Friday, December 07, 2007

Tale of the tapes

Step right up and get your scandal, folks. Today's version involves tapes the CIA made of AQ terrorists in 2002 then subsequently destroyed.

CIA Director Hayden is clearly executing a pre-emptive strike on the forces within the US intelligence establishment with a beef against Bush. Said the former general:
"we may see misinterpretations of the facts in the days ahead." The New York Times said on its Web site that it had informed the CIA on Wednesday night that it was preparing a story about the destroyed tapes.
This sounds like a hard story to defend, for a variety of reasons. It certainly appears plausible the CIA destroyed the tapes to cover their tracks regarding harsh interrogation tactics and keep agents (and higher-ups) out of jail. Does anyone really believe the CIA doesn't have secure enough containment facilities at Langley to safely house such material? Hard to buy.

Another puzzling aspect about the tapes is the disclosure of only one suspect, Abu Zubaydah. Other than KSM, who else was harshly interrogated? We've heard only three, but who knows. Seems they might have admitted to KSM but perhaps it would adversely affected the Moussaoui case. Surely all of this will produce tingles in the truthers thinking about what these high value targets might have told the CIA.

For a fun game of context, let's go to George Tenet. He mentions Zubaydah in his memoirs, beginning on page 146 and continuing on page 243 with this odd passage about his "diary":
"Why wouldn't we devote the resources to convert the book to English?" he (Wolfowitz) demanded. "We know enough about the diary," the briefer explained, "to know that it simply contains a young man's thoughts about life--and especially about what he wanted to do with women." "Well, what have you learned from that?" Wolfowitz asked. Without missing a beat, the briefer responded, "that men are pigs!"
Maybe the CIA was just trying to be sensitive to the feelings of Muslim women or not embarrass the terrorist. Actually, reports were that Zubaydah had multiple personalities and was essentially crazy. Others disagreed strongly, especially Tenet, who mentions that Ressam the millennium bomber told them before 9/11 that Abu was going to attack America, which was supposedly briefed to Rice in summer 2001.

Of course, Ressam's name brings to mind Sandy Berger and whatever it was he was trying to redact from the National Archives. Recall it was something to do with the Millennium After Action Report. Many possibilities, in other words.

But what about the unnamed guy? In late 2001 the military captured Ibn Shiekh al-Libi in Afghanistan and sent him to be interrogated. Tenet mentions him on page 353:
In the course of questioning while he was in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, al-Libi made initial references to possible al-Qa'ida training in Iraq
Which was used as a casus belli, only later to have him recant after the invasion. Quotes Tenet about this event:
Inside CIA there was sharp division on his recantation. It led is to recall his reporting, and here is where mystery begins
The mystery is whether he was telling the truth before or after. Might the tape have solved the mystery? Tenet also mentions "a senior al-Qa'ida detainee" who told them in 2002 that:
..several of bin Ladin's lieutenants had urged cooperation with Iraq, believing that the benefits of possible training, safe haven, and help with al-Qa'ida's WMD efforts outweighed any risks to al-Qa'ida's independence. According to the detainee, Saddam became more interested in al-Qa'ida after the East Africa and Cole bombings.
Tenet did not name this man. Perhaps the tape might have cleared up the relationship between the Saddam and AQ a little more? Hard to believe something of that nature wouldn't have been leaked earlier, though. Occam's Razor would suggest they're just covering up for their agents who used waterboarding but there's always the possibility of more. Maybe Mike Scheuer knows.

The ironic thing here might be the impact on the Plame case. We're asked to believe Valerie, even when she lied to Congress. And we're asked to implicitly believe them when they explained aerodynamics and physics to us as well.

MORE 12/8/07

Here's another angle. Liberals, it's OK to consider it a kool-aid drinking defense of Bushitler's warmongering propaganda if you like, but as you're always telling us, keep an open mind.

Anytime Zubaydah is mentioned it usually leads to talk of KSM, Hambali and Atef, which leads to Yazid Sufaat. Presuming there's more on the tapes than waterboarding, like some kind of confession, could the tapes have anything to do with this theory? Let me urge you to read as much as you can keeping in mind the brouhaha over the military getting forced to take anthrax vaccine in the late 90s. And this. Or this. Debbie at Right Truth covered a companion story last year and noted a plea from the author:
"Whatever your political persuasion, and whatever disagreements about individual issues relating to due process and civil liberties, the FBI and CIA deserve our support. We are, after all, in this together."
But we're really not, are we?

MORE 12/8/07

The Times has a follow-up this morning, surprisingly devoid of any fingers pointing anywhere other than at the retired chief of the CIA's Clandestine Division, Jose Rodriquez. According to the intelligence officials they used for this story Rodriquez basically told nobody important, not even his boss Porter Goss. The story also inferred that the tapes were kept not in the vault at Langley, but in CIA stations abroad, which sounds nutwagon crazy to this outsider.

Many might wonder how the president couldn't have known about such a thing--add me to the list--but let's remember he didn't know about Joe Wilson's trip, either. This brings in question why they made the tapes to begin with. The CIA was never happy about being charged with interrogating these terrorists and the inherent liability, so is it possible this was some kind of insurance policy against future blowback? One could say the Joe Wilson trip served as one for the Iraqi WMDs.

The Times also supplied the name of the other terrorist, which basically negates the previous speculation (well, this is a blog). So, what do we know about Nashiri? His wiki states:
Abd al-Rahim attributed his confessions of involvement in the USS Cole bombing to torture.[7] All the details Abd al-Rahim offered of his claims of torture were redacted from his transcript
But this guy was deserving of the attention paid. During the late 90s he was part of a plan to smuggle missiles into Saudi Arabia and came to the attention of Tenet:
CIA director George Tenet becomes so concerned they are withholding information about the plot from the US that he flies to Saudi Arabia to meet Interior Minister Prince Nayef. Tenet is concerned because he believes that the four antitank missiles smuggled in from Yemen by al-Nashiri, head of al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian peninsula, may be intended for an assassination attempt on Vice President Albert Gore, who is to visit Saudi Arabia shortly.
Wonder if the tapes refer to any of that? Nashiri was also one of the attendees at the infamous Kuala Lumpur terrorist meeting in 2000, so he would have had knowledge of the terrorists mentioned previously, especially Sufaat and his "expertise".

Of course, none of the above really helps solve the question of whether America can reach a consensus on how best to interrogate extreme terrorists wrapped in a religious cause and unafraid to die.

MORE 12/9/07

The comments section at JOM is quite interesting, especially in reference to Gerald Posner's mention of Zubaydah in his book. Here's an excerpt:
American interrogators used painkillers to induce Zubaydah to talk -- they gave him the meds when he cooperated, and withdrew them when he was quiet. They also utilized a thiopental sodium drip (a so-called truth serum). Several hours after he first fingered Prince Ahmed, his captors challenged the information, and said that since he had disparaged the Saudi royal family, he would be executed. It was at that point that some of the secrets of 9/11 came pouring out. In a short monologue, that one investigator told me was the "Rosetta Stone" of 9/11, Zubaydah laid out details of how he and the al Qaeda hierarchy had been supported at high levels inside the Saudi and Pakistan governments.
My early speculation was that the tapes contained something more sensitive than just waterboarding--this would suggest an even deeper ditch. Then again, if AQ's goal was to topple the governments of the Gulf then fingering them in the attack was probably part of the plan. In other words, highly nuanced. Perhaps if the 9/11 Commission suddenly loses their outrage it might be a clue, since their whole premise was built around AQ being stocked with rootless, non-state actors.

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