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September 3, 2009

Who Is the Mysterious CIA Interviewee?

Filed under: Torture and Abuse — kevinfenton @ 2:10 pm
Tags: , ,

One of the biggest pieces of news in the last couple of weeks has been the release of the CIA inspector general’s report into the usefulness, or rather lack thereof of its torture techniques. It has been practically everywhere, but one thing that has been lost is that there were a whole bunch of supporting documents released from the inspector general’s investigation. One of these caught my eye in particular.

It is a memorandum drafted by an inspector general employee about a 16 July 2003 interview of a female CIA officer who appears to be very involved in the agency’s rendition and torture programme.

The officer said the agency judged the success of the programme by “the quality of the information” detainees provide. The report adds:

If they get unique, valuable information from the detainees, then they have done their job. In … view, using the quality of the intelligence as the yardstick, the program has been an absolute success. She stated further that there was no other way CTC [the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center] could have gotten the information they have obtained from the detainees.

The officer goes on to talk about information the CIA got from training camp facilitator Abu Zubaida and alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). She says that the information the agency obtained from them helped catch other detainees and “also provided a wealth of information about al-Qaeda plots,” of which there is a (semi-redacted) list. The report adds, “On the question of whether actual plots had been thwarted, … opined that since the operatives involved in many of the above plots had been arrested, they have, in effect, thwarted the operation.”

It is interesting to note some similarities between the claims made by the officer in the interview and the statements made in the two CIA documents requested by former Vice President Dick Cheney. For example, the interview memo says, “Abu Zubaidah provided information about the modus operandi of al-Qaeda,” whereas the June 2005 document Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against al-Qaeda says, “… Abu Zubaida provided details about al-Qaeda’s organisational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi.”

Both documents also highlight information reportedly revealed by detainees that led to the arrest of other suspects, attributing to KSM information that led to the arrest of Ohio truck driver Iyman Faris, as well as Uzair Paracha.

The similarities are fairly general, but they give pause for thought: was the officer interviewed on 16 July involved in the drafting of the two documents requested by Cheney?

Although there is no way of telling who exactly this CIA officer is, she appears to be in some sort of management role at the CTC. There were relatively few such roles and at this time only one woman is known to have had such a position. She is the redheaded former CIA officer described by Jane Mayer in The Dark Side and mentioned by Dana Priest in her examination of the wrongful rendition of Khalid el-Masri. Both Mayer and Priest finger her as being the one who insisted on taking el-Masri, an innocent German, to Afghanistan, despite the lack of evidence against him (initially they thought he was another guy of the same name who had known some of the 9/11 hijackers).

Mayer also wrote that the officer took an unauthorised jaunt to see KSM being waterboarded, because, according to one of her sources, “She thought it would be cool to be in the room.” In addition, Harper’s Ken Silverstein wrote she was considered for the position of deputy chief of Baghdad Station in 2007 (but didn’t get the job).

I am currently working on adding entries about her to the Detainee Abuse and 9/11 timelines, and you can find her under ‘Redheaded CIA Manager,’ although most of the entries about her will not be published for a couple of days. I would also speculate that she is also the CIA officer referred to as “Michelle” in the Justice Department inspector general’s report and “Michael” in the 9/11 Commission report (don’t ask me why the commission gave her a male alias).

Obviously, none of this proves that the redhead was the interviewee in July 2003. However, it’s enough for me to put her at the top of the shortlist.

All this is doubly interesting in the light of a recent WaPo article offering a staunch defense of the torture tactics, but based on anonymous intelligence community sources. There has been some speculation as to who the anonymous sources are, and Scott Horton floated the possibility that one of them may be former CIA Director George Tenet. That’s certainly possible, but the redhead would also be on my shortlist for this as well, as would this guy.

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