CIA Whistleblower Faces 100 Years in Prison for Talking to NY Times Reporter

Originally published on January 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org

A former CIA case officer has been convicted for telling a New York Times reporter details concerning a reckless CIA operation that potentially sped up Iran’s nuclear advancement. Although the case against the CIA whistleblower was largely circumstantial and lacking evidence, former case officer Jeffrey Sterling faces a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison for speaking to New York Times reporter James Risen. Under threat of arrest, Risen tenaciously refused to reveal his sources to the government.

After joining the CIA on May 14, 1993, Sterling eventually rose to the rank of case officer and began working with the agency’s Iran Task Force. Between November 1998 and May 2000, Sterling had been assigned to a mission conspiring to deliver flawed nuclear blueprints to the Iranian government codenamed Operation Merlin. Unaware of the design flaws, the Iranian government would waste years devising a nuclear weapon that could not detonate.

The CIA planned to use a Russian nuclear engineer codenamed Merlin to transport the nuclear blueprints to the Iranians. In a luxurious hotel room in San Francisco, Sterling and a senior CIA officer gave the blueprints to Merlin, who immediately identified a flaw even though he had not been debriefed. Instead of aborting the mission because the design flaw was too obvious, the senior CIA officer went ahead with the operation.

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New GOP Chairman Suppresses Full CIA Torture Report

Originally published on January 22, 2015, at NationofChange.org

The new Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman sent a letter to the White House and several federal agencies last week demanding the return of every copy of the Committee’s entire classified CIA torture report. The new chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, also intends to return the notorious Panetta Review to the CIA. Critical of the agency’s false statements regarding the reliability of information obtained through torture, the Panetta Review’s release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been blocked by the CIA.

On December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released nearly 500 pages of the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of torture committed and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the abusive backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information acquired through torture.

The CIA claims enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to determine the secret locations of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), but the Committee discovered these assertions are false. A CIA detainee provided the agency with information leading to bin Laden’s location before agents subjected him to torture. The detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques withheld and fabricated intelligence.

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Sen. Feinstein Introducing New Laws to Prohibit CIA Torture

Originally published on January 9, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Before stepping down as Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to President Obama enumerating her recommendations to prevent the CIA from committing further acts of torture. Sent on December 30, 2014, but made public on Monday, the letter acknowledges the existence of legislative loopholes allowing future administrations to reauthorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Although Feinstein urges stronger oversight of CIA programs and holding intelligence officials accountable, the GOP-led Senate is unlikely to enact her proposals.

Releasing the heavily redacted Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed several acts of abuse and torture committed by the CIA during the incessant war on terror. According to the Committee, the CIA lied to Congress, the National Security Council, the Justice Department, and the American public about the severity of human rights violations and the effectiveness of information gathered through enhanced interrogations. The Committee also accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the questionable backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats against detainees’ family members, and reliability of information obtained through torture.

According to her letter to the president, Sen. Feinstein recommends closing all torture loopholes buried within the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the U.S. Army Field Manuel, and Executive Order 13491. She notes that the Office of Legal Counsel interpreted the Detainee Treatment Act to allow the CIA to use coercive and abusive interrogation techniques. Intelligence community personnel are not limited to conducting only the interrogation techniques listed in the U.S. Army Field Manuel. And although Obama’s Executive Order 13491 revokes Bush’s Executive Order 13440, a future president could just as easily revoke Obama’s order ensuring lawful interrogations.

Feinstein also recommends requiring the U.S. government to notify the Red Cross and provide timely access to captured detainees. According to the report, CIA officer Matthew Zirbel left black site detainee Gul Rahman beaten and half-naked from the waist down in an unheated cell overnight while shackled to a wall in November 2002. Rahman was found dead of hypothermia the next day. In a case of mistaken identity, German citizen Khalid El-Masri endured months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories before being released without charges.

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Senate Torture Report Ignores CIA’s Most Brutal Crimes

Originally published on December 10, 2014, at NationofChange.org

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a scathing report condemning some of the abuses and torture committed by the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program, but failed to expose the CIA’s most heinous human rights violations. According to the report, the CIA lied to the Committee regarding prisoners’ deaths, the backgrounds of CIA interrogators, threats to detainees’ family members, and the effectiveness of torture.

On November 9, 2005, CIA Director of National Clandestine Service Jose Rodriguez, Jr. authorized the burning of 92 videotapes depicting the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and ’Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. In response to the destruction of those tapes, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to review the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program on March 5, 2009. With access to over six million pages of CIA documents, the Committee merely provided a superficial summary without bothering to interview any participants or victims of the RDI program.

Following the tragic events of 9/11, the Justice Department constructed a series of legal memos authorizing the Bush administration’s use of torture against enemy combatants. In 2002 and 2003, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo authored the torture memos, which were signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. The Authorization for Use of Military Force, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and Executive Order 13440 became legal justifications for the utilization of enhanced interrogation techniques and a total disregard for the Geneva Conventions.

Under pseudonyms within the heavily redacted report, two retired Air Force psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, received contracts to develop the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. They decided to reverse-engineer the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) counter-interrogation training by inflicting both physical and psychological torture upon detainees. According to the report, they personally participated in waterboarding and interrogating prisoners.

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