were never a hardened jihadi, but a simple carpenter, tax driver, or peasant farmer that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are a few good interviews that you can find of James Mitchell giving interview on YouTube.
Dr. Mitchell is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over the so-called “torture” program. And, as is made clear in the preface to his book, his life and that of his family has been made endangered with a price on his head from ISIS, thanks in no small part to lawyers who leaked information as to his identity to jihadi clients sitting in Gitmo cells.
Also, in promotion of his book, there were some recent articles about a month ago.
Mitchell describes the day he was questioning Khalid Sheik Mohammed, when the 9/11 mastermind announced he had something important to say. “KSM then launched into a gory and detailed description of how he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl,” Mitchell writes. Up to that moment, the CIA did not know KSM had personally carried out the murder. When asked whether it was “hard to do” (meaning emotionally difficult), KSM misunderstood the question. “Oh, no, no problem,” KSM said, “I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep.”
To confirm his story, the CIA had KSM reenact the beheading so that it could compare the features of his hands and forearms to those in the video of Pearl’s murder. “Throughout the reenactment, KSM smiled and mugged for the cameras. Sometimes he preened,” Mitchell writes. When informed that the CIA had confirmed that he was telling the truth, KSM smiled.
“See, I told you,” KSM said. “I cut Daniel’s throat with these blessed hands.”
This is the pure evil Mitchell and his colleagues confronted each day at CIA “black sites.” “I have looked into the eyes of the worst people on the planet,” Mitchell writes. “I have sat with them and felt their passion as they described what they see as their holy duty to destroy our way of life.”
The world has heard almost nothing from KSM in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, but Mitchell has spent thousands of hours with him and other captured al-Qaeda leaders. Now, for the first time, Mitchell is sharing what he says KSM told him.
Mitchell is an American patriot who has been unjustly persecuted for his role in crafting an interrogation program that helped stop terrorist attacks and saved countless lives. He does not shy from the controversies and pulls no punches in describing the interrogations. If anything, readers may be surprised by the compassion he showed these mass murderers. But the real news in his book is what happened after enhanced interrogations ended and the terrorists began cooperating.
Once their resistance had been broken, enhanced interrogation techniques stopped and KSM and other detainees became what Mitchell calls a “Terrorist Think Tank,” identifying voices in phone calls, deciphering encrypted messages and providing valuable information that led the CIA to other terrorists. Mitchell devotes an entire chapter to the critical role KSM and other detainees played in finding Osama bin Laden. KSM held classes where he lectured CIA officials on jihadist ideology, terrorist recruiting and attack planning. He was so cooperative, Mitchell writes, KSM “told me I should be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List because I am now a ‘known associate’ of KSM and a ‘graduate’ of his training camp.”
KSM also described for Mitchell many of his as yet unconsummated ideas for future attacks, the terrifying details of which Mitchell does not reveal for fear they might be implemented. “If we ever allow him to communicate unmonitored with the outside world,” Mitchell writes, “he could easily spread his deviously simple but potentially deadly ideas.”
But perhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States — and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen — arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.
“Then he looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”
But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”
So we’ve gone from cowboy in the White House, to community organizer, to……?
How will Donald Trump do in his GWoT? Well, according to his America first foreign policy, this is the rhetoric:
Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority. To defeat and destroy these groups, we will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary. In addition, the Trump Administration will work with international partners to cut off funding for terrorist groups, to expand intelligence sharing, and to engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting.
Whether this will include a return and revamping of EITs and black sites or not, fingers crossed.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.