By John Kendall Hawkins
In his memoir, Permanent Record, Edward Snowden insists there’s a serious distinction between whistleblowing and leaking. “A ‘whistleblower’, he writes, “ is a person who through hard experience has concluded that their life inside an institution has become incompatible with the principles developed in…the greater society outside it, to which that institution should be accountable.” Snowden has often referred to Daniel Ellsberg, distributor of the Pentagon Papers, as a model for the type. He compares whistleblowing to leaking — “acts of disclosure done not out of public interest but out of self-interest, or in pursuit of institutional or political aims.”
Daniel Ellsberg, who has said of Katherine Gun, the depicted GCHQ whistleblower in Official Secrets, that her heroic decision to risk everything (career, marriage, freedom) to blow the whistle on Great Britain’s collusion in blackmailing UN Security Council members into supporting an illegal war (the US and the UK knew there were no WMDs) against Iraq in the spring of 2003 was a “model for other whistleblowers. She’s my hero.”
He has used similar accolades to describe Snowden’s revelations. In recently announcing Snowden’s addition to the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founded by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, to enhance and strengthen first amendment rights, Ellsberg said: “He is the quintessential American whistleblower, and a personal hero of mine…Leaks are the lifeblood of the republic and, for the first time, the American public has been given the chance to debate democratically the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.”
These whistleblowers are citizens we should be most proud of, as they have the public interest of America at heart: they see terrible things happening when secretive governance works to evade accountability and undermine the Constitution with their actions. They often hang out together. To hear Ellsberg, whistleblowing is as American as Mom’s Apple Pie. And is always a la mode.
But not every whistleblower is equal. Take Mark Felt. When he was known as ‘Deep Throat’, telling heroic journalists (Redford and Hoffman) from the Washington Post to follow the money and uncover the Watergate era shenanigans of the Nixon administration, Americans were sucked into the intrigue of his deep state doings. In the newspaper, whose motto is: Democracy Dies in Darkness, insider Felt was painted as a hero of the Republic.
But many years of political sobriety later I’ve come to the conclusion that Felt was no whistleblower. He was what Snowden calls a leaker; he acted “out of self-interest, [and] in pursuit of institutional or political aims.” You could argue that the MSM – and the rest of us — got played when Deep Throat helped take down a hated president, Richard Nixon. Had Felt been made director, we never would have had Deep Throat. It was nice to see Nixon go, but Felt was a leaker, not a whistleblower. And the fact that Felt was close friends with journalist Bob Woodward — even before Watergate — is never mentioned.
There is an alternative way of looking at what Deep Throat accomplished. In an article titled “The deeper truth about Deep throat,” author George Friedman of Stratfor writes,
This was not a lone whistleblower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.
Even as we consider the source (Stratfor), considering an alternative way of reading Deep Throat’s patriotism is — obligatory. And may be relevant to what has happened recently with Trump’s impeachment. Felt’s no Ellsberg.
In fact, while it’s ‘obligatory’ to bring intel secrets to the grave with you, Felt probably did the right thing when he went public in old age and outed himself as Deep Throat. He was evidently pressured not by vanity but by the sensible desire to help his grandchildren pay for university. Vanity Fair jumped on his confession. A book contract followed. Then a movie. Felt, for money, told ghosts how he blew minds back in the day, so that his grandkids wouldn’t be just more debt slaves to Sallie Mae. $1.6 trillion and counting. (Fuck. If he’s only framed it that way in the end, he’d been a national hero all over again: follow the money, he’d a-said, about the student loans.)
In the context of Ellsberg, Snowden, Gun, Radack, et al, where does the Ukraine whistleblower fit in? Did he deliver a Pentagon Report or StellarWind revelation or NSA blackmail-for-war report? No. Did s/he have first hand information about the phone call that President Trump had with Ukraine’s President Zelensky? No. Someone told him about the phone call and the quid pro quo and he went to the appropriate authorities to begin an abuse of power probe, but at third hand. Afterward, unlike the whistleblowers described above, our Ukraine whistleblower went back to work for the CIA.
Whether you are Left or Right of the political spectrum, when we begin to examine the motivations of why this whistleblower came forward, one has to wonder if there is any public interest in that motivation. Quid pro quos are the bread and butter of Congress, definitely including the anti-opponent kind Trump is said to have been caught up in. Put differently, had Obama been “caught” qpq-ing a foreign power, say, against McCain, would the MSM have given a shit? Many people would like to see the non-politician Trump deposed, but if the whistleblower is more akin to Mark Felt than Daniel Ellsberg I’m not interested in doing it through partisan hypocrisy.
Despite the fantasy game that the MSM is playing regarding the Ukraine whistleblower, indulging in the idea that s/he is motivated by public interests, and hiding his identity, so many journalists have looked into the background of the alleged whistleblower, outed in several middle and conservative publications, that if it’s true that this whistleblower once worked for Obama’s NSC in Ukraine until just after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, and that they have an established relationship with Joe Biden, then there is a conflict of interest, and the protected whistleblower, call him Deep State Thoat, is more akin to Felt than Ellsberg or Snowden.
To date, the CIA whistleblower that the left-center MSM refuses to name, is supposedly protected by whistleblower legislation, which any sensible American citizen should want to honor. But the name is out there. The same name. And it becomes surprising, given the rhetoric about this person’s need to be guarded 24 hours a day, why they simply haven’t just come forward and averred that they are not the whistleblower. If it turns out that they do have connections to the previous administration, it pays to do what the previous Deep Throat suggested: follow the money.
Even controversial CIA whistleblower, John Kirikaou has weighed in on the Ukraine whistleblower (in a generic way). He says, “If he’s a whistleblower, and not a CIA plant whose task it is to take down the president, then his career is probably over.” Elsewhere, he opines even further:
“I don’t think this is a whistleblower, not at all,” Kiriakou told FNC’s Tucker Carlson. “I think this is an anonymous source for the Democratic staff in the House of Representatives. You can’t hide this person’s identity just to save him from embarrassment or trouble of being recognized. It’s just not appropriate. If this is a whistleblower, he needs to come forward in public, testify in open session and blow that whistle.”
In the CIA, you are a pariah, after “ratting.” Somehow, the Ukraine whistleblower went back to work at the CIA. Either, like Mark Felt, his job was to take down a president, like Mark Felt, or, if he is a real whistleblower, he will be ‘reluctantly’ pushed out into the world of Snowden-like contractors, unknown, and unaccounted for.
Like most sane and sensible people I detest Trump’s presidency, but there’s a danger that MSM journalism will take a further tumble into absurdity if it slavishly follows partisan bicker-streams and refuses to wonder what the Ukraine whistleblower’s motivations are. I favor a whistleblower law that totally protects the whistleblower: if they need to quit as a result of their leaks, then the law should provide full salary for a career; a pension should be safe; health insurance guaranteed, plus, if necessary, they should receive paid protection. But if our Deep State Throat is just another political blow-hard with a partisan agenda, then they get no protection beyond what their handlers can provide.
Why isn’t a single journalist wondering aloud what Cofer Black is up to on the board of directors at controversial Bursima Gas (since May 2017) in Ukraine? Is there any relation to Deep State Throat’s whistle and Black in Ukraine. Has the whistleblower ever been in contact with Black?
Let’s see those phone transcripts.
By John Kendall Hawkins
You should never judge a book by its title, but with whistleblower Edward Snowden’ s Permanent Record the reader gets as close s/he can possibly get to the soul of a narrative before actually reading it. He means it: The American government, with help of its data-gathering partners, is gathering up information on every mobile or Internet-connected individual on the planet. They have a permanent dossier on each and every one of us. Snowden writes, “We are the first people in the history of the planet for whom this is true, the first people to be burdened with data immortality, the fact that our collected records might have an eternal existence.”
As Snowden puts it, “At any time, the government could dig through the past communications of anyone it wanted to victimize in search of a crime (and everybody’s communications contain evidence of something)… this is tantamount to a government threat: If you ever get out of line, we’ll use your private life against you.”
This implied threat is not conspiracy theory, not paranoia, and it is not new; it represents the criminal intentions of some agencies of government, often working in collusion with the Executive. The Intelligence Community (IC) has, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer once admonished Trump when he lashed out against them, “Six ways to Sunday at getting back at you.” (Apparently, Schumer accepts their criminality as ‘the norm’.)
We have seen how the system can be abused already. Frank Church told us all about it in the 70s, and so did the . The CIA was involved in the Watergate break-in. told us what the CIA was up to in Nicaragua. We all know now, and apparently have come to terms with the fact, that the IC was criminally involved in the brazen televised false testimony about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that was forced upon the world as a pretext for an unnecessary and illegal war against Iraq.
This latter criminal activity was recently the subject of the whistleblowing film, Official Secrets, in which GCHQ analyst Katherine Gun blew the whistle on her agency when she discovered that they were being coerced by the Americans into finding kompromat on members of the UN Security Council to force them to vote in favour of the war (to make the war technically “legal”). The UN was formed, in part, to prevent such future nation-state aggression. But Gun was really blowing the whistle on the NSA, who requested the kompromat – in fact, she was blowing the whistle on the blackmail activity of the GW Bush administration, who would have directed the NSA to gather such “intel.” An impeachable offense.
Snowden and Gun are whistleblowers, and not politically-motivated leakers. What they released were very serious revelations of the criminal behavior of government officials. Snowden revealed that the real war was not on Terror, but on human privacy. As he wrote in PM, “Any elected government that relies on surveillance to maintain control of a citizenry that regards surveillance as anathema to democracy has effectively ceased to be a democracy.”
Official Secrets also revealed that after suspect government actions leading to Britain’s decision to go to war with Argentina, the so-called Falklands War, the government tightened its whistleblower laws to make what Gun did illegal. She would have gone to jail for reporting a data burglary of Watergate proportions. Since a trial might have compromised American intelligence, the British government dropped their charges. We might have even seen how the Brits, too, use contractors, like, say, Orbis, to do the dirty work of dossier-gathering.
Now that the has been released, we have learned that Christopher Steele is no whistleblower along the lines of Snowden or Gun. His dossier was full of shit, and he may one day be hoiked into his own spittoon. How did he ever get to be called a whistleblower in the first place? Because he had the attentive ear of the MSM, in hate with the Trump administration, willing to listen to his off-the-record kompromat story (September 2016). It’s easy to understand MSM motivation, but they got sucked into a self-degrading compromise of their own. They might as well have been sitting down in a secret meeting with the National Enquirer. They got played.
(You could argue that the MSM – and the rest of us — got played before this way, when another whistleblower, Deep Throat, helped take down a hated president, Richard Nixon. But Mark Felt had an agenda: He resented not being appointed director of the FBI after Hoover died, and didn’t like it one bit when Nixon made a political appointment to the vacant seat. Had Felt been made director, we never would have had Deep Throat. It was nice to see Nixon go, but Felt was a leaker, not a whistleblower.)
As the Horowitz Report makes clear, , which was meant to titillate our late Capitalist prurience-conditioned minds, contained little ‘information’ (and let us recall, from the Stasi’s work, that information is not necessarily fact or truth) more intriguing than references to an alleged incident where Trump, while he was attending a beauty pageant, back in 2013, had some prostitutes piss on a hotel bed that he was told the Obamas had slept in.
Steele’s dossier was salacious and not verifiable. Instead, its veracity was built on Steele’s “reputation” (which was amped up, as they do, when building arguments from authority). Steele was to be seen as an expert on Russian affairs, even though he hadn’t been to Russia in years. He relied on so-called ‘assets’, who were either anything but, or non-existent by virtue of the protection of asset ‘cover’.
Off the record with the MSM, in October 2016, Steele approached David Corn to spread his smear to the Left through Mother Jones. Dossier information was published in MJ, and later in Buzzfeed, in each cased marked unverified. But let’s just say, Steele’s revelations were something less than the sinister implications of the Stellar Wind program whose details the New York Times quashed in October 2004, to prize-winning reporter’s James Risen’s dismay.
Though clearly unverifiable by the supposed best IC services in the world, the Horowitz Report makes clear that in October Surprise Month 2016, the FBI fudged information on the FISA warrants they obtained to legally gather information on Carter Page and, through him, the Trump Campaign. The Report makes clear that the FBI abused its power by essentially lying to the FISA court. Once again, government agencies, with tremendous spying power, opted to use the presumed veracity of their authority to lie instead, when the information didn’t suit their agenda.
Russia may have tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, in the same way America was all to when they did it to Russia in 1996, but so did Ukraine (according to and pieces), and, if the Horowitz Report is to be understood, our “special friends” the Brits. Maybe we should be asking – who didn’t try to interfere in the election?
But more seriously, the Report strongly suggests that elements of the FBI (at the behest of the Obama administration?) were messing with the American electorate themselves by using tainted information, developed by the Clinton campaign through FusionGPS, to get warrants issued against an opponent of their campaign in October Surprise Month 2016. In essence, it sounds like we might have been messing with our own elections.
Speaking of messed up elections, the 2016 Jeb Bush presidential campaign was, , the party that originally hired Steele to “build” a dossier on Trump. (One recalls that Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida when his brother George W. eked out a tiny victory in 2000 – a margin so slim, and contested, that the fact that his brother was running should have required an automatic recount of votes.) Bush has denied any direct link to Steele, but you imagine him placing a call to Hillary, one dynasty to another, and telling her about the Steele work and where to get it.
Trump has been rightly castigated by the MSM for buying into conspiracy-sounding stories about Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election. In his infamous telephone call, he mumbled something about Crowdstrike, and the DNC servers in the Ukraine, and Biden – to hear him speak: There’s a lack of intelligence between his ears that must make the IC insane. You could see him just mumbling state secrets to Putin, because he’s a dumb shit. But, at the same time, bringing up Crowdstrike is not totally daft. (Now that we know that the “DNC Server” was not LAN-based but WAN-based, the hacking/leaking question takes on a new dimension.) It’s true that Dimitri Alperovitch, CTO of Crowdstrike, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, where Hillary Clinton received a Distinguished International Leadership Award in 2013, and so that’s an obvious connection.
Not necessarily a big deal, but left out of the equation is the fact that Crowdstrike’s president, Shawn Henry, was arguably the most important agent at the FBI, before he retired after 24 years to join Crowdstrike. According to his , “he oversaw half of the FBI’s investigative operations, including all FBI criminal and cyber investigations worldwide, international operations, and the FBI’s critical incident response to major investigations and disasters.” One wonders: Did he retire to become what Snowden was – a , better paid, virtually no public accountability for deeds done on contract jobs for the government? More importantly, perhaps, was he CCed in when FBI-Steele transactions were taking place?
But speaking of homo contractuses, why was Mandiant also brought in as back up to the DNC server investigation, given that they are one of Crowdstrike’s main rivals? They came to the same conclusion: The Russians did it. But it’s interesting to note that . So, again, it’s fair, given what Snowden tells us, to ask if Kevin Mandia took an early retirement from his Pentagon position to be a contract employee?
But back to whistleblowers. Our Citizen X, the Ukraine quid pro quo whistleblower. The MSM has released very little information about him, other than acknowledging that he’s a CIA officer, because they don’t want to publish details that would inevitably allow free-thinking individuals to work out who he is. The name of this whistleblower has been circulating for weeks in alternative-to-MSM publications, such as realclearinvestigations.com, run by, ahem, a former NY Times editor. There’s a lot of jumping ship going on: The Intercept is staffed with star reporters from the MSM who couldn’t hack it anymore.
If our third-hand-wringing whistleblower is who these alt-Indies say he is, then he doesn’t fit the criteria that Edward Snowden lays out — a Daniel Ellsberg type — but rather a pawn in the Deep State game. The one-and-only CIA analyst to ever go to prison (albeit deeply minimum) for whistleblowing, John Kiriakou, has weighed in on the master debate. “If he’s a whistleblower,” , “and not a CIA plant whose task it is to take down the president, then his career is probably over.” (I find this amusing, because I always thought of Kiriakou as a plant to apologize for the CIA torture program – he said it worked, but the Torture Report said it didn’t.)
Elsewhere, , “[I]nside the CIA, I guarantee you that people are saying, ‘Well, if he’s willing to rat out the president, he’s probably willing to rat out us.’ And so no one is ever going to trust this guy again.” So, according to K. either he’s a plant or his career is over. We’re told he’s back at the CIA resuming his career. But, because he’s anonymous, he might actually be another homo contractus by now. That’s what the Indie word is.
Unfortunately for the fused agendas of the MSM, our intrepid Deep State Throat, if the alt media information holds up, was a confidante of Joe Biden when he was the “point man” for Ukraine affairs after the CIA-encouraged coup there in 2014. In fact, according to Real Clear, the ‘whistleblower,” was more than that: Deep State Throat was Obama’s NSC director for Ukraine. This has been neither conformed or denied yet though.
There may or may not be anything to the Joe Biden quid pro quo he successfully executed in 2016 and bragged about on live TV, with minor hand-wringing by the MSM, but it is worth noting that the continued investigation into Burisma that Trump was pushing would also have resulted in the question: Why is Cofer Black on its Board of Directors (since just after Trump’s inauguration in 2017)?
It’s speculation, but not wild, that Deep State Throat, Obama’s former NSC liaison for Ukraine, received a call of his own, perhaps from the American embassy anxious to continue the anti-Russian work of the previous administration. As Edward Snowden writes in Permanent Record, “The worst-kept secret in modern diplomacy is that the primary function of an embassy nowadays is to serve as a platform for espionage.”
Because Western democratic citizens live in a politically dysfunctional world — Five Eyes nations are enforcers for nation-state gangster goons guarding their ever-acquisitive interests — without a respected unifying governmental agency, such as a real league of nations, we get nothing crucial done as a globe — see climate change. We’ve become hive-minded, interconnected in uncomfortable ways, and seem to be suffering from some kind of colony collapse of consciousness.
This would help explain how these things keep happening under our noses, while the MSM looks the other way. Or leads us in a rendition of Two Minute Hate. Prey to tiny cornball characters in cyberspace who see themselves as swaggering Gods. Snowden opines, “America remains the hegemon, the keeper of the master switches that can turn almost anyone on and off at will.”
The Terror Report You Weren’t Meant to See
By John Kendall Hawkins
“If it works, why do you need to do it 183 times?”
- Senator Dianne Feinstein
In 1953, they deposed Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadiq, with the help of the British. In the 60s, they were there at the Gulf of Tonkin, false flagging the North Vietnamese; and there pushing exiles onto the shores of the Bay of Pigs, shouting “Cuba Si, Castro No.” In the 60s and 70s, they spied on American activists, violating the Agency’s charter against domestic surveillance, and in 1975 were chastised by Frank Church’s committee. They fomented regime changes in Central America throughout the 80s, leading to Irangate and the Contra-Sandinista standoff. The Gulf War, economic sabotage, MK-ULTRA, intellectual property theft, 70 years of war with Russia (with two-way electoral interference), and spook Duane Clarridge, who helped bring down Chile’s Allende, telling us to “lump it.”
On and on the scofflaws went. Even when they were running drugs, murdering people, or doing porn films with Dolly Treason, nothing seemed to stop them or slow them down. By the time the 80s rolled around I was steeped in Existentialism and throwing away what was left of my faith — attending drive-in movies, with double-bills like: The Passover Plot, followed by Executive Action. You felt like you were sitting in the dark among moral desperados, glocks to their own heads, as, first, Jesus got double-crossed by post-modernism and then Democracy went limp, like a blow-up doll.
And then, in November 1986, while looking for my Lo and Behold, as Bobby Dylan would say, Abbie Hoffman, all grizzled from his underground years, arose like a Finger from the grave, and joined Amy Carter, and 13 others, to fight the CIA recruitment effort at UMass-Amherst, my alma mater. They staged a sit-in and/or blocked the police bus taking protesters away after being arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct — misdemeanors. Five months later, in April 1987, Abbie, reunited with lawyer Leonard Weinglass from his Chicago 8 days, successfully employed the “necessity defense,” and paraded before the jury such luminaries as Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, Amy Carter and Abbie Hoffman, who testified about the moral need to protest against the CIA’s felonious actions abroad.
But, according to the now-defunct Boston Phoenix, the stars of the show were former Contra Edgar Chamorro, who enumerated the Agency’s terror tactics, handing out Psychological Operations, a how-to on how to scare the shit out of ordinary people to gain their “respect” and cooperation. The Contras were told to “create martyrs of our own followers, someone who is well-liked that gets killed in a way that looks like the government did it.” Contra what? Contra anything you please.
Chamorro was followed on the stand by CIA tell-aller (in retirement) Ralph McGehee — who catalogued his personal experiences of the Agency’s atrocities, including torture, rape, murder, disinformation, propaganda, and general deceit. The gloves were off — way off — long before the aftermath of 9/11. The Phoenix describes McGehee’s testimony: “[He] told a CIA joke comparing the Agency’s treatment of Congress to mushrooms. ‘You’re kept in the dark and you’re fed manure,’ he said.” The arrogance and disdain are trademarks — sentiments echoed in Snowden’s memoir, Permanent Record, when he describes how intel operatives saw themselves, a generation later as: “a hermetic power-mad cabal that controlled the actions of America’s elected officials from shadowy subterranean cubicles.” In short, Clarridge-On-Line.
Then the 60s were all over again, the Finger wilted one last time. Abbie sank into a funk and let himself die in April 1989. Why? Who knows. But it may or may not be a coincidence that his death came just after GHW Bush became the first former CIA chief to be inaugurated as president. It must have depressed a lot of activists, when you think about it. I’m still depressed — and increasingly inactive.
The Gulf War followed shortly thereafter, when Sad-um Hussein rebuffed American efforts to make him their “little shoe shine boy” in the region. Other Arabs were offended; things started to happen; Khobar Towers was blown up, producing more than 500 US military casualties; bin Laden was credited with his first Tower take-down. Then, the shoes came back to haunt in 2008 when an Iraqi journalist, uttering epithets better left off family TV (something about Bush’s pet goat), bared his soles at GW Bush during a 2008 post-Shock and Awe Baghdad press conference. Americans took off their gloves; Iraqis took off their shoes; al-Qaeda became ISIS; now look at the world.
The Hell on Earth misery that the CIA served up for so many people overseas, according to the sworn testimony of Chamorro and McGehee, was just a warm-up for the Apocalyptic crusade that has taken out large swathes of the Middle East (and Afghanistan) since, and promises to take out more (Syria, Iran), since the Pearl Harbor-like event that was 9/11. Not only did Cheney try to take off his glove, but the revenge America has wreaked on Terror since has included not just the evil Arabs the CIA says are dashing all around the world wearing suicide vests and clutching children, in a mad dash effort to make Zionist Islam (go with it) seem as bad as — Communism!
The long established 9/11 narrative says that it was CIA head of Counter Terrorism Cofer Black’s dire warnings to Bush of an imminent attack by al-Qaeda that were ignored; he was put in charge thereafter of tracking down bin Laden; he set up the renditions and black sites and torture enhanced interrogation program that followed; he helped found the private CIA group, Blackwater, who are, essentially, a private deployable army ready to act without government oversight, but doing their bidding, like the homo contractus virus Snowden describes, from firsthand experience, in his memoir.
There has been plenty of blowback from the events of 9/11, but perhaps nothing was more controversial than the bear-hug embracing of enhanced interrogation, which, under the guise of righteous vengeance, has brought American consciousness over to the dark side wholesale. We opened Guantanamo Bay and falsely imprisoned and interrogated many people for years having no links to terrorism. We’ve graphically degraded our humanity, and that of others, at Abu Ghraib. We’ve corrupted psychology by trying to spin enhanced interrogation as a scientifically valid method. We’ve allowed the CIA to cover it all up, by destroying videos of the ordeals that would have put the lie to science.
Luckily, it has turned stomachs within the ranks of the CIA. Analyst John Kirikaou was the first to blow the whistle on the evil doings of his agency. In his now well-known 2007 interview with ABC newsman Brian Ross, he wrings hands on behalf of conflicted colleagues, which has resonance for torture-abhoring viewers. He describes how presumed conspirator of 9/11 events Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, admits he came to see it as not enhanced interrogation but torture, but that it was “necessary” to extract valuable information, and that old “rapport” methods wouldn’t work. Said Kirikaou, “They hate us more than they love life,” and would never give in. Kirikaou told Ross enhanced interrogation worked. Tapes of Zubaydah’s ordeal were illegally destroyed.
Kirikaou’s seeming equivocation — that the enhanced interrogation program worked — flies in the face of the findings by the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Dianne Feinstein , which concluded in 2014 that the CIA’s much-ballyhooed enhanced interrogation methods did not work — at all. The most valuable information that may have come from the Zubaydah waterboarding is the purported poetry that Z. wrote to his interrogator’s wife.
Torture by any other name is the subject of the newly-released film, The Report. The film recounts the aftermath of 9/11 and the mobilization of Cofer Black’s gloveless forces as they spread around the globe looking for “terrorists” to round up and/or identify for entry in the disposition matrix that could lead to later CIA drone strikes during the Obama administration. In one scene, Black (played by Ian Blackman) utters his famous quip the scope of American vengeance, “We will not stop until flies are walking across their eyeballs.” And then the superheroes are on their way.
The Report opens by showing how the so-called enhanced interrogation program was put together, and introduced to CIA officers, by contractors. Two psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, using powerpoint slides and without previous interrogation experience, bring “learned helplessness” to the table, achieved, they claim, by techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, loud and long noise, insects, and waterboarding, sounding like salesmen for Orwell’s Room 101 Experience (not to be confused with the Jimi Hendrix experience).
Douglas Hodge, who was recently played the evil proprietor of the Black Museum (where torture is also the principal focus) in a Black Mirror episode, is especially effective as sick psychologist James Mitchell. The learned helplessness that Mitchell touts to officers, based on experiments torturing dogs, draws skepticism from the gitmo. Mitchell smiles on, and as he exhausts his techniques, none of them working. He settles on mostly waterboarding, and is involved in the blubbooling of Khaled Sheik Mohammed, the preferred mastermind of 9/11, who is “drowned” 183 times. Desperation sets in as the CIA realizes loud and clear that “enhanced interrogation is only legal if it works.” Despite Kirikiaou’s odd assertion that it worked (Ross interview p.16), the facts speak otherwise.
The money spent on “learned helplessness” amounted to $81 million, plus another $5m as a defense fund, should the psychologists be sued. The program was originally contracted for $181 million, but was terminated due to ineffectiveness. As noted earlier, the CIA videotaped the interrogations and then, when it was clear they were to become the center of inquiry, destroyed them. As with Snowden, it’s almost as if a contractor was brought in to provide plausible deniability should something (inevitably) go wrong, although this angle is not explored in the film. But what’s actually surprising is that, given what Chamorro and McGehee expounded upon about CIA techniques (back when torture was called torture), the CIA ever fell for the crazy-eyed psychologists’ proposed shtick to begin with.
Mitchell and Jessen were never going to be tried and held accountable, because the CIA would claim “national security” interests and close the case down. We know this because that’s what they did to the investigation into the destruction of the interrogation tapes — they quashed the report. And they were determined to do the same to Feinstein’s report on enhanced interrogation techniques — and how they miserably failed. And, consequently, were illegal. The CIA had argued that EIT was the only means to obtain time-critical information from detainees, and wanted to claim, desperate to demonstrate its legality, that countless attacks had been averted thanks to information extracted by EIT. Feinstein (played by Annette Bening) called it all a lie, pissing off John Brennan, who tried to sabotage the Report.
Monk veteran Ted Levine (who is wonderfully remembered for his role as Captain Stottlemeyer in an episode where he shows us how to interrogate a suspect with a potentially smoking gun) does a bang-up job playing John Brennan. Obama’s CIA chief tries to undermine Dan Jones (played by Adam Driver), lead investigator for Feinstein’s committee — and at one point Jones is confronted with imminent criminal action against him when it’s discovered that he has on his computer a classified document. This stratagem backfires and Feinstein realizes that the CIA has hacked into the Committee’s computers (and, later, break into a Committee office, recalling Watergate) in a clear breach of the separation of powers, criminal B&E, and cover-up, for starters. Definitely impeachable offenses.
One has to presume that a breach that serious would have had the approval of President Obama. Since Obama curtailed the EIT shortly after taking office, one wonders what reason he would have had for covering the back of George W. Bush. Maybe it’s because Obama continued the enhancements in the War against Terror in other ways — drones. Instead of rounding up suspected terrorists and housing them in uncomfortable controversial facilities that create a legal and moral crisis for an administration, just pick a kill out of a disposition matrix and joystick command the murder remotely. Just as a lot people never belonged at Gitmo, so, too, a lot of innocent people have been killed because a baddie was in their midst.
The Report closes out on a poignant note, Senator John McCain’s address to Congress following the release of Feinstein’s report. With eloquence and insight, the former POW, and the only Republican who stood by Feinstein’s investigation, reminds Congress and his fellow Americans of their core values — the one’s worth fighting and dying for. Here is his December 9, 2014 speech.
The Report, directed by Scott Burns, is good story-telling. Other than Driver, Bening, Levine, and Hodge, the film’s other stars include John Hamm, Maura Tierney, and Tim Blake Nelson. It appears that for many of the actors it was a virtual gift to the public, as last minute cuts to the budget saw next-to-nothing wages paid to the actors. Director Burns told Vanity Fair, “[The Report]went from having a 50-day schedule to a 26-day schedule, and its $18 million budget was slashed to $8 million…getting Hollywood to get behind a movie like this was difficult.” Like the other recently released film about Deep State corruption, Official Secrets, a film about whistleblowing at the GCHQ (although, ultimately, it’s a whistleblow on the NSA’s role in getting America into Iraq in 2003), The Report takes some of the edge off of one’s cynicism.
Is it enough? Not with Trump, a vocal proponent of torture (not enhanced interrogation) at the helm of the leaky ship of state, and ultimately in charge of the CIA and their policies. But it is a start.
More information on the CIA’s doings over the years can be found in William Blum’s Killing Hope. Here are some chapter samples from Blum’s website.