Torture

EXCLUSIVE: Former Top Interrogators Back Wide-Ranging Criminal Probe Into Torture

Jack Cloonan, former FBI security and counterterrorism expert    From 1996 to 2002, Cloonan was the senior case agent assigned to the "Bin Laden Squad" in the New York Office of the FBI. The Bin Laden Squad was charged with the responsibility of building a prosecutable case against Usama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and other high-ranking members of al Qaeda. In that role, Cloonan traveled globally finding members of al Qaeda, gaining their cooperation to assist in the prosecution of those who carried out the deadly attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As a result of these activities, Cloonan gained insight into how al Qaeda worked from those "al Qaeda insiders" who agreed to cooperate with the U. S. voluntarily. Cloonan is a consultant on terrorism for ABC News and has participated in many panel discussions held on the efficacy of coercive interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists.

Jack Cloonan, former FBI security and counterterrorism expert From 1996 to 2002, Cloonan was the senior case agent assigned to the "Bin Laden Squad" in the New York Office of the FBI.

Support for a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the Bush administration’s use of torture has grown to include a former top FBI interrogator and a career military intelligence officer with more than two decades of experience conducting interrogations.

Jack Cloonan, a former FBI security and counterterrorism expert who was assigned to the agency’s elite Bin Laden Unit, Col. Steve Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer recognized as one of the Defense Department’s most effective interrogators, and Matthew Alexander,who was the senior interrogator for the task force in Iraq that tracked down al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006, said ignoring clear-cut evidence of interrogation-related crimes would encourage more law-breaking in the future. Alexander uses a pseudonym for security reasons.

Cloonan and Kleinman, who conducted interrogations of terror suspects after 9/11, disputed claims by former CIA Director Michael Hayden and Republican lawmakers that a criminal investigation would damage intelligence gathering and could lead to another 9/11-type attack on the United States.

In an interview, Cloonan and Kleinman said Hayden and the lawmakers were sounding “false alarms” in an effort to keep serious crimes from being exposed. “What this is really about is cover your ass,” Cloonan said. “To suggest [intelligence gathering] will come to a screeching halt if there were an investigation is not accurate.”

Last Wednesday, nine Republican senators sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying a criminal investigation into the CIA’s interrogation practices would jeopardize the “security for all Americans, “chill future intelligence activities,” and could “leave us more vulnerable to attack.”

A day later, at a panel discussion held at the National Press Club, Hayden said an investigation, “no matter how narrowly defined” will “start pulling threads.

“Continuing looking back, continuing to pull these good people through a knothole will teach people never to play to the edge, will teach people ‘yeah I got an opinion from Justice and I know the president wants me to do it and the director [of the CIA] says it’s a good thing and I know I’m capable of doing it but I just don’t think so.’ We will teach timidity to a workforce we need to be vigorous and active. And no matter how narrowly defined this look back might be it’ll start pulling threads, you’ll have a significant number of agency folks being pulled through this process, in my mind, to no good,” he said.

Cloonan and Kleinman said Hayden and the GOP senators were sounding “false alarms” in an effort to keep serious crimes from being exposed and prosecuted. Cloonan, who retired in 2002 after more than 25 years in the FBI, said neither he nor the intelligence community believes that an investigation into torture will result in a threat to national security.

“What this is really about is cover your ass,” Cloonan said about the senators’ letter. “To suggest [intelligence gathering] will come to a screeching halt if there were an investigation is not accurate.”

Kleinman, who most recently served as a senior adviser on a Director of National Intelligence-commissioned study on strategic interrogation, agreed.

“I respectfully disagree profoundly with the assessment that any effort to look back would make us more vulnerable, Kleinman said. “In fact, we have to look back to show our utmost vulnerabilities.

“I’ve had the honor of testifying before four committees of Congress and I am always astounded at the profound political partisan politics that surround this issue. I’m a professional interrogator I have 25 years of experience in this and I don’t have any concern whatsoever that an investigation into how we conducted ourselves since 9/11 would in any way undermine our ability to continue gathering intelligence.”

Furthermore, Kleinman and Cloonan believe their colleagues in the intelligence community share their views. But many are unable to speak out publicly.

Steven Kleinman, career military intelligence officer and consultant on national security policy    Steven Kleinman is a military intelligence officer with over twenty-five years of operational and leadership experience in human intelligence and special operations involving assignments worldwide.  He is recognized as one of DoD's most effective and prolific interrogators with service as an interrogator, an interrogation team chief, and as the senior advisor on interrogation to the commander of a special operations task force in Operations JUST CAUSE, DESERT STORM, and IRAQI FREEDOM, respectively. He is a former director of the Air Force Combat Interrogation Course and most recently served as a senior advisor on a Director of National Intelligence-commissioned study on strategic interrogation.

Steven Kleinman is a military intelligence officer recognized as one of DoD's most effective and prolific interrogators with service as an interrogator, an interrogation team chief, and as the senior advisor on interrogation to the commander of a special operations task force in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom. He is a former director of the Air Force Combat Interrogation Course and most recently served as a senior advisor on a Director of National Intelligence-commissioned study on strategic interrogation.

“I have friends in the intelligence community who won’t speak up because to do so is almost a career ender,” Kleinman, who has more than two decades of experience in the field of interrogation, said. “Sometimes they’re in a secured status where they couldn’t admit to their job anyway. The one’s who I talked to who are experienced they’re right on board with this” possible investigation.

Kleinman and Cloonan added that the outside contractors and the interrogators who lacked the training and experience are the ones who saw the use of torture as a means to gain valuable information. Moreover, they are likely the ones who fear an investigation.

“The people who are true professionals don’t see anything wrong with an investigation,” Kleinman said. “I conducted interrogations in three separate military campaigns. I can look back if they called me in tomorrow and I would not even be thinking about getting liability insurance.

Cloonan, Kleinman and Alexander sent a letter Friday to the chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees calling for the creation of a bipartisan commission to “assess policy making that led to use of torture and cruelty in interrogations.”

They wrote that if Holder appoints a special counsel it will mark an “important step forward” by reaffirming “the enduring power of our system of checks and balances.”

“The prohibition on torture in this country is unequivocal,” Cloonan, Alexander and Kleinman wrote. “To ignore evidence of criminal wrongdoing would incentivize future breaches of law.”

However, they added that an investigation and the potential for prosecutions “of individuals who violated anti-torture statutes alone…will not prevent policy makers from making similar mistakes in the future.”

“At the heart of the policy decisions buttressing interrogators’ use of torture and cruelty lay closed processes that have yet to be scrutinized with cool heads and wise counsel. Instead of putting in place the best policies for protecting American lives, policy makers ignored the advice of experienced interrogators, counterterrorism experts and respected military leaders who warned that using torture and cruelty would be ineffective and counter-productive.”

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, have both advocated for a truth commission to look into the use of torture, and other abuses, that took place during the Bush administration’s tenure. Leahy said he would not follow through on his plan without the support of Republicans, which he does not have, and Conyers’ proposal never even attracted the support of Democrats. President Obama had told the lawmakers in closed-door meetings earlier this year that he did not support those efforts.

But Kleinman, Cloonan, and Alexander said that’s a mistake. In their letter, they wrote that the path the U.S. chose to take, specifically related to interrogations, “came with heavy costs.”

“Key allies, in some instances, refused to share needed intelligence, terrorists attacks increased world wide, and al Qaeda and like-minded groups recruited a new generation of Jihadists,” they wrote.

“A nonpartisan, independent commission with subpoena power should assess the deeply flawed policy making framework behind the decision to permit torture and cruelty. Our system of checks and balances is designed to produce sound policy decisions which advance our strategic interests and are in accordance with our core values of due process.

“Many important decisions that were made during the Bush administration were done so without the consent and the advice of key Congressional leaders, Department of Justice officials, and other officials with the expertise to provide informed thinking and critical analysis. An independent commission can present recommendations for fixing this process going forward. Reviewing our policies and actions concerning detention and treatment of detainees after 9/11 will strengthen our system of checks and balances so that when faced with the next challenge, we get it right.”

Kleinman said “looking back” is not just a human rights matter.

“We absolutely have to look back otherwise if we’re attacked again or we get into a conventional war we run the risk of the same problems. It’s not just human rights. It’s operational. We squandered opportunities to collect vital intelligence” because the U.S. government chose to use torture.

Kleinman said he was “disappointed” with an op-ed column CIA Director Leon Panetta published in the Washington Post urging lawmakers to “move on” from talk of investigations and to resist focusing on the past.

“Every world class intelligence organization look at where they come from to get better,” Kleinman said. “I think it’s critical. A lot of people say this is a witch hunt. I think they’re wrong.”

No Actionable Intelligence

Cloonan and Kleinman also doubt claims, like those leveled by Dick Cheney, that the use of torture produced actionable intelligence, the type that helped prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil and “saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” to quote the former vice president.

“The ticking time bomb scenario is great for books and television but it didn’t exist. There wasn’t a ticking time bomb. Gen. [Michael] Hayden and Vice President Cheney are making this argument that nobody I know of thinks is true. They say they got substantial information from [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” through torture. But Mohammed gave up “information that everybody already knew. At least on the FBI side. There was nothing new there. [The FBI] would have heard about it if his” torture produced valuable intelligence.

Alexander, who published a book about the capture and interrogation of Zarqawi titled How to Break A Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down The Deadliest Man in Iraq, agreed.

In an interview last December with Jon Stewart, host of the The Daily Show, Alexander said he “never saw coercive methods [pay off]…When I was in Iraq, the few times I saw people use harsh methods, it was always counterproductive.”

“The person just hunkered down, they were expecting us to do that, and they just shut up,” he said. “And then I’d have to send somebody in, build back up rapport, reverse that process, and it would take us longer to get information.”

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006.  Alexander personally conducted over 300 interrogations and supervised over 1,000 more.  It was his team of interrogators that successfully tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006. Alexander personally conducted over 300 interrogations and supervised over 1,000 more. It was his team of interrogators that successfully tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Cheney claims he has a file that contains classified smoking-gun documents that will show that torture staved off an imminent terrorist attack. Those documents may be released Monday along with a declassified version of a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on the agency’s torture program that raised doubts about the legality of the methods used. The report says the CIA conducted mock executions and threatened a high-value detainee with a gun and power drill.

Cloonan said he had a “long conversation” with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee after he testified before the panel last year and was told that there isn’t a smoking-gun document that will show torture was effective on any of the high-value detainees who were brutally tortured. He said soon the public will find that it out too.

“I think at a minimum you’ll see a third party review that it’s ambiguous at best,” Cloonan said. He added that the best way to get “actionable intelligence is rapport building. It’s the only way.

“Unfortunately, a lot of time and effort was squandered” by using coercive methods. “There were a lot of interrogators—contractors—who would not take no for an answer and and wouldn’t accept that these detainees did not know anything. They stumbled. They resorted to the easiest means. They were being pressured.”

In a stunning reversal, Hayden, who has said that torture, or “enhanced interrogation” methods, thwarted attacks admitted during his panel discussion at the National Press Club, that the torture of high-level detainees didn’t stop imminent attacks, but was successful “in terms of our learning of the basic infrastructure of al-Qaeda and then enabling the agency counterattack against both the infrastructure and the leadership of al-Qaeda.”

Hayden, who said he “pushed back” on the release of the report, added that in the 200-page document there are a mere “half-a-dozen paragraphs that talk about the success of the [torture] program” from the perspective of learning about the way al-Qaeda operates.

Hayden added that report has been “down on the Hill” since 2004 and available to Congress since 2006 so “why would the release of this report prompt us to have a special prosecutor and any other kind of activity? I just think it’s destructive of the agency and unfair to the good people who did what they did out of duty not out of enthusiasm and did what the nation asked them to do.”

CIA IG Report

Kleinman said the news reported over the weekend by several publications that the CIA’s IG report will show that agency interrogators conducted a mock execution, brandished a gun and a power drill during the interrogation of at least one detainee underscores how haphazard the intelligence gathering process turned out to be and why the policies that resulted in such horrific acts warrants a thorough public vetting.

“I defy anybody in the intelligence community to bring forward the research, the thoughtful objective analysis that purports to support that mock executions is a consistent and effective means of getting accurate information from people,” Kleinman said. “Show me the studies that say causing a great deal of fear is consistently successful in getting useful information. Because there won’t be.

“What people are doing is they’re just scrambling because they don’t know what else to do. They’re scrambling for some sort of technique and they’re just using things that they think ‘well that will scare me so it must scare them. It would make me talk so it must make them talk.’ Sure, they’ll talk. But they’re talking because they are afraid they are going to die. And they will say anything to keep from dying.”

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6 Responses for “EXCLUSIVE: Former Top Interrogators Back Wide-Ranging Criminal Probe Into Torture”

  1. SP Biloxi says:

    It’s all about CYA by some of the GOP Senators who backed Bush in the Iraq and Afghanistan war, Patriot Act, and so on. This is not only to protect those in the Bush Administration and others for their serious crimes from being exposed and prosecuted but no one is talking about war profiteers from some of the Senate as well as Congress from the Iraq and Afghanistan war. The media should be interviewing film director Robert Greenwald that exposed certain lawmakers who were profitting from the Iraq War in his documentary movie: “Iraq for Sale.”

  2. Mike says:

    We are led to believe the torture program was a good faith effort by desperate officials. Yet there are good reasons to dispute this:

    1) The pre-9/11 conduct of torture program advocates has never been fully examined. For example we have never learned why Alec Station withheld from the FBI (from 1/00 through 8/01) the fact that two ID’ed al Qaeda operatives were in the US. Some of the same CIA officials recommended for a disciplinary panel by Helgerson in his 9/11 internal review were key advocates of the torture program.

    2)FBI agent Soufan testified that legal FBI methods were working and that the CIA torture program was counterproductive. This is very important as we have been led to believe the torture was a last resort measure required when all legal interrogation methods failed. If the priority was not to attain solid intelligence then of course the legal FBI methods wouldn’t have worked. Torture would have been required for false confessions (i.e. linking al Qaeda to Iraq).

    3)Scott Shane (NYT) wrote that the CIA interrogator who replaced Soufan 1)didn’t speak Arabic 2) had no counterterrorism experience 3)had no interrogation experience. This strongly suggests the CIA wasn’t interested in attaining reliable information.

  3. johnhkennedy says:

    There Must Be Prosecution.
    Their crimes are too blatant to ignore.

    KEEP ASKING ALL POLITICIANS AT ALL PUBLIC EVENTS

    “WHY DO YOU SUPPORT TORTURE?” If they aren’t actively calling for enforcement of our Federal Torture Laws, They DO Support Torture.

    SIGN THE PETITIONS
    Demanding
    both a Commission of Inquiry
    and a Special Prosecutor
    For All Their Crimes
    at ANGRYVOTERS.ORG

    http://ANGRYVOTERS.ORG

    Only Prosecution Stops Torture!
    Only Prosecution Stops Violations of Our Constitution and Rule Of Law.
    .

  4. Thomas says:

    Yaa, I’m with you previous commentors on this whole bundle of questionable stuff
    that went down……

    SP Biloxi… Check out the Paul O’Neil “buried” 60 minutes interview…….
    The White House was selling Iraqs OIL from DAY 1.. they had maps of the wells.. and fields.. See… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inyCkCvqRO0

    Mike… You are REALLY onto them… The torture is part of the sideshow…too
    Not ONLY to extract false information [Al Libi in Egypt] to get their OIL war… it was to intimidate, frighten opponents and control the flow of information….And to provide a distraction as the deadly seriuos business of destroying the evidence was put into action…. Where are the tapes of what the alleged perps said?? Destroyed?? Why??
    Where are the Air Controllers tape of their control of 911 flights?? Where is the “plane’ and the remains that they “identified” at the pentagon..?? And then there is the anthrax “mystery’…….. So many mysteries, so little WILL

    johnhkennedy….Yes… Only prosecutions get FACTS… We need WAY MORE facts.

    Thank You TPR for the chance to put my ideas out….

  5. One doesn’t have to look only at the former Bush Administration, CIA or the United States to find evidence of torture. Torture is actively being practiced by MI5/6 in the UK and CSIS in Canada. My own story is just one example. Its URL is:

    http://zerzetzen.wikispaces.com

    Both the Canadian and UK Governments are actively covering this up at the highest levels.

    The torture used is sometimes called no touch torture. it was invented by the stasi to persecute dissidents and they called it zerzetsen. No touch or not, it poisons every part of a person’s life. Roderick Russell

  6. 1+12+540 = 553 Get them orange jump suits and a one way ticket to Guantanamo.

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