October 24, 2021

CIA refutes ‘torture report,’ says interrogation tactics thwarted terror plots

CIA refutes ‘torture report,’ says interrogation tactics thwarted terror plotsPush Back: CIA Director John O. Brennan claims the interrogation techniques used by the CIA post 9/11 saved American lives. (Associated Press)

Some, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona — himself a victim of torture during Vietnam — stood lock-step with Mrs. Feinstein on Tuesday, while others, such as outgoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan, have sided with the CIA and called for the Senate probe to remain classified.

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, who withdrew from the process early in Mrs. Feinstein’s probe, published their own “minority view” Tuesday, claiming the Democrats’ final report was “flawed.”

It “has cost the American taxpayer more than 40 million dollars and diverted countless CIA analytic and support resources,” the Republicans said, adding that Democrats never interviewed certain “key witnesses,” resulting in “significant analytical and factual errors.”

The most sweeping claim in the report — and the one now at the center of the dispute between senators and the CIA — is that throughout the agency intentionally misled the Bush White House, as well as the CIA Office of Inspector General and Congress by claiming harsh interrogation techniques were effective.

The Intelligence Committee “reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counterterrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects,” the document states.

CIA Director John O. Brennan shot back at that specific claim in a statement Tuesday, saying that the agency’s own “review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom [enhanced interrogation techniques] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.”

The CIA’s office of media relations, meanwhile, sought to counter specific claims in the report by highlighting cases in which the agency maintains it pulled vital intelligence from detainees — most notably information that helped the hunt for bin Laden.

“As an example, Ammar al-Baluchi, after undergoing [enhanced interrogation techniques], was the first detainee to reveal that Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti served as a courier for messages from Bin Ladin after Bin Laden had departed Afghanistan,” states the previously classified response that the CIA provided to Senate investigators last year but circulated to reporters for the first time Tuesday.

The agency made similar counterclaims about other high-profile terrorism suspects including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003 in Pakistan; Hambali, an al Qaeda-linked Indonesian implicated in the October 2002 bombings of a Bali nightclub; and Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 on suspicion of plotting a so-called radioactive “dirty bomb” attack and since convicted in U.S. court of aiding terrorists.

With regard to Mohammed, the CIA said harsh interrogation techniques in 2003 were integral to gleaning information about a plot to hijack multiple airplanes leaving from London’s Heathrow Airport. But the Senate report said the CIA was aware of the plot before any information was gleaned from Mohammed and other detainees.

In the Hambali case, the CIA said enhanced interrogation techniques used on Mohammed led to the “first” information about a money transfer that led to the capture of Hambali. The agency said Mohammed told them about a Baltimore man’s role in sending $50,000 to Hambali.

The man, Majid Khan, admitted that he gave the money to someone named Zubair after the CIA confronted him with Mohammed’s admission and details about a January 2003 intercepted email.

This led to the CIA’s capture of Zubair in June 2003. Zubair’s capture led the CIA to an operative named Lilie, who was giving Hambali forged passports. Lilie identified where Hambali was hiding in Thailand and Hambali was arrested Aug. 11, 2003.

The Senate report tells a slightly different story. While it asserts that Hambali’s capture in Thailand was the result of an intercepted email, a CIA source and Thai investigators, no mention is made of information gleaned during Mohammed’s interrogation.

In the Padilla case, the CIA said harsh interrogation of Abu Zubayda and first identified the U.S. citizen as a threat. But the Senate report maintains that the agency first received reporting on the Padilla threat from a foreign government and that Zubayda told FBI agents about the dirty bomb plot — without divulging any names — some four months before the CIA began using the harsh techniques on him.