Report shows CIA misled US over bin Laden
Obama’s dilemma: publish to punish for past wrongs or protect spy agency
A report concludes that the CIA misled Congress on the scope, usefulness and reporting of the severe interrogations programme introduced by George W Bush’s administration in response to the 9-11 terror attacks. Photograph: Eriko Sugita/Reuters
In the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty , Hollywood’s depiction of events leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden, a suspected militant is shown to reveal important clues that ultimately led to the killing of the al-Qaeda leader after the prisoner was brutally interrogated by CIA operatives.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other senators condemned the film’s “grossly inaccurate and misleading” scenes of torture yielding crucial intelligence that purported to lead the CIA to bin Laden.
“The CIA detainee who provided the most significant information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques,” said Feinstein at the time.
Now, a report by Feinstein’s committee, a draft of which was completed more than a year ago, has concluded that the CIA misled the US Congress on the scope, usefulness and reporting of the severe interrogations programme introduced by George W Bush’s administration in response to the 9-11 terror attacks.
Revealed in a story in the Washington Post , published late on Monday, the much-anticipated report looks set to spark more public indignation about one of the darkest periods in US intelligence gathering.
The CIA’s Irish-American director John Brennan has challenged, publicly and privately, many facts and findings contained in the 6,300-page document, which reportedly says the CIA attempted to oversell the effectiveness of the interrogations and justify the methods used by exaggerating the intelligence they generated.
The committee’s report is said to refer to the interrogation of Hassan Ghul, an al-Qaeda member who revealed a crucial tip in the manhunt for bin Laden – the fact that the al-Qaeda leader’s most trusted messenger used the nom de guerre “al-Kuwaiti”.
The Post , which appears to have been briefed in detail by US officials familiar with the Senate panel’s findings, said Ghul disclosed this key piece of information while being interrogated by Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.
According to the newspaper, the CIA later oversold the role its interrogations played, combining the crucial detail obtained by Kurdish interrogators with less significant intelligence gathered from Ghul at a secret CIA “black site” prison, in Romania.
Previously undisclosed abusive interrogation techniques allegedly contained in the report, including the dunking of suspects in tanks of ice water, are sure to reveal murky CIA dealings from a previous US administration should president Barack Obama approve the publication of a summary of the report.
The Senate report puts Obama in a jam. He can expose the CIA’s defence – that the interrogations protected Americans – to be a lie and discredit the intelligence agency, or he can keep the damaging findings under wraps and protect the CIA from past activities under a previous president.
The document is also said to include details of the CIA’s network of secret prisons. Irish observers will be eager to read whether the report, if eventually published, contains details of landings at Shannon Airport by CIA-chartered planes used to transport suspected terrorists to “black sites” in Europe.