Friday, February 24, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
For IPS, Gareth Porter reports:
After the Sep. 11 attacks, U.S. officials responsible for preparing for war in Afghanistan needed Iran's help to unseat the Taliban and establish a stable government in Kabul. Iran had organised resistance by the "Northern Alliance" and had provided arms and funding, at a time when the United States had been unwilling to do so.
"The Iranians had real contacts with important players in Afghanistan and were prepared to use their influence in constructive ways in coordination with the United States," recalls Flynt Leverett, then senior director for Middle East affairs in the National Security Council (NSC), in an interview with IPS.
In October 2001, as the United States was just beginning its military operations in Afghanistan, State Department and NSC officials began meeting secretly with Iranian diplomats in Paris and Geneva, under the sponsorship of Lakhdar Brahimi, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Leverett says these discussions focused on "how to effectively unseat the Taliban and once the Taliban was gone, how to stand up an Afghan government".
It was thanks to the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, which were supported primarily by the Iranians, that the Taliban was driven out of Kabul in mid-November. Two weeks later, the Afghan opposition groups were convened in Bonn under United Nations auspices to agree on a successor regime.
At that meeting, the Northern Alliance was demanding 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government, which was blocking agreement by other opposition groups. According to U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, Iran played a "decisive role" in persuading the Northern Alliance delegate to compromise. Dobbins also recalls how the Iranians insisted on including language in the Bonn agreement on the war on terrorism.
The bureaucracy recognised that there was an opportunity to work with Iran not only on stabilising Afghanistan but on al Qaeda as well. As reported by the Washington Post on Oct. 22, 2004, the State Department's policy planning staff had written a paper in late November 2001 suggesting that the United States should propose more formal arrangements for cooperation with Iran on fighting al Qaeda.
That would have involved exchanging intelligence information with Tehran as well as coordinating border sweeps to capture al Qaeda fighters and leaders who were already beginning to move across the border into Pakistan and Iran. The CIA agreed with the proposal, according to the Post's sources, as did the head of the White House Office for Combating Terrorism, Ret. Gen. Wayne A. Downing.
But the cooperation against al Qaeda was not the priority for the anti-Iranian interests in the White House and the Pentagon. Investigative journalist Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack" recounts that Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, who chaired an inter-agency committee on Iran policy dealing with issues surrounding Afghanistan, learned that the White House intended to include Iran as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in Bush's State of the Union message in January.
Hadley expressed reservations about that plan at one point, but was told by Bush directly that Iran had to stay in. By the end of December, Hadley had decided, against the recommendations of the State Department, CIA and White House counter-terrorism office, that the United States would not share any information with Iran on al Qaeda, even though it would press the Iranians for such intelligence, as well as to turn over any al Qaeda members it captured to the appropriate home country.
Soon after that decision, hardliners presented Iranian policy to Bush and the public as hostile to U.S. aims in Afghanistan and refusing to cooperate with the war on terror -- the opposite of what officials directly involved had witnessed.
On Jan. 11, 2002, the New York Times quoted Pentagon and intelligence officials as saying that Iran had given "safe haven" to fleeing al Qaeda fighters in order to use them against the United States in post-Taliban Afghanistan. That same day, Bush declared "Iran must be a contributor in the war against terror."
"Our nation, in our fight against terrorism, will uphold the doctrine of 'either you're with us or against us'," he said.
Officials who were familiar with the intelligence at that point agree that the "safe haven for al Qaeda" charge was not based on any genuine analysis by the intelligence community.
"I wasn't aware of any intelligence support that charge," recalls Dobbins, who was still the primary point of contact with Iranian officials about cooperation on Afghanistan. "I certainly would have seen it had there been any such intelligence. Nobody told me they were harbouring al Qaeda."
Iran had already increased its troop strength on the Afghan border in response to U.S. requests. As the Washington Post reported in 2004, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif brought a dossier to U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan in early February with the photos of 290 men believed to be al Qaeda members who already been detained fleeing from Afghanistan.
Later hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees were repatriated to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other Arab and European countries, according to news reports.
The hardliners would complain that the Iranians did not turn over any top al Qaeda leaders. But the United States had just rejected any exchange of information with the very officials with whom it needed to discuss the question of al Qaeda -- the Iranian intelligence and security ministry.
The same administration officials told the Times that Iran was seeking to exert its influence in border regions in western Afghanistan by shipping arms to its Afghan allies in the war against the Taliban and that this could undermine the interim government and Washington's long-term interests in Afghanistan.
But in March 2002, Iranian official met with Dobbins in Geneva during a U.N. conference on Afghanistan's security needs. Dobbins recalls that the Iranian delegation brought with it the general who had been responsible for military assistance to the Northern Alliance during the long fight against the Taliban.
The general offered to provide training, uniforms, equipment and barracks for as many as 20,000 new recruits for the nascent Afghan military. All this was to be done under U.S. leadership, Dobbins recalls, not as part of a separate programme under exclusive Iranian control.
"The Iranians later confirmed that they did this as a gesture to the United States," says Dobbins.
Dobbins returned to Washington to inform key administration officials of what he regarded as an opportunity for a new level of cooperation in Afghanistan. He briefed then Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld personally. "To my knowledge, there was never a response," he says.
Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
At Consortium News, Nat Parry writes:
Not that George W. Bush needs much encouragement, but Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new target for the administration’s domestic operations -- Fifth Columnists, supposedly disloyal Americans who sympathize and collaborate with the enemy.
“The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements,” Graham, R-S.C., told Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6.
“I stand by this President’s ability, inherent to being Commander in Chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don’t think you need a warrant to do that,” Graham added, volunteering to work with the administration to draft guidelines for how best to neutralize this alleged threat.
“Senator,” a smiling Gonzales responded, “the President already said we’d be happy to listen to your ideas.”
In less paranoid times, Graham’s comments might be viewed by many Americans as a Republican trying to have it both ways – ingratiating himself to an administration of his own party while seeking some credit from Washington centrists for suggesting Congress should have at least a tiny say in how Bush runs the War on Terror.
But recent developments suggest that the Bush administration may already be contemplating what to do with Americans who are deemed insufficiently loyal or who disseminate information that may be considered helpful to the enemy.
Top U.S. officials have cited the need to challenge news that undercuts Bush’s actions as a key front in defeating the terrorists, who are aided by “news informers” in the words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com “Upside-Down Media” or below.]
Plus, there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with “an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,” KBR said. [Market Watch, Jan. 26, 2006]
Later, the New York Times reported that “KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.” [Feb. 4, 2006]
Like most news stories on the KBR contract, the Times focused on concerns about Halliburton’s reputation for bilking U.S. taxpayers by overcharging for sub-par services.
“It’s hard to believe that the administration has decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars,” remarked Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California.
Less attention centered on the phrase “rapid development of new programs” and what kind of programs would require a major expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to elaborate on what these “new programs” might be.
Only a few independent journalists, such as Peter Dale Scott and Maureen Farrell, have pursued what the Bush administration might actually be thinking.
Scott speculated that the “detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law.” He recalled that during the Reagan administration, National Security Council aide Oliver North organized Rex-84 “readiness exercise,” which contemplated the Federal Emergency Management Agency rounding up and detaining 400,000 “refugees,” in the event of “uncontrolled population movements” over the Mexican border into the United States.
Farrell pointed out that because “another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far more likely that the centers would be used for post-911-type detentions of immigrants rather than a sudden deluge” of immigrants flooding across the border.
Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said, “Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters. They’ve already done this on a smaller scale, with the ‘special registration’ detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo.”
There also was another little-noticed item posted at the U.S. Army Web site, about the Pentagon’s Civilian Inmate Labor Program. This program “provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations.”
The Army document, first drafted in 1997, underwent a “rapid action revision” on Jan. 14, 2005. The revision provides a “template for developing agreements” between the Army and corrections facilities for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations.
On its face, the Army’s labor program refers to inmates housed in federal, state and local jails. The Army also cites various federal laws that govern the use of civilian labor and provide for the establishment of prison camps in the United States, including a federal statute that authorizes the Attorney General to “establish, equip, and maintain camps upon sites selected by him” and “make available … the services of United States prisoners” to various government departments, including the Department of Defense.
Though the timing of the document’s posting – within the past few weeks –may just be a coincidence, the reference to a “rapid action revision” and the KBR contract’s contemplation of “rapid development of new programs” have raised eyebrows about why this sudden need for urgency.
These developments also are drawing more attention now because of earlier Bush administration policies to involve the Pentagon in “counter-terrorism” operations inside the United States.
Despite the Posse Comitatus Act’s prohibitions against U.S. military personnel engaging in domestic law enforcement, the Pentagon has expanded its operations beyond previous boundaries, such as its role in domestic surveillance activities.
The Washington Post has reported that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Defense Department has been creating new agencies that gather and analyze intelligence within the United States. [Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2005]
The White House also is moving to expand the power of the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), created three years ago to consolidate counterintelligence operations. The White House proposal would transform CIFA into an office that has authority to investigate crimes such as treason, terrorist sabotage or economic espionage.
The Pentagon also has pushed legislation in Congress that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies. But some in the Pentagon don’t seem to think that new laws are even necessary.
In a 2001 Defense Department memo that surfaced in January 2006, the U.S. Army’s top intelligence officer wrote, “Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information.”
Drawing a distinction between “collecting” information and “receiving” information on U.S. citizens, the memo argued that “MI [military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime.” [See CQ.com, Jan. 31, 2006]
This receipt of information presumably would include data from the National Security Agency, which has been engaging in surveillance of U.S. citizens without court-approved warrants in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act. Bush approved the program of warrantless wiretaps shortly after 9/11.
There also may be an even more extensive surveillance program. Former NSA employee Russell D. Tice told a congressional committee on Feb. 14 that such a top-secret surveillance program existed, but he said he couldn’t discuss the details without breaking classification laws.
Tice added that the “special access” surveillance program may be violating the constitutional rights of millions of Americans. [UPI, Feb. 14, 2006]
With this expanded surveillance, the government’s list of terrorist suspects is rapidly swelling.
The Washington Post reported on Feb. 15 that the National Counterterrorism Center’s central repository now holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a four-fold increase since the fall of 2003.
Asked whether the names in the repository were collected through the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, an NCTC official told the Post, “Our database includes names of known and suspected international terrorists provided by all intelligence community organizations, including NSA.”
As the administration scoops up more and more names, members of Congress also have questioned the elasticity of Bush’s definitions for words like terrorist “affiliates,” used to justify wiretapping Americans allegedly in contact with such people or entities.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the wiretap program, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, complained that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees “have not been briefed on the scope and nature of the program.”
Feinstein added that, therefore, the committees “have not been able to explore what is a link or an affiliate to al-Qaeda or what minimization procedures (for purging the names of innocent people) are in place.”
The combination of the Bush administration’s expansive reading of its own power and its insistence on extraordinary secrecy has raised the alarm of civil libertarians when contemplating how far the Pentagon might go in involving itself in domestic matters.
A Defense Department document, entitled the “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,” has set out a military strategy against terrorism that envisions an “active, layered defense” both inside and outside U.S. territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to “transform U.S. military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the … U.S. homeland.”
The Pentagon strategy paper calls for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance to “defeat potential challengers before they threaten the United States.” The plan “maximizes threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would harm us.”
But there are concerns over how the Pentagon judges “threats” and who falls under the category “those who would harm us.” A Pentagon official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity’s TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters.
In December 2005, NBC News revealed the existence of a secret 400-page Pentagon document listing 1,500 “suspicious incidents” over a 10-month period, including dozens of small antiwar demonstrations that were classified as a “threat.”
The Defense Department also might be moving toward legitimizing the use of propaganda domestically, as part of its overall war strategy.
A secret Pentagon “Information Operations Roadmap,” approved by Rumsfeld in October 2003, calls for “full spectrum” information operations and notes that “information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa.”
“PSYOPS messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” the document states. The Pentagon argues, however, that “the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than information dissemination practices.”
It calls for “boundaries” between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but does not outline any corresponding limits on PSYOP campaigns.
Similar to the distinction the Pentagon draws between “collecting” and “receiving” intelligence on U.S. citizens, the Information Operations Roadmap argues that as long as the American public is not intentionally “targeted,” any PSYOP propaganda consumed by the American public is acceptable.
The Pentagon plan also includes a strategy for taking over the Internet and controlling the flow of information, viewing the Web as a potential military adversary. The “roadmap” speaks of “fighting the net,” and implies that the Internet is the equivalent of “an enemy weapons system.”
In a speech on Feb. 17 to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld elaborated on the administration’s perception that the battle over information would be a crucial front in the War on Terror, or as Rumsfeld calls it, the Long War.
“Let there be no doubt, the longer it takes to put a strategic communication framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place,” Rumsfeld said.
The Department of Homeland Security also has demonstrated a tendency to deploy military operatives to deal with domestic crises.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the department dispatched “heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, (and had them) openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans,” reported journalists Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo on Sept. 10, 2005.
Noting the reputation of the Blackwater mercenaries as “some of the most feared professional killers in the world,” Scahill and Crespo said Blackwater’s presence in New Orleans “raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here.”
In the view of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists in the United States and has been in place since shortly after the 9/11 attacks when Bush issued Military Order No. 1 which empowered him to detain any non-citizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant.
“The President decided that he was no longer running the country as a civilian President,” wrote civil rights attorney Michael Ratner in the book Guantanamo: What the World Should Know. “He issued a military order giving himself the power to run the country as a general.”
For any American citizen suspected of collaborating with terrorists, Bush also revealed what’s in store. In May 2002, the FBI arrested U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago on suspicion that he might be an al-Qaeda operative planning an attack.
Rather than bring criminal charges, Bush designated Padilla an “enemy combatant” and had him imprisoned indefinitely without benefit of due process. After three years, the administration finally brought charges against Padilla, in order to avoid a Supreme Court showdown the White House might have lost.
But since the Court was not able to rule on the Padilla case, the administration’s arguments have not been formally repudiated. Indeed, despite filing charges against Padilla, the White House still asserts the right to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants.
This claimed authority is based on the assertion that the United States is at war and the American homeland is part of the battlefield.
“In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the Nation learned all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield,” Bush's lawyers argued in briefs to the federal courts. [Washington Post, July 19, 2005]
Given Bush’s now open assertions that he is using his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.
As former Vice President Al Gore asked after recounting a litany of sweeping powers that Bush has asserted to fight the War on Terror, “Can it be true that any President really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?”
In such extraordinary circumstances, the American people might legitimately ask exactly what the Bush administration means by the “rapid development of new programs,” which might require the construction of a new network of detention camps.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Democracy Now! takes a look at what lies behind the shocking images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison by turning to the history of the CIA and torture techniques. The International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and other human rights groups say the recently released images of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib show a clear violation of international humanitarian law. The U.S. made a pledge against torture when Congress ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1994 - but it was ratified with reservations that exempted the CIA’s psychological torture method.
Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Author of “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror,” a startling expose of the CIA development of psychological torture from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib, and also “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.” CIA mercenaries attempted to assassinate McCoy more than 30 years ago.
[see video of broadcast-256k stream or 128k stream]
AMY GOODMAN: A new expose gives an account of the C.I.A.’s secret efforts to develop new forms of torture, spanning half a century. It reveals how the C.I.A. perfected its methods, distributing them across the world, from Vietnam to Iran to Central America, uncovering the roots of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture scandals. The book is called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and we're joined by its author, Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
ALFRED McCOY: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: And glad to have you with us, especially in light of your history. I first learned of you with your first book The Politics of Heroin: C.I.A. Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, for which you almost died. What happened then?
ALFRED McCOY: Oh, when I was researching that book in the mountains of Laos, hiking from village to village, interviewing Laotian farmers about their opium harvest, and they were telling me that they took it down to the local helicopter pad where Air America helicopters would land, Air America being a subsidiary of the C.I.A., and officers, tribal officers in the C.I.A.’s secret army would buy the opium and fly it off to the C.I.A.’s secret compound, where it would be transformed into heroin and ultimately wound up in South Vietnam. And while I was doing that research, hiking from village to village, interviewing farmers, we were ambushed by a group of C.I.A. mercenaries. Fortunately, I had five militiamen from the village with me, and we shot our way out of there, but they came quite close. Then later on, a C.I.A. operative threatened to murder my interpreter unless I stopped doing that research. And then when --
AMY GOODMAN: How did you know they were C.I.A.?
ALFRED McCOY: Oh, look, in the mountains of Laos, there aren’t that many white guys, okay? I mean, the mercenaries? First of all, the C.I.A. ran what was called the “Army Clandestine.” They had a secret army, and those soldiers that ambushed us were soldiers in the secret army. That, we knew.
AMY GOODMAN: The Laotian army?
ALFRED McCOY: The C.I.A.’s secret army.
AMY GOODMAN: The Laotian mercenaries?
ALFRED McCOY: Laotian mercenaries. That, everybody was clear about that. Nobody denied that. They said it was sort of an accident, but, no, it was very clear that it was intentional. And ultimately, when the book was in press, the head of covert operations for the C.I.A. called up my offices and my publisher in New York and suggested that the publisher suppress the book. They then got the right to prior review -- the publisher compromised.
AMY GOODMAN: C.I.A. prior review.
ALFRED McCOY: Prior review of the manuscript, and they issued a 14-page critique. The publisher’s legal department, HarperCollins’s legal department reviewed the critique, reviewed the manuscript, published the book unchanged, not a word changed.
AMY GOODMAN: And the contention of that book was that the C.I.A. was complicit in the global drug trade?
ALFRED McCOY: Right. In the context of conducting covert operations around the globe, particularly in the Asian opium zone, which stretched from the Golden Triangle of Vietnam and Laos all the way to Afghanistan, that in those mountains far away from home, when the C.I.A. had to mobilize tribal armies, the only allies were warlords, and when the C.I.A. formed an alliance with them, the warlords used this alliance to become drug lords, and the C.I.A. didn't stop them from their involvement in the traffic.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, you have not stopped looking at the C.I.A., and now you've written this new book. It's called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Give us a history lesson.
ALFRED McCOY: Well, if you look at the most famous of photographs from Abu Ghraib, of the Iraqi standing on the box, arms extended with a hood over his head and the fake electrical wires from his arms, okay? In that photograph you can see the entire 50-year history of C.I.A. torture. It's very simple. He's hooded for sensory disorientation, and his arms are extended for self-inflicted pain. And those are the two very simple fundamental C.I.A. techniques, developed at enormous cost.
From 1950 to 1962, the C.I.A. ran a massive research project, a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind, spending over $1 billion a year to crack the code of human consciousness, from both mass persuasion and the use of coercion in individual interrogation. And what they discovered -- they tried LSD, they tried mescaline, they tried all kinds of drugs, they tried electroshock, truth serum, sodium pentathol. None of it worked. What worked was very simple behavioral findings, outsourced to our leading universities -- Harvard, Princeton, Yale and McGill -- and the first breakthrough came at McGill. And it's in the book. And here, you can see the -- this is the -- if you want show it, you can. That graphic really shows -- that's the seminal C.I.A. experiment done in Canada and McGill University --
AMY GOODMAN: Describe it.
ALFRED McCOY: Oh, it's very simple. Dr. Donald O. Hebb of McGill University, a brilliant psychologist, had a contract from the Canadian Defense Research Board, which was a partner with the C.I.A. in this research, and he found that he could induce a state of psychosis in an individual within 48 hours. It didn't take electroshock, truth serum, beating or pain. All he did was had student volunteers sit in a cubicle with goggles, gloves and headphones, earmuffs, so that they were cut off from their senses, and within 48 hours, denied sensory stimulation, they would suffer, first hallucinations, then ultimately breakdown.
And if you look at many of those photographs, what do they show? They show people with bags over their head. If you look at the photographs of the Guantanamo detainees even today, they look exactly like those student volunteers in Dr. Hebb’s original cubicle.
Now, then the second major breakthrough that the C.I.A. had came here in New York City at Cornell University Medical Center, where two eminent neurologists under contract from the C.I.A. studied Soviet K.G.B. torture techniques, and they found that the most effective K.G.B. technique was self-inflicted pain. You simply make somebody stand for a day or two. And as they stand -- okay, you're not beating them, they have no resentment -- you tell them, “You're doing this to yourself. Cooperate with us, and you can sit down.” And so, as they stand, what happens is the fluids flow down to the legs, the legs swell, lesions form, they erupt, they suppurate, hallucinations start, the kidneys shut down.
Now, if you look at the other aspect of those photos, you’ll see that they're short-shackled -- okay? -- that they're long-shackled, that they're made -- several of those photos you just showed, one of them with a man with a bag on his arm, his arms are straight in front of him, people are standing with their arms extended, that's self-inflicted pain. And the combination of those two techniques -- sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain -- is the basis of the C.I.A.'s technique.
AMY GOODMAN: Who has pioneered this at the C.I.A.?
ALFRED McCOY: This was done by Technical Services Division. Most of the in-house research involved drugs and all of the LSD experiments that we heard about for years, but ultimately they were a negative result. When you have any large massive research project, you get -- you hit dead ends, you hit brick walls, you get negative results. All the drugs didn’t work. What did work was this.
AMY GOODMAN: But when you talk about the ‘everyone knows the LSD experiments,’ I don't think everyone knows. In fact, I would conjecture that more than 90% of Americans don't know that the C.I.A. was involved with LSD experiments on unwitting Americans. Can you explain what they did?
ALFRED McCOY: Oh, sure. As a part of this comprehensive survey of human consciousness, the C.I.A. tried every possible techniques. And one of the things that they -- at the time that this research started in the 1940s, a Swiss pharmaceutical company developed LSD.
AMY GOODMAN: Which one?
ALFRED McCOY: I forget now. One of the major Swiss pharmaceutical companies. And Dr. Hoffman there was the man who developed it. The C.I.A. bought substantial doses, and they conducted experiments. One of the most notorious experiments was that Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, inside the agency, spiked the drinks of his co-workers, and one of those co-workers suffered a breakdown, Dr. Frank Olson, and he either was -- I don't know whether he was pushed or jumped from a hotel here in New York City --
AMY GOODMAN: His son has never stopped pursuing this case?
ALFRED McCOY: Right, his son Eric Olson insists that his father was murdered by the C.I.A. Eric Olson believes that his father did a tour of Europe, and he visited the ultimate Anglo-American test site, black site near Frankfurt, where they were doing lethal experiments, fatal experiments, on double agents and suspected double agents, and that his father returned enormously upset by the discovery that this research was actually killing people, and that, therefore, Eric Olson argues his father was killed by the C.I.A., that he was pushed.
AMY GOODMAN: And didn't they do experiments in brothels in the San Francisco area?
ALFRED McCOY: They had two kind of party houses. They had one in the San Francisco Bay Area, another in New York City. And what they did in San Francisco was they had prostitutes who go out to the streets, get individuals, bring them back, give them a drink, and there would be a two-way mirror, and the C.I.A. would photograph these people.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the C.I.A. were running the brothel.
ALFRED McCOY: They were running the brothel. They were running all of these experiments, okay? They did that on Army soldiers through the Army Chemical Warfare Division.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they do there?
ALFRED McCOY: Again, they gave them LSD and other drugs to see what effect they would have.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did the soldiers think they were getting?
ALFRED McCOY: They were just told they were participating in an experiment for national defense.
AMY GOODMAN: Prisoners?
ALFRED McCOY: No, these were --
AMY GOODMAN: Right, but also on prisoners, were there experiments?
ALFRED McCOY: There were some in prisons in the United States and also the Drug Treatment Center in Lexington, Kentucky. The Federal Drug Treatment Center in Lexington, Kentucky, had this. All of this research, all this very elaborate research --
AMY GOODMAN: On unwitting Americans?
ALFRED McCOY: Unwitting Americans, produced nothing, okay? What they found time and time again is that electroshock didn't work, and sodium pentathol didn't work, LSD certainly didn't work. You scramble the brain. You got unreliable information. But what did work was the combination of these two rather boring, rather mundane behavioral techniques: sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain.
And in 1963, the C.I.A. codified these results in the so-called KUBARK Counterintelligence Manual. If you just type the word “KUBARK” into Google, you will get the manual, an actual copy of it, on your computer screen, and you can read the techniques [Read the report. But if you do, read the footnotes, because that's where the behavioral research is. Now, this produced a distinctively American form of torture, the first real revolution in the cruel science of pain in centuries, psychological torture, and it's the one that's with us today, and it's proved to be a very resilient, quite adaptable, and an enormously destructive paradigm.
Let’s make one thing clear. Americans refer to this often times in common parlance as “torture light.” Psychological to torture, people who are involved in treatment tell us it’s far more destructive, does far more lasting damage to the human psyche than does physical torture. As Senator McCain said, himself, last year when he was debating his torture prohibition, faced with a choice between being beaten and psychologically tortured, I'd rather be beaten. Okay? It does far more lasting damage. It is far crueler than physical torture. This is something that we don't realize in this country.
Now, another thing we see is those photographs is the psychological techniques, but the initial research basically developed techniques for attacking universal human sensory receptors: sight, sound, heat, cold, sense of time. That's why all of the detainees describe being put in dark rooms, being subjected to strobe lights, loud music, okay? That’s sensory deprivation or sensory assault. Okay, that was sort of the phase one of the C.I.A. research. But the paradigm has proved to be quite adaptable.
Now, one of the things that Donald Rumsfeld did, right at the start of the war of terror, in late 2002, he appointed General Geoffrey Miller to be chief at Guantanamo, alright, because the previous commanders at Guantanamo were too soft on the detainees, and General Miller turned Guantanamo into a de facto behavioral research laboratory, a kind of torture research laboratory. And under General Miller at Guantanamo, they perfected the C.I.A. torture paradigm. They added two key techniques. They went beyond the universal sensory receptors of the original research. They added to it an attack on cultural sensitivity, particularly Arab male sensitivity to issues of gender and sexual identity.
And then they went further still. Under General Miller, they created these things called “Biscuit” teams, behavioral science consultation teams, and they actually had qualified military psychologists participating in the ongoing interrogation, and these psychologists would identify individual phobias, like fear of dark or attachment to mother, and by the time we're done, by 2003, under General Miller, Guantanamo had perfected the C.I.A. paradigm, and it had a three-fold total assault on the human psyche: sensory receptors, self-inflicted pain, cultural sensitivity, and individual fears and phobia.
AMY GOODMAN: And then they sent General Miller to, quote, "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib. Professor McCoy, we’re going to break for a minute, and then we'll come back. Professor Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His latest book is called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, author of a number of books. The Politics of Heroin: C.I.A. Complicity in the Global Drug Trade almost had him killed. Afterwards, the C.I.A. tried to have the book squelched, but ultimately it was published. Then A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation from the Cold War to the War On Terror is his latest book, and we're talking about the history of torture. Continue with what you were saying, talking about the Biscuit teams, the use of psychologists in Guantanamo, and then Geoffrey Miller, going from Guantanamo to, quote, “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib.
ALFRED McCOY: In mid-2003, when the Iraqi resistance erupted, the United States found it had no intelligence assets; it had no way to contain the insurgency, and they -- the U.S. military was in a state of panic. And at that moment, they began sweeping across Iraq, rounding up thousands of Iraqi suspects, putting many of them in Abu Ghraib prison. At that point, in late August 2003, General Miller was sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, and he brought his techniques with him. He brought a CD, and he brought a manual of his techniques. He gave them to the M.P. officers, the Military Intelligence officers and to General Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. Commander in Iraq.
In September of 2003, General Sanchez issued orders, detailed orders, for expanded interrogation techniques beyond those allowed in the U.S. Army Field Manual 3452, and if you look at those techniques, what he's ordering, in essence, is a combination of self-inflicted pain, stress positions and sensory disorientation, and if you look at the 1963 C.I.A. KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, you look at the 1983 C.I.A. Interrogation Training Manual that they used in Honduras for training Honduran officers in torture and interrogation, and then twenty years later, you look at General Sanchez's 2003 orders, there's a striking continuity across this forty-year span, in both the general principles, this total assault on the existential platforms of human identity and existence, okay? And the specific techniques, the way of achieving that, through the attack on these sensory receptors.
AMY GOODMAN: And Rumsfeld's comment, when asked if it was torture, when people were forced to stand hours on end, that he stands at his desk?
ALFRED McCOY: Right, he wrote that in one of his memos. When he was asked to review the Guantanamo techniques in late 2003 or early 2004, he scribbled that marginal note and said, you know, “I stand at my desk eight hours a day.” He has a designer standing desk. “How come we're limiting these techniques of the stress position to just four hours?” So, in other words, that was a clear signal from the Defense Secretary. Now, one of the problems beyond the details of these orders is torture is an extraordinarily dangerous thing. There's an absolute ban on torture for a very good reason. Torture taps into the deepest recesses, unexplored recesses of human consciousness, where creation and destruction coexist, where the infinite human capacity for kindness and infinite human capacity for cruelty coexist, and it has a powerful perverse appeal, and once it starts, both the perpetrators and the powerful who order them, let it spread, and it spreads out of control.
So, I think when the Bush administration gave those orders for, basically, techniques tantamount to torture at the start of the war on terror, I think it was probably their intention that these be limited to top al-Qaeda suspects, but within months, we were torturing hundreds of Afghanis at Bagram near Kabul, and a few months later in 2003, through these techniques, we were torturing literally thousands of Iraqis. And you can see in those photos, beyond the details of the techniques that we've described, you can see how that once it starts, it becomes this Dantesque hell, this kind of play palace of the darkest recesses of human consciousness. That’s why it’s necessary to maintain an absolute prohibition on torture. There is no such thing as a little bit of torture. The whole myth of scientific surgical torture, that torture advocates, academic advocates in this country came up with, that's impossible. That cannot operate. It will inevitably spread.
AMY GOODMAN: So when, Professor McCoy, you started seeing these images, the first photos that came out at Abu Ghraib, the pictures we showed of the, you know, hooded man, electrodes coming out of his fingers, standing on the box, your response?
ALFRED McCOY: Oh, I mean, the reason I wrote this book is when that photo came out in April 2004 on CBS news, at the Times, William Safire, for example, writing in the New York Times said this was the work of creeps. Later on, Defense Secretary Schlesinger said that this was just abuse by a few people on the night shift. There was another phrase: “Recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland.” In other words, this was the bad apple thesis. We could blame these bad apples. I looked at those photos, I didn't see individual abuse. What I saw was two textbook trademark C.I.A. psychological interrogation techniques: self-inflicted pain and sensory disorientation.
AMY GOODMAN: We read our first headline today. It was about Maher Arar and the case – the judge has thrown out against him, the Canadian-Syrian man who was sent back to Syria -- the U.S. government calls it “extraordinary rendition,” and he was kept in an underground “grave-like” cell, he described, very small. He was held for almost a year. As you showed, and I looked at the book, the pictures of the places where prisoners are kept, and in speaking to Maher, he’s described this level of sensory deprivation. What about the shape and the size and the coffin-like nature of these rooms?
ALFRED McCOY: The details are often left to the individual interrogators, but the manuals basically describe how you control the process, you control the environment right from the start when you pick somebody up. So, for example, often times we see in Iraq of people when they're arrested, their arms are behind their back. They're made to kneel in very uncomfortable positions, and they're hooded right away. That's one of the things they always specify is the time and conditions of arrest. You begin to break them down. You create this artificial environment of control, and then the techniques always vary. It can be extreme darkness or it can be extreme light; it can be absence of sound or a bombardment of sound.
AMY GOODMAN: And that bombardment of sound is often joked about. ‘Oh, we played Britney Spears really loud,’ or whatever it is. I don't know if it was her. But that's become a joke when soldiers play loud music.
ALFRED McCOY: Well, though, actually, that's one of the problems of talking about this topic in the United States, is that we regard all of this panoply of psychological techniques as “torture light,” as somehow not really torture. Okay? And we're the only country in the world that does that. The U.N. convention bars – defines torture as the infliction of severe psychological or physical pain. The U.N. convention which bans torture in 1984 gives equal weight to psychological and physical techniques. We alone as a society somehow exempt all of these psychological techniques. That dates back, of course, to the way we ratified the convention in the first place.
Back in the early 1990s, when the United States was emerging from the Cold War, and we began this process of, if you will, disarming ourselves and getting beyond all of these techniques, trying to sort of bring ourselves in line with rest of the international community, when we sent that -- when President Clinton sent the U.N. Anti-Torture Convention to the U.S. Congress for ratification in 1994, he included four detailed paragraphs of reservation that had, in fact, been drafted by the Reagan administration, and he adopted them without so much as changing a semicolon. And when you read those detailed paragraphs of reservation, what you realize is this, is that the United States Congress ratified the treaty, but basically we outlawed only physical torture. Those photographs of reservation are carefully written to avoid one word in the 26 printed pages of the U.N. convention. That word is "mental." Basically, we exempted psychological torture.
Now, another problem for the United States, as well, was when the U.S. Army re-wrote the Army Field Manual in 1992, the same period, while, although let’s say the civil authorities were sort of skirting the law by exempting psychological techniques, the U.S. Army re-wrote their field manual with the intention of strictly observing the letter and the spirit of the U.N. Anti-Torture Convention and other similar treaties. So what happened is that when the Defense Department gave orders for extreme techniques, when General Sanchez gave orders for his techniques beyond the Army Field Manual, what that meant is when the soldiers were actually investigated, they had committed crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They would be prosecuted, and they’re all being sent to jail.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor McCoy, you wrote a piece, “Why the McCain Torture Ban Won't Work: The Bush Legacy of Legalized Torture.”
ALFRED McCOY: Right. Most Americans think that it's over, that in last year, December 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act 2005, which in the language of Senator McCain, who was the original author of that amendment to the defense appropriation, the author of that act, it bars all inhumane or cruel treatment, and most people think that’s it, that it’s over, okay? Actually, what has happened is the Bush administration fought that amendment tooth and nail; they fought it with loopholes. Vice President Cheney went to Senator McCain and asked for a specific exemption for the C.I.A. McCain refused. The National Security Advisor went to McCain and asked for certain kinds of exemptions for the C.I.A. He refused.
So then they started amending it. Basically what happened is, through the process, they introduced loopholes. Look, at the start of the war on terror, the Bush administration ordered torture. President Bush said right on September 11, 2001, when he addressed the nation, “I don't care what the international lawyers say. We’re going to kick some ass.” Those were his words, and then it was up to his legal advisors in the White House and the Justice Department to translate his otherwise unlawful orders into legal directives, and they did it by crafting three very controversial legal principles. One, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, could override laws and treaties. Two, that there was a possible defense for C.I.A. interrogators who engage in torture, and the defenses were of two kinds. First of all, they played around with the word "severe," that torture is the infliction of severe pain. That's when Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General, wrote that memo in which he said, “’severe’ means equivalent to organ failure,” in other words, right up to the point of death. The other thing was that they came up with the idea of intentionality. If a C.I.A. interrogator tortured, but the aim was information, not pain, then he could say that he was not guilty. The third principle, which was crafted by John Yoo, was Guantanamo is not part of the United States; it is exempt from the writ of U.S. courts. Now, in the process of ratifying – sorry, passing the McCain torture – the torture prohibition, McCain’s ban on inhumane treatment, the White House has cleverly twisted the legislation to re-establish these three key principles. In his signing statement on December 30, President Bush said --
AMY GOODMAN: This was the statement that he signed as he signed the McCain so-called ban on torture?
ALFRED McCOY: Right, he emailed it at 8:00 at night from his ranch in Crawford on December 30th, that he was signing this legislation into law. He said, “I reserve the right, as Commander-in-Chief and as head of the unitary executive, to do what I need to do to defend America.” Okay, that was the first thing. The next thing that happened is that McCain, as a compromise, inserted into the legislation a provision that if a C.I.A. operative engages in inhumane treatment or torture but believes that he or she was following a lawful order, then that's a defense. So they got the second principle, defense for C.I.A. torturers. The third principle was – is that the White House had Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina amend McCain’s amendment by inserting language into it, saying that for the purposes of this act, the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay is not on U.S. territory, and last month --
AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.
ALFRED McCOY: So, and then in the last month, the Bush administration has gone to federal courts and said, “Drop all of your habeas corpus suits from Guantanamo.” There are 160 of them. They've gone to the Supreme Court and said, “Drop your Guantanamo case.” They have, in fact, used that law to quash legal oversight of their actions.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much, Professor Al McCoy, for speaking with us, professor of history at University of Wisconsin, Madison, his book A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War On Terror.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Thursday, February 9, 2006
At TruthOut.org, Jason Leopold reports:
Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley led a campaign beginning in March 2003 to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for publicly criticizing the Bush administration's intelligence on Iraq, according to current and former administration officials.
The officials work or had worked in the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council in a senior capacity and had direct knowledge of the Vice President's campaign to discredit Wilson.
In interviews over the course of two days this week, these officials were urged to speak on the record for this story. But they resisted, saying they had already testified before a grand jury investigating the leak of Wilson's wife, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and added that speaking out against the administration and specifically Vice President Cheney would cause them to lose their jobs and subject their families to vitriolic attacks by the White House.
The officials said they decided to speak out now because they have become disillusioned with the Bush administration's policies regarding Iraq and the flawed intelligence that led to the war.
They said their roles, along with several others at the CIA and State Department, included digging up or "inventing" embarrassing information on the former Ambassador that could be used against him, preparing memos and classified material on Wilson for Cheney and the National Security Council, and attending meetings in Cheney's office to discuss with Cheney, Hadley, and others the efforts that would be taken to discredit Wilson.
A former CIA official who has worked in the counter-proliferation division, and is familiar with the undercover work Wilson's wife did for the agency, said Cheney and Hadley visited CIA headquarters a day or two after Joseph Wilson was interviewed on CNN.
In the interview, which took place two and a half weeks before the start of the Iraq war, Wilson said the administration was more interested in redrawing the map of the Middle East to pursue its own foreign policy objectives than in dealing with the so-called terrorist threat.
"The underlying objective, as I see it, the more I look at this, is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists," Wilson said in a March 2, 2003, interview with CNN.
"So you look at what's underpinning this, and you go back and you take a look at who's been influencing the process. And it's been those who really believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to redraw the political map of the Middle East," Wilson added.
But it wasn't Wilson who Cheney was so upset about when he visited the CIA in March 2003.
During the same CNN segment in which Wilson was interviewed, former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright made similar comments about the rationale for the Iraq war and added that he believed UN weapons inspectors should be given more time to search the country for weapons of mass destruction.
The National Security Council and CIA officials said Cheney had visited CIA headquarters and asked several CIA officials to dig up dirt on Albright, and to put together a dossier that would discredit his work that could be distributed to the media.
"Vice President Cheney was more concerned with Mr. Albright," the CIA official said. "The international community had been saying that inspectors should have more time, that the US should not set a deadline. The Vice President felt Mr. Albright's remarks would fuel the debate."
The officials said a "binder" was sent to the Vice President's office that contained material that could be used by the White House to discredit Albright if he continued to comment on the administration's war plans. However, it's unclear whether Cheney or other White House officials used the information against Albright.
A week later, Wilson was interviewed on CNN again. This was the first time Wilson ridiculed the Bush administration's intelligence that claimed Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger.
"Well, this particular case is outrageous. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for something like this to go unchallenged by US - the US government - is just simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early '60s. All this stuff is open. It's a restricted market of buyers and sellers," Wilson said in the March 8, 2003, CNN interview. "For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq."
What Wilson wasn't at liberty to disclose during that interview, because the information was still classified, was that he had personally traveled to Niger a year earlier on behalf of the CIA to investigate whether Iraq had in fact tried to purchase uranium from the African country. Cheney had asked the CIA in 2002 to look into the allegation, which turned out to be based on forged documents, but was included in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address nonetheless.
Wilson's comments enraged Cheney, all of the officials said, because they were seen as a personal attack against the Vice President, who was instrumental in getting the intelligence community to cite the Niger claims in government reports to build a case for war against Iraq.
The former Ambassador's stinging rebuke also caught the attention of Stephen Hadley, who played an even bigger role in the Niger controversy, having been responsible for allowing President Bush to cite the allegations in his State of the Union address.
At this time, the international community, various media outlets, and the International Atomic Energy Association had called into question the veracity of the Niger documents. Mohammed ElBaradei, head of IAEA, told the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003, that the Niger documents were forgeries and could not be used to prove Iraq was a nuclear threat.
Wilson's comments in addition to ElBaradei's UN report were seen as a threat to the administration's attack plans against Iraq, the officials said, which would take place 11 days later.
Hadley had avoided making public comments about the veracity of the Niger documents, going as far as ignoring a written request by IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei to share the intelligence with his agency so his inspectors could verify the claims. Hadley is said to have known the Niger documents were crude forgeries, but pushed the administration to cite it as evidence that Iraq was a nuclear threat, according to the State Department officials, who said they personally told Hadley in a written report that the documents were bogus.
The CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March 8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's office chaired by Cheney, and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson. Those who attended the meeting included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October for lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak, Hadley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser, the officials said.
"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress."
A spokeswoman for Cheney would not comment for this story, saying the investigation into the leak is ongoing. The spokeswoman refused to give her name. Additional calls made to Cheney's office were not returned.
The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false, they said.
The officials said that during the meeting, Hadley said he would respond to Wilson's comments by writing an editorial about the Iraqi threat, which it was hoped would be a first step in overshadowing Wilson's CNN appearance.
A column written by Hadley that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on February 16, 2003, was redistributed to newspaper editors by the State Department on March 10, 2003, two days after Wilson was interviewed on CNN. The column, "Two Potent Iraqi Weapons: Denial and Deception" once again raised the issue that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger.
Cheney appeared on Meet the Press on March 16, 2003, to respond to ElBaradei's assertion that the Niger documents were forgeries.
"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said during the interview. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past."
Cheney knew the State Department had prepared a report saying the Niger claims were false, but he thought the report had no merit, the two State Department officials said. Meanwhile, the CIA was preparing information for the vice president and his senior aides on Wilson should the former ambassador decide to speak out against the administration again.
Behind the scenes, Wilson had been speaking to various members of Congress about the administration's use of the Niger documents and had said the intelligence the White House relied upon was flawed, said one of the State Department officials who had a conversation with Wilson. Wilson's criticism of the administration's intelligence eventually leaked out to reporters, but with the Iraq war just a week away, the story was never covered.
It's unclear whether anyone disseminated information on Wilson in March 2003, following the meeting in Cheney's office. Although the officials said they helped prepare negative information on Wilson about his personal and professional life and had given it to Libby and Cheney, Wilson seemed to drop off the radar once the Iraq war started on March 19, 2003.
With no sign of weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq, news accounts started to call into question the credibility of the administration's pre-war intelligence. In May 2003, Wilson re-emerged at a political conference in Washington sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. There he told the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff that he had been the special envoy who traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check out allegations that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from the country. He told Kristoff he briefed a CIA analyst that the claims were untrue. Wilson said he believed the administration had ignored his report and were dishonest with Congress and the American people.
When Kristoff's column was published in the Times, the CIA official said, "a request came in from Cheney that was passed to me that said 'the vice president wants to know whether Joe Wilson went to Niger.' I'm paraphrasing. But that's more or less what I was asked to find out."
In his column, Kristoff Had accused Cheney of allowing the truth about the Niger documents the administration used to build a case for war to go "missing in action." The failure of US armed forces to find any WMDs in Iraq in two months following the start of the war had been blamed on Cheney.
What in the previous months had been a request to gather information that could be used to discredit Wilson now turned into a full-scale effort involving the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, and the State Department to find out how Wilson came to be chosen to investigate the Niger uranium allegations.
"Cheney and Libby made it clear that Wilson had to be shut down," the CIA official said. "This wasn't just about protecting the credibility of the White House. For the vice president, going after Wilson was purely personal, in my opinion."
Cheney was personally involved in this aspect of the information gathering process as well, visiting CIA headquarters to inquire about Wilson, the CIA official said. Hadley had also raised questions about Wilson during this month with the State Department officials and asked that information regarding Wilson's trip to Niger be sent to his attention at the National Security Council.
That's when Valerie Plame Wilson's name popped up showing that she was a covert CIA operative. The former CIA official who works in the counter-proliferation division said another meeting about Wilson took place in Cheney's office, attended by the same individuals who were there in March. But Cheney didn't take part in it, the officials said.
"Libby led the meeting," one of the State Department officials said. "But he was just as upset about Wilson as Cheney was."
The officials said that as of late May 2003 the only correspondence they had had was with Libby and Hadley. They said they were unaware who had made the decision to unmask Plame Wilson's undercover CIA status to a handful of reporters.
George Tenet, the former director of the CIA, took responsibility for allowing what is widely referred to as the infamous "sixteen words" to be included in Bush's State of the Union address. Tenet's mea culpa came one day after Wilson penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he accused the administration of "twisting" intelligence on Iraq. In the column, Wilson revealed that he was the special envoy who traveled to Niger to investigate the uranium claims.
Tenet is working on a book titled At the Center of the Storm with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, which it is expected will be published later this year. Tenet will reportedly come clean on how the "sixteen words made it into the President's State of the Union speech, according to publishersmarketplace.com, an industry newsletter.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame Wilson leak for more than two years, questioned Cheney about his role in the leak in 2004. Cheney did not testify under oath, and it's unknown what he told the special prosecutor.
On September 14, 2003, during an interview with Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press," Cheney maintained that he didn't know Wilson or have any knowledge about his Niger trip or who was responsible for leaking his wife's name to the media.
"I don't know Joe Wilson," Cheney said, in response to Russert, who quoted Wilson as saying there was no truth to the Niger uranium claims. "I've never met Joe Wilson. And Joe Wilson - I don't who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back ... I don't know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn't judge him. I have no idea who hired him."