Water Music

The New York Times is reporting that Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft participated in meetings convened to discuss which methods of torture should be inflicted on Abu Zubaydah, the “insane, certifiable” Al Qaeda “gofer” who has, in our names, been imprisoned and abused for more than six years.

Senator Carl Levin provided the Times with documents containing Bush administration responses to a set of detailed questions submitted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is belatedly examining the treatment of those imprisoned in the War On Terra.

The documents disclose that Rice, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft all met to discuss techniques of torture that were subsequently inflicted on Zubaydah. It appears that Zubaydah’s torture was “orally” approved at the highest levels, prior to the administration’s drafting of written, secret memos that purported to provide “legal” authorization for interrogation techniques that transgress domestic and international law.

I have previously diaried on Abu Zubaydah, here and here and here and here.

The short version is this: Zubaydah is one of the three men swept up in the War On Terra that George II has admitted waterboarding. The recording of Zubaydah’s agony is one of the two CIA interrogation videotapes George II has admitted was destroyed.

George II has personally claimed that Zubaydah was this:

Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as Abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived to liberate that country . . .

Zubaydah was defiant and evasive. He declared his hatred of America. During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information–and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the “nominal” information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed–or KSM–was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and used the alias “Muktar.” This was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM . . .

We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful . . .

Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th.

All of this is a lie. Every word. And George II knew it, when he uttered those words, and he knows it to this day.

The reality of Abu Zubaydah is this:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3”–a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics–travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President[.]” And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”

“I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” [] and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” Interrogators did their best to find out . . . . over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make [Zubaydah] its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety–against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.” And so, [] “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

In the case of Zubaydah, when it comes to some of the harsh interrogation tactics he was put through, what occurred then was that he started to talk. He said, as people will, anything to make the pain stop. And we essentially followed every word and various uniformed public servants of the United States went running all over the country to various places that Zubaydah said were targets, and were not.

Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.

The unconscionable torment of Abu Zubaydah is in itself a monstrous wrong. But it is in addition probable, as discussed here, that at least four equally innocent people were “terminated with extreme prejudice” by overzealous War On Terra operatives, set loose out there on “the dark side,” solely on the basis of these screams from a tortured madman.

The documents provided by Levin this week to the Times:

provide new details about the still-murky early months of the CIA’s detention program, when the agency began using a set of harsh interrogation techniques weeks before the Justice Department issued a written legal opinion in August 2002 authorizing their use. Congressional investigators have long tried to determine exactly who authorized these techniques before the legal opinion was completed.

The George II regime is at present attempting to hide behind the infamous August 2002 memo commonly attributed to John Yoo (though actually more the work of Jay Bybee, an odoriferous trash-sack now sitting, for life, as a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) that purported to provide legal cover for the infliction of torture. The George II thinking here is that if the “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved pursuant to this memo are ever adjudged to be what they are—torture—George II factotums may shield themselves behind that “legal” “opinion.” Levin’s documents are more steps in the long march towards proving that torture was approved at the highest levels of the George II regime months before Bybee, Yoo & Co. ever drafted and submitted the regime’s CYA “legal” “opinion.”

The conclusion of the Times piece, based upon the Levin documents, is that in the months prior to the Bybee/Yoo “opinion”:

officials debated specific interrogation methods that the CIA had proposed to use on Al Qaeda operatives held at secret CIA prisons overseas[.] The meetings were led by Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, and attended by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top administration officials.

It appears that in answering the Senate’s questions Ms. Rice endeavored very carefully to cover her—excuse me—Oreo ass, declining to provide dates for the meetings attended by herself, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld, and blithely lying that waterboarding had been described to her as one of “certain physical and psychological interrogation techniques [that] had been deemed not to cause significant physical or psychological harm.”

However, one John B. Bellinger III, the former top lawyer at the National Security Council, blunderingly wrote that prior to the drafting of the August 2002 “legal” memo authorizing “enhanced interrogation techniques,” it transpired that—and “during [these] White House meetings” which Ms. Rice led—Justice Department lawyers frequently issued oral guidance to the CIA about the interrogation program.”

This meshes with information provided anonymously by disgruntled George II factotums that “Justice Department lawyers gave oral guidance to the CIA before the secret memo was completed.”

While the CIA was happy to proceed with the torture of Zubaydah, the FBI objected, and ultimately withdrew from his interrogation. In the documents released to the Times by Levin, Rice lies that she did “not recall any specific discussions about withdrawing FBI personnel from the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.”

It is said that Ms. Rice is very skilled as a pianist. A friend of mine who spent six years in a federal prison says that a piano was there available for inmates who wished to ruminate upon it. Ms. Rice, given her existing chops, could presumably emerge from this same prison with something approaching world-class talent. Which could best be used trying, every night, to soothe to sleep Abu Zubaydah, whom she—from fear, against reason—sentenced to Hell.


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