Torture Was Used to Seek The Non-Existent Link Between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein for 9/11

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Republicans are defending Bush's authorization of the use of torture, in violation of U.S. and international law and treaty obligations, asserting that it lead to high value information that "kept our country safe" after 9/11. (There is not a single confirmed case to support this claim that has been made public. Hence, Dick Cheney's feint to release still classified documents to suggest that there is such a confirmed case. You still have a major problem, Dick — this would not render illegal torture "legal" or even excusable in every instance. It requires a factual determination on a case by case basis.)

The relevant question to ask is "what was the motivation for authorizing an illegal torture program?" This goes to the issue of intent. McClatchy News Service reports a disturbing answer Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link:

The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

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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.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Excerpts from Burney's interview appeared in a full, declassified report on a two-year investigation into detainee abuse released on Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called Burney's statement "very significant."

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Levin recalled Cheney's assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

Ron Suskind, author of "The One Percent Doctrine," has written extensively about the Bush administration's "war on terrorism." He was a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show last night and supported McClatchy's reporting 'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, April 22:

MADDOW: You‘ve done a lot of reporting on the Bush administration‘s efforts to try to create, try to find some sort of link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda—for all the obvious political reasons in 2002 and 2003. How big of a development is it that these interrogation tactics were being used, in some cases, according to the Armed Services Committee report, these techniques were being used specifically to try to find that Iraq link?

SUSKIND: Well, it‘s fascinating. I heard some of that back when I was reporting the book, but I really couldn‘t confirm it and you need, you know, several sources confirming to put it in the book.

And what‘s fascinating here, if you run the timeline side by side, you see, really, for the first time from that report that the key thing being sent down in terms of the request by the policymakers, by the White House, is find a link between Saddam and al Qaeda so that we essentially can link Saddam to the 9/11 attacks and then march into Iraq with the anger of 9/11 behind us. That was the goal and that was being passed down as the directive.

It‘s, you know, it‘s often called the requirement inside the CIA for both agents with their sources and interrogators with their captives. “Here‘s what we‘re interested in, here‘s what we, the duly elected leaders, want to hear about. Tell us what you can find.”

What‘s fascinating, in the Senate report, is finally clear confirmation that that specific thing was driving many of the activities, and mind you, the frustration inside of the White House that was actually driving action. The quote, in fact, inside of the Senate report from a major said that as frustration built inside of the White House, that there was no link that was established—because the CIA told the White House from the very start there is no Saddam/al Qaeda link. We checked it out. We did every which way. Sorry.

The White House simply wouldn‘t take no for an answer and it went with another method. Torture was the method. “Get me a confession, I don‘t care how you do it.” And that bled all the way through the government, both on the CIA side and the Army side. It‘s extraordinary.

Mind you, Rachel, this is important. This is not about an impetus to foil an upcoming potential al Qaeda attacks. The impetus here is largely political diplomatic. The White House had a political diplomatic problem. It wanted it solved in the run-up to the war.

And mind you, and I think the data will show this—after the invasion, when it becomes clear in the summer, just a few months after in 2003, that there are no WMD in Iraq. That‘s the summer of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame — my goodness, there are no WMD. Now, the White House is being hit with a charge that they took us to war under false pretenses. That‘s when the frustration is acute.

My question, the question for investigators now: Is how many of these interrogations were driven specifically by a desire to come up with the Saddam/al Qaeda link? It‘s essentially rivers coming together.

This gets—the key issue, certainly in criminal cases: intent. What was driving the action? What were they looking for? What was the real impetus? And now, I think, you have your first clear answer that affirms some of the things that we‘ve been hearing.

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