Torture Used to Find Al-Qaeda/Saddam Link

by Brien Jackson

No one could have predicted:

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

Of course, pointing out that the most common use of torture over the years, from the Inquisition to Stalinist Russia, was to elicit false confessions. Because while torture isn’t necessarily any more effective than good interrogating for getting accurate information out of people, imposing increasing levels of extreme physical pain on people until they say what you want them to is a great way to get people to, well, say what you want them to. Whether it’s true or not. The question at this point is whether Cheney and Rumsfeld were simply looking for confirmation of the things they “knew,” or if they were actually looking to extract false information from detainees to justify an aggressive war in Iraq. The fact that the inability to garner this information, even by torture, doesn’t seem to have phased the pre-conceived belief tells you all you need to know about the run-up to war; the administration wanted a war with Saddam from day 1, and nothing was going to stop them. Also, given that Rumsfeld seems to have reconciled the discrepancy by concluding that the torture didn’t work, one is left to wonder why, exactly, the torture regime was furthered.

It’s worth pointing out that this has been a very bad week for the Bushies. Revelations that they went to extraordinary measures to quash any official dissent from the legal opinions espoused in the OLC significantly undercuts the notion that the OLC opinions were issued in good faith, and senior policy makers simply acting on the legal advice they were getting. As does the reminder that the FBI strenuously objected to the interrogation methods, to the point that FBI director Robet Mueller directed FBI personnel to have nothing to do with it. Even worse, the Senate Armed Services Committee report on the matter is a brutal demolition of the Bush administration’s various line, and paints a portrait of a group of sadists who were determined to torture from the very beginning, and who took a number of actions that seem to demonstrate they knew what they were doing were legally dubious.

If you’d asked me about the matter on Monday morning, I would have said that I thought the biggest hurdle to action was that getting convictions in the matter would be extremely difficult, if not downright unlikely. After reading the SASC report, and given the plethora of information that was brought back to the front of the story yesterday, however, today I’d have to say that, on the whole, it’s exceedingly obvious that senior administration officials were engaged in serial lawlessness, human rights abuses, war crimes, etc. Prosecute them. Now.

But hey, Dubs didn’t get any oral in the Oval Office. Which is good, because otherwise we might have had to impeach him or something.

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