Ali Soufan, the former FBI interrogator and outspoken critic of the use of torture, is interviewed at the New Yorker and responds to the recent claims of Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who has written a book claiming that torture was crucial in the fight against Al Qaeda.
The claims he’s recently been making about the success of the harsh techniques are the same false claims that have appeared in now declassified C.I.A. memos, and which have been thoroughly discredited by the likes of the Department of Justice, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the C.I.A.’s Inspector General…
In this area it’s not a question of memory but of factual record. There are now thousands of pages of declassified memos and reports that thoroughly rebut what Mr. Rodriguez and others are now claiming. For example, one of the successes of the E.I.T.s claimed in the now declassified memos is that after the program began in August, 2002, Abu Zubaydah provided intelligence that prevented José Padilla from detonating a dirty bomb on U.S. soil, and identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. Rodriguez has been repeating this claims.
The reality is that both of those pieces of intelligence were gained by my partner and me, with C.I.A. colleagues, in early April, 2002—months before the August, 2002, start of the E.I.T. program. But in the memos they were able to promote false facts, even altering dates, to make their claims work. In the so-called C.I.A. Effectiveness Memo, for example, it states that Mr. Padilla was arrested in May, 2003. In reality, he was arrested in May, 2002. But saying 2003 fits with the waterboarding narrative. When the Department of Justice asked Steven Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the author of the 2005 O.L.C. memo to reinstate E.I.T.s, why he didn’t check the facts, he replied, “It’s not my role, really, to do a factual investigation of that.” …
The claim about waterboarding leading to unmasking of K.S.M. as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks is similarly false. We got that information in April, 2002, before the contractors hired by the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center even arrived at the site. One by one, the successes claimed by E.I.T. proponents have been shown to be false.
I went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and under oath recounted what happened. And, as I note in “The Black Banners,” I sent daily reports from the secret interrogation location, to Washington, recording what happened, which the U.S. Government has in its possession. After I left the location in 2002, I wondered if they got anything of value. Until 2005, I was still in the government, and I know that nothing of value from E.I.T.s reached us. I thought perhaps the information was only shared with others. But with the declassification of previously secret memos, it became clear that every example given of claimed successes was factually incorrect—and I know this from firsthand experience of how those pieces of intelligence were really gained. It’s because of all this that I spoke out in 2009 to correct the false claims the American people were being told.
He also points out that Rodriguez has changed his story about why he destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations, in violation of a direct order. He told one story in private and now tells another in public:
On “60 Minutes,” Jose said he destroyed the evidence of the interrogations “to protect the people” who worked for him, from Al Qaeda going “after them and their families.” But that’s not the reason Mr. Rodriguez gave at the time, and it’s a shame he wasn’t challenged on it.
One declassified C.I.A. e-mail, dated November 10, 2005, and written by the deputy to Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, then executive director of the C.I.A., notes that Rodriguez thought that “if the tapes ever got into [the] public domain… they would make us look terrible.” It was about their reputation, not safety.
That’s part of a larger pattern under both Bush and Obama to prevent the release of information that shows how our government tortured people, even to the point of threatening the British government over it.