Monday, September 12, 2011

The CIA’s Embrace of Brutal Interrogation

Filed under: 9/11/2001 | Books — by Will Kirkland @ 11:06 am
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From The NY Times:  ”In a new memoir, a former F.B.I. agent who tracked Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11 attacks paints a devastating picture of rivalry and dysfunction inside the government’s counterterrorism agencies. The book describes missed opportunities to defuse the 2001 plot, and argues that other attacks overseas might have been prevented, and Osama bin Laden found earlier, ifinterrogations had not been mismanaged. …

In the 571-page book, “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda,” Mr. Soufan accuses C.I.A. officials of deliberately withholding crucial documents and photographs of Qaeda operatives from the F.B.I. before Sept. 11, 2001, despite three written requests, and then later lying about it to the 9/11 Commission. …

He recounts a scene at the American Embassy in Yemen, where, a few hours after the attacks on New York and Washington, a C.I.A. official finally turned over the material the bureau requested months earlier, including photographs of two of the hijackers.

“For about a minute I stared at the pictures and the report, not quite believing what I had in my hands,” Mr. Soufan writes. Then he ran to a bathroom and vomited. “My whole body was shaking,” he writes. He believed the material, documenting a Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, combined with information from the Cole investigation, might have helped unravel the airliner plot….

Mr. Soufan writes that the most consequential mistake of all was the C.I.A.’s embrace of brutal tactics for interrogation, which Mr. Soufan says were directed from the Bush White House and opposed by some C.I.A. officers. The book calls the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the first important prisoner questioned by the C.I.A., as a fateful wrong turn toward torture and away from what he considered more effective traditional interrogation methods.”

More in the article by Scott Shane

It occurs to me that if, during wartime, Naval Intelligence had withheld information from Army Intelligence, leading to the kind of disaster that was the NY-DC attacks there would have been major, major outcries.  There would have been investigations, congressional and otherwise; there would have been courts martials and other trials and tribunals.

Talk about a… what’s that phase we heard so much at the time of the economic collapse? .. moral hazard.  The CIA is totally insulated from any accounting of its grievous behavior and so, it will continue; that is, is continuing today.


  1. Joyce Cole:

    I’m reading “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road 9/11″ by the New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright. The amount of both willful and imposed ignorance about our adversaries, dating back to the late 40s is terribly disheartening — and more. Your author Ali Soufan “was taken aside on Sept. 12 and finally shown the names and photos of the men the C.I.A. had known for more than a year and a half were in America. The planes had already struck. Soufan ran to the bathroom and retched.” It seems like a terribly apt response. As I plow through the book (it’s excellent, by the way), I, too, struggle with that impulse. This country is a tragedy in motion. Shakespeare would have had a field day.

  2. Joyce Cole:

    Try reading THe Looming Towers when you have the time. It’s a great adjunct to Destiny Disrupted. One can also see that without those brutal interrogations, esp. in Egyptian jails, we may never have had an Al-Zawahiri or Bin Laden. What a blueprint they were for Abu Ghraib — down to the dogs and the humiliations. It’s oh so disturbing but spot on to read.

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