The Torture Report, Agent Connolly, Courageous CIA, Cowardly FBI

(1) walking awayTorture became our policy. It was authorized from the highest levels of our Government. Members of our legal establishment justified it. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had no problem with it. A DOJ member John Durham would investigate the torture done by the CIA and others. He would find nothing that was done wrong to justify bringing criminal charges even though his investigation did not include interviewing any of the people who were tortured.

Wait a minute, John Durham, isn’t he the one who prosecuted John Connolly. Yes, it is the same man. So what’s going on you might ask?

The reason why you would ask that is obvious if you have been following my writings on the Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program set up by the FBI. John Connolly was prosecuted and demonized for things he did pursuant to the mandates of that program; the CIA agents who did much worse things were let go scot-free because they were acting pursuant to the mandates of their torture program. How can it be that the DOJ went after Connolly, the only agent ever prosecuted and convicted for having worked with TEI under that program, and let the CIA agents walk. You can’t say that one part of the DOJ didn’t know what the other part was doing for the same man was involved in both instances.

The Senate Report on the torture program has just come out but from the headlines it appears that our CIA were nothing more than a group of agents gone wild. It is clear many crimes were committed over many years which were sanctioned by the highest levels of our government. Yet nothing will be done about it.

I analogize Connolly’s actions to those of a Marine sniper and I recognize the analogy is strained; however, it does work out fine when doing it to the CIA agents who are civilian employees and who were not in combat situations.  Some may suggest the war on Terror was different from the war against the Mafia. We think that now but back at the time the FBI instituted the TEI program the Mafia was perceived as a major threat to our country.

What then is crucial difference between Connolly and the CIA agent who operated pursuant to programs instituted and approved at the highest levels of government? It seems to be that those who put the CIA agents out to do the dirty work had their backs while the FBI ran and hid. One report noted: “The CIA immediately hit back at the report, saying in a statement that the program was “effective” and substantially helped its understanding of al Qaeda’s tactical operations . . . .“ What did the FBI do to support Connolly’s operating in its program. It walked away from him and assisted in his prosecution. It did not want to be embarrassed.

President George W. Bush came out yesterday and said: “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf. These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.” He went on to say that they are “really good people and we’re lucky as a nation to have them.”

The FBI came out with statements like that of the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston FBI office that the Bulger case is “very, very unusual. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like this before, and we would be irresponsible if we didn’t take a closer look at what we’re doing.” It wasn’t unusual. It was being done in every office in the country. Rather than justifying its action, the FBI went into pretend mode to cover up its evil TEI program rather than giving credit to all the special agents who it put in harm’s way.

Like the CIA the FBI created a program of questionable legality; unlike the CIA when the first repercussions of having done that were felt it ran rather than defending its men. It is still running. Agent Connolly is still in prison for having operated in the program the FBI created. Agent Connolly has been in prison longer than many who have been sent to Guantanamo prison because the FBI didn’t have his back. If the DOJ and FBI have their way he will die there.

12 thoughts on “The Torture Report, Agent Connolly, Courageous CIA, Cowardly FBI

  1. Matt,

    On the point that the higher ups avoid responsibility and the hammer comes down on the lower-level scapegoats, note that both Bush and Cheney have both criticized the Senate report’s finding that the White House was deceived and that much of the implementation of EITs were not authorized. Bush and Cheney are standing tall and not throwing the CIA under the bus.

    I do not know Cheney and have no real stake in trying to defend him, and in fact can find areas where I disagree with him such as his past opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, but I have always admired Cheney for his steadfastness in the face of so much unwarranted vilification directed at him, especially since I am of the view that the counter-terror policies developed by the Bush administration were by and large good policies that kept America safe (which is not to say they were perfect). Cheney has proved a good example of a man who stands firm in the face of unruly and misguided public opinion.

  2. Matt,

    A couple of thoughts on this very partisan “torture” report:

    1. One should keep in mind Marc Thiessen’s review at WaPo (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-waterboardings-role-in-identifying-a-terrorist/2014/12/08/40bc2578-7ee2-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html) of the case of Adnan Shukrijumah, a member of Al Qaeda’s external operations council until he allegedly was killed this past weekend in a Pakistani military raid in the Shin Warsak area of South Waziristan. Mr. Shukrijumah trained in an Al Qaeda camp in Kandahar pre-9/11 and was identified as Jafar al-Tayyar (i.e. Jafar the pilot) by Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed during CIA interrogations. He trained with Jose Padilla and was involved in plots such as an attempt to bring down a high rise building. Mr Shukrijumah was also involved in the 2008 plot to bomb NYC subway trains. It turns out that the enhanced interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed were critical to being able to identify that Mr Shukrijumah was Jafar the pilot and led to the FBI’s
    first “be on the lookout” report on him. None of this is to make the
    oversimplified sloganeering claim that the end justifies the means or torture saved lives, but rather to say that enhanced interrogation (sleep deprivation, forced nudity, etc) probably was a critical input to identifying a real threat to our national security and almost certainly were not completely ineffective. However, it is certainly true that it was not the only input, as intelligence collection is always a complex piecing together of lots of disparate information, and the question of whether we could have gotten the information without use of EITs is still worth asking.

    2. Here’s more on the results of interrogation from a report by Tom Joscelyn in 2009 ( http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/…/The%20Most…):

    “On March 1, 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the principal planner of the September 11 attacks, was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. U.S.
    interrogators quickly went about the business of getting him to talk,
    and for good reasons. KSM’s operatives were already here, inside
    America, planning attacks.

    Shortly after KSM was detained, an Ohio-based truck driver named
    Iyman Faris was arrested by the FBI. Faris had reportedly been under
    suspicion beforehand, but U.S. authorities suddenly determined that they
    had to arrest him. It turned out that Faris, an al Qaeda-trained
    sleeper agent, had been dispatched to the United States by KSM to plot
    attacks on landmarks in the New York area, including the Brooklyn
    Bridge.

    Then, in late March, a young Pakistani man named Uzair Paracha was
    arrested. He had been working out of an office in Manhattan’s Garment
    District for a company owned by his father, Saifullah Paracha. KSM
    wanted Uzair to facilitate the entry of al Qaeda operatives and use the
    Parachas’ import-export business to smuggle explosives into the United
    States.

    Until this past week, it was not clear how U.S. authorities pieced
    together the details of this plotting so soon after KSM was captured.
    But the inspector general’s report on the CIA’s detainee interrogation
    program and two other CIA analytical papers–all three of which were
    released on August 24–fill in the blanks. It is clear now, if it wasn’t
    before, that the CIA’s questioning of KSM saved numerous lives, both
    here and abroad. The inspector general found that KSM “provided
    information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists including
    Saifullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, businessmen whom [KSM]
    planned to use to smuggle explosives into the United States.” His
    “information also led to the investigation and prosecution of Iyman
    Faris.” KSM would become the “most prolific” detainee in the CIA’s
    custody, giving up fellow terrorists and the details of plots around the
    globe.

    The mainstream media and the left are heavily invested in the notion that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program was not only immoral and
    illegal, but also of dubious efficacy. It has long been assumed that the
    harshest interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were at
    best poor interrogation tradecraft. The inspector general’s report,
    which was written as an indictment of these practices, not as a defense,
    challenges that received wisdom.

    In particular, the inspector general found that KSM was “an
    accomplished resistor” who “provided only a few intelligence reports
    prior to the use of the waterboard,” and much of his information was
    “outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete.” KSM did talk about al Qaeda’s
    desire to strike Heathrow Airport in London. But, as the CIA noted, KSM
    had good reason to believe that the Heathrow plot had already been
    compromised.

    In September 2002, KSM’s co-conspirator, Ramzi Binalshibh, had been
    arrested in Pakistan. Binalshibh was the point man for the Heathrow
    plot, just as he was for the September 11 operation. Press accounts
    written shortly after Binalshibh’s capture, and prior to KSM’s, noted
    that Binalshibh was cooperating with authorities and had told them about
    al Qaeda’s desire to hijack a plane to use in an attack on Heathrow. So
    KSM would have thought he was not giving up much, if anything, by
    discussing the Heathrow plot. Even so, the CIA found that KSM was
    concealing certain aspects of the Heathrow plot from his interrogators.
    Soon, however, KSM became the CIA’s most-important source of
    information. He provided details of al Qaeda’s history, including
    aborted or stalled plots, and important context for understanding of how
    the terror network operated. The agency filled in many of the gaps in
    its knowledge in this regard. But Langley’s men were primarily
    interested in stopping the next attack and saving lives, and in that
    regard the interrogations were an unequivocal success.

    In its July 13, 2004, analysis titled “Khalid Shaykh Muhammad: Preeminent Source on Al-Qa’ida,” the CIA concluded (emphasis added):

    It will take years to determine definitively all the plots in which
    KSM was involved and of which he was aware, but our extensive
    debriefings of various KSM lieutenants since early 2003 suggest that he
    has divulged at least the broad outlines of his network’s most
    significant plots against the United States and elsewhere in his role as
    al Qaeda’s chief of operations outside of Afghanistan.

    The Parachas and Faris were not the only terrorists KSM gave up.
    Majid Khan was arrested just a few days after KSM in Pakistan. During
    questioning, KSM said that Khan had given $50,000 to the associates of
    an al Qaeda operative named Hambali in Southeast Asia. Khan was
    questioned about KSM’s admission and revealed that he had given the
    money to a man named Zubair. Khan described Zubair’s physical appearance
    and gave interrogators his contact number. “Based on that information,”
    the CIA’s analysts noted, “Zubair was captured in June 2003.”

    Zubair then gave his interrogators information about another Hambali
    associate named Lillie. Both Lillie and Zubair were at one point slated
    to take part in a suicide hijacking attack on America’s West Coast.
    Lillie was captured and then, in turn, provided information that led to
    the arrest of Hambali in August 2003. Within a few short months, KSM’s
    admission led to an entire network of al Qaeda operatives being
    arrested–the story was laid out in detail by the CIA in a 2005 report
    titled “Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al Qaeda.” The
    importance of Hambali’s arrest cannot be overstated. He was the chief of
    Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda affiliate that was at the heart of the
    terror network’s plotting against the United States. He was also the
    mastermind of the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people
    and wounded 240 more, as well as several other lethal attacks.
    After Hambali was arrested, KSM identified Hambali’s brother, ‘Abd
    al-Hadi (aka “Gun Gun Rusman Gunawan”), as his likely successor. During
    debriefings, Hambali “unwittingly” gave up information that let
    authorities pinpoint his brother’s whereabouts. Gun Gun was arrested in
    short order, and, in September 2003, Gun Gun told authorities that his
    brother, Hambali, had dispatched a cell of operatives to Karachi for
    further training. Fourteen of the cell’s members were quickly located
    and arrested. According to the CIA’s -analysis, Hambali told authorities
    that he “was grooming members of the cell for U.S. operations–at the
    behest of KSM–probably as part of KSM’s plot to fly hijacked planes
    into the tallest building on the US West Coast.”

    That’s not all that is detailed in the CIA reports. Several months prior to KSM’s capture, Malaysian authorities arrested an al Qaeda agent named Yazid Sufaat. At the time, authorities did not know the full scope of Sufaat’s role in al Qaeda. According to the CIA, however, KSM wrongly deduced that his adversaries already knew that Sufaat was al Qaeda’s chief anthrax scientist and unwittingly divulged details about
    al Qaeda’s anthrax program, including that there were three individuals
    responsible for running it. When confronted with this intelligence,
    Sufaat gave authorities “fragmentary” information about his two
    associates, “[b]ut it was ultimately the information provided by KSM
    that led to the capture of Yazid’s two principal assistants in the
    anthrax program,” the CIA concluded.

    With the release of the inspector general’s report and other
    supporting documents, the American media have seized upon every hint of
    rough treatment. That KSM was subjected to “183 applications of the
    waterboard in March 2003,” for example, has been repeated over and over
    again. (The number of applications refers to the number of times water
    was actually poured on KSM’s face.) The fact that KSM gave up
    intelligence that led to the arrests of al Qaeda operatives that same
    month, while they were plotting attacks on American soil, has received
    far less attention. That KSM’s interrogations led to the arrest of more
    than a dozen other al Qaeda operatives slated to take part in future
    attacks within just a few short months of his capture has also received
    scant notice.”

    3. There was an interesting article by Marc Thiessen a few years ago about a meeting Thiessen had with CIA interrogators in 2006 in which the CIA interrogators described the difference between interrogation and de-briefing. As the files
    on Guantanamo detainees reveal in great detail, the intelligence
    gathered in Guantanamo over the years has been extremely valuable, not
    simply information on pending attacks, but also information on the
    building blocks of the terror network – travel routes, guesthouses,
    recruiters, training, and more. Many on the left argue that such
    information is worthless because it is based on “torture” when in fact
    it is based on piecing together information from interrogations and
    cross-checking with differents kinds of information such as computer
    databases from safehouse raids or information gained from foreign
    intelligence agencies. But Thiessen’s article also points out that
    enhanced interrogation techniques, or “torture” as the left says, was
    not used to gain information, but to break down resistance and gain
    cooperation. Only in subsequent de-briefings did interrogators seek to
    find out what a detainee knew.

    It might be objected that de-briefing still entailed a measure of coercion, because the memory of enhanced interrogation presumably makes a detainee believe that
    de-briefing will resort back to enhanced interrogation if he resists and
    stops talking. Thus, the threat of enhanced interrogation means that de-briefing still amounts to interrogation under duress.

    However, the article by Thiessen contains an interesting nugget about the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah:

    “Indeed, the first terrorist to be subjected to enhanced techniques, Zubaydah,
    told his interrogators something stunning. According to the Justice
    Department memos released by the Obama administration, Zubaydah
    explained that “brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted
    by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the
    limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and
    physical hardship.” In other words, the terrorists are called by their
    religious ideology to resist as far as they can — and once they have
    done so, they are free to tell everything they know.

    Several senior officials told me that, after undergoing waterboarding, Zubaydah
    actually thanked his interrogators and said, “You must do this for all
    the brothers.” The enhanced interrogation techniques were a relief for
    Zubaydah, they said, because they lifted a moral burden from his
    shoulders — the responsibility to continue resisting.

    The importance of this revelation cannot be overstated: Zubaydah had given
    the CIA the secret code for breaking al-Qaeda detainees. CIA officials
    now understood that the job of the interrogator was to give the captured
    terrorist something to resist, so he could do his duty to Allah and
    then feel liberated to speak. So they developed techniques that would
    allow terrorists to resist safely, without any lasting harm. Indeed,
    they specifically designed techniques to give the terrorists the false
    perception that what they were enduring was far worse than what was
    actually taking place.”

    The article then proceeds to delineate a number of plots that were disrupted. But the point is that Zubaydah himself described the effect of enhanced interrogation as
    releasing him from a duty to resist, thus providing a kind of validation
    of the accuracy of any statements made under de-briefing.

    So please note that EITs, or “torture”, was not itself used to gain information (i.e. debriefing). It was used to break down resistance.

    1. Jon:

      You and others argue well for the effectiveness of torture. I just don’t think Americans should be doing it.

  3. Matt,
    For the sake of argument, what if FBI agent TEI handlers were protected by FBI, but, those who continued to act with those TEI recruits after they resigned from FBI service lost that protection? My information says that former Agent Connolly did just that.

    1. Jean:

      Good question. When we look at Connolly’s interactions with his TEIs we do have to break it down into two parts; the time when he was with the FBI when he was working pursuant to the FBI program; and the time afterward when he no longer could say he had its cover.

      When he was indicted by the feds in Boston he was indicted for what he during both periods. The feds were able to get around the statute of limitations a bogus story but that’s for another day. He was convicted for one act while an FBI agent which was giving Morris a cas(e of wine with a 1,000 in it. He was convicted of several acts which occurred after he left the FBI.

      The one thing he was convicted of while an agent that was egregious was the Florida murder conviction for what he did there clearly came within the concept of the TEI program. After he left the FBI he lost the protection of the TEI program. I’ve never had any problem with those convictions for the most part other than those for telling the gangsters of the indictment which I don’t believe he did.

      I do think that he continued to try to assist his TEIs after he left the FBI tells much of his relationship to them. I’d expect an FBI agent who worked with TEIs to leave them behind when he retired. That Connolly continued to associate with them indicates he was closer to them than perhaps he should have been.

      1. Maybe Agent Connolly was already off the reservation while he was on duty? From all we have learned the rules for handling TEIs were a nod and a wink in the best of circumstances…I am concerned that we still don’t know what the stimulus was that caused the veil of protection to be lifted from Whitey and Connolly? If it was? We know their actions were not unique to the TEI program……Clearly, Whitey had been living from all reports in plain sight for 16 years..and even going to Boston related sports bars where he was recognized and from time to time reported..why all of a sudden an arrest? And, why are they both now in FLA? And still no Reply to Whiteys Appeal? Until there is an official report the public cannot guess. And, if Mr Fixer is writing the Report JQ Public will never know. And so it goes…where is the public integrity unit in all of this? Or is that an oxymoron?

  4. What is the difference between the outrageous treatment of John Connolly and the “torture” report’s treatment of the CIA agents – each doing the job they were instructed to do by their superiors???

    1. Clarence:

      The basic difference is no one in the CIA will be prosecuted for carrying out the government’s program while Connolly was prosecuted (the only one) for doing the same thing. That happened because guys like President Bush and the CIA leadership have stayed true to them knowing they were operating for what was perceived as the good of America. Some perhaps went over the line but those of the highest levels didn’t throw them to the wolves.

      Connolly received no backing from the FBI. The opposite happened. They were more concerned with hiding their program by pretending it didn’t exist or Connolly was a rogue agent rather than admitting the program under which Connolly operated was a bona fide FBI program and he was doing what he was supposed to be doing.

      Basically when the enemy opened fire and the CIA agents were stuck in a foxhole the CIA had their backs and did all it could to protect them; when the FBI found its agent in the foxhole it skidaddled. What I don’t understand is the lack of outrage by other FBI agents all of who knew that Connolly was doing what he should have been doing. I can only explain it by suggesting that to get to the top of the FBI one must be somewhat effete and be afraid of doing anything wrong. When trouble comes up their tendency is to run rather than to stay and fight. You wouldn’t want any of them in the same foxhole with you.

  5. Let’s try to keep things in perspective. There is a difference of opinion on what is and is not torture. But there cannot be any confusion about the fact that these tactics were used against a handful (3 or 4) of mass murderers responsible for killing thousands of Americans and other innocent people, and planning to kill thousands more. The release of this so-called “torture” report is a disgrace, putting at risk many of our soldiers, diplomats, and other citizens who will surely face retaliation from the savage enemies of freedom and the West. Obama, Feinstein and their ilk are nothing more than sanctimonious America-haters pointing the finger of blame at those who risk their lives to protect the American people. How shameful !!!

    1. Clarence:

      You apparently agree with Professor Dershowitz that there are some instances when torture can be used. I don’t. I like to think the in America we have a bright line between how we can treat people and how not; there must be that or else everything if permissible.

      I’m not sure I agree with you that the report is a disgrace but I do agree that the way it was written seems not to have been for the purpose of figuring out whether there are better ways of doing things and making recommendations rather than as a general attack on the CIA. The Wall Street Journal had an article today by three of the top people involved in the CIA program and none of them were interviewed by the Senate which tells me that that there was no desire to come up with an objective report.
      I don’t think anyone is put at risk because those who would do harm to us already believe we do things that are much worse than anything contained in the report. Those savage enemies don’t need the report as an excuse as we have already seen.
      You do point to a problem that I’ve seen often that after the trouble goes away there are too many people who want to act as if the trouble never was around. Yes, there were guys and gals who took great risks for America that are quickly forgotten; although, what seems to happen is that if someone is to take a fall it is those on the lowest level of the government. I don’t think Obama or Feinstein or those who support the report hate America, they just want to pretend that they didn’t know what was happening nor that they benefited from it. I guess they want to fight the enemy using the clean hands doctrine; it’s good they weren’t around in WWII with the Marines on those islands telling them to be more friendly to that bold enemy or we’d still be fighting them.

    1. Henry:

      I saw that but apparently the “bad person” who was leaking things to the IRA was not an agent but a secretary in the FBI. The two lads who were overheard talking probably had a little too much poitin and were probably talking through their hats. Anyway, the FBI informant had to come up with something to earn his pay.

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