Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Report: U.S. Torture Sought Proof of Iraq, Al Quaida Link

Not surprisingly, as the facts emerge on the American deployment of "harsh interrogation methods," the Bush Administration's rationale for the use of such tactics appears increasingly thin.

According to a McClatchy News article today, a primary objective of waterboarding and other violent methods of interrogation was the pursuit of evidence of an operational link between Saddam Hussein's deposed regime and the Al Quaida terrorist organization.

The article by writer Jonathan S. Landay, based on interviews with a "former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist," includes allegations that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld "relentlessly" pressured interrogators to use such tactics to secure proof of this elusive connection, in spite of apparent consensus within the intelligence community that such a link did not exist.

Certain detainees, as a result, may have been repeatedly tortured by their U.S. captors upon truthfully denying knowledge of such a connection.

According to Mr. Landay's article:

...A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration... Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

..."Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information..."

This is getting uglier by the day.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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