Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waterboarding Used In Failed Quest To Reveal Iraq-Al Qaeda Ties

A 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum has revealed that C.I.A interrogators waterboarded two Al Qaeda prisoners 266 times. The sessions include 83 times against Abu Zubaydah in August 2002 and 183 times against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in March 2003. 

If waterboarding was such an effective method under the employ of the Bush administration, why didn't the interrogators get the information they wanted at least by the 83rd time in one case and the 182nd in the other?

Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers reveals why interrogators used waterboarding and other abusive tactics relentlessly for most of 2002 and 2003–the period during which the 266 episodes took place. The interrogators were charged with forcing the captives to reveal something that simply did not exist, operational ties between Saddam Husssein's Iraq and Al Qaeda:

The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The U.S. intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity, spoke of the demands on the part of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection be established:

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Former U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Charles Burney, speaking to Army investigators in 2006, said that Guantanamo interrogators were under the same pressure to find evidence of the ties:

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq. . . The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

So we have the use of illegal interrogation methods, i.e. torture, to seek evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties that did not exist for a war in Iraq whose rationale also did not exist. As always, the more one examines the history of the Bush administration, the more layers of sordidness and deception one discovers.

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