“Some Will Call Me a Torturer”: CIA Man Reveals

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Spencer Ackerman

handcuffsAdmitting that “some will call me a torturer” is a surefire way to cut yourself off from anyone’s sympathy. But Glenn Carle, a former CIA operative, isn’t sure whether he’s the hero or the villain of his own story.

Distilled, that story, told in Carle’s new memoir The Interrogator, is this: In the months after 9/11, the CIA kidnaps a suspected senior member of al-Qaida and takes him to a Mideast country for interrogation. It assigns Carle — like nearly all his colleagues then, an inexperienced interrogator — to pry information out of him. Uneasy with the CIA’s new, relaxed rules for questioning, which allow him to torture, Carle instead tries to build a rapport with the man he calls CAPTUS.

But CAPTUS doesn’t divulge the al-Qaida plans the CIA suspects him of knowing. So the agency sends him to “Hotel California” — an unacknowledged prison, beyond the reach of the Red Cross or international law.

Carle goes with him. Though heavily censored by the CIA, Carle provides the first detailed description of a so-called “black site.” At an isolated “discretely guarded, unremarkable” facility in an undisclosed foreign country (though one where the Soviets once operated), hidden CIA interrogators work endless hours while heavy metal blasts captives’ eardrums and disrupts their sleep schedules.

Afterward, the operatives drive to a fortified compound to munch Oreos and drink somberly to Grand Funk Railroad at the “Jihadi Bar.” Any visitor to Guantanamo Bay’s Irish pub — O’Kellys, home of the fried pickle — will recognize the surreality.

But Carle — codename: REDEMPTOR — comes to believe CAPTUS is innocent.

“We had destroyed the man’s life based on an error,” he writes. But the black site is a bureaucratic hell: CAPTUS’ reluctance to tell CIA what it wants to hear makes the far-off agency headquarters more determined to torture him. Carle’s resistance, shared by some at Hotel California, makes him suspect. He leaves CAPTUS in the black site after 10 intense days, questioning whether his psychological manipulation of CAPTUS made him, ultimately, a torturer himself.

Eight years later, the CIA unceremoniously released CAPTUS. (The agency declined to comment for this story.) Whether that means CAPTUS was innocent or merely no longer useful as a source of information, we may never know. Carle spoke to Danger Room about what it’s like to interrogate a man in a place too dark for the law to find.

Wired.com: Do you consider yourself a torturer? At the end of the book, you wrestle with the question.

Glenn Carle: According to Justice Department lawyer John Yoo’s August 2002 memo on interrogation, the answer is no. As one can see from the entire book, I opposed all these practices and this approach. I was involved in it, although I tried to stop what I considered wrong. I feel I acted honorably throughout my involvement in the CAPTUS operation, and tried to have him treated properly, but much of it was disturbing and wrong.

Wired.com: You’re maybe the only CIA officer to publicly describe a “black site” prison, your Hotel California. What was it like to be inside a place completely off the books from any legal accountability? Did it make you feel like you could act with impunity? How did you restrain yourself?

Glenn Carle: No, I never, never felt like I could or should act with impunity. No one I know felt that way. We all felt we were involved in an extraordinary, sensitive operation that required very careful behavior. What was acceptable was often unclear, despite the formal guidance that eventually was developed.

“How did I restrain myself” implies perhaps that I was inclined to act in unrestrained ways. I never, ever was; nor were, in my experience, my colleagues. From literally the first second I was briefed on the operation, I was acutely aware that I would have to weigh every step I took, and decide what was morally, legally acceptable. There was never the slightest thought that I or anyone could act with impunity. We were acting clandestinely; but never beyond obligations to act correctly and honorably. The dilemma comes in identifying where those lines are, in a situation in which much was murky.

Wired.com: You came to believe that the man you call CAPTUS “was not a jihadist or a member of al-Qaida.” Well, even so, was he still dangerous? Did you ever feel he duped you? You write that he lied to you, after all.

Glenn Carle: CAPTUS himself was not a terrorist, or a dangerous man. He had been involved in activities of legitimate concern to the CIA, because they did touch upon al-Qaida activities. That’s a fact. But he was not a willing member of, believer in, or supporter of, al-Qaida. He was not a terrorist, had committed no crimes, had not intentionally supported jihad or terrorist actions.

Did he dupe me? He evaded and lied on occasion, yes. And I always wrestled with the question of whether he was duping me. In the end, I had to decide, though, and I decided he was, fundamentally, straight with me. Never totally, but fundamentally, yes. This is not a black and white-hat situation. I try to make that as clear as can be in the book. Little was simple — thus, my descriptions of the “gray world” in which knowledge is imperfect, motivations and actions are sometimes contradictory — in which CAPTUS, perhaps, was truthful, innocent, disingenuous, and complicit simultaneously.

Wired.com: Did you ever feel, at Hotel California or before, that interrogating CAPTUS put you in legal jeopardy down the road?

Glenn Carle: I think everyone was concerned with this, at every level, and at every second of one’s involvement in interrogation operations. We all worked very hard to act legally.The challenges are how to reconcile contradictory laws, which are morally repugnant, perhaps, and which leave room for broad interpretation and abuse.

No one consciously broke the law, ever, in my experience or knowledge. But what should one do? How could one follow one’s orders and accomplish one’s mission, when it was flawed, objectionable, and perhaps itself legally, albeit “legally” ordered. That’s the supreme dilemma I wrestled with, and others did, too.

Wired.com: When you first interrogate CAPTUS, you write that you tried to establish a rapport with him — even as you kept him fearful that you controlled his fate. When that didn’t get the intelligence CIA HQ wanted, they shipped the both of you to Hotel California. Did CIA consider the possibility that he wasn’t who they thought he was?

Glenn Carle: I had slow, partial, success during my time of involvement in bringing colleagues and the institution to see him more as I did. But I failed, ultimately. The view that he was a senior al-Qaida member or fellow-traveler remained decisive for a long, long time. The agency or U.S. government didn’t change its views for eight years. Perhaps it never did.

Wired.com: Run me through how CAPTUS was treated at the Hotel.

Glenn Carle: The objectives are to “dislocate psychologically” a detainee. This is done through psychological and physical measures, primarily intended to disrupt Circadian rhythms and an individual’s perceptions. So, noise, temperature, one’s sense of time, sleep, diet, light, darkness, physical freedom — the normal reference points for one’s senses are all distorted. Reality disappears, and so do one’s reference points. It is shockingly easy to disorient someone.

But that is not the same as making someone more willing to cooperate. The opposite is true — as the CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual cautions will occur, as I predicted and forewarned and as occurred in my and other officers’ experiences.

Wired.com: In 2003, according to declassified documents, your old boss, George Tenet approved the following “enhanced interrogation techniques” for use on high-value detainees: “the attention grasp, walling, the facial hold, the facial slap (insult slap), the abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation beyond 72 hours, the use of diapers for prolonged periods, the use of harmless insects, the water board.” Were any of these used on CAPTUS? Did you take part in any of their use?

Glenn Carle: No. These measures were formally set out, I believe, after my involvement in interrogation. And in any event, from my first second of involvement in the CAPTUS operation I simply would not allow or have anything to do with any physical coercive measure. I would not do it. That point I was certain of instantaneously. I also had literally never heard of waterboarding until the story about it broke in the media.

Wired.com: Did you get any useful intelligence out of CAPTUS? If so, what interrogation techniques “worked”?

Glenn Carle: Oh, yes, CAPTUS definitely provided useful intelligence. The methods that worked were the same ones that work in classic intelligence operations: establishing a rapport with the individual, understanding his fears, hopes, interests, quirks. It is a psychological task, very similar to what one should do when establishing any human relationship.

The plan was to be a perceptive, and sometimes manipulative, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and purposeful individual who understood the man sitting opposite him, and earn his trust.

Wired.com: You came to question whether even the mild psychological disorientation you induced on CAPTUS was too severe an interrogation method. Why? Did you sympathize with CAPTUS too much?

Glenn Carle: There is always a danger for a case officer to “fall in love” with his “target.” That’s the term we use. Any good officer guards against that, and always questions his own perceptions. Always. But I was the one who looked in CAPTUS’ eyes for hours and hours and days and days. It was I who knew the man, literally. I’m confident in my assessment of him.

And yes, I at first accepted my training: that psychological dislocation induced cooperation, and would not be lasting or severe, therefore could be acceptable in certain circumstances. I came quickly to conclude that this was founded on erroneous conclusions — nonsense, actually — about human psyche and motivation. [It] did not work, was counterproductive and was, simply, wrong in every way. So, I came to oppose it.

Wired.com: How did the CIA react to you publishing this book? Huge sections of it are blacked out.

Glenn Carle: The agency redacted about 40 percent of the initial manuscript, deleting entire chapters, almost none of which had anything to do with protecting sources or methods. Much of it was so the agency could protect itself from embarrassment, or from allowing any description of the interrogation program to come out. One would infer, obviously, that large segments of the agency would have preferred to leave CAPTUS’ story in the dark, where it took place.

Wired.com: David Petraeus, the incoming CIA director, suggested to Congress that there might be circumstances where a return to “enhanced interrogation” is appropriate. What would you say to him?

Glenn Carle: That there is almost no conceivable circumstance in which the enhanced interrogation practices are acceptable or work. This belief is a red herring, wrong, and undoes us a bit. We are better than that. Enhanced interrogation does not work, and is wrong. End of story.

Wired.com: The Justice Department decided on June 30 to seek criminal inquiries in two cases of detainee abuses — out of 101. Was that justice, a whitewash or something in between?

Glenn Carle: It wasn’t a whitewash. It’s in general better not to seek retribution, but to seek to inculcate correct values and behavior going forward.

Wired.com: Did you ever learn what happened to CAPTUS’ treatment after you left at Hotel California? Why was he was released? Have you tried to find him? What would you tell him if you saw one another?

Glenn Carle: No. I left the case and knew nothing about him for years. I presume he was released because the institution, at last, accepted what I had argued as strongly as I had been able to do so. He was ultimately let go, I hope, because the institution and U.S. government, at last, came to accept my view of CAPTUS. His release validates — substantiates — everything I argued.

I came to respect CAPTUS. We are from such different worlds, and his and my circumstances — he a detainee and I one of his interrogators — are so radically different that conversation would be awkward if we ever met again. It is natural that he feel resentment. And little was ever clear in the entire operation. That’s the nature of intelligence work. He is not a total innocent, I don’t think. But his rendition was not justified by the facts as I came to learn them, which was at odds with the agency’s assessment of him.

Wired.com: Finally, how many CAPTUSes — people you believe to be innocent men swept up in the CIA “enhanced interrogation” system — are there?

Glenn Carle: I do not know.

Note: For more on secret prisons, see my articles transcribing the sections dealing with US secret detention after 9/11, which were part of a UN report on secret detention that was published last year: UN Secret Detention Report (Part One): The CIA’s “High-Value Detainee” Program and Secret Prisons, UN Secret Detention Report (Part Two): CIA Prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq and UN Secret Detention Report (Part Three): Proxy Detention, Other Countries’ Complicity, and Obama’s Record.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.                  Wired

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US Assured of Action Against ‘Sanctuaries’

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: A flurry of activity of Monday provided hope that the Pak-US marriage of convenience was not over despite the recent bellowing and booming of the Pakistani leadership.

2011-05-16T133358Z_1323651652_GM1E75G1FO201_RTRMADP_3_BINLADEN

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (L) meets with Pakistan’s PM Yusuf Raza Gilani at the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad May 16, 2011.

REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

By the end of Senator John Kerry’s day-long stay in Islamabad it appeared that the US had convinced Pakistan to undertake several steps for proving its commitment to the fight against terrorism. These included returning the wreckage of the helicopter which had malfunctioned during the May 2 raid in Abbotabad and eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in tribal areas.

In exchange Washington has committed itself to a process, which if successful, will lead to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Islamabad for reviving the strategic dialogue which has been stalled since the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis and subsequent events such as drone attacks and the unilateral US operation killing Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

John Kerry, who heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, extracted these promises from the Pakistani leadership; he warned them that “if the relationship is to fall apart …. US will always reserve the right to protect its national security”.

Senator Kerry’s tough love message was reinforced, Dawn has learnt, by the telephone calls Secretary Clinton made to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Ms Clinton rang up Mr Gilani when he, the president and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were meeting Senator Kerry. The call is reported to have lasted about 20 minutes.

The secretary of state had called Mr Zardari on Sunday.

“I think we made serious progress. Pakistan has agreed to do a number of things immediately to demonstrate its further seriousness of purpose and we agreed to have several officials from the US to come here in the middle of the week or sometime soon to carry on this discussion and prepare the ground for Secretary Clinton,” a visibly fatigued Kerry told a selected group of journalists after his meetings with Pakistani civil and military leaders.

Having met the army chief on Sunday night, Mr Kerry spent most of Monday in meetings. As he noted: “We worked harder today to talk about ways in which we can be better partners, work cooperatively and open doors to joint cooperation to fight terrorism.”

Senator Kerry met President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief Gen Kayani, individually and collectively, before a joint declaration was issued by the two sides expressing the willingness to carry on with their relationship.

“In furtherance of its existing commitment to fight terrorism, Pakistan has agreed to take several immediate steps to underscore its seriousness in renewing the full cooperative effort with the United States,” the joint communiqué said.

Senator Kerry avoided divulging details of the steps agreed upon, but vaguely described it as including cooperation on counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and targeting terrorist sanctuaries. The latter is hardly surprising; having been high on the American wish list for a long time, action against the havens in tribal areas was one of the major demands Mr Kerry brought to Islamabad.

He said: “We need Pakistan’s cooperation, we need Pakistan’s help against sanctuaries in this country from where people are destabilising Afghanistan and frankly killing … all of (those who) are trying to provide for a stable Afghanistan.”

However, he stopped of claiming that Pakistani leaders had agreed to go after the Haqqani network, one of the core contentious issues in the rocky bilateral ties. He was only willing to say cryptically that both countries had agreed to target “some entity, which is engaged in terrorism … the entity that needs to be taken on one way or the other”.

He also said that other measures to be taken by Pakistan included returning the tail of the helicopter which was left behind by the Navy Seals during the Abbotabad raid.

After it malfunctioned, the Americans exploded the helicopter before they left; this was done, it was reported, to prevent the stealth technology from falling into Pakistani, and possibly other, hands.
However, distrust is still not a thing of the past. Despite Pakistan’s new commitments, which Mr Kerry himself described as “more detailed, more precise and clarified”, he made it clear that Washington was no longer going to be satisfied by mere promises.

“This road ahead will not be defined by words. It will be defined by actions,” he told journalists.

This is why Washington is going to follow a step-by-step approach before confirming that Secretary Clinton will be taking a flight to Islamabad.

Two US officials — Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Mark Morrel — will visit Islamabad to follow up on Mr Kerry’s talks and discuss the agreed measures in details and possibly gauge progress on the commitments made to the senator.

Secretary Clinton’s visit remains contingent on the outcome of Grossman’s discussions. “First a meeting will take place to try to lay the groundwork for that (Clinton’s meeting) and coming out of that meeting the secretary would set the date,” Senator Kerry said. However, in the midst of all the tough talk and the conditions he set, Mr Kerry also made an effort to soothe ruffled feathers, “we are committed to working together with Pakistan — not unilaterally, but together in joint efforts” — contingent once again on Pakistani cooperation.

“But, if we are cooperating and working together there is no reason (for acting unilaterally),” he said.           

From The Newspaper

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