Report: Bush Helped Qaddafi Torture Opponents


Human Rights Watch has a new report out that indicates that the Bush administration used waterboarding and other forms of torture far more extensively than previously reported — including working with the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to capture and torture those who were fighting against his regime. That would be the same regime we just helped overthrow, on the grounds that he committed terrible human rights abuses.

Spencer Ackerman shows a drawing of a 3×3 box that the detainees say they were put into and discusses their stories:

It wasn’t the only box that the CIA allegedly placed him inside. Another was a tall, narrow box, less than two feet wide, with handcuffs at the top. The detainee, Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, says he was placed into that one with his hands elevated and suspended by the handcuffs, for a day and a half, naked, with music blasting into his ears constantly through speakers built into the box. A different detainee describes being placed into a similar box for three days and being left with no choice but to urinate and defecate on himself.

Getting shoved into those boxes was only the start of Shoroeiya’s woes. The CIA would later deliver him and at least four others into the hands of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who further brutalized them for opposing his regime. Accordingly, a new Human Rights Watch report telling the stories of those detainees strips away a euphemism in the war on terrorism: how the CIA says it holds its nose and “works with” unsavory regimes. ”It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats,” spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood told the Wall Street Journal. What may indeed come as a surprise is what that actually means in practice, as recounted by at least five Libyan ex-detainees Human Rights Watch interviewed.

Media reports on Thursday morning understandably focused on what Human Rights Watch called “credible allegations” of waterboarding by CIA officials, since the U.S. has only ever acknowledged waterboarding three detainees. But what Human Rights Watch has uncovered in Libya tells a broader story. It’s a story about how repressive governments used the war on terrorism to get the U.S. to deliver their political opponents to their custody. It was as easy as calling them terrorists — which was enough for the U.S. to play along.

As both Human Rights Watch and Ackerman note, these are only allegations at this point, but they are consistent with what is already known about how detainees were treated in other cases. Scott Horton has more:

In an important speech last year at Harvard University, CIA veteran and Obama counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan stressed that the administration’s Middle East policies emphasize the rule of law and respect for human rights. If that’s true, then the cache of evidence disclosed by the Libyan revolution and the comparable evidence that has emerged in Egypt point to the CIA as a rogue institution operating at dangerous cross-purposes with official U.S. policy. The agency aligned itself closely with the most abusive institutions in the countries where it was operating, and enabled the wanton torture of political opponents. Those tight relationships appear to have seriously warped its intelligence posture, leaving it dangerously blind to the developments that swept the Arab world early last year. Moreover, much of the conduct highlighted in the HRW report violated criminal statutes, including the Anti-Torture Act and the prohibition on renditions of persons to countries where they were likely to face torture.

The Justice Department’s systematic whitewashing of these crimes can best be explained by the fact that it was a key actor in the crimes. It cannot be expected to prosecute its own senior staffers, nor can it be expected to take actions that would further stain its already badly soiled reputation. But this very whitewashing raises fundamental doubt about the Obama Administration’s commitment to ending torture by American intelligence operatives. To the contrary, the Obama Administration’s handling of the matter appears to retain torture as a viable option for American foreign policy—one that Mitt Romney, with Michael Hayden at his side, would happily resume.

And he describes one instance that shows exactly why torture doesn’t work:

One former prisoner described having been waterboarded on repeated occasions during U.S. interrogations in Afghanistan. The report notes that the prisoner never used the phrase “waterboarding,” but described the procedure in detail: his captors put a hood over his head, strapped him onto a wooden board, “then they start with the water pouring. . . . They start to pour water to the point where you feel like you are suffocating.” He added: “[T]hey wouldn’t stop until they got some kind of answer from me.” He said a doctor was present during the waterboarding and that it happened so many times he could not keep count.

No one knows this better than John McCain, who has described his own torture at the hands of the Vietcong in much the same way. And he broke, as everyone does eventually, and told them whatever he thought they wanted to hear. The purpose of torture is not to get accurate information, it is to get false information that can be used for propaganda purposes, which is how the Vietcong used it against our own soldiers.

Comments

  1. says

    “on the grounds that he committed terrible human rights abuses.”

    They were legitimate methods of interrogation prior to 1/21/2009.

    OT, but while we’re OT, why is there no Teabaggist meme with the 1/20/09 date in it? I mean, maybe there is but I haven’t seen it because I want my beautiful mind to remain beautiful so I avoid sites that are steeped in the indignorance of the KKKristian Reich.

  2. baal says

    I wish I had thought to note which program and when it was on but I clearly recall seeing Cheney asked about horrible prisoner abuses and him looking really annoyed about it. His face changed to dramatic confusion and then relaxed, however, once the reporter said Guantanamo. Cheney then replied something like, oh yeah, that place is fine. I can only guess but he was probably thinking about the black sites and other related torture such as what Ed’s noting here for Libya.

  3. says

    If that’s true, then the cache of evidence disclosed by the Libyan revolution and the comparable evidence that has emerged in Egypt point to the CIA as a rogue institution operating at dangerous cross-purposes with official U.S. policy.

    This won’t be the first time that’s happened. Fear of some real or imagined enemy + MaCarthyism + rigid bigotry at home + ignorance and/or spinelessness at the top levels of US policymaking = an “intelligence” community that becomes a self-protecting insular state unto itself, and proceeds to attract the most lawless and unscrupulous elements our society has to offer — to the point where it really CANNOT be controlled by the chief executive. We had this problem with the CIA in the ’50s and ’60s, and JFK and LBJ had a hard time controlling it then as well. Carter was known to issue explicit orders to the CIA that were simply flatly ignored.

    At the risk of sounding too much like the Obama partisan I am, I think Obama only gets a portion of the blame for his inability, or unwillingness, to get a handle on all this. The CIA is a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies take on a momentum of their own, following rules of their own — especially when they’re fueled by eight years of uncaring bigotry from reich-wing crusaders at the very top, and even more years of rigid mindless resistance to all forms of restraint or accountability from nearly all levels of a society still dominated by uncomprehending fear and obsolete core beliefs.

    Like JFK at the beginning of the end of the first McCarthy era, Obama has his hands tied by entrenched institutional resistance that needs far more than a liberal President to be dislodged.

  4. says

    @baal #2 – I three-quarters suspect that all the times Cheney was in his “undisclosed location,” he was at Gitmo applying cattle prods to testicles. So of course he would consider the place fine.

  5. says

    Obama would have known this. In retrospect,t hsi makes him more justified in his part in taking Qaddafi out if the US had been responsible for his putting down earlier resistance.

  6. says

    It seems to be a feature, not a bug, in U.S. foreign policy to prop up some incredibly vicious dictators, until such time as there utility expires.

    I’m thinking that gents like Mallomar Quitedaffy and Saddam, among others, might have benefitted from watching a bunch of those Republic oatburners that Mr. Wayne used to appear in*. They might then have avoided the fate of those characters with names like “Lefty” who, having served out their apprenticeship as villainic understudies were “paid off” with a single .44 to the ticker.

    The late Kims of Korea (Li’l Kim and MiniKim) were adept in avoiding that fate by playing all sides against each other. Well, they were both fucking insane, too, but the craftiness was genuine.

    * As I have held for years, I think “acting” is not the correct term to use in a sentence with with the words “John Wayne” and “movie”.

  7. d cwilson says

    If that’s true, then the cache of evidence disclosed by the Libyan revolution and the comparable evidence that has emerged in Egypt point to the CIA as a rogue institution operating at dangerous cross-purposes with official U.S. policy.

    This is the agency whose primary mission for decades was to monitor the activities of the Soviet Union and its satellites, and yet, utterly failed to see the collapse of the USSR coming.

    The fact that they were working to support a dictator that even Saint Ron once called a “flaky barbarian” speaks volumes to out of touch the CIA is not just our national values and foreign policy, but reality itself.

    The CIA has some deep-seated problems, ones that are more serious that bureaucratic inertia. It needs to be scrapped in its entirety and rebuilt from scratch.

  8. says

    The CIA has some deep-seated problems, ones that are more serious that bureaucratic inertia. It needs to be scrapped in its entirety and rebuilt from scratch.

    No, their most deep-seated problems come from their political leadership, or lack thereof. When the political leaders rein them in, hold them accountable, and keep them focused on reasonable projects, they serve their country well.

    One thing that makes intelligence agencies unique, and uniquely dangerous, among bureaucracies, is that they do most of their work in places where their own respective countries’ laws do not apply; and their work almost always, by definition, requires them to act outside of just about ANY law that would otherwise restrain their conduct. Lawlessness and unaccountability are built into a spy agency’s mission, so its political leadership have to work all the harder, against more resistance, to keep them focused and accountable, than they do to keep normal bureaucracies accountable.

  9. d cwilson says

    When the political leaders rein them in, hold them accountable, and keep them focused on reasonable projects, they serve their country well.

    Examples?

    The CIA has spent most of its history propping up rightwing dicators while completely missing the biggest geopolitical realignment since WW II.

    They put ths Shah in power in Iran, setting the stage for the eventual revolution, hostage crisis and current fears of a nuclear Iran.

    They helped put Castro in power and then spent decades trying assassinate him using a variety of schemes (exploding cigars!) that looked like they were inspired by Bugs Bunny.

    They helped put rightwing dictators like Peron and Pinochet in power and then helped train rightwing death squads from one end of Latin America to the other.

    They helped Noriega and other strongmen smuggle cocaine into America.

    And that’s before we even get to the black sites and torture chambers.

    If that is “serving our nation well”, I’d hate to see them if they truly went rogue.

    The CIA’s problems transcend political leadership or one specific administration. It needs to go.

  10. Olav says

    Anyone else sees a possible link with the murder of the American ambassador in Lybia, today?

    Mind: for Lybians it is not news that Western powers were in cahoots with their psychopathic dictator. They knew it already.

  11. says

    @d cwilson #10 – The CIA helped to prop up the regiemes of King Faisil II and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said during the Hashemite rule of Iraq. When they started having delusions of independence, the CIA sponsored the revolution in 1958 that ended the Kingdom. Despite the CIA’s efforts, power was seized by a pro-Soviet faction of the military. The CIA tried numerous approaches to oust them, finally succeeding in 1968 when they put the Ba’athists in power. The first president, Ahmed Hasan Al-Bakir, tried to play hardball with the US, so the CIA helped a young Saddam Hussein to take over the party, unify the country under an iron fist, and make very generous concessions (at last! Huzzah!) to the US for Iraqi oil.

    After the Iran Revolution, we gave Hussein many of the now illegal chemical weapons we had stockpiled (and could not use, thanks to those pesky treaties) and turned a blind eye to his pogrom of extermination against the Kurds. But then Hussein started to think that he had earned his independence, and…. Well, you know the rest of that story.

  12. says

    @Olav #11 – The mob violence in Libya and subsequent murders were sparked by a rabidly anti-Muslim hit piece put out by Christian bigots in California. While this report on US collaboration of Qaddafi may have fanned the flames, it is not directly related.

  13. Olav says

    Gregory, #13, I may have made my point poorly.

    You are undoubtedly right about the spark. But I don’t think the particular report we are discussing has fanned any flames, insofar as it has even registered in Lybia.

    I was talking about the fuel that underlies the fire. You don’t get that level of anti-Western/anti-American hatred from just a video and a news item. It is rather the result of many years of brutal oppression. That’s why I said, that this news of the CIA working with Khadaffi is not news to them, the rioters, they already knew it because they suffered it.

    It is only news to people living in sheltered circumstances.

    Then of course, religion hijacks the understandable anger and indignation, and makes things even worse.

    So no, I am not defending the murderers of the ambassador. I am just saying you can’t see it as an isolated event. Not directly related? Unfortunately, I think you are wrong. It seems very much related.

    Speaking of sheltered circumstances, and as a sidenote, I quite liked this article on the splendid “American Conservative”: Confessions of a Former Republican.

  14. says

    I suspect that when all the dirt comes out about the Libyan rebellion, it’ll turn out that it was CIA backed. Syria as well. Those guys have a very limited imagination – manipulate, torture, and fake revolutions is their stock in trade – and they are constantly looking to overthrow governments. It’s their hobby, or some fucked up shit like that.

  15. Michael Heath says

    Ed asserts:

    The purpose of torture is not to get accurate information, it is to get false information that can be used for propaganda purposes, which is how the Vietcong used it against our own soldiers.

    Except our administration of torture against members of al Qaeda and “suspected* al Qaeda members” failed even on that count. The primary motivation appears to be the desire to ally al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein. Yet the info retrieved during torture never provided a compelling narrative. Not simply because no operational ties existed, they were in fact competitors, but instead because the answers given were so disparate there was no material to work with to build a false narrative anyone would believe, except for the Cheneyites and Palinites of course given they’d believe near-anything their tribal members told them.

    * A lot of people were picked up, held in horrible conditions and even tortured, where they were both innocent and there was no compelling evidence of any wrong-doing.

  16. says

    The CIA has spent most of its history propping up rightwing dicators while completely missing the biggest geopolitical realignment since WW II…

    That’s because that’s what the political leadership of the time wanted them to do. The CIA didn’t invent McCarthyism, they merely responded to it.

    The CIA’s problems transcend political leadership or one specific administration. It needs to go.

    Without changing the political climate in which they function, that won’t do any good. All you’d get is a new bureaucracy bending to the same external political pressures and incentives.

    You’re blaming the spies and spy-bosses for the failures and mistakes of the political leaders — which is what failed leaders, and their supporters, have always done since the dawn of spying. Are you by any chance a Republican using libertarian rhetoric to blame the CIA for your party’s failures?

  17. says

    I suspect that when all the dirt comes out about the Libyan rebellion, it’ll turn out that it was CIA backed. Syria as well. Those guys have a very limited imagination…

    One overworked intelligence agency engineered the entire Arab Spring? From halfway around the globe? The same agency that we’re accusing of failure, corruption and incompetence? Blaming the CIA for such a complex set of events shows that you’re the one with the “very limited imagination.” Can’t you at least throw some mention of the Illuminati into it?

  18. dean says

    I suspect that when all the dirt comes out about the Libyan rebellion, it’ll turn out that it was CIA backed. Syria as well.

    If you mean backed as in supported under the radar after the first stirrings appeared, I might buy it. Slip in weapons, a little advice on the government movements and supplies, seems reasonable. I think it’s reasonable to think they have there folks doing similar dirty operations in lots of places already, and stepping in once these were under way would not be a huge stress.

    If you mean they provided the original spoons to do the stirring and were responsible for the firing things up, I’m less inclined to believe – I think their time for being able to start things like this is done. (I little more cynical me would claim they peaked with their “Elimination by Illumination” plan against Castro. Operation Mongoose was the plan authorized by President Kennedy with the goal of offing Castro.)

    The military side of Mongoose was every bit as inventive, and equally ineffective. For example, Mongoose’s chief, Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, thought that the people of Cuba could be convinced, through rumors, that the Second Coming was at hand, if only the satanic Castro were overthrown. This plan climaxed with a great burst of white light over the island, phosphorescent starbursts from shells fired from a Navy submarine. Skeptics at the C.I.A. labeled it ”Elimination by Illumination.

  19. Pierce R. Butler says

    … John McCain, who has described his own torture at the hands of the Vietcong…

    McCain was captured while bombing Hanoi, and imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese Army. The latter is and was entirely distinct from the southern-based Viet Cong, as demonstrated by the fact that the NVA turned against and liquidated the VC as soon as the last American invaders and puppets had been routed.

  20. slc1 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #18

    Fucken asshole Marcus Ranum posted a similar comment over at Mano Singham’s blog. I would be willing to make book that he also is a troofer.

    I find it rather interesting that he is a vocal rooter for the overthrow of Mubarak and the Shah, neither of whom is even remotely as criminal as Assad pere and fils or Qaddafi.

  21. slc1 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #23

    If Mr. Brayton chooses to post a comment on the situation in Libya, I suspect that Mr. Ranum will be along with a claim that the scum that murdered our ambassador there were CIA agents.

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