National Security & The War on Terror

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath came to define much of Bush’s legacy and a large portion of his presidential library and museum is dedicated to memorializing the tragedy and discussing the administration’s response. But the carefully selected information presented oversimplifies the decisions the Bush administration while also omitting key facts.

On the subject of invading Iraq, the library acknowledges that the weapons of mass destruction used to justify the Iraq war never materialized. Unmentioned is the evidence that Bush had been looking for a reason to remove Saddam Hussein since well before 9/11. In a video, Bush insists that removing Hussein was the right course of action, despite the thousands of lives and millions of dollars it cost.

The museum also glosses over hard truths about tactics used in the war on terror, including the controversy over the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The administration’s torture and rendition programs are euphemistically referred to as “techniques” necessary to gain “vital intelligence,” muddling the legal discussion around “enhanced interrogation” and ignoring the fact that torture often produces false intelligence and has proven to be ineffective.


Invading Iraq invasion

Bush’s Story: After Saddam Hussein Emerged As A “Gathering Danger,” Bush Tried To Address Threat “Without War”

Bush Library Touchscreen: “At The Start Of The Bush Administration, Saddam Hussein Was A Threat To International Peace.” From the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

[George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Display, photos taken May 3-4, 2013]

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Bush Speech Excerpted Library Video: “Saddam Hussein’s Regime Is A Grave And Gathering Danger.” From the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

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[Still from George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “War On Terror” Film, video captured May 3-4, 2013]

Bush Library Video: “And There Was Another Looming Threat, That Of Saddam Hussein In Iraq.” According to a video produced by the Bush W. Presidential Library and Museum, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, “And there was another looming threat, that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He was a sworn enemy of the United States, routinely fired at American and British planes, threatened his neighbors, repressed his people, putting 400,000 of them in mass graves. He refused to adhere to 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions. It became evident that he was trying yet again to rebuild his weapons of mass destruction and continuing to defy the will of the international community.” The video than cuts to Bush’s UN speech, where he says, “The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering threat.” [George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, video taken on May 3-4, 2013]

Bush: “Iraq Has Trained Al Qaeda Members In Bomb-Making And Poisons And Gases.” According to the transcript of a speech Bush gave in October 2002, “We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy — the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.” [Bush Remarks, 10/7/02]

Bush In His Memoir: “I Had Tried To Address The Threat From Saddam Hussein Without War.” According to an excerpt of George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, “As I saluted back, the gravity of the moment hit me. For more than a year, I had tried to address the threat from Saddam Hussein without war. We had rallied an international coalition to pressure him to come clean about his weapons of mass destruction programs. We had obtained a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution making clear there would be serious consequences for continued defiance. We had reached out to Arab nations about taking Saddam into exile. I had given Saddam and his sons a final forty-eight hours to avoid war. The dictator rejected every opportunity. The only logical conclusion was that he had something to hide, something so important that he was willing to go to war for it.” [NBC News, 11/11/10]

Bush’s Story: Faulty Intelligence Supported Iraq Invasion, But “We Were Right to Take Action”

Bush Library Video: “Iraq Did Not Have The Weapons That Our Intelligence Believed Were There.” From the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

saddam hussein

[Still from George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “War On Terror” Film, video captured May 3-4, 2013]

Bush: “We Were Right To Take Action, And America Is Safer Today.” According to a video at the Bush W. Presidential Library and Museum, George W. Bush says, “Much of the accumulated body of 12 years of our intelligence and that of our allies was wrong. Iraq did not have the weapons that our intelligence believed were there. Based on all the information we have to date, I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison.” [George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, video taken on May 3-4, 2013]

The Whole Story: Bush was Determined to Strike Iraq from the Moment He Took Office

Plans To Invade Iraq And Topple Saddam Discussed By Bush Officials Well Before 9/11 Attacks. According to Mother Jones, “The reports, virtually all false, of Iraqi weapons and terrorism ties emanated from an apparatus that began to gestate almost as soon as the Bush administration took power. In the very first meeting of the Bush national-security team, one day after President Bush took the oath of office in January 2001, the issue of invading Iraq was raised, according to one of the participants in the meeting‚ — and officials all the way down the line started to get the message, long before 9/11. Indeed, the Bush team at the Pentagon hadn’t even been formally installed before Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, began putting together what would become the vanguard for regime change in Iraq.” [Mother Jones, January 2004]

Bush Cabinet Secretary Paul O’Neill: Getting Rid Of Saddam Was Administration’s “Topic ‘A’ 10 Days After The Inauguration – Eight Months Before Sept. 11.” According to CBS News, “And what happened at President Bush’s very first National Security Council meeting is one of O’Neill’s most startling revelations. ‘From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,’ says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic ‘A’ 10 days after the inauguration – eight months before Sept. 11.’” [CBS News, 2/11/09]

One Day After 9/11, Bush Sought Link Between Iraq And Attack. According to the book, The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, “On the evening of the [September] 12th, [Richard] Clarke recalled, Bush quietly took aside his counterterrorism coordination and a few colleagues to say, “Look … I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way … Just look. I want to know any shred.’ ‘Absolutely, we will look … again,’ Clarke responded. ‘But, you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and not found any real linkage to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.’ Bush looked irritated. He replied, ‘Look into Iraq, Saddam,’ and walked away. Clarke’s people would report that there was no evidence of cooperation between al Qaeda and Iraq. Pressure on the President to act against Iraq, however, continued. His former order for military action against terrorist, a week after 9/11, would include instructions to the Defense Department to prepare contingency plans for strikes against Iraq—and perhaps the occupation of its oilfields.” [The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, page 176, 2011]

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Richard Clarke: Bush Officials Were Talking About Iraq “While The Bodies Were Still Burning In The Pentagon And At The World Trade Center.” According to the book, The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, “It was then, though, that [Donald] Rumsfeld jumped at what he saw as the need to ‘do Iraq.’ ‘Everyone looked at him,’ Richard Clarke recalled. ‘At least I looked at him and [Colin] Powell look at him, like, ‘What the hell are you talking about’ And he said—I’ll never forget this—‘There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan. We need to bomb something to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kinds of attacks.’ And I made the point certainty that night, and I think Powell acknowledged it, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. That didn’t really faze Rumsfeld. … It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It really didn’t, because from the first weeks of the administration they were talking about Iraq. I just found it a little disgusting that they were talking about it while the bodies were still burning in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center.’” [The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, page 176, 2011]

Bush Directed Rumsfeld To Start Planning War With Iraq Months After 9/11. According to the Washington Post, “Beginning in late December 2001, President Bush met repeatedly with Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his war cabinet to plan the U.S. attack on Iraq even as he and administration spokesmen insisted they were pursuing a diplomatic solution, according to a new book on the origins of the war. … On Nov. 21, 2001, 72 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush directed Rumsfeld to begin planning for war with Iraq. ‘Let’s get started on this,’ Bush recalled saying. ‘And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.’ He also asked: Could this be done on a basis that would not be terribly noticeable?” [Washington Post, 4/17/04]

Bush in Early 2002: “F___ Saddam, We’re Taking Him Out.” According to Time, “‘F___ Saddam. we’re taking him out.’ Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America’s Middle East allies. Bush wasn’t interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase. The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. The President left the room.” [Time, 3/31/03]

Downing Street Memo: Bush Determined To Attack Iraq, Floated Idea To Provoke Iraq Into War. According to the New York Times, “In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush’s public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war. But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair’s top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times. … The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.” [New York Times, 3/27/06]

Bush Told UN He Would Attack Even Without Their Support. According to CNN, “Bush told the U.N. General Assembly his administration will work with the U.N. Security Council, but made clear the United States would move against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on its own if the council fails to act. ‘The purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced. The just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable, and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power,’ he said.” [CNN, 9/13/02]

Mid-2002: Reports Discuss Iraq Invasion in 2003 With Estimates Of “70,000 To 250,000 Troops.” According to the New York Times, “The Bush administration, in developing a potential approach for toppling President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, is concentrating its attention on a major air campaign and ground invasion, with initial estimates contemplating the use of 70,000 to 250,000 troops. … In November, Mr. Bush ordered that the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve be filled to capacity. A review of the reserve’s delivery schedule shows that many of the largest monthly deliveries are between September and January, another reason to put off any offensive against Iraq to early next year.” [New York Times, 4/28/02]

The Whole Story: No WMDs in Iraq, No Evidence of Connection to Terrorism

Senate Report: Bush Administration Misled On Intelligence. According to the New York Times, “A long-delayed Senate report endorsed by Democrats and some Republicans has concluded that President Bush and his aides built the public case for war against Iraq by exaggerating available intelligence and by ignoring disagreements among spy agencies about Iraq’s weapons programs and Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda. The report was released Thursday after years of partisan squabbling, and it marks the close of five years of investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the use, abuse and faulty assessments of intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. That some Bush administration claims about the Iraqi threat turned out to be false is hardly new. But the report, based on a detailed review of public statements by Mr. Bush and other officials, is the most comprehensive effort to date to assess whether policymakers systematically painted a more dire picture about Iraq than was justified by available intelligence.” [New York Times, 6/5/08]

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CIA Analyst To National Security Council Staffer: “Don’t Tell Us [Saddam] Is Connected to 9/11 Or To Terrorism Because There Is No Evidence To Support That.” According to former CIA Director George Tenet’s book, At The Center Of The Storm: My Years At The CIA, “To be sure, a number of people were fixated on Iraq, and a number of decisions and actions during the late fall of 2001 and into early 2002 created a momentum all their own. One of the CIA’s senior Middle East experts recently told me of a meeting he had in the White House a few days after 9/11. A senior NSC official told him that the administration wanted to get rid of Saddam. One analyst said, ‘If you want to go after that son of a bitch to settle old scores, be my guest. But don’t tell us he is connected to 9/11 or to terrorism because there is no evidence to support that. You will have to have a better reason.’” [At The Center Of The Storm: My Years At The CIA, page 307, 2007]

Detainee Tortured In Egypt Gave False Testimony On Link Between Al-Qaeda And Iraq. According to Human Rights Watch, “Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whose real name is Ali Mohamed al-Fakheri, was a Libyan taken into custody in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area in late 2001. He was held in secret CIA detention for years and subjected to abusive interrogations on numerous occasions in different locations. During a coercive interrogation by US personnel in Egypt, al-Libi provided false information about Iraq having agreed to provide two al Qaeda operatives with chemical or biological weapons training. Then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell cited this as a key piece of evidence during his historic speech to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, when trying to rally international support for an invasion of Iraq. Al-Libi later recanted these facts, and the CIA itself later deemed them unreliable.” [Human Rights Watch, September 2012]

Defense Intelligence Agency Questioned Veracity Of Al-Libi’s Claim: “It Is More Likely This Individual Is Intentionally Misleading.” According to a declassified defense intelligence terrorist summary from the Defense Intelligence Agency, issued in 2002, “This is the first report from Ibn al-Shaykh in which he claims Iraq assisted al-Qaeda’s CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] efforts. However, he lacks specific details on the Iraqi’s [sic] involved, the CBRN materials associated with the assistance, and the location where training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may [be] describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest. Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.” [Defense Intelligence Agency letter to Senators, 10/26/05]

CIA Had “Scant Evidence” Of Link Between Al-Qaeda And Iraq, Analysts Felt “Pressured To Tailor Reports To Conform To The Administration’s Views.” According to the New York Times, “The C.I.A. also had scant new evidence about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but specialists began working on the issue under the direction of Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Those analysts did not develop any new intelligence data, but looked at existing intelligence reports for possible links between Iraq and terrorists that they felt might have been overlooked or undervalued. … Several current and former intelligence officials have said analysts at the C.I.A. felt pressure to tailor reports to conform to the administration’s views, particularly the theories Mr. Feith’s group developed.” [New York Times, 7/20/03]

Office Of Special Plans Formed “To Find Evidence Of What” Rumsfeld And Paul Wolfowitz “Believed To Be True.” According to the New Yorker, “According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States.” [The New Yorker, 5/12/03]

Bush Suggested Iraq Sought Uranium From Africa, Despite “High-Level Intelligence Assessment” Calling It “Unlikely.” According to the New York Times, “A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was ‘unlikely’ because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department. Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department’s intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send ‘25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers’ filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border. The analysts’ doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous ‘16 words’ in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. The White House later acknowledged that the charge, which played a part in the decision to invade Iraq in the belief that Baghdad was reconstituting its nuclear program, relied on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech.” [New York Times, 1/18/06]

CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s Identity Was Revealed After Her Husband, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Investigated Uranium Claims And Criticized Administration’s Intelligence. According to the New York Times, “In early 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency sent the former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger to investigate possible attempts to sell uranium to Iraq. The next year, after Mr. Wilson became a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s Iraqi intelligence, the identity of his wife, Valerie [Plame] Wilson, a C.I.A. officer who suggested him for the Niger trip, was made public.” According to the Washington Post, “After he went public in 2003 about the trip, senior Bush administration officials, trying to discredit Wilson’s findings, told reporters that Wilson’s wife, who worked at the CIA, was the one who suggested the Niger mission for her husband. Days later, Plame was named as an ‘agency operative’ by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has said he did not realize he was, in effect, exposing a covert officer.” [New York Times, 1/18/06; Washington Post, 8/11/05]

The Whole Story: Thousands Of Deaths And Trillions Of Dollars

Total Of 4,409 U.S. Soldiers Killed In Iraq, 31,927 Wounded And Injured During Operating Iraqi Freedom. According to statistics from the Department of Defense, 4,409 U.S. soldiers died in Operating Iraqi Freedom between March 19, 2003 and August 31, 2010. 31,927 soldiers were wounded in action. [Department of Defense, accessed 6/11/13]

At Least 190,000 Total People Killed As A Result Of The War. According to Foreign Policy, “190,000: The minimum documented number of people killed in the war. The majority of those killed in Iraq since 2003 have been civilians. The dead also include 4,488 U.S. soldiers, and up to 3,400 U.S. contractors and nearly 11,000 Iraqi police, 318 allied military, and 62 humanitarian workers. But while the numbers of U.S. soldiers killed is known, Catherine Lutz of Brown University shows that we still don’t know the full extent of contractor deaths and injuries. And, as Neta C. Crawford from Brown University discusses, there are disagreements about how many civilians have been killed directly by violence because documented deaths may be a fraction of the actual number of people killed. Further, it is likely that many more have died as an indirect result of the devastation of Iraq’s physical and health care infrastructure.” [Foreign Policy, 3/20/13]

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Iraq War Resulted In 1.24 Million Internally Displaced Persons And 1.6 Million Refugees. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “The [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] says the war resulted in 1.24 million internally displaced persons and more than 1.6 million refugees.” [Christian Science Monitor, 12/17/11]

Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Will Cost An Estimated $4 Trillion To $6 Trillion. According to the Washington Post, “The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher. Washington increased military benefits in late 2001 as the nation went to war, seeking to quickly bolster its talent pool and expand its ranks. Those decisions and the protracted nation-building efforts launched in both countries will generate expenses for years to come, Linda J. Bilmes, a public policy professor, wrote in the report that was released Thursday.” [Washington Post, 9/5/10]

Bush Fired Economic Advisor Who Predicted War Would Cost $200 Billion. According to The Atlantic, “A little over 10 years ago, George W. Bush fired his economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, for saying that the total cost of invading Iraq might come to as much as $200 billion. Bush instead stood by such advisers as Paul Wolfowitz, who said that the invasion would be largely ‘self-financing’ via Iraq’s oil, and Andrew Natsios, who told an incredulous Ted Koppel that the war’s total cost to the American taxpayer would be no more than $1.7 billion.” [The Atlantic, 3/29/13]

Iraq War Spending Was “Off The Books.” According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bush said in his speech on Thursday that the Defense Department budget today represented slightly more than 4 percent of gross domestic product, compared with more than 6 percent in some years of the Reagan administration and as much as 13 percent in 1952-3, when the United States was engaged in the war in Korea. But the war in Iraq is largely being paid for off the books, with emergency and supplemental spending rather than from the Pentagon’s operating budget, so Mr. Bush’s figures are a low estimate of the relative cost of the war, analysts have observed. And growing entitlement costs today make such comparisons with previous eras questionable.” [New York Times, 4/14/08]

Iraq War Spending Not Included In Annual Budgets Nor In Budget Deficit Estimates. According to Government Executive, “The Bush administration, with Congress’s cooperation, has insisted on paying for the Iraq war through supplemental spending bills. The funding is not included in the president’s annual budgets or, in most cases, in the congressional budget resolutions, and it is considered separately from the regular appropriations bills. The money is not counted in the budget deficit estimates that the administration routinely releases. Nor is it counted against any budget caps that Congress has set for itself to abide by throughout the year.” [Government Executive, 4/21/06]

The Surge surge

The Whole Story: The Surge was Opposed by Generals, No Long-Term Goals

Joint Chiefs Of Staff Took A “Firm Stand” Against The Surge. According to the Washington Post, “The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate. … But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public. The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.” [Washington Post, 12/19/06]

Joint Chiefs Warned That Militias Would “Melt Back Into Society” During Surge Only To Fight Once Again When Troops Removed. According to the Washington Post, “The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn — then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.” [Washington Post, 12/19/06]

The Whole Story: Post-Surge Reduction in Violence Resulted from Ethnic Cleansing

Violence Reduced Because Sectarian “Militias Simply Ran Out Of People To Kill.” According to an article in Small Wars Journal, “One factor leading to the decline in violence in Iraq 2007, as described by one American officer, was that the militias simply ran out of people to kill. Sectarian conflict had significantly reduced the ratio of Sunnis to Shiites in the Baghdad, leaving many dead and forcing others from their homes for fear of sectarian reprisal killings – in essence, the conflict had led to ethnic cleansing in parts of Baghdad.” [Small Wars Journal, 2/4/13]

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2007: Majority Of Iraqis Said “Security Has Deteriorated In The Area Covered By The US Military ‘Surge.’” According to the BBC, “About 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the US military ‘surge’ of the past six months, an opinion poll suggests. The survey for the BBC, ABC News and NHK of more than 2,000 people across Iraq also suggests that nearly 60% see attacks on US-led forces as justified. This rises to 93% among Sunni Muslims compared with 50% for Shia.” [BBC, 9/10/07]

Kalh: “Sectarian Cleansing In 2006 And Early 2007 Had The Perverse Effect Of Driving Down Subsequent Violence.” According to Colin Kalh, “Since the beginning of the war, more than four million Iraqis have fled the country or become internally displaced. The acceleration of sectarian cleansing in 2006 and early 2007 had the perverse effect of driving down subsequent violence by segregating groups in Baghdad into defensible enclaves — enclaves that have increasingly walled off from one another by concrete barriers erected by U.S. forces.” [American Prospect, 6/25/08]

Government Accounting Office Official: Reduction In Violence May Be Linked To “Ethnically Cleansed Neighborhoods, Particularly In The Baghdad Area.” According to Joe Christoff’s testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, “I’m not going to answer that one, but I can talk a little bit about ethnic cleansing, because I think that’s an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq. You know, we look at the attack data going down, but it’s not taking into consideration the fact that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area.” [Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation and Related Programs, 10/30/07]

Baghdad Cleansed Of Sunnis. According to McClatchy, “One bright spot has been the reduction in the number of bodies found on the streets, considered a sign of sectarian violence. That number was 44 percent lower in July, compared to December. In July, the average body count per day was 18.6, compared with 33.2 in December, two months before the surge. But the reason for that decline isn’t clear. Some military officers believe that it may be an indication that ethnic cleansing has been completed in many neighborhoods and that there aren’t as many people to kill. One officer noted that U.S. officials believe Baghdad once had a population that was 65 percent Sunni. The current U.S. estimate is that Shiites now make up 75 percent to 80 percent of the city. Whatever the rate of violence, however, military officers believe that military progress will last only if there’s political reconciliation.” [McClatchy, 8/15/07]

“Many Formerly Mixed Sunni-Shiite Areas Have Become Largely The Domain Of One Sect.” According to the Washington Post, “Even with lower casualty numbers, the quantity of violence indicates that militias and insurgents remain active in many areas. Large parts of southern Baghdad remain a battleground where U.S. soldiers, steadily encroaching Shiite militias and persistent fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq clash. Attacks, unless particularly deadly, often pass with little notice outside the neighborhood in which they occur. Many formerly mixed Sunni-Shiite areas have become largely the domain of one sect, since millions of Iraqis have fled their homes for other countries or other parts of Iraq over the years. ‘It’s much harder to conduct sectarian cleansing if you’ve got a homogenous neighborhood which has a local volunteer security force which is on the lookout for those people,’ Miska said. Casualty numbers themselves are inconsistent. The U.S. military said about 800 civilians were killed in October, but an unofficial tally by the Health Ministry showed that 1,448 civilians had died violently, including those whose bodies were dumped without identification. An official provided the data, which showed an increase in deaths compared with September, on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release it publicly.” [Washington Post, 11/2/07]

Post-Surge National Intelligence Estimate: Sectarian Violence Continues. According to CNN, “Civilian casualties remain high, sectarian groups can’t get along, al Qaeda in Iraq is still pulling off high-profile attacks and ‘to date, Iraqi leaders remain unable to govern effectively,’ said the declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate released Thursday. … According to the declassified findings, the U.S. intelligence community predicts Iraqi security ‘will continue to improve modestly’ over the next year, ‘but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation.’” [CNN, 8/23/07]

Guantanamo indefinite

Bush’s Story: Guantanamo Bay Held “the Most Dangerous” Terrorists to Keep Americans Safe

guantanamo slide

[Still from George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “War On Terror” Film, video captured May 3-4, 2013]

Bush Library: “Terrorists” Held In “Custody So They Cannot Murder Our People.” In a video produced by the Bush W. Presidential Library and Museum, President Bush said, “Some of these individuals have been taken to the United States naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are in our custody so they cannot murder our people. In additional to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” [George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, video taken on May 3-4, 2013]

Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, Called Detainees “The Worst Of A Very Bad Lot.” According to the New York Times: “‘There’s another school of thought that says the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorist attacks,’ Mr. Cheney said. ‘It was set up to deal with a war between sovereign states. It’s got provisions for dealing with civil war. But in a case where you have nonstate actors out to kill civilians, then there’s a serious question whether or not the Geneva Convention even applies…The bottom line is that the legal issue is being debated between the lawyers. It will go to the president. He’ll make a decision.’ ‘The detainees are being treated humanely,’ he said, adding: ‘These are the worst of a very bad lot. They are very dangerous. They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort.’” [New York Times, 1/28/02]

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Donald Rumsfeld: Detainees “Among The Most Dangerous, Best Trained, Vicious Killers On The Face Of The Earth.” According to the New York Times, “Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him today to Guantánamo, ‘There is no ambiguity in this case.’ ‘They are not P.O.W.’s,’ he said before touring the United States naval base at Guantánamo, where 158 prisoners from Afghanistan are being held. ‘They will not be determined to be P.O.W.’s.’ Mr. Rumsfeld said he was touring the detention center, known as Camp X-Ray, not so much to inspect the conditions as to buck up the troops who are guarding the prisoners, whom he called ‘among the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth.’” [New York Times, 1/28/02]

Donald Rumsfeld Claimed “All” Detainees “Were Captured On A Battlefield.” According to a Department of Defense news transcript, in an interview with KMBZ News Radio 980, Secretary Rumsfeld said, “If you think of the people down there, these are people all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They’re terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, UBL’s body guards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th hijacker, 9/11 hijacker. We’re learning a great deal of information about how al-Qaida operates, and able to stop other terrorist attacks. The transparency’s just been enormous.” [Department of Defense, 6/27/05]

The Whole Story: Many Guantanamo Detainees Were Innocent

Col. Wilkinson: “Many Of The Prisoners At Guantanamo Had Been Taken Into Custody Without Regard To Whether They Were Truly Enemy Combatants.” According to testimony by Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson (Ret.), “[I]t became apparent to me as early as August 2002, and probably earlier to other State Department personnel who were focused on these issues, that many of the prisoners detained at Guantánamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all. I soon realized from my conversations with military colleagues as well as Foreign Service officers in the field that many of the detainees were, in fact, victims of incompetent battlefield vetting. There was no meaningful way to determine whether they were terrorists, Taliban, or simply innocent civilians picked up on a very confused battlefield or in the territory of another state such as Pakistan. The vetting problem, in my opinion, was directly related to the initial decision not to send sufficient regular army troops at the outset of the war in Afghanistan.” [Declaration of Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, 3/24/10]

Innocent Afghan Civilians Turned In For Bounty. According to The Telegraph, “The US policy of offering a $5,000 a head bounty to anyone who could hand over a member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda also led to dozens of innocent men and boys being kidnapped and sold by Afghan forces, Northern Alliance soldiers and groups of anonymous armed men. Juma Khan, an Afghan civilian, ended up in Guantánamo after being ‘tricked into accompanying a man who later turned him in as a member of the Taliban for money’, according to his file.” [The Telegraph, 4/26/11]

Guantanamo Detainees “Picked Up By Mistake” And Falsely Turned In For “Bounty Payments Or To Set Up A Local Rival.” According to McClatchy, “Anecdotes from the documents suggest that many of the Afghan captives were picked up by mistake. Others were passed along to U.S. troops by Afghan warlords and local militias who gave false information about them in return for bounty payments or to set up a local rival. There was also a desire by U.S. intelligence analysts, particularly in the scramble after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to cast as wide a net as possible. They were looking to piece together everything from which dirt paths were used to cross between Afghanistan to Pakistan, to the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaida. Afghans became crucial for understanding the lay of the land — and for many it cost them years of their lives in confinement. For at least three Afghan men, the reason listed for being at Guantanamo was a variation of ‘knowledge of routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ The assessments for at least four others listed as the reason for holding them at Guantanamo their knowledge of the Taliban conscription process — meaning they’d been forced to join the organization.” [McClatchy, 4/26/11]

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14-Year-Old Rape Victim, “Forcibly Conscripted” Into Taliban, Held In Guantanamo For Over A Year. According to McClatchy, “Naqibullah was about 14 years old when U.S. troops detained him in December of 2002 at a suspected militant’s compound in eastern Afghanistan. The weapon he held in his hands hadn’t been fired, the troops concluded, and he appeared to have been left behind with a group of cooks and errand boys when a local warlord, tipped to the raid, had fled. A secret U.S. intelligence assessment written in 2003 concluded that Naqibullah had been kidnapped and forcibly conscripted by a warring tribe affiliated with the Taliban. The boy told interrogators that during his abduction he’d been held at gunpoint by 11 men and raped. Nonetheless, Naqibullah was held at Guantanamo for a full year.” [McClatchy, 4/26/11]

Al-Jazeera Journalist Held For Six Years “Partly In Order To Be Interrogated About The Arabic News Network.” According to the Guardian, “An al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network, the files disclose. Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman, was detained in Pakistan after working for the network in Afghanistan after 9/11, and flown to the prison camp where he was allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted. His file makes clear that one of the reasons he was sent to Guantánamo was ‘to provide information on … the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL’.” [Guardian, 4/24/11]

Lawyer: Administration Repeatedly Changed Allegations Against Journalist. According to the New York Times, “According to Zachary Katznelson, the legal director for Reprieve, a human rights group that represented Mr. Hajj, the allegations changed over the years: ‘First, he was alleged to have filmed an interview of Osama bin Laden. It was another cameraman. So, that allegation disappeared. Then the U.S. said Sami ran a jihadist Web site. Turns out, there was no such site. So that allegation disappeared. Then, the U.S. said Sami was in Afghanistan to arrange missile sales to Chechen rebels. There was no evidence to back that up at all. So that allegation disappeared.’” [New York Times, 12/22/09]

Senile 89-Year-Old Afghan Man Among Initial Guantanamo Prisoners. According to the Guardian, “A 2002 assessment of Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner, Mohammed Sadiq, who was then 89, revealed dementia, depression and sickness. ‘His current medical issues include major depressive disorder, senile dementia and osteoarthritis, for which he receives prescribed treatment.’ The Afghan national was also being assessed for prostate cancer. Sadiq’s records state he was detained after suspicious documents allegedly belonging to his son were found in a raid on his house. He was flown to Guantánamo four months later. Interrogators concluded within six weeks of his arrival that Sadiq was ‘not affiliated with al-Qaida’, not a Taliban leader and possessed ‘no further intelligence value to the United States’. He was repatriated to Afghanistan after a further four months.’” [The Guardian, 4/24/11]

German National Detained At Guantanamo Despite Military Intelligence Conclusion That He Was Not Linked To Any Terrorist Organization. According to the Washington Post, “A military tribunal determined last fall that Murat Kurnaz, a German national seized in Pakistan in 2001, was a member of al Qaeda and an enemy combatant whom the government could detain indefinitely at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The three military officers on the panel, whose identities are kept secret, said in papers filed in federal court that they reached their conclusion based largely on classified evidence that was too sensitive to release to the public. In fact, that evidence, recently declassified and obtained by The Washington Post, shows that U.S. military intelligence and German law enforcement authorities had largely concluded there was no information that linked Kurnaz to al Qaeda, any other terrorist organization or terrorist activities.” [Washington Post, 3/27/05]

Kurnaz Taken Off Bus, Sold For $3,000 Bounty By Captors. According to Time, “Born in Germany of Turkish origin, [Murat] Kurnaz was a 19-year-old on a roadtrip through Pakistan with Islamic missionaries in November 2001 when his bus was stopped by Pakistani soldiers and he was forced to disembark. CBS 60 Minutes reports that his captors sold him for $3,000 bounty to U.S. officials in Afghanistan; many other foreign Muslims would be rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan in this way.” [Time, 1/11/12]

Man Held In Guantanamo For Two Years After Being Framed By Afghan Intelligence Officer. According to the New York Times, “Some assessments relied on innuendo, gossip or information supplied by individuals whose motives were untrustworthy and whose information later proved false. Haji Jalil was captured in 2003 after an Afghan intelligence official said he had taken an ‘active part’ in an ambush that killed American soldiers. He was sent home two years later, an inexcusable delay, after American officials determined that Mr. Jalil had been used to provide cover for the involvement of the intelligence official and others in the attack.” [New York Times, 5/25/11]

Chicken Farmer Arrested And Detained At Guantanamo Because Name Sounded Similar To Wanted Taliban Leader. According to the New York Times, “Among the hundreds of men imprisoned by the American military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, there are those who brashly assert their determination to wage war against what they see as the infidel empire led by the United States. […] But there are many more, it seems, who sound like Abdur Sayed Rahman, a self-described Pakistani villager who says he was arrested at his modest home in January 2002, flown off to Afghanistan and later accused of being the deputy foreign minister of that country’s deposed Taliban regime. ‘I am only a chicken farmer in Pakistan,’ he protested to American military officers at Guantánamo. ‘My name is Abdur Sayed Rahman. Abdur Zahid Rahman was the deputy foreign minister of the Taliban.’ Mr. Rahman’s pleadings are among more than 5,000 pages of documents released by the Defense Department on Friday night in response to a lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act by The Associated Press. [New York Times, 3/6/06]

Torture england

Bush’s Story: CIA and DOJ said Interrogation “Techniques” were “Necessary” and “Legal”

Bush Library Video: “He Asked The CIA If It Was Necessary, And He Asked The Justice Department If It Was Legal. Both Departments Answered, ‘Yes.’” From the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

[Stills from George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “War On Terror” Film, video captured May 3-4, 2013]

Bush Library: Bush Asked If “Techniques” Used By CIA During Rendition Were Necessary And Legal; Helped Gain “Vital Intelligence” From Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In a video shown at the Bush W. Presidential Library and Museum, President Bush says, “In additional to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA program helped us gain vital intelligence from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh, two of the men believed to have helped plan and facilitate the 9/11 attacks.” The video then cuts to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who says, “The president asked two very important questions in the decision to use these techniques. He asked the CIA if it was necessary, and he asked the Justice Department if it was legal. Both departments answered, ‘Yes.’” [George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, video taken on May 3-4, 2013]

The Whole Story: “Techniques” are Torture

Bipartisan Report: “Indisputable That The United States Engaged In The Practice Of Torture.” According to the New York Times, “A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that ‘it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture’ and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it. The sweeping, 600-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’” [New York Times, 4/13/13]

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2002 Bush Legal Memorandum: War on Terror “Renders Obsolete Geneva’s Strict Limitations On Questioning Of Enemy Prisoners.” According to the Baltimore Sun, “The low-key [ White House counsel Alberto] Gonzales, a longtime Bush loyalist who often is mentioned as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee, rarely breaks the public surface in his work. But he now faces high-profile questions about whether his legal advice in the aftermath of Sept. 11 opened the door for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. At issue is a Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum to the president in which Gonzales outlined the legal argument for exempting Taliban and al-Qaida fighters from Geneva Convention protections, noting as one factor the ability to quickly extract intelligence from prisoners. ‘In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners,’ Gonzales wrote. The memo, marked ‘draft,’ also said the war on terror ‘renders quaint’ provisions such as supplying detainees with ‘commissary privileges (or) athletic uniforms.’ The White House rejected suggestions that the 2-year-old document cleared the way for mistreatment of war prisoners in Iraq. But its blunt conclusions touched off a series of questions that drew the White House back into the still-churning abuse scandal and clouded the possibility of Gonzales one day serving as the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/22/04]

Bush Later Nominated Gonzales To Head The Justice Department. According to CNN, “President Bush on Wednesday nominated his White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to be the next U.S. attorney general, replacing John Ashcroft. ‘His sharp intellect and sound judgment have helped shape our policies in the war on terror,’ Bush said at the White House on Wednesday afternoon. ‘He always gives me his frank opinion; he is a calm and steady voice in times of crisis. He has an unwavering principle of respect for the law.’” [CNN, 11/11/04]

2002 Bush Legal Memorandum: Geneva Conventions Did Not Apply For Detainees In War On Terror. According to the New York Times, “A series of memorandums from the Justice Department, many of them written by John C. Yoo, a University of California law professor who was serving in the department, provided arguments to keep United States officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated. The memorandums, principally one written on Jan. 9, provided legal arguments to support administration officials’ assertions that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the war in Afghanistan.” [New York Times, 6/9/04]

Yoo Later Said The “President Could Crush The Testicles Of A Child To Make His Father Talk.” According to an Esquire profile of Yoo, “He is a young Justice Department lawyer — thirty-four at the time — who wrote the Bush administration’s first decisions on prisoner detention, interrogation, habeas corpus, military commissions, and the Geneva Conventions. He is the man who defined torture as pain equivalent to “death or organ failure,” who said that the president could crush the testicles of a child to make his father talk, who picked the lock on Pandora’s box and unleashed the demons of Abu Ghraib.” [Esquire, June 2008]

2003 Bush Legal Memorandum: President Has “Authority As Commander In Chief To Approve Any Technique Needed To Protect The Nation’s Security.” According to the New York Times, “A memorandum prepared by a Defense Department legal task force drew on the January and August memorandums to declare that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal anti-torture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation’s security. The memorandum also said that executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons, including a belief by interrogators that they were acting on orders from superiors ‘except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful.’” [New York Times, 6/9/04]

Top State Department Official: Torture Authorized “Well Before The Justice Department Had Rendered Any Legal Opinion.” According to Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, “[W]hat I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.” [Washington Note, 5/13/09]

Bush Administration Official Admitted Detainee Was Tortured. According to the Washington Post, “The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a ‘life-threatening condition.’ ‘We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,’ said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. ‘His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case’ for prosecution. Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.” [Washington Post, 1/14/09]

The Whole Story: Torture “Techniques” were Ineffective and Led to False Intelligence

Counterterrorism Officials Agree That Coercive Interrogation Methods Don’t Work, Waste Resources, And Generate Misleading Intelligence. According to Vanity Fair’s David Rose, “[Bush’s] most detailed exposition came in a White House announcement on September 6, 2006, when he said such tactics had led to the capture of top al-Qaeda operatives and had thwarted a number of planned attacks, including plots to strike U.S. Marines in Djibouti, fly planes into office towers in London, and detonate a radioactive ‘dirty’ bomb in America. ‘Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.’ Really? In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/08]

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Torture In Years After 9/11 “Shut Down Rich Sources Of Intelligence.” According to Vanity Fair’s David Rose, “If torture doesn’t work, what does? The evidence suggests that when the Bush administration decided to ignore many of America’s most experienced counterterrorist agents and go for torture in 2001 and 2002, it shut down rich sources of intelligence. In the biggest terrorist case of the 1990s, the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed more than 220 people, the F.B.I.’s Cloonan and his colleagues were able to persuade three of the main conspirators not only to talk to them but also to give prosecution testimony in court.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/08]

FBI Agent: CIA’s Harsh Techniques Interfered With Successful Intelligence Gathering. According to Salon, “The testimony of a key witness at a Senate hearing Wednesday raised serious questions about the truthfulness of former President George W. Bush’s own personal defense of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan also indicated that the harsh interrogation techniques may actually have hindered the collection of intelligence, causing a high-value prisoner to stop cooperating. In the first congressional hearing on torture since the release of Bush administration memos that provided the legal justification for torture, Soufan told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the CIA’s abusive techniques were “ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaida.” According to Soufan, his own nonviolent interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect was quickly yielding valuable, actionable intelligence — until the CIA intervened.” [Salon, 5/14/09]

FBI Counterterrorist Agent: Torture Has Made Job Harder Because 30-50 Percent Of Time Is Spent On False Leads. According to Vanity Fair’s David Rose, “At the F.B.I., says a seasoned counterterrorist agent, following false leads generated through torture has caused waste and exhaustion. ‘At least 30 percent of the F.B.I.’s time, maybe 50 percent, in counterterrorism has been spent chasing leads that were bullshit. There are ‘lead squads’ in every office trying to filter them. But that’s ineffective, because there’s always that ‘What if?’ syndrome. I remember a claim that there was a plot to poison candy bought in bulk from Costco. You follow it because someone wants to cover himself. It has a chilling effect. You get burned out, you get jaded. And you think, Why am I chasing all this stuff that isn’t true? That leads to a greater problem—that you’ll miss the one that is true. The job is 24-7 anyway. It’s not like a bank job. But torture has made it harder.’” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/08]

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Divulged Information Leading To Bin Laden’s Capture Under Standard Interrogation, Not Torture. According to the Associated Press, “In a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe years ago, al-Qaida’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, gave authorities the nicknames of several of bin Laden’s couriers, four former U.S. intelligence officials said. Those names were among thousands of leads the CIA was pursuing. […] Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.” [Associated Press, 5/2/11]

Gen. McChrystal: We Tried “Enhanced Interrogation” And It Doesn’t Work. According to U.S. News & World Report’s Robert Schlesinger, “Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, out promoting his new memoir, was at the Aspen Institute today and had some interesting comments about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” also known as torture. His team used them a bit in Iraq, he said, but he has ultimately come to the conclusion that such tactics don’t work. […] He said that when he arrived in Iraq in 2003, his team was ‘originally authorized enhanced techniques’ (though he pointedly said that they did not include water boarding). He went on that they ‘used them a little bit in the first few months after I took over and then just stopped because one, we realized—I didn’t feel good about it and they weren’t working so we did away—it took me about nine months before I was completely convinced, the summer of 2004, completely convinced the only way to operate is … sitting down and just talking with people.’” [U.S. News & World Report, 2/8/13]

Rendition rendition

Bush’s Story: Rendition Did Not Involve Torture, But Provided “Vital Intelligence”

Bush Library Video: “Suspected Terrorist Leaders And Operatives Captured During The War Have Been Held And Questioned Outside The United States.” From the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:

[Stills from George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “War On Terror” Film, video captured May 3-4, 2013]

Bush In Library Video: Some Terror Suspects “Held And Questioned Outside The United States,” Helping Us “Gain Vital Intelligence.” In a video shown at the Bush W. Presidential Library and Museum, President Bush says, “Working with our allies, we’ve captured and detained thousands of enemy fighters in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and other fronts of this War on Terror. […] In additional to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA program helped us gain vital intelligence from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh, two of the men believed to have helped plan and facilitate the 9/11 attacks.” [George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, video taken on May 3-4, 2013]

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Bush: “We Do Not Render To Countries That Torture.” According to the New York Times, “President George W. Bush said Tuesday: ‘We do not render to countries that torture. That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same.’ But McClellan, pressed repeatedly by reporters, would not say whether the United States took steps to ensure that countries to which the United States transfers prisoners lived up to promises not to use torture.” [New York Times, 12/8/05]

Bush Claimed Rendition Occurred Only “With The Promise They Won’t Be Tortured.” According to the New York Times transcript of a news conference on March 16, 2005, President Bush was asked, “Mr. President, can you explain why you’ve approved of and expanded the practice of what’s called rendition, of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people under custody?” Bush said, “The post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. That was the charge we have been given. And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured. That’s the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture. We do believe in protecting ourselves. We don’t believe in torture.” [New York Times, 3/16/05]

The Whole Story: Bush Sent Detainees to Countries that Practice Torture

ACLU: Bush Administration Rendered Detainees In Order To “Employ Brutal Interrogation Methods That Would Be Impermissible Under Federal Or International Law.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, what had been a limited program expanded dramatically, with some experts estimating that 150 foreign nationals have been victims of rendition in the last few years alone. Foreign nationals suspected of terrorism have been transported to detention and interrogation facilities in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Diego Garcia, Afghanistan, Guantánamo, and elsewhere. In the words of former CIA agent Robert Baer: ‘If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.’ Administration officials, backed by Department of Justice legal memoranda, have consistently advanced the position that foreign nationals held at such facilities, outside U.S. sovereign territory, are unprotected by federal or international laws. Thus, the rendition program has allowed agents of the United States to detain foreign nationals without any legal process and, primarily through counterparts in foreign intelligence agencies, to employ brutal interrogation methods that would be impermissible under federal or international law, as a means of obtaining information from suspects.” [ACLU, 12/6/05]

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Administration Memo: “President Has An Unfettered Right To Transfer Prisoners … Without Regard For Whether They Would Be Tortured There.” According to the Associated Press, “A Bush-era legal memo gives new detail on how the administration tiptoed around laws and treaties to justify presidential power to transfer prisoners captured in the war on terror to countries where they might be tortured. The March 13, 2002, memo by Jay S. Bybee, then assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said the president has an unfettered right to transfer prisoners captured in the war on terror to governments around the world without regard for whether they would be tortured there. … The memo suggests ways that U.S. officials could transfer prisoners to countries where they may indeed be tortured without making them legally liable for their treatment.” [Associated Press via Fox News, 3/3/09]

Former Intelligence Officials: No Way To Control What Other Countries Do To Rendered Detainees. According to the Washington Post, “In practice, though, the CIA has little control over prisoners once they leave CIA custody, said three recently retired CIA officials and other intelligence officials who have dealt with foreign intelligence services on detainee matters. … ‘Once they are in the jurisdiction of another country, we have no rights to follow up,’ said Edward S. Walker Jr., a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and now president of the Middle East Institute. The U.S. official who visited foreign detention sites said the issue ‘goes far beyond’ the assurance: ‘They say they are not abusing them, and that satisfies the legal requirement, but we all know they do.’” [Washington Post, 3/17/05]

Bush Administration Worked Closely With Security Forces Of Repressive States. According to Harpers, “The Bush Administration promoted cordial relations with Qaddafi, while the Bush-era CIA worked intensively to develop a close rapport with Qaddafi’s security forces, much as it did in Egypt, Yemen and a number of other repressive Arab states.” [Harpers, 9/6/12]

Bush Administration Rendered Suspects To Uzbekistan After State Department Report Called Country Out As A Human Rights Violator. According to the New York Times, “Seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, the State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a litany of horrors. … Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, however, the Bush administration turned to Uzbekistan as a partner in fighting global terrorism. The nation, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, granted the United States the use of a military base for fighting the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. President Bush welcomed President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to the White House … Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan’s treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.” [New York Times, 5/1/05]

Karimov Has Been Accused Of “Boiling Dissidents To Death.” According to CBS News, “[President of Uzbekistan Islam] Karimov and his regime are frequently accused of harsh and arbitrary crackdowns on human rights workers, journalists and Muslim activists, all in the name of fighting terrorism. The United Nations called the use of torture in Uzbekistan ‘systematic.’ A former British ambassador to Uzbekistan accused it of boiling dissidents to death. More recently, in 2005, hundreds of protesters were slaughtered in the infamous Andijan massacre, which included what some described as mass summary executions by state security forces. Reporters Without Borders calls Karimov one of the world’s ‘Predators of Press Freedom,’ saying he ‘is still breaking his own records for repression and paranoia.’” [CBS News, 5/31/11]

Bush Handed Detainees Over To Gaddafi’s Libya Despite Country’s Record To Torture. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “The United States government during the Bush administration tortured opponents of Muammar Gaddafi, then transferred them to mistreatment in Libya, according to accounts by former detainees and recently uncovered CIA and UK Secret Service documents, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. One former detainee alleged he was waterboarded and another described a similar form of water torture, contradicting claims by Bush administration officials that only three men in US custody had been waterboarded.” [Human Rights Watch, 9/6/12]

2004 State Department Report On Libya: “Security Personnel Reportedly Routinely Tortured Prisoners During Interrogations Or As Punishment.” According to the State Department, “The law does not prohibit such practices, and there were reports that government officials employed them. Security personnel reportedly routinely tortured prisoners during interrogations or as punishment. Government agents reportedly detained and tortured foreign workers, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa. Reports of torture were difficult to corroborate because many prisoners were held incommunicado. The reported methods of torture included: chaining prisoners to a wall for hours; clubbing; applying electric shock; applying corkscrews to the back; pouring lemon juice in open wounds; breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care; suffocating with plastic bags; deprivation of food and water; hanging by the wrists; suspension from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows; cigarettes burns; threats of being attacked by dogs; and beating on the soles of the feet.” [State Department, 2/28/05]

Innocent People, Including “College Professor Who Had Given The Al Qaeda Member A Bad Grade,” Rendered To Countries That Practice Torture. According to the Washington Post, “The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls ‘erroneous renditions,’ according to several former and current intelligence officials. One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said. ‘They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association” with terrorism, one CIA officer said.’” [Washington Post, 12/4/05]

German Man Mistaken As A Suspected Terrorist Seized In Macedonia, Detained In Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, “Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was arrested by police in Macedonia in December 2003 because his name was the same as that of another man suspected of terrorist links and because Macedonian police believed he was carrying a false passport, according to former and current intelligence officials and U.S. diplomats. He was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center’s al-Qaeda unit ‘believed he was someone else,’ a former CIA official last year said on condition of anonymity.” [Washington Post, 5/19/06]

Osama Bin Laden binladen

Bush Dismissed Warnings About 9/11 And Failed To Bring Bin Laden To Justice

Bush Ignored Intelligence Warnings On Bin Laden Threat. According to Kurt Eichenwald in the New York Times, “The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that ‘a group presently in the United States’ was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be ‘imminent,’ although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.” [New York Times, 9/10/12]

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Bush Was Told That Bin Laden Was “Determined To Strike In U.S.” According to Newsday, “Just five weeks before the 9/11 terror attacks, the CIA told President George W. Bush that a group of Osama bin Laden supporters was said to be in the United States planning assaults with explosives. […] The document – entitled ‘Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.’ – said the al-Qaida leader had wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States since 1997, according to reports from foreign governments, clandestine sources and the media. It quoted a ‘clandestine source’ as saying that in 1998 a bin Laden cell in New York was actively recruiting Muslim-American youth for such attacks.” [Newsday, 4/11/04]

Bush In 2002: “I Just Don’t Spend That Much Time On [Bin Laden].” According to a transcript of a press conference at the White House:

Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden.  Why is that?  Also, can you tell the American people if you have any more information, if you know if he is dead or alive?  Final part — deep in your heart, don’t you truly believe that until you find out if he is dead or alive, you won’t really eliminate the threat of —

GEORGE BUSH: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he’s alive at all.  Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not; we haven’t heard from him in a long time.  And the idea of focusing on one person is — really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person.  And he’s just — he’s a person who’s now been marginalized.  His network, his host government has been destroyed.  He’s the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match.  He is  —  as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide  —  if, in fact, he’s hiding at all. So I don’t know where he is.  You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.  I’m more worried about making sure that our soldiers are well-supplied; that the strategy is clear; that the coalition is strong; that when we find enemy bunched up like we did in Shahikot Mountains, that the military has all the support it needs to go in and do the job, which they did. [White House, 3/13/02]

Bin Laden Escaped From Tora Bora After Military Leaders Decided Not To Pursue Him. According to USA Today, “Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says. The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden’s escape laid the foundation for today’s reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.” [USA Today, 11/29/09]

CIA’s Bin Laden Unit Closed In 2006. According to the New York Times, “The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday. The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.” [New York Times, 7/4/06]

Iraq War Took Resources Away From Hunt For Bin Laden. According to the New York Times, “In recent years, the war in Iraq has stretched the resources of the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, generating new priorities for American officials. For instance, much of the military’s counterterrorism units, like the Army’s Delta Force, had been redirected from the hunt for Mr. bin Laden to the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed last month in Iraq.” [New York Times, 7/4/06]

Bin Laden Remained On The Loose Until He Was Killed In Raid On His Compound In May 2011. According to the Washington Post, “Osama bin Laden, the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader and chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed by U.S. forces Sunday in what officials described as a surgical raid on his luxury hideout in Pakistan. In a rare Sunday night address from the East Room of the White House, President Obama said a small team of U.S. personnel attacked a compound Sunday in Pakistan’s Abbottabad Valley, where bin Laden had been hiding since at least last summer. […] The secret operation that culminated with bin Laden’s death was years in the making. For most of the past decade, bin Laden was thought to be hiding in Pakistan, but American intelligence had lost his trail until picking up fresh intelligence of his possible whereabouts last August. After months of studying intelligence and reviewing operational plans, Obama gave the order on Friday morning for the action that ended in bin Laden’s death.” [Washington Post, 5/2/11]

Washington Post: “Obama Announced Bin Laden’s Death Eight Years To The Day After Bush Declared The End Of Major Combat Operations In Iraq.” According to the Washington Post, “Obama called Bush and former president Bill Clinton, as well as senior congressional leaders, before announcing bin Laden’s death to the nation. Although Bush and former officials were quick to declare bin Laden’s killing a victory that transcended party lines, it represented the culmination of the former president’s promise, never fulfilled during his time in office, to capture the al-Qaeda leader ‘dead or alive.’ In a statement, Bush congratulated Obama and the military and intelligence personnel who ‘devoted their lives to this mission.’ ‘They have our everlasting gratitude,’ Bush said. ‘This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.’ Obama announced bin Laden’s death eight years to the day after Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a war spawned in large part by the Sept. 11 attacks, in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the deck of an aircraft carrier.” [Washington Post, 5/2/11]