Torture Report Exposes Sadism and Lies

The stunning Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture and other sadistic treatment meted out to “war on terror” detainees has shredded the credibility of CIA apologists who claimed the “enhance interrogations” were carefully calibrated and humane, as ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman explains.

By Melvin A. Goodman

CIA Director John Brennan, having failed to block the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture and abuse, is now abetting the efforts of former CIA directors and deputy directors to rebut the report’s conclusions that the interrogation techniques amounted to sadism and that senior CIA officials lied to the White House, the Congress, and the Department of Justice about the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation program.

Former CIA directors George Tenet and Michael Hayden and deputy directors John McLaughlin and Steve Kappes, who were guilty of past deceit on sensitive issues, have threatened to make documents available to undermine the findings of the Senate committee. The senior operations officer who ran the CIA’s torture and abuse program, Jose Rodriquez, has been permitted to write a book and a long essay in the Washington Post that argue the interrogation techniques were legal and effective. Their charges are completely spurious and their credibility is non-existent.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

CIA directors Tenet and Hayden, who signed off on the enhanced interrogation program, were involved in numerous efforts to politicize the work of the CIA. In addition to deceiving the White House on the efficacy of the torture program, Tenet provided misinformation to the White House on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. His role on Iraqi WMD has been comprehensively and authoritatively documented in the reports of the Robb-Silberman Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In response to President George W. Bush’s demand for intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq, Tenet responded that it would be a “slam dunk” to do so. He resigned from the CIA in 2004 in order to avoid testifying to a series of congressional committees about his perfidy.

General Hayden’s record is similarly flawed. Even before taking over the CIA in 2006, Hayden was the director of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program that began after 9/11. This program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that prohibits unlawful seizures and searches.

At the CIA, Hayden named John Rizzo as the Agency’s general counsel although he knew that Rizzo had been the CIA’s leading lawyer in pursuing legal justification for torture and abuse of terrorist suspects.  Fortunately, Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who led the way in making sure that the CIA could not redact key aspects of the torture report, blocked the confirmation of Rizzo, who eventually withdrew his nomination.

Hayden also weakened the Office of the Inspector General, which had been critical of the CIA’s renditions and interrogations programs, and even targeted the IG himself, John Helgerson, who had recommended accountability boards for CIA officers involved in the 9/11 intelligence failure, torture and abuse, and illegal renditions.

Deputy directors McLaughlin and Kappes also misled senior U.S. officials on key intelligence issues. McLaughlin, who actually delivered the “slam dunk” briefing to President Bush that CIA Director Tenet had promised, misled Secretary of State Colin Powell on the intelligence that became part of Powell’s speech to the United Nations in February 2003 to make the case for war in Iraq.

In addition to perverting the intelligence process, McLaughlin tried to silence the chief of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay, who found no evidence of Iraqi WMD. McLaughlin was also a key advocate for the notorious “Curveball,” whose phony intelligence on mobile biological laboratories ended up in Powell’s speech to the UN. Earlier in his career, McLaughlin had a key role in covering up the efforts of CIA deputy Robert Gates to politicize key intelligence in the 1980s.

Kappes may not have been involved in all of the decisions on torture and abuse and the secret prisons where the sadistic activity took place, but he was totally witting of the program. The Senate report cites the efforts of senior CIA leaders to impede the work of the Office of the Inspector General, and Kappes was a key part of this effort.

Kappes‘s career eventually suffered from briefing the White House on a Jordanian agent who was going to lead the CIA to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; the agent turned out to be a suicide bomber who decimated the leadership of the most sensitive CIA facility in Afghanistan in 2009.

Jose Rodriquez, like Kappes, was particularly hostile to the statutory IG, John Helgerson, and the work of the OIG on the enhanced interrogation techniques.  Rodriquez, who destroyed 92 torture tapes over the objections of the White House, contends that the interrogation techniques were “blessed by the highest legal authorities in the land, conducted by trained professionals, and applied to only a handful of the most important terrorists on the planet.” The Senate report puts the lie to all of these contentions.

It is unfortunate that the Obama administration did not appoint a special prosecutor in order to get some accountability for the heinous crimes that were committed by senior CIA officials or the kind of truth and reconciliation committee that has proved useful in East Europe or South Africa where terrible crimes have been committed.  Nevertheless, the Senate’s authoritative report gives a full description of the unconscionable activities that took place in the name of the United States and offers sufficient evidence to block the outrageous efforts of former CIA directors and deputy directors to deceive the American people.

Melvin A. Goodman is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  He is the author of The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: The Story of a CIA Whistleblower (City Lights Publishers, 2015).

16 comments for “Torture Report Exposes Sadism and Lies

  1. John
    December 12, 2014 at 08:51

    After a year long battle the Executive Summary of the CIA Torture report is out. This week we document the reaction & bring you the most relevant information on this story we’ve been following for nearly a year.

  2. D505
    December 10, 2014 at 14:56

    Torture continues under Obama: it’s called forced feeding at Guantanamo, a form of rape via tubes shoved up the nostrils.

  3. John P
    December 10, 2014 at 14:08

    Does anyone know if some of these horrible practices were learned from torture used on Palestinians in Israeli prisons? Perhaps they lowered the threshold of acceptance. There was a lot of training of US forces in Israel on taking out Arab villages etc. during the Iraq war.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    December 10, 2014 at 11:32

    We are living in the age of News Cycles, and this story is now going through its own at this moment. This discovery of wrong doing will fade out by January. When the new Republican congress takes over they will drop this off of their to do list. If not, then maybe there is a democracy left, but don’t get your hopes up. The Right is already making noise about going after Obama for excessive use of drone strikes. If that doesn’t work out for them then they’ll go after Jonathan Gruber, or maybe Lena Dunham. Is Bill Cosby a Democrate?

  5. F. G. Sanford
    December 10, 2014 at 10:26

    Mr. Loeb is absolutely correct. The American people, our government and our legal system will do nothing. Even in its watered down, pablumized, redacted, sterilized and sanitized virtually to the point of perjury, the “torture report” will result in no further action. America is proud of Jose Rodriguez, the CIA torture czar who proudly boasted, “We had to put on our ‘big-boy pants’ and get the job done”. Mr. Rodriguez was obviously insinuating that inside a pair of ‘big-boy pants’ is something that confers total immunity: a big, red white and blue penis.

    Keep in mind, from now on, that every woman sitting in Congress now has officially repudiated any pretense to supporting “equal rights”. Keep in mind that every member of Congress who fails to support prosecution is in violation of United States Public Law AND has violated his or her oath to “support, protect and defend” The Constitution of The United States of America. Keep in mind that it is incumbent on the Chief Executive, in his sworn duty to uphold the tenets of that oath, to enforce this law:

    18 U.S.C. § 2441 : US Code – Section 2441: War crimes:

    (a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death…(A) Torture.— The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.

    More than 100 persons are known to have died as a direct result of the officially sanctioned U.S. torture program. Failure to seek redress for these crimes is not just violation of the law. it is TREASON, and the American people will prove to be complicit with their silence. When the “torture report” is shelved, be proud, America – you decided that Democracy was too inconvenient to defend. You chose instead the contents of a pair of ‘big-boy pants’. Enjoy it. When your turn comes, keep quiet. YOU decided that the rape of Justice was a victimless crime.

  6. Peter Loeb
    December 10, 2014 at 08:11

    There have been similar studies in the past ( eg. A QUESTION OF TORTURE : CIA
    McCoy. 2006) all of which mysteriously assumed that when “the American people
    know” something (?) will happen. A similar radio interview yesterday with Dem.
    Ron Wyden (I believe), a “supporter” of the report, when responding to the UN
    remark about “war crimes” by a host kept repeating “when the American people

    In fact the American people will neither know nor care. International involvement
    with the US is never acceptable to the US. The “American people” will not rise
    up. The report will be shelved.

    I recommend Professor McCoy’s short book.

    —–Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  7. Thomas Howard
    December 10, 2014 at 07:38

    These ‘crimes’ are known in large part because of the whistle blower John Kiriakou, who happens to be sitting in prison for exposing the crimes. The only person in prison is the truth teller.

    Edward Snowden can’t come home because he showed proof of crimes.

    Assange…hasn’t been a free man in a long time, for making available the truth.

    Perhaps if we locked up the criminals…the truth tellers could be free again.

  8. Mark
    December 10, 2014 at 05:57

    Because Obama’s administration didn’t go in cold on 1-1-09, I assume they were guilty on some level at that point, if they didn’t stop it. Obama isn’t that smart, he was so eager to play ball with the neocons he knowingly boxed himself in. To say our government is corrupt to the core is an understatement. How many millions have been killed by the land of the free and home of the brave – to placate fear, greed and religious extremism, from our side over the last 48 years? and it’s become so blatant this last go around since 2001; it’s beyond criminal, it’s a serious culture of mental illness the lies and deceit. It is extremely dangerous and risky to have WMD’s in their hand’s.

  9. Abe
    December 10, 2014 at 00:39

    Yes, Obama is required to stop his desperate attempts to protect suspected war criminals of all kinds, including torturers and, worse, aggressors. While constantly executing some suspects, Obama chooses to protect (and also hire) other suspects – the ones who are suspected, often with far better reason, of incomparably worse crimes.

    However, something major seems, unsurprisingly, to be slipping under the radar: Obama himself is also a suspect of torture and other war crimes.

    Obama partisans want all the attention on Bush Jr., but to deter future war crimes, all war criminals must be tried and, if convicted, brought to justice.

    The Guardian (Jan, 2014) reports that the Obama regime has simply replaced Bush’s torture techniques with ones “that emphasize psychological torture.”

  10. Abe
    December 10, 2014 at 00:36

    U.S. Tortured and Killed Innocent People
    for the Specific Purpose of Producing False Propaganda

    • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured

    • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”

    • The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves

    • KHawk
      December 10, 2014 at 17:53

      Yes, Abe. What’s even better than having someone to blame for 9/11 is having someone you can coerce to admit they did it.

  11. Abe
    December 10, 2014 at 00:32

    “Verschärfte Vernehmung”
    The Nazis called their torture “Enhanced Interrogation”

  12. Zachary Smith
    December 10, 2014 at 00:08

    It is unfortunate that the Obama administration did not appoint a special prosecutor in order to get some accountability….

    Oh Lord! I am really dull today. The crimes involved do NOT need a special prosecutor. But in any event, the totally lawless BHO administration is not going to prosecute.

    The Emptywheel site speaks of how it wasn’t just torture – there were a lot of other major crimes.


    The worst part of it all is that Obama and Company are still torturing. They’re just being sneakier about it. And that may be the “why” of the No Prosecution. The Bushie Criminals could rightfully point out that if they go on trial, BHO and Buddies must also show up at the courthouse.

  13. Zachary Smith
    December 9, 2014 at 23:15

    Nevertheless, the Senate’s authoritative report gives a full description of the unconscionable activities that took place in the name of the United States and offers sufficient evidence to block the outrageous efforts of former CIA directors and deputy directors to deceive the American people.

    Either Mr. Melvin A. Goodman is an incredibly sloppy writer, or he’s peddling BS.

    NOTE: Remember that the “Torture Report” is only an executive summmary, it’s been heavily censored, and the main report is still secret. So you should assume that we’re hearing about those aspects of our global dirty war on terra that elites believe can be discussed “in front of the children.”

    One more time:

    It will come in the form of a 480-page executive summary of the 6,200-page report by Democrats on the committee, who spent six years reviewing millions of secret CIA documents.


    Years ago I saw a British TV show about the attack on the USS. Liberty which at first glance appeared to be a condemnation of Israel. On closer examination it wasn’t exactly that way at all – despite all the huffing and puffing the Israeli crapola was fully presented and the US position understated.

    Hopefully I’m not seeing a version of that here, but it sure looks suspicious.

    We’re only learning a few carefully selected aspects of the CIA’s misbehavior/lawlessness, and I wonder why the author left that out.

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