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According to the CIA inspector general’s 2004 report by Helgerson, official CIA memos about Abu Zubaydah not only hid the successes [1 word redacted] had with him before [1 word redacted] left but even made it look as though [1 word redacted] had never been there: “To treat the severe wounds that Abu Zubaydah suffered upon his capture, the Agency provided him intensive medical care from the outset and deferred his questioning for several weeks pending his recovery. The Agency then assembled a team that interrogated Abu Zubaydah.” In fact, questioning wasn’t deferred at all, and it was successful.

What’s especially notable about the memos authorizing the techniques is their unquestioning acceptance of information from CIA officials. Bradbury acknowledged that “he relied entirely on the CIA’s representations as to the effectiveness of the EITs, and did not attempt to verify or question the information he was given.” He told the OPR: “It’s not my role, really, to do a factual investigation of that.” With such an attitude, the watchdog was little better than a lapdog.

It wasn’t only the Justice Department that really slipped up. A footnote to Bradbury’s comments to the OPR that his role was not to check the facts states that one official “urged AG Gonzalez and White House Counsel Fred Fielding to have a new CIA team review the program, but that the effectiveness reviews consistently relied on the originators of the program.” Is it fitting for the backers of EITs to be tasked with evaluating their own effectiveness? That would be a sure, and easy, way to guarantee the conclusion they wanted.

The Bybee memo, which authorized the techniques, states: “Our advice is based upon the following facts, which you have provided to us. We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply.”

The “facts” granting authorization to use the harsh techniques were that Abu Zubaydah was not cooperating (he was) and that he was a senior al-Qaeda member (he wasn’t). While the authors of the memo may not have been aware of the truth, those providing the content for the memos, and those requesting the authorization to initiate Boris’s experiments, certainly were. Because the advocates of the harsh techniques were allowed to state these lies and claim [1 word redacted] successes as their own, Boris and his partner (under the guidance of their sponsors in Washington) were then granted control over all future high-value detainees captured. Abu Zubaydah was the first person on whom the techniques were used. It was in many ways a trial or test run for the techniques. And because people in Washington rewrote the results to show that they passed the “test case,” they could successfully argue that the techniques be used in the future. Boris and his partner were given control of other high-value detainees.

Back in FBI headquarters, the situation was clear. We gained information using a tried and tested and scientific approach, while what Boris was doing was un-American and ineffective. We were confident that the contractors and their crazy ideas would soon be abandoned. Little did we know that there was a wider effort to disseminate misinformation even to Justice Department officials.

I later learned—from the July 29, 2009, OPR report—that the CIA had initially requested that twelve EITs be used in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. They were as follows (the descriptions are from the report):

1. Attention grasp: The interrogator grasps the subject with both hands, with one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion, and draws the subject toward the interrogator.

2. Walling: The subject is pulled forward and then quickly and firmly pushed into a flexible false wall so that his shoulder blades hit the wall. His head and neck are supported with a rolled towel to prevent whiplash.

3. Facial hold: The interrogator holds the subject’s head immobile by placing an open palm on either side of the subject’s face, keeping fingertips well away from the eyes.

4. Facial or insult slap: With fingers slightly spread apart, the interrogator’s hand makes contact with the area between the tip of the subject’s chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe.

5. Cramped confinement: The subject is placed in a confined space, typically a small or large box, which is usually dark. Confinement in the smaller space lasts no more than two hours and in the larger space up to eighteen hours.

6. Insects: A harmless insect is placed in the confinement box with detainees.

7. Wall standing: The subject may stand about four to five feet from a wall with his feet spread approximately to his shoulder width. His arms are stretched out in front of him and his fingers rest on the wall to support all of his body weight. The subject is not allowed to reposition his hands or feet.

8. Stress positions: These positions may include having the detainee sit on the floor with his legs extended straight out in front of him with his arms raised above his head or kneeling on the floor while leaning back at a forty-five-degree angle.

9. Sleep deprivation: The subject is prevented from sleeping, not to exceed eleven days at a time. [Note: as initially proposed, sleep deprivation was to be induced by shackling the subject in a standing position, with his feet chained to a ring in the floor and his arms attached to a bar at head level, with very little room for movement.]

10. Use of diapers: The subject is forced to wear adult diapers and is denied access to toilet facilities for an extended period, in order to humiliate him.

11. Waterboard: The subject is restrained on a bench with his feet elevated above his head. His head is immobilized and an interrogator places a cloth over his mouth and nose while pouring water onto the cloth. Airflow is restricted for twenty to forty seconds; the technique produces the sensation of drowning and suffocation.

12. [When the document was released, this paragraph was redacted by the government.]

According to the OPR report, on July 24, a Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, “telephoned Rizzo and told him that the attorney general had authorized him to say that the first six EITs (attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, and wall standing [which is actually number seven]) were lawful and that they could proceed to use them on Abu Zubaydah.”

Only on August 1, 2002, at around 10:00 PM, did the Department of Justice give the agency its written legal approval that ten specific enhanced interrogation techniques would not violate the Geneva Convention torture prohibition and could be used on detainees. The memo was primarily the work of Jay Bybee and John Yoo. (There are actually two versions of the memo, classified and unclassified, and together they are referred to as the Bybee memos.) According to CIA records, the classified Bybee memo was faxed to the CIA at 10:30 PM on August 1, 2002.

After the Abu Zubaydah interrogation, Boris and his partner and supporters in Washington were fully in control of the program. Only after that did the CIA even start “training” its interrogators. According to the 2004 OIG report, only in “November 2002” did the CIA initiate “a pilot running of a two-week Interrogator Training Course designed to train, qualify, and certify individuals as Agency interrogators.” Of course, two weeks isn’t enough to make someone a qualified interrogator. What makes someone a qualified interrogator is not only months of training but knowledge of the detainee and of terrorism.

Enhanced interrogation techniques is a term I first heard long after [12 words redacted] there was no system to what Boris and his backers were doing. They appeared to be experimenting with techniques, with no clear plan. Not only was Abu Zubaydah the first terrorist they had ever interrogated, but he was the first Islamist radical they had ever met.



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