Hosts Look Back at Several Legal Cases of 2014
Professor Steven Salaita Case Update
Palestinians Join International Criminal Court After UN Rejection
Michael Ratner: There is an Immediate Jurisdiction in the ICC on the Occupied Territories
Michael Ratner: Guantanamo Statistics 2015
Michael Ratner: Afghanistan War Ends?
Dissent Under Surveillance: Heidi Boghosian
“Dissent Under Surveillance” was a panel held on November 7th at the Cooper Union in New York. It featured our own Heidi Boghosian, along with panelists Kevin Gosztola, Lisa Lynch, Ryan Shapiro and Carey Shenkman. Carey has been a guest on Law and Disorder. The panel was part of the Clandestine Reading Room, an exploration of leaked and declassified documents shedding light on government surveillance and secrecy in the US.
How to Read the Senate Report on CIA Torture
We welcome back author and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin Al McCoy, who recently published the article titled “How to Read the Senate Report on CIA Torture.” He calls it the single most important U.S. government document released to date in this still-young 21st century, yet it’s not without particular failings. McCoy distills the report into several potent areas. Among them, he points out how the report shows the “perpetrators as mendacious careerists willing to twist any truth to win a promotion or secure a lucrative contract.” Another is that the CIA has now been forced to admit that any link between torture and actionable intelligence is “unknowable.”
Professor Al McCoy:
- The report gives us a graphic record of just how brutal the CIA interrogations were.
- For years now we’ve been saying “enhanced interrogation techniques” or the acronym EIT’s or “techniques which some consider to be torture,” all kinds of twisted euphemisms. Well, now, thanks to the senate report on the CIA on interrogation and detention, everybody, citizen and senator alike, just say torture.
- Another aspect that emerges from the report is a graphic description inside the worst of the CIA-managed prisons, the Salt Pit in Afghanistan. The cold and eternal darkness, the capricious brutality of the CIA interrogators. The absolute incompetence from the point of modern incarceration of the CIA junior prison managers who were sent out without training to run this prison.
- Through all of that the Salt Pit in Afghanistan can join the long lineage of state cesspits of human suffering.
- Another thing, and I think the most important contribution of the Senate report, is to establish that all the CIA’s claims that brutal coercive interrogation somehow kept us safe, blocked terrorist plots, led us to Osama Bin Laden, were false.
- No longer can the CIA claim the techniques work.
- There’s one little detail that doesn’t seem that important analytically that sticks out and becomes absolutely iconic.
- The iconic part of that report is the fact that the CIA paid $81 million to two retired military psychologists who had no training, no language skills, no nothing. These two mediocrities are given $81 million to run the CIA psychological and interrogation program.
- The Senate tells us there’s this female operative that was responsible for one of the biggest bungles of the war on terror, the seizure off the streets of a German national named el Mazri. He was rendered to the Salt Pit in Afghanistan and for 4 months he suffered the vicissitudes of that horrific prison, that iconic hell hole. Then the CIA figures out, oops. This is a complete mistake. This guy is not in any way a terrorist, and they literally dump him on a mountain top in Albania with a wad of cash and a “have a nice day.”
- That operative then also claimed in testimony to the CIA inspector general in 2004 who was investigating the abuses inside the agency’s prisons that these techniques were working. The brutal interrogation, the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammad the top al-Qaeda suspect had led the agency to another suspect named Majid Khan.
- It turned out that Majid Khan was already in CIA custody before KSM’s interrogation. Her statement was completely bogus. Who is this person?
- The CIA drew upon her primarily we believe to make her this fictional female CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty, this hero, whose almost obsessive pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and her participation in torture sessions led the Navy Seals to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
- Her name is Alfreda Bikowski. She was the one who missed the signals on the 9/11 plot before it happened.
- She gave systematic false testimony as I described. She led the CIA on a wild goose chase on a supposed terrorist cell in Montana and for all that she’s been promoted to the equivalent of a CIA rank as a one star general.
- In 2012, this civil servant bought an $875,000 house in Virginia, a luxury residence.
- In short, instead of being reprimanded, demoted, punished for this litany of errors, the CIA operative had been rewarded.
- The Senate report doesn’t really explore the history; they don’t tell us where this psychological torture came from.
- Where did this institutional reflex for torture come from? It comes from a 60-year history of the U.S. involvement of torture.
- The CIA was desperately afraid that the Soviets had somehow cracked the code of human consciousness.
- Sensory deprivation, the sensory disorientation leads to a very quick breakdown.
- Torture almost up to the point of death but not to death was legal, and that’s what allowed the CIA to do all this.
Guest – Professor Alfred McCoy is the author of two recent books on this subject: Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012) and A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror.