Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday March 30, 2007
It's right that the government and media should be concerned about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in Iran. Faye Turney's letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning.
But the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.
Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab", as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.
They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly "rendered" to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.
As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being "worked hard", the euphemism coined by one senior British army officer for the abuse of prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know all 15 are alive and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a court martial and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa's murder.
So we can only assume that his death - by beating - was self-inflicted; yet another instance of "asymmetrical warfare", the description given by US authorities to the deaths of the Guantánamo detainees who hanged themselves last year.
And while the families of the captured marines and sailors must be in agonies of uncertainty, they have the comfort of knowing that the very highest in the land are doing everything they can to end their "unjustified detention".
They can count themselves especially lucky, for the very same highest of the land have rather different views on what justifies detention where foreign-born Muslims in Britain are concerned. In the case, for example, of the Belmarsh detainees, suspicion justified arrest; statements extracted under torture from third parties justified accusation; and secret hearings justified imprisonment.
With disregard for the rights of prisoners now entrenched at the very top of government, it comes as no surprise that abuses committed by rank and file soldiers go virtually unremarked. No one in politics or the media dares censure the military, surely today the only institution still immune from any sort of criticism, even when soldiers are brutal and murderous towards captives.
Instead of frankly facing up to the wrongs soldiers have perpetrated, officers and ministers speak of difficult work done in testing conditions, deliberate provocations, and propaganda by the enemy.
We all know in our bones that soldiers and civilians in revolt don't mix. Ask any historian. Ask them about what British soldiers did in Kenya, French soldiers did in Algeria, and Americans in Vietnam. While you're at it, ask them what the RAF did in Iraq under British rule in the 1920s (gassed Kurds, in case you've forgotten).
We must all hope that Faye Turney and her comrades are returned to their families safely and soon. Then perhaps we can compare their accounts of their treatment with what Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three have to say about Guantánamo, what Prisoner B has to say about Belmarsh, and what the men arrested with Baha Mousa can tell us of his screams on the night he died.
· Ronan Bennett's latest novel, Zugzwang, is published by Bloomsbury in July
Friday, Mar. 30, 2007
The soldiers who were there still talk about the September 7 firefight on the Iran-Iraq border in whispers. At Forward Operating Base Warhorse, the main U.S. military outpost in Iraq's eastern Diyala Province bordering Iran, U.S. troops recount events reluctantly, offering details only on condition that they remain nameless.
Everyone seems to sense the possible consequences of revealing that a clash between U.S. and Iranian forces had turned deadly.
And although the Pentagon has acknowledged that a firefight took place, it says it cannot say anything more.
"For that level of detail, you're going to have to ask the [U.S.] military in Baghdad," says Army Lieut. Col. Mark Ballesteros. "We don't know anything about it."
A short Army press release issued on the day of the skirmish offered the following information:
U.S. soldiers from the 5th Squadron 73rd Cavalry 82nd Airborne were accompanying Iraqi forces on a routine joint patrol along the border with Iran, about 75 miles east of Baghdad, when they spotted two Iranian soldiers retreating from Iraqi territory back into Iran.
A moment later, U.S. and Iraqi forces came upon a third Iranian soldier on the Iraqi side of the border, who stood his ground. As U.S. and Iraqi soldiers approached the Iranian officer and began speaking with him, a platoon of Iranian soldiers appeared and moved to surround the coalition patrol, taking up positions on high ground.
At that point, according to the Army's statement, the Iranian captain told the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers that if they tried to leave they would be fired on. Fearing abduction by the Iranians, U.S. troops moved to go anyway, and fighting broke out.
Army officials say the Iranian troops fired first with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and that U.S. troops fell further back into Iraqi territory, while four Iraqi army soldiers, one interpreter and one Iraqi border guard remained in the hands of the Iranians.
The official release says there were no casualties among the Americans, and makes no mention of any on the Iranian side. U.S. soldiers present at the firefight, however, tell TIME that American forces killed at least one Iranian soldier who had been aiming a rocket-propelled grenade at their convoy of Humvees.
The revelation comes amid rising tensions over the past week since Iran captured 15 British Navy personnel in waters between Iran and Iraq. Analysts have suggested that some Iranian officials have argued against speedily returning the Brits, preferring to use them as a bargaining chip in Tehran's efforts to free five of its own officials captured by the U.S. in Erbil earlier this year. News that an Iranian soldier had been killed in a clash with American forces would do little to ease those tensions.
In the months after the incident, U.S. forces have kept up joint patrols on the Iran-Iraq border, where their movements are closely monitored by Iranian outposts.
Increasingly, however, U.S. troops stationed in Diyala Province are moving to help counter-insurgency efforts in the Baqubah area, leaving a thinner American presence at the border.
On some days, says Lt. Col. Ronald Ward, the U.S. commander tasked with helping Iraqi units maintain border security in the area, no U.S. troops appear there at all.
Is a U.S.-Iran War Inevitable?
Many Iranians and others in the Gulf think so, says Robert Baer, and Washington is doing little to allay those fears
Mar 30, 2007 : 12:02 am
ET DURHAM -- In the remaining 20 months of the Bush administration, America's leaders have to avoid the sort of "spontaneous combustion" that could produce a disastrous escalation of the country's Middle East military conflicts, a former national security adviser said at Duke University on Wednesday.
..."If the war is enlarged in the next 20 months to include Iran -- if that happens -- for the next 20 years the United States is going to be bogged down in a war which spans Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then you can forget about American global leadership," he said.
...The former Carter adviser made it clear he thought the country's three most recent presidents had handled things "badly."
But Brzezinski reserved his harshest criticism for the current president, George W. Bush, saying he'd helped cultivate "a self-paralyzing culture of fear" after the Sept. 11 attacks, squandered the government's credibility and fed anti-Americanism in many parts of the world by failing to recognize "it is absolutely futile for the United States to be waging what is in essence a colonial war in a post-colonial age."
In response to a question, Brzezinski compared Bush's post-Sept. 11 leadership unfavorably to President Dwight Eisenhower's calming influence at the height of the Cold War. "Both he and [President John F.] Kennedy infused confidence in America," Brzezinski said.
"I would have thought that's what presidents are for. Today the opposite is the case, and that I find very, very troubling because I think that weakens us and makes us more susceptible. In fact, I think it increases the temptation to commit terrorist acts in America. The case for a little more maturity and a little more responsibility is very strong."
...Brzezinski's prescriptions for the Middle East included an effort to tamp down the present confrontation between Britain and Iran over Iran's seizure last week of 15 British sailors.
He said it's "quite conceivable" both sides are in the wrong, and maintained that they should back off and let an "international study" assign blame.
As for Iraq, he argued that a "jointly set date of departure" for U.S. forces, agreed to by the American and Iraqi governments, would put pressure on Iraq's various factions to reach an accommodation. U.S. diplomats should also try to pull Iraq's neighbors into a discussion about that country's security, as they all would be harmed if the situation there explodes.
Brzezinski said there's no reason to think a bloodbath would necessarily follow a U.S. withdrawal.
"We expected that the U.S. leaving Vietnam would result in massive killings and genocide and so forth, and collapse of the dominoes in Southeast Asia," he said.
"It didn't happen. How certain are we of the horror scenarios that have been mentioned in what will take place in Iraq?"
...As for the broader issue of terrorism, Brzezinski counseled a case-by-case attack on al-Qaida and similar groups, in cooperation with many other countries, rather than trying to spread democracy abroad with bayonets and stoke the sort of fear at home that's led to intrusive security measures in every major building in New York and Washington.
"Since 9/11, which killed 3,000 Americans, 200,000 Americans have died violently -- in car accidents," Brzezinski said.
"We accept that as a necessary aspect of our way of life. But I'm sad to say that perhaps terrorism may be a necessary aspect of our way for life for some time to come. It shouldn't affect the totality of the national culture."
Described by the New York Times as "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain", Fisk has over thirty years of experience in international reporting, dating from 1970s Belfast and Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution, the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, and encompassing the 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, 1991 Persian Gulf War, 2002 Invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 Invasion and subsequent Occupation of Iraq.
Fisk has received Amnesty International UK Press Awards in 1998 for his reports from Algeria and again in 2000 for his articles on NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.
He received the British Press Awards' International Journalist of the Year seven times, and twice won its "Reporter of the Year" award.
In addition to his reporting, he has authored several books including:
1. "Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War."
2. "In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality."
3. And most recently "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East."
The Conquest of The Middle East
It was another time, but, the same place, where the land of Iraq was targeted for "liberation" and plunder by Western powers.
That was in 1917, when the British Empire captured Baghdad from the Turkish Army.
It is evident that the British & French, had planned the attack on the Iraq, and the theft of its oil, as early as 1916.
The same old story was presented to the Iraqi people: "we come to liberate you!"
Soon after, the Iraqi's saw through the charade and rightly concluded that the West came to "liberate" their oil from their rightful owners.
Then, as in know, a strong national resistance was born, which subsequently forced the British to withdraw from Iraqi occupied terrritory.
The British conquest of Baghdad and subsequent deal for oil is presented from our new DVD, "Blood and Oil - the Middle East in World War I."
The past resonates dramatically in the war in Iraq today. Produced by Marty Callaghan and distributed by Inecom. Interviews with David Fromkin, Edward J. Erickson and David R. Woodard.
Inecom Entertainment CompanyMore information on this DVD at: www.BloodAndOil.com
Foxman & Crew Pressured Media To Suppress Israeli 9-11 Connection
By Mark Glenn
“What are you doing putting this stuff out there? You’re killing us!”
These were the words of Abraham Foxman, executive director of the infamous Anti-Defamation League, considered by many in the know to be nothing more than a domestic branch of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad.
According to an explosive piece recently appearing in the online edition of Counterpunch, Foxman shouted this during a sit-down he demanded to have with an unnamed Fox News executive shortly after Sept. 11.
The “stuff ” that was causing Foxman so much indigestion that day was a damning, four-part investigative series Fox News had been airing after Sept. 11 dealing with the arrests of several hundred Israeli nationals as well as some of the incriminating circumstances surrounding their activities in the United States.
In particular, it was the story dealing with one group, known to investigators and journalists as the “high fivers,” who, according to an arrest report by the Bergen County Police Department, were “seen by New Jersey residents on Sept. 11 making fun of the World Trade Center ruins and going to extreme lengths to photograph themselves in front of the wreckage.”
The same police report also indicated that “maps of the city with certain places highlighted” were found in their vehicle, giving all of it the appearance that “they’re hooked in with this” and that “they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.”
Since then, Cameron’s reports have been removed by the network from its archives on the Internet.
However, the series can still be viewed on web sites around the world.These men—along with many others arrested around the country after 9-11—were held by U.S. authorities for several months for questioning before being quietly sent back to Israel.
What these investigations revealed was that the young Israeli nationals were all intelligence officers working for Mossad, a fact later admitted by Israel and proved by the comments of one of these men in a radio interview he gave after his return home.
“We were sent to document the event,” said one of the Israelis.
What is of particular importance in this development, however, was the role that pro-Israel pressure groups—in this case the ADL, AIPAC and the misnamed Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)—played in the cover-up of the role Israel played in the mass murder of not just the 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, but the 3,000+ American servicemen and 700,000 Iraqis subsequently killed in Iraq as well.
In a personal interview with American Free Press, the writer of the report in Counterpunch, Christopher Ketchum, indicated that Foxman just didn’t call upon Fox News. Every major media outlet in America received a visit from the head of the ADL.
In addition to Foxman inserting his largesse personally, executives at the highest levels of the various networks were also inundated with phone calls, letters and emails so numerous that they caused the computer networks to crash.
Of equal importance is the fact that according to the several intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies who were contacted, various members of the most powerful Jewish groups in the country visited the White House and petitioned officials at the highest levels to close down all investigations of the Israeli spies.
It is important to remember that the official position of these various Jewish groups has been that the stories circulating on the internet alleging Israeli foreknowledge of 9-11 have been nothing more than an “old canard” dreamt up by anti-Semites and Israel-haters and that there was never any evidence to suggest that such foreknowledge existed.
Had Americans been made aware of the arrests of hundreds of Israeli intelligence officers in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding them, it is unlikely—even as propagandized as they are concerning the Middle East—that they would have signed on to sending their sons and daughters off to fight and die for Israel in Iraq.
Cover-ups are part of the dirty business of the Israeli lobby. Whether it involves the murderous attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces in 1967, Israeli foreknowledge of Sept. 11, the attempt to secure the release of major spy Jonathan Pollard or the efforts to gain an acquittal for the two AIPAC executives now standing trial for espionage, the conclusion to which all Americans must arrive is that Israel and her various tentacles collectively make up the most dangerous enemy the United States has ever faced.
A former schoolteacher fluent in several languages, Mark Glenn spoke at the AFP-TBR conference on the Middle East panel. He is a prolific writer whose provocative essays have been published worldwide. He and his wife Vicki and their eight children maintain a ranch in northern Idaho. His book, No Beauty in the Beast, can be ordered from TBR BOOK CLUB (1-877-773-9077) for $28 ppd.
(Issue #14, April 2, 2007)
Not Copyrighted. Readers can reprint and are free to redistribute - as long as full credit is given to American Free Press - 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20003
By Haya El Nasser,
The Census Bureau turned over confidential information including names and addresses to help the Justice Department, Secret Service and other agencies identify Japanese-Americans during World War II, according to government documents released today.
Documents found by two historians in Commerce Department archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library confirm for the first time that the bureau shared details about individual Japanese-Americans after Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Census Bureau played a role in the confinement of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were rounded up and held in internment camps, many until the war ended in 1945. In 1942, the Census turned over general statistics about where Japanese-Americans lived to the War Department. It was acting legally under the Second War Powers Act, which allowed the sharing of information for national security.
The newly released documents show that in 1943, the Census complied with a request by the Treasury Department to turn over names of individuals of Japanese ancestry in the Washington, D.C., area because of an unspecified threat against President Franklin Roosevelt. The list contained names, addresses and data on the age, sex, citizenship status and occupation of Japanese-Americans in the area.
"The issue is how ethical is it to use the Census to target people," says William Seltzer, a statistician at Fordham University in New York who co-wrote the report with Margo Anderson, professor of history and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sharing the information was not illegal, he says, but "it was ethically questionable."
Disclosure Was Legal
The Census Bureau's role in helping the government ferret out Japanese-Americans during the war has been documented in previous research by Seltzer and Anderson and others. But today's report marks the first time that documents have been uncovered indicating that the agency released actual names.
The Census Bureau has consistently denied releasing such names probably because, over time, most officials there didn't know it had happened, Seltzer says.
The agency has "not had the opportunity to review" today's report, says Christa Jones, chief of Census' policy office. "The disclosure of the names was legal at that time," Jones says. "One of the most important things for us is to remind everyone that the law is very different today."
Census activities during World War II "obviously go against their own mandate for confidentiality," says Terry Ao, director of census and voting programs at the Asian American Justice Center, a civil rights group.
"Actions such as this have the potential of having a very serious detrimental impact on the ability of the Census Bureau to collect data that we need. The most important thing about this would be that the (agency) today understands it has no authority to conduct such activity. They do take their legal obligations for confidentiality very seriously. "
The Census every 10 years asks Americans to fill out detailed questionnaires that probe everything from their income and household relationships to occupation, race and ethnicity. The information is used to allocate federal funds and congressional seats, draw political districts, track changes in family size and plan for roads and schools.
Questions About Questions
The report by Seltzer and Anderson comes as a revelation to Kenneth Prewitt, a public affairs professor at Columbia University in New York City who was Census director during the 2000 Census.
Seven years ago, Prewitt dealt with controversy over Census questionnaires. Then-Senate majority leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., urged people to skip any Census questions they felt violated their privacy. The objections were exacerbated by previous research by Seltzer and Anderson on the Census' role in the internment of Japanese-Americans.
Prewitt apologized for what the bureau had done, something no Census official had done previously. He calls the new report "a remarkable piece of historical detective work" but is saddened by the findings because the Census prides itself on keeping all information confidential.
"It is better to know than to not know," he says. "Knowing the facts will redouble the effort to assure it is not repeated."
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress approved the USA Patriot Act to give the government broad investigative powers. Since then, civil liberties groups have criticized government efforts to monitor phone calls, prepare no-fly lists and keep files on anti-war activists.
"It's a bombshell," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, says of today's disclosures. "This is such a black mark on American history that we need to make sure we never allow ourselves to engage in anything close to that kind of violation of people's constitutional rights."
An ethical issue was raised in 2004 when the Census turned over information it had collected about Arab-Americans by ZIP code but not by name. The information was already public but civil rights groups protested the agency's handing over of data to Homeland Security. The Census now puts all requests for sensitive data through a rigorous approval process and makes all special releases of data available to the public.
FIND MORE STORIES IN:
World War II
Bureau of the Census
Friday, March 30, 2007
The Long History Of British and American Covert Provocation and Action In Iran.
Friday, March 30, 2007
The US and Britain are already at war with Iran, have been at war with Iran for a number of years now and are funding anti-Iranian terrorist groups inside Iran in preparation for the fallout that will occur after overt military action is commenced.
Not my words, the words of high ranking CIA officials, Defense department officials, former UN officials and retired US air force Colonels.
Iran's state news agency, IRNA today listed five previous violations of Iranian territory by British armed forces:
- June 2004: An unmanned reconnaissance plane violated Iranian airspace in northeastern Abadan and was hit by Iranian anti-aircraft guns.
- June 22, 2004: Eight navy personnel in three speed boats entered Iranian territorial waters and were arrested by Iranian coast guards; the arrested were released after three days.
- November 1, 2006: Two helicopters, hovering at a height of 150 meters (492 feet), violated Iranian airspace for a total of 10 minutes.
- January 27, 2007: A helicopter violated Iranian airspace over the mouth of the Arvand river and left the area after a warning from Iranian coast guards.
- February 28, 2007: Three navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters in the mouth of Khor Mousa.
Can we believe Iranian state news? Is Britain and/or the US engaging in covert intelligence gathering in Iran? The answer is we don't have to believe Iranian state news because it is a well established fact that a covert intelligence war is already being waged with Iran and has been ongoing for many years now.
In an article entitled The US war with Iran has already begun, written back in June 2005, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, addressed this very issue and described how intelligence gathering, direct action and the mobilizing of indigenous opposition is all being carried out already by CIA backed US special forces.
As with Iraq, the president has paved the way for the conditioning of the American public and an all-too-compliant media to accept at face value the merits of a regime change policy regarding Iran, linking the regime of the Mullah's to an "axis of evil" (together with the newly "liberated" Iraq and North Korea), and speaking of the absolute requirement for the spread of "democracy" to the Iranian people.
But Americans, and indeed much of the rest of the world, continue to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that overt conventional military operations have not yet commenced between the United States and Iran.
As such, many hold out the false hope that an extension of the current insanity in Iraq can be postponed or prevented in the case of Iran. But this is a fool's dream.
The reality is that the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities.
The violation of a sovereign nation's airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence-gathering phase.
President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran.
Ritter goes on to describe how Iranian opposition groups, including the well known right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), once run by Saddam Hussein's dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA's Directorate of Operations, are carrying out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq.
He also describes how to the north, in neighbouring Azerbaijan, the US military is preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran.
Ritter is not alone in his assertions.
During an interview on CNN a year ago, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner claimed that U.S. military operations were already 'underway' inside Iran.
"I would say -- and this may shock some -- I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way," Col. Gardiner told CNN International anchor Jim Clancy.
"The secretary point is, the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year," Gardiner said. "I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, 'Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units.' He said, quite frankly, 'Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans,'" said the retired Air Force colonel.
The full seven minute CNN segment can be viewed below:
Around the same time that Gardiner revealed this, RAW story ran an exclusive, which also revealed that, according to counterintelligence officials, covert operations were underway that included CIA co-option and use of right wing terror groups:
“We disarmed [the MEK] of major weapons but not small arms. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was pushing to use them as a military special ops team, but policy infighting between their camp and Condi, but she was able to fight them off for a while,” said the intelligence official. According to still another intelligence source, the policy infighting ended last year when Donald Rumsfeld, under pressure from Vice President Cheney, came up with a plan to “convert” the MEK by having them simply quit their organization.
“These guys are nuts,” this intelligence source said. “Cambone and those guys made MEK members swear an oath to Democracy and resign from the MEK and then our guys incorporated them into their unit and trained them.”
The MEK were notorious in Iraq, indeed, Saddam Hussein himself had used the MEK for acts of terror against non-Sunni Muslims and had assigned domestic security detail to the MEK as a way of policing dissent among his own people. It was under the guidance of MEK ‘policing’ that Iraqi citizens who were not Sunni were routinely tortured, attacked and arrested.
The Just last month after a bombing inside Iran, the London Telegraph also reported on how a high ranking CIA official has blown the whistle on the fact that America is secretly funding terrorist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.
The claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."
John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: "The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity."
If this all sounds a little familiar, it's because it is. The fact is that the US has a long history of provocation and covert action inside Iran.
The In 1953 the CIA and MI6 carried out Operation Ajax (officially TP-AJAX), a covert operation by the United Kingdom and the United States to remove the democratically elected nationalist cabinet of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from power, to support the Pahlavi dynasty and consolidate the power of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in order to preserve the Western control of Iran's hugely lucrative oil infrastructure.
In planning the operation, the CIA organized a guerrilla force incase the communist Tudeh Party seized power as a result of the chaos created by Operation Ajax. According to formerly “Top Secret” documents released by the National Security Archive, Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith reported that the CIA had reached an agreement with Qashqai tribal leaders in southern Iran to establish a clandestine safe haven from which U.S.-funded guerrillas and intelligence agents could operate.
The conspiracy centered around having the increasingly impotent Shah dismiss the powerful Prime Minister Mossadegh and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, a choice agreed on by the British and Americans after careful examination for his likeliness to be pro-British.
Zahedi was installed to succeed Prime Minister Mossadegh. The deposed Mossadegh was arrested, given a show trial, and condemned to death. The Shah commuted this sentence to solitary confinement for three years in a military prison, followed by house arrest for life.
“If there had not been a military coup, there would not have been 25 years of the Shah’s brutal regime, there would not have been a revolution in 1979 and a government of clerics,” Ibrahim Yazdi, a former foreign minister and leading member of a political party that traces its origins to Mossadegh’s National Front, told the Christian Science Monitor on the 50th anniversary of the coup and installation of the Shah. “Now it seems that the Americans are pushing towards the same direction again. That shows they have not learned anything from history.”
“For many Iranians, the coup was a tragedy from which their country has never recovered. Perhaps because Mossadegh represents a future denied, his memory has approached myth,” Dan De Luce writes for the Guardian. “Beyond Iran, America remains deeply resented for siding with authoritarian rule in the region.”
Alex Jones's latest film Terrorstorm covers the ousting of Mossadegh in depth.
After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the US again found itself sparring with Iran. Again we find a history of provocation and aggression. In particular, a fierce assault known as Operation Praying Mantis, is renowned. The operation began after a US warship had entered mined Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.
On April 14 1988, the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, the 1987-88 convoy missions in which U.S. warships escorted reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers to protect them from Iranian attacks. The explosion put a 25-foot hole in the Roberts' hull and nearly sank it. But the crew saved their ship with no loss of life, and Roberts was towed to Dubai on April 16.
After the mining, U.S. Navy divers recovered other mines in the area. When the serial numbers were found to match those of mines seized along with the Iran Ajr the previous September, U.S. military officials planned a retaliatory operation against Iranian targets in the Gulf.
The battle, the largest for American surface forces since World War II, sank two Iranian warships and as many as six armed speedboats. It also marked the first surface-to-surface missile engagement in U.S. Navy history.
The US also attacked and destroyed several Iranian oil platforms in a full out military assault. At the time the Chicago Sun Times reported:
U.S. naval forces on Monday attacked Iranian targets in the Persian Gulf to show the Iranians that "if they threaten us, they'll pay a price," President Reagan said.
In fighting conducted over nine hours, the U.S. forces knocked out two Iranian oil platforms, and then sank or disabled a fast-attack missile patrol boat, two frigates, and three speedboats when Iran attempted to fight back.
Note Reagan's comments. Hence the name 'Operation Praying Mantis' was a reference to the fanning of the wings used to make the mantis seem larger and to scare the opponent.
On November 6, 2003 the International Court of Justice dismissed Iran's claim for reparation against the United States for breach of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two countries. The court also dismissed a counter-claim by the United States, also for reparation for breach of the same treaty. As part of its finding the court did note that "the actions of the United States of America against Iranian oil platforms on 19 October 1987 (Operation Nimble Archer) and 18 April 1988 (Operation Praying Mantis) cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests of the United States of America."
The fallout of Praying Mantis also resulted in the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes shooting down an Iranian civilian commercial airliner, Iran air flight 665, between Bandar Abbas and Dubai, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children. The Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time of the shoot-down.
The On the morning of July 3, the Vincennes crossed into Iranian territorial waters during clashes with Iranian gunboats. Earlier in the day, the Vincennes - along with Iranian gunboats - had similarly violated Omani waters until challenged by an Omani warship.
According to the U.S. government, the Iranian aircraft was mistakenly identified as an attacking military fighter. The Iranian government, however, maintains that the Vincennes knowingly shot down a civilian aircraft.
According to the Iranian government, the shooting down of IR 655 by the Vincennes was an intentionally performed and unlawful act. Even if there was a mistaken identification, which Iran has not accepted, it argues that this constituted gross negligence and recklessness amounting to an international crime, not an accident.
Newsweek reporters John Barry and Roger Charles wrote that Rogers acted recklessly and without due care. Their report accused the U.S. government of a cover-up. An analysis of the events by the International Strategic Studies Association described the deployment of an Aegis cruiser in the zone as irresponsible and felt that the expense of the ship had played a major part in the setting of a low threshold for opening fire.
George H.W. Bush, at the time Vice President said "I will never apologize for the United States of America — I don't care what the facts are" in reference to the incident.
The BBC later reported:
It took four years for the US administration to admit officially that the USS Vincennes was in Iranian waters when the skirmish took place with the Iranian gunboats. Subsequent investigations have accused the US military of waging a covert war against Iran in support of Iraq. In February 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran $61.8 million in compensation for the 248 Iranians killed, plus the cost of the aircraft and legal expenses.
So we see that Britain and the US have a long history of covert action against and provocation of Iran in their bid to aggressively control the region. Nothing has changed. These facts and past precedents are exactly the reason why we should be questioning our own governments on the authenticity of the current seizure of the British marines by Iran.
Our governments have continually violated Iranian territory covertly for decades and then covered up the fact.
In January Republican Congressman and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul stated that he feared a staged Gulf of Tonkin style incident may be used to provoke air strikes on Iran as numerous factors collide to heighten expectations that America may soon be embroiled in its third war in six years.
Just last month former National Security Advisor and founding member of the Trilateral Commission Zbigniew Brzezinski also tacitly warned that an attack on Iran could be launched following a staged provocation.
During a BBC Newsnight feature story this week, it was demonstrated that the Iranian footage of the capture of the British sailors was in large part likely faked and the commentators all but suggested the entire incident was staged or at least constituted "gross negligence" on behalf of the British.
Former British Ambassador Craig Murray and others are highlighting the fact that the maritime border between Iraq and Iran is contested, and the British have essentially manufactured a border to make it appear as if HMS Cornwall was within Iraqi territorial waters. The mainstream media has uniformly failed to address this issue.
It seems that we are once again witnessing the unfolding of ongoing covert military action by our governments against (whether you agree with it or not) a democratically elected foreign government in Iran.
Thu., March 29, 2007 Nisan 10, 5767
In the late 1940s, Walther (Walter) Rauff, an SS officer who was responsible for the murder of at least 100,000 people and was wanted by the Allies as a war criminal, was employed by the Israeli secret service. Instead of bringing him to justice it paid him for his services and helped him escape to South America. Documents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that have been released over the past several years show that the Americans were aware that Rauff's case was not exceptional.
A CIA memorandum dated March 24, 1950 describes the relations between the Israel agent Edmond (Ted) Cross, whose name is deleted on this document, and a Nazi named Janos Walberg: "Subject's engagement be [sic] the Israeli Intelligence Service would fit into the picture as revealed by talks with X with [Edmond (Ted) Cross a.k.a. Magen or Crowder] consisting in the utilization of former Nazi elements for observation and penetration in the Arab countries. The attempt to send the well-known former SS Colonel Walter Rauff to Egypt having failed, the Israeli Service with all probability (however this has not yet been confirmed) had engaged Subject [Walberg], whose sentiments and past would arouse no suspicions in Egypt that he is a Jewish agent."
An earlier document, from February 1950, states that Cross helped Rauff obtain the necessary papers for immigration to South America, even though the attempt to send him to Egypt had failed. Why, though, did Israel help Rauff? This document provides a hint: "It is not improbable that Subject's presence in Syria was in connection with a mission for the Israel[i] service." Rauff was indeed in Syria, serving as military adviser to President Hosni Zaim, who sought a peace agreement with Irsael. Rauff was forced to leave after Zaim was deposed in a military coup.
The mission Rauff was to have carried out in Egypt is not known, but his connection with Cross may supply more than a hint. According to research by Ruth Kimche, a former Mossad employee, Cross was sent in July 1948, as the War of Independence raged, to assassinate several key figures in Egypt with the help of a group of Jews. At the last minute the mission was called off. Cross returned to Egypt in September, but again the plan was not executed, probably because he became entangled in a love affair with the Egyptian Princess Amina Nur a-Din and had to leave the country. According to Kimche, "The whole story is very reminiscent of the Lavon Affair of the 1950s, except that fortunately for them the 1948 plan was not implemented, apparently thanks to the Egyptian princess."
But the plan was not jettisoned, either. In 1949, as the U.S. documents show, Cross wanted to sent Rauff to Egypt. According to another document in Rauff's CIA file, Rauff did not reach Egypt, but a 1953 memorandum quotes the U.S. ambassador to Egypt as saying that a man named Rauff was in the country. True, the memorandum describes this Rauff as a Pole, but it also notes that he organized the extermination of Jews in Poland, making it very likely that the reference is to the famous Nazi officer.
Rauff was born in 1906. He served in the German Navy from the age of 18. In 1937 he was dismissed for conduct unbecoming an officer due to adultery. A close friend and fellow former naval officer, Reinhard Heydrich, who was then deputy commander of the SS under Heinrich Himmler, helped get him into the Nazi organization. Initially Rauff served in SS headquarters in Berlin. After the conquest of Norway in 1940 he headed the security police there for three months. That year he was reinstated in the Navy, at his request, and commanded a fleet of minesweepers, but in 1941 Heydrich summoned him back to SS headquarters.
When Heydrich was appointed governor of occupied Czechoslovakia, Rauff accompanied him to Prague as his technical assistant. He returned to Berlin in June 1942, after Heydrich's assassination by the Czech resistance. Rauff was appointed head of the SS Technical Department and was responsible for the project of extermination using gas vans. After Jews and others were herded into the back of a gas van, the vehicle was sealed and the exhaust pipe introduced into the back. When the engine was turned on the fumes killed everyone in the back of the vehicle. Between 97,000 and 200,000 people, most of them Jews, were murdered in this way. This method of mass murder was too slow and cumbersome for the Nazis, however, who went on to develop the gas chambers using Zyklon B as the killing agent.
From July 1942 until May 1943, Rauff also commanded the Einsatzkommando (a unit of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing squads that were in charge of annihilating Jews) in North Africa and was responsible for concentrating the Jews in Tunisia. In July 1943, after a brief stay in Berlin, he was made commander of the Einsatzkommando in Corsica, and from September 1943 until the end of the war was the SS Kommandant in Milan. As such, he took part in the secret negotiations that led to the surrender of the Nazis in northern Italy.
Rauff, unlike other Nazis who participated in the talks, was arrested by the Allies on April 30, 1945. In 1947 he escaped and was recruited for Syrian intelligence by Captain Akram Tabara, who gave his name as Dr. John Homsi.
Rauff advised President Hosni Zaim in Syria and was arrested on the day of the coup against him. Rauff managed to convince his captors that he was only an adviser and had no command powers; he was released but ordered to leave the country.
According to one of the versions in the CIA files, Rauff was suspected of ties to "subversive Communist activity," as the agent of a German named Von Lipkau. After Rauff's expulsion from Syria, he was supposed to accompany Lipkau to India to disseminate Communist propaganda. According to one CIA report, the mission was aborted because Lipkau remained in Tel Aviv due to other commitments.
From Damascus Rauff went to Beirut, and from there to Italy. With the assistance of Israeli, and apparently also British intelligence, he sailed for South America in December 1949. He settled in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. A 1953 report put him in Buenos Aires, where he probably headed an anti-Communist group. In 1958 Rauff moved to Chile, obtaining permanent residency status there a year later. He became a cattle and fish merchant and was described as a rancher and an industrialist. His son, also named Walter, was accepted to the Chilean naval academy and was the protege of Chief of Staff General Carlos Prats, a supporter of the socialist President Salvador Allende. The son denies that his father ever worked for Israel.
On December 19, 1962, Rauff was arrested in Chile after West Germany requested his extradition. Chile's Supreme Court refused the request and released Rauff. Allende's election as president did not change the situation: in a friendly letter to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal Allende wrote that he could not reverse the court's 1962 decision.
In September 1973, Allende was killed in a military coup against his democratically elected government. A few months later, the French paper Le Monde reported that Rauff was appointed head of Chile's intelligence service; the report was denied by the Chilean government. Ten years later, in January 1984, Chile turned down an extradition request for Rauff from Israel's Justice Ministry. A month later, West Germany repeated its extradition request. Chile said the case would be reopened only if it were presented with evidence of new crimes. Extraditing Rauff would not serve any public interest in Chile, the court said, since he had lived in the country for many years and his behavior was always beyond reproach.
The U.S. government got into the act, emphasizing to Chile its conviction that Nazi criminals must face trial. The Santiago government came under heavy international pressure to extradite Rauff. Both President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the issue in 1984, but their comments did not impress Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld traveled to Chile to organize protests over the issue and was arrested twice for disturbing the peace.
Then director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, David Kimche, visited Santiago in 1984. The press reported that he urged his hosts to deport Rauff, whom he described as one of the major war criminals living in a Western country. His wife, Ruth Kimche, said on behalf of her husband that he does not recall this; they were in Chile on a private visit, she says. The sincerity of the Israeli efforts toward Rauff's capture can be gauged from the fact that already in 1979 Israel sold patrol boats to Chile and then overhauled Chilean war planes, and in 1984 was still assisting with their maintenance.
Rauff died of lung cancer in May 1984. The statement issued by the Israeli embassy sounded like a sigh of relief: "The problem with Mr. Rauff is now solved. God has tried him."
The fact that Rauff supplied intelligence to Israel has been published before, but for some reason the reports did not generate a public debate over the moral implications of Israel's providing protection to a major Nazi criminal, who was the subject of an international campaign by Nazi hunters Simon Wiesenthal and Beate Klarsfeld to bring him to trial. Similarly, the renowned U.S. Holocaust researcher Richard Breitman, who as director of historical research for the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group reviewed Rauff's CIA file, chose to ignore information indicating that Israeli intelligence systematically employed Nazis in Arab countries.
According to CIA records Rauff's handler was Ted Cross, whose Hebrew name was David Magen. Cross was recruited in 1948 for clandestine activity by Asher Ben-Natan, director of operations in the Foreign Ministry's Political Department, which served as the precursor to the Mossad. Cross was fluent in several languages and had served in British intelligence in World War II.
According to an article by Gil Meltzer in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth from a year ago, Cross - who was from a wealthy Jewish Budapest family named Gross - was an international adventurer, a hedonist and a womanizer. To pay for his flashy lifestyle, he dealt in drugs. When Israel discovered that he had also sold his services as an agent to Egypt - for the very handsome sum of $20,000 - he was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. After his release he went into the restaurant business and, among other things, helped found the Wimpy's hamburger chain.
Can the Israeli government be blamed for the ties between Cross and Rauff, or was this a private initiative by the double agent? The CIA, it turns out, did not know some important details about Rauff's connections with Israeli intelligence.
In Passover of 1993, Shlomo Nakdimon published an interview with Shalhevet Freier in Yedioth Ahronoth. In the late 1940s Freier was a branch director in the Foreign Ministry's Political Department, and in the 1970s he chaired the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. He has since died. In the interview he related how he had recruited Rauff in Italy, after friends in the Italian Foreign Ministry tipped him off about the new arrival. Rauff was using an alias at the time. According to Freier, then, it was the Political Department that employed Rauff; there is no mention of Cross in his interview.
Freier told Nakdimon that Ben-Natan and the director of the Political Department, came to Italy especially "in order to watch the adviser to the president of Syria enter the house of their man in Rome." Freier introduced himself to Rauff as a representative of Israeli intelligence. For an entire month the Nazi criminal sat and wrote a report on Syria's military deployment.
"When he didn't know the answer to a question, Rauff called friends in Syria for additional information," Freier said. The Israeli government not only paid Rauff, but also arranged for a legitimate Italian visa. Rauff, his wife and their children sailed from Genoa to South America. He handed Freier the last part of the report in the port.
The CIA received information that Rauff had acted on behalf of British intelligence in Syria and gave his handlers a copy of the Syrian intelligence service and political police reorganization plan. He seems to have been the servant of several masters at once. According to the CIA documents, in November 1949 Rauff arrived in Rome from Beirut and stayed at the Pensione Telentino under the name of Walter Ralf. Sources at the hotel said that he had little money and lived frugally. He had no visitors and received only a few telephone calls. A Catholic priest known for his Nazi leanings gave Rauff 40,000 lire. On December 17, 1949, Rauff set sail for Ecuador. Both the ticket and his passport were supplied by either Israeli or British intelligence.
In January 1950, Cross told CIA agents that Rauff had left Italy and had severed his ties with Israeli intelligence, but had left behind many interesting documents. Cross promised to bring them to the next meeting, but the agents did not really believe him.
Freier said in the interview that Rauff continued to write to him. He told Nakdimon that he maintained contact with the Nazi "because I thought that one day I might need him. The Arabs trusted him."
Ben-Natan, who later served as director general of the Defense Ministry and ambassador to France and to Germany, now confirms that Freier employed Rauff but says he received a report from him to this effect only post factum. In retrospect, Ben-Natan today believes it was a mistake to forge ties with the Nazi criminal, but emphasizes that he provided very important material.
In the memoirs he published five years ago, Ben-Natan has a different account. He writes that Freier "succeeded in sending to Syria a former Nazi officer, who upon his return brought information about the deployment of the Syrian army." Ben-Natan confirms that the officer was Rauff, but is not absolutely certain which version is correct. In writing the book, he says, he relied solely on his memory.
What did the Israelis who hired Rauff know about his past? Were they aware of the gravity of his crimes? Asked by Nakdimon whether he knew at the time that Rauff was responsible for the gas-vans and the death of up to 200,000 people, Freier said he was not: "I asked him about his past, and he claimed that he had been the Gestapo official in charge of forging British pounds in order to subvert the British economy. Only years later did I hear on the radio that the Americans, after decoding files of senior Nazis, stated that Rauff had been in charge of all the engineering activity of the Gestapo."
It is difficult to believe that Freier did not know who he was recruiting. On May 2, 1945, many newspapers reported that "the infamous Colonel Rauff, the long-sought head of the SS in Milan, was captured." On October 19, 1945, Rauff, in American captivity, signed a sworn declaration admitting his involvement in killing Jews in the gas-vans. This document was submitted at the Nuremberg trials, together with a letter from his subordinate, Dr. August Becker, which contained a report about technical problems in the mass murder of the Jews. Apart from this, Rauff's name appears 31 times in the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials. This information was readily available: all one had to do was contact Dr. Robert Kempner, an American Jew who was the deputy chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, or the Jewish observers who followed the trials. Ben-Natan, who collected material about Nazi war criminals during this period in Europe, confirms that this information was available.
Rauff's mention in connection with the SS project to forge British banknotes calls into question another operation in which Freier was involved. At the end of the war, a Jew named Jacques Van Harten, one of the central agents of the forgery project, contacted Jewish soldiers from Palestine in northern Italy and offered them large quantities of forged banknotes in return for protection. (An article about this episode appeared in this magazine in 2000.)
In addition to large sums of money, Van Harten was also in possession of a large quantity of jewelry. Shmuel Ossia, an associate of Freier, testified that Freier interrogated Van Harten at length about his past. Ossia remembers seeing the frightened Van Harten in the corridor during the interrogation, which went on for a few days. Van Harten undoubtedly related how he had helped Himmler's special envoy, Kurt Becher, who was in charge of plundering the property of Hungarian Jewry, and revealed what he knew about the source of the forged British money, which later, thanks to Van Harten, would become a crucial source of funding for the illegal immigration and arms purchasing operations of the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces.
The extent of Freier's awareness of Van Harten's deeds is shown not only by the commanders of the illegal immigration project (Aliyah Bet), but also by the fact that in an interview to the historian Nana Sagi in 1966, he said with feigned innocence that he did not understand how no reference was made to Van Harten in the Kastner and Eichmann trials. Sagi did not ask Freier why he did not use his extensive connections to address the issue.
The Americans arrested Van Harten in Italy, on suspicion of abetting the escape of Nazi war criminals. The Mossad l'Aliya Bet - the clandestine organization of the Jewish community in pre-1948 Palestine, which was in charge of the illegal immigration of Jews to the country - tried to obtain Van Harten's release. Yitzhak Tamari, a soldier in the Haganah who knew why Van Harten had been arrested, protested to the commander of the Haganah unit in Italy, Eliahu Ben Hur (Cohen). Ben Hur, who later became a major general in the IDF, told Tamari that Van Harten had been promised protection and a gentleman always keeps his word.
Following Van Harten's release, in 1946, Ben Hur instructed his father, Abba Cohen, Tel Aviv's fire chief, to help Van Harten acclimatize. Van Harten opened a jewelry store on Nahalat Binyamin Street, near the Carmel produce market. Abba Cohen later got a job in one of Van Harten's businesses. Van Harten died in 1973, a respected businessman and a resident of the upscale community of Savyon who during the war had used his money and connections to save Jews and smuggle out valuables for them, particularly jewelry. His family stuck to this account even after the publication of the article in 2000. The jewelry store, by the way, closed down soon after the article appeared.
Freier also helped Van Harten in 1947, when the British wanted to deport him. He put him in touch with the Jerusalem lawyer Mordechai Eliash and was probably also responsible for a letter sent to the British by Golda Meyerson (Meir), as the acting foreign minister of the Jewish Agency, stating that Van Harten was under the protection of the pre-State Jewish community, the Yishuv, because he had ostensibly helped save Jews.
But Van Harten was small fry compared to Rauff, who was a criminal on the same scale as Eichmann. It is thus not surprising that Klarsfeld, who invested considerable efforts to bring Rauff to trial, almost slammed down the telephone receiver when she heard that he had been employed by Israeli intelligence and had received its assistance in escaping to Europe. "In 1984, when I campaigned in Chile for Rauff's extradition, I had no knowledge of so-called 'contacts' between him and the Mossad," Klarsfeld wrote in an e-mail. "I doubt that it could have been possible, because Rauff was well-known in the Jewish world for his role in the gassing program by trucks and also because he persecuted the Jews of Tunisia when he was head of the Nazi police in Tunisia, and he persecuted the Jews in Italy when he was head of the Nazi police in Milano." Similarly, the director of the Israeli office of the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, finds it improbable that Freier did not know about Rauff's crimes.
(Above Photo: Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797 This 1511 painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition shows the reception of Venetian ambassadors in Damascus.)
By HOLLAND COTTER
Published: March 30, 2007
Told often enough that the West and Islam are natural enemies, we start to believe it, and assume it has always been so. But the Metropolitan Museum of Art argues otherwise in “Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797,” a show that, with classic Met largesse, recreates the spectacle of two different cultures meeting in one fantastic city, where commerce and love of beauty, those great levelers, unite them in a fruitful bond.
At its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries the Most Serene Republic of Venice was a giant, clamorous Costco-on-the-Rialto. All the necessities of life and most of the luxuries flowed into and through it from every direction, and in bulk, filling open-air stalls and salesrooms, piling up on piazzas.
Wood, metal, grain, furs and leathers from northern Europe were shipped from Venet
ian docks to Near Eastern and African cities, many formerly Christian and now Muslim controlled. In return came ultra-refined Islamic luxury goods: Turkish velvets, Egyptian glass, Transcaucasian carpets and Syrian brass work of a quality that matched and exceeded the finest of Europe. Although much of this retail kept moving westward into Italy and beyond, Venice skimmed off the cream to adorn its churches and merchant palaces. And so thoroughly did the city absorb the cultural essences of these imports that it gained a reputation for being the most un-European town in Europe: a floating, glinting pipe dream of a metropolis with a style and a story entirely its own.
(Above Photo: A mosque lamp from Egypt shows the influence of Venetian glass-making.)
Visually the Met show, organized by Stefano Carboni, a curator in the department of Islamic art, presents Venice exactly this way. At the same time it acknowledges the tough entrepreneurial history running under the dazzle and glow.
The most famous early transaction between Venice and the Islamic world was not an exchange but a theft. In A.D. 828 two Venetian traders stole the body of St. Mark, the evangelist, from its tomb in Alexandria and brought it home with them.
The pretext was piety: to remove a revered Christian relic from Muslim hands. The rewards, however, were practical. With a single act of derring-do, Venice advertised its mercantile reach, reaffirmed its religious loyalties and gained a pilgrimage-worthy trophy saint to boot.
The accumulated chips would come in handy with the Vatican. In future centuries, when Europe was repeatedly forbidden by papal decree to do business with Muslim powers, Venice went right ahead, and got away with it, staying in touch with the larger world on which it depended for economic survival (it had no natural resources) and in which it took delight. That world is sketched out in the show’s opening gallery.
A 15th-century navigational chart of the eastern Mediterranean defines its coordinates. A Venetian merchant’s handwritten diary supplies some on-the-ground data. (In Egypt, for example, the merchant saw pyramids, giraffes and the interiors of elegant Muslim homes.) Two paintings, one large and one small, bring his experiences to life.
We see Venice itself in a 15th-century illustrated manuscript of Marco Polo’s “Travels.” A bird’s-eye view, it is a mirage of crenelated rooftops, watered-silk lagoons and jumbo swans, with Marco Polo, festive in pink, about to embark for Persia. This is a storybook picture by an English artist who most likely never laid eyes on the city.
The Syrian city of Damascus looks far less outlandish in an oil painting done a century later of Venetian ambassadors being received at an Islamic court. Minus the minarets and towering turbans, this could be a European scene. Islamic culture was by this point as fully integrated into Venetian consciousness as Arabic words were into the local Italian dialect.
In a sense this entire show is an essay on how that integration played out in art. Sometimes the dynamic is straightforward, a simple matter of placement. An exquisitely illustrated 17th-century manuscript made in Shiraz, in Persia, ends up in Venice. Fragments of a painted Venetian glass beaker lie in a Jewish cemetery in Syria. How? Why? Things traveled; that’s all.
Frequently, though, cultures are overlaid. The gold-patterned cloak worn by the Virgin in a 14th-century altarpiece by Stefano Veneziano is modeled on sumptuous textiles then entering Venice from Persia. This reference to a luxury import would surely have tickled the painting’s merchant-patron. That the cloth depicted was “foreign” made it exotic enough for heaven.
Elsewhere the play of influence is more complex. One of the exhibition’s oldest objects, a glass cup from the treasury of St. Mark’s cathedral, has a multiethnic pedigree. Its emerald-green bowl was probably made by Islamic craftsmen in Egypt or Iran. It then traveled to Constantinople, where a Byzantine metalworker fitted it with a gilt-silver mount. Finally this cup that might well have had secular origins found a sacred home in Venice.
Original meanings were often lost in translation and new ones acquired. An inlaid brass bucket designed as a bath accessory in the Near East became a holy water dispenser in Venice. Showy silk brocades used as slipcovers in Turkey were tailored into ecclesiastical robes in Venice.
Nor was Europe always on the receiving end of such borrowings. Venetian glassmaking techniques and styles were so scrupulously emulated by Islamic craftsmen that it is often impossible to tell the source of specific objects. And some of the most magnetic items in the Met’s exhibition were created by Western artists expressly for Islamic customers.
(Above Photo: Gentile Bellini’s portrait of the Ottoman ruler Mehmet II, painted in Constantinople.)
One of the most celebrated is Gentile Bellini’s 1480 oil portrait of the Ottoman emperor Mehmet II. Commissioned during Bellini’s two years in Constantinople, it turns an easily sensationalized subject into an empathetic likeness, idealizing but naturalistic, an approach that would have its effect on Islamic painting to come.
For sensationalism, however, there is another portrait, an early-16th-century Italian print of Emperor Suleyman in a multitiered crown created, at fabulous expense, by Venetian goldsmiths. With its Carmen Miranda superstructure the headpiece was all but unwearable; and in the print the emperor, known as the Magnificent, seems to shrink comically within it.
Yet symbolically it meant a lot to him. He considered it an emblem of his sovereignty over all the tiara-wearing rulers of Europe. And he affirmed this entitlement, first by taking control of trade between Islam and the West, then by initiating an Ottoman conquest of the European territory.
As these threats became reality, the image of Muslims in European art changed. When the Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio painted a scene of the stoning of St. Stephen, he made all of the executioners Ottoman Turks. That was in 1520. Nine years later Suleyman’s army reached the gates of Vienna.
Venice, pragmatic as always, put business before politics and tried to sustain a connection to the Ottoman court. But by then Venetian trade was in decline — Portugal had found a route to India; Spain had tapped into the New World — and Europe’s relationship with Islam had irrecoverably soured. One of the show’s final objects is a carved figurehead decoration for a 17th-century Venetian battleship used in war against the Ottomans. It depicts a Muslim, bare-headed, half-naked, humiliated, in chains.
But even when old commercial ties failed, a bond of beauty between Venice and the Islamic world held. So long and intimately had the two mingled that Venetian art had become, if only superficially, “Islamic” by default.
It’s important to acknowledge the superficiality of the interaction, to remember that one culture never really became the other. The Met exhibition is a European, not an Islamic, show. Despite the Islamic material included we learn little about Islam or about the Islamic meaning of objects or, even in a general way, about Islamic views of the West.
Some future exhibition will flip this perspective around. That is a show we need, and I look forward to it. Perhaps Mr. Carboni, a scholar of depth and breadth, will do it. In the meantime we have his Met show to savor: historically pointed, visually magnificent and a timely demonstration of differences reconciled through art.
“Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797” continues through July 8 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street; (212) 535-7710, metmuseum.org.
KUALA LUMPUR - To travel through South East Asia is to re-examine one's North American perceptions.
I came here with three notions about this region: It's crawling with Muslim terrorists, given the bombings in Bali and elsewhere; it's experiencing a rise in Islamism - meaning, religious radicalism; and it's becoming less tolerant of the Chinese and Indian minorities in Malaysia and Indonesia.
What I found, instead, was that not only have there been no terrorist incidents for a long time, touch wood, but that security experts feel the situation is under control; that while religiosity is on the rise - as it is among Christians, Jews, Hindus etc. elsewhere - it does not necessarily mean more militancy; and that it is Muslim minorities in the region who are under stress.
In Singapore, where they do enjoy religious freedom, Muslims must live in political subservience. They dare not question the state's racist notion of Chinese demographic, political and cultural dominance.
In south Thailand, Muslims are embroiled in an increasingly vicious insurgency born of long-term grievances but made worse by recent oppression.
Non-Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia do face discrimination, as outlined in my last two columns, but not of the magnitude that the media or the Western embassies in the region make it out to be. The journalists and the diplomats seem fixated on the cliche that all Muslim societies are intolerant.
Neither the religion nor the culture of the Chinese and Indian minorities is under threat. In fact, the situation for the Indonesian Chinese has improved.
Most tellingly, the Indonesian and Malaysian Chinese, constituting 4 per cent and 30 per cent of the populations, respectively, continue to dominate the economies of both nations.
There's no Chinese exodus in the making, as there was from Hong Kong when China took over. The Malaysian and Indonesian Chinese are not about to pack up, say, for Canada.
As for Islamic resurgence, there are more hijabs, more people in mosques and more Qur'an on TV. And some clerics are indeed making outrageous statements. But it's difficult to tell whether their rhetroic represents a spike in extremism.
It may merely reflect the post-9/11 reality that any crazy thought by any silly Muslim anywhere is guaranteed front-page treatment.
Or, it could be a function of greater democracy here: "Views of all kinds are coming out; people are more confident there'll be no midnight knock on the door," says Malaysian writer Imran Yacob.
What is measurable is the Muslim intolerance of Muslims.
In Indonesia, there was an ugly spasm of violence against the Ahamadis, deemed by some to be non-Muslims.
And throughout the region, there's a debate over who is a real Muslim, an Arabized one or the one who stays visibly and culturally Malay.
"Indonesians feel under attack not just from the West but also from the Arabs," says Ahmad Suaedy, an Islamic activist.
Some private Saudi money is coming but so is American and British funding for madrassas, notes Endy Bayuni, editor of the Jakarta Post. "The Wahhabi money and the American money can battle it out!"
In the trends that do count, the popular vote for the Islamist party in Malaysia has gone down in the last four years.
In Indonesia, a poll showed 60 per cent want democracy. About the same number also wants sharia, but without the stoning and amptutating of hands."
They want an Islam compatible with democracy," says professor Jamhari Ma'ruf, an editor of the Journal for Islamic Studies, Jakarta. "They are attached to Islam as their identity."
Inter-marraiges are up; Muslim-Hindu in Malaysia, and Muslim-Christian in Indonesia.
"Multiculturalism in terms of lifestyle is irreversible," says Shad Faruqi, a professor of law in Kuala Lumpur.
Moderate voices are challenging the extremists. "Some years ago, the media would not have touched them but now these voices get space and air time," says editor Bayuni.
Astora Jabat, an Islamic scholar with a blog, argues that Malaysians "are now less conservative. We couldn't talk before. Now we do, about all sorts of subjects. I can take on the illiterate clerics."
Bayuni notes that some of the Islamic zealotry is phony.
"Some people exploit religious symbols for profits or politics. One group of radicals went and smashed a bar, having invited the TV cameras along, but they left all the other bars alone. Next day, they went around collecting protection money. It's a racket. "
The public is catching on.
A popular TV priest, with several businesses, lost all credibility - and endorsements - the moment it was revealed that he had taken a second wife.
Is anti-Americanism up?
Yes, says Bayuni, but "it's no different than the one in Europe. In fact, it is less so here. "We still see American movies, eat MacDonald's and KFC, and drink Coke. And American companies are still making good profits here."
Haroon Siddiqui is editorial page editor emeritus at Toronto Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, march 30, 2007
The US military's effort to build what may become the largest conventional bomb ever used is making progress.
Boeing announced on Monday that its Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) demo weapon had successfully completed a "static tunnel lethality test" at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The MOP, which also goes under the names "Big BLU" and "Direct Hard Target Strike Weapon", is a 30,000-pound brute, intended for delivery by B-52 Stratofortresses or B-2 stealth bombers against deeply buried or heavily protected targets.
It's being developed under the auspices of the US military's interestingly-named Threat Reduction Agency, which normally does things like verifying nuke disposals.
The MOP is intended to reduce the threats faced by the USA only, of course, by pulverising them.
From the viewpoint of other countries the new bomb could be described more as a threat enhancement.
Even so, to some the MOP seems like a relatively delicate tool. The US originally had a plan to deal with enemy bunkers, WMD facilities or whatnot using a special ground-penetrating nuke.
The "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" programme was axed by the Senate in 2005, however, leaving the MOP as America's last best hope for taking out difficult targets.
Bomb spotters may care to note that the MOP won't be the heaviest conventional bomb ever made by the US. The 1940s era T-12, at almost 44,000lb, was a substantially bigger brute.
The T-12 was one of the final developments of the World War II Allies' "earthquake bomb" programmes, developed to knock out German V-weapon sites and U-boat pens.
Famed British bomb boffin Barnes Wallis, inventor of the dam-busting "bouncing bomb", was an early innovator, designing the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrators.
The T-12 didn't arrive in time for wartime use, and is now obsolete.
The US does have some pretty hefty ordnance in current service, most famously the 21,700-lb GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) job – perhaps better known under its media nickname "Mother Of All Bombs".
The MOAB isn't any good for knocking out bunkers, however. It's a pure blast weapon, essentially a massive lump of explosive without penetrating abilities. It was developed to replace the old 15,000lb "Daisy Cutters" which US forces used to flatten jungle and create helicopter landing zones in Vietnam.
The MOP, however, should be just the ticket for deep bunkers. Most of its weight is actually in the hardened metal casing, which will strike the earth at several times the speed of sound after falling from high altitude. This should enable the MOP to drill a long way down before exploding.
There must be a lot of planners at the Pentagon scratching their heads right now over the Iranian nuke facility at Natanz, parts of which are said to be 75 feet underground and covered by metres of reinforced concrete. They'll be very keen to see the MOP ready for use.
...Some say that Sheikh Mohammed was captured months before the March 1 date announced by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Abdul Qadoos, a pale, white-bearded alderman in this well-heeled neighborhood, told me that Sheikh Mohammed was not there "then or ever."
The official video of the takedown appears to have been faked. But the details are of minor importance. Whenever, wherever, and however it happened, nearly everyone now agrees that Sheikh Mohammed is in U.S. custody, and has been for some time.
In the first hours of his captivity the hood came off and a picture was taken. It shows a bleary-eyed, heavy, hairy, swarthy man with a full black moustache, thick eyebrows, a dark outline of beard on a rounded, shaved face, three chins, long sideburns, and a full head of dense, long, wildly mussed black hair. He stands before a pale tan wall whose paint is chipped, leaning slightly forward, like a man with his hands bound behind him, the low cut of his loose-fitting white T-shirt exposing matted curls of hair on his chest, shoulders, and back. He is looking down and to the right of the camera. He appears dazed and glum.
Sheikh Mohammed is a smart man. There is an anxious, searching quality to his expression in that first post-arrest photo. It is the look of a man awakened into nightmare. Everything that has given his life meaning, his role as husband and father, his leadership, his stature, plans, and ambitions, is finished. His future is months, maybe years, of imprisonment and interrogation; a military tribunal; and almost certain execution. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head, processing his terminal predicament. How will he spend his last months and years? Will he maintain a dignified, defiant silence? Or will he succumb to his enemy and betray his friends, his cause, and his faith?
If Sheikh Mohammed felt despair in those first hours, it didn't show. According to a Pakistani officer who sat in on an initial ISI questioning, the al-Qaeda sub-boss seemed calm and stoic. For his first two days in custody he said nothing beyond confirming his name. A CIA official says that Sheikh Mohammed spent those days "sitting in a trancelike state and reciting verses from the Koran." On the third day he is said to have loosened up. Fluent in the local languages of Urdu, Pashto, and Baluchi, he tried to shame his Pakistani interrogators, lecturing them on their responsibilities as Muslims and upbraiding them for cooperating with infidels.
"Playing an American surrogate won't help you or your country," he said. "There are dozens of people like me who will give their lives but won't let the Americans live in peace anywhere in the world." Asked if Osama bin Laden was alive, he said, "Of course he is alive." He spoke of meeting with bin Laden in "a mountainous border region" in December. He seemed smug about U.S. and British preparations for war against Saddam Hussein. "Let the Iraq War begin," he said. "The U.S. forces will be targeted inside their bases in the Gulf. I don't have any specific information, but my sixth sense is telling me that you will get the news from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait." Indeed, in the following months al-Qaeda carried out a murderous attack in Saudi Arabia.
On that third day, once more hooded, Sheikh Mohammed was driven to Chaklala Air Force base, in Rawalpindi, and turned over to U.S. forces. From there he was flown to the CIA interrogation center in Bagram, Afghanistan, and from there, some days later, to an "undisclosed location" (a place the CIA calls "Hotel California")—presumably a facility in another cooperative nation, or perhaps a specially designed prison aboard an aircraft carrier.
It doesn't much matter where, because the place would not have been familiar or identifiable to him. Place and time, the anchors of sanity, were about to come unmoored. He might as well have been entering a new dimension, a strange new world where his every word, move, and sensation would be monitored and measured; where things might be as they seemed but might not; where there would be no such thing as day or night, or normal patterns of eating and drinking, wakefulness and sleep; where hot and cold, wet and dry, clean and dirty, truth and lies, would all be tangled and distorted.
Intelligence and military officials would talk about Sheikh Mohammed's state only indirectly, and conditionally. But by the time he arrived at a more permanent facility, he would already have been bone-tired, hungry, sore, uncomfortable, and afraid—if not for himself, then for his wife and children, who had been arrested either with him or some months before, depending on which story you believe. He would have been warned that lack of cooperation might mean being turned over to the more direct and brutal interrogators of some third nation.
He would most likely have been locked naked in a cell with no trace of daylight. The space would be filled night and day with harsh light and noise, and would be so small that he would be unable to stand upright, to sit comfortably, or to recline fully. He would be kept awake, cold, and probably wet. If he managed to doze, he would be roughly awakened. He would be fed infrequently and irregularly, and then only with thin, tasteless meals. Sometimes days would go by between periods of questioning, sometimes only hours or minutes. The human mind craves routine, and can adjust to almost anything in the presence of it, so his jailers would take care that no semblance of routine developed.
Questioning would be intense—sometimes loud and rough, sometimes quiet and friendly, with no apparent reason for either. He would be questioned sometimes by one person, sometimes by two or three. The session might last for days, with interrogators taking turns, or it might last only a few minutes.
He would be asked the same questions again and again, and then suddenly be presented with something completely unexpected—a detail or a secret that he would be shocked to find they knew.
He would be offered the opportunity to earn freedom or better treatment for his wife and children. Whenever he was helpful and the information he gave proved true, his harsh conditions would ease. If the information proved false, his treatment would worsen.
On occasion he might be given a drug to elevate his mood prior to interrogation; marijuana, heroin, and sodium pentothal have been shown to overcome a reluctance to speak, and methamphetamine can unleash a torrent of talk in the stubbornest subjects, the very urgency of the chatter making a complex lie impossible to sustain.
These drugs could be administered surreptitiously with food or drink, and given the bleakness of his existence, they might even offer a brief period of relief and pleasure, thereby creating a whole new category of longing—and new leverage for his interrogators.
Deprived of any outside information, Sheikh Mohammed would grow more and more vulnerable to manipulation.
For instance, intelligence gleaned after successful al-Qaeda attacks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia might be fed to him, in bits and pieces, so as to suggest foiled operations. During questioning he would be startled regularly by details about his secret organization—details drawn from ongoing intelligence operations, new arrests, or the interrogation of other captive al-Qaeda members.
Some of the information fed to him would be true, some of it false. Key associates might be said to be cooperating, or to have completely recanted their allegiance to jihad. As time went by, his knowledge would decay while that of his questioners improved. He might come to see once-vital plans as insignificant, or already known. The importance of certain secrets would gradually erode.
Isolated, confused, weary, hungry, frightened, and tormented, Sheikh Mohammed would gradually be reduced to a seething collection of simple needs, all of them controlled by his interrogators.
The key to filling all those needs would be the same: to talk.
We hear a lot these days about America's overpowering military technology; about the professionalism of its warriors; about the sophistication of its weaponry, eavesdropping, and telemetry; but right now the most vital weapon in its arsenal may well be the art of interrogation. To counter an enemy who relies on stealth and surprise, the most valuable tool is information, and often the only source of that information is the enemy himself.
Men like Sheikh Mohammed who have been taken alive in this war are classic candidates for the most cunning practices of this dark art. Intellectual, sophisticated, deeply religious, and well trained, they present a perfect challenge for the interrogator. Getting at the information they possess could allow us to thwart major attacks, unravel their organization, and save thousands of lives.
They and their situation pose one of the strongest arguments in modern times for the use of torture.
Torture is repulsive. It is deliberate cruelty, a crude and ancient tool of political oppression. It is commonly used to terrorize people, or to wring confessions out of suspected criminals who may or may not be guilty. It is the classic shortcut for a lazy or incompetent investigator. Horrifying examples of torturers' handiwork are catalogued and publicized annually by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations that battle such abuses worldwide. One cannot help sympathizing with the innocent, powerless victims showcased in their literature.
But professional terrorists pose a harder question. They are lockboxes containing potentially life-saving information. Sheikh Mohammed has his own political and religious reasons for plotting mass murder, and there are those who would applaud his principled defiance in captivity. But we pay for his silence in blood.
The word "torture" comes from the Latin verb torquere, "to twist." Webster's New World Dictionary offers the following primary definition: "The inflicting of severe pain to force information and confession, get revenge, etc."
Note the adjective "severe," which summons up images of the rack, thumbscrews, gouges, branding irons, burning pits, impaling devices, electric shock, and all the other devilish tools devised by human beings to mutilate and inflict pain on others. All manner of innovative cruelty is still commonplace, particularly in Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
...Then there are methods that, some people argue, fall short of torture. Called "torture lite," these include sleep deprivation, exposure to heat or cold, the use of drugs to cause confusion, rough treatment (slapping, shoving, or shaking), forcing a prisoner to stand for days at a time or to sit in uncomfortable positions, and playing on his fears for himself and his family.
Although excruciating for the victim, these tactics generally leave no permanent marks and do no lasting physical harm.
The Geneva Convention makes no distinction: it bans any mistreatment of prisoners. But some nations that are otherwise committed to ending brutality have employed torture lite under what they feel are justifiable circumstances.
In 1987 Israel attempted to codify a distinction between torture, which was banned, and "moderate physical pressure," which was permitted in special cases. Indeed, some police officers, soldiers, and intelligence agents who abhor "severe" methods believe that banning all forms of physical pressure would be dangerously naive.
Few support the use of physical pressure to extract confessions, especially because victims will often say anything (to the point of falsely incriminating themselves) to put an end to pain.
But many veteran interrogators believe that the use of such methods to extract information is justified if it could save lives—whether by forcing an enemy soldier to reveal his army's battlefield positions or forcing terrorists to betray the details of ongoing plots.
As these interrogators see it, the well-being of the captive must be weighed against the lives that might be saved by forcing him to talk. A method that produces life-saving information without doing lasting harm to anyone is not just preferable; it appears to be morally sound.
Hereafter I will use "torture" to mean the more severe traditional outrages, and "coercion" to refer to torture lite, or moderate physical pressure.
...It is likely that some captured terrorists' names and arrests have not yet been revealed; people may be held for months before their "arrests" are staged.
Once a top-level suspect is publicly known to be in custody, his intelligence value falls. His organization scatters, altering its plans, disguises, cover stories, codes, tactics, and communication methods.
The maximum opportunity for intelligence gathering comes in the first hours after an arrest, before others in a group can possibly know that their walls have been breached. Keeping an arrest quiet for days or weeks prolongs this opportunity.
If March 1 was in fact the day of Sheikh Mohammed's capture, then the cameras and the headlines were an important intelligence failure.
The arrest of the senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Anas Liby, in Sudan in February of 2002, was not made public until a month later, when U.S. efforts to have him transferred to custody in Egypt were leaked to the Sunday Times of London.
...All these suspects are questioned rigorously, but those in the top ranks get the full coercive treatment. And if official and unofficial government reports are to be believed, the methods work.
In report after report hard-core terrorist leaders are said to be either cooperating or, at the very least, providing some information—not just vague statements but detailed, verifiable, useful intelligence.
...How much of this can be believed? Are such reports wishful thinking, or deliberate misinformation?
...It would make sense to claim that top al-Qaeda leaders had caved under questioning even if they had not...Word that they had been broken would demoralize their followers, and would encourage lower-ranking members of their organization to talk; if their leaders had given in, why should they hold out?
To some, all this jailhouse cooperation smells concocted. "I doubt we're getting very much out of them, despite what you read in the press," says a former CIA agent with experience in South America...
Bill Cowan, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, says, "I don't see the proof in the pudding. If you had a top leader like Mohammed talking, someone who could presumably lay out the whole organization for you, I think we'd be seeing sweeping arrests in several different countries at the same time. Instead what we see is an arrest here, then a few months later an arrest there."
These complaints are all from people who have no qualms about using torture to get information from men like Sheikh Mohammed. Their concern is that merely using coercion amounts to handling terrorists with kid gloves.
...Is the United States torturing prisoners? Three inmates have died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, and reportedly eighteen prisoners at Guantánamo have attempted suicide; one prisoner there survived after hanging himself but remains unconscious and is not expected to revive.
Shah Muhammad, a twenty-year-old Pakistani who was held at Camp X-Ray for eighteen months, told me that he repeatedly tried to kill himself in despair. "They were driving me crazy," he said.
Public comments by Administration officials have fueled further suspicion. An unnamed intelligence official told The Wall Street Journal, "What's needed is a little bit of smacky-face. Some al-Qaeda just need some extra encouragement."
Then there was the bravado of Cofer Black, the counterterrorism coordinator, in his congressional testimony last year. A pudgy, balding, round-faced man with glasses, who had served with the CIA before taking the State Department position...Describing the clandestine war, Black said, "This is a highly classified area. All I want to say is that there was 'before 9/11' and 'after 9/11.' After 9/11 the gloves came off." He was referring to the overall counterterrorism effort, but in the context of detained captives the line was suggestive.
A story in December of 2002 by the Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Barton Gellman described the use of "stress and duress" techniques at Bagram, and an article in The New York Times in March described the mistreatment of prisoners there.
..The treatment alleged falls clearly within the category of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which is absolutely prohibited under international law ... [We] urge the US government to instigate a full, impartial inquiry into the treatment of detainees at the Bagram base and to make the findings public. We further urge the government to make a clear public statement that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of suspects in its custody will not be tolerated under any circumstances, and that anyone found to have engaged in abuses will be brought to justice.
In June, at the urging of Amnesty and other groups, President Bush reaffirmed America's opposition to torture, saying, "I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture ... and we are leading this fight by example."
A slightly more detailed response had been prepared two months earlier by the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes II, in a letter to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. (My requests for interviews on this subject with the Pentagon, the White House, and the State Department were declined.) Haynes wrote,
The United States questions enemy combatants to elicit information they may possess that could help the coalition win the war and forestall further terrorist attacks upon the citizens of the United States and other countries. As the President reaffirmed recently to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United States policy condemns and prohibits torture. When questioning enemy combatants, US personnel are required to follow this policy and applicable laws prohibiting torture.
As we will see, Haynes's choice of words was careful—and telling. The human-rights groups and the Administration are defining terms differently. Yet few would argue that getting Sheikh Mohammed to talk doesn't serve the larger interests of mankind. So before tackling the moral and legal questions raised by interrogation, perhaps the first question should be, What works?
Acid Tests and Monkey Orgasms
The quest for surefire methods in the art of interrogation has been long, ugly, and generally fruitless. Nazi scientists experimented on concentration-camp inmates, subjecting them to extremes of hot and cold, to drugs, and to raw pain in an effort to see what combination of horrors would induce cooperation. The effort produced a long list of dead and maimed, but no reliable ways of getting people to talk.
In 1953 John Lilly, of the National Institute of Mental Health, discovered that by placing electrodes inside the brain of a monkey, he could stimulate pain, anger, fear—and pleasure. He placed one inside the brain of a male monkey and gave the monkey a switch that would trigger an immediate erection and orgasm. (The monkey hit the switch roughly every three minutes, thus confirming the gender stereotype.)
The idea of manipulating a brain from the inside promptly attracted the interest of the CIA, which foresaw, among other things, the possibility of sidestepping a reluctant informant's self-defenses. But Lilly dropped the line of research, pointing out that merely inserting the electrodes caused brain damage.
These experiments and others are recorded in detail in John Marks's somewhat overheated book The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate": The CIA and Mind Control (1979) and in George Andrews's book mkULTRA: The CIA's Top Secret Program in Human Experimentation and Behavior Modification (2001). Andrews summarized information revealed in congressional probes of CIA excesses. Marks was more sensational. In the spirit of the times, he tended to interpret the Agency's interest in behavioral science, hypnosis, and mind-altering drugs as a scheme to create zombie-like secret agents, although it appears that the real goal was to make people talk.
There was a lot of hope for LSD. Discovered by accident in a Swiss pharmaceutical lab in 1943, it produced powerful mind-altering effects in very small doses. It was more powerful than mescaline, which had its own adherents, and could easily be administered without the victim's knowledge, slipped into food or drink. The hope was that an informant in such an artificially open-minded state would lose sight of his goals and sense of loyalty and become putty in the hands of a skilled interrogator.
Studies on LSD began at a number of big universities, and as word of the drug's properties spread, it started to attract a broad range of interest. Theologians, scholars, and mental-health workers visited the Maryland Psychiatric Research Institute, just outside Baltimore, to turn on and tune in, and similar programs began in Boston, New York, Chicago, and other cities. Almost twenty years ago I interviewed a number of those who took part in these experiments; all of them were apparently motivated only by professional curiosity. The CIA's role was kept quiet.
But the most notorious of its efforts at LSD experimentation involved Frank Olson, an Army scientist who was dosed without his knowledge and subsequently committed suicide. The U.S. Army conducted field tests of LSD as an interrogation tool in 1961 (Operation Third Chance), dosing nine foreigners and an American soldier named James Thornwell, who had been accused of stealing classified documents. Thornwell subsequently sued the government and was awarded $650,000. Most of these efforts led to little more than scandal and embarrassment. The effects of the drug were too wildly unpredictable to make it useful in interrogation. It tended to amplify the sorts of feelings that inhibit cooperation.
Fear and anxiety turned into terrifying hallucinations and fantasies, which made it more difficult to elicit secrets, and added a tinge of unreality to whatever information was divulged. LSD may have unlocked the mind in some esoteric sense, but secrets tended to ride out the trip intact.
Experiments were also conducted with heroin and psychedelic mushrooms, neither of which reliably delivered up the secrets of men's souls. Indeed, drugs seemed to enhance some people's ability to be deceptive. Scopolamine held out some early hope, but it often induced hallucinations. Barbiturates were promising, and were already used effectively by psychiatrists to help with therapy. Some researchers advocated electroshock treatments, to, as it were, blast information from a subject's brain. Drugs such as marijuana, alcohol, and sodium pentothal can lower inhibitions, but they do not erase deep-seated convictions. And the more powerful the drug, the less reliable the testimony.
According to my intelligence sources, drugs are today sometimes used to assist in critical interrogations, and the preferred ones are methamphetamines tempered with barbiturates and cannabis. These tools can help, but they are only as effective as the interrogator.
Better results seemed to come from sensory deprivation and solitary confinement.
For most people severe sensory deprivation quickly becomes misery; the effects were documented in the notorious 1963 CIA manual on interrogation, called the Kubark Manual. It remains the most comprehensive and detailed explanation in print of coercive methods of questioning—given the official reluctance to discuss these matters or put them in writing, because such things tend to be both politically embarrassing and secret.
...Unearthed in 1997, through the Freedom of Information Act, by the Baltimore Sun reporters Gary Cohn, Ginger Thompson, and Mark Matthews, the Kubark Manual reveals the CIA's insights into the tougher methods employed by the military and intelligence agencies.
Much of the practice and theory it details is also found unchanged in the 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, usually known as the Honduras Manual—which the CIA had tried to soften with a hasty edit prior to releasing it. The manual was shaken loose at the same time by Cohn and Thompson. And the more summary discussions of technique in later U.S. Army manuals on interrogation, including the most recent, also clearly echo Kubark.
If there is a bible of interrogation, it is the Kubark Manual.
The manual cites a 1954 study at the National Institute of Mental Health (again led by John Lilly) in which two volunteers attempted to see how long they could stay suspended in water wearing blackout masks and hearing only the sound of their own breathing and "some faint sounds of water from the piping." Neither lasted more than three hours.
According to the study, "Both passed quickly from normally directed thinking through a tension resulting from unsatisfied hunger for sensory stimuli and concentration upon the few available sensations to provide reveries and fantasies and eventually to visual imagery somewhat resembling hallucinations."
John Marks reported in his book that in a similar experiment a volunteer kicked his way out of a sensory-deprivation box after an hour of tearful pleas for release had been ignored.
The Summary Of Another Experiment Concluded, The Results Confirmed Earlier Findings:
1) The deprivation of sensory stimuli induces stress;
2) the stress becomes unbearable for most subjects;
3) the subject has a growing need for physical and social stimuli; and
4) some subjects progressively lose touch with reality, focus inwardly, and produce delusions, hallucinations, and other pathological effects.
But these effects didn't trouble everyone. One man's misery is another man's mind-altering experience. Some people found they liked sensory-deprivation tanks; indeed, in later years people would pay for a session in one. Lilly was fond of injecting himself with LSD and then closing himself off in his tank—a series of experiments made famous in the 1980 film Altered States.
In Canada a scientist put a fifty-two-year-old woman identified only as Mary C. in a sensory-deprivation chamber for thirty-five days. She never asked to be let out.
One thing all these experiments made clear was that no matter what drugs or methods were applied, the results varied from person to person. So another major area of inquiry involved trying to define certain broad personality types and discover what methods would work best for each.
The groups were ridiculously general—the Kubark Manual lists "The Orderly-Obstinate Character," "The Greedy-Demanding Character," "The Anxious, Self-Centered Character"—and the prescriptions for questioning them tended to vary little and were sometimes silly (the advice for questioning an Orderly-Obstinate Character recommends doing so in a room that is especially neat). The categories were useless. Everyone, and every situation, is different; some people begin a day greedy and demanding and end it orderly and obstinate.
The one constant in effective interrogation, it seems, is the interrogator. And some interrogators are just better at it than others.
"You want a good interrogator?" Jerry Giorgio, the New York Police Department's legendary third-degree man, asks. "Give me somebody who people like, and who likes people. Give me somebody who knows how to put people at ease. Because the more comfortable they are, the more they talk, and the more they talk, the more trouble they're in—the harder it is to sustain a lie."
Though science has made contributions, interrogation remains more art than science. Like any other subject, Sheikh Mohammed presented his interrogators with a unique problem. The critical hub of a worldwide secret network, he had a potential road map in his head to the whole shadow world of jihad. If he could be made to talk, to reveal even a few secrets, what an intelligence bonanza that would be! Here was a man who lived to further his cause by whatever means, who saw himself as morally, spiritually, and intellectually superior to the entire infidel Western world, a man for whom capitulation meant betraying not just his friends and his cherished cause but his very soul.
What Would Make A man Like That Decide To Talk?
Bill Cowan spent three and a half years fighting the war in Vietnam. He was a young Marine captain assigned to the Rung Sat Special Zone, a putrid swamp that begins just south of Saigon...
So when he captured a Vietcong soldier who could warn of ambushes and lead them to hidden troops but who refused to speak, wires were attached to the man's scrotum with alligator clips and electricity was cranked out of a 110-volt generator.
"It worked like a charm," Cowan told me. "The minute the crank started to turn, he was ready to talk. We never had to do more than make it clear we could deliver a jolt. It was the fear more than the pain that made them talk."
Fear works. It is more effective than any drug, tactic, or torture device.
According to unnamed scientific studies cited by the Kubark Manual (it is frightening to think what these experiments might have been), most people cope with pain better than they think they will. As people become more familiar with pain, they become conditioned to it. Those who have suffered more physical pain than others—from being beaten frequently as a child, for example, or suffering a painful illness—may adapt to it and come to fear it less. So once interrogators resort to actual torture, they are apt to lose ground.
"The threat of coercion usually weakens or destroys resistance more effectively than coercion itself," the manual says.
The threat to inflict pain, for example, can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain ... Sustained long enough, a strong fear of anything vague or unknown induces regression, whereas the materialization of the fear, the infliction of some form of punishment, is likely to come as a relief. The subject finds that he can hold out, and his resistances are strengthened.
Furthermore, if a prisoner is subjected to pain after other methods have failed, it is a signal that the interrogation process may be nearing an end. "He may then decide that if he can just hold out against this final assault, he will win the struggle and his freedom," the manual concludes.
Even if severe pain does elicit information, it can be false, which is particularly troublesome to interrogators seeking intelligence rather than a confession. Much useful information is time-sensitive, and running down false leads or arresting innocents wastes time.
By similar logic, the manual discourages threatening a prisoner with death. As a tactic "it is often found to be worse than useless," the manual says, because the sense of despair it induces can make the prisoner withdraw into depression—or, in some cases, see an honorable way out of his predicament.
"I'll tell you how to make a man talk," a retired Special Forces officer says. "You shoot the man to his left and the man to his right. Then you can't shut him up."
John Dunn found the truth to be a little more complicated. In his case the threat of execution forced him to bend but not break.
He was a U.S. Army intelligence officer in the Lam Dong Province of Vietnam, in March of 1968, when he was captured by the Vietcong. He and other captives were marched for weeks to a prison camp in the jungle, where initially he was treated quite well. The gentle treatment lulled him, Dunn says, and contributed to his shock when, in his first interrogation session, he was calmly told, "We don't need you. We did not sign the Geneva Convention, and you are not considered a prisoner of war anyway. You are a war criminal. If you don't cooperate with us, you will be executed."
...His training for captivity had been basic. He had been instructed to tell his captors only his name, rank, and serial number. Anything beyond that was considered a breach of duty—a betrayal of his country, his role as a soldier, and his personal honor.
Faced with death, Dunn weighed his devotion to this simple code. He felt it was unrealistic. He wrestled to come up with a solution that would keep him alive without completely compromising his dignity. He figured there were certain details about his life and service that were not worth dying to protect. Some things needed to be kept secret, and others did not.
Struggling with shame, he decided to answer any questions that did not intrude on that closed center of secrecy. He would not tell them he was an intelligence officer. ("Not out of patriotism," he says. "Out of fear, strictly self-preservation.") He would not reveal accurate details about fortifications around his company's headquarters, in Di Linh. He would not tell them about upcoming plans, such as the Phoenix Program (an assassination program targeting Vietcong village leaders), and above all, he would not make any public statements. But he would talk. The threat of execution in his case was not "worse than useless." It shook Dunn to his core.
In a subsequent session he talked, but not enough to satisfy his captors. Again and again he refused to make a public statement. Starved, sore, and still frightened, Dunn was told, "You will be executed. After dark."
When the sun set, the interrogator, his aide, and the camp commander came for Dunn with a group of soldiers. They unlocked his chain, and he carried it as they led him away from the encampment into the jungle. They stopped in front of a pit they had dug for his grave and put a gun to his head. The interrogator gave him one more chance to agree to make a statement.
"No," Dunn said. He had gone as far as he was willing to go.
"Why do you want to die?" he was asked.
"If I must, I must," Dunn said. He felt resigned. He waited to be killed.
"You will not be executed," the camp commander said abruptly, and that was that.
Judging by Dunn's experience, the threat of death may be valuable to an interrogator as a way of loosening up a determined subject. But, as with pain, the most important factor is fear. An unfrightened prisoner makes an unlikely informer.
If there is an archetype of the modern interrogator, it is Michael Koubi. The former chief interrogator for Israel's General Security Services, or Shabak, Koubi probably has more experience than anyone else in the world in the interrogation of hostile Arab prisoners, some of them confirmed terrorists and religious fanatics—men, he says, "whose hatred of the Jews is unbridgeable."
...For decades he has been experimenting with captive human beings, cajoling, tricking, hurting, threatening, and spying on them, steadily upping the pressure, looking for cracks at the seams.
...There are still many things he is not free to discuss, but he is happy to talk about his methods. He is very proud of his skills, among them an ability to speak Arabic so fluently that he can adopt a multitude of colloquial flavors.
Koubi came to his career as an interrogator through his love of language. He grew up speaking Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic, and he studied Arabic in high school, working to master its idiom and slang.
He also had a knack for reading the body language and facial expressions of his subjects, and for sensing a lie.
He is a skilled actor who could alternately befriend or intimidate a subject, sometimes turning on a dime.
Blending these skills with the tricks he had learned over the years for manipulating people, Koubi didn't just question his subjects, he orchestrated their emotional surrender.
...Charm has always been as important to interrogation work as toughness or cruelty—perhaps more important. Koubi says that only in rare instances did he use force to extract information from his subjects; in most cases it wasn't necessary.
"People change when they get to prison," Koubi says. "They may be heroes outside, but inside they change. The conditions are different. People are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of being tortured, of being held for a long time. Try to see what it is like to sit with a hood over your head for four hours, when you are hungry and tired and afraid, when you are isolated from everything and have no clue what is going on."
When the captive believes that anything could happen—torture, execution, indefinite imprisonment, even the persecution of his loved ones—the interrogator can go to work.
Under pressure, he says, nearly everyone looks out first and foremost for No. 1. What's more, a very large part of who a man is depends on his circumstances. No matter who he is before his arrest, his sense of self will blur in custody. Isolation, fear, and deprivation force a man to retreat, to reorient himself, and to reorder his priorities.
For most men, Koubi says, the hierarchy of loyalty under stress is:
In other words, even the most dedicated terrorist (with very rare exceptions), when pushed hard enough, will act to preserve and protect himself at the expense of anyone or anything else. "There's an old Arab saying," Koubi says. "'Let one hundred mothers cry, but not my mother—but better my mother than me.'"
With older men the priorities shift slightly. In middle age the family often overtakes the group (the cause) to become the second most important loyalty. Young men tend to be fiercely committed and ambitious, but older men—even men with deeply held convictions, men admired and emulated by their followers—tend to have loves and obligations that count for more.
Age frays idealism, slackens zeal, and cools ferocity. Abstractions lose ground to wife, children, and grandchildren.
"Notice that the leaders of Hamas do not send their own sons and daughters, and their own grandchildren, to blow themselves up," Koubi says.
So it is often the top-level men...who are easier to crack. Koubi believes that having the al-Qaeda leader's wife and children in custody gives his interrogators powerful leverage.
The key is to find a man's weak point and exploit it.
For Koubi the three critical ingredients of that process are preparation, investigation, and theater.
Preparing a subject for interrogation means softening him up. Ideally, he has been pulled from his sleep—like Sheikh Mohammed—early in the morning, roughly handled, bound, hooded (a coarse, dirty, smelly sack serves the purpose perfectly), and kept waiting in discomfort, perhaps naked in a cold, wet room, forced to stand or to sit in an uncomfortable position. He may be kept awake for days prior to questioning, isolated and ill-fed. He may be unsure where he is, what time of day it is, how long he has been or will be held. If he is wounded, as Abu Zubaydah was, pain medication may be withheld; it is one thing to cause pain, another to refuse to relieve it.
Mousa Khoury, a Palestinian businessman, knows the drill all too well. A slender thirty-four-year-old man with a black goatee and thinning hair, he is bitter about the Israeli occupation and his experiences in custody. He has been arrested and interrogated six times by Israeli forces. He was once held for seventy-one days.
"My hands were cuffed behind my back, and a potato sack was over my head," he says. "My legs were cuffed to a tiny chair. The chair's base is ten centimeters by twenty centimeters. The back is ten centimeters by ten centimeters. It is hard wood. The front legs are shorter than the back ones, so you are forced to slide forward in it, only your hands are bound in the back. If you sit back, the back of the chair digs into the small of your back. If you slump forward, you are forced to hang by your hands. It is painful. They will take you to the toilet only after screaming a request one hundred times." He could think about only one thing: how to make the treatment stop. "Your thoughts go back and forth and back and forth, and you can no longer have a normal stream of consciousness," he says.
Preparing an interrogator means arming him beforehand with every scrap of information about his subject.
U.S. Army interrogation manuals suggest preparing a thick "dummy file" when little is known, to make it appear that the interrogator knows more than he does.
Nothing rattles a captive more than to be confronted with a fact he thought was secret or obscure. It makes the interrogator seem powerful, all-knowing. A man's sense of importance is wounded, and he is slower to lie, because he thinks he might be caught at it.
There are many ways that scraps of information—gathered by old-fashioned legwork or the interrogation of a subject's associates—can be leveraged by a clever interrogator into something new. Those scraps might be as simple as knowing the names of a man's siblings or key associates, the name of his girlfriend, or a word or phrase that has special meaning to his group.
Uncovering privileged details diminishes the aura of a secret society, whether it is a social club, a terrorist cell, or a military unit. Joining such a group makes an individual feel distinct, important, and superior, and invests even the most mundane of his activities with meaning.
An interrogator who penetrates that secret society, unraveling its shared language, culture, history, customs, plans, and pecking order, can diminish its hold on even the staunchest believer.
Suspicion that a trusted comrade has betrayed the group—or the subject himself—undermines the sense of a secretly shared purpose and destiny.
Armed with a few critical details, a skilled interrogator can make a subject doubt the value of information he has been determined to withhold.
It is one thing to suffer in order to protect a secret, quite another to cling to a secret that is already out.
This is how a well-briefed interrogator breaches a group's defenses.
Koubi believes that the most important skill for an interrogator is to know the prisoner's language. Working through interpreters is at best a necessary evil. Language is at the root of all social connections, and plays a critical role in secret societies like Hamas and al-Qaeda. A shared vocabulary or verbal shorthand helps to cement the group.
"I try to create the impression that I use his mother tongue even better than he does," Koubi says. "No accent, no mistaken syntax. I speak to him like his best friend speaks to him. I might ask him a question about a certain word or sentence or expression, how it is used in his culture, and then demonstrate that I know more about it than he does. This embarrasses him very much."
Once a prisoner starts to talk, rapid follow-up is needed to sort fact from fiction, so that the interrogator knows whether his subject is being cooperative or evasive, and can respond accordingly.
Interrogation sessions should be closely observed (many rooms designed for this purpose have one-way mirrors), and in a well-run unit a subject's words can sometimes be checked out before the session is over.
Being caught so quickly in a lie demonstrates the futility of playing games with the interrogator, and strengthens his hand. It shames and rattles the subject.
When information checks out, the interrogator can home in for more details and open up new avenues of exploration.
Religious extremists are the hardest cases. They ponder in their own private space, performing a kind of self-hypnosis. They are usually well educated. Their lives are financially and emotionally tidy. They tend to live in an ascetic manner, and to look down on nonbelievers. They tend to be physically and mentally strong, and not to be influenced by material things—by either the incentives or the disincentives available in prison. Often the rightness of their cause trumps all else, so they can commit any outrage—lie, cheat, steal, betray, kill—without remorse. Yet under suffi-cient duress, Koubi says, most men of even this kind will eventually break—most, but not all. Some cannot be broken.
"They are very rare," he says, "but in some cases the more aggressive you get, and the worse things get, the more these men will withdraw into their own world, until you cannot reach them."
Mousa Khoury, the Palestinian businessman who has been interrogated six times, claims that he never once gave in to his jailers. Koubi has no particular knowledge of Khoury's case, but he smiles his crooked, knowing smile and says, "If someone you meet says he was held by our forces and did not cooperate at all, you can bet he is lying. In some cases men who are quite famous for their toughness were the most helpful to us in captivity."
Interrogation Is Also Highly Theatrical. The Kubark Manual Is Very Particular About Setting The Stage:
The room in which the interrogation is to be conducted should be free of distractions. The colors of the walls, ceiling, rugs, and furniture should not be startling. Pictures should be missing or dull. Whether the furniture should include a desk depends not upon the interrogator's convenience but rather upon the subject's anticipated reaction to the connotations of superiority and officialdom. A plain table may be preferable. An overstuffed chair for the use of the interrogatee is sometimes preferable to a straight-backed, wooden chair because if he is made to stand for a lengthy period or is otherwise deprived of physical comfort, the contrast is intensified and increased disorientation results.
The manual goes on to recommend lighting that shines brightly in the face of the subject and leaves the interrogator in shadow. There should be no phone or any other means of contact with those outside the room, to enhance concentration and the subject's feeling of confinement.
In Koubi's experience it was sometimes helpful to have associates loudly stage a torture or beating session in the next room.
In old CIA interrogation training, according to Bill Wagner, a retired agent, it was recommended that mock executions take place outside the interrogation room.
A good interrogator is a deceiver. One of Koubi's tricks was to walk into a hallway lined with twenty recently arrested, hooded, uncomfortable, hungry, and fearful men, all primed for interrogation, and shout commandingly,
"Okay, who wants to cooperate with me?" Even if no hands, or only one hand, went up, he would say to the hooded men, "Okay, good. Eight of you. I'll start with you, and the others will have to wait."
Believing that others have capitulated makes doing so oneself much easier. Often, after this trick, many of the men in the hall would cooperate.
Men are herd animals, and prefer to go with the flow, especially when moving in the other direction is harsh.
In one case Koubi had information suggesting that two men he was questioning were secretly members of a terrorist cell, and knew of an impending attack. They were tough men, rural farmers, very difficult to intimidate or pressure, and so far neither man had admitted anything under questioning. Koubi worked them over individually for hours. With each man he would start off by asking friendly questions and then grow angrier and angrier, accusing the subject of withholding something. He would slap him, knock him off his chair, set guards on him, and then intervene to pull them off. Then he would put the subject back in the chair and offer him a cigarette, lightening the mood.
"Let him see the difference between the two atmospheres, the hostile one and the friendly one," Koubi says. Neither man budged.
Finally Koubi set his trap. He announced to one of the men that his interrogation was over. The man's associate, hooded, was seated in the hallway outside the room. "We are going to release you," Koubi said.
"We are pleased with your cooperation. But first you must do something for me. I am going to ask you a series of questions, just a formality, and I need you to answer 'Yes' in a loud, clear voice for the recorder."
Then, in a voice loud enough for the hooded man outside in the hall to hear, but soft enough so that he couldn't make out exactly what was being said, Koubi read off a long list of questions, reviewing the prisoner's name, age, marital status, date of capture, length of detainment, and so forth. These were regularly punctuated by the prisoner's loud and cooperative "Yes."
The charade was enough to convince the man in the hall that his friend had capitulated.
Koubi dismissed the first man and brought in the second. "There's no more need for me to question you," Koubi said. "Your friend has confessed the whole thing." He offered the second prisoner a cigarette and gave him a good meal. He told him that the information provided by his friend virtually ensured that they would both be in prison for the rest of their lives ... unless, he said, the second prisoner could offer him something, anything, that would dispose the court to leniency in his case.
Convinced that his friend had already betrayed them both, the second prisoner acted promptly to save himself. "If you want to save Israeli lives, go immediately," he told Koubi. "My friends went with a car to Yeshiva Nehalim [a religious school]. They are going to kidnap a group of students ..." The men were found in Erez, and the operation was foiled.
There are other methods of keeping a prisoner confused and off balance, such as rapidly firing questions at him, cutting off his responses in mid-sentence, asking the same questions over and over in different order, and what the manual calls the "Silent" technique, in which the interrogator "says nothing to the source, but looks him squarely in the eye, preferably with a slight smile on his face."
The manual advises forcing the subject to break eye contact first. "The source will become nervous, begin to shift around in his chair, cross and recross his legs, and look away," the manual says. "When the interrogator is ready to break silence, he may do so with some quite nonchalant questions such as 'You planned this operation a long time, didn't you?
Was it your idea?'"
Then There Is "Alice In Wonderland."
The aim of the Alice in Wonderland or confusion technique is to confound the expectations and conditioned reactions of the interrogatee ... The confusion technique is designed not only to obliterate the familiar but to replace it with the weird ... Sometimes two or more questions are asked simultaneously. Pitch, tone, and volume of the interrogators' voices are unrelated to the import of the questions. No pattern of questions and answers is permitted to develop, nor do the questions themselves relate logically to each other.
If this technique is pursued patiently, the manual says, the subject will start to talk "just to stop the flow of babble which assails him."
Easily the most famous routine is "Good Cop/Bad Cop," in which one interrogator becomes the captive's persecutor and the other his friend.
A lesser-known but equally effective technique is "Pride and Ego," "Ego Up/Ego Down," or (as the more pretentious Kubark Manual puts it) "Spinoza and Mortimer Snerd," in which the "Ego Down" part involves repeatedly asking questions that the interrogator knows the subject cannot answer.
The subject is continually berated or threatened ("How could you not know the answer to that?") and accused of withholding, until, at long last, he is asked a simple question that he can answer.
An American POW subjected to this technique has said, "I know it seems strange now, but I was positively grateful to them when they switched to a topic I knew something about."
CIA psychologists have tried to develop an underlying theory for interrogation—namely, that the coercive methods induce a gradual "regression" of personality. But the theory is not convincing.
Interrogation simply backs a man into a corner. It forces difficult choices, and dangles illusory avenues of escape.
A skillful interrogator knows which approach will best suit his subject; and just as he expertly applies stress, he continually opens up these avenues of escape or release. This means understanding what, at heart, is stopping a subject from cooperating.
If it is ego, that calls for one method. If it is fear of reprisal or of getting into deeper trouble, another method might work best.
For most captives a major incentive to keep quiet is simply pride. Their manhood is being tested, not just their loyalty and conviction. Allowing the subject to save face lowers the cost of capitulation, so an artful interrogator will offer persuasive rationales for giving in: others already have, or the information is already known.
Drugs, if administered with the subject's knowledge, are helpful in this regard. If a subject believes that a particular drug or "truth serum" renders him helpless, he is off the hook. He cannot be held accountable for giving in.
A study cited in George Andrews's book MKULTRA found that a placebo—a simple sugar pill—was as effective as an actual drug up to half of the time.
Koubi layered his deception so thick that his subjects never knew exactly when their interrogation ended.
After questioning, captives usually spent time in a regular prison. The Israelis had bugged the prison with a system that was disguised well enough to appear hidden but not well enough to avoid discovery. In this way prisoners were led to believe that only certain parts of the prison were bugged. In fact, all of the prison was bugged. Conversations between prisoners could be overheard anywhere, and were closely monitored. They were an invaluable source of intelligence.
Prisoners who could hold out through the most intense interrogation often let their guard down later when talking to comrades in jail.
To help such inadvertent confessions along, Koubi had yet another card to play. Whenever an interrogated subject was released to the general prison, after weeks of often grueling questioning, he was received with open arms by fellow Palestinians who befriended him and congratulated him for having endured interrogation. He was treated like a hero.
He was fed, nursed, even celebrated. What he didn't know was that his happy new comrades were working for Koubi.
Koubi calls them "birdies." They were Palestinians who, offered an incentive such as an opportunity to settle with their families in another country, had agreed to cooperate with Shabak.
Some days or weeks after welcoming the new prisoner into their ranks, easing his transition into the prison, they would begin to ask questions. They would debrief the prisoner on his interrogation sessions. They would say, "It is very important for those on the outside to know what you told the Israelis and what you didn't tell them. Tell us, and we will get the information to those on the outside who need to know."
Even prisoners who had managed to keep important secrets from Koubi spilled them to his birdies.
"The amazing thing is that by now the existence of the birdies is well known," Koubi says, "and yet the system still works. People come out of interrogation, go into the regular prison, and then tell their darkest secrets. I don't know why it still works, but it does."
Big Daddy Uptown
Most professional interrogators work without the latitude given the CIA, the FBI, or the military in the war on terror. A policeman's subjects all have to be read their Miranda rights, and cops who physically threaten or abuse suspects—at least nowadays—may find themselves in jail.
Jerry Giorgio, the legendary NYPD interrogator, has operated within these rules for nearly forty years. He may not know all the names of the CIA and military techniques, but he has probably seen most of them at work. Known as "Big Daddy Uptown," Giorgio now works for the New York County district attorney in a cramped office in Lower Manhattan that he shares with two others. He is a big man with a big voice, thinning gray hair, a broad belly, and wide, searching greenish-brown eyes. He is considered a wizard by his former colleagues in the NYPD. "All of us of a certain generation came out of the Jerry Giorgio school of interrogation," says John Bourges, a recently retired Manhattan homicide detective.
"Everybody knows the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, right?" Giorgio says. "Well, I'm always the Good Cop. I don't work with a Bad Cop, either. Don't need it. You want to know the truth? The truth is—and this is important—everybody down deep wants to tell his or her story. It's true. No matter how damaging it is to them, no matter how important it is for them to keep quiet, they want to tell their story. If they feel guilty, they want to get it off their chest. If they feel justified in what they did, they want to explain themselves. I tell them, 'Hey, I know what you did and I can prove it. Now what are you going to do about it? If you show remorse, if you help me out, I'll go to bat for you.' I tell them that. And if you give them half a reason to do it, they'll tell you everything."
The most important thing is to get them talking. The toughest suspects are those who clam up and demand a lawyer right at the start. Giorgio believes that once he gets a suspect talking, the stream of words will eventually flow right to the truth...
Here is how Giorgio summarizes what turned out to be a very long and fruitful conversation:
"I was at home last night," Martinez said. "She did call me."
"She wanted me to pick her up. I told her, 'I'm watching the Mets game; I can't pick you up.'"
That was it. Giorgio acted very pleased with this statement, thanked Martinez, wrote it up, and asked the young man to sign it. Martinez did.
Then Giorgio stared at the statement and gave Martinez a quizzical look.
"You know, Carlos, something about this statement doesn't look right to me. You two had been going out for, what? Seven years? She calls you and asks you to pick her up at night where she's just gotten off work. It's not a safe neighborhood, and you tell her no? You mean a ball game on TV was more important to you?"
The question was cunning. The detective knew that Martinez was trying to make a good impression; he definitely didn't want to leave Giorgio with any unresolved issues to play in his mind. So it concerned him that his first statement didn't sound right.
Giorgio's question also touched Martinez's sense of chivalry, an important quality for many Hispanic men. It wouldn't do to be seen as ungentlemanly. Here was a young woman who had just been brutally killed. How would it look to her family and friends if he admitted that she had called and asked him for a ride and he had left her to her fate—for a ball game on TV?
The question also subtly suggested an out: The neighborhood wasn't safe. People got hurt or killed in that neighborhood all the time. Maybe Martinez could admit that he had seen Cheryl on the night of the murder without directly implicating himself. No one ever accused the former footballer of being especially bright. He rose to Giorgio's bait immediately.
He said, "Jerry, let me tell you what really happened." ("Note," Giorgio says proudly, "already I'm Jerry!") Martinez now said that he had left his place to pick Wright up after work, but they had gotten into an argument. "She got mad at me and told me she didn't need a ride, so I waited until she got on the bus, and then I left." ("Look, now he's the picture of chivalry!" Giorgio says happily.)
"Let me take that down," Giorgio said, again acting pleased with the statement. He wrote it out neatly and asked Martinez to look it over and sign it. Martinez did.
Again Giorgio squinted at the paper. "You know, Carlos, something is still not right here. Cheryl was a strikingly beautiful girl. People who saw her remembered her. She's taken that bus home from work many nights, and people on that bus know who she is. And you know what? Nobody who rode that bus saw her on it last night."
(This was, in Giorgio's words, "pure bullshit." He hadn't talked to anybody who rode that bus. "Sometimes you have to just take a chance," he says.)
Again Martinez looked troubled. He had not allayed the detective's suspicions. So he tried again. "Okay, okay," he said. "This is really it. Let me tell you what really happened. Cheryl called, and I left to pick her up, but I ran into a friend of mine—I can't tell you his name—and we picked her up together. Then Cheryl and I got in this argument, a big fight. My friend got fed up. So we drove away, up Broadway to 181st Street, and stopped at the McDonald's there. He pulled out a gun, my friend, and he told me to get out of the car. 'Wait here,' he told me. 'I'm going to get rid of your problem.' Then he left. I waited. Then he came back. He said he had gotten rid of my problem."
Giorgio nodded happily and started to write up statement No. 3. He acted troubled over the fact that Martinez refused to name the friend, and the young man quickly coughed up a name. Giorgio's lieutenant, who had been watching the session through a one-way mirror, immediately got to work tracking down Martinez's friend. By the time the third statement had been written up, signed, and nestled neatly on top of the other two, Giorgio had a new problem to pose to Martinez: it seemed that his friend was in South Carolina, and had been for some time.
"We never did get to finish the fourth statement," Giorgio says. "Martinez's family had hired a lawyer, and he called the station forbidding us to further question his client." It was, of course, too late.
Captain Crunch Versus The Tree Huggers
..."It isn't about getting mad, or payback," says Bill Cowan, the Vietnam interrogator. "It's strictly business. Torturing people doesn't fit my moral compass at all. But I don't think there's much of a gray area. Either the guy has information you need or not. Either it's vital or it's not. You know which guys you need to twist."
The official statements by President Bush and William Haynes reaffirming the U.S. government's opposition to torture have been applauded by human-rights groups—but again, the language in them is carefully chosen.
What does the Bush Administration mean by "torture"? Does it really share the activists' all-inclusive definition of the word?
In his letter to the director of Human Rights Watch, Haynes used the term "enemy combatants" to describe those in custody. Calling detainees "prisoners of war" would entitle them to the protections of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the "physical or mental torture" of POWs, and "any other form of coercion," even to the extent of "unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind."
(In the contemptuous words of one military man, they "prohibit everything except three square meals, a warm bed, and access to a Harvard education.")
Detainees who are American citizens have the advantage of constitutional protections against being held without charges, and have the right to legal counsel. They would also be protected from the worst abuses by the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."
The one detainee at Guantánamo who was discovered to have been born in the United States has been transferred to a different facility, and legal battles rage over his status. But if the rest of the thousands of detainees are neither POWs (even though the bulk of them were captured during the fighting in Afghanistan) nor American citizens, they are fair game. They are protected only by this country's international promises—which are, in effect, unenforceable.
What are those promises?
The most venerable are those in the Geneva Convention, but the United States has sidestepped this agreement in the case of those captured in the war on terror.
The next most important would be those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which asserts, in Article 5, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
There is also the Convention Against Torture, the agreement cited by Bush in June, which would seem to rule out any of the more aggressive methods of interrogation. It states, in Article I, "For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person." Again, note the word "severe." The United States is avoiding the brand "torturer" only by sleight of word.
The history of interrogation by U.S. armed forces and spy agencies is one of giving lip service to international agreements while vigorously using coercion whenever circumstances seem to warrant it.
However, both the Army and the CIA have been frank in their publications about the use of coercive methods.
The Kubark Manual offers only a few nods in its 128 pages to qualms over what are referred to, in a rare euphemism, as "external techniques": "Moral considerations aside, the imposition of external techniques of manipulating people carries with it the grave risk of later lawsuits, adverse publicity, or other attempts to strike back."
The use of the term "strike back" here is significant; it implies that criticism of such unseemly methods, whether legal, moral, or journalistic, would have no inherent validity but would be viewed as an enemy counterattack.
Bill Wagner, the former CIA agent, remembers going to the Agency's three-week interrogation course at "The Farm," in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1970. Until it was shut down, a few years later, it was considered the Agency's "premier course," Wagner says, and only the best recruits were invited to take it. "To say you had been through it was a real feather in your cap."
Volunteers played the role of captives in return for guaranteed space in a future session of the coveted course. They were deprived of sleep, kept doused with water in cold rooms, forced to sit or stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods, isolated from sunlight and social contacts, given food deliberately made unappetizing (oversalted, for instance, or tainted with a green dye), and subjected to mock executions.
At least 10 percent of the volunteers dropped out, even though they knew it was just a training exercise. Wagner says that many of those who had served as victims later refused to take the course and victimize others. "They lost their stomach for it," he says.
Several years after Wagner took the course, he says, the Agency dropped it entirely. The scandals of the Nixon years put the CIA under unprecedented scrutiny. Over the next three decades spying schools and most human-intelligence networks were gradually dismantled. The United States itself was losing its stomach for hands-on intelligence gathering—and with it, interrogation.
Nobody experienced the effects of this shift more dramatically than Keith Hall, who earned the nickname Captain Crunch before he lost his job as a CIA agent. Now he describes himself as "a poster child for political correctness." He is a pugnacious brick of a man, who at age fifty-two is just a thicker (especially in the middle) version of the young man who joined the Marines thirty years ago. After his discharge he earned a master's degree in history and international relations; he took a job as a police officer, because he craved a more physical brand of excitement than academia had to offer. His nickname comes from this craving.
The CIA hired Hall immediately after he applied, in 1979, because of his relatively rare combination of academic and real-world credentials. He was routed into the Investigation and Analysis Directorate, where he became one of the Agency's covert operators, a relatively small group ("about forty-eight guys, total," Hall says) known as the "knuckle-draggers." Most CIA agents, especially by the 1980s, were just deskmen.
Hall preferred traveling, training, and blowing things up, even though he felt that the rest of the Agency looked down its patrician nose at guys like him. When the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed, on April 18, 1983, eight of the seventeen Americans killed were CIA employees. There were going to be plenty of official investigations, but the Agency wanted one of its own. Hall was selected to carry it out.
"They flew me to Langley on one of their private planes, and delivered me to the seventh floor," he says. "They told me, 'We want you to go to Beirut and find out who blew up the embassy and how they did it. The President himself is going to be reading your cables. There is going to be some retribution here.'"
Hall was honored, and excited. This was a mission of singular purpose, of the highest priority, and he knew he was expected to get results. Having been a police officer and a Marine, he knew that the official investigations had to build a case that might someday stand up in court. His goal was not to build a case but just to find out who did it.
He slept on rooftops in Beirut, changing the location every two nights. It was a dangerous time to be an American—especially a CIA officer—there, and Hall kept moving. He worked with the Lebanese Special Security Force, and set up a computer in the police building.
Hall says he took part without hesitation in brutal questioning by the Lebanese, during which suspects were beaten with clubs and rubber hoses or wired up to electrical generators and doused with water. Such methods eventually led him to the suspected "paymaster" of the embassy bombing, a man named Elias Nimr. "He was our biggest catch," Hall says—a man with powerful connections. "When I told the Lebanese Minister of Defense, I watched the blood drain out of his face."
Nimr was a fat, pampered-looking twenty-eight-year-old, used to living the good life, a young man of wealth, leisure, and power. He came to the police building wearing slacks, a shiny sport shirt, and Gucci shoes. He had a small, well-trimmed moustache at the center of his soft, round face, and wore gold on his neck, wrists, and fingers. When he was marched into the building, Hall says, some of the officers "tried to melt into the shadows" for fear of eventual retribution. Nimr was nonchalant and smirking in his initial interview, convinced that when word got back to his family and connections, he would promptly be released.
When Hall got a chance to talk to him, he set out to disabuse Nimr. "I'm an American intelligence officer," he said. "You really didn't think that you were going to blow up our embassy and we wouldn't do anything about it, did you? You really should be looking inside yourself and telling yourself that it's a good idea to talk to me. The best way to go is to be civilized ... I know you think you are going to walk right out of here in a few minutes. That's not going to happen. You're mine. I'm the one who will make the decisions about what happens to you. The only thing that will save your ass is to cooperate." Nimr smiled at him dismissively.
The next time they met, Nimr wasn't in such good shape. In this case his connections were failing him. No one had roughed him up, but he had been kept standing for two days. Hall placed him in a straight-backed metal chair, with hot floodlights in his face. The agent sat behind the light, so that Nimr couldn't see him. Nimr wasn't as cocky, but he was still silent.
At the third interrogation session, Hall says, he kicked Nimr out of his chair. It was the first time anyone had physically abused him, and he seemed stunned. He just stared at Hall. He hadn't eaten since his arrest, four days earlier. But he still had nothing to say.
"I sent him back to his cell, had water poured over him again and again while he sat under a big fan, kept him freezing for about twenty-four hours. He comes back after this, and you can see his mood is changing. He hasn't walked out of jail, and it's beginning to dawn on him that no one is going to spring him."
Over the next ten days Hall kept up the pressure. During the questioning sessions he again kicked Nimr out of his chair, and both he and the Lebanese captain involved cracked him occasionally across the shins with a wooden bat. Finally Nimr broke. According to Hall, he explained his role in the bombing, and in the assassination of Lebanon's President. He explained that Syrian intelligence agents had been behind the plan. (Not everyone in the CIA agrees with Hall's interpretation.)
Soon afterwards Nimr died in his cell. Hall was back in Washington when he heard the news. He assumed that Nimr had been killed to prevent him from testifying and naming others involved in the plot. Armed with tapes of Nimr's confession, Hall felt he had accomplished his mission; but several months after finishing his report he was fired. As he understood it, word had leaked out about torture sessions conducted by a CIA agent, and the U.S. government was embarrassed.
...The perfect model of an interrogation center would be a place where prisoners lived in fear and uncertainty, a place where they could be isolated or allowed to mingle freely, as the jailer wished, and where conversations anywhere could be overheard.
Interrogators would be able to control the experience of their subjects completely, shutting down access to other people, or even to normal sensation and experience, or opening that access up. Subjects' lives could be made a misery of discomfort and confusion, or restored to an almost normal level of comfort and social interaction within the limitations of confinement. Hope could be dangled or removed. Cooperation would be rewarded, stubbornness punished.
Interrogators would have ever growing files on their subjects, with each new fact or revelation yielding new leads and more information—drawn from field investigations (agents in the real world verifying and exploring facts gathered on the inside), the testimony of other subjects, collaborators spying inside the prison, and surreptitious recordings. The interrogators in this center would have the experience and the intuition of a Jerry Giorgio or a Michael Koubi.
Serious interrogation is clearly being reserved for only the most dangerous men, like Sheikh Mohammed. So why not lift the fig leaf covering the use of coercion? Why not eschew hypocrisy, clearly define what is meant by the word "severe," and amend bans on torture to allow interrogators to coerce information from would-be terrorists?
This is the crux of the problem. It may be clear that coercion is sometimes the right choice, but how does one allow it yet still control it?
In considering a change in national policy, one is obliged to anticipate the practical consequences. So if we formally lift the ban on torture, even if only partially and in rare, specific cases (the attorney and author Alan Dershowitz has proposed issuing "torture warrants"), the question will be, How can we ensure that the practice does not become commonplace—not just a tool for extracting vital, life-saving information in rare cases but a routine tool of oppression?
As it happens, a pertinent case study exists. Israel has been a target of terror attacks for many years, and has wrestled openly with the dilemmas they pose for a democracy.
In 1987 a commission led by the retired Israeli Supreme Court justice Moshe Landau wrote a series of recommendations for Michael Koubi and his agents, allowing them to use "moderate physical pressure" and "nonviolent psychological pressure" in interrogating prisoners who had information that could prevent impending terror attacks. The commission sought to allow such coercion only in "ticking-bomb scenarios"—that is, in cases like the kidnapping of Jakob von Metzler, when the information withheld by the suspect could save lives.
Twelve years later the Israeli Supreme Court effectively revoked this permission, banning the use of any and all forms of torture. In the years following the Landau Commission recommendations, the use of coercive methods had become widespread in the Occupied Territories.
It was estimated that more than two thirds of the Palestinians taken into custody were subjected to them. Koubi says that only in rare instances, and with court permission, did he slap, pinch, or shake a prisoner—but he happens to be an especially gifted interrogator.
What about the hundreds of men who worked for him? Koubi could not be present for all those interrogations.
Every effort to regulate coercion failed. In the abstract it was easy to imagine a ticking-bomb situation, and a suspect who clearly warranted rough treatment. But in real life where was the line to be drawn?
Should coercive methods be applied only to someone who knows of an immediately pending attack? What about one who might know of attacks planned for months or years in the future?
"Assuming you get useful information from torture, then why not always use torture?" asks Jessica Montell, the executive director of B'Tselem, a human-rights advocacy group in Jerusalem.
"Why stop at the bomb that's already been planted and at people who know where the explosives are? Why not people who are building the explosives, or people who are donating money, or transferring the funds for the explosives? Why stop at the victim himself? Why not torture the victims' families, their relatives, their neighbors? If the end justifies the means, then where would you draw the line?"
And how does one define "coercion," as opposed to "torture"?
If making a man sit in a tiny chair that forces him to hang painfully by his bound hands when he slides forward is okay, then what about applying a little pressure to the base of his neck to aggravate that pain? When does shaking or pushing a prisoner, which can become violent enough to kill or seriously injure a man, cross the line from coercion to torture?
...She knows that the use of coercion in interrogation did not end completely when the Israeli Supreme Court banned it in 1999. The difference is that when interrogators use "aggressive methods" now, they know they are breaking the law and could potentially be held responsible for doing so. This acts as a deterrent, and tends to limit the use of coercion to only the most defensible situations.
"If I as an interrogator feel that the person in front of me has information that can prevent a catastrophe from happening," she says, "I imagine that I would do what I would have to do in order to prevent that catastrophe from happening. The state's obligation is then to put me on trial, for breaking the law. Then I come and say these are the facts that I had at my disposal. This is what I believed at the time. This is what I thought necessary to do. I can evoke the defense of necessity, and then the court decides whether or not it's reasonable that I broke the law in order to avert this catastrophe. But it has to be that I broke the law. It can't be that there's some prior license for me to abuse people."
In other words, when the ban is lifted, there is no restraining lazy, incompetent, or sadistic interrogators. As long as it remains illegal to torture, the interrogator who employs coercion must accept the risk. He must be prepared to stand up in court, if necessary, and defend his actions. Interrogators will still use coercion because in some cases they will deem it worth the consequences. This does not mean they will necessarily be punished...
The Bush Administration has adopted exactly the right posture on the matter. Candor and consistency are not always public virtues.
Torture is a crime against humanity, but coercion is an issue that is rightly handled with a wink, or even a touch of hypocrisy; it should be banned but also quietly practiced. Those who protest coercive methods will exaggerate their horrors, which is good: it generates a useful climate of fear. It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work. It is also smart not to discuss the matter with anyone.